This one Chinese pastor spent a total of 34 years in prison; the only thing he knew was prison. His whole life was prison. If you are a believer in Jesus, you go to prison. That's it. No future, no hope in this world, not even seeing your family again. He did manage to get out 34 years later, and now when he speaks, people believe him.
What do those Chinese people see that makes them believe under those circumstances?
I was speaking in India in the beginning of the summer at a church that was very small. Small, but crowded. The women were sitting on the floor on mats, and the men sat around the periphery. It was jam-packed, steaming hot, in the slums of Bombay. These people were impoverished; they had nothing. Not even enough Bibles. They are ex-Hindus, ex-Sikhs. The persecution against Christians in India by militant Hindus is increasing; they have burned some. Yet this church was packed out. These people were hungry, desperate for the Word of God.
What was making those Hindus believe?
I go to Africa a lot. When I was in Africa last spring (which is their autumn), I got some reports from missionaries in the Sudan. The Moslems were burning little children from the ages of five to nine; they began with the five-year-olds and burned their brothers and sisters in age order, younger to older, in an attempt to get them to deny Jesus Christ. These little black children refused to deny Jesus. These are children, ages five to nine. The growth of militant Islam in Africa is astounding; but so is the growth of the Gospel. We hear about churches being burned in Nigeria all the time. (I wouldn't expect the President to speak up for the rights of Christians in Nigeria, either, by the way.)
What is it that makes those African people believe, when they're going to be burned? When they're going to see children burned? Why do they believe? I know the story of another Jewish Christian, whose name is Richard Wurmbr Nikolai Ceaescu. He wrote the book, "Tortured for Christ", and told a story about the torture cell, or the interrogation cell, where he was taken. It was a small room; there were 30 to 40 prisoners who would be systematically beaten and tortured daily, until they either talked or died. Sometimes Richard Wurmbrand would wake up in the morning to find that the people on either side of him were dead, usually from internal hemorrhage. He did not know if he would be alive the next day himself.
But he told the story of two people whom he saw in that interrogation cell: one was a Romanian scientist, who was arrested by the Communist police because he had not been a member of the party; that was his crime. He was a member of the National Academy of Science in Bucharest, arrested because the Communists were paranoid of any intellectual whom they did not control. This scientist was an atheist; he did not believe in God. But then there was a Romanian peasant who had become a saved Christian, apparently through a Plymouth Brethren church. This peasant would try to witness and share the Gospel with the other people in the interrogation cell, and the scientist would mock him every day. The scientist would say to him, "Look at you. Your God is so powerful; you want me to believe in your God? If your God is so powerful, why doesn't your God get you out of here? Your God loves you? If I loved someone who was in here, and I had the power to get them out, I wouldn't leave them here. Yet you want me to believe in your God? Why should I believe in your God? Why doesn't He get you out of here?"
The peasant replied, "My God doesn't take me out of here because He loves you, too, and He wants me to tell you about Him before it's too late, because you're going to meet Him soon."
The peasant told him that, and the scientist mocked him more. "Look at you! They're doing to you what they do to us, yet you tell me about your Jesus and I see you singing these hymns to yourself, muttering like an old fool. When you talk to your Jesus, does He talk back to you?"
The peasant said, "Yes, He talks back to me."
"What does He tell you when He talks back to you?" the scientist demanded.
"He tells me He loves me, and is coming to take me home soon," the peasant replied.
The scientist continued sardonically: "And what happens when He talks to you? Does He smile at you?"
"Oh, yes, He smiles," the peasant answered.
"Well, what does He look like when He smiles?" the scientist sneered.
The peasant said, "Like this." And Richard Wurmbrand reports that he does not know what he saw, but somehow that scientist saw the Shekinah glory of God. He fell down on the floor and began pounding his fists, crying and saying, "You've seen Jesus Christ! You've seen Jesus Christ!"
What made that atheist scientist believe? What did he see?
But then there's the Book. Our Book. "Come, let us reason together." In Luke's gospel, we see what happened when Jesus rose from the dead and met the disciples on the road to Emmaus. In verse 27 of chapter 24, "Beginning with Moses and the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself from all the Scriptures." The Bible is examinable. The way I got saved was by trying to disprove the Bible when I was in University. I first tried to disprove it with science, then with history and archaeology. Yet the more I tried to disprove the Bible, the more evidence I found for believing in it. It got to the point that it took me more faith to reject Jesus Christ than it did to accept Him.
Imagine someone saying that 800 years from now somebody was going to be born, naming his ancestors, detailing that he would die by crucifixion -- this written six centuries before crucifixion was invented; that was a Roman method of execution, not a Jewish one --, that he would be betrayed by his friend, the price this friend would betray him for, that they would gamble for his clothes and give him gall to drink when he was hanging on the cross, and that he would make the Gentile nations believe in the Jewish God. Jews account for less than one percent of the world's population; much less. Why do people in Tennessee and Tonga and Toronto, in Taiwan and Tanzania believe in the Jewish God? Isaiah 11 says that the nations will be brought to the Root of Jesse. Dozens and dozens of prophesies which the prophets had no control over, nor could anyone purposely fulfill them about himself. And just as every prophecy about His first coming was actually, literally fulfilled, so all the prophecies about His return are being fulfilled as we go about our daily lives. From the events in the Middle East to the backslidden state of the Western church, every prediction about the return of Jesus is taking place.
"Come, let us reason"; Jesus explained the Gospel from the Scriptures. Nobody who picked up the Bible would through reading it become a Mormon. Nobody who simply picked up the Bible, or even just the New Testament, would ever become a Jehovah's Witness by that means. Nobody would ever pick up the Bible and wind up a Roman Catholic. But there are thousands upon thousands of people who were never witnessed to, who got saved simply by reading the New Testament. I know people who were saved just by reading the gospel of John. Nobody ever became a Mormon, a Jehovah's Witness, or a Catholic by reading the New Testament. But countless people have been born again through reading it. Our faith is plausible.
People are not going to come to believe in Jesus by seeing a show. On the contrary, don't get me wrong; I am moderately Pentecostal myself, but Jesus said directly, "A wicked and an adulterous generation seeks after a sign." When you see people flocking to stadiums and auditoriums and arenas to see the kind of maniacal behavior displayed by those who follow the Toronto Experience, that is wickedness and adultery. "These signs follow"; Jesus never allowed a show to be the focus of His message or His ministry. He had healings -- only His healings were real and could be medically authenticated, unlike the bogus things you often see today -- but He never had a healing crusade. He had a repentance crusade. He had miracles, but never a miracle crusade. He had a repentance crusade. He never allowed signs and wonders to be the focus of His ministry; that's what the Antichrist and the False Prophet are going to do. Now, I believe in signs and wonders understood Biblically, but not what you see today. That's not going to cause people to believe. I've seen witch doctors in Africa put on shows that would make your hair stand on end; I've seen things done in the jungles of Indonesia that you would not believe people could do. It's demonic power. But you know what? There are so-called 'saved Christians' in Pensacola, Florida, who are taking part in the same kinds of manifestations and calling it the Holy Ghost. New Age is rife in the church. So why should the world believe us?
"Show me! Let me see! I've seen all the hype, I've heard all the jargon, I've grown up in Tennessee or Kentucky or Arkansas, I've heard the Gospel my whole life in Sunday School. But I'm still not saved; why should I believe? Show me. I've heard enough, I've heard; I've heard, now I want to see. Show me! Show me this Jesus! Show me this crucified body, which you say is alive. Then I'll believe."
I Corinthians 12:27: "Now you are Christ's body; individually members of it."
What do those people see in China that makes them want to believe? What makes them so hungry for a Bible that they'll take it, even though they know if they get caught with it they'll get sent to prison? What makes them want it so much? What do they see in China that people don't see in America?
Those Africans -- little children being murdered by Moslems as we congregate freely! Those churches in Africa are growing like wildfire. Oh, they have a lot of problems; a shortage of leadership and a shortage of good Bible teaching, but whatever their problems are, evangelism and seeing people get saved isn't one of them. Why are those churches exploding in Ghana and in Kenya despite persecution? What do they see? What do those Africans see that people don't see in Britain?
What did those Jews see in Eastern Europe that made them believe? When your whole family is murdered in the name of Jesus Christ, what could make you believe that He is your Messiah? What did she see?
What did that Romanian scientist see in that Communist prison that made him believe? What makes somebody like that believe?
In India, despite the unbelievable poverty, opposition from the Hindus, what is making those people believe? What is making those people turn from Eastern religion at a time when people in the West are turning to it? What do they see?
What do those Indians see? What do those Chinese see? What do those Jews see? What do those Africans see? What did that Communist cell have to offer that atheist scientist? What do they see?
They see a crucified Body that's been resurrected, a church that loves not its life even unto death. That's what they see.
Why is America post-Christian, neo-pagan? The plight of America is not primarily the fault of the abortionists. The plight of America is not primarily the fault of crooked businessmen on Wall Street and crooked politicians in Washington. It is not primarily the fault of militant homosexuals and lesbians or pornographers in Hollywood. The plight of America is primarily the fault of a compromised, backslidden, lukewarm church. We think America is America. When God looks down from heaven, however, He doesn't see Memphis or New York or Los Angeles; He sees Laodicea.
"Show me! Show me, and then I'll believe! I've heard, I've heard, I've heard; now I want to see. I've been hearing my whole life. Southern Baptists are members of the Ku Klux Klan; I've heard. The money preachers on TV; I've heard! I don't want to hear any more; now I want to see. Now I want to see. Show me that crucified body that's been resurrected; then I will believe your Jesus Christ. Show me what makes your Book better than the Book of Mormon or the Koran or the Tibetan Book of the Dead; then I'll believe. Where is this crucified body?" When Africans ask where the crucified body is, the African Christians can say something we cannot say: "You're looking at it." Those people under the Communists in Eastern Europe, when they wanted to see a crucified body, they didn't have to look too far. Those Christians in China, those Christians in India, when they are asked, "Where is the crucified body?" They can say, "Here it is." In America, in the Bible Belt, where is the crucified body?
Some con man on television, calling himself a Christian and perverting the Scriptures, is something we can show them. People falling on the floor in drunken hysterics, imitating animals, we can show them that. A so-called Christian President in a so-called Christian church dodging the issues of abortion and homosexuality -- we can show them that. But can we show them a crucified body, living and breathing and walking in the power of the resurrection? Not in America. Not even in the Bible Belt. If you want to see that, you have to go to China. If you want to see that, you have to go to Africa. If you want to see that, you have to go to India.
They don't believe any more. Given what's become of us, what the state of the Western church is, what the world sees on the idiot box -- frankly, while I don't justify their unbelief, I cannot blame them for it either. They don't believe us any more, and I wish I could say I blamed them. But they don't believe us because we are not believable.
When will they believe again? I don't say that we have to be persecuted. But we do have to be willing to be persecuted if that's what it takes. Let us not deceive ourselves; persecution will come to the believing church in America. The only reason we've had this freedom is the influence of the Bible on our models of culture, government, etc. Now that we've turned from that, persecution is not far away. Persecution comes from the devil; it is bad. "Satan will put some of you in prison", Jesus told the church in Smyrna, but God has a purpose in it. If you want to see a real church, look at a persecuted one. Only people who really love Jesus will be willing to die for Him. Those Christians in India couldn't dream of having the kinds of buildings our churches have. They couldn't dream of supporting a full-time pastor. They couldn't imagine it! But they are the rich ones. We are bankrupt. They've got the real riches. They have the real jewels. We have the buildings.
"Show me. Show me!"
When will America believe again? When will the "Bible Belt" mean anything again? When will the American people begin really believing? It's only going to happen one way: when they say, "Show me", and we can say, "Here it is." I am sorry to say this; I love America, I was born there, and I care about that country. But I've seen too much of the world, and I've seen too much of what the Word of God said would happen in the Last Days, not to say these terrible things.
This is it. These are the Last Days. If you had asked me fifteen years ago why I believed it was the Last Days, I would have pointed to events in the Middle East -- and I still believe that. I would have pointed to the globalization of the world economy and the destruction of the environment -- and I still believe that. But the clearest sign now of the soon return of Jesus is the deception within what is supposedly the believing church. Jesus warned about deception perpetrated against the elect four times more than He did famines, earthquakes, wars, rumors of wars, the Middle East -- He warned about that more than anything else; yet we are so deceived. We don't even know where we are. We think we're in America; we don't know we're in Laodicea.
When will they believe again? They've heard, they've heard, they've heard; most people growing up in Tennessee have heard the gospel their whole lives. There are people in the Bible Belt who have heard the gospel every Sunday night for thirty years, but they don't believe. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God", yes. Faith also comes by seeing a crucified body. When will they believe? They will believe when we can say what the Africans, the Chinese, the Jews, and the Asians can say. Where is the crucified life? When you can say, "here it is", then and only then will people believe, because then and only then will they see something worth believing in.