Sunday, November 14, 2010

Chains That Hold THEM: The Persecuted Church in 2010.

How Their Chains Need To Affect Us.

Prominent among the French Enlightenment philosophers was Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778). Ironically he was born to a very strong Believing father. (His father was a very conservative Christian.) His mother died when he was an infant. He apparently rejected Christianity from an early age.

In his autobiography, “Confessions” the Frenchman gave details of his extramarital affairs where he had five children with one of his mistresses. He abandoned all five into a Paris orphanage. At that time in French society, conditions in orphanages were such that 80% of the children did not live to adulthood.

His writings greatly influenced Europe in a big way. He died 11 years before the French Revolution but the radicals followed his teaching in their attempt to remove Christianity from France. The revolutionaries took over Notre Dame Cathedral and displayed a French prostitute there as "the goddess of reason." (They also abolished the seven-day week and instituted a ten-day week with every tenth day as a day off.) Their Reign of Terror in the early 1790s was a loathsome picture of human nature that had rejected Christian morals. In was in this climate, my relatives left France.

Rousseau wrote “Man is born free yet every where he is in chains.” There may be some truth in that. During that same time in history, slavery was a hurtful institution that was outlawed by England through the long-standing efforts of William Wilberforce.

Man is in chains and no matter where Man is—there is bondage of some sort. We are in need of a key to unlock such bonds that hold us from our freedom. While I do not agree with the life style of the French teacher/ philosopher, I am in some agreement with his famous line. We are all bond up by something in our past, dreamed of in our future or in some faction, very real to us right now.

What holds us down? Not mere chains but emotion, fear, past experiences, personal dislikes, sin, pain, rejection, family history. In truth, so many things.

In our world today, there are 10s of 1,000s who are bond into human slavery. In fact, more today than in History’s past combined! Estimates for the prevalence of slavery in the Roman Empire vary. Some historian’s estimate that approximately 25% to 30% of the population of the Empire in the 1st century was enslaved.

The number of slaves today remains as high as 12 million to 27 million. Many are ‘debt slaves’, largely in South Asia, who are under debt bondage incurred by lenders, sometimes, even for generations. Human trafficking is primarily for prostituting womenchildren into sex industries. It is the fastest growing criminal industry and is predicted to eventually outgrow drug trafficking. (internet sources)

A U.S. Government report published in 2005, estimates that 600,000 to 800,000 people worldwide are trafficked across borders each year. This figure does not include those who are trafficked internally. Here in Japan, the Shin-Tokorozawa’s gang-lords control the flow of Asian women according to a police spokesperson I had spoken to.

When we look at the numbers world wide, it sickens us. And within that number, many are held in bonds because they believe in Jesus.

It is their story we will be sharing later this morning. But before we look at the story of the Persecuted Church we will be looking at a very famous slave. At a very early age, this young man saw the huge changes in his life because of a dysfunctional family. He was the number one son of over ten kids in the family. He was very open about his father’s love for him and that got him into real trouble with his older brothers. When no one was looking, they stripped him of his cloths and threw him into a dry well. Some wanted to kill him outright but cool heads prevailed and his life was spared—except when the cool headed brother was not there, the rest sold the younger brother into slavery.

I am talking about the Biblical figure Joseph. It is very interesting that with so much written about this young man, it is very hard to find anything bad written about him. Sure he was kind of proud. Maybe a little self-centered but when things got hard, his heart did not get harder. It stayed warm toward the Lord. His life is a great lesson of how to handle hard times. Even when he was wronged by his own brothers, and lied about by Mrs. Potiphar, his heart was steadily toward his God.

Joseph did not fall in to the trap of the “Silent Killers.” The Silent Killers was around all the time in his life yet he held fast. I believe the Persecuted Church today understands how Joseph did it but I don’t believe we believe it can happen in our lives. Let’s see if I am right.

The “Silent Killers.” comes in a company of three.

The first is RESENTMENT. The second is SELF PITY and the third is BITTERNESS.

I believe that if any of these factors are in seed form in our lives, we are headed for disaster. Let me explain. When Joseph was in the dry well naked, he did not give into to Self-Pity. “Oh, this is terrible! I am so misunderstood by my brothers. I am sure they will come to their senses as I am in need—such deep need. Oh Me, I am undone! What will become of me? My future is looking dimmer and dimmer. I am lost! All is lost! What am I going to do?”

No, Joseph kept his eyes on his Lord. Evidently, his childhood years in the presence of his Mother and Dad, he heard of this Loving God and he believed in Him. His faith held him. His Faith empowered him.

From Gen 37:12, when he was sold into slavery to the group of Ishmaelites for 20 shekels of silver to be a slave in Egypt, to verse 36 being sold to Potiphar’s service, to Chapter 39:7 when his bosses wife lies and has him thrown into the darkest jail, Joe’s heart seems so NON self-pitied. He is always helping others.

He did not give into resentment either. “My brothers, how I hate them! How I loathe and detest them more and more!” He never looks back and plots an evil plan to do the brothers in. He is creative but it comes to no hurt. He remains pure in heart. Even at the end, he said: “You did this for hurt but God did it for good.”

He also is not overwhelmed in Bitterness. Got to hand it to him. Of all the BAD things that he went through, he never got bitter. Maybe this is just a story and not a real person! Can anyone be like Joseph? Yes, even when they are being persecuted. Even when they are being jailed and beaten and starved and when all manner of evil is said against them. That sounds like something out of Matthew.

Let’s go there: Matthew 5: 10-12:

"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

Are there any Silent Killers hanging around your heart? Get rid of them. Don’t let them have a foothold. Go to the Lord and have Him deal with them. Confess and be set free and fill yourself with His Spirit instead. The days of the Silent Killers in you life should be short lived. The Resentment, the Self-Pity and the Bitterness must go!

And Matthew 5:43-45:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."

It is in this light that, we will look at the rest of the Power Point. Different slides are hard to look upon but these are people who are counted worthy to suffer for the Lord’s Name and for His Sake.

Please read from Hebrews 11:37-42 (NIV)

They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

In truth, we as a Church People, live in an unreal world. Few of us are neither affected by persecution nor have we been made uncomfortable in our walk of Faith. Few of us have had to pay the price for being part of the Family of Jesus. Few of us have been hit, broken, stolen from—because of our faith in the King of Glory.

But what would it mean to be effected by all this? How has and how can it effect our lives? Should we not care for them? Should we not pray for them? Should we not work at the task of bringing some comfort to those who are in pain and despair? Not all of them would want the burdens to be lifted. Not all of them are sad or angry toward those who hunt them down or hurt them. They pray for them. They pray that their jailers would come to the Saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. And they are praying for us. Praying that we will not fall down on the job of holding them up. That we would not take for granted our Faith. That we would grow more in love with Jesus today than we were yesterday. I have met some of them. They really care for your spiritual well being. They, in their pain, pray for us. Can we do the same for them?

We need to pray for these Brothers and Sisters. Don’t forget their faces. Don’t forget they are Family. It could be you who needs their prayers. Don’t let them down.