The Church Under Fire
Hear My Case
May 27, 2023
I am now reading in Acts 25. The Apostle Paul was being held in custody under the authority of the governor Felix. And during this time, Felix would visit him on occasion and would listen to Paul sharing about his faith. And this went on for two years, and then Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison (chapter 24).
Now Festus went to Jerusalem, and he listened to those who had a case against Paul. And those people urged Festus to summon Paul to Jerusalem, for they were still planning an ambush against Paul to kill him. But Festus said to the men, “Let the men of authority among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them bring charges against him.” Then, after he had stayed among them for a little over a week, Festus went down to Caesarea where Paul was being held.
The next day Paul was brought before him, and the Jews from Jerusalem brought many and serious charges against Paul that they could not prove. And Paul was given the opportunity to argue in his own defense:
“’Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.’ But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, ‘Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?’ But Paul said, ‘I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.’”
Now, I do not intend to go into all the history of this, for the Lord Jesus is having me make practical application of these passages of Scripture to our lives, to our world, and to our church today. And as of late he has been having me share some of my own experiences with church leadership accusing me falsely of what I did not do, and to share these experiences in order to illustrate the kinds of persecution we can expect to face today when we follow our Lord Jesus in obedience to his ways, and when we share the truth of the gospel with others, and when we do not dilute the truth in order to appeal to other humans.
Now, I don’t have an exact parallel to this story, but there are principles here that I have picked up on that do relate to situations I have experienced myself, such as a group of people being opposed to Paul, them appealing to someone in higher authority to take their side and to go against Paul, him having to defend himself against false and unkind accusations against his character, no one supporting him or taking his side, and then him having to appeal to a higher authority to hear his case.
Hear My Case
It was in the early 1990’s, and we were attending a church fellowship of a rather large church congregation. I loved the preaching. The preacher reminded me of my pastor of my youth. We loved our Sunday School class, too, and we enjoyed that teacher’s teaching. And I joined a small support group for women who had been hurt by others, and who needed healing. And I invited a friend to go with me, for she had many hurts from her past experiences. So this was to be a group that was supposed to help both of us to heal from past hurtful experiences.
Now my friend was very timid and shy, but she expressed to me that she did want to share something with the group, and she asked me for my help, and so I agreed to help her. And at the next meeting she began to share, and she started to chicken out, and so I encouraged her, as she had asked me to do. But at the next meeting a new rule had been added to the group that had my name written all over it, figuratively speaking here. For the new rule said something to the effect that if your friend is trying to say something that you should not try to help that friend. I felt so hurt!
No one had spoken to me about this. They just waited until the next meeting to announce the new rule that everyone in the group knew applied to me. So, I called the lady who headed up the group, and I expressed to her how that had hurt me, and I tried to explain to her that I was doing what my friend had asked me to do. But her response to me was hateful and harsh and accusatory, for she had concluded that I was being pushy or a bully or taking over or something like that, and she would not hear me out when I tried to give my own defense.
And remember here with me that this was a support group for people like me who were already hurting from other hurtful experiences, and these were people who were supposed to be helping me to heal. But she was treating me as though I was the enemy, and as though I had purposefully committed some horrible crime. And then she told me I needed to talk with one of the assistant pastors, and so I did, but he would not listen to me either, but he began accusing me sharply of attitudes I did not have and of deeds I did not commit. And even though I sat there in tears appealing to him, he was hard as a rock and had no sympathy towards me whatsoever.
And I wish I could say this was the exception to the rule, but it is not. And I am not the only one being treated like this by church leadership, either. But this wasn’t just about me trying to help my friend. This was a deeper issue than that, I ascertained. For this assistant pastor, who I had never met before, was using terminology to accuse me that had much further implications than just that. So I believe the real issue was the kinds of things I was sharing in the group, as a whole, things which were from the Scriptures and not anything that should ever have been an issue.
Now, since this is not the only time I have faced such persecution as this, some people have suggested that I must, therefore, be the one at fault. Well, Paul faced a lot of persecution, and he was not the one at fault. And Job was accused by his friends of sinning as the reason for his suffering. But what my experiences symbolize, I believe, is the reality of where the church in America is today, where they are weeding out those who have strong convictions so that they can persuade the naïve with their lies without any hinderance from those who know better. And I hope you can see that.
For what I have experienced are the kinds of persecutions that others are experiencing who are serious about their walks with the Lord and who are walking in obedience to his commands. For today’s modern market-driven “churches” (businesses) leaders are being trained to weed out those with “strong convictions.” And this is because most of them are teaching lies. So, if you are facing such persecution as this, take courage. Just keep trusting the Lord, keep loving the people of God, and keep speaking the truth. For the days are evil, and our Lord will soon return.
As the Deer
By Martin J. Nystrom
Based off Psalm 42:1
As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longeth after You
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship You
You alone are my strength, my shield
To You alone may my spirit yield
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship You
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