Around the world we see persecution on the rise. Or, maybe its just that we are looking more closely at the progression of indifference and apathy here in America. In the countries I have served, especially India, persecutions of Christians has been around for a long time. I have read of great persecution and abuse in China. India, China, Africa and North Korea have the greatest persecution. However, it is in those countries where there is persecution that you find the church of our Lord Jesus Christ growing and growing exponentially. WHY? What is going on in the “church” here in America that we don’t see exponential growth. Why is there so much division.
When I served in India I realized that there was no Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal…it was black vs white, good vs evil, God vs Satan.. AND, Satan and his demons were very evident. The light of believers was very evident. Darkness stood to oppose the light of those Christians. Henceforth much persecution of the believers.
One of the letters in the New Testament, which is called ‘one of the most neglected books in the whole Bible’, is Jude. Jude (or Judas the brother of James, both half brothers of Jesus), sets out in his letter to build up Christians and write about their salvation in Jesus Christ. However, the Holy Spirit directs in a different direction. The apostasy, corruption and tainting of the church of Jesus Christ according to Jude, comes from the inside. Internal rather than eternal persecution. Wherever there is persecution from the outside the church of Jesus Christ, it grows. When the attacks come from the inside, the church, slowing eats itself and eventually dies. It suffocates itself. There is lack of spiritual oxygen so the church suffers asphyxiation.
Jude gives us reasons for the stagnation of the church of Jesus Christ in his day. I believe we can apply those same reasons to the lack of fortitude and strength in our congregations today. Let’s look at those mentioned by Jude.
1. Teachings: The infiltration of false teachers began almost immediately after the start of the church in the book of Acts. In Jude, they were teaching that God’s grace allows us to do whatever we want and His grace will cover. Forgive and forget attitude. God wants us to be happy, right?
This is the attitude in many today. I have a “right” to be happy. So, I can do whatever I want just as long as it makes me happy. Jude 1:4, “…they are against God and have changed the grace of God into a reason for sexual sin…”. Jude reminds them, as we can also learn, that God punished the Israelites for their sins, kicked the angels out of heaven, and cites the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Jude says, these suffered punishment because their constant and continual sin. God doesn’t overlook sin, He deals with it as He will in our age. Paul reminds us that grace is not a license to sin in Romans 6. Plus, in their teachings, they spoke against the lordship of Jesus Christ, Jude v. 4…’they refuse to accept Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord.”
2. Behavior: Once you corrupt the Godly teachings of the apostles and teachings from Jesus himself, ultimately your actions begin to follow. Beliefs dictates our behavior. And to that end Jude levels his most severe condemnation to their behavior. He uses Cain, Balaam and Koran as examples. When we forsake Godly teachings, we follow in the footsteps of Cain (jealousy), Balaam (greed) and Koran (desire for power – overthrow Moses). In all three of these examples given by Jude, show forth in “selfishness”. When people become selfish and think only of themselves the desire for power begins to raise its ugly head in divisions within the body of Jesus Christ. Most of the division I have witnessed within the body has come from one of these ailments: jealousy, greed and selfishness i.e. power. Rather than dive into God’s word for leading and obedience, they regress to their own selfish desires and wants. All 3 were guided by self and caused death to others.
3. Conversation: Once conduct is changed then it begins to express itself in our words. Jude writes, “people complain and blame others, doing the evil things they want to do. They brag about themselves and the flatter others to get what they want” v.16. We must watch what we think and what we say. Our words convey our mindset and eventually into our behavior. Jude says, “these people will divide you, those whose thoughts are only of this world and not of the Holy Spirit.
So, what are we to do to overcome this inside this internal church disease. Jude’s answer is, “dear friends, use your holy faith to build yourselves up, praying in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the Lord Jesus Christ with his mercy to give you life forever.”
Stay in the Word of God. Stay close to Jesus. Keep your eyes on the eternal not on the temporary. Obey the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us stop quoting and following others. Ephesians 5;10, “learn what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the things done in darkness, which are not worth anything. But show that they are wrong.” Empty ourselves of selfish desires for power, greed and jealousy. Stand for what is right. Oppose that what is evil. Let our lights shine and let us be salt in a depraved world. Persecution arises when we Christians do these things. When we don’t. When we fight, devour and eat one another, Satan allows us to desecrate that what God has called holy. Satan allows us to suffocate ourselves.
Let us rise up and BE THE LIGHT and reveal the false teachings. “WAKE UP sleeper! Rise from the death and Christ will shine on you!” Ephesians 5:14.
If not us, WHO? If not now, WHEN? God has no other plan. He is depending upon every Christian to be “Christ like”, live and show the world JESUS!
WILL YOU? How about ME?
Praying for you and your families,