- 1Peter 4:12-19
The Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, honour those who died for their country. Built following World War I, it was expanded to remember those who served in subsequent conflicts. It is a beautiful place, with monuments to courage and devotion, but the highlight of the shrine is a hall containing a carved stone that simply reads: “Greater Love Hath No Man”. The architects designed the room so that every year on the eleventh day of the eleventh month at 11:00 a.m light from the sun passes over the stone, stopping briefly to spotlight the word “Love”. It is a moving tribute to those who gave their lives.
However, more than honouring the memory of those who paid the ultimate price for freedom, the words on that stone carry a far greater meaning. Jesus spoke them the night before He would die on the cross. His death was not for freedom from tyranny, but freedom from the penalty of sin. His death was not to give us a better life, but to give us eternal life. As we remember those who died for their country, may we never forget to praise and honour the Christ who died in the place of a dying world. For there is truly “no greater love than this than Jesus lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13) (Taken from: Our Daily Bread, ANZAC Centenary Edition, Day 2)
There is, however, another love the Bible speaks about. Our Lord made it very clear.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ (Matthew 22:37, NKJV)
How does this love look like? Are there any sacrifices attached to it? Let’s look at one verse.
If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:26, NKJV)
When Jesus Christ called his disciples, He started them to become fishers of men. One of the first discipleship training events is recorded as the Sermon on the Mount. Read the verse carefully, and you will notice that Jesus might have included some bystanders when He taught that time, but it seems as if He directly spoke to the new followers.
Six times in a row our Lord used the word “blessed”. A way to translate it is “happy”, and by extension “privileged”. Up to the last, we might think that becoming a follower of Christ is really something special. But listen to this:
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10–12, NKJV)
In the Upper Room our Lord drove the nail a bit deeper:
If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. (John 15:18–20, NKJV)
Just hours before their Saviour would be nailed to the cross, He said,
Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:32–33, NKJV)
They were there when Christ was arrested, they saw their Master being whipped, they saw his legs gave under the weight of the cross as He carried it to Calvary’s Hill. They heard Him cry in agony as the soldiers hammered the nails through his hands and his feet. And then there was the cry, “Why have You forsaken Me?”
It does not surprise us to find the disciples behind closed doors out of fear for the Jews, even till the third after that Friday. Perhaps they would be next because they associated with Jesus of Nazareth.
Would it be that at that point, if we were part of the disciple group, that we would bale out? But then, what about the all-encompassing love we should have for our Saviour? What about the price of discipleship? If I bale out now, I will betray my Saviour. If I now turn away from Him who loved me and gave his life for me, how would I face eternity without Him?
The Holy Spirit and the Bible
The Spirit brings to my mind the words of Christ.
Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. (Matthew 24:9, NKJV)
Other verses ring in my ear:
You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. (Matthew 10:18–20, NKJV)
But there is also this promise:
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. (John 10:27–29, NKJV)
What did David say when he faced death over and over again?
The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident. (Psalm 27:1–3, NKJV)
There is a cloud of witnesses to spur us on by their example of discipleship.
And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us. (Hebrews 11:35–40, NKJV)
Where do I stand? About that sort of treatment for the sake of the Name of Christ I know nothing—yet! What took them through? What made them follow till the end? They believed God and trusted his promises. The loved Him with all their hearts, all their minds, all their might and all their soul.
The Apostles rejoiced when they were flogged after they refused to be silent about their Lord and Saviour because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. (Acts 5:41)
Sufferings for Christians are nothing abnormal
And wherever the followers of Christ were scattered a pattern developed: suffering and opposition.
That’s why Peter wrote that Christians should not be surprised at the painful trials and sufferings. Rather, we would rejoice. Why? When trials come our way, our being ‘in-Christ’ proves to be true! We are hated because Christ is hated. If they love us, it’s because we are loveable, but not by Christ. James writes:
Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4, NKJV)
Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in [because of] that name. (1 Peter 4:16, ESV)
The Bible is clear about it: the world hates Christ, and they will hate us too. They will one stand in judgement before the throne of God for treading the blood of Christ underfoot and for the way they treated his church.
We might not yet have endured all the hardship the Bible is preparing us for, but the mere fact that we today pray for the persecuted church is proof that there are real, present struggles and battles which have and are claiming life and belongings. Some fellow believers were killed just last week. Thousands are imprisoned, and many more are fleeing to who-knows-where.
My friend, we need to now put our faith to the test and become spiritually competent and worthy of the name of Jesus Christ. We have to, time is running out. Entrust your life in the hands of Him who has overcome, Jesus Christ, your Lord and Saviour. Amen.
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 11 November 2018