The Reality of Persecution

faithfulness, persecution No Comments

Fox News had a guest on Oct. 18 named Johnnie Moore.  Moore wrote a book titled, The Martyrs’ Oath.  The book reveals the current levels of Christianity around the world.  The word Christianity is used in the general sense of those who follow Jesus Christ and affirm faith in Him.  Moore said that 322 Christians (general sense of the word) are killed every month.  Additionally, he said that 214 churches are destroyed every month.  He said that there are 70,000 Christians imprisoned in North Korea.  North Korea is a communist country.  In some Muslim nations, Christianity has nearly been eliminated.
World Watch List (2017) (Open Door ministries) is an annual report on global persecution of Christianity.  The report ranks the top 50 nations involved in persecuting Christians.  The rankings are determined by five areas of Christian life:  private life, family life, community life, national life and church life.  The criteria for rankings also include violence against Christians and churches.
The report lists eight engines of persecution.  The first is Muslim extremism.  Nine of the top ten countries persecuting Christianity today are Muslim: Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, and Eritrea.  The second is communist and post-communist oppression.  North Korea is the number one nation in the world persecuting Christianity today.  As noted above, 70,000 Christians are imprisoned in North Korea among the twelve prison camps scattered throughout the country.  The other six engines of persecution are: religious nationalism, ethnic antagonism, denominational protectionism, organized corruption and crime, secular intolerance and dictatorial paranoia.  Two hundred and fifteen million Christians experience persecution in the top 50 countries which persecute Christianity.
Three facts to consider are: (1) worldwide persecution of Christianity has risen for the past 4 years. (2) North Korea is the number one nation persecuting Christianity and has been since 2002. (3) Islamic extremism fuels persecution in 14 of the top 20 countries and 35 of the top 50 countries persecuting Christianity.
There is not only a culture war occurring in the United States and other places, but there is a spiritual war being waged worldwide.
Jesus spoke of persecution in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:11-12).  Those who follow Jesus will be persecuted from many different sources and in many different ways.  However, great is their reward in heaven for being willing to suffer for His name’s sake. Jesus warned His disciples, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:6).  Jesus also said, “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Matt. 10:22).  The apostle Paul wrote of true Christians, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Tim. 3:12).  Paul knew this first hand because he has suffered much for the cause of Christ being stoned, beaten, and imprisoned (II Cor. 11:21-27).
Paul words to Timothy are especially needed in the face of persecution, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (II Tim. 2:3). Satan uses persecution to separate Christians from God.  Jesus warned of this in Luke 8:13 in the Parable of the Sower.  “They on the rock are they, which when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.”  The parallel passage in Matthew 13:21 specifically mentions tribulation and persecution as reasons why some become offended and give up on God.
Persecution tests faithfulness to God.  “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).

The Doctrine of Christ

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II John 7-11, “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.  This is a deceiver and an antichrist.  Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God.  He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.  If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”
There are four warnings in this passage.  First, there is a warning against deceivers.  Specifically, these deceivers do not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.  In so doing, they reject the deity of Christ and His Messiahship.  These deceivers are antichrist (opposed to Jesus Christ).  These deceivers are not abiding in the doctrine of Christ.  They must not be heeded.  Second, there is a warning against losing your reward (v. 8).  The reward is a reference to eternal life or heaven.  This plainly teaches that a Christian can lose his/her reward.  To hearken unto the deceivers and so renounce Jesus Christ is sufficient for such a loss of reward.  We must examine ourselves and make sure that we stand steadfast in the faith to prevent such a loss.  Third, there is the warning against losing God.  Failure to abide in the doctrine of Christ results in the loss of fellowship with God (“hath not God”).  The doctrine of Christ is the teaching from Christ.  This teaching was imparted by the Lord during His earthly ministry.  And, it was imparted through the guidance of the Holy Spirit of holy men of God who spoke and wrote Scripture.  Jesus promised His apostles that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall  hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.  He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:13-14).  There is one author of the Scriptures.  That author is Jesus Christ.  All that the Father hath is Christ’s.  The Triune God is the author of the Bible and Jesus is the Second Person of the godhead.  All Scripture is given by inspiration of God (the Triune God) (II Tim. 3:16).  The Scriptures are authoritative.  They are infallible.  They are binding upon men.  Failure to abide in the doctrine of Christ is a transgression of the Word of God.  To transgress in this sense is to “go aside” or walk a pathway that the Lord has not given.  It is to violate the truth revealed by the Holy Spirit.  Such is a salvation issue.  Many are saying that first this doctrine and then that doctrine is not a salvation issue.  Recently, someone argued that the age of the earth is not a salvation issue.  Another argued that marriage, divorce and remarriage is not a salvation issue.  Some have declared that instrumental music is not a salvation issue.  Some have boldly asserted that there are no salvation issues.  The teaching of John in this text refutes all such nonsense.  Fourth, there is a warning against complicity regarding aiding and abetting the deceivers.  You do not have to be a false teacher to be guilty of the sin of false teaching!  If you aid or abet a false teacher (financially support his work or in the case of the elect lady, to provide food and lodging for such) you become an accomplice in advancing his false doctrine.  An accomplice becomes a partaker of his evil deeds and so bears the guilt of his sin.  A partaker is joined together with the evil person and his work and must bear the consequences of such activity.  A partaker bears both the guilt and the penalty of such sin.
We must heed the warnings in these verses in order to preserve our own relationship with the Lord and maintain our hope of everlasting life.