July 22, 2010

Unnatural Living

The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe. When a man has no faith in the reward of good or the punishment of evil, there is no reason to be human. There is no restraint from the depths of evil that is in man. The Communist torturers often said, "There is no God, no hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish." I heard one torturer say, "I thank God, in whom I don't believe, that I have lived to this hour when I can express all the evil in my heart." He expressed it in unbelievable brutality and torture inflicted on prisoners.

Tortured for Christ, by Richard Wurmbrand, p. 36, describing some of the tortures he endured from Communists in Romania because he was a Christian
We hear so much about "natural" living. Put the word "natural" in the name of a product, triple the price and you have a sale. Just about anything can be had that is natural and/or organic. Some people are downright fanatical about purchasing as many natural products as they can, especially foods and personal hygiene products. They are also careful about recycling and doing all sorts of natural, healthy things. This is called "natural living".

I want to talk to you about some things that are downright unnatural; at least, when it comes to human behavior.

What is the expected response when someone yells at you? Yell back! If he cuts you off in traffic? Regain your ground, or curse at him! When someone hits you? Hit back! (This fits in with Anton LaVey's brand of Satanism. He said, "If a man smite thee on one cheek, smash him on the other!") When you are given evil? Give evil back! Or even when you have been wronged, you want revenge. Or justice, at the very least.

Those are natural responses. Let's look at some unnatural responses.

In the book of the Acts of the Apostles, chapters six and seven describe how Stephen preached the Gospel of Jesus. ("And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people." Acts 6.8 ESV) Since enemies could not refute what he was saying, they planted men to say that Stephen was speaking blasphemy against Moses and the prophets. So, he was dragged before the council. When they demanded an explanation, he gave them an excellent sermon. But it did not have a good result:
Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:54-60 ESV)

They stoned him to death. He had committed no crime, but with his dying breath, he forgave them. How do you explain this?

Another example from the book of Acts:
Then the mob joined in the attack against them, and the chief magistrates stripped off their clothes and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had inflicted many blows on them, they threw them in jail, ordering the jailer to keep them securely guarded. Receiving such an order, he put them into the inner prison and secured their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the jail were shaken, and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's chains came loose.

When the jailer woke up and saw the doors of the prison open, he drew his sword and was going to kill himself, since he thought the prisoners had escaped.
But Paul called out in a loud voice, "Don't harm yourself, because all of us are here!" Then the jailer called for lights, rushed in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he escorted them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"

Acts 16.22-30 (HCSB)
Paul and Silas were preaching the Gospel and happened to cast a demon out of a girl. They were then arrested because of lies, beaten and imprisoned. What did they do? They sang hymns! When their chains fell off and the doors were opened, they stayed put instead of running off! The jailer was so impressed, he wanted to know about Jesus.

As we can see, persecution of Christians has existed from the beginning. There are reports of Christians being persecuted, imprisoned, tortured and murdered. (Nero and other Roman emperors had great sport and killing Christians in the most horrific ways possible.) Christians, especially Protestants, who dared to go against the established religious-political institutions were persecuted and martyred throughout history. (Note: The word "martyr" has come to mean "someone who is killed for what they believe". More literally, it means, "witness", and came to mean someone who stands for the truth through suffering.)

The incident at the top is from Communist Romania. There are many reports of Christians being tortured by atheist regimes. Why? Charles Stanley pointed out that socialism (which is one step before Communism) has to wipe out the competition, and Christian principles are the opposite of what socialism teaches. That makes sense. (I have said many times that leftist politics are not often supported by Bible-believing Christians. Instead, we believe in free enterprise.) Today, countries that are active or pseudo-Communist are acting just like the Soviet Union and its satellite countries treated Christians during the era of the Iron Curtain.

I noticed that there are many reports from Muslim countries that Christians are savagely persecuted. This is as bad or worse than with the Communists. One system denies God, the other has an inflated moon god. Both want to force the world to live in their vicious systems.

And in all this, Christians are acting unnaturally.

In Tortured for Christ, Wurmbrand refuses to tell some of the things that he had seen and experienced from his Communist captors: "They are too terrible and obscene to put in writing". But he also said that he saw some beautiful things:
When one Christian was sentenced to death, he was allowed to see his wife before being executed. His last words to his wife were, "You must know that I die loving those who kill me. they don't know what they do and my last request of you is to love them, too. Don't have bitterness in your heart because they killed your beloved one. We will meet in heaven." (p.45)
There are several accounts in this book of similar stories, and of jailers who were moved to accept Christ themselves, knowing that they, too, would be tortured. What normally happens when someone is imprisoned with people he has wronged? Vengeance, of course. But the unnatural thing happened, they became brethren in Christ. John MacArthur said that God gives his grace so that his people can endure suffering. After all, God did not promise a life of ease or good times, but his people still experience joy and peace when they stay close to God.This is continuing today. You can check for yourself at the Voice of the Martyrs site. Sign up for the free publication. This is excellent for Christians to know what their brethren in Christ are going through, and where you can direct some of your prayers.

Someone asked me (my paraphrase) why it is that Christians can endure persecution and act Christlike in some circumstances, but get all upset and act in unchristian ways at other times. I gave that some thought, and have a few ideas:
  • Having life too easy, they do not really cling to Jesus; suffering causes growth
  • Not really converted, just Christian in name only, like the religious social clubs that pass as churches today
  • No depth to their spiritual lives, they need to take the Bible seriously or they may be "young" in the faith
  • Still acting in the "natural" ways, not living in the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1.8, Galatians 5.22-25)
  • The expectations of individuals; each person has their own ideas or "standards" by which they judge Christians and expect us to act, but we cannot fit everyone's preconceived notions; you cannot expect every Christian to be perfect, just as you cannot expect perfection even in your own self
  • Religion; yes, you heard me, because Jesus spoke his harshest words against the religious leaders of his day; they were making things burdensome for people with man-made rituals and practices
  • Luke 8.12-18
Now I'm going to come to the hard part, and some of you will be angry. That's the breaks.
  • The natural man cannot understand the things of God (I Cor. 2.14-15 KJV). When someone has Christ living in him and empowering him, God can speak to him and then his word makes sense. Otherwise, no.
  • The natural man or woman belongs to Satan (Acts 26.18, John 8.44-47).
  • It's natural for you to hate us because we "stink" to you (2 Cor. 2.15-16).
The questioner that I mentioned earlier stated that he believes that there is something else going on because Christians are inconsistent. However, I believe I have given good reasons for the inconsistency of Christians. Also, God does not make robots. Just read the Bible. The personalities of the authors show through, as do the failings of God's people. C.S. Lewis called this the "ring of truth".One thing I hope that this article will do is to stir some embers in the hearts of unbelievers, so that they will want a relationship with the living God. Second, I hope that people will realize that their "religion" will not save them; instead, God wants a personal relationship with you through Jesus Christ. Finally, I hope that Christians reading this will get in gear to life more fully for Christ and walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5.16, 22-23). And live unnaturally.

Addendum: Richard Wurmbrand is interviewed in this video, "A Church in Chains".

Now, rock out to a great video, or click here if you can't see it.

July 19, 2010

Some Questions for Non-Believers: Don't You Ever Wonder?

Buona sera. I keep wondering about things, trying imagine what some people are thinking and feeling. So, I'm going to get some of these things out there.

Don't you ever wonder if you're wrong? Perhaps you've stated in no uncertain terms that there is no God, or that you hate religion itself, that you hate Christians. And yet, looking up at the stars on a clear night, don't you think that maybe it did not happen by chance after all?

Don't you ever wonder if the Bible is true? You are in a small minority, and there are billions of people that claim to be Christians. I don't care about "majority rules" or anything, but doesn't the huge number of "believers" give you second thoughts?

Don't you ever wonder if Satan exists? Some atheists will say that the existence of evil (or "harm") in the world is proof that God does not exist. Many believers say that the Bible, the Talmud and other books describe a being that wants to destroy the work of the Creator. Doesn't that ever make you think that there is a bad devil that has thrown a spanner into the Creator's works?

Don't you ever wonder if the statements made by Christians are correct after all? Perhaps you think, deep inside, that it's silly after all to believe that everything that someone says is wrong, and that all of the Bible is "fairy tales". Have you considered the truths that you cannot legitimately deny, even if you do not like where they come from?

Don't you ever wonder about the Christians living under persecution, who forgive their torturers and pray for their abusers? I know I have trouble being forgiving, I do have to admit it. It's hard to show love to enemies even under the best of times, but under torture! And sometimes the torturers become converted. How can someone have peace and love, and show forgiveness?

Don't you ever wonder if you should look at things from God's point of view? When we expect the infinite Creator of the universe to fit into our finite ideas instead of trying to understand where he's coming from, we might be limiting our own understanding by our demands and presuppositions.

Don't you ever wonder if you're simply being too proud? Maybe your ideas need to be reconsidered. Perhaps you're basing your ideas not on logic, but on emotional reactions. Maybe starting from a standpoint of being "mad at God, I don't want him to exist" is not the best way to go?

Don't you ever wonder if maybe you haven't been fair to yourself in the way you try to understand God? Or that you haven't been fair to God himself, in that you haven't honestly tried to understand him?

Don't you ever wonder if Christians are right after all, and you're in a world of hurt right now?

I'm just asking.

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