Summary: Did you know that today in our modern world Christianity is the number one most persecuted religion in the world? Christians face murder and death for their faith every day.
Did you know that today in our modern world Christianity is the number one most persecuted religion in the world? Christians face murder and death for their faith every day. A great deal of persecution occurs in the following countries: Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, India, China, and the Philippines. According to the Daily Mail a UK newspaper, “245 million Christians now suffer 'high levels of persecution' in 50 countries, a rise of 30 million from last year.” Additionally, they wrote, “the Middle East is witnessing the 'decimation of some of the faith group's oldest and most enduring communities' and called for 'urgent government support'.” Mr. Hunt the united states foreign secretary commented, “I think we've all been asleep on the watch when it comes to the persecution of Christians.”
It’s interesting that the book of 2nd Thessalonians was written so long ago; in fact, it was the apostle Paul’s second letter that we have. A.D. 50 is the year that Paul wrote this letter. And now it’s 2019, so 1,969 years later. Nothing has really changed. Christians are persecuted around the world today, just like back in Thessalonica.
Paul wrote to the persecuted church saying: “Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing. 4 We proudly tell God’s other churches about your endurance and faithfulness in all the persecutions and hardships you are suffering. 5 And God will use this persecution to show his justice and to make you worthy of his Kingdom, for which you are suffering. 6 In his justice he will pay back those who persecute you.” -1st Thessalonians 1:3-6
Today we’re addressing the topic of what it means to be “In Christ.” And we’ll view this in the context of persecution and suffering. To abide in Christ for us will mean following Christ when people think we’re stupid. It’ll mean living for God when the television tells us we’re backwards bigots. It’ll mean believing the Bible when the news and the media and the universities and the public schools are telling us that the Bible is a lie, the word of God is false, and we’re evil, racist, and bigoted for believing it is true.
For Christians in China, India, Pakistan, Iran, Nigeria, and other countries it means something much different. It means every day, waking up, and wondering if this is the day men will come to their door, and demand that they deny Christ, or die. It means wondering if armed men will storm into your church and gun down your congregation. It will mean wondering if the government is going to burst in and arrest you for loving Jesus. It’s wondering in China if a neighbor will turn you in for a cash reward. It’s true. It’s life and death to love Jesus in much of the world.
Now, suppose I lived in one of these countries that persecute Christians. And armed men came to my door. And they said, “Hey we know you’re a Christian. We have witnesses. We know your speaking to people about Jesus. Deny your savior, or die.” And he points a gun at my head.
If I were to deny Christ, would I still be in Christ? The answer to that question is no. Suppose they kill me anyway after I denied Jesus. Where would I go? I would not be going to heaven. I would be going to hell.
Can we lose Christ? Can we lose our salvation? The answer to these questions is yes. But it’s also true that God helps us to continue to “abide in Christ” and “remain in Christ.”
This is why we keep coming to church week in and week out. This is why we attend Bible study and small group. This is why we pray and study the Bible. We aren’t one and done. The Christian life is a lifelong journey of obedient faith. But we shouldn’t be afraid. We shouldn’t be afraid of “losing our faith.”
But we should be careful to obey God’s commands. We need not be afraid, or constantly disturbed by the fear of “losing our salvation.” Instead we should obediently live “in Christ” and obey God’s commands. Recognize that God is completely sovereign over all of reality. He is in charge. And He helps us to persevere in our faith.
Paul continues writing in 2 Thessalonians 1:5 saying, “All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.”
Paul sees that the Thessalonian church is patiently enduring trials, persecution and difficulties. He’s watching this happen, and he’s pleased, because they haven’t given up the faith. They haven’t fled. They haven’t run for the hills. They are here to stay. They are Christians.