Were you happy or unhappy in 2021? Many folks saw the passing of this past year and remarked, “good riddance”. It was a tough year. A lot happened that should cause us all to be glad it’s over. We lost some people that are special to us, many of us got sick or hurt and are still recovering. But one think that happened to me, more in 2021 than in any other year of my life, was that I began to really understand that this earth is not my home—-and I don’t want for it to be my home. In 2021 I realized that the longer one lives, life does not become easier, instead our hearts pine more and more for something else. The closer we draw to Him, the more we want to withdraw—-to escape out of—this world.
In 2021, more than any other of my years, I truly felt hated by some people—-and I had a certain sense of guilt that I should not be so disliked. A little impish voice kept telling me that I deserve to be hated, despised and mocked.
But here are some words to hold onto in 2022…words that we ought to help our children and the new convert to read and hide in their own hearts. In the 15th chapter of John, Jesus said: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:18-25, NIV)
So this morning let me make two quick points:
If Jesus, the Son of God. was keenly aware of reality, why are we so pre-occupied with tying to make up our own reality? We try to imagine that things aren’t really as hostile to us as they are or that our world is really getting better and better and that everything is going to work out just fine. That’s a reality we hope for, but it is not reality. Reality, in fact, is not something we can fabricate, make up or even imagine. C.S. Lewis said that “That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. It has just that queer twist about it that real things have. So let us leave behind all these boys' philosophies--these over simple answers. The problem is not simple and the answer is not going to be simple either.” I think it’s good to consider this. Things will not work out in 2022 like we hope, but as God has ordained. It might catch us by surprise. I am okay with that—are you?
One of the false realities we are fed by the world that if a person is good, honest, kind, selfless and courageous, he/she will be honored and respected in the world. And if we choose a life of humility, gentleness and never return an insult, we will be loved and admired by everyone. Again, that’s what the world says. But look at the One man in history that consistently did all of the right things——His name was Jesus. And think about all the prophets and women and men of God before Him that attempted to live a godly life—-how did things turn out for them? The world hated them—-we need to get that clear in our heads for 2022. Jesus says that they world will not like us, so why do people like me so bent out of shape when we find that what He said is true?
In reality the world tends to “love” the ones that do the exact opposite of what Jesus did and are antithetical to what we claim are admirable virtues. This morning I will upset you perhaps, but the world might say it hates Chairman Xi and President Putin, but they get all the press and attention. I think we rather admire the strength and resolve of these leaders. They aggressively put their own nations first and get things done. The world likes people that are clever and powerful—-not those that are meek and honest. We talk about how rich and obsessed with money and clout men like Elon Musk, Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos are, but we honor them, despite their greed and lack of heart for those that work for them. You don’t become a billionaire by being Godly—-you get there by storing up treasures on earth, not in heaven. I am acquainted with a few billionaires. These men and hard working and brilliant. But they are neither meek nor humble.
I will not watch an professional basketball game anymore because I can’t stand the worship youth have for morally bankrupt crybabies like Lebron James—and Tom Brady’s no better in the NFL. But we line up to get the photograph or a “selfies" with these millionaire whiners that need their diapers changed every time they lose a game or things don’t go their way, yet we throw abuse at the real heroes of humanity that never toot their horn or complain about how unfairly they are treated—-we tend to talk good about them after they are dead and gone.
No sane person seeks to be hated or treated prejudiciously, but do I go out of my way to be liked, even when it runs contrary to my convictions and my loyalty to Jesus Christ? Is the adulation and approval of others something I crave—-such as these athletes and Pontus Pilate—perhaps far too often? Do I compromise what I believe so that I can appear “politically correct”, “properly informed” or ”intelligent”…. or have I decided to follow Jesus?
Heavy and awkward though it might appear, we can chose to follow Jesus in 2022. People have done it and He has given them the strength and vision to endure. "Whenever there is a cross to be carried by any of Christ’s followers, He always bears the heavy end on His own shoulders." Charles Spurgeon
I guess it’s a matter of determining where I want to “belong”? But for the life of me, the more I listen to NPR, CNN or Fox News, read the newspaper and watch the events unfold all around this globe, the more I reflect that I do not belong here and frankly don’t want to! I yearn for something else, and I do feel that I do not “fit in here”. It’s okay in 2022 to entertain this idea that we’re all aliens here—-because we are. If we are truly born again, then we are also homesick for the place where we do belong. When you see the rich and powerful whining and complaining, or refusing to salute the flag, or opining that the very people that pay to watch them play are disgusting, you begin to pine for something else—something that this world will never be able to afford us…..that perfect setting that He has placed within our imagination.
And that’s the second point. Remember this in 2022: He has chosen us—and the beings of darkness… and those still under their sway… hate all that bear the name Christian. It’s jealousy. We can all recognize jealousy around us. I see it all the time in my home when one of the boys gets more attention than the other. I see it when someone they love begins to have affection or a friendship towards another. Jealousy happens all the time on this earth, and it’s not good. But take that childish, human emotion, jealousy…the sensation you feel when someone has something (or someone’s affection) that you want… and imagine that emotion, unbridled, over eternity, brooded upon by Satan and all the fallen angels. We have something they once had—-we’ve been grafted in the body of Jesus Christ! We will one day judge these same angels! Can you not imagine that there’s quite a bit of animosity towards us? The enmity they have against us is off the scale. You cannot fathom it! But when those that are under the influence of the enemy have the chance, yes——they will be as cruel, spiteful and disgusted against us as they can muster—they are against those of us that choose to walk in the light.
So as followers of Jesus, are we resolved to grow mature eyes and see things, including “sin”, as our Father sees it. Did we see clearly in 2021 and will we put on spiritual glasses in 2022? Do we realize that the Father’s approval of us is based upon what Jesus did for us to remove sin and not because of our o wn good looks, charm and merits? We would do well to keep this in mind, because it will lead me to allow sin to die within me and to expose sin around me. But if we go about our lives convinced that God’s favor is based upon just how good we are (or already were), we will be not only ineffective, but a stumbling blocks to those that would be free from sin in 2022.
Friends, it’s startling to see who (or what) the world really does love, and frightening to see who the world genuinely hates. A growing number, not just a few, advocate that God has no place in our society, and should not be counted upon during this horrible virus or other challenges. And the very suggestion that God allowed this virus, or other catastrophes to happen, brings about hateful and angry responses from those that are either biblical illiterate, do not want to believe that God does these kinds of things, or have been blinded by the enemy. Only a person totally unfamiliar with the Bible could deny that God does send plagues and catastrophes at times.
So don’t be surprised if you see humble pastors or meek believers arrested, slandered, ridiculed or even blamed for all sorts of social ills. But in 2022 we can be sure that that the One who loved us, loves us still. The world hates the things of God no less today than it did when Saint John penned those words over 2000 years ago.
But again, why does the world hate us? Here’s Jesus’ answer: I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” The regime in China and Russia, most of the media in this nation and a large part of the government in this nation hate us—-not that they would never use the word “hate”. They might call us deplorable, or ignorant, or intolerant or, commonly, evangelicals or Christian radicals. But there’s no one I would rather be radically identified with than Jesus Christ. What about you?
When I was in elementary school the teachers would often pick someone to be the “monitor” if she had to leave the room. This is before video cameras, smart phones and even intercoms. So she would pick someone that she could trust to basically snitch on the rest of us if we left our seats, or talked, etc. The person she chose was the good student—-the honest one. But of course the rest of us hated that kid! He was the “teacher’s pet”. Once she chose him or her, they were no longer a part of us! They were an extension of that teacher, as far as we were concerned.
God has chosen you! You are the Teacher’s Pet——-and more. You are the son or daughter of God Almighty because He chose you——and that makes the hate even more robust from the very phantoms of hell. They are bent on stirring up as much mischief and heartache for us as they can against you in 2022—their time is limited and they know they ultimate destiny. They have their mind set to hurt us and provoke others to trouble and plague us.
BUT, think of how much more so they hated and plagued Jesus. And yet they could not lift a finger to harm Him until the Father gave permission——-and for a good that the demons did not see coming!
The demons and the news anchors do not know what is going to happen in 2022. But God does, and even if His plans include suffering and persecution for His chosen in 2022, those opposed to God have no clue how the anguish of His elect will result in a bumper crop—-and incredible harvest— for His Kingdom. We are precious in His sight—He will hold out hands.