Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I'm sorry.

Yesterday's blog post was awful. Sorry.

I am afraid that my blog writer's block continues, but read the following article today and I am going to post it in it's entirety.

You're either going to go out like Judas or Jesus—that's how your life is going to end. You're going to go out like Jesus, faithful to the end, whatever the cost, or you're going to go out like Judas, prematurely, tragically, rebelliously, shamefully. I want you to keep your boots on, finish strong, run your race, see it through to the end, be a completer, a finisher, a closer of the things God has given you to do.

As you read this, maybe you're like me, you may wonder, "What happened to these guys?" We know in the Bible, they went forward. Some of them were cowards, but they toughened up. The resurrection put some steel in their spine. They preached, they taught, they planted churches. John wrote five books of the Bible, Peter wrote two. These guys did get some stuff done, but the Bible doesn't tell us how they finished—for that we've got to go to history. Did they die with their boots on? Here are some of their stories from Foxe's Book of Martyrs. It was first written in 1559, and it's fantastic. Gotta love the Puritans.

Wonder how James died?

The first apostle to suffer after the martyrdom of Stephen was James, the brother of John. Clement tells us when this James was brought to the tribunal seat, he that brought him and was the cause of his trouble, seeing him to be condemned and that he should suffer death, was in such sort moved within heart and conscience that he went to the execution and confessed himself also of his own accord to be a Christian. And so were they led forth together, where in the way he desired of James to forgive him what he had done. After James had a little pause with himself upon the matter, turning to him he said, "Peace to thee, my brother," and kissed him, and both were beheaded.

James had a critic who wanted him murdered. He had a Judas, and on the way to be crucified, apparently he had some conversation with his Judas, and his Judas repented and said, "I'm sorry. Let's get beheaded together for Jesus," and they did. James is a bad man—in a good way.

"Thomas preached to the Parthians, Medes, Persians, Carmenians, Hyrcanians, Bactrians, and Margians. He was killed in Calamina, India." Most of these men died murderous martyrdom. You know what? Mars Hill Church would be much smaller but much holier, more effective, more fruitful, I think, if we had a little bit of suffering. Can't make it happen, I've tried. But what happens is when people start giving their life for the cause of the gospel, all of a sudden those who are playing church stop playing. They either step up for Jesus, and go from "come and see" to "go and die," or like Judas, they just walk away and go do something else.

"Simon, brother of Jude and James the younger who were all the sons of Mary Cleophas and Alphaeus, was bishop of Jerusalem after James," Jesus' brother. "He was crucified in Egypt." Crucified. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it well: "When Christ calls a man, he calls him to come and die." Come and die. When Jesus says, "Pick up your cross and follow me," that's what it means to be a disciple, that you go the way of Jesus. You give your life for what he gave his life to, the glory of God and the good of others for the church. "The other Simon, the apostle, he was also crucified."

"Bartholomew is said to have preached in India and translated the Gospel of Matthew into their tongue. He was beaten, crucified, and beheaded."

Andrew, Peter's brother, was crucified. Bernard and St. Cyprian mentioned the confession and martyrdom of this blessed apostle. Partly from them and partly from other reliable writers, we gather the following material:

When Andrew, through his diligent preaching had brought many to the faith of Christ, Egeas the governor asked permission to the Roman senate to force all Christians to sacrifice to and honor the Roman idols. Andrew thought he should resist Egeas and went to him, telling them that a judge of men should first know and worship as judge in heaven. 'While worshiping the true God,' Andrew said, 'he should banish all false gods and blind idols from his mind.' Furious at Andrew, Egeas demanded to know if he was the man who had recently overthrown the temples of the gods and persuaded men to become Christians, a 'superstitious' sect that had recently been declared illegal by the Romans.

Andrew replied that, 'The rulers of Rome didn't understand the truth. The son of God who came into the world for man's sake taught that the Roman gods were devils, enemies of mankind teaching men to offend God, and causing him to turn away from them. By serving the devil, men fall into all kinds of wickedness,' Andrew said. 'And after they die, nothing but their evil deeds are remembered.' The proconsul ordered Andrew not to preach these things anymore or he would face a speedy crucifixion."

If you were going to get crucified, would you stop calling yourself a Christian?

Whereupon Andrew replied, [and this is an amazing line] "I would not have preached the honor and glory of the cross if I feared the death of the cross." He was condemned to be crucified for teaching a new sect and taking away the religion of the Roman gods. Andrew, going toward the place of execution, and seeing the cross waiting for him, never changed his expression, neither did he fail in his speech. His body fainted not, nor did his reason fail him as often happens to men about to die. He said, "'Oh cross, most welcome and longed for, with a willing mind, joyfully and desirously I come to you being the scholar of him which did hang on you because I have always been your lover and yearn to embrace you."

"You boys want to crucify me? There's a good spot, go for it. I belong to Jesus."

"Matthew wrote his Gospel to the Jews in the Hebrew tongue after he had converted Ethiopia and all Egypt. Hircanius, the king, sent someone to kill him with a spear."

"After years of preaching to the barbarous nations, Philip was stoned, crucified, and buried with his daughter."

The first of the ten persecutions was stirred up by Nero about 64 A.D. His rage against Christians was so fierce that Eusebius records, "A man might then see cities full of men's bodies, the old lying together with the young, and the dead bodies of women cast out naked without reverence of that sex in the open streets." Many Christians in those days thought that Nero was the Antichrist because of his cruelty and abominations. The Apostle Peter was condemned to death during this persecution. Although some say that he escaped, it is known that many Christians encouraged him to leave the city and the story goes that as he came to the city gates, Peter saw Jesus coming to meet him. "Lord, where are you going?" Peter asked. "I am coming again to be crucified," was the answer. Seeing that his suffering was understood, Peter turned around, returned to the city where Jerome tells us he was crucified upside down at his own request, saying he was not worthy to be crucified the same way his Lord was.

"The second persecution began during the reign of Domitian, the brother of Titus. Domitian exiled John to the island of Patmos." It's an actual spot and I've been there. "But on Domitian's death, John was allowed to return to Ephesus in the year A.D. 70. He remained there until the reign of Trajan, governing the churches of Asia, and writing his Gospel until he died at about the age of one hundred."

But at a hundred, he may have had a lot of scars on his body, because before they exiled him, they tried to kill him. They boiled him alive, and he lived through it, so they exiled him for a while. He got out and wrote books of the Bible, as a boiled old man.

We're glad you come and see. You need to go and die.

Father God, I pray for us as a people. We're in a day where we get a lot of come-and-see. There are free sermons on the Internet, classes, training, Christian music, radio stations, radio preachers, church events, mass crusades, services, small groups. It seems, Lord God, like there are more come-and-see opportunities than any people have ever been offered in the history of the world. And God, we rejoice in the come-and-see opportunities. We rejoice that people come to hear the Bible and see lives change through Jesus.

But God, I pray for the grace of the Holy Spirit and the hearts and minds and the lives of our people, that they would respond to your call to become Christians, that they would respond to your call to persevere as Christians, that they would give like Christians should give, that they would serve like Christians should serve, that they would suffer like Christians should suffer, that they would testify like Christians should testify, and Lord God, I pray for the grace of the Holy Spirit on us as a people that we wouldn't just be a come-and-see people, that we'd be a go-and-die people.

In Jesus' name, Amen.

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