c. Christians Throughout the Centuries
Christians have been persecuted throughout the centuries. Stephen, the first Christian to be martyred said the following just before being stoned:
Acts 7:59-60 “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.”
He was at peace and was not afraid to die.
The Christians at Rome during the first century suffered a cruel fate as well. They were thrown to be fed to the lions in the Coliseum. The Romans were surprised that instead of pleading for their life they were praising God while being devoured by wild animals.
Every attempt to extinguish Christianity was met by an increase of its membership. In China for example, in 1948 there were only about four million Christians. Authorities stormed houses and searched for Bibles to be burned. They would eradicate Christianity. God was not welcome in their midst. Now-a-days the Christian church has increased by more than 25 000 percent!
The Bible says: James 1:2 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” This is what the persecuted Christians were and are experiencing: pure joy.
This is confirmed again and again all over God’s Word: Heb 10:32-34 “Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.”
Why would people all over the world throughout centuries be willing to die martyrdom? Very simple, they all did experience Jesus in their life and would not let go of the love of God bestowed on them! Rom 8:38-39 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Here are a few testimonies of people who suffered martyrdom in the 20th century. There are many more. Some of them can be read at http://www.sermonillustrator.org/illustrator/persecution.htm. Many other books bearing the testimony of these great men and women are available in bookstores. Notice how real Jesus is to them.
a. Mehdi Diba, Iran
Mehdi Dibaj was born in 1934 in Iran into an extremely wealthy Muslim family. He came to Christ as a teenager and went to seminary and became an Assemblies of God minister. In 1979 he was put in jail for 68 days because of his faith. In 1984 he was arrested again and for the next nine years he was regularly tortured. On December 21, 1993 an Islamic court in the city of Sari condemned him to die. During the trial, Dibaj said the following in his defense: "Life for me is an opportunity to serve Him, and death is a better opportunity to be with Christ. Therefore I am not only satisfied to be in prison for the honor of His Holy Name, but am ready to give my life for the sake of Jesus my Lord and enter His kingdom sooner, the place where the elect of God enter everlasting life, but the wicked to eternal damnation." World opinion pressured Iran to release Rev. Dibaj in January 1994. For the next five months he encouraged other believers in Iran. Then in June 1994, he was mysteriously abducted and suffered martyrdom.
Mission experts estimate that 1 out of 200 Christians throughout the world are martyred for their faith. Today in prayer, thank Christ that the small price for living a godly life is persecution. Pray for those Christians whose lives are threatened because of their faith in Christ.
"What a privilege to live for our Lord and to die for Him as well." - Mehdi Dibaj
By Peter Kennedy, Copyright 2003, Devotional E-Mail DEVOTIONS IN 2 TIMOTHY email@example.com
b. Zahid Pakistan ' circa 1986
"When you catch the infidels, beat them! Allah will be pleased," Zahid encouraged them. The crowd of young men, the youth group of his mosque, waved their sticks and iron bars and cheered in agreement. Zahid's arrogance and hatred swelled: He felt he was doing well as a young Muslim priest. His parents would be proud: He had rallied a rather large group for this outing and they were nearly ready to go. Within minutes they would be combing the streets of their village for Christians to ambush.
Zahid had a proud heritage in Pakistan. His father and older brother were Muslim priests: As expected, Zahid had followed in their footsteps: Shortly after he was assigned to his first mosque, his hatred for Christians began to show itself as he rallied his followers against them.
To Zahid, as to many Muslims, Christians are heretics and should be punished. His government is becoming more influenced by Sharia law in some provinces. Sharia law calls for the death of anyone found guilty of blasphemy against the prophet Mohammed or the Koran. To these Muslims, rejecting Mohammed's teachings by becoming a Christian is the highest form of blasphemy.
When their fervor peaked, Zahid led his group into the streets. It was not long before they found a group of young Christians to attack. As the mob descended. upon them, the young boys ran, one of them dropping his Bible. One of Zahid's group stopped, picked up the Bible, and opened it to rip out its pages. Zahid had always told his followers to burn all the Bibles they collected, but this time Zahid felt strangely compelled to keep it and study it in order to expose its errors to the people of his mosque. He quickly snatched the book from the man, encouraged him to chase the fleeing Christians, and tucked the Bible into his shirt for later.
Zahid reported in his own words what became of keeping that Bible:
"I was reading the Bible, looking for contradictions I could use against the Christian faith. All of a sudden, a great light appeared in my room and I heard a voice call my name. The light was so bright, it lit the entire room.
"Then the voice asked, `Zahid, why do you persecute Me?'
"I was scared. I didn't know what to do. I thought I was dreaming. I asked, `Who are you?'
"I heard, `I am the way, the truth, and the life.'
"For the next three nights the light and the voice returned. Finally, on the fourth night, I knelt down and I accepted Jesus as my Savior."
Zahid's hatred was suddenly gone. All he wanted to do was share Jesus with everyone he knew. He went to his family members and those in the mosque and told them what had happened to him over the last four nights, but they didn't believe him. His family and friends turned against him. They called the authorities to have him arrested so he would leave them alone about this Jesus. According to Islamic teaching, Zahid was now considered an apostate, a traitor to Islam, a man who had turned from his faith and accepted stupid lies. Thus, he was a criminal.
Zahid was locked up in prison for two years. The guards repeatedly beat and tortured him. One time, they pulled out his fingernails in an attempt to break his faith. Another time, they tied him to the ceiling fan by his hair and left him to hang there.
"Although I suffered greatly at the hands of my Muslim captors, I held no bitterness towards them. I knew that just a few years before, I had been one of them. I too had hated Christians.
"During my trial, I was found guilty of blasphemy. According to the Sharia law, I was to be executed by hanging. They tried to force me to recant my faith in Jesus. They assured me that if I cooperated there would be no more beatings, no more humiliation. I could go free.
"But I could not deny Jesus. Mohammed had never visited me; Jesus had. I knew He was the truth. I just prayed for the guards, hoping that they would also come to know Jesus."
On the day Zahid was to be hanged, he was unafraid of death as they came to take him from his cell. Even as they took him to his execution and placed the noose around his neck, Zahid preached about Jesus to his guards and executioners. He wanted his last breaths on earth to be used in telling his countrymen that Jesus was "the way, the truth, and the life." Zahid stood ready to face his Savior.
Suddenly, loud voices were heard in the outer room. Guards hurried in to tell Zahid's executioners that the court had unexpectedly issued an order to release Zahid, stating that there was not enough evidence to execute him. To this day, no one knows why Zahid was suddenly allowed to go free.
Zahid later changed his name to Lazarus, feeling that he too had been raised from death. He traveled in the villages around his home testifying of his narrow escape from death. Many of the Christians did not trust him at first. But soon they saw his sincerity and received him into their family. They now assist him as he travels from village to village preaching Jesus as "the way, the truth, and the life."
"I live in a land ruled by the false teaching of Islam. My people are blinded, and I was chosen by God to be His voice. I count all that I have suffered nothing compared to the endless joy of knowing Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life." Zahid
DC Talk and the Voice of the Martyrs. Jesus Freaks. Tulsa, Oklahoma: Albury Publishing, 1999, p. 52-55. www.persecution.com
c. Bishop Haik Hovsepian-Mehr, Iran
In the early 1990's, Bishop Haik Hovsepian-Mehr was an Armenian pastor in Tehran, Iran. He was an evangelical who openly shared his faith and spoke out for religious freedom. He did not believe in succumbing to government pressure and chose instead to "tell the world" about the plight of Iranian Christians.
He said: "If we go to jail or die for our faith, we want the whole Christian world to know what is happening to their brothers and sisters."
In December 1993, Bishop Haik was the chairman of Iran's Protestant Council and he courageously sent out an open letter to Western media publicizing fellow pastor Mehdi Dibaj's imprisonment. Then on January 19, 1994, Bishop Haik disappeared from the streets of Tehran. The authorities reported his death to his family on January 30. But his and other Iranian Christian martyrs deaths have not been in vain. Michael G. Maudlin, author of "Have You Seen Jesus Lately?", reports that: "In 1977 there were only 2,700 evangelicals in Iran out of a population of 45 million. Of these only 300 were former Muslims. Today, there are close to 55 thousand believers, of whom 27 thousand are from Muslim backgrounds."
By Peter Kennedy, Copyright 2003, Devotional E-Mail DEVOTIONS IN 1 CORINTHIANS firstname.lastname@example.org
d. How a Communist Girl Found Christ, U.S.S.R.
Following are three letters from Maria, a Christian girl who led Varia, a member of the Communist Youth Organization, to Christ.
... I continue to live here. I am very beloved. I am beloved also by a member of the cell of the Komsomol [the Communist Youth Organization]. She told me, "I cannot understand what a being you are. Here many insult and hurt you and yet you love all.
I answered that God has taught us to love all, not only friends, but also enemies. Before, this girl did much harm to me, but I prayed for her with special concern. When she asked me if I can love her, too, I embraced her and we both began to weep. Now, we pray together.
Please, pray for her. Her name is Varia.
When you listen to those who loudly deny God, it seems that they really mean it. But life shows that many of them, although they curse God with their lips, in their hearts have a great longing. And you hear the groaning of the heart ...They seek something and wish to cover their inner emptiness with their godlessness.
Your sister in Christ, Maria
In my former letter I wrote you about the atheist girl, Varia. Now I hurry to tell you, my beloved ones, about our great joy: Varia has received Christ as her personal Savior, witnessing openly to everyone about this.
When she believed in Christ and knew the gladness of salvation, she, at the same time, felt very unhappy. She was unhappy, because before she had propagated that there is no God. Now she has decided to atone for her guilt.
We went together to the assembly of the godless. Although I warned her to be reserved, it was useless. Varia went and I went with her to see what would happen. After the common singing of the Communist hymn (singing in which Varia did not participate), she came forward before the whole assembly. Courageously and with much feeling, she witnessed to those gathered about Christ as her Savior and asked her former comrades for forgiveness that she had had her spiritual eyes closed until then and had not seen that she herself was going to perdition and leading others toward it. She implored all to give up the way of sin and to come to Christ.
All became silent and no one interrupted her. When she finished speaking, she sang with her splendid voice the whole Christian hymn: "I am not ashamed to proclaim the Christ who died to defend His commandments and the power of His cross."
And afterwards... afterwards they took away our Varia. Today it is the ninth of May. We know nothing about her. But God is powerful to save her. Pray!
Yesterday, the second of August, I had a talk in prison with our beloved Varia. My heart bleeds when I think about her. In fact she is still a child. She is only nineteen years of age. As a believer in the Lord, she is also a spiritual babe. But she loves the Lord with all her heart and went at once on the difficult way. The poor girl is so hungry. When we knew that she was in prison, we began to send her parcels. But she received only little of what was sent to her.
When I saw her yesterday, she was thin, pale, beaten. Only the eyes shone with the peace of God and with an unearthly j joy.
Yes, my dear ones, those who have not experienced the wonderful peace of Christ cannot understand it... But how happy are those who have this peace... For us who are in Christ no sufferings and frustrations should stop us ...
I asked through the iron bars: "Varia, don't you regret what you did?" "No," she answered. "And if they would free me, I would go again and would tell them about the great love of Christ. Don't think that I suffer. I am very glad that the Lord loves me so much and gives me the joy to endure for His name.
I beg that you pray for her. She will probably be sent to Siberia. They have taken away her clothes and all of her things. She has remained without anything, except what is on her. She has no relatives and we must collect for the most necessary things. I have put apart the last sum which you sent me. If Varia is deported, I will hand it to her. I believe that God will strengthen her and will give her power to endure in the future, too. May God keep her!
Dear Maria, at last I am able to write you. We arrived well at [location omitted]. Our camp is ten miles from town. I cannot describe our life. You know it. I wish to write only a little about me. I thank God that He gives me health and that I can work physically. Sister X and I were put to work in a workshop where we work at machines. The work is difficult and Sister X's health is bad. I must work for both her and me. I finish my work first and then I help my sister. We work twelve to thirteen hours a day. Our food is just as yours, very scarce. But it is not about this that I wished to write to you.
My heart praises and thanks God that, through you, He showed me the way to salvation. Now, being on this way, my life has a purpose and I know where to go and for whom I suffer. I feel the desire to tell and to witness to everybody about the great joy of salvation that I have in my heart. Who can separate us from the love of God in Christ? Nobody and nothing. Neither prison nor suffering. The sufferings that God sends us only strengthen us more and more in the faith in Him. My heart is so full that the grace of God overflows. At work, they curse and punish me, giving me extra work because I cannot be silent. I must tell everyone what the Lord has done for me. He has made me a new being, a new creation, of me who was on the way of perdition. Can I be silent after this? No, never! As long as my lips can speak, I will witness to every one about His great love.
On the way to the camp, we met with many brethren and sisters in Christ. How amazing it is that you feel through the Spirit that they are children of God when you first see the brethren and the sisters. It is useless to speak. From the first look you feel and know who they are.
While we were on the way to the camp, at one railway station, a woman came, gave us food and said only two words: "God lives."
The first evening when we arrived here (it was late), we were taken to underground barracks. We greeted those present with the words, "Peace with you." To our great joy, from all corners we heard the answer, "We receive you with peace." And from the first evening we felt that we are in a family.
Yes, it was really so. Here there are many who believe in Christ as their personal Savior. More than half of the prisoners are believers. We have among us great singers and good preachers of the gospel. In the evening, when we all gather after heavy work, how wonderful it is to pass at least some time together in prayer at the feet of our Savior. With Christ there is freedom everywhere. I learned here many beautiful hymns and every day God gives me more and more of His Word. At the age of nineteen, I celebrated the birthday of Christ for the first time. Never will I forget this wonderful day!
We had to work the whole day long. But some of our brethren were able to go to the river nearby. There they broke the ice and prepared the place where, during the night-according to the Word of God-seven brethren and I were baptized. Oh, how happy I am and how I would like that you, Maria, should be with me, too, that I may atone at least a little bit, through my love toward you for the wrong I committed in times past against you. But God puts every one of us in His place and we must stand firm where God has put us.
Give greetings to the whole family of God's children. God will richly bless your common work, as He blessed me, too. Read Hebrews 12:1-3.
All our brethren greet you and are glad that your faith in God is so powerful and that you praise Him in your sufferings unceasingly. If you write to others, tell them our
Dear Maria, at last I have found the opportunity to write you a few lines. I can tell you, my dear one, that, by the grace of God, Sister X and I are healthy and feel well. We are now in [location omitted].
I thank you for your motherly care for me. We received all you have prepared for us. I thank you for the most valuable thing, the Bible. Thanks to all. When you write to them, send my greetings and thanks for what they have done for me.
Since the Lord revealed to me the deep mystery of His holy love, I consider myself to be the happiest in the world. The persecutions that I have to endure I consider as a special grace.
I am glad that the Lord gave me from the first days of my faith the great happiness to suffer for Him. Pray for me that I may remain faithful to the Lord to the end.
May the Lord keep you all and strengthen you for the holy battle!
Sister X and I kiss you all. When we are sent to [location omitted] perhaps we will have the opportunity to write to you again. Don't worry about us. We are glad and joyful, because our reward in heaven is great (Matthew 5:11,12).
This is the last letter from Varia-the young Communist girl who found Christ, witnessed about Him, and was sentenced to slave labor. She was never heard from again, but her beautiful lave and witness for Christ shows the spiritual beauty of the suffering, faithful Underground Church.
Wurmbrand, Richard. Tortures for Christ. Bartlesville, OK: Living Sacrifice Book Company, 1967, 1998, p. 137-142. www.persecution.com
e. John and Betty Stam, China
John and Betty Stam were graduates of Moody Bible Institute. They sailed for China as missionaries during a difficult time for missionaries. (They were actually married in China, Betty preceding John to the mission field by one year.) They knew the risks involved. The China Inland Mission was specifically recruiting laborers to work in dangerous Communist infested areas. But both of them had been inspired by a poem written after Southern Presbyterian missionary Jack Vinson was martyred in 1931. Vinson had showed no fear of death to his Chinese captors, telling them, "Kill me, if you wish. I will go straight to God." The calmness he showed inspired his colleague E. H. Hamilton to write this poem:
Afraid? Of What?
To feel the spirit's glad release?
To pass from pain to perfect peace,
The strife and strain of life to cease?
Afraid? Of What?
Afraid to see the Saviour's face,
To hear His welcome, and to trace
The glory gleam from wounds of grace?
Afraid? Of What?
A flash, a crash, a pierced heart;
Darkness, light, O Heaven's art!
A wound of His a counterpart! Afraid-of that?
Afraid? Of What?
To do by death what life could not
Baptize with blood a stony plot,
Till souls shall blossom from the spot?
With courage and faith, John had challenged the graduating class at Moody in 1932:
"Shall we beat a retreat, and turn back from our high calling in Christ Jesus; or dare we advance at God's command in face of the impossible? Let us remind ourselves that the Great Commission was never qualified by clauses calling for advance only if funds were plentiful and no hardship or self-denial involved. On the contrary, we are told to expect tribulation and even persecution, but with it victory in Christ."1
The day of reckoning came for John and Betty Stain. (One recent book, obviously based on John Stain's words to his class at Moody, calls it, "Victory Day for the Stains." What a concept!) They were captured by Communists (their little baby, Priscilla, was miraculously spared), then painfully bound, stripped down to their underwear, and kept under guard for the night. The next morning, they were paraded down the street while being mocked and ridiculed, after which they were beheaded-baptizing with blood a stony plot, till souls have blossomed from that spot. They were not afraid of that!
As word got out about their martyrdom, the impact was dramatic, both in terms of new missionary volunteers, new student prayer meetings, and large monetary donations to the work in China. A missionary with the China Inland Mission wrote to Betty's parents: "A life which had the longest span of years might not have been able to accomplish one-hundredth of the work for Christ which they have done in a day." That is the power of martyrdom! Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds" (John 12:24). One short act of obedience to death gave many others eternal life!
Excerpt taken from Michael L. Brown's book, entitled Revolution in the Church, published by Baker Books and available through ICN Ministries (www.icnministries.org), p. 239-241.
1 With permission from James C. and Marti Hefley. By Their Blood: Christian Martyrs of the Twentieth Century, 2nd edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1996, p. 57-58.
f. Tortured into Chris, China
One night last October I was visiting the house church of my friend. I guess you could say I was looking for God. My girlfriend had run off with a richer man, and my heart was full of schemes of revenge, some of which were quite violent.
But at my workplace I was befriended by a man who invited me to a religious meeting.
At the meeting there were about fifty people present. A real mixture. Some looked quite wealthy and well dressed. I could not help noticing there were many attractive young women there also. They were singing and clapping without fear. And then a man who must have been about forty began to speak from the Bible. I remember him talking about prayer and the words "ask, seek, knock."
Then the police burst in.
There were seven officers, and they went to the man who was speaking.
"This is an illegal meeting," they declared. "You are all under arrest."
The police had a swagger about them. Clearly they thought they had complete control over these people's lives. My luck was really out. They picked five of us (including me), plus the pastor, and hauled us down to the station.
My friend tried to intervene on my behalf, saying, "He is not one of us." But they paid no attention. As we were swaying against each other in the van, he leaned over and said, "If you get into real trouble. call on Jesus and He will help."
At the station we were all placed in separate rooms. "I'm not a Christian;" I said to the two interrogators. They just kept smoking and replied, "Okay, have it your way, but you are a criminal. Besides, we will know soon enough if you really are a Christian or not."
I asked them, "How do you mean'?" He said simply, "When we beat Christians up, they don't curse like the others." Then his face changed, and he barked orders at me. "Stand up, feet together, arms straight out by your sides. Put your knees together and half crouch." I saw what they were up to. They were putting me in the crucifix position. After five minutes, I was shaking with the effort of holding my arms at right angles to my torso, and my thighs were giving way, too, in the crouch position.
One of the interrogators began burning his cigarette into the palms of my hands. I was so shocked I screamed and collapsed on the floor. At once they both pounced on me, kicking me with their shoes. I could hear the crunch of ribs breaking.
The amazing thing was, at that moment, I prayed, "Jesus, if you are God, get me through this." Immediately it was as if my body was a sluice for cool water. And with the coolness came a rush of compassion for my interrogators. To be honest, I said to myself, "What a stupid thing to feel for these horrid men who are beating me." I knew this was the force of Jesus within me, but it did not make sense.
The torture was not over. They strung me up by the thumbs, and that was awful because both of them dislocated.
In the morning they let me go with a warning. "Don't you dare go to a Christian meeting again." But I said to them, "Before I go, I want to thank you."
They echoed, mystified, "Thank us?" I said, "Thank you for making me a Christian. Your cruelty forced me to call on Jesus, and to my surprise, He came into me and gave me compassion. I see you not as powerful men, but as sad sadists fighting a losing battle for your self-respect."
They were stunned. Again, so was I. Who was this speaking through me? It was as if a new spirit of boldness as well as love was flowing through me.
Now I am free. I only want to do one thing-tell others about Christ. I intend to get some Bible training, and then I will depart for another province to spread the Word. All China must hear of Jesus. If I live to be eighty, then I have fifty-five years left to spread His Gospel. That's not too long to reach the whole country.
I expect I will be tortured again. But since I was tortured into Christ, I can, with His help, endure being tortured for Christ!
Open Doors, Brother Andrew with John & Elizabeth Sherrill, The Narrow Road, Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 2001, p. 73,7
g. Why Should I be Afraid of the Torturers, Romania.
A brother who had been terribly
tortured by the Communist police shared the same prison cell with me and told
the following incident:
I once saw an impressive scene in a circus. A sharpshooter set out to demonstrate his skill. In the arena was his wife, with a burning candle on her head. From a distance he shot the candle so that it fell, leaving his wife unharmed.
Later I asked her, "Were you afraid?" She replied, "Why should I be? He aimed at the candle, not at me."
I thought about this when I was under torture. Why should I be afraid of the torturers? They don't beat me. They beat my body. My "me," my real being, is Christ. I was seated with Him in the heavenly places. This-my real person-could not be touched by them. I have lived through the years of enforced exile with the image of such heroes of faith in my heart. Now, on my return to my homeland, I again found this same spirit among the Christians I met.
Wurmbrand, Richard. From Suffering to Triumph! Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1993, p. 5. Used By Permission The Voice of the Martyrs www.persecution.com
All of these testimonies from persecuted Christians have one thing in common: Jesus was and is real to them! He can be real to you as well!
d. Personal Testimony
To me Jesus is real, so real that I don’t know how I could live a life without Him. He lives in me as promised in Gal 2:20 “Christ lives in me.” He guides me, talks to me and I always feel His presence, even though I may be all alone in a room.
It wasn’t always this way. I used to be very religious and I adhered strictly to all the laws imposed by the church I was attending. When asked if I was saved, I wouldn’t know how to respond. I was trying to earn my salvation by my own works, thinking I knew all about Jesus, when I didn’t know Him at all, personally.
However, all of my efforts seemed so futile, for I was entangled in an addiction that had haunted me since I was twelve years old. I tried to free myself from it and even prayed about it, but all of my efforts were to no avail. If one month went by without me slipping into this sinful habit, I thought I was victorious. However, to my dismay it always came back to me with a vengeance, and I was in a deeper despair than ever before. Pornography was a vice that seemed impossible to shake off!
I tended to be selfish, and I always had to have my own way. I didn’t like being with others, however, I went to church weekly. Television played a big part in my life and I often spend hours watching worthless shows. Listening to music and playing computer games took a toll on me as well. It seemed I had no time for anything except pleasing the cravings of my flesh. Is it any wonder that my wife seemed to be distancing herself more and more from me? I was a lonely, unhappy man! Was there anyway out of this mess???
One day, I was in such despair, that I cried out: “Lord, lead me to your truth. I am so confused!”
A few weeks later, I received an invitation by e-mail from a friend to attend a Messianic synagogue. He didn’t know what I was going through, but nevertheless, he felt compelled to invite me to his church. It sounded interesting, and as they were only a 2-hour car drive away from where I lived, why not try it?
The day I was supposed to go there, my mother-in-law fell and was rushed to the hospital. I was unable to go. I should have known that the enemy was trying to discourage me from having a unique experience with God. However, this did not stop me from making plans to attend at the next possible moment, and the following month, we headed to that place of worship. As we entered the synagogue, both my wife and I felt an overwhelming presence: God's presence through His Holy Spirit was in that place! I had never felt His presence before. During the service, the Rabbi’s wife prophesied that there was someone in the congregation who was facing an open door, the door of the Messiah Yeshua (the Hebrew word for Jesus). She was encouraging that person to not hesitate any longer, but to go through that door. Little did she know that she was prophesying to me!
I thought I knew Jesus, I thought I knew my Bible, but that day I tumbled down from my ivory tower and accepted Jesus into my life. That day, He became real to me, and my whole life changed. He gave me total victory over the addiction of pornography I had struggled with for 30 years. I was finally completely free! And this freedom came without any of my own efforts! Jesus made me free!
After my first encounter with the Holy Spirit, I also found I could open my Bible and actually understand it—I mean, really understand it, like I never had before! The difference was simple: God's Spirit was dwelling in me. Jesus was so right when he said: John 16:13 3 “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth.”
My outward attitude changed as well. I started to like being with people and to help them out. Television was not that attractive to me any longer. Secular music was replaced with Christian music, where I could sing along my love to the One who made a difference in my life. Computer games disappeared all together out off my life. My distant wife was changed as well and we are now closer to each other than when we were first married. Jesus had become real to her as well, and we discovered that a marriage based on Jesus is the most solid union anyone can have.
Jesus had become so real to me that my priorities have changed because of that. Pleasing myself is not attractive any longer. In fact, it is boring to pursue worthless pursuits. Others have become more important to me, especially sharing with them the love that Jesus Christ has for me and for them.
All my life I went to church without knowing my Saviour. All of my life I tried to earn heaven, but I never succeeded. Jesus made the difference in my life! Eph 1:11 “It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for.” (from THE MESSAGE.)
And He is willing to make a difference in your life, too! Jesus is real and He wants to be your friend too! Are you struggling with some kind of addiction? You can be set free! Not by your own efforts, but by the power of God that Jesus made available to you. Nothing is too hard for Him. What seems impossible to you is possible with God. I am a witness of this and can guarantee it is true! His assurance is factual: John 8:36-37 “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
Do you want to be set free?
Question 1: What evidence was most compelling to the apostle John that Jesus had been risen from the dead?
Question 2: Why were the apostles willing to die for proclaiming the gospel message?
Question 3: Why were Christians from around the world and throughout centuries willing to die for believing in Jesus?
Question 4: What will you do now about Jesus Christ?
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