John 15 Sermon – The world will hate you?

In this sermon Pastor Tim speaks on one of the more difficult passages in the Upper Room Discourse. Jesus explains that just as the world hated him, it will hate his disciples. How do we make sense of this, particularly as we see so much evidence go this around the world and even emerging in the West today?

John 15 Persecuted Church

Great to see everyone!

  • I hope you’ve had a good week.
  • Introduce myself… out in the courtyard after the service and I’d love to meet you.
  • A special happy birthday to my little boy Luca who is 8 today. Love you mate and very proud of you!
  • Funny kid: he has started calling me “Little Timmy” and loves nothing more than a wrestle with Dad.
  • Term 2 is really launching this week with Life Groups, Playtime, Movie Night…
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  • Get involved: life better when we do it together…

Well we are doing a series in John’s gospel… particularly in the last week of Jesus life… 

  • And I thought Lani’s message last week was really important. 
  • She spoke on John 15:9 where Jesus says “now remain in my love.” 
  • Verse 10 Jesus says “if you keep my commands you will remain in my love.”
  • Verse 16 Jesus says “I chose you and appointed so that you might go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.”

I almost wonder if it is the heart of what Jesus is trying to communicate in this final discourse with his disciples…

  • That as we remain in him, we will follow his commands, which fundamentally is a command to love each other as Jesus loved them… 
  • And that in doing so we will bear much fruit.
  • Right? Not a bad leaving message.
  • Stay close… do what I’ve told you to do… 
  • And your life will produce the kind of results that mine has. 

And that makes so much sense of all that he has done to this point in the upper room discourse.

  • Right… he is showing them how to live and love before he goes to the Father in heaven….
  • That’s why he washes their feet demonstrating a kind of servant hearted leadership that gets low and serves… 
  • And so much of what we see in the early church and then the best bits of church history…
  • And indeed in the church today is the fulfilment of this section of Jesus teaching….
  • You will do the things that I do… as you stay close, keep my commands, love each other and bear fruit!

One of the major charities… or mission organizations that we support here at Manly Life is called Homes of Hope International.

  • And it was started by one of our elders here, Greg Beech.
  • And for me it is such a joy that we support and cheer on Greg as he works with local partners amongst the poorest and most marginalized people on earth.
  • We and so many of you support children through HOHI.
  • My wife Victoria got to go on a mission experience trip to India got to see first hand their work amongst trafficked women and children in the red light district of Mumbai in Indian.
  • And they give these children of the red light area an education and a home and love and kindness…

So Jesus commands us to love one another. Jesus tells us to go and bear fruit…

  • In other places Jesus exhorts us to care for the poor and widows and imprisoned…
  • But how does it go from hearing that, to setting up homes for the most downtrodden people on earth…
  • Well, if I know Greg’s story a bit it comes from spending time with Jesus… 
  • I think Greg’s testimony would be you can’t remain in Jesus and not respond in one sense as he has done!
  • The most natural thing in the world to do if you follow Jesus is to end up doing things like this.
  • That doesn’t mean it is the most common thing that followers of Jesus do… too many just sit on their hands…

But if you take being a disciple of Jesus seriously, if you remain in him, if you obey his commands 

  • This is the kind of fruit you will produce through your life.
  • That doesn’t mean we all will start orphanages (though I’d suggest every Christian has a duty to give to and be serving the poor)
  • But in our own spheres, we will be known as a lover of others… sacrificially, servant heartedly, merciful. 
  • Right?

You can’t hang around Jesus, remain in Jesus, him be in you…

  • And not end up living generously, and sacrificially, and concerned and involved with the poor. 
  • Your life will end up being a reflection of the things Jesus said and did…
  • Amen!

Ok, well, as we come to the next session, it gets a bit rougher…

  • And I know the primary aged kids are in today, so I’ll keep it PG…
  • But in this next section of scripture, Jesus starts to warn the disciples about the opposition they will face as his followers.
  • And look, it’s really important that we preach all the bible, not just the bits that tell us we will live loving, whole and purposeful lives… and have eternal life.
  • Because the reality, and many of us know this… is we face opposition from the world when we follow Jesus in truth and grace!
  • Let’s have a look…

15:18-21… Jesus said…

18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 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. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.  

So, just a light passage today…  

Well if we take this passage in the light of the whole Gospel

  • I think it is fair to say that the news of Jesus is always received as a blessing or a curse.
  • Jesus is someone to be accepted or rejected. Believed in or dismissed. 
  • Faith is something to be admired or despised
  • Followers of Jesus are often celebrated or persecuted. Loved or hated.
  • And we know this today don’t we? 
  • For every person in our community who either follows Jesus or at least admires him, there are now many who mock, ridicule and see Christianity as dangerous.
  • I know down at the swim I do there is this one older guy…
  • And every time I see him, his words are something mocking God or faith. 
  • I wonder do you have people like that in your life?

And of course that may seem strange, particularly in light of what we have just been talking about in loving one another and bearing fruit.

  • If we are following Jesus faithfully you would think being known for our love would lead to universal admiration.
  • But of course that isn’t true… 
  • And part of that is we are also calling everyone, everywhere to know Jesus as Lord
  • And that will involved turning from sin and aligning your life with a new master. 
  • To many Christian ethics, indeed belief in God is something incomprehensible. 

So in this passage, was Jesus being paranoid? 

  • Because maybe it could sound this way?
  • The world will hate you. The world will persecute you. The world is guilty as it hates me. 
  • This is without doubt some of the hardest teachings of Jesus to hear…
  • And it is also some of the most accurately fulfilled teachings of Jesus in the lives of those who would and will come to follow him.
  • Just to be clear again on what this passage is saying…

Firstly, (vs 19) makes clear, If we just look like the rest of the world they will be fond of us.

  • Right… if there is no difference there will be no problem…
  • This is often called syncretism… where Christians just blend in with the culture around them, even adopting the same beliefs and practices…
  • If there is absolutely no difference between us and the world around us that doesn’t follow Jesus, then we have nothing to worry about.
  • If our morals and ethics and way of treating one another is a mirror of the world, then we aren’t going to face persecution, because…
  • Well there is nothing for the world to oppose within us. 
  • If we use our money like the world, if our sexual ethics are the same as the world, if we are in constant conflict with one another like the world…
  • Verse 19 tells us “the world would love you as its own”

But secondly, opposition is normal… Jesus says, verse 20…

“Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”

  • The gist here is that if we are like Jesus… if we his servants, follow the way of the Master
  • Well just as they persecuted Jesus, they will may persecute us. 
  • This is tough to hear right?
  • Again, we prefer the gospel that says we will have life to the full and the gift of eternal life…
  • But for every blessing that knowing Jesus and following him brings in our lives…
  • There is the reality of opposition if we are faithful in our following of Jesus. 

So just to finish, I want us to look at this from 3 vantage points…

Historic, today in many places, and then in our culture…

Firstly, in the time of Jesus life and the early church… opposition was strongly felt!

  • I like what the theologian NT Wright says… in John’s gospel we see people encounter Jesus and say “no thank you!”
  • Right? They saw Jesus multiply and feed the thousands with bread, but choose to stay spiritually hungry.
  • They saw Jesus heal the blind man but chose to remain spiritually blind themselves…
  • They saw Lazarus raised to life and decided to kill of Jesus, less more people believe. 
  • Indeed Judas saw Jesus wash his feet… and still betrayed him. 

The context of this passage is Jesus’ imminent persecution in which he is betrayed, tried unjustly and crucified… 

And then first 300 years of the church is a pretty awful story.

  • While there are incredible stories of salvations and healings and the transformation the gospel brings…
  • It was also a time of marginalization, martyrdom and persecution… 
  • The powers that be, did not take kindly to a growing movement of people from every tribe and tongue and class and gender…
  • Who confessed Jesus as Lord

One of the most confronting stories in the Book of Acts is of the first martyr, Stephen. 

  • So Stephen, full of faith and love for Jesus explains the gospel publicly only to be stoned to death by the religious leaders
  • And there, we read, is a man named Saul who is keen to stamp out this new movement started by Jesus and his followers…
  • It says he was there giving his approval to Stephens death. 
  • But of course this persecutor encounters the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. 
  • And he becomes the apostle of good news to the gentiles. 
  • He goes from harassing and jailing followers of Jesus to being a pioneer of the church in the known world. 

And I think it is good to be reminded of this story….

  • Because sometimes those who oppose the gospel the strongest, become the most faithful followers of Jesus.
  • The Apostle Paul describes what happened in 1 Timothy 1… it says;
  • “Even though I was once a blasphemer and persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy… The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”
  • Isn’t it interesting that at Dan and Ash’s wedding that I took 2 weeks ago, we read a passage from Paul on love in 1 Corinthians 13. 
  • Only God friends, can turn someone from hate to love!
  • Well despite this one mans conversion, of course much persecution continued… 

Well, the second vantage point is today in vast parts of the world. 

  • And sadly of course followers of Jesus are opposed in over 50 countries today. 
  • In many places being a Christian is illegal, churches are not permitted and followers face daily risk of imprisonment or even death. 
  • I mean just a few years ago, we woke up to the news that a church in Sri Lanka had been bombed
  • And we read of followers of Jesus in the Middle East who lose their lives for following Christ. 

Invite Greg up who founded Homes of Hope International 

  • And who works with hundreds of Pastors in India particularly who are facing very real opposition…
  • Greg: what is it like for these Pastors and Christians?
  • Why do they keep going under such opposition?
  • How can we support and pray for these men and women?

OK, final vantage point is us here in the West today in a place like Sydney?

  • How might we face what Jesus talked about in John 15? 
  • And I think hearing very real stories from places like India can seem a long way from what we experience here in the West.
  • Yes there is some persecution of Christians in a place like Sydney…
  • If you are a Muslim woman in Bankstown who becomes a follower of Jesus, you are in for a tough journey.
  • And certainly in some newspapers, even the SMH, Christians are often ridiculed in the Opinion pages…
  • But the reality is for Christians, that despite waning numbers of practicing members… we still run schools, hospitals, nursing homes and many of the charitable organisations that serve the poor in our city.

But I think even in my life time I have seen the church and Christians move from being favored and admired, to tolerated, to seen by many today as the problem. 

  • And I guess while we all want to be loved and admired, the reality is that any opposition that we face…
  • Brings us more into alignment with what Jesus would say would happen
  • And with what millions of our brothers and sisters in Christ face around the world.
  • Indeed I would suggest that if we are truly following Jesus it would be odd to not face opposition for our lives, our beliefs and our ethics. 
  • They are only going to increasingly be seen as at odds with the world around us. 

Well if at work being a Christian is getting challenging, or in your family your faith is mocked or marginalized how might we respond?

  • Do we take up the weapons of our opposition and respond in kind?
  • Of course not, that would just make us echoes of the world around us…
  • We in the words of Jesus are called to 
  • John 15 “love one another as I have loved you.”
  • Matthew 5:44 “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
  • And remember Matthew 10-12 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.

And we get on with what we were talking about at the start…

  • Apostle Paul who was imprisoned and whipped, kept on planting churches in so many of the great cities of the ancient world…
  • William Wilberforce the Christian parliamentarian battled on for over 30 years fighting against the Atlantic slave trade before his opposition gave up and he won.
  • Rev Martin Luther King fighting against segregation was imprisoned and beaten, and yet ultimately his moral force overcame…
  • What about you, and the causes you care for, the faith you proclaim, the things in Christ you make a stand for?
  • As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:17 
  • “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
  • We keep perspective and we remind each other of who we belong to, and what is our destination…

And of course as Christians we uniquely know how the story ends…

  • In the Book of Revelation, Jesus is described as the lamb that was slain.
  • It’s a reference to his sacrificial role in reconciling us to God…
  • And yet the lamb, Jesus, sits on the throne…

I love the story of a small Methodist church in Prague – not far from where Victoria’s Dad came from!

  • Under communist rule for much of the last century it was not allowed to advertise, let alone tell people it was a church
  • Under the atheistic communist rule, Czechoslovakia became a freedom starved nation for 45 years.
  • The Christian community was harassed, the church persecuted and a worldview that had no place for Christianity dominated the whole region…

On November 27th, 1989, the day that communist domination came to an end in Czechoslovakia the bells of churches rung out across that city for the first time in half a century .

  • Spontaneous celebrations of freedom erupted all across Eastern Europe as atheistic and tyrannical governments suddenly disintegrated. 
  • And that small Methodist church in Prague put a simple sign on the front lawn of the church.
  • It read: The Lamb wins…

Published by timgiovanelli

My wife Victoria and I are planting a new church in Manly, NSW

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