We Are Convinced That Neither Death...

This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from Horacio Herrera (from Cuba.  Seňor Herrera writes using a pseudonym because of his leading role in the Cuban church), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:

 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  (Galatians 2:20)

During the time that rebels in Colombia attacked Christians and churches, the following happened:  A group of Christians were meeting in their church in the hills, when all of a sudden a man came running to the church, shouting:  "A group of killers are on their way to this church."  For a moment, fear filled the church.  Should they all run away and hide?  At this moment of despair a brother stood up and said:  "Fear not, you are not in Colombia, you are in Christ."

It had such an impact on the believers that instant calm returned to the group.  Or, as another Christian leader in Latin America stated:  "In order to be a Christian here, you have to recognize the truth, that any extra day you live will be considered a bonus."

Yes, we have died already.  Death is not awaiting us.  We have experienced it already -- in Christ -- and have been raised to life eternal.  The coming death of the body is therefore just a passage, a pass-through.

Let us use the bonus time we have to live for Him.

"He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him..." (2 Corinthians 5:15)

P.S. - Climatic circumstances (a tropical rain storm) did not allow the group of rebel killers to reach the church in the hills.  "...He sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous" (Matthew 5:45).  Hallelujah.

 A moment of introspection: What would we do, were we to receive the dreaded news that "a group of killers are on their way" to our church?  With the coming persecution of Christians in the west, and the intensification of persecution of Christians across the globe, this type of question more and more stridently calls for our attention.  Have we attained the place in our walk with the Lord, that we can echo the apostle Paul's assertion in Galatians 2:20?  Would we willingly die the second death, acknowledging that we too "...have been crucified with Christ and no longer live"?  Are we open to saying "we are not in [insert your country]; we are in Christ"?  Since the time of Christ, churches have faced similar situations, attacked by the persecutors for whom prayers are lifted up and forgiveness offered.  Yet these attacks have left dear Christian brothers and sisters of all ages wounded or dead, or abducted, or homeless, or churchless, or family-less.

Consider the following web site http://www.religioushostility.org/ which reports that "The Survey of Religious Hostility in America is a collection of more than 600 cases, detailing religious bigotry throughout America -- most of which have occurred within the past 10 years."  These evidences of anti-Christian actions require our consideration, as we lead our churches into considering the cost of being followers of Christ in today's increasingly hostile world toward the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Several paths have been proposed, to respond to attacks of diverse kinds.  For instance, Charl Van Wyk was just an ordinary Christian man until July 25, 1993 - the day that would become known as the St. James Massacre. It was on this date that Van Wyk shot back at the terrorists who were attacking an innocent American congregation gathered in prayer, and saved many lives in the process.  In his book, "Shooting Back", he makes the case for self-defense.  Another path appears as Horacio Herrera recounts the story of a small congregation in Colombia who chose an alternative way to respond to looming peril.  In Mr. Van Wyk's case, his church (his congregation) were under attack, whereas the Christian group in Colombia were forewarned of such an attack and struggled to know how to respond, when the attackers would arrive.  Persons who advocate bringing legal weapons with C&C permits into church often cite the passage in Luke (Luke 22:33-38, KJV) in which Christ seems to instruct his followers to procure weapons for self-defense.  In fact, in part because of the St. James Massacre, there has been much controversy regarding whether churches should allow parishioners to carry firearms with a legal conceal and carry permit, into church services as long as the weapons are secured in the bearer's possession and not overtly visible.  It has been reported that guns are allowed in churches in 20 states as part of their "Right to Carry" laws (source:  Susannah Griffee for the New Yorker magazine).

It would appear that Christ's meaning was missed by the more literal understanding of the disciples.  Consider John Gill's commentary on this passage: 

"These words of Christ are not to be understood literally, that he would have his disciples furnish themselves with swords at any rate, since he would never have said, as he afterwards does, that two were sufficient; which could not be enough for eleven men; or have forbid Peter the use of one, as he did in a very little time after this: but his meaning is, that wherever they came, and a door was opened for the preaching of the Gospel, they would have many adversaries, and these powerful, and would be used with great violence, and be followed with rage and persecution; so that they might seem to stand in need of swords to defend them: the phrase is expressive of the danger they would be exposed to, and of their need of protection; and therefore it was wrong in them to be disputing and quarrelling about superiority, or looking out for, and expecting temporal pomp and grandeur, when this would be their forlorn, destitute, and afflicted condition; and they would quickly see the affliction and distress begin in himself."

 Another source agreed with Mr. Gill, in saying

"It is enough; not they are enough; that is, he did not refer to the words which they presented, but only terminated the conversation, finding, apparently, that they were not in a state of mind to understand his meaning." (John S. C. Abbott and Jacob Abbott Illustrated Bible Commentary)

 On the other hand, Seňor Herrerra poses what could be a more Biblical approach, noting--"He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him..." (2 Corinthians 5:15).  He describes parishioners whose dilemma hinged on whether to run away and hide, or to remain and pray.  Not fearing, but praying; not trusting in their own strength of arms, but taking refuge in Christ.  They experienced God’s perfect peace in that moment.  Another Christian leader in Latin America stated:  "In order to be a Christian here, you have to recognize the truth, that any extra day you live will be considered a bonus."  The small congregation in Colombia received that bonus.  Consider the apostle Paul's letters to the church in Rome and to his protégé, Timothy.  In Romans 8:15, Paul reminded the Christians that "you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!"  And Paul likewise provided guidance to the young Timothy when he wrote, "for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control."  (2 Timothy 1:7)  The spirit of adoption as sons is the same spirit given to us, of power, love and self-control.  "I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live..."  The second death, the death of the physical body, is essentially inevitable (Matthew 16:25); Ray Comfort phrased this as “10 out of 10 people die”.  The first death--death to self--is part of the process of absolute surrender.  It is a willful act of contrition and self-denial, one that leads to greater and greater devotion and commitment--and ultimately to complete and utter surrender to God and His perfect will.  If frightened by dangers, consider Psalm 32:7 "You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah"  Ask God to replace your fears with His perfect love, "for there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love." (1 John 4:18)

Mr. Van Wyk espouses being prepared by being armed and trained in self-defense.  Churches around the globe have considered this, and have hired guards for protecting their congregations from attack (with mixed success).  Other churches have alerted government officials of known threats to their churches and been granted the presence of police/army units--again, with mixed success.  But congregations should know that if the first death has consciously occurred, the second death is made less threatening.  May God through His Holy Spirit guide our churches and congregations as they and we prepare for a time when persecution becomes more of a reality. 

Yes, we have died already.  Death is not awaiting us.  We have experienced it already -- in Christ -- and have been raised to life eternal.  The coming death of the body is therefore just a passage, a pass-through.

Let us use the bonus time we have to live for Him.

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