|GOD has been pleased to make three great revelations of Himself to man: his Works; his Word ; and his Son, and these revelations have been progressive in character. Nature, the Law, the Gospel; a silent material universe, an inspired Book, a living God-man; these are the three great steps that have led from the death and darkness of sin to that knowledge of the true God which is eternal life. A fourth revelation of God, fuller and more perfect than any, is yet to come. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, who is the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person, who “declared Him” when He came the first time in grace and humiliation, will declare Him yet more fully when He comes a second time in righteousness and in glory. Then the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.|
Henry Grattan Guinness (11 August 1835 – 21 June 1910, Irish Protestant Christian preacher, evangelist and author).
|For some believers in restricted nations and hostile areas, following Christ means beatings, torture and even death. For others, the decision to follow Christ means losing jobs, income, homes and relationships. That was the case for a Pakistani man after he placed his faith in Christ.|
Asif was a well-liked supervisor at a garment factory in Pakistan. As a Christian, he led 10 coworkers in prayer before work every morning. But the factory owner, a Muslim man, wanted Asif to convert to Islam and told him to stop the prayers. Asif responded by giving the man a Bible so he could learn about the Christian faith.
The factory owner continued to harass Asif. He brought an Islamic cleric in to persuade Asif to accept Islam, and he tried to force Asif to join in Muslim prayers. But Asif refused each of the owner’s efforts to convert him. Finally, the owner gave him an ultimatum: Accept Islam or lose your job.
“My God will provide me with everything,” Asif replied.
Asif’s commitment to Christ cost him his job, and it may be difficult for him to find another source of income. Many Christians in Pakistan are trapped in poverty because they have few job opportunities. “Good jobs are hard to get for Christians in Pakistan,” VOM’s field leader for Pakistan said. “Asif knew exactly what the consequences could be for him, and he chose to remain faithful.”
VOM has been supporting Asif and his family, who are now in hiding after receiving death threats for refusing to convert to Islam.
|As recently as 25 years ago, many parts of India were essentially unreached by the gospel. Since then, VOM has responded to thousands of anti-Christian persecution incidents, which have become more frequent, widespread and severe as the gospel has spread throughout the country.|
But Christian suffering is not the whole story! The persecution that our Indian Christian brothers and sisters are facing is the enemy’s reaction to his great failure — a tremendous move of God in which hundreds of thousands of Hindus have come to Christ in India’s most hostile areas. One such region is northern India, which is home to the Ganges River. Millions of Hindus travel there each year in the belief that washing in the river will cleanse them from their sins. Yet independent studies show that more than 300,000 Hindus in northern India have turned to Christ in recent years.
This mighty work of God throughout India has caused a corresponding growth in opposition to Christian faith and witness. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has seen a 20 percent increase in membership. The political-religious ideology of Hindu nationalism is institutionalizing hostility toward Christians and considers them enemies of the state. Former RSS leader M. S. Golwakar explained it this way: “So long as the Christians here indulge in such activities and consider themselves as agents of the international movement for the spread of Christianity, and refuse to offer their first loyalty to the land of their birth and behave as true children of the heritage and culture of their ancestors, they will remain here as hostiles and will have to be treated as such.”
While Hindu nationalists seek to eradicate all Christian witness from India, the gospel cannot be silenced or stopped. Our Christian brothers and sisters in India continue to live boldly for Christ, joyfully paying any price for the sake of the gospel. Remember Them in Prayer
When a pastor shared the gospel with a Nepali family, they eagerly placed their faith in Christ and began attending church regularly, walking eight miles each way to attend. But when the owner of the land they leased learned of their newfound faith in Christ, he kicked them off the land. As an extremely poor family struggling to survive, they had leased the land both to live on and to farm, giving half their crops to their landlord in payment. In addition to being evicted from the land, they were denied access to the village water tap.
VOM helped the family with the construction of a water well, and, though isolated and rejected, their faith has blossomed and grown. “The Christian life is like a rose that blooms and spreads aroma in the midst of a thousand thorns,” the family told their pastor. Pray for this family.
Source: Voice of the Martyrs
|“Faith is indeed intellectual; it involves an apprehension of certain things as facts; and vain is the modern effort to divorce faith from knowledge. But although faith is intellectual, it is not only intellectual. You cannot have faith without having knowledge; but you will not have faith if you have only knowledge.” |
― J. Gresham Machen (Professor of New Testament at Princeton Seminary between 1915 and 1929, led a conservative revolt against modernist theology at Princeton).
“Someone has beautifully analyzed the fruit of the Spirit in Gal. 5: 22, and shown that all the graces there mentioned are but various forms of love itself. The apostle is not speaking of different fruits, but of one fruit, the fruit of the Spirit, and the various words that follow are but phrases and descriptions of the one fruit, which is love itself. Joy, which is first mentioned, is love on wings; peace, which follows, is love folding its wings, and nestling under the wings of God; longsuffering is love enduring; gentleness is love in society; goodness is love in activity, faith is love confiding; meekness is love stooping; temperance is true self-love, and the proper regard for our own real interests, which is as much the duty of love, as regard for the interests of others.”
― Albert Benjamin Simpson, (December 15, 1843– October 29, 1919, founder of The Christian Missionary Alliance, The A.B.Simpson Collection).
Thanks to migration, missions, and Pentecostal flair, Protestants now make up a 10th of the population.
Image: Manuel Velasquez / Getty Images
The Catholic majority in Mexico is slipping, as Protestants surpassed 10 percent of the population in the country for the first time ever.
According to recently released data from Mexico’s 2020 census, the Protestant/evangelical movement increased from 7.5 percent in 2010 to 11.2 percent last year.
The Catholic Church has historically dominated the religious landscape across Latin America, but especially in Mexico, which ranks among the most heavily Catholic countries in the region. Today, though an overwhelming majority of Mexicans still identify as Catholic, declines are accelerating.
It took 50 years—from 1950 to 2000—for the proportion of Catholics in Mexico to drop from 98 percent to 88 percent. Now, only two decades later, that percentage has slipped another 10 points to 77.7 percent.
National church leaders attribute the boom in Protestantism to a range of factors, from the influence of Americans and fellow Latin Americans in the country to effective evangelical outreach in indigenous areas.
Pentecostalism dominates the Protestant landscape, and even many of Mexico’s historical denominations—think Baptists, Presbyterians, and Methodists—have been “pentecostalized” in some beliefs and practices, embracing energetic worship, healing, and spiritual gifts.
Nearly a million American-born people live in Mexico, as well as tens of thousands of Guatemalans and Venezuelans, and others from Central American countries. Some of them have brought evangelicalism with them, while others encounter it when they arrive in Mexico, according to Rosa A. Duarte de Markham, coordinator of the department of biblical translation at the Missionary Cooperation of Mexico (Comimex).
Markham also believes that the recent Protestant growth reflects how Mexican society longs for the sense of morality and family values upheld in evangelical churches.
“Mexico has been in mourning for several years due to enforced disappearances. Surely this has led to the search for God as a comforter, to value peace and justice,” she said. “On the other hand, the need to rescue the family nucleus has led mothers and fathers to search in the Word of God for values such as fidelity in marriage, harmony, love of children, honesty, and a healthy lifestyle.”
The 77.7 percent Catholic figure from the recent Census resembles ongoing polling on religious affiliation by Latinobarómetro, which found that the Catholic population in Mexico has hovered around 80 percent for at least 25 years.
The most popular Protestant affiliation in Mexico, according to Latinobarómetro, is nondenominational, at 3 percent of the population in 2018. Overall, Protestants are more active in their faith, with 63 percent of nondenominational Mexicans considering themselves practicing, compared to 41 percent of Catholics.
Fifty years ago, there were very few Protestants in Mexico, but missionary efforts were underway. Over the years, the population grew more committed to evangelism—particularly in areas where the Catholic Church didn’t have as prominent a presence—and the expansion over the past decade shows that their efforts have borne fruit.
“The most important thing is that the Catholic Church had a monopoly on belief for many years, and that monopoly broke most particularly after the Second World War,” said Roberto Blancarte, sociologist of religion and professor at El Colegio de México.
According to Blancarte, there were simply not enough priests in Mexico to meet the needs of all the people. At the turn of the century, there was only one priest for every 6,000 Mexicans, a staggering deficit that left a pastoral void in regions poorer and farther afield than major urban centers. Protestants stepped up to fill that void, sending pastors to rural, indigenous areas.
Today, Mexico’s northernmost states have significant Protestant populations thanks to American influence around the border. The far southern Mexican states of Chiapas and Tabasco have populations that are upwards of 35 percent evangelical, the most of any Mexican states. These are also the states with the largest indigenous populations, Blancarte points out.
“The big change was not missionaries themselves, but the translation of the Bible into native languages,” said Blancarte, referencing efforts by evangelical groups including SIL International. “That allowed many people to read the Bible directly and to have local ministers who develop, in their own language, their own services.”
Experts also saw popular Pentecostal-style worship appealing to indigenous believers’ backgrounds in ecstatic spirituality and magic, as well as ritual Catholics who still adhere to syncretistic spiritual beliefs.
For decades, the growth of Protestantism has corresponded with the decline of Catholicism in other Latin American countries, with dramatic changes in places like Honduras, Nicaragua, and Brazil. Even up until several years ago, Mexico was seen as an exception to the trend.
Now, as Protestantism rises in the majority Catholic country, so do the proportion of Mexicans without ties to organized religions. In the 2020 census, those with no religion rose from 4.7 percent to 8.1 percent. Another 2.5 percent consider themselves a believer but don’t have a religious affiliation.
The religious shifts have begun to foster a greater sense of pluralism and, for some, tolerance. They’ve also influenced the political sphere, according to Blancarte, with evangelicals becoming more visible and powerful, despite there being no monolithic evangelical voting bloc.
“We are still a minority, but we are a majority within this minority, and this gives us some force and the government is starting to look at us to see what we think about certain issues,” said Cirilo Cruz, president of CONEMEX, the National Evangelical Fellowship of Mexico.
Cruz also cautioned against the tendency to be seduced by political power for the sake of having influence and prays that evangelical leaders handle their new position in Mexican society carefully and prophetically.
“We need to be careful in regard to how we grow,” said Cruz. “That our DNA will be biblical. That our DNA will hold values, principles, and ethics emanating from the Word of our God.”
There is little data yet on the trajectory of Mexico’s Protestant community during the ongoing coronavirus health crisis, but church leaders have been adamant about continued evangelization in the midst of the pandemic.
“As for Mexican Protestants, in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have understood that our call is to continue preaching the good news of salvation,” said Markham, “to bring love and hope to a world that is collapsing.”
(The following true story is from our first pastor’s wife.)
Roses For Jesus
Around 1975, during one of his visits in our home, Dr. Charlie Culpepper * noticed that I stumbled awkwardly when I was given a compliment. He gently exhorted me to think differently. And he couldn’t have used an example that would have left more of an impression on me because I loved “The Hiding Place,” Corrie Ten Boom’s story of her years in Holland and prison during World War II.
Having been a personal friend of Miss Ten Boom, Dr. Charlie said she told him that after returning from the Nazi prison camps, she was taken aback by the overwhelming response that she received from those with whom she shared her testimony. She found it difficult to accept the admiration or praise of others for herself, and so she would turn away with no response when complimented.
Her reasoning was that she must remain “humble” for she unmistakably knew that it was the grace of God that had sustained her through those most difficult years.
But she realized that she was offending those who had offered her their appreciation. So, she asked her heavenly Father what she should do. And the Lord said to her, “Corrie, you know it is Me they see in you. So, take their compliment as a 🌹rose, and tell them ‘Thank you!’ And then as you walk through your day, gather the roses you are given, and at the end of the day, bring your bouquet to Me.” 🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹
From that day forward, she said she was excited to have a bouquet of roses to bring to her Lord, full of rejoicing that He had been evident in her life!
Oh my! How many times have I been reminded of that story! You see, the passage in James 4:10 says, “Humble yourself before the Lord – and He will lift you up in honor!” He’s not trying to “bring you down” – No! He will lift you up!
True humility is recognizing that He has given you His Authority in this earth, and that everything you are is because of Him! Yes! Jesus deserves all the “glory” the “honor” and the “praise!”
Today, I say to you my friend, receive the “rose” when others see “good” in you and remember that they are simply seeing “Jesus in you!” No need to make a speech about it! Simply say, “Thank you,” and save the rose for Him!🌹
The Apostle Peter, who went through it all – pride, defeat, suffering, discipline from the Lord and from Paul – learned true humility and wrote at the end of his life, “Praise God for the privilege of being called by His name!” (1Peter.4:16).
*Dr. C. L. Culpepper was a Southern Baptist missionary in China in 1920s and 40s who was a leader in the Shantung Revival. In 1971 he wrote The Shantung Revival detailing how God prepared the missionaries for the revival and then used them and the Chinese Christians to bring revival to the precious people of China and Korea. The book is available on Amazon. You would be blessed by what God did. He would like to do the same today with you and me.
I will not, I will not cease to uphold or sustain thee, I will not, I will not, I will not forsake someone in a state of defeat or helplessness in the midst of hostile circumstances.
This Greek amplification of what God said in Hebrew 13:5 tells us that Christians are not alone. He is with us in the midst of our trials and hard times.
IF we feel alone in the midst of our troubles, who moved? Are we like the first Adam who because of his sin ran and hid from God’s presence?
Yet, even when Lord Jesus corrected the Laodicea believers for their lukewarmness (Rev. 3:14-19), their delusion concerning their true condition as a result of kicking Jesus out of their rebellious hearts, He FAITHFULLY stands at their heart’s door knocking (Rev. 3:20) PROMISING if they will let Him back in their heart as Lord, He and the repentant believer can have fellowship again.
Oh, dear Reader we need to thank God for His faithfulness to us and His mercy toward us! Let us rejoice because our God is so GOOD to us!
The more we know of God, the more unreservedly we will trust him; the greater our progress in theology, the simpler and more child-like will be our faith.
― J. Gresham Machen (1881–1937, New Testament scholar and educator in the early 20th century) – Berean Call
Paul rebuked the Corinthians for their willful ignorance that kept them from understanding the resurrection of our earthly bodies. Throughout the book of 1st Corinthians he uses the term “do you not know” nine times and he uses it twice in Romans 6 plus he uses other terms in his writings to ask or imply the same question.
What am I missing in my spiritual walk because I give large chunks of time to unprofitable things, interest that will not build me up spiritually? For example, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. I need more faith, then I should be spending more time knowing God as revealed in His Book, the Bible.
God, please forgives us for our willful ignorance.
Man has made it complicated to understand and follow Jesus but it is not so. Paul warns us not to be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ (I Cor. 11:3).
Therefore, keep learning about your mighty God and amazing Savior Jesus. Keep growing. Get yourselves in order spiritually. Build yourselves up in Christ.
For He is coming back to get you or you are going to Him. Let us purify ourselves therefore.
Blessing on you,
The following description of a second century church service was written by Justin Martyr (100 AD -167 AD), who was born in Old Testament Shechem about the time that the Apostle John died. He was one of the most able Christian men in that period of time. He wrote a Defense of Christianity that was addressed to the Roman Emperor and died a martyr’s death at Rome. To show how Christianity had spread in the second century he wrote, “there is no race of men where prayers are not offered up in the name of Jesus.”
“On Sunday a meeting is held of all who live in the cities and villages, and a section is read from the Memoirs of the Apostles and the writings of The Prophets, as long as time permits. When the reading is finished, the president, in a discourse, gives the admonition and exhortation to imitate these noble things. After this we all arise and offer a common prayer. At the close of the prayer, as we have before described, bread and wine and thanks for them according to his ability, and the congregation answers, “Amen.” Then the consecrated elements are distributed to each one and partaken of, and are carried by the deacons to the house of the absent. The wealthy and the willing then give contributions according to their freewill; and the collection is deposited with the president, who therewith supplies orphans, widows, prisoners, strangers, and all who are in want.”
Another ancient writer, Pliny The Younger* (61 AD – 112 AD), provides another description of an early Christian church service in his letter to the Roman Emperor Trajan (98 AD – 117 AD) concerning when to put Christians to death. Pliny, as governor of Bithynia (part of modern day Turkey) and an enemy of Christianity wrote the following in the early second century:
“But they affirmed that this was the sum of their fault or error, that they were accustomed, on a stated day, to meet together before day, to sing a hymn to Christ in concert, as to a god, and to bind themselves with a solemn oath not to commit any wickedness —but on the contrary, to abstain from theft, robbery, and adultery —also, never to violate their promise, nor deny a pledge committed to them. These things being performed, it was their custom to separate: and to meet again at a promiscuous [meaning composed of all sorts of persons], innocent meal….”
He also described in the same letter how wide the influence of Jesus was in that region and the effect persecution was having on idol and emperor worship:
“…I have recourse to you for advice; for it has appeared to me that the subject is highly deserving of consideration, especially on account of the great number of persons whose lives are put into jeopardy. Many persons of all ages, sexes, and conditions are accused, and many more will be in the same situation; for the contagion of this superstition has not merely pervaded the cities, but also all villages and country places; yet it seemed to me that it might be restrained and corrected. It is matter of fact, that the temples which were almost deserted begin again to be frequented**; and the sacred solemnities which had been long intermitted are again attended; and the victims for the altars are now readily sold, which, a while ago, were almost without purchasers. Whence it is easy to conjecture what a multitude of men might be reclaimed, if only the door to repentance was left open.”
Bless our Father in Heaven for His early servants who were faithful under persecution and passed down to us the words of the Apostles, Paul and the other New Testament writers so we could know Christ and be saved!
Rejoice and be glad, your Savior is coming again!
*Pliny, The Elder, his uncle, died attempting to rescue people in Pompeii after the Mount Vesuvius eruption in AD 79.
**Though some had denied Christ and returned to idol and Emperor worship, many chose martyrdom instead of denying Christ and others escaped persecution. In 200 years, Christianity would be a recognized and accepted religion in the Empire though persecution would return later under other Emperors.
|Member of Animistic Indigenous Village in Mexico Embraces Christianity, Brings Family to Christ|
|A man from a tribal animistic village in Oaxaca, Mexico abandoned the traditions he grew up with and gave his life to Christ despite great persecution from other tribal members. Reynaldo said he had followed the animistic rituals for years but did not really understand why he did them. |
“In many cases I didn’t even know why I was doing the animist rituals, except ‘to not anger the spirits,’ and a life full of doing that never fulfilled me,” he said, according to Christian Aid Mission, a nondenominational organization that helps plant churches indifferent parts of the world.
The village is one of the few communities in Mexico that have so far resisted Western influence. For 500 years, it has kept its traditions intact, and tribal members like Reynaldo who deviate from animistic practices were met with hostility. Yet it did not stop him from pursuing his new life in Christ.
“I’ve decided to follow the Lord whatever the cost,” he said. His efforts were greatly rewarded: his wife, children and parents also gave their lives to Jesus, and they were all baptized together, along with four other members of the community.
An indigenous missionary named Mariano worked in the village for 11 years. After a long time of labor, the ministry has now turned the work over to a local believer named Pedro, the village’s first convert to Christianity, who has become the local pastor to lead the small congregation of about 20 believers. “We told the local village authorities that Mariano now will only be three days a week in the community, and that going forward he will support the local leadership from outside so they can grow and get stronger,” the director said, adding that Mariano’s departure saddened the community leaders.
Oaxaca is considered as the world’s most ethnically diverse place. There are more than 200 languages and dialects spoken in the Mexican state, and about half of its indigenous inhabitants do not speak Spanish, which is why indigenous missionaries take a long time to study the dialects. While the challenge in such places involves breaking through tribal traditions, in some parts of Mexico, evangelical Christians endure intense persecution from the Catholic church. About 80 percent of the country’s population is Catholic.
In April last year, Nate Lance of the International Christian Community said some Christians were being forced to convert to Catholicism. “When they refuse to recant their faith, they are expelled from the community,” Lance told Fox News. In many cases, Christians are beaten or imprisoned or punished in some other way, such as cutting off their utilities.
Lance condemned the Mexican government’s lack of inaction to address the issue,
particularly when the Constitution allows for freedom of religion in the country.
If God has given you but a small portion of the world, yet if you are godly He has promised never to forsake you (Heb. 13:5). Providence has ordered that condition for you which is really best for your eternal good. If you had more of the world than you have, your heads and hearts might not be able to manage it to your advantage.
— John Flavel (1627-1691, English Presbyterian clergyman)
For the love which Christ has [for me] presses on me from all sides, holding me to one end and prohibiting me from considering any other, wrapping itself around me in tenderness, giving me an impelling motive, having brought me to this conclusion, namely, that One died on behalf of all, therefore all died, and that He also died on behalf of all in order that those who are living no longer are living for themselves but for the One who died on their behalf….
(II Corinthians 5: 14-15 Wuest Expanded Greek Translation (Emphasis added))
“What such should do, for whom Christ died; namely, that they should live to Him. This is what Christ designed, that those who live, who are made alive unto God by means of His death, should live to Him that died for them, and rose again for their sakes also, and that they should not live to themselves, v15.
We should not make ourselves, but Christ, the end of our living and actions: and it was one end of Christ death to cure us of this self-love, and to excite us always to act under the commanding influence of His love. A Christian’s life should be consecrated to Christ; and then do we live as we ought to live when we live to Christ, who died for us.”
(A Commentary of the Whole Bible – Matthew Henry, 1700s)
In Matthew 23:25, the Lord rebukes the scribes and Pharisees for being self-indulgence. Will He have to rebuke us, His children, for our excessive or unrestrained gratification of our appetites, desires or whims? Let us be diligent to examine ourselves and repent of this sin, if we find ourselves guilty of it.
Let us thank Him for His great love for us, which was revealed on the Cross, and rejoice in it.
May His mercy and grace be abundant to you in this New Year!!
Three unidentified men shot and killed a pastor in the east Indian state of Jharkhand while he was returning home with his wife after baptizing new believers, according to a report.
Pastor Salim Stephen Surin, a part-time evangelist in Rania village of Jharkhand’s West Singhbhum district, was killed on Dec. 8, the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern reported Friday.
“They killed my husband in front of my own eyes,” Tarsis, the wife of the slain pastor, was quoted as saying. “I was terrified seeing my husband collapse having been shot in the chest. I started to think about my children and loudly cried out to God to save me and take care of my [two] children.”
Tarsis said she pushed one of the three men who shot her husband, after which he pointed the gun toward her. “I ran into the thick bushes and the nearby forest. I probably walked for more than 10 hours to reach my home. I purposely did not take the road to avoid the attackers.”
At the time of the attack, the pastor and his wife were on the couple’s motorbike returning from Putikda village where the pastor baptized five people.
Later that evening, local travelers discovered Surin’s lifeless body lying on the road.
To read the rest of the story, click here.
Dear Reader: Please pray for the Christians in India who are experiencing persecution. Thank you. Carl
(The following is an excerpt from a tract written by Reformer John Wycliffe (1324-1384); hence, the ole English vocabulary. Hope you are built up and encouraged by the words of this precious saint. Carl)
“First, when thou risest, or fully wakest, think upon the goodness of thy God; how for his own goodness, and not for any need, he made all things out of nothing, both angels and men, and all other creatures, good in their kind.
The second time, think on the great sufferings and willing death that Christ suffered for mankind. When no man might make satisfaction for the guilt of Adam and Eve, and others more, neither any angel might make satisfaction therefore, then Christ, of his endless charity, suffered such great passion and painful death, that no creature could suffer so much.
Think the third time, how God hath saved thee from death and other mischief, and suffered many thousands to be lost that night, some in water, some in fire, and some by sudden death, and some to be damned without end. And for this goodness and mercy thank thy God with all thine heart, and pray him to give thee grace to spend in that day, and evermore, all the powers of thy soul, as mind, understanding, reason, and will; and all the powers of thy body, as strength, beauty, and thy five senses, in his service and worship, and in nothing against his commandments, but in ready performance of his works of mercy, and to give good example of holy life, both in word and deed, to all men about thee.
Look afterward that thou be well occupied, and no time idle, for the danger of temptation. Take meat and drink in measure, not too costly, nor too lickerous, and be not too curious thereabout. But such as God sendeth thee with health, take it in such measure, that thou be fresher in mind and understanding to serve God. And always thank him for such gifts.
Besides this, look thou do right and equity to all men, thy superiors, equals, and subjects, or servants; and stir all to love truth, and mercy, and true peace, and charity; and suffer no men to be at dissension, but accord, if thou canst, in any good manner.
Also, most of all, fear God and his wrath; and most of all, love God, and his law, and his worship: and ask not principally for worldly reward, but in all thine heart desire the bliss of heaven in mercy of God, and thine own good life and think much of the dreadful doom of pains of hell, to keep thee out of sin; and on the endless great joys of heaven, to keep thee in virtuous life; and according to thy skill teach others the same doing.
In the end of the day, think wherein thou hast offended God, and how much, and how oft, and therefore have entire sorrow, and amend it while thou mayst. And think how many God has suffered to perish that day, many ways, and to be damned everlastingly, and how graciously he hath saved thee; not for thy desert, but for his own mercy, and goodness, and therefore thank him with all thine heart. And pray him for grace that thou mayest dwell and end in his true and holy service, and real love, and to teach other men the same doing.”
Excerpt from A SHORT RULE OF LIFE, FOR EACH MAN IN GENERAL, AND FOR PRIESTS, AND LORDS, AND LABOURIRS IN SPECIAL, HOW EACH SHALL BE SAVED IN HIS DEGREE — Reformer John Wycliffe (1324-1384) (paragraph structure added)
By Cedric H. Fisher – From Lighthouse Trails
God’s Word gives us examples of faith in the fire, faith in the flood, faith when outnumbered by the enemy, faith when facing an indomitable foe, faith in prison, faith during torture, faith when destitute, hungry, and thirsty, faith on stormy seas, faith to lose everything and faith to receive it all back again, faith to procreate though infertile, and faith to die. Every instance of faith thus described is manifested in adversity or great need. To find examples in Scripture of faith operating in a peaceful and bountiful climate would be a difficult task. I’m not sure there are any at all.
The Bible likens God’s way of purifying the faith of a believer to the refining process of gold. Peter writes:
. . . that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:7)
The refining process of gold requires that it be heated to a molten condition whereby the impurities (dross) float to the top and are skimmed off. The prophet Malachi describes this process as an illustration of how God purifies the believer:
[A]nd he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. (Malachi 3:3)
Some might contend that the peaceful climate is the result of faith. That may be true, but it is not faith in operation. Good health is the result of exercise, but it is not exercise. If our comfortable status is faith, then the testings of faith would not require adversity. Further, there would be no biblical examples of godly men and women exercising faith to overcome adversity.
The obvious truth is that the appearance of faith tends to be relatively dormant in times of peace. We are sustained by the benefits of our relationship with God. However, when a true Christian believes he can go through life without any adversity, such a person is being set up to be “channeled.” Now, what I am referring to by “channeled” is this: when someone tries to avoid adversity, he is actually setting himself up to be manipulated and channeled by Satan who is always at work to make it difficult and painful for devoted believers to obey God’s will.
Let me elaborate on this line of thought. If a Christian believer intends to be a light that shines in darkness, he becomes a target of evil entities. If he stands up for and speaks the truth, he will suffer. If he accepts, assimilates, and defends the values of godliness, he will suffer. If he refuses to go with the flow of nominal Christianity or worse, apostasy, he will suffer. If he refuses to deviate from God’s Word in a time of great compromise, he will suffer. If he has a prophetic calling, he might even lose his life for Christ’s sake.
Consider this scenario: A professing Christian has witnessed the suffering of a fellow believer who is being a true witness for Jesus Christ. The professing Christian has tried to do the same and experiences similar sufferings and consequences. As a result, he decides to avoid manifesting any fruit of Christianity that causes contention, rejection, or persecution. He is considered one of the nicest, most gregarious, kindly, friendly, and positive people. Everyone loves him and speaks well of him. What’s more, he is flexible and capable of mingling with any belief system. Nearly everyone enjoys associating with him, and he has excellent rapport with all of them. Secular and religious people of all stripes laud him as an example of a true Christian. And he does not want to lose that status, so he makes every attempt to make sure he doesn’t end up suffering again.
However, such a Christian does not match the examples of what the Bible describes as true Christianity, nor does he match the example of Christ Himself. In reality, such professing Christians, in their efforts to avoid the consequences and sufferings of true Christianity, are being “channeled” by Satan and his imps. Upon seeing this compromising attitude, these adversaries of our souls can re-circumvent lives (i.e., change the direction one is going) by causing situations that re-direct that person in his walk because he wants to avoid suffering, ridicule, and rejection for standing in and defending the faith.
These re-directed channeled Christians have, in effect, turned down their light to a non-offensive level. In fact, they are not actually lights at all, but shadows; they lie somewhere between light and darkness. The path they walk weaves around every uncomfortable and inconvenient situation; they walk in a state of delusion because deceit has become the norm for them. Christ warned about this type of fruitless follower.
Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets. (Luke 6:26)
The apostle Paul described what would befall the ones who truly desire to live godly in Christ. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Peter also wrote about the suffering of true followers of Christ. He mentioned the suffering of believers eighteen times in his first letter.
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. (1 Peter 4:12-13)
Isn’t it interesting (and tragic) that so many modern-day Christians believe it is strange to suffer and that it is not God’s will. They believe they are supposed to be constantly happy, blessed, healthy, wealthy, and peaceful, while enjoying life in this temporal realm. The terms “happy,” “blessed,” “peaceful,” etc, are relative. Those emotions are based on a life ordered by them, not by God. They avoid all negativity. They have no productivity because it is inconvenient.
Heretics find a willing audience in these individuals because they never resist darkness. To do so would be too uncomfortable and painful. Their lives are empty, swept, and ordered (Matthew 12:44). They’ve maintained a shiny neon shell of godliness, but there is no substance inside. The will of God is not included in their order. Standing up for truth, being a true light that exposes evil, obeying God when the price is rejection, or worse, harsh persecution, are not in their order of things to do.
The focus of that type of professing Christian is on milking God’s Word and kingdom of all the benefits without incurring the costs of genuine relationship. They are “professors,” but not possessors. They never exercise faith because they avoid the situations where faith is needed. There is no sense of true victory in them. There must be constant stimulation from a source other than God and His Word. . . .
In the apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he so eloquently describes the role and the results of our willingness to suffer for Christ’s sake:
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings. (Philippians 3:7-10)
Christians who do not exercise their faith but rather run from it end up in a miserable and decrepit spiritual condition. And allowing such a thing to happen does not honor God at all. For one thing, it ignores and rejects all He has given us for victory, the “precious promises” He gives us for living godly lives consecrated to Him. To such people, the substance of faith is more a happy thought or luck charm than it is a supernatural infusion of iron will to fight the good fight and win:
[W]hereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:4-8)
The damage of the so-called “positive confession” aka “Word of Faith” heresy has been to strip out the heart of a warrior and replace it with the heart of entitlement-mindedness. Even committed followers of Jesus Christ can be affected by this fallacy if they are not watchful. When they suffer and feel alone and rejected, they wonder if God has abandoned them. That is actually an opportunity for faith to go from embers to blazing brilliance.
As long as we are humans and children of God, we need the trials. When distraction and disfocus dim our view of God’s glory or our humanity incrementally cools us to a temperature less than hot, we need the fiery trials. In essence, we must embrace them. Paul said he actually took pleasure in them (because he knew the benefits of them):
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
From my own experiences during fiery trials, I can testify that the pain, the angst, and other suffering are conquered the instant I surrender to the flames. It is like falling backwards off a steep cliff into the hands of God. There is no parachute and no stopping halfway. If He doesn’t catch you, then you will hit the bottom and die. That is literally the goal of faith—to trust God with your life and everything in it. All that is not put into His hands is unprotected and causes us angst and suffering. However, when all is surrendered, we receive a deep serenity that the fire will not burn anything except what needs to be consumed. That’s when the gold shines.
Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:6-9; emphasis added)
Remember, the destiny of Christ was a cross. Our destiny is also a cross. Only when we accept that destiny, will we understand. Newness of life has its birth and growing pains. But the heart of a believer in Jesus Christ holds this proverb by its roots:
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18; emphasis added)
In the meantime, let us not grow weary of the trials and tribulations of this life, knowing that God is doing His work within us for His glory:
But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. (Job 23:10)
“I used to ask God to help me. Then I asked if I might help Him. I ended up by asking God to do His work through me.”
Hudson Taylor (21 May 1832 – 3 June 1905, British Christian missionary to China, founder of the China Inland Mission, now OMF International)
Source: Berean Call
Even as the shining moon and the glittering stars give the most light and adorn the blue expanse of heaven the most gloriously, in the darkest nights, so it was also after A. D. 1000, as regards spiritual matters, which concern the honor of God and the salvation of the souls of men.
For, about the year 1000, as well as many years before and after but particularly then, the world lay sunken, as it were, in an arctic, six-month’s night, through the thick, and palpable darkness, which had arisen, with heavy vapors of superstitions, from the Roman pit. Yet, notwithstanding the state of the times, some undefiled persons, as bright heavenly signs, and stars, began to shine forth the more, and to let their light of evangelical truth illumine the dark nights of papal error. Yea, some, like the polar star, served as a sign to sail by; I mean, to accomplish safely and in a godly manner, through the turbulent waves of perverted worship and human inventions, the journey to the heavenly fatherland. Others, like the morningstar, or the lovely, blushing Aurora, announced the approaching day; we mean, they pointed to the true day of the Christian and evangelical worship of God, and revealed it, as much as they were able, to those who sat in the darkness of error.
We will no longer speak by simile; what we mean is this: That there were men in those dark times, who maintained God’s truth, in various points, according to the needs of that time, and bore witness to and sealed it not only with the mouth, but with the deed, yea, with their blood and death.
Martyrs Mirror – from chapter: AN ACCOUNT OF THOSE WHO SUFFERED IN THE ELEVENTH CENTURY: SUMMARY OF THE MARTYRS IN THE ELEVENTH CENTURY – page 265 -266, compiler T.J. Van Braght, 1660
May we, like the martyrs of the 1100s, stand for God’s truth as found in the Holy Scriptures; not only with the words of our mouth but with our actions, for the commandments and teachings of men continue today to produce a spiritual darkness that blinds the souls of men to eternal destruction. Let us be light in the darkness and guide others to the only safe harbor of Jesus, the Savior and Lord of Lords.