“Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.” Galatians 6:12 niv
The Judaizers were trying to appear spiritual by becoming circumcised so as to avoid persecution from zealous Jews. And were demanding that followers of Jesus Christ be circumcised, as well.
Takes me back to the night that Jesus had been arrested and was standing before the high priest. (You can read the account in Matthew 26.) Peter had been following Jesus from a distance, the scripture says.
Just the night before Jesus told Peter that he would deny Him three times and Peter vehemently disagreed, and said that he was willing to die for Him.
But now, as Peter walked along, following Jesus, but not too closely so as to be identified with Him, people were recognizing him as being one who had been with Jesus.
He denied his Friend once.
He denied him again, promising that he did not know Him.
He denied him a third time, cursing and swearing to boot, to avoid detection.
How far Peter had come in less than 24 hours. Where had he gone wrong?
First, Jesus had given Peter, James and John the opportunity to stand watch with Him in the garden and pray.
Instead, they chose to sleep.
They took the opportunity given to them to gain strength and wisdom from the Father and to pray for their friend and they let the time slip through their fingers as they fell asleep. Not once, not twice, but three times.
Are you slumbering spiritually? Do you miss opportunities that are given to you to pray, seeking the Lord's wisdom and strength, and for others who are struggling?
That lack of strength that Peter could have gained through prayer now caused him to be spiritually weak as he made his next crucial mistake.
He watched Jesus from afar.
His fear caused him to distance Himself from Jesus, and he sought to blend in with the crowd to avoid persecution.
What do we do to blend in with the world to avoid persecution? What worldly attitudes or ways have we adopted? How do we compromise our faith at home, at our jobs, out in public, to avoid “persecution?” And I put persecution in quotes because as of yet, here in the United States, most of us don’t know much of what real persecution is. (Stay tuned - I'll soon be beginning a new segment on the worldwide persecuted church.)
Ultimately, what are we risking? Being made fun of by a co-worker? Being fired? Having a family member distance themselves from us? Isn't God, well, God? Will He not take care of us, and even moreso those sons and daughters who are obedient to Him?
What about the risks we take when we are disobedient to the Lord? What blessings are we missing because we aren’t willing to take a step of faith? What miracles could God do through a life who is wholly, uncompromisingly devoted to Him? To what lengths will we go to stand with Jesus, who gave His life to purchase ours, and follow closely at his side?
Or are we content to follow Him at a distance?
When the proverbial rooster crows, and Jesus returns for you, will He find you acting like the world, or maybe following Him, but not too closely, so as to avoid detection and be ridiculed?
Or will He find you walking right with Him, uncompromising in your faith, standing for Him with passion, willing to go with Him wherever He calls you to go, giving any fear over to Him, and in the process being used by God in awesome and miraculous ways?
God loves you so much and He desires to use you in mighty ways!
"Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship does righteousness have with lawlessness? And what partnership does light have with darkness? And what agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what part does a believer have with an unbeliever? And what agreement does a temple of God have with idols?
For you are the temple of the living God, as God has said, 'I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.' Therefore, 'Come out from among them and be separated,' says the Lord, 'and do not touch the unclean thing. And I will receive you and I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters,' says the Lord Almighty." 2 Corinthians 6:14-18