Tuesday, September 22, 2009

PERSECUTION IS UPON US--W. F. BELL

Warning! This will not be easy to read, or something you really like. It will not be an "award winning" essay, forwarded with approval to thousands. Such truth is never popular. No, even I do not like to read what Paul told Timothy: "Endure afflictions" (2 Timothy 4:5). Then there is this solemn word: "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12). Who wants to read about "persecutions" and "afflictions" that we must "endure"?

In our ever-changing society, true Christians are having their faith challenged strongly, and all of us now face persecution and suffering. The early church experienced "great persecution" after the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 8:1), and wave after wave of "persecutions" and "afflictions" came upon the apostle Paul as he traveled the Roman Empire. History is filled with sad stories about "the blood of the martyrs." This is not just about China, Russia, or Africa anymore, but applies to American Christians also. Numerous are the stories of lawsuits against God-fearing people for praying in public, passing out Christian literature in public, or simply speaking out against certain sins. It is often absurd, but we need not expect things to get better. And who are we to think that we should not be persecuted for our faith? Why do we think that we are better than the followers of Christ who were persecuted before us? It actually betrays our faith for us to feel that we should escape being "hated" by the world, and escape "tribulation" (John 15:18; 16:33; Acts 14:22). We may not like to be "hated," and we may have been mistaught that we are soon to be "raptured" out of the world. Woe unto us!

The American "church" is made up of soft, lazy, lukewarm "believers." We don't want tough times to take us away from our sports fanaticism, our love affair with Hollywood, or change our easy-going, smooth lifestyles. "Clapping" for our modern religious entertainers must come to an end, being replaced with mourning and weeping over our national sins. We must come to "love the truth," not have our ears tickled with heresy. We must quit wallowing in our self-esteem. We must remember that at one time it was "costly" to be a Christian. Jesus said, "count the cost" (Luke 14:28), and even if we do not like to hear it, we must acknowledge that it is so. Truth hurts, but truth endures.

Is anyone sold out to Christ today? Yes, maybe a few "fanatics" here and there. These are truly "consecrated" and "committed" to Him, regardless of what it costs them. They take seriously the claims of Christ, when He said,
"Deny yourself, and take up your cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23). But few want to hear this. A preacher recently asked,
"Are you willing to go to prison for your Christian faith?" Most "Christians" would undoubtedly (and without hesitation) say, "No." Most of us are totally ashamed of Christ in the daily arena of life, and we have no desire to "go to prison" for Him, for we do not really believe He is "Lord of all" (Acts 10:36). How shameful it is for us to "profess" Christ in a secluded church building (fairly easy to do), then deny Him in the workplace, at school, or at home!

Remember that "Christian" in Scripture means "of Christ, belongs to Christ." This is so much more than a mere outward profession of Christ, or being manipulated by the "rules" of men and their denominations. What some call "fanaticism," others would call "normal" or "healthy" Christianity. We should all want to be "normal Christians," but if we are, it will bring us persecution, as it always has. So Paul admonishes us, "Walk in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:16).

As we read through the book of Acts, we see much that the modern church would call "fanatical" or "extreme." Like Paul's testimony causing "the riot" at Ephesus (Acts 19), or his heroic courage aboard ship when encountering the storm "Euroclydon" on his voyage to Rome (Acts 27). The lax and lazy "Christianity" of our day wants none of this! We want only to preserve our soft American lifestyle, free from any and all persecution, and this just proves how far removed our so-called faith is from the genuine faith of the New Testament. Those who belong to Christ are clearly said to be "called, and chosen, and faithful" (Revelation 17:14). The question is, Are we?

1 comment:

mlordi said...

Not too many messages from the pulpit today reminding believers that they must take up their cross! Everyone wants a Jesus that does everything for them but not too many are willing to pay the cost to follow him. That is why the road to destruction is wide and many are on it.

Thanks for the great teaching.