Focus Our Eyes
The pastor was imprisoned for simply proclaiming that we are saved by grace through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus. While in prison even many believers rejected him. A supportive adoring crowd who applauded and shouted amen during his message and then patted him on the back at the conclusion of a Sunday service, they were all gone. He was all alone.
As if his situation wasn’t bad enough, the supreme judge who would hear his case punished Christians because they were a “class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition” (Suetonius 16:45). This judge presented himself as a great patron of the Arts and sang and acted. In theatrical productions he took first the mask of a god or hero and then replaced it with a female mask, usually in the likeness of his latest passion (Suetonius 21:3). When the boy Sporus caught his eye, he castrated him, dressed him in women’s apparel, and then married him with all the pomp and circumstance of a normal wedding, parading through the streets kissing his new bride (Suetonius 28:2). The “Preacher” did get it right in Ecclesiastes when he said that there is nothing new under the sun.
The 2nd century church father, Tertullian, gives us the result of the Apostle Paul’s final hearing before the Emperor Nero. Nero beheaded him (De Praescr. Haeret. 36). After two thousand years and the judgment of history, I still choose to be on the Apostle Paul’s side.
In Psalm 123, the fourth of the fifteen Song of Ascents in Book Five of Israel’s Hymnbook, David begins with an affirmation that I need to join,
“To You I lift up my eyes, the One who dwells in the Heavens. Indeed, like a servant to the hand of his master or a servant girl to her mistress, to the LORD, our God, we lift up our eyes, and ask You to show us favor.” Psalm 122:1-2
The psalmist goes on to pour out to the LORD his weariness and discouragement because of the scorn and abuse he’s taking from the pride of those who reject God and His instructions for a life that will flourish and yield meaning in the end. Like David I’m weary, but like the Apostle Paul before Nero, I’m still confident the LORD hears His servant's cry for help.
LORD, give me strength to continue to herald the message Paul proclaimed in his letter to the Romans that Your wrath is being poured out against all ungodliness and this includes, idolatry, homosexuality, covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness, and the arrogant religionists who cloak their hidden sins (Romans 1-3). Help me to keep telling others every chance I get, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that in Christ Jesus...” (Romans 3:23-24). Please keep using Truth Encounter to balance truth and grace.
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