Apostles Church | NYC

The Trial of Insults

1 Peter 4:12-19. Peter is writing to Christians living under Nero's rule and the constant threat and for many the painful reality of persecution. History tells us that Nero hated Christians and violently persecuted them (he would eventually order the execution of Peter). We don't have to deal with government ordered executions in our nation (though believers in other countries do, but here we do live in a time of increasing hostility to the Christian faith. Christianity is ridiculed by a fast growing, vocal minority in our culture that desires to silence Christians. A growing number of intellectually militant atheists have unleashed their writings in an attempt to dispel the "Myth of God." These authors refer to themselves not as Atheist, but as "brights," intending to communicate the idea that they are "the smart people who do not fall for silly superstitions." They accuse religious people of being demented, and see religion as a lunatic influence, and monotheism as the "unmentionable evil at the center of our culture."  There is a documentary out in theaters by Bill Maher entitled Religulous that seeks to ridicule any faith as ridiculous and untenable, while at the same time unknowingly making some faith claims of its own. Countless websites like Disbelief.net mock religious belief, especially Christ and those who are faithful to him.
    Now typically Christians respond in one of two ways: cowardly fear or caustic fighting. Neither are biblical responses. We are called to respond to these things in intelligent, humble, compassionate dialogue. 1Pet 3.14-17 "But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15) but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16) having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame." So, we need to learn how to respond, to be prepared to make a defense with gentleness and respect (something that is greatly lacking in those who speak against faith). Those who oppose the Christian faith, want to assign it solely to the realm of values and ideas. Values and ideas are private and subjective so keep it to yourself.  However, the Gospel is historical, a historical person and historical, verifiable events. We have to learn to present those actual events and clearly and intelligently explain their significance for the world. The Christian faith has always had those who lead out well in this area (currently Dinesh D'Souza and Dr. Timothy Keller). But, my aim for this message is not defend the Christian faith. But rather to encourage you from this text that part of the Good Life that God is inviting us into is a life that involves open identification with Jesus and insult for our faith.

Expect it (v12). Don't be surprised If we share his pattern of living, we will share the pain of his sufferings..  Not strange or out of the ordinary. Jesus' own words in John 15.18 ""If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you." This was the course of the one we follow (v.13 share in Christ's sufferings). This one we have staked out lives and eternities on; we have put our hope in; this one we are all in for and follow hard after suffered. His course has become ours; If we share his pattern of living, we will share in the pain of his sufferings. Many of us won't be confronted by militant opposition to Christianity, and most won't be physically persecuted by enemies of the Gospel, but if we live out the Way of Jesus in the context of our global city, we will most likely face insult and criticism. If we seek to honor God the Father as Jesus did; if we speak the truth as Jesus did; if we live with purity of heart as Jesus did; if we hunger and thirst for righteousness as Jesus did; if we are meek and humble as Jesus was and confront sin and selfishness and greed and materialism in and around us, we will share in his sufferings, we will be reviled as he was. You will likely have insults given and sometimes even good withheld. If we share his pattern of living, we will share the pain of his sufferings. Christ was insulted his entire life. He had a death threat on his life before he was two. Born of a virgin, he was accused of being a bastard and born of fornication. He was called a drunk and a glutton; his opponents accused him of having a demon and his own family accused of him of being crazy; He was falsely accused and condemned of blasphemy. His life began with accusation and persecution and ended the same way. If we share in his entire pattern for living, we will share the pain of his sufferings. Expect it. Don't be surprised as if something strange has come upon you.

Rejoice.  The course of Jesus was one of suffering, death and resurrection and glory. He is returning. His glory is hidden now, but he is reigning in glory and will one day go global and public with it when he returns and brings his Kingdom; and when he does, we will be vindicated and share in his glory. Every insult will be erased and every reviling remark replaced with reward. Jesus said it this way, Matt 5.11-12 ""Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12) Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Don't despise this; Don't invite it (much of the aggression is aimed at distortions and poor representations of Christian Spirituality by nut jobs and bad dancers with youtube accounts and self-righteous King James only militants so far right they are completely wrong). Don't invite the trial of insult, but don't despise it or seek to avoid it by becoming covert in your faith. Welcome the trial of insult as an uninvited guest that is a gracious gift.  Rejoice: (v.14) - you are blessed because the Spirit of glory and of God rest upon you. If we share in his sufferings we will share his experience of the Spirit. Verse 14 is an allusion to a passage in Isaiah that speaks of the coming Messiah, Jesus. Isaiah 11:2-4 "And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him (same word as used in Peter and this is what we see in Jesus' baptism), the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. 3) And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, 4) but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;" The passage is telling us that the Spirit would intimately rest upon Christ and endow him with wisdom, understanding, power, knowledge, deep reverence for and delight in God, a discernment and righteousness and justice and an active concern for the poor and meek. - Is 61.1-2 "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2) to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;" This is the text for Jesus' first public sermon - the Spirit was upon him, had anointed him to bring healing to the creation. Jesus' ministry began with the Spirit descending upon him and resting or remaining on him. John's Gospel says that the Father gives the Spirit to the Son without measure. All through Jesus' ministry we see the fullness of God's Spirit dwelling in Him, leading him, empowering him to teach and heal and deliver. Now, if we have Christ we have his Spirit, but we experience the presence of the Spirit in us and resting upon us sometime is great ways and some times in nearly non-existent ways. The question is why do we not experience the supernatural presence of God upon our lives giving us wisdom, comfort, power, making us instruments of his peace and righteousness and justice? Why don't we experience the intimacy of the Holy Spirit empowering us to speak truth, serve the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, and liberate those who are captive either literally or spiritually? Why are our lives marked more by the natural than the supernatural? Partly because we have not gone all in with Christ and fully aligned ourselves with him and His Kingdom even in the face of and at the risk of public insult and damage to our reputation. We have not fully embraced the pattern of the Son of God so we do not more fully experience the presence and the power of the Spirit of God. Peter says to us that God desires to rest His Spirit upon you in a similar fashion to the way the Spirit rested upon Jesus; that you would experience the Spirit more and more like Jesus experienced the Spirit. We do not experience his comforting sustaining joy giving presence and power because we do not live risk-taking lives that desperately need it. There is a direct link in Scripture between insults and injuries of God's people and the increased activity of the Spirit of God among the community. Luke 12.11-12 "And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12) for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say."" In John 15, Jesus guarantees his followers that they will experience insults and injuries in the world because of their loyalty and love toward him but immediately follows that with the promise of His Holy Spirit. Christ-followers experience an intimacy of the Spirit that satisfies them and sustains them in the midst of insult and injury. POINT: There is a depth of experience of the intimacy of the Spirit that is reserved for those who gladly suffer insult and injury for the name of Jesus. For those who pursue a life that is safe and free of reputation risking loyalty to Jesus, they forfeit that incomparable experience of the intimacy and power of the Spirit. So, don't invite insults with offensive and self-righteous living, but don't despise insults that come because you are "all in" for Christ and His Kingdom and have embraced the way of Jesus. Don't be ashamed, but glorify God that you bear the name of Jesus (v16). Rejoice because you will share his glory and you will invite a greater experience of the intimacy and power of the Holy Spirit at work in your life to sustain you and satisfy you and bring breakthroughs in your life.

Trust God and Love People (v19). Peter says while you suffer at the hands of people, entrust yourself to God. And while you suffer at the hands of people, love those very people. This is the pattern of Jesus - unwavering trust and suffering love. 1Peter 2:21-25. Follow in his steps. Trust that God will vindicate you so that you don't have to fight to vindicate yourself. You don't have to have a comeback or win any arguments. You entrust yourself to God and love the very ones who insult you. Christ was dying at the hands of sinners and for sinners - the just for the unjust - so that we might be forgiven, be dead to a life of sin and alive to God; alive to his vision for our lives. Christ was wounded so that we might be healed. This is how the Church was founded - not upon winning arguments but upon suffering love. St. Jerome (AD 347 - 420) "The Church of Christ has been founded by shedding its own blood, not that of others; by enduring outrage, not by inflicting it. Persecutions have made it grow; martyrdoms have crowned it" (Letter 82). This is still the calling for us at Apostles. To give our city not winning arguments, but suffering love. To love our city enough to serve it, bless it, speak truth to it and seek its flourishing even if it should hate us and insult us. We can do that for our city, because Christ has done it for us. He is not asking anything of us that he has not already done. But to love this way, we must trust God completely. "When you know that your future is in the hands of an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise God who promises to work all things for your good, you are free to take any risk that love demands - no matter the cost." - John Piper, Future Grace. This is the Good Life - following in the way of Jesus, suffering with Jesus so that we might experience the intimacy and power of the Spirit enabling us to trust God and love at great cost. If you do these things, you will be blessed.

Closing: Look back over last week, last few days - we can all identify a time where out of fear of insult or loss of face or risk of damage to our reputation, we distanced ourselves from Christ or avoided public identification with Him. We withheld our true identity as a X-follower and leaned toward silence to maintain an image. We are robbing ourselves of the good life and our city of suffering love. Challenge: Look for opps to publicly identify with Jesus and speak a positive word about him. Look for, don't force. Not out of arrogance but out of the pattern of Jesus, a pattern of suffering love.

Read More