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If The World Hates You - Part 1

  
Good Morning My Beloved,
Thank you all for joining us

Heavenly Father,

Thank You for answered prayers,
even though sometimes its not the answer we want
we know the You see the bigger picture
ordinary people are led into the extraordinary mission
of sharing the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ with others
We pray for those who are refused access to Your Word
we pray for those who are teaching the gospel
where it is forbidden

We pray for those whose families have turned them into the authorities
for giving their life to You
And yet Lord, we are reminded
long before we were hated, the world first hated You
that which You suffered pales in comparison
to anything we have endured

In this time of self-imposed isolation
we know some people were already terribly lonely,
that some lacked loving relationships, long before anyone
told them to self-isolate or distance themselves from others
Father we pray that they might feel Your presence
draw near to them, comfort them
remind us, that in Christ, we are never alone

In Jesus' name we pray
Amen

"This I command you, that you love one another. If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave 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 the One who sent Me.  If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also.  If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well.  But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause."
John 15:17-25

Today's Message: If The World Hates You - Part 1

I just want to begin with saying,
God does BIG things! Big things!
So be ridiculous when you dream, and God will take you even higher.
God is not bound by the thoughts of men

God chose you and He wants to work BIG things in and through you
Don't give up.
God is about people raising up His people..
And sometimes, for other people, that's a problem.

"If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you."

Now, as I've come to realize, in the years I've been teaching the Word, when the Holy Spirit is leading, things often take more time, so its not likely that we're going to get all the way through this whole passage, it is too important for a one sermon message, but we’ll at least make a start, and go as far as we can today. We'll see how far we get. And I, as always, I strongly encourage you to read and study it on your own. Increasing in your knowledge of God.

As many of you may recall, I had been previously telling you that on this evening, this Thursday evening in the Upper Room, it would be the last evening our Lord would spend with His disciples celebrating the Passover, on this particular Thursday evening, it has been an evening like no other. And up to this point, it has been an evening of love. The theme was love. It started out with an expression by John that "having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to perfection." It has been completely dominated by love, and that has been an incredibly wonderful time that our Lord has spent with His disciples.  

But now, all of a sudden, there is a dramatic shift, this Thursday evening quickly turns from love to hate. And the word "hate," as we can see, is used repeatedly in this passage. Over, and over, and over again, the word "hate." And I understand that "hate" is a strong word, and if I must say, it’s intended to be a strong word. A very, very strong word.

This is a very poignant, a very powerful portion of Scripture. Essentially, our Lord promises His disciples persecution as a result of hatred. He tells them, and all who will follow them, that because of a single name, the name of Christ, His name, that they will be hated by the world. Obviously, this all began with the hatred for Jesus Christ Himself. They hated Him! They hated Him! In fact, they hated Him so much that they killed Him. They killed Him. In just a few short hours, they has tried Him, nailed Him to a cross and crucified Him. And it didn’t take long for that hate for Jesus, that pernicious hated to be transferred on to His followers.

It becomes very clear that a saint of God will not practice sin but righteousness, and he will love his brother. Both of these are marked by an underlying tone of obedience. And we see the contrast to this particular Thursday evening, we see these false teachers, who were not willing to admit their own sin, and then the real picture is defined. Rather, than to acknowledge their own sin, they would persecute the Son of God. They hated Jesus, because He exposed their sin. Sin, they did not want acknowledge.
They were, in their own eyes, the authorities of the religious law.

Jesus has previously warned, "Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness."
Their self proclaimed light, was indeed darkness.

Jesus' command to love one another, was certainly not a new one. However, nor was hate, hate was not new. Wherever there is hatred, there is sin. Their hatred toward our Lord, exemplifies the worlds hatred toward His people. Because of their sin, they hate the light. God's elect, God's people. Those who are living in darkness, hate the light. Because the Light reveals, while darkness conceals. Jesus is Light, they preferred to remain in darkness.. and that hasn't changed, its the same today. People in darkness, sinners, do not want to have their sinful ways exposed, their "dirty deeds." And now days, everyone has "the right", to "live their own truth," and therefore, each creating their own version of what is truth. There is but one truth, God's Truth! That's it. Whether someone wants or chooses to believe the truth, doesn't alter the truth.
  
The church is born in Acts chapter 2, and then in chapter 3, Peter preaches a sermon, and by the time we get to chapter 4, the apostles are arrested and put in jail by the Jewish authorities. And in chapter 5, they’re put in jail again. In chapter 6, we start to meet some of the believers in the early church by name, and one of them is Stephen. Stephen, a relatively new convert, he was full of enthusiasm, Stephen was eager to share the message of Jesus Christ, the Good News.

In chapter 7, Stephen is stoned to death by a mob after a false trial before the Jewish high court, the Sanhedrin. By chapter 8, overall general persecution breaks out against all believers, it is spearheaded by a man named Saul, Saul of Tarsus. He pursued them with relentless intensity. By the time we get to chapter 12, the first apostle is murdered. It is James, the brother of John, and he’s killed by Herod. And in the same 12th chapter, Herod imprisons Peter, holding him until he would find the appropriate time to execute him but Peter was set free by an angel.  

The persecution quickly escalated, and as it continued, we know from biblical history that all the apostles, were in fact martyred, with the exception of one. The apostle John, who was exiled to the Island of Patmos. Patmos, the little Island, where the vision of end of the world began, where the infernal visions of the consequences of mankind's ever spiraling ultimate downfall would be detailed in the Book of Revelation.

we have the conversion of Saul of Tarsus into Paul, the apostle and immediately upon his conversion he himself faces threats and persecution from the very Jews in Damascus where he was converted. Starting in chapter 9, he faces persecution, and that runs all they way to the end of the book of Acts in chapter 28. It’s all about Paul preaching the gospel, planting churches, establishing leaders, and being persecuted. His life was on the line every day, from the plotting of the Jews and the enemies of the cross among the Gentiles.

The first persecutors of Christians were the Jews, who saw the Christians as heretics; and in chapter 16 of John and verse 2, Jesus told His disciples to expect this. "They will make you outcasts from the synagogue. An hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think he’s offering service to God." This was the attitude of the Jews; they threw them out of the synagogue and thought they were serving God when they executed them. The Jews then are the first persecutors of Christians. They were the ones who killed Christ and they were the ones who followed up with the persecution of His followers, these "blasphemers."

And it is also in the book of Acts, the message of the gospel began to spread into the Mediterranean world and in the Mediterranean world, obviously the Gentiles were in control. It isn’t very long before the Gentiles pick up the persecution and they begin to wield the sword against Christians. The Romans carry on that persecution essentially for nearly 300 years. The Romans thought they had reason to get rid of these Christian heretics, these followers of Christ, but there were political reasons. Christians said Jesus is Lord and they would refuse to say Caesar is Lord. Allegiance to Jesus as Lord aroused strong suspicion of strong disloyalty to Caesar, and thus disloyalty to the Roman State; and to them, it was a kind of treason. They believed they had to be stopped.

And to further complicate matters, Christians also refused to offer sacrifices to Caesar on those occasions they were required. Therefore, they were also seen at traitors. They were seen as revolutionaries because they kept talking about another king and another kingdom. Their king was Jesus and His kingdom was the kingdom of God. And then to make matters even worse, they avoided harassment from the Romans by meeting in secret places at night, and their clandestine meetings only raised greater suspicion of their disloyalty and the fact that they might be trying to start some kind of revolution and riot, against the Roman authorities, and particularly among the slaves.  

And then Christians preached one God, while the Romans believed in many gods, and so the Romans thought the Christians to be a kind of atheist group who denied gods. And as one would expect, this had political ramifications because there was no separation between the church and the state, no, not until America, but certainly not in Roman times.

And then there were social reasons, they had social reasons. The Romans were deadly afraid that the Christians were having a strong influence among the lower classes, the poor people, and that fits what the Bible says, "Not many might, not many noble. God has chosen the weak and the poor, and the nobodies and the nothings," I Corinthians, chapter 1, and they were listening and they were hearing. They were also afraid that this would extend to the slaves and there might be a slave revolt. And then all the social events of the Roman world, all the social festivals that they conducted were also tied to idol worship, these were inseparable. Christians refused their idolatrous temple worship, and so they isolated themselves from the Roman social life. So they were alienated and isolated from political life, alienated and isolated from the social life. They were social outcasts. Just as Jesus had warned. 

Now through in the fact, that they were living pure and righteous lives, which were a constant, personal rebuke to the debauchery taking place in the Roman world. Even economically, Christians were bad for business. Christian preachers and teachers and witnesses brought the gospel, and the gospel delivered people from demons, and that was bad for the demon business. And demon-possessed mediums and witches and soothsayers and fortune tellers made a great deal of money in casting out demons. Having people delivered from demons was bad for the demon business, and we see that in Acts 16. And in Acts 19, we see it was bad for the idol business, the idol business. Because people would burn their idols, and that sent idol sales plummeting. So this was bad for the idol business. Christians were, for all these reasons and many, many more, a threat. A severe threat. They were an alien people in the Roman world. They did not absorb; they did not integrate; they did not blend in. They existed in a complete isolation from the system, yet they affected it. And for all this, they must be stopped.

Then Pliny, the Roman governor of Bithynia, during the early 2nd century, lamented in a letter that he wrote to Trajan the Emperor, at that time, that the spread of Christianity had caused pagan temples to be deserted and so, the sales of sacrificial animals to significantly drop. Christians were affecting everything, and then blamed for everything! Christians were blamed for all the plagues, all the famines, natural disasters, including the burning of Rome. For these reasons and more, Christians became hated in the Roman Empire. They were hated to begin with by the Jews, hated continually by the Jews; and now add to that, they were hated by the Gentiles as well. Hatred for Christians was increasing significantly.

Though this was personal, very personal, this is not just personal, though it was personal. There was going to be a price to come to Christ. Standing for what is right, what is true, what is righteous, always causes hate. Darkness hates light. You might have to be alienated from your father, mother, sister, brother; you know Jesus stated all those things. He said that. He came to bring a sword to sever people from their family, from their friends because that’s what the gospel does. There was definitely that personal alienation and personal persecution that individuals felt. But there was more to it than that, more to that our Lord was talking about here. There’s something official about this, and the official persecution by the Romans began in 64, that was the first one under Nero, the Emperor Nero. Christians were arrested, everywhere, they were tortured, they were crucified, they were thrown to wild animals, they were being burned as human torches for Nero's garden parties. Peter and Paul were likely caught in the Nero persecution period, and that’s the time when they were killed. Peter and Paul posed a threat, they had caused disruption, so they had to be killed. 

Then three decades later, as that persecution under Nero had begun to fade away, three decades later, in the 90s, another ruler came, by the name of Domitian, and he launched another official persecution that extended beyond Rome. It extended into Asia Minor and this was even more extensive than the previous one. And it’s in that period of time, persecution under Domitian that John was banished to the island of Patmos, and Antipas who knew John, was martyred. Sporadic persecution by the Romans continued in the 2nd century and continued into the 3rd century. Justin Martyr, for example, a Christian leader, was executed in that period. Another empire-wide persecution came in the year 250 A.D. under the Emperor Decius. 

However, perhaps the most violent of all persecutions came under Diocletian starting in the year 303. Churches were destroyed, scrolls of Scripture were burned, Christians were massacred. This went on until 324 when Constantine took over power and established Christianity as a state religion; and that was the forerunner to the Roman Catholic system, which continued to be the arch persecutor of the true Christian church. The true church.

And the Roman system persecuted true Christians everywhere, for a thousand years after that, and more. Roman Catholicism began to flourish and continued to grow, clear up until the Middle Ages and was the primary persecutor of true believers, Christians. Reformation came, we all know that. Reformers were persecuted, the covenanters were killed; we all know those stories, we all heard them.

And as I suspected, we've not gotten very far, though we covered a substantial amount of information. A lot of biblical history, surrounding our text. There is so much to detail, a lot to cover, in order to have an accurate understanding. It's important.

In Closing...

All of that is exactly what Jesus said in the passage in today's text. "They hate Me. They'll hate you. They hate us. They hate us. And because they hate us, they will persecute us." It’s a prophecy that is unarguably, absolutely 100% accurate. Jesus said that and that is exactly what has happened.

Despite all of the lowly ways of man, we must always remember, though Christ ultimately died to please His Father, to fulfill God's plan for redemption, Christ for us. He literally laid down his life for us. And in doing so, Christ set the standard for us, He set the standard of love and forgiveness. And as difficult as it sometimes is, we must love all people, always, at all times. Just as Christ demonstrated, even as He would be near death, while on the cross. We must love those who oppose us, do things against us, stand against us, those who would hate us and they hate us. Just as they first hated Christ. However, in following the example our Lord, this act also serves us to know that we literally understand the love of God. That we not only understand it, but they demonstrate His love, in our own lives.

"This I command you, that you love one another."

If we are His true disciples, bearers of much fruit, we cannot be as the religious leaders in His day, those who would ultimately crucify our Lord, Jesus Christ, offended by the truth, picking and choosing for ourselves what to uphold and who it applies to, adjusting the truth to suit our personal wants and desires. To ignore our own sin. We are called to righteous, to share the truth, to uphold the truth and to live the truth. To become the image of Christ, to the world. A world in darkness.

Beloved, I don't need to tell you, its not always easy, but it is right. And we must always do what is right, in truth.

And now may the Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Now and forever, in Jesus' name
Amen

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