Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Youcef Nadarkhani Released From Jail

At Iran Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani Acquitted of Apostasy, Released From Jail it is reported that after three years this poor man and his family are finally reunited.  The man whom the Muslims wanted to murder for the false accusation of apostasy, has been spared this hateful action.  They have not killed him.  He was accused of converting from Islam to Christianity.  He never professed to believe in Allah.  Nevertheless, those who hate Christ wanted to kill this man.  So far, his three year imprisonment has been counted as enough hatred displayed, along with changing his sentence:

Though acquitted of apostasy, the Iranian pastor was found guilty of evangelizing Muslims. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment but was released because he already served this time.

Such is the way of peace practiced by those who bow down to Allah.  Many who call themselves Muslims will argue that this is not truly the way of Islam.  Yet their writings from their one true prophet of Allah do teach this as their way.  Moreover, those who practice Islam regularly support Jihad with their money.  And finally, they do not denounce those who do this as condemned by their God.  They may say that this is not truly the way of Islam, but they do not actually condemn it, either.  Some exceptions may be found, but they do not count themselves as truly separate from their Muslim brothers who do these things.  So what is to be concluded?

Sadly, Christianity has been abused so that many imagine that the Bible and the faith taught in the Bible can be likened to this religion of Muhammad.  Sadly, it is true, that many who have professed to be of Christ and of His Church have acted shamefully, inhumanely, and against all that Christ has ordained for those who are His disciples.  Horrible atrocities have been committed in the name of Jesus.

So is there a difference?

The Bible teaches that those who are of Christ love their enemies and pray for them.

The Bible teaches that the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Christ, is not of this world but is a spiritual kingdom and that the disciples of Jesus are not to seek to establish a kingdom by any force other than the means of grace, that is, the pure preaching of the Gospel and the right administration of the Sacraments.  No one is to be coerced to believe.  No one is to be threatened beyond the warning of the self-condemnation of rejecting God’s Word and grace, which finally result in the very thing that the person has chosen for oneself, everlastingly to be cut off from the life in God’s Holy Communion, to be everlastingly confined instead to the ways of those who reject life in God’s Communion.

The Bible teaches that God’s governance of His Church is through Word and water and bread and wine, which administered as He has ordained provide limitless grace, mercy, and peace through forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration, renewal, and healing.  Through these it is taught that God gives His very own body and blood, mind and spirit, to His Church, the communion of His saints on earth.  These saints count themselves as subjected to one another in the love of Christ, bound together not by their act of submission, but by the love and peace of God.

Much more can be said, but even with this much, does the Church of Christ and the faith of this Christian Church sound at all like what is openly professed and practiced within Islam?

Sadly, however, it must be admitted that this Church of Christ is very small and hard to find, so that Christians are perceived to be what is commonly observed in the world.  If a person is open to seek the Church that the Bible declares to be truly of God, where will this person find this Church?

Will Christ be found in the big cathedrals?  Will He be found in the Mega churches?  Will He be found in the many little churches?  Where will He be found?

Where does He say that He is to be found?

It is a shame that such hate crimes have been and continue to be committed as Youcef Nadarkhani and his family have experienced.  It is horrible to know that such hate crimes happen in all parts of the world, even by those professing to be disciples of Christ.  One example is reported again at Church says military funeral protests will continue despite new restrictions.  This truly is a hate crime.  I’m not sure that under the Constitution of the United States that it should be illegal, but it certainly is a crime motivated by hatred.  And this is really very small compared to the atrocities committed that have been recorded throughout history.

What hope is there?  Will the hatred ever end?  Will these terrible acts ever stop?

For some, they already have.  For those whom the Holy Spirit gathers into the name of Jesus through the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit so that they confess their sins together and receive God’s absolution and then humbly receive God’s body and blood at His Table of forgiveness and life, the peace of God that surpasses all understanding does guard their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Gathered into His name they begin to experience the end of the hatred and begin to enjoy the life of God’s love together which overflows to everyone whom they encounter.

But for others, those who choose for themselves another way, who reject the pure means of grace that God has ordained for our salvation and healing, they shall continue forevermore in the ways in which they now continue.  Mankind, according to his corrupted nature, always resorts to the ways that we observe all around us.  It is as the Epistle reading for this week declares:

     Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness,revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
     But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

The contrast is stark.  The former is not a choice.  It is what has been inherited according to the sinful nature.  One can even say that this propensity is genetic, as it inheres to the flesh.

The latter is not a choice either.  It is what is inherited in connection with the rebirth through water and spirit.  It is a new life that accompanies the baptismal gift of the indwelling of the Spirit of God.  The Word, Jesus, is in the consecrated water.  He gives the promised Spirit.  The Spirit generates the new life of faith.  This faith then rules the heart and mind and spirit of the newly generated saint.  This faith is nurtured through the continual gathering for the feast of Word and Sacrament.

But the flesh and the spirit are at war.  This is true even within the newborn saint, so that the flesh continually needs to be crucified through confession and absolution and feasting at the Supper of Everlasting Life in God’s Communion.

In the world this war is manifested openly with persecutions against the saints.  The true saints are sometimes tolerated by the world, but eventually the world rises up again against the saints.  The true Church is seen as the enemy because the saints stand apart from the world even though they live in the world.  The true Church even stands apart from the so-called visible church, the church that makes so much noise about how much they love God and how much they love Jesus and how hard they try to be “good” Christians and to conquer the world for Jesus and to conform the world to the good ways.  Often the most severe persecution of the saints is instigated by this so-called visible church.

And so the war continues.  It appears to be very one sided, since the only weapons that the true saints use in defending the Church and the Faith are the pure Word and Sacraments.  To everyone but these saints this seems like utter futility.  But to all the believing it is the power of God into salvation.  (Rom. 1:16)

The release from jail of Youcef Nadarkhani is cause for rejoicing, even from a secular perspective.  It is always a cause for rejoicing when those who are acting hatefully are turned from their evil ways.  And of course, for Youcef and for all of the people, there is a respite from these acts against them.  Surely all of the people in Iran can sigh at least a brief sigh of relief.

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