Tortured Vines: Abiding in Christ, Part 3

Mary Tudor became Queen of England in 1553. She immediately imprisoned several Protestant pastors and began executing them publicly by burning them at the stake. One of the first was John Hooper. Mary wanted to make an example of him. And that she did, but not in the way she had hoped.

On February 9, 1555 a crowd of 7,000 spectators gathered. As Hooper knelt down before the stake to pray, he was offered a full pardon for his crime if he would only recant his teaching. He said simply “Away with it, if you love my soul, away with it.” He was bound to the stake with an iron chain around his waist. The wood was lit, but it had not been properly dried, and so the flames rose only high enough to burn his legs. Three times they tried to get the flames to burn higher. All the while Hooper suffered without moving or crying out, but only praying “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, Lord Jesus receive my spirit.” As the flames slowly rose, he beat his chest with his hand until it burned to a stump.

After 45 minutes of this excruciating torture, he finally died. Mary hoped the spectacle would cause other preachers to recant. But instead, Hooper’s calm resolve inspired others to endure their persecution with the same fortitude.

In her 5-year reign Bloody Mary would kill 283 Protestants, and yet at her death, there were more Protestants in England than before her reign of terror. Why? Because the persecution gave Christians the opportunity to display their love for Christ and that they were willing to die rather than stray from his teachings. Their courage was contagious and the gospel spread far and wide.

We’ve been eavesdropping in on the conversation Jesus had with his disciples on the night before he went to the cross. In 5 SIGNS OF FRUITFULNESS SO WE WILL UNDERSTAND OUR DEPENDENCE ON CHRISST, we have seen the product, the pruning, the power, and the purpose. Today we will look at persecution.



John 15: 18-19 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.

Everyone has heard of Lego. But have you heard of Tente? Tente is a brand of building blocks almost exactly like Lego. The blocks are the same material, same size. They are cheaper than Lego, and they specialize in military themes like battleships and tanks. The real difference is that Tente studs are slightly larger than Lego, which makes them incompatible with a Lego set.

The kindergarten I attended had both sets. But when it came time to pack them away we never kept them separate, which lead to frustration. You’d be working on a Lego ship and you’d need one more grey brick, and you’d rummage through thousands of yellow, red, and blue ones and finally find a grey one the right size and then when you tried to click it in, you’d realize it was Tente and didn’t fit!! Aaargh!

This is why the world hates Christians—we don’t fit. We are not compatible with the world’s system.

The world has a way of operating that’s in line with the agenda of Satan, which is diametrically opposed to the agenda of Christ. We don’t dance to Satan’s tune. We are told this in Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.

This is what it looks like: all the guys in the office are going to a strip club after work, and the only one who doesn’t join them is the Christian; all the kids in class have smartphones but you want to protect your kid, so they don’t fit in; everyone in your neighborhood flies a rainbow flag during Gay Pride week, except you, so they say you’re a bigot.

But you are incompatible with the way the world works. That’s why they hate you.

But here is some comfort, you are not alone…


John 15: 20-21 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. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.

Your fate is intertwined with Jesus. Your reputation is interconnected with him. Those who accept his words will accept you, those who reject him will reject you.

Don’t take it personally. It’s Christ in you they are hating. You’re suffering on account of his name.

If you aren’t standing for Christ, they won’t bother you. But what does that say of you?


John 15:22-24 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father.

People accuse Christians of being intolerant of other people, lifestyles, religions. That is a misunderstanding of our position. What we are intolerant of, is sin. Starting with our own sin and extending to the sin of others that causes pain and heartache and separation from God and eternal damnation.

Jesus was a friend of tax collectors; did that mean he endorsed their lifestyles, their irreligiosity? No. He came to make them well. He did not come to accept us for who we are. He came to change who we are into what we were created to be … holy. 

You’re Christianity makes them look guilty and feel guilty. So, they hate you.

1 John 3:13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.

It is your intolerance of sin in your life and in the lives of those around you that makes them hate you. If you approved of their sin, endorsed it, or at the very least ignored it, you’d avoid persecution.

But by living out a godly life, you can’t help but point out that their actions are sinful.


John 15: 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’

It’s not that Christians are a toxic influence in society. Quite the contrary. Christians do good for society or die trying, and yet the world still hates us. We plant churches, build hospitals and orphanages, adopt kids, protest abortion, dig wells, help the poor, and fight malaria.  What’s not to love?

Why kill people who don’t do anything harmful? Why not just let us be, with our weird views about life in the womb, and our silly ideas of Creation, and our annoying belief that marriage is between a man and woman and that children are born male or female … why not just let us be odd? Why persecute us and restrict our beliefs?

Here’s the answer of why they hate us rather than ignore us—ready?— no reason in particular.

John 15:25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’

Jesus is referencing… Ps 35:19 Let not those rejoice over me who are wrongfully my foes, and let not those wink the eye who hate me without cause.

They simply hate you for being a Christian. It was destined to be this way. 

The Bible often answers our questions with a healthy dose of God’s sovereignty. A reason people hated Jesus and rejected him is that it was God’s intention. If no one rejected him, there would be no cross.

And God’s plan is for his glory. In the dark shadow of persecution, our witness shines brightest.

Part of being hated gives an opportunity to bear witness, to be an example. Like John Hooper was.

Is it God’s will that Christians suffer for being called by Christ’s name?    Yes!


There is a truism in winemaking. Tortured vines yield the best fruit. When vines suffer due to a harsh climate or poor soil, the vine increases its yield of grapes. The more grapes for the birds to eat, the more seeds get scattered, the more vines will reproduce. When the climate and soil is too comfortable, the vines settle in and produce more leaves and fewer grapes.

In the same way, it is the pruning by the Vinedresser that lets the branches bear more fruit.

It is the suffering of Christians that makes us bear more fruit and makes that fruit more appealing to a watching world.

And all you need to do is abide in him.

Stay connected to Christ and you will bear fruit.

Yes, the downside is persecution, but Christ gets glory from us being fine vines, genuine vines, even if we are tortured vines.

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