Would you Deny Him or Die for Christ?
INTRODUCTION: Most of us are fully aware of what happened in Littleton, Co, when two teenage boys took guns and pipe bombs into the their high school and cold bloodily murdered 14 of their class mates and teachers.
Although our liberal news media has said little about it several of the students that were murdered were Christians.
Cassie Bernall, age 17, lost her life that day at the hands of one of the gunman. She had in the past greatly troubled her parents by her fascination with witchcraft and her talk of suicide. However, Cassie turned from all this upon attending West Bowles Community Church and came to be known as one who carried her Bible to school daily. She had a testimony among her fellow students of being a girl who loved the Lord and was an outgoing Christian. When the gunmen came upon her in the school library, one asked her: "Do you believe in God?" Cassie said she did, and the boy shot her in the head. Nearby students said it is clear to them that they killed her because she confessed to believing in God.
Lauren Townsend, 18, recently began to attend Southern Gables Evangelical Free Church with a classmate who is a member of the church. Twenty-six youth from that church attended Columbine. Two were wounded and are hospitalized, and Lauren was killed.
Rachel Scott, 17, was active in the Oakland Road Christian Center, and her classmates call her "a passionate Christian." Read the testimony of her father before the House Judiciary Committee - United States House of Representatives Thursday, May 27,1999 2:00 P.M. - 2141 Rayburn House Office Building
John Tomlin, 16, had recently moved from Wisconsin and his family joined Foothills Baptist Church. He recently went on a missions trip to Mexico to help build housing for the poor. Other students said the Trenchcoat Mafia considered him "too religious."
It is reported that these boys of the Trenchcoat Mafia committed this terrible crime because they hated athletes, people of color, and Christians.
These boys were heavy into the Gothic life style which is based in Satanic ritual, and everything that is evil.
I think it is clear that at least four of the fourteen teenagers who died can honestly be concerned martyrs who died because they had a testimony of being Christians.
Perhaps at the fatefully moment when the gunman asked her if she believed in God, Cassie Bernall didn't think to lie about believing in God . We do not know what went through here mind, but it is clear that answering the gunman's question in the affirmative may not have been smart,
and it might have saved her life if she had denied her belief in God. But the fact was that she did believe in God, and her belief had recently changed her life and she was actively living for Christ and everyone knew what God had done in her life.
May I ask you a question?
As a child of God, how else could she have answered?
How would I have answered?
How would you have answered staring down the barrel of a gun?
In 81 AD, Domitian was the Emperor of Rome and he especially hated Christians. When any Christians were brought before the magistrates, a test oath was proposed, when, if they refused to take it, death was pronounced against them; and if they confessed themselves Christians, the sentence was the same.
Laster, Emperor Trajan 108 AD, continued the long history of the persecution of Christians and He was followed by Emperor Adrian under whom more that than ten thousand Christians were martyred.
Later Rome decreed that "That no Christian, once brought before the tribunal, should be exempted from punishment without renouncing his religion." Rome thereby made provision that if a Christian recanted and denied his faith, offered a sacrifice to the Emperor or Roman gods he would go free.
At the martyrdom of Faustines and Jovita, brothers and citizens of Brescia, their torments were so many, and their patience so great, that Calocerius, a pagan, beholding them, was struck with admiration, and exclaimed in a kind of ecstasy, "Great is the God of the Christians!" He then was arrested and suffered a similar fate.
During what is called the Fourth Persecution, under Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, A.D. 162, Germanicus, a young man, but a true Christian, was delivered to the wild beasts on account of his faith in Jesus Christ. God gave him dying grace and he behaved with such astonishing courage that several pagans became converts to a faith in Jesus Christ which inspired such fortitude.
Polycarp, the venerable bishop of Smyrna who studied under the Apostle John, hearing that persons were seeking for him, escaped, but was discovered by a child. He asked the guards who apprehended him, that he desired an hour in prayer, which being allowed, he prayed with such fervency, that his guards repented that they had been instrumental in taking him. He was, however, carried before the proconsul, condemned, and burnt in the market place.
The proconsul then urged him, saying, "Swear, and I will release thee;--reproach Christ."
Polycarp answered, "Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never once wronged me; how then shall I blaspheme my King, Who hath saved me?" At the stake to which he was only tied, but not nailed as usual, as he assured them he should stand immovable, the flames, on their kindling the fagots, encircled his body, like an arch, without touching him; and the executioner, on seeing this, was ordered to pierce him with a sword, when so great a quantity of blood flowed out as extinguished the fire. But his body, at the instigation of the enemies of the Gospel, especially Jews, was ordered to be consumed in the pile, and the request of his friends, who wished to give it Christian burial, rejected. They nevertheless collected his bones and as much of his remains as possible, and caused them to be decently interred. (Above accounts taken from Foxes' Book of Martyrs")
We could go on and on with the accounts of hundreds of thousands of
Christians who were martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ, many who
could have saved their lives by a simple denial of their belief in Christ,
but they chose death instead.
PROP: Every Christian should be so committed to the Lord that they would choose death rather than to deny the Lord Jesus? In order to have such commitment
we must understand and believe sincerely certain doctrinal truths.
I. We must understand the reality of what death is to the Christian. Phil. 1:21-24
A. Paul said that "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
1. God is telling us that while we are alive we are to live for the Lord Jesus. That is God's expectation for His child.
2. Yet, God says to die also is gain.
B. Paul in Acts 20:21, acknowledged this truth stating he was ready to be put in prison for the Lord or to suffer death as God willed.
1. It could be that in giving one's life for Christ others would be brought to Christ.
2. In the persecutions we mentioned earlier and many times the dedication of the believer to Christ greatly impressed the unsaved and God used their death to bring some to repentance and salvation.
C. Death for the Christian means only a change from a physical body to a new body given to us by God.
1. 2 Cor. 5:1-8, " For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord."
2. Note that God promises to us that when we die we will be given a new body, "a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."
3. Note this new body is given to us by God and made personally for us and that it is eternal.
4. Compare that to our present physical body. In this "tabernacle" which means "covering" we are burdened. Do we need to be reminded of the corrupt carnal nature that we in this body are subject too? Do we need sin's destructive force in our lives to be explained. Do we need to be reminded that we sin against God and that we will do so until we are taken from this mortal body.
D. We are not to seek death, but willing live as long as God gives us for Him.
1. In Phil. 1:23-24, Paul says he is in a "strait betwixt two" desires.
2. One to depart and be with the Lord, second to remain so that he could help in teaching, preaching and winning souls to Christ.
3. But, note the last words of verse 23, he said it is better to be with Christ!
II. We must understand that this earth is only our temporary place of residence.
A. In the Bible's Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11, God says in verse13, of those who gave their lives for Him, "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth."
B. Note God says they were strangers and pilgrims on this earth.
1. That can only be said of believers who have put their trust and faith in Jesus Christ.
2. Raised in a Baptist church as a boy the theme song of our boys group was the hymn "The King's Business." I remember some of the words of the song which said, "I am a stranger here, within a foreign land; my home is far away upon some golden strand; Ambassador to be of realms beyond the sea, I am here on business for my king. . . "
"My home is brighter far than Sharon rosy plain, Eternal life and joy throughout it vast domain; My Sovereign bids me tell mortals there may dwell, and that's the business for my King." (The King's Business, E. Taler Cassel, 1849-1930, Flora H. Cassel, 1852-1911)
C. God tells us in 1 Peter 1:3-5, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."
1. God has promised us an incorruptible inheritance, that is undefiled and fadeth not way, reserved in heaven for you.
2. He further promised absolute assurance to the believer that it is God who will preserve us by His power until the day we will be with him.
II. We must understand that we must live our lives unashamed of our Savior and God and of the Gospel.
A. Paul proclaimed in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith."
B. We are not ashamed because we know that the Gospel of Christ is salvation to those that believe.
1. We desire in our hearts to see others saved.
2. We realize that our salvation is the most important thing in our lives and therefore we put Christ first in all things.
3. We commit ourselves to living by faith. Being justified by the shed blood of Christ, He has brought us and we Him our all.
C. Living my faith means accepting totally the truth and promises of God.
ILLUS: Please forgive me for using this illustration again, but Paul Havey the popular radio commentator said, "If you don't live it, you don't believe it!" How very true. True belief means absolute trust and trust produces devotion to principles that you live and die by.
1. Romans 8:28 "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."
2. Note the last phrase says who are called unto HIS PURPOSE.
3. Suppose it would be God's will for you to die for your faith?
4. Living by faith means truly believing all these promises that God has made to the believer. During the many persecutions of the first two centuries many who professed Christ as their Savior recanted when confronted with death and imprisonment. After the persecution was over many wanted to return to full fellowship in the churches. That bothered many who suffered and who had refused to deny the Gospel and Jesus Christ and it caused get confusion for a time in the churches. Those that recanted could not be trusted.
ILLUS: I have used this illustration before but it vividly illustrates this point. It was told that a group of believers were having an illegal meeting an unregistered church assembly in Russia. There came a loud knock at the door and it was thrown open by several uniformed and armed Russian soldiers. The frightened people were shocked when one of the soldier shouted, "Those of you who are not willing to die for you Jesus, leave now!" There was a moments stillness as the reality of the threat sank in. Suddenly several people quickly jumped to their feet and ran out of the meeting into the dark, but most of the little group remained. The soldiers then closed and locked the door, stacked their weapons in a corner and sat down. One of them then motioned to the pastor to continue the service saying "Now we can truly worship the Lord with you who are truly brothers and sisters in Christ."
1. I do not know what went through the mind of Cassie Bernall when the gunman asked her if she was a Christian. It could have been that she just responded without thinking about it, responding from her heart that she had given to Christ. For the Christian who loves God it is the most natural way they could respond when asked "Do you believe in God" to boldly proclaim without any reservation....Yes I believe in God.
2. It brings tears to my eyes and yet joy in my heart to know that the last words of her life was "I believe in God." What a testimony that should be to each of us and a real challenge to examine our hearts about our answer this most important question.
3. As a true child of God how else could she have answered?
4. The question for you and I is "How would I have answered?"
5. My friend you will not die for something that you do not truly believe. You will not be willing to die for something that you do not now live.
6. Maybe the answer to the question is revealed in how we live our lives without the threat of death. If we are willing to live for Him now, we would be willing to die for Him.
7. Are you living your life for Him. Are you willing to die for Him. Why not this very moment commit your all to Him and settle the matter once for all, and proclaim with the Apostle Paul and the literal hundreds of thousands of martyrs, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
In the face of death would you too trusting wholly in God respond " Yes, I believe in God."
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