Sunday, February 21, 2021

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Filled with Hatred

Over the last couple of decades, there have been more instances of church burnings, arrests of Christians and persecution of those of faith. Each time I read an article about violence committed against Christians or prayer requests for a missionary and his family as they face persecution by a government, I am saddened.

For a long time, I used to believe that violence against Christians only happened in foreign countries. My wife and I have and continue to support ministries around the world and continue to pray for all those who work tirelessly to spread the Good News to all those who walk in darkness. When Jesus gave us the “Great Commission” to share the gospel with all and to baptize them, we all took on a responsibility to preach the Word to all. We were told to love those who are perishing under the weight of sin and provide for them even when it meant that we would be caring for our enemy. It is through that love that our testimony of Christian service and love can be truly seen by those who are not saved.

As we go out into the world, we soon find ourselves ridiculed for our faith. Some even lash out in anger and rage at Christians. But, all of those instances were in far away places. Over time, that safe distance has quickly eroded. Christians in the United States are also being ridiculed and persecuted. Although the violence committed against us isn’t to the same level as some countries, the anger and rage is about the same. 

The Founding Fathers of this great nation that has been richly blessed by God created a document that gave each citizen the right to worship in his or her own way. It was important to them that we have the right to express our faith openly and without fear. The Constitution of the United States protects every citizen’s right to worship. It is a great and noble document filled with wonderful ideals of creating a “more perfect union”.

However, over time, challenges to the ideals of this document have occurred in our courts. It has become the “in thing” to ridicule and lash out against Christians. Hosts of various television shows find grist for their mills to churn out hatred towards Christians. I have even heard people call Christians “stupid” for their belief in some spirit that lives in the sky.

Almost sixty years ago, the Russian cosmonaut Yury Gagarin—the first human launched into space—reportedly returned to Earth with a simple, Soviet-style message: “I looked and looked and looked, but I didn’t see God.”

The old Soviet Union even published propaganda posters showing a cosmonaut looking around in space with a simple caption below him that read, “There is no God.” Americans were appalled by that comment. Although there has been great debate on whether or not Gagarin even said those words, that one statement summed up Communism for all Americans.

Skip ahead to April 8, 1966, Time then publishes its weekly magazine with a simple question, “Is God Dead?”

Needless to say, that one issue caused great debate and furor. Theologians and Christians were outraged by this attack. But, it was just the beginning. Although it was a question, it opened the door for those to question God’s existence and whether or not Christianity had any place in the modern world. That one issue sparked conversation and that, over time, would become a movement against Christianity. 

You can easily argue that Time was only asking a question, but that question became more than just words. It became a movement to remove prayer from schools. When the crew of Apollo 8 read the beautiful words from the Book of Genesis as they orbited the moon and laid the groundwork for the first manned mission, there was great outrage over that. The noted atheist and founder of the American Atheists, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, responded by suing the United States government.

It didn’t take a lot for people to openly question God and begin to ridicule those who believed in God. In time, that ridicule was just material for comedians and people laughed. Then, it metamorphosed into open hatred. Christians were being called stupid and Christianty was nothing more than a fairy tale that parents tell their children about good and evil.

Jesus, in chapter fifteen of the Gospel of John, tells his disciples, “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me.

People are fearful of those things they don’t understand. That fear changes into anger and, in time, it turns into violence. They lash out mindlessly at things they don’t want to understand. Rejection isn’t enough for them. They want to eradicate everything that causes them to be uncomfortable.

As Christians living in the United States, we are seeing our freedom of worship slowly being eroded. We are mocked for our faith by those who claim to be tolerant. We are ridiculed daily and called stupid, superstitious or frightened children who fear a ghost that lives in the clouds.

As Jesus told his disciples, he tells us the same thing now. We will be persecuted and mocked. We may even find our churches shuttered in time. During the pandemic, we saw our churches locked while liquor stores and tattoo parlors were allowed to remain open. Even when we returned to our churches, we were told that we couldn’t sing hymns or make a joyful noise to the Lord.      

James, in chapter four of his book, writes, “You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

So, when the world shows hatred to you, remember that it has always done it. This sinful world has and continues to reject the Father and His son, Jesus. Just as it rejects them, it will reject you. Don’t try to fit in. You have been chosen and called by the Father to receive that precious gift of salvation offered through His son, Christ Jesus. So, don’t let the hatred of this world wear you down. When you feel its weight of persecution pressing down upon you, that is when you need to stand firm in His grace.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. 

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