Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Persecuted Church lesson: Part 2 - My Utmost for His Highest

Continuing Michael's message from yesterday, Michael asks, What do the 80% of Christians in the persecuted church need from us? They need our presence and our prayer. Intercessory prayer is God's force-multiplier. We can pray for them in the name of Jesus and that He will open the doors for salvation through Jesus Christ. How do you win Muslims? You win them by praying for them, by being a friend to them, and by valuing them. The goodness and love of God calls people to repentance.  We don't need to go to the Middle East to witness to Muslims. Muslims within our midst are coming to Christ. We ourselves can choose to engage Muslims in our own neighborhoods. This may not be "politically correct." However, we need to remember that we are citizens of heaven first and America second. Loving our enemies is politically correct in the Kingdom of heaven.

When we keep our witness to ourselves, the Christian church in the West will continue to decline. However, the persecuted church, 80% of the world's Christians, is growing exponentially because they know what it means to stand in the front lines of the spiritual battle. They are proving the truth that Christ's strength is made manifest in their own weakness. We may lament that in the United States, we are losing our freedoms.  However, in the Middle East, the persecuted Christians would gladly give up their physical freedom to serve their Lord and Savior. They understand what it means to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and to be not entangled with the yoke of spiritual bondage.

Steve Ridgeway recounts the testimony of one Christ-follower he met in an underground small Christian fellowship in the Middle East. This dear brother dropped his pants to show Steve where Islamic terrorists had mutilated his body by castrating him. He testified that his captors ordered him to renounce the name of Jesus. When he refused they brutally castrated him while his wife watched. Then while he was writhing in pain they forced him to watch as they put a bullet through her head at point blank range, murdering her. What has your faith cost you?  This man knew first-hand the meaning of Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore brethren, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy (and wholly) acceptable unto God which is your reasonable act of worship.” Because of testimonies like this, the church is exploding in the Muslim world.

The persecuted church knows by experience the meaning of Paul's words in Philippians 1:20:  “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.”  The question is not whether we will live or die. According to the Word, "it is appointed for all men once to die." The question is whether or not I will glorify Christ in both life and death. Regarding this verse Oswald Chambers said in his devotional: My Utmost for His Highest, "My eager desire is that I will continue to do honor to Christ by fearless courage whether I live or die.”  We will all be ashamed if we do not yield to Him in all areas of our lives where He has asked us to yield to Him. It's as if Paul were saying that my determined purpose is my utmost for his highest ... My best for his glory. To reach that level of devotion is a matter of the will, not of debate or reasoning.  It is absolute and irrevocable surrender of the will at that point. An undue and insidious thought for ourselves is what keeps us from making that decision. Therefore shut out every other thought and keep yourself before God in one thing only, my utmost for his highest ... to live for Him and Him alone."

This is our lesson from the persecuted church:  pray for them that revile you, and persecute you, and despitefully use you.  Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

May God richly bless you,
Your brother in Christ, Michael

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