Sunday, July 22, 2012



I receive an email or two per day relating stories of ugly persecution around the world. Usually the persecution is against a group of Christians who are being threatened, burned out of their Church buildings, tortured, abused or even killed. The stories are amazing and very sad.
Before I finished writing JESUS PLUS NOTHING, we advised a persecuted missionary in India to shift his approach from trying to "convert" the Hindus out of their culture into a Western Christian mold. It's no wonder they were being persecuted. Families were angered and village leadership fought against him with all their power and passion over this haughty conversion tactic being used.

Conversion in the sense of yanking a person from his culture and making him join a new culture isn't even mentioned one time in the Bible. Even though this is a fact, many blindly and stubbornly move ahead to put all of their monies and energies into converting people out of their cultures into the Western Christian culture. In a few translations the term "convert" or "converted" is used, but it means to turn to God, not change or deny a person's culture.

As we have discussed in the last couple of days, followers of Jesus are never commanded to convert the world, but to make disciples of Jesus from all of the nations. In fact, no person, clergy or missionary can convert or change a person's heart at all. Only God can perform this kind of inner transformation.

This was the essence of what came out of the conversation with Jesus and his disciples, when Jesus asked, "Who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Then Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven."

By the way, when the persecuted missionary changed his approach from trying to convert Hindus to become Christians into simply introducing Hindus to Jesus, the persecution finally ceased.

JESUS PLUS NOTHING illustrates two of the most common types of persecution taught by Jesus. The first is that Jesus made it clear that the world will hate his followers in the same way they hate Jesus. Then, Jesus explains what the "world" will do to his followers. He says, "They will throw you out of their synagogues." In other words, the "world" Jesus is referring to is the religious world. I've certainly experienced this. Most of the so-called persecution I've ever received has come from the religious, not the secular world.

The second kind of persecution that emerges out of Jesus' teachings is the refusal of the Jewish leadership to go along with God's original program of reaching out to the nations of the world. Through God's agreement He made with Abraham, the Jews were to be especially blessed by God and to be a blessing to the nations of the world.

The greatest persecution in the New Testament writings happened when Jesus referred to extending salvation to the nations or Gentiles. When Jesus brought this up in his first talk at the synagogue in Nazareth, the people were so incensed that they took him out to push him off a cliff.

When Stephen referred to being a blessing to the nations of the world, he was stoned to death. And when Paul mentioned it, he was stoned and left for dead.
In my opinion, today most persecution comes out of a religious context and also occurs when well-meaning people try to do the work of wrenching people out of their cultures and changing them into becoming whatever flavor of religious persuasion one happens to be.

Remember what Jesus said to Peter? "My Father revealed these incredible transforming ideas to you. No flesh and blood can teach this, so that you are transformed."

God is calling people to Himself within the many cultures of our world. Instead of you trying to call people out or supporting those who do, just go along with what God is up to. He's got the best idea of all and He's the only one who can truly change a person's heart. Now that's a Jesus plus nothing principle, for sure!