Hi sweet friends! Can you believe we are already at the end of our study? I’m so glad you’ve taken this journey with me. Every word in every sentence is rich and full – comforting and convicting.
Today’s topic is tough talk. Our subject matter is definitely not for sissies. In today’s text we find Jesus using words like hate and persecution. Tough words on the heels of bearing much fruit and showing much love.
Before we get into the lesson, please read through our text, John 15:18-27 and familiarize yourself with our Savior’s word choices.
1. How many times do you see the word hate or hated?
In Wednesday’s lesson, we find that every time Jesus used the word love, He uses the word agape (agapaō) – the strongest and deepest type of love. In contrast, today’s study brings us to the word hate, which means to detest – the polar opposite of love.
2. Review our verses for today and summarize the theme of this powerful passage in your own words.
For the benefit of the overall lesson, today I’m going to contextualize our study rather than take you verse by verse through it. The theme of this passage is echoed in 2 Timothy 3:12:
“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
Persecution was just a reality of life for the early church. The choice to follow Christ often meant that difficult days were ahead. That was true then; it is still true today.
As you read this Bible study with a hot cup of coffee in your hand in the comfort of your cozy home, approximately 493 people will die for their faith today. That translates into about 180,000 people who will be martyred because they trust Christ. According to the Voice of Martyrs, over 200 million Christians are denied fundamental human rights because of their faith. 200 million! The world hates them – because the world hates Jesus.
I’ve never understood why One who loves the world with His own life could be hated by so many. Perhaps it’s because His love calls us to holiness. His ultimate sacrifice leaves us without excuses. Whatever the case, Jesus warned us that the world would hate us. Jesus may call us His friends, but the world calls us its enemy.
Now, let’s get real.
Our North American experience is very different than the rest of the world. At least for now. We don’t have to worry about losing our homes, our health care, our cars or our lives because we are Christians. However, I am going to say something I know may offend some – I pray it doesn’t – but it’s what the Bible says, not what Stephanie says…So, here goes…
Many want Christ without the cross He calls us to bear. They want salvation, but they don’t want to suffer. The blessings we are afforded in this country have reaped “stony ground and seed among the thorns” types of hearts.
“But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” Matthew 13:20-22
3. What causes the one who received the seed on stony ground to stumble?
4. What causes the seed that fell among the thorns to become unfruitful?
As missionaries to Costa Rica, we sometimes would meet families who had become outcasts and shunned because they chose to become “born again” Christians. It wasn’t as severe as what many other Christians experience, but it was real and it was painful.
NOW LET’S BRING IT HOME:
5. If you were told you would lose your job if you talked about Jesus, what would you do?
6. Read Peter and John’s response to possible persecution in Acts 4:17-20. Explain their response.
You find similar stories throughout the New Testament of those who were persecuted because of their faith. They were willing – or more like compelled – to share this Jesus who had changed their lives. But we worry that someone may think we’re strange if we tell them about the One who died to save them.
Could it be that we don’t suffer persecution because we don’t live out loud enough?
Has our American version of health, wealth and prosperity Christianity confused the reality that in this world, we will suffer tribulation? Is our casual Christianity an indication that we are lukewarm – like the Laodicean church? Have our comforts clouded our convictions? Have we been lulled into believing that being a Christian means living in luxury?
In today’s text, we find that Jesus told us we would suffer persecution because of our faith in Christ – because of our association with the Savior of the world. It is a hard saying. But Jesus never told us this life would be easy. In fact, He told us just the opposite.
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Matthew 16:33
In John 15:18-25, Jesus tells us that if we are identified with Him, the world will hate us. Today’s news reminds us of this very truth. Our Christian nation is quickly turning its back on Christ. Christians are criticized and even condemned for their faith. It’s coming to America – and it’s not going to get any easier to live out loud for Jesus.
But in John 15:26-27, Jesus commands us to press on knowing we are not alone in our pressures and persecutions.
7. What title does He use for the Holy Spirit in verse 26?
Some translations say Comforter, others say Advocate. In the Greek, it is paraklētos. In light of our study for today, look at what that word really means?
summoned, called to one’s side, esp. called to one’s aid, one who pleads another’s cause before a judge, a pleader, counsel for defense, legal assistant, an advocate
He is the One who will come along side of us, comforting us and defending us. He is our Comforter; He is our defender. Persecution comes with the assurance of His presence. So, while these are hard truths that we are learning today, He reminds us that we are not alone. In the midst of all the hate, He gives us hope.
And then finally, He reminds us of our calling.
8. Look at John 15:27 and explain what you think it means to “testify” of Jesus.
I know this hasn’t been a touchy, feely kind of lesson. But the Christianity that Christ calls us to-the one He describes in Scripture-is not always easy. But He promises His presence and His peace in the midst of the madness. Hope in the midst of hate.
No matter what you are going through today, our sweet Savior is with you. He is present in your pain as well as in your persecution. He will never leave you; He will never forsake you. Whether you are hated by the world or your heart is hurting because you are facing some difficult days – Jesus is with you – the Holy Spirit is there to comfort you.
Set your face like a flint, sweet friend. No matter what – live out loud for Jesus. You’ll have an eternity to be glad you did!
We begin our Bible study on Philippians next week! YAY!! I hope you’ll join me for the journey! Invite some of your friends to join too. You can click here to subscribe by email or click the Google feeder link or the Networkedblog feeder link on the right of the page.