Daily Devotional for Friday November 18, 2005
The Coming Persecution of Christians in the United States
(Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 11:13-16, 25; Acts 5:41; 1 Peter 5:10)
Several weeks ago, I read about three 15-year-old high school girls in Indonesia who were beheaded simply for being Christians. Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation and killing Christians, simply for being a follower of Christ, is a common practice in many parts of that country. The reality is, in November of 2005 there are MANY places on this planet where it costs to be a Christian, and that cost is often a person's life! I submit to you today that there is coming a day when Christians will be persecuted for their faith, even unto death, right here in the United States of America!!!
For those of us who have lived our lives in the United States, we have enjoyed tremendous freedoms to live and share our faith in virtual peace. The fact is we have never even begun to experience and can't even comprehend what many of our brothers and sisters in Christ in other parts of the world have to endure, to simply be a follower of Jesus Christ. Actually, we should be ashamed of ourselves. We can go out and start a church, and nobody is going to bother us. We can go out and preach the Gospel, and nobody is going to bother us. We can set up Internet sites, create TV and radio programs, write books, make movies, and produce music, all to share our faith in Christ, and for the most part, nobody is going to bother us. In fact, there is very little we can't do in November of 2005 here in the United States, to live out and share our faith in Jesus Christ.
In a way, all of this freedom has made us "soft Christians." I firmly believe after 15 years of evangelistic ministry, that all of the peace and freedom we have as Christians in this nation make us not really appreciate our faith in Christ. Instead of our faith being the most important thing in our life, it is simply just a part of our life, like belonging to a country club or having a hobby we enjoy. The main reason is that we pay no price of any kind to get saved, since Jesus already paid that price. But it costs us nothing after we are saved to be a Believer in Christ here in the United States. Most who come to know Christ have that "born again" experience and grow very little in their faith, because they put virtually nothing into their relationship with Christ. Even the basics like praying and reading the Word each day, and going to church, are too great a sacrifice for most who call themselves Christians in this nation!
I wonder if a group of men armed with automatic weapons came into your church on Sunday, told the congregation they had 5 minutes to denounce Christ and leave the sanctuary, or proclaim Christ as their Savior by staying with the understanding that those who stayed would be killed, how many would be left in the pews? I wonder if you were with 20 people who were taken at gunpoint by a man who said he would kill anyone who claimed to be a Christian, and then started asking each person one by one if they were a follower of Christ, when he got to you what YOUR answer would be? The sad truth is, most Christians are afraid to share their faith in Christ with others simply out of the fear of being laughed at, mocked, and verbally challenged!!!
These may sound like unrealistic scenarios but they actually happen all the time in countries around this world. People are beaten and tortured for their faith in Christ. People are put into prison for years, for decades, for being a follower of Jesus. Many people every day are martyred and killed for proclaiming that Jesus Christ is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! We are too busy to pray, yet brothers and sisters in Christ in some places today are risking their lives to pray. We are too busy to read the Bible, yet brothers and sisters in Christ in some places are beaten and put into prison just for having a copy of God's Word. We have no use for Christ's church, yet brothers and sisters in the Lord in some places are killed for having a church service. My friend, we have it so easy here in the U.S., we take our faith for granted and instead of it defining who we are, it is shuffled far down our list of priorities and simply part of our life, like the Tuesday night bowling league we belong to.
Please, I am so tired of hearing Christians whining about being persecuted in this country. Because we can't pray in public schools we are being persecuted? Because the town hall won't put up a manger scene we are being persecuted? Because a department store like Wal-Mart won't say "Merry Christmas" we are being persecuted? That is not persecution, that is simply part of living in a society that has chosen to live in rebellion to the God of the Bible and reject His Truth and Son Jesus Christ! Should we speak up about these issues? Sure, but please don't say we are being persecuted. Being persecuted is when someone takes a machete and chops off your head, for no other reason than you have identified yourself as a follower of Christ!!!
However, there is coming a day, sooner than any of us think, when we will endure that type of persecution right here in the United States! Impossible you say? NO, very possible. We have taken our faith for granted, taken the great freedoms we enjoy for granted, and there will come a day when we won't have those freedoms any longer and we will have to decide how important our faith is to us. At that time, it will COST to be a Christian. It will COST to pray. It will COST to read the Word. It will COST to go to church. It won't cost money but the potential of being beaten, tortured, thrown in jail, and even killed. On that day, I wonder how many will be left willing to pay the cost? Will you?
I love you and care about you so much. I pray today that this word will cause you to think, cause you to evaluate your faith. It is easy to say I would die for Jesus, but would you really? Let me challenge you today. If you would die for Jesus, will you live for Jesus? I am actually going to follow up today's Devotional with one by that very name tomorrow. I don't want to let go of this theme since it is critical. If we really love the Lord as we claim, then He should be the top priority in our life. Christ should be such a burning passion in our heart that we should be actively involved in trying to help everyone we know come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
When you accepted Jesus into your heart and life by faith, you gave Him your life. Not just for an hour on Sunday morning, but ALL of your life! The Bible says it is no longer your life, that it belongs to Him. If you really believed that your life is no longer your own, you would live like it was no longer your own. You would be fully and completely surrendered to Christ every moment of every day. It would not be about you, it would be about Him. It would not be your desires, it would be His desires. It would not be you that lived, but yes, the Christ that lives within you!!!
Sadly, it is going to take real persecution in this nation for God's people to be One. When persecution comes, we won't be divided any longer by Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, or Pentecostal; we won't be worried any longer if this person speaks in tongues or that person chooses to worship quietly; it won't matter if the color of your skin is black, white, yellow, or red, only if you know Jesus. All of the ways we have found to divide ourselves will be gone and we will be bound simply by the blood of our Lord, one in Him. Those God raises up to lead His people in these days of persecution will be true servants, since there will be no money in serving the Lord, only sacrifice. Those who want to lead in these days of persecution won't have people paying to hear them speak, only people coming to lead them to their death.
But be of good cheer. The Bible proclaims that our citizenship is NOT of this world We are citizens of a different world and are simply passing through this one. Those who know Christ as their Savior understand that this life is but for a brief season and that we have the assurance of spending all eternity with Him. They don't live in fear of death, since death has no hold on the Believer. Our purpose in this life is to serve and glorify God with our lives and that will be the only goal of those who follow Jesus.
In closing, let me leave you with this thought and challenge. Every day, somewhere on this planet a brother or sister in Christ is literally giving their life for their faith. These are courageous men and women of God who in spite of death have chosen to follow Jesus. I pray that their lives will encourage YOU today, challenge YOU today. God has blessed us in this nation to have a season with great freedoms to live our faith and share our faith. Instead of taking those freedoms for granted, causing us to take our faith for granted, let us use those freedoms to proclaim to this lost and dying world that Jesus Christ is "the way, the truth, and the life," and that nobody comes to the Father except thru Him.