On Sunday, June 28th, 2015, I preached a sermon regarding Christian persecution from the book of 1 Peter. In part the sermon was in response to a ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) which was reported by CNN like this,
In a landmark opinion, a divided Supreme Court on Friday ruled that same-sex couples can marry nationwide, establishing a new civil right and handing gay rights advocates a historic victory.
This ruling sparked what many would consider an avalanche of freedom for people to be vocal, act on, and even celebrate things that beforehand would have been considered immoral, and helped to solidify an anti-Christian sentiment in America.
Many pulpits across America were filled with preachers/pastors decrying the ruling, stating biblical standards for marriage, and generally helping their people understand what Scripture says about marriage. I also stated what the Bible clearly says about marriage. From the Old Testament to the New, it’s clear that marriage is between one woman and one man for life, or as John Piper unmistakably says it,
Marriage is created and defined by God in the Scriptures as the sexual and covenantal union of a man and a woman in life-long allegiance to each other alone, as husband and wife, with a view to displaying Christ’s covenant relationship to his blood-bought church.
I also stated that I respect someone much more if they simply say they disagree with Scripture instead of trying to justify it through Scripture, especially when Scripture is so crystal clear on the matter. But I was “preaching to the choir”! The folks I pastor already know what Scripture says regarding marriage and so called, “same sex marriage”. But there was an overarching issue in the midst of SCOTUS ruling, and all of the reaction that the church in America, at least in my opinion, has not been prepared for; that is the issue of how to respond such rulings, and furthermore, how to respond to persecution in general.
I am convinced that the church has had the reigns in America for so long that the entire idea of persecution is foreign to us. Sure, we hear about it in other places, in foreign lands, and we pray for those believers as they face incredible obstacles while striving to live out their faith in Jesus, but the idea that American believers will face persecution for their faith is almost more than we can fathom! But more and more, with each passing week and with each passing law that is blatantly contrary to Scripture, Christian persecution (to one degree or another) is an ever developing reality. Therefore, we as the church must be prepared to respond properly in a post-Christian America that not only disagrees with a Christian worldview but actually celebrates, revels in, and sanctions a thoroughly secular and flesh driven worldview. So my purpose in this lengthy blog is to point us to Scripture in order for the church to respond properly, or rather “suffer well” for the glory of God.
1. Don’t be surprised by what is happening.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you
(1 Peter 4:12).
(1 Peter 4:12).
Why are we shocked when people attack us simply because we profess faith in Jesus? The Bible says repeatedly that believers will be ill-treated:
2 Timothy 3:12; John 15:18; Matthew 5:44; 1 John 3:13; Luke 6:22; Matthew 5:10; 2 Corinthians 4:8-12; Mark 13:13; Matthew 10:22; Mathew 5:11, and the list goes on…
Whether we have watered down the doctrine of Christian persecution in order to make Christianity more palatable, are focused on a so-called prosperity gospel, or any number of other reasons, by in large our churches have not been taught to expect persecution, and now that it has become a reality we are taken aback by it. Much like the man who decided to become a boxer; he hired a trainer, worked tirelessly in the gym for months, and scheduled his first bout. When the bell rang, signaling the start of the fight, he ran to the middle of the ring and started dancing around when suddenly his opponent hit him squarely on the nose, nearly knocking him down! He then ran to his corner where his trainer was coaching him and with great surprise yelled, “He hit me!?!?” Unfortunately that’s how the church too often responds to persecution!
Bottom line…as a Christian living in what has become a post Christian country, DO NOT be surprised when you are persecuted for/because of your faith in Jesus…rather, expect it!
2. Rejoice that you are being reviled because of Christ.
Verses 13 and 14 say,
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (14) If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
There is a reason that some people are persecuted… now mind you, this is not the case for everyone, but for those who simply lift up the name of Jesus, you will be persecuted and you are blessed because of it. Why? Because the Spirit of God rests upon you…and that is a privilege!
3. Don’t suffer for dumb stuff!
But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.
There is enough to keep the Christian busy in this world by simply dealing with anti-Christian sentiment produced by our profession of faith in Christ and holy living…suffering well, for the glory of God should be the only thing we suffer for. Suffering for dumb stuff like sin is a complete waste of time, energy, and testimony. DON’T DO IT!
4. Don’t be ashamed of suffering, but glorify God during it.
Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
So, there is a reason you have been reviled, scoffed at, mocked, belittled, etc… It’s an opportunity to glorify God! You must understand what is happening here. When persecution comes, step back, put the wide angle lens on, and get the big picture. God is bringing glory to Himself through our dependence upon Him in the midst of persecution and the spread of the gospel in the midst of persecution.
5. Respond to persecution properly.
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
There are two extremely important truths that we must glean from this passage…The first is, TRUST GOD! There’s no other way to endure persecution or to suffer well. When we don’t trust God through it we will become extremely frustrated and even angry, which brings no glory to God or peace to us. On the other hand, when we trust God in the midst of persecution He is glorified and we are satisfied.
The second truth is, CONTINUE TO DO THE RIGHT THING! When we as believers are in the midst of persecution it’s easy to become side-tracked… But we simply cannot afford to do that! Keep your eyes on the crucified Christ and continue to live a life that is surrendered to him.
Here are a few things that we can expect to see when the church is persecuted:
· – Regardless of how great America was/is, our faith is not in a nation, but in God alone.
· –Expect to see theologically shallow churches scatter.
· –Expect to see gospel-centered churches rise to the top.
· –Expect to experience God’s grace, mercy, and glory more than ever before.
· –All of this gives us a great hunger for Heaven and Jesus.
· –Use this as a divine opportunity to make Jesus known