Church is a cruciform community | Open Doors
Philippians 3:7-14 | Matthew 11:25-31
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, 14 I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.
25 At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
27 ‘All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28 ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’
Living in Christ is about participating in and receiving all the benefits of his life, his death, and his resurrection. Living in him brings all the benefits of his resurrection but it also brings ‘sharing in his sufferings’ and living a ‘cruciform’ life – living in the crucified Christ.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
This week the team from Open Doors will be sharing stories with us about the persecuted church. They have so much to teach us about what living for Christ means, and we need to hear this message in our own time as we see how belonging to Christ has moved from being honoured, to being accepted, to being tolerated, to being questioned, to being rejected, to being undermined.
As we look ahead that the possibility of the church in the west suffering its own ‘persecution’, it is helpful for us to reflect together on how our brothers and sisters not only keep going in this situation, remaining faithful, but also thrive, pressing into evangelism despite the cost.
Young Christians at school and college are on the frontline of this challenge, but many of us know personally what it costs to follow Jesus. As we reflect on the witness of others in very challenging circumstances we are encouraged in our own context in our faithfulness to Christ and taking hold of Christianity’s ‘cruciform’ shape.
All over the world disciples of Jesus are being persecuted for their allegiance to him. Faithful obedience to Jesus, the rejected messiah, often brings its own rejection. Allegiance to Jesus as the only Lord will increasingly put us in conflict with the spirits of our age and we can expect the level of cultural rejection to increase, for ourselves and our children.
So, we need to learn what it means to carry our own cross and to live as resilient disciples. Dying to ourselves, we are freed to live distinctly counter-cultural lives, alive to God and to others, even if this means loss of status or reputation.
- What persecution do you think that the church faces at this time?
- Where are the places in our culture where it is hardest to stand out as a Christian?
- Why are Christians persecuted for their faith?
- How can help them or support them?
- Why does Paul embrace suffering for his faith?
- What does it mean to consider everything loss for the sake of Christ?
- What does Paul mean when he says he presses on to take hold of that for which has took hold of him?
- What resources do we have in our church for facing persecution?
- What are the challenges in remaining faithful to Christ, our context
- What do we need to pray for?