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San Ban Puren
Jesus gives the ‘secret’ to enduring to the end (Matt 24:13) –
"They loved not their lives to the death" (Rev 12:11).
We can all learn from the suffering of our brothers and sisters in
Communist China and other countries where true faith in God is repressed.
By Malcolm B Heap, Midnight Ministries
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The following is a very sad and sobering report. However, it is typical of what takes place in China and other countries where Christianity is not tolerated, where believers are not allowed to put loyalty to God before loyalty to the State. There are several lessons to be learned.
1 Dec 2006. CHINA –
THREE HOUSE CHURCH LEADERS EXECUTED IN NORTHEAST CHINA.
-223The San Ban Puren, or "Three Grades of Servants" church, was established by Xu Shuangfu (pictured on the web report) and is believed to number between 500,000 and one million adherents nationwide. Having devoted his life to evangelism at the age of 12, Xu was arrested on numerous occasions and spent three years in prison on six different occasions – a combined 18 years behind bars for his faith.
The Chinese government outlawed the Three Grades of Servant organization in the 1990s, labeling it an "evil cult". Publications such as Tianfeng, the official mouthpiece of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, then published articles exposing the supposed heresies and wicked practices of the group. These were translated into English and some well- meaning Western Christian journalists joined the chorus of disapproval, denouncing the group as a cult deserving of punishment because they were dangerous law-breakers. None of these journalists traveled to China to independently verify the information coming from the Three-Self Church.
It is a dangerous foundation to base a judgement solely upon information provided by the TSPM who are an organ of the Chinese Communist Party – avowed atheists and the persecutors of millions of Christians since they took power in China. Because of this controversy, many Christian ministries have avoided making mention of the Three Grades of Servants or the brutal persecution they have endured the past three years.
In Chinese church circles today much confusion exists regarding the classification of cults. Many of the house churches in China have been labeled "evil cults" by the Communist government simply because of their refusal to register with the authorities. These include almost all the large house church networks based in Henan and Anhui provinces. To complicate matters, some of the groups the government has labeled "evil cults" are, in fact, cults and sects that deny the essential doctrines of biblical Christianity.
By classifying a church group as a cult, the government deceitfully opens up the way for Christians to be prosecuted for breaking the law, rather than directly for religious reasons. Western governments and human rights organizations are therefore largely silenced in their outcry against incidents of persecution, as often when they ask about a certain pastor who has been arrested, they are told he was arrested because he broke the law, and not because of his faith. This subtle manoeuvre has resulted in much confusion within the Chinese Church and outside China, as believers disagree on which groups really are cults, and which are genuine followers of Christ who have been targeted by a hostile government bent on their destruction. The San Ban Puren, or Three Grades of Servants church, is one such group.
In 2003 the group's founder, Xu Shuangfu, spoke with some senior house church leaders from other groups who wanted to confront him over the reported heretical beliefs and practices of his group. Xu came to the meeting with booklets and video tapes detailing what the Three Grades of Servants teach and practice. The house church leaders examined the evidence and questioned Xu at great length, concluding that his beliefs to be quite orthodox.
Xu said to the house church leaders, "If my church is in error and really a cult, then please come and rebuke us and show us the error of our ways so we can repent! Please be brothers to us in this way. If you do not point out our errors, how can we ever change and walk with Jesus like you?" These words do not sound like those of a typical cult leader!
On April 17, 2004, Xu Shuangfu was kidnapped by armed men as he made his way from the airport to the city of Harbin, Heilongjiang Province. Two days later Xu's goddaughter was contacted by the kidnappers, and was told to pay three million Yuan (approximately US $365,000) for his release. They told her if she didn't pay the money within 24 hours they would "kill the old man."
She went to the police station for help, only to be treated like a criminal and interrogated for several hours. It became apparent that the police had no interest in solving the case, and only let her go when she indicated she needed to leave to gather the ransom money. Later information made it clear that the Public Security Bureau had been the kidnappers all along.
In the following weeks a widespread crackdown was launched in a bid to demolish the Three Grades of Servants. More than 90 leaders were arrested, most of them enduring horrible torture. Fifty believers were arrested during a meeting in Harbin on April 26. Relatives and family members of those arrested were themselves detained when they went to the authorities asking for information.
After being held for more than two years, the Three Grades of Servants leaders Xu Shuangfu, Li Maoxing, and Wang Jun were found guilty of involvement in the murders of 20 cult members and were sentenced to death in June 2006. Three more, Zhang Min, Zhu Lixin, and Ben Zhongjia were given two-year suspended death sentences. Eleven more Christians received between three to 15-year prison sentences. The police claimed Xu Shuangfu had admitted involvement in the crimes, but Xu's lawyers claimed he had been so brutally tortured while in custody that he had signed a confession under extreme duress in order to save his life.
According to a report from the China Aid Association, "Xu described to the court
that in order to get false confessions, the interrogators tied his fingers, toes and genitals with wire and then connected the wire with electricity. Mr. Li Maoxing showed his wounded fingers to the court and said that the torture experts used a new way of torture called Pi Long Pao (means put-up-dragon-robe) by making him hang in the air with a very thick blanket and then electrifying him after he got extremely wet".
Mr. Xu was described as "calm and peaceful" by his daughter Ms. Xu Baiyin. "My father told the court he was very sad after hearing the murdering activities today and he said murdering is evil and forbidden by God. In his final remark he urged everyone in the court to believe in Jesus otherwise they will one day face eternal judgments in heaven. He also urged his children to continue to follow Christ without fear."
Today, the China Aid Association reported that the three leaders, Xu, Li, and Wang, had been secretly executed last week in Heilongjiang Province. The first anyone knew about it was on November 28 when Li Maoxing's wife was asked to collect her husband's ashes at the court as soon as possible. Neither the families or the attorneys of the three martyrs were informed of the execution in advance.
From Asia Harvest at www.asiaharvest.org/pages/newsLatest.htm
Learning Lessons From This
Many Christians are going to face ordeals like those which the dear people mentioned above faced. We are entering the crisis at the close of this Age very soon – perhaps in about two years’ time. For Ethiopia and some neighbouring countries that time may be upon them in 2008.
Jesus prophesied to John about:
...the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth (Rev 3:10).
Daniel wrote about the:
...time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time (Dan 12:1).
When "the mighty and also the holy people" shall be destroyed (Dan 8:24), "and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered" (Dan 12:7). So, first we must accept that this evil time is coming and that all Christians must face it.
Why does God allow it all? Daniel wrote what God told him through the archangel Michael:
...for many days they [those who believe in the true God] shall fall by sword and flame, by captivity and plundering. Now when they fall they shall be aided with a little help... and some of those of understanding [true believers in Jesus] shall fall, to refine them, purify them and make them white, until the time of the end, because it is still for the appointed time (Dan 11:33-35).
God knows all that you experience and suffer. He feels every pain with you. He feels your anguish. But He allows it, for greater spiritual purposes. He is looking for perfect character in you. This theme is elaborated upon in Why Trials?
We have explained in Help In Trials that the ‘secret’ to surviving and enduring is commitment. Are you fully committed to Jesus? Or are you more concerned about yourself than Him? A lot of western believers have accepted Jesus for selfish reasons. They think that He has called them to make their lives comfortable, or to give them fun and joy only. They don’t consider the other aspects of life that are just as much a part of the course to heaven. They close their eyes to suffering, or persecution, or pain and anguish. Peter didn’t (1 Pet 4). James didn’t (Jas 5:7-11). James tells us:
Indeed, we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord – that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful (Jas 5:11).
You wouldn’t think that Jesus is merciful from what He allowed Job or Xu to suffer. But you have to put such agonies in the context of the glories that will follow. James said that such blessedness only comes to those who do endure. So, how can you endure?
If you are willing to die for Jesus, you put your life completely in His hands, and He sees you through. But if your self is the hub of your spiritual life, and Jesus is merely an adjunct to it, you are on perilous ground. Events will crush you in some way. Jesus helps you when you are willing to die to self. You have to be prepared to pay the ultimate price.
Xu made the mistake of trying to save his life.
It’s easy to criticise others when we are not in the same dire circumstances. But that should not negate the veracity of such ‘criticism’. And what I say here is not meant to denounce Xu, just as the biblical writers criticised various saints for mistakes they made – not to put them down, but so that we can learn from them. Jesus accepts and loves Xu and he will have a good reward in heaven.
If you give in to kidnappers’ demands, you give them more power – in this instance power over Christians to further destroy them. When she went to try and raise the ransom money, Xu’s goddaughter probably unwittingly led Xu’s persecutors to other underground Christians with Xu, and they were then subsequently arrested and tortured.
Don’t try and buy your life from men. Jesus has paid the price for you and He is well able to save you from death if He wants to. That is well demonstrated in the Bible accounts. What we must all do is believe God’s words there and fully trust Him to the end. Malcolm B Heap
Further Reading: Help In Trials (HIT); Why Trials? (WT);
Articles of Faith Vol 3 (F3) explains how to endure through suffering. Richard Wurmbrand gives advice after experiencing 14 years of imprisonment and torture in communist jails.
Bible quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) unless otherwise stated
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