Would You Heed If For You I Suffered?
A Passion Message
Friends, this is a heroic story of people sacrificing themselves for people. Would you consider for a moment the possibility that, like these Set-apart chaplains, someone has suffered or died for you in order that you might hear the message of this preacher today? I imagine you would respect me ever so much more if I had suffered some for you; you would listen to me ever so much more intently than you do; and you might even consider doing what I beg you.
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"Early in the morning of February 3, 1943, the US troop transport "Dorchester" was wallowing through icy seas off Greenland. Most of the 900 troops on board were asleep in their bunks. Suddenly a torpedo smashed into the Dorchester's flank. Frantically pounding up ladders, the troops milled in confusion on the decks.
"In those dark moments of panic, the coolest men aboard were four US chaplains - First lieutenants Clark Poling (Reformed), Alexander Goode (Jewish), John Washington (Catholic), George Fox (Methodist). The four chaplains led the men to boxes of life jackets, passed them out to the soldiers with boat-drill precision. When the boxes were empty, the four chaplains quietly slipped off their own life preservers, put them on four young GIs and told them to jump.
"The Dorchester went down 25 minutes later in a rumble of steam. Some 600 men were lost, but the heroic chaplains had helped save over 200. The last anyone saw of them, they were standing on the slanted deck, their arms linked, in prayer, to the one Yahweh they all served."
Friends, this is a heroic story of people sacrificing themselves for people. Would you consider for a moment the possibility that, like these Set-apart chaplains, someone has suffered or died for you in order that you might hear the message of this preacher today?
Imagine that I had recently stepped in and saved your life at the expense of my own suffering. Would you feel pity for me? Would you consider listening more closely to what I say if I had sacrificed something of value for you? If I was scarred so that you didn't have to be scarred, would you respect me more -- enough to pay more attention to a word I might have for you?
I imagine you would respect me ever so much more if I had suffered some for you; you would listen to me ever so much more intently than you do; and you might even consider doing what I beg you.
Well, this is the situation that Paul tries to convince the Corinthian assembly that he is in. He has given much for their salvation, yet they have returned to their folly and sin as a dog returns to its vomit. Consider his words today as though they were meant explicitly for you:
1. "We entreat you" is understating the Greek deometha - Paul is literally begging the Corinthians to return from the backsliding that has excluded them from fellowship with Yahweh. He is begging that they turn around and be reconciled with Yahweh. Paul begs them remember that the one unworthy of punishment was punished to the extent that he became sin for us. It was through the humiliation and suffering of Yahshua that we might become righteous or Set-apart before Yahweh. "Return to Yahweh," the Apostle begs.
1. This is curious. Can one accept the grace of Yahweh with no effect? The answer is "Yes." You may have accepted the grace of Yahweh in your life, and still not be saved.
The question is, has Yahweh's grace affected you in such a way that you are repentant of your sins?
Are you continually seeking the will of Yahweh in your life and his holiness?
Are you engaged in "works of piety" such as prayer, study, and expecting Yahweh's spiritual gifts?
Are you engaged in "works of mercy" such as evangelism, mission, and relief efforts?
Are you working to develop the fruit of the spirit in your life, love, joy, peace, patience?
If not, the grace you have received, the grace you are hoping in, has not been met with faith enough to do the works of a Christian person. If you are not engaged in the life of Christ and his assembly, no matter how much grace you think have received, you haven't received enough to merit your salvation. Period. You have accepted grace in vain.
The Apostle Paul begs the Corinthians and us not to let another moment go by. He quotes the prophet, who is speaking for Yahweh in saying
1. Now! "Now is the time. Now is the day of your salvation." In other words, "Yahweh HAS DECLARED THE HOUR TO BE LATE! SEE TO YOUR SALVATION NOW!"
Consider how convinced Paul is of the condemnation of the Assembly. Although this assembly was active, alive, and growing, Paul has accused them of several mortal sins that they had purposely overlooked. The Corinthians were immoral; engaged in open homosexual and adulterous relationships; they called themselves Christians yet were celebrating pagan holidays; some were racists and held slaves; some women were seductive; some men were drunkards and gluttons; others promoted lies in the name of Yahweh; and some did not even believe in the atoning work of Christ. In addition, they didn't support the pastor Yahweh provided them!
Paul is so serious about his call to repentance and reconciliation that he shames them by his suffering for their sake -- bearing the proof of his message on his body like so many gruesome tattoos. He is righteously angry when he says:
1. This call to reconciliation with Yahweh has cost Paul plenty. He bears the marks of it on his body. He burns with the scars of his message. He has become one with his cause. Yahweh has given him the word of rebuke to this congregation, and has made Paul to become sin for it: punished for their sins: persecuted for their deliverance. One, who so little deserved it, stricken for the sake of unheeding others. That's the shame of the matter.
2. Friends, did you ever wonder what became of the co-workers of Yahshua after the Bible record leaves off? Let me tell you about the fate of several:
Yahshua' brother James was thrown off the top of the temple.
The message of reconciliation with Yahweh was deemed so important by Yahweh that he allowed his disciples to die hideously for it -- for us -- so that we might get some idea of the gravity of the Gospel. And many yet suffer and die in these days for the same message and we take little note.
Take, for instance, Margaret George - the "Joan of Arc of the Assyrians" - killed by communists in Iraq while fighting for the religious freedom of Catholics (1972).
Or, in the last year or so, Steve Welsh and Timothy Van Dyke of New Tribes Mission - kidnapped and murdered for the gospel in Colombia.
Consider Romulo Saune - Bible translator - shot to death by Shining Path Rebels in Peru.
Or Israel Havugimana and his two daughters, evangelists, murdered by Tutsi rebels in Ruwanda.
Then there is Sister Rani Maria, a Catholic nun, stabbed to death by Hindu militants in northern India.
And Veronica Diaz Jiminez, a Protestant laywoman, murdered by idolaters in Chiapas, Mexico.
Manzoor Masih, merely a Catholic layperson - not even an evangelist - who received the death sentence by the courts in Pakistan and died, becoming in the end a testimony to many.
And finally, how about Mehdi Dibaj, a Bible translator and missionary, gunned down by government assassins in Iran.
And look to this pulpit right now. You see a man here who has suffered for you and for the many people to whom he has tried to bring this message in the last 20 years of ministry. The message is, "Repent, for the Kingdom of Yahweh is among you!" Such sacrifice brings to mind the words of the writer to the Hebrews, which stings in our ears today:
Think of the many who have borne your suffering, your chastisement, your punishment, so that you might have an opportunity to bypass such tragedy and hear me speak of atonement today. Friends -- make this lenten season one of repentance and reconciliation. Cast off all your selfishness serve Yahweh as a first priority.
3. Allow Yahweh to mercifully chastise you for your sins, for such chastisement brings virtue - the virtues Paul speaks of are found in his next verse (7:6)
Such are surely good results stemming from just punishments. But virtue in not our only reward for being chastised. Power comes from humility as well:
Yet there is warning. The world will not understand you when you are truly reconciled with Yahweh, your sins enumerated and forgiven, your love and right relationship renewed. No, not even your closest friends can share your newness. As Paul cautions:
But oh, it will be worth it all to you to be fully reconciled with Yahweh, assured of your right standing, and convinced of your superior resurrection in the end. Though such words as I speak today are difficult for me (though certainly more difficult for Paul), direct speaking is prescribed here. Now is the time for you to turn back to Yahweh, your Father.
1. Oh, don't restrict your affections for me because I tell you must repent, be reconciled, and tread the pathway to holiness. Don't think me out of order because I command you to be fanatics for Christ's sake. So many have suffered for you. And I suffer daily for you. Put me no more to suffering, friends. Come - seek Yahweh in repentance and reconciliation - so I may be set free of my chains of prayer and concern.
2. And now is the time. This may be your final opportunity.
In Franz Kafka's great novel, The Trial, there is a parable of a man who is told to enter a kingdom through a certain gate. When he arrives at the edge of the kingdom, sure enough, he finds the gate there just as he was promised. He also finds a sentinel there - guarding the entrance. So, seeing the sentinel, he sits down on the grass outside, and he waits for the sentinel to either give him instructions or to grant him permission to enter. But the sentinel does nothing; he doesn't say anything or do anything. He just stands there at the gate.
The man continues to wait and wait. The days go by. Then the weeks. The months go by, and then the years. For a whole lifetime the fellow just sits there, and the sentinel just stands there. Finally one day, the sentinel leaves his post. He goes over to the big door, takes hold of it, closes it, and locks it. Before disappearing, he turns to the man on the grass and says, "That door was made for you and for you alone. I was guarding it so that no one but you would enter. But because you chose not to enter it, it is now being closed forever."
3. Yahshua stands at your hearts door at the beginning of this Lenten season knocking - knocking on behalf of all those who have suffered for your salvation. Yes, he is knocking. But soon he'll be finished, for the Set-apart Spirit will not strive with us forever. Will you answer his call?
Jackson Snyder, February 16, 1997