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Prepared For Persecution

Almost 2,000 years ago, Jesus told his followers that "a slave is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you."1 When we choose to follow Christ, we make ourselves targets. Here is how we can prepare our families.

 

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by Greg Brezina

 

The persecution of Christians shouldn't surprise anyone. Over the centuries, Jesus words have been fulfilled time and time again.(1 John 15:20) "In the two thousand years of the Christian faith, about 70 million believers, of whom 45.5 million or 65% lived in the twentieth century, have been killed for their faith."*

 

God has richly blessed Christians in the United States. Few Christians here have died for their faith, but many have undergone social persecution. And the level of harassment is subtly growing.

 

Since persecution is part of a Christian's life, how do we prepare our children and grandchildren for it? We prepare them the same way we equip them for a life in Christ.

Jesus shared with us how to equip others for life with Him when he said, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20) This "Great Commission" mandate gives parents and grandparents clear direction in training their children and grandchildren to be followers of Christ and to experience His abundant life even under persecution.


The first step in equipping children and grandchildren is to guide them age appropriately into understanding how God originally created humanity to live, how original sin corrupted God's creation, and how God redeems and reconciles humanity back into a personal relationship of intimate fellowship with Him through Christ.

One of the best ways to lead young ones into truth and a personal relationship with Christ is for parents and grandparents themselves to model a godly and intimate love relationship with the Heavenly Father. Our modeling will greatly enhance and reinforce our teachings.

 

The second step in preparing is to teach our children and grandchildren all of Christ's commands. His directives are summed up in the first and second great commandments. The first is, "YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND. The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'"(Matthew 22:37-39)

 

The rest of Jesus' teachings hang on these two commandments. As our children and grandchildren grow in God's marvelous grace, we teach them the details of Jesus' commands through biblical instruction and counsel.

 

The final step in discipling children and grandchildren to be followers of Christ is teaching them how to obey his commands. The key to living an obedient life in Christ lies in the last part of the great commission, where Jesus says, "…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."(Matthew 28:20)

 

When family members believe in Christ, the Holy Spirit enters them. God then seals the Holy Spirit inside.(Ephesians 1:13) This seal provides the assurance that Jesus will always be with them and will never forsake them.(Hebrews 13:5) The Spirit creates the believer anew, reveals His will to them and gifts them with the desire and power to obey all of Jesus' commands.(II Corinthians 5:17; Ezekiel 36:27; John 15:5) Because it is so critical for our children and grandchildren to understand this, I'll say it again. The Holy Spirit is both the cause of and the enabling power for our obedience to Jesus' commands.

 

To experience the enabling power of the Spirit and bear His fruit of self-control, etc, we must submit our will to the Heavenly Father's will. That is how Jesus, while on earth, lived a human life of perfect obedience. He always submitted His will to our Father's will.(Jn 5:30;Jn 8:28,42;Jn 12:49;Jn 14:10)

 

Jesus, in the garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion, clearly reveals this truth to us. He shared intimately with Father that He really didn't want to go through being beaten, spat upon, stripped naked, mocked, crucified and forsaken. In fact, Jesus asked Him if there might be some other way. But Jesus ended His intimate conversation by saying, "…not My will, but Thine be done."(Luke 22:42) With the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, He then proceeded to submit his will to Father's will and faithfully went through extreme suffering and persecution.


So, to prepare our children and grandchildren to be a target of persecution, and for everything else they will encounter in life, we must first lead them to Christ by teaching them about God's great love and plan for redemption. As we teach them all of Jesus' commands, we model an intimate love relationship with Father and obedience to His commands. And then, we teach them how they can choose to obey Christ's commands by surrendering their wills to the Holy Spirit's will who lives within. As we ourselves live out of the Holy Spirit's life, we will powerfully demonstrate how they can experience love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control regardless of their circumstances.

 


* Schmidt, Richard H.; Phyllis Tickle (2008). God Seekers: Twenty Centuries of Christian Spiritualities. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 281.