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PERSECUTED FOR CHRIST!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, December 7, 2003


"Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you" (I John 3:13).


Dr. Barnes' commentary says, "Do not think it so unusual, or so little to be expected, as to excite astonishment if the world hate you" (Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament, Baker Book House, 1983 reprint, note on I John 3:13). Dr. J. Vernon McGee said, "Don't act as if some strange or weird thing has happened to you if the world doesn't accept you, because the world is not going to accept you…The child of God [the Christian] needs to recognize that the world will hate him" (Dr. J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson, 1983, volume V, p. 795). Matthew Henry said, "It is no wonder that good men [Christian men] are so [treated] now: Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you, v. 13. The serpentine nature still continues in the world. Wonder not then that the serpentine world hates and hisses at you who belong to the seed of the woman [Christ] that is to bruise the serpent's head" (Matthew Henry, note on I John 3:13).

Throughout the world tonight, those whose minds are controlled by the serpent hate and persecute committed Christians. That should not surprise us.

"Marvel not [do not think that it is strange], my brethren, if the world hate you" (I John 3:13).

I. First, do not think that it is strange if you are hated
for being a Christian in America.

Every one of you who goes to a secular college knows that the teachers there badmouth Christianity at nearly every opportunity, and often single out those who speak up for Christ, by putting them down, and ridiculing them. This has gone on for a long time. They were doing it thirty-four years ago, when I attended Los Angeles City College, and Cal State LA. One professor, Dr. Slessenger, at Los Angeles City College, singled me out and belittled me in front of the whole class for defending the Christian statesman William Jennings Bryan. A professor at Cal State gave me a "C" in a class on modern American drama, although I made "A"s on both the midterm and the final - simply because I defended Jesus Christ and the president of the United States, during the Hippie revolution. I know by personal experience what it feels like to be the only Christian who is willing to be branded as a fool because he believes in Christ, and confesses Him openly in the classroom.

A biology professor at Los Angeles City College said to a large class, "Everyone believes in evolution now. No one today believes what the Bible says about creation." I felt a surge of indignation. I thought, "I must not give in to that lie. I must speak up, or I will deny Christ by my silence." When he said, "No one today believes what the Bible says about creation," I stood bolt upright in that class of about 200 students, and said, "I do" in a loud voice. As I stood there alone, I felt like Luther at the Diet of Worms, in front of those Roman Catholic bigots who demanded that he recant. The professor said, "No one today believes what the Bible says about creation." I stood up, alone, and said, in a clear voice, "I do." There was a deafening silence in the class for a long minute or two. Then the professor changed the subject. But I could feel the antagonism of that teacher for the rest of the course. I had to work hard for a "B," although I deserved an "A."

Yes, I lost a whole letter grade in some classes, for occasionally defending the Bible and speaking up for Christ. And I hope that every college student here this evening will do the same thing I did. "What good will it do?" you may ask. It will do you a lot of good, even if it doesn't help anyone else! They will hate you for it, but it will do you a lot of good if you speak up for the Bible and for Christ.

Pastor Richard Wurmbrand was the founder of The Voice of the Martyrs. He was tortured in a Rumanian concentration camp for 14 years for defending Christ. He was a personal friend of my wife and me. Pastor Wurmbrand once preached a sermon about a little bird that flew over a forest fire, dropping some water from its beak to quench the fire. The bird died in its efforts. Pastor Wurmbrand commented that it is not the size of the large fire or the small drop of water that God observes. It is the attitude of our heart in such circumstances. It may seem that what you say in defense of the Bible is only a small drop of water, falling into a forest fire of unbelief - but it does you good, because it shows God that your heart is on His side. It also does you good because it builds your character into a strong man or woman of God. And it may well do good in the heart of someone in the class who hears you, and has their faith strengthened because of your boldness. Yes, it does a great deal of good to stand up like Martin Luther and defend the Bible, and the Saviour, when they are under attack.

My wife was nearly eight months pregnant when she went with me to the Southern Baptist Convention in Pittsburgh. She handed out a paper, edited by Dr. Bill Powell, exposing attacks on the Bible in the then liberal Southern Baptist seminaries. The liberals crumpled up those papers and threw them in her face. Several men actually spit on her. She was just a little Hispanic woman, passing out papers defending the Bible. But she was a giant, a hero of the faith, in my eyes - and in the eyes of God. Grown men literally hated her for being a courageous Christian. But that hostile experience helped to mold her into the dedicated Christian woman she is today. It did her a lot of good to take that courageous stand - and only eternity will tell how much good it did for those who silently watched her. As long as I live, my wife will be a hero in my eyes for what she did that day, standing amid jeers and loud criticisms, men spitting at her, and trying to rip the papers out of her hands. My wife became one of God's great heroes, and my hero as well, that day in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Will you follow her example, and take an open stand for Christ, even if you are hated for it?

"Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you" (I John 3:13).

Young people who have non-Christian parents, who are Buddhists, or Hindus, or Moslems, or Catholics, face a great test in their own families regarding the gospel. Non-Christian parents often have a strange hatred of Christianity. These young people must decide that they are willing to face parental disapproval or they cannot follow Christ. Please turn with me in your Bible to Matthew 10:32-38. Let us stand and read this passage of Scripture together out loud.

"Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:32-38).

You may be seated.

Matthew Henry gave this comment on the passage,

Children must love their parents, and parents must love their children; but if they love them better than Christ, they are unworthy of him. As we must not be deterred [held back] from Christ by the hatred of our relations which he spoke of (v. 21, 35, 36), so we must not be drawn from him, by their love (Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Hendrickson Publishers, 1996 reprint, volume 5, p. 118).

Concerning this passage, Dr. Ryrie said, "The Gospel divides families, cf. Micah 7:6" (Ryrie Study Bible, note on Matthew 10:34. Dr. John Gill said,

That man therefore, that prefers father and mother to Christ, and their instructions, and orders, to the truths and ordinances of Christ; who, to please them, breaks the commands of Christ, rejects his Gospel, and either denies him, or does not confess him, our Lord says, is not worthy of me (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the New Testament, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, volume I, p. 114).

My own family belittled me when I became a Christian, but gradually they accepted it as my choice.

"Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you" (I John 3:13).

II. Second, do not think that it is strange when you hear that
Christians are hated in other parts of the world.

Last Sunday night I read excerpts from a book titled Their Blood Cries Out by Dr. Paul Marshall (Word Publishing, 1997). Dr. Marshall is widely regarded as one of the world's leading authorities on religious persecution. He is Academic Dean and Senior Fellow in Political Theory at the Institute of Christian Studies, Toronto, Canada, and an Adjunct Fellow at Claremont Institute, and Academic Advisor on Religious Freedom to the World Evangelical Fellowship. His book is endorsed by David Kilgour, Deputy Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons; J. I. Packer, Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia; David Aikman, former senior correspondent for Time magazine at Beijing, China; Max L. Stackhouse, professor of Christian Ethics at Princeton Theological Seminary; Baroness Cox, Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords in the United Kingdom, and many others. Don't let his credentials stop you from hearing what he wrote. He has written a soul-stirring book!

Last Sunday night I read from Dr. Marshall's book concerning the persecution of Christians in Sudan, in Africa; in Cuba; in Cambodia; in North Korea; and in the People's Republic of China. Tonight I am giving three more readings from Dr. Marshall's book. The first quotation is from the Cuban poet Armando Valladares, who spent twenty-two years in Castro's prison. It is Valladares' description of a man named Gerardo, whom he knew while they were imprisoned together.

His sermons had a primitive beauty; he himself had an extraordinary magnetism. From a pulpit improvised from old salt-codfish boxes [he] would preach his daily sermons. Then we would all sing hymns he wrote out on cigarette packages and passed out to those of us at the meeting. Many times the garrison [of Communist guards] broke up those minutes of prayer with blows and kicks, but they never managed to intimidate him. When they took him off to the forced-labor fields of Isla de Piños, he organized Bible reading and choirs. Having a Bible was a subversive act, but he had, we never knew how, a little one which he always carried with him.

If some exhausted or sick prisoner fell behind in the furrows or hadn't piled up the amount of rock he had been ordered to break [this man] would turn up. He was thin and wiry, with incredible stamina for physical labor. He would catch the other man up in his work, save him from brutal beatings. When one of the guards would walk up behind him and hit him, [he] would spring erect, look into the guard's eyes, and say to him, "May God pardon you." 

In the midst of that apocalyptic vision of the most dreadful and horrifying moments of my life, in the midst of the gray, ashy dust and the orgy of beatings and blood, prisoners beaten to the ground, a man emerged, the skeletal figure of a man wasted by hunger, with white hair, blazing blue eyes, and a heart overflowing with love, raising his arms to the invisible heaven and pleading for mercy for his executioners.

"Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do." And a burst of machine-gun fire ripping open his breast (quoted by Paul Marshall, ibid., pp. 12-13).

This man was just one of the thousands who have been imprisoned, tortured and killed - for being Christians in Castro's Cuba.

"Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you" (I John 3:13).

In Sudan, January 2, 1995…the village of Wud Arul, about two kilometers north of Sokobat, was attacked. Raiders came at dawn, storming through the whole area, looting and burning homes to ashes; kidnapping women and children (even babies); killing old men and women. About 150-200 men came, some on horseback, some on foot, and took away sixty-three women and children, as well as four hundred head of cattle…Then they divided the captives up: some were sent to the market; some were used for forced labour in agricultural work with groundnuts or sesame; young women were to become concubines; older women to become domestic slaves.

"On arrival at Sokobat, we were greeted by the chief with a warm welcome. "We are so glad to see you here. Often people come and say they will return, but they never do. It is good for us to know that people do know about us, that they care, and that we are not suffering with no one knowing about our tragedy'" (quoted by Paul Marshall, ibid., pp. 13-14).

These were just a few of the tens of thousands who have been enslaved or murdered for being Christians in Sudan.

"Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you" (I John 3:13).

In China, in March 1993…five Protestants from Shanxi were detained and severely tortured… "without a word of explanation"…according to an eyewitness account…

"The officers stripped three brethren naked from the waist and forced the women to stand with them. Not only did then they beat them, moreover they forced each of the twenty-six other local people to beat each one a hundred times with bamboo rods. If they refused…they would in turn be beaten. The three men were beaten until they were totally covered with blood and had gaping wounds and injuries all over their bodies. As if such violent beating wasn't enough, the officers then hung them up and began to hit them with rods on their backs. They did this until the three men were unconscious and barely breathing. We could only hear the sound of the beating and the cursing of the officers" (quoted by Paul Marshall, ibid., p. 13).

"Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you" (I John 3:13).

These were just five of the literally hundreds of thousands who have been beaten, imprisoned, tortured, and killed for being Christians in the People's Republic of China.

The current issue of The Voice of the Martyrs (December 2003) tells of recent atrocities against Christians in Sudan, in China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia, Egypt, Nigeria, and Pakistan. You can order this monthly magazine by phoning The Voice of the Martyrs at (800)747-0085. Their website is at www.persecution.com.

Dr. Paul Marshall says,

Too many Americans dump Christians into a stereotype of dead, white, European males. Most Christians are not white. Christianity is non-European in origin. It was in Africa before Europe, India before England, China before America. Three-fourths of world Christians live in the Third World. It may be the largest Third-World religion…More people take part in Christian Sunday worship in China than do people in the entirety of Western Europe. The same is true in Nigeria, and probably true of India, Brazil, and even the world's largest Muslim country, Indonesia… [and listen to this! Dr. Marshall says] Christianity is growing rapidly in the world, perhaps undergoing its largest expansion in history (Paul Marshall, ibid., pp. 7-8).

"Christianity is growing rapidly in the world, perhaps undergoing its largest expansion in history." And most of this explosive revival, and most of the millions who are becoming Christians, are doing so in Third-World countries, under horrible persecution. The more the churches are persecuted there, the more they grow. There are now about seven times as many Christians in China alone, as there are Southern Baptists in the United States! And they don't miss church like two thirds of the Southern Baptists do on any given Sunday! The explosive revival of Christianity in these Third-World countries, if it continues at the present rate, means that the future of Christianity does not lie in America or Europe. The future of our faith lies in these persecuted nations! I wish them Godspeed! God has given them revival! God has not given this precious gift to us in the West.

Let us stand and read aloud I Corinthians 1:27-29.

"But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence"
      (I Corinthians 1:27-29).

"Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you" (I John 3:13).

You may be seated.

And now I ask you a question. I want you to think this question over very seriously. Why do these people endure such persecution? Tens of millions of Christians would rather die than miss church on Sunday. They would rather be tortured than be disobedient to Christ, regardless of the cost. Why do they do it? Why do they not only go through persecution, but also risk their very lives to win others to Christ? I can find no other answer than the one Jesus gave. Please turn in your Bible to John 16:33. Let us stand and read it together out loud. Jesus said,

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

You may be seated.

"In the world ye shall have tribulation." "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace." Peace of mind. Peace of conscience. Peace with God. These persecuted Christians have discovered that the peace Jesus gives is well worth the tribulation they experience in the world. Knowing Christ is more important to them than physical suffering. That is their secret!

Will you follow their example and yield your life to Jesus Christ, the Son of God? Will you live for Him no matter what it costs? Will you come to Christ, and believe wholeheartedly in Him, and be saved? Will you come into this local church and help us make our church a refuge of hope in a lost and lonely world?

If you want Christ to save you as badly as those Christians do, I want you to come and stand here in front of this pulpit. Christ died on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sins. He rose physically from the dead. He is alive - up in Heaven, at the right hand of God. Will you trust Christ and be washed clean from your sins by His Blood?

I would like to talk to you about that in my office. Will you leave your chair and come and stand here in front of the pulpit, so we can go and talk about this in my office? Let us stand together. As Mr. Griffith sings, you come.

I have decided to trust in Jesus.
I have decided to trust in Jesus.
I have decided to trust in Jesus.
No turning back. No turning back.

(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: John 15:18-25.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"I Have Decided to Follow Jesus"


THE OUTLINE OF

PERSECUTED FOR CHRIST!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 

"Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you" (I John 3:13).

I.   Do not think that it is strange if you are hated for being a Christian
in America, Matthew 10:32-38.

II.  Do not think that it is strange when you hear that Christians are
hated in other parts of the world, I Corinthians 1:27-29;
John 16:33.

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