Intro: There is little preaching today on persecution. I was in a Sunday School class in Panama City, Fla while visiting my brother. The lesson mentioned persecution in the early church. The men's class had a round table discussion about whether Christians are being persecuted today and they concluded that there is little persecution of Christians today except in some foreign countries with pagan or communist governments. Do you see the problem with their conclusion? They falsely assumed that biblical persecution only comes to those who live in a country with an ungodly government. They really did not have information on current persecution of believers around the world and little understanding of the varying ways Christians even in America are being persecuted.
However, I think the reality is that persecution is a live and doing well in all countries, including America where there are Christians living for the Lord Jesus Christ.
ILLUS: Several weeks ago the Indianapolis Baptist Temple was seized by Federal Marshals. Earlier they seized the pastor's home. The reason was the government claimed that he and his church refused to pay Federal Income Tax on its employees and the church owed thousands of dollars in back taxes. The fact is that the church refused to withhold taxes on its employees because it believed that a church it should not be required by the government to become its agency in collecting taxes. The church says that over the years sixty of his ministers have been audited by the IRS and all passed. Th church says is a church not a government taxes collector. Further, all the taxes was paid the employees who filled as self employed.. The government did not lost one penny in taxes, but was paid by the individual employees. Many in the news media believe the Federal Government targeted this church and made an example of it to others who also feel that churches should not be required to collect taxes for the government. ( http://www.indianapolisbaptisttemple.com/gadletter.html ).
Today around the world:
1. In Africa, a young boy ten years old is made to gather wood by Muslin government soldiers. They then begin to pressure him to denounce being a Christian and become a Muslim. He refuses and they cast him on to the burning wood he gathered and leave him to die. By God's grace he survived and I listened to him tell his story and saw the scars where he was burned.. He said they told him if he began a Muslin he would be released. The boy, James Zeda, refused saying that was not possible, because he was a Christian.
2. Rikka, a young teenage girl attends a Christian Bible camp in her country. Muslims attack the camp and she is taking in the bushes and a piece of broken glass held to her stomach. She is told to deny Christ. She cries out "Oh, Lord help me, I do not want to deny you!"
3, In China the pastor Li Di Xien of a house church is holding services. The police break in and drag him out. They find a Bible in his shirt and he is severely beaten. This is the fifth time he has been caught and they warn him if he is caught again they will kill him.
4. In Pakistan, Khalid Masih, and eight other Christians are awaiting their trials for blasphemy by their Muslin government. Twice groups of radical Muslims attacked the local Baptist church and the home of Pastor Yousef Masih. Everything they had of value was stolen. Because they are Christians they cannot get work.
5. Vietnamese Christians are still being persecuted throughout their country. At least 13 religious detainees were still being held in Vietnamese prisons without charge. Nguyen Thi Thuy spent eleven months in jail for holding a simply Bible study in her home.
6. In Nepal, Tajikistan and India Christians are regularly attacked. In India, Christian who are victims of the earthquake there are being denied help.
And thousands of others around the globe are suffering for the sake of Christ. (Source: Faces of Persecution at http://www.persecution.com/faces/ )
1. You see these people are true peacemakers who are seeking to bring people to true peace by showing them the way to salvation. A peacemaker is one who is outgoing in their witness for Christ. They care about souls and seek to reach the lost and they are committed to taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth as Matthew 28:19-20 command us too....even if it means being beaten and killed.
2. The natural result of being seeking the lost is that it will often cause conflict and persecution in varying degrees.
- To the one he helps bring to Christ and salvation he is a true friend.
- To the one who does not respond to his efforts he is offense and may be seen as a trouble maker.
3. True happiness comes from knowing Christ as ones Savior and being in fellowship and living as God directs.
4. The person who is truly a peacemaker is in conflict with others for several reasons:
a. He is perceived to be a trouble maker. The philosophy of the world is to deny the truth and to hide sin and to cover up or ignore problems.
b. He is often perceived to have a "I'm better than you" attitude. When you present the Gospel to people it begins by stating the truth that we are all sinners. Most people do not want to hear that they are sinners and lost not going to heaven. No one likes being told they are wrong.
c. Because a peacemaker tries to do that is right, and seeking to live a godly life it naturally shows up those that are wrong. That can offend people.
ILLUS: Here in Tremonton several weeks ago as we were out knocking on doors a man ran two believers from Faith Baptist Church of Layton who were here helping us off his porch and warned them not to come back or he would all the police.A Christian wrote me and told me their spouse was making their life miserable because they wanted to go to church and live for the Lord.
A Jewish boy receives Christ as his Savior and is disowned by his family and friends.
d. He is perceived to be too narrow minded. World wants get latitude to do as it pleases and does not want what they do questioned. Many times the peacemaker will be accused of being a fanatic.
e. The reality of the matter is it is the truth that is in conflict with error and this causes the problem.
We talk about the oppressed minorities; well the peacemaker who lives for the Lord is in the minority.
f. At times it is no fun to be a peacemaker and to be at odds with other people.
Yet, God has provided a place of sanctuary it is called the local church. It is the place where peacemakers come together to fellowship, and encourage one another.
They have a common bond in Christ. They love the truth and seek to find it in fellowship with other believers, Bible study, Sunday School and the preaching of the Word of God.
The local church is a place of refuge that is why it is being attacked by Satan and those that serve him. Why does the Chinese government attack house churches. Satan hates to see the Gospel preached.
Yet, it is not confined to foreign countries at the Sunday School class in Florida concluded.
Sadly, sometimes even within the church there are those who oppose the peacemaker, the one who takes a stand for truth and what is right.
Everyone in a church is not always a peacemaker and every Christian is not always a peacemaker. This at times causes tension in the church family. That is why it is so important for each person to be committed to the Lord, a Bible reader and one who is seeking God's will in their lives.
Unbelievers know little about love, of being a Christian companion, of being a friend, of seeking as a brother to help one another, and of having a spirit of mercy. The unsaved know nothing of purity and of true peace.
A. The Bible says there is a double blessing for the persecuted.
1. Verse 10. "Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness sake."
2. Verse 11. "Blessed are you when men revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake."
3. Verse 10 promises a blessing for those who are persecuted because they live godly lives.
4. Verse 11, promises a blessing for those who are despised because they are Christians.
5. Those that are persecuted need a double blessing.
B. WHO WILL BE PERSECUTED?
1. II TI MOTHY 3:12, tells us, "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."
2. Notice that it does not say all Christians will suffer prosecutions. The Bible is very specific and says only those that "live godly in Christ".
The secret Christian, the compromising, or the Christian who is not peacemaker will rarely or never be persecuted.
3. To whatever a degree a person lives the first seven Beatitudes, will determine how much he will experience the eighth.
If he is:
Poor in spirit: The world can't stand him, because the world lives in pride and self-promotion.
Mourns and is repentant over sin: The world thinks him a fool to uphold godliness and is offended at his good moral conduct that shames their sinful ways.
Meek: The world runs over him and makes him a victim.
Hungers and thirst after righteousness: Religious fanatic. Too narrow minded.
Merciful: The world laughs. To be merciful is to seek the welfare of others first. Unbelievers seek their own welfare first, the put themselves first. An attitude of "what will it get for me" or of living only for one's self.
Pure in Heart: He seeks to serve the Lord and live a pure life, the world seeks to sin and gratify the lusts of its flesh.
Peacemaker: He tries to help others find true lasting and eternal peace, yet the world seeks peace in going down the board road that Jesus says leads to destruction.
4. Galatians 4:29 "But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now."
5. We are all aware of the Holocaust, and the murder of six million Jews. Are you aware that it is estimated by historians that over 40 million Christians have been killed for their belief in Christ since the early church.
a. The first murder was caused because Abel's brother Cain, could not tolerate his righteousness in obeying God. So he murdered him. (Gen 4:8)
b. God in Heb. 11:32-35, speaks of those who had great victories in serving the Lord.
However, verse 36-40 speaks of those who suffered greatly, many gave their lives for their faith in God.
The unbelieving Jews, murdered the prophets of God, because they hated being told they were living in sin. The could not murder God, so they murder His messenger.
It has always been the religious lost who have been the greatest persecutors of those that follow the Lord. Today it is not only the Muslim who are attacking Christians, it is liberals who claim to be Christians and who are attacking Bible believing Christians and churches.
ILLUS: Almost every week I get e-mail from those who angry with me because I place articles on my web site that are biblical and often expose the doctrinal error of false Christianity.
Acts 7:52-53 says,
" Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye
have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it."
This is the motivation of those that persecute:
They do not want to hear the truth, so the try and silence them that are messengers of truth.
John 3:19 states, "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather that light, because their deeds were evil, For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, list his deeds be reproved He that cometh to the truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God."
C. It is not unusual for those who live for the Lord to suffer for it.
God says in Phil. 1:29, "For unto you it is given in behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake" Verse 28 says, " in nothing be terrified by your adversaries, which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation."
These verses teach two things:
1. Those that are persecuted for the sake of Christ should understand that it is because of Christ they suffer. It is great evidence of their salvation. It is great evidence of their standing for the truth, of being a peacemaker and living for the Lord.
2. Those that persecute the ones who follow the Lord and try to live as God directs, by their persecution of the saints of God show they do not know God. They breed contempt for the righteous, they try to destroy the
messenger of truth, because when the truth is told it exposes the sin and hypocrisy in their lives.
3. Follow with me as I read. I Thessalonians 2:15-16.
"Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men:
Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.
D. I cannot close this message without mentioning the promises of God to those who live for Him.
1. Romans 8:35, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
2. 1 Corinthians 4:12-14 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the off scouring of all things unto this day. I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.
3. 2 Corinthians 4:6-9, For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed."
1. First we should examine our hearts. What is our faith. Is it real? Would our faith stand the test of persecution?
2. Second we should take heart in the face of persecution;
James 1:2, says we should rejoice when the trials come.
Romans 8:35 says, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? The persecutors can killed they body, they cannot hurt our souls or our relationship with Christ.
3. What do you do when your family member, relative, friend, fellow worker, or someone we meet belittles us, or attacks us for our faith. Are we embarrassed by the name of Christ and of being a Christian?
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