Is Persecution Coming?

Hello, friends. I hope this article finds you well. The subject is an uncomfortable one, but Christians need to stop ignoring it. The threat of persecution is growing, as is hostility towards Christians. Is our faith in, and love for, Christ able to endure?

Jesus says for the final Beatitude,

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. ~ Matthew 5:10-11

It is important to note the distinction Jesus is making. Simply being persecuted does not bring about blessing. Rather, being persecuted for righteousness’ sake and on account of Jesus. It is true, to follow Christ will invite persecution, but so will being a jerk. It is important that we know the difference. If you are disliked at work because you are arrogant and rude, don’t blame such ostracizing on the Christian faith. Such “persecution” has nothing to do with faith. No one likes a jerk.

However, there is a flip side. Several years ago a book was released, entitled, They Like Jesus but Not the Church. This is a catchy title, but it’s simply not true. It is true that many people are turned off by the hypocrisy in churches, but this is merely an excuse for not following Jesus Christ. Jesus never calls people to follow His followers. No, He calls persons to follow after Him.  Using the hypocrisies in the church for an excuse to not follow Christ is an understanding one, just not an honest or acceptable one.

Jesus tells us plainly,

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. ~ John 15:18-19

[The world] hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. ~ 7:7

Following and surrendering to Christ has nothing to do with the church, but everything to do with one’s desire for Christ and His love. Many persons are familiar with John 3:16. However, after this Jesus says,

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. ~ John 3:18-19

Many churches and believers have tried to befriend the world at the expense of godly conviction and true biblical teaching. But when push comes to shove, they will be loyal either to Christ or the world. If Christ, they will be persecuted by the very ones they sought to befriend.

We are told, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). An example that comes to mind is Tim Tebow. Here is a man who conducts himself with class and dignity, one who is very consistent in his Christian walk, and one who does not bad mouth others. Yet, the media loves to slam this man. Why? What wrong has he done? 

Yet, I want to move on to even more serious aspects. There is an ever growing acceptance of Marxist ideas (socialism) in America, both in Washington and academia. What is more astonishing to me, however, is how many who profess the name of Christ are supportive of individuals who hold to such ideas. But mark my words, as Marxist ideas become increasingly rooted, Christians will reap the fruit of intense persecution.  Karl Marx (followed by men such as Nietzsche) was an angry individual who held to a hatred of Christianity (and humanity), and this is made evident wherever socialism/communism rises to power.

At this point, some will accuse Christianity of the same, bringing up the Roman Catholic Church and the Crusades. This must not be ignored, but there also must be understanding. Many of the Popes (including the present one, I dare say, who is in league with those holding Marxist ideas and occultic New Agers in quest for the New World Order, which is anti-Christ at its core) were/are godless men who love and abuse power. In fact, many genuine Christians were tortured and killed under their regimes. As for the Crusaders, many of whom were godless, worthless fellows who delighted in cruelty. These men were not Christians in any sense of the word. 

So, is persecution coming? I believe it is not a matter of if, at this point, but when. Part of this, I believe, revolves around God’s judgment, first of society and its immersion in sin, but also the modern church for its own compliance with and complacency. 

In Romans, chapter 1, Paul discusses three levels of judgment that can come to a people. First, God gives people over to their open and accepted immorality. 

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. ~ Romans 1:24-25

Next comes when God gives people over to practice their desire for homosexuality and other unnatural passions.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. ~ Romans 1:26-27

Third, God gives people over to their acceptance and approval of sins of all kinds. 

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. ~ Romans 1:28-32

Are we not seeing this happening in our own society as what is evil is called good, and what is good is mocked and called evil. What will eventually happen, just as it did with the fall of Rome, is Christians will be blamed for the collapse and chaos. We are seeing this even now as some are teaching that Christian ideas, the Bible, and prayer are “dangerous.” Society will use Christians as a scapegoat, denying that it is their own lusts, greed, idolatry, and violence that brought the chaos (Augustine writes about this in his work, The City of God).

I believe the writing is on the wall. If the course we are on does not change, then we are going to face real persecution. Are we ready? Our attendance to cool worship services will not sustain us, but only a genuine faith in Jesus Christ and the filling of His Holy Spirit. As it is, we can continue to play religious games, but if persecution comes then such games are going to stop. Persecution will reveal what we are made of.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. ~ Matthew 5:12

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

Hello, my friends, I hope your week may be off on a good start and finish likewise. In my last post I was talking about the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount. I am continuing on the subject.

The Beatitudes of which Jesus teaches are an internal, progressive work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life. After all, by nature we are not meek, pure in heart, or merciful. We do not hunger and thirst for righteousness or mourn over sin. The Sermon on the Mount begins with the Beatitudes, which require the inner working of the Holy Spirit, because only when these are activated within a person can the rest of the teachings begin being applied. Understand, Jesus’ teachings are not a list of do’s and don’ts to try to live by. Jesus is not interested in religious behavior. No, He is interested in redemption and transformation. And these we are completely dependent on Him and His Spirit, for we cannot accomplish these.

In the second Beatitude Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn.” Some translations read, “Happy are those who mourn,” but I think the word favorable is more accurate than happy. In any case, what is Jesus saying, that it’s good for people to be sad? No, not quite. He is building upon the first Beatitude, which is “blessed are the poor in spirit.” The poor in Spirit are those who recognize they are completely incapable of paying their sin debt before God, that no amount of “good deeds” can cancel their guilt before God. Those who mourn are those who recognize the wickedness of their sins and are not only remorseful, but repentant before the Lord. Such persons will be comforted because these are the ones who will find mercy and justification. A prime example of this can be seen in Jesus’ following parable:

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. ~ Luke 18:9-14

Three unfortunate, yet all too common, responses to sin—even in modern Evangelicalism—are to get angry when someone exposes our sins, to simply deny the sinfulness and seriousness of sins, or deflect in order to expose others’ sins to get attention off of ours. Sadly, all three of these inappropriate responses are representative of many churches. 

The first response can be seen in those who get upset with the pastor, “Preacher, you went from preaching to meddling! How dare you!” The second response can be seen in statements like, “Everybody is welcomed here! God loves you as you are!” No, God does not love us as we are. He loves us, yes; but He hates our selfishness, meanness, pride, immorality, hatred, etc. Then the third response is all too common in conservative churches, as the sins of society are highlighted and condemned, while all the pride, hypocrisy, partiality, division, anger, and the like are ignored in the lives of the “faithful.”

Is it not strange how easily sin can be detected in others but not ourselves? And when it is our sin, well, we have a justifiable reason (whereas others do not). For example, one’s child comes home from school with a bad attitude. How dare they behave that way! Yet, Dad comes home and slams the door, kicks the dog, and yells at his wife. “Well, I had a bad day,” he says. As if children do not? Young people today face a lot of stress triggers that didn’t exist when I was in school. At a deeper level, persons can judge the various behaviors of society, all the while ignore the arrogance, apathy, greed, lust, and hypocrisy swirling around within their own hearts.

When I was a child, I remember times getting in trouble with friends or family. “What about them?” I would ask. “You are in trouble for what you did,” I’d be told. In Jesus’ parable, notice the Pharisee’s deflection. “God, thank you I’m not like sinners, but I tithe and ….” But elsewhere, Jesus says of the Pharisees,

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others…. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. ~ Matthew 23:23, 27-28

But notice the response of the tax collector in Jesus’ parable. He did not observe the Pharisee’s hypocrisies and such, nor did he mention the sins of others. However, he was very aware of his own sins, and was grieving over them. He could not even lift His eyes, but simply looked down while beating his chest, saying, “God, forgive me, a sinner.”

As Christians, we can all too easily decry the sins of society, but what has happened to our mourning over sin—our sins? How can we curse the darkness if we are guilty of blowing out our candles? 

At a personal level, God will deal with others and their sins in His own time. But the Lord asks of me, “Geno, what about your anger, unkind words, and those sinful thoughts entertained in your head? What about your own lack of compassion and laziness when some things could be done?”

Why are we afraid of the Lord’s light exposing us and our sin when He offers forgiveness? Yet, you and I need to take the Lord’s teachings seriously. We are not justified in decrying everyone else’s sins. We find comfort and justification only by turning to Him, and dealing honestly with our own sins. If we would return to genuinely mourning over our own sins, we could maybe see real revival throughout our land.