by Mike Ratliff
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16 NASB)
Western Christians, especially American Christians, are, for the most part, double minded. Materialism, humanism, and liberalism have so contaminated them that they believe that they will never be persecuted for their faith. It is as if the idea that persecution for being a Christian is unthinkable. In many parts of the World persecution is actually becoming worse. It is estimated that over 16,000 Christians are martyred each year. However, in the USA Christians are more concerned about Football or TV shows or money or possessions than contending for the faith.
Widespread violent persecution has not yet become commonplace in the USA, however, it is only a matter of time before that will not be so. As I pondered this today I began to wonder about how those nominal Christians, professing Christians who are simply religious, would react if they were threatened with physical abuse or death if they did not recant. Historically, the Church of Jesus Christ is at its healthiest when it is persecuted. Why is this so? There will be no nominal professors if professing Christ can result in a death sentence or a loss of status or rights. No, only genuine regenerate believers will follow Christ even unto death.
What about sharing the Gospel? We are called to share our faith to contend for the faith and preach Jesus to all who will hear even in the face of a world that hates Him and His Gospel. What about when facing open hostility towards the Gospel?
I remember being trained in Evangelism Explosion back in the late 1980’s. After I got my certificate, I was asked to be a trainer. One visit from that time sticks out in my mind whenever I think about dealing with those who hate the Gospel. I took my two trainees to visit a man who lived in an apartment across town from our church. After knocking on the door we were invited in after we told the fellow in that apartment we were from our church and why we had come. I shared the Gospel with him after he told us that he had no idea about his spiritual condition in response to the first diagnostic question.
I prayed with him at the end and we visited awhile. He asked for a Bible and a way to study it. I promised to bring those to him in a day or two. We returned a couple of days later to give him the Bible and a bible reading plan. However, he did not answer the door this time, his wife did. She had not been there when we came before. I identified myself and showed her what I had for her husband. Her countenance became very hostile. She called us some names I will not repeat here. She threatened us and told us to leave and never come back. She would not let us visit her husband. He was sitting in the living room. I could see him in there with his head hung down staring at the floor. We left. I have never felt so hollow, empty, and sad in my life.
What should our reaction be when we meet this sort of hostility towards the Gospel. It doesn’t have to be threats. I get more than my fair share of people wanting to use human reasoning or logic in an attempt to discredit the genuine Gospel. How should we respond? I contend that we never stop being obedient in sharing our faith and telling the truth. Why?
18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
“ I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-19 NASB)
We should look at sharing our faith as an obligation. Look at what we have! We have eternal life and none of us deserve it. Shouldn’t we be about sharing the good news that sinful people can be saved from the penalty for their sins?
14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “ But the righteous man shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:14-17 NASB)
Paul’s example is that no matter what hostility or mocking he encountered while sharing the Gospel, it did not deter him from being obedient. Why? To him, and it should be for us, the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. Therefore, our role is to be the peacemakers who bring people to the Lord to be reconciled unto Him. It should be far more important to endure the abuse in order to share the Gospel than it is to be silent for the sake of “peace.”
Could it be painful to do this? Absolutely! Could it be dangerous? In some parts of the World, yes! Could it cost friendships and relationships? Possibly! However, we must count the cost. What is more important, obedience or a false peace? We are to live by faith. What does that mean? It means we walk by faith not by sight. We obey even in the face of persecution. We are heavenly minded instead of temporally minded.
What is to be then? This false peace between genuine faith and the world and its ways can’t last forever. Eventually, the world will turn on us. Are you ready? Now is the time to learn to walk this way. When the persecution starts it will be for real. We must be prepared. That means that we must become Spirit-filled. (Ephesians 5) We have been looking at the truth that genuine believers must walk in the fear of the Lord. If we do that, we will not be afraid of anything or anyone else. However, if we walk in the fear of man, we will be temporally minded and useless in the battle. Come; let us get serious about this walk. Time is short.
Soli Deo Gloria!