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Mission Possible, Part 2


Yesterday, we began looking at 8 lessons that Jesus has for us about our mission in life. We continue our study of this today with lesson #4: we need to go prepared for opposition.  Jesus said, 
Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. . . . Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!

Michael Green has written, “It is bound to come. Disciples who are not being opposed from some quarter or other are in all probability not saying anything worth opposing.”

I once had an international evangelist tell me, “If you want to face opposition, just start preaching the Gospel.”

Why is that the case? You would think everyone would want to hear the message of God’s love and forgiveness in Christ. Unfortunately, not everyone does want to hear that message. To receive God’s forgiveness in Christ one must first recognize that one is a sinner and many people simply do not want to recognize that. Consequently they oppose the Gospel and those who preach it. And so we must be prepared for opposition. As someone once said, “Jesus promises us four things: peace, power, purpose and trouble!”

But there is hope for us even in the midst of opposition. Jesus' fifth lesson for us is that we can go forward in him, trusting the Spirit of God to speak through us even when opponents surround us.

Jesus says, “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

This promise doesn’t only apply to us in times when we are persecuted and under arrest. Jesus’ promise applies to us in all times when we seek to serve him in mission and evangelism.

I first started serving the Lord in ministry while I was still in high school. I taught elementary age Sunday school. And one summer I went with a group of fourth, fifth and sixth graders to Indian Village, a Christian camp in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California.

As a camp counselor it was my job to lead a devotional time for the six or seven boys who were in my teepee. This took place at bed time. Consequently some of the boys fell asleep during my long-winded devotional talk. (I was in training even then to become a preacher!) But a couple of the boys didn’t fall asleep. They had one spiritual question after another. After they had exhausted all their questions and were finally asleep I thought to myself, “Where did I get all those answers?” I knew that the answers had not come from my own brain, but rather from the Holy Spirit.

I witnessed the same thing when I was on a mission to Latvia. One of the young men whom I had trained in street evangelism approached an old man on the street one day after I had finished preaching. Janis engaged the elderly gentleman in conversation and shared the Gospel with him. The man was full of questions and arguments. Pretty soon Janis was answering every one of the man’s statements. Other people were gathering around to hear what this fourteen year old boy had to say. When it was all over Janis said to me, “I don’t know where all those answers came from.”

I said, “Janis, it came from the Lord speaking through you.” Janis was overwhelmed and humbled by the experience. If we step out in faith to speak a word for the Lord he will give us the words to say.

Sixth, we can also go in confidence, knowing God is in control.

Jesus said, “So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Do you know what command is repeated most often in the Bible? It is not: Behave yourself! Or: Read the Bible every morning! Or: Pray harder! Or: Give away more money! The most oft-repeated command in the Bible is the one we have in Matthew 10:26—“Do not be afraid!”

Why shouldn’t we be afraid? After all, Jesus promises that if we follow him some of us will be arrested, others will be martyred, and still others will be mocked and called all sorts of names.

Jesus says we shouldn’t be afraid because eventually everything that is now concealed will be revealed. What does this mean?

The idea of having our private thoughts, words and deeds disclosed is not a pleasant one for most of us. But what Jesus is talking about is the fact that if we keep going for him eventually our loyalty, faith, perseverance and patience will be made known to everyone.

For this reason, Jesus says, we shouldn’t be afraid of the mere human beings who oppose us. However, we should have a healthy fear of the spiritual power of evil that stands behind those who oppose the Gospel, namely Satan. Satan is the one who can destroy body and soul in hell. Therefore we should have a healthy fear of giving in to Satan’s wiles while under attack. We should have a healthy fear of compromising our confession of Christ while under persecution.

Yet, we don’t ultimately have to worry about Satan either. We can go forward in confidence serving Christ because our Father in heaven, who knows when a sparrow falls to the ground, who has the hairs on our heads numbered, counts us as more valuable than many sparrows. So we need not be afraid, despite persecution, because our heavenly Father cares for us and will ultimately vindicate us.

Seventh, we need to go for Jesus, calling for open confession of him. Jesus says, “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.”

Every person whom Jesus called to follow him, he called to follow him publicly. The only exception I can think of is Nicodemus who came to Jesus under cover of darkness. Jesus told him, “You must be born again.” And Nicodemus was born again. Even though he came to Christ secretly at first, he later confessed Christ openly when he joined Joseph of Arimathea in burying Jesus’ body.

Paul says, “If you confess with your mouth 'Jesus is Lord' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

We must confess Jesus publicly before others and call others to public confession of Christ. After all, either secrecy will destroy our discipleship or discipleship will destroy secrecy.

Finally, we must go for Jesus, putting our whole lives on the line because we are following him on the way to the cross. 

Jesus said,
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.
The Lord doesn’t want families to be divided. But he knew that ultimately allegiance to him would divide some families. It is quite often the case that families resent it when one of their members becomes a follower of Christ. Why? Because it makes the rest of the family realize their own guilt and people don’t want to recognize that.

Think of Francis of Assissi who left a wealthy home to live a simple life, imitating Jesus as best he could. Francis’ father was furious. Yet, the Lord has used Francis’ example down to this very day to inspire many others to follow Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was another who followed the way of the cross. He risked his life to be part of the resistance movement in Germany during World War II when he could have stayed comfortably in America teaching theology at a seminary. Bonhoeffer paid with his life because of his commitment to Christ. And it was Bonhoeffer who wrote, “When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die.”

Are we willing to put Christ first in our lives, giving him priority even over our family relationships? Are we willing to take up our cross? Willing to lose our lives for Christ? Are we willing to give even a cup of cold water to the least of these in Jesus’ name?

If so, then we can claim some of the greatest promises in all of Scripture. If we lose our lives for Christ, then we will find real life indeed. If we serve the least of these in Jesus’ name then we will not lose our reward.

A number of years ago the Kingston Technology Corporation of Orange County, California informed its 523 employees they would soon receive an extra special Christmas bonus.

Kingston Technology started in its owner’s garage in 1987. Then, like many other high tech companies in those days, it saw explosive growth. Kingston became the largest provider of add-on memory boards for personal computers. Each year the company practiced a generous policy of sharing ten percent of the annual profits with its employees.

In 1996 another company bought Kingston for 1.5 billion dollars. Kingston’s owners, however, got to retain control of their company. Furthermore, the owners carried on their generous policy of the past. They divided up ten percent of their 1.5 billion dollar profit among all the employees. Bonuses were computed based upon seniority and performance. Therefore the average employee got a $75,000 bonus that year. Some received Christmas bonuses as high as $300,000.

When the story hit the national news Kingston was deluged with countless employment applications. Unfortunately, they were not hiring!

The owners of Kingston Technology believed in giving lavish rewards to their workers. So does God. On Judgment Day the Christmas bonuses at Kingston will look like peanuts compared to the heavenly rewards the Lord will shower on those who have served in his kingdom mission.

As the Scripture says,
No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him.
1 Corinthians 2:9

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