THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP – 1

Bible Reading: John 15:18-16:4; 1 Peter 4:12-19

John’s record of Jesus’ public ministry ended at chapter twelve. Chapters thirteen to twenty cover just a week of the life of Jesus, and in four of those chapters He is preparing His disciples for His death and departure. These were the last teachings of Jesus, specifically to His disciples before His death.

His themes are clear and can be summarised in the following way:

The importance of servanthood

                    His relationship with His Father

                    The promise of the Holy Spirit

                    Knowing continually His peace

                    Abiding in Him and bearing fruit

                    The world’s hatred and persecution

Jesus made it very clear that the disciple is not above His master, and as He would suffer so they also would suffer persecution. In the conclusion of this section of John’s Gospel, Jesus said to His disciples, “Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” [John 16:32-33]. There would be battles but the ultimate victory is assured!

Persecution comes in various forms. Sometimes it is full-on physical brutality, and at other times more subtle mental or emotional rejection. It is important to understand that it is Christ in us who is hated by the world and persecuted. When He does not shine through us neither the world nor the devil care. Peter made it clear that we are reproached for the name of Christ, and that suffering because of our sin, lack of wisdom or unpleasant behaviour is not suffering for Christ [1 Peter 4:15-16].

Wang Ming Dao was one of the great leaders of the Chinese Church. After he was arrested for “crimes against the State” Ming Dao was offered freedom if he would simply renounce Jesus Christ. He did renounce Jesus under the pressure of torture and was released. As he returned to his church he began to realise the awfulness of what he had done, confessed his failure in front of his church and repented. He was rearrested and spent more than twenty years in prison. We will take a closer look at persecution and what it means in our reading tomorrow.

Questions:

Why do you think it is that people who really honour and exalt Jesus Christ in their lives suffer persecution?

Based on our reading today can you give some reasons why unbelievers might persecute disciples of Jesus Christ?

Paul wrote, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” [2 Timothy 3:12]. How would you interpret that verse?