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Is Persecution a Personal Offense? – John 15:21-27

Is Persecution a Personal Offense?
Should you take persecution personally? When persecuted and ridiculed because you are living an obedient and God glorifying life, should you consider that persecution a personal offense?

We saw last week that Jesus made clear that for all who keep His commandments there will be persecution in this world.

Date: February 12, 2012
Title: Is Persecution a Personal Offense?
Scripture: John 15:21-27
Speaker: Kevin A. Pierpont, Higgins Lake Baptist Church
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It’s as certain as daylight at sunrise. Those who live lives of obedience to Christ will be persecuted — not for what they do wrong — but because of what they do right — and by doing right, according to God’s Word they show themselves to be Christ’s. 

This is, in fact, how the world treated Christ. He had done no wrong, but the world hated Him anyway. And because the world hates Christ, those who are His faithful followers receive the same hatred He received.

In the passage before us this morning Jesus explains further why those who are His will be persecuted. This, of course, helps followers of Christ understand the hatred of the world and helps equip them to deal with the rejection of those who persecute them. 

We pick up with where we left off last time — in verse 21, where Jesus says, 

21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.

22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 

23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also.

24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 

25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’

26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 

27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

So why are faithful followers of Christ going to be persecuted by the world?

Jesus says in verse 21 that all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.

You see, those who are faithful to follow Christ obediently, receive persecution from the world because those who persecute do not know the one who sent Christ — they don’t know God the Father. 

Now some in Jesus day were saying they knew God but at the same time said they didn’t know this one who claimed to be the Messiah. 

That’s true in our day also when people claim there are many ways to God. Many ways to God means you don’t necessarily need to believe in Jesus. It means you only need to find your own way to God. Often, of course, that way is closely tied to self righteousness. As in, “I’m not that bad — I’m certainly not as bad as that person.”

And we need to guard against this too. We might come to church and feel like we’re OK with God because we go to church. But simply attending church isn’t what God requires. It’s possible to go to church and not know God and never trust in Christ. 

But Jesus goes on in verse 22 to invalidate that kind of thinking.  

22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 

The point here is that no one who knew of Christ in that day could claim they didn’t have enough evidence to conclude that He was God’s Son. 

Jesus was validated by the Father. Jesus had been given authority and power. And the evidence of that authority and power was seen wherever Jesus went. There were more than enough miracles at the hands of Christ to validate, for all who saw Him or heard of Him, that Jesus was the Son of God.

So to claim you know, and obey God, but that you don’t need to know and obey Jesus, is to show that you really don’t know and obey God. 

Why? Because Jesus came and spoke and taught and worked miracles which gave evidence of His authority. And the truths he taught exposed the sinful hearts of all who listened — what Jesus taught uncovered sin and brought guilt. 

That’s true of us too. If you come here and hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed, you know the Gospel tells you that you need Christ and you are without excuse.

So now, as Jesus taught, anyone who claimed to know God but refused to believe in Jesus had no excuse. 

And because Jesus exposed sin, which brought guilt, they hated Him. And because they hated him they could not claim to know God. 

This is still true today. Those who are faithful to Christ represent Him clearly to the world — and by their faithful witness and testimony, Jesus still exposes sinful hearts and guilt follows. 

And because of this guilt, the world hates those who are faithful messengers of Jesus. So not only do those who reject Christ remain in their guilt — they also demonstrate by their rejection of Christ, their hatred for God. 

Look at what Jesus says, again in verses 23-25.

23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also.

24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 

25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’

Those who reject God the Son also reject God the Father. 

When Jesus demonstrated His authority by the signs and wonders and when He taught, those who heard should have repented of sin and believed in Him — but instead they hated Him.

And still today, those who faithfully represent Christ as they live by faith and walk in obedience to His Word, are rejected and persecuted not for who they are but for whose they are. Faithful believers are hated because they represent Christ who exposes sin. 

The obedient believer exposes the need for forgiveness of sin. The obedient believer demonstrates that Jesus is God and must be obeyed. 

And those who refuse to repent and turn from their sin will often turn against those who are Christ’s by persecuting them for their faith.

So how can believers hope to deal with being persecuted for living for Christ? Note the encouragement Jesus gives His followers here in the remaining two verses of chapter 15.

26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 

27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

So here are two encouraging reminders for you if you are Christ’s. 

The first is that the Helper, the Holy Spirit who is given to you when you repent of sin and trust in Christ, will bear witness about Christ to you. 

In other words, you will know and have confidence that you are Christ’s because the Spirit will make Him known to you, as you trust in and depend on Him.

So when you read the Word and believe the Word and obey the Word, you will be strengthened. Because the Spirit of truth will take the Word of truth and use it to strengthen and encourage you in the midst of persecution and embolden you to remain faithful, bearing witness to your heart that you are Christ’s and that you will be held and provided for by God as you face persecution. 

You may not be facing persecution right now. But God intends for you to be strengthened by the Spirit of truth and He will strengthen you for bold, Christlike living as you walk in obedience to the Word. And when you pray with faith you will see God’s answers which will also encourage you in your walk with Christ.

The second encouragement is that you will be helped by the Spirit in your witness for Christ. Verse 27, and you will also bear witness.

In the face of persecution the disciples would be empowered by the Spirit to remain faithful to Christ, bearing witness for Christ.

And that promise is yours today also. Those who are obedient to live for Christ will receive encouragement, and strength to remain faithful in their witness for Christ, even in the face of persecution.

So as we walk with Christ and faithfully obey the commands of Christ, He helps us not lose heart, because by the indwelling presence of God, He strengthens us to bear a faithful witness for Christ.

No we are not persecuted for being who we are when we are obedient to Christ we are persecuted because we are Christ’s. And we dare not think that being persecuted is to be avoided. If you live for Christ you will not avoid persecution. But at the same time you can rest assured, that He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 

You can also rest assured that God’s purposes will prevail. God can and will use even the persecution of His children to greater advance the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

For example — Julie Ackerman Link who contributes to Our Daily Bread, writes:

In AD 64, someone set fire to Rome.  A few days later, two-thirds of the city lay in smoldering ruins. A rumor spread that the emperor Nero had set the fire because he wanted to rebuild the city and name it after himself. Needing a scapegoat to get himself off the proverbial hot-seat, he chose to blame a defenseless and unpopular minority—Christians. He then initiated such intense persecution that he’s been referred to as the first Antichrist. It’s believed that both Peter and Paul were martyred during this time.

Because Christianity was new and its followers still relatively few, the sadistic treatment that Nero leveled against believers, which included using them as human torches to light his palace garden, continued with little opposition.

His persecution eventually backfired, however. Instead of weakening the new faith, it strengthened it. History tells us that within a few hundred years Christianity became so influential that Emperor Constantine made it the official religion of the Roman Empire. [1]

God always has a purpose in persecution. He will use it for good if we follow the example of Christ, who, “when He suffered, He . . . committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23).

God will use eve persecution for good — so remain faithful.


[1] Persecution That Backfired, Julie Ackerman Link

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