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Christians In The Crosshairs


"15 Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? 19 Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right."

Good Morning my beloved,


Welcome to worship this Lord's day! We're so glad to have all of you here with us today. Please know, that we continue to lift all of you up in our prayers. We respectfully ask that you would do the same for us. We are so grateful for those of you who have been sharing the ministry website with all of your family and friends. Your faithfulness to share God's Word with others has brought about tremendous results. Where will God's Word be heard today? With your continued help, we pray that God's Word will continue to reach those who most need to hear it.
The mark of a true Christian is that he experiences deeper and greater joy in being dishonored with Christ than he does in being honored by men.  Throughout history, Christians have always been very unpopular. Christians were considered to guilty of hatred against civilized society. For 200 years from Nero on, there was at any moment, the possibility of imprisonment and death under the most fearful forms. The mere profession of Christianity was itself a crime. He that would follow Christ must count the cost and be prepared to pay with his liberty and life. 

The the best we can ascertain, I Peter was probably written just after that all began, somewhere toward the end of 64 AD. It would then be written at the time when Christians were undergoing the beginning of what would be 200 years of horrific persecution. Therefore, we are not shocked to read Peter's word in verse 12, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you." The church was being persecuted. You can certainly tell why then, in every chapter, there is some reference made to Christians who were experiencing unjust suffering. 

It is interesting to me to look at the world around us today. Rather than the church emerging out of a atheistic humanistic society, the current trend is quite the opposite. It seems that what we have is atheism and humanism emerging out of a Christian culture. For decades, the church has been being persecuted in various places throughout the world. Asia, Russia and Africa, to name a few. Now, it would appear that atheism and humanism will eventually in our own nation become more aggressively the persecutor of the church.

Therefore, I believe that what Peter is saying her, may well speak to us in our lifetime, and certainly the lifetime of our children. As our nation becomes more and more intolerant of the Christian faith in its quest for fulfilling an amoral lifestyle we will become a greater and greater threat to the culture. There is already a growing persecution against those of us who name the name of Christ. Anyone who publicly against the sins of our culture, particularly sexually immoral sin, you will immediately find a hostile opposition which can be even life-threatening. What is even more amazing to me, is how much of the suffering for righteousness sake, is coming from within the church itself, within the framework of Christianity. 
We are living in an age, where those who live boldly for Christ, who confront the culture, who speak the truth according to God's Word, saying what needs to be said, may well find themselves in trouble and under great distress. In order to endure what we are already experiencing, and what is likely to come, as Christians, we need to take Peter's words to heart in verses 12 through 19. However, before we begin, I'd like to make clear, that you only suffer for righteousness’ sake when you are living a life that is visibly righteous. When you boldly speak the truth, confronting an immoral culture. It is only when you live a righteous, godly life in an unrighteous culture that you create hostility.
If you are hiding your faith, hiding your Christian virtue, hiding your testimony, in other words, hiding the fact that you are a Christian, it is unlikely that you will suffer. But for those who live a righteous, godly life, who publicly profess their commitment to Christ, you must take to heart Peter's words. The great theme of this epistle of Peter is Christian hope in the time of suffering, trial and persecution. 
For years, I have been praying with and for those who were suffering, and I would assure them that the Lord would be with them. At that time, I was saying what I did not know to be true from my own personal experience, but because I believed God, because I trusted in the Word of God.  However, I can boldly tell you today, through my own experiences, I now know it to be true by the fact that the Word of God says it and by the fact that I have personally experienced it in my own life.
Let us pray
Heavenly Father,
Father, we thank You for Your Word for us today, we bless You for it. Lord, we pray for those who find themselves in the midst of unbearable circumstances, that they would find their strength to endure trial and persecution in You. May we understand that if we too live boldly for Christ, we will suffer. May we know that if we are not living boldly for Christ, while we may escape suffering and persecution, nor shall we know the glory of communion of suffering with our Savior. To that end, we pray, test us, Lord, as we are faithful. May Your church be found clean and useful to You.  Thank You for reminding us that though we may be judged here, we will be forever free from judgement in eternity, that we will share in Your eternal  glory. Thank You for that privilege. Having that confidence, may we live even more boldly for Christ.
In His name we pray
Today's Message:  Christians In The Crosshairs

I'd like to share with you a poem I heard some time ago, by Annie Johnson Flint, I hope that it will come to mean as much to you as it has to me.

What God Hath Promised

God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.
God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain, rocky and steep,
Never a river, turbid and deep.
But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the laborer, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

Suffering is in God’s purpose. And when the fire of the trial has come and gone, you're still there, pure, refined, purged for greater usefulness to God. God brings suffering inevitably into your life to prove and test the genuineness of your faith. If your faith is not genuine when the test comes, you may show some signs of faith, you will produce no fruit, under trial, you will eventually wither away and die off Therefore, the fiery ordeal shows the reality of your faith. Living a godly and righteous like in an unrighteous culture is an unwelcome confrontation that the culture does not tolerate well, so in turn, it fights back.

Just a quick review, in verse 12, Peter tells us that we should be surprised when suffering comes, in fact, we should expect it. In verse 13, he says not only should we expect it, we should rejoice in it because  you share the sufferings of Christ. To be honest with you, sometimes this can be challenging. 

I have learned that because I preach the truth, because I refuse to water down or sugar coat the Word of God, because I hold the standard of holiness, doctrinal purity and biblical truth very high, there will be opposition and hostility, there will be slander and mockery. I have come to expect it, and I can usually handle that quite well. Now, it's the part where I rejoice over, that occasionally challenges me. I sometimes find it difficult in the midst of all of that to say "Lord, thank You, this is really wonderful, I am enjoying this."

However, once I have had time to meditate on it and to lay it before the Lord, I am overcome with peace and I find that the Holy Spirit fills my heart with a sense of joy. And, when put in the perspective of the suffering that Christ endured on my behalf, anything that I have gone through, pales in comparison. Then, I am reminded in His Word, that whatever suffering that I may incur will be rewarded in eternal joy in the presence of the Lord. It is then that I really realize that I am richly blessed to be privileged to be a partaker in Christ's suffering. That is a true honor.

And, in verse 14, Peter reminds us that  "If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you."

Open your Bibles with me to the book of 1 Peter, in our ongoing study in the fourth chapter of this very practical epistle, we come to these final five verses 15 through 19. I would like to encourage you to follow along with me as I read verses 12 through 19, to refresh our minds and the text in our minds, as we prepare our hearts for what the Spirit has to say to each of us. It is my prayer that Spirit will lead us in today's message. Listen for the voice of our Lord.

"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.

Verse 15, "Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler." Here, Peter is giving us a third and very necessary perspective in regard to suffering, and that is to evaluate it. In other words, when you are experiencing suffering,  you need to take a look at why. In this verse, Peter mentions four evils that are really pretty typical of the unregenerate lifestyle. "A murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler."

If you murder somebody and you suffer by being sent to prison, or take your life, you caused it, so don't moan and complain about it.  And, the same is true about a thief or evildoer. By the way, the term evildoer, covers a plethora of crimes, all forms of evil and sin. Then, he adds " a troublesome meddler." It's interesting to note, that it’s only used here in the whole New Testament. 

The word troublesome meddler is the Greek word "allotriepiskopos," It's actually from two words, the "epískopos," which means overseer and the word "allotrios," which means belonging to another. The combination of these two words mean someone who meddles in matter of others. Someone that looks over or intrudes into things that belong to someone else. Basically, a busy body. However, there's more to it than that, it has more significance than is first apparent. 

In I Thessalonians 4:11, Paul says "And to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you." You are to lead a quiet life and stay out of other matters. You're not to stir things up.

And in II Thessalonians  3:11-12, he says "For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. " A different word here. In other words: back off, be quiet, do your own work.

I believe what Peter means here has a reference to political agitation, he's talking about becoming involved with disruptive activity, interfering with the flow and function of the government. This would lead to the government taking action against the person, which could be seen as persecution. In other words, the person thinking that because you’re a Christian you should be treated differently. So you become disruptive in order to force them to apply Christian standards to the situation, you become a revolutionary to one degree or another.   

I believe what Peter is saying here is very important. If  you are a Christian, living in an ungodly culture, live a quiet life, do your work, preach the gospel, exalt Christ, but do not try to overturn the culture. That is not honorable behavior for a Christian. In fact, it is disgraceful. So, it's important to ask yourself, why you are suffering.  

Verse 16, Peter says "But if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. "

If you are living a godly, virtuous Christian life, presenting Jesus Christ every opportunity at every opportunity, being faithful to your task, being a noble citizen in every possible way, otherwise working quietly with your hands and you are persecuted, then it is for righteousness’ sake. I believe that Peter is  reemphasizing what he said earlier back in chapter 2,  Christians are to be a model citizen living in submission to every human institution and everyone in authority.  So, you have to evaluate the cause of your suffering. 

If you are living your Christian life, peaceably, honoring Christ, faithfully proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, being the best citizen you can possibly be, you have absolutely no reason to be ashamed if you suffer. In fact, " is to glorify God in this name." If you suffer for the name Christian, you glorify God. That's a tremendous statement. Because you’re sharing in the sufferings of Christ, the Spirit of glory is strengthening you, you are adding to your weight of eternal glory. 

In verse 17, Peter gives us another reason. "For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?"

He is saying that if you suffer as a Christian, for the sake of the name Christian, you ought to praise God for the privilege of sharing Christ's sufferings, because the Spirit of glory rests on you of glory rests on you and strengthens you, so you must rejoice in the strength of the Spirit because you're adding to your eternal weight of eternal glory. You should look at suffering as a sign that the end is near. The end of all things is at hand. I believe that's a very important statement. It's time for the judgement. The word time here, is not the word "chronos," so it's not clock time. It's the word "kairos,"which means it is a crucial moment, the season for judgment to begin.

With the coming of Christ, came the dispensation of the church. It was the beginning of the end. Christ came, He suffered and He died. It is the end of the age, the last days. We are living in the last days, the end times. Peter says "For it is time for judgment to begin." It began on the cross, when our sins were judged in Christ. Christian suffering is then, a part of God's plan of unfolding judgment which culminates in the Great White Throne. We are living in a season of judgement. He;s not speaking of judgement in terms of condemnation, but rather chastening, purifying and purging. In other words, in this dispensation, God will be judging. It starts that way and it ends with the final condemnation of the ungodly sinners.  By the way, the house of God here means the church, judgement begins with the church, the assembly of the redeemed. God has already begun purifying His church.

If you will remember, back in Ezekiel chapter 9 verse 6, when God looked over the sinful people of the earth, He said "Utterly slay old men, young men, maidens, little children, and women, but do not touch any man on whom is the mark; and you shall start from My sanctuary." God will ultimately judge the sinners, the unredeemed, the ungodly. But right now, He's judging the church. 

So, when you look at the church, when you look at your persecution,  see it for what it is. God is testing and purifying His church, which He loves. Think about it, before the final judgement comes, the church has to evangelize the world. In order to be effective in evangelizing the world, the church must be purged of sin. Separating the tares from the wheat, so the pure church can move out to evangelize the world.  Judgement first on the household of God and then the judgement of the world.

It’s far better to endure suffering as the Lord purges the church, and endure it with joy, then to endure the suffering which is to come, which is eternal. Which will come upon those "who do not obey the gospel of God."

In verse 18, Peter  supports his point and takes a quote from Proverbs 11:31. "And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?" Peter freely interprets the verse, which actually says "If the righteous will be rewarded in the earth, How much more the wicked and the sinner!" The word difficulty here, refers to the hard time that persecution brings to the believer. Our salvation brings a hardship and judgement, to keep us from committing damning sins.  The judgement will continue until the rapture, when God redeems a new generation, they too will suffer. Then Peter says if there's so much difficulty and suffering as a Christian is being purged suffering, "What will become of the godless man and the sinner?" Far greater suffering! They will be cast in the lake of fire, which burns with fire and brimstone forever! Where the worm dies not, the fire is not quenched.

We come to the last verse in the chapter, verse 19, which says "Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right." The word "Therefore," takes us back to what Peter just summed up. Because you now understand suffering, you that it is corrective and instructive, it is remedial and purging. God uses it to test you, to make you more useful, to give you greater weigh in glory. By the way, the term "entrust," is a banking term, it means to deposit for safe keeping. That’s where our souls ought to be, entrusted in the hands of our Creator.

In Closing..

Beloved, we are suffering according to the will of God, it is in His plan, for His purpose. In the midst of Christ's suffering, He gave Himself to God.We too, should give our lives to God in the midst of suffering, for Him to sustain us, He is trustworthy and faithful, to do what is right.

Charles Spurgeon once said: "They who dive in the sea of affliction bring up rare pearls."

So when you suffer, remember, it's is not because God hates us, but because He loves us and wills our purity. God loves His children so much that He will spare us no pain to rid us of what He hates, which is sin!

"When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul"
May it be so..
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
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