• Introduction: Are we surprised when we see God’s people shunned and “canceled”? Jesus was quoted by all four Gospel writers about His people being hated while in this Age.  He even gave the reason why: Jesus’ followers will be hated because of His name as noted in our text for today - 13“And you will be hated by everyone because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved[1].  Everything in the scriptures has either already come to pass, is happening now, or will come to pass, so we can have confidence in Jesus’ words.
    • It’s easy to understand how people outside of the church can hate Christ followers.  There are a majority of people who have not heard the word of God and therefore live in darkness.  However, one would not expect hatred of Christians to occur within a church.  And yet, the Fall 2021 edition of Lutherans Engage the World magazine, published by the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LC-MS) has an article about how the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF) was formed from exiles of the Finnish national church. It also wrote about why.  For instance,
      • Pastors were defrocked, and thereby their income was taken away, and
      • And, their church buildings were seized.  This persecution all happened within the church.
      • And not only this, but the recently elected bishop of the ELMDF has been brought up on charges of hate speech by the government!
    • Jesus promised those who persevere through this kind of oppression will be saved (Mark 13:13).  We will spend time digging deeper how this sort of oppression from a modern, civilized nation could be taking place, and what we need to be aware of and do in these latter days of the Age.
  • Let Us Pray: Lord God, Heavenly Father, we confess to You we are concerned and even scared of the future for us, Your people.  You sent Your Son Jesus to redeem us from eternal death, but it sure seems like we must endure evil in order to be saved. As we prayed last week, please send the Holy Spirit to work in our heart the true faith to understand the tribulation we endure, to have us persevere through it, and trust that on a day you appoint, we will be safe at home with You.  We pray this, Father, through Your Son Christ, and through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
  • Background: It’s worth spending a moment how would people figure out who the followers of Jesus are in order to hate them.  After all, one must know their enemies, right?
    • The following is a short list of attributes of a Christ follower:
      • A Christ follower is actually a child of God.  All who are baptized are adopted sons of God.  We’ve mentioned this a few times in the past, but it’s worth mentioning again and again that when we were baptized, we were baptized into Christ – we now belong to Him.  He redeemed us from having to fulfill the Law.  This redemption made us adopted children of God.  The Holy Spirit remains in us to build and keep us in faith so that we are saved (Gal 3:26-29, 4:4-7).
      • Christ followers know the voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd and follow what He tells them to do (John 10:27) – even when it is totally different from what the followers may like or want to do.
      • We all like to wander instead of following Him, and so another attribute of a Christ follower is looking at how that person behaves.  In other words, the person who is governed by the Holy Spirit turns from their sinful ways.  The Apostle Paul gave an example at the end of Ephesians ch#4 (Eph 4:25-32) of a person who steals must no longer steal and instead work for a living.  A person who routinely uses foul language needs to instead have wholesome speech.  All bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander must be removed, and be kind, compassionate, and forgiving of others as God has forgiven you.  A spirit of repentance is what the Holy Spirit provides in us, unless we repeatedly ignore His callings and warnings.  The sin of denial in our life is the sin which will cause us to fall away.
      • And lastly, a Christ follower attribute is being marked with a seal by the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30).  That seal is a deposit of the guarantee of our day of redemption, a redemption already won for us by Jesus’ death on the cross and subsequent rising from the dead (Eph 1:13-14).
    • So how did ELMDF members get defrocked, which essentially meant tossed out of the State church? Didn’t everyone in the Finnish Lutheran Church have the attributes we just reviewed?
      • The persecution all started when Päivi Räsänen (Pie’-ee-vee Rah’-sah-nen) wrote a 24 page pamphlet in 2004, entitled ”Male and female He created them[2]”.  Räsänen is a medical doctor, mother of five (5), and a long-time member of the Finish Parliament.  In this pamphlet, she shared her Biblical beliefs about family structure, marriage, and same-sex relationships[3].
      • Another key player in the publication and therefore a focus of hatred is Rev. Juhana Pohjola.  He is an editor of a publication series from Luther Foundation Finland called Morning Star.  It focuses on the basic issues of faith[4]. Pohjola was since consecrated bishop of ELMDF on Aug 1st of this year. He had endorsed the content of the pamphlet by publishing and distributing it.  Those actions got him into trouble with the national church leadership.  If you are puzzled by this, you have a right to be puzzled, because Räsänen’s pamphlet was based upon the scriptures as she wrote about the history of marriage and family structure.  I have the links to source articles for this sermon along with a link to the original pamphlet on our church website for you to review on your own. The scriptures should be the ultimate authority in every professed Lutheran Church, so it is amazing how Rev. Pohjola would have gotten into trouble with his church at the time.
  • Analysis: When the state-supported Lutheran church of Finland kicked Rev Pohjola out of the church, the ELMDF was later formed.  Why would this small but growing band of believers be hated instead of exalted for upholding the true faith?
    • On the night Jesus was betrayed, Jesus said - 18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 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, because of this the world hates you[5].  Close to 2000yrs ago, Jesus already warned His disciples then and up to now that those who loved and followed Him would be hated.  That sounds like a recipe for denial of Jesus.  Unfortunately, many who initially had the faith, fell away because they denied following Jesus and following His word.  They wanted to be liked by people instead.
      • Well, Jesus is the word, so following Him *is* following the Word. Räsänen obviously is a follower of Jesus, given her quote of scripture, in particular Rom 1:24-27, on social media in a Tweet in June 2019.
      • She is now charged with “hate speech” for that posting which questioned the Finland Lutheran church’s affiliation with a Helsinki LGBT Pride event[6].  Her intent for the Tweet was as indicated from her own words - I was shocked when I heard that the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, which I am a member of, announced its official affiliation to Helsinki LGBT Pride 2019. In June, I decided to write a tweet where I asked that how can the church’s doctrinal foundation, the Bible, be compatible with the lifting up of shame and sin as a subject of pride?[7]
      • November is the portion of the church year reserved to discuss and contemplate the End Times of this Age. The Book of Revelation has a lot of End Times prophecy.  Interpreters of the Bible from a Lutheran perspective recognize governmental authority being symbolized by the first of two beasts mentioned in Rev ch#13. The first beast comes from out of the sea.  That beast is given authority by Satan to wage war against the saints and speak blasphemies against God and anything related to Him.  In other words, the authority of the government is the first beast of the End Times as noted in Rev 13:1-10.  We have seen this authority since the times of the early Christian martyrs, and we are witnessing state authority being waged against Päivi Räsänen. She will stand trial on January 24th, 2022 for a simple Tweet on social media, and for a pamphlet written in 2004. That situation sure sounds like our text for today from Mark 13:13 - “And you will be hated by everyone because of [Jesus’] name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
    • The writer to the Hebrews wrote - 32 But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, 33 partly by being made a public spectacle through insults and distress, and partly by becoming companions with those who were so treated[8].  The implication of this passage is Satan and his henchmen don’t waste time on messing with people who are either already on his side or are neutral.  Jesus said it Himself a person is either for Him or against Him (Mark 9:40), so anyone not for Jesus, even if claiming neutrality, is against Jesus.  Since Satan’s time is short, again, why waste time on someone who is already headed straight to hell with the delusion they can be neutral and therefore not be with Satan?  However, once someone comes to faith from the calling by the gospel through the work of the Holy Spirit, they now are in the sights of Satan and his henchmen.  They will incite their own followers to hatred of the adopted sons & daughters of the King.  Hatred can run very deep and passionate, and couple that with the power of governmental authority, the life of a Christ follower can become difficult.
    • That hatred-fueled oppression doesn’t need to come from just governmental authority.  According to Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) News, a bishop in the Finish state church doesn’t like the charges (3) against Räsänen, but considers her wrong, harmful, and contrary to Christian charity[9].  One has to ask on what basis he can consider Räsänen wrong?  The scriptures?  If so, what was wrong with Räsänen’s quote of Rom 1:24-27 when the church was so happy to celebrate homosexuality – something the Lord has clearly started back to the Pentateuch is an abomination?  Homosexuality attacks the core of familial design and relationships which God established in Genesis ch#2.  But the Finish church’s bishop considers Räsänen wrong; interesting.
      • This brings us to our next known oppressor with hate.  Of all places, we find the second of two beasts mentioned in Rev 13:11-18 to be the church!  This is the beast which comes out of the earth and makes people worship the first beast.  Prophets of the Old Testament would perform signs and wonders to show they had the authority of God when they spoke.  The beast of the New Testament era false church will mimic what the OT prophets did in order to deceive and also to misuse the authority of the church.  God gave the church the authority to forgive sins amongst distribution of the other gifts of God for the people of God.  However, the false church such as the state-funded Finish Lutheran Church will misuse authority to actually point to the government as a savior.  Furthermore, the church will support the government in requiring people to have the mark of the first beast in order to buy and sell things.
  • Conclusion: I admit, this is scary stuff in seeing the Finish government and the government-supported church working together against God’s people. Unfortunately, that is happening more & more in the United States.  We need to do more than just shake our head at how bad things are becoming in what used to be free countries.  The Apostle Paul wrote to his son in the faith Timothy - 11 The statement is trustworthy: For if we died with [Jesus in baptism], we will also live with Him; 12 If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He will also deny us; 13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself [10].
    • Despite what we have heard today from Jesus that we will be hated, we need to remember the second half of Mark 13:13 - …but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved[11].  With that promise from Jesus Himself, a portion of our Epistle reading for today makes a lot of sense - 23 Let’s hold firmly to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful[12].  What else are we to do but be faithful without wavering? If we were to deny Jesus, He will deny us on Judgement Day.  Maybe it’s better to be hated in this Age and be saved from eternity in hell, than to be liked in this Age, and hate ourselves in hell throughout eternity for giving up a free pass into heaven.
      • Job persevered through great loss, yet was able to experience the Lord’s compassion (Jas 5:11).  I suspect no one here today will ever have to endure the loss of literally everything including health, only to then face so-called friends who blame Job for his misfortune, because he was such a sinner.  That was totally untrue, and we know the real reason for Job’s sufferings. They were brought on by Satan.  When God had enough of the torture of Job, God’s compassion and mercy was outpoured in spades upon Job.  Believers in Christ will one day get to ask Job firsthand about that experience when in heaven.
      • Recall from our OT reading in Dan 12:1; everyone whose name is found written into the Book of Life will be rescued from this evil generation.  The Jesus haters will not be found anywhere in heaven.
    • James, half-brother of Jesus wrote - 12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him[13].  In case you wonder about whether being approved, remember, through baptism you became an adopted son of God through Christ.  His victory over sin, death, and Satan is our victory as well.  We can bank on being “approved” by God through Christ.
      • Yeah, life sucks for God’s people.  Anyone who loves the Lord Jesus has a big target painted on them by Satan and his henchmen.  They will incite hatred.  However, we need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God throughout life in this Age, you may receive what was promised (Heb 10:36).  Amen!

[1] Mark 13:13 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/mar/13/1/s_970001

[2] Source information is from the English version of Päivi’s own website at https://www.paivirasanen.fi/en/ 

[3] https://decisionmagazine.com/finnish-politician-charged-with-hate-speech-for-expressing-biblical-views-on-homosexuality/

[4] The link to the actual publication is at https://www.lhpk.fi/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Male-and-female-He-created-them.pdf which includes information on Rev. Pohjola.

[5] John 15:18-19 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+15&version=NASB

[6] https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/world/2021/april/finnish-lawmaker-faces-trial-for-hate-speech-after-quoting-the-bible-about-homosexuality

[7] A quote from an interview with Rod Dreher at https://www.paivirasanen.fi/en/ 

[8] Heb 10:32-33 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=heb+10&version=NASB

[9] https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/cwn/2019/october/christian-speech-a-hate-crime-politician-faces-police-interrogation-for-posting-bible-verse

[10] 2Ti 2:11-13 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2ti+2&version=NASB

[11] Mark 13:13b from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mark+13&version=NASB

[12] Heb 10:23 from NASB20 (emphasis by the preacher) at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=heb+10&version=NASB

[13] Jas 1:12 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=jas+1&version=NASB