Monday, March 8, 2010

Persecuted but Not Discouraged – Part 1

One of the things that is interesting about the first 300 years of the Church is that it was persecuted but continued to grow. Sometimes persecution was lighter, and sometimes it was very severe. Despite risk to life, livelihood and family, people converted to Christianity in huge numbers. There’s a saying that the Church was built on the blood of the martyrs. It seems counter-intuitive but that’s what happened.

In more recent history, atheistic Communism tried to obliterate Christianity from the former Soviet Union and China. When the Soviet Union dissolved, the Church emerged intact, and is doing well in Russia and Ukraine. While numbers are difficult to obtain, it appears that there are many more Christians in China now than there were in 1949 when Communism took control of the country.

Today powerful forces in the West are also trying to wipe out Christianity. They are using a different tactic than the communists. They put down, ridicule and marginalize Christians in the hope that people will abandon the faith, and Christianity and the Church will wither on the vine. Their thinking is that if it’s not “cool” to be a Christian and you’re going to be ridiculed for being one, then people will not have anything to do with it.

They are wrong. The Church of Jesus Christ has survived for 2,000 years and isn’t going away. As a matter of fact, many individual churches are doing quite well. They are growing numerically and spiritually, and wonderful things are happening. I get the impression that the ethnic churches (Korean, Hispanic, Chinese, Caribbean, etc.) are especially thriving, but a good number of Anglo churches are also coming alive and growing, especially the charismatic ones. Even some individual mainline churches, which as a whole are shrinking in membership, are becoming Spirit-filled and doing mighty works.

I believe that we may be getting close to another revival in this country. We are due for a Third Great Awakening, and I hope it comes soon. In response to an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we will confess, repent, and make Christ our Lord and Savior. Then God will surely heal us as we read in 2 Chronicles 7:14:

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (NRSV)

I believe that only an outpouring of the Holy Spirit is what will save this country from itself. Our politicians can’t do it. Our citizens can’t do it. The financial industry certainly can’t do it. Only God can do it.

So pray for revival – it’s our only hope!

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