Underground Church: An Overview

Exploring The Question, "What Is The Underground Church?".

Ross Sawyers
Aug 16, 2020    54m
Exploring the difficult question, "What is the underground church?" As this message unfolds, it becomes clear that it isn't just something that happens in foreign countries, but is a real possibility for all Christians. As the world changes, Christians are facing persecution for their beliefs all over the world. We can find hope by remembering God blesses those who face persecution for His righteousness. Video recorded at Grapevine, Texas.

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Ross Sawyers: 00:06 Before we continue in thinking about the underground church and anchor that to the scripture. I just want to cheer on, if I, can parents. And I know that these weeks have been incredibly stressful for a number of you, and just trying to figure out what do you do when school starts? You know, where do you have your kids go? And do you do it virtually, do you do it in person? And then for our teacher, I can't imagine, you don't know whether you're going to be a virtual teacher or you're going to be an in person teacher, and then learning all the protocols to make sure that everybody's safe as possible when they gather up. And for principals, and administrators, and school board, I justcan't imagine the weight on them in these kinds of decisions. And this is such a crazy few months. And how do you navigate when you hear this, and you hear that, and it's a constant counter in our minds. And that can be mind blowing in so many ways, and stressful for sure.

Ross Sawyers: 01:09 But I read something the other day that a mom was saying to another mom, and I don't know if this would be helpful or not. I'm not a mom, but it sounded good to me when I was reading it. But they were struggling about how to...just anxiously thinking about, did I make the right decision for my child as I move into this next season. And the other mom said, do you know what? You've prayed on it, you've sought God on it, this is what you believe is the right thing for your child. Now, trust God with it. And I love that, I just think at some point I've just got to trust God that I'm making the right move. And the beauty of it is, if God shifts your heart somewhere along the way, you can make a different move. But I hope that you just might be encouraged with a deep trust in the Lord, as you continue, and know that we're praying for you. And I just can't imagine what that's like for everyone as I navigate it. I also know God is a God of opportunity, and he takes things that are really difficult and he makes really good things out of it. So there's so many good things that can come out of what's happening right now. And I think we just look and say, I'd like the story I told a while back, you can either look at the fog or you can look at the God above the fog. And this is a looking at the God above the fog kind of moment, and trusting what he wants to do in really cool ways in the lives of our families and all those who are in the midst of what's happening right now. So I know some have started school, some start this week. We have a number that have taken their kids off to college and for the first time dropped them off, and that's been a totally different experience than those of us that took our kids in different times in years pas,t and even the anticipation and anxieties of what that is like. So just all across the board my prayer has been that God would be a strength to you, a peace to you, and this would actually be good moments that God uses for you.

Ross Sawyers: 03:10 I'd like for us to continue, last week we talked about 8 ways to follow Jesus, and we'll spend a lot more time in that in our life groups. And that's a part of what's going on in the underground church, and the persecuted church, all of the world. That's one way that they are effectively following after Jesus, and we want to get in their footsteps a little bit and learn from them the same. What I'd like to do in our moments this morning, is to think more specifically about the underground church. Some of you might be familiar with what the underground church is, others of you may not, you may have some vague idea. The beauty of it is, I'll share some things with you today, and you can go home and Google it and you can learn as much as you want in one afternoon. It'll take your mind off of everything else that's going on by the way, so it'd be a bit of a diversion for you. And I just want to think about that today, and set the pace for where we'll head the next several weeks, scripturally and practically, and how we might interweave with the underground church all across the world.

Ross Sawyers: 04:18 And the why behind it, you may be thinking, don't you understand there's a pandemic? Don't you understand all the things that are going on? Why would we think about the underground church? Why would we think about people all over the world? Well, God has a heart for the nations, and regardless of what's going on in our circumstances, our heart is still for the world the same as God's heart. There are people all over the world today, praying for us, and they're in some of the most intense persecuted scenarios that you and I could possibly imagine, and they're praying for us today. We're brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world, it's one human race is actually the way God describes it, we're a chosen race in Jesus Christ, people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. And that's one of the big whys in what we're doing.

Ross Sawyers: 05:09 A couple of years ago, Open Doors, and that's a resource you'll hear us speak of. There's two resources I think are really helpful in thinking about the persecuted church all over the world, and the underground church. And Open Doors is one of those, and Voice Of The Martyrs is another, you'll hear us reference that multiple times in the coming weeks, they've been very helpful to us. But in an article that Open Doors had in 2018, called The Secret And Surprising Ways That Christians Worship In North Korea, I just want to share with you a little bit of what happens in North Korea. On the top 50 world watch list of countries that persecute Christians the mos,t and the most horrifically, North Korea is the top of the list, and then there are a number of countries that fall from there. India just recently moved into number 10, as one of the countries in the world is one of the top persecutors of Christians in the world. That's a country we've done a number of things with, and partnered with over the years. And it's been interesting to watch from the time we started in 2004 to what's going on now, and just the shift that has happened towards Christians in their country. But in this particular article on North Korea, a young man named Lee described how growing up, he saw his parents caring for the sick, taking care of the poor, and the needy, and the vulnerable. At night, as a child, he would see his parents reading a secret book. And somewhere in his mind, he knew that that secret bookt that they were reading was a source of wisdom for them and how to live life. He would listen to them as they whispered at night, and knew that if he ever talked about what this secret book was, that his family would be taken away, that there was enough of understanding in him to know that much. Fast forward 30 years later in Lee's life, and he's in China, and it's there that he discovered his family secret faith in a personal way. He was grateful for his, as see described it, his courageous parents who risked their lives to worship Jesus. And then to take the risk, can you imagine, to take the risk to tell their child because they didn't know what their child would do with it, be grateful for them. Lee's parents are part of what we would describe as the underground church. In North Korea, there's an estimated 300,000 Christians that are in the underground church, that are meeting secretly in the underground church.

Ross Sawyers: 08:20 That's in North Korea, and there are so many unknown heroes in North Korea, that are actually also able to withstand torture and all kinds of harassment because they're followers of Jesus. Persecution, right now, it's high, it's high all around the world towards followers of Jesus. It's all over the world that Christians are being persecuted. I hear a few things if you're interested in statistics, and I understand we can do a number of things with statistics, but this will at least be a way maybe to consider what's happening. And there are 260 million Christians in the world watch list that are facing high levels of persecution for their choice to follow Christ, 260 million that we would know of around the world. And one thing we've learned is persecution is thought about in two ways, either smash or squeeze. Smash persecution is when we hear about church buildings being burned or destroyed, it's when we hear about Christians being killed, or being imprisoned and beaten. That's smash persecution. There's squeeze persecution, and that's the kind of persecution where yeah, you can be a Christian, but your family is going to openly push you out, or put some kind of pressure on you to reject your faith in Jesus. It's where the government puts certain things in place to make it difficult for you to function in society, to have a job, and there's multiple ways that the government squeezes those who are Christians. There is smash and squeeze kinds of persecution. 260 million across the world, of our brother and sisters in Christ today.

Ross Sawyers: 10:21 One in nine people worldwide experience high levels of persecution. In the one year period reporting recently, there's a 6% rise in the number of Christians in that top 5O, a 65% rise. This persecution is on the rise, it's not on the decline, 2,983 Christians were killed in this one year period, 9,488 churches and buildings were attacked burned. Then 3,711 believers were detained without trial, then arrested, sentenced, and imprisoned. We run into these stories when we hear about our missionaries being detained, and sometimes excommunicated from countries, never to be able to go there again. I'm so proud that God has called out multiple people from our body of Christ at 121 to serve as global workers across the world, in incredibly difficult spaces, at really great risk for a number of them.

Ross Sawyers: 11:30 Why is it then, and I've noted the why, I think one of the primary why's that we would even have an interest in this, is because these are our brothers and sisters in Christ. And what God is doing, he's gathering up people from every tribe, tongue, and nation across the world, across time, to be a family, to be his people, his chosen race, his royal priesthood, and we're a part of that today. And if you know Jesus, then you're a part of that. And as a part of that, that we're a family, so whatever affects one of my brothers and sisters in Christ here, or somewhere else, it affects all of us. It's why we rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep, just like we would in our own tight little families, it's an extended family in Christ.

Ross Sawyers: 12:21 There are other reasons we want to take a look at this, and we want to learn from them. We want to learn how people, men and women, teenagers, boys and girls, are standing firm in Christ when they're facing heavy persecution and harassment. We want to learn from them, so that we might know how we could do the same if that were to come our way. We want to pray, and when we're aware, we can pray, and we want to pray for those all over the world. And then I wonder if in these weeks, if God will stir the hearts of people at 121 to consider being a global worker somewhere across the world, and some of the hardest parts of the world. And I don't want us to just think in terms of, well, that'd be cool of some of our 20 somethings. I mean, they're the ideal ones, they're the ones looking for a cause, they're the ones that'll go for it. No, I wonder if you are an empty nester, if you're retired, there are people in their fifties, sixties, seventies, and eighties and I'm sure their nineties, that are faithfully serving Jesus in some of the hardest parts of the world. Life might just be getting started for you in your faith. I wonder if God will call people out of here to get in that mix in other parts of the world. And quite candidly, as I was talking to a friend this morning, this will not be an exercise for us in the next few months to think about things that maybe don't really pertain. But I do believe God has brought us to this moment to prepare us for whatever is coming in our own country, and that we would thrive in the midst of whatever it is that God brings and allows to happen across our land, and we can learn from our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Ross Sawyers: 14:22 Will you turn your Bibles to Matthew chapter 5 verses 10 through 12. Eric read this section, it's called the beatitudes. And we just want to hang out in the last one, and we want to anchor ourselves here, and tether ourselves to this part of God's word as we think about the underground church. Let's read verse 10, and then launch in there, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The word blessed comes from a Hebrew word that means a state of total wellbeing. So when we think about being blessed, it is just, in totality, I am in a constant state of being well. And what we find in this first part of Jesus's sermon on the Mount, is he's describing for us a Christian, he's describing what it looks like to be a follower of Christ. He describing for us the character of a Christian, he's describing for us what will happen as a result of being a follower of Jesus. And he says it by using the word blessed, it could be the word happy. But I'm afraid that we sometimes take that, and that's just an emotional state that's temporary. What Jesus is saying is, as a Christian, you're blessed. It's a total wellbeing, regardless of anything else that's going on. You're blessed. Who are those that are blessed?

Ross Sawyers: 16:11 Martin Lloyd Jones, I drew a number of insights from him and his study on the sermon on the Mount. But one thing he notes, "Is isn't it interesting that in verse 9, Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called sons of God." Christians are peacemakers, and then look at what immediately follows. As a peacemaker, persecution is coming your way. I don't know that we tend to think that the peacemaker gets persecuted, and yet, that's what he says. Blessed are the peacemakers, they'll be called sons of God, sons and daughters of God, peacemakers. And then, "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness." Blessed, Who is blessed? The persecuted are blessed. The word persecuted means to harass, to follow after and pursue, to move rapidly towards. So it's not a passive activity, persecution is not. It is, I am looking at someone and I don't like him. And I am, on purpose, harassing them, moving towards them, chasing after them, to make life miserable for them. That's persecution, it is moving after rapidly, someone you don't like.

Ross Sawyers: 17:46 Now, Jesus says, "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness." We need to make sure we're clear on the reason for persecution, it's not that everyone that's persecuted is blessed, it's those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness. Now, Jesus Christ himself, perfectly righteous. He's the only one that is perfectly righteous. He's perfectly right in his character. He's perfectly right in his motives. He's perfectly right in his actions and in his thoughts. Perfect righteousness in Jesus. "Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness." He is the righteous standard, Jesus is, and it flows from God's character. Anything that does not align with the righteousness of God, is unrighteousness. In Romans chapter 3 verse 10, Paul writes and says that, There's none righteous, not even one." That's a bit of a problem, but blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness. But Paul says, there's none righteous. So how can we be persecuted for that sake, that reason, if none of us are righteous? Well, nothing's better than Jesus, and he himself in Second Corinthians 5:21, "He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." We're made righteous when we believe what it is Jesus did on our behalf. Now we can be righteous, because it's the righteousness of Christ in us. Now, there is the potential to be persecuted for the sake of righteousness, because anyone who knows Jesus has the righteousness of Jesus in them. And sometimes, a lot of times, people don't like that. When we talk about being persecuted for the sake of righteousness, it is for being in Christ, for being like Christ, and for allowing the life of Christ and his morality to flow through our lives. Persecution comes when that happen.

Ross Sawyers: 20:43 Let me be careful to make sure here that we're not talking about a self-righteousness, like the Pharisees, the religious people. We're not talking about an arrogance, that people would persecute Christians because we're arrogant about what we believe and what we stand for. Not because we're self-righteous, it's not a persecution that is blessed because we're rude or offensive in the way that we say or do something. It's not for a social justice cause that doesn't align with the biblical justice of God. There are a number of social justice issues, not all of them are about God's justice. It's not being persecuted for a cause that's not in line with who God is. And he's not talking about the kind of persecution that comes because you're of a particular political persuasion. Blessed are those who have been persecuted, harassed for the sake of righteousness and the sake of Jesus.

Ross Sawyers: 22:06 In North Korea, one of the ways that they gather in their worship communities is in home gatherings, and it's usually the kind of home that has one bedroom and one small living room, really tight, really cramped kinds of quarters. Their homes are really close together, the walls are really thin, and it's easy to hear your neighbor. Think apartment living times 10, where you hear everything around you, or a duplex with a thin wall, but think thinner. The neighbors, the majority of who are loyal to the leader of North Korea, not to Jesus, can hear easily. One of the stories that was described, it said, it's actually best when these families live near the woods. And when they live near the woods, they'll hide their copy of the Bible, if they have one. If they even have a copy of the Bible, they'll hide it in the woods, and then after midnight, they'll sneak out, dig it up and bring it inside. The curtains will be pulled softly and the husband will read to his wife and to his 16 year old son, for example. And they're hoping at this point that 16 year old son can't betray them. They read the Bible in the dark, it's hardly audible they have to speak so low. And if in a really bold mood, they'll sing in whispers. I thought about the contrast of the song we sang a second ago, I'm going to sing a little louder. I'm a sing a little loud, I'm going to let my praises roar. In North Korea they're not singing a little louder, just singing a little lower, and their praises are roaring in that whisper.

Ross Sawyers: 24:15 Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness. In America, we ask how will persecution come in our own country? And I want to share, in a really simplistic way, a worldview that has really come to bear in recent months. And I think it's important that we understand this worldview, because it's a non-Christian world view, and a lot of it sounds good, and it is seeping into Christian thought. And if we're not careful, we'll end up adopting ways, and approaches to things that are not God-centered. These are actually, some of these things are actually opposed to God. And when we watch a number of things going on right now, we might be a little perplexed, but if we understand the worldview under it, it helps us understand why a lot of these things are happening. Critical race theory is a name of the worldview, Neil Shinvi, S H I N V. I has been one of the more helpful ones to me in understanding it. I'd encourage you to read some of his stuff in this regard, listen to podcasts, and it'll take more than one to do it.

Ross Sawyers: 26:02 The basic idea of critical race theory is that there's two groups of people in the world, oppressors and oppressed. Two categories, that's it, you fall into one of those categories. In this particular worldview, moral authority goes to the oppressed. Those who are considered the oppressors, do not have a voice, and do not have any moral authority. This is a view that is based in Marxism, which was an economic theory, but now it's crossed over and shaped a whole worldview around race, around gender, around sexual orientation, around any kind of grouping that you could think of. Because the oppressed have the moral authority, then they have the authority to make demands,. and they're making demands so that they can have the power. That's how this view flows. It has God, not at the center, therefore it's not God's moral authority that flows. That is a real worldview that's been taught in our universities for years now, it's moving through the media, and it's seeping in through our culture at large. And we've seen examples of this locally in recent weeks. This is what is underneath what you're thinking, just became an onslaught. And Satan has been about this for decades now, we're simply seeing the fruit of it. I share this with you because it's that worldview that will move in people, and cause them to persecute those who are followers of Jesus.

Ross Sawyers: 28:04 How is this different than a biblical worldview? Well, God doesn't categorize people in two categories of oppressed or oppressor. God sees each person as a person of value and sacred, each person has a sin nature and are responsible for the sins that they commit. And in Jesus Christ, there's the opportunity to be reconciled in him, so there's hope. God doesn't have us in groupings, it's not how he views us, that's one example of the differences. Now, this new glossary that we've heard over the last few months, it has come to bear and words and phrases that we are supposed to adopt and take on, a number of those flow from this worldview. That's why we spent five weeks talking about a biblical worldview to counter any other worldview, we want to know what God has to say. We'll be persecuted because we sit and stand in God's worldview of righteousness.

Ross Sawyers: 29:24 I was listening to a podcast by Timothy Keller the other day, and he described four things that are biblical issues, so there's a biblical take on these. And as Christians, if we simply live these out, persecution will come. Racial justice i's one of those. Racial injustice is a problem today. So for people sometimes they'll take that critical theory worldview, Christians will, and say, okay, I get that's happening, so racial injustice really isn't a problem. No, it's a problem. It's just a question of what's the solution to it, is it a biblical kind of solution, or is it a competing world view solution? And if we move from a biblical world view, and really stand in that, there's an outstanding chance persecution will come, you won't even have to try. Life in the womb, Psalm 139, there's no question that God created life at conception in the womb. It's not a question from God's viewpoint. Hold that position for the sake of righteousness, and persecution will come your way. The poor and the marginalized, when we oppose the critical race theory, it sounds like we're not for the vulnerable, or the poor, or the oppressed. Jesus was so much for the poor, and the oppressed, and the vulnerable, and if you've been a part of 121 for any amount of time at all, you know, we're for the poor, and the oppressed, and the vulnerable, and we're actively engaged in ministering to them. It's just a question of what is the motive, and the how. The fourth thing he talked about is a sexual ethic. Hold God's position, his design of marriage between a husband and wife, sex in the context of marriage, and persecution will come your way, simply holding God's position graciously, and winsomely.

Ross Sawyers: 31:56 Now the problem with critical race theory is the group has become your core identity. For the Christian, God is the one who determines what our identity is, and in him our identity is in Christ. This is a worldview that makes our identity come from within us, rather than God, from the outside saying who we are. That's a problem, even for those who are determining their own identity, because they'll keep working towards that and will always come up short, cause it's working towards it. The beauty of what God has done, is he sees us as his children. Were first and foremost Christians, followers of Jesus by his grace. We can't lose that, I'm not trying to achieve that, it's who I am. But in critical race theory, that someone's identity is their group. So we're no longer talking about behaviors, we're talking about who somebody believes they are. And when we talk about that, then we get called haters and bigots. The irony is Christians love without limits, even with those whom we disagree or who disagree with us.

Ross Sawyers: 33:33 Jesus would look at people deceived in this theory, and worldview, with eyes of compassion. And he would look and say, these are people that are like sheep without a shepherd. I pray that God will raise up laborers to go in the midst, to share the compassion, and mercy, and grace of Jesus. People yearn for equality today. I'm sorry, you know this, and I know this, it will never happen in our sin soaked world. The equality people yearn for is found at the foot of the cross in Christ. What someone is looking for is available, it's just not available where they're looking for it. Now, I'm not saying we don't shoot for it, I'm simply saying in our world, you'll never get it, but you will in Christ. What people are after is found in Christ. The power that people want, and it's sad to me because people are using the race issue for power as well. There are a number of people really in there on racial inequality, and racial injustice, and wanting to be a part of the solution to that. And there are a number of people taking advantage of that, and trying to gain power. But the power people are after is in Christ, they don't know it though. In Christ, we're free, the chains come off. We have the power to overcome the deceptions of Satan. We have the power to overcome sin. We're set free in him. We have the power to forgive those who've hurt us. The quality and power found in Jesus, we'll be persecuted for that, but we still move in compassion and mercy, no matter what worldview someone's functioning in, that they might see Jesus.

Ross Sawyers: 35:51 The third Thursday of each month, we're going to pray and fast for injustices in our world. I would invite you to join me this Thursday, to pray and fast, as much as you understand how to do that, to pray and fast for racial injustices, for sexual trafficking injustices all over the world, for injustices to the poor. Whenever God prompts you this Thursday, will you join us as a church to pray? In Luke 6:26 Jesus says, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way." As a Christian, there should not be an expectation of peace between all peoples, our worldview as Christians clashes with a worldview that doesn't have God at the center, it just does, and Jesus said that would happen. And if everyone is speaking well of us, there's probably something amiss in the way we're walking. Because to live as righteous people, in humility, and gentleness, and love, will invite people to persecute and harass. We don't have to seek it or go look for it, simply allow Jesus to flow through, and it comes.

Ross Sawyers: 37:38 Verse 11 is essentially a restating of what he said in verse 10, "Blessed are you when people insult you, and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." So it's building on what's happening, there's the insults, or just finding fault and demeaning. Why do you think by the way that people don't like Jesus? What is it that stirs that kind of hatred towards him and towards other Christians? Sometimes it absolutely is the way we behave, and we don't represent him well? We actually wreak havoc unnecessarily, or we bring it on just because of the way we go at something for sure. But Jesus addressed this in John chapter 3, and he said, "That men love the darkness rather than the light." And Jesus exposed, he exposed them just in their presence.

Ross Sawyers: 38:35 People were either enamored by Jesus, the woman caught in adultery, just couldn't believe looking in the eyes of Jesus that this man looking at her would love her the way he did. And then there's others, religious people and others, and religious people oftentimes bring the most persecution on each other. But there are others that are repulsed by Jesus because they love the darkness more than they love the light. And if Christ is in you and in me, gracingly lovingly pouring through, when they're with you and me, the presence of Christ comes through and they don't like what that exposes within them. Harass Jesus is the one who set the pace for us in seeing what it meant to be insulted, and falsely accused, and persecuted. We see that most vividly at the cross, and there were the Roman soldiers were insulting and mocking him, the Jewish leadership was mocking and insulting him and falsely accusing him. And so all kinds of people were doing that, the robbers on either side of him were insulting him in Matthew 27:44.

Ross Sawyers: 40:00 In Second Timothy chapter 3 verse 12, Paul says later, in thinking about Jesus and what it means to follow him, "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." He just says, this is part of what will happen. And then in John 15 verse 19, Jesus said, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you." You may think, wow, I hate that Jesus chose me, I kind of liked it when it was a little simpler. No, he chose you into something beautiful, and he chose you into a life of joy, and peace, and hope, and love. In our country, what you'll see start to unfold more and more is that adoption agencies, Christian adoption agencies, Christian universities, Christian private schools, churches, business people who espouse the values of Christ, you'll see more and more amping up against those different kinds of entities and peoples.

Ross Sawyers: 41:16 But we can be encouraged by those all over the world, North Korea, another way they have underground communities is in prison camps. And they may have up to 40 prisoners confined in one uncomfortable space, the floors are wooden, there's cracks in the floors. In the summertime, the heat is searing and coming through, in the winter time, the cold air is coming through and it's a freezing ice cold kind of air. There's lice, and bugs, and all kinds of things to deal with inside those prisons. In this story, they said one brave Christian shared the gospel with others and prayed, knowing that she'll be punished. And then one prison camp survivor said that she took the chance to boldly speak of Jesus, and five other prisoners came to Jesus, and then they would gather to worship. And the way they would worship, is they would gather around a toilet outside of the purview of the guards. And this lady, they had no Bible, and this lady, the verses that she had memorized, she would share those verses. And songs that she remembered, they would sing those songs quietly in a whisper. That's how they gathered. That's another example of the underground church. Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, there is deep joy in them.

Ross Sawyers: 42:43 And how did they do that? In verse 12, "Rejoice, and be glad for your reward in heaven is great for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." And it's just the way you move through this. It started earlier by saying, if this is you, then yours is the kingdom of heaven. Now, rejoice, and be glad don't be depressed about it, don't retaliate, don't be bitter, don't resent it, don't take some stoic prideful, look at me, I'm being persecuted kind of perspective. Rather, rejoice and be glad. Rejoice and be glad because this shows, and demonstrates, you know Jesus. When people are harassing us because we love Jesus for the sake of righteousness because of me, he says, because of me. Because I'm deeply in love with Jesus, then rejoice and be glad for your reward in heaven is great. Now people will say they don't like the idea of rewards in heaven, that's not a good motivator. And I love what Martin Lloyd Jones said. He goes, "That's a problem because God is the one that says there's rewards in heaven. What you're saying is you have a problem with God." This is God's deal, and a loving father loves to reward his children. How do people make it through some of the most extreme kinds of persecution? Their eyes are set on Jesus. Their eyes are set on the kingdom that's beyond this one. They rejoice, and their gladness is who they are in Christ. And they look forward and anticipate a day when everything will be made right and everything is restored, that day's coming soon.

Ross Sawyers: 44:27 The prophets were persecuted as well, and at 121 in the days ahead the kinds of things that we're going to do, we're going to hang out in Jeremiah. And that'll be the place where we study the scripture and tether ourselves for the next three months or so, in selected parts of Jeremiah. So we'll do that as a whole in here, we'll have a number of guest speakers in the coming weeks that are familiar with the underground church and the persecuted. And it's just stories that are incredible, and encouraging of what people are doing out of their love for Christ all over the world. And at the end of this month, we'll have an immersive experience here. If you walk in, if you go out in the middle hall, you see covered up all of these constructed things. And we'll be transforming this into a place to really understand and immerse in what it would look like if we were in a place that we were underground in the church. Our life groups will be given opportunities and ways to simulate the underground church in the coming weeks and months. We'll have different levels of cuts, so whatever is comfortable for you to even try. Would you consider perhaps even like a one life group only having one Bible, and that you put away anything electronic that gets you to the scripture, and any of your resources. And that for a couple or three months, that you just, as a life group function with one Bible. And how would you do that? How would you walk together that way? That's just one example of many, that we can simulate what's going on with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Ross Sawyers: 46:07 And then those 8 ways we talked about, are ways that we can learn to be genuine followers of Jesus and how to help others do it. And then ways that we can engage and help those who are in the underground church all over the world, how can we effectively minister to them? We'll be doing this through every aspect of our church, kids on up, and I look forward to what God wants to do in it. And I just want to encourage you if I could, if you're not in a small group community, a life group at 121, would you figure out how to get in either a virtual or an in person one so that you can experience this with us together. And it's our yearning that everyone knows what it is to be a disciple and a follower and can turn around and lead others.

Ross Sawyers: 46:56 One way I want to model that this morning, is with the Lord's supper and it is what Jesus did for us on the cross. His love for us, and the justice that happened there, that motivates us to live the lives for him. Amy Gallegos has been at 121 for years, and I've asked her to lead us in this time. And one of the things we're trying to teach in these 8 ways to follow Jesus, is that every person who is a Christian can lead out in everything that we do as Christians. Whether it's the Lord's supper, baptism, teaching God's word, prayer, leading someone to Christ, serving, giving, making disciples, it's for everybody. And I'm grateful today that Amy is going to lead us into this sacred space.

Amy Gallegos: 48:00 Good morning. Like Ross said, my name's Amy Gallegos. A quick snapshot about me, I'm a mother of four, a PE teacher at Southlake Carroll ISD, Carroll Elementary. And I'm so happy to be here with you. You know, when Ross came to me and asked me to do this, lots of things ran through my head, lots of things. And my biggest goal here, is I just want to show you what I would probably be doing at home with my kids, with my family, and I know that looks different for everybody. I know there's people watching in all sorts of different environments, you might be on the road, you might be on vacation, you might be tuning in somewhere from your home. Maybe with your family, maybe you're by yourself, and I just want to encourage you that God meets us exactly where we are. And I know you hear that a lot, but logistically will meet you anywhere, and whatever environment you're in. With my environment, it would be loud and chaotic, if someone could spill water, or jump on a seat, or throw a tantrum, I'd probably feel more at home, honestly. But the great thing is that God doesn't care about the box that we put the Lord's supper in, and we don't have to make it all pretty for him. He just wants our hearts, he just wants our intention behind it. And it doesn't matter if it's loud or chaotic because it's just you and God, it's that sacred moment that you have with him, the conversation with him that matters.

Amy Gallegos: 49:33 And in saying that, the last night, the last night that Jesus had, that he was alive with his disciples. He sat at a table and they shared a meal, and this meal is called the last supper because Jesus knew he was going to be dying soon. Now, the disciples didn't, but he did. And he used the meal to symbolize the death and the resurrection, and alongside the new covenant, that he was making a way for us to be with God. And so what he did is he had two elements, he had bread and he had wine, and the bread represented his body, the body of Christ that was broken for us on the cross, and the wine is the blood that he shed for us. Jesus being the ultimate sacrificial lamb, blameless, dying for us so that we can have relationship with God.

Amy Gallegos: 50:28 I'm going to read from Matthew 26:26, it says, "While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, gave thanks and broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And then he took the cup and gave thanks, and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins." That last group of words, the forgiveness of sins, because there's forgiveness on the other side of that. When we go to Jesus and we repent, and we confess, he is waiting with open arms, ready to take you in, ready to comfort you, to wipe that slate clean. I just think it's such a beautiful reminder of what he's done for us.

Amy Gallegos: 51:20 Now, First Corinthians 11, it says that we are not to take the Lord's supper in an unworthy manner. And I think that's something you're going to have to ask yourself. A couple of examples would be, if you're not a follower of Christ, another thing is if you're taking it for the wrong reasons, or maybe you are actively willfully, living in sin and embracing it. Now there's a difference between embracing it and battling it, because we all battle sin every day. And that's what Jesus, that's why he did this, that's why he went to the cross for us, is because we battle sin and we can come to him and be wiped clean. So if you are partaking today in the Lord's supper, and you did not get the two elements, the cracker and the juice that we'll be taking here. Please raise your hand, and we have people walking around ready to give those to you, just let us know.

Amy Gallegos: 52:14 How this is going to unfold, is I'm going to say a prayer for us here, and then I'm going to give you time to really have some solitude with God. And I encourage you to really ask the hard questions, have time with him right there, and maybe even make some space where you're quiet before the Lord. I'm going to be honest, that's my hardest, my mind races. But I grow the most if I'm quiet and I just listen, and I see where he leads me from there. And then when you're ready, after that time, you can take your two elements when you're ready.

Amy Gallegos: 52:55 Let's pray. Jesus, God, you are so good. First and foremost, Lord, I want to thank you for today, I want to thank you for this church, for Ross's message. Lord, my prayer is that we have open hearts, ready minds, Lord, that we are ready to act in the way that you want us to act. Lord, my prayer is that we have this special time. This is the practice of the Lord supper, Lord, that you created thousands of years ago when you were alive and well with those disciples in the upper room, and you are alive today with us now. You are ready, it is up to us, Lord, let us use this time to confess and repent. Lord, it's in your commandment here that we do this and we practice this as believers, Lord, let us go with authenticity and intention. Lord, I'm thankful your word is unwavering during this time, that just has so much uncertainty and doubt, full of anxiousness, and anger, and sadness. But Lord, you're joyful because you are alive, and we are joyful Lord because you have given us a way. Lord, I just, I pray that we take this time just to sit with you, and for this to be a refreshment and a joyous occasion that we can, on the other end of that. Lord, feel new again through you. We praise you, Lord, and we thank you for this Holy moment that we're about to embark on, and that we thank you. Jesus. It's in your Holy name. Amen.

Recorded in Grapevine, Texas.
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121 Community Church
2701 Ira E Woods Ave.
Grapevine, Texas 76051