>>Rick Warren: Have I told you lately that
I love you? Do you have a bible you open to Mathew chapter five and bring out your message
notes. If I asked you to name the most prosecuted group on the planet, you’d probably name the
wrong group because it’s Christians. It’s Christians. It may surprise you that that’s
the most prosecuted group on the planet because it is the most ignored, most unnoticed, least
reported, most overlooked news item on the planet without a doubt.
The international society of, let me get this right, international society for human rights,
it’s a secular organization, it’s not a Christian organization just recently let out a report
and says quote “80% of all religious freedom violations in the world today are directed
against Christians.” Now we are all aware that throughout history for 2000 years, Christianity,
the Christian church and the Christians in particular have been persecuted. We all know
that for 300 years it was illegal to be a Christian in the Roman Empire. They were feeding
Christians to the lions, Nero was tying and lighting them on fire, and for 300 years,
first 100 years of the church, it was against the law to be a Christian.
We know about the different cleansings throughout history and the tortures and the burning at
the stake, and all of those kinds of things for 2000 years. But what we don’t know, what
you don’t know is that the worst prosecution of Christians in all of history is happening
in our lifetime. It’s just not being reported. Now since the resurrection 2000 years ago,
about 70 million believers in Jesus Christ have died for their faith, about 70 million.
But what is shocking and what most people don’t know is half of that number, 35 million
have died in the last 100 years, right now. This past year, about a 100 million followers
of Christ lived in countries where there, the state or the prevailing religion or the
dictatorship left 100 million followers of Jesus facing the threat of discrimination,
of prosecution of interrogation, of arrest, of imprisonment, of torture, of even death.
There used to be for instance about 1.3 million Christians in Iraq, that was about how many
there were when the first gulf war broke out. Today there is less than 100,000 in the nation
of Iraq. The most current estimates in North Korea is that there are probably 70,000 Christians
in prison in North Korea right now suffering in prison.
And about every ten minutes, two Christians die for their faith around the world. Hour
upon hour, upon hour, upon hour, upon day, upon week, upon month, two every ten minutes
for the last decade. You’ve never heard that. No one is reporting it. It is the most under
reported story on the planet. Now what are we supposed to do about our persecuted brothers
and sisters in Christ; these millions and hundreds of thousands in refugees camps and
displaced and having moved to other nations things like that. What are we supposed to
do? Well the first thing we are supposed to do
is be informed. And I want to, because I’m not going to talk about this a lot today,
I will highly recommend this book; The Global War on Christians. And I actually ordered
several thousand of them to be out on the patio. I would encourage you to read this
book and be in the know, because nobody is going to tell you this. They are not going
to tell you the national reports that are coming out of all these different organizations.
Second we need to pray, the Bible says we are to pray for those who are persecuted.
Third we need to give, you can give online at saddleback.com to help support families
who have loved ones in prison or being tortured or have died because of their faith. We can
give, we can pray, we can learn and we can be advocates for freedom. Let me show you
a verse on the Bible, the Bible says this, it’s on the screen Hebrews 13:3 “Remember
those who are in prison as if you were in prison with them. Remember those who are suffering
as if you were suffering with them.” That’s what God tells us to do.
Now anybody who thinks that following Jesus Christ, being a follower of Christ is easy
is sadly mistaken, sadly mistaken. Being a Christian, being a follower of Christ is not
for wimps. It’s not for weaklings, it’s not for the faint of heart, it’s not for cowards.
You must be willing to face rejection, you must be willing to face criticism, you must
be willing to face disapproval, you must be willing to face peer pressure, you must be
willing to face harassment and opposition, if you truly live for Christ.
Now the Bible says this, look at the top of your outline. 2 Timothy 3:12 “Anyone
who belongs to Christ Jesus and wants to live right will have trouble from others.” Circle
the word will, this is not an if, this is not a might, this is a guarantee. The Bible
says it is guaranteed that if you stand for what’s right, there would be people who oppose
you, if you stand for what’s true there will be people who oppose you, if you stand for
what’s good evil will simply oppose you. Now today we’ve come to the last of the eight
beatitudes, we’ve been looking at these eight blessings of Jesus, where Jesus says if you
want to be blessed by God, here’s what you need to do in your life. And we’ve looked
at humility, and we’ve looked at generosity, and we’ve looked at integrity, we’ve looked
at how to reconcile relationship; being a peace maker. And in the last of the eight
beatitudes where Jesus says if you want God’s blessings on your life, he deals with this
issue of opposition, of harassment for your faith, of persecution and we are going to
look at what to do with it today. Now we are going to look at how to handle
opposition to your faith and we are going to look at two things. What do you need to
remember when you are feeling pressured, peer pressure, and what do you need to do when
you are feeling peer pressure; when you are feeling harassed or put down or ridiculed
or maligned or criticized or whatever for your faith, what do you need to do? Now let
me just be real honest, in America you are not being persecuted, you are not. But you
are being pressured, and there is subtle pressure to conform and to be like everybody else.
In America you are not going to face violent oppression, you are not just going to, at
least in the foreseeable future, but you are going to face not violent oppression but silent
repression. And this is the subtle thing for you to just shut up and keep your mouth shut
and not say what’s true, and not stand up for Christ and not be a public witness and
to just blend in and to fit in and the pressure to conform. You feel it all the time. I could
give you a thousand ways that you do this. When a boss pressures you to do something
that you know is dishonest or unethical, and you don’t want to do it; there is the pressure
to conform. When people are standing around the water
cooler and they are all telling dirty jokes and you are “I really shouldn’t be participating
in this and the pressure is to stay there and to smile and smirk and laugh and not walk
away. You have been invited to some events, you can’t just go to as a Christian, single
guys there are some bachelor parties you can’t go to, in fact nobody should go to. And you
know it, yet if you say I’m not going, they say why, because I’m a Christian, you will
be put down, you will be harassed, you will say you are out of danger, you are no fun,
you are a faddy daddy or you have no freedom � all of these, there is enormous pressure
on you to do that. You will feel pressure to be silent when people
are praising moral choices that the bible says is wrong and you go what “You don’t think
that’s okay? You don’t think that’s okay and you don’t think that’s okay and you don’t
think that over there is okay, what is wrong with you? You are on the wrong side of history.”
Let me just tell you something, history is often wrong, remember Hitler? New York Times
and other magazines actually praised him the ’30s. History is often wrong, it’s not important
to be on the right side of history, it’s important to be on the right side. It’s important not
to be popular, it’s important to stand with the truth.
So you’ll be pressured to be quite, you’ll be pressured when you are standing around
and somebody says you know all Christians they just and they make a derogatory remark.
They are all bigots; they are all this or that and you will have the pressure to stay
quiet, that is harassment for your faith. What should you do? There are some things
you need to do and there are some things you need to remember. First let us look at three
things you need to remember, write this down. When you feel pressured for your faith because
you love Jesus and other people don’t, the first thing you need to remember is this;
opposition can make me more like Jesus. That’s a good thing. Opposition can actually make
me more like Jesus and it makes me more like Jesus because Jesus experienced opposition.
He experienced it in great quantities obviously. The Bible says in John 15:18-20 “When the
world hates you, remember that it hated me first, the world will love you if you belong
to it, but you don’t.” Jesus says “I chose you out of this world. That’s why this world
will hate you, no servant is ever greater than its master.
So since they prosecuted me, they will prosecute you” now follow me on this, if you are going
to grow up and be like Jesus Christ, God wants you to become like him in the way you think
and act and feel, then you are going to have to go through everything Jesus went through.
Were there times when Jesus was lonely, yes. Was there time when Jesus was tempted to be
discouraged, yes, were there times he was fatigued and worn out, yes, were there times
when Jesus was tempted, yes, were there times he was maligned and criticized and lied about,
yes. What makes you think God will spare you and
he didn’t spare his own son of those things? You are going to go through the exact same
thing. As I said Christianity, following Jesus is not for weaklings, it’s not for wimps,
it’s not for faddy daddies and people who don’t have any backbone, don’t have any spine.
And Jesus said, if they persecuted me, they will persecute you. Remember Jesus was hated
by many people. He was loved by sinners but he was hated by people who didn’t like goodness.
Evil always hates goodness. And the Bible says this on the screen John
3:19 “The light from heaven came into the world �” That’s Jesus “He said, I am the
light of the world, but people love their darkness more than light because it hides
their evil actions.” If I have been sitting in the darkness for ten hours and you come
in and you turn on a big spotlight on me, that’s not comfortable, that’s very uncomfortable.
When you have been living in the dark all your life and somebody comes and turns on
the light, guess what, it doesn’t feel good at first. And on second thought you see what
a mess the room is. Jesus said I’m the light of the world and he said this, you are the
light of the world. It’s still true today. He said people still
love darkness more than light �. You may have never thought about this but it may shock
you to realize that if Jesus came and walked on the earth today, we’d crucify him today.
Our culture will crucify Jesus today; we are no different than any other culture, why?
Because darkness can’t stand light, and evil can’t stand goodness. What that means is this,
even if you were perfect, there are people that aren’t going to like you. Some of you
have this myth in your mind, if I’m just more winsome, if I’m just more likeable, if I’m
just more perfect then everybody will love me. Jesus was perfect and people hated him.
So you are never going to get to the point where everybody loves you and likes you. That
is just not going to happen. The other thing we learn from this verse is that opposition
means that you are doing something right. You are obviously being like Jesus in that
moment. And he said if they didn’t like me, then they are not going to like you. The Bible
says, this is 1 Peter verse 4:14 “If you are abused because of Christ, count yourself fortunate”
why, he says “It’s the spirit of God in you and his glory in you that brought you to the
notice of others” so he says “When you are criticized, when you are judged, when you
are ridiculed, when you are slighted �” he’s going congratulations.
Consider it a confirmation and a compliment. If nobody has ever criticized you for your
faith, what is that saying about your faith? You don’t have any. If being like Christ,
the Bible says over and over, will bring criticism if you are never criticized I should ask myself
then how much like Christ am I? What’s wrong with me? Why is nobody noticing my faith?
I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but the more positive you are the more negative people
dislike you. And if you get up in the morning and you are really positive and somebody wakes
up and they are grumpy, they don’t want you to be positive. They want you to be negative
too. And that happens. So the first thing that you need to realize
is that Jesus was criticized, Jesus was maligned, he was attacked, so the more I’m like Jesus,
it just means I’m � it’s a sign, it’s a symbol, it’s a confirmation of accomplishment.
Second thing you need to remember is this, opposition will deepen my faith. Opposition
will actually deepen my faith. It’s how your faith grows. It’s like the way you grow a
muscle. A muscle is grown not by sitting on a chair and eating popcorn. A muscle is grown
by stretching it, by straining it, by casting it. If you’ve ever gone to a gym and worked
out, and obviously many of you haven’t, then you know that the way you grow a muscle is
by straining it, by stretching it, by pressuring it, by putting tension against it and having
weight from the opposite direction, you are never going to grow any muscle if no weights
is ever pulling in the opposite direction. So opposition strengthens your faith. It deepens
your faith, you have no opposition in your life, then you have no growing faith, and
it is without a doubt that the strongest believers in the world right now are those who are having
their faith tested the most. The strongest believers aren’t in America, the strongest
believers are where people are holding the guns and saying “Renounce Christ and convert
to whatever we are or die” which is happening right now in Syria every single day. That’s
where the strongest believers are. It comes from the opposition.
1 Peter 1:7 says this “These troubles that you are going through will prove that your
faith is genuine. Just as gold is purified by fire and heat �” circle that phrase fire
and heat “Just as gold is purified by fire and heat, so your faith �” which is far
more precious than gold “must also be purified by fire” but there’s fire and when it heats
on, when you are holding your feet to the fire so with me endure. And he says, “What
happens when opposition deepens my faith,” he says, “then there is the result, you will
receive praise, you will receive glory and you will receive honor on the day when Jesus
Christ is revealed to the whole world. Your rewards are coming one day.” If you stand
the heat, if you stand the fire, if you let opposition deepen your faith, it makes me
more like Jesus and it deepens my faith. And the third thing it does, opposition will give
me eternal rewards. No opposition you miss out on those rewards and eternity.
Now we come to the last of the eight beatitudes which we’ve been studying now for many, many
weeks. We’ve been studying this for a long time. And in the last one Jesus deals with
how to deal with opposition. And he says this “God blesses those who are prosecuted because
they live for me. Now I want you to underline or circle, because they live for God. It just
doesn’t say God blesses those who are prosecuted for any reason. It says God blesses those
who are prosecuted because they live for God. The kingdom of heaven will be theirs. That’s
quite a guarantee. You will be blessed, when not if. When people
insult you and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Notice three different things there. Rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in
heaven for the same way they prosecuted the prophets who were before you. And it says
“I’m going to bless anybody who’s prosecuted they live for God, notice you don’t get rewarded
for being rude, you don’t get rewarded for being obnoxious, there are people out in the
world who live very self righteous lives and they are looking down on everybody and putting
everybody else down, and when you put other people down; guess what, they are going to
put you down. And if you live a self righteous nuisance
rude life, when you get prosecuted, you are not a martyr, you are just a jerk. He’s not
saying you get rewarded for being a jerk. There are people out there who are pushy,
they are nuisances, they are rude and I said, they are self righteous, they think they are
better than everybody else. He says, no you don’t get rewarded for that, you get rewarded
for being like Jesus. The Bible tells us when you share your faith,
you are to do it with gentleness and you are to do it with respect. So these are the three
things I need to remember whenever harassment comes into my life; it can make me more like
Jesus, it can deepen my faith and I’m going to be rewarded for it in eternity forever
and ever and ever. Now there are six things you need to do. Before we look at those six
things I want us to look at a short video clip of some of the kind of harassment that’s
going on around the world right now. Watch this on the screen.
Female: My husband was preaching in an outdoor, guerrillas took him into the jungle and shot
him.>>Male: I was sentenced to eight years in
prison for distributing Bibles � materials considered “harmful” to the state.
>>Male: They stoned me and beat me with clubs because I shared the Gospel with my neighbors.
My neighbors were Muslim.>>Female: A whole mob of them beat us and
then they shot us right there because we would not tell them where our Christian father was
hiding.>>Female: I’m from a Muslim family. One of
the days in the year 2003, my father called me and he gave me two options, either to leave
Jesus or to leave the family. My belief in Jesus is much stronger than any other relation
that I have got. That’s why I quit everything and kept Jesus.
>>Female: The Muslim radical shouted demanding heavy punishment, as heavy as possible. They
came every day. After my father was told of my imprisonment he said, “I am proud of my
daughter for the suffering she experienced for Christ. This is a great thing that God
is doing in your life, so don’t expect to get out prison too soon. Just finish what
the Lord has assigned you to do. Just keep on preaching the Gospel.
>>Joseph: In a letter dated January 10 1994 my father wrote, “I praise the Lord that in
the midst of heavy attack on the fast growing church of Jesus Christ, the Lord has given
us the joy of the privilege of suffering for His name for all members of the Church. Please
don’t worry about me; I’m quite ready for anything.” Nine days after this letter that
was written by Haiki was martyred.>>Female: Two months ago, one of my father’s
neighbors gave me a call and told me that, “Your sister has just died” I went to the
family but my whole family came against me, they kicked me and they beat me and I had
two broken ribs.>>Female: This is truly a time of suffering
because I got separated from my family, my children need their mother beside them because
they are still small and I miss them terribly too but God’s grace is sufficient.
>>Male: Pastor Haiki, he was so humble and he had peace in his heart.
>>Female: When I see him in heaven, I’m going to say “Thank you, you are the one who caused
me to love Jesus.”>>Male: At his funeral they gave us a booklet
with Brother Haiki’s biography>>Female: And this verse was written in the
first page, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and
dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” I read it and I will never
forget it.>>Female: The prosecution and the suffering
we went through really it is nothing compared to the glory of God. I came to understand
the beauty of the unity of a body of Christ and how when one part suffers all the parts
suffer. So in the future I want to do the same thing for other Christians who are suffering
for Christ.>>Female: My sister is gone now but what
gives me more comfort about her is before she died, she made her decision to follow
Jesus Christ and she died serving Him.>>Male: When Brother Haiki was with us, his
words were with us. He ministered to us each day but even in his death, God did such great
things.>>Female: I want him to know this, I want
him to see this, that his blood was not useless. After they killed you so many lives came to
Christ and now I am ready to die for Jesus too.
>>Rick Warren: I’ll say it again, I’ll say it again. Christianity is not for weaklings,
for wimps, for the faint of heart. It takes courageous men; it takes courageous women
to follow Jesus. And these people are suffering in so many areas we will never suffer as Americans.
But what is it costing you to follow Christ. What is the cost to you? As I said you are
never going to, its unlikely, you are never going to have to deal with violent oppression
but you deal with silent repression every single day in this culture as America becomes
more and more anti-Christian and more and more secularized. Now the Bible says “What
are we supposed to do?” and it tells us “Fix things” You might write this down.
Here’s what you do when you handle opposition for your faith. Number one, don’t be surprised.
Don’t be surprised. You should not expect the world to support your decision to follow
Jesus. Why would you expect them to think that, “Oh, that’s a real popular thing to
do?” 1 Peter 4:12 says this, “Dear friends, don’t be surprised. Don’t be shocked when
you go through painful trials that are like walking through fire as though something unusual
is happening to you.” Jesus had told us, he said in the world you’re going to have tribulation.
It’s going to happen so don’t be surprised. Number two, don’t be afraid. Just don’t be
afraid. How do I get rid of the fear of opposition? How do I get rid of the fear of disapproval?
How do I get rid of that fear of being rejected? You need to be filled with God’s love. The
more you realize how much God loves you; the Bible says there’s no fear in love. Perfect
love casts out all fear. You focus on God’s love for you. See healthy people aren’t afraid
of rejection. Healthy people aren’t afraid of disapproval. Healthy people don’t need
everybody’s approval. Healthy people know they are loved by God.
The Bible says in 1 Peter 3:13-16, If you suffer for doing what is right, you know at
work, at home, in your family, whatever. God will reward you for it.” So don’t be afraid
and don’t worry instead worship Christ as Lord of your life and if you’re asked about
your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. Now circle the word ‘worry’ and the word
‘worship.’ Those are the two alternatives you have when you feel put down, when you
feel pressured to be quiet about your faith in Christ. You can either worry or you can
worship. You can panic or you can pray. You can focus on the problem and the pressure
and the persecution or you can focus on God. He says “Turn your attention away from the
pressure you feel and turn it toward God.” That’s what worship is, focusing on God. The
Bible tells us in the Bible that when Stephen, who was the first martyr, was stoned to death,
it says he looked up into heaven. He worshipped instead of worrying, as they were throwing
all those rocks at him that killed him. So don’t be surprised and he says don’t be afraid,
worship instead of worry. Number three, He says “Don’t be ashamed” Don’t
be ashamed. You should never be embarrassed for standing for the truth. Never be embarrassed
for doing what’s right. 1 Peter 4:16 says “It’s no shame.” You shouldn’t be ashamed
to suffer for being a Christian. “Instead thank God for the privilege of being called
by His name.” Question, is an insult going to kill you? No. Is a putdown going to kill
you? No. Is somebody calling you a name or labeling you something because you’ve made
a stand for Christ and for what the Bible says? No. Is some troll on the internet who’s
trying to bait you and get you into an argument, is that going to hurt you? No. It’s not. It’s
not going to kill you. So He says don’t be ashamed, don’t be afraid, don’t be surprised.
Now I want you to write this sentence down and if you get this it will liberate your
life. “I don’t need other people’s approval to be happy.” If you learn this, if this is
all you get in today’s message, it will change your life. Because otherwise you are living
your life for what other people think rather than what God made you to be and you can’t
be who God made you to be if you are worried about pleasing other people. I don’t need
others approval to be happy. That person that you’ve been trying to get their approval for
so many years, like maybe it’s a parent that maybe even died.
If you haven’t got it by now, and I hate to tell you this, you’re not going to get it.
But the good news is, you don’t need it. You don’t need anybody’s approval in order to
be happy. You are as happy as you choose to be and you focus on God rather than on the
people who disapprove. If I spent my life wondering about all the people who disapprove
of me, I’d be in bed with deep, deep depression. But that’s not what life’s all about. I focused
on God and I focused on what He wants, not what other people think because I don’t need
and you don’t need anybody’s approval in order to be happy. Happiness is a choice.
Now the Bible says this in 1 Peter 5 verse 9, “Take a firm stand against Satan and be
strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are
going through the same kind of suffering you are.” So what’s he saying here? He is saying,
well I don’t need to be ashamed in the first place you are in good company. This has happened
for two thousand years and there are people who are suffering right now for being a believer
in Christ you are in good company. If you want to go and read Hebrews 11 which
is Gods’ Hall Of Fame and in Gods’ hall of fame, he says they were beaten, they were
tortured, they were imprisoned they were pushed down, they were ridiculed, they were maligned,
they were laughed at and on and on and on. I don’t know how to say it any clearer than
this don’t let, don’t ever let anybody laugh you out of following Christ; don’t ever let
anybody laugh you out of living for Christ. 1 Peter 3:17; remember it’s better to suffer
for doing Gods’ will than to suffer for doing evil. Here is the point; no matter what you
do in life somebody is going to not like it. There is nothing that you can do that everybody
is going to like. Does everybody agree with that? You can’t make everybody like you so
there is nothing you can do that can make everybody like you.
So you may as well do the things that God likes rather than the things that other people
like because they aren’t going to matter in eternity. If you are going to suffer, if you
are going to have people who oppose you, if you are going to have people disapproval,
you may as well have the people’s disapproval for doing the right thing rather than the
wrong thing that is just logic. Somebody is going to disapprove with you no matter what
you do, you can’t avoid disapproval. Now we come to the forth step and this is
important, recognize the source of the opposition and it is Satan. It is not other people, it
is not co-workers, it is not some other political party, it is not some other nation and it’s
not some other religion it’s not some competitor. It is not some person who doesn’t like you,
the real source of the pressure you feel to cave in, to not have integrity, the pressure
you feel to be quiet and to not stand up for what you know is the right thing. That pressure
is not coming from other people; it’s really coming from Satan.
In Revelation Chapter 12 verse 10; Satan is called “the accuser of Christians” that’s
his job; his number one to put you down. Follow me on this, Satan hates Gods, obviously and
so he hates anything that God has created. And what he hates most of all are Gods’ children
and so Satan hates you. He doesn’t just hate God, he hates you.
You’ve heard that phrase; God loves you and has a good plan for your life? Well Satan
hates you and has a bad plan for your life. And so he hates you, follow me on this; Satan
wants to hurt God but he can’t, he can’t hurt God but he has access to you and he can hurt
you. And the quickest way to hurt a parent is to hurt his kids, the quickest way to hurt
a mum heart is to hurt her children, the quickest way to hurt a dad is hurt his children.
And so Satan can’t get a God so he wants to get to you, he wants to hurt you. And there
is an unseen spiritual battle going all around you and this pressure to make your life miserable
and to make you cave in and to keep you from doing the right thing. It is not coming from
the people really, you have got to look beyond that, they are just pawns, they are just tools
they are just weapons. And a lot of the time they don’t even know,
most of the time, they don’t even know that they are being used. It is a real issue is
the spiritual warfare Ephesians 6:12 says; “we are not fighting against human beings”
which is why you don’t win this in the ballot box. “We are not fighting against human beings
but against wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly realm.”
Let me explain this, you need to understand that Satan knows it’s stupid to attach Jesus
Christ directly. Why? Because he was the only perfect person who ever lived, how do you
attack Jesus? The savior who taught love and peace and joy and forgive other people and
died, gave his life for others, how do you attack Jesus?
So he knows rather than attacking Jesus directly, he wants to attack those who follow him. And
today he uses the media and he uses music and he uses comedies and he is doing anything
he can to ridicule those who follow Jesus. “Hey, they are out of date, they are on the
wrong side of history, they don’t know what they are talking about, they are faddy daddies,
they are bigots and on and on and on” Here is what the Bible says that you should
do, 2nd Timothy 2; “stay away from stupid and senseless arguments”, I would add especially
on the internet. “These only lead to trouble, Gods servants must never quarrel” star that,
circle it, put a line on it, fifteen exclamations points. “Gods servants must never quarrel”
I didn’t say that, God did it is right there in the bible.
So you should never get into a heated argument, Gods servants should never quarrel, that is
what the Bible says. Instead when you under oppression, when you are in opposition and
people are harassing you for being a Christian and when they are looking at you strange for
what you believe, instead be kind to everyone, including the opposition and be patient with
the opposition. And be humble when you correct people who
oppose you, they have been trapped by the devil and he makes them obey him but God may
help them escape. What is he saying here, those people, they are just pawns, if you
don’t have the Holy Spirit in your life, if you don’t have God in your life; you have
no defense against Satan. He can just sweep saw you this way, he can
master you moods, he can lead you into depression, he can do all kinds of � you have no defense
against Satan until you have got Gods spirit inside of you. Sorry you are just not, all
these people they are just being used as tools and what they need to do is recognize a source
and treat the opposition the way Jesus did. How did Jesus treat those who opposed him?
Even on the cross he sang “father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing”.
They don’t know what they are doing, that is what it means to be Christ like “they don’t
know what they are doing'”. These people attack me, they don’t know what they are doing, the
people that attack you, they don’t know what they attack you; they don’t know what they
are doing. The people who put down Jesus in Church and crucified him, they don’t know
what they are doing. “Father forgive the”. Now think about this, Jesus was lied about
constantly and you can go and make a list of all things they lied about Jesus on the
bible. They said he is a revolutionary here to overthrow Rome and take Pilate place. Wrong
but they used that to get him to the cross. They said he had got a demon, wrong, at one
point they said he is a drunk and a glutton, wrong. They said he is the devil incarnate,
wrong! And how did Jesus respond to all those lies
that were told about him? Let’s look at the next versus, 1st Peter 2; “when they hurled
their insults at him, Jesus did not retaliate. When he suffered he made no threats instead
he entrusted himself to God who judges justly”. Look at this verse on the screen, I love this
inner message, it says this; “they called him every name in the book and he said nothing
back, he suffered in silence, content to let God set things right”.
This leads us to the fifth thing that you need to do when you are under attack; refuse
to retaliate. You are most like Jesus Christ when you don’t strike back at somebody who
has hurt you. You are most like Jesus when you don’t attacked back when somebody has
attacked you with a personal insult or threat or statement or gossip or whatever.
In this 8th beatitude the last one, it says this let me quote it to you again, “blessed
are you when men shall revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you
falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward on Heaven, for
so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” That is the 8th beatitude and
he says this you will be insulted, they are going to call you names, they are going to
give you labels. You will be insulted that is the first thing
that he says you are going to be persecuted, that means you might be mistreated, you maybe
be passed over and you might even be abused. And he said you are going to be lied about
and he said people will say all things that are false things that are wrong about you
to discredit you, to dishonor you and I’ve learned that they will even say it on TV.
And he will do all these things, the world loves to find fault with Christians and if
they don’t find anything to find at fault with you, you know what? They will make stuff
up; they will just make it up. Here is what the Bible says, Romans 12 verse 17 and 18,
never pay back evil with more evil. If it is possible as far as it depends on you live
at peace with everyone. You know what I love about the Bible, it always
tells the truth and what it tells there is if it is possible as far as it depends on
you, live at peace with everyone. There are just some people you just can’t live with
peace with. Don’t look at them but you know who they are.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, you try to live at peace with,” some
people you just can’t live at peace with them, they are just going to keep poking, poking
and poking. And he says “never avenge yourself” circle that, refuse to retaliate, never avenge
yourself, leave that to God who has said “I’ll be the judge and I will take care of that.”
I told you earlier, you don’t need anybody’s approval to be happy, let me give you the
second great truth that will change your life. You need to write this down; any time I react,
I give control to the person, any time I react to somebody who’s poked me, I give control
to that person and you don’t want to do that you don’t want to give up control.
And so you can’t control what other people do but you can control your reactions. Have
you ever said “you make me so mad”? You have just admitted who’s in control, not you they
are. When you say “you make me so mad” you say “I don’t want to be mad, I really don’t
want to be mad but you make me mad.” You have the power to control my emotions, oh really?
Then you are a pretty weak person if somebody can make you mad.
It is your choice, you should only get mad when you chose to get mad and there are some
things you can get mad about. One of them is not personal insults “you make me so mad”
means I’m allowing you to control my happiness. Anytime you react, anytime you retaliate,
any time you seek revenge you have just handed control to your enemy, to the person who is
opposing you in any area of your life, don’t do it.
George Washington Carver that great African American who studied the uses of peanuts.
He once said, “I will never allow another man to control my life by making me hate him.”
Good words. 1st Peter 4:19 says this; “those who suffer according to Gods will should commit
themselves to their faithful creator and continue to do good.” Now there is something really
important here; circle the phrase God’s will. You are not going to hear this in some places,
but this is what the Bible says, “some suffering is Gods will”. Sometimes suffering is God’s
will, now there are people out there that say “no, God never wants you � God want
everybody to be a millionaire, God wants everybody to have a Rolls Royce, God never wants anybody
to have Cancer, God never wants any problems in your life. And any problem � ”
The Bible says that sometimes suffering is Gods will for your life. Why? It makes you
more like Jesus, it deepens your faith it brings you rewards in heaven. It builds your
character; it brings you closer to him it teaches you to worry instead of worship. There
are so many benefits that suffering can happen in your life. You may be going through suffering
right now but it may be God’s will. It may not be, let me teach you something,
I’ve never taught you this before. There are three kinds of suffering in the world, there
is common, there is carnal and then there is Christian suffering. Common suffering is
suffering that is common to everybody; it doesn’t matter if you Baptist of Buddhist
or Methodist or Mormon, a Jew, a Jehovah’s witness a Christian, a catholic atheist whatever;
everybody suffers certain things. When a hurricane comes into down, it just
doesn’t pick on Christians it doesn’t just pick on Buddhists or Hindus or Jews or Muslims
that is common suffering. It is a suffering that we have in the world we all share in
common with everybody. And the Bible says that we as Christians are to help everybody
in common suffering. The second kind of suffering is carnal suffering
that is the kind of suffering you bring on yourself from your own sin. If I go out and
I live a very loose immoral life and I get an S.T.D, a sexually transmitted disease,
that is my fault, that is not God’s fault, it is not anybody else’s fault, it’s my fault.
A lot of the suffering in my life is because I made bad decisions like I spent way more
money than I made, I’m way over in debt and now I’m going bankrupt. That is not Gods’
fault, that’s my fault that is carnal suffering because of sin.
But not all suffering is from sin, the Bible says sometimes suffering is Christian, it
is not carnal it is not common, it is Christian, it is suffering according to the will of God
because God is more interested in your character than your comfort. You are not taking comfort
to heaven but you are taking comfort to heaven but you are taking your character but in heaven
you are going to have comfort the rest of your life.
It says; “those who suffer according to Gods will should commit themselves to God the faithful
creator and just keep on doing good. You throw this arrow at me you throw that arrow at me
you throw another arrow at me, I’m just going to commit myself to God and continue to do
good and trust it to God, I lay it in his hands. You need to let God be your defender
and not waste time defending yourself and that takes faith and when you do that God
smiles. The sixth thing that you need to do when you
face opposition and this is the most important one of all. This is what makes Christians
different from everybody else on the planet because nobody else does this. Number six,
when I’m persecuted, when I’m harassed, when I’m oppressed, respond with a blessing.
What? Yeah you return good for evil. You not only refuse to retaliate, there are a lot
of people who will refuse to retaliate but the Bible says that if you are going to be
a follower of Jesus you actually do good to those who do bad to you. You bless those who
hurt you. And he says “you respond with a blessing”
Romans 12:21 says this “do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” You
don’t make the world brighter by blowing out everybody else’s candle. Do not become overcome
by evil but overcome evil with good. Jesus gets very, very specific and just let me be
honest with you, as your pastor, I hate this next versus. I wish this next verse was not
in the bible. I’m just telling you, I don’t like this verse, I wish I could take an exactor
knife and cut it out because it is so hard to do.
But here is what Jesus said Luke 6: “love your enemies” you have got to be kidding me.
“Do good to those who hate you” now it is overkill. “Bless those who curse you” come
on! “Pray for those who hurt you” come on lord, I mean come on! “And if someone slaps
you on the cheek, turn the other cheek.” I do not like that verse, sorry I just don’t.
Can I just be honest as your pastor; I wish it wasn’t in the bible.
What I would like it to say it stick to your enemies, gossip about those who hate you,
give the finger to those who curse you, okay. And you know what write a dirty article on
the internet for those who don’t like you. And if someone slaps you on the cheek, sock
them! That is the Rick Warren standard version of the Bible that is what I really want to
do. It takes far more courage to do this, any
fool can fight back any wimp can retaliate. Any idiot can say something mean back, even
parrots can be taught to curse you don’t have to have any brains to curse somebody back.
He says “love your enemies, do good to those that hate you bless those that curse you and
pray for those who hurt you. And if they slap you on the cheek, turn the other cheek.”
Is that easy? No! Only by being filled with Gods’ love but it is the most powerful form
of witnessing and when you do that you overcome evil with good. Did you ever see that movie
that came out about 6 months ago, The Butler? It is a good movie; it is about a guy who
served I think 6 or 8 presidents as a butler in the White House.
It is talking about at one point during the civil rights movements in America in the 1960s,
there was a group that comes from the north that went down they were called Freedom Riders.
And they went down to the south to support civil rights and equal rights for everyone
and to fight racism. And there is a scene in that movie where they
are teaching the Freedom Riders how to not respond with evil when they are hit, when
they are spit on, when they are cursed, when they are pushed over, when people throw food
at them and it is a very powerful scene of none violent love.
And as I watched that scene, tears started coming down my face and I thought I want to
be that kind of person for Jesus. I want to be that courageous. I want to have that Brave-heart
courage where I will not cave in to what is wrong no matter how much pain they throw at
me. That I will not retaliate but what I will do is respond with love.
Here is an amazing thing, if you begin to do these six things at work or with somebody
who doesn’t like you God will be pleased, God is going to smile “that’s my girl, that’s
my boy”. Second, you are going to get blessed, it says that’s the 8th beatitude, you will
be blessed. And here is the interesting thing; some of those public attackers will become
private seekers, I know this from experience. I have had people, very well known people
attack me publicly and because I refused to engage them but only responded with love and
blessing and I said “may God bless you in every way.” That then quietly they would come
around and then start asking about “what’s with you, how do you do that how do you show
love in the face � this is not the normal response I was expecting.”
I just want to remind you that the worst persecutor of the church became the greatest apostle;
Paul. And Nicodemus who was part of the Pharisees who were trying to put Jesus on the cross
later came to Jesus at night and said, “Tell me about this born again thing?” and they
will come around, if you respond correctly some of you opponents will actually become
your partners if you do it correctly. Let me just close with some personal questions.
If they made it illegal to be a Christian in America and they threw everybody who followed
Jesus in prison. Would there be enough evidence to convict you? Would there be enough evidence
to convict you if they made it illegal for being a Christian? Is there any difference
in your life or are you just wimping out keeping your head down.
When people say insulting things about Christians and you are in that group, do you wimp out
and say nothing? Or do you say “I see how you can see it that way but that is not always
true.” Do you just wimp out and be quiet? Let me ask you this way, what is your faith
costing you? When your brothers and sisters around the world are sometimes standing at
the point of firing squad for this or getting tortured; limps cut off and all kinds of things.
Well it has cost so much others their lives, we have it so easy. What is your faith costing
you? Let me ask it this way, at what cost would you stay faithful to Christ, somebody
put a pistol to your head, would you stay faithful to Christ? “Well yes I would.” Then
why are you so ticked off and worried about insults, why are you so worried about disapproval?
That certainly isn’t as harmful as a shot in the head. You are not really willing to
live � you are not ready to live until you know what is worth dying for. You have got
decide what I’m I willing to lay down on the line for, what is more important to me than
even life itself, what is worth dying for? Until you know what, you are not ready to
live. Jesus paid a price for you and he said that
“there is a price to be paid for following him.” Popularity on earth is not part of the
guarantee of being a Christian, it’s not but reward in heaven is a guarantee. And it was
Jim Elliot who said “he is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep for that which he cannot
lose. “You have got to decide what is more important to you, popularity or the smile
of God. I want to end with two statements of Jesus;
Mark 8 verse 38 says this; “Jesus said if you are ashamed of me and my commands”, that
means my commandment about life, sexuality, about finances; abut reconciliation, about
race� “If you are ashamed of more me and my commands in this Godless and sinful generation,
I will be ashamed of you when I come back in glory with the Holy Angels.”
He also said this Matthew chapter 10; “but for those who declare publicly that they belong
to me, I will do the same for them before my father in heaven.”
God is looking for men and women of courage
in an age that has no courage at all. Everybody is wimping out, “oh yeah, whatever is right
for you” that’s the stupidest things. People say that the moon is made of cheese, the moon
is made out of rock; they both can’t be right, there are some things that are always right
and there are some things that are always wrong.
God is looking for men and women who aren’t afraid to publicly declare themselves as followers
of Christ. So let me encourage you this week to take a risk with your life, a small step
of faith. I want to challenge you to be courageous this week in some small way about your faith.
I don’t care how you do it just stop wimping out, be brave, be courageous, take a risk,
it is the adventure of a lifetime. You would say “what do I do?” I don’t care
what you do; it might be when you go out to lunch today or any other day this week when
you sit down in that restaurant, you publicly bow your head and you say a prayer for the
people there. And you don’t care what other people think; it’s a public witness it is
honoring to God, you need to start praying in public. Sorry you need to start doing that.
Maybe you need to take your Bible to work and sit it on your desk, or a Christian book
and sit it on your desk. And somebody says, “Why do you have a Bible?” and I’ll say “why
wouldn’t I? I’m a Christian that’s it, that is all you need to say.
Take a small step of faith, if you haven’t been baptized, that is the first step of publicly
identifying yourself. It is your coming out party, you can be baptized after this service
and say I want to publicly say “I’m not ashamed of Jesus Christ.” I had an idea, I’m not going
to do this but I should do it, have everybody take out your phone right now, find one none-Christian
on your phone and text them this message “I’m praying for you right now.”
What if ten thousand people got messages in the next hour; “I’m praying for you.” That’s
about as inoffensive a witness as you can give. I have never heard anybody say “no don’t
pray for me.” In fact you can even ask them, somebody is telling you about a tough time
they are going through, just say “would it be okay if I pray for your?” you are never
going to have anybody say “oh no! Please don’t pray for me”
In fact what they are going to say is “are you kidding me, I need all the prayer I can
get. Yes please pray for me.” So you just start, if you everyday of this week at lunch,
texted somebody and said “you’re just on my mind, I’m praying for you.” That could open
up all kinds of conversations, what we need is an army of brave men and women risk takers.
We should not, parents, we should not be depending on Disney to teach our little girls how to
be brave, or our little boys or anybody else. They should see bravery in their mothers and
bravery in their fathers. Courage in their mums and dads, so that when they grow up they
know how to stand for something rather than fall for anything but it starts with courage
in the parents; let’s bow our heads. Would you pray this prayer in your heart:
Dear Jesus, I want o care more about what you think than what other people think of
me. I ask you to take away my fear of disapproval. I don’t want to be a weak people pleaser;
I want to be a God pleaser. Take away my fear of rejection and when I feel that urge to
be quiet and not speak up, help me to not be afraid to not be embarrassed to not be
ashamed, to not be shocked. But in love speak the truth.
Help me to care more about your approval then anybody else’s. Say dear God I want to become
a brave man of God or I want to become a brave woman of God. With the courage of my conviction
and the integrity of my heart to live for you no matter what. Thank you for having the
courage to die for me and thank you for accepting me into your family.
If you have never invited Jesus Christ into your life say “Jesus Christ come into my life
and my heart right now and fill me with you love. Replace my fear with your love, I want
to follow you from this day forward in your name I pray Amen.