Please remember that sermon notes are meant to act as a guide and may not be exactly what was preached.
In China a young man is taken from his pregnant wife, tied up, and beaten for over 12 hours. They keep telling him to return to his old faith saying, “if you won’t go back, we will hit you until you die.” And this from his brother and uncle. He escaped but he is dead to them.
A woman in India watches as her sister is dragged off by Hindu nationalists. She does not know if her sister is alive or dead.
A Man in a North Korean prison camp is shaken awake after being beaten unconscious: the beatings begin again.
A young women in Nigeria runs for her life she has escaped from the Boko Haram, who kidnapped her and abused her. She is pregnant, and when she returns home – her community will reject her and her baby.
A group of children are laughing and talking together as they come down to their church’s sanctuary after eating together. Instantly, many of them are killed by a bomb blast. It was Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka.
This is not ancient history. It all happened this year. These people did not know one another, live in the same area of the world, or even speak the same language. But each one of them was a Christian who suffered or died because of their belief in Jesus as the Christ. Believers are afflicted or persecuted. That persecution, the afflictions they suffer, have taken many forms: discrimination at work or in school, beatings, and torture. As Christians they risk sexual violence, imprisonment, and much more for the sake of Christ and His Church.
In many areas of the world real persecution and death are part of being a Christian. In China, India, and North Korea, Believers face persecution every day. And yet it is in those countries that the Church is growing the fastest. It is there that a hunger and thirst for God’s Word exist that we do not have here. They understand and know that, “all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). They, like the disciples, rejoice, “that they were counted worthy to be treated shamefully on behalf of the Name” of Jesus Christ (Acts 5:40-42).
Meanwhile, here in the U. S., we are blessed to be able to pick and choose from multiple congregations of God’s Church with whom we can worship and serve, most of which are a few minutes drive of where we live. Christian movies are on TV and in theaters and we are free to worship God as we choose. Yet, here, congregations are sick and dying, 5 to 6 thousand close their doors each year.
We sit in our air-conditioned buildings while we whine and gripe about the temperature, the pastor’s sermons, who isn’t helping with the kids, and who won’t come to our groups meetings…and we feel persecuted.
There is a way to escape persecution, to remove the target on your back, so that the enemy, the tempter, won’t come after you: Don’t live a godly life, live like the world, accept sin, close your eyes to the moral decay, and become indifferent to what is happening to your neighbor. In this way, you will be part of the apostasy; the falling away.
But, we as a whole, in this congregation, have chosen Christ over the world. The world and its king, the Tempter, the enemy of our souls—hates it. We cannot let him influence us or cause us to fear what people will say, we cannot and will not fear rejection. God loves us, God is for us, God is with us…The enemy would have us fail and fall away form our calling and duty which is to serve our Lord and Master.
He would have us say nothing to anyone about Jesus Christ and what was accomplished on the Cross for all of Mankind. We are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves. Love is action, lack of love is indifference, you just don’t care one way or another about the other person. I have heard church people say, “If they are headed to Hell that is on them.” But that is not all true. Yes, ultimately it is on them, but only if they hear the Truth of the Gospel and choose not to believe. It is up to you and me to speak the Truth in Love. Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it (James 4:17). As a Christian, a Believer, a Christ follower, and servant of God, you are commanded to Love the Lord your God…. and your neighbor as yourself.
1 Peter 2:9 says we, as Christians are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own, purchased, special people. We’re different from the world. We start at a different point, follow a different path, and end at a different place. We’re children of light; they’re children of darkness. We live by the Spirit; they live in sin. We live by faith; they live by sight. We understand; they do not.
Matthew 5:13-14 tells us we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Salt irritates when it’s rubbed into a wound. Light reveals and exposes. So the world says, “Get that salt out of here! Turn off that light!” They come after us, we suffer persecution, not as extreme as our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world, but still we often get ridiculed, mocked, scoffed at and most often avoided for speaking the Truth.
We cannot, as many have, fall away. The last day is coming, the day of the Lord, Judgment Day. But In 2 Thessalonians 2:3 the Spirit tells us, “Let no one in any way deceive or entrap you, for that day will not come unless the apostasy comes first [that is, the great rebellion, the abandonment of the faith by professed Christians] (Amplified). I believe that the apostasy is happening, the falling away is taking place. How long it will last and who all will fall away is yet to be seen. Denominations have fallen; accepting, condoning, and following the ways of this world, according to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit now working in the disobedient (Ephesians 2:2).
We cannot be a part of the Apostasy. Our priority has got to be God and His Kingdom! We have got to continue what we are doing as a church in the communities where God has placed us, just like the Thessalonians. We are making a difference! “Now the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). In this World you will have trouble! “All who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (John16:33). Do not let the afflictions, the persecution from the world, the enemy or his deceitful minions keep you from doing what you ought to do.
Grapes must be crushed to make wine. Diamonds are formed under pressure. Transformation can happen if you persist in doing what is right, in doing what you ought to do (Romans 8:28). Don’t fall to the temptation to quit or to be indifferent, and pay no attention to deceitful spirits you can be deceived into forsaking what is the best… God is at work, change is taking place, Spiritual growth is happening and what we are doing as a church is making a difference in our communities – now is not the time to fall away. Let me encourage you with God’s Word from James 1:2-4…
- What trials or tribulations has God used to grow you spiritually?
- Have you ever suffered for Christ?
- If so, do you rejoice because you were found worthy of suffering for His name? (See Acts 5:40-42)
- Do you see the Apostasy around you?
Further Reading: Matthew 5:10-12, Luke 6:22-23, Luke 12:35-48, John 15:17-22, John 16:33, Acts 5:38-42, 2 Timothy 3:12, James 1:2-4, James 4:17, 1 Peter 1:6, 1 Peter 4:12-19, Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28-29