Monday, September 7, 2009

Praying For The Persecuted - Part II of II

The Purifying Effect of Persecution For the People of God is not something to be feared, although we might dread the thought, and any pain or suffering associated with it.
Here in America we are beginning to see the first signs of persecution, and for those who aren't seeing this, may I suggest a reading of the book by Janet Folger, The Criminalization of Christianity.
Increasingly the Federal government is enacting legislation that would hinder the church and the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the Hate Crime law and the proposed Fairness Doctrine.
As humanism and atheism expands across our landscape, producing more adherents via our public (socialist-style) school systems, or as I like to call them 'propaganda centers', these same youth are abandoning the evangelical, fundamental, Bible-believing churches.
This is creating an environment where it's believed that there is no absolute truth, no exclusively divine source of truth; its an ecumenical perspective couched in pantheistic dogma which will inevitably be sanctioned and ratified by our government as a State religion, excluding all others as illegal forms (including biblical Christianity).
J. Vernon Mcgee was once quoted as saying that when the persecution of the body of Christ would strike the saints here in America, it would be committed by the denominational churches.
As a matter of biblical history, its always been the religious who have persecuted God's people. From the priests of Baal, to the multitude of false gods in Canaan, whom many Hebrews worshipped and themselves persecuted their righteous brethren, to the Roman empire (Caesar worship) that persecuted both Israel and the church, and throughout time, we see that this holds true.
Even among Communist regimes, where humanism is held sacred and man himself becomes the object of worship, and thus 'religious' in that sense, Christians are persecuted; and of course Islam is a tremendous proponent of persecution.
Voice of the Martyrs and DC Talk have collaborated in writing two books, simply entitled: Jesus Freaks, Vol. 1 and 2, and in these pages we read about the early church during the first two centuries, the church in the Dark ages, and the church in contemporary times that have suffered persecution. Of course there is that much older text that's become very well known: Foxes Book of Martyrs, and this along with the two more contemporary books are quite the humbling read!

I would recommend all of these as must reading for any Christian. They are as inspiring as they are humbling, and I believe we need to learn some valuable lessons from these, our brethren who have passed on to reap that "eternal weight of glory" where they have sown the seeds of obedience to Christ Jesus and His Gospel, even unto death.
Our primary source of information when it comes to learning about persecution and how to deal with it, is of course the Holy Bible, but before we address these verses and a bit of exposition on them, I'd like to share with you what Richard Wurmbrand (Pastor Richard Wurmbrand Biography, Founder of Voice of the Martyrs, Tortured for Christ » Biography) said about this subject:
When you face that time of pain and suffering, and have to come to the decision to walk into such for Christ's sake, it won't be the accuracy of your doctrine that will carry you through, it won't be the number of scriptures you've memorized, it won't be your acts of charity or church service that will sustain you. The only thing that will sustain you is your relationship with Jesus Christ!

Mat 5:10-12
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
We don't associate persecution with "blessed" and yet the LORD, the Truth incarnate has said as much. The essential in this blessedness, and our reason to be "exceeding glad" is that we are persecuted for righteousness (not holier than thou attitude, arrogance, rudeness, smug exclusivity) sake.
It's when we conduct ourselves as befitting citizens and true ambassadors for Christ, and as a result of such righteous, holy living, and the proclamation of the Gospel, we are persecuted by those in darkness who are unwilling to come to the Light, that we find a blessing that is, the assurance that "great is your reward in heaven".
When we live as Jesus did on this earth, its then that we can expect the same world that crucified our LORD, will vilify and persecute us, as He said it would:
Jhn 15:20
Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
In the third chapter of Daniel we read about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and the trial they faced in the furnace of fire, but this trial was at its heart, a persecution of these OT saints who refused to bow the knee to a false god, and stand for righteousness; in maintaining their allegiance to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Note the final outcome of that trialsome persecution: their enemies were destroyed (that is, those soldiers who were commanded to throw them into the furnace, heated seven times greater than usual); their bonds that restrained them were burned away; they enjoyed fellowship with the LORD, and so much so, that even though they were freed of their bonds, they remained in the furnace, rather than to leave their LORD! The LORD was glorified by none other than the King of Babylon himself who proclaimed a royal edict stating that any who would speak a word against the God of these three Hebrew saints would be executed!
We too will find that in the time of our LORD's choosing, our great enemy, Satan, and all of his legions will one day be perpetually destroyed in Gehenna. In the way of the persecuted, the saints have found that so many besetting sins that were once such a struggle, fall away when under the stresses of these greater problems, and yet in the midst of such, the grace of our LORD is greater still!
We find fellowship in the midst of these sufferings, indeed the fellowship of Christ's sufferings offer such a sweetness, that we would rather remain in the throes of such trials, and have this grace remain, than to depart from the LORD and that fiery furnace. As we endure such things with the JOY of the LORD as our strength, others around us will be mystified by our attitude and conduct, and they will want to know why we are the way we are.
At such an opportunity the hearts of the unrepentant are ripe for the harvest, as we proclaim the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ, and gently lead them to the Savior who alone can bring them to the Kingdom Eternal.
Four more scriptural references and we're done here!
In Acts chapter 4, the apostles, now empowered by the Holy Spirit boldly proclaim the Gospel and they are brought before the Sanhedrin, demanded by them to account for themselves, imprisoned, scourged, and commanded to not preach in "this name again".
Yet Peter and the others were unrelenting!

Act 4:19
But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.
When they returned to the fellowship, they had a prayer meeting and said . . .

Act 4:29-30
And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thine hand to
. . . what? to smite? to judge? to mete out destruction? No! . . . to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.
Lastly, consider Paul and his afflictions, and how he considered these things:

1Cor 4:11-13
Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.
And . . .

2Cr 4:11-18

For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you.
We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.
For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory*; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
*Consider what afflictions Paul endured (2Cr 11:23-28), and yet he thinks of these things as "light"? Yes! Compared to the reward he will receive in heaven, YES!
Blessed are YOU also when you endure these trials, persecutions, sufferings in Christ, and yet glorify God through it all, and remain steadfast as a faithful witness for JESUS our LORD and SAVIOR! Amen!
Please remember to pray for our persecuted family in Jesus the world over, and to visit VOM (Voice of the Martyrs - web site at this blog under "Links To Live By").
Yours in the battle,
Nikao Aionios AVRAS!

May the LORD Jesus bless you all WAY TOO MUCH!

brother JAMES FIRE

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