Thursday, November 10, 2016

Luke 21:5-19 Martyrdom is a Blessing

KEY TEXT: Luke 21:12-13 "But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness."

KEY THOT: From Jesus’ perspective, God will allow "bad things to happen to good people" if it means opportunity to bear witness to Christ: "This will be your opportunity to bear witness" (v.13).  As Christians, the goal and ambition of our lives is to be missional, i.e. gospel-centred. If it takes persecutions, arrests, imprisonments and martyrdom to create the opportunity to bear witness to Christ, God will allow us to go through them. Of course, we can also bear witness to Christ in times of peace, but God is not squeamish about putting his children through suffering and death for the sake of the Gospel. He has already done it by allowing his only begotten Son to suffer persecution and death at the Cross. So He is not going to shrink back from allowing his adopted children to suffer similar persecution and death. As Peter reminds us: "For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps" (1 Peter 2:21). We should not confuse the Holy Abba-Father of Jesus with the self-indulgent Heavenly Sugar-Daddy of modern wimpish preachers of grace who say God is too kind to allow his children to suffer.

According to Jesus, his followers (Christians) will suffer for their faith “before all this”, viz., the last days. So, from Pentecost when the church came into existence to the last days marked by international conflicts, natural disasters and strange heavenly phenomena (“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven”--vv. 10-11), persecution of believers for their faith is to be expected as part of true discipleship. The persecution may take the forms of ridicules, arrests, imprisonments, betrayals and even martyrdom. Jesus tells us to “settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer” (v.14).

In other words, we must be mentally prepared for persecution because millions of Christians around the world today are being tortured, imprisoned, and killed for their faith. In fact, the Jewish writer Joel C. Rosenberg reported that “More Christians died for the faith in the twentieth century than in the previous nineteen centuries of Christian history combined.” 

So, we should arouse ourselves from self-deceptive but unbiblical teaching that our Daddy-God is too kind to let Christians suffer persecution and martyrdom. This worldview contradicts biblical evidence and historical reality. In fact, as Jesus has said, Christians should “settle in your minds” that persecution is part of the blessing of being Christian: “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30).

Persecution of believers is a contemporary fact in many countries. It’s better to be mentally and spiritually prepared for it than to be unprepared. If it does not happen in our region, it’s by the grace of God. If it happens in our region, it’s also by the grace of God: "Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saves a wretch like me!"

Father God, You have called us to a life of discipleship that involves denying self and taking up the cross to follow Your Son. Grant us the grace to follow You to the end. Amen.

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