Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Verbum Dei III

The other day I heard someone refer to the Afghan Christian convert now facing the death penalty, saying, "he was converetd by the Roman Catholics, but still..." Is he a REAL Christian, some evangelicals may wonder.

Remember what Paul said in I Corinthians 12:3, "Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says "Jesus is accursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except in the Holy Spirit."

Some of us might object, "That's not true! I know tons of nominal Christians who say 'Jesus is Lord' and are without the Holy Spirit." Or how about Jesus' very own warning that many will come to him at their judgement and say, "Lord, Lord!" but Jesus will only reply to them, "I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness" (Mat 7:23)?

Paul here is not referring to lipservice. In fact, Jesus had little patience for lipservice. Consider when the rich young ruler came and called Jesus "Good Teacher" (Lk 18:18). Did Jesus bask in the glow of one of his biggest fans, absorbing all the flattery? No, he said, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone." Again, when Nicodemus in John 3 went to the Saviour under cover of darkness, he heaped on the protocol, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, etc. etc." Jesus wasn't impressed. He cut through the fluff and questioned Nicodemus' credentials.

So how can Paul say that "no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except in the Holy Spirit"? Jesus knows men's hearts. He knows when "Lord" is flattering lipservice and when "Lord" is submissive worship. In the early Church, Christians lived in a hotbed of persecution, where Roman soldiers at any moment could stop a Christian in the street and place his sword at the believer's throat before posing the question, "Kaesar estin Kurios or Iesou Kurios? (Is Caesar Lord or is Jesus Lord?)" The true answer would cost their life. There weren't many lukewarm or nominal Christians during this time when the price was so high. You better believe that the man, woman, or child who said "Jesus is Lord" at sword point, or about to be burned alive or torn apart by animals, had the Holy Spirit of God in them.

In the Western world today, everyone and their cat claims to be Christians, but in the Muslim and Chinese worlds, there's no playing around. Persecution purifies the Church. It does an incredible job of separating the wheat from the weeds.

We all say "Jesus is Lord," but will we say it when the death penalty is upon us? Abdul Rahman, the Afghan convert to Christianity who faces death by an Islamic government, says "Jesus is Lord." Roman Catholic or not, I believe Brother Abdul abides in Christ and is alive in the Spirit.