Daily Devotional – The Beatitudes by Thomas Watson Part LXXX

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Image Depicting Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount

The Beatitudes

by Thomas Watson

An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-12 

 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (v.10)

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
“Blessed are those who are persecuted, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”

Concerning Persecution

We are now come to the last beatitude: ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted

Let us prepare for persecution. A wise pilot in a calm, will prepare for a storm. God knows how soon persecution may come. There seems to be a cloud of blood hanging over the nation.

2. Avoid those things which will hinder suffering.

[1] The love of the world. God allows us the use of the world (1 Timothy 6:7, 8). But take heed of the love of it. He who is in love with the world will be out of love with the cross. ‘Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world’ (2 Timothy 4:10). He not only forsook Paul’s company but his doctrine. The love of the world chokes our zeal. A man wedded to the world will for thirty pieces of silver betray Christ and his cause. Let the world be as a loose garment that you may throw off at pleasure. Before a man can die for Christ—he must be dead to the world. Paul was crucified to the world (Galatians 6:14). It will be an easy thing to die, when we are already dead in our affections.

[2] Carnal fear. There is a twofold fear:

A FILIAL fear, when a man fears to displease God. When he fears he should not hold out, this is a good fear. ‘Blessed is he who fears always’. If Peter had feared his own heart better, and said, ‘Lord Jesus, I fear I shall forsake you; Lord strengthen me’; doubtless Christ would have kept him from falling.

There is a COWARDLY fear, when a man fears danger more than sin, when he is afraid to be godly; this fear is an enemy to suffering. God proclaimed that those who were fearful should not go to the wars (Deuteronomy 20:8). The fearful are unfit to fight in Christ’s wars. A man possessed with fear does not consult what is best—but what is safest. If he may save his estate, he will snare his conscience. ‘In the fear of man, there is a snare’ (Proverbs 29:25). Fear made Peter deny Christ, Abraham equivocate, David pretend to be mad. Fear will put men upon sinful courses. Fear makes sin appear little, and suffering great. The fearful man sees double. He looks upon the cross through his microscope, and it appears twice as big as it is. Fear argues sordidness of spirit. It will put one upon things most ignoble and unworthy. A fearful man will vote against his conscience. Fear enfeebles. It is like the cutting off Samson’s locks. Fear melts away the courage. ‘Their hearts melt because of you’ (Joshua 2:9). And when a man’s strength is gone he is very unfit to carry Christ’s cross. Fear is the root of apostasy. Spira’s fear made him abjure and recant his religion.

Fear hurts one more than the adversary. It is not so much an enemy outside the castle, as a traitor within, which endangers it. It is not so much sufferings without, as traitorous fear within, which undoes a man. A fearful man is versed in no posture so much as in retreating. Oh take heed of this! Be afraid of this fear. ‘Fear not those who can kill the body’ (Luke 12:4). Persecutors can but kill the body, which must shortly die anyway. The fearful are set in the forefront of those who shall go to hell (Revelation 21:8). Let us get the fear of God into our hearts. As one wedge drives out another, so the fear of God will drive out all other base fear.

[3] Take heed of a vacillating spirit. A vacillating man will be turned any way with a word. He will be wrought as wax. He is so tame that you may lead him where you will. ‘With fair speeches they deceive the hearts of the simple’ (Romans 16:18). A vacillating man is malleable to anything. He is like wool that will take any dye. He is a weak reed that will be blown any way with the breath of men. One day you may persuade him to engage in a good cause, the next day to desert it. He is not made of oak—but of willow. He will bend every way. Oh take heed of a vacillating spirit! It is folly to allow one’s self to be abused. A good Christian is like Mount Zion that cannot be moved (Psalm 125:1). He is like Fabricius of whom it was said, a man might as well alter the course of the sun as turn him aside from doing justice. A good Christian must be firm to his resolution. If he be not a fixed star, he will be a falling star.

[4] Take heed of listening to the voice of the flesh. Paul ‘conferred not with flesh and blood’ (Galatians 1:16). The flesh will give bad counsel. First King Saul consulted with the flesh—and afterwards he consulted with the devil. He sends to the witch of Endor. ‘Oh,’ says the flesh, ‘the cross of Christ is heavy! There are nails in that cross which will lacerate, and fetch blood!’ Be as a deaf adder stopping your ears to the charmings of the flesh!

3. Promote those things which will help to suffer.

[1] Inure yourselves to suffering. ‘As a good soldier of Christ endure hardship’ (2 Timothy 2:3). Jacob made the stone his pillow (Genesis 28:18). ‘It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth’ (Lamentations 3:27). The bearing of a lighter cross, will fit for the bearing of a heavier cross. Learn to bear a reproach with patience, and then you will be fitter to bear an iron chain. Paul died daily. He began with lesser sufferings and so by degrees learned to be a martyr. As it is in sin—a wicked man learns to be expert in sin by degrees. First he commits a lesser sin, then a greater, then he arrives at a habit in sin, then he grows impudent in sin, then he glories in sin (Philippians 3:19); so it is in suffering. First a Christian takes up the chips of the cross—mockings and scornings—and then he carries the cross itself.
Alas how far are they from suffering, who indulge the flesh: ‘They lie upon beds of ivory and stretch themselves upon their couches’ (Amos 6:4); a very unfit posture for suffering. That soldier is likely to make but poor work of it, who is stretching himself upon his bed when he should be in the field exercising and drilling. ‘What shall I say,’ says Jerome, ‘to those professors who make it all their care to perfume their clothes, to crisp their hair, to sparkle their diamonds—but if sufferings come, and the way to heaven has any difficulty in it, they will not endure to set their feet upon it!’ Most people are too delicate. They pamper themselves too tenderly. Those ‘silken Christians’ (as Tertullian calls them) who pamper the flesh, are unfit for the school of the cross. The naked breast and bare shoulder, is too soft and tender to carry Christ’s cross. Inure yourselves to hardship. Do not make your pillow too easy.

[2] Be well skilled in the knowledge of Christ. A man can never die for one he does not know. ‘For which cause I suffer those things; for I know whom I have believed’ (2 Timothy 1:12). Blind men are always fearful. A blind Christian will be fearful of the cross. Enrich yourselves with knowledge. Know Christ in his virtues, offices, privileges. See the preciousness in Christ. ‘To you who believe, he is precious’ (1 Peter 2:7). His name is precious; it is as ointment poured forth. His blood is precious; it is as balm poured forth. His love is precious; it is as wine poured forth. Jesus Christ is made up of all sweets and delights. He himself is all that is desirable. He is light to the eye, honey to the taste, joy to the heart. Get but the knowledge of Christ and you will part with all for him. You will embrace him though it be in the fire. An ignorant man can never be a martyr. He may set up an altar—but he will never die for an unknown God.

[3] Prize every truth of God. The filings of gold are precious. The least ray of truth is glorious. ‘Buy the truth—and sell it not’ (Proverbs 23:23). Truth is the object of faith (2 Thessalonians 2:13), the seed of regeneration (James 1:18), the spring of joy (1 Corinthians 13:6). Truth crowns us with salvation (1 Timothy 2:4). If ever you would suffer for the truth—prize it above all things. He who does not prize truth above life will never lay down his life for the truth. The blessed martyrs sealed the truth with their blood. There are two things God counts most dear to him, his glory and his truth.

[4] Keep a good conscience. If there is any sin allowed in the soul, it will unfit for suffering. A man who has a boil upon his shoulders cannot carry a heavy burden. Guilt of conscience is like a boil. He who has this can never carry the cross of Christ. If a ship is sound and well-rigged, it will sail upon the water—but if it is full of holes and leaks, it will sink in the water. If conscience be full of guilt (which is like a leak in the ship), it will not sail in the bloody waters of persecution. If the foundation is rotten, the house will not stand in a storm. If a man’s heart is rotten, he will never stand in a storm of tribulation. How can a guilty person suffer when for ought he knows, he is likely to go from the fire at the stake—to hell-fire! Let conscience be pure. ‘Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience’ (1 Timothy 3:9). A good conscience will abide the fiery trial. This made the martyrs’ flames, to be beds of roses. A good conscience is a wall of brass. With the Leviathan, ‘it laughs at the shaking of a spear’ (Job 41:29). Let one be in prison—a good conscience is a bird that can sing in this cage. Augustine calls it ‘the paradise of a good conscience’.

[5] Make the Scripture familiar to you (Psalm 119:50). The Scripture well digested by meditation, will fit for suffering. The Scripture is a Christian’s armory. It may be compared to the ‘tower of David on which there hang a thousand shields’ (Canticles 4:4). From these breasts of Scripture, divine strength flows into the soul. ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly’ (Colossians 3:16). Jerome speaks of one who by frequent studying the Scripture made his breast ‘the library of Christ’. The blessed Scripture as it is a honeycomb for comfort, so an armory for strength. First, the martyrs ‘hearts did burn within them’ (Luke 24:32) by reading the Scripture, and then their bodies were fit to burn. The Scripture arms a Christian both against temptation and persecution.

The Scripture arms a Christian both against TEMPTATION. Christ himself, when he was tempted by the devil ran to Scripture for armor: ‘It is written’. Three times he wounds the old serpent with his sword. Jerome says of Paul, he could never have gone through so many temptations, but for his Scripture-armor. Christians, are you tempted? Go to Scripture; gather a stone hence to fling in the face of a Goliath-temptation. Are you tempted to pride? Read that scripture, ‘God resists the proud’ (1 Peter 5:5). Are you tempted to lust? Read James 1:15, ‘When lust has conceived, it brings forth sin; and sin when it is finished, brings forth death’.

The Scripture arms a Christian both against PERSECUTION. When the flesh draws back the Scripture will recruit us. It will put armor upon us—and courage into us. ‘Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life’ (Revelation 2:10). O, says the Christian, I am not afraid to suffer. ‘Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer.’ But why should I suffer? I love God and is not this sufficient? Nay—but God will test your love. God’s gold is best tried in the furnace. But this persecution is so long! No! it is but for ‘ten days’. It may be lasting—but not everlasting. What are ten days put in balance with eternity? But what am I the better if I suffer? What comes of it? ‘Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.’ Though your body is martyred, your soul shall be crowned. ‘But I shall faint when trials come.’ ‘My grace shall be sufficient’ (2 Corinthians 12:9). The Christian though weak, has omnipotence to underprop him

 

Daily Devotional – The Beatitudes by Thomas Watson Part LXXIX

Image result for Beatitudes
Image Depicting Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount

The Beatitudes

by Thomas Watson

An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-12 

 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (v.10)

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
“Blessed are those who are persecuted, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”

Concerning Persecution

We are now come to the last beatitude: ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted

Thus have I shown what that suffering is, which makes us blessed, and shall wear the crown of martyrdom.

1. It shows us what the nature of Christianity is, namely, sanctity joined with suffering. A true saint carries Christ in his heart—and the cross on his shoulders. ‘All who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution’ (2 Timothy 3:12). Christ and his cross are never parted. It is too much for a Christian to have two heavens, one here and another hereafter. Christ’s kingdom on earth is the kingdom of the cross. What is the meaning of the shield of faith, the helmet of hope, the breastplate of patience—but to imply that we must encounter sufferings? It is one of the titles given to the church, ‘afflicted’ (Isaiah 54:11). Persecution is the legacy bequeathed by Christ to his people. ‘In the world you shall have tribulation’ (John 16:33). Christ’s spouse is a lily among thorns. Christ’s sheep must expect to lose their golden fleece. This the flesh does not like to hear of. Therefore Christ calls persecution ‘the cross’ (Matthew 16:24). It is cross to flesh and blood. We are all for reigning. ‘When will you restore the kingdom again to Israel?’ (Acts 1:6). But the apostle tells of suffering before reigning. ‘If we suffer—we shall also reign with him’ (2 Timothy 2:12). How loath is corrupt flesh to put its neck under Christ’s yoke, or stretch itself upon the cross!

True religion gives no charter of exemption from suffering. To have two heavens is more than Christ had. Was Christ crowned with thorns—and do we think to be crowned with roses! ‘Don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you’ (1 Peter 4:12). If we are God’s gold, it is not strange to be cast into the fire. Some there are, who picture Erasmus as half in heaven and half out. Methinks it represents a Christian in this life. In regard of his inward consolation—he is half in heaven. In regard of his outward persecution—he is half in hell.

2. See hence that persecutions are not signs of God’s anger or fruits of the curse, for ‘blessed are those who are persecuted’. If they are blessed who die in the Lord, are they not blessed who die for the Lord? We are very apt to judge them hated and forsaken of God, who are in a suffering condition. ‘If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross’ (Matthew 27:40).The Jews made a question of it. They could hardly believe Christ was the Son of God when he hung upon the cross. Would God let him be reproached and forsaken—if he were the Son of God? When the barbarians saw the viper on Paul’s hand, they thought he was a great sinner. ‘No doubt this man is a murderer’ (Acts 28:4). So when we see the people of God afflicted and the viper of persecution fastens upon them, we are apt to say, ‘These are greater sinners than others, and God does not love them.’ This is for lack of judgment. ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted’. Persecutions are pledges of God’s love, badges of honor (Hebrews 12:7). In the sharpest trial, there is the sweetest comfort. God’s fanning his wheat, is but to make it purer.

1. It reproves such as would be thought good Christians, but will not suffer persecution for Christ’s sake. Their care is not to take up the cross—but to avoid the cross. ‘When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away’ (Matthew 13:21). There are many professors who will suffer nothing for him. These may be compared to the crystal which looks like diamond until it comes to the hammering, then it breaks. Many, when they see the palm-branches and garments spread, cry ‘Hosanna!’ to Christ—but if the swords and staves appear, then they slink away. It is to be feared there are some among us, who, if persecutions should come, would rather make Demas’ choice—than Moses’ choice, and would study rather to keep their skin whole—than their conscience pure. Erasmus highly extolled Luther’s doctrine—but when the Emperor threatened all who should favor Luther’s cause, he unworthily deserted it. Hypocrites will sooner renounce Christ, than take up the cross. If ever we should show ourselves Christians to purpose, we must with Peter throw ourselves upon the water to come to Christ. He who refuses to suffer, let him read over that sad scripture, ‘Whoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven’ (Matthew 10:33).

2. It reproves them who are the opposers and persecutors of the saints. How great is their sin! They resist the Holy Spirit. ‘You always resist the Holy Spirit! Which of the prophets have your not fathers persecuted?’ (Acts 7:51, 52). Persecutors offer affront to Christ in heaven. They tread his jewels in the dust, touch the apple of his eye, and pierce his sides. ‘Saul, Saul, why persecute you me?’ (Acts 9:4). When the foot was trodden on, the head cried out. As the sin is great, so the punishment shall be proportionable. ‘Because they poured out the blood of the saints and the prophets, You also gave them blood to drink; they deserve it!’ (Revelation 16:6). Will not Christ avenge those who die in this quarrel?

1. Let it exhort Christians to think beforehand and make account of sufferings. This reckoning beforehand can do us no hurt; it may do us much good.

[1] The fore-thoughts of suffering will make a Christian very serious. The heart is apt to be feathery and frothy. The thoughts of suffering persecution would solidify it. Why am I thus light? Is this a posture fit for persecution? Christians grow serious in the casting up their spiritual accounts. They reckon what religion must cost them, and may cost them. It must cost them the blood of their sins. It may cost them the blood of their lives.

[2] The fore-thoughts of persecution will be as sauce to season our delights, that we do not surfeit upon them. How soon may there be an alarum sounded? How soon may the clouds drop blood? The thoughts of this would take off the heart from the immoderate love of the creature. Our Savior at a great feast breaks out into mention of his death. ‘She has prepared this against my burial’ (Mark 14:8). So the fore-thoughts of persecution would be an excellent antidote against a surfeit.

[3] The fore-thoughts of sufferings would make them lighter when they come. The suddenness of an evil adds to the sadness. This was ill news to the fool in the gospel, ‘This night shall your soul be required of you’ (Luke 12:20). This will be an aggravation of Babylon’s miseries: ‘Her plagues shall come in one day’ (Revelation 18:8). Not that antichrist shall be destroyed in a day—but (‘in a day’) that is, suddenly. The blow shall come unawares, when he does not think of it. The reckoning beforehand of suffering, alleviates and shakes off the edge of it when it comes. Therefore Christ, to lighten the cross, still forewarns his disciples of sufferings that they might not come unlooked for (John 16:33; Acts 1:7).

[4] Fore-thoughts of persecution would put us in mind of getting our armor ready. It is dangerous as well as imprudent, to have all to seek when the trial comes—as if a soldier should have no weapons when the enemy is in the field. He who reckons upon persecution will be in a ready posture for it. He will have the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit ready, that he may not be surprised unawares.
Let us prepare for persecution. A wise pilot in a calm, will prepare for a storm. God knows how soon persecution may come. There seems to be a cloud of blood hanging over the nation.

Let us prepare for persecution. A wise pilot in a calm, will prepare for a storm. God knows how soon persecution may come. There seems to be a cloud of blood hanging over the nation.

How shall we prepare for sufferings? Do three things.

1. Be people rightly qualified for suffering. 

2. Avoid those things which will hinder suffering.

3. Promote all helps to suffering.

1. Labor to be people rightly qualified for suffering. Be righteous people. That man who would suffer ‘for righteousness sake’ must himself be righteous. I mean evangelically righteous. In particular I call him righteous:

[1] A righteous person breathes after holiness (Psalm 119:5). Though sin cleaves to his heart—yet his heart does not cleave to sin. Though sin has an alliance—yet no allowance. ‘I do the very thing I hate!’ (Romans 7:15). A godly man hates the sin to which Satan most tempts and his heart most inclines (Psalm 119:128).

[2] A righteous person is one who makes God’s grace his center. The glory of God is more worth than the salvation of all men’s souls. He who is divinely qualified, is so zealously ambitious for God’s glory, that he does not care what he loses, so long God may be a gainer. He prefers the glory of God before credit, estate, relations. It was the speech of Kiliaz, that blessed martyr, ‘Had I all the gold in the world to dispose of, I would give it to live with my family (though in prison)—yet Jesus Christ is dearer to me than all.’

[3] A righteous person is one who values the jewel of a good conscience at a high rate. Good conscience is a saint’s festival, his music, his paradise, and he will rather hazard anything than violate his conscience. They say of the Irish, if they have a good scimitar, a warlike weapon—that they had rather take a blow on their arm than their scimitar should be hurt. To this I may compare a good conscience. A good man had rather sustain hurt in his body or estate than his conscience should be hurt. He had rather die than violate the virginity of his conscience. Such a man as this is evangelically righteous, and if God calls him to it—he is fit to suffer

 

Beijing Sets Its Sights on Hong Kong

BreakPoint Daily

Beijing Sets Its Sights on Hong Kong

HK

JOHN STONESTREET WITH DAVID CARLSON

Just about a year ago, voters in Hong Kong sent a loud and clear message to Beijing: They would not lose the freedoms they enjoyed. In fact, pro-democracy forces there won 389 of 452 parliamentary seats in that election – more than 3x their previous total. Even more, the results were seen as overwhelming support for the pro-democracy protesters that had been filling the streets of Hong Kong for weeks.

CONTINUED AT LINK ABOVE

Daily Devotional – The Beatitudes by Thomas Watson Part LXXVIII

Image result for Beatitudes
Image Depicting Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount

The Beatitudes

by Thomas Watson

An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-12 

 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (v.10)

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
“Blessed are those who are persecuted, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”

Concerning Persecution

We are now come to the last beatitude: ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted

The reasons why the storm of persecution has chiefly fallen upon the ministers are:

1. They have their corruptions as well as others, and lest they should be lifted up ‘through the abundance of revelation’, God lets loose some ‘messenger of Satan’ to vex and persecute them. God sees they have need of the flail to thresh off their husks. The fire which God puts them into, is not to consume, but to refine them.

2. The ministers are Christ’s ensign-bearers. They are the captains of the Lord’s army, therefore they are the most shot at. ‘I am set for the defense of the gospel’ (Philippians 1:17). The Greek word here used alludes to a soldier that is set in the forefront of the battle and has all the bullets flying about his ears. The minister’s work is to preach against men’s sins, which are as dear to them as their right eye—and they cannot endure this. Every man’s sin is his king to which he yields love and subjection. Now as Pilate said, ‘Shall I crucify your king?’ Men will not endure to have their king-sin crucified. This then being the work of the ministry—to divide between men and their lusts, to part these two old friends—it is no wonder that it meets with so much opposition. When Paul preached against Diana, all the city was in an uproar. We preach against men’s Dianas, those sins which bring them in pleasure and profit—this causes an uproar.

3. From the malice of Satan. The ministers of Christ come to destroy his kingdom, therefore the old serpent will spit all his venom at them. If we tread upon the devil’s head, he will bite us by the heel. The devil sets up several forts and garrisons in men’s hearts—pride, ignorance, unbelief. Now the weapons of the ministry beat down these strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4). Therefore Satan raises his militia, all the force and power of hell against the ministry. The kingdom of Satan is a ‘kingdom of darkness’ (Acts 26:18; Revelation 16:10), and God’s ministers are called the ‘light of the world’ (Matthew 5:14). They come to enlighten those who sit in darkness. This enrages Satan. Therefore he labors to eclipse the lights, to pull down the stars—that his kingdom of darkness may prevail. The devil is called a lion (1 Peter 5:8). The souls of people are the lion’s prey. The ministers’ work is to take away this prey from this lion. Therefore how will he roar upon them, and seek to destroy them!

[1] It shows us what a work the ministry is; though full of dignity—yet full of danger. The persecution of the tongue is the most gentle persecution can be expected. ‘It is not possible’ (says Luther) ‘to be a faithful preacher and not to meet with trials and oppositions.’

[2] It shows the corruption of men’s nature since the fall. They are their own enemies. They persecute those who come to do them most good. What is the work of the ministry, but to save men’s souls from hell? to pull them as ‘brands out of the fire’. Yet worldly men are angry at this. We do not hate the physician who brings such a remedy as makes us nauseated, because it is to make us well; nor the surgeon who lances the flesh, because it is in order to a cure. Why then should we quarrel with the minister? What is our work but to bring men to heaven? ‘We are ambassadors for Christ . . .’ (2 Corinthians 5:20). We would have a peace made up between you and God; yet this is the folly of depraved nature, to requite evil for good.

Aristoxenus used to moisten his flowers with wine, honey, and perfumes that they might not only smell more fragrantly but put forth more fruit. So should we do with our ministers. Give them wine and honey. Encourage them in their work that they might act more vigorously. But instead of this we give them gall and vinegar to drink. We hate and persecute them. Most deal with their ministers as Israel did with Moses. He prayed for them and wrought miracles for them—yet they were continually quarreling with him and sometimes ready to take away his life.

[3] If the fury of the world is against the ministers, then you who fear God had need pray much for them. ‘Pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may have free course, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men.’ (2 Thessalonians 3:1, 2). People should pray for their ministers that God would give them wisdom of the serpent—that they may not betray themselves to danger by indiscretion; and the boldness of the lion—that they may not betray the truth by fear.

5. What that suffering persecution is, which makes a man blessed.

1. I shall show what that suffering is, which will NOT make us blessed.

[1] That is not Christian suffering, when we pull a cross upon ourselves. There is little comfort in such suffering. Augustine speaks of some in his time who were called Circumcellions, who out of a zeal for martyrdom, would run themselves into sufferings. These were accessory to their own death, like King Saul who fell upon his own sword. We are bound by all lawful means to preserve our own lives. Jesus Christ did not suffer until he was called to it. Suspect that to be a temptation, which bids us cast ourselves down into sufferings. When men through rashness run themselves into trouble, it is a cross of their own making and not of God’s laying upon them.

[2] That is not Christian suffering, when we suffer for our offences. ‘Let none of you suffer as an evildoer’ (1 Peter 4:15). ‘We indeed suffer justly’ (Luke 23:41). I am not of Cyprian’s mind that the thief on the cross suffered as a martyr. No! he suffered as an evildoer! Christ indeed took pity on him and saved him. He died a saint—but not a martyr. When men suffer by the hand of the magistrate for their uncleanness, blasphemies etc., these do not suffer persecution—but execution. They die not as martyrs—but as malefactors. They suffer evil—for being evil.

[3] That is not Christian suffering, when they suffer, out of sinister respects, to be cried up as head of a party, or to keep up a faction. The apostle implies that a man may give his body to be burned—yet go to hell (1 Corinthians 13:3). Ambitious men may sacrifice their lives to purchase fame. These are the devil’s martyrs.

2. What that suffering persecution is, which will make us blessed, and shall wear the crown of martyrdom.

[1] We suffer as a Christian, when we suffer in a good cause. So it is in the text. ‘Blessed are those who suffer for righteousness sake’. It is the cause which makes a martyr. When we suffer for the truth and espouse the quarrel of true religion, this is to suffer for righteousness’ sake. ‘For the hope of Israel, I am bound with this chain’ (Acts 28:20).

[2] We suffer as a Christian, when we suffer with a good conscience. A man may have a good cause—and a bad conscience. He may suffer for ‘righteousness sake’—yet he himself be unrighteous. Paul, as he had a just cause, so he had a pure conscience. ‘I have lived in all good conscience to this day’ (Acts 23:1). Paul kept a good conscience to his dying day. It has made the saints go as cheerfully to the stake—as if they had been going to a crown. See to it that there is no flaw in conscience. A ship that is to sail upon the waters must be preserved from leaking. When Christians are to sail on the waters of persecution, let them take heed there be no leak of guilt in their conscience. He who suffers (though it is in God’s own cause) with a bad conscience, suffers two hells; a hell of persecution, and a hell of damnation.

[3] We suffer as a Christian, when we have a good call. ‘You shall be brought before kings . . .’ (Matthew 10:18). There is no question but a man may so far consult for his safety that if God by his providence opens a door, he may flee in time of persecution (Matthew 10:23). But when he is brought before kings, and the case is such that either he must suffer, or the truth must suffer—here is a clear call to suffering, and this is reckoned for martyrdom.

[4] We suffer as a Christian, when we have good ends in our suffering, namely, that we may glorify God, set a seal to the truth, and show our love to Christ. ‘You shall be brought before kings for my sake’ (Matthew 10:18). The primitive Christians burned more in love, than in fire. When we look at God in our sufferings and are willing to make his crown flourish, though it be in our ashes—this is that suffering which carries away the garland of glory.

[5] When we suffer with Christian virtues. ‘If any man suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed’ (1 Peter 4:16). To suffer as a Christian is to suffer with such a spirit as becomes a Christian, which is:

When we suffer with patience. ‘Take, my brethren, the prophets for an example of suffering affliction and of patience’ (James 5:10). A Christian must not repine but say, ‘Shall I not drink the cup’ of martyrdom which my Father has given me? There should be such a spirit of meekness in a Christian’s suffering, that it should be hard to say which is greater—his persecution or his patience. When Job had lost all, he kept the breastplate of innocence and the shield of patience. An impatient martyr is a contradiction.

To suffer as Christians is when we suffer with courage. Courage is a Christian’s armor. It steels and animates him. The three Hebrew children, or rather the three champions, were of brave heroic spirits. They do not say to the king, ‘We ought not to serve your gods’—but ‘We will not!’ (Daniel 3:18). Neither Nebuchadnezzar’s music nor his furnace could alter their resolution. Tertullian was called an adamant, for his invincible courage. Holy courage makes us (as one of the fathers says) ‘have such faces of brass that we are not ashamed of the cross’. This is to suffer as Christians, when we are meek yet resolute. The more the fire is blown—the more it flames. So it is with a brave-spirited Christian. The more opposition he meets with—the more zeal and courage flames forth.

To suffer as Christians is to suffer with cheerfulness. Patience is a bearing the cross; cheerfulness is a taking up the cross. Christ suffered for us cheerfully. His death was a freewill offering (Luke 12:50). He thirsted to drink of that cup of blood! Such must our sufferings be for Christ. Cheerfulness perfumes suffering and makes it the sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savor to God. Thus Moses suffered cheerfully. ‘Moses, when he was come to years, chose to suffer affliction with the people of God,rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season’ (Hebrews 11:24, 25). Observe: ‘When he was come to years’: It was no childish act. It was when he was of years of discretion. ‘He chose to suffer affliction.’ Suffering was not so much his task—as his choice. The cross was not so much imposed—as embraced. This is to suffer as Christians, when we are volunteers; we take up the cross cheerfully, nay, joyfully. ‘They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name’ (Acts 5:41). Or as it is more emphatic in the original, ‘They rejoiced that they were so far graced as to be disgraced for the name of Christ’. Tertullian says of the primitive Christians, that they took more comfort in their sufferings than in their deliverance. And indeed well may a Christian be joyful in suffering, because it is a great favor when God honors a man to be a witness to the truth. Christ’s marks in Paul’s body were prints of glory. The saints have worn their sufferings as ornaments. Ignatius’ chains were his jewels. Never have any princes been so famous for their victories, as the martyrs for their sufferings.

We suffer as Christians when we suffer and pray for our persecutors. ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you’ (Luke 6:27-28).

There are two reasons why we should pray for our persecutors.

Because our prayers may be a means to convert them. Stephen prayed for his persecutors: ‘Lord, lay not this sin to their charge’ (Acts 7:60). And this prayer was effectual to some of their conversions. Augustine says that the church of God was indebted to Stephen’s prayer for all that benefit which was reaped by Paul’s ministry.
We should pray for our persecutors because they do us good, though against their will. They shall increase our reward. Every reproach shall add to our glory. Every injury shall serve to make our crown heavier. As Gregory Nazianzen speaks in one of his orations, Every stone which was thrown at Stephen was a precious stone which enriched him and made him shine brighter in the kingdom of heaven.

Daily Devotional – The Beatitudes by Thomas Watson Part LXXVII

Image result for Beatitudes
Image Depicting Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount

The Beatitudes

by Thomas Watson

An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-12 

 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (v.10)

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
“Blessed are those who are persecuted, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”

Concerning Persecution

We are now come to the last beatitude: ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted . . ‘. Our Lord Christ would have us reckon the cost. ‘Which of you intending to build a tower sits not down first and counts the cost, whether he have enough to finish it?’ (Luke 14:28). Religion will cost us the tears of repentance and the blood of persecution. But we see here a great encouragement that may keep us from fainting in the day of adversity. For the present, blessed; for the future, crowned.

The words fall into two general parts.

1. The condition of the godly in this life: ‘They are persecuted’.

2. Their reward after this life: ‘Theirs is the kingdom of heaven’.

I shall speak chiefly of the first, and wind in the other in the application. The observation is that true godliness is usually attended with persecution. ‘We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God’ (Acts 14:22). ‘The Jews stirred up the chief men of the city and raised persecution against Paul . . .’ (Acts 13:50). Luther makes persecution the very definition of a Christian. Though Christ died to take away the curse from us—yet not to take away the cross from us. Those stones which are cut out for a building are first under the saw and hammer—to be hewed and squared. The godly are called ‘living stones’ (1 Peter 2:5). And they must be hewn and polished by the persecutor’s hand, that they may be fit for the heavenly building.

The saints have no charter of exemption from trials. Though they live ever so meek, merciful, pure in heart—their piety will not shield them from sufferings. They must hang their harp on the willows and take the cross. The way to heaven is by way of thorns and blood. Though it be full of roses in regard of the comforts of the Holy Spirit—yet it is full of thorns in regard of persecutions. Before Israel got to Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey, they must go through a wilderness of serpents and a Red Sea. So the children of God in their passage to the holy land must meet with fiery serpents and a red sea of persecution. It is a saying of Ambrose, ‘There is no Abel, but has his Cain.’ Paul fought with beasts at Ephesus (1 Corinthians 15:32). Set it down as a maxim—if you will follow Christ, you must see the swords and staves. ‘Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.’ (2 Timothy 3:12). Put the cross in your creed. For the amplification of this, there are several things we are to take cognizance of.

1. What is meant by persecution.
2. The several kinds of persecution.
3. Why there must be persecution.
4. The chief persecutions are raised against the ministers of Christ.
5. What that persecution is, which makes a man blessed.

1. What is meant by persecution? The Greek word ‘to persecute’, signifies ‘to vex and molest’, sometimes ‘to prosecute another’, to ‘arraign him at the bar’, and ‘to pursue him to the death’. A persecutor is a ‘pricking briar’ (Ezekiel 28:24); therefore the church is described to be a ‘lily among thorns’ (Canticles 2:2).

2. What are the several kinds of persecution? There is a twofold persecution; a persecution of the hand; a persecution of the tongue.

1. A persecution of the HAND. ‘Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?’ (Acts 7:52). ‘For your sake we are killed all the day long’ (Romans 8:36; Galatians 4:29). This I call a bloody persecution, when the people of God are persecuted with fire and sword. So we read of the ten persecutions in the time of Nero, Domitian, Trajan etc.; and of the Marian persecution. England for five years drank a cup of blood, and lately Christians in Bohemia have been scourged to death with the rod of the persecutor. God’s Church has always, like Abraham’s ram, been tied in a bush of thorns.

2. The persecution of the TONGUE, which is twofold.

[1] Reviling. This few think of or lay to heart—but it is called in the text, persecution. ‘When men shall revile you and persecute you’. This is tongue persecution. ‘His words were drawn swords’ (Psalm 55:21). You may kill a man as well in his name, as in his person. A good name is as ‘precious ointment’ (Ecclesiastes 7:1). A good conscience and a good name is like a gold ring set with a rich diamond. Now to smite another by his name, is by our Savior called persecution. Thus the primitive Christians endured the persecution of the tongue. ‘They had trial of cruel mockings’ (Hebrews 2:36). David was ‘the song of the drunkards’ (Psalm 69:12). They would sit on their ale-bench and jeer at him. How frequently do the wicked cast out the squibs of reproach at God’s children: ‘These are the holy ones!’ Little do they think what they do. They are now doing Cain’s work! They are persecuting.

[2] Slandering. So it is in the text: ‘When they shall persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely’. Slandering is tongue persecution. Thus Paul was slandered in his doctrine. Report had it that he preached, ‘Men might do evil that good might come of it’ (Romans 3:8). Thus Christ who cast out devils—was charged to have a devil (John 8:48). The primitive Christians were falsely accused for killing their children, and for incest. ‘They laid to my charge things that I knew not’ (Psalm 35:11)
Let us take heed of becoming persecutors. Some think there is no persecution but fire and sword. Yes, there is persecution of the tongue. There are many of these persecutors nowadays, who by a devilish chemistry can turn gold into dung—the precious names of God’s saints into reproach and disgrace! There have been many punished for clipping of coin. Of how much sorer punishment shall they be thought worthy, who clip the names of God’s people to make them weigh lighter!

3. WHY there must be persecution. I answer for two reasons.

1. In regard of GOD: his decree and his design.

God’s DECREE: ‘We are appointed ‘hereunto’ (1 Thessalonians 3:3). Whoever brings the suffering—God sends it! God bade Shimei curse. Shimei’s tongue was the arrow—but it was God who shot it!

God’s DESIGN. God has a twofold design in the persecutions of his children.

[1] TRIALS. ‘Many shall be tried’ (Daniel 12:10). Persecution is the touchstone of sincerity. It discovers true saints from hypocrites. Unsound hearts look good in prosperity—but in time of persecution fall away (Matthew 13:20, 21). Hypocrites cannot sail in stormy weather. They will follow Christ to Mount Olivet—but not to Mount Calvary. Like green timber they shrink in the scorching sun of persecution. If trouble arises, hypocrites will rather make Demas their choice than, Moses their choice. They will prefer thirty pieces of silver before Christ. God will have persecutions in the world to make a discovery of men. Suffering times are sifting times. ‘When I am tried I shall come forth as gold’ (Job 23:10). Job had a furnace-faith. A Christian of right breed (who is born of God), whatever he loses, will ‘hold fast his integrity’ (Job 2:3). Christ’s true disciples will follow him upon the water.

[2] PURITY. God lets his children be in the furnace that they may be ‘partakers of his holiness’ (Hebrews 12:10). The cross is cleansing. It purges out pride, impatience, love of the world. God washes his people in bloody waters to get out their spots and make them look white (Daniel 12:10). ‘I am black—but lovely’ (Canticles 1:5). The torrid zone of persecution made the spouse’s skin black—but her soul lovely. See how differently afflictions work upon the wicked and godly. They make the wicked worse; they make the godly better. Take a cloth that is rotten. If you scour and rub it, it frets and tears; but if you scour a piece of plate, it looks brighter. When afflictions are upon the wicked, they fret against God and tear themselves in impatience—but when the godly are scoured by these, they look brighter.

2. There will be persecutions in regard of the enemies of the church. These vultures prey upon God’s doves. The church has two sorts of enemies.

Open enemies. The wicked hate the godly. There is ‘enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent’ (Genesis 3:15). As in nature there is an antipathy between the elephant and the dragon; and as vultures have an antipathy against sweet smells; so in the wicked there is an antipathy against the people of God. They hate the sweet perfumes of their graces. It is true the saints have their infirmities—but the wicked do not hate them for these—but for their holiness, and from this hatred arises open violence. The thief hates the light, therefore would blow it out.

Secret enemies, who pretend friendship but secretly raise persecutions against the godly. Such are hypocrites and heretics. Paul calls them ‘false brethren’ (2 Corinthians 11:26). The church complains that her own sons had vexed her (Canticles 1:6). That is, those who had been bred up in her bosom and pretended religion and sympathy, these false friends vexed her. The church’s enemies are those ‘of her own house’. Such as are open pretenders, but secret opposers of the faith, are ever worst. They are the vilest and basest of men, who hang forth Christ’s colors—yet fight against him.

4. The fourth particular, is that the chief persecutions are raised against the ministers. Our Lord Christ turns himself directly to the apostles whom he was ready to commission and send abroad to preach: ‘Blessed are you when men shall persecute you’ (verse 11). ‘So persecuted they the prophets before you’ (verse 12). ‘Take, my brethren, the prophets for an example of suffering affliction’ (James 5:10). No sooner is any man a minister—but he is part martyr. The ministers of Christ are his chosen vessels. Now as the best vessel of gold and silver passes through the fire, so God’s chosen vessels pass often through the fire of persecution. Ministers must expect an alarum.

Peter knew how ‘to cast the net on the right side of the ship’, and at one sermon he converted three thousand souls. Yet neither the divinity of his doctrine nor the sanctity of his life could exempt him from persecution. ‘When you shall be old, another shall gird you, and carry you where you would not’. It alludes to his suffering death for Christ. He was (says Eusebius) bound with chains and afterwards crucified at Jerusalem with his head downwards.

Paul, a holy man, who is steeled with courage, and fired with zeal, as soon as he entered into the ministry ‘bonds and persecutions awaited him’ (Acts 9:16; 20:23). He was made up of sufferings. ‘I am ready to be offered up’ (2 Timothy 4:6). He alludes to the drink offerings wherein the wine or blood used in sacrifice was poured out, thereby intimating by what manner of death he would glorify God; not by being sacrificed in the fire—but by pouring out his blood, which was when he was beheaded. And that it might seem no strange thing for God’s ministers to be under the heat and rage of persecution, Stephen puts the question, ‘Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?’ (Acts 7:52). Ignatius was torn with wild beasts. Cyprian and Polycarp were martyred. Maximus, the emperor gave charge to his officers to put none to death but the governors and pastors of the Church

News Updates on the Persecuted Church

The Voice of the Martyrs

Nigerian people standing; woman holding baby

Christians Kidnapped and
Murdered in Ongoing Attacks

  • On Jan. 21, Christie Peter Mwankon, 26, was kidnapped out of her sister’s house in the middle of the night by Fulani Islamic militants.
  • A 25-year-old Christian man was killed by Fulani Islamic militants on Jan. 20.
  • Pastor Lawan Andimi was kidnapped and murdered on Jan. 20 after the Islamist group Boko Haram released a video showing him declare his trust in God regardless of the consequences.
  • A group of Christian university students were kidnapped by Islamic State West Africa Province terrorists outside Maiduguri on Jan. 9. The terrorists took video of one student’s execution, while the others remain missing.
  • Fulani Islamic militants attacked a village in Plateau state on the night of Jan. 8, killing 12 villagers and burning homes and fields.

Barnabas Fund

Christian Newsline

Our Faith in Today’s World

 

Congolese Christians praying. Source: Steve Evans licensed under CC BY 2.0Eleven Congolese Christians killed in ADF Islamist militant attack 

Eleven Christians were killed in an attack by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in Mutwanga district, north-east Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), on February 18.

Read full article


 

Lawyer Tehmina Arora has called for the repeal of anti-conversion laws, which she says are used as a tool to harass and target Christians

Justice for eight Christians acquitted of forced conversion of children in India

Eight Indian church workers accused of the forced conversion and abduction of 60 Christian children were acquitted on February 18 by the criminal court in Ratlam, Madhya Pradesh.

Read full article


Nigerian Christians praying

Christians in Nigeria call for urgent prayer as Boko Haram “ready to attack”

Christians in Nigeria have called for urgent prayer as a large-scale Boko Haram attack is thought to be imminent in Plateau State.

Read full article


 

The Iranian government's new rule on ID card applications is in line with its strategy of harassing Christian converts from Islam and pressurising them to emigrate

Iran forces Christian converts from Islam to declare their faith to obtain ID cards

Christian converts from Islam no longer have the choice of keeping their faith secret in Iran after the Islamic Republic removed the “other religions” option from the new application form for the national ID card.

Read full article


Prime Minister Imran Khan reassured business leaders on changes to social media rules for companies

Christian “blasphemy” cases could rise under Pakistan’s new social media law

Pakistan’s government approved a new law to monitor online platforms on January 28, which would require social media companies to remove any “unwanted and slanderous” online content within 24 hours, or six hours in “emergency cases”, prompting concerns over “blasphemy” accusations.

Read full article


Egyptian Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli chairs the 11 February meeting of the licensing committee [Picture: en.wataninet.com]

Another 82 licenses granted to Egyptian churches in first batch of 2020

Licenses were granted to 82 church and church-affiliated buildings in Egypt on February 11 by the committee that has been overseeing the process since early 2017.

Read full article


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Pray for the persecuted Church

We encourage you to pray as you feel led for the people and situations you read about in Christian Newsline. There are many resources available from Barnabas Aid to assist you in your prayers.

If you are receiving Christian Newsline you will also receive Barnabas Prayer Focus, a monthly resource containing news from the persecuted Church together with associated praise and prayer points. You can sign up to receive this by email here.

Our bi-monthly prayer diary, Barnabas Prayer, helps you lift up in prayer the needs of our suffering brothers and sisters each day. A printed copy of the Barnabas Prayer diary is included as an insert in our free bi-monthly Barnabas Aid magazine, which you can sign up to receive here.

The Barnabas Fund Daily Prayer can be viewed on your smart phone or tablet device by visiting our Twitter and/or Facebook pages. The Barnabas Fund Daily Prayer is also available on the PrayerMate app.

Praying for the Persecuted Church booklet

The newly revised and updated edition of the Barnabas Praying for the Persecuted Church booklet, to inform and guide your prayers for persecuted Christians around the world, is available here.

Today in Church History

Yield or Suffer Said Diocletian

Yield or Suffer Said Diocletian

Who was Emperor Diocletian?

Diocletian, born Diocles, was a Roman emperor from 284 to 305. Born to a family of low status in Dalmatia, Diocletian rose through the ranks of the military to become Roman cavalry commander to Emperor Carus. After the deaths of Carus and his son Numerian on campaign in Persia, Diocletian was proclaimed emperor. The title was also claimed by Carus’ other surviving son, Carinus, but Diocletian defeated him in the Battle of the Margus. Diocletian’s reign stabilized the empire and marks the end of the Crisis of the Third Century. He appointed fellow officer Maximian as Augustus, co-emperor, in 286. Diocletian reigned in the Eastern Empire, and Maximian reigned in the Western Empire.

statue of Diocletian
Statue of Diocletian
Roman Reform

As Barbarians menaced the Roman empire, Emperor Diocletian instituted a number of reforms aimed at saving the sprawling political entity. He reorganized the provinces and made the army more mobile while increasing its size. To battle inflation, he issued a new coinage, established a uniform system of taxation and implemented wage-price controls.

Christian Persecution

Recognizing that the empire was too large for a single man to rule, he divided it into four administrative units. In doing this he raised to power a man who did Christians much harm. This man, Galerius, instigated by his mother (a die-hard pagan) prodded the Emperor to persecute the Christians. With their new customs, Christians were a threat to imperial unity, he said; and their vast, well-knit organization was the largest non-governmental body ever seen. Surely they could not be trusted: their loyalty was to King Jesus rather than to Caesar. Diocletian, who for eighteen years had never lifted a finger against the faith, followed this wicked advice. The crackdown began on this day, February 23, 303.

The persecutors dragged off church leaders and tortured them to death, employing the rack, the scourge, slow fires, crucifixion, and many other barbarities against them. They burned Christian books and scriptures. Many Christians died deaths of great courage. Theodotus, for example, after terrible tortures said as he was being led back to prison, “It is but just that Christians should suffer for Him who suffered for us all.”

Divine Resilience 

Timothy, a deacon in Mauritania, allowed his eyes to be put out with red-hot irons rather than reveal the hiding place of scriptures. His wife of just three weeks was then brought in and she attempted to persuade him to recant for love of her. He refused. Growing stouthearted, she joined him. After horrendous torture, both were crucified.

In the end, it was the church which won the showdown. All the powers of Rome could not crush its allegiance to Christ. Even Galerius eventually left off the persecution. In 311, the dying emperor issued an edict of toleration. Christians had outlasted the might of the empire. Their resistance to arbitrary power was instrumental in winning the right to follow their Christian faith.

 

The Persecuted Church

Barnabas Fund

Christian Newsline

Our Faith in Today’s World


Islamist gunmen murder 24 including worshippers and pastor in north-east Burkina Faso

Islamist extremist gunmen stormed a Sunday morning worship service in a church in Burkina Faso, killing ten Christians and abducting the pastor, on Sunday February 16. Read full article

 


Pastor, three family members and deacon killed by jihadists in Burkina Faso

Pastor Tindano Omar and three members of his family, who were kidnapped by Islamic extremists, were murdered by their captors on February 13 in Burkina Faso. Read full article


 

Bodies of two Nigerian Christians murdered by militants dumped together on roadside

The bodies of two kidnapped Christians, seminary student Nnadi Michael and Bola Ataga, wife of a local doctor, were found dumped at the same location in Kaduna State, Nigeria, on January 31. Read full article


 

Locust swarms confirmed in South Sudan as devastating plague spreads across East Africa and south-west Asia

The UN confirmed on February 18 that the desert locust plague, which can migrate up to 100 miles a day, has now invaded south-east Sudan, entering from northern Uganda. Read full article


More news and information


Pray for the persecuted Church

We encourage you to pray as you feel led for the people and situations you read about in Christian Newsline. There are many resources available from Barnabas Fund to assist you in your prayers.

If you are receiving Christian Newsline you will also receive Barnabas Prayer Focus, a monthly resource containing news from the persecuted Church together with associated praise and prayer points. You can sign up to receive this by email here.

Our bi-monthly prayer diary, Barnabas Prayer, helps you lift up in prayer the needs of our suffering brothers and sisters each day. A printed copy of the Barnabas Prayer diary is included as an insert in our free bi-monthly Barnabas Aid magazine, which you can sign up to receive here.

The Barnabas Fund Daily Prayer can be viewed on your smart phone or tablet device by visiting our Twitter and/or Facebook pages. The Barnabas Fund Daily Prayer is also available on the PrayerMate app.

“A Hidden Life” Preaches a Profound Gospel in Few Words

 

BreakPoint Daily

image001

“A Hidden Life” Preaches a Profound Gospel in Few Words

JOHN STONESTREET  WITH MARIA BAER

A substantial part of Terrence Malick’s latest movie “A Hidden Life” takes place in a German prison where the film’s protagonist, a real historical figure now considered a Catholic saint, Franz Jägerstätter, is being held in prison for refusing to swear a loyalty oath to Hitler. As he mills about the prison courtyard with his fellow inmates, two words loom large on the stone wall that fences them in: “Sprechen Verboten.” Speaking prohibited.

Rod Dreher, senior editor at the American Conservative, has called “A Hidden Life,” “the best evocation of the gospel ever put to film.” That’s a serious claim to make. And I might agree.

Malick, a director known for transportive cinematography, takes viewers into the remote Austrian village of St. Radegund in the early 1940s. There, Franz, his wife Fani, and their three small daughters, faithfully farm their land and faithfully attend the local Catholic Church. When Franz hears about Hitler’s conquests, he begins to worry. His worst fears are realized when he’s called up for military service but refuses to swear the required oath to the Führer. Ultimately, Franz Jägerstätter was imprisoned, tortured, and ultimately, executed.

Not only does the film powerfully portray the suffering Franz is forced to endure, but how his decision to refuse the oath baffles nearly everyone else around him. Apparently, it’s a decision that still baffles people today, especially the film critics.

For example, in a review for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers faults Malick for giving audiences, quote, “very little to help us understand the man behind the saint” and next to nothing about “the thought process that helped Franz hold steadfast.” Apparently for Travers, devout Christian faith is “very little.” In reality, by portraying Franz’s devout Christian faith so clearly, Malick has told audiences all we need to know.

Before his imprisonment, Franz seeks counsel from his local priest and eventually the bishop. Both warn what his obstinance might bring to bear on his vulnerable family. Even so, he holds fast to his faith, and his wife holds fast to hers.

Given the central role faith plays in the film, one might expect it to be a bit more preachy. In fact, there’s very little dialogue, preaching or otherwise, in the whole three-hour film. While we hear the words of faith in Franz’s letters to Fani and in Fani’s prayers for Franz, it’s almost as if the sign on the prison wall, “speaking prohibited,” is the film’s central theme. Thus, in this film, the gospel’s power and Franz’s faith is mostly shown, not spoken.

Perhaps that’s why certain secular critics missed the obvious. Franz doesn’t give a theological lecture on the historicity of the resurrection or virtue signal via rousing testimony about his own moral courage. His is a quiet faithfulness, first shown by how he works his farm, trusting God for harvest, and eventually shown as he follows his conscience, which for some reason, just won’t allow him to say the words of the oath that’s required.

Franz faces every temptation to compromise. His neighbors and family even appeal to his own values in attempting to change his mind. Isn’t he being prideful or judgmental by refusing to swear the oath? Doesn’t he have a duty to his family? And, of course, there’s the temptation to be “practical.” What if, Franz’s lawyer asks him, he could serve as a medic? What if he didn’t have to carry arms? Would that solve the problem?

Franz’s final answer is finally put into words, in a powerful scene in which a Nazi officer – not unlike Pontius Pilate questioning Jesus – asks why he’s doing this. Franz’s answer: “I don’t know. I just know that something inside of me tells me I can’t swear that oath.”

This is the Christian life. Everyday faithfulness to what the Holy Spirit is asking of us.

Will his defiance change the course of the war? Will it bring down Hitler? Probably not. Will it endanger him and his family? Definitely yes. But God doesn’t call us to results; those are always and everywhere His. He calls us to obedience – even if it’s hidden.

I cannot say that Franz’s decision is prescriptive for everyone else. The key is that Franz must follow God’s call on his own life. In an early scene, Franz tells a frightened fellow inmate to “trust what you knew in better times.” If we, like Franz, build a solid foundation for faith in better times, we will have the ears to hear what God would have us do in the midst of our trials.

This film will give you lots to think and talk about it. Please know it contains some violence, and its subject matter is obviously intense. But I recommend it heartily.


Resources:

“A Hidden Life” Trailer

The Miracle Of ‘A Hidden Life’  Rod Dreher | The American Conservative | January 8, 2020

News updates on the persecuted Church

Barnabas Fund

At least seven Christians killed as Boko Haram strikes villages in Far North Cameroon

At least seven Christians were killed as gangs of around 300 Boko Haram militants raided five Christian villages in Far North Cameroon, reports a Barnabas contact.

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Nigerian Christian bride and friends murdered in jihadi ambush on way to wedding

Islamist extremists shot dead a Christian bride and a group of her friends as they travelled to her wedding in Nigeria on December 26.

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Muslim men abduct, assault, rob Norwegian street preacher, demand he convert to Islam or be killed

Four Muslim men abducted, beat and robbed a street preacher in Trondheim, Norway, finally demanding at knifepoint he convert to Islam or be killed.

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Ramiel Bet Tamraz begins jail sentence in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison

Pastor’s son Ramiel Bet Tamraz was summoned to Iran’s Evin Prison, notorious for its harsh conditions, on January 7 to begin a jail sentence for “acting against national security”.

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Pray for the persecuted Church

We encourage you to pray as you feel led for the people and situations you read about in Christian Newsline. There are many resources available from Barnabas Aid to assist you in your prayers.

If you are receiving Christian Newsline you will also receive Barnabas Prayer Focus, a monthly resource containing news from the persecuted Church together with associated praise and prayer points. You can sign up to receive this by email here.

Our bi-monthly prayer diary, Barnabas Prayer, helps you lift up in prayer the needs of our suffering brothers and sisters each day. A printed copy of the Barnabas Prayer diary is included as an insert in our free bi-monthly Barnabas Aid magazine, which you can sign up to receive here.

The Barnabas Fund Daily Prayer can be viewed on your smart phone or tablet device by visiting our Twitter and/or Facebook pages. The Barnabas Fund Daily Prayer is also available on the PrayerMate app.