"Along with Persecutions" -The State of the Church in the World Today
Pr. Dennis Gallaher
"Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and bothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life." Mark 10 :38
The persecution began and no one paid any attention to it. Certainly, there were the self righteous complaints about fairness and rights and "how-dare-you's" in the letters to the newspaper editors, but the truth is that it was so petty that the few who did take it seriously overplayed their hand.
It first was noticed during the Christmas season. A public school would no longer call it "Christmas holiday" and instead change the name to "holiday break" or "winter break." An individual would complain about a manger scene in the city park, claiming separation of church and state. No one paid much attention.
Then the doctrine of "fairness" came into play. Everything had to be "fair" so if a manger is put up then witchcraft deserved a spot as well. If witchcraft, then gay marriage. If gay marriage, then Islam and so on and so forth. It was all about "fairness" and, after all, who could argue about being fair?
But it was all a ruse. Two decades ago, it was only long discussions about Christmas but today it is lawsuits and labels of racism levied against people of faith, all happening in the bastion of Christianity, the United States of America. Persecution has now eclipsed rational thought and the moral majority has become the whipping post in the last watershed of Christianity.
No one has been told to deny their faith or die yet, but make no mistake about it, the times and seasons have changed in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Monsignor Charles Pope has written candidly and sharply about persecution for several years now. His five stages of persecution are noteworthy. Originating with Johnette Benkovic of Women of Grace, the five stages are prophetic and clear.
Stage One... Stereotyping the targeted group
To stereotype means to oversimplify a group of people. The Pentecostals were stereotyped as being "Bible thumpers," fanatics, and uneducated simpletons in the early part of the 20th century. This judgement was made with few facts and limited contact but has lasted through the decades. This stereotypical label has now become wide and broad and includes all Christian denominations including Catholics, Protestants and Pentecostals. Doctrinal issues might separate Christians but we are now aligned in the ridicule, deriding language and hatred from the societies where we live and serve.
Stage Two...Accusations of crimes and misconduct
Stereotyping leads to accusation and verbal distain turns to organized plans to curtail. Words become action. Ridicule becomes lawsuits. Distain becomes demands to change. No matter how ridiculous and farfetched, the accusations proceed to legal action. Instead of being known for the tremendous light and salt to the world, Christians are described as homophobic, bigoted, racist, hateful, hypocritical and evil. Instead of being known for the serving, giving and sacrificial work throughout the ages, all is stripped away except the excesses and wrongs, mostly from a myopic view of history.
Look no further than Barack Obama as he compared the medieval crusaders to modern day ISIS at the 2015 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. Linking events in the second century to the church today is to link the crimes of yesterday to the church today. Though the accusations were quickly dismissed as "misunderstood" there is no misunderstanding the intent to vilify and accuse people of faith as being not fit for modern society.
Stage Three... Minimize the role and effect of the group in society
Hitler began his campaign to eliminate the Jewish nation in 1919. For over ten years, the strategy was to minimize the important place in German society held by the Jewish population. Fifteen years later, the first official boycott of all Jewish shops and offices took place. From April 1, 1933 until May 8,1945 the German policy was to exclude Jews from German society and make life so intolerable that they would leave Germany. In other words, exterminate.
Gradually, the attacks became more organized and led to the establishment of a network of over 20,000 concentration and extermination camps that brutalized and murdered over 11 million people... six million Jews, two-thirds of all Jews living in Europe, 1.1 million children.
Now it is happening in the 21st century. Because of the successful stereotyping, false accusations and minimizing of Christianity it is now common and accepted that biblically established lifestyles and family values must not continue in the world. In April of this year, Hillary Clinton said concerning abortion rights, “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed... and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.”
In other words, the religious beliefs that life begins at conception, that every unborn child is a fully formed soul, that it takes a mother and a father to raise a child, that marriage is sacred and is the foundation of culture and society since time began "has to be changed."
That means that the 12 million baby girls aborted in India in the past 30 years and the 54 million children aborted in the United States is only a beginning because the "cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases" must change. And all it will take is getting Christianity out of the way.
It is too familiar with the two decades Hitler took to minimize the church in Germany before the Holocaust. Johnette Benkovic concludes, "Do not even think of mentioning Jesus or of publicly thanking him in your valedictory address; you could very well have a judge forbid you to do so under penalty of law. You may thank Madonna the singer, but not the Madonna. The LGBT club is welcome to set up shop and pass out rainbow-colored condoms at the local high school, but Christians had better hit the road; no Bibles or pamphlets had better see the light of day anywhere in the school building … separation of Church and State, you know…"
But don't deride the United States because of these demonic attacks. The attacks in India might be of a different stripe but no less destructive and demonic in their nature. The enemy of the church is a common enemy who attacks on multiple fronts and designs his assault to inflict the most damage against the church of Jesus Christ. The localities are different as well as the culture but the result is the same. He intends to strip the church of her power, anointing and unity in order to inflict the greatest deception, disunity and destruction possible, no matter which side of the world we live on.
Stage Four... Criminalizing Christianity
Yes, even in the land of the free and the home of the brave. What has taken place in India, China and in Europe is now being staged in the U.S. Recently, the religious rights of Americans has been attacked by the government through the legal system that demands the church change biblical values and submit to godless mandates concerning same sex marriage and abortion. The values of Muslims, atheist, Buddhist or Hindus are not being challenged mind you, only biblical values of Christians.
A small business owner in Oregon was found to have "discriminated" against a lesbian couple because they refused to make a cake for their wedding ceremony. Citing their Christian belief, the owners declined to participate in the ceremony and were picketed, sued and had death threats made against their children. As a result, they have been threatened with over $100,000 (6.2 lakh rupees) in fines leveled against them and lost their business. According to the Oregon Bureau of Labor, they found "substantial evidence" that the bakery had discriminated against the lesbians.
"Everybody is entitled to their own beliefs, but that doesn't mean that folks have the right to discriminate," Brad Avakian, the Bureau representative said. "The goal is never to shut down a business. The goal is to rehabilitate."
Really? Rehabilitate? That means changing our biblical point of view. Changing our faith, religion, lifestyle, churches and eternal destiny. Any takers?
Stage Five... The active persecution of the targeted group.
There are two topics being discussed among many Christian ministers in the U.S. One is preparation of our churches when we refuse to be "rehabilitated." The second is preparation for civil disobedience when we are sued, fined or arrested for not submitting to godless laws and mandates. Already, we are accused of "hate crimes" when we preach biblical doctrine against homosexual behavior. In India, China, Canada and parts of Europe, clergy has been arrested and charged for preaching against the same and more.
Even though the U.S. has long provided for free speech, the erosion of ethics has begun a landslide of cultural animosity towards the church. That is called persecution and when the last stronghold wall of biblical values has been scaled the end cannot be far away. "Do you not know how to discern the signs of the times?" Jesus said. We better know by now.
The signs of the times says that persecution is now upon us throughout the Christian world and that can only mean one thing. The time is short. The laborers are few and the fields, white with harvest, are awaiting a church ready for the task. Stage one through four are in place in the west, stage five is rampant throughout India, Africa, China and Europe. Now is the time to join our hands and hearts together for the greatest ingathering in history, promised by our Lord Jesus Christ.
Five Biblical Responses to the Signs of the Times These are unprecedented times that we are living in. Every generation since Jesus rose from the dead expected, anticipated and planned for the soon return of the Lord. So what makes these times different?
Never before in history has "the whole world" been linked in communication. The preaching of the gospel is literally taking place 24 hours, seven days a week through the internet and social media. Because of the breakthroughs in communication in the past two decades, the availability of biblical truth has never been more available. Never. Not in the entire history of the world.
Since the great attack in the Garden of Gethsemane, the church has not experienced an assault so extensive against the cause of Christ. With the turning of the tide in the United States, the world wide assault is now in play laying the groundwork for the prophesied last days to escalate.
The great deception against the saints has begun as churches, denominations and all generations now living are acquiescing to godless doctrines concerning sexuality and identity which are the foundational building stones of society. The identity of mankind hearkens back to the Garden of Eden when man was created in the image of God. To suggest that man can somehow change God's created order is to assume that we are now gods unto ourselves and nothing less. Can a man hold fire to his breast and not be burned? The answer is always the same.
What Should Our Response Be?
1. 1 Timothy 4:16... "Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you." In other words, spend less time casting stones at the lost and the church and more time growing in the love and compassion of Jesus. Make sure your "doctrine" is correct by using it as a tool to seek and save the lost and love the brethren.
2. Matthew 24:12...Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. The love of God is both practical and observable. Real evangelism takes place when the church is in unity.
3. Titus 2:11-12... For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present age. Preach a message of grace and not legalism. When people respond to the grace of God, they want to change their behavior. When people are told to change because of rules, regulations and laws the response is condemnation and legalistic works oriented religion. Grace is still the only message of the cross.
4. John 17:20-22... I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. Our unity matters! True evangelism takes place when the church becomes one. Period. It is what Jesus prayed and what Jesus still intends. Stop fighting and get along because Jesus said so.
5. Matthew 5:11-12... “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." The single most important difference between the believer and the world is that our hope does not reside in this world but in the eternity to come. Our hope brings joy in all circumstances. Remember Paul and Silas... bloody, chained, broken and condemned yet singing praises in the dark of the night. Why? Because their hope was not rooted to this world but to the hope that lies ahead. As persecution increases, rejoice! Our Redeemer draws nigh.
When Will the End Come?
Every generation has asked that question and the answer is simple... we do not know. Like a volcano preparing to erupt, the world looks as if the top is about to blow in a prophetic explosion of judgement and end time events, but no one knows the hour or day except the Father. But there is no argument as what our biblical response is to be. We are to live our lives as if today is the final day of our journey. And that means to be about the work of the Father. Persecution is the most encouraging sign of the eminent return of Jesus that the bible presents. Our call is to live holy lives, preach the word, seek and save the lost and love Jesus' church as He loves us.
And when we see Him face to face, all tears will be wiped away, all sorrows will be a distant memory, and eternity will stretch out forever. For those who persevere to the end, He waits with the crown of righteousness and the words we long to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Now enter into the joy of the Lord!"
Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12
Maranatha, come quickly, Lord Jesus!