Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Sermon 4-29-07--Faith's Call to Endure Persecution for the Right Reasons

Being a Christian in American History usually meant--(until recently)

· Fine upstanding citizen

· Difficult get elected without claiming faith in God

· Good morals

· Strong family values

· Respectable

· Mainstream or Normative faith

· Good relationship with God—God pleased with

· Government gives tax exempt status and sees the benefit of churches on community

It wasn’t always this way…

Being a Christian in Early Church History

Abnormal faith

· Bad citizen to the Empire—
refusing to sacrifice to the Emperor

· Bad morals—
potential cannibals (misunderstanding of the Lord’s Supper)

· Against the family—
as wives became believers without husband’s “approval”
as outcast from family for choosing Christ over them

· Bad relationship with the gods—
refusing to worship them, only one God—danger of angering them and bringing their wrath down on everyone else.

· Not respected—
many came from the lower classes, the slaves, the military

· Government mistrusted and arrested and accused believers --
put in jail, tortured, beaten, open persecution, fire of Rome, Coliseum,

It was much more embarrassing to be a Christian in those days. So much so that Peter felt the need to address it.

1 Peter 4:12-19

No Surprise at Trials—12

1 Peter 1—Peter is writing to those who have been scattered—

· scattered either in the vents surrounding the day of Pentecost, or

· Acts 8—where many were driven out of Jerusalem by persecution initially led by Paul or

· believed to be scattered by official condemnation by Roman government. All Christians and Jews were forced to leave Rome under Caligula in —later Nero blamed for setting fire to Rome.

Many believers, including the leadership were accustomed to trials and persecutions. They knew what if felt like to uproot their family and flee—they knew what it felt like to bear the stigma of fighting the law and the law losing. “I Fought the Law and the Law Won” could have been an early church song.

No Surprise—

Jesus Himself said—John 16:33--“In this world you will have trouble.”

You Were Chosen by God—1 Peter 2:9

Rejected by Men—2:4

Jesus was rejected--4:13--—so will you be --John 15:18-- "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”

Rejoice that you are being persecuted and suffering for the same reasons that Jesus suffered. Your service, your love for one another, whatever gift you have been given—as we talked about last week—when done and lived with authenticity, you will bring difficulty and hardship down..

Christ received greater glory through Suffering—Hebrews 2:10—“In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, would make the Author of their salvation perfect through suffering.”

The captain of our salvation

Resurrection greater than any miracle

Qualified Him to enter the Most Holy Place

Blessing for Suffering as He suffered—vs. 14

It may feel like you should be ashamed, it may feel like you are being punished but the reverse is actually true—you are blessed—it is not darkness but light you are feeling—Instead the Spirit of Glory rests on you.

Can you imagine that? The amazing, blazing, awe-inspiring Glory of God is a part of your suffering when you do on behalf of or in response to your faith in Christ. Even when you are merely insulted

Why Trials & Persecutions & Insults

The world does not understand our faith

The World is Given Over according to Romans 1 and they live in spiritual darkness

Their Minds are Blinded

They Don’t Like being Reminded

Satan is our enemy

Glory can come from Suffering and Persecution. But Peter gives a word of warning

No Glory for Just Suffering—vs. 15—

Trials and persecution can come to our lives because we no longer belong to this world, because of who we are as believers. But that fact is not the only way trials and suffering can come.

It is possible to suffer trials and persecution with reason. Peter had already introduced the concept in ch. 2:20—“how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it?” For that culture, a beating was justice being served for disobedience.

We should not suffer justly because that will be further justification for persecution and because it’s not just our name we are tearing down, it is the name of Christ. We carry & Embody His name with us wherever we go.

Peter mentions Murder, Stealing, any other type of Criminal. The first three mentioned are somewhat obvious—deliberate, premeditated breaking of the law—bringing the standards and punishment arm of the society down upon you.

But then Peter also lists that we should not endure suffering as a Meddler—What is a Meddler? Someone who sticks their nose into other people’s business, who tries to twist or manipulate things for their benefit.

Why would Peter mention meddling?

I’ve always thought it strange. Is Meddling illegal? NO, so again, why mention it?

I believe he’s talking about more than just Meddling – I believe he’s referring to those things that may not be against the law, but they’re still wrong for you or other Christians to be known for. There are many things that are not illegal, but can seriously malign the name of Christ and look very bad in society’s eyes. Things do not have to be illegal to be wrong. No one else may get hurt, but it can still be wrong. Even if no one gets hurt, even if you don’t get caught.

For example, Is internet pornography illegal—sadly no—but it is still wrong for you. Is gambling or the lottery illegal—sadly no—but you should not be identified with them.

What if Drugs, Prostitution or Polygamy become legalized—does that mean it’s then OK for you to go out and do them too?


This verse does not mean that if you have done something wrong, against the law or been in jail or anything else then you are now worthless in the Kingdom of God. God is about Forgiveness, He is about Restoration, He is about Hope—He takes the broken things, the discarded things, the useless things, the unwanted & rejected things and He uses them for His glory.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11—“ Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. 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.”

They were those things but are them no longer. As a believer, you are not living just for yourself any more. Suffering becomes blessing only through faithfulness—only if it comes as a result of Standing for Christ.

If you are unfaithful, you will not receive the great blessing that awaits you

READ vs. 16—

There is no shame in suffering for the right reasons.

If or when you suffer for being a Christian, there is great blessing—many of Peter’s readers had been accused, scattered—forced to leave or move somewhere else, arrested, beaten because they claimed the name of Christ. Peter himself was one of those.

There are things that Society may one day deem illegal and immoral. In some countries, it is illegal to own a copy of the Bible. In some countries it is illegal for Christians to be meeting like we are meeting. In some countries it is illegal to evangelize and tell people about Christ. In some countries it is illegal to convert from one faith to another. In some countries it is illegal to identify another religion as false or call certain behaviors sin.

And if our own society one day deems that those behaviors are illegal—know that you have the opportunity to share in the sufferings of Christ—know that the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

1st Amendment Freedom of Association—Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

If you've ever wondered why all of these subjects were listed together under the first amendment, it's because each them have to do with Establishment and Free Exercise. Ever thing listed after the ; are examples of how governments tried to limit religious expressions.

Speech (preaching) unapproved doctrines,

Press--distributing leaflets and flyers or tracts explaining beliefs or promoting a meeting,

peaceably assemble--like a church gathering without state sanction

Petition--something many believers and congregations were denied

How comfortable would you be going to a church where you know the pastor, assoc. pastor & several other leaders have all served time in jail? Would you hesitate?

That could have described the Church at Jerusalem with Peter and the other apostles—or the church at Ephesus while Paul was there.

Be Strong in the Lord and be willing to endure the accusations. Be willing to associate with those who endure such accusations as Paul mentioned in 2 Timothy 1:8—“So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel”

Praise God that you bear that name.

Vs. 17

But Peter is telling them that the only One who’s opinion of you that matters is God’s—not your family’s, not society’s, not pop culture, not friends. Only God’s opinion truly matters. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, but if you are torn between the two, realize there’s no real contest.

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