“ vs.4 “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” vs.5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 9:4-5 ESV)
vs.3 “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” (Heb 13:3 ESV)
INTRODUCTIONThe spiritual blindness of mainstream Western Christianity seems limitless. According to the authoritative Pew Research Centre, 11 Christians are martyred each hour across the world. More concretely, since I started thinking about writing on this topic 32 Nigerian, 20 Filipino 9 Egyptian and 8 Somali Christians were slaughtered in churches and other locations.
Less dramatically, but no less significantly, we have the hidden sufferings of thousands of oppressed Christian minorities. Like the Kachin women from Myanmar trafficked into China, sold into marriage and imprisonment, raped daily until pregnant, then when the baby is born the “brides” are sent away or allowed to escape.
Gruesome! How then can it be that so few amongst us are moved by such extensive atrocities? How often does your congregation/you pray for the persecuted family of God?
This issue is symptomatic of the sickness of our spiritual culture (1 Cor 11:27-32 ESV) and has placed us under divine judgement. To see such things in the Spirit (Rev 1:10 ESV) is no shallow exercise.
Christ’s words to Saul on the road to Damascus, “ “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” ”, are not metaphorical. As the words of God under the old covenant, “In all their affliction he was afflicted”1)See Biblical References Isa 63:9 ESV cf. Ex 3:7 ESV, were real, how much more through the covenant in the body and blood of Christ (Heb 13:20 ESV).
Christ and his Body exist in a vital, living and spiritual oneness, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” (1 Cor 12:12 ESV).
The sufferings of the Body are experienced by its Head. Since “the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him” (1 Cor 6:17 ESV), the empathy of Christ with the pain of Christians is unlimited. There are depths to this reality which are profound and applicable to us all.
When Jesus described himself as the Sufferer to Saul/Paul he imparted a revelation that was central to all the apostle’s teaching on salvation.
By grace, Saul saw instantly that Christ suffers in the suffering of his people because he is in the deepest possible union with them.
Just as Jesus took our sin in his body on the cross (2 Cor 5:21 ESV) so we are bonded together in all our experiences. This usually is a transfer from him to us, he gives us his peace, joy etc.2)See Biblical References John 14:27 ESV; John 15:11 ESV but in the case of suffering, he also takes what is ours into himself.
Not to be affected by the sufferings of Christ’s people cuts us off from our Head (Eph 5:23 ESV) and deprives us of Christ-likeness.
Pain Makes Perfect
When Saul heard Christ speak about his suffering in the persecuted Church, he understood why it was necessary for him as an apostle to “suffer much” (Acts 9:6 ESV) for Jesus.
Only by enduring death pangs could he be delivered by resurrection power made perfect in weakness3)See Biblical References 2 Cor 1:8-10 ESV; 2 Cor 12:9 ESV so living out the gospel. He knew that only through rejection could he release the aroma of Jesus’ all forgiving love4)See Biblical References 2 Cor 2:15 ESV; Eph 5:1-2 ESV. Only those who embrace those suffering for the Lord can truly declare, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Cor 11:1 ESV).
To know Jesus (John 17:3 ESV) is to share in his life and to share in Christ’s life is to share his distress at the torments of his children (Heb 2:13 ESV).
One of our biggest problems is that we are inundated, plastic teachers and theologians.
Luther prophetically testified, “Not understanding, reading, or speculation, but living—nay, dying and being damned—make a theologian.” Only those who in Christ suffer with those who suffer (1 Cor 12:26 ESV) can speak the word of Christ with authenticity. No wonder our churches suffer from spiritual anaemia. But things are even worse.
Hardening of the Heart
“Oh were you there when they crucified my Lord?” goes the old hymn. “Yes.”, we were all there5)See Biblical References 1 Cor 15:22 ESV; 1 Pet 2:24 ESV.
So ignoring the cries of afflicted saints is before God like watching Jesus being beaten, whipped and crucified without crying, wailing, weeping, and imploring God to show mercy.
Few in the comfortable Church have any sense of the gravity of our sin because our hearts have been hardened by deceitfulness (Heb 3:13-15 ESV).
Degree by degree we have closed our ears to Jesus cries on the cross of the persecuted Church.
This has brought us under; a strong judgement. “Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.” (Prov 21:13 ESV)
We cannot go on ignoring the pleas of the persecuted Church and keep expecting God to richly bless us with heaven-sent revival. In the land of “No worries mmmate.” there is “no fear of God” before the eyes of the Church (Rom 3:18 ESV).
No fear means no wisdom (Prov 9:10 ESV) so our state is dreadful but unperceived. Thankfully there are two dimensions to a prophetic message, warning, which I have given, and promise, which I am about to give.
If we turn our hearts towards the suffering Church we can move from being an inward looking narcissistic people to those walking free in the self-sacrificing love of Christ. This will mean a new Reformation.
Repentance means turning to the plight of the suffering Church.
Prayer is a first and foundational step.
Then practically resourcing those many godly mission and service organisations, local and global, ministering into this sphere. The turning I am appealing for in Jesus’ name is not a token alteration in our comfortable lifestyle but involves a new revelation of the death and resurrection of Jesus fundamental to the reorientation of Western Christianity.
This is what the Lord is seeking.
Many pray for revival through spectacular signs and wonders, but no spectacle is more miraculous than the prosperous identifying in Christ with those made wretched through their identifying with him?
May the lord impart to us true wisdom in these matters.
“for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20 ESV)
MESSAGE, DELIVERED: Date 11th April 2019 Location: Unknown
Author: Dr. John Yates
YouTube or PODCAST:
Date 11th April, 2019.
Date 11th April, 2019.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||See Biblical References Isa 63:9 ESV cf. Ex 3:7 ESV|
|2.||↑||See Biblical References John 14:27 ESV; John 15:11 ESV|
|3.||↑||See Biblical References 2 Cor 1:8-10 ESV; 2 Cor 12:9 ESV|
|4.||↑||See Biblical References 2 Cor 2:15 ESV; Eph 5:1-2 ESV|
|5.||↑||See Biblical References 1 Cor 15:22 ESV; 1 Pet 2:24 ESV|