October 06, 2015

The Blood of the Martyrs: Life Springs from Death

Post by Brittany Tedesco

Christian Aid Mission broke a story last week about 12 Christians in Syria who were violently murdered by ISIS. Two were women, publicly raped before they were beheaded. One was a 12-year-old boy whose fingertips were cut off before he was crucified.

The 12 Christians had been trained and/or baptized by a Christian Aid Mission-assisted ministry leader.

"It is like going back 1,000 years seeing the barbarity that Christians are having to live under. I think we are dealing with a group which makes Nazism pale in comparison and I think they have lost all respect for human life," said Patrick Sookhdeo, founder and international director of The Barnabas Fund. "Crucifying these people is sending a message and they are using forms of killing which they believe have been sanctioned by Sharia law."

How does one comprehend the level of cruelty we're seeing from ISIS? Who are these people anyway? A horde of demon-possessed maniacs?

When ISIS takes over a new city or town, they command all of the men to report to them at a designated location.

Many people, even from outside of the Middle East, are joining ISIS. But not everyone is joining of their own volition. Some are being forced to join upon threat of death to themselves or to their families.

A Jordanian ministry leader we assist gave us some insight into ISIS' recruiting methods.

He told us that when ISIS takes over a new village or city, they command all of the men to report to them at a designated location. And they mean business. Whoever doesn't show up is hunted and killed—publicly, as an example to all other "defectors."

These men are then forced to swear allegiance to Islam and ISIS, and to do as they're told—to engage in acts previously unthinkable to them. To put away their humanity and become like animals. To kill or be killed. They do it to protect their wives and children. They do it to survive. And with each act of brutality, their hearts grow darker. . . and darker.

In stark contrast to this hellish mass of depraved humanity are the Christians. God's chosen ones. The ones who refuse to deny their Savior, no matter the consequences. The ones who know that death is but a gateway into the very presence of God.

Those 12 murdered Christians could have escaped. In fact, the ministry leader who trained them begged them to leave the area before ISIS captured it. But they felt called by God to stay and be His witnesses, even unto death.

They joined the ranks of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who was killed by the Romans in AD 156 for refusing to burn incense to the Roman emperor. They offered to release him if he would only deny his faith. "Eighty and six years I have served him, and he has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my king and Savior?" he responded. Before they stabbed and burned him at the stake, he said, "I bless you Father for judging me worthy of this hour, so that in the company of the martyrs I may share the cup of Christ."

God has appointed a certain number of people to be martyred for His namesake. In Revelation 6:9-11, the Apostle John writes, "I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, 'How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?' Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been" (NIV).

I don't understand God's ways. I don't understand why He designed life to spring from death. But we see it happening. "All that is happening is having more and more people being saved," the ministry leader told us. "In the past we used to pray to have one person from a Muslim background to come to the Lord. Now there are so many we can barely handle all the work among them."

"The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church," wrote second-century church father, Tertullian.

Islamic scholar, Sam Solomon, describes a person who tries to blend Islam with Christianity as "schizophrenic."

We know from church history that Tertullian's statement in true. But what happens to the church when Christians shrink back from the possibility of martyrdom—when they hide their faith to save their lives?

The Jordanian ministry leader told us about a large movement in the Middle East of people who compromise and adulterate the gospel by mixing it with elements of Islam. For the sake of self-preservation, they pretend to be Muslims outwardly—holding onto or adopting Islamic religious customs. They elevate the Quran to the status of a "holy book," like the Bible.

Some might call this the Insider Movement (see my previous posts about it here, here, here, and here), though that term has become broad and unspecific as the movement has grown and morphed and spread throughout the world, infecting the Church.

The ministry leader told us about a man who propagated this teaching as a means of covertly sharing the gospel in his Muslim-majority country. . . but ended up entrapped by it. He began beating his wife and engaging in other Islamic practices. He'd become corrupted by his own compromised teachings.

At a conference on the Insider Movement I attended last October, Sam Solomon, former Muslim and professor of Sharia Law, described a person trying to adopt a blend of Islam and Christianity as "schizophrenic." The two are incompatible, he explained, and those who try to mix them can cause great confusion and harm to themselves and to those whom they disciple.

Pretending to be a Muslim while "secretly" following Jesus may save your life, but even that is no guarantee. In 2013, the Islamic terrorist group Al-Shabaab stormed a mall in Nairobi, Kenya. They told everyone inside that all Muslims could leave, but the rest had to stay. When a man came forward pretending to be a Muslim, they asked him the name of Mohammed's mother. He didn't know the answer, so they shot him.

Safely Home by Ron DiCianni

How much better to stay true to the end?

Christianity Today published a short article in the April 2015 issue entitled "Cloud of Witnesses," about the 21 Christians beheaded by ISIS terrorists in Libya, which gained widespread attention. The image is now famous—a row of Christians in orange jumpsuits kneeling on a beach; behind them a row of ISIS fighters in black stand ready to execute them. The article reads, "The Bible Society of Egypt transformed the ISIS propaganda video's 'two rows by the sea' into its largest outreach in 130 years. In 1.65 million tracts of God's promise of blessing amid suffering, it asked: 'Who fears the other? The row in orange, watching paradise open? Or the row in black, with minds evil and broken?'"

Let's honor those who have been martyred for our Savior's name. At the very least, let's take care of the families they've left behind.

Christian Aid Mission has set up a fund to provide care for the loved ones of the 12 believers who were martyred in Syria. Most of them were able to escape the country, but some were unable to leave. An indigenous ministry we assist is providing help for them and trying to find ways to evacuate the ones still inside Syria.

It is our privilege to help them. Please join us.

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Joan - posted October 12, 2015
I thank God for every member of our family who is serving Him whatever the cost. May we all be willing to give all in life!
James - posted October 9, 2015
I am deeply moved reading about some of the most recent people martyred by ISIS. Let us do what we can to rescue others from such a cruel death. Thankfully, many are choosing Jesus after their encounter with pure evil.

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