Monday, May 30, 2016
The Persecuted Church lesson: Part 1 - Christianity on the Rise
Michael writes this week that Steve Ridgeway was the Chief Executive Officer of Open Doors Ministries and traveled extensively, especially in the Middle East. As a result of experiencing many different cultures, Steve observes from the heart of a missionary that life is not to be lived having evil thoughts and being easily offended by others. Our exhortation is to walk in love as Jesus Christ himself is love. Jesus said in John 13:35, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another." The message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the message of deliverance from the bondage of hatred and sin. Jesus' mission was to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
Unless we have an understanding of other cultures, we will never be able to love with empathy and compassion as Christ loved. We have been called to share the gospel in "unsafe" places and to "unsafe" people. Eighty percent of the Church, the Body of Christ, lives under persecution. We Americans are part of the twenty percent of the Body of Christ where the church is not persecuted, yet. However, the Christian church is exploding in places where persecution is the greatest. For example, sixty five percent of the population of Iran is under the age of 25. Contrary to what the liberal media reports, these young Iranians love America and the freedom our country represents. Although unreported in the news media, the underground Christian church in Iran is growing exponentially. The media paints the Muslim world with a broad brush. However, only a small minority of Iran’s influential Muslim leaders vehemently opposes Christianity and these leaders violently oppress their own people.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus said in Matthew 5, "It is said ye shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy, but, I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute and despitefully use you." Loving your enemy can be done only through the love of Christ. Many have seen the viral video where twenty one Christians were lined up on the shores of the Mediterranean by their Muslim captors. They were asked by their captors one at a time, "Do you love Jesus ... are you Christian?" All but one answered, "Yes, I am a Christian." Each of the twenty Egyptian Christians who professed "Jesus is my Lord" was gruesomely beheaded. When the executioner returned to the twenty first man and asked him again, "Are you a Christian," he replied, "yes, the testimony and the witness of my brothers has convicted me to profess, yes, I am a Christian." He too, was beheaded like his other faithful Christian brothers. As the scripture in Matthew 5:11 says, "Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake, for great is your reward in heaven."
Islamic terrorists intended to use this viral video as a recruiting tool. However, many young men in the Muslim world have said that this video has compelled them to turn away from the stark evil hatred of these Muslim terrorists and toward Christ. The word of God in Romans 12:21 says, be not overcome of evil but overcome evil with good. The Apostle Paul would have been considered by the Christ followers of his day a member of a terrorist group. However, what men meant for evil, the Lord meant for Good – Genesis 50:20. Paul's radical conversion illustrates that the best way to defeat your enemy is to make him your friend and to introduce him to your friend, the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the Muslim world, no one has ever denied Steve Ridgeway the opportunity to pray for Jesus to heal one of their loved ones. Muslims believe according to the Qur'an that Jesus is the Healer. We must reach them. The field of the Muslim world is ripe for the harvest. The darker the night the brighter the light shines. It's not difficult to talk to Muslims. The average Muslim is not a radical extremist. They believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, that He is a great healer, and that He is coming back. They do not believe however, that Jesus is the Son of God. The message is, "We have good news for you my Muslim friend ... Jesus loves you." We must win them according to God's goodness. One compelling question to ask a Muslim is, "Do you believe that God can speak to you in a vision?" Their answer will be "Yes" because their holy book says that the Lord reveals himself through visions. Our prayer is that they will meet Jesus in a vision and that He will lead them to the Truth.
We will continue Michael's message message on the persecuted church impact on the Muslim world tomorrow.
In Christ, Brian