Sheptock, Rudy

Pastor Rudy Sheptock.

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I was talking with my youngest son, Joel, the other day.

I asked him, “Do you think that Christians are being properly prepared so that if they ever had to choose between renouncing their faith or having to die, they wouldn’t deny Jesus Christ?” He hesitated, but then thoughtfully added, “No, dad, I don’t think so.”

In a time where many churches spend so much time trying to make everybody comfortable, are we doing our parishioners a disservice by not getting them ready for battle? In many parts of the world, people are dying daily because of their crime of believing in Jesus. Men and women love the Lord more than their own lives and refuse to walk away from Jesus, even though they are threatened with being beheaded on the spot.

Americans are known for declarations. All the time, we make bold statements announcing our faithfulness, commitments and perseverance despite what might stand in our way. The problem is that we are also known for talking more than walking when it comes to backing up beliefs.

The first step is making a dedication of your heart to God before making any empty declarations of how strong you are going to be in the face of danger. If you won’t follow Jesus when it’s easy, how will you ever be courageous when it might cost you your life?

If you don’t believe what I am saying, maybe take another look at the disciple, Peter. He learned the hard way that proclamations without personal promises make you look foolish in the long run.

Let your life make the loudest noise. If more believers lived as Jesus did, Christianity might be much more attractive to a lost and dying world. There would be more fight and light than we presently see in the Body of Christ.

The political correctness of our culture wants to edit Jesus out of everyday life. You can talk about almost anyone else, but if you start talking about our Lord, people get uncomfortable quickly; however, there is no other name to show men and women how they can be rescued.

You can understand why the enemy wants to keep that confession from the lips of people. Jesus never forced anyone to worship Him. Power can do many tasks, but it can’t force you to love someone.

That only comes from the decisions of the heart, but tyrannical human leaders have come and gone over time, and their goals are more egotistical and driven by pride and not the unconditional love that flows from Jesus.    

Let me tell you the story of Domitian, an ancient emperor. He was the brother of Titus, the Roman general who destroyed Jerusalem and its temple in A.D. 70. Jesus prophesied about this ahead of time, in the Gospel of Matthew.

Domitian allegedly poisoned Titus, so that he could become the sovereign ruler. After his brother was disposed of, Domitian became emperor.

At the beginning of his reign, Domitian, like Nero before him, proclaimed himself to be a deity. He demanded that everyone in the Roman Empire worship him, as a son of God. Under his law, people were forced to burn incense before statues of the emperor, and as they did, they were forced to chant to the mantra, “Our Lord and God.”

There was nothing righteous about Domitian. He was a conceited and ruthless tyrant, who ordered mass murders as casually as most people would swat a fly.

He imposed severe punishments on anyone who disobeyed him. All in favor of his way would live. If anybody was opposed, they died on the spot.

The apostle, John, was pastoring his congregation in Ephesus at the time. He challenged his flock to stay true to Jesus and not bow to idols, burn incense to the emperor’s image and yield to government threats. He made it clear that believers didn't have a choice at all.

Jesus, alone, was worthy of worship and was the truth despite what the cries of the crowd might say. In a crowd of lies, John said to stick with the truth.

Domitian didn’t care for John's words, and he exiled him to Patmos on the first boat leaving town, thinking that would shut John up.

However, it didn’t. People can try to lock up God, but His word can’t stay contained.

As long as Domitian was emperor, John was stuck on Patmos. John received the vision of the Revelation of Jesus that Domitian couldn’t stop.

John gave us the book of Revelation against the backdrop of intense persecution. The Lord gave John a message to deliver to the seven churches. That message can be summed up in two words: don’t compromise.

Yet, the faith of too many is filled with it being watered down and is only an inkling of what God intended it to be. When Domitian commanded that incense be burned before his image as an act of worship, many Christians said, “What harm would it do to burn a little incense?

"I still go to church and pray. If I defy the emperor, I might lose friends, lose business, and lose my job. If burning a little incense keeps the government off my back, what’s the harm?”

The Lord’s message, delivered through John, is clear: Don’t compromise. Take a stand for the truth. Stop worrying about what other people think.

Stop worrying about what the government may do to you. Instead, consider what you will lose eternally if you compromise the truth. That’s still His message to us today: “Don’t compromise. Stand firm for the truth.”

How devoted are you to Jesus? Is He truly your first love? Is He number one in your heart?

Jesus never gave you anything but His absolute best. He died so that we could live. He gave His life for us so that we might have an eternal home with Him. What’s too much to do for a God who did everything for you?

Seek Jesus, and fall in love with Him. You can’t love Him if you don’t follow Him. You won’t be willing to die for someone you aren’t presently living for.

Christianity isn’t only a hobby. It is not something to do with your spare time. Faith should be the driving engine of your soul.

It’s time to stand up for the light in the middle of the night. Will you?

ED. NOTE: The author is the senior pastor of The Lighthouse Church, 1248 Route 9 South, Court House.