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Sermons of
Rev. Stephen Pilon
Pillar of Fire Church

 Are you standing with the people of God?

Thinking about the persecuted Church. . . 

Text: Matt. 25:31-46 (Bottom of page)

2,550 years ago a book was written that recorded how God used a young woman to prevent the annihilation of His people. That book is called the Book of Esther and it's a book that contains the story of a people known as the Jews who were being persecuted for no other reason than that they were the people of God. Tonight's message is based on the Book of Esther. And since it will be impossible to understand the message without understanding something of the Book of Esther itself I would like to take a few minutes to give you an overview. The story begins with king Ahasuerus throwing a 180-day party for his nobles and other high-ranking servants. When that party ends he has another one for the residents of the Capitol, both great and small, and this one lasts for seven days. Now exactly why he threw either party is not made known to us but we do know that on the last day of the second party the king called for his queen, whose name was Vashti to come stand before him.

Now the reason he called for Vashti is because she was very beautiful and he wanted to show her off to the common people because many of them had never seen her. But when she is called she disobeys the king's command and refuses to come to the party. This makes the king furious because the command has been given and all the common servants are waiting for Vashti to appear and she never does. And because she refuses to obey the kings command the kings pride and authority are compromised. And so he asks his advisors what should be done. They tell him that not only has Vashti done evil by disobeying him but that now the wives of other men would do the same to their husbands and there would be nothing but trouble if he did not make an example of her. So in his anger the king issues a decree that banishes Vashti from ever coming into his presence again.

But once his anger has cooled he remembers queen Vashti's beauty and charm and he regrets his decision to banish her from his presence. But unfortunately for him he has issued an official decree, and according to the laws of the Medes and the Persians once a decree has been issued it cannot be rescinded, not even by the king himself. Now the kings advisors were astute men and they realized from what he said and did that the king was having second thoughts regarding queen Vashti and so they advise him to conduct a beauty contest to find a new queen to replace her. Now the king thinks that this is a wonderful idea and he instructs his advisors to proceed with their plan. And so from throughout the empire young virgins were brought to the Capitol City of Susa, and among them was a young Jewish maiden by the name of Esther. And as the Lord would have it Esther finds favor in the eyes of the king  and he chooses her to be his new queen.

Now prior to becoming queen Esther had been an orphan who had been adopted by her father's nephew, a man known as Mordecai. Now Mordecai was a godly man who worshiped the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and he raised his adopted daughter to worship Him as well. And because he honored the Lord, Mordecai would not bow down to anything that was not God. You see his great grandfather Kish had been taken as one of the captives from Jerusalem when Babylon conquered that city. And he knew that the reason the Jews were taken into exile was because previously they had bowed down to everything that was not God, and Mordecai wasn't going to repeat that mistake. But in the kingdom of Persia there was a man who took exception to his piety, a man who was second only to the king, a man by the name of Haman. You see Haman had just recently been elevated to his lofty position by the king and as part of that promotion the king had issued a decree commanding that all of his subjects bow to Haman whenever he passed by. And everyone did except for Mordecai. And what made his refusal especially noticeable was the fact that he could often be found outside of the kings gate. 

And since the area by the kings gate was such a busy place others saw that Mordecai refused to bow to Haman. So these people repeatedly reminded Mordecai of the kings command and yet he still refused to obey. And when they asked him why he basically told them that he was a Jew and it wasn't lawful for him to bow in worship to a man. So immediately these people went to Haman and told him that Mordecai would not bow down to him because he was a Jew and they waited to see what would happen.
Now once Haman was made aware of the fact that Mordecai would not bow down to him he  purposely looked for him in the crowd the next time he rode by. And when he saw him standing upright while everyone else bowed to the ground it ate at him like a canker. And so in his anger Haman decided to do whatever it took to rid himself of this man. But it wasn't just Mordecai that Haman wanted to get rid of. He was told that this man was a Jew, and there were thousands of Jews. If one wouldn't bow to him perhaps others of his kind wouldn't either. So it was in his best interest to destroy the entire Jewish race. But there was a problem. Haman was not the king and didn't have the authority to do what he wanted. So he went to the king and he said:
There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from all other peoples, and they do not keep the kings laws. Therefore it is not fitting for the king to let them remain. If it pleases the king, let a decree be written that they be destroyed, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who do the work, to bring it into the kings treasuries. (Esther 3:8,9)

Haman may not have had the authority to destroy the Jews but he knew who did. And he was wise enough to know that through a combination of flattery, lying, and bribery he could influence the king to see things his way. After all he flattered, was it not the kings honor that was at stake? And he lied, was it not his laws that these people would not obey? And last of all he bribed the king by offering to foot the bill to destroy his enemies. Now for the purpose of our study it doesn't matter that none of what Haman said was true. Because the king believes what he is told and the decree is issued, and a date is set in the future when the people of the land will be allowed to rise up and destroy the Jews and plunder their possessions.

Now just as soon as the kings edict was posted Mordecai was one of the first to see it. And when he does see it he tears his clothes and puts on sackcloth and ashes as a sign of mourning. And because Hess right next to the kings gate the servants of Esther see him, and since they know who he is they tell their mistress. Now because the kings law will not allow anyone wearing sackcloth to enter the palace, Esther cannot speak to her father directly unless he is properly attired. And so she sends one of her servants to Mordecai with some proper clothing for him to put on. But he refuses the clothing. So she sends another servant to her father to find out why he is dressed in sackcloth and ashes. And so Mordecai relates to this servant all that the king has decreed against the Jews. And then he instructs him that when he tells Esther these things he is also to tell her that she must go before king Ahasuerus to plead for the lives of her people.

Now once the servant tells Esther what her father Mordecai has said Esther takes a look around the palace. And as she does she realizes just how good life has been to her. Manual labor hasn't marred her beauty as it has so many others her age. The sun hasn't wrinkled her skin because she has been forced to work in it every day for hours on end. She has plenty to eat, the finest clothing to wear, maids to attend to her, and best of all there is not another woman in all of Persia who is greater than she is. And as she thinks on these things she realizes just what she stands to lose by doing what her father has said. And she has a lot to lose. You see Esther knew that anyone who went before the king without being called ran the risk of immediate execution and that included the queen. Surely she reasons if her father Mordecai knew what he was asking, if he only knew what possibly awaited her, he would never ask her to do such a thing. And so once again she sends her servant back to Mordecai with a message saying:
All the kings servants and the people of the kings provinces know that any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, he has but one law; put all to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter, that he may live. Yet I myself have not been called to go in to the king these thirty days. (Esther 4:11)

But Mordecai did know what he was asking his daughter to do. He was asking her to risk everything for her people the people of God. But he also knew from her reply that there was a struggle going on in her soul. He knew that because of privilege and position Esther felt insulated and safe from the very thing that was threatening to destroy her own people. But there was another reason why Esther was so hesitant to do anything. 

You see when Esther had originally been brought to the palace her father did not want her chances of obtaining a life of prosperity to be ruined so he told her not to reveal who her people were (Esther 2:10,20). And even after she had been crowned as queen Mordecai told her to continue to remain quiet as to her ethnic identity. And so it wasn't just pleasure, prestige, and power that had blinded her eyes to what was going on around her but it was also the fact that Esther no longer practiced what she was. You see, she had become a Jew in secret. And because of all of these things she had almost forgotten who she was and her obligation to those to whom she belonged. 
And so her father sends her a gentle reminder, saying:
Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the kings palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this? (Esther 4:13,14)

And that was all it took! The words of the one who loved her more than any other, her father, snapped her back to reality and she realized that her place was with the people of God, her people. And she realized that it was her lot, her calling, to either stand or fall with them. And as this realization sank in she remembered something else, something that all of God's people know. She remembered that the fight, the battle, is not against flesh and blood but that it is really against the powers of darkness (Eph. 6:12). Her battle wasn't with king Ahasuerus, or Haman, but it was with the powers of darkness that influenced them to even consider such an evil thing. And Esther knew that if her people were to be saved two things would be necessary. First and most importantly of all they would need to approach the God of Israel in prayer because spiritual wickedness and spiritual evil can only be defeated by the One who holds all power and that is the God of creation. And then once the battle and the victory had been committed to Him then she would have to put her hands and feet and mouth in motion to do and say what was right.

And so Esther sends a final request to her father, saying:
Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Susa, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish! (Esther 4:16)

Do you see the change that has taken place in Esther? Once reminded of who she was Esther made a conscious decision to come out of the shadows and to forsake the pleasures and safety of the kings palace in order to stand with her own people. And what was the result? Well, if you were to read the entire book you would find that Esther did indeed go before king Ahasuerus. And instead of executing her, the king receives her and listens to her petition. And as a result of her prayerful intercession the wicked plans of Haman were undone, the Jews were saved, and Haman himself was impaled on the very gallows or stake that he had prepared for Esthers father Mordecai. You see, because Esther was willing to identify completely with the people of God and because she relied upon the Lord for the outcome, the Lord didn't disappoint her.

But what if Esther had selfishly refused to stand up and be counted with the people of God? What if she had said in her heart God has blessed me with this position because I have been so faithful to Him, even though in secret. Surely He doesn't expect me to jeopardize what He has given. What if she had talked herself into not doing anything at all?  Maybe the story would have had a different ending. Maybe evil would have been allowed to triumph over good for awhile. After all, when many in the church became comfortable in their positions and refused to take a stand in the last century God did allow evil to triumph for a time in both Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. But fortunately this was not the case in ancient Persia. Thankfully for those living then as well as for those of us who read their history today God found a faithful servant in Esther. He found a young woman who was willing to sacrifice her own comfort, her own pleasure, her own well-being, her own exalted position, and yes, even her own life for those to whom she belonged the people of God.

And someday just as you have heard and read the history of what Esther did, so others will hear and read the history of what you did. And when they read your history what will they read? Will they read how you courageously sacrificed everything for the Lord's people or will they read how you did nothing while the people of God were murdered, raped, tortured, and falsely imprisoned in such countries as the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, China, Vietnam and others? Will they read how you identified with the suffering people of the Lord or will they read how you completely ignored them? 

A couple of months ago I had the privilege of working at the Christian Ministry Convention here in Denver. As I walked through the facility on the second day I came across a booth being run by representatives of Open Doors with Brother Andrew. Like the Voice of the Martyrs this organization works day and night to bring relief to the people of God who are being persecuted for no other reason than that they are the people of God. Now on their table the couple running the booth had quite a few books explaining the plight of our brothers and sisters throughout the world. But they also had a sign. The sign was 3 x 1 and it showed a strand of barb wire at the top of it and a strand of barb wire at the bottom of it. And in between these two strands of barb wire were the words Remember the Persecuted. Do you know that when many of those attending the convention saw that sign they turned right around and went back the way they had come? It was so noticeable the couple operating the Open Doors booth felt compelled to apologize to the booth next to them because that booth wasn't getting very much business at all. And do you know what someone finally suggested? Cover the sign up! The people don't want to see it. Cover it up. They don't want to be reminded that with the crown comes thorns and with the cross comes suffering. Cover it up. To their credit this couple did not cover the sign up.

No doubt others counseled Esther to do the same thing. And just maybe she would have been willing to cover the sign up, but in His mercy the One who loved her more than her father Mordecai sent her a message through Mordecai. It was a message that woke her up, a message that changed the direction of her life, and a message that impacted for good, and not for evil, the lives of the people of God.

Like Esther, it's time for you and I to wake up. Its time to stop being Christians in secret for fear of what might happen to us. And instead of running from the responsibility we have to our brothers and sisters, and making excuses why we can't do anything to help, we need to do what God has put us here to do for such a time as this. Because today the One who loves you more than any other, your heavenly Father, sends you a message. And if you hear and obey that message it will not only change your life but it will be sunshine to the soul of those who have suffered horrendous things for the name of their God and our God. But if you ignore that message and refuse to obey it perhaps evil will be allowed to triumph for a time. Perhaps some that bear the name of Jesus will be allowed to perish before He intervenes to deliver them. But know this. He will deliver them! And you, you will have lost out on your greatest opportunity to minister to the Lord Jesus Himself. Listen to the message that your Father sends to you for it is found in Matt. 25:31-46. Take it home with you and meditate upon it. Fast and pray over it and then decide how, not if, but how the Lord Jesus would have you respond. Listen to the message. 

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me. Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? And the King will answer and say to them, assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me. Then He will say to those on the left hand, depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me. Then they also will answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not minister to You? Then He will answer them, saying, assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me. And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

This is the message that the Lord would have you hear tonight to remind you of your responsibility to your brothers and sisters. You don't have the luxury of being a Christian in secret. You either stand with the Lord's people or you stand against them. And on that day this will be the standard that Jesus will use to determine who it was that truly followed Him.

Sermon Text (Matt. 25:31-46)
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When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 
And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 
And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 
Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 
Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 
I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 
Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 
Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. 
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