Sunday, September 28, 2008

Word of testimony

by Charles E Ramsey

My wife and I continually express our appreciation for each other. Dr. Walter L Wilson, pastor of Central Bible Church in Kansas City years ago, always spoke of "our Lovely Lord Jesus," and he admonished men to show love and appreciation to their wives. His example of loveliness made it easy for me to express my love to my wife Bonnie. Genuinely testifying of ones love for another leads to a contented pattern for life.

Conversely, I found in scripture where not being appreciated is considered. Jesus said, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. (NIV John 15:18-19)

Recently, I received a new book, Foxe Voices of the Martyrs 33 A. D. to Today. The Forward reads:
I wish I could tell you that persecution is waning, that our brothers and sisters are being treated with fairness and justice. Instead, I must tell you that persecution of Christians is more common in our generation than ever in history. The oft-quoted statistic is true that more people died for their Christian faith in the past century than in all the other centuries of recorded history combined.
(David B. Barrett, International Bulletin of Missionary Research, January 2007)
While the gospel message of Christ Jesus brings great peace, joy and love to the believer, it sometimes produces hatred and hostility in unbelievers. Persecution occurs in countries where there is no freedom of religion. We are blessed in the United States to enjoy that freedom. My purpose is not to extol Christian society, but to relate what the Bible says regarding a believer's reaction to hatred.

Persecution of God's people has occurred since the beginning of time, nevertheless, for the purpose of this study I will focus on the persecution that began when Christ was crucified. Persecution has an unusual consequence. Whole communities have embraced Christ because of believers' dying testimonies, triumphantly dying for their faith in Christ.

The apostle Peter instructs persecuted believers:
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.

…But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…
The correct attitude when despised for your faith in Christ is "do not fear… but always witness of your hope with gentleness and respect."

Peter continues to remind his friends:
It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.
(NIV 1 Peter 3:9, 14-15, 17, 18)

The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy "…Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned…" (NIV 2 Timothy 3:12-14)

Testimony is a powerful word in the New Testament. In Greek the root word martur is translated as martyr, testify, testimony or witness. When persecution in the New Testament followed a testimony of Christ, the writer used the word martur... Our word martyr is a transliteration of the Greek word martur. The 1st century persecution was a result of faithful witnessing of Christ's love, but it frequently resulted in martyrdom.

The biblical fact is that Jesus came to die for our sins. His main mission from God His Father was to live a perfect life as a man and reveal the essence of the Father. Therefore He became the necessary sacrifice for mankind's sin. By rising from the dead Jesus Christ proved that eternal life is possible to all who believe. In our country we have divorced the connection of being a martyr and being a witness, Therefore persecution for our faith in Christ is not as evident in America as elsewhere.

Scriptures show the evidences of persecution when the New Testament was written. "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." (NIV Hebrews 10:34) "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him." (NIV Philippians 1:29) Evidence of persecution carries over into the book of Revelation, as a prophecy of the end times. It becomes clear that the greatest persecution is still ahead for believers.

In the Revelation Jesus gave to the apostle John, He used the Greek word martur concerning Himself and His message. (The translation of martur is in bolded in the following references.)
(John) "who testifies to everything he saw-- that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ".... "From Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood… I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus."
(NIV Revelation 1:2,5,9)

This last reference shows the apostle John was imprisoned at Patmos for preaching about Christ. "To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation." (NIV Rev. 3:14)

From his vision John records:
"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…Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed."
(NIV Revelation 6:9, 11)
This prophecy gives a picture of the end times.

The practice of hating Christians will not decrease. The problem starts in the beginning when Satan introduced a lie to Adam and Eve. Satan still introduces lies to contradict truth and entrap mankind. At the end of this age Christ provides the way to overcome Satan. "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death…"

Two different women are pictured in the next quotes. The first refers to the nation that gave birth to Christ. The second woman refers to Satan's counterfeit religion of the last days. First: "Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring-- those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (NIV Revelation 12:11.17)

Second: "After this I looked and in heaven the temple, that is, the tabernacle of the Testimony, was opened... I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus…." (NIV Revelation 15:5,6)

John's response to the angel delivering these messages was inappropriate. "At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (NIV Revelation 19:10) The phrase "testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" is a clue for interpreting Old Testament prophecy, especially Isaiah 53.

Jesus applies the word martur to the faithful in the last days when He concludes Revelation.
…I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years."
(NIV Revelation 20:4)
I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star. The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
(NIV Revelation 22:16-17, 20)

The above is a sample of 181 times in the New Testament where the root word for martyr is used when speaking of believers testifying or witnessing for Christ. However the most important concept is our attitude when sharing Jesus with the unbeliever. We must be loving and caring. If we are bitter we are in the wrong. We are to be gentle and respectful even if they are holding a gun to our head and daring us to confess Christ. (Applying Peter 3:15)

The world dogmatically opposes Jesus as the only way of salvation. On the other hand the eternality of every one's soul is at stake. Christ is the answer for our sin problem which also includes the gift of eternal life in heaven. We are commanded to tell others about Christ's death and resurrection. It is our salvation and eternal benefit.. Paul's counsel to a believer is "…Be active in sharing your faith so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ." (NIV Philemon 1:6)

Just as a Christian husband and wife can be examples of unity of love that produces the grace of contentment, believers must share their faith with gentleness and respect for the unbelievers. We are created beings responsible to God. Each will make a choice that reaches into eternity.

No comments:

Post a Comment