In Good Company (Updated)

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“Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ? I cannot.” ~ Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani

Pastor Nadarkhani and his family

Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani refused the final opportunity to renounce his Christian faith at the last hearing of his court case in which he was found guilty of apostasy against Islam in September 2010. The execution could be implemented within days.

Iran’s Supreme Court ruled that his death sentence would be annulled only if Pastor Nadarkhani recanted.

So when asked by the judge to repent of his “apostasy,” Nadarkhani replied, “Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?”

“To the religion of your ancestors, Islam,” the judge replied.

“I cannot,” Nadarkhani repeated.

Read more about this story in ChristianToday Australia.

Asia Bibi is a 45-year-old mother of five who has been imprisoned for over two years and is awaiting execution by hanging for violating Pakistan's blasphemy laws. She reportedly told some of her women co-workers, "Our Christ sacrificed His life on the cross for our sins... Our Christ is alive."

Let us pray for the authorities in Iran that they will grant mercy to Pastor Nadarkhani. Let us pray for comfort and strength for him and his family, whatever the Lord’s will is for him. He is in good company.

The Apostle Paul, writing to his friend Timothy, ca. 64-65 A.D.:

For I am already being offered, and the time of my departure is come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith (2 Tim 4:6-7).

Polycarp, pastor of Smyrna, was martyred in 150 A.D. for his faith in Christ.

Before he was executed, the proconsul urged him, “Swear by the fortune of Caesar; repent, and say, ‘Away with the Atheists!'”

“Away with the Atheists!” Polycarp declared as he gazed up to heaven.

Again, the proconsul urged him, “Swear, and I will set thee at liberty, reproach Christ.”

Polycarp instead made his clear Christian confession, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?”

Jan Hus, a pastor in Bohemia, opposed the authority of the Roman pope, and in 1415 was sentenced to be burned at the stake. Before the fire was kindled under him, the authorities tried to persuade him for the last time to recant his Biblical faith, but he answered:

“God is my witness that I have never taught that of which I have been accused by false witnesses. In the truth of the Gospel which I have written, taught, and preached I will die today with gladness.”

Then he sung, “Christ, thou Son of the living God, have mercy upon me,” and one of his dying words were, “In 100 years, God will raise up a man whose calls for reform cannot be suppressed.”

About 100 years later, in 1517, Martin Luther ignited the Protestant Reformation in Europe. At his trial before the Diet of Worms, he rejected all the German authorities’ pleas to him to recant his Reformed faith:

Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me.

Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani is more than a hero of the faith to be admired and emulated; he is to be our strength as well. Hebrews 12:1-2 is also talking about him:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

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