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A Courageous Heart Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
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April 22, 2022 1:00 am

A Courageous Heart Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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April 22, 2022 1:00 am

We all have experienced naysayers or even outright enemies. But for believers, we can expect to be persecuted because of our relationship to Christ. The better the world understands Christ, the more they will hate Him. In this message, we face the reactions as well as the reasons Christians face persecution. How should we respond when we’re attacked for believing in Jesus? 

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. We run life's race through a thicket of naysayers and outright enemies. In fact, Jesus said that believers would be hated by the world. Today, how we should respond when we're attacked for just believing in Jesus.

Stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, it seems that attacks on Christians and the Christian faith are intensifying more and more. That's right, Dave, and when you think of this sermon that Jesus Christ preached to the disciples, the discussion that he had with them in the upper room, when you think of that, consider all of the themes that are covered. Themes, you know, such as heaven, the Holy Spirit, peace, but also persecution. Jesus made it very clear that because they hate me, they will hate you. Now, it's very important to emphasize that we should not hate back, but the fact is we can expect resistance and Jesus prepared his disciples for that. That's why I wrote the book entitled Prepare Your Heart for an Uncertain Future. It's really in some sense an exposition of the upper room that covers all of these topics to give us encouragement, to give us direction, and to give us hope. For a gift of any amount, it can be yours.

Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Prepare your heart for an uncertain future. You know, if you were to stand at the corner of State in Madison and ask people what they thought of Jesus, probably most would be very positive. People would say, well, he was a good teacher. He taught us how to love.

Everybody knows that. And they'd probably think that he was a very, very nice man. The problem is that if that's all that he was, he would be a liar, would be demeaning of him.

Could I give you today an axiom that I don't ever want you to forget? And that is this, that the better the world understands Christ, the more they will come to hate him. You see, the reason that Hollywood can come up with some movies and people can write some books who are not believers and say wonderful things about Jesus is because they misunderstand him. If they understood him, they would reject the centrality of his message.

Because there are two conflicting philosophies with very little common ground. What Jesus loves, the world hates. What the world hates, Jesus loves. Now when we speak of the world, we mean the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. It's that whole system of the world apart from God, the values of the world.

And as a result of that, worldly people, and that's another name for unbelievers, have a certain set of values and they dislike very much the implications of the Christian faith and what Jesus is all about. At root, the conflict is between Satan and God. F. B. Myers said, between such irreconcilable opposites as the church and the world, there cannot be but antagonism and strife. Each treasures and seeks what the other rejects as worthless. Each is devoted to the ends that are inimical to the dearest interest of the other. The world and God, in fact, it says that you cannot love the world and God simultaneously. There is this conflict.

And today we see it in terrifying clarity in our text. We're going to talk about the relationship that we have to the world and we're going to end with the optimistic knowledge that at the end of the day, Jesus triumphs and because he does, we do too. Take your Bibles and turn to the 15th chapter of John's Gospel, John chapter 15, and what we're going to do is to see this basic principle. Jesus just told the disciples that they were his friends and we too are his friends because he brings us into the inner circle and tells us the secrets of God. Having told them that, what he's saying is, and here's the basic premise now, that the way in which the world responded to me is the way the world will respond to you. To be a friend of Jesus means that we get the same reaction from the world as Jesus got. He'll say in a moment that a servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they'll persecute you too.

So that's the direction that this message is going. So what are the responses that we get from the world and how do we respond to those responses, which is really the essence of our message today? First of all, we will be hated by the world.

I'm picking up it in verse 18 of John 15. If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belong to the world, it would love its own.

As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That's why the world hates you. Well, let me say first of all that the world is actually very apt to hate anyway. If you have values such as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, why there's so much conflict and antagonism and jealousy and betrayal that the world very naturally hates. Hatred, the potential of it is in every human heart. But why hate Jesus?

A couple of reasons. First of all, because he exposed the world. He exposed it.

He himself said he said, I am the light of the world, and people hate the light. Someone has said that when dirty men, and all of us are dirty, and that includes women too, speaking of mankind I'm sure, let's be equal opportunity employers at this point. Someone has said that dirty people, let's put it that way, in the presence of Jesus either must get cleaned up or they must reject him. You know, people don't like someone who exposes them.

We've had instances here in the city of Chicago where people perhaps exposed what was happening in the fire department, or people expose what happens in a factory when tires aren't made according to specifications, and those who are in charge absolutely loathe people like that and sometimes ostracize them or punish them because we're supposed to keep all of our little dirty secrets to ourselves. Jesus comes along and exposes all of us, and in his presence we cannot stand. We must kneel, we must bow, and we must say that my sin has found me out, and none of us likes the process, but none of us likes it, but the world absolutely hates it. Why did Cain kill Abel? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's deeds were righteous, and there's the antagonism going right back to the beginning. So Jesus comes along and exposes their sin. He also judges the sin of the world.

I'm picking it up now at verse 22 where he says these words. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my father as well. If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen these miracles and yet they have hated both me and my father.

Wow. Jesus doesn't mean to say that if he had not come these people would have been sinless. What he's saying is is that his coming highlighted their sin. His coming was a light that shone into the darkness and as a result the sin was exposed. It became evident.

It took it from under the rock so to speak and it brought it into daylight. Jesus is saying that he has robbed the world of any excuse that they might have about their sin. The Old Testament you see revelations of God. You see God coming sometimes in fury and even in glory, but that's nothing in comparison to the New Testament where Jesus comes. God who in various ways and sundry times spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, it says in the book of Hebrews, as in these last days spoken unto us by his son, the blazing light of God's revelation was found in Jesus and now they have no excuse. Their sin is exposed.

It is highlighted because of the coming of Christ. So Jesus said don't be so surprised if the world hates us. Now what form should this hatred take? Should we be antagonistic with the world? No, we don't have to spark that kind of antagonism.

It exists there already. Is really the issue of prayer in schools or even prayer before football games that antagonizes the world, is that really the battle that should be fought? I don't think that that's the battle that should be fought today. I think that it would be wonderful if we had prayer in schools if everybody believed in God and in Jesus so that we could close the prayer in Jesus' name, but some kind of a nebulous prayer, whoever you are up there, please help us, et cetera.

That's not really what we ask. What we ought to be doing, by the way, is making sure that rather than fighting that battle that we have prayer in our churches and that we have big prayer meetings and that we have prayer in our homes where we see God. Where then is the battle fought?

Well, let me just look into your eye today and I hope that no matter how far back you are sitting, you can see at least my face, if not my eyes, because I'm speaking to you even as I speak to me. The battle is fought in every factory, in every home, in every bank, in every place where you find yourself and you live that life of integrity and you will not compromise and you will not participate in the things that the people there are participating in and even though you are ill thought of and whispered about and called names, you represent Jesus where he planted you and you say, I will joyfully, and that's a key word now, I will joyfully accept the hatred of the world. Jesus said if they hated me, they're going to hate you too. Why, where did we get this idea?

It's an American idea, largely here in the West where democracy has been very hospitable to the Christian faith. We get the idea somehow that the world is supposed to accept us and love us and think that we are just as cool as they are and so what do we do? We do everything that they do to make us think of how wonderful we are and we lose our witness.

Don't be antagonistic, but living a life of purity will always breed an unsettling view in the world. Many years ago I remember someone who bought a 99 cent bag of potatoes but didn't pay for it because it was on the bottom of the shopping cart. The shopper who happens to be someone who is related to me somewhat distantly, but the shopper knew that the bag was not being registered but she just didn't say anything. She got home and she began to be convicted by the Holy Spirit. Christians are, you see the world looks at a thing like that and they say, you know, that's really neat.

I really pulled a good one over Dominic's. No, Christians, Christians know that that's sin. So she went back and found the manager and told him that she had to pay the money and so forth and he said, you know, either, either it's my lucky day or something is happening in this town because you're the second person who's come today and has done that. Happened that there were special meetings in a church and people were getting right with God and, and that's the kind of righteousness. But you see, as she began to share with him what God was doing and how God was bringing about new integrity and honesty in the lives of people in his city, she said, quote, he was visibly shook. You see, the world has so many sins and skeletons in their closets that when Christians become honest and open and trusting and dependable and will live lives of moral integrity and faithfulness, the world begins to be shook to its core and in the end they will hate us. Secondly, the world will persecute us. We're taking it a step further now. We're ratcheting it up. Their emotions of hatred now turn to actual deeds and you'll notice here Jesus emphasizes that.

I'm picking it up at verse 20. Remember the words I spoke to you. No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they obeyed my teaching, which they largely didn't, they will obey yours also.

They will treat you this way because of my name for they do not know the one who sent me. Jesus said that you can expect persecution and he did. The Herodians, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, they all got together, though they were individual enemies and antagonistic, when it came to putting Jesus away, they laid aside their differences and says we have a common enemy and they sought him like a hawk seeks its prey. So Jesus knew whereof he spoke. But what he's saying here is that we can expect persecution because of spiritual ignorance.

Notice that the text says they do this because they do not know the one who sent me. That's the last part of verse 21. It's a crucial phrase. Have you ever wondered whether or not you personally would have accepted Christ as Messiah or not if you had lived during the days when Jesus was here on earth? Often thought about that. So easy to look back and to criticize those people and say, well, why didn't they see it?

But the question that you have to ask is, would you have seen it? Now what Jesus is saying is this, that those who knew the Father before he came, in the Old Testament sense of the word, they were in contact with God. Yes, they had offered the sacrifices, but their hearts had also been given to God. Jesus said, those are the ones who recognized him to be the Messiah when he came. If they would have known the Father, they would have known me, but they don't know me because they never knew the Father. They were into religion but they were not into knowing God with all of its implications. And so Jesus said that one of the reasons they can persecute you is because of spiritual ignorance.

They don't know the Father, though they think they do, and therefore they don't know me. You know, we're living at a time when we hear that word said a lot, tolerance. Political candidates may say something like, you know, I really believe in religious tolerance for all religions.

I want you to be very wary of that. Hidden behind that sanctimonious slogan is concealed a deadly hook. Because the way that is interpreted, oftentimes, it really means that I believe so much in religious tolerance that I don't think that you have a right to witness to anyone about their faith because faith should be entirely private. And all who often, under the guise of tolerance, you have the withdrawing of religious freedom.

I saw this most clearly when we were in China way back in 1984. In those days, and things have changed somewhat now, but perhaps a little bit, but in those days there was no what we call freedom of religion, though we did go to church and the churches were constantly monitored by the state and so forth. And when we complained to the tour guide and said why don't we have freedom of religion in China, she said something very interesting. She said, we do have freedom of religion in China. And then she said, the people in China can be as religious as they want to be within their own minds. In other words, within your mind, we can't control that yet. You can be as religious as you like. Therefore, we have freedom of religion and she might have added, we're totally tolerant to people of all religions because you can accept any religion that you want in your mind.

And I don't want to be melodramatic. But my dear friend, not until religion is confined to the human mind will some of the enemies of religion in America be satisfied. And what are we going to do about it? Well, Jesus tells us that it's okay.

It's okay. It's been predicted. But I want you to notice that we are persecuted because of spiritual ignorance and also because of spiritual deception. People are deceived.

You'll notice in chapter 16, the same thought continues. And he says in verse two, they will put you out of the synagogue. In fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think that he is offering a service to God. And they will do such things because they have not known the Father nor me.

Wow. In other words, they're thinking they're doing God a service. This is Pastor Lutzer. One of the things that we have to grapple with is this. When people believe a lie, it is the truth to them. That's why it is that in this world, there's so much deception. Sometimes it's genuine deception.

People are absolutely committed to their lies. And you and I must recognize that we also can fall for deceptions. That's why we have to stay close to God's word. We need to spend time in fellowship that we might have wisdom to be able to discern that which is true and that which is false.

Jesus prepared his heart for an uncertain future. That's why I've written a book on the upper room discourse so that you and I might have some guidance for the very difficult days ahead when the enemies of religion are surrounding us and when we are living in a collapsing culture. For a gift of any amount, this resource can be yours. Go to or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now, I'm going to be giving you that contact info again so that you can get a pencil, write it down. But at the same time, I want to thank you in advance for helping us financially.

You frequently have heard me say that running to win is in 20 different countries, 4 different languages, all because of people like you. Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. As a matter of fact, you can call right now. It's time once more for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Trying to understand God has raised philosophical questions for a long, long time.

Linda is a running to win listener who's trying to come to terms with some of these dilemmas. She writes, if God abhors evil and is omniscient, why then did he create Satan? If he knew what Satan would do, why even have such an angel? Does it not follow then that God has a bit of evil in himself? Well, Linda, first of all, let me commend you for asking the big question.

One thing I can say about your question is it is not a small one. It is really at the heart of the mystery that all of us have struggled with, namely God knowing all things, knowing how they will all turn out. Why all this evil? Why Satan?

What's the big deal? Well, Linda, I've thought about this for many, many years. In fact, I've done some writing about it and I've concluded that there is no way to answer it apart from the fact that God has a hidden purpose that he is accomplishing. I do know that that purpose in the Bible is very closely connected with his own glory.

He is working toward something else other than our own happiness, other than the happiness of this cursed planet. God has something in mind. And when Satan rebelled even, God could have simply chosen to confine him to another planet or to annihilate him. God had so many different options, but God decided that he would let this world be a stage on which the issues of good and evil, right and wrong, would be played out. And he also ordained that on this stage, Satan would be a being with a tremendous amount of power.

But at the same time, that power would always be limited and be subject to the will and the permission of God. And someday, I do believe, Linda, we're going to be able to understand it so much better than we do now. So at this time, all that we can say is all things are of God to him, for him, from him, to him be all the glory, because his purpose is marching toward something bigger, better, more awesome, more glorious than we can even imagine. Thank you, Dr. Lutzer, for tackling one of those really big questions. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer. Or call us at 1-888-218-9337.

That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. We can't expect to always run a smooth race of life when confronted by persecution. There will be bumps in the road. Next time on Running to Win, join us for more details on facing oppression and outright hatred with the courage only the Holy Spirit can give. Don't miss the conclusion of a courageous heart, a heart all of us will need in the dark days ahead. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-28 18:59:42 / 2023-04-28 19:08:31 / 9

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