Have you ever tried to make sense of the absurdity of a tolerance movement that is completely intolerant of any who believes in Jesus and the truth of scripture? I find it quite baffling. Why is it that belief in Jesus and His work is the only “religion” under attack in America and around the world?
Friends, no matter the syntax, we aren’t facing a religious liberty crisis; we’re facing a Christian liberty crisis. Tweet this!
And we shouldn’t be surprised. In fact John 3:13 tells us, “Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you” (1 John 3:13).
Jesus explains why:
If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, “A servant is not greater than his master.”If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me (John 15:18-21).
In speaking to His heavenly Father, Jesus declares, “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. We are hated because we are not of this world” (John 17:14).
Jesus knew we’d be persecuted, and he knew why. We are and will be persecuted today for the same reason they persecuted Jesus and they have persecuted His followers for all time: they hate Him, and they hate Him in us. Tweet this!
When they persecute us, they’re persecuting Jesus.
When Jesus confronted Saul the persecutor before he became Paul the persecuted, He didn’t ask why he was persecuting Christians. He said: “’Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And [Paul] said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads’” (Acts 9:3-5).
Paul wasn’t persecuting Christians; he was persecuting Jesus, and the same is true today. Why does the world hate Jesus, His followers, and everything we stand for?
I don’t proclaim to be a theologian or scholar, but as I read through the New Testament, I was overwhelmed by what scripture teaches is at the heart of the heart that hates.
The Heart of Hatred
1.Truth confronts sin, but sin wants darkness. Tweet this!
And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:19-20).
John the Baptist lost his head, literally, because he confronted Herod’s sin when he married his brother’s wife; she “held it against [John] and wanted to kill him” (Mark 6:28-28). In the same way, the Jews seized Paul and tried to kill him because he confronted Jews and Gentiles with their need to “repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:19-21)
2. When people are cut to the heart, they will gnash with their teeth. Tweet this!
The Pharisees wanted to stone Stephen to death because he confronted them with truth they didn’t want to hear (Acts 7:51-54).
3. Anyone who is not for Christ is against Him (Matthew 12:30); their father is the devil, and the word has no place in them (John 8:37):
“If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do” (John 8:42-44a).
4. People fear losing position and power when the gospel – “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16) – goes forth and secures the loyalty of those who place their faith in Jesus’ name (John 11:47-48 and 12:10-11).
5. We are a target of persecution when we are seen as a source of spreading the gospel (Acts 4:2-3).
6. The spread of the gospel threatens the profits of sin. Tweet this!
When truth that confronts sin threatens to convert sinners, and those who purchase the products of sin stop spending their money to fuel their desires and addictions, those who stand to suffer financially will fight back (Acts 16:16-24 and 19:23-28).
God’s works are undeniable, even to His enemies, so they threaten His people to stop the word from spreading (Acts 4:16-17).
7. People love the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:42-43).
8. Persecutors think they are offering service to God:
“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me” (John 16:1-3).
9. Persecuting Christians pleases certain constituencies, which fuels further persecution.
10. Sometimes, people are just following the crowd (Acts 12:1-3 and 19:29-32).
11. Jesus is a “stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” (1 Peter 2:8).
12. Because the gospel is veiled to those whose minds “the god of this age has blinded” (2 Corinthians 4:4), to them it is foolishness and a stumbling block.
There is a line in the sand. It seems to get more distinct the crazier our world gets: Are we going to live for Jesus no matter the cost or live for the world at the cost of our soul? Tweet this!
It’s either/or, not both. We can’t straddle the fence, but really, we don’t want to. It’s painful, for one, and Jesus says in Revelations 3:16, “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”
Lukewarm won’t draw the attention or ire of anyone, but the moment we choose Jesus and live by and stand for His truth, we can expect persecution. Tweet this!
“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:12-15).
If we know it’s coming, and we know the scriptures make us wise for salvation through faith in Jesus, then we would do well to get into God’s word for encouragement, instruction, strength, and hope, for “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Stay with me and let’s get equipped! “For we are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). To do so, even in the face of persecution,may be what serves to propel us closer to Him and what He has for us to do. Tweet this!
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Lord, clearly we will be hated when we are loyal to Jesus. Help us to cross the line with You and never turn back. Knowing that persecution is promised, teach us through Your word how to view it, endure it, and ultimately be used by You through it as we become more wholly Yours and look to heaven as our true home.
FOR THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION:
- When Jesus is proclaimed as the Christ, there always has been “division among the people because of Him” (John 7:43). Have there been times when you have proclaimed Jesus as the Christ and experienced division? What has helped you through those experiences or relationships?
- Why do you think “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12)? Have you found this to be true in your life? If so, how? Is there any area of your life that you’re holding back from God because you fear the persecution it might draw? What is it?
- Many of us are familiar with 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” How would you apply this scripture to being equipped for persecution? What do you find most helpful to know when you think about facing persecution? What burning questions do you have on the topic?