January 08, 2007 Salt and Light continued

Continued from last week... The world excludes...But it does more than lock you out of its system. The Lord goes on to say - it hates. Verse 19b
 ...and but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
Seven times over Christ uses the word “hate” in this passage. In verse 18 it says
            "If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.”

Now keep in mind that hatred can be very subtle- it can be ignoring, mocking, exclusionary,  dismissing Christians as not relevant, but at other times it can be very overt and very direct. Bring yourself into alignment with Jesus and you will begin to experience something of the excluding and hating. Verse 19 comes back to that.

It not only  excludes and hates, but in verse 20, it attacks. So he says in that particular verse:
"Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.

Sometimes this amounts to verbal attack. Sometimes it is false accusations. Sometimes physical confrontation. We are told by a remarkably accurate statistician, David Barrett, that in the twentieth century, more persecution  of Christians has occurred and more Christians have been martyred than in all the previous nineteen centuries combined. Between 30-40 million have laid down their lives for Christ in our century. I commend the excellent but disturbing book “In the Lions Den” by Nina Shea to you. It is eye opening and gut wrenching to see the plight of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.

The point the Lord makes is, the world hates Christians. Not just because it doesn’t like Christians, but ultimately because it has no place for Jesus Christ.  To be aligned with the Savior is to serve a different King and a different Lord. You become a soldier of the Cross. Paul spoke of this in his final letter:
2 Timothy 3:12   Yea, and all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
Our Lord then goes on to talk about the reason for this hostility. Why is it? We need to be honest. Sometimes the world rejects Christians because they are obnoxious. They are bad mannered. They are strident and hypocritical. All of us have bowed our head in a sense of  “Oh no! not again!”  when something would come on the television news or appalling information about people who name the name of Christ.
I once heard of a missionary who told of being persecuted . The locals had burned his boat for the cause of Christ it seems. Then I later heard that he had pulled into the local port and began playing Christian music at a high volume and preaching over a loudspeaker into the wee hours of the morning. I probably would have been down there  in front of the mob that ensued with my own torch! It seems that he was being persecuted for bad behavior and manners if anything. There is a difference in being persecuted for Christ’s sake and being persecuted for bad behavior or a bad personality.
When all of that is stripped away, the Lord  says in verses 21-25 that there are three reasons for hostility. First of all in verse 21 the person of Christ exposes the ignorance of the world.
"But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.
You notice- His name is the same as His person and because of their ignorance of Christ they will do what they did to Him to you. They claim to have it all together and have no need for the Savior. They know how the world works and have an understanding of the world system- but because they do not know Christ their ignorance is exposed.
In verse 21-22 the words of Christ expose the pretense of the world.  The world makes great claims about how life works and the philosophies and understanding of it. But the Lord says, “ If I hadn’t come and spoken to them they wouldn’t be guilty of sin. Now they have no excuse. I have stripped their cloak away and exposed their nakedness and emptiness. He who hates me hates my Father as well.” Remember  how the religious leaders of the time hated the Lord Jesus- the people who heard Him said, “Never a man spoke like this!” His word had simplicity and power and His truth exploded all the pretension. It was authentic and real.  The truth has consequences- it can set you free or it can expose your emptiness based on how you respond to it. It’s a kind of  “The Emperor’s new clothes” story. The Lord in the simplicity of His words exposes the truth claims of the world as bankrupt.
Not only does His person expose their ignorance and His words expose their pretense, but His works and miracles expose their impotence. The world claims to have the answers, but Jesus says, “if I hadn’t done among them what no one else had done, they would not be guilty”. But now there it is...He had spoken and the dead were raised to life. He had spoken and the lame had been healed, the thousands fed, the storms calmed. His power made these learned men of the world understand how weak they are. So he comes and says “their hatred is without reason.” It isn’t so much because of who Christ is- but because who He has exposed who they are. What has darkness to do with Light?
It is interesting to think that what the Lord wants the disciples to do in verses 21-25 is to be pre-warned. Not so they would be fearful- he is not trying to frighten them or us. The psalmist said  “The Lord is my light and my salvation- Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life- of whom shall I be afraid?”  You can only say the second part (whom shall I fear?) of that verse and mean it if you can say the first part and believe it. The Lord is trying to prepare them- He is saying in effect “Don’t underestimate your enemy. But also don’t underestimate your responsibility.”

Martin Luther, when he was talking about the marks of the true church had one very interesting mark. The mark of the true church is the preaching of the Word of God, the carrying out of the sacraments, and later Church discipline (not on Luther’s list), but one of the marks of the true church was suffering. A mark of the true church is suffering.

Frank Borem put it like this:  “Persecution is the world’s testimony to the church’s purity. A wolf will not  worry a painted sheep. A cat will not seize a toy mouse. The world will despise but it will not persecute a counterfeit Christian. It may scorn but it will not burn a hypocrite. Crucifixion is the evidence of Christlikeness”
So the Lord is calling us to understand we live in a world in which there is going to  be conflict, adversity and opposition. Christianity Today once did a survey of people and gave the six major obstacles to sharing the gospel.

1. The image of TV evangelists
2. Lack of time
3. Fear of rejection and ridicule
4. Timidity
5. Not wanting to seem intolerant
6. Fear

Five of these six reasons are the result of not listening to this passage and being intimidated by the hostility of the world or infected by the values of the world. The Lord pre-warned us about these. I struggle with every one of these as much as you. And yet the Lord has forewarned us- it is part of being forearmed. It’s not all because He will  really tell us what it is to be forearmed in verses 26-27.
John Henry Jouett once said “It is possible to escape a multitude of troubles by living an insignificant life.  The range of our possible sufferings is determined  by the largeness of our aims. “
When all is said and done about the hostility and rejection of the world, do not miss the point, beloved! In verses 18-25,  this is why the Lord came to die! He chose us out of the world. Remember the teaching I did on Israel as the chosen vine versus the True Vine?
1Pe 2:9  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a HOLY NATION, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

This is why he came to lay down his life. The Lord calls us to live out our life in service. We are not called to be comfortable- we are called to be committed to mission, to proclaim! We are not called just to do things that please us, though this ought to please us greatly.

This leads us to the next part of the passage. One of the great issues the Evangelical church is facing is whether we will face the cultural changes with boldness or retreat into doing business “our way”.  The reaction of the world is hostility- but the responsibility of the believer is witness. That’s verses 26-27. The Lord Jesus comes to these men having talked about what will come to pass and he says;
15:26   "When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me, 
15:27   and you will bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.

The Comforter (from con-give fort-strength), the Helper will come- they didn’t understand this at the time because they didn’t understand that he was truly going to die, be buried, rise again and ascend to the right hand of the Father and one of his victory gifts to the bride was to send the strengthener to indwell the believer.

As you read this- it is the internal enabler who lives in you that we read of. This is God’s answer to the external pressure of the world :  the internal power of the Spirit of God.
A number of years ago one of the early  nuclear subs in the American fleet called the Thresher was lost at sea not far off the coast of Connecticut. Everyone on board was killed.  They discovered that when the submarine had gone down to a depth far greater than any had gone before, although it was designed to withstand that incredible pressure,  the inward bulkheads had not been properly designed. When it got to that particular depth, some of the rivets began to pop and little seams were opened up. The water at that depth came in with such incredible pressure that it turned to steam as it came in and the men within were literally steamed to death! Finally the pressure became so great that it blew apart.  When they did the analysis on the little pieces that were left they discovered that the accident was due to a lack of proper internal buttresses. That is the ministry of the Spirit of God within us and why He is so crucial! We must live with the understanding that we are indwelt by the Spirit Of God- the mystery- Christ in you! This is how we reamin in Christ.
We cannot live under external hostility by our own resources.  It is when the strengthener, the helper who will testify about Christ works within us that we can do all things in Christ. To who will He testify? Well,  to whom is He coming? To believers. The ministry of the Spirit to us is to make Jesus Christ real to us. The idea here is not that He will testify to unbelievers but he will make Jesus real to us and from the confidence we have in Christ and a sense of His greatness, we will testify to the world!

Adonirom Judson Gordon said “ We do not stand in the world bearing witness to Christ- we stand in Christ bearing witness to the world.”

Our great privilege is to so know Christ that we can represent Him before others. That is our resource- having been given the resource in verse 27 we are reminded of our responsibility: “and you will bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”

“You must bear witness” are the literal words. I used to say that there is no explicit command for Christians to witness in the New Testament because it is implicit that they will witness. But in looking at the Greek here, it is a command to witness.”  You must bear testimony. You may argue that it is clearly talking about the apostles because it refers to those who have been with him from the beginning. You can nake the same point about the passage in Acts 1 that tells the apostles they will be witnesses.  That is true, but I would argue that what is true of them must be true of us since it is the same Holy Spirit that indwells us. The command of God is that we are left in the world to bear witness to Christ. Witness involves three things- let’s nail them down in our thinking. Witness involves informing, convincing and challenging.
Informing: people do not know the facts of the gospel. At one time in our society you could assume that most people knew what the gospel was all about. The gospel cannot simply be given out in our day- I think it needs to be explained, taught and made clear. We are called to make disciples. People do not know the message of the scriptures to which they are to respond. The simple gospel has little meaning if they do not understand sin. People do not use our language, and a stained glass barrier is erected. Do you ever watch a football game and wonder what in the world is that verse they are holding up on a placard? I have serious questions that folks go running to their Bibles and look those up. The average person today does not know what “Jn.3:16” means. Is it some strange zip code or a license plate number? That is the context we live in today in a postmodern society.   Men and women’s souls will be eternally lost if we cannot explain the gospel in an understandable way. You must bear witness.
We need also to convince them. There is a battle for the mind of entrenched ideas. We need to be willing to enter the arenas of our time, as paul went to the Areopagus to contend and help people think through the truth claims of Christ and how they come counter to many of our cultural mores. There is a battle for the heart also- many are turned off not because they don’t think the gospel is true- they just don’t think it works. They haven’t seen the difference in men and women’s lives and they don’t just need informing:  they need convincing, to see that it is intellectually, emotionally, and personally what will meet their every need. I agree that we plant seeds and the Lord harvests. But we are also to till the soil, to prepare hearts, and to be workers in the harvest.  They need to know that knowing the Living God in his transforming power is the most satisfying thing in the world. We approach many people and think if they simply know the facts that they will respond. Perhaps some will, but it is brecause they have been prepared. They need to see the wholeness of what Christ came to do. Christ is concerned for the whole man- their physical and emotional needs and the brokenness of their lives. They need this savior we serve!
Witnessing is informing and convincing, but it is also challenging. It is urging a response. This is the part that most of us struggle with. In a postmodern world, you may convince someone of the gospel and have them respond- “so what?”  It’s  one thing to talk about spiritual values and another thing to cross the bridge of years of friendship and declare “You need to trust Christ!”  Call people to decision and faith and a relationship! The real world will be openly hostile to our message but desperately needs us. It is willing to reject the savior who died, but within it are men and women the Spirit is preparing who need our witness- in our words and in our lives so they can hear the living Christ. God uses us to build ears that hear.
I want to end with a reaffirmation that this passage is not purely negative.  we who abide are overcomers because we abide in the overcomer! Remember that following this passage the Lord tells us why he has told us these things. The first and last verses of chapter 16 follow:
John 16:1         "These things I have spoken to you, that you may be kept from stumbling.

John 16:33        These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye may have peace. In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
Later John reiterates this message in 1 John when all around him, Jesus’s words are coming true- the church is being actively persecuted.
1 John 5:4        For whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that hath overcome the world, [even] our faith.
So in the end, the words of Christ in this marvelous passage in John 15 also serve as a warning and a reminder of what mankind and the world system that lies under Satan’s control are really like. They warn us that the very nature of man and life in all of its hustle and bustle, its agitations and aspirations, its events and activities, all tend to distract, distort, and disorient us from the Lord Jesus as the means of our life. It is interesting that the upper room discourse comes on the heels of the institution of the  Lord’s Supper. We must abide in the vine, and our fruit must feed the world, as broken bread and pored out wine, else we will be devoured by Satan. We have this promise:
Re 12:11  "And they overcame him (Satan) because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to death.
As the end of the age nears, the end of the commission does not. “You must bear witness!” What will that mean for you personally? What will that mean for us corporately? How should we be different because we want to speak to our world for our God and represent Him in our time? What about your friendships? What about unreached people around you? The Lord has not promised freedom from hostility- He has promised the power of the resurrection life in the Vine- for those who will abide in Him!

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From the personal weblog of Anthony Foster @http://anthonyfoster.com/blog/