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Nov 20, 2022

Oppositional Encounters

Passage: John

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Christ Connections

Keywords: truth, gospel, opposition, conflict, pharisees, evangelization


Many of the encounters Jesus had were with people opposed to him and his message. How did Jesus encounter them? Deal with them? Impress upon them the Gospel? This message looks at how Jesus loved those opposed to him and what that has to teach us about sharing Christ with people who reject Him.


Oppositional Encounters

November 20, 2022


We’re concluding today a series we began in September about Christ Encounters.  Encounters with God are THE most important and significant encounters of life.

ILL:  Experience last week on a personal spiritual retreat. 

  • Went to a place where I’ve consistently had more memorable Christ-encounters than anywhere on earth—Riverview Bible Camp.
  • Walked around those 80 acres and remembered the many places, people and ways God had spoken to me over the past 55 years in that place.
  • Marveled at the wonderful, growing facilities.

But was reminded that the only lasting things from that place and the experiences there are the encounters I’ve had with God.  Christ-encounters change us…when we want to hear and obey the voice of God. 

            Such was the reality when Jesus walked this earth.  Many people “encountered” Jesus. Some were transformed by those encounters.  Most were indifferent or simply curious, not interested in surrendering their souls to their Maker…and less interested in obeying His call to live out His commands. 

            But there were also those who took a more militant, strident and oppositional response to Jesus.  There were some who fought against Him and ultimately killed Him. Those encounters Jesus had contain some essential components/criteria for transformational encounters with Jesus. 

For the past 400 years, our nation in general has been relatively accepting of the Gospel of Christ.  That’s not to say that a majority of its inhabitants actually lived surrendered lives to Jesus.  But for the most part, people were not overtly in opposition to the Gospel. Passively and covertly, certainly.  So as that equation not flips culturally and more people become openly hostile to the claims of God in Christ on their lives, we who are seeking to introduce them to the living Lord that is transforming us need to be very clear about what we need to focus on in presenting Jesus to them. 

            This may seem like a strange place to end this series.  But I hope that the experience of our Lord who told us, “‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also,” (Jn. 15:20) will provide for us some direction should our witness be as effective and as polarizing as His.

            Before we look at some specific encounters Jesus had and the words he spoke, I want to simply remind you that everything Jesus did and said flowed out of the loving heart of God…even what we’re going to see Him say today.

  • That is why, though having the power to simply speak the word and literally kill those who were killing him, he didn’t! Instead, he prayed for them and asked the Father to “forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing,” (Luke 23:34).
  • That’s why when the entire city of Jerusalem chose a convicted murderer and insurrectionist over him, he told them how much he had loved them and wanted to gather and protect them like a mother hen does with her chicks…but they would have none of it (Luke 13:34).
  • That’s why for 3½ years Jesus kept hanging out with, kept teaching, kept entrusting the disciples’ money to Judas Iscariot, knowing he would sell him out for 30 lousy pieces of silver.

When Jesus speaks hard, difficult and tough words as we will see, it is not because of a lack of love or because he’s offended or defensive or vengeful.  It is because he is doing what needs to be done with people who fight against reality about God, sin and salvation.  He is seeking to bring them to a place, an experience of conviction by the Holy Spirit, that leads to repentance.  How do I know that?

            Look at Luke 7.  Luke includes a little parenthetical comment, a little commentary on his narrative of Jesus and why some accepted His message and why others rejected it.  He says, 29 (All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. 30 But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.) What was THE defining difference?  Whether they had been convicted of their sin by John the Baptist and taken a previous step in repentance or not.  The issue was conviction and repentance…or lack thereof. 

            Turn to John 8.  We could trace how Jesus “evangelized” the most resistant of his day all the way through John. 

But the clearest encounter with those who don’t want to surrender to His lordship by embracing Him as the Christ comes in John 8.  While the passage records a couple of different encounters with resistant folks, the flow clearly shows the difference between how Jesus dealt with those who recognized their need of a Savior and those who refused to.  So, let’s see what Jesus sees as essential to address with people not feeling their need of him and how he tackles their hard-heartedness.            

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  Jesus offers himself, the “light of life”, to anyone who will follow him.  Here again Jesus is kindly inviting people to step out of the darkness of their sin-filled lives and into the eternal light of walking with Him.  But instead of inquiring further about what Jesus means or the difference that might make in their lives, the Pharisees “challenge him” and push back against WHO he is and WHAT he is claiming. 

            How does Jesus respond?  Our culture would like to have had him say, “Well, you are entitled to your opinion…to your own ideas about truth.  So, have it your way.  All roads lead to my Father”?  NO.  He pushes them harder.  He challenges them about their actual ignorance and lack of relationship with God the Father.  He asserts that if they really knew the God they claim to know at all, they would know that he was actually the sent-One from the Father. 

            Jesus pushes them even further later in this chapter.  He reminds them that they will perish in their sins—die apart from God and spend forever separated from Him, unless they follow Christ.  Vs. 24—"I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”

TRUTH #1 that we must impress upon people who don’t accept the necessity of a submissive, saving relationship with Jesus:  without embracing Jesus as the only possible Savior of their souls, people will spend eternity separated from God (i.e. “die in their sins”).   In other words, people who reject Jesus are, in fact, rejecting God himself.  We cannot accept God the Father and reject God the Son as Lord of our lives.   

            Talk about an unpopular message for pluralistic progressive modernists!  “What gives you the right to say I’m going to hell?  I don’t even believe in a hell…and if I did, I don’t believe in a God who would send anyone there, certainly not forever…you religious extremist!” 

            About 6 years ago (2016), Barna Research did a study on what people think of those who try to evangelize non-believers.  Take a look at what they found…and come to grips with how “extremist” many people will view you simply for sharing Christ with them.  [Found at https://www.barna.com/research/five-ways-christianity-is-increasingly-viewed-as-extremist/ on 11.19.22.]

            This is the dominant belief of those who reject their Creator today.  They want God to be like them—an imperfect being who isn’t really that bothered by rebellion against perfection—i.e. absolute goodness righteousness, holiness, purity and justice.  Because if that is the kind of God they can hang onto in their thinking, then they don’t need a Savior and they don’t really need to change anything about their rebellion against Him.

            Dismantling that notion about God and hell may be challenging…or it may be rather simple.  But it will require that we confront them in way that may make them more antagonistic and probably will make us less-liked. 

            When people refuse to admit that they need Jesus to be in right-relationship with God, there are a couple of things we should try to help clarify in their thinking.

  • The NATURE of GOD: “So, you want to believe in a God that is less than perfect?  How much less?  If He’s okay with a little lying, why not a lot…or constant lying?  If you want Him to overlook a little lust, why not rape of molestation of children?  If you want Him to wink at your anger or gossiping or sexual infidelity, why shouldn’t He be fine with murder and mutilation or someone destroying your reputation falsely or cheating with your spouse?”  We must show them that a God who is anything less than absolutely holy, righteous, pure, moral and just is not God at all; He’s just another flawed human…like they are!
  • The NATURE of their ETERNAL DESTINY: HEAVEN or HELL (since most people still believe in some sort of afterlife).

We might start by asking them about their belief in hell. “So, if you don’t believe in hell, what do you think happens to people who doesn’t want to be a part of God’s family in this present life? 

Q:  Do you believe in a God who will force people who hate Him in this life to spend all of eternity in the next life worshipping and adoring Him?” 

[Hell is simply God’s provision of an eternal existence where people who didn’t want anything to do with Him in this life get to continue that lifestyle in the next… 

  • “But I don’t believe in heaven or hell.”
    • Fine, but what evidence do you have that neither of them exist? What has convinced you all the religions of the world are wrong about an afterlife and that all the “near-death” experiences people have are an illusion?
    • Individual belief doesn’t determine reality. Just because I choose not to accept some reality doesn’t change that reality (i.e. atomic & subatomic particles, chemical interactions, mortality, etc.).  Just because you deny there isn’t a heaven or hell doesn’t make it so.  And, if you are wrong, the results will be catastrophic.  If I’m wrong, I will still have lived the best life possible (loving people, being generous, kind, patient, fighting for justice, etc.).

When Jesus told people who wouldn’t believe in him that they would “die in their sins,” He was doing what the Holy Spirit who now has taken His place in the world is doing every day with every human being. 

John 16:8-- And when He [the Holy Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment [NKJV].

  • Sin: our failure to measure up to God’s perfection in every category.
  • Righteousness: the perfection of God and more specifically of Jesus Christ as God in human flesh.
  • Judgment: the spiritual reality that every human soul will be accountable to God for every word, deed and thought of their life…and that without the perfect righteousness of Jesus taking the place of our sinful failures in every category, we will forever be under the judgment of God for that sin.  

When we share the Gospel with people who don’t want to accept the spiritual realities of SIN, or HEAVEN & HELL, of JUDGMENT, we have an obligation to make them uncomfortable about their incomplete beliefs.  Whenever Jesus encountered that kind of denial of spiritual and human reality, He drilled down harder.  He doubled down about sin and righteousness and judgment.  And so must we IF we are to follow Him and love those who are rejecting Him. 

APP:  This reality strikes at one of the most serious problems afflicting the American church in the past 40 years.  One of the new “rules of our culture” is that good people, nice people, people who don’t deserve to be cancelled in the public square, must NEVER say anything offensive to someone else…ESPECIALLY ABOUT THEIR SIN! 

  • We must never call sexual activity outside of marriage or sexual identity outside of God’s creative order (male and female) “immoral” or “wrong” (be it infidelity, premarital sex, homosexuality, polyamorous sex, hooking up, transgender dysphoria, you name it.)
  • We must never call the taking of the life of a child or an innocent adult’s life at any age or stage or age of development “murder” or “sinful” or “wrong”. It’s just a “choice”…or mercy killing…or assisted suicide. 
  • We must not call governmental leaders “tyrannical” or “evil” for telling God’s people when they can gather to worship, how they can worship when they gather or what we must and can’t teach our children in school.  

The result of this new cultural law of “never offend” applied in the church is that the Gospel has stopped being the true Gospel.  Churches by the thousands will tell people that all they need to do is pray “the sinners prayer” or “believe in Jesus” to truly be made right with God.  So, millions of people do that without ever having confronted their own sinfulness, felt any divine conviction about their sin or decided to repent/turn away from that sin in order to walk in Christ. 

Thus self-proclaimed Christian adults will get drunk weekend after weekend and not see any problem with it as they go to church on Sunday.  They will hook-up with someone else on Saturday night and feel virtuous about going to church with them on Sunday.  They may rage against their family during the week…or neglect them for work or their social life…and feel pretty confident that they’re “good with God” at church on Sunday. 

The church has substituted the true Gospel that convicts of sin, righteousness and judgment with a false gospel that peddles easy-believism in place of taking up our cross daily, dying to self and actually living to Jesus.  

            This really strikes at the heart of what someone must understand and embrace if they are to be saved.  We must understand and embrace…

  • That even on our best day, we are sinners who are enemies of God and need to be reconciled to Him.
  • That Jesus Christ is the only Savior who can reconcile us to God because He is the only God-man who lived sinlessly and died in our place.
  • That active “belief” in Jesus isn’t some easy-believism magic prayer but rather means we make Jesus Lord of our life and seek to conform every part of our existence to His Lordship.

If we go back to John 8, we see Jesus hammering that home in a number of additional ways.  Having offered people freedom (vs. 32), he uses their contention that they’ve never been anything but free (vs.33) to confront them with another harsh spiritual reality:  apart from Jesus, we are slaves to sin (vs. 34).

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

Then Jesus drives home their wretched condition apart from His redeeming work in their lives:  Vs. 34-- Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.

Well, according to that statement, the only way not to be a slave to sin is to be sinless.  Jesus is forcing people to recognize the truth of Romans 3:23—“All have sinned and fall short of God’s glorious standard.”  In essence, Jesus is telling everyone, “If you have ever sinned, you’re a slave to sin and need God to rescue you out of that slavery.” 

            Then Jesus drops another blow to human self-salvation in vs. 44--You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires.

APP:  There is a very common belief, even among many people who call themselves Christians, that “we’re all God’s children.”  If by that phrase you mean that we are all created in the image of God and have equal worth as human beings, you would be correct…though terribly imprecise. 

When we agree with people saying that everyone on the planet, regardless of their relationship to God in Jesus Christ, is a “child of God,” we’re contradicting Christ and buying into the lie of the devil.  Whether they are the most religious people on the block or the most profane, the reality is that NO ONE is a child of God apart from a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. 

            Yes, every human being, no matter what their physical or mental ability, no matter what their age or race, no matter what their sex or stature…no matter what, are a creation of God and have equal value.  They should not be killed, harmed, experimented with, abused, ignored, treated unjustly or any of the other myriad of ways we so quickly dehumanize people God created, loves and died for. 

            But every one of us is also born in sin, commits sin and have made ourselves slaves to sin and the devil until we come to Christ in faith and are given a new spiritual birth by the Holy Spirit.  Only then can we say that someone is “a child of God”. 

John 1:12-13-- But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.  (Notice both the human and divine parts of our being in God’s family—belief and birth.)

            So, what do we learn from Jesus about witnessing to and sharing the Gospel with people who don’t want to admit they need Jesus?

  1. We must seek to bring them to a place where the Spirit of God convicts them of their sin, need of righteousness and impending judgment without Christ.
  2. We must be honest with them about what is at stake in rejecting Jesus: that, apart from a personal saving relationship with Jesus, they are headed to eternal judgment and separation from God.
  3. We must help them understand that their relationship with God is all about Jesus Christ. Being “spiritual” is not enough.  Being “religious” will not help.  Only discovering eternal life in Jesus Christ and in a Spirit-given relationship with Him will make them a true child of God. 

Let me end with one tool we have in sharing Jesus that Jesus didn’t have:  our own sinfulness.  One of the best ways for us to help people see their need of Jesus is to be humble enough to talk about sin in our own lives from which Jesus has and is saving us.  We may be the best advertisement for the reality that “all have sinned”.  Hopefully our admission of that may help them find the humility to acknowledge sin in their own lives from which they need saving in Jesus. 

ILL:  Mosaic couple who was recently on a plane to CA.  Pretty empty flight so were looking forward to spreading out and having extra room. 

Man shows up with the only empty seat in their row assigned to him.  In the course of the conversation, they find out that he had come to Spokane with his wife for her sister’s wedding…and was leaving without his wife, having had yet another big fight.  He admitted that he wasn’t sure their marriage was going to make it.

            This Mosaic couple, by their own admission, has been through some pretty tough and marriage-threatening years.  Out of that brokenness and God’s saving work in their lives in that brokenness, they were able to share the power of Christ to save two sinners in a marriage, pray with this man and encourage him to seek the Lord Jesus in his marriage crisis.  That humble testimony left this man crying and calling his family members to tell them what God had just done on that airplane. 

CALL to saving faith in Jesus.

CALL to humble, loving boldness about sin and salvation in Christ with people not yet children of God.