Helping Christian Hostages Break Free




Last Friday’s edition of The Burlington Free Press carried an article concerning the release of the remaining seven South Korean church volunteers who had been taken hostage in Afghanistan by Taliban militants six weeks previously. The international secular media has reported that by today all twenty one of the twenty three hostages were expected to make it home safely. Obviously no mention was made of another fact; the other two who were murdered are already in their real home where they are enjoying unimaginable happiness of being in the presence of our Lord, and reunited with their loved ones who arrived there before them.

I don’t even want to imagine the awful thoughts that must have gone through the mind of those hostages and their loved ones during the time of captivity. At my age I don’t know how I could endure such a terrible ordeal. I hope and pray, neither I, nor any of those folks closest to me ever have to find out. The awful anxiety and fears and feelings of total helplessness have a way of sapping the energy and hindering even the best of us from enjoying our walk with the Lord.

Now allow me to ask you a few questions. If the opportunity presented itself, would you be willing to try to help a Christian being held hostage break free? Suppose you wouldn’t have to travel to some faraway place or even leave your own town. Do you think you are up to the task? Well I have reason to believe some of brothers and sisters in Christ are indeed being held hostage and are weighed down with feelings of dread similar to that of the South Koreans. There is a noticeable absence of joy and vibrancy accompanying their walk of faith, and they have been gripped by a spirit of discouragement and depression and are burdened with awful feelings of helplessness.

In their past these Christians had been so entangled in sins so great that the Bible tells us they would have prevented themselves from entering into God’s Heaven if they didn’t get rid of them completely. Consider the following examples.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (ESV) 9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Ephesians 5:5 (ESV) 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV) 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

We can be certain Paul wouldn’t have constantly reminded folks attending those first century Christian churches of their need to stop doing these kinds of things completely, if he didn’t have reason to believe some of them were caught up in sins of this nature, just as some folks attending Christian churches today are. But Paul and the others also continually reminded those folks of what Christ accomplished on His cross for poor lost sinners and what they needed to do. For instance, speaking of Jesus Paul wrote:

Ephesians 1:7 (AMP) 7 In Him we have redemption (deliverance and salvation) through His blood, the remission (forgiveness) of our offenses (shortcomings and trespasses), in accordance with the riches and the generosity of His gracious favor,

Colossians 1:14 (AMP) 14 In Whom we have our redemption through His blood, [which means] the forgiveness of our sins.

John went on to offer this advice:

1 John 1:9 (AMP) 9 If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].

And, this is exactly what some of those first century people did and others have been doing for a little more than two thousand years now. They have freely confessed their awful sins and received forgiveness. They are absolutely certain of the truth of what Paul and John wrote. However, they are not able to enjoy the full richness of their salvation and are very poor recommendations for non-Christians to consider embracing the Christian faith because they are suffering as hostages.

Allow me to explain by putting a few of those gross sins into a present day context. We know that if several of those terrorists or convicted pedophile priests or some of the recently exposed adulterers and homosexual members of Congress or loose-cannon’s who are prone to throwing fits of rage were to cast themselves at the mercy of Christ begging Him to forgive them; He certainly would. However, although they have been forgiven, the Devil has conned them into believing they shouldn’t forgive themselves.

Some of the instruments he is fond of using are the secular media and those self-righteous radio and TV talk show hosts who delight in spewing venom from their mouth. It’s sad to say but, often a major hindrance to the forgiven sinner breaking free is an alleged Christian who is constantly rubbing the hostage’s nose in their past transgressions by reminding him or her about them. I use the word allege, because it’s obvious the person has no interest of granting forgiveness. He or she has come to enjoy being perceived by others as some kind of a saintly martyr and those times when they succeed in manipulating and controlling the guilty person.

These oppressed Christian hostages are continuously resurrecting remembrances of their despicable past and its dreadful consequences upon other human beings. “If only I hadn’t done that awful thing, those little children and their parents would not have suffered so greatly. If only I wasn’t a drunk or addict, I wouldn’t have had my unborn baby butchered in my womb. If only I stopped throwing temper-tantrums sooner, my kids might not have become such bitter and resentful adults or turned into becoming passive doormats. If my sexual misconduct hadn’t come out into the open and created such a scandal, my spouse might not be in that mental institution or lying in a grave today.

What a fool I was. I wasted my life. I threw away the gifts my heavenly Father gave me; talents He wanted me to use to bring glory to His Son, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I probably shouldn’t speak like this but I can’t help it. It’s the truth! Don’t get me wrong; I’m grateful I finally came into His Kingdom even if it took me so long. Why didn’t I come in sooner like all those younger Christians I know? Now, what have I got to live for? My best years are behind me. Why does He even keep me around? What use am I? Why doesn’t He take me home? I know I shouldn’t say it, but I wish I was dead!” Aren’t these the probable thoughts of such a discouraged Christian? How would you help a brother or sister in Christ break free from being held hostage to their unchangeable past? The Apostle Paul can help. Speaking of Christ and the timing of his own entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, Paul writes:

1 Corinthians 15:8-10 (AMP) 8 And last of all He appeared to me also, as to one prematurely and born dead [no better than an unperfected fetus among living men]. 9 For I am the least [worthy] of the apostles, who am not fit or deserving to be called an apostle, because I once wronged and pursued and molested the church of God [oppressing it with cruelty and violence]. 10 But by the grace (the unmerited favor and blessing) of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not [found to be] for nothing (fruitless and without effect). In fact, I worked harder than all of them [the apostles], though it was not really I, but the grace (the unmerited favor and blessing) of God which was with me.

The great Apostle Paul says he was brought into God’s kingdom after all the other apostles and that he was the least worthy because of all the awful things he had done to Christians. The resurrected Christ appeared to Paul after He had to all of His beloved disciples and 500 other men and women during the forty days prior to His ascension back into Heaven. Paul acknowledges the fact that others were in Christ before him in the last chapter of his letter to the Christians in the church at Rome.

Romans 16:3-7 (AMP) 3 Give my greetings to Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 Who risked their lives [endangering their very necks] for my life. To them not only I but also all the churches among the Gentiles give thanks. 5 [Remember me] also to the church [that meets] in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was a first fruit (first convert) to Christ in Asia. 6 Greet Mary, who has worked so hard among you. 7 Remember me to Andronicus and Junias, my tribal kinsmen and once my fellow prisoners. They are men held in high esteem among the apostles, who also were in Christ before I was.

Paul didn’t bemoan the fact that he had wasted so much of his life as an enemy of the Risen Savior. He didn’t allow himself to become held as a hostage to his despicable past. And Paul didn’t allow himself to wallow in self-pity by comparing the gravity of his well known sins to those of other folks such as a certain pious woman named Lydia, who, although she believed there was a God, didn’t really know Him.

Acts 16:13-14 (NIV) 13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.

Back in eternity past, Perfect Love choose who among all the world’s sinners such as Paul and Lydia He would rescue at a precise moment in time. The important thing is not when they came into His Kingdom but that they came into it.

Ephesians 1:3-6 (NIV) 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will– 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

Ephesians 1:11 (NIV) 11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,

Back in eternity past, infinite Wisdom planned and ordained every single event He would allow to occur in the course of time, including all the sins human beings would ever commit. Perfect Love choose who and when some of them would be brought into Christ’s kingdom.

No doubt some might question the fairness of God treating as equal’s folks who served Him a lot longer that those and who wanted nothing to do with Him for a large part of their life. Jesus Himself addresses this concern in one of His most well know parables concerning the workers in the vineyard.

Matthew 20:1-16 (NIV) 1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. 3 “About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went. “He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6 About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ 7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ 8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

9 “The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ 13 “But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

It isn’t when you enter into the Kingdom that matters, but the fact that you are in it. You could say His Kingdom is an upside down Kingdom in which the first will be last and the last first, so don’t hold yourself hostage to your past. Lloyd-Jones suggests that “this particular manifestation of spiritual depression is due to the fact that this person is still morbidly and sinfully preoccupied with self. They are still judging themselves and scarify themselves metaphorically because they were so late and so long, and they go on condemning themselves. They appear to be very humble and full of contrition, but it is a mock modesty, it is a self concern.” This kind of person comes to us in apparent modesty and says. ‘If only I had come sooner what a lot of work I could have done.’ In a sense that is quite right, but in another sense it is quite wrong, and utterly false. The parable of our Lord about the laborers in the vineyard was designed to demolish that argument.”[i]

Finally, a humble Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:10 what he did to prevent himself from becoming a hostage to his past and instead how he made up for lost time. “I worked harder than all of them [the apostles], though it was not really I, but the grace (the unmerited favor and blessing) of God which was with me.”

If we want to help Christian hostages break free we must remind them of these truths I have just shared. Their life must be focused on Jesus and His cross and not so much on themselves. Let them know that they were created to glorify Him and that their primary desire ought to be to delight themselves in Him, seeking first of all His Kingdom and His righteousness, and living to please Him and to serve Him and His people to the utmost. Tell them to struggle to make up for lost time by humbly sowing all the seeds of love, patience, forgiveness, kindness, and mercy that they possibly can, and to keep on sowing until He brings them home. You might say something such as, “You may find on the Judgment Day that you have a much bigger reward than those who were saved in their youth.”[ii]

[i] Spiritual Depression, ©1965 D. Martyn Lloyd Jones, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan p.85.

[ii] Ibid, p. 89.

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September 2, 2007 Posted by Categories: Uncategorized No comments yet

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