Daily Devotional for Monday September 4, 2006
Would you Renounce Jesus to Save your Life
(I Corinthians 15:26, 55-57, 2 Timothy 1:10)
Last weekend came the wonderful news and answer to many prayers that Fox News reporter Steve Centanni and his cameraman Olaf Wiig were released after being abducted at gunpoint two weeks earlier while reporting from the Gaza Strip. One element of their release that has not even been mentioned in all of their many post-release interviews was the fact that just prior to being set free, both Centanni and Wiig were forced at gunpoint to be video taped in Muslim robes and converting to Islam (Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2Sx9YCZW_g). My question to you today is if you were put in the same position Centanni and Wiig were, told with a gun pointed to your head to convert to Islam or be killed, what would you do?
For the record, I spoke with numerous people at Fox News last week trying to find out what faith, if any, Centanni and Wiig claimed to have and nobody could tell me. Their personal faith is not the issue, only the fact they were forced under the threat of death to "convert" to Islam. In the one brief comment about their "conversion" after being released, Centanni states, ""We were forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint. Don't get me wrong here. I have the highest respect for Islam, and I learned a lot of good things about it, but it was something we felt we had to do because they had the guns, and we didn't know what the hell was going on." So they both clearly felt they would be killed if they did not do exactly what their captors demanded they do.
Let me say right up front, I know most who are reading this will answer that you would gladly die for your faith in Jesus. The fact is, unless you are actually in a situation where a gun is being pointed to your head with the threat of being killed, you may know what you HOPE your answer is, but really don't know until that moment if you would actually die for your faith. There are many good reasons you can name to do whatever is necessary to stay alive. Your family needs you, God will understand, all very valid. It still goes back to the question, if you were forced to renounce Christ and embrace a false god to stay alive, would you?
I will never forget the very first death threat I received right after Liveprayer started. It literally made me stop and think whether what I was doing was worth dying for. I remember spending several days talking and praying with my wife. She told me that she would stand by me whatever I decided to do, but to please make sure my life insurance was current. Seriously though, I had to make the conscious choice that I might actually be killed for taking a stand for Christ. Dealing with Biblical Truth in the straight forward manner I do while reaching a worldwide audience through the Internet of over 2 million people daily and tens of thousands every night on my TV program, I receive an average of 7-10 death threats every month.
There are many mentally unstable people in this world. Reaching out to the unsaved masses as I do every day, I can only share with you that there is incredible hostility by many to the Gospel and the Truth of God's Word. People who have forwarded my Daily Devotional to a family member or friend have emailed me in horror with the vicious responses they received back. If you read my email each day you would see how truly sick and depraved many people actually are. It only takes one delusional person to act on their evil thoughts, so I have learned to live each day with the fact that because of the bold and visible stand I have chosen to take for Christ, getting killed for my faith is a very real possibility.
Here is what I want to challenge you with today and what gives me tremendous peace. The fact is we are all going to die one day. That is not even debatable. That also means we will have to die in some manner, whether it is in a car wreck, a fire, an act of violence, some sort of accident, war for those who serve our nation, or most likely from some health problem. However we die, the reality is we will die one day. The wonderful thing about our faith in Christ is that in addition to all the benefits of our salvation during this life, we have the assurance of everlasting life in Heaven when this brief journey here is completed. That is why death has no hold on the Believer. That is why Paul was able to write to the church at Corinth, "O death, where is they sting? O grave, where is they victory?" (1 Corinthians 15:55)
So knowing that through our faith in Christ we have already won the victory over death, the child of God can confront those who may threaten us with death with the confidence in knowing they have no power over us. All killing us will do is end this brief journey and allow us to go on to our heavenly home a bit sooner than we may have anticipated. The fact is, every day all over this planet men and women are literally dying for their faith in Jesus Christ. There are many places in the world today where being a follower of Christ can literally cost you your life, and there are brothers and sisters in the Lord who are paying the ultimate price for their faith.
Whenever this issue comes up, I am immediately reminded of the disciples of Jesus. On the night He was betrayed, as the Roman soldiers came to take our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane, every single one of Christ's disciples abandoned Him. They literally ran away in fear of being killed for being with Jesus. Even the strong Peter denied knowing our Lord three times that fateful night. The amazing this is, after the resurrection, after Pentecost, these same men who ran in fear of their life, became incredibly bold preachers of the faith who literally turned this world upside down. Except for John, all died horrific deaths as martyrs for the faith.
So while we all know what we HOPE we would do if confronted with giving our life for our faith, the fact is unless it actually happens to us, we really don't know if we would die for Christ or in weakness, deny Him in order to stay alive. I'm reminded of the words of Jesus found in Matthew 10:30 where our Lord said, "He who seeks his life will lose it; and he who loses his life for my sake will find it."
I love you and care about you so much. As our nation becomes more anti-God, as our world becomes even more evil in these last days, as radical false religions like Islam whose stated goal is to kill all "infidels" or non-Muslims, we can expect more and more followers of Christ to be martyred for their faith in Jesus. While you may think this is only something that happens in third world countries, I tell you today that there is coming a day, sooner than anyone thinks, when followers of Christ right here in the Untied States will be killed for their faith. It already happens today in isolated cases, but I am talking about something that will become a common occurrence.
There is coming a great persecution of Christians in this nation. Gone will be all the wonderful freedoms we enjoy today to proclaim the Gospel. Things we take for granted like going to church, having Bible studies and home fellowship groups will be outlawed. You will no longer be able to buy Bibles and Christian resources on the open market as we do today. There will be no more Christian websites, TV programs, radio programs, or music. They will all be illegal. Are you sitting there and thinking that after 7 years I have finally lost it?
I tell you today that there is coming a great persecution of Christians in this nation as God's wrath is poured out for our rebellion and rejection of Him. The children of Israel enjoyed seasons of great freedoms to worship and honor the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, yet many times God unleashed His judgment on them because of their rebellion and allowed their enemies to defeat them. One day soon, God will allow this nation to be taken over by those who hate us and the first thing they will do is make Christianity illegal. At that moment, there will be a great falling away from the faith as people will have to decide, often with their very life, if they really want to be a follower of Christ.
I will be praying for you today. Praying that you will become so emboldened in your faith that you will not be afraid to die for Jesus if you are ever faced with that option. There can be no greater way to die than to die for the very One who willing gave His life so that you could have your sins forgiven and receive the free gift of everlasting life. Death simply means this journey is over and you are on to your heavenly rewards in Glory!
As I type theses words today, I can only pray that I will be found faithful should I be looking down the barrel of a gun or the edge of a sword and told to deny Jesus. If that happens, may my last words on this earth be doing my best to tell those who kill me of the hope they can have in Jesus if they will simply bow their knee and confess Him as their Savior. Without Jesus this life has no meaning or purpose and is nothing. It is better to die for Jesus than to live for nothing.