Persecution and the Christian

Persecution and the Christian
2 Timothy 3:12 • Gabe Morris • May 29, 2016 • Guest Speaker

Transcript

SUGAR LAND BIBLE CHURCH

Gabe Morris

Persecution and the Christian  2 Timothy 3:12

5-29-16

Good morning.  I hope you all are having a great memorial weekend.  For those who had sons or daughters who gave the ultimate sacrifice in serving our great country a huge thank you for your sacrifice and service.  Military families serve and sacrifice too.  Can we pray?

Father, we give You praise and we exalt you, you alone are worthy to be praised.  Lord God we thank You for the men and women and the heroes who gave their lives for this country; for that we are grateful.  May our country as a whole remember those individuals, not just tomorrow but every time we enjoy the freedoms available to us.  And Father, we thank You for this church, for Your church, we thank You for this body of believers ready to take part in Your Holy Word; Your Word is truth, Lord, and I pray you open our hearts and our minds to Your Word.  Use me as You see fit; bless the preaching of Your Word.  And may we leave here ready to serve You.  In Jesus name, and God’s people said… Amen.

If you recall a few Sundays back Andy covered 2 Timothy 3:11-13 in a sermon entitled Follow Me, Part 2, and in that sermon he covered the verse in the middle, which says, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  In that sermon he talked about the life of Paul and his various sufferings and persecutions and his letters were basically telling his audience, particularly Timothy, the young pastor, to imitate me as I imitate Christ.  He pulled that from 1 Corinthians 11:1.  [1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”]  Christ suffered and was terribly persecuted to the point of death.  And Paul as well throughout the New Testament suffered and was persecuted to the point of death.  Paul was exhorting Timothy in his letters not just to follow what I say but follow my example as I follow Christ.

The Bible doesn’t actually tell us how Paul died; there’s no way to be certain but church tradition tells us that Paul was beheaded in Rome at the hand of Nero.  In fact tradition says that the Apostle Peter also died within that same time frame of Paul; because Peter was Jewish he was crucified tradition tells us.  And because Paul was a Jew, but a Roman citizen, he was beheaded.  Romans were normally exempt from crucifixion.

But in that sermon Andy briefly touched on American Christianity, the American church and persecution, and he said something that was very profound to me and for the rest of that day I couldn’t help but… I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  What he said drove me to study about what the Bible spoke about persecution.  He said that in Christianity America was an abnormality; you guys remember that?  He called it a bubble and that’s true; I believe that’s true.  We American Christians, we live in a bubble in regard to religious persecution, compared to the first century church, compared to other countries around the world Americans have, in fact, we have been sheltered and protected, literally protected in many ways from religious persecution.

So I decided to just put it in a sermon and I pray this will encourage someone today.  The title of my message is Persecution and the Christian, Part I.  And here’s a brief outline of where we are headed today.  We’re going to talk about four characteristics of persecution and the Christian’s attitude towards persecution.  So can we turn to 2 Timothy 3:12.  I will not be expositing this verse today, Andy already did that, I wanted to use this verse as a springboard into our topic of persecution.

So let’s begin with defining persecution, 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  That word persecuted in Greek is the Greek verb diōochthēsontai, coming from the Greek word diōchō, which means persecute, or pursue.  It’s to become subject to systematic harassment and attack due to one’s religious beliefs.  One Bible dictionary says: to use forcible means to inhibit the spread or practice of a religious faith; infliction of suffering,  injury or death on others because of their beliefs.

Persecution is a very large theme in the Bible.  In fact, the very first book of the Bible begins with an account of persecution of the righteous by the unrighteousness.  Genesis 4:3-7 we hear this story of Cain who was full of rage because God had no account for his offering but accepted Abel’s offering instead.  [Genesis 4:3-7, “So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. [4] Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; [5]5 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. [6] Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? [7] If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”]

Cain gave in to his sinful desires and rage and murdered his brother.  And of course, all throughout the Old Testament we see the people of God, or the nation of Israel, being persecuted by Egypt, the Philistines, the Midianites, Babylon, the Persian, then Rome in the New Testament.  For the first century believer persecution was the norm; it was normal.  And in fact, Christianity was birthed, the church was birthed in a mixed persecution.  And if anyone in the first century had the opportunity to hear the gospel and believe on Jesus Christ no doubt that person had to consider the reality that persecution would soon follow.  Beyond that Jesus Himself warned His disciples and His potential disciples of imminent persecution.  In other words, Scripture teaches us that discipleship is costly.

How much does it cost?  Your life.  Can we turn in our Bibles to Matthew 16:24, and in Matthew Jesus is with His disciples, He said this, Matthew 16:24, “…‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.; [25] For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

Now Jesus was not talking about giving up a few bad habits or sacrificing a Super Bowl Sunday to follow Him; He was talking about persecution.  And how do we know that?  Because in the verses prior to that, if you look up in verses 21-23 Jesus predicts His coming persecution and death by the chief priests and scribes.  Verse 21 says, “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. [22] Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.’ [23]But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.’”  And here’s verse 24, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself [and take up his cross and follow Me],” and the verse continues.

So we clearly see that discipleship may cost you your life.  Jesus referred to imagery of the cross , He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.”  When you were captured, when  you were a captured criminal under Roman rule you were forced to carry your own cross to the place where you were to be crucified.  And it signified submission to Rome.  And Jesus here was warning His disciples of the potential reality if they were to follow Him.  Please don’t miss the conjunction there in the beginning of Christ’s statement, “If,” “If anyone wishes to follow me.”  Jesus is revealing a condition; if you agree to follow Me than you must expect this—persecution.

Back in chapter 10 of Matthew, verses 38-39, Jesus says it differently.  He says, “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. [40] He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.”  Now I’m not a betting man but if I were I would bet that probably 95% or more of people sitting in this building, including myself, did not consider the reality of persecution the day we became a Christian.  In other words, when you decided to become a believer did we weigh in our mind the reality of persecution coming on us and our families when we put our faith in Christ Jesus.  I know I didn’t.  But yet there is verse after verse in the New Testament, Matthew 16:24 being one of them, 2 Timothy 3:12 being another, there is verse after verse explicitly warning us that persecution could be a reality once we decide to follow Jesus.

But as an American back in 1995 was when I became a Christian, I didn’t have to weigh the reality of persecution; because of the religious freedom I enjoyed I didn’t have to.  The Bible says if you follow Jesus you will be persecuted, 2 Timothy 3:12.  We learn that that was the promise and I know this should always be a small percentage of exception, I know that.  For example, would you agree that  America has been that exception?  At least in my mind; I know there’s other countries that enjoy some freedom but America is a small exclusion in the sweep of church history in regards to Christian persecution.  And, well at least in December, December 15, 1791 the enactment of the First Amendment which protected our religious freedom, Americans over a significant portion of the United States existence have literally enjoyed freedom of worship.  But it wasn’t always like this. America’s beginnings were rooted in religious persecution if you recall.  England’s Puritans, remember them, leaving their homeland because of persecution.  If it were not for those Puritans there would be no America.  Or other people like George Washington, founders of our country, who loved Almighty God, without them there would be no United States.  There would be no quote “shining city on a hill” as the Puritan, John Winthrop termed it.  And Ronald Reagan also used that term.  They called her, America, the shining city on a hill.”  Amen.

But since 1791, again we have been sheltered .  If you are an American citizen consider yourself abundantly blessed.  But as I look in regard to the church after studying the life of the church and how she has endured persecution from day 1 and how the apostles who laid the foundation for the church, who later endured tremendous persecution and died for their faith, after learning how Jesus warned all those who followed Him will endure persecution.   And Jesus endured persecution to the point of death.  And how the New Testament reveals that persecution was considered a blessing.

I had to ask myself as I studied this, will religious freedom in America continue to be a blessing as Jesus draws nigh, or will it handicap the American church.  I thought that was a legitimate question to ask.  And can I come at it from a different perspective: if our religious freedoms continue and I for one, I do pray that it does and I’m sure all of you guys do too, but if religious freedom does continue then that would mean the American church by and large may not be a candidate for the crown of life.  Can you imagine it, the Iranian Christian, the Indonesian Christian, the Chinese Christians, the Korean Christians and just a sprinkling of American Christians in the line to receive the crown of life.

Now please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying we should go out and get persecuted;  I’m sure many of us contemplating this truth are thinking I would be content to just having one crown maybe two, maybe just eternity, I would be content with that.  But what I’m trying to wrap my mind around is the fact that Jesus Himself has called me to a life of suffering.  Did not Paul say in Philippians 3:10 that his one desire was “know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”

Peter said it differently in 1 Peter 2:19-21, he said, “For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. [20] For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. [21] For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,” that sounds familiar.  Didn’t Paul say that to Timothy?

What I’m saying is that as the American church, we as a Bible-believing church need to seriously consider the cost of discipleship, especially in light of how Christians are being treated currently in America.  Christianity is out of season in America.

I came across an article, a journal article called The Conservative Theological Journal, written by a man who was very dear to some of the members of this church, in fact, he mentored like some of our leaders, like Andy Woods and Jim McGowan. I wish I could have met this man; from what I now of him he was a man devoted to proclaiming God’s truth and investing that truth into others; his name was Mal Couch and this article is written in December of 1999, almost 17 years ago.  And he wrote this, please bear with me, these are all articles of persecution in the U.S.

He said this: “It is my firm conviction that the modern evangelical church will soon face direct persecution in America.  It is has already begun in other parts of the world.  In fact, some have estimated that more believers have died for their faith in Christ in this century than in any era of the early church.  But such physical martyrdom has not often taken place in the U.S., though no one prays for martyrdom physical persecution in this country would rejuvenate the witness of the body of Christ.

“It is interesting to note that the recent killings in the high school in Colorado and the shootings in Fort Worth, Texas,” this is in 1999, “had some elements of martyrdom.  When one of the killers learned he was pointing his weapon at a Christian teenager with glee and relish he dispatched her out of this life.  In a more direct way the killings in the Fort Worth church were fueled by a clear hatred for Christianity.   Though some may argue that the killers in both cases were mentally unstable, nevertheless, their anti-God sentiments were expressed long before these terrible events took place.  Though I’m certainly not a prophet I predict that within ten years American Christians will be facing a much more widespread baptism of fire.  It may begin with a more intense legal and religious ostracization in order to smother our witness.  It will then move to persecutions on the job, more public expressions of Christianity, such as take place around Christmas, will be limited.  And finally, though we say this will never happen in America outright physical suffering may come about.  If we but look back at how quickly the influence of Christianity has been curtailed I believe that we will have to ponder, could such persecution actually happen to us?  Looking at the New Testament of the history of the early church we see that persecution was normative and not unusual; for believers in Christ it was expected.  For the rapture of the church to glory I believe hatred and persecution against believers will sharply increase.  Peter reminds us to expect fiery ordeals and testing’s.”  He adds that “Such trials are not to be taken as strange but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ; keep on rejoicing.  Further, if you are reviled for the name of Christ you are blessed because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.  It must be remembered,” last paragraph, it must be remembered that God is sovereign in history; if these things come upon us we are but one of many generations that will have suffered for the Lord.  Peter reminds us of his providence since her name is bitter cup that may be out lot here at the end of the church age.  Therefore let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.”

Are we ready for persecution?  And since this is a Bible church and one of our aims is to equip the body of Christ let’s do some equipping; shall we?  Let’s prepare for persecution.  That was my introduction so let’s begin.

I wanted to begin with some of the breathtaking numbers and statistics regarding Christian persecution around the world today but that would have taken up the whole sermon.  The slides you saw earlier were all from the U.S. and within the last year or so.  Instead let’s begin with learning about the nature of persecution.

What are some of the characteristics of Christian persecution?  And the first one is persecution is the characteristic of this world, Psalm 10: says this: “Why do you stand afar off, O LORD? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?  [2] In pride the wicked hotly pursue the afflicted; let them be caught in the plots which they have devised.  [3] For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire, and the greedy man curses and spurns the LORD.  [4] The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek Him.  All his thoughts are, ‘There is no God.’”

Here David defined the characteristic of the persecutor, full of pride and arrogance, haughtiness; it is in their nature to speak and act abusively towards God’s people.  This person has absolutely no room for God or His laws.  Just a hearing of God’s words make him cringe, make him full of rage.  Remember in the book of Acts, Stephen, when he was killed in Acts 7:54 is says, “Now when they” Stephen’s adversaries, “heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him.”  Such a person is fixed and immovable in his wickedness and he will go out of his way to be deceitful and destructive towards the one who does not think like he does.

So deceitful that in Psalm 10:7 it goes on to say, “His mouth is full of curse and deceit and oppression;  under his tongue is mischief and wickedness.”  So the persecutor has no problem deceiving others in order to destroy or bring calamity to his adversaries.  You can read more in that Psalm to learn more about the persecutor.

But persecution is the characteristic of this world.  In 1 John 3:13 it says, “Do not be surprised, brethren, fi the world hates you.”  It shouldn’t surprise us.  And the fact that the world hates us should put us at ease.  Amen!  Don’t feel bad, it started with Jesus.  Jesus came to the world that He created, He came to His own, the Bible says, John 1:10, and they did not receive Him.  They later crucified Him.  [John 1:10, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.  [11] He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.”]

People who are in this world, those that are unbelieving, are said to have their minds blinded by the god of this world so that they may not see the light of the gospel, 2 Corinthians 4:4.  [“ in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”]

This brings us to our second characteristic of persecution and that is that Satan is the arch persecutor of God’s people and that verse reference is Genesis 3:15, it says, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”  Of course this is the verse known in theology as the fancy word protoevangelium with a prototype to the gospel.  This decree, prophetic decree by God speaks of the unending struggle and hated and strife with Satan and mankind, and the offspring of the woman.  As we stated before, this struggle started immediately with Cain and Abel; this struggle would continue to Christ and those ultimately found collectively in Him.

And please do not overlook the Scripture that says the enmity will be “between your seed,” Satan’s seed, “and her seed;” the devil will not be alone in his campaign against your life; this will include his demon cohorts and people as well.

Jesus, in John 8:44 spoke of people whose father is the devil.  He told the Pharisees, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father.”  We see again in both Old and New Testament, remember the life of Job in the Old Testament, and Satan’s role in Job’s struggle and tragedy.  Satan had all the power in his hands but he could not take Job’s life.  In the New Testament, Satan, in Luke 22:3-4, entered Judas.  Satan entered Judas.  It says, “And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve. [4] And he” Judas “went away and discussed with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Him to them.”

Satan is the arc persecutor of God’s people.  1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”   Satan will persecute the church and the nation of Israel until the glorious end.

Another characteristic of persecution is its agency. What are some of the agencies of persecution?  The first one is the world and the people of it.   In John 15:18-19 it says, “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.”

We read in John 3:13, “Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.”  In both references the term “world” here is the Greek word kosmos.  Andy explained this in many of his sermons; it’s not talking about planet earth, it’s talking about systems, its mindsets, its way of thinking, its worldview.  Take the worldview of secular humanism, for example, where the ultimate authority is man; they’re atheistic, their naturalistic philosophies and experiences, even morality, values, ethics, are all based in knowing their reality.  They begin with the premise that denies God; they start off with that and end in it, they deny the supernatural.

One advocate of secular humanism says: we are intelligent, yet undersigned, self-aware and an unintended being.  Men, therefore, are masters of their own destiny and creators of morality.

By the way, secular humanists pervade our government, our public schools, our court systems.  And it’s even crept into some of our churches.  This is the world for you, complete and utterly contrary to what we learn in Scripture.

And did you notice the term, how it describes how the world looks at us?  It hates us.  Brethren, do not be surprised if the world hates you. You are currently hated, abhorred; let me rephrase that, you as an individual, the world doesn’t hate you, the world hates what’s in you or who’s in you.  If you didn’t have Jesus the world would love you.  In John 15:19, ““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].”  Luke 21:17 says this: “and you will be hated by all because of My name.”]  Notice the word “all: there, all the world.

What’s in the world?  That brings us to our second agent of persecution, it’s earthly government; earthly governments and religious authority.  We see in both Old and New Testaments that earthly governments had their fair share of oppressing God’s people and persecuting them.  We talked about Egypt and the Philistines, and Babylon, Persia, and Rome.  Even Israel herself persecuted her own and oppressed her own.

Remember the story of King Ahab, one of Israel’s most wicked kings who ruled the northern kingdom?  Scripture describes him as a man that did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him.  1 Kings 16:30, [“Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD more than all who were before him.”]  And his wife, Jezebel, Ahab was carried over to the worship of Baal and of course we know the story of the great prophet, Elijah, being their number one target.

Earthly governments, Mark 13:9 towards the end of Christ’s ministry Jesus began telling His disciples of things to come concerning their future.  Mark 13:9 says, “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to the courts, [and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them.”]  That word “courts” is the Greek term sunedria from where we get the term Sanhedrin.  He was referring to the local courts; these are the people who had supreme executive and legislative and judicial powers over the Jews within the boundaries of Roman rule.  And the funny thing is, that the whole governing body of the Sanhedrin was composed of both Pharisees and Sadducees, religious authorities, with the high priest serving as its president; how convenient for them.  That’s how it was made up in Christ’s time.

Acts 23:1-5 reveals this.  [Acts 23:1-5, “Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, ‘Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day.’ [2] The high priest Ananias commanded those standing beside him to strike him on the mouth. [3] Then Paul said to him, ‘God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?’  [4] But the bystanders said, ‘Do you revile God’s high priest?’ [5] And Paul said, ‘I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT SPEAK EVIL OF A RULER OF YOUR PEOPLE.’”]

Religious authorities, if we look at Mark 13:9, it continues on and it says, “…and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them.”

Acts 5:17-18 says this: “But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy. [18]They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public jail.” A “public jail.

Acts chapters 3 and 4 also tell of the account when Peter and John were arrested and persecuted by the religious leaders after they healed the lame beggar.  These verses clearly teach that religious authorities can turn on Christians at the drop of a dime because of who’s in us.  And given the fact that 2 Timothy teaches that the church will drift away from truth, Andy just covered that, the apostasy of the church, God help us when the day comes and we are reviled, or perhaps even afflicted to some degree from our own numbers.

Does not apostasy have no limits?  Remember that. Is not apostasy satanically energized?  Will  it not impact every major doctrine that we hold dear to?

We can also add to religious authorities other religions, like radical Islam.  Right?  They are persecuting our fellow brethren, brothers AND sisters as we speak, killing and raping them systematically in a horrific and sometimes creative manner.  The latest video I’m aware of is the 21 Egyptian Christians beheaded on a beach in Libya, I don’t know if you guys heard about that.  The video is entitled A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross.

ne last thing about government, if you’re wondering where government is headed look no further than the Bible.  Daniel 7:23 says this? “Thus he said: ‘As for the fourth beast, there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all other kingdoms, and will devour the whole earth, and tread it down, and crush it.”  This verse is talking about a one-world government; it’s on the horizon, ruled by one man, the antichrist, who is controlled by Satan himself.

And if you’re wondering what the objectives are, will be for this one-world government it’s the complete and utter domination of all facets of life, oh, and also to get rid of God’s people.

Revelation 13:7 says, “It was also given to him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them, an authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.”  One commentator said abut Revelation 13:7, he said, “To make war does not mean to wage a military campaign, but refers to hostility to and destruction of the people of God in whatever manner and through whatever means the beast may choose, to conquer them.  If refers not to the submission of their faith but to the destruction of their physical lives.”  If you’re interested in this subject on world government, Andy did an awesome sermon entitled The Coming World Government and you can find that on Spirit and Truth.

But we have briefly covered three agencies of persecution, the world, earthly government and religious authorities.  Are we prepared, as the American church, for persecution?

And the last agent of persecution, examples in the Bible, I’m sorry to tell you that, is family and friends.  This brings us back to one of our introductory passages in Matthew 10; can we turn there if you’re not there already.  Matthew 10:38-39, this is the section where Jesus defines a disciple.  Remember when Jesus said in Matthew 10:38-39, he says this:  “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.”

If we go north, up a few verses, to 34, Jesus says, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. [35] For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; [36] and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD.”  This is one of those hard sayings of Jesus.  You mean to tell me the promised Messiah, the one called the Prince of Peace will divide and tear apart families?  I thought the angels declared at His birth, “Peace on earth among men.”  The short answer: yes!  If Israel had accepted Him there would have been peace and since He was refused and rejected by Israel the result was a sword.

Now there is only peace through what?  The blood of the cross, Colossians 1:20.  [“and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.”]

With respect to family and friends Satan’s influence will be so strong people will grow so cold, there will be so much hatred towards the one who follows Christ.  Blood relations will not matter anymore; the closest relational bond, the familial bond between parent and child will be lost.

Let’s not forget that this section describes what a true disciple looks like.  Verse 37, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”  The disciple here, Jesus is saying, must be willing… must be willing to face not only persecution to death but family hatred, betrayal and alienation as well.  What is this verse teaching?  Complete and utter allegiance and dependence on God, and trust that HE has a plan, a better plan than me.  When Jesus repeated those statements, “I came,” “I came,” or “I did not come” it reveals His Christological and eschatological awareness.  He’s dialing back to the Old Testament; he references Micah 7:6, [Micah 7:6, “For son treats father contemptuously, Daughter rises up against her mother, Daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; A man’s enemies are the men of his own household.”]

  1. A. Carson said this: “Micah describes the sinfulness and rebellion in the days of King Ahaz, but insofar as Jesus’ disciples are following Him align themselves with the prophets. The situation in Micah’s time points to the greater division at Messiah’s coming. Many critics think these verses apply solely to Christians in Matthew’s day and doubtless they call Matthew’s readers to think of their own suffering.”  But some older commentators, like this man, [can’t understand word, sounds like: Plumtree] wonder whether the twelve even during Jesus’ early ministry did not face some opposition from family and friends, as did Jesus Himself.  In any case, the context suggests Jesus is focusing on the future; even today the situation has not greatly eased.  In the liberal West, people who become Christians have occasionally been disowned and disinherited by their families, or have lost their job.  And under totalitarian regime there have been and still is untold sufferings for Christ.

Can we turn to Luke 14:26, this is one of Jesus’ sayings and He says it in a way that cuts to the heart.  Luke 14:26, He says, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”  Man, that’s tough!  [Luke 14: 27] “Whoever does not carry his own cross after Me cannot be My disciple.”

He goes on, [28] “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?  [29] Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, [30] saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish. [31] Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand?  [32] Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.  [33] So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”

I’ve got to tell you, I was a mess studying for this sermon.  I felt… I feel so inadequate teaching a sermon like this, as an American.  I mean, are we ready for persecution as the American church.  Will we count the cost of discipleship?

So far we looked at three characteristics of persecution, the world, earthly governments, religious authorities, family and friends, let’s look at our final characteristic.  Believers must expect persecution… believers must expect persecution!  John 15:20 says this, “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….”

1 Thessalonians 3: says this, “For indeed when we were with you,” Paul is speaking, “we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction;” and by the way, suffering, affliction and persecution are interchangeable when I studied this, the topic of persecution, “and so it came to pass, as you know.” And then 2 Timothy 3:12, “Indeed…”  “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

As we have learned in Andy’s past sermons Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit promises the reality to believers, or should I say disciples, persecution; He promises persecution.  Please notice in 2 Timothy he says, “All those who desire to live a godly life,” right, not every Christian desires to live a godly life.  Not every Christian counts the cost.  Not every believer is a disciple.  And the truth of the matter is that, you know, not every believer will be persecuted.  And I say that because some of the greatest men and women of God that we know, some who are close to this body, never had a hair harmed on their head.  And that was the grace of God, that was the mercy of God.  We sang those hymns earlier, where “God shed His grace on thee.”

We don’t know when persecution will come; we know that it’s on the rise, but it will come.  If the Scriptures are true it will come, right?  It’s sort of like the rapture, if I could  use that example; we don’t know when the rapture will be here but it will be here.  It could be years, months, or days before persecution comes knocking at our door.  But when it does, are we ready; will we be ready?

And now in the last days the believer will sooner or later come to a crossroads of decisions; we either count the cost or not.  This slide, hopefully, should add more weight to it after today, it did for me.  I have a lot to consider when I think about discipleship, when I think about persecution.  Will it come to my door?  My prized possessions are my beautiful wife and my five children.  But then again, are they really mine?  They’re God’s, right?  I’m just the steward.  As I read those persecution passages, especially the one that Jesus warns us about, it had a bigger impact on me when I thought about this.  I bet now when those Christian bakers who refused to bake that cake, that wedding cake for the homosexual couple, for the photographer that refused to take pictures at the homosexual wedding, I bet those Scriptures are alive to them now.  Oh, that’s what Christ meant by carrying the cross.  Hallelujah!

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.” [Matthew 5:10]  “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Christ. [Matthew 5:11]

Are we ready?  How do we get ready?  How do we get ready for this kind of thing?  I’m glad you asked.  What should our posture be in light of persecution?  What should my attitude be towards coming persecution?  Should I flee from it or defend myself?  What should my backup plan be if I am persecuted?  Those questions will hopefully be answered in our next session together, God willing.  Amen.

For now here is a teaser, I read some of the verses to you, at least portions of it.  [Matthew 5:10]  “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness because theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  [11] “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.” [12]  “Rejoice, and be glad,” for your reward in heaven is great, “for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Just a teaser, it gets better.  God wins, Amen!  He wins!  Now those of you who perhaps are here for the first time, who are unsure about your salvation, don’t let the idea of persecution cause you to walk away without believing first in Jesus.  You know, the Apostle Paul said this in Philippians 3:8, ‘I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.”

That’s another teaser.  So Paul counted the cost as well.  He counted all things, even his suffering, even his life, as a loss “so that I may gain Christ,” he said.  In other words, squaring away your salvation today with Jesus will be the most important decision you will ever make.  The benefits of knowing Christ far exceed all [can’t understand word], even [can’t understand word].

How do you square away your salvation?  You believe in the gospel message.  The gospel is what Christ has done for you.  He lived a perfect life in your place, He died a sinless life for you, God actually gave His Son, His only Son to die in your stead.  He was resurrected on the third day and ascended into heaven.  And now He sits at the right hand of the Father.  We all know John 3:16, I love John 3:16, “Whosoever believes in Him shall have eternal life.”  If you desire eternal life there’s one thing to do, it’s just believe… just believe!  Trust, depend, rely are synonyms; if you have done that congratulations, you are a part of the family of God.  And God awaits us, Amen.  All your sins are forgiven, past, present and future.  And if you are unsure about it we can talk afterwards.  Can we pray.  All right.

Father, thank You for Your Word, and in these last days Lord, with your strength, wisdom, mercy and grace, and joyful praise as You prepare us for what Your Word has promised us in regard to persecution and suffering, may you calibrate our thinking in regard to persecution, may You give us wisdom and courage to count the cost.  And may You allow us to see our lives as Paul saw his, as one who was sold out for You.  May we bless  You as we go and we give You glory and praise, in Jesus name.  And God’s people said… Amen!