There is a post in “The Times” out of the U. K. that outlines a plan to send 300,000 new bibles into Iran.
It is true. Jesus is alive, is very real and very much on the move around the world. The chinese church is currently mobilizing 1,000,000 missionaries to evangelize the Muslim people in the Middle East and they are intent on seeing these people set free with the glorious love of Jesus Christ. The Chinese church has come through an extended period of growth in the midst of the hardship of persecution, and they are fearless in sharing their faith in Christ with a people group that has long been without the gospel. This Chinese church has learned to live vibrantly in the love of God after thriving under years of persecution by the communist Chinese government, and is marching to the beat of heaven’s call to lead people into the glorious liberty of faith in the Lord Jesus.
When believers in Jesus hear of such a thing, they rejoice. For those who have had an encounter with the living God, and who know our Father’s heart, it is natural to rejoice when any lost soul finds life in Jesus. For those of us who have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, we know that God shows Himself very present and very real to us in our deepest times of struggle.
But it seems surprising even for many Christians to learn that in such a dominantly Muslim country such as Iran, with as much apparent hatred and persecution of Christians as there sometimes is there, that the church is growing and even flourishing. There is an interesting article at Iranian.com that asks the question, “Why is Christianity growing so fast in Iran?” According to the article,
A country of an estimated 80 million people, Iran’s Evangelical Christian Community numbers only in the hundreds of thousands—still a small minority against a largely Shia-Muslim backdrop. But at a growth of 20% a year, Iranian-Christians might change the population-playing field in less than a decade.
There was a guest speaker at a large church in New York City recently (who we will not name, because of her mission to Iran) who told the congregation that there are estimates that the Christian church in Iran is possibly as large as 2 million people, and growing daily. According to some sources, the Christian church in Iran is the fastest growing church in the world today. This young woman believes God called her to go to Iran as a Christian missionary – to share the love of Jesus with a people group that is very much in need of an understanding of the freedom and the joy there is in knowing the Lord Jesus Christ. She is going, not knowing what will be required of her; not knowing if she may well be laying down her life to witness to these people about how much God loves them.
The article in Iranian.com asks the question, “why are so many people risking comfort and their lives” in converting to Christianity from Islam when doing so in a country such as Iran right now, where doing so is very possibly a death sentence.
The answer proposed as a possible solution to this question in the article seems reasonable enough as a speculation as to why people would convert from Islam to a religion like Christianity when it seems so risky. According to the article,
While that may seem like a trick question, it certainly isn’t. Surely there are arrays of different reasons for why one might convert, but perhaps this trend shows something deeper about Iranian society as a whole. Perhaps even Iranians of Muslim background are so uncomfortable under the iron fist of the Islamic Regime, that by converting to Christianity they aren’t take a huge risk—they have nothing, or very little to lose. But what they gain is priceless; a world-wide community and support system and a role in quietly protesting and challenging the Regime that likely lead them to renounce their Islam in the first place.
It seems that the writer of the article may have gotten it partly right; there is a lot of discontent with the political leadership in Iran right now. But based on what this young woman in New York had to say, people in Iran are spiritually hungry, too. They are not only discontented with the realities of life under an oppressive Islamic dictatorship; they are hungry for a living and vital relationship with the one true God who alone can fill them with truth, love and purpose in their lives. And many people in Iran have never known what a relationship with God is really like.
Blaise Pascal said, “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”
Christians – real Christians – those who know Jesus and who walk with Him day by day, in love with Him for what He did for us when He died on that cross for our sins and rose from the dead three days later – understand what Pascal said very well. We typically remember the exact moment of our conversion – where the reality of who Jesus is sank in and changed us into people who want to live with Him forever. And we know the hole in our heart that longed for a relationship with God, and how Jesus filled that emptiness inside with a revelation of Himself as our saviour and our Lord. And in a moment, our lives were transformed. We now walk in a relationship of love with our heavenly Father, at peace with Him in an everlasting love that He has for us.
I am writing this article specifically with those with a Muslim background in mind; those who may well be disenchanted with people claim to be Muslim but who have disappointed them; or perhaps disenchanted with a belief in God from the Quran that may leave you struggling to understand and make sense of it all. If this is you; if you are a Muslim, whether you consider yourself to be a strong believer or not, then please hear my heart.
Those who are true Christians, who know Jesus and have a personal relationship with him as Lord and saviour, will tell you that there is much more to this phenomenon of people under persecution coming to faith in Jesus Christ. Their faith is based in something real.
The bible often speaks of people under persecution who, in spite of the persecution, grew stronger in their faith in Christ. As it says in Revelations 12:11, “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”
When the disciples suffered for their faith in Christ, their relationship with the living God was so real and so strong that their greatest heart’s cry was that their captors and their abusers would come to know this Jesus they believed in, and that they would find the same freedom in knowing this Jesus the same way they did.
Please understand, my Muslim friend. God, who is rich in mercy, saw us in our sin and recognized that as much as He wanted to have fellowship with us, our sin was a constant offence to His holiness. The only way He could satisfy His wrath against our sinfulness and our unholiness was to send His son to be a sacrifice for our sins on the cross.
In the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, written hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus the Messiah, it speaks in prophetic form of the sacrifice that Jesus would pay to redeem us to God and to pay the price to satisfy God’s wrath against our sin…
Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.
Perhaps these concepts all sound foreign to you, based on your world view. But there are those among us who know Jesus intimately, who see miracles happen in His name, who know the power of His ability to transform a life from someone who lives for him or her self to someone who wants to live to the glory of God, no matter the cost. And the freedom we know in understanding what God did in His Son on the cross so that we can have fellowship with the Father forever is so captivating, so motivating, that our desire is simply to live for God, for God’s sake, and not merely for our own. We love Him and want you to know the incredible security and peace and transformation there is in believing in His name.
We believe the primary reason the Christian Church is growing in Iran, in spite of the persecution, is because Jesus Christ is very real. He is very much the Son of God, he very truly died for your sins and He very much wants to have a relationship with YOU that will change YOU into a redeemed child of the living God. And because Jesus is the Son of God, he shows himself real especially in times of persecution.
If you are tired of striving to please God, never sure if you’ve lived a life good enough for the goods to outweigh the bads at the end of your life; if you’re constantly wondering if you’re ever good enough to gain eternal life, the bad news is, you’re not.
The good news is that God doesn’t weigh your sins on a pan scale, comparing your good deeds with your bad deeds to see if you’ve done enough, or prayed enough to make it to heaven.
In the third chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans, he says,
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sin-offering by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
The reason the church is growing in Iran is because Jesus is real and He is alive. These people converting to Christianity are coming into a living and vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. He is transforming their lives, giving them peace and meaning in their lives, showing Himself even more real to them as they realize they may well face persecution for their decision to follow Him. They are falling in love with God as they’ve NEVER known Him before. His father’s heart is real to them, and they are resting in an eternal relationship with HIM that can never be taken away by any persecution; in fact, all the persecution does is make the relationship grow stronger and more real.
Ask God to reveal to you if Jesus truly is the Son of God as He claimed to be, demonstrating that reality by performing miracles and rising again from the dead to show that he truly is the Son of God. He will transform your life. You will see.
May God bless you richly. And if you are open to the truth, may you seek Him, and find Him, when you search for Him with all your heart.
If you want to know more about what the bible really says about who Jesus is, feel free to contact us for more information. We would love to help you know God and His father’s heart for you.