Sermon for Sunday, July 12th, 2020 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[Psa 91:1-16 ESV] 1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” 3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. 5 You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 8 You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. 9 Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place– the Most High, who is my refuge– 10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. 11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. 12 On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot. 14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. 15 When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. 16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
New Testament reading:
[Rom 13:1-7 KJV] 1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to [execute] wrath upon him that doeth evil. 5 Wherefore [ye] must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. 6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute [is due]; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
Gospel reading and sermon text:
[Jhn 15:18-25 KJV] 18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before [it hated] you. 19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin. 23 He that hateth me hateth my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But [this cometh to pass], that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.
Continuing now in John’s Gospel and continuing also in Jesus “upper room discourse” we find that his subject of speech has changed from “love” to “hate.” In the last passage we saw his commandment to “love one another as I have loved you.” And we saw HOW Jesus loved his disciples – be calling them friends, by telling them all he was given from the Father, and by choosing them to bear fruit. Now we shift as from the North Pole to the South Pole. The discussion of “love” has now switched to “hate.”
Specially, Jesus warns his disciples—as he warns us—expect the world to hate you for loving Christ. [REPEAT: expect the world to hate you for loving Christ]
I want to look at two points in particular as we study this passage of God’s word.
I. Expect persecution.
II. Be found guilty in nothing but for faith in Jesus Christ.
I. Expect persecution.
We who believe in Jesus Christ are promised that we will be persecuted as he was persecuted.
So don’t be surprised!
Don’t be surprised when people hate you for your faith.
Jesus is continuing to prepare his disciples for his departure. He will soon be leaving the world and the persecution he has known will be known by the disciples.
As Jesus was persecuted so we too shall be persecuted.
Do not be surprised!
Don’t be surprised if you with love and in the most friendly manner tell someone the Gospel and they don’t respond well. Don’t be surprised if people mock your God. Don’t be surprised if you are an outsider at your work, your home, or your school. You WILL be persecuted as Jesus was persecuted. It is NOT a maybe.
Jesus said to his disciples “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
A better translation might be not “if the world hates you,” but “when the world hates you.” It is guaranteed that it will happen because you are not of the world. And, as you are not of the world, naturally the world will have conflict with you. The world is “all who have not been regenerated by the Spirit of God.” The Church is contrasted with the world. The believers are chosen or separated from the world and are not long of it.
Jesus proves that we’ll be persecuted in saying that “a servant is not greater than his master.” That is, if the master finds opposition from the world, certainly the servant will as well.
Throughout Christian history there has been persecution. Often much worse that we have today.
In the earliest years the persecution came from the Jews who did not believe in Jesus and from the Romans who saw the Christians as a threat because they would not worship the emperor. The worst of the persecution came under Caesar Nero in the 60’s AD. Under Nero’s reign both Peter and Paul were likely martyred for the faith; dying as witnesses to Christ. And so troublesome was Nero that John the Apostle probably refers to him as the Beast in Revelation when he gives the number six-hundred-and-sixty-six. It just so happens that by Jewish way of counting, the numerical value of the letters of “Caesar Nero” sum up to six-hundred-and-sixty-six.
There were other persecutions in early Christian history as well. While there is debate if Christians were persecution under Emperor Domitian in the 90s, there is no debate over the fact that many died for the faith in the second century. Prominent church elders or “bishops” like Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna were killed by the Romans for their faith. And the Romans thought that upon the death of these leader the Christians would disband. But it was not so. Christianity is not dependent on the “leaders” but upon Jesus Christ. And the church grew. As one writer, Tertullian, said, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Word of their persecution only grew the church.
We read of the persecution of Christians today in such places as the magazine of the “Voice of the Martyrs.”
In America one of the greatest persecutions of Christians is in academia. If you are a Christian it is very difficult to find a teaching position. And all the while various courses (and even departments) are invented specifically to promote anti-Christian philosophies.
College students are also persecuted for being Christians. Their views on the origin of the world are not tolerated. All the while we are told to tolerate all views. But this post-modernism has always been about toleration of everything BUT Christianity. And the forces of atheism, feminism, marxism, and even Islam team up together to oppose Christians. What an odd bunch! Despite the terrible things Islam does to women, the feminists approve of Islam. Why? Because it is not Christianity!
Isn’t it clear that the options are Christ and all that opposes Him? The things of Christ are good, and all else is evil. And that evil persecutes the the things of Christ.
Now you would think that national leaders the world over would be glad to have hard-working, obedient, Christians among their populace. But remember, Christians are chosen out of the world and are no longer of the world. We will be hated, and that is promised.
Why is there such hostility toward Christ and towards Christians?
We see in verse 22 that it is because their sins are made known. They are against Christ because he makes their sins known. And they are against Christians because we make their sins known. When we support the Biblical right of life for all people, including babies, they hate us because their evil is portrayed. When we live monogamously, avoid drunkenness, refrain from cursing, and rest on the sabbath, they call us “legalists” and hate us for our virtues because it makes their own sin known by comparison.
We are very different from the world. We are called out from it. Chosen by God to do something unlike what the world is doing. What are we called to do? We are called to bear fruit.
So we are to expect persecution.
“all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.”
And the Scriptures tell us also in 2 Timothy 3:12 – “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
No matter how nice you are to people, they will still hate you.. They will hate you because they hate Jesus. And hating Jesus they hate the father.
We WILL BE persecuted. Expect it. Prepare for it. Don’t be discouraged when it happens, but recall Christ’s words and look at persecution as a positive thing – you are a witness to Jesus Christ.
Now, I want to look at a second point:
II. Be found guilty in nothing but for faith in Jesus Christ.
[REPEAT: be found guilty in nothing but for faith in Jesus Christ.]
Let us strive to be “hated without cause.”
This is how I understand Romans 13. We are to obey the government. Why? Well, a major reason why is so that if we are found guilty of anything it is for following Christ. Don’t go to jail for breaking the law of the land. Go to jail for being a Christian!
We should be persecuted like Christ. He fulfilled the law. He showed care for others. The opposition came against him for no fault of his own. Said another way, he did not bring it upon himself.
Application: are you acting in such a way as to be persecute for Christ’s sake?
That is, is your life obviously Christian? Do others know that you are a Christian? Too often in today’s climate professing Christians are indistinguishable from the world. Strive to live your life so that others know that you are Christian. Do not say “look at me” but show your faith through godly behavior, prayer, and care for others. Tell others about Jesus. Don’t first say “I am a Christian,” but keep the focus on the Lord. Say “Jesus Christ saved me from a life of meaningless and he saved me from eternal damnation.” Keep focused on Christ, and live as a Christian. And then, when you are persecuted you know it will be for Christ.
A. THE MISTAKEN MARTYR
Now I want to address something that I find to be a serious problem, but that isn’t often commented on. And, I don’t even know a term for this, so I’ve had to invent one. “The mistaken martyr.”
It is often good to be zealous. To be zealous is to be an impassioned advocate of some thing. But we should never let our zeal for Christianity allow us to be overbearing or mean.
Well, the “mistaken martyr” confuses the opposition he receives as a Christian with the opposition he receives because of trouble he creates on his own.
Let me try to explain. This person is selfish, a loudmouth, and highly opinionated. And whenever opposition comes against them in life, they conclude, “so and so doesn’t like me because I’m a Christian!” This is the person who goes around poking people and when they retaliate he claims he’s being persecuted.
And I’ve seen this time and time again. Being a Christian surely brings persecution upon us. But in many cases the “persecution” one receives is not because of following Christ, but rather because of one’s own off-putting behavior. We should never confuse the two.
So we are certainly to profess Christ and to expect persecution for that. But we should not blame all of our struggles on that fact. Many of our struggles in life are self-inflicted. And many of these, in fact, could be avoided if we were MORE Christ-like in our actions.
We might say “Move love LIKE thee o Christ, more love LIKE thee.” Don’t be like “the mistaken martyr” thinking that others oppose you only because you area so Christlike!
Rather, be found guilty only for faith in Jesus Christ.
Bear witness for Jesus Christ.
[Mat 5:11 ESV] 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.