Remember Those In Prison

“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” Hebrews 13:3 ESV

Christian persecution mostly flies under the media radar, despite being global and regular. But international pressure on the Iranian Government in the case of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has changed that—at least for the moment.

If you have not heard of him, you should google the name. He is an Iranian Christian accused of apostasy and scheduled for execution.

The Iranian government does not want the disapprobation of the international community, but they also seem intent on executing Pastor Youcef. For those of us who have elected officials, we have the ability to write them and ask for pressure to be put on the Iranian government for the release of Pastor Youcef, and others like him.

Go to here if you want to see what he did to garner the wrath of the Iranian authorities.

According to a recent article on the Christian Post,

“United States Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.), with the support of seven members of Congress, introduced a resolution into the U.S. House of Representatives Friday that condemns Iran for continuing to imprison pastor Youcef Nadarkhani and calls for his immediate release.
The resolution, called H. Res. 556, is “Condemning the Government of Iran for its continued persecution, imprisonment, and sentencing of Youcef Nadarkhani on the charge of apostasy.”

Seeing the US Congress take action in protesting the Iranian government’s actions is quite encouraging.
If you take the verse listed at the top seriously, there are good resources available to get involved in multiple ways.

First, you should read a report on Youcef’s story.

Second, you could sign the petition at the ACLJ site, backing the Congressional resolution mentioned above:

Thirdly, you could also join the Tweet to save Youcef campaign—if you twitter.

Lastly, if you want to know more about Christian persecution around the globe check out the following:

www.persecution.com is the premier website for such.

www.prisoneralert.com also has lots of info on many other Christians persecuted for their faith. Consider adding some of the brothers and sisters listed on either site to your prayer list.

The book of Hebrews says we need to remember those in prison. That means taking action. How are you going to do that this week?

 

Suffering for God

1 Peter 4:1-2Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.

Jesus suffered a lot during His ministry, especially near the end. The reason that He suffered was because He stood up for what was righteous and godly, and would not be persuaded by the world or its views.

We need to understand that we are not only to stand up for what is godly and righteous in the first place but expect that because we do we will encounter resistance and persecution.

Imagine that the world and its views are a moving river, and Christians are a rock that stands out above the water, not moved by it. The water constantly rushing past causes damage, erosion and the force of the water can even break off pieces of the rock and then what happens? The rock travels down stream with the current.

We need to be strong, no matter how much the world wants us to follow their current, or how much we get pushed or encounter resistance. We need to stay standing strong.

for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin

Peter was not saying that if you are encountering persecution then you have conquered sin. It’s saying that if you come to the point where you are standing up for what is right enough that the world lashes out at you, then it is likely that you are living a life that is uncompromising in your position to the world.

Also a person who suffers greatly for Christ is likely to have such an impact on their life that they come to the point of hating sin. Persecution tends to give one the desire to serve God even more!

1 Peter 4:3-5For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles – when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.
In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.
They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

We spent too much time living like the rest of the world, we don’t need it anymore. Now our main focus needs to be on serving Christ, not any desire of this world. The people in this world are doing things purposely against God; we need to stay far from it. We all used to do the same stuff, trapped in the same sins, but Jesus Christ freed us. We were once lost in this dark world but thank the Lord that he turned on the light for us and showed us the way.

After all of that, why would we want to go back into the darkness? The world will think that we are weird because we do not do what they do. They will make fun of you and make it seem like you are just wasting your time, it’s no big deal if you go to a club with some friends, it’s no harm to just joke around about sex and use crude language. But it is a big deal and God will deal with each and every person one day.

When you are tempted, or someone is making it seem like you are just being silly because of your belief, they may get you to think that it’s no big deal, but it is!!! Don’t give in. Stand up for righteousness, and you will be rewarded in a lot better way than getting a buzz from drinking or from temporary physical pleasures from pornography or adultery.

1 Peter 4:6For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

After Jesus died on the cross, but before the resurrection, Jesus went to Hades to preach to the people that were there. There are two compartments in Hades, one was the place of torture, the other is called Abraham’s bosom. Jesus preached to both compartments, one he preached judgment (Peter mentions it earlier in his letter) the other He preaches the gospel. Even though they (and us now) were judged by men for what they did, because they lived to follow God they were rewarded by God!

Verses 7-11 go slightly off subject before it gets back on track, so I’m going to move on to verse 12 right now. Be sure you go back and read it when we are done though!

1 peter 4:12-13Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;
but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when his glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.

We all know that it’s nothing strange when we are tested or tempted. We go through trials all the time and we need to be prepared for it. Instead of complaining or worrying about it, we need to be glad that we are going down the same road that our Lord did. No matter how hard of a time we have with situations, we do rejoice once we see the glory of God coming through in a situation. No matter how tough we have it, as long as God is receiving Glory then we can rejoice!

1 Peter 4:14If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.

We are glorified when we suffer for Christ. Peter even gives a blessing to those who suffer for Him! God’s blessings are so great, aren’t they? By suffering for God, we show that we have the Spirit of God in us.

1 Peter 4:15-16But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters.
Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.

What good is it to suffer for doing wrong? If you are being punished because you murdered someone then you are just like anybody else from the world. But we stand out from the world, we are not like everyone else, we suffer not because we do something wrong, but because we are dedicated to following Christ!

1 Peter 4:17-18For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?
Now “if the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”

Just because someone goes to church doesn’t make them a Christian. Here we have a warning that there will be judgment among the church. Those who live righteous lives, but don’t follow Christ or abide in Him, those who never put their faith IN Jesus, they will be judged. How much more will the ungodly and those not in churches be judged?

When you think of those being judged, remember that they are spending eternity in Hell! An eternity separated from God. What are you doing to minimize the amount of people that die without God? Are you living comfortably, or living a busy life only to gain wealth for yourself? Or are you doing things to make an impact on the kingdom of God?

1 Peter 4:19Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.

Commit yourself fully to the Lord, no matter what those around you think! You will not regret it. I have never heard a Christian say that they are glad they waited so long before they came to Christ. It’s like putting away money for savings, you can never start too early and when you do start, you wish you would have started years before.

We have such a faithful Creator, commit yourself fully to serving Him. No matter how much the world stands in the way or tries to distract you. This will not only help you, but bring Glory to God almighty!

Is War Wrong According to the Bible?

I. IntroductionII. The Power of the Sword

Romans 13:1-7 “1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise
from the same. 4For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. 5Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. 6For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. 7Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

-As Christians, whose citizenship in the Kingdom of God takes precedence over our citizenship as Americans, our views ought to be based, not on political loyalties, but on the unchanging truths of God’s Word. We should base what we believe on God and what He has said because Truth does not change, whereas cultural and political views and movements do.

-The aim of this article is to see what the Bible says about the right use of force and when, if ever, war is justified.

-Generally Christians fall into 2 camps when it comes to the subject of war
1)Those who support the idea of a just war because they read in the Old Testament of God’s command to Israel to make war, specifically the command to make a conquest of the land of Canaan.
2)Those who oppose war based on the 6th Commandment not to murder, and on Jesus’ teaching and modeling of non-violence in the New Testament.

-The governing authority at the time this verse was written was Rome.

-Paul recognized the God-ordained role of civil government and called on Christians to honor and submit to it. (verse 1)

-Paul is saying that civil government is ordained by God. God appoints the office of rulers over others because there is a need for it. That need exists because of the advent of sin during the Fall.

-Without an authority structure in place, the sinfulness of man, manifested in his
selfishness, will result in constant conflict.

-Paul equates a refusal to submit to the authority of civil rulers as nothing less than opposition to God Himself. (verse 2) Why? Because God ordained the civil rulers to maintain order. It is part of His Will for us on earth to answer to these governmental authorities.

-It is the duty of the ruled to be subject to the God-ordained authority of civil rulers.

-God ordains civil government to support what is morally good while suppressing evil. (v. 3)
-Authority is empty if it is not backed up by force.
-The sword is the “compelling power” to authority.

-Authority refers to the legal right. Force speaks of the ability to do so. For example, a policeman has a badge showing he has the legal right to enforce the law, and he has a gun which serves as the means by which he enforces it. His gun makes the authority of the badge effective.

-God ordains civil government both authority and the power to back up that authority.

-We must recognize and honor the expressions of God’s authority, and that is what civil rulers are.

-Since submission to civil rulers is seen as a submission to God according to the Bible, then a defiance of civil rulers is likewise a defiance toward God.

-What about those civil rulers who hate God and place terrible demands on people?

It is interesting to look back at the persecution of early Christians and notice that those who were being persecuted did not defy the authority and become full out protestors; the early Christians instead displayed a quiet, gentle humility toward the executioners who were abusing them. Although the Christians disobeyed the law by refusing to worship and call Caesar god, they were obeying the spirit behind the laws given…a spirit of humility and submission to the laws of God. As a result of their quiet, yet strong spirits, many of their executioners became Christians also because they saw how good and upright the Christians were and how they humbly submitted to the sentence given them by the government as opposed to non-Christian law breakers.

-Christians not only owe a debt of submission and respect to civil rulers, they owe them support. This support is shown through the paying of taxes.

-Taxes are us affirming the God ordained role of government and showing our recognition of God’s authority through government.

-What about governments who misuse taxes? Should we stop paying taxes because we do not agree with what the government is doing with them? No, we should continue to pay our taxes regardless of what the government does with the money because God is the ultimate judge and these civil authorities will ultimately be judged and held accountable for their actions when we all will stand before His throne.

-Our duty as Christians right now is to obey the laws of God given through civil government.

The Use of Force

-Paul sees the proper or just use of the “sword” as being the restraint and punishment of evil.

-Because we live in a fallen world, force is necessary to restrain those who are doing evil, and when they perpetrate evil, to punish them.

-God will spiritually judge individuals for the evil they do by eternal means.
But He also judges evil in the here and now through human agents.

-Justice and Love are not mutually exclusive. True justice always comes to bring out the most perfect virtue: love. True justice seeks to restrain evil so that love and peace can prevail.

-God is NOT opposed to the use of force if it is used to a just end. In fact, Jesus will judge with a “rod of iron” in the Millenium where justice will be perfect and swift (no lawyers, no juries, no long drawn out trials…Jesus will use force swiftly to bring about peace and justice).

The Doctrine of “Just War”

The “Just War” must…

1) Have just cause (ie. restraining evil or punishing evil doers; or preventing imminent evil harm from occurring).

2) Be declared by a proper authority (not just anyone can declare war).

3) Possess right intention (ie. to redress an injury or prevent one from occurring).

4) Have a reasonable chance of success (there must be a good enough reason to risk the lives of troops)

5) Have as its ultimate goal the establishment of peace in a region.

6) Be waged with means proportional to the end.

7) Use weapons and methods which discriminate between combatants and non-combatants.

-What about what Jesus said on the Sermon on the Mount? Matthew 5:39 Or what about Luke 6:35, Exodus 20:13, Psalm 34:14, and Matthew 5:9?

-In Romans 13, Paul is identifying the God-ordained role of civil government and the way believers relate to it. The previous verses, on the other hand, deal with interpersonal relationships, not the role of the civil government….it’s apples and oranges.

-The 6th commandment prohibits MURDER, not killing. Murder is the premeditated, purposeful taking of a life (or lives) without the legal justification or authority to do so.

-Civil rulers have a God-ordained task with the delegated power to back it up–the protection of those they serve by leading them. Police are delegated to do this on a local level, and civil government is authorized to do this on a national and global level.

-A strong and capable military acts as a restraint to evil.

III. ConclusionSometimes War is Necessary!

War that’s waged to protect a nation’s citizens from imminent harm is the proper function of civil government.

Our Calling

No matter how good the world may be doing, it is ever the role of the church to stand as a prophetic voice, separate from the world and separate from the government, calling the world to an even greater degree of righteousness.

-Churches should NOT buddy up with any political view or movement. Our duty as Christians is to stand to the side calling others to the cause of the Kingdom of Christ. We are not Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, or Green Peace in God’s eyes; we are Christians and should act likewise.