October 2017  
SMTWTFS
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031    
     
Bible Search
Blessed Are the Persecuted

Blessed Are the Persecuted

The first seven Beatitudes illustrate the spiritual journey from the time a man realizes he’s lost to the time he begins to develop signs of Christlikeness. First of all, we saw that the journey begins with being "poor in spirit." To be "poor in spirit" means to acknowledge our total spiritual poverty before the Lord and our utter dependence upon Him.

From that point, we begin to "mourn" our condition. This mourning is deep and profound as our hearts are broken before God. It is godly sorrow that leads to repentance.

Our poorness of spirit and our mourning lead to meekness, which is a broken will and a receptive heart before God. Through meekness, we accept the Lord’s “bit and bridle”—His control, and we become useful to God.

Next comes a hungering and thirsting after righteousness. At this point, we have been made to see our deep need of a righteousness which we do not possess. A Christian is no longer satisfied with what the world has to offer and he hungers and thirsts after Jesus, who is our righteousness, with a continual desire for more of Him. As a result, Jesus fills us with Himself, the Holy Spirit, and He produces His fruit in us.

Being merciful, pure in heart, and a peacemaker are all fruit of the Holy Spirit and the development of a Christ-like life. What follows next is the end result of becoming Christ-like. In other words, the one who demonstrates genuine Christlikeness will be persecuted, just like Jesus was, because they are like Him.

Matt 5:10-12 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

If ever a beatitude was a paradox, this one is. How can the persecuted be blessed? Can you even imagine someone saying, “I’m so happy I have people to pick on me and beat me up,” and actually mean what they are saying!? No one in their right mind finds pleasure in pain. We are made to love and to be loved. We like to be liked. Friendship is the atmosphere in which we breathe most freely. Of all the injuries that can be afflicted on a human being, persecution possibly comes the closest to making life “hell on earth”.

Jesus must have known His followers would have a hard time with this statement. Out of all the beatitudes, this is the only one Jesus repeated for emphasis. Jesus doesn’t just say the persecuted are blessed once; He says it twice! And tells us to “rejoice and be glad!”

To understand this beatitude, let’s first establish what Jesus did NOT say.

1. Jesus did not say "Blessed are they who are persecuted because they’re obnoxious."

2. Jesus did not say "Blessed are they who are persecuted because they were arrogant and abusive in their attempts to witness."

3. Jesus did not say "Blessed are they who are persecuted because they had a ‘holier- than-thou’ attitude."

Jesus did say, it is not merely those who are persecuted that are blessed, but those who are persecuted for “righteousness”.

1 Peter 3:17 It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

To be righteous means to be Christlike. In other words, blessed are those who are persecuted for being like Christ.

1 Peter 4:12-16 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.  However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

Jesus was not persecuted because He was good, but because He was righteous. There was something about Him that condemned those in the world. His righteousness exposed their unrighteousness and it was their feelings of guilt that brought about their persecution of Him. The world persecutes Christians today for the same reason they persecuted Christ.

John 15:18-22 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. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. 

At the time of salvation, believers become a new creation in Christ Jesus. They begin to live and demonstrate a life of righteousness. They don’t compromise with the world and its sinful behavior. They realize that they owe everything to Christ; therefore, they seek to live their lives for the One who died so that they might live. Their righteous life and the blessings they enjoy make unbelievers feel convicted, guilty, and jealous. Rather than repent and accept Jesus as Lord, unbelievers persecute Christians for being a witness of Jesus Christ and making them feel guilty, accusing Christians of being judgmental and hateful.

A Christian can respond one of two ways when they are persecuted. They can respond carnally or spiritually. The first thing we want to do when we’re persecuted is to retaliate, but to do so would be a purely carnal response.

While it is carnal to openly retaliate against those who hurt us, it is just as carnal to harbor inward feelings of resentment toward them, or toward the Lord for allowing persecution to come our way.

On the other extreme, feelings of religious superiority are sometimes a reaction to persecution. Instead of manifesting a “holier than you” attitude toward our persecutors, the Christian ought to grieve for them, because it’s the domination of sin in their lives that’s causing them to persecute others. In most cases, the reason why people are compelled to persecute believers is because they don’t know the Lord, and that ought to grieve our hearts.

HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND TO PRESECUTION?

1. Sometimes we simply need to LEAVE. Jesus knew when it was time to move on. On one occasion, a mob wanted to stone Jesus to death, but He left. Another time, Jesus knew the Pharisees were plotting to have Him killed, so He withdrew to another area. The timing of His death was determined by the Father, not His persecutors.

2. We need to GUARD AGAINST COMPROMISE. One way to end persecution is to become like those who oppose you. We need to remember, we are called to please and obey God, not men. Peter and John were ordered to stop preaching and teaching in the name of Jesus, but their response should be ours:

Acts 4:19 “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.”

3. We need to LOVE OUR ENEMIES. It’s easy to think of a way to get even when someone has hurt us or those we love. However, God wants us to love our enemies and break the cycle of revenge. Instead of lashing out with anger, we are called by God to bless those who mistreat us.

Romans 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Our purpose in blessing them is to show them the love of Jesus Christ in hope that they might give their life to Him.

Romans 12:17-21 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

4. We should PRAY FOR THOSE WHO PERSECUTE US. Many times, they attack us in the same way they have been hurt. See them as they are—hurting people who need Christ. Therefore, pray for them—that they might have grace to believe and be healed by Jesus.

Jesus challenged the thinking of His day. His teaching is still radically different from what many people believe today.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-44 You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

Furthermore, we should love and pray for those who persecute us because they are not our real enemies. They are motivated and controlled by evil spirits. Pray for their deliverance.

Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

5. Another spiritual response to persecution is one of REJOICING—not in the persecution itself, but in how persecution blesses our lives. To be persecuted for "righteousness" is to be persecuted for being like Christ, and Christlikeness is evidence of a genuine relationship with the Lord.

1 Peter 2:19-23 For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

Persecution also blesses us with a reliance on God. Sometimes it takes a little persecution and suffering to bring us to the end of our own strength and to cause us to begin relying on the strength of the Lord.

1 Peter 5:10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

Lastly, we can rejoice because persecution blesses us with a reward. Jesus said, "Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven".

If you don’t want to be persecuted, it is easy to prevent it. All you have to do is become saturated with the things of this world, to the point where no one can tell you are a Christian, and persecution will stop. However, you will lose your reward. You may even be in danger of denying Christ.

Too often, Christians forget the price we must be willing to pay.

Jesus said in Luke 14:27-28 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?

Jesus didn’t hide anything from us. He told us like it is; “If you are going to be my disciple, then expect persecution.” Jesus told us, in this life we can expect:

• Persecution instead of praise.

• Cruel insults instead of cordial invitations.

• Harassment instead of honor.

• Abuse instead of applause.

• Slander instead of support.

• Death instead of dignity.

That is why He said in John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

When we encounter persecution, remember it’s not us our attackers are outraged with. It’s not about us! It’s about Jesus!

In the early days of the Christian Church, a zealous young man did everything in his power to bring it to an end. This man had believers arrested and put into prison; he threatened the lives of Christians and approved of them being put to death. However, he stopped hunting down the Christians when he became a Christian himself. Why did he change? He met the risen Christ.

Jesus appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus and said, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Unbeknownst, Saul was not opposing a group of people; he was opposing Jesus, the same Jesus who had been crucified and lay dead in the grave for three days. But then Christ came back to life and now confronted the man who threatened His Church! After his conversion, Saul changed his name to Paul, the same Paul who wrote most of the New Testament.

Likewise, people today continue to resist Jesus. The Lord wants us to remember when we encounter persecution, it’s not about us. It’s about Him. They will stop persecuting us when they come to know Jesus. Therefore, let them see Jesus in you.

Jesus also wants us to remember we are not the only ones who have ever experienced persecution for our faith in God. Paul eventually experienced the same persecution he gave to others before he became a Christian. All of God’s people and prophets have been hated and persecuted. Jesus said this puts us in good company. Our reward will be the same as theirs.

Jesus promised a blessing truly out of this world for those who are persecuted. Those treated unjustly, ridiculed, maligned, falsely accused, beaten, bruised, betrayed, tortured, or even killed because of righteousness will have a great reward in heaven.

Although standing up in the face of persecution is hard, it is easier when we love Jesus with all our heart and remember His words. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and the reward ahead of you!

Remember, the Christian faith is not a cause or a religion; it’s not about good works or living a moral life. CHRISTIANITY IS CHRIST LIVING IN US! Our Christian faith is centered on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. From Jesus, we get our strength, peace, joy, and love.

In the LETTER TO DIOGNETUS, written in the second century, an anonymous writer describes some persecuted people, called Christians.

"Christians are not differentiated from other people by country, language, or customs; you see, they do not live in cities of their own, or speak some strange dialect. . . They live in both Greek and foreign cities, wherever chance has put them. They follow local customs in clothing, food, and other aspects of life. But at the same time, they demonstrate to us the unusual form of their own citizenship.

"They live in their own native lands, but as aliens. . . Every foreign country is to them as their native country, and every native land as a foreign country.

They marry and have children just like everyone else, but they do not kill unwanted babies. They offer a shared table, but not a shared bed. They are passing their days on earth, but are citizens of heaven. They obey the appointed laws and go beyond the laws in their own lives.

"They love everyone, but are persecuted by all. They are put to death and gain life. They are poor and yet make many rich.

They are dishonored and yet gain glory through dishonor. Their names are blackened and yet they are cleared. They are mocked and bless in return. They are treated outrageously and behave respectfully to others.

"When they do good, they are punished as evildoers; when punished, they rejoice as if being given new life. They are attacked by Jews as aliens and are persecuted by Greeks; yet those who hate them cannot give any reason for their hostility."

Nothing has changed in 2000 years. Christians who dare to live and walk by the Holy Spirit of Christ and the Word of God must be prepared for persecution. Our natural tendency is to avoid persecution and pursue security. Whenever Christians lose their focus on Jesus and begin to pursue things of the world instead of righteousness, they cease to be effective. Therefore, beware! Be filled with the Holy Spirit so you have power to witness and to endure persecution.

You may wonder, why should anyone desire a relationship with Jesus Christ if we will be treated like Him? Remember, the ease and comfort of this world is temporary, then comes eternity. Most people will choose the ease and comfort of today, but in doing so, they are choosing Hell and damnation for eternity. Choose Christ now, and the fellowship of His suffering, so that you may know Him, and enjoy His blessings, and spend eternity with Him.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

To make Jesus your Lord and Savior, believe in Him as the Son of God and the atonement for your sin. Repent of your sin and independence. Give your life to Jesus by dying to self in baptism. He will give you a new life, born of the Holy Spirit. He will fill you with divine love, joy unspeakable, peace that passes understanding, and all the fruit of the Spirit which will empower you to endure any persecution.