Archive | July, 2013
The Martyrdom of Polycarp: How Christians Should Respond to Opposition Against Their Faith

The Martyrdom of Polycarp: How Christians Should Respond to Opposition Against Their Faith

polycarp-martyrdomOne of the earliest martyrdoms recorded by the early church was that of Polycarp, the Bishop of Smryna, in the mid second century.  According to multiple sources, Polycarp was a student of the Apostle John.  Polycarp was killed by government authorities because he refused to burn incense to Caesar and make the required statement, “Caesar is Lord.”

The “persecution” and “suffering” we face in the West for our faith in Christ dims in comparison to the suffering Polycarp faced or to the struggles Christians endure today in countries where there is no freedom of religion.  And yet, all who genuinely follow Christ will encounter friction of some degree with the world. It is inevitable when one lives for God who is perfectly pure in a world that is fallen and cursed by sin.  Jesus told his followers this would be case- “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19).

When we face trouble with the world because of our faith in Christ and belief in the Bible, may our response be as that of Polycarp.  May we stand fast in our faith and serve as a faithful witness while never retaliating in anger to our tormentors.  Below is the account of Polycarp’s martyrdom:

Therefore, when he was brought before him, the proconsul asked if he were Polycarp.  And when he confessed that he was, the proconsul tried to persuade him to recant, saying, “Swear by the Genius of Caesar.”  When the magistrate persisted and said “Swear the oath, and I will release you; revile Christ,” Polycarp replied, “For eighty-six years I have been his servant, and he has done me no wrong.  How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”

But as he continued to insist, saying, “Swear by the Genius of Caesar,” he answered; “If you vainly suppose that I will swear by the Genius of Caesar, as you request, and pretend not to know who I am, listen carefully; I am a Christian…”

So the proconsul said, “I have wild beasts; I will throw you to them, unless you change your mind.”  But he said; “Call for them!  For the repentance from better to worse is a change impossible for us; but it is a noble thing to change from that which is evil to righteousness.”  Then he said to him again; “I will have you consumed by fire, since you despise the wild beasts, unless you change your mind.”  But Polycarp said, “You threaten with a fire that burns only briefly and after just a little while is extinguished, for you are ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and eternal punishment, which is reserved for the ungodly.  But why do you delay?  Come, do what you wish.”

As he spoke these and many other words, he was inspired with courage and joy, and his face was filled with grace, so that not only did he not collapse in fright at the things which were said to him, but on the contrary the proconsul was astonished, and sent his own herald into the midst of the stadium to proclaim three times; “Polycarp has confessed that he is a Christian.”*

According to the church fathers, Polycarp was tied to a stake and the kindling beneath it was lit, but the flames didn’t touch him.  So the authorities stabbed him to death.

May this powerful example of faithfulness even in the face of death always be true of us when we face opposition for following Christ.  May we always stand for God’s Truth and do so in a loving way that exemplifies the Master we serve.

*“The Martyrdom of Polycarp” translated by Michael Holmes in The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations

 

Growing in the Word podcast: 7-28-13

Growing in the Word podcast: 7-28-13

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from July 28th, 2013.

When the Fog of Pain Eclipses the Truth of Hope

When the Fog of Pain Eclipses the Truth of Hope

FogSome of the toughest times we face in life cause us to lose sight of the full truth that God is with us in the storm and is the victor over sin, death, disease, and injustice that cause the storms.

The Battle of Waterloo is one of the most famous battles in history.  It occurred in what is modern day Belgium on June 18, 1815.  It pitted the French army, commanded by Napoleon who had recently escaped from exile, against the Anglo-German-Dutch forces led by the Duke of Wellington and the Prussian forces commanded by Gerhard Blucher.  It was a battle of immense importance and was won by Wellington.

There is an interesting story of how the news about the outcome at Waterloo reached England.  News was carried first by a ship that sailed from Europe across the English Channel to England’s southern coast.  The news was then relayed from the coast by signal flags to London.  When the report was received in London at Winchester Cathedral, the flags atop the cathedral began to spell out Wellington’s defeat of Napoleon to the entire city.  “Wellington defeated…” However, before the message could be completed, a good-old fashioned London fog moved in, and the rest of the message was hidden.

Based on incomplete information, the people of London thought Napoleon had defeated Wellington.  That would have been devastating for England.  Gloom began to fill the nation as the bad news spread quickly everywhere.  But when the fog began to lift, the flags high up Winchester Cathedral completed the news: “Wellington defeated the enemy!” The English fears had been unfounded. Joy immediately replaced the gloom.  All over England people danced in the streets, rejoicing at this great victory over one of the most dangerous enemies England ever faced.

There are times in our lives when we go through storms of pain, disappointment, grief, stress, etc. that leave us in a fog of wondering if we will ever make it through the storm.  We doubt God’s purpose and plan in the storm and may even doubt the existence of God himself.  We are like the disciples on Good Friday night. They went home that evening in despair.  They weren’t focused on the event that would come Sunday.  Jesus’ resurrection was the full story.

Trying times can easily put us in a “fog” that obscures the truth of the total message.  One, if you are a follower of Christ you are never alone.  You have One who has suffered as you have suffered and walks through the storm with you right now.  Isa. 43:2- “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.”

Two, always remember that in the end Jesus wins.  Sin, Satan, the forces of evil- the things that cause so much of our pain- will one day be vanquished by Jesus and he will consummate his perfect kingdom on the last day.  The New Testament teaches in many places the fact of Jesus’ victory should be great encouragement for us struggling in the present.  Don’t let the fog of pain today eclipse the glory of your eternity in Christ.

Growing in the Word podcast: 7-21-13

Growing in the Word podcast: 7-21-13

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from July 21th, 2013.

Growing in the Word podcast: 7-7-13

Growing in the Word podcast: 7-7-13

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from July 7th, 2013. “Render Unto Caesar.”