Sunday, October 4, 2015

Martyrdom in America and the 'indomitable human spirit'

On October 1, 2015 a mass shooting took place at an Oregon Community College. The lone gunman shot and killed 9 people and injured 9 others before turning his weapon on himself as police arrived and a battle ensued.

The shooting at Umpqua CC was one of the deadliest in recent memory. The list of school shootings just in recent years is depressingly long. In addition to the UCC shooting this week in Oregon, are the 2015 shootings at Emmanuel African Methodist Church in which 9 were killed during a worship service, the 2012 Aurora CO movie theater shooting, and several recent shootings at military installations such as Ft. Hood and US Navy Yard.

In 2015, The Washington Post reported 204 mass shootings occurring in the U.S. in that year alone, according to ShootingTracker.com. In August 2015, the Washington Post reported that the United States was averaging one mass shooting per day. As of October 2015, U.S. President Barack Obama had given eleven speeches on eleven different mass shootings. (source).

One difference with this particular shooting in Oregon is that the shooter targeted Christians. In Charleston, though it was a church shooting, the motivation was racial. In other shootings, the gunman was a disgruntled employee targeting the workplace or simply an angry young madman locating a place where great numbers of people gather. The Umpqua Community College shooting is unique and represents a deepening of the exposure of our human spirit's depravity. But before I delve into that biblical discussion, here are the facts surrounding this latest incident.

As the gunman entered the classroom at the Community College, he told all the students, adults, and teachers in the room to lay on the floor. Then he demanded that each one rise in turn and state their religion. If they said nothing, or 'other', they were maimed. If they said they were a Christian, the gunman reportedly replied,
"'Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second," Stacy Boylan said in a televised report. "And then he shot and killed them."


The United States has been relatively shielded from direct assault on Christians solely due to their religion. This shielding is obviously over.

Back in June, the Supreme Court of the United States made a moral declaration in their judicial capacity, rendering an opinion that stated that homosexual people across the land had the right to marry. Wikipedia's synopsis states,
In the United States, same-sex marriage has been legal nationwide since June 26, 2015, when the United States Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that state-level bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. The court ruled that the denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples and the refusal to recognize those marriages performed in other jurisdictions violates the Due Process and the Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The ruling overturned a precedent, Baker v. Nelson.
Most Christians recognized this as a spiritual watershed moment in our society. God sets up nations and establishes their boundaries. (Acts 17:26). Though only one nation has been specifically established to glorify Him as His special elect (Israel, Isaiah 45:4), the LORD does expect Godly behavior as the Gospel spreads. Moreover, He is always angry at sin. (Psalm 7:11).

The reverse of His setting up nations and working within them is that He also releases nations to their sin when they consistently fail to repent or when they consistently defy Him. This process is described in Romans 1:18-32. It applies to individuals but also applies en masse to nations when enough of the people consistently choose sin over God. That great nations and empires come and go is testament to His work within them. Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, the British Empire ... all consigned to the dustbin of history as once great but no more. This isn't an accident of history but a purposeful work of God.

When the SCOTUS decision came down in June 2015, many American Christians remarked that it seemed that God had turned the US over to its sin and allowed a hardening to take place. At that time, Dr John MacArthur had some wise and encouraging words. He preached that the decision to encourage sch a particularly depraved sin, having reached the highest levels, was a marker that God had indeed turned America over. This hardening and release will have consequences, MacArthur said.
Practical atheism, rejection of the truth, moral relativism has always prevailed in Satan’s kingdom. But here in America we’ve been protected from that in its full fierceness. No more. And by the way, religious liberty isn’t promised to Christians, is it? Freedom isn’t promised to Christians. Persecution is. Persecution is. I think we’re going to feel it. 
There will be a barrage of persecution. These are going to be very challenging days. We will not bow. We will be gracious and we will be loving, but we will render to God what is God’s. (Source: Sermon We Will Not Bow.)
He was right. A mere three months later, Christians were murdered on US soil for the first time solely due to their stated religion. As a nation founded by religious separatists on the concepts of freedom, religious liberty, and one nation UNDER GOD, it has always seemed absurd and farcical that the kind of religious persecution written about in the first century or the Middle Ages could ever happen in the US. Then ISIS formed and many people in the 10/40 Window were martyred, persecuted, hunted and killed for their religious beliefs.

But still, it seemed far-fetched that it would happen here any time soon, despite what the Bible promised about Christians having trouble in this world. (John 16:33).

But Dr MacArthur was right, or more correctly, the Bible was right about what happens to nations that reject Him. Trouble and persecution always follows. America is certainly no exception. For some people, that fact just took a while to sink in. Then Umpqua happened and Christians were killed.

Jordan Standridge wrote at The Cripplegate yesterday about the martyrdom. Here is a short excerpt, and I recommend the entire piece-

When the Devil Points a Gun at You
The world will hate Christians 
I have to begin with this as we heard that the gunman singled out Christians in the shooting. He hated organized religion and made it a point to shoot the Christians in a fatal way. Jesus was clear that Christians will be persecuted (2 Timothy 5:12). He also tells his disciples that the world will treat them just like He was treated (John 15:20-21). When the devil points a gun at you, he desperately wants to kill Christ but he can’t get to him. But we know Christ will ultimately crush his head.

The world can’t stop the Gospel

On the day of their executions, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley knew that their burning would only enflame the light of the Gospel even more. Though John Bunyan’s tongue was silenced, the Gospel spread through his writing at a higher rate than ever before. Time and time again the world has tried to silence Christians and yet you cut a head off and two grow back. You can’t stop the Gospel. Though the devil seems to win battles, he will not win the war. When the Devil points a gun at you he desperately wants to stop the Gospel, but he can’t and it always spreads further.

Here is Adam Ford with One Simple Question


So all this was not to simply recount the news. It was to get us to this point and then remark on a comment made by CNN and former US Representative Gabrielle Giffords. In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, CNN reported this comment made by Gabby Giffords. Mrs Giffords was also a victim of a shooting when a politically motivated gunman shot her in the head. She knows the emotions of being a victim of violent crime, and she has experienced the aftermath. In addition to being shot with the physical effects, her wounding ended her political career. Giffords said of the Oregon shooting,

As far as I know, Mrs Giffords is not a Christian. Her Wikipedia page lists her religion as Reformed Judaism.

The human spirit is not indomitable, unless you say it is indomitably depraved. Indomitable means "impossible to subdue or defeat." The sin-nature that's in all of us IS impossible to subdue or defeat, without Christ. Our indomitable human nature is exactly why we need Christ! The same community comprised of individuals who mourned the victims' deaths and injuries at Umpqua and who will attempt to rebound from their heartbreak, is the same community comprised of individuals any of whom may turn around some day and do the exact same thing.

In my early Christian walk, as I began to grapple with the difficult concepts of
total depravity & sin, (Ecc 7:20), I worked through these concepts by
 making collages. If we could see our spirit as God sees it, it might
look like this, as I collaged my representation of the sin-nature.
I'd said that the list of US mass shootings is depressingly long. Mass shootings are not isolated incidents, happening only rarely. Serial murders are not rare. Infanticide is not rare. Abortion infanticide is not rare. They are regular, normal acts from regular, depraved people whose sin nature has not been subdued and resisted with the aid of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

You might think my attitude is excessively dark.  And indeed, things do look dark. Jesus promised that before His Second Coming the earth's people would be like they were in the days of Noah. (Luke 17:26). Immediately prior to the Flood, the Lord withdrew His Spirit, because He will not strive with Man forever. (Genesis 6:3). The world was released to wallow in its depravity, which had descended to this:

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Genesis 6:5).

The reality is, man's 'indomitable' spirit is dark. It's evil. Left to our own devices, we only think evil all the time. It will be that way again prior to the second judgment, when His wrath is released onto an unbelieving world during the Tribulation after the rapture when the restraining Holy Spirit is removed along with the people He dwells in. Except, Jesus promised, it will be worse. (Matthew 24:21-22).

And here is where the Light breaks.


Our God is so majestic, loving, and kind, He did not leave us to eternally deal with our indomitably evil human spirit. He begot a Son, who is Jesus. He sent His Son to incarnate into human flesh. Emptying Himself, He lived a perfectly holy and sinless life on earth. He dwelled among men and in all man's depravity, yet in Him there was no darkness for one moment in all His days on earth. Falsely accused, Jesus allowed Himself to be beaten, scourged, spit on, maimed, stripped, and placed on a humiliating and painful cross, to die. Before His death, He took on God's wrath for His elect's sin.

We speak of the dark spirit of man, but think of this darkness. The moment when Jesus took on God's wrath and absorbed the sin of the world, He was separated from God for the first time in eternity. All the world was literally dark. (Matthew 27:45)

This was so that Jesus could become the perfect sacrifice needed to please God and exhaust God's wrath. God raised Jesus in the flesh the third day, and He ascended to the Father, where He reigns until He comes again.

Now what sinners must do is believe this Gospel. Believe your spirit is not pure and white and able to conquer anger, sin, and death. But believe that Jesus conquered sin and death and became the Door through which we may enter Holy heaven, pure and undefiled, because Jesus is pure and undefiled. The Light has come! Read this, slowly, even though it is so familiar to you-

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

19And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
(John 3:16:21)

As Dr MacArthur preached, we will not bow. In addition, not only will we not to bow, but we will stand.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:13)

Just as the martyred Christians did on October 1. Stand and declare ... for Jesus. Be ready to die answering that one simple question. Are you a Christian? The new martyrs' light has not been extinguished, but only burns brighter as this world's spirit of the age darkens. For the Light has come.

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (Luke 9:24)




6 comments :

  1. And I believe we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg of whst is about to come upon us.
    I am very proud of my brothers and sisters who didn't deny the One who bought them. What rejoicing there must have been in heaven, when those precious people praised the Lord who enabeled them to stand firm! A never ending circle of God bring glory to himself. What satan meant as discouragement for those of us still on earth, became an example to look toward. God is the inventor and master executor of irony. He always wins. Hallelujah!
    Jennifer

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    1. Well said, Sister. Very well said.

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    2. Please don't call people who kill others in cold blood "shooters." They are murderers. In this case a mass murderer. The word 'shooter' is the world's sanitized word for a person guilty of the sin of murder. They want to take any notion of sin and all responsibility away, apparently. But let us use Bible language and terms for what is happening

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    3. Hi Anonymous,

      I can understand your heartfelt thoughts about this, but he is a shooter, he shot people, using a gun. In addition to the word shooter which I used once, I used the word 'murder' to describe those killed at Oregon, stating, "Christians were murdered on US soil for the first time solely due to their stated religion." In the piece, I also used the words martyred, persecuted, hunted, killed, and infanticide. I don't think I sanitized anything.

      As for using Bible's language, "Martyred" is the Bible's word for saints killed for their faith, which I used 5 times, including the headline.

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  2. I read elsewhere that not replying to a question aimed at you by a mentally unstable gunman is not the same as denying Christ. What do you think?

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    1. Not what I think, but what does the Bible say. Two verses come to mind.

      James 4:17, So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin

      and

      Matthew 10:32-33, Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33"But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.

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