OF GOD'S PEOPLE
A Special Address to the Church of God in Scandinavia
Brethren and sisters, we stand at the edge of a new historical period for the New Covenant Church of God. We have in so many ways moved out of the theological realm and into what can be called the cruel reality of the world. For the past few years the Lord has been moulding us as a people, reshaping our perceptions and our understandings both of ourselves and of the world in which we live. We have matured considerably and enjoy, like never before, a unity and love that is the envy of many. For these things we praise the Lord with all our hearts.
Throughout our walk God has blessed us with many revelations -- guidance for the Church, theological understanding and prophecies of the future. What makes today special is that those prophecies are beginning to be fulfilled, and the years of faith are being rewarded with real, tangible change. We have entered our new church period -- Phase II, as we have called it -- the phase of miracles.
But with this phase of miracles, made possible only by our willingnes to be obedient to the commandments irrespective of the consequences, has come persecution. For the very first time in our history men and women -- some former members, and some who are not -- have declared open warfare on us with the intent of causing us as much suffering and sorrow as possible. Jealous of God's blessings to us and filled with bitterness and hatred, they have made it their purpose to destroy this work and to expose it, as they fancy, to be a great fraud. They have made many of our people suffer, sometimes to the point of desperation, but they have never triumphed. To your great credit, you have responded with love, patience and long-suffering just as the Master would have wished were He with us in the flesh. Despite our attempts to reason with our enemies, they have chosen to declare war on God's people. For them unless they repent, there awaits only the wrath of God.
I write this to you principally to encourage you in the midst of the current and coming storms. The best counsel I can give you at this time is the words of the apostle Paul who wrote to the Colossians and Thessalonians:
In olden days Christians used to be thrown to the lions, imprisoned, tortured or buried alive. This still happens in some parts of the world. But for us in the so-called "sophisticated West" persecution is mostly psychological. Here in Scandinavia we have had our loved ones both in and out of the Church 'phoned up and they have been told that we are a vicious "sect" or "cult" who "brainwash" our people, enslave them, perform immoral acts, and so on. Every buzz word has been used against us. We have been accused of being cruel, and unloving. We have been accused of wife-swapping, sexual immorality, and every other evil. It seems that the mind of man, filled with hatred and evil, has thought up every possible lie. We have been called "Jews" and "foreigners", received anonymous telephone calls, and obscene letters. We have had our families threatened. Yet we have been blameless in all of these things, living moral, blameless lives according to the standards of the Bible.
"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish each other in all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him" (Col.3:15-17, NIV).
"You are the sons (and daughters) of the light and the sons (and daughters) of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So them, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled...But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet" (1 Thess.5:5-6,8, NIV).
Yet ought we to be surprised? As a people living close to the Word and not compromising the faith with the world, we should expect -- and have expected -- these things. The Scriptures warn us so. Our enemies have achieved the very opposite of their intentions, which have been to divide and scatter us, for in the midst of all this vileness we have been strengthened and brought closer to the Lord Jesus Christ. We have made it our purpose throughout to "lead a quiet life" and to "mind our own business" (1 Thess.4:11, NIV) but because we would not conform to the traditions of the world, so-called "Christians" have sought to impose their worldly values on us. Unwilling to live in mutual respect of our differences, they have rather sought to vent their anger on an inncocent and helpless minority. Whilst declaring "peace and safety" (1 Thess.5:2) they are declaring war on that which they refuse to understand, prefering the lies of their traditions to the pure Word of God. Allying themselves with unbelievers, they have declared war on their own flesh-and-blood, seeking by force to overwhelm God's people.
Yet we are not helpless. The Spirit of God has sustained us, building us up into a holy temple, more resilient and strong than ever. They have made the mistake of all those who have persecuted Christianity in the past: persecution strengthens God's people and never weakens them. Unable to penetrate our fellowship by infiltration because of the strictness of the commandments we live and the power of the Holy Spirit which inspires God's people to discern and uncover all evil intent, they have had no other choice but to wage war outwardly.
There was a time when in the old church we had enemies within but they are no longer with us, for they were in truth never really a part of us, even though we have tried to reach them in love. The door of fellowship has never been closed against them so long as they have been willing to live clean, moral lives.
All those who live the fulness of the Gospel must expect persecution especially if the government of the land will not restrain their enemies. I would like to be able to say that our persectors will eventually become silent. They will, brethren and sisters, but only when they see the power of God displayed in might and they are forced into silence as all cowards are in the face of a power greater than their own. And that power, friends, will come -- and is coming -- as we remain true and faithful, for God will not suffer His people to be destroyed by wickedness when they are seeking to be obedient to His commandments.
To those who are persecuting us I give this solwmn warning: do not trifle with the things of God else He will reveal His mighty hand and bring you to the depths of anguish and despair unless you repent and receive Jesus Christ and the fulness of His Gospel. For it is one thing to be ignorant, but to be willfully disobedient to the plainly revealed Word and the testimony of the Holy Spirit constitutes open rebellion, which sin is as the sin of idolatry.
I have heard your testimonies many times over the recent months and I rejoice that there is no bitterness or hatred in your hearts -- frustration and weariness, yes, but no evil thought. Rather I have heard you witness of the love you feel in your hearts for our detractors and how, in obedience to the Master's commandments, you have always met reviling with peaceableness and loving kindness. And because of this we remain firmly justified as a people of God. Let us be thankful for that.
The storms of persecution have ebbed for a while. Though they may well return, let us continue to live our lives as faithful servants, performing our duties in the Church, our families and our occupations, and bearing affirmative witness that Jesus is the Christ, full of mercy and quick to save. Amen.
This page was created on 22 May 1998
Last updated on 22 May 1998
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