Persecution: What the Future Holds – Owen Strachan

What the Future Holds by Owen Strachan | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-August-2015The fourth featured article in the August issue of Tabletalk on the theme of persecution is written by Dr. Owen Strachan, associate professor of Christian theology and church history at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY and president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Dr. Strachan addresses “What the Future Holds” in his article, and he presents a very realistic picture of what Christians can expect in this country. He lays out four main points, all of which are worth reading and contemplating.

What I really appreciated, however, was the way in which Strachan closed out his thoughts. These words especially, it seems to me, are worth our careful pondering.

There will be no retreat of the church. We will never stop witnessing unto life. We will never cease to minister the gospel. We will not forget the holy Apostles. We remember how they welcomed the jail cell, the Roman prison ship, the hair-raising tribunal. In any and all settings, they preached Christ. They went so far as to believe that God had not only permitted such moments, but had appointed them for His glory (Acts 5:41). They saw suffering with Christ as a privilege, much as this challenges our material sensibilities. We must not forget that if the church is unsettled, it is not by accident. It is by divine design, and it will be used for divine purposes.

While we live, like the priests of old in fallen Jerusalem, we may weep (Ezra 3:11–13). We cannot forget the millions of babies driven into the afterlife at abortion clinics. We cannot erase the suffering felt in fatherless homes and families detonated by selfish sin and bitter divorce. We cannot help but think back to past days, happy days, that celebrated the good of religious people and did not seek their undoing. All these trends speak to fallenness. All of them deserve our tears.

We will weep. But we will also dry our eyes. We will rise to our feet. Whether in a gated community, a busy city, a tense workroom, a chilly playgroup, or a prison cell, we will never cease to speak and to minister the gospel. The gospel was not made for quiet days and easy questions. It was made for the toughest stuff, the worst of times, the hardest of circumstances.

What does the future hold? The future will bring suffering. The days will be evil, as they have been (Eph. 5:16). But the future is bright, because God is real. The church must take heart. We have a living Lord. When history concludes, we will reign with unbroken bodies in a world of love. We will worship the Lamb of God, slain from before the foundation of the earth. There is no life like this life. There is no hope like this hope. There is no God like our God.

“…There can be no true zeal for the church without spiritual warfare against sin.” – A.Kuyper

Fight we must, constantly, without rest. Every child of God is a soldier of Jesus Christ, called as were the Levites of old to war the warfare of the Lord. And every office bearer must know that as he takes office he enters into that warfare.

It is a warfare for God, against Satan. It is a participation in the war which God himself wages against Satan, and which God’s holy angels wage against Satan’s angel-hosts. The war of the world against the King of glory. The war of the spirit against the flesh.  War within us and without. War which emanates from God and is directed against the might of Satan, the world, death, sin, deceit, and the lusts of the flesh.

Therefore it is a war of every one who is anointed with the Holy Spirit. He must fight with Christ, for Christ, and under the leadership of Christ.

…It is evident, then, that there can be no true zeal for the church without spiritual warfare against sin.

Zeal for the church, however pious it may appear to be, is abominable hypocrisy if it goes hand in hand with neglect of spiritual warfare against such enemies of God as lying, uncleanness, self-righteousness, cold-heartedness.

Some there are who pretend to be faithful watchmen upon Zion’s walls but harbor such sins in their own hearts, or overlook them in their children and fellow-church members.

They are unfaithful.

For they allow the enemy free play within. They cry out against the danger of the wolf howling outside the walls, while a pack of wolves is busily devouring the sheep within!

This is not real devotion to the cause of Christ. Nor does it reveal true faith.

PracticeofGodliness-AKuyper-1948-2Dr. Abraham Kuyper in the chapter titled “The Church of Jesus Christ” (and the section headed by “Fighting the Good Fight”), found in The Practice of Godliness, (translated and edited by Marian M. Schoolland; Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1948), pp.57-58.

Persecution around the World – Dave Furman

Persecution around the World by Dave Furman | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-August-2015The third featured article on persecution in the August Tabletalk is pastor Dave Furman’s. His article focuses on the worldwide persecution taking place currently, including in his own country of Dubai, where he is serving as pastor.

After describing a case very close to his church, Furman broadens his scope, pointing out concrete ways in which Christians are experiencing persecution throughout the world.

Part of his article is headed by the words “Our Hope in Persecution”, and it is from that section that I quote today. Referencing 1 Peter 4:13-14, Furman makes the following comforting comments:

There is blessing for the persecuted and there is cause for rejoicing.

We have hope in persecution because we are made for another place. We are “citizens” of heaven (Phil. 3:20). We are by nature strangers, foreigners, and even exiles in this world (1 Peter 1:1). Our eternal passport is not Kenyan, Indian, Filipino, or Canadian. In God’s kingdom, we no longer receive our identities from the place we were born, but from the place into which we were born again for all eternity. This is why the world doesn’t feel like home. This is why we face persecution: we’re of another place.

Fellow Christian, a day is coming when there will be no more sickness and death. No more imprisonments and slander. We will not suffer the anxiety of car bombs or kidnappings. The downtrodden and depressed will sing of their never-ending gladness in Jesus. God will dwell among us forever.

The gospel is good news for the persecuted because there is nothing we can do to lose God’s grip on our lives. Peter says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18). The gospel is not about getting you to heaven—it’s about getting you to God. The good news of the gospel is that we get God. I’ve often heard R.C. Sproul say that a better way to describe the doctrine of perseverance of the saints is to say the “preservation of the saints.” God won’t stop short of bringing us home. Even though our bodies might be destroyed on this earth, God will keep us to the end. We can entrust our souls to the living God of the universe (1 Peter 4:19). Our inheritance is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us by God Himself. It is guarded through God’s power (1:3–4).

As persecution increases – including here in the U.S., it is good for us to remember these truths.

Prayers of the Reformers (3) – Calvin and Coverdale

prayersofreformers-manschreckThe following two prayers I came across today while browsing further through the wonderful collection of prayers titled, Prayers of the Reformers, compiled by Clyde Manschreck and published by Muhlenberg Press in 1958 (for the previous post on this, visit this page).

I was looking for some that would tie in with the quote from Abraham Kuyper in my previous post. You will be able to see how the following two prayers relate to Kuyper’s comments about working and waiting in connection with the return of our Lord.

The first is a prayer of John Calvin, and given the title “For the growth of the church” by the editor:

Grant, almighty God, since thou dost try the faith of thy people by many tests, that they may obtain strength from the unconquered fortitude of thy Holy Spirit. May we constantly march under thy standard, even to the end, and never succumb to any temptation. May we join intelligence with zeal in building up thy church. As each of us is endowed with superior gifts, so may he strive for the edification of his brethren with greater boldness, manliness, and fervor, while he endeavors to add numbers to the cause. And should the number diminish, yet may some seed always remain, until abundant produce shall flow forth from it, and such fruitfulness arise as shall cause thy name to be glorified throughout the world, in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The second is a prayer of Miles Coverdale, and headed by the words “For steadfastness in vocation”:

O Lord Jesus Christ, our Shield and Protector, grant us grace steadfastly to continue in our holy vocation, and to abide in thy service; that through no tediousness or sloth may we shrink or cease from the fervency of good works and holy exercises; that we, being always ready with watching and prayer, may steadfastly stand, and with a constant mind despise all bodily provocations, showing patience in adversity, not fearing the slanderers and despiteful words of the world; that in the only eternal wealth we may set all our trust, and never go back from the cross for wealth or woe; but that under the same banner, through true patience, meekness, and obedience, we may finish our life with a blessed end. Amen.

A History of Persecution – George Grant – August “Tabletalk”

A History of Persecution by George Grant | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-August-2015This month’s issue of Tabletalk centers on the theme of persecution – persecution against Christians and the Christian church.

The second main article on this subject covers the history of persecution, and is written by Dr. George Grant, pastor of Parish Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Franklin, TN. I found this broad treatment to be profitable and provide you the link to it here on the Ligonier website.

Here are a few paragraphs from Grant’s article:

The horrific ruthlessness of ISIS, the brazen cruelty of Boko Haram, the obsessive repression of the North Korean Juche, the vicious terrorism of al-Qaeda—I confess that when confronted with the persecution of my Christian brothers and sisters around the world in recent days, I am shocked. But I know I shouldn’t be. Long ago, the Apostle Paul asserted, “All those who desire to live godly lives will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). There is no way around it. Persecution is inevitable.

Throughout church history, believers have suffered persecution and obscurity. They have been beaten, ridiculed, defrocked, and defamed. They have suffered poverty, isolation, betrayal, and disgrace. They have been hounded, harassed, and murdered. The heroes of the faith have always been those who sacrificed their lives, fortunes, and reputations for the sake of the gospel. Indeed, persecution and martyrdom have been among the church’s highest callings and greatest honors.

In the first three centuries of the church, from Nero to Diocletian, Roman imperial and provincial persecutions were fierce. Tradition tells us of gladiators in the Colosseum, lions in the Circus Maximus, and staked pyres in the Forum as threatening the earliest believers. They were forced into a precarious, often secretive existence, living on the margins of society and meeting in catacombs, caverns, and copse (thicket of trees) hideaways. Yet they persevered. As Tertullian quipped, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

I also appreciated this section at the end of the article, where Grant treats how Christians must respond to persecution:

Merciful service in the face of suffering is “often the glue that holds together the varied fragments of the confessing church,” Romanian pastor Josef Tson says. It affords the church “strong bonds of unity, compassion, and tenderheartedness,” Russian evangelist Georgi Vins says. “In the face of tyranny, oppression, and humiliation, the church has no option but to be the church,” Croatian pastor Josep Kulacik asserts. “Disguised as evil, persecution comes to us as an ultimate manifestation of God’s good providence,” Bosnian Christian leader Frizof Gemielic says, “because it provokes us toward a new-found dependence upon His grace, upon His Word, and upon His people. It is in that sense a paradoxical blessing perhaps even more profound than prosperity.”

August “Tabletalk “: What Is Christian Persecution? Tom Ascol

What Is Christian Persecution? by Tom Ascol | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-August-2015This past weekend I began digging into the new issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries devotional magazine. While the daily devotions continue to take one through the wisdom literature of the Bible, focusing on the theme of worship, the featured articles are on the theme of persecution.

Editor Burk Parsons introduces this subject with his editorial “Blessed are the Persecuted.” After pointing out that here in America opposition to Christians and the Christian faith is on a rapid rise, he encourages us with these words:

As Christians of conviction, we will continue to fight for our constitutional freedoms. Yet, in the final analysis, we must always remember that ultimately we fight not against men but against the spiritual forces of evil (Eph. 6:12). Ultimately, we fight on our knees, praying for all who are in authority over us (1 Tim. 2:2). We are citizens of our nations, and we are citizens of Christ’s kingdom. As such, we can pray for national leaders even when we must vote against them. We pray for the persecuted and for our persecutors. We love our enemies while praying for their defeat—their coming to the end of themselves in repentance and faith (Matt. 5:44; Rom. 12:13; 1 Cor. 4:12–13).

In the face of persecution, we must not lose hope. We must not fear our enemies but fear the Lord as we stand our ground in the battle ahead. Jesus told us we would be persecuted, but He also told us He has overcome the world (Matt. 5:10–12; John 16:33). Regardless of whether we ever die as martyrs for our faith, we are all witnesses of Christ. Though they may imprison us, shun us, despise us, or kill us, they can never really hurt us. For we conquer by dying—humbly dying to self that we may, under any persecution our Lord sovereignly allows, boldly proclaim Christ and Him crucified. And when we are persecuted for Christ’s sake, not for being obnoxious, we can count ourselves blessed. As Charles Spurgeon said, “Christians are not so much in danger when they are persecuted as when they are admired.”

The first main article on persecution is by Dr. Tom Ascol and has the titled found above – “What Is Christian Persecution?” Here are a few of his profitable thoughts on this topic:

So, Christian persecution can include a wide variety of responses to believers—from scorn, hatred, and ridicule to physical violence, imprisonment, and death. But for such opposition, no matter how mild or severe, to be regarded as persecution in the biblical sense, it must be provoked by the believer’s devotion to Jesus Christ and His righteousness.

This helps make sense of Paul’s statement that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12) and Jesus’ promise that His followers will face persecution “for my sake and for the gospel” (Mark 10:29–30). Every Christian should expect to experience persecution, not all in the same way, but all for the same reason—because of uncompromising devotion to Jesus.

Our Lord experienced opposition. Hatred against Him led to His crucifixion. Those who follow Him must realize that by identifying with Jesus, we are inviting into our lives the very opposition that came against Him. He said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18).

Followers of a persecuted master will themselves be persecuted. When we intentionally live according to the way of Christ, we can count on meeting opposition from those who hate Christ. Whether that opposition comes in severe forms of physical violence, imprisonment, and loss of life or in comparatively benign forms of a low grade on a school paper, loss of position on a sports team, or being mocked by family and friends, if it is provoked by submission to Christ and obedience to His commands, it is Christian persecution.

For the full article, use the Ligonier link above.

Western Michigan and the Dutch Immigrants – H.Brinks

write-back-soon-hbrinks-1986From chapter two of Herbert J. Brinks’ book Write Back Soon: Letters from Immigrants in America (CRC Publications, 1986), about the Dutch immigrants who settled in West Michigan:

By the 1870s Dutch communities in Michigan, Chicago,and Wisconsin boasted ethnic churches and schools supported by a constituency of artisans and farmers. Arriving in these neighborhoods between 1870 and 1920, new immigrants found their own people, language, and institutions. By the mid-twentieth century, when urban blight spoiled the attractions of city life, many urban Dutch-Americans joined their country cousins who had established agricultural communities on the metropolitan fringes. These new suburbanites were again able to enjoy familiar social patterns, including the churches, schools, and general mores they had previously supported in their urban neighborhoods.

This conveniently pleasant arrangement of urban-rural mobility occurred first in western Michigan. Albertus C.. Van Raalte, who founded his colony on the shores of Lake Michigan, had neither planned nor encouraged this arrangement. But economic necessity forced his followers to send their children off among the Americans as hired hands, housemaids, and factory workers. They scattered in all directions; Allegan, Grand Haven, and Grand Rapids. Among these, Grand Rapids offered the best opportunities for employment. In addition, a pious Zeelander named H. Van Driel had already organized a Dutch-language worship service there in 1848. Thus, only one year after Van Raalte’s people occupied the wooded shore of Black Lake, Van Driel was reading Dutch sermons to an audience which included over one hundred young women who were providing domestic service among the American families of Grand Rapids. By 1851, it is estimated that a total of four hundred Hollanders were living in Grand Rapids.

“Michigan: A Model for Ethnic Solidarity” (pp.25-26)

Humanism and the 15th Century Church: Erasmus and the Greek NT – R.Reeves

Setting the Stage by Ryan Reeves | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

Before taking leave of the July issue of Tabletalk, we will spend one more post looking at the history of the church during the 15th century – the theme of this month’s issue.

Dr. Ryan Reeves has the final featured article on the subject and he gives us another “big picture” glance at this important century of church history.

ErasmusHis entire article is worth your time and effort – lots of new things to learn or be reminded of as far as major events during this time; but I will give you the end of his article because of the special significance of a certain Dutchman whom God used to set the stage for the Reformation in a special way, and whom a certain great Reformer would engage theologically and biblically on the doctrine of free will (Remember the great Reformation work The Bondage of the Will?!).

Sensing the opportunity to expand learning and literacy, the humanists unleashed a torrent of writing on theology, Bible, classical studies, and history. Of all the humanists, Erasmus of Rotterdam was their prince. Born in 1466 as the illegitimate son of a priest, Erasmus demonstrated skill with languages and textual criticism that propelled him onto the stage as a leading light of the new intellectual movement of the Renaissance. In the course of his life, Erasmus gave the world complete editions of the works of the church fathers as well as numerous tracts on theological subjects.

By far his most impactful work was the Greek New Testament—a work he admitted was gathered in a slapdash manner from twelfth-century Byzantine texts, with some passages wrongly added to the Bible and six verses of the book of Revelation missing entirely. The Greek New Testament was something like a modern interlinear Bible. In one column was the Greek text; next to it was a fresh Latin translation by Erasmus. Not only did this provide readers with the original Greek, but it also provided a road map for students to help determine how to render the Greek into their language. It is no surprise, then, that Luther used this text as the basis of his German New Testament, which he translated after his trial at the Diet of Worms.

Through destruction and exploration, the fifteenth century did more than bridge the gap between the medieval age and the modern world; it set the stage for the Reformation.

 

“To desire peace at the expense of truth is hypocrisy and weakness – and highly displeasing to God. ” ~ Abraham Kuyper

Moreover, there can be no real and lasting peace in the church of God without full harmony of opinions and belief. If doctrines were so toned down and moderated that they were capable of more than one interpretation, those who differed in opinion would still argue and each would do all he could to uphold and spread his own interpretation. For what a man conscientiously accepts as truth, he desires others to believe also. The false unity would not last.

We must indeed seek peace, with all earnestness. Bitterness, ill will, malice, and love of dispute should never characterize a Christian in his defense of the truth. Instead, there should be a sincere interest in the honor of God and in the well-being of our fellowmen. Paul says, ‘As much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men’ [Rom.12:18].

But when he says, ‘As much as lieth in you’ he plainly implies that sometimes peace is impossible. When peace is injurious to the truth, peace must give way. Peace with God is of greater value than peace with men. To desire peace at the expense of truth is hypocrisy and weakness – and highly displeasing to God.

Having then purified your souls in obeying the truth through the spirit, unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently [1 Pet.1:22]. Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love: endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace [Eph.4:1-3].

And the God of mercy and peace, the God of order and unity, grant that we may be of one mind and may together praise Him in unity of faith, now and eternally.

PracticeofGodliness-AKuyper-1948-2Dr. Abraham Kuyper in the chapter titled “The Church of Jesus Christ”, found in The Practice of Godliness, (translated and edited by Marian M. Schoolland; Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1948), pp.51-52.

The Museum of the Bible: The Bible in America: Pilgrims, Puritans, and Patriots

▶ The Bible in America: Pilgrims, Puritans, and Patriots – Norm Conrad – YouTube.

I have mentioned the collection of Steve Green (Hobby Lobby founder ) and the coming of his “Museum of the Bible” in Washington, D.C. before (here), but now as it gets closer, they are promoting its incredible collection through videos. I give you two of them today – well worth watching and learning more about this wonderful library.

Here’s the introduction to the first video:

Published on Jul 10, 2015

Filmed at Museum of the Bible’s lecture series in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on July 2, 2015. Norm Conrad, Curator of Americana and English Bibles for Museum of the Bible, presents a fascinating study of the Bible in early American history. He uses many fascinating examples from the Green Collection to illustrate what role the Bible played during the time America gained its independence from England.

If you wish to view a video presenting an overview of the Museum of the Bible, watch this video – fascinating!

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