Pastor Saeed Abedini, who is currently serving eight years in prison in Iran, has written an Easter message to Christians around the world, calling them to die to themselves and to selfish desires in order to experience the resurrection with Jesus Christ.
"Sometimes we want to experience the Glory and resurrection with Jesus without experiencing death with Him. We do not realize that unless we pass through the path of death with Christ, we are not able to experience resurrection with Christ," Abedini wrote in a message shared by the American Center for Law and Justice, which represents his wife, Naghmeh, and two children in the U.S.
"We want to have a good and successful marriage, career, education and family life (which is also God's desire and plan for our life). But we forget that in order to experience the Resurrection and Glory of Christ we first have to experience death with Christ and to die to ourselves and selfish desires."
The pastor, who is being treated for a number of health problems in an Iranian hospital, revealed that he was praying for fellow Christians around the world on the eve of Good Friday and Easter.
"What the Holy Spirit revealed to me in prayer was that there are many dead faiths in the midst of Christians today. That Christians all over the world are not able to fully reach their spiritual potential that has been given to them as a gift by God so that in reaching that potential, the curtain can be removed and the Glory of God would be revealed," he wrote.
He urged Christians to transform their "death faiths" into living and active faiths "through the resurrection of Christ which is an active and constructive love that is effective."
Abedini has been in prison in Iran since his arrest in July 2012 while working on an orphanage project, accused of "threatening national security." The ACLJ and other Christian groups have led a global effort for his release, and one of his most outspoken advocates has been his wife, Naghmeh.
In the April 2014 issue of International Christian Concern's magazine, she said that she believes God has chosen her family and her husband for the ordeal they are going through in order to reach people in despair.
"The Lord has counted our family worthy enough to send Saeed to a dark place that he would be able to share with people who are in complete despair," Abedini said in her testimony.
"This has been very hard, but spiritually it is the best time in my life. I wouldn't trade it for anything."
She added, "My new reality forced me out of my self-consumed life. I realized I had a right to speak out for those who are being silenced, to speak for the Christians, for the Jews, for the Baha'i, and other fellow human beings who are being imprisoned simply because of their beliefs."
More than 224,000 people have signed the ACLJ petition to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, calling for the Christian pastor's release.