Martyrdom Maybe?

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Believers must consider the issues of being salt and light in a pagan culture who refuses to claim Christ as Lord.

The Words of Jesus demand our complete response to the Gospel. The temptation is often reducing the call to something easier and more comfortable. We don’t really want to give up the world’s system for all that the Kingdom of God declares to be true.

It’s imperative as disciples that we fully understand that Jesus is Lord, not a political leader–not a nation or a political party. We’ve become citizen’s of something that is superior to a patriotic physical reality. We don’t fit. (Philippians 3:20 and Ephesians 2:19.)

Steps to faithful living as we seperate ourselves from the World’s way of doing things really must be considered:

In order to do this must make the choice:

  • To be true. Endure. Continue to pray and witness. Be faithful to Him.
  • To be prayerful. At least working on it. I know prayer is supremely powerful, linking my inadequacy with God’s capability.
  •  To be joyful. Sing often. Thanksgiving all the time. Our tormentors hate joyful hearts. It seems to disturb the darkness that is part of sin and rebellion.
  • To be real. Being faithful to Jesus. No lies, no illusions. Every aspect of our lives is to be the truth. We understand that Jesus is alive, and He is Lord.
  • To be giving. Time or talent, it’s a stringent test of a believer’s maturity. Money is secondary. We serve Jesus with an open hand.
  • To be convinced. We need to become fully convinced of the message of the gospel, and to be sure of His love. Not easy, but always needful. 

In the time of ancient Rome, Christians were in the limelight, it seems, but only as martyrs. Believers made a definite decison to die rather than renounce their faith. Often faithfulness was especially hard–one had to count a cost to follow.

It’s good to understand the world never burned a casual Christian at the stake.

The lions in the Coliseum made quick work of the Christian’s faith. Thousands of believers were burned at the stake. But these martyrs succeeded in reaching many by their witness, and a pagan empire was brought to Christ, en masse!

Someone said that “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

Perhaps martyrdom will be our path to reach America with the Gospel.  The New Testament word for “witness” is martyr.  It very well may be that our blood will be the seed for a new generation of believers. It should come as no surprise. 

martyrdomI preached once on the UC Berkeley campus.  It’s a  challenging place; a condensed stronghold of a godless ‘intellectualism’ (if you can imagine that).  There is always a few people that for the most part bright and engaging. 

But as I got ready to leave, I met a university professor.  He looked at me in his tweed jacket and sweater vest and said something I will never forget.  “Too bad we can’t feed you to the lions”.  That’s all he said. When he spoke to me it was was a flat-calm statement–terse, cold and frightening–it was eerie and quite weird– mostly because I knew he meant it. 

In this ‘enlightened’ campus, there was a coldness–a hatred that I never encountered in the areas of inner San Francisco–Polk Street. or the Tenderloin’ where I preached also.

True, the Haight/Ashbury neighborhood in SF can be a little ‘rough’ at times, I once was punched in the face while preaching by an angry ex-believer, but to be honest, nothing compared to ‘Berzerkeley‘ (that’s what we called it.)

In three years of full-time evangelism I never met another man that was as hateful to the gospel of Jesus Christ as this professor in Berkeley. This incident was a brazen and deliberate calculation against the Gospel. Perhaps persecution by hardcore intellectuals will become the catalyst for our martyrdom to come. (?!).

No matter what happens. We are in God’s hands. Period. 

Our obedience to Jesus should be a decision we must make right now.  We can’t just hope to stand, or hope to be faithful. We must actively plan for persecution. This could very well be our time. It’s coming. And please get ready, you must watch and pray.

“But others trusted God and were beaten to death, preferring to die rather than turn from God and be free—trusting that they would rise to a better life afterwards.”

Hebrews 11:35

 

Post art “The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer,”  by Jean-Leon Gerome (1824-1904)

We’re Pretty Much Scum

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“To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.”

1 Corinthians 4:11-13, NIV

The apostle Paul isn’t ashamed to be called ‘scum.’ He realizes that this is his ‘standing’ in this world’s opinion. He is regarded as a nobody and of little value by the ‘powers-that-be.’ A tension exists between the believer and the world system. The expectations that the world has is part of the package that we have been given. The message of the Cross is the ultimate foolishness. Jesus told his own disciples that:

“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. 19 The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.”

John 15:18-19, NLT

 The world hates us because we belong to Jesus.

It is his reproach we bear. We should not see the trial and sorrows as our issue, and we shouldn’t get upset by the world’s snub. The tension is real and we can expect being ostracized. In fact, we might do well to be concerned if we don’t see it.

After all, hatred is such a hard word.

And the stigma should humble us— it has a supernatural origin. We shouldn’t expect otherwise. To follow Jesus means we will only experience what he is already gone through. Some of us will follow him even to martyrdom. The hardships and challenges do not invalidate our walk, rather they confirm what he said would happen. The world is under seige by Satan,  it is his spirit that controls the unbelieving world.

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

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Father of all comfort, please come to your servants who are suffering for their faith in you. Meet them and hold them close to you. Give them boldness and awareness. Seek them out and make them your witnesses in a hostile world. Give them the Spirit of Jesus and help them overcome by their love. ~In Jesus Name, Amen

 

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Saint for Today

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) is known for his leadership role in the Confessing Church, efforts on behalf of peace and justice, opposition to antisemitism, and writings on theology and ethics that have been influential far beyond his German Lutheran context. He was was hanged by the Nazis on April 6, 1945 in the Flossenburg concentration camp.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer quotes:

In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give; life can be rich only with such realization. source: Letters and Papers from Prison

To be silent does not mean to be inactive; rather it means to breathe in the will of God, to listen attentively and be ready to obey. Meditating on the Word

It is not necessary that we should discover new ideas in our meditation. It is sufficient, and far more important, if the Word, as we read and understand it, penetrates and dwells within us. Life Together

When we come to a clearer and more sober estimate of our own limitations and responsibilities, that makes it possible more genuinely to love our neighbor. Letters and Papers…

There is not a place to which the Christian can withdraw from the world, whether it be outwardly or in the sphere of the inner life. Any attempt to escape from the world must sooner or later be paid for with a sinful surrender to the world. Ethics

You have granted me many blessings; let me also accept what is hard from your hand. Prayers from Prison

The first call which every Christian experiences is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. The Cost of Discipleship

Earthly possessions dazzle our eyes and delude us into thinking that they can provide security and freedom from anxiety. Yet all the time they are the very source of anxiety. The Cost of Discipleship

The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists of listening to them. Just as love of God begins with listening to his word, so the beginning of love for our brothers and sisters is learning to listen to them. Life Together

From God we hear the word: “If you want my goodness to stay with you then serve your neighbor, for that is where God comes to you.” In the anthology, No Rusty Swords

Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others, we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as ourselves. The Cost of Discipleship

I can no longer condemn or hate a brother [or sister] for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me is transformed through intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died. Life Together

We have learned a bit too late in the day that action springs not from thought but from a readiness for responsibility. Letters and Papers from Prison

Which of us has really admitted that God’s goodness can also lead us into conflict. In the Anthology, No Rusty Swords

Our enemies are those who harbor hostility against us, not those against whom we cherish hostility… As a Christian I am called to treat my enemy as a brother and to meet hostility with love. My behavior is thus determined not by the way others treat me, but by the treatment I receive from Jesus. The Cost of Discipleship

So long as we eat our bread together, we shall have sufficient even for the least. Not until one person desires to keep his own bread for himself does hunger ensue. Life Together

In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things, the figure of him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger. Ethics

 A Prayer written by Bonhoeffer

In me there is darkness,

but with you there is light;

I am lonely, but you do not leave me;

I am feeble in heart; but with you there is help;

I am restless, but with you is peace.

In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;

I do not understand your ways, but you know the way for me.

Amen.

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