Prepare to be Persecuted
Hope in Christ Bible Church 8/6/17
As we come to God’s Word, would you join me in John 15?
Now you know you are not in a seeker sensitive church when you see those bold words at the top of your outline: “Prepare to be Persecuted.”
That just doesn’t have the ring of easy, comfortable, care-free living, does it?
Yet we welcome with joy every text we come to each week as from God. For He knows the spiritual diet we desperately need to fill our hungry souls. And we will see how timely and vital these words are to our lives.
Now you know that John 13-17 features Christ bearing His heart to the disciples. It’s the great Upper Room discourse.
This is the longest recorded message Christ gives to His disciples. It’s a message of utmost urgency as He prepares them for what’s ahead following His departure.
The atmosphere in that room has been one of comfort and love. The Lord has essentially placed before them the greatest two commandments- to love Him and love one another with all their affections.
Remember, the final words we hear Christ stress to His men in John 15:17, “This I command you, that you love one another.”
Yet now, there’s a dramatic shift. A stunning and unexpected change of topic.
Our Lord now braces His followers for what’s on the horizon: persecution.
And remember friends, He shares this for our sake as well and for all His followers.
So, listen carefully to what Jesus reveals about how believers will be treated by the world. For this is the living Word of God to us:
John 15:18–25 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates Me hates My Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. 25 But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘THEY HATED ME WITHOUT A CAUSE.’
There’s so much here for our instruction as Christians in this world that we will only take on half this morning.
Our Lord here reveals the relationship His followers will have with the world. It’s an adversarial relationship.
While disciples are to be known by their love, the world will be known by its hatred.
But why? Why will unbelievers treat Christians with such hostility?
Why such outright persecution for all who will follow Christ?
The Lord shows us the first reason for persecution beginning in verse 18.
1. It’s our Identification 18, 21,23
Look at the first phrase. Jesus tells His gathered disciples, “If the world hates you…” And the assumed fact is, “and they are going to hate you.”
Now “hate” is a strong word. It’s more than an aversion to someone. Hate is vicious.
It’s defines the attitude and actions of an enemy. He detests and seeks to harm another.
– Joseph’s brothers hated him and plotted to put him to death (Gen. 37:4).
– Absalom hated Amnon and commanded his servants to kill him (II Samuel 13:22).
– The sons of Gilead hated their half-brother Jephtha and kicked him out of the house so he would receive no inheritance. (Judges 11:7).
Now, Christ puts His finger on those who will hate His followers. Who is it?
The world. “If the world hates you.”
That’s kosmos, that embraces the world’s wicked system that’s held in the vice-grip of Satan’s dominion.
John affirms that sober truth in I John 5:19 saying, “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”
No doubt about it, all those who are not Christ’s blood-bought children belong to the devil. Christ minces no words when he puts this awful truth before the unbelieving Jews: “You are of your Father the devil. Jn. 8:44
And because of that He tells them, they literally live like the devil.
He continues, “…and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
You see, the world system Jesus is talking about is fueled by an active, hostile, and satanic power. For the evil one is that ravenous lion that prowls about looking for those he may chew to pieces.
Now watch. Satan incites all unbelievers under his power with hostility and hatred that is ultimately directed against Christ.
Yes, all of Satan’ diabolical schemes assault the person and work of Jesus Christ.
That explains why King Herod in Matthew 2 gets worked up into a frenzy of seething rage and seeks to kill the infant Jesus.
And that explains why throughout our Savior’s ministry, the Jews relentlessly tried to capture Jesus and put Him to death.
It is all satanically-induced hatred!
So, Christ is telling His followers, “You better be prepared. Don’t be caught off guard. The hostile world is going to come after you just as it did Me.”
“All the ridicule, and personal attack they throw at you, is meant for Me” because they hate me.”
Now most of the Christ’s Jewish contemporaries and many people today that inwardly hate Christ claim to love God.
Yet Christ shows the impossibility of that in verse 23: “He who hates Me, hates My Father also.”
So, our Lord is saying, “Those who hate Me, hate My Father. And they are going to hate you as My followers too.”
He’s reminding His men of the price to pay as His followers. For the day they turned and followed Him, was the day they became targets of the Christ-despising world.
And that would only intensify in the following days.
In Acts 3, Peter preaches his second sermon and proclaims the resurrection of Christ. And immediately the Sadducees come unglued and throw him and John into prison.
No sooner are they released then the high priest throws them into a public jail.
In Acts 7 the Jewish Sanhedrin condemns Stephen for preaching Christ, and then brutally kill him by stoning.
It’s still the initial days of the Early Church and Stephen becomes the first N.T. Christian martyr. He is murdered for faithfully following Christ!
But the attack wasn’t just against the church leaders. Acts 8 relates vicious persecution against the church in Jerusalem. The Christians run for their lives to surrounding regions.
Then in Acts 12, James the brother of John is put to death with the sword. He is the first in the line of apostles that would die by the hands of blood thirsty unbelievers. John is the only exception as he is exiled to die on the deserted island of Patmos.
And the apostle Paul. When the Lord saved that man, he was confronted with the depth of his sin against Christ.
On the day of his salvation, while he lay on that Damascus Road he had been heading down to wipe out the church there, Christ asks him a shocking question.
It’s a question that reveals the real target of all persecution against Christians.
“Saul, Saul” Christ asks him, “Why are you persecuting Me?”
Up to that point Saul hated Christ whom he viewed as a false messiah. Yet when Christ stops him dead in his tracks, Saul then cries out, “Who are you, Lord?”
And the voice from heaven responds a second time, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”
And it’s at that point the lights go on in Paul’s mind. He grasps how all his brutal persecuting of Christians up to that day was actually against Christ.
That beloved is the explanation for all the attacks by Muslims, radical Hindus and godless communists against Christians. They hate Christ. The oppression, torture and beheadings of believers, all of that is because the world despises Christ.
By the way, three days after Saul’s conversion, Ananias is given this message from Christ about Saul: “I will show him how much he must for My name’s sake.”
He was changed from a persecutor of Christ to one who became persecuted for Christ.
So, the message Christ impresses on the disciples is this: “The unsaved are out to get you, to persecute you, and if they can, they will kill you.
Now, notice what Christ emphasizes in this suffering.
Christ explains in verse 21: “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.”
So clear. Christ clarifies that those disciple’s identification with Him would bring on persecution from those who reject Him. It’s all for His sake.
Some days before this evening with the disciples the Lord told them of things to come. Luke 21:12 we read,
“But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake.”
In other words, “Because you are My followers, you are the world’s enemies. Therefore, you will take the shots.”
Later in Paul’s ministry he carried on his back the scars from whippings and beatings.
But he saw in those the fellowship in Christ’s sufferings and testified, “I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus” (Gal. 6:17).
In other words, “I received every one of them for His sake.”
Friends, Christ’s words of persecution to His disciples were prophecy. He was predicting what would come. And those words have been fulfilled throughout all church history.
There has been no other group in the world that has experienced the level of persecution as have Christians, followers of Christ.
Remember, Nero in 64 A.D. blamed Christians for the burning of Rome? That was all satanically inspired. And it resulted in thousands of Christians being tortured, thrown to wild beasts.
Some were even coated with tar and lit as human torches to illuminate his gardens.
The Roman historian Tacitus recorded in his Annals that Christians of that time were hated and considered a “most mischievous superstition.”
And that vicious animosity against Christians has shown itself in every era.
Whether the Jewish Sanhedrin, Roman Emperors, the Catholic Church in the Reformation, or Communist or Islamic powers, there has been relentless attack against all who follow Christ.
In fact, it is estimated that more Christians have been killed for their faith in the 1900’s alone than in all of history combined.
Voice of the Martyrs also reports that more men and women are being persecuted today for Jesus than at any other time in human history
There’s a beautiful account of being prepared to suffer for Christ in Acts 21.
Toward the end of Paul’s ministry, he visits Philip the evangelist in Caesarea.
And Luke describes a moving scene that takes place as he was there with Paul:
Beginning in verse 10, we read: “As we were staying there for some days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, “This is what the Holy Spirit says:
‘In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’ ” 12 When we
had heard this, we as well as the local residents began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”
That’s the heart of a disciple in love with Christ. He is ready to suffer and even die for his lord.
As a general was leading his army to battle, his men asked what he would give them.
He replied, “Hunger, cold, wounds, and death.” They were silent for a time, then threw up their hands and said, “We will go!”
We too expect and embrace suffering because of our identification with Him.
Our Lord tells us another reason the world hates us as His followers. It’s because of our
2. Alienation 19-20
Look at how our Lord explains the cause and effect relationship. Verse 19:
‘If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.
The world’s love here isn’t some sacrificial love. It’s the phileo brotherly acceptance, natural affection.
That’s they the way the world treats its own.
With a welcome and embrace to those who act like, look like and talk like themselves.
John in his first epistle (I John 4:5) says of the unsaved, “They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them.”
Yet if you belong to Christ, then you just don’t fit. You are out of sync with the system.
You have peace with God, the world lives under the wrath of God.
You hate sin, and the world loves it.
You love truth, the world scoffs at it.
You love to boast in Christ’s name, the world loves to take HIs name in vain.
You live in the kingdom of light, the world in the domain of darkness.
You have an eternal hope, they face eternal death.
You see, Christian, we are strangers and aliens in this world. We march to a different drum. And that puts us on the wrong side of the godless culture that hates those who don’t conform to the spirit of the age.
Now lest a hint of pride enter our hearts, lest we think we are to credit for no longer swimming with the world in the cesspool of sin, look at Christ’s reminder there in verse 19.
What is it that makes us so much different than unsaved sinners around us? Our Lord says, “You are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world.”
That’s why our lives have been transformed. Christ took the initiative and chose us (and the sense of the verb is that He chose us for Himself!). And all that He chooses come to Him and follow Him.
And that is why our lives are an offense to the unregenerate around us and why they lash out against us. Christ chose us to follow Him. And that includes following Him in His suffering.
Now, Christian, you don’t need to be obnoxious or try to act odd to suffer for the Lord. That’s an awful testimony. But a uncompromised life of righteousness will be an indictment to the unsaved. It will even lead to opposition.
Think about Cain. What motivated him to kill his brother Abel? It wasn’t just because God wasn’t pleased with his sacrifice. There was a far deeper motive.
Cain killed his Abel because his brother’s righteous life provoked his sinful life.
I John 3:12 Tell us of “…Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother.”
Note what follows: “And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.”
Abel’s holy life convicted Cain so much that Cain could handle it no more and murdered his brother.
That’s the way the world reacts when their sin is exposed by our righteous lives.
That’s the opposition we should expect. It’s par for the course. It goes with the territory of being a follower of Christ.
It’s with that in mind that John then tells us in the very next verse (I John 3:13): “Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.”
In other words, face it, if you are a Christian prepare to suffer for Christ.
In fact, to drive that home, Christ reminds the disciples of the axiom in verse 20 of John 15: “A slave is not greater than his master.”
Hopefully that sounds familiar. Christ uses that well-known statement earlier that evening (John 13:16) to show the disciples they aren’t above doing what Christ did in loving others.
Here Christ shows them that since Christ suffered, they aren’t above doing the same.
“If they persecuted Me” He says, “they will also persecute you.”
That pictures a wild predator chasing after its prey.
And then to underscore the certainty of opposition Christ adds, “If they kept My word they will keep yours also.”
I concur with 16th century reformer John Knox, that the point Christ is making is this: “‘they will pay the same attention to your words as to mine; that is, none’.”
Expect rejection of yourself and your message. That’s the idea.
At the end of his life, the apostle Paul in II Timothy 3:10-12 recounts to Timothy some of the hardships he faced for sake of the Lord.
And he does so affirming that as wonderful and normal for the Christian.
“Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me!”
In other words, Timothy, it’s a privilege to be able to suffer hardship with me as a good Christian solider.
But that’s not an anomaly just for Paul and Timothy. For he shows this is God’s intended plan for all believers:
“Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
You honor Christ and face opposition.
This isn’t just theoretical. It’s to be intensely practical in our daily life in this world.
To live godly in Christ means you refuse to compromise even if it means you will take the hit financially.
The boss may tell you to falsify a report, “adjust” some figures, or misrepresent a situation.
Follower of Christ, don’t cave in but honor your Lord. And it may cost you a raise, a promotion, or even a future with your company. But you will honor His name!
Someone in conversation may begin to gloat over sin and take the Lord’s name in vain.
Christian, represent Christ well.
Don’t be ashamed to let them know how precious your Savior is to you. And perhaps
God will give you opportunity to show them their crisis in sin and only hope in Christ.
Here’s the problem of so much of today’s anemic evangelism. It’s based on fear of man not faith in God.
We tip toe around sin, hesitant to declare God’s holiness and hatred for sin.
Theirs is far too much concern for speaking their language, building bridges and earning the right to have them listen to you.
Friends, the bad news of the gospel is the personal problem of sin. And that is offensive.
Remember the words of our Savior (John 7:7): “The world…hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.”
No, we don’t judge unbelievers for their sin. God does. But as faithful followers of Christ we dare not by our silence condone what God hates.
Remember the gutsy example of John the Baptist.
He got wind of Herod the Tetrarch more than messing around with Herodias, his brother’s wife. Herod was living with her, full out adultery.
Now John doesn’t play it safe and just go along to get along.
He keeps telling Herod, “It’s not right for you to have here as your wife.”
That standing for God’s truth landed him in prison and cost him His head.
Should John have kept silent to save his own skin?
Christ didn’t seem to think so. In fact, he paid him the highest tribute:
“Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist!” Mat. 11:11
Let’s face it, living the Christian life is incompatible with the world. It’s like water
and oil. They are different in nature and don’t combine.
Therefore, follower of Christ don’t ape the world. Don’t try to fit in.
Instead, stand for Christ, speak for Christ, and live for Christ. And don’t be surprised when the world retaliates.
It’s fitting as we think of Christ’s words that we consider those who at this very time are suffering for His sake.
It’s not just hundreds of thousands but millions of Christians in more than 50 countries who are persecuted because of their faith in Christ.
God calls us to care. God calls to show our concern and empathize with them in prayer.
We are called in Hebrews 13:3 to “Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.”
So, when you hear of Christians suffering for Christ. When you read of them mentioned in our Lord’s Day bulletin, pray. Pray for God’s grace in their life and that they will stand strong for Him.
We tend to feel world’s away from persecution. For we have “not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood” (Heb. 12:4).
But our Lord’s Word call us to be prepared so that when it comes our way, will welcome suffering for Christ’s sake as from Him.
I love the encouragement from the apostle Peter in this. I Peter 4:12–14 He writes: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”
May our response to any suffering that Christ brings us be one of praise to God.
After the apostles in Acts 5 were imprisoned, beaten and then released with orders not to speak any more about Christ we are told their response.
Acts 5:41 So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.
May that be the passion of our hearts.
Out of love for Christ who gave his life for us count it a privilege to suffer for His name.
Nearly three centuries ago hymn, writer Isaac Watts, reflecting on the Christian’s call to suffer for Christ asked,
Am I a soldier of the cross, A follow’r of the Lamb? And shall I fear to own His cause, Or blush to speak His name?
Must I be carried to the skies On flow’ry beds of ease, While others fought to win the prize, And sailed through bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood? Is this vile world a friend to grace, To help me on to God?
Then the heart response of the Christian:
Sure I must fight if I would reign; Increase my courage, Lord; I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, Supported by Thy Word.
Prepare to be Persecuted (pt. 1)
Hope in Christ Bible Church 8/6/17
3. Our Identification 18, 21, 23
Gen. 37:4, II Samuel 13:22, Judges 11:7
I John 5:19
4. Our Alienation 19-20
I John 4:5
I John 3:12-13
II Tim. 3:10-12
I Peter 4:12–14
How would the Lord have me walk in obedience as a blessed doer of His Word?
Prepare to be Persecuted