by Jeannette Haley
“. . . but the people that do know their God Shall be strong, and do exploits.” – Daniel 11:32b
Every once in awhile we need to stop and take stock of where we are in our Christian lives. This is especially true for us today in light of the perilous times in which we live. If you have not awakened yet to the fact that our country has gone past the point of no return from a Democracy (we lost the Republic decades ago) to Socialism, then please consider these timely quotes: Jan Markell wrote: “In recent weeks it has become more obvious that America is on the yellow-brick road to Socialism.” In 1962 Russian Premier Khrushchev said, “We can’t expect the American people to jump from capitalism to Communism but we can assist their leaders by giving them small amounts of Socialism until they awaken one day to find out they have Communism.” He also said that Communism would take over America “without firing a shot.” Karl Marx said, “A new revolution is possible only in consequences of a new crisis.” Jan wrote: “We have a crisis. As a matter of fact, unless the world stock markets stabilize, the entire world could be looking at a financial tsunami. Many nations, including America, could be ripe for being taken over by unsavory political efforts ‘without firing a shot.’” (http://www.olivetreeviews.org/)
The whole world watched (some with delight, others with horror and amazement) as America plunged headlong into socialism on November 4, 2008. Marxism, all dressed up in the gospel of economic justice, finally, through deceit and deception, elbowed its way to the top while millions swooned and slobbered over their new Commander in Chief, the Kenyan-born “Messiah.” America was indeed taken “without firing a shot.” While the liberal news media gloated and glowed over the “peaceful transition,” we mourned and wept.
Since that fateful day, war has been openly declared on Christians in America. Not that the seething hatred against God, His Word and His people is a new phenomena, but now that the God-mocking “Messiah” is in power, it’s as if the “lid” that held it down to a dull roar has been blown sky high allowing the angry pot to boil over, threatening to consume anyone who stands in its way. The ungodly wave that is rocking not only this nation, but also the entire world, will not be content until freedom of speech no longer exists. We already see that any opinion that does not line up with the liberals’ politically correct agenda will not be tolerated.
Therefore, if you believe God created the heavens and the earth, that all people are sinners, that killing babies, either unborn or born, is murder, that homosexuality is an abomination to God, that worshipping anything or anyone other than the God of the Bible is idolatry, that any kind of sex outside of marriage is fornication, and that there is a literal heaven and hell, then it is highly likely you will experience persecution. Persecution begins with a ground swell of false accusations, such as occurred against the Jews in pre-Nazi Germany. In this country, the liberals, New Age cults (such as Oprah Winfrey heads up), atheists, and “progressive” thinkers label evangelical Christians as narrow minded, unrealistic, radical and hateful. The growing homosexual community accuses Christians of being “terrorists”. Even the so-called “Christian” emerging, post-modern church community has forsaken the “faith once delivered to the saints.”
Evidence of the vitriolic anti-Christian sentiment in this country rose to the surface and unashamedly boiled over against Sarah Palin and her family during the recent election process. It was shocking, to say the least, and a real wake up call for us. The rancor was not so much about policies and politics as it was against the fact that Sarah Palin has a testimony of Jesus Christ, stands against baby killing, supports Israel, ejecting the wicked and greedy politicians of her state. She then returned stolen funds to the people, which is righteousness in action. The vicious and venomous attacks, lies, slander and gross false accusations against her and her family only proves that darkness fears, and despises, the light.
Currently there are over 200 million Christians worldwide experiencing severe persecution. These believers accept the fact that they risk losing everything they own, including their loved ones, and even their lives, by embracing Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Christians living in such places of severe, relentless persecution consider themselves as already being dead. Prepared to lay down their lives at any hour, they can declare, along with the Apostle Paul, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead” Philippians 3:7-11.
On the other hand, instead of facing the prospect of death because of their faith, the greatest challenge for Christians in America (thus far) is to live for Christ. What does it mean to “live for Christ?” Many would say that living for Christ means going to church at least once a week, paying tithes, and perhaps doing a few good works. Others might emphasize that living for Christ means becoming “super religious,” which might be defined by those who are associated with such a person as being unrealistic, legalistic, judgmental, self-righteous and quite often, just plain obnoxious.
The truth is no one can live for Christ if he or she is not, first, a new creation in Christ. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” 2 Corinthians 5:17. Oswald Chambers’ explanation of “The New Man” puts it well. He wrote: “Jesus Christ, as Representative Man, accepted the responsibility of exhibiting on the human plane the absolute holiness of God; he lived up to God’s standard in every detail of holy living and holy speaking and holy working, and His claim is that through the Atonement He can put us in the place where we can do the same. The very disposition that was in Him is put into me—is it there? If it is not, I will have to answer for it. It is not that God puts the life of Jesus in front of us and says, ‘Do your best to follow Him,’ but that ‘the life also of Jesus’ is to ‘be made manifest in our mortal flesh.’ When ‘Christ is formed’ in us by regeneration (Galatians 4:19), we have to see that our human nature puts on the ‘clothing’ that is worthy of the Son of God. That is where our responsibility comes in—not in being absolutely holy, but in seeing that we allow Jesus Christ to be absolutely holy in us. Regeneration does not resolve a human being into imbecility, it lifts him powerfully into oneness with God in Christ Jesus. We shall come to find that ‘not under the law, but under grace’ does not mean we are so free from the law that it does not matter now what we do; it means that in our actual lives we can fulfill all the requirements of the law of God.”
Unfortunately, many well-meaning Christians, in their pursuit for a “deeper spiritual life,” have closed down their God-given reasoning abilities and opened themselves up to the demonic realm through the new wave sweeping Christendom of “contemplative spirituality” and the “spiritual formation” movement. Here is the definition of both (taken from Lighthouse Trails Research): “Contemplative Spirituality: A belief system that uses ancient mystical practices to induce altered states of consciousness (the silence) and is rooted in mysticism and the occult but often wrapped in Christian terminology. The premise of contemplative spirituality is pantheistic (God is all) and panentheistic (God is in all). Common terms used for this movement are “spiritual formation,” “the silence,” “the stillness,” “ancient-wisdom,” “spiritual disciplines,” and many others. Spiritual Formation: A movement that has provided a platform and a channel through which contemplative prayer is entering the church. Find spiritual formation being used, and in nearly every case you will find contemplative spirituality. In fact, contemplative spirituality is the heartbeat of the spiritual formation movement.” (For more information log on to:www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com)
This is just one of the many pitfalls and snares that attract and draw people away from real Christianity. The common denominator of counterfeit religious institutions, systems and movements, whether they are over-zealous and mystical, or dead and dry, is the antichrist spirit. Therefore, the question is how can a person discern, or determine, if his or her religion is of God or not?
William Law, writing on the subject of true religion said: “A religious faith that is uninspired—a hope or love that does not proceed from the direct working of the divine nature within us—can do no more divine good to our souls and can no more unite them with the goodness of God, than a hunger after earthly food can feed us with the immortal Bread of Heaven. All that the natural or uninspired man does in the church has no more of the truth or power of divine worship in it than that which he does in the field or the shop through a desire for more money.
“This is because all the acts of natural man, whether relating to matters of religion or to the world, are equally selfish, and there is no possibility of their being otherwise. Self-love, self-esteem, self-seeking, and living wholly to oneself are all that is or possibly can be in the natural man. Man cannot be any better, nor can he act any higher above this nature, than any beast. No creature can be in a better or higher state than this until something supernatural is found in it, and this supernatural something is called the Word or Spirit or Inspiration of God. This alone can give man the first good thought about God. The Holy Spirit of God is the only force that can cause man to have more heavenly desires than fleshly ones.
“A religion that is not wholly built upon this supernatural ground, but instead stands solely upon the powers, reasonings, and conclusions of the natural, uninspired man, does not have even a hint of true religion in it. Instead, it is nothing, in the same sense that an idol is nothing because it has none of what it is alleged to have. Along the same lines, the work of religion has no divine good in it until it brings forth and keeps up an essential union of the spirit of man with the Spirit of God. This essential union cannot be formed unless there is love on both sides. More explicitly, it is not merely love, but it is love that has the same divine nature on both sides.” (“You will Receive Power”, pgs. 13, 14)
This should cause each of us to stop and consider just where we really are in relation to God Himself—not to some religious organization. What is your personal relationship to God aside from your involvement in your church, or religious activities? Are you walking in the Spirit, or are you still motivated by the all-invasive spirit of the world? Keep in mind that the spirit of the world can appear to be very religious, but in essence, it is man exalting. It begins with man, and ends with man, whereas the Holy Spirit begins with God and ends with God, or Jesus Christ. Who are you seeking to please in all things—yourself, others, or the Lord?
The Apostle James wrote: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” James 1:27. The Apostle John wrote: “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us” 1 John 4:b. Is going to church, where you are entertained with ear-tickling sermonettes and un-anointed, man-centered “worship”, the sum and substance of your Christian life? Or, are you earnestly seeking God through His Word and prayer so that you might be able to proclaim, “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” Galatians 2:20”? Are you able to say that you understand and obey what the Lord requires of you according toMicah 6:8: “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
So, you may ask, what does this have to do with persecution of the saints? It has everything to do with it! Unless Christians decide to quit playing church, become sober; rooted and grounded in the Word of God (all of it, not just isolated Scriptures); know their God, and are established in Christ; are filled with His Spirit and walking in obedience; growing in Him, they will not be able to stand, not only in trials and temptations, but in persecution. Paul warned, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” 2 Timothy 3:12. Matthew 24:9, “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.” “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you . . .” John 15:20a.
“Well,” some may argue, “I put on the armor of God every day.” Really? Have you studied the armor of God? It is the Lord Jesus Christ, and His righteousness. Putting on the armor of God is not some mystical practice that magically protects you any more than so-called “holy underwear” is bulletproof. Others may claim, “Well, I’ve been taught by so-and-do that Christians don’t have to go through the tribulation.” Really? That’s not what the Bible says. (Study Revelation 6 and 7.) The true Church of the Lord Jesus Christ has suffered both tribulation and persecution for two-thousand years! Yes, we shall not suffer the wrath of God, but tribulation for the Body of Christ is just as assured as tribulation (trials, testing, and persecution) was for the Head of the Body. Don’t you know that where the Head goes, the Body must follow?
Consider this true story, and I quote: “How many Anabaptists died during the sixteenth century persecution in Europe? No one knows for sure. What is certain is that at least 1,500 were cruelly tortured and killed. For the most part these were peaceful citizens who did not believe in war and who became the forerunners of today’s Mennonites and Amish. The main complaint of the authorities against them was that they did not believe infant baptism had any value. They chose to be re-baptized as willing adults.
“Although no other charges were proven against them, they were sentenced to death. For the men death was usually by fire; for women it was by drowning. Many Anabaptists proved to be so bold in their final testimony for Christ that authorities began to clamp their tongues before leading them out to their execution so that they could not speak up and win more converts.
“One of the Anabaptists who died in flames was Dirk Willem. His story is particularly touching, because he forfeited a real chance to escape when he turned back to help one of his pursuers. Dirk was captured and imprisoned in his home town of Asperen in the Netherlands. Knowing that his fate would be death if he remained in prison, Dirk made a rope of strips of cloth and slid down it over the prison wall. A guard chased him.
“Frost had covered a nearby pond with a thin layer of ice. Dirk risked a dash across it. He made it to safety, but the ice broke under his pursuer who cried for help. Dirk believed the Scripture that a man should help his enemies. He immediately turned back and pulled the floundering man from the frigid water. In gratitude for his life, the man would have let Dirk escape, but a Burgomaster (chief magistrate) standing on the shore sternly ordered him to arrest Dirk and bring him back, reminding him of the oath he had sworn as an officer of the peace.
“Back to prison went Dirk. He was condemned to death for being re-baptized, allowing secret church services in his home and letting others be baptized there. The record of his sentencing concludes: “all of which is contrary to our holy Christian faith, and to the decrees of his royal majesty, and ought not to be tolerated, but severely punished, for an example to others; therefore, we the aforesaid judges, having, with mature deliberation of council, examined and considered all that was to be considered in this matter, have condemned and do condemn by these presents in the name; and in the behalf, of his royal majesty, as Count of Holland, the aforesaid Dirk Willems, prisoner, persisting obstinately in his opinion, that he shall be executed with fire, until death ensues; and declare all his property confiscated, for the benefit of his royal majesty.”
“Dirk was burned to death on this day, May 16, 1569. His tongue was not clamped. The wind blew the flame away from him so that his death was long and miserable. Time and again Dirk cried out to God. Finally one of the authorities could not bear to see him suffer any longer and ordered an underling to end his torment with a quick death.” (From Gospel.com May 16, 2003 issue)*
The question is what kind of a Christian are you? Have you, before God, made the determination and commitment to be a Christian soldier, one who has no other will, agenda, or goal, but to live and die, (physically, if necessary) for Christ? Or, are you a coward, ashamed of the real Jesus, and making decisions to save your life in this world by hiding behind the façade of liberal (communistic), political correctness? Remember, if you deny Jesus in this life, He will deny you in the next. “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” Matthew 10:33. “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” Revelation 2:10b. The choice is yours. Therefore, “. . . if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” Joshua 24:15.
*(Bibliography: 1. Braght, Thieleman J. van. The Bloody Theater of Martyrs Mirror of the Defenseless Christians, Who Baptized Only Upon Confession of Faith, and Who Suffered and Died for the Testimony of Jesus, Their Savior, From the Time of Christ to the Year A.D. 1660. Translated from the original Dutch or Holland Language from the Edition of 1660 by Joseph F. Sohm. http://www.homecomers.org/mirror/head.htm 2. “Dirk Saves His Enemy.” http://www.goshen.edu/mcarchives/ Features/DirkWillems.html 3. Dyck, Cornelius J. An Introduction to Mennonite History; a popular history of the Anabaptists and the Mennonites. Scottdale, Pennsylvania: Herald Press, 1967.)