DEVOTIONS AND SERMONS

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Persecution And Opposition
 

1. The Bible promises that Christians will be persecuted

a. If they persecuted Jesus they will persecute you also.

John 15:20
Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.

b. People will say false things about you.

Matthew 5:11
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

c. You will recieve a hundred fold blessing plus persecutions.

Mark 10:30
will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields--and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.

d. Persecutions are guaranteed part of Christian life.

2 Timothy 3:12
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,

1 Thessalonians 3:1-4
1 So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens.
2 We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God's fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith,
3 so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them.
4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know.


Discuss why we do not like persecution. Remember: if persecution stops, it will only be because we have stopped preaching the gospel.

2. Opposition and persecution usually come from :

a. Family members may not always agree with your commitment to God. Why not? Why should we not compromise?

Matthew 10:34-37
34 "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
35 For I have come to turn "'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law--
36 a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'
37 "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;


b. Why are religious people threatened by the commitment of true disciples?

Matthew 12:22-31
22 Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see.
23 All the people were astonished and said, "Could this be the Son of David?"
24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, "It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons."
25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.
26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?
27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges.
28 But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
29 "Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house.
30 "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.
31 And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.


Matthew 16:1-12
1 The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.
2 He replied, "When evening comes, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,'
3 and in the morning, 'Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.
4 A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah." Jesus then left them and went away.
5 When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread.
6 "Be careful," Jesus said to them. "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees."
7 They discussed this among themselves and said, "It is because we didn't bring any bread."
8 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, "You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread?
9 Do you still not understand? Don't you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?
10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?
11 How is it you don't understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees."
12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.


Why did religious people oppose Jesus?

We saw above Matthew 12:22-31.

Matthew 23:1-36
1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:
2 "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat.
3 So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.
4 They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
5 "Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long;
6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues;
7 they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'
8 "But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers.
9 And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.
10 Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ.
11 The greatest among you will be your servant.
12 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
13 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
14
15 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.
16 "Woe to you, blind guides! You say, 'If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.'
17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred?
18 You also say, 'If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.'
19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?
20 Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it.
21 And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it.
22 And he who swears by heaven swears by God's throne and by the one who sits on it.
23 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.
24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
25 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.
26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
27 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean.
28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
29 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous.
30 And you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.'
31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets.
32 Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!
33 "You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?
34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town.
35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.
36 I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.


Some of Jesus' harshest statments in the Bible were for religious hypocrites.

John 8:31-59
31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.
32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
33 They answered him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?"
34 Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.
35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.
36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
37 I know you are Abraham's descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word.
38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father's presence, and you do what you have heard from your father."
39 "Abraham is our father," they answered. "If you were Abraham's children," said Jesus, "then you would do the things Abraham did.
40 As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things.
41 You are doing the things your own father does." "We are not illegitimate children," they protested. "The only Father we have is God himself."
42 Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me.
43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say.
44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!
46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me?
47 He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God."
48 The Jews answered him, "Aren't we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?"
49 "I am not possessed by a demon," said Jesus, "but I honor my Father and you dishonor me.
50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge.
51 I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death."
52 At this the Jews exclaimed, "Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death.
53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?"
54 Jesus replied, "If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.
55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word.
56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad."
57 "You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!"
58 "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!"
59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.


Why do religious hypocrites try to please?

Matthew 23:5
Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long;

If people accused Jesus of worshipping the devil, they will also accuse true Christians of the same thing. Jesus was accused of being Beelzebub.

c. Friends, peers

Discuss the reaction of your close friends after you become a Christian? Why did they react this way?

3. Opposition in the first century

a. How do our persecutions compare to what the early church went through?

Acts 8:1
And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.

Acts 9:1-2
1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest
2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.


Hebrews 11:35-38
35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection.
36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison.
37 They were stoned ; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated--
38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.


b. Have you ever been flogged or been imprisoned for your faith like.. Paul was? Have you ever been stoned or shipwrecked or wandered in caves?

2 Corinthians 11:23-29
23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.
24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.
25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,
26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.
27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.
28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?


4. How should Christians handle opposition?

a. Pray for boldness.

Acts 4:29
Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.

b. Rejoice and leap for joy.

Matthew 5:10-12
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


Acts 18:5-8
5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.
6 But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles."
7 Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God.
8 Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.


c. Never stop preaching. Opposition can either make you strong or weaken your fatih. Do you get afraid and turn inward when people question your faith or do you become stronger?

Acts 5:42
Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.

Acts 18:5-8
5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.
6 But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles."
7 Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God.
8 Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.


d. Pray for your persecutors. This is a command from God.

Matthew 5:44
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

e. Endure the persecution. Persecution moulds our characters!

1 Corinthians 4:12
We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it;

Remember

People oppose you not because of who you are, but because of our message.

Be encouraged.

2 Corinthians 4:17
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.