John 15:8-16:4, Suffering and Falling Away
A few weeks back while prepping to teach alongside Mike (Expositor) at Fourth Friday Fundamentals, this passage rocked me a bit (in a good way):
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20Remember 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 also keep yours. 21But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’
26“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
1“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.
In two of my most referred-to posts (121 and 135), I reminded folks that God uses the warning passages as a means of grace to keep believers from falling away. Amazingly, I skipped right past using John 16:1 as continued and even more ‘direct’ proof of this very thing.
Imagine the temptation (well….in America most of us have to imagine it because we don’t see heavy persecution for the faith over here – in China and the middle east, there are believers who see this regularly) to fall away from the faith because:
1. Your family has called you a traitor to the state and/or the family because of your Christian faith.
2. Your community seeks to put you to death in the name of God, thinking that your Christian faith is a blight on society and their peaceful way of life.
Actually, to a point, I can take my America comment back. There are people currently in America who do see persecution for their faith. Imagine being brought in to your superiors because you posted Christian comments on the topic of marriage on your blog or facebook page and some gay or straight person wants to call you hateful and intolerant (ironically, they are usually the ones most hateful and intolerant to anyone who disagrees with them – why else try to get any disagreement with them silenced as a ‘hate crime’ or ‘hate speech’). I’ve heard stories of Christian teachers who have been suspended (illegally, I might add) for comments on their facebook pages and blogs just because they disagreed with some stance in the district that goes against scripture. When you’re wondering how bills will be paid, that’s suffering.
Of course, this is the kind of Christianity that the Osteen-Meyers-Copeland-Jakes type of Christian will never know, since all they’ve been taught are motivational speeches with scripture tossed on and not real Christianity. ‘Every Day a Friday’, ‘Your Best Life Now’ and ‘Purpose Driven Life’ Christianity fit in well with the world – it’s non-offensive, makes you feel spiritual and good, but doesn’t call you to repent, follow Christ and also to suffer for His namesake. They don’t call you to reject the world, the world’s standards and values, friendships and more in order to be faithful to the call of Christ. They don’t put you in harms’ way – they just make you feel good.
There is a tendency toward feeling abandoned – “God, why is this happening ? Do you not care anymore ?” when things such as what Christ mentioned happen. And that’s why John 16:1-4 is so remarkably beautiful here. “I have told you these things (coming persecutions) so that you will not fall away.” He doesn’t save us from the persecution – He instead shores us up for hit. You can’t move a house from the hurricane, but you can make sure its’ boarded up and built on a firm foundation way before the storm hits.
A few thoughts. I’ll probably incorporate them further into a part 3 on the warning passages eventually.