March 8, 6:00 p.m.
Speaker: James Coates
Topic: The Persecution of the Remnant
Passage: 2 Timothy 3:12
In 2 Timothy 3:12, Paul tells us, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." This verse reminds us that as we we both firmly and faithfully refuse to yield to the call of the world, the remnant will be the object of persecution.
We must understand persecution, prepare for it and faithfully stand firm in the face of it, to the honor and glory of Jesus Christ.
The Certainty of Persecution
Persecution is unavoidable, inevitable, and inescapable.
Paul is certain about the reality of coming persecution. His certainty came from his theology of the nature of this present day. In this present day, Satan is incredibly active. He is the prince of the power of the air who is at work in the sons of disobedience (Eph 2:2).
The Christian life runs entirely against the grain of this world. If you are going to be a faithful follower of Christ, you are going to be met with persecution. There are no exceptions.
The Condition of Persecution
There’s one condition that must be met to qualify for this persecution: That you desire to live godly in Christ Jesus. If you desire to live godly in Christ Jesus, you will be persecuted. To bypass persecution, all you would have to do is conform yourself to the world around you.
To defend against this conformity, living a godly life necessitates that you know God’s will. You must understand what godliness demands of you. Discerning God’s will as it is revealed in His word is critical.
We must also be aware that fear can thwart the obedience of the true believer. Fear is a compelling emotion, and when obedience has the potential to come at an immense cost, fear can win out. There will be times when obedience will demand courage.
You must not only get the will of God right, you must be courageous in carrying it out.
The Catalyst of Persecution
The driving force behind that which results in persecution is unwavering resolve. This unwavering resolve comes first from the regeneration of the Spirit, where we receive a new will and new desires.
But this new will needs to be developed and nurtured. You develop this resolve through the word, prayer, and obedience. Resolve is like a muscle, and you work that muscle through spirit-empowered obedience. You must resolve to do whatever God demands in the face of any and all opposition, regardless of the outcome or cost. Then, you must follow through in obedience.
We must order our entire lives under the word of God. This means building in and cutting out anything that is necessary. We must deal honestly and seriously with our sin, putting on Christ and not making provision for the flesh.
We must stand firm in the big moments of our lives, when we know exactly what we need to do and the stakes are high. In those moments, obey God. When you obey God, He blesses that. Even if obeying God means your death, that is going to result in eternal blessing.
As a pastor, this means faithfully preaching the word of God, never rounding off the edges, but delivering it as intended. It means never being cruel, harsh, or heavy-handed but agonizing, in love, over the obedience of your congregation. It means bringing the life of church under the word of God, patiently and prayerfully, that Christ may be the head of that church.
The Cause of Persecution
Godly living leads to persecution. A life set apart to God, manifesting itself in outward righteousness, results in persecution. The world has innate hatred for us because we are citizens of heaven. And yet, its hatred needs an occasion to find its expression. All we have to do to avoid the world’s hatred is become like the world. Though the world hates us, it won’t really feel like it does if we compromise on the truth; accommodate the world’s ways, values, and ideologies; set aside godly living; and become essentially indistinguishable from them.
When the world’s hatred is triggered, we’re going to be persecuted. The mechanisms that trigger persecution are godly living and the proclamation of the Gospel. These trigger the world’s hatred because they testify against the world and the world hates that.
When we testify that the world is evil and live in a way that lends credibility to that message, the world will persecute us.
The Criterion of Persecution
The kind of Godly living that results in persecution is the kind of living Christ displayed. He is the standard of godliness. Godly living is that which flows from living in vital union with Christ, as we richly abide in the supreme and all-sufficient vine and as His word abides in us.
Christ is the supreme authority over every other authority. Our lives are to testify to the Lordship of Christ. And when we live with His authority on full display, conflict with the world is inevitable.
We must revisit the cost of following Christ. If anyone wishes to follow Christ, they must take up their cross and follow Him. You must be willing to lose absolutely everything for Christ.
The Content of Persecution
Persecution means being harassed for your beliefs. But beliefs can never be divorced from behavior. As you live out your beliefs, you will be persecuted. You will come under the oppressive hand of those who oppose Christ.
Our doctrine results in a duty to be willing to suffer persecution. We have been bought with a price, we are not our own. We are under obligation to use our lives the way God sees fit. Let God do with your life whatever He wills.
Our doctrine also results in delight when we suffer persecution. Christ is worthy. We want to join the company of all those throughout history who have laid down their lives for Christ, and we rejoice when we’re considered worthy to suffer with Him.
To prepare for persecution, you must become increasingly detached from this world. Take before God everything you have in this life, until you are able to say, “It’s yours, do with it whatever you will.” Everything you have belongs to God, and you must be willing to lose it all if it means His honor and glory.
This is our mission: that Christ would receive the full reward for His sacrifice. Some of the most fruitful seasons for Gospel ministry happen through persecution—be ready.