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A.D. The Bible Continues

Part 7 - The Consequence of Following the Christ

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(5/18) In 1955, 4 missionaries working with some of the Indian tribes in Ecuador, decided that they needed to reach a secluded group called the Aucas, a name meaning, savages. Contact was made as the group began to air drop gifts to the Aucas and the Aucas in turn began to tie gifts to a string. The four missionaries decided that it was time for personal contact so they planned to land on a beach near the Aucas. They were joined by a fifth team member. Their desire was to reach the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. But soon after the plane landed at 3 PM on January 8th, 1956, all five men were speared to death, none seemed to offer any resistance. The Aucas suddenly became afraid that they were being tricked and reacted in that fear.

5 young men that just wanted to serve God died and were buried on that beach. They were Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Peter Fleming, Ed McCully, and Roger Youderian. The world would say, "What a tragedy?"

The effort to reach the Huaorani was not abandoned but rather intensified. Within three weeks, Johnny Keenan, another pilot of the Ecuador Mission, was continuing the flights over the Auca village. More than twenty fliers from the United States promptly applied to take Nate's place. More than 1000 college students volunteered for foreign missions in direct response to the story of the Five Martyrs. In Ecuador, at the mission stations, attendance by Indians at schools and church services reached record levels, and the number of conversions skyrocketed. A Jivaro undertook to go at once to another Jivaro tribe that had been at war with his own tribe for years, bearing the Christian message, and his visit brought peace between the two tribes. Truly, as Tertullian said 1800 year ago, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.

In less than three years, Rachel Saint (sister of Nate Saint) and Elisabeth Elliot (widow of Jim Elliot) had not only renewed contact but had established permanent residence in a Huarani (Auca) settlement, where they practiced basic medicine and began the process of developing a written form of the language.

Said one commentary, "Thus, the Huaorani realized that the visitors were indeed their friends, willing to die for them if necessary. When in subsequent months they heard the message that the Son of God had come down from heaven to reconcile men with God, and to die in order to bring about that reconciliation, they recognized that the message of the missionaries was the basis of what they had seen enacted in the lives of the missionaries. They believed the Gospel preached because they had seen the Gospel lived."

Although the Apostles had been arrested several times already, the Church had grown with little resistance until now. Stephen’s speech in Acts 7, enraged the Jewish leaders especially, one young Pharisee, a student of Gamaliel, named Saul of Tarsus. Look back at chapter 7 54 -60 "When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, 56 and said, "Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!"

57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; 58 and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin." And when he had said this, he fell asleep."

The Church had its first of perhaps several million martyrs. Eventually every one of the Apostles with the exception of John would be crucified, stoned to death, and clubbed to death, sawn in two, or run through with a spear. Tertullian, an early church leader was spot on when he said, "The blood of the martyrs became the seeds of the church." The death of Stephen would never leave the mind of Saul. Stephen died just like Jesus committing his spirit to God and praying for forgiveness for his attackers. Paul would refer to it in Acts 22:20.

Acts 8:1-8, "Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.

3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.

4 Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. 5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. 6 And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. 8 And there was great joy in that city."

Yes, the church grew as those scattered shared the hope and grace of Jesus, but many, many lives were tortured, imprisoned and killed. The word havoc in verse 3 means destruction.

Our Lord warned us that if we choose to follow Him, and receive His gift of love, grace, forgiveness, peace, and life, that we would be treated like He was.

Matt. 5:10-12. "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

Matt. 10:6 "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. 17 But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. 18 You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 22 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.

John 15:18-20 "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.

John 16:2 "They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. 3 And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me."

2 Tim. 3:12, "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution."

Today, 75% of the world’s population live in areas where religious freedom is restricted. The U.S. State dept. has identified over 60 nations where Christianity is particularly persecuted. Every month 214 churches are destroyed, and 722 forms of violence from rape to arrest and beatings and murder are committed against Christians.

In America we haven’t seen a lot of this kind of persecution. But our religious liberties in the U.S.A. are being increasingly assaulted. World News Daily says:

"A report by two U.S.-based religious freedom groups says anti-Christian persecution is on the rise in America.

‘The joint report by Texas-based Liberty Institute, and Washington-based Family Research Council says groups like the American Civil Liberties Union aren’t the only culprits. The report says government agencies around the U.S. are trying to push Christian expression out the door.

Kelly Shackleford (Liberty Institute founder), says government, from schools to social programs, is the ringleader.

"There are children being prohibited from writing Merry Christmas to the soldiers, senior citizens being banned from praying over their meals in the Senior Center, the VA banning the mention of God in military funerals, numerous attempts to have veterans memorials torn down if they have any religious symbols such as a cross, and I could go on and on,"

Shackleford adds that some key court cases may have accelerated the trend.

"The seeds for these attacks were dropped in a Supreme Court opinions in the ’40s, and it really began to take off in the 1960s. The thing that is shocking now, and different, is that the attacks have dramatically picked up speed," Shackleford says. "There can be as many as 100 new attacks in a month. While Liberty Institute has the highest win rate of any group in the country at over 99 percent, we just can’t currently cover all these with our current resources."

Among the violations listed in the joint report:

• A federal judge threatened "incarceration" to a high school valedictorian unless she removed references to Jesus from her graduation speech.

• City officials prohibited senior citizens from praying over their meals, listening to religious messages or singing gospel songs at a senior activities center.

• A public school official physically lifted an elementary school student from his seat and reprimanded him in front of his classmates for praying over his lunch.

• Following U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ policies, a federal government official sought to censor a pastor’s prayer, eliminating references to Jesus, during a Memorial Day ceremony honoring veterans at a national cemetery.

• Public school officials prohibited students from handing out gifts because they contained religious messages.

• A public school official prevented a student from handing out flyers inviting her classmates to an event at her church.

• A public university’s law school banned a Christian organization because it required its officers to adhere to a statement of faith that the university disagreed with.

• The U.S. Department of Justice argued before the Supreme Court that the federal government can tell churches and synagogues which pastors and rabbis it can hire and fire.

• The State of Texas sought to approve and regulate what religious seminaries can teach.

• Through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, the federal government is forcing religious organizations to provide insurance for birth control and abortion-inducing drugs in direct violation of their religious beliefs.

• The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs banned the mention of God from veterans’ funerals, overriding the wishes of the deceased’s families.

• A federal judge held that prayers before a state House of Representatives could be to Allah but not to Jesus."

You may have heard the illustration of the frog in the kettle. Put a frog in a pot of hot water and he will immediately make every attempt to get out. But put a frog in a kettle of cold water and then turn the fire on very low and slowly over time increase the heat and that frog will boil to death and never know it. In the last 75 years, in my opinion, the American church has been the frog in the kettle.

The Church in Jerusalem was the frog in the pot of hot water. Persecution started hot and heavy and many Christians suffered. Many others left the city for safety, and as they went they shared Jesus in Judea, and Samaria and beyond. Acts 11:19, "Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only." Persecution became like pouring gas on a fire.

These early Christians may have been taught what Jesus taught the Apostles in Matthew 16:24-27 and Luke 9 and others.

"Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works."

Every Christian needs to be aware, like every person who joins the military or fire dept., or police dept., that his or her life is subject to the possibility of hatred, persecution and death, just as Jesus was. I told you this several weeks ago when we spoke of Good News and Bad News. And while some of our friends like to quote passages like Psalm 91 "No evil shall befall you," or Isaiah 54:17, "No weapon formed against you shall prosper." These scriptures refer to the time when Jesus returns and rules over the earth for 1000 years.

The invitation to follow Jesus is an invitation to lay your life down and embrace His life and whatever that might entail, be it good or bad. It literally could mean torture, loss, imprisonment, or death; often a horrible death. But, what is promised is life eternal. And, it is the only way to have life eternal. This what Paul tried to impress on Timothy in 2 Timothy, and Phil. 1, and Peter in 1st Peter. The option is to avoid the possibility of the pain of a Jesus life and possibly maintain a religious life and try to get the most that you can out of this life here. However, the danger you face is to lose your life forever. Or, you can lose your life to Jesus now and have His life forever. Persecution should not come as a surprise to a Christian.

A typical question is, "Why doesn’t God protect His own, or stop the evil?" The answer is more complex than you think. But here are some possibilities:

1. God has given all people free-will. That includes the ability to make both good and evil choices. The good and evil that men choose to do always affects the lives of those around them.

2. God knows that when we are weak He is strong and people can see God in us when we are week.

3. God wants us, and those who see us, to know that our hope is not in this world. Our time here is short, and trouble and pain is everywhere. There are no guarantees of a good life here. Pain and Persecution causes us to focus on the things that are really important in this life; no matter what some of the faith, prosperity guys tell you. Pain keeps us focused on the eternal hope of Heaven with Him and the promises of Rev. 21:1-7.

4. Our handling of pain and even our death is a way in which God is glorified and people are drawn to Him. Just like they were in Ecuador and Judea and Samaria.

Another question is, "Why do people persecute Christians, or maybe Christians and Jews?"

1. The answer is that the world is dominated by Satan who hates God and because he cannot attack God, he does the next best thing and attacks the people of God, the children of God, the Bride of Christ. Paul was correct when he said, "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Eph. 6:11-12)

2. Sometimes Governments seek to control the minds and thoughts of its people and will try to destroy any religion or philosophy that it feels conflicts with its own such as the Romans and the Communist have done.

3. Sometimes dominant religions like Hindu or Islam consider Christianity an inferior, an enemy, or infidel religion and they try to control or destroy it.

4. Sometimes it is because people who have not been born again, are:

• Dead, Spiritual Zombies, the real Walking Dead (Eph. 2:1)

• Blind (2 Cor. 4:3-4)

• Deaf (Matt. 13:14-15)

• Embraced the lies of Satan (2 Thess. 2:10-12)

• Incapable of understanding spiritual truth apart from the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:9ff)

• Love darkness more than light (John 3:18-20) In fact, they hate the light because their deeds are evil (1 John 3:10-15)

• Hate Jesus/God and by association hate you (John 15:18ff). Maybe they have been hurt by hypocrisy or the church, or just don’t want anyone or any God telling them what they can or cannot do. Or they just don’t want to be answerable to anyone or any God.

• They love religious tradition more than they love truth (Acts 21:27ff). My people or my family practiced religion this way and so you are attacking my heritage. It doesn’t matter what the truth is.

Satan is using all of these to attack, kill, harm and discourage God’s children. Rev. 12 and 2 Tim. 3 remind us that the closer we get to our Lord’s return, the more intense the persecution will become. Satan may not know when Jesus is coming back but he does know that his time is growing short.

So what should we do in light of this?

1. Don’t be surprised when some form of persecution happens to you, whether it is personal or organized. Expect it. Peter says be sober, be vigilant (1 Peter 5:8), Satan is looking for an opportunity to attack you.

2. Remember who the real enemy is. People are victims of the enemy. Satan is the enemy (Ephesians 6:10-12).

3. Pray hard (Matt. 6:13)

a. For courage to stand in the face of persecution (Eph. 6:13)

b. For boldness to speak the truth in love (Acts 4:29)

c. To be able to give an answer for the hope you have in Jesus (1 Pet. 3:15)

d. To have the wisdom of a serpent and the grace of a dove (Matt. 10:13)

4. Do not be ashamed to identify with Jesus. (Matt. 10:28-33)

5. Don’t be afraid of people, reverence God (Matt. 10:26-28)

6. Never ever think that God doesn’t love you or that He doesn’t care (Matt. 10:29-31; Rom. 8:35-39). He loves you with an everlasting love (Jer.31:3)

7. Remember - He will always be with you (Matt. 28:18-20; Deut. 31:6-8)

8. Stay focused on your real hope and reward (Heb. 12:2-3)

9. Pray for your Christian Brothers and Sisters who are facing life threatening persecution (Col. 4:2-4)

10. Choose Wisely – (Matthew 16:24-27). This isn’t a game, this is war.

Jim Elliot, one of the fallen five, said, "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."

Let’s pray about it.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman