23rd November 2022
TRUE MARTYRS LIVE AND DIE AS WITNESSES OF CHRIST AND THE GOSPEL OF PEACE
Jesus warns his followers that they will be confronted with wickedness,false teaching, persecution, as well as the temptation to renounce their faith when it is put to the test. The real enemy of the Gospel - the good news of Jesus Christ - is Satan (also called Lucifer), the powerful leader of the fallen angels who rebelled against God and who were cast out of heaven. Satan opposes God and all who follow his rule of peace and righteousness (moral goodness) on the earth. Jesus calls Satan a “murderer” who turns brother against brother and the “father of lies” who twists the truth and speaks falsehood (John 8:44). Satan not only opposes God’s rule; he seeks to destroy all who would obey God. Satan will use any means possible to turn people away from God. He tempts people through envy, deception, hatred, and fear to provoke hostility toward those who follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
Dear brethren, what is Jesus’ response to hostility and persecution?Love,forbearance, and forgiveness. Only love - the love which is rooted in God’s great compassion and faithfulness can overcome prejudice, hatred, and envy. God’s love purifies our hearts and minds of all that would divide and tear people apart. Knowing God as our compassionate Father and loving God’s word of truth and righteousness (moral goodness) is essential for overcoming evil. Jesus tells us that we do not need to fear those who would oppose us or treat us harshly for following the Lord Jesus. He promises to give us supernatural strength, wisdom, and courage as we take a stand for our faith and witness the truth and love of Christ.
The Gospel is good news for the whole world because it is God’s eternal word of truth, love,pardon, and salvation(being set free from sin and evil) through his Son, Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus has won the victory for us through his atoning death on the cross for our sins and his rising from the grave his resurrection power that brings abundant life and restoration to us. That is why the Gospel has the power to set people free from sin, fear, and death, and bring peace,pardon, and new life.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that if they endure to the end they will gain lives and will inherit abundant life and lasting happiness with God. Endurance is an essential strength that God gives to those who put their trust in him. Endurance is the patience that never gives up hope, and never yields to despair or hatred. Patience is long-suffering because it looks beyond the present difficulties and trials and sees the reward which comes to those who persevere with hope and trust in God. That is why godly endurance is more than human effort. It is first and foremost a supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit that enables us to bear up under any trial or temptation.
Brethren, The word “martyr” in the New Testament Greek means “witness”. The Book of Revelation says that “Jesus was the faithful witness who freed us from our sins by his blood” (Revelation 1:5). Tertullian, a second-century lawyer who converted when he saw Christians singing as they went out to die at the hands of their persecutors, exclaimed: “The blood of the martyrs is a seed.” Their blood is the seed of new Christians, the seed of the Church.
The third-century bishop, Cyprian said: “When persecution comes, God’s soldiers are put to the test, and heaven is open to martyrs. We have not enlisted in an army to think of peace and to decline battle, for we see that the Lord has taken first place in the conflict.” True martyrs live and die as witnesses of the Gospel. They overcome their enemies through persevering hope and courage, undying love and forbearance, kindness,goodness, and compassion. God may call some of us to be martyrs who shed their blood for bearing witness to Jesus Christ. But for most of us, our call is to be ‘dry’ martyrs who bear testimony to the joy and power of the Gospel amid daily challenges, contradictions, temptations, and adversities that come our way as we follow the Lord Jesus.
What will attract others to the truth and power of the Gospel? When they see Christians loving their enemies, being joyful in suffering, patient in adversity, pardoning injuries, and showing comfort and compassion to the hopeless and the helpless. Jesus tells us that we do not need to fear our adversaries. God will give us sufficient grace, strength, and wisdom to face any trial and to answer any challenge to our faith. Are you ready to lay down your life for Christ and to bear witness to the joy and freedom of the Gospel?
Lord Jesus Christ, by your atoning death on the cross you have redeemed the world. Fill us with joyful hope, courage, and boldness to witness the truth of your love for sinners and your victory over the powers of sin, Satan, and death.