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From that time, Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." This is the message that the world hates - repentance. The Bible says that "God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." When John the Baptist

preached it to Herod, he was jailed and then decapitated. When Jesus preached it, He was crucified. When Stephen preached it, he was stoned to death. When Paul preached it, well, I'll let him tell it: "I received stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned..." History tells us that he, too, was finally decapitated. It was dangerous back then for anyone to preach Jesus' Gospel of repentance.

Down through the centuries, men and women have suffered whenever they peached the true Gospel. It is no new thing for God's ministers to suffer ill for doing well. If we preach the Gospel of repentance, persecution is soon to follow. Jesus said, "The world hates me because I testify of it, that it's works are evil." He then went on to say, "A servant is not greater than his master. If they presecuted Me, they will also persecute you." "You will be hated by all nations for my namesake." He also said, "Woe to you when all men shall speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets."

For many years now, we have been able to preach the Gospel in the United States with little or no persecution. That now seems to be changing. Many of us (those who are not asleep) have noticed that we are in the middle of what is being called "a culture war." The political parties of our day are aligning themselves along the lines of this war. It has been rightly said that "the Church is supposed to evangelize the culture." Instead, the culture is evangelizing the Church in some cases. One pastor put it this way: "We are not called to reflect our culture. We are called to transform it! Becoming darkness to be 'relevant' to a world of immorality is not the pathway to progress!" Many Christians are being fed what could be called "Gospel Lite," and are free-falling for "feel-good" theology. Churches now boast that they are a "relevant" church. Dr. Michael Brown had this to say about the subject: "All too often, being 'relevant' can become the code-word for compromise, and whenever we seek to make the Gospel more palatable by watering it down and removing it's offensive elements, we hurt people rather than help them." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that "the Church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion. It was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society." History tells us that America was transformed mightily by the preaching of men like George Whitefield, Gilbert Tennent and Jonathan Edwards between the early 18th century and the late 19th century (It was called The Great Awakening) and was characterized by a sharp increase of interest in religion, a profound sense of conviction and redemption on the part of those affected and an increase in evangelical church membership. America needs another "Great Awakening."

So, is persecution coming to America? Former governor of Arkansas and Southern Baptist minister Mike Huckabee recently said, "Christian convictions are under attack as never before. We are moving rapidly toward the criminalization of Christianity." Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky has said, "The very freedom to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ is at stake. The secular left has decided that religious liberty must now be reduced, redefined or relegated to a back seat in the culture." A pastor recently was charged with a "hate crime" for "using homophobic speech that could cause people anxiety, distress, alarm or insult." Others have been jailed in places like Canada and Europe for using "hate speech" when they preached against sin. Former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a current candidate for the presidency, feels that American's thoughts must be policed. She has warned that, "Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed." David Gushee of Mercer University has said that, "Human understanding of what is sinful has changed over time." The problem is that God has said, "I change not." The Bible hasn't changed. It's not a chameleon that shifts and changes and adapts to culture. A pastor from Louisiana said in one of his messages, "Jesus is not multicultural." In other words, there isn't a different Gospel for each culture..

When the Apostles were threatened and told to never preach again the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they said, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." God had not given them a spirit of fear (cowardice, timidity) but rather "a Spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind."

"And now, Lord, behold their threatenings, and grant unto thy servants, that with all BOLDNESS they may speak thy Word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the Name of thy holy child Jesus."

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