Indeed, the nature of true religion must be based on relationship. That relationship must embrace both the good and the bad. That is why divorce rates are so high, even in the church. We have no problem with the positive but as soon as something comes against us we become irreconcilable. Nonsense! We simply choose to not endure the suffering.
But not only are we to relate to His sufferings -- the key verse actually says we are to fellowship in the sharing of these sufferings. Fellowship intimates a much closer relationship then we are used to with suffering in this country. We are to be close and personal friends with the suffering of Jesus Christ -- not mere spectators. Not pay it lips service while we are passing the marshmallow peeps out. Close enough to smell the blood running down our back. Close enough to feel the thorns in our brow. We are not to intellectualize it. We are not to treat it as a story or a documentary. We are supposed to fellowship in it. We are to sit down with it and get to know it. We are to sup with it. Only then can we begin to get a true glimpse into the sacrifice God has made on our behalf which will unlock the power of His resurrection in our lives. I do not know how anyone can watch The Passion of the Christ and not weep uncontrollably. The graphic nature of the sufferings of Christ on display and yet experts on history say that Mel Gibson did not even come close to how bad it truly was. Yet we have people in the Church of Jesus Christ who see no problem in sharing the altar of a holy God who sent His only Son to go through this torture with pagan symbols and worldly excuses. The only logical rationale I can come up with is that we simply have not fellowshipped in the sharing of His sufferings. As I sit hear in tears now writing this, I realize that I had not either until today. This is what Jesus meant by not being afraid of those who threaten you. I have fellowshipped in the sufferings of Jesus Christ! What can you possibly do to me? I now understand how Peter, who failed so miserably for so long was able to demand to be crucified upside down!
Beloved, there is resurrection power available for all of us who call on the name of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. But it is not found in a padded pew, playing church. It is not found in seeker friendly nonsense that pretends the Gospel is no longer relevant enough to reach the lost of this generation. The true Gospel is always relevant enough and if we find ourselves in a church where it is not, the problem is not with the Gospel I assure you. I can see now that those dead churches that strip the sufferings of Christ out of the Gospel are left with a cardboard cut out of the truth. As long as you stare at it straight on, it looks right. It even sounds right. But if we change our perspective we see it is only one-dimensional. If we take off the crown of glory we like to wear and replace it with the crown of thorns, we can see the Gospel being preached is false. The crown of glory is only truly obtained when we first fellowship with the sharing of His sufferings by taking on His crown of thorns. Once we have truly fellowshipped there, then there is nothing man can do to us anymore. We will be set free from religion and truly understand relationship. The Spirit of God inside of us will rise up and we will preach the Good News of Jesus Christ. Not a one dimensional Christ -- but the genuine article. People want to spread lies and gossip about us? They mocked our Lord and spit on Him! People want to try and strip our dignity? They tore His clothing off His back and gambled for it! The power of His resurrection is found beloved -- in the fellowship of the sharing of His sufferings. We cannot expect the power without the suffering. Just take a look around at a lot of the modern churches and you will see what I mean. Paul warned us:
They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! -- 2Timothy 3: 5 (NLT)
Those who are acting religious are merely fooled into thinking they have a form of godliness. They may say the right things. Their worship may seem crisp. They may thrive on emotionalism. But they reject the very power that could make what they do Godly. That power is the power of His resurrection and it is found in the fellowship of the sharing of His sufferings. The very things they strip out of the Gospel because they think they do not market well are the very things that provide the true power in our faith. The cross, the blood, the resurrection. Without these things we are worshipping mere cardboard cut outs of a religion that is devoid of any true spiritual power.
Lastly, from the key verses we see that we also need to pursue becoming like Him in His death. How was Christ in His death? He was humble, forgiving, and conquering. That is the end result of walking in the true resurrection power of Jesus Christ. Paul describes His humility:
Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal's death on a cross. -- Philippians 2: 6-8 (NLT)
It didn't matter what they accused Him of. It didn't matter what insults they hurled at Him. It didn't matter that He was God and could have called down legions of angels to stop it. He remained humble through it all. He gave up His divine privileges and when we truly wrap our minds around that, how can we ever feel privileged again? How could we ever allow that pompous and privileged spirit in our churches again? When we can achieve this level of humility through the resurrection power of Christ then we are protected from the number one weapon of the enemy against us -- pride. Most theologians will agree that any sin can be traced back to some form of pride. But when we fellowship in the sharing of His sufferings to obtain His resurrection power we can become like His humility in death. THAT is the power in our lives about how we see ourselves.
Christ also was forgiving in death. He forgave the thief on the cross right as He was dying. He actually interceded for His murderers while He was being murdered! In the modern church we see too many people hurt too easily. Too much unforgiveness. The unforgiving nature leads to bitterness and resentment. Two more great weapons in the arsenal of the enemy wiped out by resurrection power! When we fellowship in the sharing of His sufferings to obtain His resurrection power we can become like His forgiveness in death. THAT is the power in our lives about how we see others.
Lastly, Christ was also conquering in death. The grave could not hold Him. Hell could not hold Him. He overcame, He overcame, He overcame. The oft-quoted Romans verse is not just that we are more than conquerors:
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. -- Romans 8: 37 (NIV)
We are not conquerors all on our own. We are only more than conquerors through Jesus Christ. Through the power of His resurrection which is obtained through the fellowship of the sharing of His sufferings. This reminds us constantly that it is not about us -- it is only about Him! THAT is the power in our lives about how we see God.