This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Jesus Freaks (Volume 2) compiled by Voice Of the Martyrs and DC Talk. In the following short quotation from the late Rev. Richard Wurmbrand (who spent 14 years in a Communist prison in Romania, and served as Founder of VOM), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
What encourages us to preach the gospel in captive nations is that, there, those who become Christians are full of love and zeal. I have never met one single lukewarm Russian Christian. Former young Communists and Muslims become exceptional disciples of Christ...
Whoever has known the spiritual beauty of the underground church cannot be satisfied anymore with the emptiness of some Western churches...
One out of every five people in the world live in Communist China, where thousands of lay Christians evangelize without "permission."
Persecution has always produced a better Christian--a witnessing Christian, a soul-winning Christian.
Communist persecution has backfired and produced serious, dedicated Christians such as are rarely seen in free lands.
These people cannot understand how anyone can be a Christian and not want to win every soul they meet...
These millions of dedicated, true and fervent believers in the lay church have been purified by the very fires of persecution which the Communists hoped would destroy them...
In a letter smuggled out secretly, the underground church said, "We don't pray to be better Christians, but that we may be the only kind of Christians God means us to be: Christlike Christians, that is, Christians who bear willingly the cross for God's glory."
A moment of introspection: Will the witness step forward? God's Word establishes a pattern of requiring two (or three) witnesses in cases of justice being served. In the words of Pastor Wurmbrand, one witness steps forward from the crowd and speaks, above. Now, another comes from farther back in the masses. Mary Skobtsova said, "Lord, I am your messenger. Throw me like a blazing torch into the night." She died in a Nazi gas chamber (many believed Mary died in the place of another) as she was selected to go to Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. She died in Germany on Easter Eve in 1945, one day before the camp was liberated by the Red Cross. Mary Skobtsova takes her place beside Richard Wurmbrand in the witness box. A third witness just arrived and is barely able to be picked out at the edge of the multitude of onlookers; but he slowly makes his way to the fore. Clement is this bold one who (from Alexandria, Egypt, died around 215 A.D.), in his steady and assuring voice speaks these words as he takes his place in the box: "Martyrdom is fullness, not because it finishes a human life, but because it brings love to the fullest point." Perhaps another perspective would say that we should live our lives in such a fashion as to make death for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom the apex of our earthly existence.
Yes, Pastor Wurmbrand says that the way of the cross begins in our lives while yet on earth. In his reflections, he pictures our lives not being satisfied with the emptiness that characterizes some western churches. Do we know the spiritual beauty of the underground church? Are our lives known by our wanting to win every soul we meet? We do want to be true believers, fervent believers, Christlike believers, do we not? We do not merely wish to be "better" Christians, satisfied Christians, lukewarm Christians, do we? Perhaps we need to press the "reset" button, as Andre Crouch sang, "Take me back; take me back, dear Lord, to the place where I first believed." We would be ones who yet also become Christians full of love and zeal. When he had let his life slip, King David responded (Psalm 51:12-13 (ESV)) "Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you." King David knew his share of persecution; underground Christians respond to persecution by becoming witnessing Christians, soul-winning Christians.
Many Christians in the west, today, continue to wish to be "safe". But Christ said, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25 (ESV)). Safety should not be a Christian's goal. In Hebrews 13:11-14, the author of that letter instructs us "Therefore let us go to [Jesus] outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come." Perhaps it could be said that a serious, dedicated Christian finds no shame in the wounds received on the battlefield of evangelism. Such a Christian shares the reproach which our Lord endured. Please re-read Pastor Wurmbrand's reflections and the resulting devotional "Sheep Do Not Run" (http://www.christiansincrisis.net/paul-s-devotionals/164-sheep-do-not-run.html); in that work, Pastor Wurmbrand provides encouragement and reminder of our present thought.
Richard Wurmbrand, above, remarked "I have never met one single lukewarm Russian Christian." In our understanding, what makes us different than "lukewarm" Christians? The Holman Bible Dictionary defines "Lukewarm" as 'tepid; neither hot nor cold (Rev. 3:16). The city of Laodicea received its water from an aqueduct several miles long. The lukewarm water that arrived at the city served as an appropriate illustration for a tasteless, good-for-nothing Christianity.' With this understanding, then, what type of Christian did Christ refer to in Revelations 3:15-16 (when He expressed a desire for Christians being filled with love and zeal, not satisfied with emptiness, willing to do whatever is needed to evangelize, characterized by seriousness and dedication to the work given to us in God's Word, and true and fervent belief)? We who know the Truth should not hide that Truth from those who are willfully or by chance ignorant of God's salvation through Christ.
God means us to be Christlike Christians, believers who bear willingly the cross for God's glory. In this, martyrdom is fullness because it brings love to the fullest point. To be a witness, a "martyr", is to share the Good News of Christ's sacrifice and His resurrection power wherever we may go. Lord, we are your messengers, may You also throw us "like a blazing torch into the night." May we ever bear Your likeness; may we ever bear Your perfect Word in our hearts and minds; may we shine Your light to all we meet in this present darkened world--for we want to be like Your Son as true, fervent followers of You through Him.