Profess or Deny, Which Will You Choose?
by Donna Wilson
April 3, Good Friday – Psalm 95; 1 Peter 1:10-20; John 13:36-38; Genesis 22 :1-14; John 19:38-42.
Headlines from current events:
A highly decorated 19-year veteran naval chaplain is in danger of losing his job because of his Christian beliefs.
In San Francisco legislators are trying to force Catholic schools to drop a code of conduct for teachers that reflects the Catholic faith.
The government tells a Florida ministry it has to give up Christ or quit using USDA food to help feed the poor.
Although found not guilty, in 2011 two Christians were arrested and charged with misdemeanor offenses for reading the Bible on public property.
In a recently released movie, one of the characters is a firefighter whose job was jeopardized for sharing the gospel with a dying man in order to save his soul. The firefighter was quoted, “If what I did has suddenly become a crime, then I’m proud to plead guilty.”
In Libya 21 Coptic Christians were murdered because of their Christian faith. The last words of some of those killed were “Lord Jesus Christ”.
In the gospel reading today from the book of John we learn of two men who were Christ followers in secret, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. They were wealthy members of the Sanhedrin Council. Had they confessed openly their faith in Jesus, it could have cost them everything: their positions, their worldly possessions, and possibly their lives. Something happened when Jesus died that gave them boldness to approach Pilate to have Jesus’ body removed from the cross for burial. They covered Him with expensive linens and spices so that He could be buried with the rich, thus fulfilling scripture (Isaiah 53:9). However, during Christ’s life they only showed cowardice and concealment. They placed more value on their own lives than on obedience to God.
We’re all familiar with Peter’s denial of Jesus, three times before the cock crowed (John 13:36-38). Peter’s denial was not deliberate, but was committed at a moment of weakness and impulsiveness. Mercifully, Jesus did not hold this against Peter because He knew that Peter’s heart was in the right place.
As the above headlines indicate, it is possible that we could be discriminated against, persecuted or even killed in our lifetime for our faith. The apostle Paul tells us, “Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2Tim. 3:12). Will we stand firm in our love for Jesus or will we deny Him under duress as Peter did? Will we openly declare our association with Jesus or will we remain silent for fear of earthly loss as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea?
What does it mean to deny Christ? We can deny Christ verbally as Peter did. We can deny Christ by remaining silent as Joseph and Nicodemus. However, the most common way we deny Christ is by professing him with our lips but denying Him with our works and our lives. Christ stated, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my father in heaven.” (Matt. 10:32-33).
Instead of retaliating with hatred and revenge, the brother of one of the Coptic Christians slaughtered in Libya thanked his brothers’ killers for including the men’s declaration of faith in the video made of their beheadings. He said it strengthened his own faith and the faith of others. Likewise, our words and our lives should reflect the love of Christ and possibly bring others to follow Jesus. This world desperately needs Him.