Friday, November 25, 2011
I read Acts chapter nine this morning. The Apostle Paul had an encounter with Jesus Christ on his way to Damascus, is filled with the Holy Spirit and immediately begins to preach the Gospel proving Jesus was the Messiah. He fled Damascus to escape a murder plot. He goes to Jerusalem and boldly preaches Christ there, debating the Greek speaking Jews. He was sent home to Tarsus to escape a murder plot. I wonder what this says about our preaching. Too watered down - sensitive - or just not powerful and convicting? Reminds me of Luke's account (Luke 4) of Jesus' first sermon given in his home town of Nazareth after his 40 day fast. Jesus "returns to Galilee in the power of the Spirit," where he preaches in the synagogue at Nazareth. His message infuriated them so much that they mobbed him and tried to throw him over a cliff. Makes you wonder what's missing in today's preaching?
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Human life is the greatest resource of any nation. Every day in America the lives of over 3,000 unborn human beings are lost through state sanctioned abortion. The blood of 53 million unborn babies murdered since 1973 has polluted the land of the our nation. God will not turn a blind eye to this bloodshed. He will not let the shedding of innocent blood go unpunished. We think otherwise at our own peril.
The brutality of Hitler's National Socialism, the Communism of Stalin and Mao Tse-Tung, and the totalitarianism of many other dictators have been characterized by a similar calloused disregard for human life. Check out history. No civilization/nation that has perpetrated or permitted the killing of its young has survived. You can only read about them in history books.
The sacrifice of unborn children on the altar of convenience is not only the moral issue of the day, it is the most critical issue facing our nation as we approach the next presidential election.
The transcendent truth of our Judeo-Christian heritage which has guided this nation for over 200 years, has been been marginalized in favor of moral relativism which now drives many public policy decisions. As a result the state has relinquished its constitutional duty to protect the unborn. Life in the womb has become expendable when it interferes with the interests of those with the power to terminate it.
America needs a president who understands that the sanctity of human life is the first right from which every other right proceeds, as set forth in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Our founding fathers recognized that the right to life was preeminent. They recognized that it was an “unalienable” right “endowed” by our Creator, not a right that could be given or rescinded by the state.
America disregards this truth at the risk of its very existence. Our failing economy could very well be an expression of God’s mercy calling us back to the truth upon which, God in his Providence, allowed this nation to be founded.
I am looking for a presidential candidate willing to embrace the transcendent truths held by our Founding Fathers and committed to develop public policy consistent with those values.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
In the documentary, 180, released earlier this week, Ray Comfort draws a stunning parallel between the holocaust of Nazi Germany, that took the lives of eleven million people, and abortion in America.
"I'd like you to feel like you would in Germany, when Jews were being killed all around you." Comfort says, " You'd be horrified. And we've got a holocaust in America where real babies are being murdered because of a woman's choice, and it's legal. It's like Nazi Germany. He [Hitler]did it legally. He didn't do anything legally wrong."
In his street interviews, Ray Comfort asks some very difficult questions as he draws a parallel between the Nazi holocaust and government sanctioned abortion in America. He asks a young man, "Do you think it's okay to kill kids in the womb?"
The reply, "I don't think it's okay, I just don't think that, "um…"
Comfort continues, "But isn't that like what Nazi Germany was about? It's like saying, 'What Hitler did was wrong. I think it's his choice. I don't think its' okay, but he did it, and it was his choice to do so, and he had the sanction of the German people, because they allowed him in. And so it's okay, but even though, you know, I don't agree with it.' Can you see it's a similar thing?"
The young man replies, "Uh, I guess when you put it like that, it is very similar, yeah. It's very similar to say that –I guess me saying that it's okay for someone to choose [abortion] is the same thing as saying it's okay for Hitler to choose." Bingo, the light went on.
But that was not always the case. The moral quandary of some who personally oppose abortion but do not oppose another's choice to do it was apparent when one young lady insisted that "…it [abortion] should be allowed, because it is a choice, but I feel like I personally would not do it. It's just—" Comfort responds, "So you wouldn’t' kill Jews, but it's okay for someone else to kill them?" "Yes," she replied!
What Hitler did in Nazi Germany was legal just as today, in America, it is legal to kill an unborn child in the womb of its mother. As Comfort pressed the logic of those who defend the right of a woman to kill her unborn child, he repeatedly asks them to complete this sentence, "Killing a baby in the womb is okay when…" or "It's okay to kill a baby in the womb when…"
Ray Comfort asks this penetrating question to another person, "So what would you say to someone like you in Germany that says, 'Well you should never kill Jews, but I think people should have the right to do it."
In his interviews, Ray Comfort moved from dialogue about abortion to dialogue about the spiritual state of those he interviewed - sharing the Gospel with them. It was a natural and powerful transition.
On January 21, 2011, I had the privilege to bring a message at the Rally for Life held in front of the Federal Court House in Fort Lauderdale. This was part of my concluding remarks,
"Ultimately, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the solution to America’s abortion crisis. Innocent blood has polluted the land and profaned the name of the Lord. But there is a greater blood shed at Mount Calvary that can transform the heart of a mother so she will choose life for her child; that can cleanse the guilty, forgive, heal and restore those involved in abortion. What America needs to hear is God’s truth about abortion wrapped in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. God always responds to repentance."
The documentary 180, does exactly that. For the millions of prolife Christians and especially the thousands of prolife pastors who have been reluctant to speak out on this, the greatest moral issue of our day - if not in American history, this documentary provides both a model of how to communicate Biblical and moral truth regarding the sanctity of human life, but, perhaps even more important, provides a poignant example of how abortion and the gospel go hand in hand. This is what, with rare exception, the Church is failing to do. Pastors shy away from the subject of abortion for a variety of reasons, none of which are justifiable since abortion is a gospel issue.
Grace is never found apart from truth. Abortion ends the life of an innocent human being by medical procedures that can be described as nothing less than barbaric. The Gospel brings life to those who otherwise will be lost for eternity. I believe that when the Church begins to speak the truth about abortion in the context of the gospel, we will see revival, first in the Church, then in our nation. I hope you will watch 180 (www.180movie.com), and share it with others. Further, I hope you will find the grace to communicate both the truth about abortion and the gospel to those in you sphere of influence. God could use you to birth a spiritual awakening in America.
Saturday, August 6, 2011
I wonder how long the American public will continue to tolerate the malfeasance of Washington politicians? The Federal government spends $300 billion a month despite taking in only $180 billion on the revenue side, borrowing the $120 billion difference each month. On Wednesday, August 3, the day after President Obama signed legislation increasing the debt ceiling, Federal debt rose to 100% of gross domestic product (GDP). The credit rating agencies had been warning the politicians that unless they reduced the debt-to-GDP ratio quickly, the Federal government would lose its prized AAA credit rating - and yesterday it happened as Standard and Poors downgraded the Federal government’s long term credit rating to AA+.
We the tax payers are the losers. Our standard of living continues to decline - the value of the dollar is declining - the value of our savings and investments are declining - the value of our homes are declining while the cost of living is increasing - compare yesterday’s grocery and gasoline bills with three years ago. The poor, who can afford it the least, are hit the hardest.
This is not only governance at its worst, it is democracy at its worst. As David Barton has said, “Congress never reflects the values of the nation; rather it reflects the values of those who voted in the last election.” Historically American society has valued transcendent truth, the foundation of its body politic reflecting Judeo-Christian values. With the secularization of our culture, we have drifted away from that broadly held consensus, replacing it with moral relativism and post-modernism, allowing self aggrandizement to trump the common good.
The Scriptures are not silent regarding debt. There are warnings, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” (Proverbs 22:7 ESV) Debt brings a loss of freedom - the borrower coming under a state of obligation to the lender. Interest devours the resources of the debtor. Borrowing facilitates overspending. Debt mortgages the future as the priority of all future income must be the repayment of debt. Most importantly, from God’s perspective, debt must be repaid, “The wicked borrows but does not pay back.” (Psalm 37:21 ESV)
Pastor Guy McGraw has said, “Nothing that is morally wrong should be politically right.” We have been warned, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that he will also reap.” (Galatians 6:7 ESV) Jesus exposed the heart of man when He said "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24 ESV) The way of prosperity makes God the priority, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33 ESV)
Therein lies America’s hope, for “Righteousness exalts a nation (makes a nation great NLT), but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34 ESV) A return to God will likely precede a return to sound fiscal policy.
Friday, July 22, 2011
Abortion is “...‘too nice a word for something cold, like murder.” Rev. Jesse Jackson, 1973
Addressing the marchers at the pro-life “March on Washington” in 1977, then pro-life Civil Rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson said,
“There are those who argue that the right to privacy is of [a] higher order than the right to life,…that was the premise of slavery. You could not protest the existence or treatment of slaves on the plantation because that was private and therefore outside your right to be concerned. What happens to the mind of a person, and the moral fabric of a nation, that accepts the aborting of the life of a baby without a pang of conscience? What kind of a person and what kind of a society will we have 20 years hence if life can be taken so casually? It is that question, the question of our attitude, our value system, and our mind-set with regard to the nature and worth of life itself that is the central question confronting mankind. Failure to answer that question affirmatively may leave us with a hell right here on earth.”
Rev. Jackson failed to answer his own question in the affirmative, eventually embracing a pro-abortion position when he ran for president in the 1980’s. Nonetheless he spoke prophetically. America has followed his lead in answering his question in the negative and our “hell” can be measured by an unprecedented holocaust. Since abortion was legalized in 1973, over 52 million pre-born human beings have lost their lives to abortion, 15-16 million of them African American. Since abortion was legalized in 1973, abortion has had a genocidal effect on the African American population. Today African Americans are the only minority in America that are experiencing a decline in population. (see www.toomanyaborted.com and the 60 & 90 second videos “Epidemic” and “Number One Killer” at http://www.blackprolifecoalition.org/)
Since every abortion takes the life of a defenseless human being, abortion is the preeminent civil rights issue of our day as slavery was in years past. The humanity/personhood of the unborn is now an irrefutable fact. Douglas Erlandson writes, “When the fertilized egg (or zygote) is first formed, it already possesses its full complement of DNA or genetic information. That information never changes. A person’s sex, blood type, hair and skin color, and future height are all determined in that first cell. From that moment on, unless its life is terminated, it will develop until it becomes an adult human being.”
Professor Micheline Matthews-Roth, M.D., of Harvard University Medical School agrees, “…It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception…” Renowned Professor of genetics, University of Descartes, Jerome LeJeune, M.D. concurs, “…after fertilization has taken place a new human being has come into being.” The evidence is incontrovertible. The unborn are distinct, living human beings from the moment of conception.
This has significant legal implications. The Declaration of Independence, states “…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” (emphasis mine) Therefore as Randy Alcorn has written, “The ‘right to life’ is not some modern antiabortion slogan. It is the most fundamental assertion of the most significant founding document of out nation.”
In other words, the unborn are guaranteed the right to life under the U.S. Constitution, a right Roe v. Wade failed to uphold in denying them personhood. This injustice paralleled the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision of 1857 that denied Dred Scott, a freed slave, personhood because his skin color was black. Justice Harry Blackmun, writing the prevailing opinion in Roe v. Wade, acknowledged how central personhood of the unborn was in that decision. He wrote, “The appellee…argue that the fetus is a ‘person’ within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment…If this suggestion of personhood is established, the [abortion rights] case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the Amendment.” The scientific evidence that has come to light since Justice Blackmun wrote these words conclusively substantiates the personhood of the unborn.
The Court, however, has lacked the integrity and moral will to revisit the case. And they are not alone. Many Americans have turned their back on the plight of the unborn, as did Jesse Jackson, for various reasons, be they political, financial or personal (convenience, sexual freedom). In its haste to embrace moral relativism and abandon the historic commitment to transcendent moral truth, America has been willing to sacrifice the most innocent and vulnerable segment of its population for personal gain.
Randy Alcorn has rightly pointed out that “...The right to a certain lifestyle is never absolute and unconditional. It is always governed by its effects on others...One person’s right to a preferred lifestyle is not greater than another person’s right to life...Even pochoicers must acknowledge that the ‘right to control one’s body’ argument has no validity if the unborn is a human being.”
From both a legal and moral perspective, the central issue in the abortion debate is not “women’s rights” but “human rights,” the “civil rights” of the unborn.
Monday, July 18, 2011
This morning, I read chapter four and five of 1 Peter. This letter was written to a persecuted church (1:6). "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you should share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when the glory is revealed." (1 Peter 4:13 ESV)
A little later I watched a video about Chen Guangcheng , a blind Chinese human rights defender, who served over four years of mistreatment and imprisonment at the hands of the Chinese Communists for exposing 130,000 forced abortions and involuntary sterilizations in Linyi County in 2005. China aborts 13 millions unborn children annually, many of them forced. That is an average of over 35,000 abortions per day.
I couldn't help but contrast Guangcheng's courage and sacrifice with the silence of the American church as over 3,000 unborn babies are aborted each day in the USA. I'll never forget the words of a Broward County pastor explaining why he would not speak about abortion in his church. "Fifty percent of my people would leave."
"We must value our relationship with heaven more than our relationship with the world," says Pastor Walter B. Hoye II who, just a few years ago, spent time in jail for refusing to stop speaking words of life and hope to abortion clients in front of an Oakland California abortion mill.
The gospel is the answer to America's abortion crisis. What America needs to hear is the truth about abortion wrapped in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Taking human life stands at the center of Satan's agenda. Jesus exposed him as a "murderer" (John 8:44) who came "…only to steal and kill and destroy." (John 10:10) Jesus went on to contrast that with His mission, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (John 10:10-11 ESV) There could not be two more diametrically opposed missions. One is bent on taking life, the other sacrificing life to give life – abundant life!
That is the message those contemplating an abortion, those performing an abortion, those who have had an abortion, and those endorsing abortion need to hear. Human life is so precious in God's sight that God clothed himself in our humanity in order to rescue us from the certainty of death. The Gospel has always centered on passing from death to life.
Historically, when the Gospel saturates a culture, the devaluation of human life is reversed as the human heart is regenerated and the transcendent truth of the sanctity of human life is embraced. The current state of America can be attributed to the reversal of that process over the last half century.
For decades now, preachers have feared the man in the pew or the man of the world more than God and His Word. Peter had a message for our day. "Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?" (1 Peter 4:16-17 ESV) A few weeks ago Pastor Rusty Lee Thomas wrote, "God establishes His divine order of judgment. First, He will deal with the Church's complicity and complacency with evil. Afterward, those who advocate and promote evil…"
In light of Peter's warning, let us boldly preach the Gospel to our nation, crying out for mercy and for another spiritual awakening. Historian Keith J. Hardman in his book, The Spiritual Awakeners, writes of America's three Great Awakenings, noting how these awakenings "…energized the churches and poured countless new converts into them…In each of these three periods the church has poured its zeal for righteousness into the bloodstream of the nation…Renewed and empowered Christianity has been the single most important moral factor in making America great."
This remains America's hope. America needs another "infusion of righterousness into" its bloodstream. History can repeat itself, but the way may be paved with suffering. If so, are we willing to pay that price?
(You can see the video of Chen Guangcheng at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpVJidDqVJo)
Saturday, July 2, 2011
This week I received the 2010 abortion statistics for my home state of Florida provided by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration - compiled by gestation weeks and county where the terminations occurred. Good news and bad news. The good - there was a slight drop in the state of Florida totals from 2009 – from 81,919 to 79,908 (2010), an average of 220 babies per day. Broward County, where I live, also saw a small decrease from 2009 – 12,827 to 12,186 (2010), an average of 33 babies per day. Palm Beach County to our north also saw a decrease from 2009 - 5,904 to 5,645 (2010) an average of 15 babies per day. The bad news, to our south, Miami-Dade saw an increase from 2009 – 18,615 to 19,390 (2010) an average of 53 babies per day.
We praise God for every decrease in the slaughter of the innocent, however the loss of life represented in the 2010 report remains staggering – difficult to comprehend. I've yet to hear daily television or radio newscasts report that "Today, sources at the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration reported that another 33 babies were murdered in Broward County while still in their mother's womb." The loss of life continues unabated without notice or comment – as though it wasn't happening!
Michael Spielman (www.abort73.com) has said, “The domestication of abortion has made it tragically commonplace, so much so that we seem to have lost our ability to be outraged by it. How is it that even we who oppose abortion are not more overwhelmed by the fact that it is legal, in the United States of America, to tear apart the tiny bodies of helpless unborn children?” (“A Biblical Mandate to do Something about Abortion”)
Where is the response of the Church in the midst of this holocaust? Where is the moral leadership of its shepherds in a culture of death that encourages and justifies the brutal killing of one's own offspring? Where is the compassionate intervention for those at risk for abortion?
Just days before the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Rev. Flip Benham of Operation Save America (OSA), said, “Abortion will come to an end, when the Church of Jesus Christ makes up her mind it will come to an end – not a second sooner. The responsibility for ending abortion in America rests squarely upon the shoulders of the Church of Jesus Christ.”
His words are consistent with the vision and mission statement of OSA which says in part,
“As the Church changes its heart toward unborn children, God Himself will hear from heaven, forgive our sin, and bring healing to our land. We believe that Jesus Christ is the only answer to the abortion holocaust…There are no cheap political solutions to the holocaust presently ravaging our nation. Like slavery before it, abortion is preeminently a Gospel issue. The Cross of Christ is the only solution.”
How I wish the American Church would embrace that truth. Earlier this week Pastor Rusty Lee Thomas wrote,"…abortion is a national sin that has wrought national calamities. Part of these calamities is good has become evil and evil, good. All of us are either complicit or complacent when it comes to the American holocaust. Our nation is staggering under the weight of blood guilt."
Ultimately, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the solution to America’s abortion crisis. Innocent blood has polluted the land and profaned the name of the Lord. However, there is a greater blood shed at Mount Calvary that can transform the heart of a mother to choose life for her child, and cleanse the guilty - forgive, heal and restore the post-abortive. America needs to hear God’s truth about abortion wrapped in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. His blood is sufficient to cover the sin of abortion - the sin of pushing a girlfriend, wife or daughter into an abortion - the sin of paying for an abortion - the sin of performing an abortion or the sin of doing nothing about abortion.
As we face the national tragedy of abortion, the Church of Jesus Christ faces a great challenge as well as opportunity to make a difference. I am here to serve the Church in that effort.
Rev. Jim McGarvey
Church For Life
Serving the Church in its response to America's abortion crisis as it:
- communicates the message of the sanctity of human life
- ministers healing and restoration to the post-abortive
- provides compassionate help to those at risk for abortion.
The Sanctity of Human Life” a message given on Sanctity of Human Life Sunday January 23, 2011 at Riverside Christian Fellowship at http://www.954church.com/media/sermons?page=6
My PowerPoint message, "Abortion, the Devil & the Church - Exposing the Satanic Forces Behind Abortion" given at Riverside Christian Fellowship, October 4, 2009, online at http://www.rcfonline.org/podcast/page/19/ You can see the PP slides by clicking next to “Notes”
Sunday, June 26, 2011
America should be in fear of God's judgment. Another state has turned its back on the truth - not someone's opinion - but transcendent truth upon which our very existence depends - God's created order for the procreation and survival of the human race. "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…'" (Genesis 1:27,28a ESV) "'…she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.' Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." (Genesis 23b, 24 ESV)
The image of God is stamped upon man and woman. As heterosexual beings they complement one another in the procreation of offspring who in turn bear that same image of God, sustaining generation after generation of human life. The perversion of homosexual sin cancels that process and negates the purpose of God, profaning the glory of the Creator. Once again, as in the murder of the unborn, Satan attempts to deface the image of the God he hates.
We have been warned, "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous." (Hebrews 12:4 ESV)
Thursday, June 9, 2011
In his second letter to the church in Thessalonica, Paul commended the believers for their faithfulness in the face of persecution. He went on to say, "...God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed."
(2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 ESV)
Those are strong words. Paul points out that God's holiness demands justice for those mistreated because they follow Christ, just as His holiness demands justice in the punishment of those who reject Him.
I wonder if the American church is hesitant to proclaim God's judgment because it has experienced little persecution and suffering for its confession. Even a casual reading of the Book of Acts and the letters of Paul lead one to conclude that in his day embracing the Gospel often led to persecution and suffering. It was part of his theology. He advised Timothy, "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2 Timothy 3:12 ESV) His words echo that of Jesus himself. "‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.'” (John 15:18-20 ESV)
Is the American church so comfortable with "easy believism" (I say I follow Christ but without the cost of following Christ), that it has an aversion to hearing about God's judgment of those who reject Christ. The "judgment" message hits too close to home. Could some preachers feel uncomfortable proclaiming God's judgment of those who reject Christ for the same reason that they choose to proclaim a watered down gospel to gain "followers" of Christ.
The danger of "easy believism" is that it leads to presumption (I "say" I am a Christian without the evidence of being a Christian – the Holy Spirit's work of regeneration). Both presumption and unbelief are deceptive. They are equally dangerous. It is interesting that after his words regarding persecution (cited above), Paul went on to say, "…evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived." (2 Timothy 3:13 ESV)
We would do well to heed Paul's warning to Timothy. "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths." (2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV)
How prevalent is this modus operandi in the American church? Are we pandering to "itching ears?" It is pretty obvious today that a "watered down" gospel draws an audience - sometimes a big audience. But in light of Paul's theology, the question we must answer is, "Does that end justify the means?
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Last year I watched a video that documented the persecution of Pakistani Christians by Muslims. I can’t help but compare the witness of those Pakistani Christians with the western church’s aversion to suffering and it’s efforts to promote a more palatable gospel for fear of offending the audience. The contrast is startling - the American church’s quest for acceptance and favor vs. the boldness of the Pakistani in the face of hatred, hostility and death. I wonder which is more Biblical?
Listen to Paul’s perspective - “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation...” (Rom. 1:16 ESV); “...we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles...” (1 Corinthians 1:23). The Jews killed Stephen and James (Acts 7,12). Paul and Barnabas were attacked, stoned and fled for their lives in Iconium (Acts 14); Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned in Philippi (Acts 16); caused a riot in Thessalonica and had to leave Berea when trouble makers followed them there. (Acts 17)
Paul’s ministry in Ephesus resulted in rioting by the followers of Artemis (Acts 19) and a riot followed his appearance in Jerusalem where he was arrested (Acts 21). He told the Corinthians that he was “...afflicted in every way...persecuted...struck down...” (2 Corinthians 4:8 ESV). To what end? “Through suffering, these bodies of ours constantly share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” Then he reiterates his point, “Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be obvious in our dying bodies.” His suffering for the gospel was to the benefit of others - he goes on to say, “So we live in the face of death, but it has resulted in eternal life for you” (2 Cor. 4:10-12 NLT).
What is the lesson for the American church from the early church and the persecuted Pakistanis? The power is in the gospel message, “Christ crucified” - it’s about sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8). It means being reconciled to the fact that we have been warned in advance that the gospel will be opposed, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you...Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.” (John 15:18-20 ESV)
Paul echoed Jesus’ word, “Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 12:12 ESV) When Christians faithfully suffer persecution for the gospel, there is an opportunity to see something that is an enigma to the world - the supernatural life of Jesus Christ visible in the life of the believer. Therein is the power. Christ is lifted up. He becomes preeminent - not the personality, prominence, charisma, stage presence, eloquence, or intelligence of man. No need for compromise, gimmicks, enticements or any other human effort to make the message more attractive. Evidently Paul faced that temptation, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom...” but he held fast, “...but we preach Christ crucified...Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:22,23 ESV) Paul put it this way, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord...we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Corinthians 4:5,7 ESV) Paul relied on the power of God not the cultural relevance of the preacher.
The blood of the martyr, not an accommodating message, will always be the seed of the church. History teaches us that the success of the gospel has never depended on the cleverness or ingenuity of man, nor taking the path of least resistance in its proclamation. Again, we can do no better than follow the Pauline example - “...since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.” (2 Corinthians 13:3,4 ESV)
He revealed his secret to these same Corinthians, linking suffering/weakness and God’s power. As they ministered in the midst of affliction in the province of Asia, he writes, “We were crushed and completely overwhelmed, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we learned not to rely on ourselves, but on God who can raise the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:8,9 NLT) What a contrast to the American church’s quest for relevance by dumbing down the gospel. The success of gospel ministry has never been determined by its acceptance or popularity any more than the notoriety, prominence, power and prestige of its preachers. The longer I preach, the more I realize that what God does is far more important than what I say as I step out of His way. As John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:30 ESV)