World Challenge Pulpit Series

The Persecution of the Righteous

(A message on the cost of holiness.)

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By David Wilkerson
April 13, 1987

A young Christian wrote these sad words to me recently, "For the last few years I have heard evangelists, pastors and teachers tell their audiences to give up everything for Christ. They set my heart on fire and created in me a desire to reject the world and all it stands for. I was told to put Christ first in all things, to seek His holiness, and to go all the way with Him. So I did it! I went all the way - I gave up everything - I started giving myself to the Word and to diligent prayer. Then the Lord began to reveal Himself to me about the backslidden condition in God's house. I'm sold out completely for Jesus; He is all I talk about; all I want is to be pure and holy. But now these same people reject me as a fanatic. Don't they believe what they preach? Why do so many preachers and Christians get mad at you when you go all the way with Jesus?"

His is not an isolated case. I receive a good number of letters from awakened believers whose lives have been revolutionized by the Holy Spirit. They have turned to the Lord with all their hearts; they have pulverized their idols; they have become lovers of the truth, giving themselves to prayer and the study of God's Word. Consequently, they have been spiritually enlarged and have been given precious discernment. It is not that they feel they have outgrown the pastor or other Christians; it is that now they see through different eyes. They recognize hypocrisy and forms of godliness without power. They so love truth, they begin to despise lightness and superficiality in God's house. They become zealous for the honor of the Lord. But suddenly - they are rejected by other Christians. They are accused of being insubordinate, arrogant and divisive.

"They - Will Persecute You..."

In His going-away message to the disciples, Jesus warned them of the certainty of persecution. He said, "If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you" (John 15:20). Who are they? Who is it who will persecute the most intimate followers of Christ?

It is the religious crowd! Those with outward forms of godliness without the power of total heart surrender - these will persecute those who glory only in the Cross of Christ. The godless, humanistic Romans were not the real persecutors of the Master. His greatest abuse was at the hands of the most steeped in the Law; the hierarchy of the church, and the masses who boasted that God was their Father. All their cunning energies were set on discrediting Him.

So it is today - the greatest, most ferocious persecution against God's holy remnant comes from religious leaders and their followers who reject the offence of the Cross of Christ. All persecution of God's people centers on the Cross. Paul said, "As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ..." (Galatians 6:12).

Multitudes of Jewish converts found a way to avoid the offense of the Cross. It was by preaching and practicing circumcision. They would cut the flesh rather that crucify it. Paul said, "If I preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? Then is the offense of the Cross ceased" (Galatians 5:11). In other words, you can avoid all the suffering and persecution resulting from dying to this world by settling for reform in the place of resurrection. You can enjoy the fellowship and good will of the entire religious system if you will simply conform to all their bland, lifeless, middle-of-the road standards. The harlot church still preaches about the Cross as an historical fact, but its demands on the flesh are rejected. And this same backslidden church will thrash and persecute those who go on to be personally identified with Christ's crucifixion.

Circumcision or the Cross

Paul was constantly harassed by the party of the circumcision. These were Jewish Christians who followed him everywhere, teaching new converts that God still demanded their flesh be cut, and that they conform to the lifeless traditions and rules of men. They had much scripture to prove their doctrine, especially the writings of Moses. They refuse to accept the glorious truth that the Cross was the end of all flesh in the eyes of God. Now, a new resurrected man - one who is dead to the world - is the only one God will deal with.

Why is there such fair show of the flesh in the church today? It is because the Cross has been rejected. You can present to the Lord the most sincere, dedicated, renovated flesh possible - and it will still be a stench. That which is tainted by the least amount of flesh will not be accepted by a holy God. He has once and for all condemned the flesh at the Cross.

If the demands of the Cross were truly faced by modern Christianity, most of the religious activities would be shut down. Even in my own denomination, the Assemblies of God, much would be cast aside as worthless in the eyes of the Lord. Judged in the light of the demands of the Cross, God would have to stamp on most of the religious activity - "FRIVOLOUS! MEANINGLESS!" It is because flesh has been brought in and leavened the whole lump. What was once pure and holy is now mixed with the spirit and manners of this world.

I know that at this very hour there are multitudes of praying, God-fearing Christians who weep and grieve over the conditions in the church. Not only in the church at large, but their home church or body where they worship. Either their shepherd is too soft on sin, or he whips them, or he puts unbearable burdens upon them.

The Sheep Are Hurting

Lately the Lord has allowed me to be broken in spirit over the pitiful cries of abandoned, bruised and bleeding sheep - most of whom have been rejected and abused by harsh and uncaring shepherds. Some actually have been cast out of their churches and fellowships, and they so hunger to be with a true body of believers who will share their yearnings for more of Christ.

One dear brother wrote, "In the past few months I have been so burdened about the sad condition of our church, I have broken down weeping in the services - uncontrollable weeping. I wept because I loved the pastor and could not stand to see such foolishness coming from the pulpit. I was asked to leave if I couldn't shut up. I was embarrassing the pastor and upsetting the congregation. I had to leave because my burden kept getting stronger."

A heartbroken woman wrote, "Our Pentecostal church is backsliding so fast, I can hardly believe it. Our pastor has been having rock concerts to draw the kids. Last night, during one of those concerts, one of the performers dropped his pants. Half of the people walked out with us. The pastor didn't seem to be bothered. I just cannot go back there - it is so worldly, so sensual - but where do I go?"

Another sister wrote, "We have just left a church where every effort was made to deceive and fleece the flock, robbing them of trust as well as their possessions. Since we left, we feel we have escaped such bondage. But what breaks my heart is all the confused people left in such perverted deception. They are forced to be under such authoritative subjection to the shepherd. Anyone who raises a question is ridiculed, and if you leave you are labeled a 'rebel'. You are as well as excommunicated from that body. The pastor warned the people to stay away from us or they, too, would be cut off. We have forgiven him, but what will happen to the dear converts when they, too, discover they have been deceived?"

"Where Is Your Mercy for Hurting Sheep?"

That was an honest (and loving) question put to me in a letter recently from a brother who numbers himself among the sheep who have "lost all earthly shepherds" and who at times feels a sense of despair from all the abuses.

He wrote, "I see judgement and rebuke everywhere I look - even from you, dear Mr. Wilkerson, whom I honestly love. I hear judgement and rebuke, but not much mercy and justice..."

"What I am saying, brother, is that there has grown a nation of brokenhearted, contrite, humble and humbled, reeling from abuses, betrayed, manipulated, deceived, and confused sheep. Many are dying spiritually. These are sheep who are cut off from the flock, often by the flock, or the shepherd - going hungry, lamed, diseased, alone, and being tracked by wolves..."

"Where are the godly shepherds? I haven't seen them yet. I wait with longing..."

"In your newsletter, you said these sheep will receive reproof. True - but these sheep have already repented, often blaming themselves for conditions they were not responsible for, for situations wherein they became the victims, even while already forgiving those who maimed them , blamed them threw them out, and left them for dead. How will they know the voice of their Shepherd in those shepherds who reprove them?"

"I believe, Mr. Wilkerson, that they will know a true shepherd because they will hear his soft cry for them, as he searches them out in the darkness, in the wilds, in the snare to which they are victim. They will know the tender hand of their loving Father, in a man, binding their wounds, setting their lameness right, and with love cleaning the filth off their coats. They will see the tears brimming in his eyes, his tears mixing with theirs - tears born of the broken heart of God over lost, wounded sheep..."

"We do need truth - but we were told we were getting all the truth. But it didn't work. It didn't heal. It didn't save. What is needed now is truth in love! These sheep cannot be beat up again. The true sheep are 'coming out, so as not to partake of their sins and judgements.' Or, more likely, kicked out, driven out, sheared of all wool, cold and confused. These are not sheep walking in self-pity - these truly want Christ alone."

I have quoted at length from this particular letter because it so clearly details what I am hearing from literally thousands who write to us. Also, it confirmed what God seemed to be saying to me in recent weeks - "Encourage the holy remnant. Comfort those who are being persecuted and maligned for wholly following the Lord."

A "Samson Social"

An Assembly of God sister wrote to me, with great sorrow and grief, about a Samson Social sponsored by her church. Couples came dressed as characters from that Bible story - the women clad mostly as prostitutes and Delilah. The young couples drank; they were more interested in partying than seeking God. Holiness and separation are ridiculed outright as legalism. The dear sister remembers the days when that same church had altar calls and prayer meetings where believers interceded for their unsaved families. She remembers pastors who preached with fire and holy unction, crying out against sin and compromise. Now all she gets from the pulpit is a "gospel of fun", with no conviction, no brokenness - but jokes and even vulgar references to Dolly Parton's anatomy.

My office now receives numerous letters from elderly saints of God who tell me, in so many words, "I can't believe how backslidden, how worldly, our church has become. I can't believe what's happening. The Holy Spirit is no longer working in our midst - the pastor is always pushing some new project. The youth leader is so into rock, so into skating parties - I can't even understand what's going on."

A young minister, whom I know to be very godly, called me about an Assembly of God ministers' meeting he had just attended. The subject discussed was, "why holiness preaching produces kooks!" Holiness preachers were ridiculed for putting guilt trips on Christians. The young minister was heartbroken. He sent me a transcript of the meeting, and I could hardly believe that Pentecostal preachers could be so blind.

I am not condemning the Assembly of God movement. It is because I am at present ordained with them that I speak out about what is happening in this denomination. It is the largest Pentecostal denomination in the world, but it is at the crossroads. Unless there is a quick return to holiness - unless the heartbroken, concerned, grieved pastors and evangelists rise up and cry for revival and repentance - God will depart its ranks and write ICHABOD over its doors. Most of the leaders are now on their faces before God - and I believe they are godly men who want to see a true shaking and purging by the Holy Ghost. But unless both pastors and the congregation now return to the altar and weep, mourn, and call on God with repentance - the Holy Spirit will move on and find a new people who will walk in the old paths.

The same is true of all Pentecostal denominations, as well as Charismatic fellowships and ministries. I have been prophesying for the past few years that God is going to bring down ministries that are of the flesh. Soon - very soon - the stock market will go into a free fall; there will be economic panic on all sides. Churches and ministries that have gone deeply into debt will go bankrupt. The recent exposures of famous ministers is not what will bring them down - it will be an economic disaster!

I wonder sometimes if anybody is listening! Do we not want to hear - are we shutting out all the warnings because we are sick of all the bad news? But like it or not - the warnings of judgment will continue. God is not laughing! God will not be mocked. Some of these ministries now divine judgment have mocked the warnings of God's holy prophets and watchmen!

Millions of sheep have been left bruised, confused, and stunned - by hero shepherds - hero evangelists - men who have squandered millions of precious dollars on selfish dreams and ego-stroking empires. Oh, saints of God - hear me! These builders of empires were clearly warned. They received calls, letters, prophecies - delivered in love - warning them of the very month they would be judged unless they stopped building and squandering and proclaiming a show-business gospel. They were implored, with tears, to repent and get back to the simple preaching of the Cross.

I weep for these men! I cry daily, "Oh, God - bring down all their empires but save Your servants. Deliver them from these monsters they have created. Have mercy on them and their 'families.'" I know I truly love them - but how can any of us who love the name of Jesus sit idly by now and permit all this foolishness to go on?

Those of us who have been warning of coming judgments have been ridiculed, mocked, scoffed, and called "unloving and divisive." The Spirit of God has awakened literally thousands of sheep who have all heard the same trumpet sound - they have discerned the lateness of the hour - they know God is already judging the church - they tried, with broken hearts, to warn congregations - but they were repudiated. They are even now looked upon as fanatics and crack pots - unbalanced, morose, sad, hung up on judgment and holiness. But that is all about to change.

The next thing on God's calendar of judgment is Wall Street - the whole economy! Prosperity preachers - get ready! I love every one of them in the Lord - but very soon there will be panic in their camps as God shuts off the money supply. God is going to care for His own - but a time of great suffering and hardship is ahead for us all.

Den of Thieves

Jesus strode into the temple one day, with whip in hand, and drove out all the merchandises. He thundered, "It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves" (Matthew 21:13).

What would Jesus say today if He were here in the flesh, beholding all that is being done in His name? How long do you think He would permit His Father's name to be corrupted? How long would He endure the waste, the mixture, the shallowness, the perversion of His truth. How long would He withhold judgment upon millions of Christians who send hundreds of thousand of dollars to build entertainment complexes, told gilded towers - while more than half the world starves.

Jesus would tell it like it is! No protecting men's reputations. No false unity screens! The truth is - these dreams, these projects, did not originate in God's mind - they are the schemes of lying spirits! Some have said. "God told me" when it was not God at all. It was a lying spirit sent to deceive. We have been duped, manipulated. Adultery? That can be forgiven! Restoration of fallen shepherds? Absolutely! But taking gambler's money to do what is called God's work - never! To go on squandering God's money on entertainment and recreation, when so many walk our streets homeless. No! Rescue the dying dreams of TV evangelists, when mission fields cry for help? Never!

God has just begun the final shaking! He is going to let the whole world know that He is not in the entertainment business. He does not permit evangelists to portray Him before the world as a hard taskmaster who kills His bondservants over lack of cash. It's all over! It's all coming down! What survives the exposures will fall in the economic crunch.

We have evangelists today who would have charged into the temple to rebuke Jesus for carrying a whip and for calling money-mad religious leaders thieves. They would rally their forces in the name of unity and say to our Lord "Don't judge! Mercy! Compassion!" How horrifying to them to hear those harsh words - "You have turned my house into a den of thieves!"

God give us mercy! Give us compassion - help us restore every fallen brother or sister who truly repents. But why - oh why - do we not have as much concern about the honor of Christ as we do for the reputations of our preachers? Why are so many trying to screen "brothers" from the righteous rod of the Lord, when that very rod is their only salvation.

The Final Persecution of the Remnant

Satan is going to move right into the carnal church - to promote a unity movement consisting of ministers, ministries and religious organizations who refuse the demands of the Cross of Christ. What a compromising crowd it will be! The features of this diabolic movement will be religious theater, arts, drama, and social and political involvement. They will boast of a new-found moral freedom, a gospel of no reproof, no judgment, no guilt!

Divorce will no longer be considered a moral issue - but simply a social mistake. Sensuality will rampage their ranks. Drinking, pornography and fornication will not be condemned. It will simply be ignored and the preachers among them will seek to keep their guilt massaged.

This is the source of the final persecution of a holy remnant. Not the Communists, or the humanists, or the liberals, or the secular press! Satan will use a backslidden, lust-riddled, man-centered, religious union to persecute those who deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Christ in absolute submission to His will.

I ask you - are you discerning these times? Are you sitting back grieving over the sins of the famous, or are you judging you own sins before His holiness? Are you willing to judge righteous judgment and take a bold stand in defense of the honor of His name? Are you prepared to walk alone if necessary to bear the reproach of a separated walk of holiness> Do you still send money to ministries and man-made empires which are coming under God's holy judgment? Oh, how we need discernment!

The bride of Christ will come forth out of great persecution - victorious, without spot or wrinkle! Is this not the time to weep between the porch and the altar - to mourn for sin - to humble ourselves and seek the true Word of God?


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