The power of death

Acts 22:15 For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.

Pastor Joseph Ton, a minister in communist Romania during the 70s and early 80s, was arrested by the secret police for a sermon he delivered urging Christians to resist the Government’s takeover of the church and its ministries. That is, the new law would require sermons and ministry materials to be approved by the the Government. When Pastor Ton told the authorities he would not recant his sermon, they threatened him with death. He defiantly told them to go ahead and kill him because that would make his sermons only more powerful and widespread. Dying for his beliefs would only seal his witness — the people would understand that he believed and lived what he preached. At first they let him go, but ultimately, in 1981, the communist government banished him.

The English word martyr comes from the Greek word for witness, for by analogy, those who witness and make a stand for Jesus Christ often become martyrs, at least in the ancient world. Acts 22:15 describes the commission that Jesus Christ gave to Paul, but in reality Jesus has given this commission to all his disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).

We are all called to witness the salvation we have in Christ, and, even though we do not face imminent death, this is very hard because we often face ostracism from our family, friends, and colleagues (Matthew 10:34-39). For example, if you oppose gay marriage and support biblical morality, you may lose your job or be shunned by your colleagues. However, the witness of Paul, the witness of Joseph Ton, and the witness of countless others is that if you are going to live for Christ, you must first die to yourself, and, admittedly, this is easier said then done.

In the Modern Church there are at least two reasons why people fail in their witness. First, they are ignorant of the Bible and ignorant of the way that God views things. They are going along with the rest of the world because they have been fed spiritual milk and not strong meat (1 Corinthians 3:2; Hebrews 5:12-13; Romans 12:2). This describes large swathes of the Modern Evangelical Church. Second, some “Christians” love the world more than they love God (James 4:4) — they have never actually died to themselves; they are still on the throne and Christ serves them.

Prayer: Lord, please give me the strength, conviction, eloquence, and integrity to die to myself and be a bold and unapologetic witness for Jesus Christ.

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