An Iranian Christian pastor already imprisoned for his faith now faces the death penalty after being hit with a bizarre new charge called “spreading corruption on Earth.”
Supporters fear the worst for Pastor Behnam Irani, who was sentenced to six years in prison in 2011 for his Christian activities, including leading a 300-member evangelical congregation outside the capital city of Tehran. He is now being held in solitary confinement and suffering numerous health problems, including internal bleeding, according to an advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
“There are a lot of people who are disgruntled with the government and many for comfort and peace in their lives are turning to Christianity,” Jason DeMars, founder of Present Truth Ministries, which sponsors Christian churches and outreach in the Middle East.
Just over 1,000 miles from the birthplace of the first century birthplace of the first century church, the storms of extreme persecution are raging, yet the church is mostly silent.
Discussion: Why would the church be silent in times like this? What are some things in your heart that might hinder you from responding?
The church’s current identity crisis centers around:
Who are we and what are we supposed to do?
And the book of Ephesians, written on the leading edge of worldwide persecution, gives us a clear picture of who we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to do.
There is a sense in the church today that we have been caught off guard by the fact that we do not dominate the world stage…
– We don’t rule politically.
– The world pays greater respect to a religion dedicated to destroying them than to one that promises peace.
– Our principles speak for themselves. After all, the greatest, most prosperous, most inclusive, most dedicated to “all men created equal” was founded on solid Christian and biblical principles.
Yet, in the words of Rodney Dangerfield,
“We don’t get no respect!”
Discussion: What are some things that my have led to this perspective?
John 15:18-20 If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.
Look at vs 23 He who hates Me hates My Father also.
Why is this important?
The church that rises up to be the standard bearer for Jesus in the end times must first accept the fact that we are not called to be a more refined picture of the world.
We are called to look like Jesus.
The title of today’s sermon could be…
“Getting from the me to the we.”
There are 3 important words that are the foundation of who we are: (chose, predestined, redeemed)
Read Ephesians 1:3-7
If you are a new believer, this is information about your heritage that is critical for you to understand and embrace.
If you are wondering if Christianity is for you, please listen to these truths and ask yourself…
“Is this what I’ve been looking for all my life?”
vs. 4 “…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love”
– You are not here because you chose God, but because God chose you.
vs. 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,
– Don’t try to figure it out, just marvel at the fact of God’s great love found in these two beautiful words.
vs. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace
– If choosing us speaks of His unmeasurable love…
– If predestining us speaks of His unattainable wisdom…
– Then the word “redeemed” defines the full measure of His sacrifice. It means “to buy back from slavery.”
The purchase price for the world under the bondage of sin and the devil was set for eternity…a perfect life for sinful man, and God sent His son.
Read Galatians 4:4-7
And God sent His son, born of a woman, born under the law, that He might redeem those under the law and adopt us as sons.
And now, because we are His children, our cry is “Abba, Father!” and we are no longer slaves but beloved children destined for an eternal heritage through God.
That is who we are!
Chosen – Predestined – Redeemed!
Now, wouldn’t it be easier if it was just about me? But, it is the “we” I am missing and it is the “we” that must be prioritized if we are to fulfill the calling of this 21st century church.
Ephesians 4:1-3 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Listen to the words – they do not describe action but attitudes, postures, lifestyles, and value that is not possible until you know who you are, values that are abhorrent to the “me” but the lifeblood of the “we.”
– humility & gentleness
– patience & tolerance
– diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace
You can’t do without the “we”!
…If rebellion is the willful defiance against authority
…If independence is the better idea, better plan, marching to a different drummer attitude
There beyond these 2 is the attitude that is the most draining on the energy, passion and progress of Jesus’ church.
It is the “nice person.”
The one that insists on their allegiance but has no skin in the grave!
Revelation calls them lukewarm; I just call them nice.
How to get out of the me to the we?
1. Fellowship with other believers
the richest word to describe the church
it means a group of people that share life, share trials, pain, and triumphs with a few others
(Home ministries, small groups, youth, Overcomers, Naomi’s
2. Submit to other believers
that means to love someone enough to tell the truth as well as love someone enough to listen
Blind spots are things that cannot be seen and I need others that are close enough to trust
3. Be an example to other believers
The church spends so much time and effort on improving our personal lives that little thought is given as to how my behavior affects the ultimate call and purpose of the mission of the church.
Discussion: Which of these areas challenge you to get from “me” to “we?”
You can’t do without the “we.”
My plea is simple – Get your eyes open!
– There are people going to hell.
– There are fields white with harvest.
– There are young people who need an example.
And the church…
Chosen, Predestined, Redeemed!
– humble & gentle
– patient and tolerant in love for one another
– diligent to protect and defend against disunity
The church – our church – can arise and be the called of Jesus Christ.