Easter 2012 – How Much Do You Love HIM?
To begin with I just want you to know that this lesson will not be a traditional Easter sermon. I have to tell you that after reading a new book last month, my prayers life as well as how I view Christianity has changed a bit. Whether we realizes it or not, because we live in this great country as Christians, we are richly blessed. But I’ve also learned that most of us take our freedom of religion for granted and many don’t even see it as all that important. Most of us are so sheltered in this country, that we do not know what’s going on in other Christian circles around the world.
For example, for many in this country Easter is one of those few days a year they go to church. It’s a holiday to buy a new dress and eat Easter goodies go to church and have a nice meal afterwards. But that’s not so for many other Christians around this planet.
To begin with I have to apologize for the graphic nature of this lesson today. I can’t be helped. It may not be easy to hear but I have a reason for presenting it today. I hope that it will change some of your perspectives on how you treat others, even those who trouble you. I hope that it will change your prayers life. I hope that give you a renewed feeling of love and hope that we should have as a Christian. And I hope that each of you will take one of these books and read it to open your eyes to what’s going on around the world.
This book was written by Richard Wurmbrand, who was at first was a non-believer but eventually became a minister who would heroically serve Jesus as the communism took control of his country, Romania. Many in this generation know little about Communism, Communistic countries, what they believe, and how severely they can oppress a nation. So few of us do not know what is happening to our brothers and sister in Christ who live in communistic countries even today. That’s what this book is all about. The name of the book is Tortured for Christ. But don’t be deceived by the name. The book contains so much more than stories about torture.
When we think of Christian martyrs many of us think of those Christians that were killed by the Romans in the first two or three centuries after Christ. But did you know that today around the world over 160,000 Christian are tortured and killed in an average each year because of their faith Christ? More Christians have been martyred in the past 100 years than all of the 1900 years prior. Did you know that there are over 50 countries today that persecute Christian believers. N. Korea is the worst, Saudi Arabia, holds the 2nd spot, then Iran, and all the other Muslim countries. And then there are all the atheistic, communist countries: China, Vietnam, many many others. And then the severe persecution that takes place in India, and still in Russia. I would like to show you a new report and then a music video. I warn you, if you can’t watch please listen.
IMPORTANT: Please click on and Watch Why the west don’t hear about Christian Persecution video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rb464pTKjOs&feature=related
Also please click on and watch We are Christians Just the Same video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQo7jGOJmt4
This is hard to watch. It is hard for me to believe that this is actually taking place. But there are some things that these videos are not showing that are found in this book. I believe these things are important for you to know and so I have posted the following excerpts from the book:
#1. Despite the horror we seen in the broadcasts, in these countries where there is great persecution, Christianity is spreading like wild fire. It doesn’t matter how much they are beat and abused, these people are spiritually starving to death. They need to know more about God and desire to worship Him and Jesus. And they also feel compelled to share the good news, even if it means torture. I have read story after story where people are just so grateful, they sing and dance after learning about Jesus and what He has done for them.
“For me, to preach the gospel to the Russians is heaven on earth. I have preached the gospel to men of many nations, but I have never seen a people drink in the gospel like the Russians. They have such thirsty souls.
An Orthodox priest, a friend of mine, telephoned me and told me that a Russian officer had come to him to confess. My friend did not know Russian. However, knowing that I speak Russian, he had given him my address. The next day this man came to see me. He longed for God, but he had never seen a Bible. He had no religious education and never attended religious services (churches in Russia then were very scarce). He loved God without the slightest knowledge of Him.
I read to him the Sermon on the Mount and the parables of Jesus. After hearing them, he danced around the room in rapturous joy proclaiming, “What a wonderful beauty! How could I live without knowing this Christ!” It was the first time that I saw someone so joyful in Christ.
Then I made a mistake. I read to him the passion and crucifixion of Christ, without having prepared him for this. He had not expected it and, when he heard how Christ was beaten, how He was crucified and that in the end He died, he fell into an armchair and began to weep bitterly. He had believed in a Savior and now his Savior was dead!
I looked at him and was ashamed. I had called myself a Christian, a pastor, and a teacher of others, but I had never shared the sufferings of Christ as this Russian officer now shared them. Looking at him, it was like seeing Mary Magdalene weeping at the foot of the cross, faithfully weeping when Jesus was a corpse in the tomb.
Then I read to him the story of the resurrection and watched his expression change. He had not known that his Savior arose from the tomb. When he heard this wonderful news, he beat his knees and swore—using very dirty, but very “holy” profanity. This was his crude manner of speech. Again he rejoiced, shouting for joy, “He is alive! He is alive!” He danced around the room once more, overwhelmed with happiness!” (Tortured for Christ Pg 17-18)
#2. These videos don’t show you how these people feel toward their persecutors. The following excerpt shed som light on what was going on in their heart.
“When one Christian was sentenced to death, he was allowed to see his wife before being executed. His last words to his wife were, “You must know that I die loving those who kill me. They don’t know what they do and my last request of you is to love them, too. Don’t have bitterness in your heart because they killed your beloved one. We will meet in heaven.” These words impressed the officer of the secret police who attended the discussion between the two. He later told me the story in prison where he had been sent for becoming a Christian.”
“I have seen Christians in Communist prisons with fifty pounds of chains on their feet, tortured with red-hot iron pokers, in whose throats spoonfuls of salt had been forced, being kept afterward without water, starving, whipped, suffering from cold —and praying with fervor for the Communists. This is humanly inexplicable! It is the love of Christ, which was poured out in our hearts.
Later, the Communists who had tortured us were sent to prison, too. Under communism, Communists, and even Communist rulers, are put in prison almost as often as their adversaries. Now the tortured and the torturer were in the same cell. And while the non-Christians showed hatred toward their former inquisitors and beat them, Christians took their defense, even at the risk of
being beaten themselves and accused of being accomplices with communism. I have seen Christians give away their last slice of bread (we were given one slice a week) and the medicine that could save their lives to a sick Communist torturer, who was now a fellow prisoner.” (Tortured for Christ pages 43 & 55)
#3. These Videos don’t show the joy these Christian felt even while in prison and why the felt it.
“When I look back on my fourteen years in prison, it was occasionally a very happy time. Other prisoners and even the guards very often wondered at how happy Christians could be under the most terrible circumstances. We could not be prevented from singing, although we were beaten for this. I imagine that nightingales, too, would sing, even if they knew that after finishing they would be killed for it. Christians in prison danced for joy. How could they be so happy under such tragic conditions?”
Around me were “Jobs”—some much more afflicted than Job had been. But I knew the end of Job’s story, how he received twice as much as he had before. I had around me men like Lazarus the beggar, hungry and covered with boils. But I knew that angels would take these men to the bosom of Abraham. I saw them as they will be in the future. I saw in the shabby, dirty, weak martyr near me the splendidly crowned saint of tomorrow.
But looking at men like this—not as they are, but as they will be—I could also see in our persecutors a Saul of Tarsus—a future apostle Paul. And some have already become so. Many officers of the secret police to whom we witnessed became Christians and were happy to later suffer in prison for having found our Christ. Although we were whipped, as Paul was, in our jailers we saw the potential of the jailer in Philippi who became a convert. We dreamed that soon they would ask, “What must I do to be saved?” In those who mocked the Christians who were tied to crosses and smeared with excrement, we saw the crowd of Golgotha who were soon to beat their breasts in fear of having sinned.
It was in prison that we found the hope of salvation for the Communists. It was there that we developed a sense of responsibility toward them. It was in being tortured by them that we learned to love them.
A great part of my family was murdered. It was in my own house that their murderer was converted. It was also the most suitable place. So in Communist prisons the idea of a Christian mission to the Communists was born.” (Tortured for Christ pages 57-58)
Now why would I present such a lesson on Easter Sunday? For a few reasons:
#1. I wanted to make you aware of what’s going on around the world in other Christian circle. I want you to see how important and precious Jesus is to other people who are being persecuted. And I hope that their faith and courage will strengthen your faith and encourage you as well.
#2. I wanted you to see that if these people can love their enemies who are abusing and torturing them, we should be able to love those who are un-lovable around us and pray for them. I believe that’s what Jesus wants.
In His Sermon on the Mt. Jesus said,
“43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?” Mt. 5:43-46
On the cross just after the Roman beat Him bloody and nailed him to those wooden beans He look up to heaven and prayed,
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
#3. I also want you have the same hope that they have. Standing at deaths door these people have one thing to look forward to; death being raised again like Jesus Himself. Easter Sunday was never meant to be a day dedicated to pretty dresses, colored Easter eggs, and such. For the Christian, it is a day of VICTORY.
Christ Himself was beat, whipped and tortured, and then put to death. He told His disciples even then that if people will do that to Him, that we should expect the same. The victory comes into play when Jesus rose from the dead and conquered death itself, and now lives in Heaven and shows that it will be the same for us if we remain faithful.
Those who do not give in and deny Christ have over the years been strengthened and encouraged knowing that their suffering as bad as it is, that suffering will never compared to the Glory and magnificent home in heaven that Jesus has waiting for us.
Listen to what the Apostle Paul wrote concerning this. He also knew what it was like to be persecuted for his faith in Jesus.
Read 2 Cor. 4:16-18
“16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
I also like what he wrote to the Ephesian church in 1:18-20
“18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,”
This is the hope that we should have in Jesus. A resurrection like Jesus’ and unknown powers given to us by God Himself.
So, can we do anything for these people, our brothers and sisters who are suffers so much for their faith. Yes there are some things we can do. I would like you to read this book to learn more about this.
One thing they ask for more than anything else is our prayers. To pray for them. To pray for their families who are without mom’s and dads. To pray for their persecutors, that they would have a change of heart and would also come to know Christ. And to pray that God’s word would continue to courageously spread. This day I challenge you to pray for them daily
I would like to close by playing one more music video that communicate this same request. Please click on and Watch Say a prayer for me http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oJgZmmzqWk
For a free copy of the book Torture for Christ or for More information on how to help go to http://www.persecution.com/
For more lessons click on the following link: http://granvillenychurchofchrist.org/?page_id=566