TITLE: Take It Down
DATE: January 31, 2019
TEXT: John 5: 29 – ESV - But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.
Over the years my church buildings have undergone a great many inspections.
· There were inspections to see if our heating system could make it another year. (It couldn’t)
· There were inspections made before, during and after a building program.
· There were inspections on the roof, the bell tower, our playground and our made-in-Germany stained glass windows.
· We had inspections on our school kitchen to make sure it was up-to-snuff and sanitary. (It was.)
That being said, I never pastored a congregation which had to endure a government inspection as difficult as that endured by a Chinese Congregation this past November. Now before I go any further, I should share that this was not an underground illegal house church.
No, this church was a congregation which had always, to the best of their ability, cooperated with the government. Unfortunately, this inspection left them knowing that level of past cooperation was no longer good enough.
The inspection team, made up of about 30 representatives from the government, covered the facilities with a fine-toothed comb. Eventually they stopped in front of the pulpit and pointed to a plaque on the wall…a plaque listing the 10 Commandments. After a brief discussion among themselves, the inspectors rendered a verdict: “This must be removed.”
Interestingly enough, the group had decided the entire plaque didn’t have to go.
Indeed, they decreed nine of the Commandments could stay. The group wanted to see only one Commandment removed. Now my question to you is this: Do you think the Chinese authorities were concerned about marriage, or stealing, or good reputations or envy? They were not. They weren’t even interested in keeping God’s Name holy or remembering the Sabbath .
Nope, the only Commandment those folks wanted to see taken down was the First. You remember, the one about not having any other gods before the Triune Lord; the one from which all the rest derive their authority.
Explaining the official policy one commentator said, “In other words, religious citizens must first worship the Communist Party – and then, only after they have done that do they have permission to worship their God.”
The congregation’s leaders were shocked by what they were told. Now they were left with a decision. Do they follow the government ruling and witness to the Savior as they are able, or do they defy the government, leave the Commandments as they are and run the risk of being shut down and having their leaders arrested?
The text above tells what the apostles did almost 2,000 years ago.
In China, last November, one Congregation took down the plaque.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, be with church leaders who must make difficult decisions under persecution. Grant them courage and wisdom. Above all, first and foremost, may every believer obey You rather than men. This I ask in the Savior’s Name. Amen.
Today’s devotion was inspired by various articles, amongst which is the one written by Michael Foust for Christian Headlines on January 9, 20 . Those who wish may check out this link which was, at the time of writing, fully active: https://www.christianheadlines.com/contributors/michael-foust/china-bans-one-of-the-ten-commandments-as-part-of-national-policy.html
The music which introduces and concludes our devotions was written by Guy Baumann, one of my long-ago confirmands. He is singing with three brothers. This song comes from the album: The Baumann Brothers which may be ordered here: http://thebaumannbrothers.com/index.html