Christians Take a Beatin’ and Keep on Preachin’
5th Sunday after Pentecost
Christians Take a Beatin’ and Keep on Preachin’
Text: Jeremiah 19:14-20:6
Jowaneh Benjamin knew it was unsafe. But she would not renounce her Christian faith, even though she was an Assyrian Christian in Baghdad. It was not without cost. One evening Jowaneh’s two daughters were driving home from work when they were ambushed by Muslim militants. One was dragged out of the car and shot eleven times. The other was murdered in the backseat. A few days later her husband died from grief and a broken heart. Not long after another daughter was kidnapped by Muslims and left for dead in an alleyway. Jowaneh fled as a refugee for two years until coming to Chicago. But she did not renounce her faith.
Muhammad Idiris was traveling to see his mother in Mogadishu, Somalia this last year. A fellow passenger recognized that he was a convert to Christianity from Islam and asked if he thought Muhammad was a true prophet of God. Idiris replied, “If I thought so, I would have believed in him instead of the Messiah.” The traveler later reported Idiris to authorities. He was arrested and on July 1, 2010 he was publicly executed in a make-shift soccer stadium in front of hundreds of spectators (including children).
It seems unreal doesn’t it? We know about the Spanish Inquisition and Christians burned at the stake. We know about the Crusades about a thousand years ago and the battles for the Holy Land between Christians and Muslims. We know about the Romans throwing Christians to the lions and the gladiators 2,000 years ago. But today?
Well maybe those things happen around the world in Africa or India or the Middle East. But not in America! As our teachers are about to begin a new year of ministry and Christian education, their biggest concerns are kids pretending they are Batman or ninjas on the playground—not real weapons! And rather than being asked if we are Christians so that we can be toasted like marshmallows, the biggest inquisition we might get is, “Why are you bothering me with your religion?” Things are bad. But not that bad.
Maybe that’s what Jeremiah thought. He was called by God to be a prophet at a young age. Things were bad. But not that bad. Josiah was the King of Israel. He had brought great reforms to the people. They started turning away from idols and back to the Lord (but not completely). Then Josiah died. Things went bad. Fast. Idolatry was everywhere. Adultery was everywhere. People lied and cheated in the marketplace. The leaders were corrupt. The priests and spiritual leaders were corrupt.
Suddenly Jeremiah’s ministry went from tough to really tough. He wasn’t just calling people to repent or change their ways anymore. Now he was proclaiming God’s judgment and punishment. Now he was foretelling that very soon all of Israel—including Jerusalem and the temple—would be destroyed. Jeremiah was as popular as the cuckoo that stands on the corner at the Daytona 500 and screams at people, “Repent the kingdom of God is near.” Some laughed at Jeremiah. Some hated Jeremiah. Most ignored Jeremiah.
This morning we hear one of Jeremiah’s difficult preaching tasks. The Lord sent him to Jerusalem to proclaim in the temple courts: “Listen! I am going to bring on this city and the villages around it every disaster I pronounced against them, because they were stiff-necked and would not listen to my words.” This did not go over well. Pashhur, the chief priest of the temple, had Jeremiah arrested, beaten, and locked in the stocks.
Yet when Jeremiah was released he continued to proclaim God’s judgment. He told Pashhur that his name would be changed to Magor-Missabib (terror on every side) because he was about to see lots of terror—he would witness his friends being slaughtered, Jerusalem would be destroyed, he would be captured, and he and all of his false teacher buddies would die in Babylon.
Why? Why, Jeremiah? Why would you keep on preaching? They weren’t going to listen! Your bruises were still purple. Your body was still aching. Your hands and neck were still raw from the stocks. You knew what they could do. They might even kill you! Why, Jeremiah? Why keep preaching?
Examine first the message. God was calling his people to repentance. Their lives had become deplorable and disgraceful. They had long forgotten the marvelous things God had done over and over again for them. Now other things were more important. Enjoying life was more important. Family time was more important. Money and possessions were more important. Worship was an afterthought. God was there—when they needed him. They had no inhibitions for what they said and what they did. They saw no consequences for what they said and did.
Sound familiar? Yes, it sounds a lot like America. But worse, it sounds a lot like me. I have sunk with Israel to the depths of disgrace. What God must think when he sees what I say and what I do! Well, he must think much like did about the Israelites, “They [are] stiff-necked and [will] not listen to my words.”
God tells us not to hate. But sometimes we just get angry! God tells us to speak with pure lips—but oh how the curses and the gossip and the negativity can flow! God tells us to have clean thoughts—but who can do that with all that is on TV or in the movies (or while living in a beach community)! God tells us to give gifts to him that are the first and the best. But there are bills to pay! God tells us to love him above all else. But my kids are so important! My work is important! Enjoying life is so important! “They [are] stiff-necked and [will] not listen to my words,” God says—and he means us.
Today we see the danger of what sin leads to. Sin brings wrath. Sin brings anger. Sin brings punishment. God warned the Israelites over and over and over again but they would not listen. Finally the judgment of destruction came. God warns us over and over and over again. Those who do not turn from their sin will find a similar judgment and destruction, but the next one is for eternity in hell!
Yet Jeremiah’s message was not without some hope. Jerusalem was going to be destroyed. Many were going to die. The rest were going to be in captivity. But, God also promised to preserve a small remnant. God was going to keep his promise to extend their line. God was going to keep his promise to send a Savior through them.
As they looked forward, so now we look backward at the same promise. God is full of compassion, mercy, and kindness. Rather than extend the full, brunt force of his wrath and anger against sin, he put it upon his own Son. Rather than bring the judgment of damnation crashing down upon us, he made Jesus to be guilty of our sins.
Jesus is the go-between of God that brings us peace. Destruction and death and damnation await sinners. But Jesus has brought us forgiveness and life and heaven. Jesus has changed our status from enemies of God to friends of God. We have true peace through him.
That’s the message. That’s the message that changed Jeremiah’s life. That’s the message that filled Jeremiah with joy. That’s the message that kept him going every day. That’s the message that kept him preaching. That’s the good news that comforted him when he felt alone in Israel. That’s the message that gave him strength while he was being beaten and solace while locked in the stocks.
Jeremiah took a beating but he kept on preaching. Several times. Why? First, he personally knew the joy of salvation in the coming Messiah. But also knew that others needed to know. They needed to know the truth about their sin and about God’s solution or else they would fall under God’s judgment—through the Babylonians and forever.
Maybe it seems a little extreme. Jeremiah was tortured. Christians in other parts of the world are tortured and killed. But this is America. Things are bad. But not that bad.
For now. But the times may not be far off. We still don’t know when the next airplane will be high jacked or the next car bomb will go off. And in the meantime in America we will be made fun of. People will slam doors in our faces when we canvass and hang up the phone when we call. I’ll still get angry phone messages like I did from the man from New York who called me last week. Our family may roll their eyes at us. Our friends may get sick of us. Teachers in our school might have parents or students upset with them. I might have church members upset with me. The news media might give us a bad name. The government might tighten their grip. And terrorists might blow up half the U.S. But we will not stop preaching the truth of the Word of God.
We know what God has done for us. We know how our lives have been changed. We know the joy of salvation. We know the hope of heaven. Christians are like little Energizer bunnies filled with the joy of Jesus—we just keep preaching and preaching and preaching. We know what’s at stake. This is a life or death situation—an eternal life or death situation. Souls are at stake. And God has sent us to tell them about Jesus and forgiveness.
While we were preparing for the joyous celebration of Christ’s birth for the first time in our new building this last December, Christmas joy turned to sadness in Nigeria. While the Victory Baptist Church choir was rehearsing last Christmas in Madiguri, Nigeria, Muslims extremists rushed in, murdered the choir members, and burned the whole church down.
It still happens today. Christians are persecuted every day around the world. Some are tortured. Some are beaten. Some are killed. Some are scoffed. Some are teased. Most are ignored. But Christians Take a Beatin’ and Keep on Preachin’. We will not stop wearing or sharing our faith. We know the joy of Jesus. Others need to know too. We will be the ones to tell them!
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Posted on July 17, 2011, in Church, Sermons and tagged Beatings, Church, Confidence, God's Word, Jeremiah, Jeremiah 19, Jeremiah 20, Martyrs, Muslims, Preaching, Sermons, Strength, Terrorists. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.