May 13, 2006

Unashamed

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek." Romans 1:16, NKJV.

I read this short message today in a book titled, Jesus Freaks by dc Talk (available at Christianbook.com). The book is a collection of some incredibly moving true stories of Christians who would not deny their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

The story I read today impacted me greatly to remind me that Jesus' death was not in vain, but for the purpose of redeeming those from the judgment and wrath of God because of their sin. It is also a reminder to me that more people need to know the sacrifice God made to forgive them through the punishment of their sins through Jesus' death on the cross.

I asked myself this question last night that challenged my own commitment to the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Am I willing to sacrifice my life for the Gospel? Not so much questioning would I die for Christ, I believe that I would, but more of, what am I willing to give up in my life to preach the Gospel as Jesus directed before He ascended to Heaven?

Here is the story....

Peter
Jerusalem, Israel
44 AD


The believers met secretly in homes, fearing public gatherings. Many had been harassed, persecuted, and arrested because they were followers of Jesus of Nazareth.

As they prepared for their Easter celebrations, word came that one of their leaders, James the brother of John, had been arrested and beheaded. The believers were overwhelmed at the swiftness of the execution. Even more alarming was the public acceptance of such brutality. There was no tolerance for this new sect that proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah.

Another church leader was taken into custody. To ensure that no one came to his rescue, two soldiers stood guard within his small cell, each bound to the prisoner at the wrist. Two additional guards were ordered to stand watch outside the cell. Instead of being immediately executed like the first, he was to be held in custody until after the Passover celebration, when he was to be executed publicly.

The believers gathered on behalf of their imprisoned leader and began to pray fervently, asking God to deliver him from such a fate. Word spread throughout the region, and within a matter of hours, thousands committed themselves to pray.

The night before his scheduled execution, the condemned man received a visitor. An angel of the Lord appeared and the apostle Peter was miraculously released from prison. The others were so surprised by his quick release, that when he knocked at their door, they would not let him in because they didn't believe it was him!

Soon after that Herod died and Peter remained in Jerusalem as a leader of the church for some time.

65 AD

From the early Christian historian Hegesippus, we learn that Peter eventually traveled to Rome to minister in his old age. Nero determined to have him executed, but the disciples there heard about it and urged Peter to flee. Though resistant at first, Peter eventually gave in, but as he approached the city gate, he saw Jesus walking in the other direction.

Peter fell to his knees and said, "Lord, where are You going?"

Jesus answered, "I've come back to be crucified again."

Peter took this to mean that it was his time to die just as Jesus had prophesied to him in John 21:19, so he returned to the city. Upon being captured and sentenced to be crucified, Peter announced that he was not worthy to be crucified in the same position as his Savior, and requested to die on the cross upside down. The Romans honored this request.

Peter knew that one day he would face death for following Jesus, because Jesus had told him he would. Yet Peter never flinched from the call to follow Him anywhere, and he urged all believers to do the same. Like Paul, Peter was delivered from death again and again until he had finished the course God had laid out for him. When it was finished, Jesus was there to welcome him home.

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