Summary: Persecution is inevitable. Don’t be surprised, silenced or side-tracked by it.
Preaching Series: The Tie That Binds
Persecution and the Church
Text: John 15:17-16:4
Introduction: A trio of old veterans were bragging about the heroic exploits of their ancestors one afternoon down at the VFW Hall. "My great-grandfather at age 13," one declared proudly, "was a drummer boy at Shiloh." "Mine," boasted another, "went down with Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn." A third veteran said, "I’m the only soldier in my family, but if my great-grandfather was alive today he’d be the most famous man in the world." "Really! Why?" his friends wanted to know. "Cause he’d be 165 years old."
Well, that would make a person famous, wouldn’t it? Have you ever wished that you were popular? I remember those high school days when it was really all that mattered to many of us. We’d dress or act in a certain way just to gain the acceptance of others. If we were blessed with a talent, we’d show it off and gladly receive the accolades that came with it. If we weren’t a part of the "in" crowd, however, the truth is that most of us secretly longed to be. I see that most of us made it through those challenging years somewhat unscathed, but the desire to be popular remains. You don’t agree? Ask yourself these questions: (1) If you’ve ever been up for an award, did you tell people that it didn’t matter whether or not you won, but secretly hope they would call your name as the honoree? (2) When you’ve attended a social event have you ever wished that you were the person everyone wanted to be with? (3) Or wouldn’t it be great sometime to find out that someone was bragging that he or she was YOUR friend? Come on, admit it! (4) Just once wouldn’t you like to be the man who hits the game winning home run or the woman who records the smash hit single?
We could go on and on, but you get the point. Right or wrong, there is a part of us that would like to be "on top." We’d like to feel the appreciation and admiration of our peers. It’s vital that we admit this fact before we can appreciate what Jesus is saying in our text this morning. Our Savior addresses the issue of popularity and acceptance with words we all need to hear. He understands our craving for love and acceptance, yet knows that we won’t find it in the applause of men. As a matter of fact, Jesus warns us that it is much more likely that persecution, not popularity, will be the net result of our presence in the world. Let’s consider what our Lord has to say about this important subject matter this morning.
I. Don’t be surprised by persecution (See John 15:17-25). Christians must expect persecution from this world that hates us (See John 15:18). That’s strong language but it’s not mine. It is our Lord who is speaking these words here in the Gospel of John (for another verse with similar meaning see 1 John 3:13). Our need for love and acceptance will not, therefore, be met by the unbelieving world, but through the body of Christ (See John 15:17). Jesus provides at least two reasons for the negative attitude of the world toward Christians.
A. Resentment (See John 15:19) - If believers belonged to the world, there would be no problem! However, Jesus said, "You do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." He reminds the disciples, and all believers that we are called to live a different kind of life (See Matthew 5:6, 8, 10) for a completely different purpose ("His good purpose" -- See Philippians 2:13). Application: When Christians walk in the light we expose the dark deeds of men. This makes for quite a bit of discomfort and resentment (See John 3:19-20).
B. Ignorance (See John 15:21, 25) - "They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me." Later Jesus quotes Psalm 35:19, "They have hated me without reason." The world does not understand God (See Romans 1:28; 1 Corinthians 2:14)). As a result, it has no means by which it can properly evaluate the messenger He sent. Application: In word and deed Jesus came to reveal God’s plan and purpose in redeeming mankind. The unbelieving world’s rejection of Christ and His teaching leaves them with no excuse for their sin, not even the one that will be most common at the final judgment, "I didn’t know!" Illustration: Ignorance is not always bliss. A Denver woman told her pastor of a recent experience that she felt was indicative of the times in which we live. She was in a jewelry store looking for a necklace and said to the clerk, "I’d like a gold cross." The man behind the counter looked over the stock in the display case and said, "Do you want a plain one, or one with a little man on it?"