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As I preached through Matthew 10:16-33 this week, I was reminded of this passage from John Piper’s Future Grace (pg. 346):

In Ermelo, Holland, Brother Andrew told the story of sitting in Budapest, Hungary, with a dozen pastors of that city, teaching them from the Bible.  In walked an old friend, a pastor from Romania who had recently been released from prison.  Brother Andrew said that he stopped teaching and knew that it was time to listen.

After a long pause the Romanian pastor said, “Andrew, are there any pastors in prison in Holland?”  “No,” he replied.  “Why not?” the pastor asked.  Brother Andrew thought for a moment and said, “I think it must be  because we don’t take advantage of all the opportunities God gives us.”  Then came the most difficult question.  “Andrew, what do you do with 2 Timothy 3:12?”  Brother Andrew opened his Bible and turned to the text and read aloud, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  He closed his Bible slowly and said, “Brother, please forgive me.  We do nothing with that verse.”

I’m afraid that living in a prosperous, Christ-haunted American culture allows us to do nothing with 2 Timothy 3:12.  I was reminded of this very fact in my own life this week.  Our ice maker has been broken for a while, so we’ve had to buy ice trays and continually fill them up.  I got frustrated when I went to fill my cup with ice, only to find out that all the ice trays had been emptied, but no one had filled them up – no ice!  Then I read the story of Asia Bibi in the New York Post: the Christian woman in Pakistan who was essentially arrested because she was thirsty and drank water from a Muslim-owned well.  I got upset over lack of ice; she was arrested because she lacked water and quenched her thirst from a Muslim well.  As American Christians we need to consider 2 Timothy 3:12 and many other passages that remind us that it is not only granted to us to believe but also to suffer for the sake of Christ (Philippians 1:29).  One such passage is Matthew 10:16-33.

Expecting Persecution

Jesus reminds us in Matthew 10:16 of the environment of mission – we are sent out as sheep in the midst of wolves.  You have to pause and consider the imagery: defenseless sheep in the midst of a hungry pack of wolves ready to devour.  To be sure, Jesus is speaking directly to the twelve about to embark on their Galilean mission, but he is also speaking of a time beyond this particular mission, a time after his resurrection as we see in the book of Acts.  Jesus’ followers are sent on mission in the midst of a hostile environment.

Why the hostility?  Because mission is a warfare declaration in which we announce the arrival of King Jesus and call people to change allegiances.  We are calling on people everywhere to renounce their loyalties to whatever kings and kingdoms they serve and to bow down to King Jesus instead (Psalm 2).  Then, we are to train these new recruits to be faithful subjects in the heavenly kingdom (Matthew 5-7) and faithful soldiers in King Jesus’ army (2 Timothy 2:3).

It’s important to note that our battle is not against people, for “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).  In other words, we are making war on this cosmic evil kingdom and its king.  But, “we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raided against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

Our weapon is the gospel which reminds all people everywhere that King Jesus has come and humbled himself as a servant to receive the death penalty on behalf of sinners in order deliver them from the bondage that the evil king has over them (Hebrews 2:14-18).  We announce our king and call on people to renounce theirs!

So, mission is warfare.  We are “dropped” into a war zone where the cosmic evil powers want to destroy us and will do so by blinding the minds of unbelievers and using religious and governing authorities to do so (Matthew 10:17-18).  Therefore, we should expect persecution.

Brothers, what do we do with 2 Timothy 3:12?  Let us prepare ourselves and our people to face persecution whenever it may come.

Categories : Missions, Resources, Sermons

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