It began with Stephen, stoned to death after a forceful sermon. Next, James the brother of John was beheaded. Eventually, every other disciple except John was martyred. Since that time, millions upon millions have been put to death for claiming the name of Christ. Tertullian rightly said that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.
There is something about a man who is willing to lay it all on the line that has a compelling effect on other people. Stephen was an example of such a man. Even though he was a “nobody,” he preached fearlessly to the most prominent religious leaders of his day. He was in the fire of God when he told them they were “stiff-necked and… always resisting the Holy Spirit…” This wasn’t the ranting of a self-proclaimed prophet, but a humble man empowered by the Spirit of the Living God. We are told that when the Jewish leaders heard these words “they were cut to the quick.” Enraged, they drove him out of the city and stoned him to death.
What made Stephen willing to face death so unflinchingly? The answer can be found in his life, much more than in his death. Luke called him “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,” and later said he was “full of grace and power.”
The devil murdered him through those men, yet he overcame Satan because he “did not love (his) life even to death.” (Revelations 12:11) Death doesn’t terrify the believer who lives with an eternal perspective. The reality of his life can be found in the words of Christ: “He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal.” (John 12:25) He lives in this world, but is “not of the world.” (John 17:14) He is “looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God;” (Hebrews 11:10) “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” (Hebrews 12:22) Death has lost its sting to the Christian who lives in this mindset.
Having a martyr mentality means more than being willing to face death. Paul, who would later be a martyr himself, urged the Romans “to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice” to God. He wasn’t referring to death but to the way they lived their daily lives.
Whether or not you and I ever face this kind of persecution, we can be living martyrs for Christ right where we are. We can exemplify the same kind of unselfish concern for others as did Stephen and Paul. We can be living martyrs right at our homes and workplaces.
At our residential facility for sexual addicts, we teach the men that one of the most important things they can do to overcome the stranglehold of sin is to learn how to “get out of themselves.” One thing that all addicts hold in common is that their sin tends to make their world very small. Sin is like a beast that continually demands more and more of its host. The stronger the addiction, the more self-absorbed the addict will become. Some people simply cannot function in life anymore because their addiction has gradually taken over their lives.
Within this small world the man’s passions and desires become increasingly greater, while the needs of loved ones get smaller. His life becomes a vicious cycle of living for himself and being controlled by sin. The more he lives in this manner, the less he finds that he has to give to others.
Living for one’s self is the very worst thing an addict can do because everything he does in life reinforces his addiction. This spiral of sin and selfishness takes him into a deep pit that seems impossible to escape. However, the good news is that the believer can climb out of any pit he can climb into! Although the last thing he wants to do is to become involved with others, that’s one of the very things that will pull him out of that pit of self-absorption.
Living the sacrificial life Paul described will not only make a person godlier, but it will also free him from his addiction. One thing we tell our guys is, “To the degree that you have given yourself over to immorality you must now give yourself to God.” An intense love for God is the only thing that will replace the love of sin.
Being a martyr for Christ means more than actually being killed by a God-hater. It means to live one’s life sacrificially and unselfishly.
Develop a heavenly mindset, learn to “hate your life in this world,” make your life a living sacrifice for God and others and you will soon see that sexual temptation has lost its power!
Steve Gallagher is the Founder and President of Pure Life Ministries. He has dedicated his life to helping men find freedom from sexual sin and leading Christians into the abundant life in God that comes through deep repentance.
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