The Privilege of Persecution
“Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and cast insults at you, and spurn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven.”
In recent days two separate articles have come to my attention that reveal that persecution of Christians is on the increase in America. The Spirit expressly testifies that these things will increase, and very markedly so. We are at that time which the Bible refers to as “the beginning of birthpangs.” In order for mature sons and daughters of God to come forth, the church must pass through a season of pain and sorrow. When it is observed that a “man child” has come forth to the glory of God, all the pain of what was experienced will be forgotten.
“But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name. And at that time many will fall away and will deliver up one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many. And because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved.”
“A woman when she is in travail has sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembers no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And you now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man takes from you.”
When the church observes actual instances of Christian persecution in America, the response of many is shock and outrage. Many are tempted to resist such persecution through whatever political or human means that are at hand. Such responses reveal a wrong mindset, and a misapprehension of the purpose of suffering. Suffering is not a great evil to be avoided at any cost; It is a privilege to be borne by those who are true disciples of Christ.
Let me share with you an excerpt from the first article that recently drew my attention to the escalating persecution of Christians and their beliefs.
Gay activists get LifeSiteNews translator and pro-family activist Julio Severo cut off by PayPal
by Matthew Cullinan Hoffman
September 19, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Under pressure from homosexual activists, PayPal has decided to deny service to famed Brazilian pro-life and pro-family Christian activist Julio Severo.
In additon, at least two Christian organizations targeted by the same activists remain under investigation by PayPal and may also lose use of the service.
Severo, an Evangelical essayist who also translates for LifeSiteNews, maintains a highly influential blog in Portuguese that is read and commented on by politicians in Brazil’s federal government. He is also the author of several books, including a work on the homosexual movement in Brazil.
Severo’s use of PayPal has been targeted in recent weeks by the homosexual group “All Out,” which has created an online petition to urge PayPal to dump Severo and nine other PayPal users as purveyors of “hate” and “extremism.” Severo’s site expresses love of homosexuals and a concern that homosexual behavior is destructive to those who participate in it.
Following the initiation of the campaign, Severo and several others on the list have been contacted by PayPal, asking for information on their organizations and implying that they are not in compliance with PayPal policies.
Following Severo’s response noting that he is not an organization, only an individual, PayPal responded today stating, “We appreciate your interest in PayPal. However, due to legal and regulatory constraints, PayPal Private Limited is unable to process donation payments for non-registered charities and non-profit organizations (NPOs); political party/organizations; religious institutions; personal/organizational fundraisers, etc in countries under its jurisdiction.”
“This is not a decision we make lightly, and we deeply regret any inconvenience or frustration this matter may cause you,” PayPal adds. “Please understand that this decision is final.”
The organization adds that it will not permit Severo to access any funds remaining in the account for 180 days, after which it will inform him of how to recover them…
Homosexuals also managed to remove Severo’s blog from Blogger for a short period of time in 2008, after complaining about its content. However, following a massive outcry from Brazilian Christians, his site was restored.
“I am very worried, because PayPal caved in to gay militants and their hate campaign to have me excluded from PayPal,” Severo told LifeSiteNews.
“I use PayPal to pay for essential services for me and my family. And we are in a very limited situation, because we are away from Brazil because of gay and government persecution. Our resources are limited,” he added. “And now under pressure of my persecutors, PayPal is making sure that my ways to receive donations may be even more limited and hard.
“Millions of individuals use PayPal to receive money. Why cannot I receive too?” Severo asks and points out that “I am not a charity. I am only a Christian individual with a wife and four little children…”
As a Christian teacher with a website hosted by Blogger, who also receives gifts from Christian brothers and sisters through Paypal, this story strikes close to home. Satan has often employed fear of suffering as a tool to silence Christians and to drive truth underground. Should I begin to censor my writings to insure that they do not offend various groups or individuals, fearing that my source of support, or my ability to share publicly with others, might be cut off? Once we begin down the path of permitting fear to dictate our actions it is very difficult to recover.
As Christ is our pattern, we do not see that He ever compromised in speaking forth the mind of His Father. Even when He knew that the religious leaders of Israel would be incensed and begin seeking His life, He spoke boldly and without apology. Yahshua entrusted His life into the hands of His Father knowing that He would be protected until the time appointed by the Father for Him to suffer.
In Peter, we initially see a very different response. Observing that Christ’s open declaration of the things of God led to arrest and suffering, Peter was initially cowed as he feared the same result. Three times on the night of Christ’s arrest, Peter denied that he even knew Yahshua. To save himself from suffering, Peter denied the Lord who had chosen him.
At the third appearing of Christ after His resurrection, we find Yahshua speaking to Peter about his failure. Even as Peter denied Yahshua three times, Christ asks him three times, “Peter, do you love Me?” Christ then tells Peter that he cannot avoid suffering, but must embrace it. Only in this way will Peter be able to fulfill the desire of God and be brought to the full image of Christ.
Yahshua said to him…, “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself, and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me!”
These words of Christ, although having a literal fulfillment, were spoken as a parable to reveal spiritual truth. In our immaturity, our lives are guided by our own soul. Our soul’s seek to avoid suffering, but following such a course causes Christians to remain as spiritual children. In order to progress to maturity we must all stretch out our hands and embrace the suffering of the cross appointed to us. We cannot refuse to share in the sufferings of Christ. It is only through suffering that we are brought to a mature conformity to Christ.
Yahshua was expressing to Peter that he must yield to the cross, and become willing to go where his own soul would not choose to go. If Peter would advance to spiritual maturity (“when you grow old”), he must permit someone else to gird him and guide him. This person is the Spirit of Christ. He will clothe us in garments of humility and lead us down an afflicted path.
People of God, this story about Paypal cutting off service to this man who has been speaking out openly against the sin of homosexuality is just one example of the growing intolerance of the preaching of Biblical truth. This morning a sister forwarded to me a link to a story on the website Prison Planet. It lists 18 (6+6+6) examples of the persecution of Christians at this hour. Whether each of these events are truly examples of suffering for Christ, I am unable to judge. However, I am persuaded that Christian persecution is on the increase, and will only accelerate. Following is an excerpt from the article:
#1 Home Bible studies are now banned in the city of San Juan Capistrano, California. According to city officials, regular gatherings “of more than three people” in private homes are simply not allowed. One couple that has held home Bible studies for years has already been fined twice  and is being threatened with even more fines.
#2 Paypal has initiated “formal investigations” of a large number of Christian websites and organizations. Apparently, many of these investigations have been launched due to concerns that these websites and organizations do not hold to a “politically-correct” view of sexuality…
#3 In Wichita, Kansas last year, a Christian minister was handcuffed and hauled off to jail by police for sharing the gospel and handing out tracts to Muslims on a public sidewalk. Apparently freedom of speech does not apply on the public sidewalks of America any longer.
#4 In the UK, police recently threatened a cafe owner with arrest for silently playing a Bible DVD on a small television on the back wall of his cafe. The following is an excerpt from a Daily Mail article about this incident….
Mr Murray, 31, was left shocked after he was questioned for nearly an hour by the officers, who arrived unannounced at the premises.
He said he had turned off the Bible DVD after an ‘aggressive inquisition’ during which he thought he was going to be arrested and ‘frog-marched out of the cafe like a criminal.’
#5 Last year, a high school student in Southern California was suspended for two days because he had private conversations with his classmates during which he discussed Christianity. He was also banned from bringing his Bible to school ever again.
#6 Big cable networks regularly feature “comedians” that love to mock Christians. For example, HBO “comedian” Bill Maher recently stated that “there’s a term for people who hate charity and love killing: Christian.”
#7 Down in Texas, the Department of Veteran Affairs actually tried to ban prayers that include the words “God” or “Jesus” during funeral services for veterans.
#8 In North Carolina last year, a pastor was dismissed from his chaplain duties for praying in the name of Jesus.
#9 An unclassified Department of Homeland Security report published a couple years ago entitled “Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” claims that a belief in Bible prophecy “could motivate extremist individuals and groups to stockpile food, ammunition and weapons.” The report goes on to state that such people are potentially dangerous.
#10 Back on February 20, 2009, the State of Missouri issued a report entitled “MIAC Strategic Report: The Modern Militia Movement.” That report warned that the following types of people may be potential terrorists….
*those that are against illegal immigration
*those that consider “the New World Order” to be a threat
*those that have a negative view of the United Nations
#11 All over the nation, “child protection agencies” are ripping an inordinate number of children out of Christian homes. In many of these cases the parents believe in homeschooling their children or they do not believe in having their children vaccinated.
#12 On June 18, 2010 two Christians decided that they would peacefully pass out copies of the gospel of John on a public sidewalk outside a public Islamic festival in Dearborn, Michigan and within three minutes 8 police officers surrounded them and placed them under arrest.
#13 A Christian consultant was recently fired by Bank of America and by Cisco because they discovered a book that he had written that expressed Christian viewpoints about social issues.
#14 A while back, a federal judge actually ruled that the University of California can deny course credit to applicants from Christian high schools that use textbooks that teach that it was God who created the earth.
#15 Back in 2009, one 8 year old boy in Massachusetts was sent home from school and was forced to undergo a psychological evaluation because he drew a picture of Jesus on the cross.
#16 The Obama administration has announced that there is a whole host of laws that it will not be enforcing, but one thing that the Obama administration has chosen to do is to aggressively pursue lawsuits against anti-abortion protesters.
#17 During a Congressional hearing earlier this year, U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee warned that “Christian militants” might try to “bring down the country” and that such groups need to be investigated.
#18 According to a shocking FBI document obtained by Oath Keepers, the FBI definition of “suspicious activity” now includes making “extreme religious statements” and believing in “radical theology.”
Christ’s theology in His day was certainly considered “radical.” So too was the preaching of the apostle Paul. Not surprisingly, their words stirred up strong emotions and at times a violent response from those who heard them. If the sons of God speak forth those things Yahweh’s Spirit delivers to them to speak in this hour, it too will be considered radical, offensive, and will provoke a response of persecution.
“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you…”
II Timothy 3:10-12
But you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord delivered me! And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Yahshua will be persecuted.
When Paul speaks of being delivered by the Lord out of all his persecutions, he is not implying that he was spared experiences of suffering. Christ gave Paul strength to stand, and not shrink back, when faced with suffering. It was the will of Christ that Paul suffer many things. This fact was expressed at the very time of Paul’s conversion.
But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”
Although you and I may never be called to suffer as many things as Paul, Yahweh has specifically appointed experiences of suffering for everyone who would follow in the steps of Christ. We must not shrink back from these experiences as Peter did on the night of Christ’s arrest. We must embrace the cross appointed to each of us.
The vast majority of Christians in America who come across articles such as those cited in this chapter will be alarmed. Their immediate response will be to cry out in indignation, and perhaps to engage in some carnal means of averting further persecution against Christians. The church has not been taught the role and necessity of suffering for Christ. Deceptive teachings that assert that God wants to provide an uninterrupted life of blessing and prosperity to the saints has deeply weakened the churches ability to stand. When persecution and suffering presents itself to the church in coming days, a great many will fall away.
“And in a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away.”
Christ encouraged those who would follow as His disciples to adopt a very different mindset from that which is so prevalent in this hour of sensuality, ease, and comfort. He told His disciples to think of themselves as “blessed” when all men hate them. He told them to “leap for joy” with the understanding that they have a great reward in heaven.
It is a privilege to be permitted to share in the sufferings of Christ. In coming days, many saints will be invited to partake of this privilege. To natural eyes, such things look like no privilege at all. Men think it a curse to be turned out of homes, to have their possessions confiscated, to be arrested, reproached, blasphemed, and roughly treated. In coming days, many will be put in prisons, and some will lose their lives for their obedience to follow Christ wherever He would lead. Let us have our minds made up ahead of time that we will accept whatever comes, and not turn back.
“And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to death.”
Let us “think it not strange” when these experiences come to us. Tribulation is appointed to all of the sons of God. There is a cup of suffering that Christ drank from, and He would offer it to all who are called and chosen as sons. There is a baptism of fire that all must pass through.
Yahshua said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.”
Let us not be alarmed at the increasing enmity of the world toward Christianity. These things must come. The swelling tide of Christian antipathy cannot be turned back through political activism, through boycotts, letter writing campaigns, or any other means. Christ prophesied that His disciples would be hated by all nations. It is vain to seek to produce a safe society where Christians can worship God and serve Him unmolested. To seek such a course will only result in a watered down message, compromised obedience, and disciples of Christ that have lost their saltiness and are good for nothing.
The Father has been merciful to me and has never shown me too much of what lies ahead. Yahshua testified, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,” urging His disciples to “take no thought for tomorrow.” Tomorrow will come. There will be evil things we must pass through. Many will be rejected by family, friends, church members, and society. Some will experience the loss of all worldly possessions. More than a few will be beaten, imprisoned and even put to death. As the elect of God bear up patiently under all things while maintaining a heart of love and forgiveness, they will prove that they are worthy of the name of Christ, and that the world is not worthy of them.
And others were tortured, not accepting their release, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.
We should not be surprised that Paypal should refuse service to the disciples of Christ in these last days. An hour is coming when those who bear the imprint of Christ, and have overcome the mark of the beast, will not be permitted to buy or sell in a world under the dominion of Satan. The faith of the saints must be tested. Those who stand fast will find that their faith will be purified even as gold is refined in a fire.
Our faith is precious in the eyes of God. Let us not cast away our confidence, for the words of the apostle are true:
I Peter 5:10
And after you have suffered for a little while , the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
There is a beneficent purpose behind the suffering appointed to us. Yahweh would have us perfected and established as sons ready to receive an inheritance imperishable in the heavens. Let all who would be perfect put on the mind of Christ who said, “Not My will, but Thy will be done.”
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