Eric Metaxas recently gave an interesting speech to a three-day conference called The Bridge. Its theme was the persecuted church.
Metaxas is a popular author, speaker and radio host. He has written several books and has appeared as a cultural commentator on Foxnews, CNN and MSNBC. Since the death of Chuck Colsen of Prison Fellowship he has become one of the main voices for the organization’s program Breakpoint.
Samuel Smith a writer for Christian Post reported on Metaxas’s hour-long speech in which he said the faith of the North American church has become diluted because of our success.
Metaxas said in other parts of the world where Christians regularly face persecution, they have been forced to ask themselves “Do I actually believe this or don’t I?”
Until recently, Christians in America have never been faced with this question.
Metaxas cited the life of German Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) who the Nazi Gestapo arrested in April 1943 because of his vocal opposition to Adolph Hitler. Metaxas wrote a book on Bonhoeffer —Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.
The Nazis sent the German theologian to Tegel prison and later to a concentration camp, where he actively shared his faith with the prisoners and even the guards, some of whom helped him smuggle letters out of prison.
They even allowed Bonhoeffer to lead Sunday services.
When evidence surfaced that he knew of the plot to assassinate Hitler that took place on July 20, 1944, the Gestapo seized Bonhoeffer on April 4, 1945 as he was preaching a sermon at the camp.
As they led him away, Bonhoeffer turned to a fellow prisoner, Englishman Payne Best, and said “This is the end—for me the beginning of life.”
Five days later he was hung. His son Klaus was also sentenced and hung for the same crime.
“If you are actually Christian, you don’t fear death because there is no such thing as death. Jesus defeated death. Like he actually defeated death is not a metaphor. You die, you don’t die.”
The North American church is under attack as the secular world is trying to intimidate it into changing its stand on sin. As a result, believers must come to grips on what they believe.
Do they truly believe the Bible?
He cited the church in Nazi Germany which began to cave to the pressure. They turned a blind eye to atrocities being committed by the Nazis against the Jews. Bonhoeffer was one of the few to stand up to the oppression and he rallied the church to stand for its faith against the Nazis.
Eric Metaxas was talking about what the Apostle Peter called “authentic” faith (as some translations read) produced by persecution.
7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; (1 Peter 1:7 NASV)
The Greek word for proof, “dokimion,” refers to testing that proves whether something is genuine or not. It means to “to examine prior to approval, judge, evaluate, discern.”
He compared persecution to the testing of gold used to determine if it was mixed with other substances, sometimes fraudulently.
One method used to test gold’s purity was “fire assaying.” They would take a sample of the gold and weigh it. Then it was melted along with lead in a crucible made of bone ash. During this process the crucible would absorb the lead and any other base metals.
This left a mixture of gold and silver and then they used nitric acid to remove the silver.
Once they did this, the the gold’s end weight was then compared with its original weight to determine purity.
Similarly trials and testing removes the impurities of our faith. What we are left with is true, untainted faith of which a mustard seed amount can move mountains.
This may explain why miracles flourish in a persecuted church.