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Study in John’s Gospel

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  1. Study in John’s Gospel Presentation 67

  2. Persecution is to be Expected Chap 16v1-4 Presentation 67

  3. Introduction Some time ago three Christian workers were killed by Muslim extremists in Turkey. Their killers were arrested and the wife of one of the slain men appeared on national television to say, she had forgiven her husband’s killers. This incident highlights a sobering reality - there is a cost associated with following Jesus. Jesus identified that cost in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.” Matt.5v10-12 Presentation 67

  4. Introduction Jesus develops the theme of persecution in order to prepare his disciples for the future. And his particular emphasis is on, excommunication from the Jewish synagogue and the murder of his followers. He sharpens the focus to this startling revelation by emphasising that this persecution will be inflicted upon his followers, not by the secular world, as we might expect, but by the religious establishment! Presentation 67

  5. Excommunication Excommunication is indicated in v2 , “They shall put you out of the synagogues”. Much more is in view than that of a person who may be denied membership of a local church congregation today. For then the person relocates to a different church with different views. But for Jesus’ hearers excommunication meant separation from both a place of worship and the scriptures. It also had a devastating effect upon their social life and economic well-being. It meant being shunned by friends, exiled from family; the loss of employment or, if self-employed, customers. And so Jesus warns of fearsome consequences that lay ahead. Presentation 67

  6. Excommunication And the fact that this persecution came from their ‘religious superiors’ made it all the more emotionally devastating. Persecution from the secular world does not have the same effect. Martin Luther felt the weight of such opinion in his own excommunication by the Roman church of the C16th. We usually think of Luther as a robust character, unaffected by the papal decrees. But he was not unaffected! He cast himself in the role of Jeremiah, who was required to stand before the Judaism of his day and declare it bankrupt. The leaders rebuked Jeremiah saying that they were God's people. They even quoted Scripture to refute Jeremiah’s prophecy. Presentation 67

  7. Excommunication Luther found himself asking, as did Jeremiah, "Am I to stand up alone and preach against your people, your kingdom, your priests, and your Word? For that, of course, is where your name is; they have your Law, your temple, and both the spiritual and the worldly government, ordained by you yourself. Who am I to oppose single-handedly all that is God's? I would rather say that they are right, retract my preaching, or at least keep silence." Obviously, Luther understood the force of the taunts against him: "You are a heretic and an apostle of the devil." Such accusations must affect every sensitive Christian. Consequently, this is where the pain of this particular persecution comes in. Presentation 67

  8. Excommunication Does persecution lie ahead of the church today? We are being pressurised to conform to political correctness and to allow the world to shape our belief system and ethical behaviour! Are we prepared to evaluate the opinions and decisions of our denomination by the Word of God and then stand against all that is in opposition to it. If so, there will be persecution. But what then? Well, if God in his infinite wisdom permits those who merely profess the name of "church" to excommunicate, persecute, or otherwise relegate to the side-lines those who are determined to live by the Bible's authority, then let it happen. Our task is to be faithful. Presentation 67

  9. Killed in God’s Service Jesus goes on to mention murder. At different times this is more likely in some lands than in others - Jesus speaks only of a "time" when this will happen - but it is much more common than most people realise. In the early years some of the apostles and many believers were killed by the Jewish authorities or at Jewish instigation. Later execution was inflicted by Rome, randomly at first and then under Decius and Diocletian the killing of Christians became state policy. Persecutions filled the Middle Ages, climaxing in the Reformation period. And they continue to take place in our own day in lands such as Iran and Pakistan. Presentation 67

  10. Killed in God’s Service Notice that in all of this, the killing of Christians is carried out almost entirely by religious people and for religious reasons! "Anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God".v2 Luther says, "It pains one beyond measure that the Christian, who undergo such suffering, die not only without any sympathy but also amid the greatest ignominy, derision, and mockery, yes, amid all the joy and exultation of the world, which sings nothing but Glory to God when it happens." Presentation 67

  11. Rejoice, Rejoice Jesus speaks of these things, not only to forewarn his disciples, but also to give them an explanation of what will happen and so enable them to rejoice even in the midst of persecution. "Blessed are those who are persecuted .. Rejoice and be glad”. How can a Christian rejoice in severe persecution? How were the Scottish Covenanters able to sing songs of praise when, after their arrest and trial, they were marched of to be executed on the gallows in Edinburgh? There are several answers. First, persecution makes clear where we stand in relation to Christ. This is involved in Jesus explanation of the world's conduct, "They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.” v 3 Presentation 67

  12. Rejoice, Rejoice The radical distinction between Christ's own and the world which was introduced in chap 13 now characterises most of the teaching in this section. To be hated by a world that does not know either the Father or Christ is therefore a mark of being identified with both of them. Secondly, the Christian can also rejoice in persecutions because he knows that they are not accidents but circumstances that God press-gangs into his purpose. Jesus teaches that these things come in order that the disciples "will not go astray". God uses our persecution to keep us close to himself. Presentation 67

  13. Rejoice, Rejoice Thirdly, persecution is used to promote growth in practical holiness. It strips away the unnecessary dross from our lives and draws us closer to Jesus. "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy" 1Pet. 1 v 6-8 Peter’s point is that persecution is the crucible in which God purifies the lives of his people and he does so because they are precious to him. Presentation 67

  14. Rejoice, Rejoice Billy Graham tells of a friend who, during the depression, lost a job, a fortune, a wife, and a home. He was a Christian and held tenaciously to his faith, even though he was cast down by circumstances. One day he stopped to watch some stonemasons working on a large church in the city. "What are you going to do with that?" he asked a man who was busy chiselling a piece of triangular stone. The workman stopped and pointed to a small opening near the top of the spire. "See that little opening up there near the top? I'm shaping this down here so that it will fit up there." The friend said that tears filled his eyes as he walked away from the workman, for it seemed that God had spoken to him personally to tell him that he was perfecting him for heaven through his earthly ordeal. Presentation 67

  15. Rejoice, Rejoice Fourthly, Christians can rejoice in persecutions because they enable them to radiate Christ. If all is going well in your life and you rejoice, what is so remarkable about that? But if all goes wrong and you rejoice, that is remarkable. Others will notice. Paul and Silas sang praises to God in jail at Philippi. The jailer had never before seen prisoners who had rejoiced after a severe beating. Such was the impression they made, by not even attempting a jail-brake after an earthquake opened wide their cell door, that the jailer fell at their feet and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?“ Acts 16v30. Presentation 67

  16. No Separation from Christ Finally, the Christian can rejoice in persecutions, because they can never separate him from the love of God. Paul who experienced persecution after persecution wrote, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Rom.8v38 Persecutions will come. Christ has foretold them. But we can know that not even these will frustrate God's purposes for our lives or separate us from him. Presentation 67