By Tyson Thorne

March 7, 2019

John 45 Large

In our last post, we ended on the not-so-positive note of the world's hatred. Their hatred toward God is extended to all who follow him. This persecution started among the Jewish communities with the death of Stephen, and later James, but quickly spread to other parts of the world until the present time. Today, around 14,000 Christians are killed for their faith each year. At least that is the "reported" number, but many go unreported as such even though it is clearly witnessed. Headlines about whole Christian villages in Nigeria being wiped out by Muslim jihadists sell papers but are not included in the "reported" deaths.

There are a couple different sources using different researchers that state the real number is somewhere around 100,000 Christians killed for their faith each year. Spend a little time on and that number doesn't seem outrageous, though some news outlets like the BBC try to denounce them. I think even the most fair-minded individuals who know about what happens in regions of Africa (including Egypt), Iran and North Korea would agree that the real number is higher than 14,000 and is probably closer to the 100,000 figure. By the way, we're only counting deaths here. There are many, many more driven from their homes, raped, sold into slavery and denied access to food and water and other services. This makes Christians the most persecuted people in the world.

Anyone who has read the New Testament isn't surprised by this. In the last part of John 15 (and many other places throughout the Gospels) Jesus outlines that this kind of thing is to be expected. Why did he tell them this? The disciples were already overwhelmed with sorrow. Jesus had been talking about his eminent death and departure from the world, that it is coming soon, which drove them to near despair. Is the Messiah kicking them when their down? Jesus gives three reasons why he is detailing the near future.

In the first verse of chapter 16 Jesus says "I have told you all these things so that you will not fall away." It is human nature to measure the personal cost of our actions. Jesus willing went to the cross to save humanity from it's sins; how many others would do the same? When one's life is on the line, it's all too easy to walk away — which is just what the disciples did the night of Jesus' arrest! They dispersed, they needed to time to think through the cost. They all came back, however, after determining that the Gospel message was worthmore than all their lives combined. In the end, foreknowledge did in fact equal forewarned.

In verse 4 Jesus says, "I have told you these things so that when their time comes, you will remember that I told you about them." Jesus wanted the disciples to know that no matter how tough things got, he wasn't surprised by any of it and they shouldn't be either. Again, human nature is to flee when confronted with a life-threatening situation. It would be easy to rationalize and think that Jesus couldn't have expected them to hold through this. He did expect it, and he would be with them through it all.

And there is a third reason, mentioned in a parallel passage in Luke 21.13: "This will be a time for you to serve as witnesses." When a person holds to their testimony even when confronted with loss, suffering, and even death it serves to bolster faith in their testimony. I think that is the real reason the BBC wants to minimize the number of Christian deaths through persecution, because it gives validity to our message, to our way of life, and to our God. Remember, therefore, Jesus' words and take them to heart so that, in the words of Paul, after having done everything, to stand firm (Ephesians 6.13).

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