Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church; Message: The Kingdom For Keeps 03 Enemy Love; Series on the Sermon on the Mount; Date: 6 March 2011
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Jesus called his disciples to be fishers of men and then he showed them how the fishing worked how to sweep large masses of people into the kingdom of God. Consider (again) this early report from the Bible Matthew 4:23-25: [With his first disciples in tow] Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.
No question Jesus drew the masses and the disciples witnessed everything first hand. He was a bigger star than Oprah coming to Australia which must have appealed to them. They were backing a winner. Later when Jesus called them for a practice run and according to Matthew 10:1: gave them authority to drive out devil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness, they must have felt like rock stars themselves. Who would not want to be a fisher of man? Jesus had told them Matthew 10:7-8: preach this message: The kingdom of heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons
How would you feel possessing the power to raise even the dead? What would this do for you? Can you see the crowds streaming into your meetings thousands upon thousands from every town and city in Australia, South East Asia and the world. All of a sudden as this is happening youre the man and you may come to love the show! With more theatrics than necessary you command: Be healed. I curse cancer. The kingdom is near. How big would your head be?
Only at the very height of his early fame Jesus immediately pricked the bubble of his disciples. They would not be rock stars receiving the royal treatment. After he went up a mountainside by himself away from the crowds with the disciples coming after him this is what he said to them Matthew 5:1-4: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
The disciples listened to Jesus but what was this about? Why would anyone be poor in spirit and mourning when absolutely everyone is healed in your meetings and, therefore, large crowds applaud you? Jesus continued to shed light on this matter and began confronting his disciples with an unexpected reality: persecution. Their fame would be fickle. They would do nothing wrong but nonetheless be attacked. Healing testimonies powerful preaching and miracles would abound in their work but not save them from pain and suffering.
Jesus went on saying to them Matthew 5:1-12: Blessed are the poor in spirit Blessed are those who mourn [And then after adding a few more pronouncements of who were the blessed people (e.g.: the meek and the merciful, the peacemakers) Jesus concluded the list by spelling out the one blessed state that informed all other blessed portions in life: persecution. He said:] Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
This is the important beginning of the Sermon on the Mount the important correction of early illusions of grandeur and, therefore, I want to spend some more time on Jesus list of blessed people. Understand the underlying background of persecution for all of them. Jesus told the disciples Matthew 5:1-12: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. [It is persecution (more than anything else) that makes us poor in spirit and mourn.] Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. [It is persecution (most of all) that requires a meek response.] Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. [It is persecution (the suffering of abuse) that (without fail) stirs our hunger and thirst for righteousness.] Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. [It is persecution (more than any other crisis) that tests our quality as merciful peacemakers who remain pure in heart without bearing a grudge against anyone.] Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Maybe the climax of this list is the centre piece where Jesus declared Matthew 5:6: Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy, because later in his sermon Jesus would unpack the precise meaning of this declaration and with radical words (confirming our analysis) ask his disciples (us) to be merciful even in persecution Matthew 5:43-48: But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even scumbags [original: the tax collectors] doing that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. In other words (this is the logic of Jesus sermon): Blessed are the merciful (they will be shown mercy themselves) because they are perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. They love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them.
This is at the heart of everything. Only compare two more verses Matthew 5:6: Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. This again means (as explained later on) Matthew 6:14: Forgive people when they sin against you and your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
Forgive and love your enemies. Pray for them. Blessed are the merciful. I wonder whether the disciples were taking this in. Are you taking this in? Large crowds may come and listen to the preaching. People may love the healings and miracles but you cannot be driven by fame. You cannot afford to be a rock star throw selfish tantrums which the adoring masses (and an indulgent media) simply tolerate because you are so great. [You will not throw a TV through the hotel window.] You are not in this line of work for personal glory. You are simply doing what Jesus tells you to do and you know that the time will come when people turn against you. Therefore right from the beginning you love them with the kind of love which keeps loving even in persecution. As you preach the kingdom of God and lay hands on people for healing, you are not fooled by any festival atmosphere but know that conflict is coming.
This is how it was with Jesus himself and he said to us Matthew 10:24-25: A student is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master And then Jesus uncovered the deeper source of conflict for him and us Matthew 10:24-25: If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub [the leader of demons], how much more the members of his household?
On several occasions when it suited his opposition people accused him of being the captain of darkness the captain of bigger demons who would on his bidding expel smaller demons. For instance, they said Matthew 9:34: It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons. Matthew 12:24: It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons. The accusation was wrong but the basic thrust was right. Any confrontation any persecution in our work as fishers of men would have something to do with the tension between Gods kingdom and the demonic kingdom. Only it was not Jesus that was on the wrong side of God but his accusers. He reasoned with them Matthew 12:25-28: [I am not in league with the prince of demons.] Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
Jesus had been fighting the devil from the beginning not even launching his ministry before battling Satan and his temptations for forty days in prayer and fasting (Matthew 4:1-11). Satans minions the demons knew that Jesus had come to conquer them. Once they cried out through the vocal cords of a possessed man Matthew 8:29: What do you want with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time? The truth was that all people were under their influence. According to Jesus Satan was the one that would snatch the words of his preaching from people so that they would not understand how to enter the narrow gate of Gods kingdom. He explained to his disciples Matthew 13:19: When anyone hears the message of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart Once the devil attacked Jesus through his closest ally Peter one of his dearest disciples. Peter only tried to deter Jesus from suffering and dying in Jerusalem but his words were getting to Jesus. He struggled for composure. Jesus was tempted to abort his mission; therefore rebuked him with these words Matthew 16:23: Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me
Persecution came as no surprise to Jesus. He knew that he was bringing the kingdom of God into enemy territory our world of sin and perversion the devils sphere of influence. People might love the healings and the miracles and they might even cheer Jesus declaration Matthew 12:28: If I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Even so what about the deeper problem? Would the masses respond to Jesus call and embrace the righteousness of Gods rule obey his teaching? This would not happen without costing Jesus everything his very life. In Jesus last days the adoring crowds would change their tune from hosanna to Jesus (Matthew 21:9) to crucify him (Matthew 27:22-23) (for no apparent reason). And Jesus was killed on a cross.
Yet, Jesus was the first to practice the Sermon on the Mount. He forgave and loved his enemies. He prayed for those that persecuted him. He was merciful. When God the Father raised him from the dead after three days in the grave, Jesus did not seek revenge but kept loving us. Satan had tried his worst but failed. He was defeated and Jesus kept going with his mission of rescuing us from the kingdom of darkness. He kept preaching that the kingdom of God was near only now he worked through his disciples his fishers of men. He at last commissioned them, saying Matthew 28:18-20: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. [This is what happened as I gave my life for you out of love. The Father raised me from the dead and rewarded me with all authority in heaven and on earth.] Therefore go and make disciples of all nations teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
At the heart of everything was and is love and it is the love that would have the most lasting impact on Jesus mass audience. There is a reason that the cross is the symbol of the Christian faith and not a discarded crutch. In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus had not forgotten to explain the power (and preeminence) of love, saying Matthew 5:13-16: You are the salt of the earth You are the light of the world Shine before people, that they may see your good deeds [let them see your compassion and love let them see that you are merciful as I was merciful on the cross] and [then] praise your Father in heaven.
Are we taking this in? The Sermon on the Mount is teaching us that at the heart of preaching the kingdom and at the heart of healing the sick is the kind of love that keeps loving others even in persecution. This is how it was for Jesus and this is how it is for us. And it works. We are salt of the earth and the light of the world on account of love even for our enemies.
Heidi Baker an American missionary in Mozambique is a great fisher of men. She introduces people to Gods kingdom with healings and miracles which can be quite dramatic. [Abbreviate and retell the following story in your own words.]
Heidi Baker with Shara Pradhan: Compelled By Love, Lake Mary: Charisma House 2008, p115-116: One day I was sitting on a grass mat in about 110-degree weather on Christmas Day, looking out on hundreds of our beautiful children We had invited all the children from the streets and the dump Gathered around me were all the girls who had sold their bodies, the bandits, the rascals, the children from the village, the forgotten, the lost, the abandoned and the lonely.
I was overjoyed to give out the presents that had been prepared by our amazing staff Many of the youth had come to the Christmas party drunk The street girls were hardly wearing anything. I just hugged them all. And they all called me Mama Aida.
They came one after another hundreds of them whom we had invited to the feast. We had a co-worker from America who was a mental health director for an entire state. She thought it was rather ridiculous to try to give limited bags of toys to countless children. I think she thought I was a bit mentally ill myself.
I explained to her, I am supposedly going to give the presents first to the kids who have never gotten any presents before. So, we started giving out the presents. I was not very popular at first; all the gifts that the volunteers had spent time gathering and organizing were going to the street kids while our center kids just had to watch and wait.
But we kept handing out presents. Finally, it came down to our older girls. My friend and co-worker informed me that the bags we had left only had stuffed animals in them. Old stuffed dogs were all that remained.
So when our girls got to me, I simply asked the first one, What would you like, sweetheart? Beads, she replied. OK, they want beads. My friend responded, There is nothing in the bags but old stuffed dogs. Please check again, I told her. She was exasperated by this time, but she reached into the bag of old stuffed dogs and started screaming. Beads! There are beads in the bag! The Argentinean volunteers started jumping around, screaming for joy. All of our girls got beautiful, bright beads for Christmas.
Great story stunning miracle but did you also notice how everything was bathed in love: a Christmas party for the lost, free presents for those that have never received a present before, changing stuffed toys into the present that the girls wanted and all of that in 110-degrees of tropical heat. It is love that is most powerful and, hence, I tell you another Heidi Baker story which confirms the Sermon on the Mount in her life. [Abbreviate and retell the following story in your own words.]
Heidi Baker with Shara Pradhan: Compelled By Love, Lake Mary: Charisma House 2008, p126-127: I met a girl while preaching on the streets of London. To tell you this story, I will call her Jane. She was so angry that she basically hated everyone, especially men. She had been gang-raped by sixteen men. She had to stay in the hospital for nearly a year with complications from a broken pelvis, and she had no family and friends. She was tormented by hatred and demons, but I loved Jane.
When I met Jane on the streets, she was in her late twenties. Her hair was very short, and she was wearing mens dress shoes and a mans dark suit that was several sizes too big. It took me a while to realize she was a woman. She had a stern, agitated appearance and was full of rage. She could not stand still even for a minute.
I also had made another friend I will call him Peter. Almost every single day for several years I would go walk to Peter and bring him food. He would yell and tell me to go away and curse me. He did this for two and a half years. With each curse, I thought how much this man needed love, kindness and mercy.
I kept bringing Peter potatoes and sandwiches. I refused to stop. Jesus is tenacious: He never stops loving, and he never stops giving. I just kept saying, I love you, Peter, and Jesus loves you. Sometimes Peter would take the food; other times he would spit at me and throw it on the ground. But Gods heart is relentless, and his radical love transforms the hardest of hearts.
One night Jane was so angry, she tried to beat me to death. She told me that she would slit my throat with a broken bottle that she was holding and throw me into the Thames River to die. When she tried to strangle me, all I could feel was the pain and suffering in her heart. I felt Gods heart for her.
I tried to tell her, God is in love with you. You are precious. You are called to know his love. This made her angrier.
Then Peter, who had been watching me get beaten the whole time, said he was calling the police. I told him the Lord did not want me to call them. Jane had already been thrown in jail many times, and I did not want her to suffer anymore. I wanted her to know the love of Jesus.
Peter just screamed and cursed me again.
Jane had the broken bottle, and she said she was going to rip open my face. I kept telling her again how beautiful she was and that I loved her. When I could not feel anything else, I remember praying, God, whatever you want to do, I just want your love to be known here.
I felt so tired; I could not take any more pain. I told Jane, If you are going to kill me, you can just kill me. But I have to sit down.
Just as I prayed, Peter came and rescued me. He grabbed me away from Jane, started sobbing, and then he said, For two years you told me Jesus loved me. Now Ive seen his love, and I want him. I want him now. You kept telling me about love, but today I have seen love.
That night Peter fell to his knees and received Jesus as his Lord. We just held each other. Even in his alcoholic state, I just held him and thanked him for saving my life.
We lay our lives down for love, and we give our lives away. We cannot just love with our words. Love is in truth and in our actions.
The following week, Jane came to my house with a dozen roses for me, and she told me that she was sorry for trying to kill me. That day she asked Jesus to live in her heart too.
This is the Sermon on the Mount in a nutshell. Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you. Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful to you. People may throw our food on the ground for years and spit at us, hold a broken bottle to our face and threaten to throw our dead bodies in the Thames. Yet, we tell them that they are beautiful and that God loves them. We tell them about Jesus who died for them. We tell them that the kingdom of God is near. There is a Father in heaven who loves them and no persecution can quench his love. People respond to that and recognize the salt and light from God. Come to him.
However, I want to come back to an earlier point. Despite all that we have said do we really believe that the crowds who have witnessed healings and miracles night after night would end up persecuting the Christians? Do you really believe this for yourself? Please do. Jesus said Matthew 10:34: Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. Matthew 10:22: All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. Matthew 24:9: you will be hated by all nations because of me. [2 Timothy 3:12: everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.]
The miracles did not save Jesus and did not save the first church in Jerusalem even though these Christians experienced crazy kingdom power Acts 5:15: people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peters shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirit, and all of them were healed. Not long after this kind of fame the first church member was killed for his faith in Jesus and everyone was running for their lives Acts 8:1: a great persecution broke out and all were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.
Probably the most extreme story is told in the Bible chapter of Acts 14. The crowd, which had witnessed the healing of a lame man from birth, began shouting: The gods have come down to us in human forms. They worshipped the Christian preachers Paul and Barnabas as Zeus and Hermes Greek gods and the priest of Zeus even brought bulls (into the city) for sacrificing to them. Paul and Barnabas kept pleading with the crowd, insisting: We too are only men, human like you. However, the crowd did not want to listen. Yet on the same day after a bad report from others the same crowd picked up stones, threw them at Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead.
Acts 14:8-20: In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, Stand up on your feet! At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.
When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, The gods have come down to us in human form! Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.
But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy. Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.
Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.
Nothing has changed over the years. In one form or another you can also expect persecution despite the goodness of the kingdom such as the healing of a man who was lame from birth.
[Abbreviate and retell the following testimony in your own words.]
Reinhard Bonnke: Living A Life Of Fire, Orlando: E-R Productions, 2009, p548: we worked out way through the remaining campaigns of the year 2000. After concluding the India meeting we turned our eyes toward Khartoum, Sudan p554-562: I was quite aware that permission to preach in Khartoum was not what it appeared to be. Obviously the government was using our meetings for international publicity to show that they were accommodating the Christian population even under Sharia Law I honestly could not trust the governments intentions The government offered the Green Square in the city center for our assembly. It was the main military parade ground for Sudan. It was a place where they could keep a good eye on our event. They did not expect a large turnout because the local Christian population was so small. They estimated that perhaps our crowd might swell to 10,000. But they promised they could provide security at the square. To aid in that regard they insisted that our meetings be held in the heat of the day After conferring with the rest of my team, I decided that we would not take two team members of the same family to Khartoum. If tragedy did strike, I did not want to multiply sorrow for anyone. So we shifted personnel accordingly
We had erected our platform and speakers in front of the reviewing stand. That allowed the VIP seats to be at my back, about 20 or 30 yards behind the podium area. If any of the government officials came to observe we would seat them there. For the most part, I believe, the government thought that our meetings would pass unnoticed on the local scene and they could enjoy a sweet political and public relations victory
On the first day we saw 30,000 people assemble on the square. That was triple the number the government had predicted. A good percentage of the crowd was not Christian. I looked behind me at the VIP section. It was totally empty.
The weather was unbelievably hot. It became quickly clear why so many Sudanese wear white turbans on their heads We rigged the platform with a sunshade. Even so, it was nearly unbearable, even in the shade, and as I preached I asked the team to have plenty of water at hand for me I literally took a drink of bottled water after nearly every sentence of my sermon
After preaching and giving the altar call, only a few hundred raised their hands and registered decisions that first day I began to pray for the sick after that disappointing first response in Khartoum. This had become my pattern everywhere. In Jesus name, blind eyes open! Deaf ears hear! Dumb speak, in Jesus name!
That first day we saw many healings. I told the national security officer to prepare to see many more than 30,000 gather in the square tomorrow. I could see that this crusade was not going to fly under the radar of the local press and government. It was going to shake the city. Gods ways succeed beyond all human ingenuity and manipulation.
True enough, the next day the crowd more than doubled to 70,000. Behind me the VIP seats remained empty except for a scattering of Catholic priests and nuns, and a few Anglican, Coptic, and Pentecostal clergy who had banded together to support the meetings. A few Muslim leaders had come as well. Again the Lord confirmed his Word with incredible miracles. In fact, never in my entire ministry had I seen so many blind people healed as I saw in Khartoum. They were healed by the dozen, day after day. Consider when a man born blind, a Muslim, goes home to his clan, fully seeing. What do you think is going to happen? The whole clan is going to show up the next day and become Christians. They say, Allah has never done anything for us like this. Look what Jesus has done.
The number of Muslims who got healed were so amazing that a few Catholic nuns and priests became troubled. They came to me afterward. Does Jesus love the Muslims more than his own children? they asked. We have many blind Christians who have not received sight.
It touched me so much. I said to them, You dont need to be a theologian to receive healing only believe. Jesus said, Only believe. He did not say, Become a Christian first. He said only believe, because everyone can believe. So believe, trust him, accept it you will receive your healing whether you are a Muslim, a Christian, or a pagan. Jesus wants us to know that he loves all of us.
One particular healing on that second night stood out from the others. I heard a loud commotion in the crowd and a young man was brought forward. He came to the platform, speaking rapidly and gesturing toward his mouth. I got an interpreter and learned his story.
Working the field with his father, Omar Mohammed watched a black scowl gather across the face of the western sky. Soon, a menacing line of thunderheads emitted a rumble that shook the earth beneath their feet. Father and son ran for shelter as a desert storm descended swiftly, lightning bolts piercing the ground around them like glittering swords. Suddenly, a searing pulse bearing 10,000 amps at 100 million volts, exploded through the atmosphere with 50,000 degrees of pure wrath, cutting both of them to the ground. For a long time Omar remained unconscious.
When at last he stirred himself, the world had grown unnaturally silent. He wondered if he was dead the angry storm had robbed him of his father. Overwhelmed with grief, he opened his mouth to unleash a cry of anguish but his cry would not come. Not one sound could he utter. He had been plunged into the isolated and unreal world of the deaf and dumb. Medical diagnosis later confirmed that the lightning bolt had destroyed the vocal and aural capacities of his nervous system. The damage was irreversible
The Muslim government of Sudan registered Omar as handicapped. The traditions of Sharia law granted him permission to beg for a living. They licensed him to sit on a busy street corner outside Khartoum University. For five years, begging had been his only way to survive. He was familiar to thousands who passed by each day
On the second afternoon [of the campaign] Omar was there again near the front Omar raised his hands with the others, reaching out to a God of love he did not know. Then it happened Omar would later learn that I was shouting, Deaf ears open! Dumb mouths speak! he felt as if lightning had struck him again. He was felled to the ground as before, temporarily unconscious. What could it mean?
He soon knew. As he regained his senses an explosion of sound burst upon him thousands of people were roaring with joy because of other miracles that were being manifested. Kneeling over him were several familiar faces asking if he was OK. Yes, he said. They gasped with shock to hear him speak Over the sound system Reinhard was shouting over and over the name of Jesus. He leaped to his feet, and for the first time since being struck down, words came pouring in torrents from his mouth His voice was back, full strength! A crowd of those who had dropped coins in his cup surrounding him, shouting that a miracle had happened! He rushed with them toward the platform, leaping and shouting for joy.
The next day 120,000 gathered to hear the gospel in Green Square. The day after that 180,000 and the number of conversions grew to more than 100,000. Suddenly, the VIP section behind the platform was half full of Muslim governmental officials, mullahs, and their friends.
A few Muslim leaders began to complain loudly about Muslims coming to Jesus. Radical mullahs quoted the Koran, saying that those who convert from Islam should be killed Fearing the worst, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir went on national television to defend our meetings, calling them an important example to the world of the freedom of religion in Sudan. We were on the very knife edge of catastrophe or breakthrough
On the final day the heat was like a brick over, absolutely stifling. I was having trouble enduring it through the rigors of the sermon All of a sudden, the national security chief came running from the platform. Mr. Bonnke, Mr. Bonnke, Mr. Bonnke! He was out of breath. What? What is going on? Outside are a million people waiting for you! my men registered it only at 210,000 to remain conservative in our records
When it came time to preach I made my way to the platform. Looking behind me, the VIP ranks were packed. Government ministers with their huge families of multiple wives and children, all clad in white, all wanting to be seen by the huge crowd, were seated there. I was surrounded by unprecedented opportunity.
I called Omar Muhammad to the platform. In his own words he described his accident and his miracle of healing at the hands of Jesus
I preached, and we saw the greatest harvest of all. The healing ministry was again tremendous. As I turned to leave the platform, suddenly I noticed that the national security chief had a phalanx of soldiers on the stage behind me, rifles at ready. They were not looking into the crowd but searching through the VIP area behind us.
Mr Bonnke, he said, we have made a shelter of soldiers bodies. Go between them and bend low between the stage and the reviewing stand. It is very dangerous there.
I could see that he was really terrified When we began to run between the stage and the reviewing stand they took hold of my hands on either side. I was exhausted and fell. They did not hesitate but continued to run, dragging me into the safety of the reviewing building
Stephen Mutua then told me why the precaution had been taken. The police had arrested three snipers with rifles in the VIP stands. They were not sure they had got them all
I had been in Germany only a few days when my phone rang Your sermon tapes and DVDs have become the number-one selling item all over Khartoum. They have been pirated and duplicated and are outselling everything [else] The mullahs are calling you a holy man because you healed so many sick people. We are officially inviting you back for another Easter Celebration next year.
My heart leaped for you
P573-576: Our next meeting was the second Easter Celebration in Khartoum We anticipated a huge response Throngs were surging toward our meeting site from Juba in the south, Darfur in the west, and as far as Ethiopia in the east, carrying the sick and lame
Then Satan struck. Eight days before the meeting each CfaN office throughout the world received an ominous email addressed to me. Reinhard Bonnke, if you come to Khartoum we will shoot you. It was signed by someone named, Osama Bin Laden. His fame had not yet been established worldwide but we had heard of him. We knew that he was a very dangerous terrorist.
I took the letter in my hands and fell to my knees Lord, shall I go or not go? I prayed. I dared not move from my knees until I heard the answer. And then it came. You are Satans prime target for destruction, but you are my prime target for protection. Go.
We again took the precautions taking only one person from a family The crusade was to begin in twelve hours Then I received a knock at the door. It was Stephen Mutua with the national security chief. They looked worried.
The government must withdraw its invitation, the official said. We are shutting down the Easter Celebration. You must go home at once. Our men found 13 land mines planted in the crowd are. There are too many threats for us to contain. This meeting is cancelled.
The local Sudanese Eloum Tiya told me that, after Bonnke had left Khartoum, all the pastors who had organized the Easter Celebrations were arrested. Despite the fame persecution against Christians increased again.
The African nation, Sudan, has been torn apart by civil war for over 20 years. Unfortunately this has resulted in devastating consequences for and severe persecution of non-Muslims in this country.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has stated that there is perhaps no greater tragedy on the face of the earth today than the war in Sudan. The State Department views Sudan as one of the most egregious violators of human rights. Strangely, the media has relegated the holocaust in Sudan to the back pages of the newspapers as if thousands of people being killed, children raped, and enslaved every day is not really that important. As a result, most people dont even know what is happening in Sudan.
The northern fundamentalist Muslim government, the Khartoum, has declared jihad (holy war) against the mostly Christian south (Christians compose 19 percent of the population in Sudan). The fighting began in 1983 when rebels from the Christian south rose up against Khartoums forced implementation of Muslim law. Muslim students were lured into fighting for the Khartoum with promises that they would be allowed to keep whatever they stole from the south. Captured women have been raped and their children sold into slavery. Christians from the north who refuse to fight with the Khartoum against the south are forced to be mine sweepers.
Because of the war hospitals, schools, relief centers, and marketplaces are constantly under bombardment, and there is massive famine. Two million have died from the fighting, persecution and famine.
Not only has this government killed and enslaved Christians, but it has tortured them. Christians have been baked to death, their lips have been padlocked together to prevent them from talking about the torture they have endured; they have been crucified, forcibly converted to Islam and circumcised including women. Slaves have had their fingers and limbs cut off for reasons like losing a goat.
John Eibner, an official with Christian Solidarity International, has reportedly freed about 60,000 slaves, mostly by buying them. In all, it is estimated that between 100,000 and 200,000 people from the south have been enslaved by the north and sold into slavery in other nearby countries.
Tammy Moss with Prayer for the Persecuted Church traveled to Sudan over Christmas. She says, "Sudan is one of, if not the worst, place in the world for Christians."
Persecution is never far from preaching the kingdom of God. However, why do people respond with aggression? We can point to Satan but what is Satan exploiting in them? We do not have much time left this morning. Therefore, let me just make this one point. Remember. Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount by saying: Blessed are the poor in spirit Blessed are those that mourn Blessed are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness Blessed are the persecuted The people that end up throwing stones at the fishers of men are the people who do not like this kind of blessedness. They dont want to be poor in spirit. They dont want to hunger and thirst for a greater righteousness. They dont want to be challenged all of the time. They prefer the opposite satisfaction, comfort, nothing to upset their life. They want everything to be worked out neat and tidy predictable within nice limits no surprises on Sundays. They say: Stay away from me with your intensity.
This does not mean that they are not religious. In fact, Jesus did warn that the worst persecution would come from the religious people (and this is what he experienced himself) Matthew 5:12: in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
And in Jesus time the religious opposition had high standards. They gave away the tenth of their income meticulously but relied on these standards to protect them from further scrutiny the deeper problems of their heart. Jesus accused them Matthew 23:23: You give a tenth of your spices mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. Matthew 12:7: I desire mercy, not sacrifice Matthew 9:13: go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice. Matthew 23:27-28: You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. Matthew 15:7: Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men. [Matthew 15:19-20: out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man unclean; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him unclean.]
[Examine why Jesus was attacked in the following Bible passages Matthew 9:3: This fellow is blaspheming. Matthew 9:11: Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners? Matthew 12:2: Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath. Matthew 12:10: Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked him, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath? Matthew 13:57-58: And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honour. Matthew 15:2: Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They dont wash their hands before they eat. Matthew 21:15: But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, Hosanna to the Son of David, they were indignant.]
Can you see the seedbed of persecution now? The Sermon on the Mount is too radical for everyone including the religious people upsetting their comfort. Even among Christians there are the religious that may have had a cozy deal. They were willing to attend church be a good citizen be respectable (with others acknowledging how they stand up for standards and traditions) but Jesus shatters the faηade and exposes the heart. Who does not become desperate when Jesus commands us Matthew 5:44 Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you. Matthew 5:20: Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law [the religious], you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. Who can bear these words? Can you or are you now also getting upset with Jesus? Please dont. We have already persecuted him when he died on the cross. Just accept the new blessed life. Be poor in spirit. Hunger and thirst for God and he will give you what you need.
In closing maybe now (if you are new here this morning) you have second thoughts about this church and what it means to join the fishers of men. Living Grace is keen to preach the kingdom of God with healings and miracles but at the heart of our work is the kind of love that keeps loving every single person (in the crowd) even in persecution. This is our call. We understand the Sermon on the Mount. You may have second thoughts about what it may cost you but before you make up your mind consider also the promises.
Jesus did not leave us without motivation Matthew 5:10-12: Blessed are those who are persecuted theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you Rejoice and be glad great is your reward in heaven. Matthew 10:22: You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. Matthew 10:32: Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. Matthew 10:39: whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. Matthew 24:13: . the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. [Cf. Hebrews 12:2: For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.]
One day the reports from this city and nation will match the reports from Jesus and the disciples the time will come for us fishers of men thousands will stream towards the good news of kingdom preaching and shout for joy over the healing of all diseases. And we are prepared for whatever comes next to love our enemies and pray for those that persecute us. No matter what we will remain salt and light for others. Amen.