Likely you have read quite enough about the 21 Egyptian Christians who were recently beheaded by ISIS. Likely you would like to move on to thinking on more positive things. But I am compelled to write to honor, not only these men, but the thousands of saints around the world that are lifting up the Name of Jesus, despite threat of harm and threat of death…even for those who have given up their lives rather than deny His Name and His cross.
“And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God.” Rev 20:4
They are cutting off heads, but what are they really desperate to cut off?
“A Message Signed With Blood To The Nation Of The Cross.”
Two thousand years later and the enemy still hates that cross where the sins of the world were nailed. He still despises that kink in his plans to kill, steal, and destroy. He still attempts to cut off every opportunity that we have to share that one thing that has set us free.
The blood of Jesus given for us on that cross.
See, a message signed with blood to the nations of the cross was not satan’s idea… it was God’s. When the enemy was crying out for blood, He said “Take me instead. I will die in their place. I will take their punishment so that they can be free.” Satan fell for it, hook, line and sinker. Like the White Witch in the Chronicles of Narnia, I like to think that he gloated…he stood over those Egyptians and he said, “Today Egypt, and tomorrow Rome.” He thought he could win. He thought he could cut us off from the love of Christ.
He was so wrong.
Not only did Jesus rise up out of that grave after three days, but with Him rose every saint, near and far off, who ever decides to place their lives at the foot of that cross…to die so that they might live…to give up so that they might gain…to hate so that they might love.
Twenty one men made that decision last week. They were faced with the choice to convert or die…to exchange eternity for their present lives. I wonder what went through their heads as they awaited their fate in captivity. I wonder how often they saw the faces of their wives, their children, their mothers, and their fathers. I wonder if they longed to be back in Egypt with everything in them. Yet, they refused to go back…not if it meant giving up Christ.
THESE are Christians and these Christians make most of the claimers in America laughable.
How can we claim the Name of Christ and yet refuse the call that it places on us to come and die? How can we accept a sacrifice that we often chuckle at as it is mocked by the world around us? How can we live foolish and ungodly and haphazard Christian lives in the light of such people willing to give even their last breath for the One who died for them? We don’t love Christ. We don’t surrender all. We don’t even know what that means because we aren’t faced with hard choices. Not only are we not faced with hard choices, but we have even made the easy choices negotiable.
You don’t feel like serving? Oh, there’s grace for that! You want to see that sin laced movie? Oh, there’s grace for that too! You would rather hang out with your fun homey’s than those fuddy duddy believers? Grace for that! You want to call yourself a Christian yet never bear one iota of fruit? Who are we to judge? Read this book on grace and don’t be to hard on yourself.
There is grace for sinners found at a cross dripping with the blood of a perfect Lamb sacrificed so that you can claim grace. That blood is dripping on your head as you claim that Name above all other Names. The blood of those twenty one men, it is accusing you as you claim the Name of Christ yet refuse to make one sacrifice to build His Kingdom or make His Name famous. The blood is running down your head onto your shoulders and into your hands as you say “I’m a Christian.”
This is why the world is not worthy of martyrs because to be sure, the martyr is a rarity. There are many more of us saving our lives than losing them. Many more of us actually focusing daily on how to better save our own lives…how to give just enough to get us to heaven, but not enough that we lose out on earth. The path is narrow that leads to life and few there be that find it.
At this moment, likely Christ is not asking you to make the kind of choice that will cost you your head… but He is asking you to make a choice. He is speaking to your heart and asking you a question. I don’t know the question, but you do. And the answer is either “Yes” or it is “No”, but it can’t be both and there can’t be reservations, and there can’t be disclaimers. It has to be fully “yes” or fully “no”.
I write in honor of these men and all the Christians like them who are putting their money where their mouth is. I write because their lives were a seed of a greater harvest…because their “yes” will no doubt produce other “yeses”…because their blood is now mixed with the blood of Christ as they have joined in His sufferings. And they have risen again.
“To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
Instead of walking away from the Author of their faith, they walked right into the arms of their Finisher.
“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.” Hebrews 12:1-2
Twenty one names hang in my house right now. A heavy reminder that this world is not my home and this race is a marathon in which it matters not at all how we begin, but how we end.