If you missed yesterday's blog as we took a look at Paul's sufferings, please go back and read it. It will help set the stage for the rest of the week. As we finish out this week, I want us to see 3 major applications from this text that will help us understand what it means to be a witness. First, I want us to see that Christianity is defined far differently by us today than it was by Paul. We have treated Christ as Savior, and ignored the fact that He is Lord. We have a tendency to define our theology by our actions and feelings. We take our feelings, our desires, our preferences, and actions, and make the Bible fit our lives and lifestyles. We should define our actions and feelings by our theology! We should take God’s Word and make our feelings, desires, preferences, and actions fit it. We need to simply ask, what does the Bible say? And then we need to do it! The second century Christian leader Tertullian was once approached by a man who said, “I have come to Christ, but I don't know what to do. I have a job that I don't think is consistent with what Scripture teaches. What can I do? I must live.” To that Tertullian replied, “Must you?” As followers of Jesus, we simply must obey the Scriptures regardless of the cost. In the Vietnamese Highlands, an American volunteer commented on the suffering of the Vietnamese Christians. One of the Vietnamese Christians said, “Suffering is not the worst thing that can happen to us. Disobedience to God is!” Oh that we had the same view. That was Paul’s idea of Christianity.
Our definition of Christianity is far different than Paul’s. He wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:32, “If the dead do not rise, Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” In other words, without the hope of resurrection, one should pursue ordinary pleasures and avoid extraordinary suffering. Sadly, this is what most western “Christians” do today. We pursue ordinary pleasures. We avoid extraordinary suffering. And we call it the blessed Christian life. John Piper once said,“Most Christians in the prosperous West describe the benefits of Christianity in terms that would make it a good life, even if there were no God and no resurrection.”
Paul wrote again in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” How many Christians do we know who could say, The lifestyle I have chosen as a Christian would be utterly foolish and pitiable if there is no resurrection? That is what Paul did. He was so convinced that the resurrection would happen and that eternal reward would follow, he lived accordingly. He wrote in Philippians 3:7-11, “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” What we call Christianity is not what Paul called Christianity!