The Blood of the Martyrs
by Jurgen Rausch
“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” Heb. 13:3
Persecution is Real!
The stories are grim, the statistics horrendous and the situations the world over not getting any better.
The numbers are truly unbelievable – well over a third of the entire Christian church faces persecution and discrimination of some kind; that’s a staggering 650 million people!
Over 200 million of them face direct and intense persecution with another 400 million facing some sort of discrimination.
Amnesty International reports that over 80% of all persecution is related to people’s faith in Jesus!
Since we last talked about this a year ago, another 2123 Christians have been murdered for their faith which is almost double from the year before
The week I wrote this sermon, the Voice of the Martyrs newswires were buzzing with news that week of the tragic news that included:
Ø Christian villages attacked in Nigeria by Fulani militants resulting it the death of 12 believers .(http://www.persecution.net/images/countries/nigeria/ng-village-flickr.jpg)
Ø Two Hmong converts were forced by their families to leave their homes and were promptly arrested by the authorities. http://www.persecution.net/images/countries/laos/la-touly-faicho-vomus.jpg
Ø Authorities shutting down the New Life Church in Gaziantep, Turkey forcing its American pastor fleeing the country and the congregation running for its life http://www.persecution.net/images/countries/turkey/tr-life-church-wwm.jpg
Ø A Christian couple was hospitalized in northeastern Sri Lanka after being badly beaten by Hindu militants. http://www.persecution.net/images/maps/india.jpg
Ø Over 200 police officers raided a house church in Guangdong Province, China on September 21st. More than 100 Christians, including children, were arrested in the raid, which occurred during their Sunday service. http://www.persecution.net/images/countries/china/cn-house-church-caa.jpg
However the best way I know how to convey the depth of the pain of our brothers and sisters is by showing you the story of Victoria. While it’s reenactment, Victoria is real and so are her tears.
Since this day began, three more Christians have been murdered somewhere in this world for their faith in Jesus!
It makes you want to weep, doesn’t it! Breaks our hearts to know that persecution continues even as we speak.
While we may have been sheltered here in the West and thank God that many of you were able to come to the shores of this land, I remind you that North America remains a bubble from the ravages of the killing fields all over this world.
The Persecuted We Will Always Have!
So the question this morning is whether we’re seeing any evidence that the rate of persecution is declining? Are less people being killed today then ten, twenty years ago? Will the day come when there will be no more persecution?
I wish I could tell you otherwise but unfortunately persecution will always be among us.
Just like we will always have the poor among us so we will always have the persecuted in our midst.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
That’s Jesus’ way of saying that the persecuted you will always have among you; which is also the reason why there are over 200 references to the martyrs in the original languages of the New Testament!
This is why throughout the age of the Christian faith there has been blood spilled for that faith.
From the days they carried away the body of Stephen who was the first martyr (Acts 7:57-58) to the final scenes outlined in the last book of the Bible where the Dragon makes war against those who hold fast their testimony about Jesus (Rev. 12:7), people have always been martyred; and will continue to be until the close of this age.
Folks, ours is a faith that was born in the blood of our Messiah. Should we honestly expect anything different among his followers then when the very founder of the faith was murdered for the very beliefs that are at the very core of our faith?
Blood Of The Saints And The Word Of Their Testimony
In a strange sort of way, the waves of persecution have always been the seeds of the incredible growth of the church.
You need to know that the blood of the saints and the word of their testimony have always been linked together in the Scriptures.
It says in the Scriptures: “They triumphed over Satan by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” Rev. 12: 17
Suggesting that the phenomenal growth of the church has been in part because of the waves of persecution; almost as though for everyone who lays down his life, ten more rise up!
For everyone one that dies, the other nine become more radicalized in their faith so much so that they quickly attract the attention of others who in turn want what they have and swell the ranks.
If nothing else, if one of them dies it will shake up the other nine and any “hanger-oners” will decide to jump on board or get off the wagon.
Even if one dies and two jump off because it isn’t worth the cost, I’ll bet the other seven will be so determined to stay faithful that they quickly will attract others who love the quality of spiritual life they have.
There’s something about persecution that shakes out the dead wood.
You see, in times of ease, its easy and convenient to be called a Christian with little commitment, cost and sacrifice but also with little power, effectiveness and witness!
When persecution comes only the committed stick around. And I am telling you that more can be done for God with a few radicalized believers then with a huge crowd of half-baked ones!
God actually uses persecution to purge the church of the dead wood.
Not that those who give their lifes were dead wood but that the remaining nine will make sure that it’s worth their while to serve Jesus in an age of opposition!
The blood of the saints is tied into the word of their testimony!
Don’t take my word for it. Take a look at what happened when persecution broke out in the early church:
“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. “ Acts. 8:1,4
“Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.” Acts 11:19-22
The same thing happened years later when Paul was put in prison for his faith: “ Because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear” Phil. 1:14
The blood of the martyrs is the seedbed of some of the most explosive growth of the Christian faith in the world!
Take a look at this map (http://discipleallnations.files.wordpress.com/ /2013/08/top-20.jpg) that shows you the countries where the fastest growth rates are happening. In many places it’s where we see the greatest persecution!
Nepal, China, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Yemen, Mongalia – none of those places are friendly toward the Gospel.
11 of the 20 are Muslim countries. What is going on the planet?
What’s going on is that the seedbed of modern day church growth is the blood of the martyrs!
Jesus was bang on when he said: “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24
See Them As Though They Are Your Flesh And Blood
In light of that, what we are to do? Are we to try to stop this? Stop what – the greatest church-growth movement in the world? I don’t think so!
In fact, I haven’t read anyway in the literature from ministries that advocate on behalf of the persecuted church that we are to marshal our energies in an attempt to stop this.
Of course, there is incredible individual pain and our hearts break at the Victoria’s of this world and we would and should do everything we can to stop individual pain
But if truth be known and if the persecuted church could speak to us, it would be the words of 2 Thess. 3:1 “Pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly… and pray that we may be delivered form wicked and evil men”
Pray as you never have before that God’s will would be in done in their lives and through their lives.
And I don’t mean the usual prayer. I don’t mean casual prayer, convenient prayer or flippant prayer. I am talking about persistent, passionate, tearful prayer as though you were suffering and your loved one in prison.
Folks, we owe them that at least! If they are paying the price that is fuelling the growth of the church then the least we can do is to pray for them in such a way as though they were our own flesh and blood, brothers and sisters.
Do you realize that God requires of us nothing less? “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” Heb. 13:3
That puts this on a different level! As though we were their fellow prisoners; as though we were suffering right along side of them!
We owe them at least that much. Stand in their shoes, look through their lens as though you are prisoners beside them.
This is so much more than just one day a year. So much more than just remembering them on an annual day of prayer somewhere.
As though we are chained with them. Maybe that’s what Paul had in mind when the coined the phrase: “the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings”
Do Not Be Ashamed Of The Prisoners
While in prison, Paul’s only wish to Timothy is the plea of every prisoner and sufferer this morning: “Do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel” 2 Tim 1:8
It’s as though they are saying to us: “Join with me in my suffering. Let me know you care. That my tears are your tears and that my pain is your pain.
Let me know that I am not the only one in this prison and that you are with me in spirit and are interceding to our Heavenly Father for his will to be done”
It’s as though they saying: “Our blood may well be the seedbed of church growth but it’s still our blood, these are still our daughters, sisters and mothers; these are still our fathers, brothers and sons”
May it be said of us as it was said of the family of Onesiphorus. They were among those who stood by Paul when in prison. In fact, they searched him out and ministered to him when they found him
“May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus.”
2 Tim. 1:16-18
Searching hard for him until he found Paul is exactly what I am talking about this morning. That’s the equivalent of us remembering the prisoners of our days as though we are chained with them!
May the Lord show mercy to you because you often refreshed his prisoners and was not ashamed of their chains!
The Lord’s Supper In Solidarity
Today in these closing moments I invite you to participate in this memorial Lord’s Supper prepared for you.
Servers will come to your row in the center isle at which point you will be invited to come down the center isle.
Tear off a piece of bread meant to remind you of that our Lord’s body was torn apart for your salvation; and do so as you stand in solidarity with every sufferer who’s ever had his or her life torn apart for the faith.
Then take that broken bread and dunk it into the chalice reminding you that the blood of Jesus bought your redemption as you stand in solidarity with every sufferer whose blood has been the seedbed of the growth of the church that brings the Good News of Jesus to the nations.
All of it is free but not of it is cheap. Our faith has come to us at a high cost.
Not only has Jesus died for your faith but men and women throughout the ages have died so that this faith would be preserved and passed down the generations to us.
This very day men and women are dying and suffering for this faith so that future generations would have the Gospel even as we did.
It’s free but no one said it was cheap.
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