Arm Yourself – Persecution

August 31, 2009 at 6:30 am | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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In America today, there seems to be a horrible disconnect with the rest of the world concerning persecution. Many children and adults who grow up in the American church have no idea or understanding of what persecution really is. Sadly, many don’t even realize what is happening to Christians outside the U.S.

In America, we consider persecution to be when people attack us verbally for our beliefs. We see anti-Christian groups like the ACLU and various atheistic groups as persecutors when they try to get Christmas images removed or when they try to get “Under God” removed from our money. To many, persecution is covering up images of Moses in the government buildings in Washington, D.C. or it’s seeing our ability to speak out against issues like homosexuality or abortion slowly eroding away. For Americans, persecution is uncomfortable and disconcerting because it removes some of the things we take for granted or bursts our little bubble of warm fuzziness.

In the real world, persecution is much different. While verbal attacks are noted as persecution, even by Jesus, that is not the extent of persecution. Throughout history, Christians have been a favored target of blame for governments, radical groups, and other religions. From its inception, Christianity has been a divisive and exclusive religion. That may sound bad, but it’s really not. Jesus said that what He taught would divide nations, people groups, and even families; and it has. It is divisive because of its stance on sin. When Jesus came, His message divided those who heart it. Either they believed what He said and repented, or they ignored it and kept rebelling. Because the call to repentance is so radical a change from what is considered “normal” by the world it causes division. Those who love their sins end up hating those who have forsaken them. The Jews sought to stone Jesus numerous times for what He said and they finally crucified Him…

So, what does this have to do with persecution? Jesus said that those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness are blessed (Matthew 5:10). In the next verse, He says that those who are insulted, persecuted, and have evil things said about them are blessed. Later, Jesus warns His disciples that they are being sent out as sheep in the midst of wolves (Matthew 10:16). They were to “beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues”. Jesus said they would be “hated by all” because of His Name. This is repeated in the Gospel of John as well as 1 John. Jesus told His disciples that the hates Him because He testifies that its deeds are evil (John 7:7). He also warned His disciples that in this world they would have trials and tribulations (John 16:33a). John understood real persecution. He was boiled in oil three times, and when he wouldn’t die, he was exiled to the island of Patmos.

If you are truly born-again, the world hates you. It hates you because you preach the truth about sin, hell, and judgment. It hates you because you testify of its evil deeds. It hates you because it hates Jesus and He abides in you. This brings up a couple of interesting thoughts. First, what if the world doesn’t hate you? Does it mean that you’re not saved It could be a very good indication of that. If you look, talk, and act like the world, you’re not truly saved (see last week’s blog for more). If you preach the gospel and live a holy and righteous life according to the scriptures, then the world will hate you. On a bigger level, thinking about this has caused me to wonder about the “megachurches”. If the world flocks to them, what are we supposed to think about them? Many of those who “lead” a “megachurch” proclaim a false gospel. Joel Osteen does it. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him preach about sin and death once in all the times I’ve heard him on TV. All of the prosperity preachers do it. Men like Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Jesse Duplantis, Kenneth Hagin, T.D. Jakes, and Creflo Dollar (along with a cast of thousands) all preach a false, worldly gospel focused on materialism and unscriptural ideas. Not to be outdone, women like Paula White, Cathy Duplantis, Gloria Copeland, Marilyn Hickey, and Juanita Bynum preach the same message. There are others who preach a message of social works replacing the gospel. Rick Warren and his P.E.A.C.E. plan is the most well known of these. There are “seeker-sensitive” churches like Willow Creek who preach whatever message non-Christian attendees want to hear. And then, there are those “preachers” who preach a message that is completely contrary to the scriptural gospel. They incorporate universalism, practices from other religions like yoga, and just plain strange doctrine labeled as “new paradigms”. Men like Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Tony Campolo, Donald Miller, Jim Wallis, and Greg Boyd embrace anything but true Christianity and try to repackage it as “emergent”.

Now, why would I go into a list of false prophets and preachers? I do this because I do this because 1 John 4 says that many false prophets have gone out into the world. It says that they speak as the world and the world listens to them. If the world is listening to them, it is not good. It is also not the gospel. If these men and women and preaching the truth, the world would hate them, but it doesn’t. Instead, they are embraced as being tolerant because they make everyone feel good. Christians seem to keep forgetting that the gospel ISN’T ABOUT FEELINGS; it’s about what is true. I don’t care if a sermon “tugs at your heart strings”. The question is: Is it true? The gospel and Christianity are based on the truth laid out by God from the beginning. If you’re preaching this truth, you will be persecuted! It is a promise from Christ Himself (John 15:20).

So what does this persecution look like? To start, you could read Hebrews 11:32-40:

And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect. men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground

To build on this you could read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. In the book, you would read about all of the horrible things that Christians went through from the beginnings of their faith. They were stoned, sawn in two, and dragged through the streets. They were tied down to iron grates and had red hot metal plates placed on sensitive areas. They were burned at the stake, beheaded, and speared. They were forced to take part in the Coliseum events where they were eaten by alive or gored by animals or were cut down by gladiators. They were placed in clothing of wax, tied to posts, and lit on fire to illuminate garden parties for the Emperor Nero. They were massacred by Romans, Muslims, and others who hated their message by the hundreds and thousands. And nothing has changed in the centuries since. Over the last 2000 years since Jesus Christ walked the earth, there have been more Christians murdered for their faith than any other people or religious group on the planet. Atheistic leaders, Muslims, Hindus, and other groups and nations who hate them kill them. In Sudan, three young children were out looking for food and were found by Muslim radicals. The radicals surrounded the young boys and lit on fire the grass they were standing in. One of the boys had third degree burns over forty per cent of his body. All of them were Christians. Others have watched as radicals slaughter their family members; rape their mothers, daughters, wives, and sisters; and burn down their entire villages. Christians in North Korea and China have to hide in houses and basements to worship their Lord and read scripture. If they are found they are imprisoned, tortured, and even killed for their faith.

Compare all of these things going on around the globe to what is happening in America today. The majority of “Christians” in America consider themselves under persecution when people ridicule them for their beliefs or attack their ideals. When the truth actually gets preached by those who profess Christ people attack their stance. While Jesus does call verbal attacks persecution, it’s not the only type. In America, it is extremely rare to hear about someone being killed for being a Christian. And while Christians are being attacked by others who hate them and trying to get them silenced through government endeavors, they don’t often see physical attacks or death. The Christian church in America has no clue as to what their brethren in other countries are going through most of the time. There are some who know that their brothers and sisters are dying for their faith. They support ministries that reach out to those who are suffering. Unfortunately, the majority of Christians don’t seem to care. More and more, the church of America has turned in to itself and focused on their own buildings and whatever they can do to please themselves. They focus on what makes their members happy and the efforts they need to make to grow their church, regardless of whether or not they’re saved.

If the persecution that the rest of the world is seeing right now comes to America, it will become obvious who the true followers of Jesus are. Many of those who follow false gospels preached by those listed above (and others) will end up falling away because they have no solid foundation to stand on. When the prosperity ends and they are threatened with death for their faith, how many will still stand by the Lord? I doubt it will be many. Instead, I wouldn’t be surprised if many of those who profess Christ and follow a false gospel helped to attack those who truly follow Christ. When faced with the option to lose their lives or recant their “faith”, many will recant and turn on those they once called brethren. This may sound like a doomsday type thing, but it’s happened throughout history. Above all that, Jesus said it would happen. We haven’t seen true persecutions in America like they are going on around the world yet, but they are coming unless our nation repents and turns its eyes back on God. What will you do when this happens? Will you recant your “faith”? Will you try to stay out of it and hide from it all? Or will you stand up and proclaim the true gospel of Jesus Christ all the louder?

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