Christians at Risk
As I try to speak of Jesus, there are some who reject Him, but there are others who'll receive Him. In any case, I'm free to do so without risking my life. But there are people whose testimony places them at great risk. Have a heart for them.
Alright, thank you very much. And hello again, radio friends. How in the world are you? Yes, this is your friend Bob Cook, and I am glad to be back with you, praising the Lord for all of His goodness today. You and I have been looking at the Gospel of John, we are now in verse 38 of John 19, “After this,”- now the “this” there has to do with what the Lord Jesus had been going through. He fulfilled the Scripture, you have the reference again and again that the Scripture might be fulfilled, “They parted my raiment among them,” “and so I thirst,” and finally, “It is finished.” And then the cruelty of the ordinary person in those days, well, in today too really, people can be cruel. The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation of the Sabbath, they didn’t want these dead bodies to remain on the cross over the Sabbath day, besought Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away.
You see every breath depended upon the ability of the victim to lift his body enough so that the diaphragm could expand and fill the lungs with air. You had actually to lift your body with your leg muscles hanging there because you couldn’t breathe otherwise. Victims died not of their wounds but ordinarily of suffocation because they were exhausted and couldn’t draw one more breath, but these people were- these two who were crucified on the each side of the Lord Jesus were still living.
And so they came with probably heavy sledgehammers of some sort and broke their legs. This then made it impossible for them to breathe again. Well, that’s the setup there, and it says, “The soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the others which was crucified with Him, but when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they broke not his legs, but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side. And forthwith came there out blood and water.” Evidence of a broken heart. And he that saw it bore record and his record is true, he knows that he says true, that you might believe, for these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled. There it is again, “A bone of Him shall not be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him Whom they pierced.” Fulfilled Scripture, in the manner of His birth, the place of His birth, the life that He lived, and the death that He died. God’s Scriptures, God’s prophecies, fulfilled point for point. “Heaven and earth shall pass away but My Word” God says, “shall never pass away.”
You can depend on the promise of God. Tie your life to the promises of God, tie your life to the Word of God, tie your decisions to what you understand to be the will of God as you look into His Word. I remember a tremendous turning point in my own life back in 1948, when it became evident that I was doing more and more in Youth for Christ in that I would be doing less and less then in the active work of the pastorate in a church. I could see it happening. And so… And then I felt that what I was doing at that point was God’s will, but I didn’t know which direction I was going. I remember kneeling beside a bed in a little tourist home( they didn’t have motels back in the 1940s, late 1940s like we have today.) I was in what was called a tourist home.
Merrill Dunlop and I were staying in these different places as we were on a series of one-night meetings, raising support for a trip across the world in the interest of Youth for Christ. My heart burdened, I just didn’t know which way I was moving, and I loved the work of the pastorate, been in pastor work 18 years already. But I saw the change coming, and so I prayed and looked at the Word of God and prayed. And God spoke to me from His Word, as He will indeed to you, beloved, as you seek Him. It’s not a matter of flipping open the Bible and pointing your finger at the first verse you see, that’s happenstance, that’s chance. It’s a matter of searching the Word. Jesus said in John 5:39, “Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of Me.”
It’s a matter of searching the Word of God and reading it and digging into it until God speaks to your heart.
Well, anyhow, I was going through the chapters of the Gospel of John, a book very dear to my heart because it was out of that that I memorized my first 50 verses as a child, and I came then to John 4. And it seemed as though that passage just slipped out at me, “I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labor. Other men have labored, and ye are entered into their labors. Look on the fields, they are white already to harvest.” And it was as though God was saying to me, “Alright boy, there it is, you’re a harvester, I sent you to reap. The missionaries have worked, the national Christians have worked, but where you go you’d be reaping and then turning those who have trusted Christ as new converts, turning them back to the care of the Bible believing, Christ honoring missionary and local church.”
That became clear to me in that moment, and I knew then the direction that I was to take. As a matter of fact, it helped me to define the work of Youth for Christ in those early years when I became president a few months later. “I sent you to reap.” It’s a reaping organization, and of course Christian nurture and channeling the benefits of all of our work back into the local church was part of that which God led us to do. You can hear from the Lord according to His Word, “that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” You can depend on the promises of God, not chance, not flipping open the Bible and looking at any given verse and saying, “What does that say?”
No, no, but dig in the Word, read it, pray over it, listen to the voice of God as He speaks to your heart, and you’ll find that He speaks to you. And when there is a given promise, where the promise is clear, I think, for instance, of Jeremiah 33:3, “Call unto Me, and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not.”
“I will answer you.” That’s the first thing. Prayers will be answered. Things will be made clear, I’ll show you. God’s answer is always a great answer, bigger than you. It’s always a mighty answer, stronger than you, and it goes beyond anything you know. That’s what that promise says.
Well, you will find the parallel of it in Ephesians 3:20, “Now, unto Him Who was able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus.” So, that’s the way God likes to work. Trust His promise and risk the situation. See, the essence of faith is risking a situation on what God says. God said it. I believe it. That settles it. The essence of faith is risking the situation on what God has told you, Alright?
Now, what about this matter of Joseph of Arimathea? We come to Verse 38 of John 19. “Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. He came therefore and took the body of Jesus. And there came also, Nicodemus, which at the first, came to Jesus by night, brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about 100 pounds weight. Then, took the body of Jesus and wound it in linen clothes with the spices as the manner of the Jews is to bury.”
“Now, in the place where He was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden, a new sepulcher wherein was never a man laid. There laid they Jesus there for because of the preparation day for the Passover for the sepulcher was nigh at hand.” They had to hurry before sundown. It was, perhaps, around three o’clock when our Lord Jesus Christ cried, “It is finished.” So, there wasn’t much time to do anything, but they did what they could.
Now, what about this? A disciple but secretly and there came also Nicodemus. These two people had trusted the Lord Jesus Christ, became His disciples, but they didn’t say anything about it for fear.
What shall we say about them? Well, the same thing happens today. First, because you are an open Christian and freely can confess your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, do not look down on people who are in a very painful situation because of their faith. There are some countries even today where to become a Christian is to risk your life. You know that, I guess. Actually, to risk your life if it is known that you are a believer on the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, that’s a pretty hefty decision, isn’t it? Shall I confess Christ openly and risk losing my business? Because boycott is automatic in some countries if you are known to be a believer. Risk losing my business? Shall I risk the enmity of my family? To be disowned is automatic in some cultures today if it is known that you become a believer. They’ll have a funeral for you and disown you, and you are, so far as they are concerned, dead. Shall I risk my life? For there are, as I told you a moment ago, countries where to be a Christian is to risk your life. Turn up some morning with your throat cut. You know that’s apt to be fatal. Yeah.
You see, you and I I freely confess. I’m a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. I live in this free country, and my family and in-laws are Christians. Many of the people in my community are Christians, as is probably the truth with most of you. So that, to me, this is not a crisis. I can speak of my Lord where people may refuse Him as they do every day. As I try to speak of Jesus, there are some who reject Him, but there are others who’ll receive Him, and in any case, I’m free to do so without risking my life.
But there are people whose testimony places them at great risk. Have a heart for them. It’s not an easy decision to make. Believe me. It’s not an easy decision to make, and you be a little sympathetic with people who face a painful or risky situation or a situation of rejection or a set of circumstances where they will either lose business or reputation or friends or family or even their lives. You be sympathetic to them, it’s not easy. That’s the first thing. This whole world is full of people who could stand a little love and compassion, and you and I better be on the giving side on that. Good idea?
But then, what about this matter of secret believers? They call them in Latin America simpatizantes, don’t they? We’re sympathizers. What about them? Well, we’ll talk about that the next time we get together.
Father God, today, oh, may we be out and out with our testimony for Jesus, I pray in His name, Amen.
Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!
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