HARD WORDS OF JESUS RELEVANT FOR OUR TIME

In the days ahead we will need to take these words of Jesus’ seriously:

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.Mark 8:34b-35

Agabus (one of several prophets who came from Jerusalem to Syrian Antioch where Paul was ministering) prophesied that, if Paul went to Jerusalem, he would be bound by the Jews there and handed over to the Gentiles. Paul’s followers pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Paul’s response;

Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”  When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.” Acts 21:13-14

What a challenge this is to us.  Even today, while we enjoy relative safety in our country, many brothers and sisters in Christ in countries under anti-Christian regimes are making the same decision as Paul, and they and their families are suffering intense persecution and deprivation as a result. 

Who can forget this image?

Islamic State Beheads Egyptian Coptic Christians

God has used the sacrifice of these twenty Coptic Christians and one Ghanaian for His purposes. The relatives of the Coptic Christian recently shared their pride in the men’s refusal to deny Jesus and how the tragic deaths of their loved ones has strengthened the faith of the local community.

Three years after their relatives were murdered by ISIS in the infamous “A Message Signed With Blood to the Nation of the Cross” video, members of the Coptic community of Minya province, Upper Egypt, gathered for the inauguration of a new church, The Church of the Libyan Martyrs, dedicated to the memory of these men.

What a challenge this is to all of us. I am not sure how I would respond but I cling to the firm promise of Jesus that He will give me the courage when I need it.

Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is GIVEN YOU AT THE TIME, for it is not you speaking, but the HOLY SPIRIT.” Mark 13:11

JESUS WARNS US OF PERSECUTION

[Matthew 5:11, 44]  “Blessed are you, when [men] shall revile you, and persecute [you], and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. … But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you;

[Matthew 10:23]  “But when they persecute you in this city, flee into another: for verily I say unto you, You shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.

[Luke 21:12] “But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute [you], delivering [you] up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake.

[John 15:20] ” Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

[Romans 12:14] “Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.

[Luke 17:33] “Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.

[Mark 4:17]  “And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.

[2 Thessalonians 1:4]  “So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:

PERSECUTION AIDS THE SPREAD OF THE GOSPEL

Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.” Acts 8:4

We can see it played out in the death of Stephen. The religious communities’ rejection of Stephen, to the point of stoning him, caused the believers to run for their lives. If not for this rejection, Philip would never have ended up in Samaria. And what happened there? Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there.

Image result for picture of Phillip being stoned for preaching the Gospel

“Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralysed and lame were healed. And there was great joy in that city.” Acts 8:5-8

A great revival broke out. The more the believers were persecuted, the more they spread out, fulfilling the words of Yeshua to start in Jerusalem, and then go to the ends of the Earth .

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

“Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went” (Acts 8:4).

And this Gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matt. 24:14)

Of course, we can see it played out in the Middle East and Africa where the church is under intense persecution by the greatest antichrist spirit of all, Islam. On this website, on a recent post, “Church Grows Under Persecution” I record the story of the rapidly growing church in Iran. Check it out if you haven’t already done so.

May we be like Paul who said:

“Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:8-11