Maybe it sounds like a strange question but was Jesus’s suffering really enough or do we need to add something to it?
In this episode of “Now Is the Time” I talk about self-crucifixion and self-flagellation. I also share with you news from Ukraine.
Every year men crucify themselves in the Philippines on Good Friday. This part of penance, a way to cleanse themselves of sins and a personal way to return God for a favor such as healing them or a family member.
While self-crucifixion is rather recent phenomena, it has its roots in the practice of self-flagellation (whipping) which goes back centuries. Both are believed to be a way that Christians can rid themselves of personal sins.
These strange practices come from bad theology and a misunderstanding of Scripture. One of the main texts involved here is Colossians 1:24
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,
Also key verses are Rom 8:13, Col 3:5, and Gal 5:24. Especially in the Catholic church this theology is known as “mortification of the flesh” in addition to self-crucifixion and self-flagellation another practice that comes out of this doctrine is celibacy.
The sad result is self-inflicted harm and suffering in an effort to purge oneself from sin. This is what I call “empty suffering.” It does not cleanse from sin and it does not help the Body of Christ.
Sometimes we are guilty of the same
At times we also can seek suffering in wrong ways.
- We can feel false guilt and feel we need to suffer under man-made standards.
- We can feel real guilt and then try to be extra good or punish ourselves to make up for our sin.
- We can seek persecution as a badge of our faith.
- We can promote our suffering publicly “Pray for me because I’m so busy with ministry, health problems, family problems, etc…”
What is lacking in Christ’s suffering?
Let’s be clear, Christ’s suffering was more than enough to provide forgiveness and salvation for all who believe. It doesn’t lack power to save you or anyone else, it is complete!
And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
What then is lacking?
My suffering and your suffering are lacking in the sense that they were not present in Christ’s sufferings but now they are present. Paul’s suffering for the sake of the Colossians did not provide them with forgiveness from sin, it did however minister to them, encourage them, and point them to Christ.
John Piper treats these verses excellently in a message called “Live to Die.”
We are called to suffer
The truth is we are called to suffer not in order to cleanse ourselves from sin but in response to grace that has been shown to us. We are called to suffer in service to Christ, we are called to suffer in ministry to the Body of Christ.
The level of suffering is not the same for every Christian but the readiness to suffer should be the same! It’s not a comfortable message and it certainly does not fit well with the Prosperity Gospel that so many preach today. So far American has avoided deep persecution but it will come eventually!
Am I ready to suffer?
The questions we need to be asking ourselves as we recall the crucifixion are
“Am I ready to suffer?”
“Do I know what is at stake?”
“Can I follow in the steps of Jesus?”
- We had 3 bombings in Odessa in March, one down the street from a church leader friend of ours.
- We spent a week in Kyiv meeting with our mission team and planning ministry.
- We are excited about the possibilities of being more involved with church-planting in Ukraine.
- We celebrate Easter here on April 12th, here’s why.
Our team of missionaries continues to help churches in the Donbas area of Eastern Ukraine, however travel into the conflict zone has become much more difficult because of new government restrictions on travel in and out of that zone.
I highly recommend you check out this report about occupied Protestant Churches in Eastern Ukraine.