Jesus once turned to some of His earthly relatives and said, “The world cannot hate you” (John 7:7).
With these words, Jesus gives us the litmus test of a true church and a true disciple. I wonder how many churches and Christians these words could be spoken of today: “The world cannot hate you.”
Christ is saying, in essence, “You have so brought the world into the church—you’ve so diluted My gospel—that the world embraces you. You’ve become a friend to the world.” James gives us this warning in his epistle: “The friendship of the world is enmity with God . . . whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).
Of course, Jesus was a friend to politicians and sinners. But it is also written that He was “separate from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26). He ministered to sinners, yet as one under submission to His Father. Like Him, we are called to be in the world, but not of it.
“Remember the word that I said unto you. . . . If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). You don’t have to look for persecution. It won’t come because of your job performance, or your race, or your appearance. No, it will come simply because you make Christ your Lord.
Now let me give you a word of encouragement. Even though the world hates and persecutes Christ’s true disciples, we find a growing love and godly affection among the members of His Church. Indeed, that which causes the world to hate us causes our righteous brothers and sisters to embrace us all the more.
In the days ahead, the love in God’s house is going to become more precious. We’ll be hated by the whole world, mocked by the media, ridiculed by Hollywood, made a laughingstock by society. But when we come into God’s house, we’ll be entering a place of incredible love as we love one another as Christ loves us.
It won’t matter what persecution we’ve faced. We’ll be received with these words: “Welcome home, brother; welcome home, sister. Here is where you’re loved.” We’ll be built back up, to continue going out as our Lord commands us, with His true gospel.
A true Christian is loving, peaceful, forgiving and caring. Those who obey Jesus’ words are self-sacrificing, meek and kind.
Common wisdom tells us that it is not natural to hate those who love you, bless you and pray for you. Rather, people hate only those who abuse, rob and curse them. Why, then, are Christians so hated?
Jesus says, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. . . . If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:18, 20). Why is this so?
The Church is hated because of its mission, which is much more than just telling lost people, “Jesus loves you.”
You may draw back in surprise when I remind you of what our mission is. Simply put, our mission as Christians is to take back from the ungodly what is most precious to them: self-righteousness.
The most precious thing to a worldly person is his self-righteousness. Think about it: He has spent his whole life forming a good opinion of himself. He’s built an idol to his good works. He praises himself that he’s really good at heart and kind to others. He is sure that he’s good enough for heaven, and too good for hell.
This ungodly man has spent years beating down his conscience and searing it. He has taught himself to still every voice of conviction that comes to him. He enjoys a false peace and has become so deceived that he actually believes God admires him!
And now, just when he has shut down the voice of his conscience, you—a Christian—come along. And the truth you bring speaks more loudly than his dead conscience: “Unless you’re born again, you can’t enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Suddenly, you’re a threat in this man’s mind. You’re someone who wants to deprive him of his assurance that all is well with his soul. All this time he thought he was okay, but now you’re telling him that all his good works are as filthy rags.
I tell you, this man doesn’t see you as someone who’s bringing good news. No, in his eyes you’re a tormenter, someone who’s out to take away his peaceful sleep at night.
When Jesus appeared to the disciples after the resurrection, He imparted one final lesson. It began when He asked Peter whether he loved Him. He posed this question to the disciple three times, and every time Peter answered yes. In turn, Jesus responded each time, “Feed My lambs—tend My sheep—feed My sheep” (John 21:15-17).
The word for love that Jesus uses here is the Greek agape, indicating selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love. This kind of love says, “If you despise me, I will give to you. If you reject me, I will still give to you. And if you hurt me, I will keep on giving to you.”
Yet when Peter answered Jesus, he used a different word for love. Each time he pledged his love to Christ, he used the word phileo, indicating brotherly love. This kind of love is mutual—it receives as well as gives. Peter was saying to Jesus, in essence, “As You give to me, I’ll give to You.”
That response wasn’t sufficient for Jesus. It’s why He answered Peter each time, “If you love Me, feed My sheep.” He was saying, “My people need help, Peter. Tend to them. Feed them. Give your life for them.”
Jesus was commissioning Peter to a giving life. He knew the disciple was up for it because in the preceding weeks Peter had been broken deeply. What Jesus tells him next describes the very crux of the giving life— brokenness: “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.’ (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, ‘Follow me’” (John 21:18-19).
With this final teaching, Jesus led Peter from a blessed life to a broken, giving life. In so doing, He handed Peter the very keys to the kingdom. Pain, anguish and sorrow awaited Peter in the giving life God laid out for him. Yet, as John’s gospel tells us here, even Peter’s death brought glory to God.
You and I may not get to do what we want in this life but we can have a life that reflects the glory of our Lord’s giving nature. By giving your all for others with agape, you may find yourself being poured out painfully, like communion wine. But in doing so, you will become others-centered, powerful, influential—and the world will see the difference. Your giving life will reveal God’s own glory—a witness to the world of His generous, loving nature.
During the Last Supper, Jesus told His disciples—the students who had learned from Him and been friends with Him for three years—that He was going away. Imagine how upset the disciples must have been to hear such a thing! He was their leader. He was a miracle worker. He was the one with the perfectly wise response when the Pharisees verbally cornered them. When He spoke, He spoke with an authority unlike any they had ever heard. No one had taught like that before.
How could He leave them now when they needed Him most? And more confusing, He said that His leaving would benefit them. “But truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away” (John 16:7, emphasis mine).
That statement must have flabbergasted the disciples. How could it be good that Jesus was going away? This was the teacher they had eaten with, walked with, traveled with, watched and learned from. Any benefit from His leaving had to be impossible for them to understand.
Fortunately, Jesus explained the reason why. “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17). Then again He said, “But verily I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (16:7).
Now the whole picture began to unfold. The Father sent the Son to accomplish a specific work, to attest to God’s love. “For God so loved the world that he have his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God would show that love by sacrificing His Son on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. And after the Son accomplished His work on the cross, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven, the Son would send the Spirit.
Although the disciples couldn’t comprehend it at the time, it was better for them to have the invisible Holy Spirit in them than it was to have the physical Jesus with them. The divine Person who was coming would help them understand everything He had said.
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.
Does there yet remain a small remnant who will fight to rekindle the flame of God’s righteousness? A people who remember the Lord and are willing to take a stand for His name?
The Lord has said, “If I see a wick that’s smoldering, I won’t snuff it out. The flame may be gone, with no appearance of fire, but if I still see embers burning, I will not allow it to go out. As long as I hear even a faint cry from faithful servants somewhere, I will not allow that bruised reed to break” (see Isaiah 42:3).
God has not yet given up on us. But the fact is, we are living on “tender mercy time.” I see this everywhere I travel, especially in Europe. That continent is far more secular than the United States, a land that by its own choice has become absolutely godless. As you walk through the streets in some countries, you sense a spirit of antichrist and arrogance toward God.
Sweden is now one of the most affluent European nations, and the richer it grows the more apostate it becomes. At the same time, the evangelical church there is in danger of growing apathetic in its walk with Christ. Ireland, a nation that for decades suffered crushing poverty, is now becoming more prosperous. Yet the spiritual climate there is also one of apathy, with secularism creeping in.
The whole attitude in Europe seems to be, “So what if judgment comes? Let’s live it up, eat, drink and be merry.” There is no sense of urgency, no need of God.
I believe the Lord is speaking a clear message to the whole world right now. He has the power to stop any potential terrorist attack at any time. He could merely speak a word, and angels would bring down every evil power. Instead, He has chosen to send or permit international calamities, and all are signs that we truly are experiencing His tender mercies.
“A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth” (Isaiah 42:3-4).