#6. What if I Must Suffer for My Faith?
(Dealing with the Possibility of Persecution - Part 1 of 3)
John 15:18 NASB “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.
“For nearly 250 years Christians in America were able to live in relative freedom from persecution. We escaped because our society historically embraced and promoted Biblical values. Our Founding Fathers penned a Constitution esteeming religious freedom and establishing that rights come from God, not from government. But we’re witnessing an epic change in our culture ─ a spiritual climate shift threatening to reshape life as we know it. Hostility and intolerance are replacing toleration. Rejection and even hatred are pushing aside acceptance. Get ready. An exciting, yet terrifying era is beginning for American believers. As cultural changes sweep our country, we’ll soon be challenged to live out what the Bible says about confronting and responding to persecution.” ─Moody Bible College PresidentJ. Paul Nyquist: Prepare: Living Your Faith in an Increasingly Hostile Culture; Moody Publishers; 2015, page 14
I.There is an increase in Persecution.
A. Momentum is building.
B. Voice of the Martyrs
C. “The Conscience of a Nation”
D. The Separation of Church and State
E. Points of concern:
1. A silencing of the pulpit (The 1954 Johnson Amendment to a restructuring of the federal tax code.)
2. An abandoning of doctrine
3. An abandoning of traditional churches
4. An abandoning of Christian education in schools and homes
II.Persecution takes many forms.
A. Aggression, oppression, violence affecting us emotionally, physically, and psychologically.
B. Persecution can be seen as “pressure” inflicted upon Christians by individuals, authorities, or crowds because of our beliefs or opinions. The objectives are to have Christians deny their beliefs (recant), silence Christians, or eliminate them by imprisonment or execution.
C. Note: Remember that true persecution is “for righteousness’ sake.” (Matthew 5:10;
1 Peter 4:15)
III.The face of Persecution in America
A. Stereotypical images
1. Chris Matthews: “If you're a politician and believe in God first, that’s all good. Just don’t run for government office, run for church office.” (quoted by Fay Voshell, Persecution of Christians in America: It’s not just “over there”; American Thinker, May 10, 2015; www.americanthinker.com
C. Threatening and intimidation
E. A future approach may include physical persecution ─ including imprisonment or worse.
Christian Life Lessons
1. Understand that persecution is part of the normal Christian life.
2. Do not allow fear to dominate our thinking about persecution.
Remember that Jesus will be with us and strengthen us.
What if I Must Suffer for My Faith?”
(Dealing with the Possibility of Persecution - Part 2 of 3)
Matthew 10:16-22 NASB “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. 17But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; 18and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. 21“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
I.Why does Christianity draw such intense persecution?
A. Because salvation through Christ requires submission to God.
B. Because the Christian message requires an admission of guilt.
C. Because the ministry of the Holy Spirit makes the Gospel impossible to ignore.
D. Because the fall of man resulted in darkened, deceived, deceiving hearts.
Romans 1:20-21 NIV For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
II.The Biblical Record
A. King Herod - Matthew 2:1-16
B. King Herod’s son, Herod Antipas, beheaded John the Baptist - Mark 6:25-29.
C. Enemies of Jesus sought to kill Him, even before His crucifixion - Luke 4:28-30, 13:31; John 5:16-18, 7:1, 19, 25, 44, 8:37-40, 11:53.
D. The Apostles were regularly arrested for declaring the Name and message of Jesus - Acts 4:1-3, 5:17-18, 22-40, 12:1-4.
E. Stephen was stoned to death by the Sanhedrin for preaching the message of Jesus - Acts 7:54-60.
F. Many Christians in Jerusalem were forced to leave their homes due to severe persecution - Acts 8:1.
G. Eleven of the twelve Apostles died violent deaths as a result of their allegiance to Christ.
H. Paul suffered intense persecution throughout his entire ministry and died as a martyr under the rule of Nero - 2 Corinthians 11:22-29.
III.The Historical Record
1. Nero - killed for entertainment
2. Domitian - required that he would be worshipped as a God, and there was no allowance made for any other view. Jews and Christians in particular were targeted.
3. Incest - Cannibalism - Atheism
4. Caesar is Lord v. Christ is Lord
5. ICHTHUS - Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior
6. Until 313 AD
B. Religious inquisitions and wars, as well as cultural purging
1. In the Middle Ages, nearly 2,000,000 Christians died at the hands of other Christians.
2. Protestants vs. Catholics
5. Islam - the Ottoman Empire may have killed as many as 50,000,000 Christians (2.7 million in Turkey in 1915 alone).
6. Untold millions in China and Russia during the twentieth Century.
IV.Persecution in today
A. Open Doors reported last year (2016) that every month, 322 Christians are killed for their faith; 214 church properties are destroyed; 772 forms of violence are endured ─ there are over 15,000 serious incidents of persecution. Add to this millions of lesser forms of harassment, and the concept of persecution is staggering.
B. I recommend that you follow:
1. Voice of the Martyrs
2. Todd Starnes - Christian Columnist
Christian Life Lessons
1. The early Christians responded to persecution in an amazing way!
A. Acts 4:32-35 NIV All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
B. Acts 4:29-30 NIV Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
C. Hebrews 10:34 ESV For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.
2. At the very least, in our intercession and giving, we should stand with persecuted Believers around the world.
3. The Martyrs in the Book of Revelation teach us to cry out for an end to the violence against Believers.
What if I Must Suffer for My Faith?
(Dealing with the Possibility of Persecution - Part 3 of 3)
Philippians 1:29 ESV For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,
I.What are some results of Christian Persecution?
A. Obviously, there is pain, suffering, injustice, grief, and loss.
B. Yet because of God’s Grace, there is an upside as well:
1. Persecution/Suffering produces Christian character.
a. Romans 5:3-5 ESV Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
b. In his book The Problem of Pain (MacMillan Publishers 1962; page 93), C.S. Lewis said, “Now God, who has made us, knows what we are and that our happiness lies in Him. Yet we will not seek it in him as long as He leaves us any other resort where it can even be plausibly be looked for. While what we call ‘our own life’ remains agreeable, we will not surrender it to him. What then can God do in our interest but make ‘our own life’ less agreeable to us, and take away the plausible sources of false happiness.”
2. Persecution/Suffering gives rise to bold courage.
a. Acts 4:19-20 ESV But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”
b. Philippians 1:20, 21 NIV I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
c. “To be right with God has often meant to be in trouble with men.” ─ A.W. Tozer
3. Persecution/Suffering refines our spiritual purity.
a. 2 Timothy 3:12 NIV In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
b. 1 Peter 5:10 NIV And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
4. Persecution/Suffering produces Joy.
a. Acts 16:22-25 ESV The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them,
b. Acts 5:41 ESV Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.
5. Persecution/Suffering will be rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
a. God promises to avenge and vindicate us - Revelation 6:9-11; 16:5-7; 18:20; 19:2.
b. God will give us rest - Revelation 7:14-17.
c. God will honor us - Revelation 12:11-12.
d. God promises we will reign with Jesus - Revelation 20:4-6.
e. God will give us the crown of eternal life - James 1:12.
f. God will deliver us eternally from death -1 Corinthians 15:54; Revelation 20:14.
II.God promises us strength to endure and overcome all troubles.
A.Accept the probability of persecution early on.
1. 1 Thessalonians 3:2-4 NIV We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, 3 so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know.
2. “I remember my last confirmation class before I left Romania. I took a group of 10-15 boys and girls on a Sunday morning, not to church, but to the zoo. Before the cage of lions, I told them: ‘Your forefathers in faith were thrown before such wild beasts for their faith. Know that you also will have to suffer. You will not be thrown before lions, but you will have to do with men who would be much worse that lions. Decide here and now if you want to pledge allegiance to Christ.’ They had tears in their eyes when they said ‘yes.’ We have to make preparation now, before we are imprisoned. In prison you lose everything. You are undressed and given a prisoner’s suit. No more nice furniture, nice carpets, or nice curtains. You do not have a wife anymore, and you do not have your children. You do not have your library and you never see a flower. Nothing of what makes life pleasant remains. Nobody resists who has not renounced the pleasures of life beforehand.”─ Richard Wurmbrand, author of Tortured for Christ
3. This means we must teach our children to stand.
B. Nothing will substitute for courage.
1. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 ESV Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.
2. 1 Corinthians 4:12-13 ESV and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.
3. 1 Peter 3:15-16 ESV but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
C. Stand together in the day of trouble.
1. Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
2. Promise Keepers - “Back to back; shoulder to shoulder.”
D. When all else is challenged, let your security rest in Jesus.
1. Matthew 16:25 ESV For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Christian Life Lessons
1. The early Christians responded to persecution in an amazing way!
· Acts 4:32-35 NIV All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
· Acts 4:29-30 NIV Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
· Hebrews 10:34 ESV For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.
2. We must persevere, remembering that the trials of this life are inconsequential when compared with what we will gain!
· Romans 8:18 ESV For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
IMMANUEL: THE PLAN OCTOBER 12, 2022
GOD THE PLANNER
“Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.” Isaiah 46:10, NLT
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:4-7, ESV
THE PLAN TO SAVE
Following Creation and the Fall of Man, God enacted a plan leading to salvation.
1/ The Law of Moses
This reveals our inability to save ourselves through righteous works.
…it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet.” But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me! Romans 7:7-8, NLT
2/ The System of Sacrifice
As a means of forgiveness, God made a temporal way.
Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Hebrews 9:22, ESV
3/ The Alignment of Humanity
4/ The Birth of the Christ Child
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God… For nothing will be impossible with God.”
And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:30-38
5/ The Life of the God-Man
6/ The Suffering and Death of the Lamb
7/ The Resurrection of the Messiah
8/ The Ascension of the Son
9/ The Outpouring of the Spirit
10/ The Birth of the Church
11/ The Return of the King
Incarnation: becoming flesh (Latin)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14
1/ The incarnation is the manifestation of the eternal Son of God.
Jesus is not a created being. He is the eternal God.
2/ The incarnation involves adding human nature, not subtracting the divine nature.
…Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Philippians 2:5-8, NIV
3/ The incarnation takes place through the virgin birth.
4/ The incarnation involves the Triune Godhead.
5/ The incarnation provides a new covenant head for us.
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus… 1 Timothy 2:5, NIV
6/ The incarnation reveals how Jesus is like us and unlike us.