Summary: Persecution can cause the believer to stumble and fall. It can cause us to sometimes question our own beliefs. It can cause us to weaken and return to the way of false religion. It can make us not want to witness. And sometimes this persecution can ca

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So far in chapter 15 of the gospel of John we have talked about:

• The relationship of Jesus to the people of the world.

• The relationship of Jesus to believers.

• The relationship of believers to believers.

• The relationship of believers to the world.

Tonight we move into chapter 16 and look at the relationship of believers to the religionists. We, as believers, live in a world of religion and religionists. The world even looks at believers as religionists, but we aren’t.

Believers are ambassadors of the living Lord. We have been left on earth to deliver the gospel message—the message of eternal hope and life to a hopeless and dying world. This creates a big problem for the believer. There is only One God and He has only One Son, who He loves more than any person could ever dream.

To demonstrate that love, God has set His Son up as the only way to approach Him. All people must approach God in the name of His Son. Well, the world feels like this is a very narrow point of view. So they reject God’s Son and set up their own ways to approach God. The end result is a world full of religions and religious approaches to God.

Tonight’s passage deals with the relationship between believers and the religionists of the world. Let’s get into the passage.

READ v. 1. Jesus warned believers that religionists would persecute His followers. He warned us because He wants to prevent us from slipping away. The word “astray” literally means to stumble and to trip. And persecution by religionists can be a stumbling block to the believer. How?

• We are questioned, ridiculed, rejected, mocked, attacked, criticized, isolated and cut off.

All this persecution can cause the believer to stumble and fall. It can cause us to sometimes question our own beliefs. It can cause us to weaken and return to the way of false religion. It can make us not want to witness. And sometimes this persecution can cause a believer to even deny Jesus.

READ v. 2. Jesus is warning that the persecution can be severe and it will be religious in nature. He is warning that believers will be forbidden to worship. (Is this happening today?) As an example, Jesus mentioned the ultimate persecution: the believer will be put out of the church and killed. Let’s note three points:

1. The persecution is religious. It is carried out by those who think they really know God and are doing exactly what God wants. They think they are purifying the church and cleansing it of false reaching, which, in their eyes, is a teaching that is narrow, a teaching that is prejudiced against other religions and beliefs and other ways to God. (Is this happening today?)

You see, false religionists don’t see how there can be only one way to God. They conclude that Christ is wrong, that He is not the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life. So they conclude that the way to God is by being good and doing good. (Do you know any like this?) They conclude that the particular religion doesn’t matter. They say what’s important is that religion inspires one to be good and caring and to be a better person.

2. False religionists have always rejected and abused true believers and prophets. And they have often been persistent in their opposition and abuse. And nothing can be more harsh and tragic than religious persecution. What does religious persecution look like?

• Having your faith, your position, and ministry questioned.

• Being accused, abused, talked about, and plotted against.

• Being denied your rights.

• Being silenced, not allowed to worship or serve.

• Being removed from service.

• Being tried and imprisoned, tortured and killed.

3. Persecution within the church often happens. Unfortunately, on earth, God’s house is full of people who haven’t really committed their lives to God. They don’t know Him personally—not in an intimate way. So the believer who truly takes a stand for God is sometimes opposed and persecuted by those within the church. You don’t think so?

• “ that person is too charismatic for us.”

• “always shouting AMEN.”

• “raising their hands during the singing.”

• “bringing all that charismatic music into the worship.”

• “who do they think they are going up and praying with someone at the altar.”

• “what makes them think they are so High and Mighty?”

The persecutors don’t understand God not His righteousness, so they become two-faced: insulting the believer behind his back. It’s a tragedy when persecution takes place in the walls of God’s house.

READ v. 3. Jesus gives one reason that underlies all other reasons for persecution. False religionists don’t know God or His Son. Religionists THINK they know God, but Jesus says they don’t, not really. They have their own idea about God, but it’s only:

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