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Craig Smith - The 3 R's

Craig Smith - The 3 R's
TOPICS: When Everything Falls Apart, Persecution

Hey, welcome to Mission Hills including those of you joining us on Church Online. If you are just joining us, let me catch you up. We are in the midst of a series here called “When Everything Falls Apart,” where we are looking at the secrets Jesus taught to facing difficulty without despair. Jesus is pretty clear. He said in this life, you will face difficulty but despair is optional. Difficulty is inevitable, but despair is optional. Most of the lessons that we have seen Jesus teach on how to deal with difficulty are really applicable to any kind of difficulty, but today, we are going to see Jesus teach the secrets to dealing with a very particular kind of difficulty that we call “religious persecution.” Persecution, you hear that word and you think of certain kinds of things, and maybe that’s not something you experienced, but really, persecution is this.

Persecution is when we face difficulty from the world because we stand for Jesus, and it takes all shapes and forms. It comes in all sizes. You have the very serious to what feels fairly minor, but it’s all part of the same package. Sometimes Christians lose their lives because of their faith in Jesus. Anybody here lost their life? Right, you are like, okay that’s other people. Maybe even you think it’s a distant kind of thing, but it happens even in our own backyard. I have a friend who has been working on Bible translations in a remote part of Mexico for the last several years. He has some pastors that have been helping him. A couple of years ago, two of the pastors that have been helping him started getting death threats that said you need to stop this translation work. You need to stop spreading this Gospel, or we will kill you, and tragically, one of those pastors was murdered last year because he didn’t stop the work, and that’s Mexico. That’s North America. It’s literally in our own backyard. So that happens.

Christians sometimes lose their houses because of their faith in Jesus. Some of you may have heard me say this before, but I have a friend in Pakistan who leads a church, and a couple of years ago — four years ago, actually. A number of homes of the people in his congregation were demolished. The official story was that they were making room for a highway. It’s been four years, and there is still no highway, and it’s a little suspicious that the only houses that got demolished were ones that belonged to people that were known to be followers of Jesus. So Christians lose their homes. Sometimes Christians lose their relationships. Relationships get strained. It happens in marriage. It happens between parents and kids. I happens in neighborhoods. Sometimes relationships get lost, relationships get strained because people have taken a stand for Jesus.

Sometimes we lose opportunities. There are jobs that don’t materialize, promotions that don’t happen, schools you don’t get into, tenure you don’t get. Those kinds of things happen. Sometimes — sometimes it just gets weird. Anybody else have that? Sometimes you are a follower of Jesus and your life has a certain level of weirdness that nobody else has. I don’t mean you’re weird. You probably are, but I mean, sometimes your relationship with Jesus makes other relationships weird, right? Maybe you invite somebody to church for Christmas Eve or Easter or some other time and they say, no. It’s like, okay. I guess I’ll see you tomorrow. Like where do we go from here? It feels a little awkward or strained. Maybe you take your Bible to work or to school, and you read it in a public place and you kind of notice that things get awkward after that. People aren’t sure what to do, conversations or silence get strange.

I have spent a fair amount of time flying around, and so I have discovered when I’m flying, and I talk to someone next to me and they ask the inevitable question of what do you do for living, I have discovered that pastor is the wrong answer if I want to keep talking. It’s the right answer if I want to be left alone, though. If I say pastor, there’s almost this, oh, isn’t that nice? I just remembered I have this book — book report, my wife wanted to know about this book. That’s the end of it. It just gets weird, and that might feel really minor, obviously, compared to people that lose their lives because of their faith in Jesus, but really, it’s all part of the same package. This time that we face difficulty from the world because we have taken a stand for Jesus. What Jesus is going to tell us today is not super encouraging, but it’s a fact, and he wants us to be aware of it.

It’s this, that persecution is inevitable when our faith is public. Persecution is inevitable when our faith is public. So whether you have experienced persecution anywhere on that scale, maybe you are right now, or just you know that Jesus can be trusted when he says persecution is inevitable when our faith is public, I’m probably going to face it at some point if I’m public about my faith, then we need to know what he says about dealing with persecution in the right way, and so what we are going to see today is Jesus gives us the three “Rs” to dealing with persecution. If you want to turn with me in John 15, we’ll pick up at verse 18. I’ll just go ahead and tell you what the three Rs right now are, so you can kind of be looking for them as we go, and by the way, the reason I called them the three Rs, was when I was growing up — I don’t know if anyone else had this experience, but my grandma would always ask me how I was doing in school? The way she would always ask it is she would say, how are you doing with your three Rs?

I learned at a very early age what she meant was how are you doing with your core subjects kind of a thing. And I would answer that, but I was probably 10 or 11, I finally just went, Grandma why do you call it the three Rs? What are the three Rs? She said it’s reading, writing and arithmetic. I was like, you need to take spelling — because, there’s only one “R” in that whole bunch, okay? But we are actually going to see three actual “R’s” today, three things that Jesus is going to say that we have to understand to face this inevitable persecution pushback from the world. I’m going to go ahead and tell you what they are so we can be looking for them together as we go through the passage. The first one is, he’s going to give us a truth that we need to realize. A truth that we need to realize. Second is going to be a truth that we need to remember, and a third is going to be the truth that we need to reveal. Realize, remember and reveal. That’s what we are looking for. So Jesus says John 15:18, he says, if the world hates you, and he’s going to go on to say it’s a guarantee, so really, when the world hates you, he says, keep in mind that it hated me first. Keep in mind that it hated me first.

What he’s really, basically saying here, is if when the world hates you, pushes back against you, gives you difficulty because of your faith, understand that it did it to me first, and really, the honest truth is, they are not doing it because of you. They are doing it because of me. He’s saying, it’s not you, it’s me. It’s not you, it’s me in you. I don’t know if anyone ever broke up with anybody or they broke up with you when they used that line? It’s not you. It’s me. That’s basically what Jesus is saying. It’s not you, it’s really me. He says, I want you to keep this in mind. The Greek word there, it’s a command to know, or a command to “realize.” That’s our first “R.” Because he’s not saying that this is knowledge that you can file away.

There are two kinds of truths. There is file it away truth, and there are front and center truths. And he’s saying, this is not a file it away truth. This is not something you need to be aware of in the back of your head. He says, no. You need to take this one out of the file cabinet and put it in front of you. This needs to be the lens that you are looking at the world and the persecution you are facing through. So what he says is, this is the truth, this is the thing you need to realize — it’s not you. It’s me. He goes on and he says, if you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That’s why the world hates you. In other words, it’s not you. It’s me. It’s me in you. The world’s hatred for you, the pushback against you, the difficulty the world brings against you is happening because you are not part of the world anymore. You don’t really belong in the way you used to.

Because of my love for you, and because of your response in faith to that, something profound has happened, and it’s changed things for you that you really don’t belong to the world in the way that you used to, right? So what he’s saying, is this. We need to realize, keep front and center, realize, that persecution from the world is natural because we are no longer part of the world. Now, to drive that home, I’m going to give you an analogy, and I’m going to tell you right now, this is not what you would consider a super flattering analogy, but I maintain that it’s spot on, so I’m going to go with it. If you have faith in Jesus, you are a virus. There you go. You’re welcome. If you have faith in Jesus, you have become a virus. The thing about a virus, it comes into the body. It takes a cell that belongs in the body, a natural cell in the body, and it replaces its genetic material with its own, and then it begins to reproduce, and the body very quickly begins to realize, that doesn’t belong here. It’s not in the natural order of things. it’s not really part of, something else has happened.

That’s kind of what Jesus is saying. He’s saying because of his love for us, because of our response to this thing that we call the Gospel, the Good News that God loves us. He sent his Son to die in our place, to forgive us for our sin, three days later, he rose from the dead, and he offers us forgiveness and new life and adoption into the family of God. He says because of that, you are no longer of the world. You are no longer natural. What does the body do when it recognizes that virus has invaded the cells? It starts to fight back. It starts to try to push them out. It’s the natural immune response to the body, and what Jesus is basically saying, that’s what’s happening with the world. The moment the world realizes you are not one of us anymore, you are not part of the natural order of things, the world naturally starts to pushback. He says, they can’t love you. If you were one of them, the world would love you, but, he says, you are not anymore. I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

He says, realize, when you face persecution from the world, realize that persecution from the world is natural because we are no longer of the world. A couple of things happen when we realize that, when we look at persecution through that lens. The first one is, we stop being surprised by it. You hear me? If we realize that persecution is natural, we stop being surprised when it happens. When we are not surprised by when it happens, we start being able to deal with it in a completely different way. You see, when we are surprised by things, we don’t tend to respond in the best way, but when we are not surprised, when we are expecting it, we can sort of preload the response. We can think through, here’s how I’m going to respond. We are ready for it. Here’s the reality, what we can expect, we can endure. Did you know that? What we can expect, we can endure.

Just Thursday — I haven’t done this since high school, but I knew I was going to use this illustration, so I wanted to make sure I got my numbers right. When I was at the gym, I maxed out on some weights just to see what I could actually do. This is not bragging, but I’m a little bit proud of this actually. You know the leg press? It’s called the squat, but that’s a really weird-sounding word, so I’m not going to go with that. But you put the weight on the bar, and you step back and you go down and see if you can get back up? Turns out I can actually do 380-pounds. Which I felt pretty good about. I can do it once. I’m not saying I could do it twice, and I’m going to be honest, I’m hurting today because of that, but the thing is, I pulled it off, 380-pounds down and back up, but you know, if my 100-pound daughter jumps on my back when I wasn’t expecting it, we are both going down, and we are probably not going to be getting back up except to my hands and knees so I can crawl to the chiropractor, right?

Why would 100-pounds do that to me when I can actually go down and back up with 380? The difference with 380, I was fully expecting it. What we expect, we can endure in a completely different way. So part of the problem with persecution for so many Christians, the reason they don’t feel they handle it well is because they don’t expect it. They are always taken by surprise, but Jesus says, you have to realize that persecution from the world is natural because you are no longer of the world, and when that happens we go, okay, I’m not going to be surprised by it. I’m going to expect it, and when I can expect it, I can endure. And I think the second thing that happens when we realize that it’s natural, we realize we have to stop looking to the world for love that it can’t provide. Jesus says, the world hates you. The opposite of hate of course, is love. Jesus says it’s natural for the world to hate you because you are not of the world anymore. But it’s unnatural for the world to love you. The world really can’t love you. The problem, of course, is that we need love, right?

We need affirmation and acceptance, acknowledgment. We need all of those things, and we have gotten used to getting them from the world in all kinds of different ways that the world provides that, but the moment we stop being of the world, the world stops providing that. Now the reality is, that wasn’t love. It was never love as God intended it, but it’s the closest the world can come to it. It’s an approximation. It’s a counterfeit, but when we have gotten used to that, but when we are no longer of the world, the world stops being able to provide. It’s not that they take it away as punishment, but the world really can’t give that anymore. So in Christ, when we realize that persecution is natural, that they can’t give this love anymore, we have to stop looking for that love from a world that can’t provide it, and what we need to start doing is start looking for love from the only place we can actually get it, and that’s from God and from his people –from God and from his people.

That’s one of the reasons we push groups so hard at Mission Hills. We have all kinds of groups. We have Life Groups and men’s only groups and women’s only groups and hope groups. The reason you hear me talk about groups a lot is because we know it’s in the context of those groups that you get something so, so important that the world can no longer give you, and that’s love. In fact the number one sort of goal of every group — we have three goals for every group. The number one goal we tell every group, this is the number one thing you need to do, love each other. I don’t think it’s a coincidence right before Jesus launched into this teaching on persecution, he ended, as we saw last week this verse that said, this is my command, love each other.

Because the world can’t provide love so we have to love each other and our groups are built around the idea of loving each other and from there we take steps of becoming like Jesus and joining him on mission. When we realize that persecution from the world is natural, we stop looking for love. So that’s the first “R.” Realize persecution of the world is natural because we are no longer of the world. Second “R” is remember. He says this: remember what I told you. A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching they will obey yours also.

They will treat you this way because of My name, because of your association with me for they do not know the one who sent me. Jesus says, you have to understand that a servant is not greater than the master. Meaning the servant is not going to get better things than the master gets. It’s a trickle down effect. The good things that come to the master trickle down to the servants, but servants don’t get blessing when the master is being cursed or persecuted or reviled or those kinds of thing. In this analogy, Jesus is the master, and we are the servants, so he says, if they persecuted me, you really can’t expect they are going to treat you better than they treated me, and the flip side is also true. If they respond to me, they are going to respond to you because again, it’s not about you, it’s about him. They are not responding to you. They are responding to Christ in you, right?

So he says the master doesn’t get better things. You are the servant, so of course you are going to get the same stuff. And really, he kind of says, the same thing is going on here, they are not persecuting you, they are persecuting me in you, but the same thing happened, really, they are rejecting the Father who sent me. It’s not even me, they are rejecting the God who sent me. It’s just the way that it works. What’s interesting is that what Jesus is basically saying you need to understand is the persecution is because they see me in you. Are you with me? See, that’s why it’s happening, they are seeing the Master in you. The persecution is happening, the pushback is happening, the difficulty is happening because they see me in you, they see your connection to me. When we see it that way, when we see persecution that way, a very interesting thing begins to happen. We begin to think very differently about persecution because then if persecution is the result of them seeing Christ in us, then what’s really happening, persecution is proof that they can see Christ in us, right?

Persecution becomes proof that they can tell you are not part of the world. Something profound has happened. You are different. You’re changed. You’re transformed. You’re new. When you think of it that way, what happens is we stop looking at persecution as a punishment and start looking at it as a proof. That’s what Jesus is saying. He’s saying, remember that persecution is proof of our connection to Jesus and to his promises. The persecution is the proof that you are connected to Jesus, and that’s really important because if you are connected to Jesus, you are also in line to receive his promises. Jesus said this Matthew 19:29 and everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields, in other words anyone who has lost anything for my sake, they’ll receive a hundred times as much and they’ll inherent eternal life.

In other words, nothing the world takes away from you because of your faith holds a candle to what is coming to you because of your faith so persecution becomes proof of our connection to Jesus and his promises. So what happens when we remember that, as he tells us to, we stop looking at persecution as a punishment and we start looking at it as a promise, really. It’s the proof our connection to Jesus and the promises that come to us, so persecution becomes the evidence that we are in line to receive all of those promises, so rather than discourage, it’s actually an encouragement, provided — this is a really important provision, really important but. That is that it’s provided that the persecution is actually because of your faith. And I feel like I have to go there. I love you guys, but I have to go there.

Here’s the thing, sometimes I have had these conversations people tell me, you know what? I’m just being persecuted. That’s why I didn’t get the promotion. My faith in Jesus kept me from advancing in the company. Persecuted because of my faith, and I have had a couple of times where that’s been said and in my head I’m thinking, no, you are just lazy. Like, I know your work ethic, and I wouldn’t promote you either. You are not great at your job. Or people say, and I have had this conversation. They’ll be like, my neighbors, there is a lot of persecution in my neighborhood. My neighbors don’t like me because of my faith in Jesus. I’m like, no, you’re a jerk. I have seen it. I love you in Christ, but as a human being, I don’t know that I would like to spend a whole lot of time with you because you are not that much fun to be around. Sometimes the persecution is because we are unkind and incompetent and unpleasant, so here’s what I want to say. Make sure your persecution is because of your faith not your faults.

You with me? Make sure your persecution is because of your faith. Let’s not play the persecution card for our faults. Here’s what we need to do, instead, what we need to do, we need to be the kind of people that the world looks at, and they struggle to find the reason they don’t like us. We need to be so good at being husbands and wives and dads and moms and kids and brothers and sisters and employers and employees and coaches and everything — we need to be so good at that, that when the world begins to pushback, everybody will go, there’s no explanation for that other than the faith that they have in Jesus Christ. I want to make sure we are not confusing the world on why they don’t like us. We have to make sure it’s because of our faith and not because of our faults.

Jesus said, if I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but as it is, they have seen and yet they have hated both Me and my Father. Understand what Jesus is doing here, it might be a little surprising at first. He says what seems a little bit strange. If I hadn’t come and spoken, if he hadn’t spoken truth to them. And if I hadn’t come and done the works no one else had done, if I hadn’t done the miracles, they wouldn’t be guilty of — what? Sin. And that might seem a little confusing because if Jesus hadn’t shown up then murderers wouldn’t be guilty of sin? Or racists wouldn’t be guilty of sin, or liars wouldn’t be guilty of sin? Is that what he’s saying? The answer is no, not really. He’s using the word “sin” in a little bit different way.

The word “sin” typically in the Bible means anything that goes against God’s character, his creation or his commands. That’s a good way to think about it. Typically the Bible used the word “sin” for anything that goes against God’s character, his creation or his commands, but Jesus is using the word “sin” a little bit differently. He’s using it here for a new sin, the sin of rejecting him as the Son of God. He says if I hadn’t come and spoken the truth to them, they wouldn’t be guilty of rejecting me as the Son of God. As it is, he’s speaking to Jewish audiences, they knew the Old Testament Scriptures, they should have recognized the Old Testament Scriptures were pointing to Jesus as the Messiah, but he says if I hadn’t come and spoken they wouldn’t really be guilty of rejecting me as the Messiah, the Son of God, but since I did come and speak, they are guilty of that.

He says, if I hadn’t come and done the miracles, they wouldn’t really be guilty of rejecting me as the Son of God, but I did. I did speak and I did perform the miracles. Nobody questions whether or not the miracles happened. I have done all of that, and yet they still rejected me. So they are guilty of the new sin. He goes on and he says this, he says, but, this is to fulfill what is written in their law that they hated me without reason. He says, I came and I spoke and I talked about love, but I didn’t just talk about love. I did love. I did God empowered acts of love. I did miraculous acts of love. There was no question that they were happening. What did I say that caused them to hate me. I’m just the fulfiller of the Old Testament Scriptures. What did I say that was so contrary that they should have been moving towards?

What did I do? Was it the people I healed? Is that what upset you? Is it the people I fed? Is that what upset them? What exactly did I do that caused them to hate me? But he says, no, no, no all of this that I did and said and their reaction, it’s fulfilling what the Old Testament said which is, they hated me without reason. He’s quoting Psalms 69 here. We won’t go there today but Psalms 69:4 is what he’s quoting here, and in that Psalm, what you have basically is King David just sort of — venting, maybe, we’ll call it. He’s venting at the injustice of the pushback that he’s receiving. He’s frustrated at the persecution and the difficulties that he’s facing, and he’s going, I didn’t do anything to deserve that, and that happens sometimes when people put their faith in Jesus, when they say yes to Jesus.

They begin to live differently, and in their mind, in our minds, we are living in a better way for everybody, and yet there is still difficulty. There’s still difficulty, there’s still conflict, there’s still pushback. I have had conversations with husbands who say, I gave my life to Jesus. My wife isn’t there yet, but I’m — for the first time ever, I’m loving her the way I’m supposed to. I read that verse in the book that says we are supposed to love our wives like Christ loved the Church and even gave himself up to death for it. I’m trying to do that. I’m loving my wife. I’m sacrificing, and yet, still for some reason we are having this difficulty, there’s conflict because of my faith, and I don’t get it. It’s not reasonable.

I have had wives say, I gave my life to Jesus and my husband and I are constantly having this conflict over my faith, and I don’t get it because honestly, and I just don’t get it. I’m a much better wife now than I ever was. I’m submitting to him, and I’m loving him in ways I have never done. I have had students say, I gave my life to Jesus and I came home and I’m in constantly in conflict with my parents about my faith, and I don’t get it because I’m actually a student now. They are paying me to go to college. I read this verse that says everything we are supposed to do is unto the Lord, so I’m actually studying now, and I’m making good use of their money and I read the verse about honoring your parents, and I’m doing it in a way I have never done it, and yet we are still having conflict. It doesn’t make any sense. I don’t get it. There’s no reason for it.

What Jesus is saying, yeah, it’s kind of always been that way. The people of God have always experienced persecution without reason. It doesn’t make any sense, but he says it’s natural, because we are no longer of the world. This was to fulfill what was written in the Law. He says, they hated me without reason. I did the same thing. I spoke love. I practiced love. What did I get? I got persecution. He says, you can’t expect something different than that. But what’s interesting is that though he says sometimes the persecution come without reason, it never comes without purpose. Sometimes without reason, but never without purpose. He says this, when the Advocate comes whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth it goes out from the Father, he will testify about Me, and you also must testify for you have been with Me from the beginning.

He says, yeah, you might experience persecution from the world without reason. It may not make any sense logically, why they are pushing back, but there is a purpose to it, and the purpose to it is that — persecution actually is going to provide an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to do something, which is to testify, or we might call it reveal. The Holy Spirit is going to reveal the truth about Jesus not just in spite of persecution, but actually on the platform of it. He says, I know that I’m talking to you about persecution, and that doesn’t sound like any fun, and as followers of Jesus every time we hear the possibility of pushback because of our faith, our natural reaction is that I’m not sure I can endure that. Maybe even if I expect it, I’m not sure that I can really endure it. I don’t know that I can push forward. I don’t know that I can keep being faithful if I’m going to experience pushback and difficulty from the world because of my faith in Jesus.

And Jesus says, basically, you don’t have to. I’m going to send you the Holy Spirit. He calls it Advocate. We saw this word a couple of weeks ago. The Advocate is someone who does for us something we could never do for ourselves. He says, the Holy Spirit is going to be the one who enables you to reveal the truth about me even in the midst of persecution. He says the Holy Spirit is going to reveal, but you also must reveal. You have to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. You have to be led by the power of the Holy Spirit, but he’s going to do what you could never do on your own. And he’s not just going to do it in general. I mean the Holy Spirit is always interested in revealing the truth about who Jesus is. Do you understand that? One of his primary ministries is to show the world the truth about Jesus through us. He’s not just going to do it at all times. Here in this context Jesus is saying, this is going to happen in a particularly powerful way when there’s persecution.

The Holy Spirit’s work is actually going to advance further and farther in the midst of persecution than it does when there’s not persecution which is kind of hard for us to get a handle on, right? Because our natural thing is to go, but doesn’t persecution slow down the advance of the Gospel? Doesn’t persecution slow down the advance of the Kingdom of God? I get this kind of belief a lot. I end up on a lot of weird e-mail lists. I try to unsubscribe from them as quick as I can, but they just keep coming, and a lot of them are what I put in the category of Christian whining. It’s people looking around and they are going, isn’t it so sad that this is happening, and this — and one of those that I get a lot that falls under the category of Christian whining is, it’s reports of rising persecution against Christians in the United States of America. The idea is that the United States of America is becoming an increasingly hostile place to be a Christian.

Persecution is on the rise. I actually don’t disagree with that. I do think America is becoming increasingly hostile to the Gospel. I do. I’m just not that bothered by it. What I see in so many of these e-mails, but if the persecution comes, then it’s going to stop the advance of the Kingdom of God. I’m like, you do not know my God then. You also don’t know your history books. Because here’s the thing. You look at history, and what you are going to find is the Gospel has gone deeper and farther when persecution was fiercest. I think about the early Church. The first few centuries of the Church, when Christianity was persecuted by the Roman Empire where they killed Christians. Christianity was just this really small group of followers of Jesus persecuted by the Roman Empire, and a couple of centuries later, Christianity was the official religion of the Roman Empire.

And a lot of Christian historians will say that at that moment when it became the official religion, it kind of stalled out, and it stopped advancing in the way it had up to that point. I think about China. I think about China where it has always been and it is still a difficult place to be a Christian. There is a lot of persecution that comes on people who are on mission with Jesus, and yet, conservative estimates indicate that there is over a hundred million followers of Jesus as part of the underground Christian movement in China, and if you do the numbers percentage-wise, there might be a higher percentage of on mission Christians in China then there are in the United States of America. Sometimes Christianity goes deeper and further in the midst of persecution than it does when there’s not, so I’m not all that bothered by the possibility that persecution might be increasing because a couple of things happen when persecution increases.

Number one, it kind of gets rid of the casual Christian, right? We have people who go, I’m a Christian. Why are you a Christian? Well, you know, I was born into a Christian home, and I attended add Christian church, and I still go there occasionally, you know. I’m there — Christmas, Easter, at least, right? I’m a Christian. And you have heard me say this — going to Chipotle doesn’t make you a burrito. It just doesn’t. But you understand that the moment that becoming a Christian becomes illegal, when there’s a real price for it, you cut off the chaff, right? You cut out the people that are like, I’m not really committed. I’m not in this vibrant growing relationship with Jesus, and what’s left then is a pretty powerful thing.

Like, I watch those commercials — I’m always interested in those commercials that are like, Listerine kills 99% of germs. Because I’m always like, what about that 1% that doesn’t get killed? Like they are mad, right? And they are apparently pretty beefy because whatever killed the 99% didn’t bother them. Like they have momentum, right? Persecution kind of does that to Christianity. It eliminates those that are just sort of casual, cultural Christians, and the core that is left, they have momentum, they have power. They are relying on God, and they are being moved by the power of the Holy Spirit to advance the Kingdom and the Gospel, and that’s powerful. Persecution does that.

The other thing persecution does, persecution often provides a platform for people to share their faith. It feels opposite, right? It feels like persecution should make it harder to share your faith, but the reality is that a lot of times persecution provides a platform to share your faith because other people want to know, why would you keep following Jesus when it’s going to cost you that much? What is it about this Jesus that convinces you that he’s worth your entire life? Maybe you should tell me about him. That happens a lot. Persecution doesn’t slow the advance of the Gospel. It furthers it, hastens it because it becomes a platform. That’s really what Jesus is saying.

He says don’t look at persecution and think, this is going to slow things down. No, no. He says, here’s what I want you to do. This is the third “R,” he says, reveal your faith. Reveal our faith through the power of the Holy Spirit and on the platform of persecution. Don’t look at persecution and be afraid that it’s slowing things down. No, no, no. Look at it as an opportunity. Your job is to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, be led by the Spirit to reveal your faith through the power of the Spirit and on that platform of persecution when it comes.

These are the three “Rs” that he gives us for dealing with persecution. Shall we review? What are we going to do? Number one, we are going to realize that persecution from the world is natural because we are no longer of the world. So we are not going to be surprised by it. We are going to expect it, and what we expect, we can — what? We can endure. We are going to stop looking to the world for love that they can’t provide, and we are going to start pushing into our relationship with God and his people for the love that the world can’t provide.

Second thing is, we are going to remember that persecution is proof of our connection to Jesus and to his promises, so instead of being discouraged by short-term losses, we recognize that persecution is actually evidence that we are in line to receive God’s long-term promises. We are going to be encouraged by that. Along the way, we are also going to make sure we are being persecuted for our faith, not our what? Not our faults. We are going to be the best — whatever we are. We are going to be the best husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, moms and dads, engineers and architects and teachers and coaches and pilots and everything you can think of, we are going to be the best we can. We are going to do everything we can as though it’s unto the Lord as the Word says, so when people pushback, it’s pretty clear it’s because of our faith, not because of our faults.

And number three, we are going to work to reveal our faith through the power of the Holy Spirit and on the platform of persecution as it may arise. Three questions to wrestle with. Question number one, do you have a persecutable faith. I would love for to you ask yourself that way. Do I have a persecutable faith? Somebody asked me years ago, if Christianity became illegal, would there are enough evidence to prosecute you? Taking aside my job, because I’m pretty sure I would be on the chopping block pretty quick. They just have to look at my IRS records. What’s your job? Clergy. You’re gone, right? But if I took my job off the table, is my life among my neighbors and among the people at coffee shops and other people I interact with, is my life before the world such that it reveals the life that I have in Jesus Christ? Is it unmissable? Is it persecutable if they should choose to do so?

Sometimes, we also need to ask the question, not only do I conduct myself in a way that is visible to the world, but also, do I spend enough timeout side of friendly territory to be identified as a Christian. You say, everybody around me knows I’m a Christian. Yeah, because they are all Christians. You go to church with them all. If you only spend time who believe in Jesus Christ, then, yes, everybody knows you are a Christian — but they are the ones who probably need to know it least. It’s those that don’t know Jesus that need to know you and Christ through you, so do you spend enough timeout side of the Christian bubble that we sometimes build for ourselves to have a persecutable faith?

Question number two is just, am I looking to the world for love that it can’t provide me? So often Christians get so frustrated. I have a life in Christ, and I’m growing in that, but I just feel like I keep meeting disappointment after disappointment, frustration after frustration. Why isn’t God blessing?

And sometimes the reason is because what we are actually doing is we are looking for love from the world, from a world that can no longer provide it, rather than pushing into a relationship with him, so God is not going to satisfy all of those other ways that we are looking for love because he needs to teach us that we need to push into our relationship with him and with his people. So how am I still looking to the world for a love that it can’t provide? That’s an important question to wrestle with.

And then there’s this one, what is one step — not grand huge plans and schemes, just one step. What is one step I’m going to take this week to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in revealing Christ to those around me? Just pick one thing. I’m going to pray about that in just a moment, but before I do, I’m going to speak just briefly to those that are listening right now. I know we have people listening from all over the world, and a lot of people here, and some of you may be here and you are going, there is no hope or possibility that I’m going to be persecuted because I don’t have a relationship with Jesus. I have never said yes to Jesus. I have never put my faith in him, so that’s definitely not true of me, but I want to speak to you for just a moment. I want to ask this question.

Do you want to have a relationship with him? And I realize today is probably the least appropriate time to ask you if you want to say yes to Jesus, right? I’m not stupid. You just told me all of these hard things — why would I — because here’s what you get. You get forgiveness. Jesus came. He died on the cross to forgive your sins, and all of the guilt and the shame that accompanies it, he wants to wipe away. A relationship with God through faith in Jesus gives you forgiveness. It gives you a relationship with your Creator, with a God who knit you together, who created you for purposes and significance that go on for all eternity. You get a relationship with that God. You get the power of the Holy Spirit to begin transforming you from the inside out to make you into the man or woman that God designed you to be, that you will never ever become on your own.

God says if you put your faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes into your life and that transition begins to happen. We get adoption into a family that can give us love that the world cannot. We get it just not for a few years, but for all of eternity. We get eternal life with God, so nothing that the world can take away because of faith in Jesus holds a candle to what God offers you. I want to make sure if you don’t have a relationship with Jesus you understand that yes, saying yes to Jesus might cost you something in this life, but it is utterly insignificant compared to what it will give to you, so in a moment, I’m actually going to give you an opportunity, if you don’t have a relationship with Jesus to say yes to him. But in the meantime, I’m just going to ask everybody, would you just pray with me right now?

On behalf of all of the followers of Jesus, Lord, we come and we say to you, thank you for your grace and your mercy. Thank you for all that you have done for us, Jesus, thank you. You did not shrink back when the persecution became fierce, but you were willing to sacrifice yourself, and in that way that the persecution that was brought against you, the difficulty that the world brought against you, actually became our salvation. It became the flat form on which we are set free, forgiven and adopted into the family of God, and we want to thank you for your courage and your sacrifice. And we ask, Lord, that you would pour that courage into us through the power of your Holy Spirit, that we would live unashamed lives that announce the reality of our faith in our risen Savior. Lord, as we go out of this place, would you lead us by the power of your Holy Spirit to that one step of cooperating with your Holy Spirit to reveal our faith to the world.

If you are a follower of Jesus, would you just begin praying for those around you and watching online that don’t have a relationship. A moment ago I said, if you don’t have that relationship, I’m going to give you that opportunity, and that’s right now. In spite of the fact that persecution is inevitable if you have a faith that is public, what Jesus offers you is so much greater than what the world threatens to take from you, and so if you are ready to begin that relationship, to say yes to Jesus today, to put your faith in him and receive all that he promises, would you just slip your hand up for me? That’s awesome. If you are watching online, click the button below me. Wherever you are, just say this. Say:

God, I have done wrong, and I’m sorry. I know I don’t deserve your forgiveness or your love — but I understand that you love me anyway. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross in my place. I believe that you rose from the dead because you defeated death and sin. I need new life. I need forgiveness. I need hope. I need joy. I need peace. I need power. So right now, Jesus, I’m putting my faith in you, and saying yes to you, Jesus. I’m yours, for now and forever. Amen.

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