December 2016 /January 2017 - Vol. 89
“To model the kingdom of God in the world,
the church must not only be a repentant community, committed to truth, but also a holy community.”
The Judeo-Christian heritage is distinguished from all other religions by its covenant with a personal God who chose to dwell in the midst of his people. "I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God," said the Lord) In Hebrew the word dwell meant "to pitch a tent"; God said he would pitch his holy tabernacle in the midst of the tents of the Israelites. In the New Testament we read "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." Here also the word dwelt in the Greek is translated "to pitch a tent." The covenant, both old and new, is that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God who later became flesh in Christ, actually dwells in the presence of his people. And thus it: is that the central requirement of our faith is that we be holy, for a holy God lives in our midst.
The apostle Peter echoed this theme when he said: "You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God" (1 Peter 2:9).
church is to be a community
Thousands of such communities of light exist around the world in accountable fellowships where the gospel is faithfully proclaimed and where members reach out in an effort to bring God's mercy and justice to those around them.
…For as the church maintains its independence from culture, it is best able to affect culture. When the church serves as the church, in firm allegiance to the unseen kingdom of God, uses it in this world: first, as a model of the values of his kingdom, and second, as his missionary to culture.
uses our faithfulness to preserve and restore
Another example that clearly illustrates this comes from the Cuban Isla de Pinos, from a prison so dark and remote that most of the world never even knew it existed. The huge circular cellblocks were built during the 1930s under Batista's regime. When someone asked the dictator why he had built it so big, he replied, “Ah, don't worry. Somebody will come along who will manage to fill it up.” That somebody was Fidel Castro.
One of the prisoners there was a young anti-Communist named Armando Valladares. Early in his confinement, he often heard prisoners–fellow Christians–taken to the firing squad. Such executions always took place at night, and the dark silence would be broken by triumphant shouts: “Viva Cristo Rey! Long live Christ the King!” Then the explosion of gunfire–and silence again. Soon all prisoners were gagged before their executions. The killers could not stand their victorious defiance.
According to Valladares, the most faithful member of that tiny Christian community, made up mostly of Catholics, was a Protestant prisoner known simply as the Brother of the Faith. He constantly sang hymns to God and shouted encouragement to his brothers to have faith, to follow Christ to the end.
Brother of the Faith
Fortified by the faithfulness of this one man, as well as by his own faith, in a way he could not forget, Armando Valladares survived gross inhumanity, psychological abuse, and torture for twenty-two years. In 1983 he was released and made his way to the West and freedom. His memoirs of those dark years, Against All Hope, have exposed to the world the hidden horrors of Castro's prisons.
And therein lies the irony: Though Castro controls the Cuban press, suppresses the visible church, conquers academia, and rules a ruthless government, he cannot rule the spirits of those he has enslaved. He cannot extinguish the light of the soul set free by God. And out of a flicker of light in one dark prison came the indictment of his regime that shocked the world.
of brokenness comes wholeness and might
Excerpt from Against the Night © 1999 by Charles Colson. Published by Regal Books. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
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