The Advent Part 12
That man possesses no power in and of himself that is useful to the work of God on this earth, and that all man receives he receives from the Holy Spirit, is in essence what Jesus was saying to His disciples when He told them that they would receive a power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them, and only then would they be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
When we open our hearts toward God in prayer and faith, He will fill us with what we need that we may carry out the duty He has set before us. The duty that had been set before the disciples was no small task, they were to preach a risen Christ, they were to be His witnesses in a world that was violently opposed to Him, and that treated His followers with disdain, readily persecuting them, marginalizing them, and even putting them to death. I realize it is difficult for some in the West to conceptualize what the followers of Christ went through during those first years after His ascension, I realize it is difficult to imagine seeing your entire family beheaded, dipped in tar and set aflame, stoned to death, crucified, fed to lions and various wild animals, and because it is difficult to imagine these things in our mind’s eye, because it is difficult to envision such things ever happening in our day and age, we write off the historical retellings of these martyrs’ faithfulness as hyperbole or as having been exaggerated for effect.
I assure you, the trials, tribulations, and persecutions the primary church went through, and the trials tribulations and persecutions that the household of faith is presently going through in certain parts of the world are not exaggerated, or made out to be more than they are.
The Apostle Peter really was crucified upside down, the Apostle James really was beheaded, Philip really was crucified then subsequently stoned to death, Bartholomew really was flayed alive then crucified, Matthew really was axed to death, Matthias really was burned to death, and the list goes on. Even today, Christians are being executed, burned alive in their churches, suffering the greatest of tortures and untold grief for the cause of Christ Jesus, having forfeited their lives, having been buried with Christ and born again in Him, and as such counting all but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus.
We are a woefully impotent and pampered generation who has God on our lips but not in our hearts, who desires only to receive but never to surrender, only to accumulate but never to sacrifice, only to laugh but never to weep. We have erased the notion of suffering for the sake of Christ from our Christian lexicon, and replaced it with the notion that once we raise a limp hand in a tepid church service we are entitled to, and therefore must demand of God, untold riches, impeccable health, immeasurable success, and global acceptance. It is because we are teaching a fraudulent gospel, it is because the gospel we preach is not the gospel of Christ, that the coming season of hardship that will cover the land will cause many to rebel against the selfsame God they purported to serve, denying the Christ, and becoming the persecutors of those who having prepared spiritually will stand faithful and true in Jesus.
For the past three years the message that God has been putting on my heart each time I preach in a church service, or at a conference, and this is without fail, is that believers must prepare for the coming persecution. I could tell what most people are thinking when I begin speaking of persecution in America just by the expression on their faces. There is always a mix of disbelief and pity, with a splash of skepticism thrown in for good measure, and as a collective I could see ‘that could never happen here’ etched on their furrowed brows.
We have lived with the belief that this is God’s country for so long, that we refuse to see the reality that is taking shape before our very eyes. We avert our gaze, we find plausible justifications for what is happening, we skirt the issue, and we kick the can down the road, all so that we won’t have to face the truth that the warning signs that have been visible throughout history as forerunners of persecution are clearly seen today throughout the land. There’s a long road from ‘in God we trust’ to ‘if you believe in God you’re a fool, a throwback and a troglodyte’, but we’ve managed to make the journey from one to the other at breakneck speed. In order to begin persecuting a certain segment of the population you must first dehumanize them, or make them seem less than human. Once you have dehumanized them the next step is relatively simple, and history has proven that ordinary people can readily become butchers and executioners of their fellow man.
So what does all this have to do with the Holy Spirit? Why have I strayed, if only seemingly so from the main topic of this study in today’s post? Because in order to endure until the end, in order to have the strength, boldness, fortitude and courage to stand for truth even in the face of persecution, one must possess the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us power to overcome, the Holy Spirit gives us the strength to endure, and the Holy Spirit guides us and strengthens us in our time of need and hardship. It is only when we are in difficulty, it is only when we are suffering persecution that we see the paramount need for the Holy Spirit in our lives. It is the Spirit that gives power, and this is a truth that is self-evident throughout the book of Acts, as well as other books of the Bible. These men and women that went to their deaths for the cause of Christ were not some elite specimens, they were not superhuman, they were average, and ordinary like you and me, but the Holy Spirit residing in them gave them the strength to stand for Jesus even when confronted with death.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.