There was a legendary preacher named Brother Jackson who was called to minister in the Ozarks of southwest Missouri some years ago. The church had been terrorized by a local thug who would get drunk and disturb services, harassed the former preachers, and threatened the people and had beaten up a few. In his first sermon, Brother Jackson denounced this bully by name. The two met on a road the next day and the bully said he was going to beat up on this preacher, too, like he’d done to the others. Brother Jackson said he would likely accommodate him but first, would he allow him a few moments to pray in preparation. The preacher began his prayer, “O Lord, thou knowest that when I was forced to kill Bill Hewett, and John Brown and Jerry Smith and Levi Battles, I did it in pure self-defense. Thou knowest that when I cut the heart out of that young upstart, Younger and strewed the ground with the brains of mean old Philip Yandy, it was forced upon me, and I did it only with great agony of soul. And now, O Lord, I am forced to put in his coffin this poor, miserable wretch of a bully Sam Johnson. Have mercy on his soul and take care of his widow and his orphans. AMEN.” Brother Jackson rose, took his knife from his pocket and began to whet it on a stone and started singing in a loud voice, “Nearer, my God, to Thee, Nearer to Thee! And when he looked around, the bully had disappeared!
David Barrett is a mission researcher who collects information on Christian martyrs. His thorough investigations have led him to estimate that an average of 160,000 Christians are killed for their faith every year. Since 1995, 150 foreign missionaries have been murdered each year. Barrett says, “For every killing of a Western missionary or a high-profile Christian leader that captures international attention, there are a thousand anonymous Christians who die virtually unnoticed, except by God.”
“Worldwide, an average of 400 Christians are killed each day simply because of their faith in Christ. Just a few years ago, Christians were sold as slaves for as little as $15 in Southern Sudan. Khartoum regime has not stopped trying to bomb, massacre, starve, rape, torture and kidnap Christians, animists and even other Muslims into submission. The American Anti-Slavery Group says that they still trade one human being for three cows, or the other way around.”
An estimated 100 million Christians have been martyred in the 20th century.
That’s more than the previous nineteen centuries combined.
And the frightening part is, it just isn’t overseas, but here at home as well.
Two teen-aged gunmen at Columbine High School shot students they knew were Christians. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold also went after athletes and minority students, and some of their victims appeared to be chosen randomly, news reports said. Cassie Bernall, known for carrying her Bible to school every day and wearing a “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelet, was in the library at the Littleton, Colorado school April 20, when a gunman burst in. He went up to Bernall and stood face-to-face with her, witnesses said. “Do you believe in God?” the gunman asked. Bernall said she believed in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior, and was shot in the temple, witnesses said. Rachael Scott, 17, who also was killed in the library, was known as a strong Christian.
Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. For real? We might die because we are a Christian? “We walk by faith and not by sight” Paul writes, Christianity does not require a “leap in the dark” or a sacrifice of the intellect. Biblical faith is a fundamental commitment to a God who has intervened in the history of humanity in a way that exposes his activity to historical study.
John writes in Revelation, When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”
Have you ever noticed how often that word “true” appears in reference to God? “…holy and true….” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” If we as Christians are dying for the truth, then we need to understand truth. If we are willing to die for the truth, then we need to know that truth.
Jesus answered Pilate, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.
Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” “What is truth?” Pilate asked.
When people are determined to believe in something, there’s no stopping them. Today, for example, 1600 people belong to the International Flat Earth Research Society of America. Their president, Charles K. Johnson, says, “I’ve been a flat-earther all my life. When I saw the globe in grade school, I didn’t accept it. To me, it was illogical.” Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind. Albert Einstein
Fred Craddock tells of conducting a tour of the Holy Land. At one of the stops in Bethlehem, his group listened as a learned professor explained what they were seeing. “This is purported to be the birthplace of Jesus,” said the professor, “but the archaeology clearly shows that this is an 18th century rebuilding of a 3rd century Roman reconstruction.” He explained carefully how doubtful it was that this was Jesus’ real birthplace. At that moment another tour group wandered in, led by a much more believing or gullible guide. Kneeling there, he said to his group, “On this very spot, our Lord came into this world, with angels singing and shepherd’s kneeling and cattle lowing. Right at this exact spot.” Dr. Craddock reported that one member of his tour looked wistfully at the other group and said, “I wish I were with them!”
What is TRUTH: Conformity to fact or actuality; faithfulness to an original or to a standard. In the Bible, truth is a fundamental moral and personal quality of God. Not only is truth a personal characteristic of God, but everything that God has created is a part of that truth. His Law is truth. Jesus is a part of that truth. Truth is absolute and no one can come to the Father apart from the truth.
If Easter means anything to modern man it means that eternal truth is eternal. You may nail it to the tree, wrap it up in grave clothes, and seal it in a tomb; but “truth crushed to earth, shall rise again.” Truth does not perish; it cannot be destroyed. It may be distorted; it has been silenced temporarily; it has been compelled to carry its cross to Calvary’s brow or to drink the cup of poisoned hemlock in a Grecian jail, but with an inevitable certainty after every Black Friday dawns truth’s Easter Morn.
I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. A Chinese boy who wanted to learn about jade went to study with a talented old teacher. This gentleman put a piece of the stone into the youth’s hand and told him to hold it tight. Then he began to talk of philosophy, men, women, the sun and almost everything under it. After an hour he took back the stone and sent the boy home. The procedure was repeated for weeks. The boy became frustrated — when would he be told about jade? But he was too polite to interrupt his venerable teacher. Then one day when the old man put a stone into his hands, the boy cried out instantly, “That’s not jade!”
YOU SHALL KNOW THE TRUTH AND THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE!