True followers of Jesus Christ have faced persecution since Jesus came to walk among us in His earthly ministry. In truth it may actually serve at times for an external measure of our personal testimony for Christ. If we claim to follow Christ but never suffer even the slightest bit of persecution or rejection from others there is likely one of two things happening. Either we have compromised the true message of the gospel and watered it down such that it no longer makes non believers uncomfortable or we are not proclaiming Jesus amongst non believers.
When Jesus and His disciples preached, people were moved in one direction or the other… there is no middle ground. You either accept Jesus and follow Him, changing your life to be more like His example, or you reject Him as God and probably get tired of hearing genuine Christians keep telling you about it. Someone who hears the true gospel of Christ, that we go to hell and suffer for eternity because of our own sinful nature unless we submit to follow Christ, can not accept it as true and then continue to ignore it, changing nothing in their lives. If this message does not move you to change your life… you have not accepted it genuinely and wholeheartedly. You are just going through the motions, or “checking a box” on a checklist. Perhaps you are just following traditions of what your parents did before you… but this will not lead to salvation through Christ.
Because the message of Christ makes people uncomfortable, many will come against you when you live and share a life and message that truly reflects Jesus Christ and God’s revealed word in the Bible. We must decide whom we shall obey… will we obey God or men. The disciples faced strong persecution over and over following the death of Christ. All but John ultimately died for their faith in Jesus. John was exiled to an island, Patmos. Acts 5:17-32 shows one such example of persecution and how the disciples reacted to it.
Imprisonment and Release
17But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy. 18They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public jail. 19But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, 20“Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.” 21Upon hearing this, they entered into the temple about daybreak and began to teach. Now when the high priest and his associates came, they called the Council together, even all the Senate of the sons of Israel, and sent orders to the prison house for them to be brought. 22But the officers who came did not find them in the prison; and they returned and reported back, 23saying, “We found the prison house locked quite securely and the guards standing at the doors; but when we had opened up, we found no one inside.” 24Now when the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them as to what would come of this. 25But someone came and reported to them, “The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!” 26Then the captain went along with the officers and proceeded to bring them back without violence (for they were afraid of the people, that they might be stoned).
27When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, 28saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. 31“He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32“And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
What a powerful testimony! Imagine yourself in their place… arrested when you stood up to proclaim Jesus. Then God sets you free in a powerful way. How many of us would then run and hide? The disciples, filled with courage from the Holy Spirit, obeyed God and went to a public place where they could be easily found and preached the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ!
I pray God would prepare me to respond in a like manner as the disciples. I am convinced it requires the presence of the Holy Spirit. We must each pray for God’s help in this area so that we would proclaim the gospel boldly in all circumstances. We must also prepare through consistent, daily study of God’s word and prayer.
Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.