I’ve had a few people ask for parts of the message I taught in Chapel last week so I decided to post it here.
Anyone know what this is? It’s a famous piece of graffiti from the first century, it is from Thessaloniki. That word sound familiar? The book, Thessalonians, found in your Bible is written to the church in that city.
So what happened in the first century of giant significance? That’s right, Jesus was crucified.
The image above depicts a man kneeling on the left, in front of a cross. There is also a man on the cross, with the head of a donkey. And below it, in Latin, is written: ”Alexander worships his God”.
We don’t know who Alexander is, but it would seem he is a Christian who is being ridiculed because of his faith in a crucified God. Christians have been mocked for their faith from the moment Jesus died on the cross. Even Jesus was mocked while He hung on the cross.
1 Peter 1:6 tells us about the various trials that are facing Christians. He writes, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,” Peter is acknowledging that they are facing trials and in this book he will encourage worshippers of Christ to remain strong despite the trials.
You understand what trials are right? Life is hard, people are going to mock you and be jerks and treat you terribly. Many will do so simply because you are a Christian. One aspect of the early Christians is that they were marginalized. They were pushed to the margins.
You know what marginalized means? Go find a book. Notice the real stuff in it is going on in the center and to the left and right are empty sections of nothing, just white space. That’s the margins, nothing important is going on there.
No one pays attention to the margins, like I said, it’s not where the important stuff is. It is where those ideas and those people who are not powerful and not influential are placed.
Now you can hear that and become very discouraged or you can hear that and realize that the early Church that Peter is talking to was in the margins too and God has done amazing things through the lives of those Christians who lived in the margins. (We have it pretty good in fact, Nero was making Christians into torches or throwing them to wild dogs.)
Don’t be discouraged though. I want to show a few amazing things about this reality.
1. You will be mocked, ridiculed and persecuted. But so was Jesus our savior.
In John 15:18–20 Jesus is speaking and he says this, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but 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…”
They persecuted the Son of God, of course they are going to persecute you!”
Don’t expect an unbelieving world to respect you. Your belief that God came as a man and was killed on a cross before coming back to life will be mocked. What you believe about Marriage, Sex, male/female roles and various views of right and wrong will be mocked. Your understanding of creation vs evolution will be made to seem silly and childish.
That’s ok. That’s where God has us, you simply need to be prepared for this. Don’t be shaken when you are mocked.
2. You do not belong here. You are citizens of the Kingdom of God. Ephesians 2:19 tells us just that.
We also see it in 1 Peter 2:11, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”
We tend to focus on the second half of this verse which tells us to abstain from the passions of the flesh. That’s good, but don’t miss that little statement at the beginning telling you who you are.
You are a sojourner and an exile. (Do you know what that means?)
It reminds me of the time spent in Mexico and Guatemala as an American, they all seemed a little weird to me, they didn’t do things the way I thought they should be done. I was the foreigner though, It was me who was the stranger.
- NIV says we are, “Aliens and Strangers”
- NLT says, ““temporary residents and foreigners”
The point is this, as Christians we belong to God’s Kingdom. Jesus is our King. Being members of another kingdom makes us outsiders here on earth. We have become strangers, because quite frankly, we have become strange!
After Chapel, Mrs. Eaves shared a quote from someone I was not able to track down. She said, “You will know the truth and the truth will make you odd.” That made me laugh cause it made sense, it reminded me of when I’m trying to explain Christianity to someone who knows very little about it or who is very antagonistic against it.
Anyway, Our values, our lifestyle and our priorities are radically different from the surrounding culture. We do not fit in. We are on the margins and that is where God has us.
3. God has His purpose in this.
Let’s look back at the verse in 1 Peter again, cause it keeps going beyond what I read you earlier.
1 Peter 1:6-8 says this, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,”
You will be tested in the world and the expectant result is the showing of the “genuineness of your faith”. That your faith is real and knowing your faith is real is of absolute value.
I expect most of you hear this and think about the future. When you are in college or working. That’s true, but it is applicable to you right now, today.
Let me remind you 2 Corinthians 5:20 refers to Christians as “Ambassadors” it says, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
As ambassadors we are to be about the promoting the interest of God to those outside the kingdom of God. That’s what an ambassador does. That’s why the United States has ambassadors in foreign countries, that’s why we set up embassies.
However you’ve got to know this. Being in a Christians School is kinda like living in the US Embassy in a foreign country. It’s safe, it’s protected, it’s a place to learn and prepare. That’s good! That’s part of why it exist.
But if you are to actually be an ambassador to that country you must go outside the walls or invite them inside the walls. You can’t remain separated.
So let me advise two groups of you.
1. Ambassadors of Christ living in the embassy.
This is those of you who don’t have relationships with unbelievers. You don’t know and interact with unbelievers. You are ambassadors living inside the walls. Don’t feel bad about that, but find a solution to it.
Find a way to get outside the walls. You need this, get your parents or solid friends to come with you. Get involved in sports or clubs or interest groups that are not only full of Christians. Try serving through Mission Southside or with an outreach ministry of your church. Help with a pregnancy crisis center or Habitat for Humanity. Harvesters or the New Hope food Pantry.
Or you know that kid that is your age that you see walking down the street outside your house, talk to him, talk to her. Ask their name, what grade they are in and anything else that might start a friendship.
Talk to your parents and ask them to help you find a way to get outside the walls so that you might be a true ambassador for your King.
Now the other group.
2. Ambassadors of Christ who go outside the wall.
Many of you already do this. I love that. You know unbelievers, you pray for them. Maybe you’ve be mocked for worshipping a crucified God or for your view of creation or something like that.
My encouragement to you is this. God said you would be persecuted. Don’t be discouraged when that happened when God’s word proves to be true. Instead, go ever back to God asking for His strength. Let this push you to prayer, to encouragement with other Christians, to utter dependence on God moment by moment.
Finally I want to show this encouragement from Hebrews 13:11–14
“For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.”
Let’s go outside the camp, why? To endure the reproach. Reproach means “disgrace” it means, “insult” Let’s do that! But why you might ask? Look at that last line. Verse 14. “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.”
Wow. We seek a city that is to come. An eternal city, an eternal kingdom where Jesus reigns on the throne. That’s your home. You will mocked in this life, that is to be expected. Let the truth that there is something greater for the Children of God encourage you through every struggle that might come your way.
Dwell on what God has for you as a child of God, an eternal life in his eternal kingdom under his eternal reign.