Thursday, October 25, 2007

Persecution with no glory!

Peter the Apostle wrote one of the most beautiful letters ever written to comfort Christians who were being persecuted during the Roman Empire. But in this letter, he introduces another form of persecution that few of us like to talk about. He writes, "But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name" (I Peter 4:15). He clearly demarcates two forms of suffering saints: those who suffer for the glory of God, and those who suffer in a way that demeans the glory of God. Those who are obedient to Christ will always bring glory to God through their suffering, whereas those who are disobedient to Christ always bring shame to the name of God through suffering.

Many of us marvel that the horrific treatment of Christians around the world draws little attention from the media. By way of comparison, the detainees at Guantanamo Bay receive a complimentary copy of the Quran at taxpayers expense. And because no non-Muslim infidel is worthy of touching the Holy Quran, it is handed to detainees in gloves as delicately as her Majesty receiving a copy of the London Times. Yet, we have already seen that if it is charged that the Quran is defiled by one of our unclean, Infidel soldiers, our military is villainized as the purveyers of cruel and unusual punishment. And when these accusations cannot be confirmed, the media has put more stock in the word of those who want to kill us than they do the ones who protect us.

Yet, as Christians are currently being mown down by Islamo-fascists in myriad of coutnries around the world, it doesn't seem to be news-worthy to most journalists. Universities in the U.S. are now installing foot-washing booths for Muslim students to be able to pray the daily salat in public, while surgically removing any trace of the Ten Commandments from public space. So there can be no doubt that a lost world is insulating itself as much as it can from any exposure to the Christian gospel. It is no wonder that news of Christian persecution doesn't register as such bad news.

However, let a Christian suffer as an evild-doer, and you will get more media coverage than Britney Spears and Anna Nicole Smith combined. Of course, I'm afraid that to imagine such a thing would be a stretch beyond hyperbole. We should pray for the church every day in preventing this kind of reproach to the name of our Lord.

What I want to call attention to is the verbal persectution taking place right here in the United States, resulting from the abundance of Christian programming that perverts the gospel. When preachers are mocked and derided by the world for preaching a false gospel, you can be certain, this is persecution with no glory.

Just turn on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, and you will usually hear a message that even the world recognizes as a perversion of the historic Christian faith. I call it the Anti-gospel. It turns the gospel on its head by saying that man is not inherently sinful; that man doesn't exist for God, God exists for the benefit of man; and that it is always God's will for you to be rich, healthy, and prosperous . . . if, of course, you will first buy their book, or send in a check much larger than you can afford to pay.

In an interview with Larry King, Joel O'steen displayed for us what the Anti-gospel is. When asked by King if he's "always believed", Osteen responded, "I have always believed. I grew up, you know, my parents were a good Christian people. They showed us love in the home. My parents were the same in the pulpit as they were at home. I think that's where a lot of preachers' kids get off base sometimes. Because they don't see the same things at both places. But I've always believed. I saw it through my parents. And I just grew up believing."

Wildly, this is a so-called Christian preacher who, in his own self-admission, does not have a conversion experience, and makes no mention of ever coming to a knowledge of sin, or his need for a Savior. How do you convert people when you haven't been converted yourself?

But let's give Joel the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he does have a conversion experience and simply chose not to mention it. It would seem odd after being pitched the perfect question. After all, the Apostle Paul told his testimony every chance he got ( Read Acts 22:3-21, 26:4-21, I Timothy 1:12-16, Galatians 1:11-21).

Osteen reinforced the removal of sin, and the need for a Savior from his message when King went on to ask, "But don't you think if people don't believe as you believe, they're somehow condemned?" Osteen: "You know, I think that happens in our society. But I try not to do that. I tell people all the time, preached a couple Sundays about it. I'm for everybody. You may not agree with me, but to me it's not my job to try to straighten everybody out. The Gospel is called the good news. My message is a message of hope, that's God's for you. You can live a good life no matter what's happened to you."

One thing is for sure, If I believe that people are sinners in the hands of an angry God, I would have to say with the apostle Paul, "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men" (II Corinthians 5:11). But Osteen's message isn't exactly geared to making people aware of the terror of the Lord and persuading them to be reconciled to God. Osteen's message says just the opposite; it says people are already at peace with God. For instance, when he says, " . . . It's not my job to try to straighten everybody out . . . God's for you. You can live a good life no matter what's happened to you", he is preaching the opposite of what Jesus Christ preached when he said, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3). The word "repent" in the original language speaks of a change of mind that leads to a radical change in lifestyle. Jesus' message was one that said, "I am here to straighten you out." It demanded a 180 degree turn in lifestyle that only Christ himself could enable one to do (John 6:44).

Search the transcripts with a fine-tooth comb, and still, no mention of sin, repentance, the Cross, or conversion can be mined from Joel Osteen's preaching. It is not surprising that many, self-professed, agnostic reporters question the authenticity of a ministry that preaches the gospel in reverse; the Anti-gospel.

Let's look at the gospel in reverse for a moment: Osteen preaches that the summum bonum (ultimate good) in the eyes of God is "material success" (Businessweek, May 23, 2005). But, Jesus says that trust in material success will be our ruin (Luke 12:13-21). Osteen says that you can have "Your Best Life Now." But, Jesus says you will perish if your life remains the way it is now (Luke 13:1-5). Osteen says "you can be good" with no mention of repentance. But, Jesus says, "there is none good" and "commands all men everywhere to repent" (Matthew 19:19, Acts 17:29-31).

We should pray for Christians who are being persecuted for being bold examples of Christ, and who are bringing glory to God. But we should also pray specifically for the church right here in the United States where many are demeaning the glory of God by finding salvation in the very things Christ came to save us from.

God promises that he will purify his church in time for His Second coming, and it ought to be our fervent prayer that God will ignite a flame in the hearts of every Christian in America to have such a love for God's glory that we will be bold imitators of Him (Epheisians 5:1), and that with tears, we will plead with men to be reconciled to Him (II Corinthians 5:19-21).

Yes, we will be persecuted for accurately representing Christ and His radical message of repentance. Praise be to God that many in the U.S. already are. But this is a persecution with glory, a persecution that we must stop running from: "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you" (I Peter 4:12-14).

1 comment:

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