Summary: The world is setting itself against the ways of God and persecution is headed our way. How do we prepare ourselves so we can stand firm in our faith. Check out these thoughts from our Family Minister Scott Jewell.
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Francis Chan has long been a favorite preacher/author of mine. Over the years he has shared many ideas that are very similar to those of our brotherhood. For instance, there’s a meme where he says, “If the Bible and I don’t agree, I must be wrong.” He has spoken of being on a deserted island with nothing but a Bible to learn about God and his conclusions regarding salvation are right in line with the process we maintain.
In his book, Crazy Love, he concludes with a story that was rather familiar to me. He tells of some men who were serving Christ in Turkey, inviting people they got to know to come to Christ. They thought they were reaching a group of men until one day, as they were in their office printing literature to share their faith, the group entered the office and took their lives with knives. What amazed me about this story is that their wives held a press conference shortly after and boldly spoke of their love for Christ giving them the ability to forgive the men who had murdered their husbands.
The thought of this kind of persecution happening was never so real to me as when I read this account because I recognized the story. My brother-in-law had been a missionary in Turkey and got married while there. He and his wife had returned to the States shortly before these events happened. These men had been his friends, one of them even stood with him as part of his wedding party. My brother-in-law could have been one of those men.
Persecution shouldn’t come as a surprise to us though. Jesus promised it would happen (read John 15:20-21). We are his servants, we shouldn’t expect better treatment than our Master. They persecuted Him, why wouldn’t they persecute us?
Frankly, we’ve been blessed to live here in America. It seems like the vast majority of the persecution we receive is verbal. People who oppose us may get angry and bully us, trying to shout us down and silence our voices. But there are places in this world where Christian gatherings must be done in secret. People in places like Turkey and China and India have to decide if their love for Jesus is more important than their love for life.
The time is coming and may have already begun when the hate from the world towards God is going to force us to make a choice- will I stand on the Rock or will I fall in the sand. Right now, I think it’s easy to say, “I’m strong in the faith, nothing will separate me from the love of God.” I’ll be honest, there’s a piece of me that fears I will fall. I pray for God to give me the strength, but a sliver of doubt still lingers. Will I be strong? Will I take the stand?
Now, having served in the inner city, I’ve been in situations where I was standing in the middle of an argument trying to calm things down, knowing that at least one person has a gun tucked into their belt and that if this escalates, I’ll be the first one hit because I’m standing in the middle, but I didn’t have to affirm or deny my faith. I’ve stood up to people bullying myself and others for having faith in the workplace, but the worst they could have done to me was fire me.
I’ve not been placed in a position where I must deny Jesus or die. I hope I never am, but we’re getting closer to a time in which we must be ready. So how do we prepare ourselves to be ready to say, “We must obey God rather than men!”
It begins with a conviction of belief. What does this conviction consist of? In Matthew 16, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” Some of their answers included, “Some say you are John the Baptist, some say Elijah, some say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” Jesus then asked, “Who do you say that I am?” And Peter spoke up and answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” In Matthew 16:18, Jesus responds, “You are correct, and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
As we preach through this series about getting outside our walls, this verse seems to keep popping up. Jeff shared it last week, I’m using it today, and I know he’ll use it again next week. It’s foundational, it’s what our church is built upon. It’s the reason when someone asks what they need to do to be saved, we tell them to believe in Jesus- that He is the Son of God, that He lived on this earth without sin, yet He was killed on the cross and buried in a tomb, yet God raised Him to live three days later so that we can be forgiven. We explain they need to repent, to turn away from their sins and turn to the ways of God. They need to confess or declare that Jesus is now their Lord and Savior and be baptized in the water, joining with Jesus in His death, burial, and resurrection. Then we encourage them to live a life following God as part of His family- the church. We must have this conviction of belief.