Summary: A message given on "Suffering Church Sunday"

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

3. It is a message which brings about the exposure of sin, darkness and falsehood, it injures the pride of man – consequently it excites the wrath of man – John 3:20

a. The first murder in history – Abel – was killed in a dispute about religion

b. The first martyr in Christian history – Stephen was killed for preaching the truth, and so it continues until the end of time.

III. The Retribution of Persecution – “That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth.”

A. Jesus made it clear that the blood of the prophets would be required at the hands of their killers.

1. No one gets away with sin – and that includes those who persecute.

2. Revelation 6:9-10, Jude 1:14-16, Revelation 19:11-15

IV. The Response to Persecution

A. Prayer - Matthew 5:44

1. Pray for the growth of the church where persecution flourishes

2. Pray for strength and courage for those undergoing persecution, and for the peace that passes all understanding to rest upon them.

3. Pray that the Holy Spirit will enable believers to love and bless their persecutors

4. Pray for persecutors to be saved – That was Paul’s testimony wasn’t it? “For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (1Cor 15:9)

5. Pray, that when former persecutors are repentant, that the persecuted may learn to forgive and accept them. (E.g. Paul w/ church at Jerusalem)

B. Petition – We should use our freedom to influence our politicians, and thereby our gov’t to take up the cause of persecuted believers.

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