The Cost of Discipleship
The Cost of Discipleship
Just so that you understand; a disciple is not someone who followed Jesus two thousand years ago. The Biblical concept of discipleship is that we are all disciples. Matthew 28:19 says, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations…” the word there “matheteo” literally means “make disciples.” So the church is in the disciple-making business, meaning all of us are to be disciples. That begs the question, “What attitude is the disciple to have, how should he conduct himself and what should he expect?” Jesus deals with this in chapter 10. Last week we looked at the attitude the disciple is to have as they go out into the world. The attitude that we are going out as sheep in the midst of wolves, and that we are to conduct ourselves with wisdom.
In the section we are looking at today, Jesus guarantees persecution. He describes the persecution, promises provision, and tells us a little our how we are to act.
ILL: John Wesley was riding along a road one day when it dawned on him that three whole days had passed in which he had suffered no persecution. Not a brick or an egg had been thrown at him for three days.
Alarmed, he stopped his horse, and exclaimed, “Can it be that I have sinned, and am backslidden?”
Slipping from his horse, Wesley went down on his knees and began interceding with God to show him where, if any, there had been a fault.
A rough fellow, on the other side of the hedge, hearing the prayer, looked across and recognized the preacher. “I’ll fix that Methodist preacher,” he said, picking up a brick and tossing it over at him. It missed its mark, and fell harmlessly beside John. Whereupon Wesley leaped to his feet joyfully exclaiming, “Thank God, it’s all right. I still have His presence.”
Let’s answer a few questions today.
Where is the persecution coming from?
I. Expect Persecution from Two Areas (17-18)
A. You will suffer religious persecution
One of the ways that we can be wise as serpents is to “beware of men.” We are to be on guard, knowing what can happen. We live in which there are two underlying spiritual worlds at war. The world is never a friend of Christ or his disciples and never will be, so be aware.
Jesus was under constant persecution. The Bible says that the religious leaders criticized Him for claiming to forgive sins, for eating with publicans and sinners, for healing on the Sabbath and many other things. Jesus response was not one of fear and neither should our response be fear.
We will suffer religious persecutions. Jesus said that we will be “delivered up to councils.” In the passion story, Jesus was delivered up to different courts for trial. The word there is literally, “handed over.” “Councils” is the word “Sanhedrin.” A Sanhedrin is a religious court. The Sanhedrin was the counsel of 70 that presided in Jerusalem, but every synagogue had its own court; its own “Sanhedrin.” You can tell this was a religious court because the Bible refers to scourgings in the Synagogue.
Paul before he was converted participated in such scourgings and persecutions. He dragged people out of their housed and imprisoned them. Years later he had experienced scourgings 5 different times.
There are still religious courts around the world today. Rome still has a religious court, the Muslims have religious courts and so do the Mormons. We would suffer a different form of religious persecution today that to stand before a court.
Revelation tells us that hostility towards Christians will continue and masses of people will be killed. Today the vandalizing of missionaries, their intimidation and murder are all part of the persecution that Jesus tells about. Just three weeks ago we Heather and I heard of a young missionary who is from the board in Memphis, who beaten so badly in a city in Africa, that they flew him home to the State just to recover.
B. You will suffer governmental persecution
Other run-ins with the law will occur with secular courts of Gentiles. These encounters with both religious and governmental authorities is amply illustrated in Acts (4:1–22; 5:17–41; 6:12–8:3; 12:1–19; 16:19–40; 21:27–28:31) and later church history. It is interesting that Jesus never views this persecution as negative. He views it in a positive light look at what he said. Christians will be brought before pagan governors and kings as a “testimony.” Literally “witnesses” for God. Consider how Paul viewed his imprisonment in Philippians 1:12-18 "But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice." (Philippians 1:12-18, KJV).
Last week I demonstrated the persecution in the United States on churches and Christians. It was that way from the time of Christ on. We could name Pilate, Felix, Festus, Agrippa, Herod, Nero and so on. There is a very good reason for this persecution according to Jesus, “For my name’s sake” is the reason. Satan will always oppose the Kingdom of God. If you publicly name the name of Jesus Christ, you become a target by Satan. Satan reacts to God’s Kingdom in proportion to its success.
As Christianity began to spread throughout the empire, Rome became especially fearful of its slaves. Because of their great numbers (perhaps as many as 60 million) slaves had long posed the threat of rebellion. They were not permitted to marry free citizens, even free men in the lowest level of society, because slaves were considered less than persons. But when slaves and free Romans alike became Christians, they discovered there was no longer any barrier between them, that they were equal in Christ. Christianity therefore came to be looked on as a threat to the entire Roman social system and economy, and consequently false charges were repeatedly made against Christians. They were accused of cannibalism because they claimed to eat Christ's body and drink His blood during the Lord's Supper. They were accused of immorality in their love feasts and of promoting revolution by preaching about Christ's return to establish His earthly kingdom. Many were martyred.
Throughout church history, various governments have been involved in persecuting the church, sometimes for purely political reasons and sometimes as an enforcer of state-recognized religion. During modern times, communist governments alone have slaughtered millions of Christians and persecuted and imprisoned countless millions more. Because atheism is a central tenet of Communism, it has always sought to suppress and eliminate religion, especially Christianity.
In the end times persecution of the saints will reach its climax, both by religion and by government, and will apparently be wielded as one great powerful arm of the Antichrist. The beast that will come "up out of the sea" will shout "blasphemies against God" and will "make war with the saints and to overcome them; and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him" (Rev. 13: 1, 6-7).
Although government is established by God to preserve social order, it has become an instrument of Satan to promote his own work and to oppose the Lord’s. Government is ordained by God but manipulated by Satan; and Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel all report demonic forces behind governments that were especially wicked. When its citizens turn away from the Lord and His standards, even the freest and most democratic of governments, including that of our own United States, will eventually inhibit the free expression and practice of the Christian faith in hostility to Christ and His Word.
This brings us to another question: Am I promised help?
II. God Promises help (19-20)
Jesus tells us to “take no thought” or do not worry when we are persecuted in thins manner. Remember we have a comforter that will provide for us what we should speak, when we are being persecuted.
Interrogation need not terrify Christians, even when their lives may be on the line. Relatively uneducated Christians would naturally have felt most inadequate when pitted against the professional prosecutors known for their rhetorical skill. Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will give these believers the right words and enable them to proclaim his word boldly.
Using this verse as a proof text for avoiding careful study and preparation for normal preaching and teaching ministries clearly violates its context, although it does remind us that without the power of the Spirit human rhetoric accomplishes nothing of eternal value. The necessary balance between anxiety and apathy closely parallels Jesus’ teaching on “worry” about food, drink, and clothing in 6:25–34.
III. Expect Opposition (21-22)
Opposition for our testimony doesn’t stop with religious and governmental persecution. Jesus tells us to expect opposition from diverse areas.
A. Opposition from family
The sentimental sayings you see on cards and in craft shops, would lead us to believe that family is a safe harbor from opposition and persecution. Those of you who have become Christians and are from a non-Christian family know that family can be the worst source of persecution. Jesus said that it can be as bad as family members leading their own to death.
B. Opposition from society
Verse 22 tells us that we can expect to be “hated of all men.” That phrase doesn’t mean that because we are Christians all men will hate us. The word “all” means “all kinds” of men. We will be opposed by all kinds of men. This should be expected since there are two opposing forces working against each other. Consider these verses: "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." (Romans 8:7, KJV). "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." (James 4:4, KJV) There is hostility between lost people and Christians that is as innate at the hostility between dogs and cats. It is just part of their nature.
ILL: Garrison Keillor of Prairie Home Companion fame was so irate after the reelection of George Bush that his opening dialogue was on calling for all “born-again Christians” to be stripped of their right to vote.
When life is going well you don’t really know what is inside of you. God guarantees though that when things get tough, the true colors of your faith will be known.
IV. Expect to Work (23)
In his book Spiritual Depression, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones tells about a young girl in the days of the Covenanters in Scotland. She was going to attend a Communion Service held by the Covenanters on a Sunday afternoon, a service that was absolutely prohibited under the law.
The soldiers of the King of England were looking everywhere for people who were going to meet together and partake in this Communion Service, and as this girl turned a corner on her way she came face to face with a band of soldiers, and she knew she was trapped.
For a moment she wondered what she was going to say. She was unwilling to lie, but it would be deadly to tell the truth. But immediately on being questioned, she found herself answering: “Mt Elder Brother has died and they are going to read His will this afternoon, and He has done something for me and has left something for me, and I want to hear them read the will.” And they allowed her to go on.