This month, our devotional has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free, compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from Nicolae Gheorgita (Romanian Baptist pastor, characterized by simplicity and servitude), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
Do not be surprised at the painful trial that you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. (1 Peter 4:12)
Sometimes God uses atheists to prove that the Bible is true. One day the secret police came to my house and confiscated many Christian books. I was summoned to appear for investigation the following day. A military prosecutor and four secret police officers questioned me for 10 hours; they then asked me if there was anything else for which I would like to confess, so I said 'Sir, this investigation does not take me by surprise because I knew this would happen. The Lord Jesus Christ told His followers that they would be arrested and suffer if they wanted to follow Him. If I would not be a disciple, would you have arrested me?' They looked at me and said, 'No.' 'So the Bible is true' I continued. 'This investigation confirms to me the biblical truth, and I am willing to face the consequences; I am willing to pay the price. Your job is to set the price and mine is to pay it with gladness because I love my God--and He will strengthen me to bear this burden. But I also want you to know that He loves you too.' They looked at me, astonished and bewildered. They apologized to me and told me I was free to go home. 'We were only doing our job,' they said.
Let us never be ashamed of the Gospel. It is the power of God for salvation.
A moment of introspection: It seems that much of the silence of Christians in the world, today, reflects being ashamed of the Gospel, to a certain extent. Paul's letter to the Christians in Rome (Romans 1:16-17) declared "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. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by Faith.'" If not shame, then fear of bodily injury or property damage, or death--spoken of in Luke 12:4 (ESV), in which Christ said "I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!" If not fear, then apathy or perhaps disbelief, or perhaps seeking to assure the safety of property and life. (Matthew 16:25, For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.) For Christians, silence is helpful in our relationship with God (Psalm 46:10), and in praising Him (Luke 19:37-40). But in our relationship to the world, we are to be vocal and active:
(Read Mark 4:21-23, 24a) Part of what a lamp does, is to shine on and expose that which darkness had hidden. In these verses, and in the first part of the following verse, the reader is instructed to hear/listen, and to pay attention to what is heard from the Lord, and I would, from the message(s) of the fallen world around us--contrasting this with the Word of the Lord.
(Read Acts 18:26) With the apostle Paul, we too can learn to speak boldly, with no fear of repercussions from those in our audience, but to do so accurately, being effective ambassadors from God. We aim to accurately convey the message that God has for the world around us. Accurately representing our heavenly Father, standing against the night around us. Noted author, Charles W. Colson, wrote a book entitled, Against the Night - Living in the New Dark Ages (ISBN 0-89283-309-2, © 1989 by Fellowship Communications. His primary message in this book is to exhort us to courage, faithfulness, obedience, and hope. With its associated study guide, it attempts to rekindle our spiritual passion for goodness, justice, and righteousness, and for living as a light in a darkening world.
(Read Acts 21:39) The apostle Paul looked for opportunities to speak God's truths. Speaking the truth may involve teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness... (2 Timothy 3:16) The world hates us, as Christ told us in John 15:19. If we respond to such hate, let us do it with compassion and love for those who are lost, and those who oppose the gospel (Luke 6:27). Mark Altrogge, in an online article entitled “How to Not Lose Heart in a Hostile World” (http://www.biblestudytools.com/blogs/mark-altrogge/how-to-not-lose-heart-in-a-hostile-world.html) said,
"We shouldn't be surprised when unbelievers malign us. We're to be lights shining in a dark world. People sitting in a dark room don't like it when someone turns on the lights. Especially if they are up to something no good. 'Hey, turn off that light!' they shout. We shine the light of Christ, the light of the gospel, into the darkness. And often the world doesn't like it."
With the light of Christ, with compassion, we expose that which loves darkness (John 3:19).
(Read Matthew 15:31) As Jesus made the mute to speak, so too he can break our own silence. Many of us have been "mute" in opposing the encroaching night. Some may aver that they are "private" persons who just try to get by without making too many waves. Some might quote prophecy, saying that darkness must come. Some find "security" in focusing on themselves (yet perhaps finding it harder and harder to see oneself clearly, as darkness falls.) Some, a bit like chameleons, blend in with the world--forgetting that we as Christians are to be in the world, but not of the world (1 John 2:15-16). Put on the whole armor of God (read Ephesians 6:10-20) and be prepared for battle. Keep in mind the quote (or permutation thereof) attributed to Edmund Burke:
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing."
Let's DO something. Speak boldly against the progressive loss of freedom for believers.
(Read Mark 6:14-29) As spiritual contenders, we must count the cost and bring light into a dark world. In speaking boldly, in bringing light to shine, we are warned not to be taken captive (Colossians 2:8). Indeed, we are to be active in leading others into a repentance for sin, then helping them receive the gift of forgiveness and salvation. Perhaps we might agree that our lives, our actions, our thoughts and our motivations will not be offered in God's service, only if free of cost (2 Samuel 24:24). Let us count the cost of discipleship (Luke 14:25-33), living in obedience to God’s call on our lives (as in the account of the centurion, in Matthew 8:8-10).
Lastly, friends, I would leave you with a quote from Martin Niemöller:
"First, they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me." (Hitler’s Cross, Copyright 1995, Erwin Lutzer, quote from page 146)
Speak up; speak out! With our bold proclamation of Christ's light and His love, we can play our part in the truth of the statement of John 1:5--The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.