This salutation by my own hand-- Paul. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. Amen. (NKJ)Preached at FBC Toulon, IL on November 4, 2001 by Albert Harmon; see it at toulonbaptist.com
My purpose in this message this morning is to help you do just what Paul commended in Col. 4:18. To help us remember those in chains for the cause of Jesus Christ. About 100,000 churches in the USA will this morning remember persecuted Christians. In many countries around the world Christians are being persecuted today. In some countries it amounts to no more than discrimination. But that too can be deadly if they discriminate in medical treatment.
Persecution is nothing new to the Christian faith. Our forerunner, John the Baptist was imprisoned and eventually put to death for his testimony concerning the sinful actions of Herod. Jesus Himself was rejected and persecuted and put to death.
- Christ suffered persecution and death.
- Christ suffered -- John 5:16 For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.
- Christ voluntarily submitted to -- Isaiah 50:6 I gave My back to those who struck Me, And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.
- Christ was patient under -- Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.
- May expect --John 15:18"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. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.
- Is a persecution of Christ --Acts 9:4,5 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" 5 And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" Then the Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads."
- All that live godly in Christ, shall suffer -- 2 Timothy 3:12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
- It makes us grow.
- One frustrated oppressor of Christianity in the former Soviet Union once said, "Religion is like a nail. The harder you hit it the deeper it goes into the wood." -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
- Hated to God and Christ
- John 15:18"If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.
- John 15:24 "If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father.
- Hatred of the light, the truth
- John 3:19"And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20"For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21"But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God."
- Men by nature addicted to -- Galatians 4:29 But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now.
- God forsakes not his saints under
- 2 Corinthians 4:7But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 8We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed-- 10always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12So then death is working in us, but life in you.
- Cannot separated from Christ -- Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
- Roman emperor Septimius Severus forbade conversions to Judaism and Christianity in 202. In North Africa, Vivia Perpetua, Felicitas, and several other catechumens [new converts to Christianity] were imprisoned and eventually sentenced to die in the arena at Carthage.
In the Passion, an account of the martyrdom of these women, the 22-year-old Perpetua, a well-educated wife and nursing mother, described her faith and her life in prison, concluding, "The dungeon became to me a palace."
Perpetua was a woman "privileged to converse with the Lord." She sought a vision to reveal whether her confinement would result in release or martyrdom, and she received the vivid message that it was the latter. Thereafter she gave up expectations for this life.
Her dungeon-bound days were marked by prayer meetings, a word of knowledge, several visions and Felicitas' giving birth to a baby girl after eight months of pregnancy (avoiding delay of the execution).
On the eve of martyrdom, the prisoners celebrated an "agape feast." Then, approaching the arena, Perpetua sang psalms, faced the beasts "in the Spirit" and in an ecstasy. She joined a companion whose bloody slaying was accompanied by the crowd's mocking baptismal chant, "Saved and washed, saved and washed."
Most elements of early Christian worship are evident in this Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas. Moreover, such martyrs profoundly shaped the worship of the church for centuries to come. Feasts were held in their honor; their relics were gathered for veneration; monuments were erected to them.
Despite speculation that Perpetua was a Montanist, the larger Christian family embraced her as a saint of surpassing grace. -- "Worship in the Early Church," Christian History, Issue 37.
Here in America we do not face serious persecution at least on a organized scale. But there are millions of people, about 200 million, who face the real threat of persecution.
Let us pray for them and be informed about them. Financially help them if we can. We can provide Bibles. I send $25.00 each month to support a pastor in the Philippines. That $25.00 means he can minister full time without worrying about his own needs.
In the 1930s in Stavropol, Russia, Stalin ordered that all Bibles be confiscated and Christian believers be sent to prison camps. Ironically, most of the Bibles were not destroyed, yet many Christians died as "enemies of the state."
With the recent dissolution of the U.S.S.R., a CoMission team arrived in Stavropol in 1994 for ministry. Their request to have Bibles shipped to Moscow was being held up. But someone told them about a warehouse outside of town where confiscated Bibles were still stored. Remarkably, the team was granted permission to distribute them. Hiring several local Russian workers, they began to load their trucks.
One young man, a hostile agnostic, came only for the day's wages. But not long after they had started, he disappeared. He was found in the corner of the warehouse, weeping, a Bible in his hands. Intending to steal it for himself, he had picked his own grandmother's off the shelf! Her signature was on the front page. Today, that young Russian is in the process of being transformed by the very Bible that his grandmother was persecuted for, but still held dear. -- Ken Taylor, Christian Reader, Vol. 33, no. 5.
This message was preached at FBC Toulon, by Albert Harmon. See it at http://toulonbaptist.com