Empowered Persecution

Empowered Persecution

John 15.18-16.15

Introduction: Meta-Narrative.

Many of us our tempted to get wrapped up in our own personal narratives and agendas that we can forget there is a larger narrative out there. For instance, a western society could be concerned with individual expression, but then an eastern society could be concerned with the unity of their community. When we travel outside of context or meet someone out of our context then we are reminded there is something bigger happening than merely the things in our lives. What Jesus teaches us today is if we are truly His disciples then we are part of something bigger.

Theme: Christians are hated by the world, but loved by God.

1. Persecuted People—John 15.18-25.

The last sermon in the Gospel of John was on Gospel friendship. But we Jesus is going to go further into that today by teaching us what the book of James tells us:

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.—James 4.4

Let’s listen how Jesus expresses this same idea—READ John 15.18-19. It is easy to forget that the world HATES Jesus. It is also easy to forget that when Christians receive hostility from the world it is because they HATE Jesus. Modern research tells us 8,000 Christian die per year from persecution, 111 countries have systems in place that are hostile toward Christians, and over 100 million Christians are suffering around the globe right now. This is not some ancient world problem, but it still exists today. We must regularly remind ourselves that we live in a world that is hostile toward God, particular Jesus Christ. This is the narrative we live in as Christians. Our enemies want us to fall asleep to this reality.

In verses 18-19 John uses the word “WORLD” six times. This word in the original Greek refers to a people associated with a system of the world that is people associated with a world system hostile toward God. The word is the same word where we get “cosmos.” We can forget there is a calculated effort by the systems of the world to keep Jesus out of people’s lives. I was listening to another pastor this week and he highlighted to me when someone is an enemy of God the have only one enemy, but when they become a Christian they have many. Having God as our enemy is having an enemy who is working to make peace with you—He is a good enemy. But when God ceases to be our enemy the rest of the world remains His enemy, and by default ours. The enemies of God are not good—they are hostile, and are out to destroy us because they are out to destroy God.

The more we associated with God in Christ the more we will experience rejection, but the more we disassociate ourselves with God in Christ the more we will be accepted. The reason I am using the phrase “associate with God in CHRIST” is because in our western society we can talk about “GOD,” but the moment you move the conversation toward Jesus Christ you will experience more hostility. Now we are talking about a specific God.

But with that said, this is not a license to be a jerk. Jesus was not a jerk. Consider the life of the OT prophet and politician Daniel, He was an exemplary citizen, employee, and person, but even though he was an asset the systems of the world tried to kill him. Jesus is the greatest advantage given to humanity, yet the systems of the world tried to kill Him, and continue to try to remove His power and presence for the world.

2. Empowered Witnesses—John 15.26-16.4.

That is not where our text ends today—it is not the only part of narrative we should keep in mind. Look with at what Jesus has to say next—READ John 15.26-27. One of the implications Jesus told us in verse 19 are the Christian was “CHOSEN” for a certain task. The task is we have been chosen for is to be Jesus’ witnesses. But in order to be Jesus’ witnesses we need HELP. Jesus promises to help by sending us the Holy Spirit. There are many things the Spirit will help us with, but in this passage the primary thing He help us with is be WITNESSES. The Spirit will EMPOWER us to be Jesus’ witnesses.

Jesus tells about 3 types of witnesses the Spirit will empower us to be. The Spirit will help us be TRUTHFUL witnesses (15.26), LONG-SUFFERING witnesses (16.1), and PREPARED Witnesses (16.4a). The systems of the world are attempting to teach people lies, but the Spirit of God works through us to awaken people to the truth. As we have already talked about, when go about teaching the truth we will be hated for it. Therefore, we need the Spirit to empower us to be long-suffering. We need the Spirit to help us be tough, gritty, faithful witnesses, because we will get attacked. Finally Jesus tells us all of this because He wants us to be prepared for what’s coming. While this may not be a positive promise it still let’s us know these attacks are not a surprise to God, therefore, they should not be a surprise to us. Friends, as someone who has experienced these things many times this does not mean we will emotionless in these moments, but I can tell you first hand it increases your love for Jesus. Listen to how this is expressed in the book of Acts by the apostles:

…and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.—Acts 5.40-41

3. Advantage Guide—John 16.5-15.

After Jesus gives us the challenge of being His witnesses to a world that is hostile toward us He then tells us He is going away. When we consider the context of the conversation that seems out of place. It is like I am telling you are to do something hard for me, but I won’t be there to help you. But listen to what Jesus says about this—READ John 16.5-7. Jesus says it is actually to our advantage that He goes away. We must couple this statement from Jesus with the NEW COVENANT promises from the OT:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah… For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”—Jeremiah 31.31-34

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.—Ezekiel 36.25-27

What these passages are describing is Jesus will pour out the Spirit of God, which will remove the hostility toward God and His ways. Therefore, when we share the things of God it will be refreshing to each others ears, hearts, and minds.

Jesus will leave His Spirit to guide us and each other—READ John 16.12-13. Think about this for a moment, Jesus did not teach us everything, but left the Spirit to continue His work. As we think about redemptive history we are reminded it was the apostle who wrote the NT. As we think about ourselves it is our responsibility to understand how to apply God’s Word in our time. Circumstances are constantly but God’s Word never changes because God is unchanging. The Spirit of God guides in all these things. The same Spirit that guided Christ during His ministry the same Spirit He has put in us. The same joy, peace, passion, desire, knowledge, love, spiritual nourishment and etc. that was in Jesus is in all who believe. What Jesus understands is you can never change someone by just telling them the “TRUTH,” no, they must experience for themselves. Until we truly experience the HEART and MIND of God we will not change. This is not something you and I can control, but the Spirit blows wherever God wills. The Spirit is the SEAL that the LOVE of God now dwells richly in us—not merely that God loves us, but we love Him. We have changed. We once hated God, but now we love God. We experience love of God when the story of God’s love becomes our story. We now consider our stories wrapped up in this larger narrative of God’s loving story. We regular remind ourselves of that story and share it with others.