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Persecuted for Christ

Are you as concerned about what’s happening in the world as I am? I’m watching closely what’s happening to Christians in the Middle East and watching as the children of Satan do their best to annihilate Christians. As I read about this persecution, I can’t help but think that this persecution is headed our way.

How should we respond to what we are hearing? First and foremost, I believe that we’re called to pray for our brothers and sisters who face death for their proclamation of Jesus Christ. This proclamation is something we in Canada are guilty of taking too lightly.

In speaking with a group of believers recently, I asked if they would declare their faith in Christ if it was a matter of life or death. One person was quick to say, “Absolutely!” But then she took a moment to think it through, stopped, and said, “I hope so but I just don’t know”. This is a telling comment coming from where we live. Most Canadians have never experienced persecution.

Over the past few weeks, the workshop trainers and I traveled across Canada introducing people to the first of Peter’s letters. The letter was written to people undergoing persecution. This is evident when you mark and list all you learn about the recipients, including Peter’s instructions to them.

We read “you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6) The believers were being slandered and oppressed by those who ruled over them, and so Peter gave them instruction as to how to live in the midst of this troubling time. These instructions hold true for you and I today as well, so let’s look closely at them.

Instruction 1: Prepare Your Minds for Action, Keep Sober in Spirit, and Fix Your Eyes (1 Peter 1:13)

Peter writes in the first twelve verses about the salvation that was received through Jesus Christ. He begins verse 13 with a “therefore”. This term of conclusion states that in light of this salvation, we’re called to live in obedience to God and His Word. Peter reiterates this holy living by instructing the readers to not be conformed to their former lusts.

Secondly, he tells the readers to keep sober in spirit. This literally means to live with self-control. This is why in verse 14 Peter tells us to not be conformed to our former lusts. It is being conscious of living and glorifying God even in the midst of trial. Peter also tells us how we can do this:

we can remain alert by fixing our eyes on the grace to come at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

These are tremendous words of encouragement from Peter. He says, in the midst of trials and distresses, fix your hope on the unshakable grace and salvation that is to come. Peter again addresses this in his second letter: “But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.” (2 Peter 3:13–15)

This kind of focus doesn’t happen overnight, it takes effort, concentration, and intentionality. After all, this is keeping a long term perspective versus looking at the immediate trial.

Instruction 2: Conduct Yourselves in Fear (1 Peter 1:17-21)

Peter calls us to live in fear, or reverence, toward the Father in consideration of the cost of our redemption: “you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood, the blood of Christ”. If you know that there is not a single earthly object good enough in the eyes of God to save you, but only His Son’s blood that washed you clean—is that enough to motivate you to live a holy life?

This is what amazes me about those who have been martyred for their faith: They knew the cost of redemption. They lived not fearing man but revering God and the work He did on the cross to give eternal lift to those who believe. I like to think that as they faced death, like the first martyr Stephen, they too saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at His right hand. (Acts 7:55)

What about you? Would your confidence be rattled or are you prepared to stand before Jesus Christ?

Instruction 3: Proclaim (1 Peter 2:9)

Peter instructs the believers here to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). I love this instruction, knowing that through holy living we proclaim that we’re dead to our life of sin. Not only are we to live in holiness, but we’re literally called to shout out to all who will hear that Jesus Christ redeemed us from the darkness of sin, from the darkness of this world, and brought us into His marvelous light.

We live in the knowledge that we have been redeemed, and we will live forever in His presence. Let that truth sink in for a moment. Jesus conquered sin and death for you. His sacrifice, your belief, and repentance gives you the confidence to live out and proclaim holiness. This is why Paul with confidence could write “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

Friends, we will face persecution like our brothers and sisters in the Middle East. How will you respond? Will you be ready? Where is your focus? Are you alert and sober? Are you fixing your hope on the grace to come? Are you living in light of what it cost God to redeem you from sin?

Now is the time to prepare for action and to proclaim what Jesus has done for you. The day and the hour of His return is unknown and the task we have before us is a clear one: “Plunder Hell and Populate Heaven”… go and PROCLAIM!