I subscribe to VOM, Voice of the Martyrs, and I often read about the acts of the unyielding faith and courage of so many Christians around the world. Acts that puts me to shame and cause me to question if I would have the same faith and courage if it were me. I often hear my brothers and sisters in Christ here in North America saying how much the Church is being persecuted and how much persecution we face. I do not want to make light of their declarations but there is a big difference between oppression and persecution. We do not have the authorities and angry mobs breaking down our doors, burning our Bibles and churches, arresting and killing us. We meet in our churches and homes without the fear, yet we water down the Gospel for fear that our words might offend. We refrain from using words like sin, blood, confession, and repentance, and judgment, and excuse ourselves by saying that we do so to make our message friendlier to the seeking. We alter the Word of God to make Him genderless to be more politically correct and we turn worship into entertainment. Some of us have even taken out and/or disregarded entire passages of the Bible because we do not agree with what it teaches and says. Others, abandon the entire Old Testament saying that we no longer need it because it has been replaced by the New Covenant as if God made a mistake that He corrected and His Words can be so easily cast aside. We say ridiculous things like "I am Spiritual not religious" when Christ Himself and the writers of Scripture and our church fathers have no problems with the word. Christ Himself never once advocated the abandonment of the Temple and clearly distinguished between the evil and hypocrisy of the religious leaders of His day and His Temple even to the point of saying, "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach." (Matthew 23:2-3). Throughout Scripture, we find that His faithful have sought to either return to the Temple, or rebuild it. We see that it was His faithful who through His guidance set up offices, authority, division of responsibilities within both Temple and Church, call it what you may, He established what we now call the institution of the Church. Yet instead of calling to account fallen leadership and re-establishment of Godly order, we choose to abandon the Church established by Christ Himself when our brothers and sisters in Christ would gladly give their lives for it. Christ calls out false teachings and distortion of the Scripture while many of us today flock gladly to it gathering for prosperity's sake, for health and wellness' sake. We turn His promise of healing and prophesy into sideshow circuses making Him into a spectacle and then smugly say that we must manifest the power He has given to bring people to Him as if His Holy Spirit alone is insufficient. We even teach others never to say, "If it is His will" when our Lord knelt in the Garden and prayed "Not my will bout Yours"!! Oh Lord!! How great is our sin!! How great our betrayal!! How terrible the judgment that awaits us!! Let us remember that many will cry out "Lord! Lord!" and He will say "I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." Matthew 7:23 I say these things because I do not wish for any to be hearers of those terrible words. Consider this, if the God we call upon is NOT the God of the Scripture, but a god of our own fancy, a god who not the One True God, it matters not if we call Him by name. A. W. Tozer reminds us that "an idol of the mind is just as offensive to God as an idol of the hands." Last night as I did my devotions in preparation for Good Friday and Easter, I read Christ's terrible indictment against the teachers, Pharisees, and priests of His day in the 7 woes (Matthew 23) and I was led to read them as if He were speaking to me. Let me tell you that it was one of the most humbling experiences of my life because I could see just how easily those words can apply to me. Matthew 26:14-16 tells us that Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests and agreed to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. With the exception of references in Luke and John that suggest that "Satan" (Luke 22:3) and "the devil" (John 13:2) entered Judas to cause him to betray Jesus, no explanation is offered to tell us why Judas did what he did other than for monetary gain. Over the years many have tried to to offer explanations for Judas' action. Some suggest that he did what he did because he felt disillusioned when Jesus failed to meet his expectation of the conquering/avenging Messiah, others suggest that Judas had no choice but to betray Jesus because he was fulfilling God's plan, still others suggest that Judas was acting in concert with Jesus. All of these are conjectures. The reality is that none of these suggestions have basis in fact. All I know is what the scripture tells me. I also know in my heart of hearts that when I have sinned and betrayed my Savior through disobedience and rebellion, I have been conscious of my own actions. I also know that God gave me a free will and gave me the liberty to make my own choices. In the quiet of the night when I lie in bed with no accusers but myself ... when I am truly honest with myself and with God, I cannot escape the fact that when I have sinned, I have done so on my own. I also know that unless I own up to my own sins, true repentance, forgiveness, and eventual victory never comes. I am also reminded that everyone of His disciples ran and abandoned Jesus that terrible night. Yes, Peter followed at a distance and John was at the crucifixion but when asked Peter denied Him three times and John was notably silent. When I consider these, I realize that betrayal comes in many forms. The Gospels record one of the most powerful images of the heart of Christ In Matthew 26:14-39; Luke 22:24-27; and John 13:1-17, we find the story of Jesus washing His disciple's feet before the Passover Feast. When I read this and ponder it, I am filled with the realization that His heart is that we, who are called His children are called to a life of service. That the concept of leadership for the Christian is synonymous with humility and servanthood. The Gospels tell us that Jesus plans for and then partakes the Passover Feast with his disciples and institutes the Lord's Supper (Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, and Luke 22:7-23) . He also predicts His betrayal, and Peter's denial. As it has become the tradition in most churches, many of us will be celebrating the Lord's Supper or Communion on Good Friday. I have also made it a tradition for myself to consider Paul's exhortation to ensure that I approach Communion with a pure heart (1 Corinthians 11:23-34) so that I will not betray Him and deny Him. Devotion Thought 1 - Consider the events leading up to the Last Supper in this devotion. Resolve to be faithful and watchful. Be reminded that the temptations of this world are great and we as His followers are no less prone to sin. Remember Judas. Devotion Thought 2 - Remember that Christ calls us to a life of service. Being a Christian means that we consider ourselves less than others. Remember that all authority is given by God and must be seen responsibilities we steward. Remember His example. Devotion Thought 3 - As we partake of the Lord's Supper on Good Friday, remember His body which was given up for us. Remember His blood spilled on Calvary as the final atonement for our sins. As we approach His table, approach it with a pure heart. Take this day to reflect and examine ourselves, resolve not only to confess and repent of the sins we have committed, but resolve also to recall His prediction of betrayal and denial. Resolve to cling to Him asking for His continual sanctification. Resolve never to be ashamed of the Gospel. Offered in Love, Arisen
The topic of your blog has been one that has been lying heavy on my heart over the past couple of weeks and it seems that it has upon other bloggers here at CB as well.
I too subscribe to VOM. The other day I heard once again on television, nonetheless, that there are people, including Christians who are publicly denying that the stories of persecution are true. Yet there are countless stories, countless confirmed accounts from secular sources as well as Christian that these things take place and continue to do so.
Yes, there is a difference between oppression and persecution but there are many Christians who have experienced neither. Since Jesus said that we would face such things, the absence of such should cause us to stop in our tracks and exam our hearts. Could it be that the enemy does not even regard us as a threat?