Saturday, September 27, 2014

Red Raider Monument: How God uses persecution

Last night I posted an essay reporting a new controversy that had erupted yesterday in our county. The public became aware that two anti-Christian groups had challenged the location (on school grounds) of a recently installed, privately donated sports monument because it contained two scriptures. The Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Association separately had been contacted by local resident(s) and alerted to the alleged Constitutional infraction. The FFRF and AHA contacted our Superintendent of Schools with threatening letters insisting on immediate removal or modification of the offensive (to them) monument. The story I wrote is here:

The scripture laden Madison County Red Raiders Monument and the Humanist Association who wants it gone

Christians, wake up...
The TV news stations have already pounced, the newspapers are picking this up, and the county residents are inflamed- both ways. In Georgia, sports and Jesus are dearly held.

Persecution comes in various flavors. Hard persecution involves jail time, torture, physical violence or death. Apostle Paul knew all of those, first as the persecutor, then as the persecutee.

Other kinds of persecution involves social persecution. Early Christians were excluded from the guilds (and thus from employment). Christians can be marginalized or excluded. The Pharisees used this kind of persecution by throwing people out of the synagogues. (John 7:13, John 20:19, John 16:2). Mocking, bullying, shunning, legal threatening...all are a kind of soft persecution.

It is still early days, but I have been thinking of all the ways Jesus will use this Red Raider Monument issue for His glory, something I mentioned in the essay I linked to above. I'd like to spell out some specific ways I know He is already at work, and ponder some ways I suspect He is already at work.

Satan is god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). He walks up and down upon it, (Job 1:7, Job 2:2) seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8). Not even heaven is immune from satan's presence, (Revelation 12:10), though satan has a leash beyond which God will not let him go.

So what makes anyone in the Bible Belt states think there can possibly be one nook or cranny on earth where we would safe from satan's attacks? He will persecute. Everywhere. Since Genesis 3 he always has, and he always will, until Revelation 20:7 is finished.

1. One way the Lord seems to be using this controversy is to remind us of that fact. Perhaps He is shaking us out of our complacent, casual Christianity. This would be a good thing, and to His glory.

2. He seems to be using this controversy is to make us face the possibility of persecution, and with that, to internally prioritize our potential response. I've been thinking over the last day, do I care about this monument? Would I fight for it? Do I want to use my energies or finances to expend on a legal battle? If not, then what would I fight for?

I think of Peter before the Council in Acts 4. Peter and John were arrested. They submitted to the arrest. Remember Peter fighting with his sword when they came for Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane? He lopped off the ear of one soldier. Jesus miraculously put it back on. This time, with the Spirit in him, Peter submitted to the arrest humbly. He didn't fight. The Spirit used the opportunity to present the Gospel through Peter to all the Council of Jerusalem, a crowd that needed it more than anyone and yet a crowd that otherwise never would have heard it. God used the "bad" situation for His glory. and made it good.

Chinese Soldier,
Painting by William Alexander, 1793
Yet when the Council commanded Peter to leave but not speak the name of Jesus any more, Peter drew the line at submission to authorities. Peter knew just how far to go in that balance of submitting to earthly authorities but not infringing on his duties as a Christian witness with God as his ultimate authority. He said,

So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:18-20)

3. How far will I go to submit to ruling authorities and at what point would I rebel against them because I claim God as my Highest authority? Thinking these things through with scriptures to solidify a foundation for biblical action prior to persecution's arrival is a good thing that is happening already.

4. Pastors and Bible teachers are preparing themselves for persecution. Mature Christians and spiritual Leaders know it is coming. It is the last days. Trouble in this world was promised to us by Paul, Peter, and Jesus. Though mature Christians always have their armor on, the mature Christians in our county are now tightening their belt of truth, adjusting the strap on their helmet of salvation, raising their sword of the Spirit a bit higher. Christians are on a battle field in a battle. Although a sentry is on guard, when long periods go by with nothing to report, their guard slackens a bit. If the sentry hears a gun cocking, his adrenaline rushes and he is suddenly on high alert. The letter from the AHA and FFRF were the sounds of the gun cocking. We are now all on high alert once again. This is a good thing.

The Golden Calf, watercolor, James Tissot, ~1900
5. Many pastors and bible teachers are already discussing this event with their congregants or students. They are preparing them in wise counsel and advising them in an appropriate behavior. This has given us opportunity to mindfully and biblically prepare a response in case of further persecution.

6. The controversy is causing people to speak up for Jesus. This is always a good thing.

7. It is causing people to search their hearts to see if what they believe is faith in the living God, or an idol.

8. It is causing fervent prayer on behalf of our leaders. I consistently pray for my spiritual leaders, but I admit I am slack in praying for our county and other government leaders. Yet we are called to do exactly that:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

I'm glad this came up so I could be confronted with my sin of failing to pray for government leaders.

Before I was saved, I was just as deluded as Ms Miller. I was stumbling along in the dark, rejecting Jesus and dwelling in my own depravity. I found out someone had been praying for me for a long time. I discovered this after I was saved. Now it is my turn to pray for the deluded, sinners, Christ-rejecters. It is a privilege.

Red Raider Monument unveiling.
Madison County Journal Facebookpage
Some ways the Lord may be using this event:

1. He may be preparing us for a harder persecution that is coming. No one likes to think about oppression, jail, or physical violence against Christians, but this may be the first volley to strengthen us for a next volley that will be harder. Through trouble in this world, we grow. Persecution always results in His glory. Through trials, HIS glory rests upon us!

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (1 Peter 4:12-14).

As faithful Christians, we must learn to recognize the value of persecution and even to rejoice in it, not in an ostentatious way, but quietly and humbly because persecution has great spiritual value. Source
I remember the shock of September 11, 2001 and the four planes that were used as bombs on our buildings and our people. It was a shocking attack the nation has never recovered from. Who knows what is planned for tomorrow? On September 10, 2001 I never suspected for a moment that the terrorists were going to slam into our buildings and change us forever on the very next morning. Today's little foray into a soft persecution might be the first step in the Lord's preparing us for more trials to come. And they will come, the verse above says they will. I will be thankful that I had advance opportunity to prepare, by praying, reading pertinent scriptures, and encouraging others even as I was encouraged by my pastors yesterday.

2. Jesus may be working toward an upcoming salvation through all this! What price is a monument when a soul comes to the Lord! Wouldn't that be wonderful if all this controversy somehow caused a person to look into their heart and come to the cross and be saved forever! What an exchange, a few dollars spent on an out-of-the-way rural sports monument that isn't going to last anyway, in exchange for a glorious soul brought to Jesus forever! I hope that happens.

3. He may be using this controversy to rid our country of an idol.

4. Other ways I can't even think of! In Isaiah 55:8, God said, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD."

Jesus is always at work, as the Father is always at work. He uses any and all things to work together for the good of those who love Him. I can't even imagine all the ways He will use a tiny controversy such as a scripture-laden monument on school grounds, but He is endlessly creative and His glory endures forever. It will be enhanced by this, not diminished.

Here is one last thought ... satan. He is using this for his own purposes, too.

He is already causing some to be thrown into confusion and others to doubt.

He is using bible scriptures out of context, like he did to Jesus at the Temptation and like the ones on the monument.

He is causing arguments, anger, and division among brethren.

He is causing some to stumble in their Christian witness.

He is the thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy. (John 10:10).

Don't let him.

Godly brethren, adopt a wider perspective and think on the good things that God is doing through this.

As always, pray, read your bible, and by all means, tighten up your Spiritual Armor! We are not excused from the battle just yet. Do not be surprised it has come to our door. Certainly, don't let the surprise be your reaction to it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Further reading


Sermon: Persecuted for Christ's Sake, part 1

Essay: How should Christians respond to persecution?


5 comments :

  1. We should all see that persecution comes from outside the church, but also from the "deception camp" within the church. Towards the end of 2013 John MacArthur launched such a warning, and is being persecuted in vitriolic attacks on his stance against false doctrine. Unfortunately insults have and are still being hurled at him personally, and at the cessationist doctrine that we stand for. We preach Christ, and Him crucified to the glory of God. The continualists preach Christ "and the sign gifts". Is MacArthur wrong? No, and neither is honoring God with bible Scripture if it is our organization's firm belief. Wake up calls have been heard and a lot of former complacent Christians will rally to react.

    Our reaction should be to follow Christ and the admonitions found in Paul and Peter's epistles. to the glory of God. Anything less or different is the work of Satan.

    The holy Spirit is our helper and not a misrepresented spirit?

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    1. Hi Adam,

      I agree with everything you said. Thanks so much for commenting.

      I'd like to take your thought further a bit. Yes we should follow Christ. The point of the essay was,

      --following Him means following Him into trouble, or hard persecution
      --how do we react when we encounter the promised persecution?

      Many people might have a knee-jerk reaction, they might fight back in anger, they might forget to witness of His glory by a poor response.

      Following Christ means sometimes submitting to authorities- as Peter did when he meekly submitted to arrest, and sometimes defying authorities, as Peter did when he refused to stop preaching Christ. Each of us should be personally ready to do either when the time comes, and have been prayed up and read up on the word *beforehand* to have the wisdom to distinguish between the two.

      Because, it's coming and is already here.

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    2. The gospel of Christ is one of a different life in and for Christ. We should all have the priority of trying in all things to place the centrality of God above all things. The ability to do this is the sword of the Spirit - which is the word of God. We will have trouble in this life and those who are deceived that this is not so have not been walking the path for long enough. "There is nothing new".

      You are correct that we should be prepared. This can only come by being diligent to show ourselves approved. We should be ready in season and out of season, as we know not when trouble and decision will be upon us.

      Hebrews 11:7 ESV

      By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

      The examples you gave of submitting to the same trouble (authorities) is a good start, but the troubles come not from the "authority of the land" alone which has been subverted greatly by the modern humanistic and moralistic age (season). The church has been sidelined by what is predicted in Scripture - a falling away that has led to the wiles of antichrist to be seemingly getting the upper hand. So, as with Noah the whole council of God has been revealed to us of events yet to come. What we see has been "told to us" but the detail is yet to unfold.

      Christ does not seek trouble, but the costs of discipleship are:

      Luke 12:49-53 (ESV)

      49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

      This talks about about divisions in the household of God as I see it, and also even within our own families. We will be persecuted by even our "spiritual brother/s"(those of the deception) and our "fleshly brothers" and unsaved family).

      It is important to see that not all that would seem to be Christians follow the same spirit. We should have the discernment not to counsel with those who follow another spirit, even Satan. I have talked about this in my previous post. We then have the obvious unregenerate and the authorities of the day will be a mixed bag of regenerate and unregenerate. The church is not a political organization and for this reason the Jews rejected Christ. We are not Jews - as in spiritual Jews. We should not see ourselves to fight a political war, but we are to withstand the evil one and his forces. In doing this I believe God will honor our efforts, but we are not to expect things to be "of our perception or command". God's providence is above all, and we do not have the mind of God.

      We are taught to pray continuously and not to wait for decision time to then be caught off our guard. A knee jerk response is not what we see in the scriptures: The apostle Paul assures us: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4)

      It is a continuous battle and it is an individual battle AND also a corporate one for the church of Christ which is ill-defined and failing in its task? We should trust that Christ is building His church, despite what we see.

      Is this new? No, and what are we to do if at all possible? We are not to be discouraged because we are few. We have to discern who are for us and who are against us.

      "Don't be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them."

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    3. I believe events like these are part of how Jesus is building His church,and also separating the wheat from the chaff and the sheep from the goats. I believe the problems with the monument are indicative of three general and troubling problems in the church-

      --mixing pagan with Christian (walking labyrinths, circle making)
      --biblical illiteracy (My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge)
      --acting in ways that are Christian-y but are in fact superstition or tradition.(holy relics, shroud of Turin, worshiping blood vials) "Superstition is based on the ignorant faith of an object having magical powers" GotQuestions)

      We are ill-prepared for those reasons and of course many more. We will not be ready for persecution of we don't even know the bible, and worse, have not the discernment to detect when bible verses are being misused

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  2. Thank you Elizabeth for covering this topic. It has been on my heart for some time now and in my prayers that each of us would be given the courage and stamina to never fail our Lord even if our lives are threatened. It was also the topic of my conversation with our pastor's wife this morning. It would be one thing for this old lady to face death but for someone with young children who may be threatened....well it would be really horrible. We must all pray for our dear faithful pastors and their families.

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