Many people regard Christianity as another social science. They consider religion and God unnecessary for understanding the world or living life well. Many people think that the Christianity and God is now history, and the world is becoming more secular and less religious as the Technology grows and get industrialized. On the other hand, Islam makes claims that they are the fastest growing religion in the world. That’s what the Devil wants you to believe. Islam has a long history of myth making. Though the Islam is the dominant religion of the third world where the birth rate is high, the facts show that Christianity is the fastest growing religion in the world in terms of adding new Christ followers to the world population.
If you open the eyes and look around the world and see what’s actually happening, it is just the opposite of what the world claims. Look at some numbers… If you take Korea in the 20th century, it went up from about 1% Christians to 40% Christians in 100 years. If you take China, the growth in Christianity is explosive. In Africa, 9% of Christians at the beginning of the 20th century grew up to 50% at the end of the 20th century. The real world facts are different. The movement of Christianity infiltrating the whole world and growing exponentially in spite of the secularization thesis (the belief that as societies progress, particularly through modernization and rationalization, religion loses its authority in all aspects of social life and governance).
What is the real reason behind this change? Why people are flooding in to Christianity? The simple answer is, because it tells the truth. It is the true religion of God. Jesus Christ is the true and living God. The message of the Christian Gospel is where you find the true freedom and the fulfillment in life.
The Christ-hating world
Christ-hating world responds to the message of the gospel viciously, when they are confronted with the truth of Christ. Satan hates Christ and Christians. He uses the whole world system which is under his control in this age to destroy the church. Christian persecution in some part of the world “close to meeting the international definition of genocide” (Interim report by British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt). One out of nine Christians across the world are being persecuted (Open Doors). Christianity will continue to grow at an ever-increasing rate, and the gates of the hell cannot prevent it!
The strength of the Christian
The promise of God for the Christian who stand boldly and forcefully for Christ is this: 1 Peter 4:14 – “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” Throughout the church history literally thousands and thousands Christians were martyred for fighting for their faith. Even right now, we read so many reports of Christians being persecuted, tortured, and killed for their faith and propagation of Christ in the countries like North Korea, China, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Sudan, Eritrea, Yemen, Iran, India, and Sri Lanka.
Some of you have even seen those gross videos of Christians being be-headed by those Islamic extremist. I wonder, have you ever heard or read a report of any Christian martyr who died screaming and denouncing what he believed? How do you explain the courage and boldness of people who embark on mission trips to those Islamic and communist countries to propagate the Christian gospel knowing very well that, this can be their final flight? These people are not fanatics. Where on earth they get this courage? What kind of hope motivates their action?
I believe that there is some special divine intervention of the Spirit of God in the life of a true believer in a crisis. There is something that God does to a believer in the face of persecution, that grants him the supernatural ability to die willingly giving glory to God. So many times we look at extreme situations and try to perform in the minimal situation. We can’t find the courage to confront a simple lie and affirm our faith in Christ even in a friendly conversation with others.
The command to fight
We as Christians are responsible to hold up the truth against all the attacks and speculations against the knowledge of God. We are commanded to proclaim the truth, to bring deceived souls to the knowledge of the truth. Peter said, “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you regarding the hope that is within you.” There are many Christians who believe, but haven’t got the faintest idea why they believe.
Apologetics is the subject of information that defends the faith. It is a study of defending the faith. Defending the faith involves being able to sit down, communicate our faith and defend it. Jude 1:3 says, “Don’t only defend the faith, and fight for it.” After you have defended it, continue to fight for it. No point in defending the faith, and then when somebody starts shooting at you, pack yourself and runaway. First we defend it, and then we fight for it.
Jude, a brother of Jesus in his letter commands Christians to fight for the truth – “I exhort you that you should earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 1:3). The ancient Greek word ‘epagónizomai’ (ἐπαγωνίζομαι) translated “contend” comes from the athletic world –from the wrestling mat. It means to skillfully and continually oppose to that which is not biblically true. The meaning of the Greek implies an intense, ongoing, wrestling match. You are to not only continuously hold fast to the ground firmly, but also at the appropriate time slam the opponent to the ground to win the competition.
We read in Acts 5, the Jewish leaders arrested apostles, beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus. Then they left the courts, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name (V41, 42). How that’s possible? Only the God could enable them to rejoice supernaturally in such trial and physical pain. That’s impossible in worldly sense. The early Christians were considered to be a bunch of crazy people. Religious leaders couldn’t destroy their joy by beating them, instead it caused to increase their joy.
Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian pastor endured months of solitary confinement, years of periodic physical torture, constant suffering from hunger and cold, and the anguish of brainwashing and mental cruelty. Following are couple of quote from his book “Tortured for Christ”.
It was strictly forbidden to preach to other prisoners. It was understood that whoever was caught doing this received a severe beating. A number of us decided to pay the price for the privilege of preaching, so we accepted their terms. It was a deal; we preached and they beat us. We were happy preaching. They were happy beating us, so everyone was happy.
My wife and I were present at this congress. Sabina told me, “Richard, stand up and wash away this shame from the face of Christ! They are spitting in His face.” I said to her, “If I do so, you lose your husband.” She replied, “I don’t wish to have a coward as a husband.”
Paul viewed his ministry as an offensive confirmation of the Gospel and a defensive proclamation of the Gospel. He saw himself as on the offense and on the defense, defending what he believed and being aggressive in its propagation. There was a great defender of the faith even before Paul. We always think of Paul as the great contender for the faith, but there was another, and his name was Stephen. Stephen not only defended the truth, he fought for it. He knew that his confrontation was going to cost his life, yet he was ready to stand for the gospel. The real victim of this violent act is not Stephen. He is no victim at all. He wins. He dies, but he dies as the victor.
The assurance of the believer
As Christians, there are trial times ahead. Before Christ comes the truth will suffer immense, relentless and escalating assaults. At the very beginning and at the very end of his letter where Jude gives the command to contend for the faith, he highlights the believers’ assurance. V1 -“those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ”, and V24 – “Him (God) who is able to keep you from stumbling”. Jude begins and ends the letter by assuring believers that God exerts his omnipotence to keep them from falling away from the faith.
We should never shirk from being bold in the world for fear that we don’t have the resources to handle it. It’s at that point that God pours out a double portion of His Spirit to make us enable.
Dr. John MacArthur, Dr. Tim Keller
Tortured for Christ, by Richard Wurmbrand