"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first" (John 15:18).
I wrote yesterday about what is going on in the world and about the prophecies in Ezekiel concerning the nations that will come against Israel in the future, prior to Jesus' return. I will write more about that in future posts because the whole Bible points to the return of Jesus Christ as the culmination of God's plan to build His kingdom on the earth. The closer we get to Christ's return, the more important that those who are truly His disciples know what God has revealed about those times because many will be deceived (II Thessalonians 2:8-12).
But today I want to urge you to think about the words of Jesus in John 15:18. The words are hard, almost abrupt in a way that leaves you wondering if Jesus could have really said such a thing. The Jesus you hear about today was kind and humble and tolerant and gracious and loving to everybody. Why would He say such a thing? It may be even more surprising when you look at the context of these words in John 15. Jesus has just been talking about love and bearing fruit that will last. That's a common theme today, isn't it? Love, love, love! You certainly find that message from Jesus. "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete ..." (John 15:9-11). "This is my command," Jesus says in verse 17: "Love each other."
He goes from that to this: "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first!" Why go from "Love each other," to "If the world hates you ..."? Jesus was doing what so many today don't seem to be willing to do ... He was being REAL!! There is a spiritual war going on that began in the halls of heaven when Satan rebelled against God and that came to earth when Satan tempted Eve and she and Adam disobeyed God. Since that time, there has been and is a spiritual war going on in the heavenly realms and on the earth. Too many in the church today want to pretend that we are living in peacetime. They want to negotiate with the enemy of their souls, they want to rest on the sidelines, they want to believe that if we just love everybody, they'll love us back and everything will be OK. That's not reality!! Jesus said, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first!"
Jesus goes on to explain that in John 15:19: "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you OUT OF the world." I have explained to the congregation at Lighthouse that the word, "church," is not found in the Bible. The Greek word translated "church" is "ekklesia," which means "called-out ones." How does this affect your view of what the Church of Jesus Christ is all about? Those who believe in Jesus Christ are DIFFERENT than those who do not believe in Him. We are called to be "ambassadors" of His kingdom (II Corinthians 5:20). We are "aliens and strangers on earth" (Hebrews 11:13). Heaven is our home. For us, "to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21).
Do you believe that? Is that how you understand what it means to be a "Christian," a "disciple of Jesus, the Christ"? It's not easy! It requires commitment and faith, relying on the grace and strength that God provides day by day, moment by moment. I was reminded of that in a very real way when my brother in Christ, my friend, a pastor in Pakistan, called me yesterday to tell me that there is violence breaking out all over Pakistan and Christians are being attacked and killed, and their houses are being burned. This very day, some people who have lost their home and who were attacked were planning to travel several hours to his home to find refuge with his church family. At this time they live in a relatively "safe" area, a Christian colony. But who knows what tomorrow will bring - there, or here.
In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:11-12). And Paul wrote to his young friend, Timothy, "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus, will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived" (II Timothy 3:12-13).
Are you being persecuted for your faith in Jesus Christ? Maybe it means that some people make fun of you at school, or some people accuse you of being "holier than thou" just because you won't join them in certain behaviors. Perhaps you don't get a job, or you lose a job, because you take a stand on ethics and integrity. Or maybe those within the visible church think you are being unreasonable for standing up for the truth and authority of God's Word, rather than being tolerant of false teaching within the body of Christ. Persecution comes in many forms. As I pray for my brothers and sisters in Pakistan and other places around the world where their lives are literally in danger for the sake of the Gospel, I pray that God will give me the strength and courage to live as "a stranger and an alien on earth," knowing that our God is with me and He is able and willing to give us all we need to stand firm as we continue to witness to others, preaching Christ and Him crucified, offering God's love and forgiveness for all who repent, who turn from sin, and who confess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
Jesus said, "Whoever acknowledges ME before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns ME before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven" (Matthew 10:32-33). So understand that not everyone will be your friend. If you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ you are a "called-out one," and you are not here to be friends with the world. You are here to testify that "Our God reigns," and to call people out of darkness into His marvelous light. You can't call people out of darkness if you, yourself, are walking in the darkness! Be children of the light and as you walk in the light be ready to count the cost. 'If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated ME first." ... JESUS