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Don’t back down

April 30, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

Pastor Chuck DeVane

Special to The Sentinel-Record

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, ESV

Persecution against Christians is as old as the Christian people. The first punch was thrown in the book of Acts, and it would not be the last. Prophecies in Scripture point to the fact that as we near the second coming of Jesus Christ, persecution's punches will become more precipitate.

What makes a person persecute another? What made the Jewish authorities go after Christ and the early Christians? It is the sinful and sinister combination of pride, power, and unbelief.

Pride artificially inflates self-esteem and looks upon others wrongly with low esteem. Pride craves power over others, and politics and persecution are one way to get it and keep it. The worst problem, however, was not their lack of humility, nor their lack of democratic sensibilities, but their sheer lack of faith. The religious people who persecuted the first church were a religious sect without religion, God's people without God, Jews against Jesus.

On the other hand, the Christian gospel demands humility, admission of sin, repentance and faith. It models Jesus Christ, the Lord who lived the life of a servant, not a power broker. It stresses the vaporous nature of this present world, and promises an eternity in Heaven for the redeemed and Hell for unbelievers. And when the gospel is preached, persecution of some form or fashion almost always follows.

Persecution attacks Christianity, generally. People don't like to see themselves as sinners who need to be saved, they don't want the ethical and moral boundaries that come with the saved life, and they sure as h-e-double-hockey-sticks don't want to be told that Jesus is the only way to Heaven.

Persecution attacks Christians, particularly. Peter and John were punched and put in jail. The early Christians suffered beatings, tortures, and executions. The same can be said through the centuries as the gloves of the Sadducees have been picked up and used by Roman Caesars, medieval Goths, and communist dictators to persecute Christians.

Persecution attacks Christ, ultimately. Jesus had told His disciples before He left, "If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (ref. John 15:20). When we find Saul of Tarsus doing his dead-level best to destroy Christianity and Christians, he is confronted by Christ Himself who says, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" (ref. Acts 9:4)

Our doctrine they have slandered and our books they have burned. Our people they have arrested, imprisoned, killed. But persecution's punch cannot topple our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. He will prevail, along with His gospel, and His people, the church.

At the end of the day, persecution proves that lost people are just lost. The free agency of man combined with inherent depravity can produce some horrific choices. Those who choose to reject the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ can come to hate the truth, then hate the truth-tellers, then do them harm.

Furthermore, persecution proves that saved people are saved. A faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted, and nothing tests our faith like persecution. Like Peter and John we must refuse to stand down, "For we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard."

Let us Christians live and speak the gospel, without fear or intimidation. And when we do, and persecution punches back, we'll just quote the late great Tom Petty: "Well, I won't back down, no won't back down, you can stand me up at the gates of Hell, but I won't back down!"

Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church, 5963 Central Ave. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected]

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