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THE MARATHON AND THE PERSECUTION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, March 3, 2002


"The whole world lieth in wickedness" (I John 5:19).

Our church is meeting this Sunday morning during what the world calls, "The Los Angeles Marathon." The streets to downtown Los Angeles are blocked off by the police during the traditional hour of Christian worship this Sunday morning. The police are not on our side. They have made it nearly impossible for us to reach our church in the central city of Los Angeles. The police offer us no help and little if any protection, as wild, neo-pagan Americans run wildly through the city in a celebration of their pagan-derived "marathon."

These people have no heart-felt love for Jesus Christ. They may claim that they know Jesus, but actions speak louder than words. Think of it - what more evil could people do than desecrate the Lord's Day, flinging themselves into the streets in teeming hordes to take their stand with the old pagan gods, against the Lord Jesus Christ and His church, at the very hour of traditional Christian Sunday morning worship? I can think of no more flagrant denial of Christ. I can think of no more heinous crime against God. Whatever these people may say about being "Christians in their hearts," their hearts are far from God as they flaunt themselves openly in defiance of His church and His gospel this Sunday morning. How God's heart must be broken when He sees their pagan bacchanal, and hedonistic godlessness! We can learn several lessons from the Los Angeles Marathon.

I. The first lesson we learn from the Los Angeles Marathon is that
the world lies in the power of the wicked one.

Our text tells us so.

"The whole world lieth in wickedness" (I John 5:19).

The Scofield margin note has this amplification of the original Greek, "The whole world lieth in the wicked one." That is the literal translation, and it shows us the great power Satan has over these marathon runners this Sunday morning. They are controlled and motivated by Satan, "the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2).

Satan is not in Hell now, though he will be in the future. During this present age, he is the "prince of the power of the air." He is in the air around us, tempting and motivating people to live godless lives. He is "the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience." He motivates their minds and leads them into this meaningless hour of the worship of sports, rather than the worship of our thrice Holy God.

There was a time not long ago when the people of Los Angeles went to church every Sunday morning. In the memory of my childhood I can see lines of white people, black people, Hispanics, and others gathering in great crowds to come into the churches in downtown Los Angeles.

But this is no longer true. A few old ladies will brave the tide of beer-swilling pagans, as they try desperately to find their way to a tiny church on some side street near the city. Our own church must make monumental efforts to find an out-of-the-way path through the throngs of wild revellers to come here and worship God - in church - as God Himself has commanded us to do in Hebrews 10:25,

"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25).

The spirit of the Fourth Commandment is still in full moral force:

"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Exodus 20:8).

But in our day the Devil has clouded the minds of men and women. The Bible predicted this:

"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils" (I Timothy 4:1).

One of the doctrines of devils is that you don't have to be in church to be a Christian. It is a demonic lie. He who is not part of a local church is not part of Christ, and has no part in Christ. The church is Christ's body, "The church, which is his body" (Ephesians 1:22-23). Whoever is not in the church is not in His body, and is not a Christian. But millions believe the demonic lie that you don't have to go to church to be a Christian. And the Bible says, "The whole world lieth in wickedness" - literally, "The whole world lieth in the wicked one."

In the Book of Revelation we are told about "that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world" (Revelation 12:9). Think of it! The Bible says that the whole world is deceived by Satan! No wonder thousands of people run half-naked through the streets in a marathon held exactly at the time of Christian worship! "Satan, which deceiveth the whole world" (Revelation 12:9). That's why the Bible tells us to separate from this sinful, satanically deceived world. The Bible says, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord" (II Corinthians 6:17). If you do not decide to come out from the people who think this marathon is O.K., you cannot be a real Christian. Those who think the marathon is O.K. are pagans - on their way to Hell. "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord" (II Corinthians 6:17).

The first lesson we learn from the Los Angeles Marathon is that the whole world lies under the power of Satan - and you must separate yourself from them and come to Christ to become a true Christian. And you must come into a local New Testament church every Sunday.

"The whole world lieth in wickedness" (I John 5:19).

II. The second lesson we learn from the Los Angeles Marathon is that
the world hates real Christians.

If you went running through the streets at church time on Sunday morning, your friends and relatives would say, "Cool! Way to go! Far out!" They would slap you on the back and think you were a smart and groovy person to participate in this marathon.

But what if you tell them you are going to be in a fundamentalist Baptist church every Sunday? What if you tell your worldly friends and lost relatives that you are going to get a black Scofield Bible and some good clothes to wear to church on Sunday? You know what they'll say? They'll say, "You're nuts!"

You will never find an exception to this - never! No lost parent or relative will encourage you to be a good Christian. It may seem that they are neutral, or don't care, but in the end they will be against you becoming a real Christian. After forty-four years in the ministry, I have never known an exception to this.

Now, the world thinks that running in the marathon is cool. But the world thinks that going to church is weird and strange and harmful. Jesus said, "Because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:19). Sooner or later the world will hate you if you get serious about becoming a Christian and going to church.

We can be nice to lost people, as Jesus was. But we must remember that they will turn on us sooner or later, just as they turned on Him. One day they were crying "Hosanna" and praising Him. A few days later, they were screaming, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" That's the way the lost world is - and don't ever forget it! Jesus said, "They hated me without a cause" (John 15:25).

When I was a very little boy, I overheard the women in our neighborhood call Roxy Mann a "holy roller." Mrs. Mann lived next door to us. Every time the women spoke they said, "She's a holy roller, you know." I didn't know what it meant, but it sounded awful. I could imagine her suddenly going crazy, her eyes rolling back in her head, rolling wildly down the sidewalk. They also talked about "whirling dervishes." In my young mind the two were closely connected. Whatever else happened to you, you didn't want to become a "whirling dervish" or a "holy roller!" I never went into her house, although I wanted to, because she raised parakeets and finches and canaries, and I wanted to see them up close. But I was so afraid that she might fall on the floor and start rolling around that I never went near her. I was terrified of going into her house.

Looking back, I now realize that Roxy Mann was just a poor old woman who went to church every Sunday, and sometimes sang hymns to the canaries that she raised on her back porch. She was probably the most normal and happy woman in the entire neighborhood. But they hated her without a cause - simply because she was a serious Christian.

If you become a serious Christian, sooner or later somebody is going to say that you "went off the deep end" into "religion." Sooner or later they will hate you, as they hated the Son of God a few days after they bowed to Him and cried "Hosanna." Why do they do this? Simply because

"The whole world lieth in wickedness" (I John 5:19).

III. The third lesson we learn from the Los Angeles Marathon is that
the world persecutes real Christians.

America has a long history of religious liberty. But the religious liberty in America did not come from Muslims, Catholics, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, or even Protestants per se. The religious freedom, which has been unique in the American experience, came from a Baptist. Roger Williams (1603-1683) was the founder of America's first Baptist church in 1639. He was also the founder of the colony of Rhode Island (1635). His views of religious toleration and the separation of church and state have "become one of the enduring facets of American experience," (J. D. Douglas, Who's Who in Christian History, Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House, 1992, p. 726).

So, it was not Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Protestants, Buddhists, or Hindus who conceived the idea of complete religious freedom. It was a Baptist idea. And ever since the days of Roger Williams, Baptists have safeguarded this precious freedom for all Americans.

But the Baptists are pretty weak here in Los Angeles. And they are getting weaker nationally. The secularists (always in the name of toleration) are trying to blame terrorism on "religion" in general. They will steal our Baptist-given religious freedom if we let them. In the name of "reason" and "good judgment," the secularists will regulate religion and take away many of the traditional religious freedoms which we have in America from our Baptist forefathers. You can count on it.

There is a secularist bias against serious Christianity. You can feel the prejudice against Bible-believing Christians during the marathon. They deliberately choose the very hour of traditional Christian worship to celebrate their bacchanalian marathon revelry. They block the streets leading to the church without the slightest regard for Christianity, or the traditional Sunday morning hour of Christian worship.

Furthermore, you will soon notice the bias of the police against Biblical Christians. The police used to be the friends of Baptists and other serious Christian churches. But no more. In the last twenty years or so, I have noticed a marked change in attitude by the police in the Los Angeles area. To make it plain - they don't like Christians. You can tell by the way they treat us. One of our boys was passing out Christian literature in Westwood. A policeman told him to stop. The boy said that he had religious freedom, that this is America. The policeman said, "We'll see about that!" He was handcuffed and taken to the police station - simply for giving out a few tracts in a so-called "tolerant" white area of the city, near Beverly Hills and UCLA. So much for our Baptist heritage of religious freedom!

A secular man had two Molotov cocktails thrown at a house because Baptist young people gathered there to study the Bible for two hours on Saturday evenings. This happened right here - in the Los Angeles area. So much for toleration and religious freedom!

You will notice that the broken down cars and trucks of inner-city hoodlums park in the "restricted" zone in front of the church for hours and even days without ever having the police give them a ticket. But when one of the cars in our church stops in the very "loading zone" in front of our church building, they are instantly ticketed if they stay more than two or three minutes. My wife received a ticket a few months ago because she stayed exactly one minute longer than allowed in the church's own "loading zone"! Why does this happen? Because the police know that the hoodlums will rip the ticket up and throw it away, but the Christians will pay. I believe they know that. I also believe that the police who patrol downtown Los Angeles are deeply prejudiced against serious Christianity.

The Bible says:

"All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution"

(II Timothy 3:12).

And while this persecution is on the rise in America, it is really a world-wide persecution. Jesus said:

"Ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake"

(Matthew 24:9).

Around the world today Christians are being persecuted simply for believing in Jesus! Here is the story of Guizhen Zhang, a forty-three-year-old woman from Shandong Province in China:

In the evening of November 29, 2000 I was awakened by a loud noise in the yard. One person yelled at me, "Get up now, and come with us." They pushed and pulled my husband and me by force into their police car and took us to the police station. [The policeman] stared at me with contempt, "Do you know why you were arrested?" "No, I don't," I replied. He yelled back fiercely, "It is because of you believing in God. You are so stubborn, you deserve a good beating." With this he slapped me several times. I was so dizzy I was seeing stars, and my ears were ringing. He shouted at me while he was slapping me, "Kneel down!" He kicked me and knocked me down to the floor. "Are you going to tell us why you believe in God? Shameless woman!" My hair was pulled out and my ears hurt so bad as if they were cut by a knife. I began to scream. Four of them kept cursing and beating me for more than three hours till I was lying on the floor motionless like dead, black and blue all over. Even so, they didn't stop torturing me…Three days later I was sentenced to two years and I am currently serving out my term. I was accused of "believing in God." I remain guilty. (Voice of the Martyrs, special issue, 2002, p. 12).

You can write to her and send her a Christian card. This will help her, and will probably shorten her sentence.

Guizhen Zhang
Jinnan Women, Lao Jia Camp
20 Jiang Quan Road
Li Xia District, Jinnan
Shandong Province
China 250000

(BE SURE TO PUT AN EIGHTY-CENT STAMP ON
THIS OR IT WILL NOT GO THROUGH. YOU
CAN WRITE IN ENGLISH OR CHINESE).


All over the world Christians are suffering like this, in Indonesia, in the Philippines, in the Sudan, in Malaysia, in Cuba, in North Korea, and in China. Richard Wurmbrand said, "Persecution has backfired and produced serious, dedicated Christians" (ibid., p. 14).

I am asking you to become a real Christian. I am not offering you something simple or easy. It will become increasingly harder to live the Christian life as the end of history approaches. It will require your life - but it's worth it.

Christ died on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sins. Christ rose from the dead and is alive at God's right hand in Heaven. When you believe on Christ, His Blood washes your sins away so you can go to Heaven. And then you come into the local church and live for Christ. When we get to Heaven it will be worth any problem we face on earth.

"The whole world lieth in wickedness" (I John 5:19).

The early Christians were severely persecuted, tortured and killed, just as Christians are being persecuted today. Nothing has changed. Fox's Book of Martyrs once served to mold the national character of both England and America. Next to the King James Bible and Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, it was the most widely read book in the English speaking world for centuries. Great Spurgeon advocated it being given to children at Christmas, so a new generation could learn of the suffering of our Christian forefathers. It is a book that will never die, and should be read again by all Christians in this age of the persecution and murder of Christians around the world today.

The author, John Fox, was born in 1517 in Lincolnshire, England. He studied at Oxford. He was condemned by the Catholic Church as a heretic and excommunicated for writing about the torture of Christians by the medieval Catholic Church. He died when Shakespeare was twenty-three years old.

Although the memory of the persecution of Protestants under the Queen, Bloody Mary (a Roman Catholic) brought bitterness to his book, he was a kind man personally and though he disowned the Catholic Church in which he was born, he has been called "a veritable apostle of toleration and good will." He later influenced Queen Mary to give up the cruel practices of putting to death those who opposed her religious convictions. The Queen held him in respect, and referred to him as "Our Father Foxe" (alternate spelling of his name). He died in 1587 and was buried in the chancel of St. Giles Church, Cripplegate, where he had preached at the beginning of Elizabeth's reign.

Here are extractions from Fox's Book of Martyrs. He pointed out that Christ was the first to die for the new Christian faith. He pointed out that Stephen was next. About 2,000 Christians, with Nicanor, one of the seven deacons, suffered martyrdom during the persecution at the time of Stephen's death.


Ten years after the death of Stephen the second martyrdom, of James the Great, the elder brother of John, took place. Clemens of Alexandria, resolving that James should not die alone, confessed Christ and was beheaded with him. Timon and Parmenos suffered martyrdom about the same time. These events took place in AD 44.

Philip was scourged, thrown into prison, and afterward crucified, in AD 54.

Matthew, who preached in Parthia and Ethiopia, was slain by a halberd in the city of Nabadah, in AD 60.

James the Less, the brother of our Lord, at the age of ninety-four was beaten and stoned by certain Jews, although he was a Jew himself, and he finally had his brains beaten out with a club.

Matthias, one of the Apostles, was stoned at Jerusalem and then beheaded.

Andrew, the brother of Peter, preached the gospel to many Asiatic nations. He was taken and crucified on a cross.

Mark was born of Jewish parents of the tribe of Levi. Mark was dragged to pieces by the people of Alexandria, ending his life under their merciless hands.

Peter, according to Jerome, was crucified, head down and his feet upward, at his own request, because he said he was not worthy to be crucified the way the Lord was.

Paul suffered under the first persecution of the Emperor Nero. The soldiers came and led him away where he, after prayers, was beheaded with a sword.

Jude the brother of James, often called Thaddeus, was crucified at Edessa in AD 72.

Bartholomew went to India where he translated the Gospel of Matthew into their language. They rewarded him by cruelly beating him and then crucifying him.

Thomas preached the gospel in Parthia and India, where he excited the rage of the pagan priests, who thrust him through with a spear, ending his holy life.

Luke, who travelled and preached with Paul, was hanged on an olive tree and left to die by the idol-worshipping priests of Greece.

Simon preached the gospel in Africa, and even in Britain, where he was crucified by British pagans in AD 74.

Barnabas was of Jewish descent. He came from Cyprus. He was killed in AD 73.

The apostle John founded churches at Smyrna, Pergamos, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, and Thyatira. He was sent from Ephesus to Rome where the Romans boiled him in burning oil. He escaped miraculously. The Emperor Domitian later banished him in extreme old age to the Isle of Patmos, where he wrote the Book of Revelation. He was the only apostle to escape violent death.


The first general persecution of Christians took place under the Emperor Nero in AD 67. Nero ordered the city of Rome to be set on fire, which was accomplished by his officers, guards and servants. The dreadful fire continued nine days, while the half-mad Emperor played on a harp and said "he wished the ruin of all things before his death." Several thousand people died or were smothered in the smoke, or were buried beneath the ruins of collapsing buildings.

When Nero discovered that the people were blaming him for the great fire, he laid the whole blame for it upon the Christians. This gave him an opportunity to execute new cruelties. Thus began the first persecution of Christians. Nero persecuted and tortured the Christians so horribly that many of the Romans themselves were horrified, although they were hardened people. Nero sewed Christians up in the skins of wild beasts and then turned mad dogs on them to rip them to pieces. He dressed other Christians in skirts dipped in wax, tied them to poles and set them on fire to light his gardens. He called these burning Christians, "My candles, with which I light my beautiful gardens." This persecution was widespread throughout the whole Roman Empire. But it rather increased the interest in Christianity. In this persecution, both Paul and Peter were martyred for their faith in Christ, as were tens of thousands of other Christians. To their names can be added Erastus, chamberlain at Corinth, Aristarchus, the Macedonian, and Trophimus, an Ephesian, Joseph, commonly called Barsabas, and Ananias, bishop of Damascus. (John Fox, Fox's Book of Martyrs, Holt, Rinehardt and Winston, 1954, reprinted by Zondervan, 1972, pp. 1-6).


Did this stop the Christian message from spreading? It did not! Millions of people realized that these Christians were dead serious about Jesus Christ! The pagans wanted to know what it was these people were willing to give up their lives for. Pastor Richard Wurmbrand said, "Persecution has backfired and produced serious, dedicated Christians such as are rarely seen in free lands. These people cannot understand how anyone can be a Christian and not want to win every soul they meet" ( Tortured for Christ).

Yes, "The whole world lieth in wickedness" (I John 5:19). It always has. Let us throw ourselves on Jesus Christ for salvation through His Blood. Let us fear nothing from man. Let us be fiercely loyal to our church and to our Saviour. Let us follow our martyr forefathers into the streets of this pagan city that we "may turn many to righteousness [and shine] as the stars for ever and ever" (Daniel 12:3).

(END OF SERMON)


Scripture Read Before the Sermon: John 15:15-25.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Take My Life and Let It Be" by Frances R. Havergal (1836-1879).

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."




THE OUTLINE OF

THE MARATHON AND THE PERSECUTION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


"The whole world lieth in wickedness" (I John 5:19).

I.   The world lies in the power of the wicked one,
Ephesians 2:2; Hebrews 10:25; Exodus 20:8;
I Timothy 4:1; Ephesians 1:22-23; Revelation 12:9;
II Corinthians 6:17.

II.  The world hates real Christians, John 15:19; John 15:25.

III. The world persecutes real Christians, II Timothy 3:12;
Matthew 24:9; Daniel 12:3.