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Thursday, December 1, 2016

ARE YOU PREPARED FOR PERSECUTION? IS THERE A HOME IN YOUR HOUSE? (PART 4)

ARE YOU PREPARED FOR PERSECUTION?


Mt 5:10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

(CLICK TO WATCH SERMON 4)

If you’ve not read or watched the prior three messages, we're looking at the teaching of Jesus in Matthew, chapter five, specifically, a small section that we call the “Beatitudes”. The word Beatitude simply means: blessedness. The eight Beatitudes are simply eight different qualities of those who would be blessed. Although Jesus was talking to everyone, we're applying His teaching to our homes. 

Is there a home in your house?

Although over 70% of Americans profess Christianity, we would not consider over 70% of American homes to be Christ-centered. When I think of most American homes, I’m not thinking, “Man, they're really blessed. They’ve got a home that hungers and thirsts after righteousness." "They’ve got a pure home." "They’ve got a peaceful home." "They've got a blessed marriage." "Their kids are godly.” It’s sad, but true. Because of this we're asking God to teach us to live according to His Word so He can bless our homes.          

Let's repeat our key thought for this series:

WE ARE NOT JUST A CHRISTIAN HOME; WE ARE A CHRIST-CENTERED FAMILY. 

“What's the difference?” Unfortunately, today, the word Christian doesn't mean what it used to mean. In fact, where I live, to be a Christian is almost a default decision. Most people, if you asked them what religion they are, they’d be like, “Well, you know, I guess I'm a Christian. I'm not anything else so I must be a Christian.” This is what I would call a “Cultural Christian”; folk that are Christian in name only. Folk that say they are Christian but if you look at their homes you wouldn’t know it.   

We’re not just a “Christian” house; we’re a Christ-centered home. Jesus isn’t just a PART of our lives, He IS our lives. And if this is true, there will be evidence to those who know you. Our values will be different from the world's. The way we raise our children will be different.
The way we treat people will be different. The way we use our resources, time, and money will be different because Jesus isn't just a part of our lives, He is our lives.

Our key thought in this lesson is:  

IF YOU ARE A CHRIST-CENTERED FAMILY, YOU WILL BE PERSECUTED.

Well, faaantastic! I know that's exactly what you wanted to hear. There’s nothing like an uplifting message about people treating you like trash to make you feel good. I hear you, but it's true. If you are a Christ-centered family, people will mock and make fun of you (or worse) because that's what happens when you are Christ centered.          

I don't know what form the persecution will come to your house, but for us it plays out in many different ways. Whether it be someone mocking us for home schooling our children; or talking down to us because we dress modestly and in a gender distinctive manner; or when we’re looked at like we’re stupid because we don’t give our little ones complete access to the internet through a cell phone or Facebook; or when we’re left out of people’s plans because they’re afraid to do what they’re doing around us, persecution comes at us in many forms. 

In Message 1, we discussed “Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled”.  If you are hungering and thirsting for righteousness in an unrighteous world, people are going to laugh at you, they're going to mock you.
          
In Message 2, we discussed “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.” If you're trying to live with a pure heart in a world that idolizes impurity, people are going to mock you.          

In Message 3, we discussed “Blessed are the peace makers for they'll be called children of God.” If someone strikes you on one cheek and you turn the other cheek, or you go the extra mile, or you forgive that which seems unforgivable, people don’t know what to do with that. They think you’re weird. Some will treat you like a doormat; like you’re stupid.

And Jesus said very clearly in the 8th and final Beatitude, Matthew 5:10, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

This teaching is against our nature:

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


What exactly does that mean: Blessed are you when you're persecuted for right living, for doing the right thing? “Pastor, we know you're going to be persecuted because you're a preacher and ... you're kind of weird, too. You've pretty much got it coming.” Ok. But the reality is you don't have to be a preacher to be persecuted.           


 CAIN & ABEL: The very first illustration of persecution in the Bible between Cain and Abel wasn't because Abel was preaching to Cain. The reason Cain was angry is because Abel was living the right way. He was doing the right thing and Cain wasn't. Cain’s sin convicted him and he felt angry, perhaps even at himself, and he lashed out and killed his own brother. Not because his brother did wrong, but because his brother did right. Cain was convicted by Abel’s righteousness.          
 

A Christ-centered family has different values; those values will bring persecution.Maybe you're a teenager or a young adult and you think, “I'm going to honor God with sexual purity.  I'm not going to have sex until I'm married.” And all your friends are like, “You're an idiot. That's the stupidest thing.  Who would give that up?” And they're going to make fun of you. “Blessed are you when people persecute you for righteousness sake.” Maybe you're not going to go to certain movies that all your friends are going to. Why? Because there's a little bit of dog doo in the brownies. Remember that illustration? I’ve seen parents ridiculed when they wouldn’t put their children in certain sports leagues because it would cause them to miss church. But they're mocked because they’re teaching their children to put God first in their lives?!?!

When you’re Christ-centered you say, “I'm not going to do this even though everybody else is.” When they make fun of you–yours is the kingdom of heaven!

So that raises the question:  How do we prepare our families for persecution?  How do we prepare them to have roots in Christ so deep they can handle the inevitable persecution that will come?    
 
HOW DO WE HANDLE PERSECUTION?

Let’s look at three things I pray will build your faith. How do we prepare our families for persecution?
   
1. TEACH THEM TO EXPECT PERSECUTION
 
Paul told Timothy:

2Ti 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

Paul said everyone will suffer persecution. If you want to follow Christ, you will be persecuted. If your family is Christ-centered, you will be different, and people won't understand. They will criticize you.
   
2Co 6:17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.


When your family is separate from this world, you’ll be criticized. It's a part of following Christ.

If you're raising kids you need to teach them, as followers of Christ, they will be persecuted. You need to introduce them to small and almost controlled doses of persecution when they're young.          

Let me give you a personal illustration of what I’m talking about:
   
Our children have never been trick-or-treating and never will. Now, I don’t have anything against dressing your kids up, knocking on doors, and getting free candy. And again, if that’s what you do in your home, that’s your business.  


But as a dad, I read and researched the ORIGINS OF HALLOWEEN. (Do your own research). and discovered that the vast majority of the customs surrounding it originate from the Celtic Festival of Samhain (the Pagan Day of the Dead). 

April and I made a decision that we weren't going to participate in Halloween. It has been an awesome opportunity to tell our kids, “The Lambs are going to be different.” And we’ve been criticized over that decision. Some family members don't understand. Some friends don't understand. Even this year, I had a dear friend throw some shade at us. Don't get me wrong, I didn't really care ... I'm just making a point here. We're not trying to draw a line in the sand about trick or treating. I didn’t go to the pulpit and try to cram it down the people's throats. What we were trying to do is plant the value in our children that we're different and that, unfortunately, we will be persecuted for it.          

So that’s us. I don’t know what it will look like in your life, but whatever God convicts you to do, teach your kids early. Teach them to expect it. Teach them that we're Christ-centered and people will make fun of us.  


PERSECUTION IS GETTING WORSE IN AMERICA: The reason this is so important–and you need to hear this–the persecution in our country has been relatively light, but is increasing every single day. There is tremendous growing hostility towards Christianity and Christ's values. You better learn to stand strong and teach your children to stand strong because the heat is going to increase. They need to have their roots planted deeply in Christ. They will be persecuted.

Jesus made it clear in:

Joh 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
19 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.
20 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.


Jesus said, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” We need to teach our families to expect it.          

2. TEACH THEM TO ENDURE PERSECUTION

The second thing we teach our children to do is to endure persecution. Paul told the Corinthians:

1Co 4:12 ... being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:

When we’re persecuted, we bear it! We don't whine about it. We don't gripe about it. “Waah! I got de-friended on Facebook because I'm a Christian. I just can't suffer anymore.” We don't do that. We endure persecution. I want to remind you, respectfully, that the persecution we endure in this country is incredibly light to what goes on around the world. The real truth is most of us don’t know what it means to be persecuted for Jesus’ sake. We are persecuted for our big mouths, attitudes, and actions, but not for our righteousness.  So let us practice dealing with what little persecution we have now in order to handle the persecution that is coming upon this country.
   
When people mock you for deciding to work less, live in a smaller house, drive used cars, and have fewer possessions, so you can spend more time with your family, go to church more, and work for God, just endure it. So when people make fun of you because you have different values ... just take it. Endure it with a smile on your face. You’ll be blessed by God and it’s far greater to have the favor of God than the favor of men!

When you endure persecution the right way something amazing happens. God does something inside of you. When you endure persecution, your spiritual roots grow deeper. In fact, when you endure persecution, your intimacy with Christ increases, your spiritual resolve is strengthened.          
 
I went into the ministry full-time in 2000. I caught a lot of flack. I was hammered at every corner. Of course, being raised in this neck of the woods, I was surrounded by people who didn’t put a premium on the Bible and ministry, so they persecuted me for that decision. They called me lazy. They said I wasn’t a provider for my wife--I was worse than an infidel. There were times that we had nothing-not a single penny and no food in the cabinets. People were saying I had thousands of dollars that I stole from poor widows. People I loved dearly persecuted me. They cut me to the bone. I cried myself to sleep more times than I can count.          

But you know what that did? It deepened my faith in Christ. It solidified the decision. It helped me to understand that I wasn't living for the approval of others, but I was living for the approval of God, and it did something inside of me. He supplied our needs. Miracle after miracle after miracle. When He was done I didn’t care what any one thought.   

If you haven't been persecuted in a while, I'm telling you, it's almost a disadvantage. And I would almost say the fact there is little persecution where we live, it almost puts us at a spiritual disadvantage because all through history, when the church is persecuted, the church becomes stronger. There's a sense of unity. There's passion and boldness! It weeds out those who don't really mean it and it strengthens those who do making them become more effective.          

I’d like to share a great principal with you: 

WHERE FAMILY IDENTITY IS STRONG, PEER PRESSURE IS WEAK. WHERE FAMILY IDENTITY IS WEAK, PEER PRESSURE IS STRONG. 

Parents, this is so important to know as you're raising your kids. 

Where there is a deep-grounded spiritual identity-when your children know you are Christ followers-you’re going to be persecuted and that's okay. You are on a mission. You have a calling. You are living for something higher than the lower things of this world. When you truly believe that, there'll be a strong family identity and all the peer pressure your kids (or even you) are facing, won’t be as strong because they have a purpose, identity, and values.          
   
When’s there’s no solid security in Christ and their faith, there is no real family identity, no mission, no purpose, no higher calling. Life is reduced to the pursuit of things.

WE'RE NOT JUST A CHRISTIAN FAMILY IN NAME ONLY, WE'RE CHRIST CENTERED!

1. EXPECT PERSECUTION; 2. ENDURE PERSECUTION AND THIRDLY ...

3. YOU HAVE TO EMBRACE PERSECUTION

But you don't just endure persecution, you have to embrace it. You thank God that you get to suffer in some small way like Jesus did!

PETER– Peter was talking to a group of Christians that were suffering and being persecuted beyond anything that our little safe world of a thousand triggers can imagine. In fact, one of the things they would do to Christians that wouldn't renounce the name of Christ was put them in the center of a coliseum, in front of huge crowds, and release lions that would devour them. Peter was talking to them in 1Peter 4:12:  

1Pe 4:12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:

1Pe 4:16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

When you’re persecuted; when you suffer for Christ’s name ... Glorify God!
   
Blessed are you when people make fun of you because you walk away from a business deal that was very profitable, but you realized it was slightly unethical. Blessed are you when you tell that Jake leg to take hike. You’re living for Jesus and don’t have to time to throw your purity away. 

Some of you right now, you feel like you must be doing something wrong because you've got opposition all around you. Someone may even say, “Hey, how's that God thing going for you now,” when all hell's breaking loose in your life.

Let me remind you that things may be going wrong, not because you're doing something wrong, but because you're doing something right. Blessed are you when you are persecuted for righteousness sake.  This is a spiritual battle and it's very real!          

We’ve had to explain to our children that there are people that hate me, hate our church, and hate them because they’re my children. I have explained to them that there are people that call me a false teacher and a heretic. They don't understand our Christian philosophy and truly hate and despise us. I explain to them that every now and then, there's some really unstable person that would rather me not do what I do, and will do whatever it takes to keep me from doing what I do. They understand persecution. They also understand that it’s coming their way too.

They’ve learned to love people that they know have talked about us. They have a strong sense of identity in Christ.

So here’s the deal: Don't ever worry when your family is being persecuted for righteousness; the only time you should worry is when you're NOT BEING PERSECUTED. If you're not being persecuted, let me say it as lovingly as I can: YOU JUST MIGHT BE A CHRISTIAN FAMILY IN NAME ONLY.     
 
What is our family about? Ball games? Work? Houses and cars?       
We're supposed to be about Jesus, His kingdom, His purpose, His glory, and making a difference in this world! And you need to know, when you're about Him, you will be persecuted. If everything goes okay, and there's no spiritual opposition, if you never meet the devil head on, you may be walking the same direction as him. When you're walking toward God there's always spiritual opposition. Blessed are you when you are persecuted for righteousness sake.

So what do we do? EXPECT IT. Persecution happens. You ENDURE IT. You take persecution like a man of God, like a woman of God. You don't strike back, you don't get angry, you don't get defensive, you just love and love and love and love. Blessed are the meek, blessed are the humble, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are the pure in heart, blessed are the peace makers, blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of God. 

You are not just going to settle for being a blend-in, average, cultural-Christian family. God has called you to something more. We are Christ centered in all we do because we are created for His glory. God bless this home! I want a home in my house! 

"Lord, I want this home to  make a difference eternally for Your name’s sake."

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