Title: The War That Good News Started
Text: Matthew 10:34-39; I John 2:15-17
FCF: We often struggle to see the connection between preaching the gospel and being persecuted for it.
Prop: Because the gospel is God’s declaration of war against the world system, we must abandon the world and follow Christ.
[Slide 1]Turn in your bible to Matthew chapter 10. I trust that each of you are working diligently to secure your very own copy of Foxes book of martyrs. I have seen many post on Facebook talking about all the ways you can get the book for free. As another post mentioned, the Voice of the Martyrs magazine is free also. You can actually subscribe and they will send it to you. Only a few short weeks left in the year, so get to reading. We have been submerged in the concept of persecution for the last few weeks. It all comes from Christ’s words to His disciples as they embark on a short term missions trip. He has words of encouragement and warning as to what they would expect. And the picture is not rosy. Today will no doubt challenge some deeply rooted beliefs. Things that we’d like to convince ourselves about the gospel, that are half-truths and some of them outright lies. That the babe that lay in the manger was not, perhaps as meek and mild as we might assume. I’ll be reading starting in verse 34 of Matthew chapter 10. I’ll be reading form the NKJV but follow along in whatever version you prefer.
[Slide 2] While there is no shame if you haven’t, and I certainly won’t do this every week, Has anyone started reading Foxes book of martyrs? You who have read some of these stories, do you ever wonder, what is it about the gospel being preached that is so infuriating? What was it about the gospel that warranted the acts of hatred done to the early church? First by the Jews, then by the pagans, then by those who claim to be Christians with a false gospel, what is it about the message we have that so angers people?
Well as we have been discovering throughout Matthew – a book aptly named a gospel – the gospel is not as harmless as we may have originally thought. Even for me, studying through the book of Matthew I’ve gotten the distinct impression that this free gift has got some bite to it. This good news – is not without bad news. And as far as bad news goes, it easily rates at the top of the list. Of course, that is what makes the good news part of it all the sweeter.
But today we are going to see something else that will no doubt clash with some of our preconceived opinions about the gospel and even Jesus Himself. Today, we’ll see that the gospel is actually God’s declaration of war against the world system and by extension, all who choose to swear allegiance to it.
[Slide 3] Perhaps you are thinking… certainly not! Well don’t take my word for it – look at verse 34.
I.) Jesus’ coming meant war between God and the world, so we must abandon the world and follow Christ (34)
a. [Slide 4] 34a – Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth
i. There are literally no grammatical gymnastics that you can do with this text to make this say anything but what it says.
ii. Do not suppose or assume that I came to thrust upon this earth, peace.
iii. Do people assume this today? You bet they do. Many people assumed Jesus came, like a greater mother teressa, to preach a message of love, tolerance and acceptance. Even some Christians have assumed this for some time.
iv. So why did you come?
b. 34b – I did not come to bring peace but a sword
i. Of course He isn’t asking for a sword. He is saying He came to thrust the world into war.
ii. But wait, I thought that Jesus had come to bring peace on earth – peace on earth and mercy mild God and sinner reconciled. Right?
iii. Question, Japan and the USA are we at peace or at war? Peace right? But that wasn’t the case 76 years ago right? 76 years ago Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese Navy. And we were very much at War in the Pacific with Japan. So how did we get to the point where we achieved peace with Japan? Somebody won the war right?
iv. Jesus bringing peace through war is a surprisingly consistent theme throughout scripture.
v. In fact, Christmas Eve morning service, the message will be titled “Christmas Verses we think we understand” One of these verses will address this issue head on. So make sure to come back for that.
c. And if we kept reading we might assume that this war is between men. That Jesus came to force men to war with one another. But that is not at all what Jesus is saying in the context as a whole.
d. We have to see this.
e. Jesus is saying that I was sent here, by my Father, as a declaration of war against the world system.
f. All the way back to Adam and Eve we see 1 spiritual race, divided into two. And throughout the Old Testament we see the flourishing of one of those spiritual races and the struggle of the other. But the one that struggled, is the one devoted to God. And at various points along the way, the flood, the Abrahamic Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, God revives the Spiritual race that was not flourishing, and He protects His remnant.
g. And now, Jesus is declaring that He is delivering to the World, to the Prince of the power of the air, to the system of wickedness and to the spiritual race of the serpent, a declaration of war. That God Himself has stepped into the fight because He will not allow this war to go on any longer, He will not allow the glory of His name to be tarnished any more. And we know, that in this, He was victorious.
h. And the ripples of that victory, have crashed through time since the death and resurrection of Jesus and they have been catastrophic for the world and its system.
i. But if this is true, then why is it that there is strife? Why is there division as He predicts there will be. Why is there persecution? Because the battle was not for soil, land, sovereignty or authority. Because Jesus already possessed all of that. The battle was for His chosen ones. Those whom He predestined. He came to reclaim them from their own wickedness. And in that, He was and continues to be victorious.
j. The gospel has invaded and produced a people that are more like their creator than they had ever been. The New Covenant killed what was old and replaced it with a new creation. It broke the heart of stone and formed a heart of flesh. In one 33 year lifetime, Jesus, the Messiah, The Chosen one of God delivered both the declaration of war on and the Declaration of victory over the world.
k. Jesus did not come to bring peace and roses. He did not preach a message of tolerance and acceptance. He didn’t even come primarily to save men from sin. He came to crush the serpent’s head. He came to bring glory to the Father. And it is a subpoint of this, bringing glory to the Father, that we find the salvation of men. Because God can only get glory from us if He destroys what we have become. And oh the sweet beautiful grace to be raised out of the ashes of that destruction to walk in new life as a new creature able to be what He wanted us to be all along.
[Slide 5 (blank)] If this is true – then those who will not repent and will not believe will fight against tooth and nail against this, regardless of whether they have lost or not.
II.) The war between God and the world will make enemies of our family, so we must abandon the world and follow Christ. (35-36)
a. [Slide 6] 35 – For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother and a daughter in law against her mother in law
i. Why division? Why persecution? Why will they hate us?
ii. Because there is no other option.
iii. It is as their nature tells them. It is as our nature once told us – before we were forever changed by the powerful and matchless grace of our Loving Lord.
iv. And it won’t matter if it is their friends, co-workers, spouses or children, they will turn against those whose Lord has declared war on their beliefs and practices, on their values, indeed on their entire life.
v. Our King has declared war on what they want to be. How are they supposed to feel about it?
b. [Slide 7] 36 – and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household
i. Both of these verses are a quote from Micah 7:6.
ii. If you go back and read the context there, you see that Micah probably was not intending this to be a prophesy. And perhaps, Jesus was not intending it to be a fulfillment of prophesy either.
iii. A couple seconds ago I quoted a line from a song “matchless grace of our loving Lord” Would my usage of that conform to the songwriter’s intent? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
iv. Jesus was probably using words they should have been familiar with to drive home his point. And what is His point? That those we care deepest about will be our enemies.
v. Why will it be the ones closest to us?
vi. Two things
1. Jesus is probably communicating the depth of division that the gospel will cause. That not even blood will be enough to keep it from happening.
2. Blood may even increase the risk because it is more difficult sometimes to hide who you are and what you believe from those who are closest to you.
c. This war that God is setting out to finish with His Messiah, is a civil war the likes of which none have ever dreamed. Those who wish to preserve who they are, unchanged – will feel greatly threatened by those who have been changed by His grace.
[Slide 8 (blank)] But in this war, victory has already been won by God through Jesus Christ. It is done. All that is happening today is the ripples from that victory. The reclaimed of God repenting and believing. But one day the ripples will stop. On that day, God’s victory over death, sin, hell and Satan will be complete. On that day, the statements that Jesus makes next will be one way to recognize which army you fought for. And He doesn’t talk about believing a list of facts, going to church, not smoking or chewing, standing up against abortion or homosexuality. He doesn’t mention any of that. Because the disciples of Christ are measured by what they depend on and what they keep surrendering to.
III.) The war between God and the world ends with God’s victory, so we must abandon the world and follow Christ. (37-39)
a. [Slide 9] 37 – He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.
i. Do you love your father and mother more than Christ?
ii. The word love here is not agape which is a loyal choice love – it is instead phileo which means personal attachment or approval. You could say, if you are attached to or approve of your father more than you are attached to or approve of Christ, than you are not worthy of Christ.
iii. Do you want to know why father will rise up against child?
iv. Because all the values and lessons, all the worldview and teachings, all the effort to produce someone that is like them will all be swept away as their child instead clings to the words of an ancient book. Rather than mimicking their parent’s lifestyle and referring to the lessons their parents taught them, they will live to serve and mimic a 2000 year dead Jewish Rabbi who couldn’t even sell what He was teaching to His own people.
b. And He who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
i. Do you love your son or daughter more than you love Christ.
ii. Same word for love. To be personally attached to or to approve of. Are you attached to or approve of your children more than you are attached to or approve of Christ?
iii. Do you want to know why children will rise up against parent? Because at some point in their children’s lives they were parents who tried to convince them that some poor Jewish carpenter had the right to tell them how to live. At some point in the children’s lives they spoke more boldly than ever when reading from an ancient book full of contradictions and poor history and primitive science, and in those readings through the pages of that flawed book they tried to convince their children that they were wicked.
c. Do you want to know why our loved ones will rise up against us? It is because they will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are second. No word they utter, no action they demand, no thought they possess is safe from the scrutiny of that despicable book and that silly god. How dare you tell me my thoughts are invalid as you quote this religious garbage to me!
d. Our allegiance to Christ, will be so solid that they will feel as if we hate them by comparison.
e. Indeed Jesus says elsewhere in Luke 14 – that if we do not hate them by comparison to our Love for Him, then we cannot be His disciple.
f. But our allegiance to Christ doesn’t just leave our loved ones feeling betrayed, its consequences go deeper still.
g. [Slide 10] 38 – And he who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.
i. Friend this has nothing to do with suffering. Yes it is in a context of persecution, but the most immediate context is talking about priorities.
ii. And it does have a connection to persecution – but Jesus is not saying that your husband is a cross you must bear. He is not saying that your job is a cross you must bear. He is not saying that your mother-in-law is a cross you must bear.
iii. Every Jewish reader or hearer of these words would have known exactly what this meant.
iv. To bear your cross is to play your government assigned role in your own execution. To bear your cross meant, that you were to, by force, participate in your own death, by carrying half of the instrument of your death, to the place of your death.
v. There is so much symbolism at work here, most of which the disciples would not see until some time later – if at all.
vi. Jesus has said up to this point. If you love your parents more than me you are unworthy of me. If you love your children more than me, you are unworthy of me.
vii. And If we follow that pattern, Jesus is saying, if you love yourself more than me, you are not worthy of me.
viii. Put yourself to death. Carry the instrument of your death – your wickedness – to the place of your death – His cross – and NAIL IT THERE! Everything that is not of Christ – KILL IT!
ix. Then what?
x. With whatever is left of you – live. Like. Him.
xi. Friends this is another way to say Repent and believe. Reject all you are and depend and surrender to all He is.
xii. Are you sure this is what Jesus means by this? 100%. How can you be that sure? Because Jesus repeats himself in different words in verse 39.
h. [Slide 11] 39 – He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.
i. Seeking and finding are blended in concept here. The one who seeks his own life to the point that he finds it – a progressive and ongoing concept with an eventual end.
ii. Life here is soul or self
iii. So the one who seeks his own desires, his own goals, his own interests, his own purposes, his own lifestyles, his own way… that one, in finding it – in obtaining it – in keeping it…
iv. Will lose his life. Life here is intended to mean the other side of life. Soul. Eternity.
v. Jesus is saying those who fight to keep the temporal will lose the eternal.
vi. But those who deny themselves, those who reject who they are, those who crucify their flesh, those who repent, those who forsake the temporal for the name of Christ
vii. They will find eternal life. Those who allow the temporal to flitter away as they are poured out for Christ, will gain the eternal.
i. Christ came to start a war, and it is one that has already been won. And the victory is ongoing in all who lose their life for His sake. But as more and more come to Him, the world will become even more polarized and divided as those who seek and find their lives stand against those who have lost theirs for His sake.
[Slide 12 (blank)] So what is our conclusion here? What can we learn and apply from this text?
Well very vividly we have seen that Jesus has come to undo what has been done to the world. He has come to declare war on the system that at its core is anti-God. The battle is for the hearts of His elect, for the hearts of the predestined. The battle is to bring salvation. But in bringing salvation to some, others will not desire it. While bringing change to some, most would rather stay the way they are. And thus there is a divide cutting down to the very core of who we are and what we believe. Our values and even our worldview are polarized as people choose to follow Christ or stay who they have always been.
So how do you know what side you land on? How do you know if you are worthy of Christ? Well, where do your allegiances lie? Who is your God? Who do you worship?
That is essentially what Jesus is saying here. And it boils down to two choices. You can worship what is temporal. The here and now. You can devote yourself to family, friends, careers, sports, success, entertainment or any number of other potential gods. You can be wholly attached to them. You can allow them to determine what you believe and how you live. But you cannot be attached to them and be worthy of Christ.
But if you have weighed the cost, measured the loss, and for the sake of Christ you put all that is temporary aside, all that is against Christ you keep nailing to His cross. If you keep rising up from that place of death and keep following behind Him every step of the way – if you cast aside the temporal – you will gain the eternal.
Of course this doesn’t mean that we never have anything to do with the temporal. In many ways the temporal is what we are surrounded by. But we are surrounded but not consumed – submerged but not drowned. It touches us in all points but never penetrates. Can we love food? Family? Fun? Friendship? Of course – but not more than Christ.
Does your allegiance lie with Christ. Does He determine what you believe and how you live. What is valuable to you and worth fighting for?
If you His genuine disciple – then nothing that is perishing can shake your allegiance to Christ. Why is that? Because it is an allegiance that God Himself has germinated in you.
We need this message today because many stripes of Christianity wouldn’t know exactly how to answer the question – which side am I on, the world’s or God’s?
Some would say – well what do you believe? Tell me the list of facts that you think are true.
Others would say – well do you ever remember a time when you asked Jesus to be your savior? If you do, then you are on His team.
Others would say – if you were baptized into the church, you’re always on His team, you just have to work hard to become a star player.
Still others would say that if you are wealthy and successful than that is evidence that you are on God’s side.
And Finally, others would say – What war? There is no war! God loves everyone and He will make a way for everyone to be with Him.
But Jesus’ answer was none of these. How do you know whose team you are on? What do you love most? Because my followers love me most. My followers… wait a second, this will blow your mind… My followers, you ready? They follow me. They need me. They love me. They do what I tell them to do.
Perhaps the most applicable 1 to 1 passage we can go to is I John 2:15-17. Can we go there please? I want you to see that John’s words are almost exactly the same as the way we have interpreted Christ’s words. Look with me. [Slide 13-15]
What does it mean?
If you are loyal to this world – if you swear allegiance to what pleases your flesh, what pleases your eyes, and what gains you power – then you are missing the love of God in your heart. The world and all its pleasures, everything it has to offer, even the good things, it is all perishing. But obeying God – keeping His commands – living in harmony with His law – those things never die.
[Slide 16 (blank) (end)] So what do we do with this today? What can we put into practice today?
Regardless of whether you have never repented and believed or if you are no stranger to it the application is the same.
Deny yourself, reject your allegiance to the world and its system. Its methods. Its philosophies. Even the things that are good and wonderful about this world – it is a ship that is sinking. Don’t cling to the beautiful carpet in your cabin! Cling to the life raft!
Don’t cling to that which is perishing. Reject this world and Cling to Christ – your King, Your Lord, Your substitute.
This is the gospel. And it is a declaration of war against the world system and all who swear allegiance to it.