Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The Persecuted Church

The Persecuted Church

Scripture: 1 Peter 4 v 12 - 14:
"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified."

Persecution of Christians was rife in the early church: from the Romans who refused any King but Caesar; to the Pharisees who had crucified Jesus, and had Saul of Tarsus as their champion. It has continued throughout the history of the church, especially from Roman Catholicism in the 13 -14th century when 68 million Christians died horrible deaths during the Spanish Inquisition.

The Inquisition was about one question! Is the wafer we eat at holy communion symbolic of the Body of Jesus Christ, or is it the ACTUAL Body of Christ? Those who said it was symbolic died. It was a trick question to weed out the "heretics" from the "one true religion". This whole shameful annihilation has been swept under the rug!

In the 17th century the Hugenot Christians had to flee persecution from the Catholic king of France and ended up in Holland, Canada, South Africa. While the British people had to replace King James 2, who wanted to overthrow Protestantism for Catholicism. His daughter, Mary 2, replaced him on the throne, together with her Protestant Dutch husband, William 3 of Orange. She had been raised protestant together with her sister Anne, who came to the throne after William died.  It kept England from reverting to Catholicism.

In the early 20th century the Russian Tsar was overthrown by Communists who brought severe persecution against Christians. Their religion is the State and any contradiction is met with imprisonment or death. This has now been topped by the Islamist militants like ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, who just torture and kill any heretics, which is happening today. Strangely, many thousands of the ISIS militants have turned to Christianity in the past two years, through the families of their victims. The joy and the glory. 

Stephen was the first martyr who died a Christian in Israel. He saw Jesus standing to receive him into Heaven. He died filled with joy to be with Jesus. One thing that persecution does is make the Body of Christ stronger. It brings unity and direction faster than any other thing. The common threat bands people together to confront it. When Jesus is in the midst of you all, you experience His glory.

He said in John 15 v 18: "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you." It is people who are controlled by Satan's world system that crucified Jesus through hatred, and if He is in us the world will reject us too. However, God so loved the world that He gave Jesus so that any who would follow Him would be saved.

Our mission is to go forth into that world and find the ones who are ready to change direction, and their sinful lives, for the life Jesus paid for with His own blood. We must wisely use the talents Jesus has given us to draw people to Him.

There are people who will never change but we must give them the opportunity to refuse even if they persecute us. The underlying problem in their lives is rebellion, division, bitterness, anger against God, unbelief, rejection and pride. These problems lead to anti-social behaviour and dependency on drugs and other means of withdrawal, which cause a downward spiral of the personality.

Sometimes the desperate need of one hitting rock bottom will open their hearts to Jesus for salvation, but it takes determination and effort to overcome hard core drugs. You need to fill your life to overflowing with the power of Jesus because He said if that demon goes out and the house (person) is not filled with the Holy Spirit, that demon will return and bring seven more worse demons with him so that he is in a worse state than before.

The paragraph above is especially for the many people who ask why Jesus cannot keep their children free of drugs and alcohol and porn after they have been rehabilitated. They persecute those who pray and they turn against the Lord but they fail to see that they and the affected teens or adults need to have a vibrant, effective and powerful walk with Jesus. They must constantly guard against temptation. 

Western and European people are educated to believe that the devil and his demons are a myth. This undermines the truth of Jesus and The Bible. More than 70% of His ministry was healing the sick and casting out demons. If He is truly in us we should be doing the same. It has radically changed my life these past 40 years.

So, beloved, the more you submit yourself to the will of God and become an effective instrument in His hand, the more likely you are to experience persecution. Have no fear because the joy and the glory of Jesus will be with you.

Prayer: Father God, we remember those brave Christians who lived hidden in the catacombs of Rome, who, when caught were killed by wild animals in the Colliseum. Millions have died rather than deny the Lordship of Jesus. He is worth dying for and worth living for too. Help us to be bold and fearless in the face of those who hate Him, blaspheme His wonderful name, and deny His salvation. Help us to pray for them to see His light before they go into eternal darkness. In Jesus' name. Amen.