Jesus Freaks – dcTalk and The Voice of the Martyrs
The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy warning him that ‘all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’ (2 Timothy 3:12). This book tells the stories of saints who have gone before, suffered and been murdered, for their faith in Jesus Christ. These accounts are the antithesis to what Dr John Piper describes as ‘wimpy Christianity’ (read the review of Spectacular Sins and their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ here). This book is, therefore, a wake up call to a Western church slumbering to the reality of what it means to take up our cross daily and follow our crucified Messiah.
Jesus Freaks is a collaboration between dcTalk, a 90’s Christian pop/rock band (perhaps best known for their album ‘Jesus Freaks’), and the Voice of the Martyrs, an organisation founded by Richard Wurmbrand (a Romanian Pastor) and supporting the persecuted church across the globe. Richard Wurmbrand’s story is itself one of suffering in the midst of persecution having been imprisoned for 14 years for his faith in Jesus Christ.
The layout of this book is similar to that of daily devotional reading material. Each chapter tells the story of a different believer who has suffered for Christ. Each account is then followed by either a Bible reading, a prayer or a practical encouragement to live out the gospel.
The accounts span the centuries and begin with the deacon Stephen, the first martyr of the church of Christ (Acts 6:8-15). As we read, we see that such faithfulness, even to death, touches every age and every people group. One sobering account tells the story of a 5 year old girl living in communist China in the 1960’s. She was sent to prison along with her mother who had protested against the imprisonment of her bishop. They were both released because the mother denied Christ before the authorities – she could not bear to see her child crying. However, once they were out, the young girl rebuked her mother:
“Mummy, today Jesus is not satisfied with you.”
The mother explained, “You wept in prison. I had to say this out of love for you.”
Siao-Mei replied, “I promise that if we go to jail again for Jesus, I will not weep.”
The mother ran to the prison director and told him, “You convinced me I should say wrong things for my daughter’s sake, but she has more courage than I.”
Both went back to prison, but Siao-Mei no longer wept.
We also read of John Bradford, a pastor who lived in England during the reign of Queen Mary in 1555. His views differed widely from that of the state church and he was thrown into prison. While in prison, he continued to preach to the criminals and thieves there, also looking after them by giving them money to buy food. John’s response on receiving his death sentence was this; ‘Bradford looked to heaven and said, “I thank God for it. I have waited for this for a long time. Lord, make me worthy of this.”‘
How many of us would be able to say this about every day situations and troubles that we come across? This book reminds us to be thankful to the Lord for the privileges we have been afforded and for his grace and mercy to a Western church free to worship without fear of threat.
The stories contained within these pages are heart-rending and we may ask, why read such accounts? The stories contained herein act as a reality check to a coddled and overly comfortable Western church. The intent behind this book is that our eyes would be opened once again to the cost of being a disciple of Christ Jesus. More than this, however, as we read how our fellow brothers and sisters have stood firm, we find a renewed confidence in the hope of the gospel. In their suffering and death we see a reflection of the glory and the mercy of Jesus Christ. Our persecuted brothers and sisters know that it is worth it because he is of infinite worth.
Jesus Freaks is also an encouragement to pray for the suffering church as we are reminded from many of these stories that such persecution is a very present reality in many parts of the world. The Western church is called to pray for believers who, at this very moment, risk their lives by daring to profess the name of Christ Jesus.
I would whole-heartedly recommend this book. Stylistically, Jesus Freaks is both an accessible and compelling read. As a reality check, however, we should expect to be challenged and sobered by the stories recounted here. As we read, we see the cost of discipleship, the truth of the gospel lived out and the joy of Christ shining forth even in the midst of peril, suffering and death.
And they have conquered him [the enemy] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. (Revelation 12:11)
To purchase a copy of Jesus Freaks click here.