OVERCOMING HATRED FOR THE SAKE OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD

(Delivered at NEM Conference at the Baptist Village in Israel, April 23, 2006)

Mt 5:9-11   Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.  Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.  Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in Heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.  

I tell people who ask me what it’s like to live as a believer in Israel that Israel is a great place to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, because it’s difficult to be lukewarm about our faith.  We have many first-hand experiences related to the passage we read from Matthew.  The Middle East provides us with many opportunities to be “blessed, happy, satisfied” if we are motivated by the love and purposes of God.  

Rom 12:17-21   There is no guarantee of success in our pursuit of peace or in our peace-making with others, but we are to live in the power of the Holy Spirit in us to demonstrate the truth – the reality – of our faith in Jesus and of His being our Savior and Lord.  

It is the peace of GOD that we have which we are to communicate and strive to obtain with others.  It is a peace which surpasses understanding.  Any other peace will be only temporary at best; only Jesus gives what is true peace:  it is a fruit of God’s righteousness; the price has been paid to secure it; it gives rest to the whole person, and nothing can take it away.  It begins when we return to God through the atonement of Jesus and know that our sins have been forgiven and we have received the Holy Spirit and eternal life.  

In our local congregation, Yeshua’s Inheritance/Nachalat Yeshua, we are each and all there because Jesus has placed us there.  We must learn to accept whom He has accepted, to love one another despite great differences of background and personalities; to forgive each other because we are disciples of Jesus.  In Israeli churches, we have a training ground to overcome natural prejudices towards other nations since so many of us have come from countries that were hostile or jealous of each other!  

The Christians – whether Jewish or gentile – live in not only a non-Christian country, but an anti-Christian country.  Both Judaism and Islam are opposed to the truth of Jesus as Messiah and the Son of God.  Even secularized Jews and Muslims are naturally inclined to resist the gospel.  Our congregation has twice been targets of angry irrational mobs, who were incited by false rumors started and spread by their religious leaders.  This is no different than in the days of Jesus, Stephen, Paul.  Jesus tell His disciples that if hate and persecute us, it is because they first did so to Him.  This is a proof that they do not know God the Father who sent Yeshua His only begotten Son.  To be anti-Semitic and anti-Christian is to be, first of all, anti-YHVH God and His sovereignty.  We are chosen and saved by His grace to glorify Him.  

A simple act of “giving a cup of cold water” to an enemy of the gospel can demonstrate our goodwill and desire to be at peace with him.  After all, Jesus commands us to even love our enemies, which we can only do for the sake of the Kingdom of God.  This is a clear demonstration that we are willing to deny ourselves, pick up our cross daily, and follow the Lamb wherever He goes.  

In Jewish/Arab, Israeli/Palestinian, missionary ministries in the Middle East, which strive to reconcile people to God and to one another, it is the Word of God to which we must all be reconciled and bring forth with humility in our efforts to be right with God and to have His grace working through us.  In such a region of conflict, which is firstly spiritual in nature, we have a moral responsibility to be in agreement with God on any issue, and then humbly seek to persuade others of the righteousness of God.  This way results in joy in the Holy Spirit, when we acknowledge that it is God who has done it!

Questions:   

1.  How does our understanding of what the Bible teaches about the “end-times”, the “last days”, affect our ministry and message of reconciliation, of pursuing peace?  When is “in that day” referring to in Isaiah 19:23-25?  

2.  Does our expectation of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth make a difference in our efforts at peace-making?
   –What if the Master “delays” His coming?
   –What if nothing seems to indicate signs of His coming?
   –Do we believe and know that Jesus will come again?  

3.  If the Lord Jesus is coming to judge the nations, how does this affect our ministry?
   –Calling anyone and everyone to repentance and to believe the good news
   –Being light and salt  

4.  If believers are commanded to love one another as Jesus has loved us, how does this affect our relationships with believers from unfriendly or enemy nations or people groups?  

5.  Would having a personal experience of suffering hatred and persecution for our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ make a difference in our approach to unbelievers who oppose the gospel?  

6.  Jesus said that His peace is not like the peace which the world gives.  What are some of the differences? 

HATED FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE

We previously looked at striving together in prayer for the sake of the gospel; zeal for the sake of God’s covenant; regathering and salvation of Israel for the sake of YHVH’s holy name 

Mt 5:11-12   Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in Heaven; for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.     WITHIN ISRAEL AND THE CHURCH

Mt 10:21-22   Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.  And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.  But he who endures to the end will be saved.     WITHIN FAMILY; CIVIL WAR

Jn 15:18-21   If the world hates you, know that it hated Me before you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own.  Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.  Remember 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 keep yours also.  But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake because they do not know Him who sent Me.   WORLD-AT-LARGE AND ALSO AMONGST PEOPLE OF GOD  

I tell people who ask me what it’s like to  live as a believer in Israel that Israel is a great place to follow the Lord Jesus Christ because it’s difficult to be lukewarm about our faith here.  We have many experiences and opportunities to know and live in the reality of the truth of what we have read in the above passages!  Believers who live in “Christian” countries do not normally consider these verses relevant, and certainly do not understand the truth of them.  We can be “blessed, happy, satisfied” if we are motivated by the love and purposes of God to suffer for the sake of the name of Jesus in our life.  

And as Jesus speaks to His disciples that this hatred and persecution will be on account of His Name, this is also to place Him in a position equal to God, since it is for YHVH God that we are to live and die and give glory.  Moses and the other prophets never said to Israel that they would suffer on account of their names.  

We need to understand that, based on the Law, false prophets were to be killed (Dt 13:5,9-10; 18:20)The Lord Himself tells us (Jn 16:1-4) that there will be those who think that by killing us, they are doing God a work of faith, since Jesus is considered by the authorities of the Jewish religion a false prophet:  one who leads the people away from the God of their own understanding.  Saul, before he became the apostle Paul, was like that.  

It requires a revelation from God the Father that Jesus is Himself YHVH to understand the extent of our sin against Him and those who believe in Him.  Only in this way can we with a good conscience be willing to suffer for the sake of the Name of Jesus and not feel that we are offending the one true God of Israel.  The prophets who suffered for the sake of their testimony of YHVH did so by their own people, that is, by Israelis and Jews.  So we, who are witnesses of the risen and exalted Messiah, are not to be surprised by such hatred toward us without a cause.  And we certainly do not want to give them any other cause!  Let their accusations against us be false, like against Daniel in Babylon, and against Jesus and Stephen and Paul.  They do these things because they do not know God the Father nor the Lord Jesus, even while they profess to be serving God.  

We speak at Passover about the importance and necessity of bitter herbs in our life.  Bearing our cross daily for the sake of Jesus is such a bitter herb in our life; listening and seeing our people or our families be against us simply because we know and believe the truth about Messiah is a bitter herb; to be killed without justice is a bitter herb.  But the promise of Jesus – who has authority to make and to keep such promises – the promise of reward in the Kingdom of Heaven, this gives incentive and power and hope and love to endure to the end. 

All of us, let us keep our eyes upon Jesus and the glory that is His already – and ready to be revealed.
1Pt 4:12-19