That is the number of Christians who are currently persecuted for their faith—men, women and children who risk their lives to follow Jesus.
Why do these individuals hold so firmly to a faith that could cost them their lives? The answer lies in the hope of the Gospel and the basics of what being a Christian even means.
Billy Graham once put it this way, “A Christian is a person who is trusting Jesus Christ for their eternal salvation, and is seeking to follow Him in their daily life. To put it another way, a Christian is committed to Jesus as both their Savior and their Lord (or master).”
Take a look at four main aspects of the Gospel that motivate people around the world to not just keep their faith, but to have hope in and through persecution.
1. The Main Character: Jesus Christ
Around 2,000 years ago, a baby was born in a stable. You may have heard the story; Christians celebrate it every Christmas.
That baby was Jesus Christ—a unique person who was fully God and fully man.
Kind of hard to get your head around, huh?
The Bible, the true and authoritative Word of God, talks about Jesus’ humanity. He worked, slept, went hungry and wept, just like us.
It also tells you how He was God. Not only does Jesus claim it (see John 8:58; John 10:30; John 5:17-18), but He raised people from the dead, forgave sins and made demons flee. These are all actions that only God, who has authority over everything, could do.
He was fully human, tempted just as we are, yet did not fall into temptation. The writer of Hebrews declares,
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet is without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
2. The Problem: Sin
Ever since Adam and Eve committed the first sin in the Garden of Eden, humanity has been plagued by sin. As Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
Have you ever lied? Or cheated? Or thought you were better than someone else? That is sin, something that God—because He is eternally just—deeply distastes.
Billy Graham explained, “We have rebelled against God, and because of that, the Bible says, we are ‘separated from the life of God … due to the hardening of (our) hearts’ (Ephesians 4:18). … But Jesus Christ came to save us and to make us part of His family forever! He did this by dying for our sins on the cross and by conquering death through His resurrection.”
3. The Solution: The Cross and an Empty Grave
God, in His grace and mercy, didn’t leave mankind with a problem and no solution. By dying on a cross, He mended what was broken at the beginning of time—forever. Franklin Graham said,
“The only cure for sin is repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who bore the guilt and punishment for our sins on the cross, rose from the dead on the third day, and is now alive forevermore.
“The person who trusts in the atoning work of Christ is forgiven, no longer under the wrath of God, and has received a new heart that seeks to please and honor the Lord.”
Jesus had to be man in order to die, and He had to be God in order to be the sacrifice and payment for sin. The depth of mankind’s sin required a perfect sacrifice to satisfy.
“Jesus’ sacrifice was so perfect that it purified everything from you and I to heaven itself,” Will Graham said. “It never had to be repeated, and took away our judgment.”
4. The Recipient: You
All this truth inspires a reaction, turning from sin and running toward God and the way of life He has laid out for you.
The Bible talks about the characteristics that come after you give yourself to Christ—such as love, kindness, peace and joy.
“There will be love in your heart for your fellow man if you are in Christ,” Billy Graham once preached.
“Not a love that just comes from your lips, it will be a love of the heart. There will be a tenderness and a brokenness and a sense of forgiveness to those who have injured you, when you give your life to Christ. There will be joy in your heart. … And then there will be peace.”
You see, Christianity isn’t just a religion, it is a relationship born out of love. It’s a story of a great, loving God who sent Himself to solve a problem each and every person is tangled up in.
Don’t run away from its reality.
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