by Mike Ratliff
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. (Colossians 1:24-26 ESV)
In light of the slaughter of the missionaries and pastors in Turkey last week, A letter to the global Church from the Protestant Church of Smyrna, I believe we need to reexamine the role of persecution and suffering in the Gospel. Also, we must agree that God is very actively awakening His people who are in the Scarlet Woman. Persecution comes to Christians who are truly obedient to their Lord. When they obey Him they do not practice empty religion, but, instead, they pursue holiness, abide in Christ, and are Spirit-led, hence their lives are Christlike and this does three things. It brings the wrath of the enemy down on them in various forms of persecution. Their suffering glorifies God and it fills up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.
If you haven’t read Foxes Book of Martyrs, I suggest that you do. The resemblance to the persecution of the martyrs John Foxe wrote of to what happened in Turkey last week is uncanny. Why does the world hate the Gospel? It hates it because it is not of the world and cannot be discerned by people who are in their sins and are of the flesh. Only by the Holy Spirit working in the hearts of people can they understand spiritual things correctly. In the United States, at least right now, we can proclaim our faith and live Christian lives and not have to worry about people killing us. However, in most of the World, its okay to be religious, but it isn’t okay to be a Christian who shares his or her faith. Why is there a difference? Why is it that Christians in China are arrested and tortured, but in the United States, we don’t? The worst that happens to us here for being active in our faith is disdain or ridicule or being falsely accused. I contend that the reason we don’t suffer as they do in China is for two reasons. God has given us an environment in the United States where Christianity is not seen as a threat. The other reason is that we don’t actively proclaim the gospel and live godly lives, as we should. We don’t live out what we proclaim. The reason those Christians in Turkey were tortured and killed was that they did actively proclaim the gospel no matter that they were in the midst of people who hated Christianity. Their ministries were bearing fruit. Those who instigated that attack hoped to intimidate Christians. However, that is not how God operates.
Our God is sovereign. The suffering and death of those men was horrible, but their lives were poured out before the Lord as an acceptable offering. They are with Him now. They experienced the persecution intended for Christ. Jesus died on the cross, but He is still the most persecuted person who has ever lived. Christ’s enemies still want to attack Him in order to injure Him. Therefore, they turn their wrath on those who preach the gospel and are, therefore, bearing the image of their Lord.
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, ◙but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. (John 15:18-24 ESV)
As Paul, and all others who obediently live out their faith by the power of the Holy Spirit, proclaim the gospel they will suffer persecution and fill up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions, but it will be for God’s purpose and according to His will.
3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5 ESV)
17From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. (Galatians 6:17 ESV)
Part of the outcome of our suffering and persecution that comes when we truly Christlike lives, is God drawing others to our Lord. Christ drew people to Him in His ministry, but drew millions of others to Him through His death on the cross. When Christians suffer persecution God uses that to draw people from darkness to light. Persecution does not eradicate Christianity. Instead, the more Christians suffer, the stronger the “Church” is wherever that is. On the other hand, where Christianity carries with it little, if any, resistance, the “Church” becomes weak, cold, dead, and nothing more than empty religiosity. Christianity is strong when it is turning the world upside down. It is weak when it is in power and institutionalized. In China, the Christians who are being persecuted are in house churches. It is perfectly legal to go to the churches that are certified by the government. But, these people defiantly meet in small groups, fellowship, study the Bible then walk before the face of God the rest of the time as salt and light. There is always the danger of being arrested, beaten, tortured, or killed. However, through their suffering, God draws millions to Christ.
Today, the Scarlet Woman dominates Christianity in the United States. However God is drawing His Remnant out of her. They are being awakened and matured and shown that the eternal is the true reality. As those of us who have been awakened, cleansed, and drawn into the light obey our Lord, we will undoubtedly draw fire from those who hate the light and love the darkness. However, another group will also hate us. That group is made up of those who are in the Scarlet Woman who love her. They love their religiosity. They have a form of godliness, but deny its power. They love their God and their Jesus whom they have created from their own imaginations, but neither are the God or Jesus from the Bible. These will also hate those who tell the truth and are used by God to draw others from the Scarlet Woman into the Remnant. This will eventually bring persecution. That of course would require he Scarlet Woman to be politically aligned with those in power at that time. But that is for another time…