May 26, 2024 | Kyle Bjerga

This sermon discusses the early Christian martyr Polycarp and the persecution faced by the church in Smyrna. It emphasizes Jesus’ eternal nature and faithfulness to comfort believers suffering persecution. Christians are called to faithfully endure criticism, pressure, slander, and cancellation through preparing spiritually and living lives that honor God. Believers can persevere through temporary suffering by trusting in Jesus’ promise of eternal life.


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Good morning. If you can go and grab your Bibles and turn to Revelation chapter two, if you’re using one of the black pew Bibles, you’ll find on page 992. In Acts, chapter seven, we read about the first Christian killed for his faith, Steven. In Acts 12, we read about the first of Jesus’s 12 disciples who gave his life for following Jesus. And that was James, the brother of John. And Hebrews 12, we read the hall of faith, and it ends with a bunch of names, and then a bunch of different ways that people were killed for their faith in following Jesus in early church history. And yesterday, this is the average but yesterday there was 13 Christians around the world killed, for following Jesus. We call them martyrs. Because their death is because of their faith in Jesus, that’s why they died. And most of us know the stories of the people in Scripture and, and maybe many of us have read biographies of other Christians throughout church history who have given their life for Jesus. But many of those names many of those people in those faces, we won’t know until we get to glory. And we can see them face to face. Now, the first Christian martyr that we actually read about outside of the New Testament is a man by the name of Polycarp. Has anybody known that Polycarp? Probably not. But it’s an awesome name. But Polycarp was a bishop in Smyrna, back in ad 155, which we’re going to be talking about Smyrna today, because that’s the letter that we are in now Smyrna is still around, it’s known as Izmir, Turkey. So it’s still there. And it’s got a lot of history to it, a very important place back then a very important place. Now. It’s just 35 miles north of Ephesus, and very important Harbor City. So there was a lot of things going on, in the time that the Bible is written, the time that Polycarp was alive. And it wasn’t all easy to be a Christian at that time. So Polycarp is a follower of Jesus. He’s actually also a disciple of the apostle John, one of the last people to kind of know the apostle John, before he passes. And Polycarp is now at the point where he’s a much older man, the apostle John is gone, the first generations of Christians in Smyrna are gone. But what he has is faithful Christians before him who have given their lives through suffering and persecution to following Jesus. And he has been hunted now, by the Romans. He is and ended up kind of going into hiding at the encouragement of people in his church saying, You need to get away from this, because they care about his life. And three days before he is arrested, he has he’s praying, and he has a vision. And in that vision, he is laying his head on a pillow, and the pillow is in flames. And he prophetically says to those who are with them, he says, I will be burned alive. Sorry, I was crying during King of Kings. So this is gonna be a long morning. But he’s arrested, because he will not say Caesar is Lord. He will not worship Caesar, he will not worship the Roman gods. And so the people go after him. And now there’s, he’s an older gentleman. So there’s people that are on the Roman authorities who are like, hey, just say you believe in Caesar, right? Just say Caesars, Lord, renounce your faith in Jesus, and we’ll let you live. You just have to say it. Because they feel for him. And this is what he says, 86 years I have served him. And he’s done me no wrong. How can I bless you, my king, and my Savior? And they continue to encourage him to renounce his faith by just telling them different ways that they’re going to kill him. Well, what if we do this? And what if we do this? And then he says, Why do you delay? Bring on whatever you want. And as he prophesied, he was burned alive, given his life for Jesus now, how could Polycarp be so faithful in the face of persecution and suffering? And I think we get an idea of that, how he did that today in the letter that we read to the church in Smyrna. Because this is before his time, but again, he has seen faithful Christians living in Smyrna, who have gone through a lot. And so we’re going to see in this letter, some things that we hopefully can pull out for our own lives today. And As Brandon mentioned, last week, you’ll see your outline, we’re going to use the same outline for all seven letters in this series. So we’re gonna start with Christ and work our way through but I want to read the whole passage, Revelation to eight through 11. And then we’ll go back verse by verse, So let’s read it together. To the angel of the church in Smyrna, right. These are the words of him who was the first and the last who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty, yet you are rich. I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you’re about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you In prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for 10 days, be faithful, even to the point of death. And I will give you life as your victor’s crown. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches, the one who was victorious will not be hurt at all, by the second death. So let’s first look at Christ. What do we learn about Christ that He is eternal. That’s what we learn here in this first verse in verse eight. Last week, Brandon gave us the background for these letters that Jesus shows up to the apostle John and says, write down these words and send them to the churches in Asia Minor. And so John is receiving this from Jesus, he’s writing it down. And if Jesus is the one writing these letters, he knows exactly what the people in each church need to hear. And so he starts off first by saying something true about himself that they’re going to need to hold on to, for the rest of his message. So here’s what he says, verse eight, to the angel, the church in Smyrna writes, these are the words of him who was the first and last who died and came to life again. So what Jesus says about himself to the church that he wants the church to know, is exactly how we spoke about himself in Revelation chapter one, as he appears to John, so if you would just look over, probably on the previous page for you, and verse 17, of chapter one. Here’s Johnson, when I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said, Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the living one, I was dead. And now look, I am alive forever and ever and I hold the keys of death, and Hades. This is what Jesus had just told John, to comfort him in this moment to tell him who he is. But even before that, in chapter one, verse eight, look at that, here’s God again speaking, I am the Alpha and the Omega, says, The Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. But it goes further than that. Isaiah chapter 44, which we heard read for us just a few moments ago. Verse six says, This is what the Lord says, Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty, I am the first and I am the last apart from me, there is no God. So Jesus calls the church of Smyrna to hear his words, because He is the eternal one. He’s the only God always has been, always will be. He’s the same God. And he’s holding this church tightly in his hands, which he heard last week tightly in his hands. So Jesus self description here, what He is revealing about himself, this divine attribute of eternality says, I have the final word. That’s what it means. Jesus, and I have the final word. So the Smyrna and Christians need to hear this because of what Jesus is going to tell them they’re going to experience in the near future. And he says, it needs to comfort it needs to encourage them through this tribulation, and it can only be overcome. If Jesus gets the last word. That’s the only thing that can truly comfort us the last word over suffering the last word over persecution, and death. So it might look like death wins. But death doesn’t win. It is not the end, Jesus is the Eternal One, he is the final word, so his divinity, the fact that He is eternal, will help his people persevere. But not just his divinity, we also see his humanity in this same verse, because he is the one who died, and lives again. So when Jesus speaks, he also speaks as one who has endured afflictions. He’s endured the persecution and the poverty and the slander and every other form of persecution, suffering and even his own death. So he writes as the eternal Divine One, and he writes, As a man who has experienced what they will experience. So when you think about it, when you’re going through really difficult times in your life, when you are suffering, if you are being persecuted, who do you want to hear from in your life? You want to hear from the people that have been where you are now. Right? Like, that’s what you want to hear from it doesn’t mean other people aren’t saying the right thing, the biblical thing and the encouraging thing, but when that person speaks, and you know, they have scars in their life from going through something, when you know, they see you and they know what you’re thinking, and what you’re feeling, what you’re going through what doubts and struggles you have, when you know that in the person that you’re talking to their words mean more, they have a different weight to them. And there is nobody better more qualified to give this message to this morning Christians than Jesus Himself. And that’s what he wants them to know. I am the Eternal One.
I have always been I always will be I know what you’re going through. Like he can say that. And he can also say it doesn’t when death doesn’t when I when he gets the Last Word. So that’s what we learned about Christ. Now what are we learned about the church? Look at verse nine, we see that the church is afflicted, says, I know your afflictions and your poverty, you are rich. I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but our synagogue of Satan. So Jesus sees, he sees and he knows the affliction that the people are going through. It’s interesting to note, Jesus has nothing against the church and Smyrna. He had something against the church in Ephesus, last week, he will have something against most of the other churches in these letters, except for Philadelphia. So he doesn’t have anything against them. He’s just speaking to the reality that they’re going to find themselves in. And he tells them that even though they are physically poor, spiritually, they are rich. And of course they are. We have every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. That’s what Paul tells us in Ephesians. One, every spiritual blessing. Now this is in contrast to the church and layout of Sia, which we’re gonna look at in the last week of the series. We got a sia was physically, materially rich, and spiritually poor. In fact, this is what Jesus says, he says, You are, yes, physically, materially rich, but he tells them spiritually, you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. So which one would you rather be? Truly, because we are materially rich, if you were to lose everything, and Jesus said, but you’re spiritually rich, would that be enough for you, being rich in the ways that actually matter? That’s what Jesus is getting at here with the church in Smyrna. And he knows this is true of them. But they are afflicted, it seems obvious that the afflictions here are because of their faith, that these are coming because they are Christians. And so there is persecution for them. They are experiencing things in their lives and their families in their church, that are not things that we would want to experience, especially for something that we believe or follow. And we know that because in in verse 10, we’re going to find out kind of what these different afflictions are. But we need to understand a little bit about the relationship between the Jews and the Romans and the Christians back at this time in Asia Minor, where Smyrna is located, because it’s going to help us understand what’s going on here. What is this slander that’s happening? Why are the Romans listening to the Jews? So first, there was an understanding between the Jews and the Romans at this time, so the Romans would let the Jews worship as long as they didn’t cause any problems. Okay, don’t cause any problems will let you do what you want to do worship who you want to worship. And the Romans just saw Christianity as a sect of Judaism, like basis, and what’s the difference between them, like these guys follow this rabbi, and these guys follow this Rabbi named Jesus. And so that’s kind of what they think they have this kind of vague understanding of what Christianity is, in fact, they thought that Christians were atheists. Because they had no idea what in the world they believed in, who they believed in. And that’s what they thought at this time. So that’s what the Romans think. And so when will the Romans step in and do something about the Christians? They will step in if there’s a threat to Rome, if there’s a threat to Caesar, if somebody else is going to come in and try to take over? So what did the Jews do? Let’s slander the Christians. So the Romans believed that the Christians are a threat, that they’re a threat to Rome. They’re a threat to Caesar. So here’s an example of what this might have looked like, from Paul’s ministry. So when Paul goes into all these different places, he goes to the synagogue first, he starts to preach the gospel to the Jews saying, hey, the promise one has come. But what happens when he goes to Thessalonica and preaches in the synagogue, the Jews get very upset. They get a mob of people together, and they take them to the authorities. They say this, these men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here. And Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defined Caesars decree, saying that there’s another king, one called Jesus. So they’re slander is partially true. It’s kind of like that, that half truth that they’re telling because in fact, the the Christians believe Jesus is King. So they’re right in that but what they are not doing is they are not trying to overthrow Caesar. They’re not trying to overthrow the government. They are not going against his decrees. In fact, Jesus says, Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, right, keep paying your taxes, be a good citizen, that’s the Christians are doing and that are actually doing it quite well. They’re taking care of their fellow man. But if they can slander them, and make them think that the Christians are trying to take over, that they’re trying to push that Caesar is not their king, then maybe the Romans will do something. And the slander works. The slander works, because we read in verse 10, that they’re going to be imprisoned and that they’re going to be put to death and who are the people that can do that? The Romans because the Romans are the government Authorities and the Jews know that. So they know they need to go to them and make sure that they are the ones who hand out this punishment. Sounds an awful lot like Jesus, right? Because what did the Jews do? We can’t kill them, the Romans can, they could crucify him. So what we’ll do is we’ll set up a mob, and we’ll get them before Pilate. And we’ll bring up these charges, these false charges and slander Jesus in His name, and what he’s about. And then what we’ll start saying, Crucify Him. And the Romans will end up crucifying Jesus because they are the governing authorities. And they can do that. Because the Jews want Christianity gone. Because it’s dangerous to them. And so that’s why we read this term, it’s a tough term called a synagogue of Satan. They think they are Jews, but they are not. They are a synagogue of Satan. And just a quick aside, here, throughout every generation, and especially now in the news, we know that this verse and many other verses like this have been used towards anti semitism, that people think that these types of verses say it’s okay then to have hatred toward the Jews. And I really hope I don’t have to convince you that that’s nonsense. Because Jesus was Jewish. John is Jewish, Peter’s Jewish, Matthew’s Jewish, almost every single writer of the Bible is Jewish. So they would never write that and mean that, right? So these types of verses, we need to say that’s not what it’s about. But there is a deeper meaning there. So what is the deeper meaning? Why does he say a synagogue of Satan, because Jesus wants the church to know that there is an evil beyond the people that is going after him. That is going after the church that is persecuting him. There’s a bigger plan and a bigger adversary behind all of it, somebody who’s actively working against the will of God. Now the people think the Jews think they are the people of God, they have the promises of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses and David. We’ve got the promises of God through these people. But Jesus says, You’ve missed the promised one, the one who came to fulfill all of it. Which means the Jews at this time are no longer judged based off of their Jewishness. They’re not judged based off of keeping the law, they are based solely on who they say Jesus is. Just like we are today, who is Jesus? You either believe in Him, He is Lord and Savior or you deny him. So we see this in what Paul writes in Romans, look at Romans 223 29, to talk about this kind of change that takes place. He says a person is not a Jew, who is one only outwardly nor a circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew, who is one inwardly. And circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code, such a person’s praises, not from other people, but from God. So you see the change that takes place with the coming of Jesus with His life, death and resurrection. Who do you say Jesus is? That’s the question. And Satan is always in opposition to God. The evil one is always in opposition to God, and anyone who lines themselves up against God lines themselves up with him. Alright, so those are our two options. And so Jesus is saying, the synagogue of Satan, there’s something beyond this and evil beyond this. What does Paul say in Ephesians 612. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. There is a darkness and evil behind this. And we see this play out in the New Testament a couple of different ways. One, jeez, is Jesus talking to the religious leaders, and they’re claiming that Abraham is their father. And Jesus says, Abraham was waiting for the day where I would come. That’s the faith that he had, and you are missing it. So Jesus tells them in Johnny 44, you belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He’s saying you’re lining up on the wrong side.
And then we think, Well, that could never happen to us. And then good old Peter steps in follower of Jesus says, You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus says, You are right, this has been revealed to you from heaven. And then Jesus goes on to say later, hey, by the way, I’m gonna be taken, arrested and killed. And Peter takes Jesus and rebukes him and says, No, Lord, this will never happen. And Jesus says, Get behind Me, Satan. You are a stumbling block to me. You do not have mind the concerns of God but merely human concerns. Peter loves Jesus, he cared for Jesus. But God’s plan was for Jesus to go to the cross and Peter saying, I don’t want you to go to the cross, and therefore he’s lining up on the wrong side. And so for us, it’s a matter of lining up behind Jesus in my life and not behind the evil one and if If I if I’m following Jesus, I’m gonna do what Jesus says I’m gonna follow His word. It doesn’t matter if it’s a merely human concern, doesn’t matter if it’s something else going on, I need to make sure I’m lining up in the same place. So that’s the question. Who are you lining up behind? Who are you trusting? And if I can just say this to the church, those who are opposed to Jesus will be opposed to us. Okay? If they’re opposed to Jesus, they will be opposed to us, because our allegiance is to Jesus, which means we follow His will. And his will is different than the world’s will. It’s different than my will or your will or anyone else’s will. And so if they oppose Christ, they will oppose us, especially as we follow Him. So that’s the reality in the church. Now, what is the charge that Jesus gives to these Christians? He calls them to be faithful. Look at verse 10. Do not be afraid of what you’re about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you. And you will suffer persecution for 10 days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. I love the honesty of the Christian faith, the honesty of the Bible, you will suffer, you will experience it, you are going to go through it you will be persecuted, you can count on it. And if you are not being persecuted, and you don’t suffer for your faith, then you need to ask the question, Am I in the faith? It’s legitimate question to ask because Second Timothy 312 says, in fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. If you’re living a godly life, you will be persecuted. So he’s saying, you will experience this. So the church is not supposed to flee from suffering. That’s not our call. Suffering is not something to be avoided. It’s also not something we should seek after. It’s this kind of weird tension. I don’t go out in the morning and say, Lord, I want to suffer. That’s not what I do. But I also don’t go out there and say, like, Lord, Lord, Lord, please, I don’t like I don’t want to suffer today. I want to tell everyone is that no, we just face the reality. If we follow Jesus, we will suffer, we will be persecuted. That’s what he’s seen here. If you follow me, you will suffer. Right now Christians, on average, they said 13 a day are being killed for their faith, others lose jobs, and siblings, and spouses, and relationships, and possessions and they endure unimaginable persecution for their faith. They’re risking their livelihoods and their lives together around and hear somebody, teach them the Bible. They’re doing it late at night, at weird times a day, in hushed voices as they sing worship songs. So that nobody finds them out and ends up taking away their church and possibly their lives. This is happening around the world. And it’s easy for us to think a passage like this is for them over there. But this is for us to it is we’re not up here. I’m not up here to compare how bad it is somewhere else, and how great we have it here. The fact remains, we are persecuted. As we follow Jesus, it’s just going to be different. It’s gonna look a little bit different than maybe others, others around the world. So how does this letter speak to us today? What can we apply? And there’s really kind of four ways that I see persecution being true in our lives today. And so I just want to list them off and kind of talk about each one for a second. The first one is we’re criticized. As Christians we’re criticized meaning there are people who judge and disapprove of us will criticize the things that we believe and why we believe them. They talk against it, they speak negatively about the Christian faith, about our views. So some of the things you might hear is how could you believe that? Isn’t the Bible, just archaic? And they just criticize what we believe and why we believe in. Or they might say, here’s what’s wrong with what you believe. They criticize. And here’s the temptation that we have in those moments, a sharp tongue and just start criticizing right back. What about your views? Right? And is that is that the way we’re called to suffer? In those moments, the second one is pressured. We get pressured to compromise in all sorts of areas, like this strong persuasion, or somebody’s going to try and coerce us into something squeezing us and we feel it, especially over time, if you’ve been in a job where this has happened, or with a person that says Do you feel that pressure and it just gets worse? It just gets cranked up more and more every time you are with them. And some ways that you might hear this is your faith is holding you back from experiencing something great, right? Why can’t you just give a little bit, just give a little right, you don’t have to get rid of everything you believe just just a little bit here. It’s it’s not going to be a big deal. And that pressure just keeps ramping up The temptation in those moments is to compromise. Right? Or, or we suffer Well, in those moments stand firm, instead of compromising. The third one is being slandered. It’s still they’re still here. So this morning Christians are dealing with, it’s what we’re going to deal with to, a lot of times it comes to those half truths. So here’s where this might come into your life. We believe something that the Bible says, which therefore to somebody else means we hate somebody or something. I disapprove of this, therefore, you hate me. That’s not fair. By the way. To do that, this have to do Yes, I believe the Bible says this, but it has nothing to do with what I think of you, or how I’m gonna treat you, or what I’m gonna say to you, or how I’m gonna love you. But the world wants to slander. And say, if you believe this, you necessarily have to believe that this was slander comes in. In the moment, in these moments, the temptation for us is to go on the defensive, maybe soften the truth a little bit, not push as much. But as that suffering well, and then finally, cancelled. It’s a form of persecution, if people don’t like what you believe they’ll just stop listening to you. They’re just done with it. And I know this gets talked about more in the political world and in entertainment, but it’s actually much more personal than that. Because some of you will probably lost friends, or relationships. Because it’s something you believe. So this person is just cancelled you. I’m done. I don’t want to talk about this anymore. The temptation in these moments, then, is to stay silent. Just stay on the sidelines. I don’t want to cause any issues. So we just retreat. Now, any of these things can intensify. And persecution individually or as a church can change at any time. Think about this letter that’s written to the church in Smyrna. Free long time Christianity dominated. What is modern day Turkey? Do you know what the church is in Turkey now. And the persecution that the Christians have there, now, it’s completely changed. So we don’t know when these things can happen. And so this passage for us is one that we need to be ready to read and be ready to prepare for what might come. And so what Jesus says yours is interesting, he gives us two reasons why he says, Do not be afraid of the suffering to come. cases do not be afraid of the suffering to come to gives us two reasons why he can say that. The first one is that suffering is temporary. suffering persecution is temporary. It says it’s gonna last 10 days in a book like revelation, a lot of symbolism. Could it mean 10 literal days, maybe it might just mean a period of time, but a temporary period of time, like you’re gonna experience these things. What regardless of what it is, it’s not gonna last forever. So don’t be afraid. Instead, hear the words of Paul to the Corinthians, when he says, For our light, and momentary troubles or afflictions, are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes, not on what is seen suffering, persecution, slander, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen, is eternal. So don’t be afraid. The suffering, the persecution is temporary. And the second thing is eternal life is coming. Eternal life is coming. For those who are faithful, even to the point of death, they will get life. If death comes here, what you did for Jesus, by the way, they came for Jesus, they’re still eternal life to come waiting for us endure, because Jesus final word is life. Not death. It’s life. So what should we do then in light of this, so I want to give kind of the big idea. Now I know what’s at the end of your notes, but I’m gonna kind of move it up here. Before we get to that last section. Here’s the big idea. The takeaway for today is Be faithful. That’s it.
Be faithful, that’s what he says here. Do not be afraid of the suffering. Instead, be faithful. So how can we be faithful in the face of coming or maybe current persecution that you are experiencing? Now we have to be realistic, things are nowhere near as bad as they could be. Okay. And so that’s just real for us. It could be a whole lot worse. But we also have to remember that that culture currently is not getting friendlier to the Christian faith. It’s not deciding to submit to God and His Word right now. So we’ve got these tensions to figure out okay, how can I be faithful in this culture today? Again, there’s two big ways that I think we do this number one is we prepare for it If we prepare for it, if you expect it to happen, if you believe it is coming. And we already saw, if you’re living for Jesus, it will come, you must prepare to suffer so that in those moments you can stand firm. I mean, all of us have been in that situation, we’ve been thrust into a place where we have not prepared well. standing up in front of other people trying to show something to somebody and like we’re not prepared and it just all falls apart. In moments of suffering, if it all falls apart, that’s a terrible time for to fall apart. So we have to prepare for suffering now. So how do we do that? Well to tell story about a woman named Esther on Kim. Esther was a Korean Christian during World War Two, and she was arrested by the Japanese and imprisoned for her faith for her refusal to bow to Caesar, right. Her refusal to bow to Japanese gods and war heroes of the past and dead emperor, she said she would not do it. And she showed extreme perseverance. What makes her story more incredible, though, is the preparation she went through for her persecution, like she knew this was coming. So she got ready for it. Now she got ready for it, she would go days without any food or water because she knew in prison, she would experience the same thing. She ate rotten food, because she knew that’s what she would be served in prison. And she was preparing herself physically for what it would be like to be in a prison cell and not know how long she would be there. She wouldn’t have been there for six years. Spiritually, She memorized 100 chapters of Scripture, and hymns, so that she can sing to herself and she could go over scripture over and over and over again, because she knew she could not have a physical Bible in herself. She knew this was coming in, she prepared. And because she prepared, she persevered through six years, not just making it through, but ministering to prisoners and guards, leading women to Jesus. Because she was faithful, she prepared and she persevered. She expected the persecution and she was ready for it. And so when it came, it came to her front door, she didn’t crumble, she didn’t crack, she persevered, and continued to minister through it. So we need to prepare for what this will be like. The second thing then, that we need to do, to be faithful is to live a life that makes people pay attention. Live a life that makes people pay attention, love God, love others. We talked about this last week, love God, love others. And here because the conscious will read, especially your enemies, especially those who will criticize you, especially those who will slandered you, who will cancel you who will pressure you love them. So let’s look at some of those examples that I just talked about. What does it look like in these ways to persevere, to be faithful. So first, if you’re criticized, maybe ask the person questions, start to find out what they actually believe. instead of criticizing what they believe or thinking you know that ask them questions, ask them questions to find out what is it that you believe what what do you think I believe, find out what those problems are, why they don’t like these things, these things. And you might learn a lot rather than going and the temptation of criticizing them. Instead, be interested in them. Right, get to know what they believe first, before you continue to talk about what you believe. What if you’re pressured? How are you faithful in that, don’t compromise. Instead, be willing to accept the consequences. Some of you have, and some of you will lose jobs because of your faith. Now, maybe not directly related to I’m a Christian, so you lose your job. But you will not do something that somebody wants you to do because of your faith, and you will lose your job. And here it says to suffer well is to accept those consequences, no matter the outcome because the job the boss does not have the final word Jesus does. It’s a momentary, tough, not fun situation. But it will end there is life. What if your slandered? Continue to speak the truth in love and demonstrate what you believe. By loving people? Well, we can’t do anything. If we say this and they automatically go over here. All we can do is continue to say this and love them well, and pray that the Spirit gets a hold of their heart. Not to retaliate, and then being canceled. Like we need to get off the sidelines. We cannot retreat back. We need to continue to get in the game. Continue to serve the Lord. Trust Him with your relationships with your reputation and know who you are in Christ. And families if I could just say something real quick to you. You guys know we talked about a lot that our designer film issues raised kids and teenagers that the world cannot ignore that they love Jesus and the world cannot ignore that. So that means our greatest fear is not that our kids suffer or go through persecution. That’s not our greatest fear. Our greatest fear should be when they give their life to Jesus, that they go out and they coast, that they’re ineffective, that they’re apathetic, and that they’re ignored by the world. Because those are not disciples of Jesus. So we need to stop praying that they’re suffering, and stop praying that they’re not persecuted. We praise the Lord that they are. Because that means he’s doing something. He’s doing something in their life, and he has the final word. Lastly, we look at the cheer. Verse 11, we are victorious. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says the churches, the one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death. Who is victorious? Jesus or us? Yes. If Jesus is victorious, we are victorious. And what are we victorious over we are victorious over the second death. What is the second death? For revelation 21. Brandon talked about this. As we get to the end of these letters, we start to see there’s connections made to what’s coming in the future, future part of the letter. So Revelation 21, we have this answer to what the second death is, here is Revelation 21, verse eight, I’m just going to read it for you. It’s not going to be on the screen. Here’s the description. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters, and all liars, they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death. The second death is eternal judgment. It is where you have finally said I line up with Jesus or I line up with the enemy. It’s hell. It’s eternal judgment of God on you because you made the choice to deny the victorious Savior. You were one that thought you were rich, but you are poor. That’s what it’s getting at. That’s what the second death is. This is the harsh reality. If you’re here this morning, you don’t know Jesus as that victorious living Savior, you need to reckon with this truth. It is not a fun truth, it is painful, it is one that you’re going to want to fight against. But instead of fighting against it, I pray that you would look to Jesus and see that he went to the cross for your sins to pay that penalty. So you too, could be victorious and extends that grace to you this morning. So say, Jesus, I trust you instead, I trust you. Now Jesus died, which means he experienced the first death. Everybody in history up to this point who has died has experienced the first death. And for the majority of us in this room, unless Jesus returns, that will be the same thing for us. John Piper says, God is not in the business of saving people from first death, most of the time. He is in the business of saving people from the second death. And that’s what we have here we are victorious over the second death. That’s what we are saved from a far more terrifying death, that judgment. He says welcome in, or you are cast out. So the questions we need to ask ourselves this morning, was we look at a passage like this as Are you experiencing persecution? Are you experiencing suffering for your faith? If you are, then praise the Lord first. Because he’s doing something people notice something in your life. If you’re not, then you need to take a hard look at your life and say, why are people not persecuting me? Why am I not suffering from my fate? It might be because you’re on the sidelines, and nobody knows. And you’re just coasting and going through the motions. And you need to come to Lord and confess that today. Are you being tempted to compromise? To stay silent? To try to avoid suffering? Are you preparing for suffering and persecution? Like don’t be afraid of the temporary affliction. Instead, be faithful to the one who has always been faithful to you, has always been faithful to us. For we close in prayer, I’m going to ask everybody just close your eyes now.
And I want to read these words from Revelation 21 that come right after the news that we just heard of those who deny Jesus, I want you to hear about the riches that you have in Christ Jesus this morning, if you are in Christ, so if you keep your eyes closed, I want to read this and then I’ll continue praying. There will be no more death or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. I am making everything new. Write this down for these words are trustworthy and true, it is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end to the thirsty, I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this and I will be there God, and they will be my children. So Father, God, we come to you this morning as your children, thanking you that we can even call you father, because of the blood of Jesus Christ. And our faith in you of a of accepting that invitation of grace. We thank you Holy Spirit for the work you’re doing in our hearts through the word so that people will look at us and see something different. I pray that it’s obvious that we’re following Jesus, that people see something different. We say, you know, I follow Jesus say that makes sense. I see that in you. They not only see it, or hear it from us, but they see the love that we have for everyone. The love that you had for those who are helpless, like sheep without a shepherd, seeing them and having compassion, and giving your life. So Lord, I pray that all of us would suffer well. That as we go from here that we prepare for what you have for us, maybe it’s this week, maybe it’s months or years down the road, but we will be pushed because of our faith. We will have opportunity to compromise or to criticize others, or to turn all these things back and someone else the Lord help us to be faithful. Because we know what we deserve. We know what we’ve been given. And we want to honor you and the way we live our lives by loving God and loving others. Well, we do love you, we thank you We pray this in Jesus name, Amen.

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