Christmas 2007: What does it mean for religious liberty?
Christians in Indonesia, Iraq, Egypt, Northern Nigeria, Kosovo, India, and so many other places are living under condition of sever persecution. Let us remember them with our prayers as we celebrate Christmas.
By Elizabeth Kendal
Wednesday, December 19, 2007 Australia (ANS) — Religious liberty and religious security deteriorated in much of the world during 2007. Persecution — even annihilation — is targeting not just individuals, but whole peoples. Who will endure? Throughout the world openness and liberty are in conflict with repression and dictatorship. Which will prevail?
Indonesia ‘s aggressive Javanese Muslim colonisation of West Papua threatens to culminate in the genocide of West Papua ‘s indigenous predominantly Protestant Christian Melanesians. (If demographic trends continue it is forecast that the Papuans will be an ethnic and religious minority by 2011.) What does the future hold for Christians in volatile Northern Iraq ? (South and central Iraq have already been ethnically and religiously cleansed.) What will happen to the hundreds of thousands of Christian refugees scattered throughout the inhospitable Middle East ? Sectarian war looms over Lebanon . Islamic intolerance continues to grow in Egypt and Northern Nigeria . What does the future hold for the Serbian Orthodox in volatile, inhospitable Kosovo? Will al-Qaeda and Taliban jihad and repression advance across Afghanistan and Pakistan ? For how much longer can the predominantly Christian Hmong run through the Laotian jungle, losing loved ones to hunger, infection and terror? Hindu militancy continues to escalate in India and Buddhist nationalism fuels intolerance in Sri Lanka . Will repression intensify in China , Vietnam , Belarus , Russia ?
Jesus promised: ‘In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ (John 16:33 NIV) The troubles we have in this world are not some mechanical fault that needs fixing. They are the consequence of sin that has despoiled all creation and separated us from God. Reconciliation with God is only possible through the removal of sin, something the sinner cannot achieve due to his despoiled nature. Only One who is holy and incorruptible can deal rightly with sin. To remove sin justly is costly, for the wages of sin is death. But out of sheer love, God himself provided the Lamb. Our Redeemer paid the price and he was the price. The eternal Word became flesh (John 1:1-14) for the purpose of a perfect, acceptable, holy sacrifice (Hebrews 10:1-10).
Through his incarnation, obedience and substitutionary death, Christ redeemed his people, washing away their sin and reconciling them to God. As cleansed vessels they could then become the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit who regenerates them unto salvation and empowers them not only for personal holiness but for the blessing of the world. Christ ‘redeemed us so that the blessing given to Abraham (see Genesis 12:1-3) might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.’ (Galatians 3:14 NIV) Now God ‘is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us . . .’ (Ephesians 3:20,21 NIV)
Christians tend to feel powerless in the face of wars and genocide and massive tragedies, threats and disasters. But this is just another lie from Satan, for powerless we are not! Because of the incarnation and redemptive work of Christ, God’s Spirit is now within us, making the Church the most powerful body and instrument on the face of the earth. Oh, if we would only embrace this truth! God has ordained that his Spirit-led intercessors be instrumental in the course of history, and that his Spirit-empowered Church be instrumental in the restoration and blessing of the world.
The miracle of the incarnation — the greatest miracle creation has ever witnessed — should fill us with joy and expectation. Yes, there is much trouble in this world, but take heart, believer, and don’t be deceived or discouraged, for Christ has overcome the world. The restoration the Father has promised, Christ has purchased and now the Spirit is bringing to pass in and through the Church. No wonder the angels rejoiced! The incarnation heralded the dawning of a whole new era. So pray, believer! Pray in expectation (Psalm 5:1-3).
This Christmas We Pray Especially-
- thanking God our Father for his unfathomable love as demonstrated in the gift of his Son and praising and honouring Jesus Christ the Messiah, the Lamb of God, for redeeming us and for sending the Spirit to seal us for God and to work in and through us for the glory of God and the blessing of the world.
- for the Spirit of God to revive the Church so that we will overflow with energetic brotherly love and spiritual unity; so that we will have an enlivened commitment to holiness and obedience; so that we will be the blessing to this world that we are meant to be.
- for God by his Spirit to bless our efforts to uphold and support the persecuted, and extend the blessing of religious liberty to all the peoples of the world.
‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!’ (Revelation 5:12 NIV)
· for all our brethren who are this day suffering for their faith in Jesus Christ, that they may know the love, peace and provision of God.