Thursday, December 13, 2012

Confronting the Reality of Persecution

Christian persecution produces faithfulness and dependence on God’s Power (Psalm 40)

Being a born-again Christian is one of the highest achievements in life. We are called to have an audience with our Creator. We are not called to be religious, but to imitate God in His Holiness.

Truthful Conduct Results in Persecution

“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12 NIV). Please note: ‘godly’, as used above, means to be like God. God has opposition (Colossians 1:21). This verse declares that we become God’s enemies through sin. We choose to become enemies through our sinful conduct (Romans 5:10). God has extended the olive branch of peace through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ (1 John 4:10).

So then, what is persecution? Biblically, persecution is opposition to Godly conduct in exchange for ungodly behaviour. For example Cain, like many of us, allowed sin to dominate him, and he murdered his righteous brother, Abel. If we are ruled by sin we despise truth and oppose those whose conduct is more righteous than ours(Genesis 4:6-10). Throughout church history, Christian persecution resulted from those who opposed its message of salvation through Christ Jesus. The Lord Himself was persecuted and killed (see Gospels). He rose from death to affirm and confirm that Truth has overcome all opposition. Ever since this great advent of Christ’s resurrection in human history, those who believe in Him and live in accordance to His teachings have been persecuted. We do not need to read and quote at length from history books to verify this truth. Persecution is even practiced in our homes (Genesis 4; Matthew 10:36; Genesis 37).

Why are We Being Persecuted?

We are being persecuted because we oppose ungodly conduct and we refuse to conform to wrong behaviour, (Matthew 5:10). The persecutors or bullies are motivated by various intentions. Cain and Joseph’s brothers were motivated by jealousy, (see Genesis 4; 37). Others persecute us because of their love for money (Acts 19:23-25). Still others persecute us becauseour message exposes theirsinful and wrong conduct (Matthew 10:11-34). Remember, persecution is an unjust application of punishment on those who uphold truthful and proper conduct in society. People persecute because of guilt and because of their unjust and ungodly practices.

As it is, “all men will hate you because of Me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22 NIV). We are hated and persecuted because of our association with Jesus Christ. This is not to be confused with tests and temptations. As Christians, we are also being persecuted because we proclaim a strong message against wrong beliefs and sinful conduct (John 14: 6; John 3:18-21). Our message appeals to those who love truth and those who choose not to live for themselves. Our message also says “I have come to do your will O’ God” (Hebrews 10:7b NIV). We are ready to endure this cup of unpleasantness, for therein is eternal life found. Walking narrow is not what we have come to sacrifice, but what we are called to be (Matthew 5; Colossians 3). We are CALLED TO BE humble in attitude and submissive in service to God and humanity. Oneness with Christ through the Holy Spirit cancels out any appetite for sinful behavior (1 John 3:9).

Persecutions are Not Temptations

As you may recall, the Lord Jesus Christ was tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1-11). This temptation that the Lord endured was aimed to causing Him to disobey God. Praise and glory unto God the Father, our Lord held on faithfully and our salvation was preserved. Satan’s motive is to encourage rebelliousness against God. He succeeded in this when he caused Adam and Eve to disobey God (Genesis 3). When we are being tempted, we are given the opportunity to choose whom we want to obey and our choices carry consequences.

From our Lord’s experiences above, temptations are brought about in circumstances of need or desire. The Lord was fasting and hungry, so the need for food was there (Matthew 4:1-3). Likewise, no temptation comes about if there is no need or desire for it. King David was tempted to commit adultery and murder because ‘he saw a woman bathing’ (2 Samuel 11:2b). The ‘desire’ was created after he saw her bathing. Like our Lord, David could have resisted, but he chose to yield to this situation. This resulted in judgment for him (see 2 Samuel 12). Also, Eve was tempted to eat the fruit from the forbidden tree because she ‘saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it ...’ (Genesis 3:6 NIV). Therefore, temptation is a need-driven or desire-driven entity that Satan uses as bait. He creates the evil desire so that we have a need for it (James 1:13-15). Being desire-minded, we always sacrifice obedience towards God above our natural needs. We have a continuous appetite for more even if it is forbidden (Genesis 3). Yielding to temptation is obedience to the desires of flesh and disobedience to God.
Obedience, the Key to Overcoming Temptations

Many of us quote this scripture and often out of context, “And God is faithful, He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV). This scripture expresses God’s faithfulness in giving us strength when we have become weak. In other words, with the temptation comes a solution. Again, do we have faith and discernment to recognize God’s help during this time of testing? Well, the outcome would be determined if we obey to receive help as the scripture says or if we succumb to the craving of the flesh. As it is, Satan provides the temptation and it would always be things we need or desire. We in return must decide, like our Lord did, if we would obey or succumb to gratify that specific desire. Yielding to the craving does not only bring about the pleasure we would enjoy, but the price for disobedience brings about three changes; punishment, guilt (that deprives us peace) and that demonic spirit or craving (1 Samuel 16: 14-15; Genesis3; 2 Samuel 11; 12). I would like to explain it this way; prior to my conversion, I smoked and drank for many years and so I know the taste of these habits. Therefore, the craving for these things always hounds me. I am delivered from these habits, but the flesh responds to the cravings if it is a desire. I may not indulge, but the craving must be overcome with obedience and the attitude of a new mind (Romans 6: 11-13). Too often Christianity has been offered as ‘God does it all for you’ while we must do nothing. As far as our salvation, God has done it all for us. But as for our deliverance, we must maintain it through our faith and obedience. When I first came to the Lord, I was trapped in habits and I thought after someone prayed for me all my habits and problems would just disappear. Often the way we present the Christian message to people makes it appear as if we’re offering a magic wand solution. Soon after our presentation, some people would repent and follow but not long thereafter they backslide because their expectation of instant deliverance without faith did not take root. God requires us to participate in our salvation through faith and obedience (Colossians 2: 6-7).

This then is my reasonable service to the Lord, offering my body as a living sacrifice in obedience (Romans 12: 1). No one can claim that they are completely free from some cravings (Romans 7:15-25). As long as we are in the body, its passions will hound us (Galatians 5:16-21). We are free through Christ as far as our choice of obedience to Him. So, freedom from sin in the body is attained when we die (Romans 7: 7). Not that sin rules us but its desires intend to lead us into temptation and ultimately death (Galatians 5: 16; Romans 6:23). When you are born-again, you live a life of choice and obedience daily (Read entire Colossians 3; Ephesians 4:17-28). Meaning, we consciously and by faith choose to ‘crucify the body’ or put it to death to sinful cravings (Colossians 3: 5-6). In conclusion to this discussion, indulgence in something forbidden; it does not only bring the pleasure but also brings that demonic spirit, which brings us into conflict with it. If we have accepted Christ Jesus as Lord, He forgives us and we must fight these cravings and evil desires with the spiritual weapons of faith, obedience and choice. In addition, choice is the principle we apply after we make our decision to follow the Lord. This choice becomes faith because we choose to live by it (Habakkuk 2: 4). As people, we are inherently evil. This conscious state is not taught but it is a spontaneous behavior. This cycle of evil is suppressed by the indwelling Holy Spirit whom we must obey through His convictions to help us fight (through our knowledge of the Word of Truth) and overcome this evil (Galatians 5:16-17; Romans 7:14-25). Therefore, obedience and humble submission to God through faith equals deliverance and a future hope of eternal life.

The Lord’s Forgiveness and Compassion

Beloved brethren, the Lord is all the time aware of our struggles that is why the scripture says, “He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV). Before I share some experiences of temptations and persecutions some of us in this ministry have had, it would be appropriate to share this scripture: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are- yet without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

Every mature member of the Body of Christ knows that sin is undefeated in our flesh. The flesh craves wrong things, but our Victory is in Christ Jesus. He alone holds Victory over sin and death. Our acceptance of His redemptive work by faith gives us that sinless appearance (Colossians 3: 1-4; Ephesians 2: 8-9). I reiterate, our state in the flesh has not changed, but spiritually and by faith it has changed. This change is fixed by God. What I mean is this; we are saved by faith and not by works as the above scripture declares. We were saved even before we started working; this was achieved by our faith in the redemptive work of Christ. However, we are called to obey and “You were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 3: 22-24). This categorically states that we must BE. The verse that says we are saved by grace has nothing to do with our faith obligation of obedience, especially now that we have put off our old self”. The putting on of the ‘new self’ is a changed course. If a changed course ‘to be made new in the attitude of your minds’ leads us to ‘BE like God in true righteousness and holiness’. When we have accepted this, our faith would stand on the working out of His grace in us and our obedience expresses our love for Him (John 14:23).

Finally, many of us in this ministry have committed some mistakes in the past as everybody does. The Lord as I alluded in our previous articles rebuked us. His rebukes led us to repentance. If we continuously commit the same mistake, He becomes angry and issues another warning, this time more serious. If it is serious then we have grossly disobeyed. The Lord is slow to anger and He always delays punishment in exchange for repentance and self-restraint (Psalm 145:8; Psalm 51).

Here are examples of persecutions we endured. For it to be a persecution, it must involve the GOSPEL. Now, just because the Lord Jesus Christ is speaking to us every night does not mean we are free or immune against persecutions. In fact, this has attracted a lot opposition. We lost very close friends not that I lament that; they just could not be around us to endure the truth. When I first told some people that the Lord was speaking to my daughter Charis they did not believe I was speaking the truth. The Apostle Paul’s testimony of his conversion and the fact that he saw the Lord was also not well received and believed by his Jewish persecutors (Acts 22). How could we ever go out and tell people lies about something so incredible. I was branded as being ‘mad and crazy’. Would I go out of my way to bring some much trouble on me? Now do I sound like a crazy man? Of course not! I went out in excitement and obedience to the believers first based on the Lord’s command to us. He said that we may tell some people what He was telling us. I never anticipated this command to drive people away from us. I am not trying to portray this as a loss; this has opened our eyes to see that many people did not have faith and that their walk with God was superficial and unsteady (Matthew 7:24-27).

We have had one woman, whose sister the Lord has called to this ministry. This sister used to attend worldly drinking parties even as a born-again believer. Although she herself would not partake in the drinking, but the Word says we are equally guilty if we condone the wrong conduct of others and do not rebuke them (Luke 17:3; James 5:19). The Lord started dealing with her through the messages she received and she stopped associating with them. For this, she was persecuted by her mother, her sister, her husband and other family members. This precious sister was radically transformed by Christ Jesus and all they could do to her was just yelling, screaming, accusing and cursing, but her faith and obedience to the Lord, that they could not take from her. Glory to God!

This woman’s sister threatened to come and burn up our house, because we had “brainwashed” her sister. Her sister wailed because of her changed attitude and said: “I want my sister back!” She is gone NEVER to return and no one would be able to rob her from the Love of Christ (Romans 8:38-39).

When she was persecuted, this sister panicked but the Lord comforted her. Persecution has not been taken out of the way; we must endure it and overcome it to prove our love and faithfulness to the Lord.

Also, when Charis and her two witnesses went witnessing on the Lord’s command, they were pelted with stones and mocked by children in their age category. Remember, the Lord commanded us not to accompany the children when they go out witnessing. He promised to protect them (See our article on Raising Godly Children). On another witnessing occasion, Charis and one of the girls were spanked with a belt by a security guard. That evening the Lord came saying they must forgive that man.

Furthermore, some of the women in our ministry have and are still enduring every kind of abuse from their husbands for their obedience and submission to the Lord. They have made their choice; to them the Lord comes first.

As a ministry, we have endured a great deal of slander, gossip and threats. I have no time to chronicle in detail every kind of persecution we have faced and endured, but it was not easy. To keep our faith, ministry and salvation alive, we share our testimony with you to encourage you to endure in faith and obedience.

The Lord has not changed since the New Testament times when Paul was persecuted and the Lord said: “Do not be afraid, Paul” (Acts 27:24). This was his encouragement during his hour of trials. We were also shown the same kindness by the Lord. He saw our hardship, but He would not have us pity ourselves for that we would get rebuked. In our most trying circumstances the Lord would comfort us by recognizing our faith and obedience with a promise of blessings. Days after these words of comfort, peace from every side is given. This made us forget almost everything we endured. I was in the midst of a very disturbing test so I enquired from the Lord and He said: I will never leave your father and I will never forsake your father(Hebrews 13:5). This re-assurance was all I needed; words of great comfort and peace. Be comforted with the knowledge that the Lord loves you always.

Be blessed in Christ,

Brother Glenn Van Rooyen