Summary: A message given on "Suffering Church Sunday"

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From The Blood of Righteous Abel

Aim: To show how Christians should respond to persecution.

Text: Matthew 23:31-39 (vs. 35 key vs.)

Introduction: This morning our focus is upon the suffering church. Statistics from the January 2006 edition of the International Journal of Missionary Research tell us that 171,000 Christians were martyred in the last year, whilst the World Evangelical Alliance estimates that 200 million Christians live in societies where they daily face the threat of being imprisoned, tortured, and killed because of their identity as Christians. Did you know that more Nigerian Christians died in the first week of November 2001 than in the attack on New York’s World Trade Centre. The term “9/11“ has now slipped into our vocabulary and consciousness, we have soldiers warring in Afghanistan and Iraq as a result of it, yet who fights for the slaughtered Nigerian believers and where is the memorial fund for their families?

It would be easy for us to believe that the primary source of persecution in the world today is Islam. Certainly Islamic persecution of believers is on the increase, but the fact remains that the most fierce persecutors of believers remains those states still holding vast to communism. Places like North Korea and China. In North Korea Christians are brutalised in prisons or summarily executed if caught with a copy of the Scriptures. Meanwhile China continues its crackdown on the unregistered Christian church. In Vietnam too, church leaders continue to be detained, tortured, and drugged. So, as we enter the 21st century, we still find that more Christians suffer at the hands of Communist authorities than any others, just as they did through most of the past 100 years.

But you know the most pitiful thing, is that churches in the West and Christians in the West are largely oblivious to these things. Brethren, Jesus commanded us to minister to the hungering, thirsting, the naked, sick, and imprisoned. In part that’s why we are focusing on the suffering church today, but I hope our focus doesn’t end here, but that we go on caring for our brethren who are suffering for Christ.

In our opening text this morning, Jesus spoke of persecution – vs. 35, and I want to make just a few points before we view our video and think about those who have suffered and are suffering.

I. The Record of Persecution – “from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias…”

A. Abel first martyr - Zecharias the last in O.T. chronologically.

1. Gen 4:8 & 2Chron 24:20

B. Martyrdom started at the beginning of time & will continue until the end –

1. Rev 20:4

II. The Reason for Persecution – “That upon you may come all the RIGHTEOUS blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of RIGHTEOUS Abel unto the blood of Zacharias”

A. As Christians we cannot comprehend why anyone would want to harm or injure the saints of God.

1. To us Christians are the most peaceful, and harmless people on the planet.

2. But you must ever remember that our message is exclusive and divisive – Matthew 10:34-36. John 14:6

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