Don’t Be Offended

John 16:1-3.

These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.

They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.

And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor Me.

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This chapter begins with Jesus’ explanation for why He told His disciples that persecution would come, but that the Comforter would also come. He wanted them not to be offended. The Greek word here is skandalízō, skan-dal-id’-zo; from G4625; to entrap, i.e. trip up (figuratively, stumble (transitively) or entice to sin, apostasy or displeasure):—(make to) offend. As you surely have already seen, it is the root word of our word scandalize.

Jesus wanted His disciples to understand that there would be persecution; but that it didn’t need to trip them up, or cause them to stumble. They were not to be tempted by apostasy, lured by the safety of denying their faith, because the ultimate prize was far greater than the earthly safety that would be theirs if they denied Christ.

Jesus warned them that they would be put out of the synagogue. That was roughly akin to being banned from all your family, friends, community. It is to be excommunicated, shunned, cut off from your normal society. For a Jewish man, it was a sentence to poverty and loneliness. The synagogue was the center of Jewish life.

Worse, a time was coming in which killing the followers of Jesus would be considered doing God a favor.

Perhaps this would be a good time to mention that there is nothing new under the sun.

Why would people want to kill the followers of Christ? Because they didn’t know Him, and in not knowing Him they did not know the Father. They would do their best to destroy Christians because Christians were leaving Judaism, and gaining converts wherever they went.

Be Ready for Persecution

John 15:19-20.

If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also.

The word world in this entire passage refers to the unbelieving world system of government, religion, and tradition. It is governed by Satan, the Prince of the Power of the Air, who hates God, hates the Son, hates the Holy Spirit. Why is he so filled with hatred? Because he wants it all for himself, and he knows his end is settled forever. He will have power for a short time, but his eternity is in the Lake of Fire. No escape. His goal is to take as many people with him as he can, because he hates what God loves simply because it is what God loves.

The earliest written records of what the world believed about Christians indicate that they weren’t impressed at all. Christians were accused of hating humanity (although they were a part of humanity!), of sacrificing babies and drinking their blood, of belonging to a new and evil superstition.

It has always been a part of human nature to fear and/or hate that which we do not understand. That fear dates all the way back to Cain and Abel. Cain didn’t see why his offering was any less valuable than Abel’s, although it clearly went against what God had commanded. So, in his anger, he killed his brother. Jealousy and rage often walk together.

Sometimes I think we’d like to believe we’re more civilized now, as a world community, than we’ve ever been. The fact, though, is that more Christians died for their faith in the 20th century than in any other period of history. The world system hates believers who will take a stand who won’t back down in the face of death.

The world hates us because God has chosen us, before the foundations of the world. He chose us to love Him, have fellowship with Him, and so spread the gospel to all mankind.

The warning Jesus gives His disciples here is that they will be persecuted for the very reason that He had chosen them out of the world, to be servants for Him, to reach others with the gospel.

After all, the world hated Him before they hated His followers. If the world persecuted Jesus, then surely the world would persecute His followers as well.

I’ve studied and taught a lot of history, from world history on down through the centuries. Over time, many religions have developed. Religion is created by man, not God. Religion has always fought for power, control, and position. True faith, which is from God, doesn’t worry about those things.

The concern of true believers is to obey God and serve Him.

Sunday Morning Coffee: The Church

It’s been a busy weekend. Friday we attended a homeschool co-op picnic to celebrate the end of the school year.  I enjoyed spending a few minutes with my lit class as I returned tests and other papers. Good fellowship, good food.

Yesterday we attended the graduation party for one of the young ladies in our church. She is a gifted artist, and it was amazing to look through her portfolio.  Again, a time of good fellowship and good food.

And of course, this morning we’ll be in church, enjoying the fellowship of our church family as we join in learning and growing together.

So, as I type these words, I’m thinking once again about how church has influenced my life. Not just church, not just the ritualistic attendance for the sake of looking “spiritual.”  No, it’s so much more than that when you are a true believer, and your church  friends become like family; when the Bible is a topic of conversation outside of church; when music is a source of joy and fellowship;  when  others of like faith influence and help, edify and encourage each other.

I gave my heart to Jesus when I was five, in a Sunday school class.

I was baptized by Dr. Richard V. Clearwaters when I was 8.

I became a “preacher’s kid” when I was 10.

I started teaching two-year-olds when I was 12, and I’ve been teaching ever since.

I started singing in church, doing duets and trios, the choir, whatever, when I was 12; also started playing the piano at about the same age when the regular pianist couldn’t be there.

My first boyfriend was a young man I met in church.

I attended a Bible college, also centered on the same Bible truths I learned in church.

I met my future husband in church, My dad baptized him after he trusted the Lord. We’ve been married for 48 years.

We’ve reared our kids in church, and they are doing the same with their own children.

It is not “The Church” as an entity or organization of authority that I love so much. It is knowing that the churches we’ve attended have held the Bible as their authority for faith and practice; that the center of attention is not a liturgy or a tradition, but the clear teaching of God’s Word.

The church is under attack today, as it has always been. Satan wants to destroy it, but of course we know he can’t. Persecution has always served to simply drive the church underground, where it thrives and grows. Persecution of the first church in Jerusalem simply resulted in believers dispersing to other places in the known world, carrying their faith with them and spreading it wherever they went.

Jesus said, “Upon this Rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it”(Matthew 16:18).

 

 

Be Not Afraid

Isaiah 10: 23-24. “For the Lord God of hosts shall make a consumption, even determined, in the midst of all the land. Therefore thus saith the Lord God of hosts, O my people that dwellest in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrian: he shall smite thee with a rod, and shall lift up his staff against thee, after the manner of Egypt.”

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Someone has counted and found “Fear not” or “Be not afraid” 365 times in God’s Word; one for every day of the year.  God encourages us all the time to not be afraid of whoever rises up against us. He has promised that the victory will always be His. I find great comfort in knowing that no matter what happens here on this earth, God has it covered!

We don’t need to fear the Antichrist, who will lift up his rod against God’s people. He will have power for a short time, but God will “make a consumption.”  He will bring all things to and end, in His time, in His way.

Don’t worry.  Trust God.

The Offence of the Cross

Galatians 5:11-12. “And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution?  then is the offence of the cross ceased. I would they were even cut off which trouble you.”

“If I were to preach the circumcision, do you think I would be persecuted, as I am now? If I preached legalism, no one would be offended. But I can’t do that.  It wouldn’t be true to the calling which God has given me.”

And what does he mean by the offence (scandal) of the cross?

It was a disgrace to end one’s life by dying on a cross. It was a Roman punishment, designed to be as horribly painful, humiliating, and degrading as possible. The Roman philosopher Cicero said,  “The cross, it is so shameful it never ought to be mentioned in polite society.”

Yet the Son of God died on a cross. How shameful!  Surely this Jesus, a rabble rousing nobody from Nazareth, couldn’t possibly be the Messiah Who would deliver Israel.  His contemptible death on a cross proved He was nothing more than another crazed zealot who would become a distant memory very quickly.

Paul is saying to the Galatians that, if they embrace legalism, they are setting that cross aside, making it nothing. And that idea upsets him so much that his next words are “I wish they would cut themselves off that trouble you, because they pervert the gospel of Christ!”

Grace Alone

Galatians 4: 28-29. “Now we, brethren,as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.”

Ishmael, Hagar’s son by Abraham, was not the child of the promise. He was Sarah’s attempt to fulfill God’s prophecy.  He became the father of the Arab nations.

Isaac was the son of the promise.  He became the father of Israel, the Jewish nations. We can certainly see how that has played out over the centuries.

On a broader level, it is true that those who work to gain their own salvation through ritual and their own merit have persecuted true believers all down through the centuries.

We have to keep clearly in mind that not all people who claim to be Christian have really been redeemed, saved by grace through faith. One of Satan’s most effective tools in this age of Grace has been to cloud the issue around what is truly Christian and what is not.

Any religious system that requires us to perform according to their rituals is not teaching salvation by grace, but instead by works. They are not truly Christian. They claim Jesus, but they have not understood or taught the truth. And all down through history, those legalistic, ritualistic religious organizations have persecuted those who have stood on the Word of God and preached salvation by grace through faith, plus no works of man.  Not baptism, not confession, not Mass, not ritualistic prayers, not by any merit of our own can we reach heaven.  It is only through His grace alone, and nothing else.

There is no other way.

Stony Places

Matthew 13:20-21. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it: Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.”

The stony ground represents the person who hears the Word, and seems to receive it joyfully. Older believers may become quite excited at this person’s early enthusiasm for the Word, but as time passes they are disappointed to see that the early joy does not last.  When trouble comes, and it always will, this person is seen to have no depth, no place for a root to take hold. The heat increases, and the quickly-springing plant withers under the blast.

No fruit. This person is offended; that is, he is easily caused to stumble off the path set by the Word, and he fails in his journey.

Psalm 119:165. “Great peace have they which love Thy law; and nothing shall offend them.”

Persecution and Prophecy

Matthew 10 : 22-23. “And ye shall be hated of all men for My Name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of Man be come.”

I don’t believe there is any artistic rendering that can even begin to do justice to what it will look like when the Son of Man returns to earth.  We have no previous experience to compare with this event.  And why is it mentioned here, in this passage where Jesus is encouraging the disciples as they prepare for their first preaching tour?

Jesus’ words, “Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of Man be come”  are perhaps the most important words in this entire chapter.  They are a kind of key to the entire chapter, when understood in their proper context. 

The coming of the Son of Man mentioned here is His second coming.  Jesus was telling the disciples that the message they were to preach was to continue until He returns. The testimony that the disciples were about to proclaim would be an unfinished testimony, because it would be rejected by Israel.  But God never forgot His promise to Israel, and there is more to come!

When the Israel of that day rejected Messiah, a great parenthesis called the Church Age was set in place.  This Church Age is not reckoned in the Old Testament. During this age, there is no more Jewish testimony of the Kingdom of the Heavens. Israel, as a nation, is set aside, and they remain blinded to the truth until the fullness of the Gentiles is come in. When the Church is complete, and the great “snatching away,” the Rapture of the Church, has taken place—then, then God begins once again to deal with His people.The 70th week of Daniel 9 is yet to come; this week of seven years forms the end of this dispensation. The church testimony is finished, and Jewish believers will take up the unfinished testimony to the nation and proclaim once more, “The Kingdom of the heavens is at hand.”

The 24th chapter of Matthew is a continuation of this 10th chapter, and will show us  the finsihed, completed testimony (Matthew 24:5-32). That chapter tells of the great tribulation, so likewise here in the 10th chapter. In Micah 7, we read of a very dark  picture in which the  Spirit of Christ reveals a terrible tribulation.  During that tribulation, not now, it will mean enduring to the end  and salvation  will come then by the visible return of the Son of Man from heaven. The persecution that Jesus described in 10: 17-18 will find its final great fulfilment in that great tribulation, when all nations will persecute the believing and witnessing Jewish remnant.

The last part of verse 23 is future prophecy, making it clear that the proclamation of the gospel will not reach every single city, town, or village in Israel until He returns to rule and reign on the earth.

I can’t urge you strongly enough to look into these interesting, exciting matters on  your own. It would be very difficult to do an in-depth study in the format I use here.  Again, it is of the utmost importance that we remember always that the book of Matthew was written primarily to the Jews, presenting Jesus as Messiah. The rejection of Him ushers in a new age, when the gospel is sent out to the Gentile nations as well.

Hated for My Name’s Sake

Matthew 10:21-23. “And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for My Names’ sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.”

Reading over these verses, I realize I will not cover them well in just one post.  So consider this Part One.

Jesus promised His disciples that they would endure the most bitter of persecutions.  As more people turned to Christ,  families would be divided.  Brother would betray brother; children would turn in their parents and parents would betray their children unto death.

Jesus promised them that they would be hated of ALL for His Name’s sake.  Everyone would turn against them. There would be no safe retreat.

Do you see this happening in America today?  For so many years, we have lived in the comfort of our freedom to practice our faith without fear of persecution.  However, those who hate Christianity and all that it stands for are becoming more and more active at shutting us down.

Did you read about the bakery opened by a Christian couple in Oregon?  Because of their faith, they declined to bake a cake for a homosexual wedding.

They are now out of business.  Other wedding-related businesses were threatened that if they cooperated with that bakery,  they too would be boycotted and shut down. There were threats of violence against the couple who owned the bakery. Even their children were threatened.

And what did the authorities say, in this land of the free and home of the brave?  Well, they felt it was sad.  They would like to have helped that Christian couple, even rehabilitate them so they could keep their business open.

Exuse me?  Are we talking about enforced brainwashing here, in the United States of America?

I can hardly write, and I’m way off topic.  I wonder if my blog will be shut down so I can be rehabilitated.

The god of this world is becoming more and more bold.  What I want you to think about is that this kind of persecution is nothing new.  It has happened down through the centuries. The usual outcome is that there is an explosion of revival, and the Word of God withstands every effort to destroy it.

The disciples were nearly all martyred, but the Name of Jesus Christ still stands.

Blessed are Ye. . .

Matthew 5:11-12. “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be  exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”

Jesus changes direction with this verse.  In the previous blessings, He has said, “Blessed are they.” Now, He is directing His comments specifically to His disciples: “Blessed are ye.”

These two verses describe the heirs of the kingdom as sufferers, and persecuted in the earth.  We who believe are the children of God.  The world did not know or accept Him, and it will not know or accept us. We shouldn’t be surprised to be hated for our stand or our standards; we are supposed to be different, after all.  It is my experience that what we do not understand, we mock and hate, and hold up for ridicule.  The world does not understand biblical purity; it does not understand conformity to God’s Word. 

What is so sad to me is that so many who claim to be believers have accepted  the world’s preferences for the way we ought to live our lives, believing that as long as no one is hurt, anything is acceptable. 

We forget that what may be acceptable to us is NOT acceptable to a holy, pure, sinless God. 

During the Tribulation, the time of “Jacob’s trouble,” there will be suffering for righteousness’ sake as never before. Many faithful Jewish witnesses will be killed for His sake. They will receive great reward (Revelation 20:4).

The first seven blessings refer to the earthly glory of the coming kingdom; the last two verses speak of their reward in heaven. He comforts them by reminding them that the prophets who came before them were persecuted, mistreated, even killed for their faith and for their warnings to the people. 

In the next three verses, we will learn what the heirs of the kingdom are in the earth.