Persecution of Faith I. Introduction:
Believing God – Message 12
September 6, 2020
We conclude our survey of Hebrews 11, called Believing God.
A. Today’s message is entitled, Persecution of Faith.
- Theme verse: 2 Timothy 3:12 (NLT)—Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
- This is not an optimist statement, almost a warning, isn’t it? Is it true?
- The previous passage summarizes the success, the triumph, the deliverance of Old Testament believers by faith.
- [Screen] Hebrews 11:33–35 (NLT)—33By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35Women received their loved ones back again from death.
- But then the tone of this chapter changes, as we see that…
II. Living by faith… (Hebrews 11:35b-40; 2 Timothy 3:12; Hebrews 11:33-35)
A. #1 - Promises persecution. (Hebrews 11:35b-37a. C/R: John 15:20; 16:33; Romans 8:35-38; 1 Peter 4:12-13)
- Hebrews 11:35b (NLT)—But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free.
- The writer refuses to say that this life always turns out well by faith.
- These unnamed people suffered for their faith.
- They could have renounced Christ, denied their faith, and they would have been released; but they would rather die for their faith than deny their faith.
- History records the lives of many who were punished and martyred for their faith.
- ILL. Persecution happens today: The 2020 World Watch list reports that over 260 million Christians are living in places where they experience high levels of persecution.
- 9,488 churches and other Christian buildings were attacked.
- 3,711 believers were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned.
- 2,983 Christians were killed for their faith. (martyred)
- Thankfully, we haven’t endured that is this country…yet, but there are ominous signs.
- ILL.: During the current unrest, protests and riots, churches and religious statues have been vandalized in D.C., Massachusetts, Florida, California, New York, Missouri, Colorado, Tennessee, and Mississippi.
- Destruction included Catholic and Protestant churches attended by different races.
- Among our mission partners, pastors who work with Praveen Chakravarthy in India and Dennis Aggery in Liberia have been beaten and even murdered for their faith.
- God’s faithful are willing to suffer rather than compromise their faith because of hope.
- Hebrews 11:35c (NLT)—They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. (lit., better resurrection)
- Those who were raised in verse 35 would die again, but those who die in this life believing, will be raised for all eternity to share in Christ’s glory and to never suffer or die again.
- People who live by faith, including us, live for the future; we live with eternity in view.
- Hebrews 11:36 (NLT)—Some were jeered at [mocked, made fun of, violently abused], and their backs were cut open with whips [flogging by officials]. Others were chained in prisons [official, governmental, even religious, opposition].
- Remember that it was the Jewish religious leader, the ruling council (Sanhedrin) that demanded Jesus be crucified by the Romans and they persecuted the church. (John 16:2)
- Hebrews 11:37a (NLT)—Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half [traditionally Isaiah sawn in half with wooden saw], and others were killed with the sword.
- We can’t deny our faith, or compromise our convictions, even under the threat of suffering, because Christ has become our identity, the truth that we live by.
- To deny Christ is to deny ourselves, to lose the focus and meaning of our lives.
- These unnamed other Old Testament people glorified God as much as the ones who succeeded through faithful obedience, these others glorified God by obeying, suffering and dying.
- APP.: Would you be willing to suffer for your faith? Would you, do you, refuse to compromise your biblical convictions, even if it means mistreatment?
- God does love each of us—but His plan for each of us varies according to His will and His purpose for our lives.
- God does allow suffering into our lives, but He never abandons us!
- Romans 8:35–38 (NLT)—35Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?... 37No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
- And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.
- APP.: Do you believe that? Do you trust Him? You will only if you know Him!
Living by faith…
B. #2. Predicts rejection. (Hebrews 11:37b-38. C/R: Matthew 5:10-12; 1 Peter 4:12-16,19; 5:7-10)
- Hebrews 11:37b (NLT)—37b Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated.
- Some people were not beaten or killed for their faith, they were rejected and ostracized, driven from their towns, banished to live on their own, alone and impoverished.
- Hebrews 11:38 (NLT)—38They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.
- They were chased out of their communities and forced to hide in caves, not because they were criminals, because they were Christians.
- They did not “fit in” in this world, from God’s perspective, they were too good for this world (as Jesus was).
- They cared more for what God thought of them than what their friends or neighbors did.
- They would not forsake their faith, even if they suffered for their convictions.
- Today, we are not rejected when we fit in, go along with whatever is popular and accepted by our culture, or we just remain silent.
- But when we take biblical, moral stands regarding sex and marriage, gender issues, or abortion we are attacked as intolerant and extreme even by some professing Christians whose faith is conformed to the culture or their own ideas, instead of to God’s Word.
- We must be sure that our opinions and our lives are controlled by God’s Word, not the opinion of our group—this is especially true regarding matters of justice and fairness.
- Matthew 5:11–12 (NLT)-11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are My followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven.
- Persecution is the predictable effect of man’s hatred for God—His standards, His absolute truth, His determination of what is right and what is wrong.
Living by faith…
C. #3 - Prepares for eternity. (Hebrews 11:39-40. C/R: Romans 5:3-4; 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17-18; James 1:2-4)
- 1. Hebrews 11:39 (NLT)—All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised.
- God’s covenant with Abraham promised a people, a homeland, blessing and being a blessing to the whole world.
- These people lived with the certain belief that God words would come true—and this guided their lives.
- Some saw the nation develop, others experienced the homeland, all were blessed through their relationship with God, but none saw the birth, death or resurrection of the Messiah, or the beginning of the church that would bless the world.
- They didn’t receive details about the nature or means of salvation or heaven and eternal life, but they lived in hope, trusting the God who had spoken for whatever lay ahead!
- Sometimes they experienced earthly victory; sometimes they did not.
- Sometimes their faith saved them from death; sometimes it brought them death.
- They received the inner witness from God that He accepted them and approved of them.
- This inner witness of faith enables the suffering believer to endure to the glory of God.
- Knowing that we are right before God gives us the strength to accept all that is wrong from people; it enables us to suffer, even die…by faith!
- Hebrews 11:40 (NLT)—For God had something better [a theme of Hebrews] in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection [tĕlĕiŏō, to complete, finish] without us.
- God has provided something better for us, because we live in the time after Christ has come, so we know that His birth, death and resurrection has perfected, completed, finished our faith!
- The salvation of these Old Testament believers was based on what Christ would do; ours is based on what He has already done! As He shouted from the cross, “It is finished!”
- We celebrate what He has accomplished through the Lord’s Supper.
III. Lord’s Supper: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (NLT)—23For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord Himself.
Bread: On the night when He was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread 24and gave thanks to God for it. Then He broke it in pieces and said, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”
Wine: 25In the same way, He took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and His people—an agreement confirmed with My blood. Do this in remembrance of Me as often as you drink it.” 26For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until He comes again.
Song: Once and for All