A few days ago I saw a facebook post about the current crisis in Iraq involving the persecution of thousands of Christians. The post was uploaded by friend, and fellow SAU graduate Gabriel Johnson, and was accompanied by some poignant words on the implications of persecution. Gabriels words hit me hard. As a church I fear we have grown so tired of "last day persecution" sermons that we are jaded or annoyed whenever the topic is raised. But jaded and annoyed as we may be, it doesn't change the fact that persecution is coming, nor does it change the reality that for many it is already here. So powerful was Gabriels comment that I asked him to develop his throughts in an article. I now share with you his sobering, and thought provoking piece.Are You Ready?
By: Gabriel Johnson
“If you were placed on trial for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you?” This is a wonderfully framed "cliché question" asked in churches and youth groups to cause listeners to reflect on their walk with Christ at the present moment. The sad part about it is, for many people the answer comes so quickly (usually no) that no thought is given to the implied context in which the question would have to be framed to be relevant and no one (that I have encountered) has ever wondered what the implications would be if a verdict of guilty was reached. This weekend I had a chance to see what my life could be life if I were pronounced guilty.
For over 300,000 people in Mosul, Iraq the answer to the above question is a resounding “yes.” And they are suffering the consequences of the faithful. Headlines such as “ISIS is, “Systematically Beheading Children” in “Christian Genocide”” have flooded the news. Even social media outlets were buzzing with life as people “witnessed” the depths of depravity and degradation capable in the hearts of men.
As I read and watched the horrors being committed I began to wonder if we in the West would be able to remain faithful to God under such trying circumstances. I began to question if I would be able to stay faithful. But things got very difficult when it dawned on me that what made the headlines weren’t atrocities to adults but the horrors faced by children. Now if you don’t have children this may not make a lot of sense to you but I began to be afraid for my child. Not so much for the things that could happen to her, I was frightened because I began to wonder am I preparing her to be a true disciple of Christ? Am I giving my daughter what she needs to make it in this world beyond reading, writing and arithmetic? Am I giving her what she needs beyond success in business and a life lived in ease and comfort? Am I giving her the tools to forge her own way in this world with Christ as her guide?
We live in a “me” generation with a "now" culture, and for many of us the focus of our lives is the attainment of our goals and dreams. We believe that we as a generation can do big things and we can because they tell us we can. "You can live your best life now." "You can think and grow rich if only you live by certain 'success' principles." "You can awaken the giant within and attain personal power." And all you have to do is get the secret.
But as I listen to the messages being preached by many of the world’s most renowned religious leaders I can’t help but wonder if we are missing the point. Don’t get me wrong I want the big house; nice car and enormous bank account just like the next guy. And I do believe that the promises of God can open amazing doors in every area of life. But when much of what I hear is how God wants to bless my business while children are losing their lives it causes me to question our religion. Will the belief in the promise of success sustain me when they’re trying to kill my family or take my wife? Will knowing the “law of Attraction” reinforce my faith when wicked men forcibly take everything I hold dear and I am forced to run for my life? What are we being prepared for in our churches? Do we even realize the gravity of the situation that we are in or do we think that “those things” only happen to “those people” who are “over there.”
How seriously do you take your Christian experience when its not a fad? Driving in my car the other day a song came on many of you may know called “Jesus Freak.” Back in the day it was a major fad, somewhat of a phenomenon. Everywhere you went something had “Jesus Freak” on it. But now those words have become part of our culture and to a great degree have lost their meaning. You do know that the Jesus Freaks who followed Him while He was here on earth all died-except one. Jesus doesn’t need a talking billboard, someone who professes to believe all the right things and shout from the mountain top what we believe. He needs people who already have an authentic relationship with Him to just live their lives in such a way that people can label you for what you really are - a disciple of Christ.
To those with families I say raise your children as if you could lose them tomorrow. Teach them to love God for who He is instead of what He can get them. Teach them the Word of God uncut. Let them know that God loves them and that you love them, but also the uncofrtable reality that the devil is walking around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Fortify your family with the word of God.
And to any spiritual leader beware of what you teach. Because God holds you accountable when He finds His children unprepared. May the Lord help us all to take this thing more seriously.