This past week more “Christians” were assaulted by Muslims (I refuse to call them radical, because most Muslims in this world react this way) in Pakistan. Their homes were burned and their lives were threatened. Why? Because they are called Christian. This reminded me of a story from 2006 when two American reported were kidnapped by Muslims. During their ordeal they were video taped, shown wearing the garb of Islamists and their captors said that they had converted to Islam. After their release, they said that they only converted to Islam under gun point. They did so to save their lives. Here in recent weeks we have been studying about the hardships that were about to come upon the Christians of Asia Minor in the last 1st century. If these Christians refused to worship the pagan gods of the land (including emperor worship) their lives would be in danger. One such Christian, Antipas, was already put to death. The Christians there were faced with a difficult choice. Do they pretend to be worshippers of pagan God’s in the midst of their fellow countrymen to save their lives, or do they refuse to worship the pagan gods and remain loyal to God, even if it means death. Before you answer, I want you to consider what Jesus had to say in Matt. 10.
“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Terrorism only works because it generates fear. If we ceased to fear, the terror would cease to exist. Christians in Asia Minor and in Pakistan were victims. They were terrorized. They were made to be afraid. The oppressors used this fear (the fear of death) as a catalyst for conversion to their way of life (paganism or Islam). Consider again those two journalists that “converted to Islam.” If the tables were turned and “so-called Christians” kidnapped one of these Islamists and threatened to kill him unless he converted to Christianity, do you think the Muslim would renounce Muhammad and call Christ his Savior? Certainly not! The Muslims fear losing their soul more than they fear losing their life. We would all do a bit of good by learning this lesson. What any man can do to us fails to compare to what God can do to us. Therefore as Christ said to the twelve as He sent them out, “Fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matt. 10:32-33
Continuing in the same conversation, Christ says, “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” We often use this passage as a proof text for confession before baptism. This passage has nothing at all to do with confessing Christ as your savior before baptism. This passage, however, has everything to do with confessing Christ after baptism. Think back to those reporters. What do you think would have made a longer lasting impression? What do you think would have implanted the seed of Christ? Two men who renounce their Christian faith to become Muslims in order to spare their own lives, or, two men who refuse to convert to Islam despite verbal threats, torture, and ultimately death. They instead of renouncing Christ they vocally confirm their faith in Jesus Christ. Foxe’s Book of Martyr’s is one of the most depressing and encouraging books I have ever seen. It is truly heart wrenching to read what Christians had to undergo during the persecution brought down upon them by both the Roman and Holy Roman empires. Yet, through it all men would exclaim their faith in Christ. Men who were burning at the stake were praying aloud and singing praises to God. This is what Christ wants us doing! Matt. 10:39
“He who seeks to find his life will loose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” This is the kind of faith God desires us to have. He wants us to be faithful enough to stare death in the eye and not waver in our faith. Christ told His Apostles that if they want to be approved they must not seek salvation their own way, but seek salvation in Christ Jesus. In Acts 4:12 Peter does this very thing. “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Let us not seek salvation from physical death. Let us seek salvation from spiritual death. This leads me back to my original question. When faced with the same circumstances Christians in Pakistan are now facing, will I renounce Christ or die like Stephen? What about you? Would you be prepared for such an occasion? Will you be ready for that challenge that will test your faith? -WTK
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