Faithlife Sermons

What Did I Do?

Book of Acts  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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I want to welcome you again this morning.
First, to those joining us online, we are so thankful for our online technology that allows you to be a part of our church family today.
I also want to welcome those who may be joining us for the first time today. I hope your time with us today is encouraging and helpful, and I look forward to meeting you.
I would also say if you are new to our church today, it would be helpful for you to know that we practice a form of preaching called “Expository Preaching”.
What that means, is we believe the Bible is best taught by taking books of the Bible and then breaking them down from beginning to end, chapter by chapter, verse by verse. Our goal, to better understand not only what God’s Word says, but what it means in our lives today.
With that said, we are currently doing that through the NT book of Act. A book written by a First Century disciple named Luke, who wrote it for a couple of reasons:
First, to give us a history of the church. How it started, who was there, and the circumstances that surrounded it.
Second, to give us a template of sorts. A template that teaches us how to accomplish the mission Jesus gave us to take the Gospel into the rest of the world.
So, if you haven’t been with us, I would encourage you to go online to where you can listen to all of the messages leading up to today.
Today however we are picking back up in Acts 16 as we join Paul once again on his second missionary as he ministers in the Greek city of Philippi.
You might recall, while Philippi is a Greek city, it is also a Roman Colony. Which means it was a city given heavily to the Roman way of life politically, legally, culturally, and religiously.
For example, when it came to religion, Philippi was given to a form of worship called polytheism, which is the worship of many gods, specifically gods such as Zeus, Apollos, Aphrodites, Poseidon, and many other Greek and Roman gods.
As a result, it was city full of pagan worship, and as we saw last week, a city that had been highly influenced by the demonic.
We saw that specifically through an encounter Paul had with a slave girl who Luke says was possessed by a spirit of divination. A demonic spirit that was proclaiming lies and trying to disrupt Paul’s ministry.
A demonic spirit that Paul finally had had enough of and in a moment of spiritual fervor, drove the demonic spirit out of the girl. We read about it last week. Luke writes:
Acts 16:17–18 ESV
17 She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 18 And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.
And it’s from this demonic encounter that we learned some important principles when it comes to sharing our faith:
#1 - Like Paul, we are living in what you might call a modern day Philippi. Because like Philippi, we are a nation that has given itself to false gods.
Gods of false ideology.
Gods of sexual immorality.
Gods of materialism and temporal gain.
Gods of self focus and self gain.
False gods that work to keep people from the truth of the Gospel.
Which means, like Philippi, we are also a nation that is full of demonic influence and activity.
#2 - If you’re going to be committed to sharing the gospel, you can count on demonic opposition.
We know this because according to Ephesians 6, the battle for souls is of a spiritual nature, and so if you’re going to be committed to leading people to Jesus, you can expect supernatural pushback. That like Paul, when we start telling people the truth of the Gospel, Satan and his forces are going to attack.
#3 - Because demonic opposition is a certainty, like Paul we need to be prepared to deal with the demonic. The question then is, “How do you do that?
Well, as we learned last week, we do that by putting on the full armor of God.
Paul talks about this armor in Ephesians 6. And as we learned last week, while it’s an armor composed of several spiritual pieces, to put on the armor of God basically means to put on Jesus. So, how do we do that? Paul writes:
Ephesians 6:13–17 ESV
13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,
In his description of the armor of God, Paul uses the example of the clothing and weaponry of a Roman soldier.
He starts with the belt of truth, which represents a persons faith in Jesus. The belief that Jesus is the Son of God. The belief that He died for the sins of mankind. The belief that Jesus has all authority. The belief that if a person puts their faith in Jesus, they will be saved.
So, if you want to put on Jesus, it starts there. It starts with a relationship with Jesus.
He then moves to the breastplate of righteousness, which represents a persons commitment to their new life in Christ. A commitment to holiness and purity. A commitment to walk by the Spirit and not according to the flesh. A commitment to a changed life.
He then moves to the footwear of the gospel, which represents a persons commitment to evangelism. A commitment to always be ready to share our faith. A commitment to take advantage of every opportunity to lead somebody to Jesus.
He then encourages us to take up the shield of faith. A faith that represents the certainty of our salvation. A faith that is rooted in the fact that through faith in Jesus you are a son or daughter of God.
From there he says we are to put on the helmet of salvation and pick up the sword of the Spirit.
The helmet of salvation represents the knowledge of certain victory. The reality that regardless of what the circumstances are or how dark the day may be, that at the end of the day, we win. That because of Jesus’s victory on the cross, the war has already been won. That Satan is a defeated foe.
Finally, we are to pick up the sword of the Spirit, which Paul says is the Word of God. Which underlines the importance of reading God’s Word. Because as we said last week, the Bible just isn’t a book full of good stories and good ideas. It’s so much more than that. The writer of Hebrews puts it like this:
Hebrews 4:12 ESV
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
And so to put on the full armor of God means to put on Jesus by living out the new life He’s called us too. Only then will we be able to walk in spiritual authority and overcome the demonic forces that work against us.
That being said, If you weren’t with us last week, I’d encourage you to go online and listen to last weeks message in order to get a deeper understanding of what it means to walk in spiritual authority.
Today however we are going to move to the next challenge Paul will face as he works to reach the city of Philippi. A challenge that is unavoidable for any Christian who is serious about reaching people for Jesus.
And so in order to introduce us to this next challenge, I want to begin by asking you a question that I think will help set the stage for where Luke is taking us today.
My question is this:
Have you ever made somebody mad, but you weren’t sure what you did?
For example:
You went to work one day, and all of a sudden your boss was treating you funny. But you can’t think of anything you would have done to upset them.
Or maybe you got home from work and your spouse was giving you the silent treatment. And so you racked your brain all night trying to remember if it was something you said.
Or maybe you just walked in a room, and somebody bit your head off. Leaving you to wonder, “What in the world did I do?”
As we come back to Acts 16 today, we find Paul in a similar scenario. Because after delivering the slave girl from the demonic spirit, Paul receives some pretty negative treatment, leaving us to wonder, “What did he do?”
And so to find out what exactly happened, let’s pick back up where we left off last week where Paul has just cast out an evil spirit from the slave girl who had been following him around. Again Luke writes:
Acts 16:18 ESV
18 And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.
As we said last week, this would have been a powerful moment. A moment of spiritual victory and celebration as a young girl is set free from a demonic spirit. A moment where the forces of darkness have been pushed back.
But the fact is, as Paul casts this evil spirit out, not everybody was celebrating and not everybody saw it as a win. Because following this powerful moment, look at how the people of the city responded to this supernatural battle between Paul and this evil spirit. Luke writes:
Acts 16:19–24 ESV
19 But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. 20 And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. 21 They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
Luke says following the deliverance of this girl from this evil spirit, instead of patting Paul on the back and thanking him, the people of the city seized him, beat him, and threw him and Silas into prison.
Kind of reminds me of that phrase, “No good deed goes unpunished”, right?
So, what’s going on here? Why have the people of Philippi responded to Paul in this way? What did Paul do to warrant this kind of treatment?
That’s what we are going to focus in on today, because the fact is, if you’re going to walk in spiritual authority and lead people to Jesus, not only do you need to be ready to deal with the demonic, but we need to be ready to endure the persecution that often follows it. A persecution that sometimes doesn’t make sense, leaving us to wonder, “What did I do?”
And so with that in mind, I really only have one objective today. And that is to determine why we can expect persecution when it appears we’ve done nothing wrong.
And the reason it’s so important we understand this is twofold:
First, by understanding why what seems to be unmerited persecution takes place, we will be better prepared to face it and not lose heart in the midst of it.
Second, by understanding why this persecution takes place, we will be in a better position to respond in a way that will glorify Jesus and lead more people to Jesus. Which is something we are going to look at more in detail next week.
But for today, we are going to focus on why Christians often receive what we might consider unexpected or unwarranted persecuted.
And from Paul’s experience here in Acts 16, I’d like to suggest there are at least two primary reasons Christians can expect to face persecution as they work to lead people to Jesus.
So, with that as our focus, here’s the first reason I’d like us to consider:
Reason #1 - Christians will face persecution because what we see as evil, the world sees as good.
I want you to notice again what Luke says following the deliverance of this demon possessed girl. He writes:
Acts 16:19 ESV
19 But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers.
Paul says following the deliverance of this girl, immediately the owners of the girl are upset.
So, why are they upset? They’re upset for two reasons:
#1 - They’re upset because Luke says this girl had been a source of income for them. That’s what Luke means when he says, “…their hope of gain was gone...”.
Which means this girls owners had been using her fortune telling ability to make money.
More than likely they had a booth set up somewhere in the marketplace where people would pay money to have this slave girl tell them their fortune.
But now that Paul has cast the evil spirit out, she no longer has the ability to tell fortunes. Which means, this girl is no longer an asset for her owners. She’s now a lost investment. So, they’re upset.
#2 - They’re upset because in Roman paganism, to be possessed by a spirit or a god wasn’t demonic, it was divine.
In other words, in their minds, this girl didn’t have an evil spirit, she had a gift that had been bestowed upon her by the gods. A gift that should be cherished and admonished. A gift that should be celebrated.
But that’s now how Paul had viewed her ability. Paul recognized for what it was, an evil spirit, and so he cast it out.
But in the eyes of these pagan slave owners, she hasn’t been delivered, she’s been robbed. Robbed of a precious gift. Robbed of a divine ability. Which is why the owners make this accusation in verse 21:
Acts 16:21 ESV
21 They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.”
In other words, these men are calling evil what we as Romans call good.
And so in response to Paul’s views and actions, the people of Philippi retaliate against him. Because from their perspective, Paul is the one who has done something wrong. Something wicked. Something evil. He’s robbed these men of their profit and robbed this girl of her divine gift.
Why is it important we understand this? It’s important because when it comes to evil and sin, what we have to understand, is that the world has an entirely different perspective of sin than we do.
In fact, instead of seeing sin and demonic activity as evil, the world often sees it as beautiful, helpful, wise, and in some cases divine.
Let me give you a few examples of what I’m talking about:
When it comes to couple cohabitation, the world sees a couple living together outside of marriage not as something that is sinful and wrong, but as something wise and helpful.
Because it just makes sense that before you make a commitment to someone for the rest of your life, that you take them out for a test drive first, right? Make sense!
That you make sure you can live together.
That you make sure your sexually compatible.
That you make sure they don’t snore too loud, right?
It just makes sense and is helpful to live together before you get married.
But for the Christian, cohabitation is sinful. It’s something God has forbid. Why?
Because God doesn’t view relationships and sexuality as something to be test driven. He views it as a lifelong commitment between one man and one women, where following the marriage commitment, the two become one.
So, while the world sees cohabitation as wise and helpful, the Christian sees it as unhealthy and sinful.
When it comes to same sex marriage, amazingly the world sees it as something beautiful and divine.
Because after all, love is a beautiful thing. Something that God has given us to intimately share with one another regardless of gender. So if two men or two women want to share that kind of love with one another, then what’s the problem. God designed us to love.
But for the Christian, it’s the exact opposite. To the Christian homosexuality is something that in both the OT and NT God has forbid. Something that even nature would say, “Not normal”.
But to the world it’s normal, it’s beautiful, it’s acceptable, and it’s even divine.
The same is true of abortion. For the world, abortion is a personal right and a choice. Something a woman should be able to choose for herself above and beyond the rights of her unborn child.
But for the Christian, abortion is selfish. Because for the Christian, the life of the unborn baby supersedes the rights or desires of the mother.
And I could go on. Because there is example after example of how the world’s perspective of sin is in direct contrast to the perspective of the Christian.
And what you have to understand, is that their perspective is real to them. It’s beautiful to them. It’s helpful to them. It’s what makes sense to them. It’s what gives them hope. It’s what gives them security. It’s what their happiness is based upon. It’s their worldview.
Which means, when you as the Christian come along, and you begin to question, denounce, and call evil what they see as good, what do you think is going to happen.
What’s going to happen is they’re going to get defensive. What’s going to happen is you’re going to be seen as somebody evil. Somebody who is trying to steal from them. Somebody who is trying to rob them of something they see as profitable, helpful, divine, natural, and pleasurable in their life.
And they’re especially going to get upset if your beliefs and your influence start to affect, question, or infringe upon their life.
And the reason we need to understand this, is if you want to reach somebody that doesn’t know Jesus, then what you need to understand is your view of life is at odds with theirs.
Paul puts it like this:
Galatians 5:17 ESV
17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
What Paul is saying here is that the worldview of a non-Christian and the worldview of a Christian are in direct opposition to one another. They’re contrary to one another.
Why are they contrary? Their contrary because through faith in Jesus, the mind and perspective of a Christian has been transformed. Paul puts it like this in Romans 12:
Romans 12:2 ESV
2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Paul says when a person puts their faith in Jesus, their mind is renewed and transformed. In other words, their mind is spiritually rewired to see sin and the world for what it is. And as a result, you now live and see life differently.
However, for the person who hasn’t put their faith in Jesus. For the person who lives with a wordly perspective, their view is much different. In Romans 8 Paul puts it like this:
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh...” Romans 8:5a (ESV)
Paul says for a person who doesn’t know Jesus lives with a wordly perspective. And as a result, they don’t view life through a renewed mind. Instead they view life contrary to God’s desires. Paul writes:
Romans 8:7 ESV
7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.
Paul says, “In fact, it’s impossible for them to view it any other way”.
But for the Christian he writes:
“…but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” Romans 8:5b (ESV)
All that to say, if a person doesn’t know Jesus, they don’t see life like you do.
What that means then is you have to be prepared when your renewed view and understanding collides with somebody who has a worldly view. Because in that moment, you become a threat to their worldview. And that’s where persecution begins.
And quite honestly, this shouldn’t cause us to become angry or hateful towards them when they respond negatively. Because the fact is, they don’t know any better. Paul puts it like this:
2 Corinthians 4:3–4 ESV
3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Paul says the reason they can’t see what you see, is because the god of this world, which is Satan, has blinded them and is working to keep them from seeing the light of truth. Which is the spiritual warfare we’ve been talking about.
So, while it’s easy to get upset and offended, and maybe even write them off when somebody begins to persecute you for your faith, what we have to remember is they are spiritually blind.
Think of it like this. If you met somebody that was physically blind, how would you treat them? How would you interact with them?
Hopefully you would recognize they’re blind. That they don’t and can’t see the world like you do. And that because they are blind, you should have compassion for them and maybe even go out of your way to help and love on them regardless of how they treat you.
It’s the same with the gospel. When we encounter people who don’t know Jesus, what we have to remember is that they’re spiritually blind. And that their negative reaction is a direct result of their inability to see the truth.
This is why the slave owners are so upset. Paul has just called something evil that they see as good.
This leads us to the second reason Christians are persecuted
Reason #2 - Christians are persecuted because they are Christians.
Let me show you what I mean by that. Because listen to what the slave owners go on to say about Paul and Silas. Verse 20:
Acts 16:20 ESV
20 And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city.
What I want you to notice, is one of the main accusations that these slave owners make, is that Paul and Silas are Jews, who are disturbing the city.
The question then is, “Why do they make Paul and Silas’s ethnicity an issue?”
The answer is simple. The reason they bring up their ethnicity, is because in the 1st century, Jews were largely seen as anti Roman.
Again this is why the slave owners go on to say:
Acts 16:21 ESV
21 They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.”
What that tells us then, is there was definitely a antisemitism feeling among Romans towards the Jews.
So, a great question would be, “Why didn’t the Romans like Jews?” There were various reasons:
#1 - In general Romans tended to find Jewish customs offensive and harmful to other people groups. Customs and beliefs that they believed led people down a dangerous and destructive path.
#2 - Romans believed Jews were superstitious. In other words, Jews put their hope in things that weren’t logical or rational. For example, honoring the sabbath, circumcision, and abstention from eating pork, were foolishness in the eyes of the Romans.
#3 - Jews were really good at converting other people groups to Judaism. Which threatened Roman customs and values. Because the more people who put their faith in the God of the Bible, the less Roman religous beliefs would be held, celebrated, and passed down to future generations.
The first century historian and politician Tacitus put it like this:
“When Jews circumcise converts, they compel them to reject their old gods, nations, and families.”
He goes on to say, “The worst members of other peoples betray their own heritage, joining the Jews and increasing their wealth…”
#4 - Jews were unwilling to accept Roman religious customs. Which really bothered the Romans since the Jews were a conquered people.
The Roman philosopher Apollonius puts it like this:
“Jews have long been in revolt not only against the Romans, but against humanity. They remain aloof from others, will not share at table or join public religious activity with others, and are further from mainstream Greco-Roman culture than are Indians.”
And so for polytheists who always sought to respect other deities, the belief of this one conquered people that their own God was most powerful and indeed the only true God left the Romans in bewilderment. Because if the Jewish God was so powerful, than why are the Jews the ones who have been conquered.
#5 - Jews were always seeking religous exemptions. In other words, Jews wanted citizenship but also wanted to be exempted from certain civic responsibilities on account of their religous beliefs. Bottom line, they wanted religous freedom along with the privileges of citizenship.
All that to say, Romans had a negative view of the Jewish people and found their customs and religous beliefs to be inferior and dangerous.
So, that’s why the slave owners made it a point to point out that Paul and Silas were Jews.
Because they’re that group of people.
The ones who hate Roman culture and customs.
The ones who think their God is the only God.
The ones who are trying to steal our people and our children.
The ones who are trying to lead humanity down the wrong path. They’re Jews.
And what was true for the Jews then is true for Christians today. Because the fact is, within our culture today, there is a growing disdain for Christians, and a belief that Christians for the most part are dangerous, especially those who are extreme.
So, maybe a good question would be, “To the world, what does it mean to be an extreme Christian?”
Well, in a recent Barna study, that question was asked, and I think the results might surprise you. Check this out.
When asked what made a Christian extreme, the following answers were given, and in order to make it more understandable, the results were put into 4 categories, with category #1 representing the most extreme kind of Christian, to category 4 representing the least extreme or not as extreme.
So, let’s take a look at each category and see where you and I might fall on the extremism spectrum:
Category #1 Extremism - Widely considered to be extreme:
80% plus of U.S. adults believe these actions to be “Very” or “Somewhat” extreme.
Use religion to justify violence. (Which I would agree is extreme and in 99.99% of cases unnecessary)
Refuse standard medical care for their children. (More than likely, this is referring to those who refuse to have their kids vaccinated. They’re often referred to as anti-vaxers)
Refuse to serve someone because the customer’s lifestyle conflicts with their religous beliefs. (An example of this would be a baker that refuses to make a gay wedding cake, or a photographer who passes up shooting a gay wedding.)
Now, while I agree, using our faith to justify violence is extreme, what I find interesting and concerning is that holding to one’s moral beliefs or convictions is seen as extreme. And to be honest, we’ve seen that play out when it comes to Wedding cakes, flower shops, and photographers.
So, that’s category #1.
Category #2 Extremism - Usually considered to be extreme:
50-79% of U.S. adults believe see this as “Very” or “Somewhat” extreme.
Demonstrates outside of an organization they deem as immoral. (Abortion clinics would be an example of this). Which is ironic given all of the recent protests and riots.
Preach a religous message in a public place. (An example of this might be street evangelism)
Attempt to convert others to their faith (We would call this “witnessing”.)
Teaching their children that sexual relationships between people of the same sex is morally wrong.
Distribute religous material door to door.
Pray out loud for a stranger in public.
Believe that sexual relationships between people of the same sex is morally wrong.
Protest government policies that conflict with their religion. (Again ironic considering the recent protests).
Category #3 Extremism - Often considered to be extreme:
20-49% of U.S. adults believe see this as “Very” or “Somewhat” extreme.
Pray in a special language, often called “tongues”.
Quit a good paying job to pursue mission work in another country.
Adhere to special dietary restrictions for a religious season.
Fast or refrain from food for a period of time. (Something like a Daniel Fast).
Wait until marriage to have sex.
Category #4 Extremism - Often considered to be extreme:
6-19% of U.S. adults believe see this as “Very” or “Somewhat” extreme.
Regularly donate money or tithe to a church.
Abstain from alcohol or Tobacco for religious reasons.
Read the Bible silently in a public place.
Attend church on a weekly basis.
Volunteer to help people in need.
Now, let me ask you this, “Do any of those extreme ideas about Christians today line up with the views the Romans had of the Jews in Acts 16?”
I’m going to say they do. In fact, I’m going to go as far to say that a church like ours, and not in regard to violence, would definitely rate as a category 2 and a category 1 on some levels.
Which means, in the minds of 50-100% of the U.S. population makes you dangerous. Dangerous in that your faith and your beliefs are in direct opposition to popular cultural beliefs, customs, and the lifestyle of many Americans.
That being the case, like Paul and like the Jews of his day, if you’re going to follow Jesus, persecution won’t be far behind.
Now, you might ask, “What kind of persecution are you talking about pastor?”
Well, let’s find out what kind of persecution Paul faced because he was a Jew. Luke writes:
Acts 16:22–24 ESV
22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
Luke says as the slave owners made their accusation, the crowd got worked up. So worked up that they tore Paul and Silas’s clothes off them and begin to beat them with rods.
But they didn’t stop there. Because after beating them with rods, they threw them into prison, and chained them up.
Not good, right?
Now, here’s what’s interesting about this scenario. Paul’s beating and arrest all happened outside of what was legal.
In other words, while they don’t like the Jews and they don’t like what Paul has done, the slave owners really don’t have legal ground to stand on when it comes to charging him. And they know they don’t.
So, the did the next best thing. They get the crowd worked up.
How did they do it? They did it by villainizing Paul and Silas. They said, “Look at what these Jews have done!”
They did it by playing on people’s fears and emotions. They said, “What happened to us could happen to you!”
And then they let the crowd do the rest as the people seized Paul and Silas, beat them, and threw them in the jail.
And that’s exactly what is happening to Christinas to some degree today. Because the fact is, it’s not illegal to be a Christian. It’s not illegal to hold religous beliefs and ideals. It’s not illegal to teach your kids about sexual morality. It’s not illegal to protest or state your opinion about abortion, homosexuality, or any other questionable lifestyle choice.
But in the court of public opinion and facebook, it’s a felony as Christians have been villainized for their faith. As venues like the media, Facebook, Twitter, and Hollywood have done their worst to get people worked up.
Because after all, you must be a homophobe or a transaphobe. Or you must be one of those religous extremists. One of those right wing nut jobs. You must be full of hate. You must be one of those Christians that thinks you’re better than everyone else. One of those Christians that’s trying to rob people of their happiness and trying to take away the rights of others. Trying to push your morals and ideals on others. You wicked evil Christians.
Do you see how that works. It’s cancel culture at its worst.
And the reality is, they really don’t have anything to stand on, and us using misconceptions and fear, they vilianize Christians and get the people worked up.
And their attack is powerful and intimidating, and unfortunately it’s created a lot of fear in the Christian community leaving many churches and Christians afraid to stand up for truth.
The question then is, “How do we face or overcome such persecution?”
We’re going to talk more about that next week. Because it is an issue, and there is a Biblical way to handle it that Paul will demonstrate for us.
That being said, as we close this morning, what I do want to focus in on is what our perspective and understanding of persecution should be. And based on what we’ve learned this morning, I’d like to leave you with three considerations:
Consideration #1 - If you’re going to follow Jesus, persecution is part of the package.
I think we all have to come to terms with that. To understand that if you’re going to follow Jesus, it’s not “I might face persecution”, it’s “You will face persecution”, and there’s no way around that. Jesus put it like this:
Mark 13:13 ESV
13 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Jesus says, “You will be hated”. So, up front, you have to come to terms with that, otherwise you will struggle in following Jesus.
Consideration #2 - People who persecute you don’t know any better.
I think this is something we have to understand if we’re going to reach people for Jesus.
Because as we said earlier, they’re blind. Which means, in the midst of persecution, we have to learn to show patience, compassion, and empathy.
Now, you might be thinking, “Ok pastor, I get what you’re saying. But it’s hard to care about and love someone who is persecuting you.”
It sure is. But here’s a thought that might help you get over that hurdle. At one time, you were just like them. Paul puts it like this:
1 Corinthians 6:9–11 ESV
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Paul reminds us that at one time, we were all blind. That like them, your hope was in the world. Your perspective was based on the world.
But then somebody came into your life. Maybe it was a family member. Maybe it was a friend. Or maybe it was a complete stranger. But God put somebody in your life that cared enough about you, to love you, and to not give up on you, when more than likely, you were the one persecuting.
So, when you find yourself wanting to give up in the midst of persecution, remember that somebody didn’t give up on you.
Consideration #3 - If you want to reach people for Jesus, you’re going to have to become an extreme Christian.
In other words, You’re going to have to become at least a Category 2 Christian.
You’re going to have to stand up for truth.
Your’e going to have to be committed to sharing your faith with others.
You’re going to have to be committed to teaching your kids Biblical truth.
You’re going to have to be committed to Biblical discipleship.
You’re going to have to be committed to using your resources to build the church and advance the gospel
You’re going to have to become one of those extreme Christians.
Because the fact is, we serve an extreme savior. A savior that went to extreme measures to save us. A savior that gave his life so that we could be saved.
And the reality is, He requires the same of us. Church, we have to be willing to stand for truth. We have to be willing to tell people about Jesus. We have to go to extreme measures.
Because I can tell you this. The enemy will do whatever it takes to keep people from hearing the truth. Which means, we have to be willing to do whatever it takes to tell people the truth. And yes, it will result in persecution. Yes, it will be painful at times. But in the end, our extreme commitment will result in ultimate victory.
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