Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake

Matthew 10:16-22 ESV

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

Who is Israel?

Jesus Christ sent out his twelve disciples to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And who is Israel today? There is a physical nation of people called “Israel,” yes, and they are the Jews, and under the Old Covenant the Jews were God’s chosen people, his covenant people. But all that changed once Jesus Christ died on that cross and he rose from the dead. For in his death he destroyed the barrier between Jew and Gentile and he made us both one by faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:14-18).

And not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring. So it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring (Romans 9:4-8). For the promises of God were spoken to Abraham and to his seed, and that seed is referring to Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16). And so if we belong to Christ, via God-given faith in him, then we are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3:26-29).

Now the physical city of Jerusalem is of Hagar, the slave woman, because she is in slavery with her children. She is not of the free woman, the Jerusalem that is from above. So those who are merely physical descendants of Abraham are of Hagar, the slave woman. They are not of the free woman, the Jerusalem that is from above. So those who are merely physical descendants of Abraham and of the physical nation of Israel will never share in the inheritance with those who are of the free woman. So, as followers of Jesus Christ, we are not the children of the slave woman, but of the free woman (Galatians 4:22-31).

And Jesus Christ said to the Jews that they did not know God the Father because they did not know Jesus Christ, and they did not love him. And then he told them that their father was the devil, and that their will was to do their father’s desires. And then he told them that whoever hears (truly listens with his heart) the words of God is of God. And the reason they did not listen to God’s words is because they were not of God (John 8:18-47). And “Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22).

But this isn’t just about the Jews, is it? For none of us are Christians just because our parents were Christians, or just because we attended church gatherings from birth on up. And we aren’t Christians just because we were baptized with water, or because we went through catechism, or because we joined membership with an institutional church. And we also are not Christians just because we made a verbal confession of Jesus Christ as Lord, or because we prayed a prayer to receive him into our hearts.

For what did Jesus say? He said that if God is our Father that we will love Jesus. And to love him is to obey him, according to the Scriptures. And what else did he say? He said, basically, that we show who our real father is by the works that we do. He told the Jews that they did what they heard from their father, the devil, and their will was to do the devil’s desires. And they didn’t really listen to God and to his words. For if we listen with our hearts, then we will obey God’s words. And if we don’t, we are not of God.

In the Midst of Wolves

So, when Jesus sent his disciples to the “lost sheep of Israel,” he was sending them out as sheep in the midst of wolves. And he told them the kinds of things they would experience among “the lost sheep of Israel,” i.e. in the midst of wolves. Now this was not saying that everyone would treat them this way, for the previous verses seem to indicate that some would receive them and some would reject them. And who were “the lost sheep of Israel”? They were the Jews who had not believed in Jesus, and therefore they were not true believers in God, although they professed to be.

So, who might be “the lost sheep of Israel” today? Well, since “Israel” now is those who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, whether Jew or Gentile by physical birth, then they would be those who make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, but who, by their practices, deny him. They are those who profess faith in Jesus with their lips, but who are still lost in their sins because they did not die with Christ to sin, and so they were not raised with Christ to walk in newness of life in him, and so they were never born of the Spirit of God, and so they do not have the life of Christ within them.

So, from some of them we can expect that we will experience mistreatment. And if we are truly following Jesus Christ with our lives, and if we are living holy lives to the glory of God, and if we are sharing the truth of the gospel with people, and if we are exposing the fruitless deeds of darkness, then many of those who make superficial professions of faith in Jesus Christ may come against us. And we may be invited out of their gatherings because they don’t want to hear the truth, but they want to believe the lies.

And they may attack us and criticize us and falsely accuse us of things we did not do because they truly are rejecting Jesus Christ and the truth of the gospel in favor of the lies which permit them to continue in their sins without guilt and without remorse and with no fear of punishment. But in those moments we are to trust the Holy Spirit to give us the words in response to them, so we should not be too quick in our responses, but we should pray for the wisdom of God in knowing what to say, and what not to say.

And we will be betrayed even by family members, and by friends and neighbors and others who profess faith in Jesus Christ. And we will be hated and persecuted, even by others who profess faith in Christ. And there we will need the wisdom of God in knowing what to do in response. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Did you hear that? We have to endure to the end, and not just in enduring persecution, but we must continue in our walks of faith and obedience to the Lord for us to be saved from our sins and to have eternal life with God in the end.

[Matt 7:21-23; Matt 24:9-14; Lu 9:23-26; Rom 1:18-32; Rom 2:6-8; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-14,24; Rom 12:1-2; Rom 13:11; 1 Co 6:9-10,19-20; 2 Co 5:10,15,21; 1 Co 1:18; 1 Co 15:1-2; 2 Tim 1:8-9; Heb 9:28; 1 Pet 1:5; Gal 5:16-21; Gal 6:7-8; Eph 2:8-10; Eph 4:17-32; Eph 5:3-6; Col 1:21-23; Col 3:5-17; 1 Pet 2:24; Tit 2:11-14; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6,24-25; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Heb 3:6,14-15; Heb 10:23-31; Heb 12:1-2; Rev 21:8,27; Rev 22:14-15]

For Our Nation

An Original Work / September 11, 2012

Bombs are bursting. Night is falling.
Jesus Christ is gently calling
You to follow Him in all ways.
Trust Him with your life today.
Make Him your Lord and your Savior.
Turn from your sin. Follow Jesus.
He will forgive you of your sin;
Cleanse your heart, made new within.

Men betraying: Our trust fraying.
On our knees to God we’re praying,
Seeking God to give us answers
That are only found in Him.
God is sovereign over all things.
Nothing from His mind escaping.
He has all things under His command,
And will work all for good.

Jesus Christ is gently calling
You to follow Him in all ways.

Men deceiving: We’re believing
In our Lord, and interceding
For our nation and its people
To obey their God today.
He is our hope for our future.
For our wounds He offers suture.
He is all we need for this life.
Trust Him with your life today.

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