Blessed are the persecuted
The first Sermon given during the 2020 Quarantine, is the last of the Beatitudes. Given on March 22nd 2020
(Explanation of today’s service)
Of Facebook live-
Of the weekly or biweekly devotions that will be posted to youtube, and some other avenues to be spiritually feed are coming soon as well.
Each of our Sermons for the past few weeks, while they have dug into what each of the Beatitudes means----have by no means been exhaustive. We could spend multiple Sundays on each of them, exploring all the different pathways of Scripture
We could talk about all the different aspect of mercy, of mourning, of meekness, we could dive as deep as we wanted to, into each of the Beatitudes by themselves, and still not run the well of Scripture dry
Perhaps at some point in the coming years we’ll be able to revisit them and explore them in a different light.
This morning however, we’ll be talking about the last Beatitude in the list in Matthew 5, but we’ll be concluding the series next week.
Our topic this morning is going to be something a little light-hearted, you know something not very serious or heavy --- persecution.
Matthew 5:10-11 - “10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
( → Open in prayer ← ← )
As ive been saying the past few months, these Beatitudes are a description by Jesus, of what someone who lives their life for Him...looks like.
These are the adjectives used by God, to describe someone within whom the Holy Spirit dwells.
When He sits down to teach the crowds, and His disciples, He’s speaking to the same kinds of crowds that we as Church want to speak to;
As in, there are believers there, sitting close, paying attention to His every syllable, listening intently to get as much spiritual food as they possibly can
Also, there are non-believers there.
People who have heard rumors about Him,
People who have come looking for a miracle
People who have come because theyre scared, anxious,
Because theyre afraid of the current state of their society
Theyre overburdened by the religious leaders holding them down
Theyre worn down by laws that no one can keep
They have heard about Jesus, and now theyre there in person, to see what He is all about.
Will He cast out demons?
Will He heal people?
He’s got this crowd of people; believers and unbelievers.
Jesus has amassed this crowd of people, all at different walks of their life, and all of them there to hear what He has to say.
Then He opens His mouth, and says:
Blessed are the poor in Spirit------
Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
The pure in heart
He is letting both believers and nonbelivers know, that when someone is blessed by God, these are their attributes.
This is the kind of person that they are
This is the kind of life they will build for themselves
A life of mercy, meekness, a life driven to make peace by the purity of their heart------
And then He concludes His list with this gem of a statement:
“Blessed are the persecuted…”
I can imagine a sermon starting off like this, nowadays:
“Alright Pastor, weve got a big congregation out there today, and I think a lot of them are visitors. First time guests and such, so lets really focus on what were going to say to them------please don’t talk about Persecution.”
But what does Jesus do?
He lays it all right out there.
He puts all of the cards on the table, and lets the believers and unbelievers know, that if you are going to live a life of mercy, with a pure heart that hungers for peaceful righteousness--------then you will be persecuted.
He’s telling people this, because of what
2nd Timothy 3:12 says - “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”
(Let me repeat that)
You see, when you repent of your sins, and believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, something happens.
Yes you're forgiven, of all of your sins, past-present -&- future
Yes you are made new
You are made right with God
Your past is put to death
God entangles Himself with your soul and begins to live within your heart
------and... the enemy knows it
Everyone who wants to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus, will be persecuted because we are not alone in this world.
There are evil forces at work
Laughing at our distress
Laughing at our fears
Mocking our anxiety
There are evil forces in this world, roaring like lion and seeking someone to devour
Ephesians 6:12 teaches us that our enemies aren’t flesh and blood, but are spiritual, that is what this means.
Our persecution may come at the hands of other people, or it may not.
It has come to Christians in the form of being hunted down in house to house searches-------
It has come in the form of Christians being fed to lions
They been at the mercy of armored gladiators in the 1st Century,----- and theyve been bound and beheaded in the 21st century.
Our brothers and sisters have been shot, hung, stoned, whipped, beaten, crucified, burned alive, raped and killed
Persecution has come at the hands of other people
And it has come by other means as well.
Job 1:18-19 says - “18 While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 19 when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
A mighty wind struck Job’s house, and killed his children. His sons and daughters died. The children he raised, the children he taught and loved and hugged, the children he watched take their first steps-------his children died because of persecution that came at him from our spiritual enemy.
Everyone who wants to live a Godly life ----- will be persecuted.
It’s like this, because of what Jesus said in:
John 15:18 - “18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”
If the Holy Spirit lives within you, if you have rependted of your sins and believed in Jesus Christ-----then God is with you wherever you go.
In whatever situation you are in - God is there
In whatever circumstances you are going through in your life
If you are afraid ---- God is with you
If God lives within you------ and you are fighting temptation, He is there with you-----
If you have succumbed to temptation ---- He is there
If you are surrounded by pain ----
If you have repented of your sins and believed in Jesus Christ------and everywhere you look you see uncertainty ----- and fear -------- God is with you
No matter what is going on in this world ------- no matter what is going on in your life ------ if you have turned from your sins and believed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then He is always with you.
Which means that no matter where you go, the light of God will shine through you.
Your honesty will make liars hate you
Your purity will make those who are sexually perverse, hate you
Your peacefulness will make the short tempered hate you
The way you live your life and how you interact with people, IF it is representative of the character and nature of God, -------- will cause other people to hate you, because they will see God in you--------
And the enemy who has blinded them, will move and work against us.
He will rally his dark forces---
He will move through the hearts and minds of the people of this world---
He will do as much as he is allowed to, to bring people to forsake their relationship with Jesus Christ and lose their salvation -------- and he will fail
He will fail because of what persecution accomplishes----because of what it does
If we look at what history can teach us, and what the Bible says about it----we can see that when the Church is persecuted;
When christians face hard times beyond that of which is the normal for this world-----
Beyond the hurt and suffering that goes along with living in a fallen world
Beyond the heartache and anxiety that accompanies life
When pain and persecution, confront the christian----
Two things happen:
The first of which can be found in:
Mark 4:16-17 - “Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy --------- But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.”
When persecution comes to someone who calls themselves a Christian, if they are only a christian by name, and not by heart, they quickly fall away.
Persecution separates the wheat from the chaff.
The christian by heart, from the christian by name
The true from the false
When someone had prayed the prayer of repentance, and has “gone through the steps” in order to “be a christian” but they havent surrender their full heart, persecution will reveal this.
If someone holds on to their beliefs that contradict Scripture, while still calling themselves a Christian------persecution will reveal this.
Persecution -- being harassed for your beleifs
Being attacked for bearing the name of Christ
When your life is literally on the line, and the tools of your death are held firmly in the hands of your would be killer, and all you will have to do is forsake the God you love to save yourself or your family
-------when this is the case------persecution draws a line in the sand.
Persecution asks you:
“Where do you stand?”
“Do you really believe, or is it just a mental comfort you have adopted to feel good?”
“Do you really believe that all other religions are fake, and that Jesus Christ is the only way to an eternity with God?”
Persecution cuts through all the STUFF in life:
The good stuff-----OR -the day to day mundane stuff------ OR the hard stuff that wears us down-----the complicated stuff that stresses our brains and stresses our hearts
It sidesteps all the good stuff and all the bad stuff that happens through all the days and years of our life and gets right to the point----
It leaves no room for argument-----
It leave no room for the “well maybe there’s a truth…..that possibly…...this could be true if we think this way……who am I to say…….
Persecution gets right to the point, draws a line in the sand, and asks you: “Where do you stand?”
“Do you believe there is no other way to heaven apart from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?”
You see ------- calling yourself a Christian, doesn’t make you a Christian----anymore than calling yourself a dog makes you a dog.
Going through the motions of Christianty is not what saves us
Going to church doesnt save us----
Being baptized doesnt save you
Saying “yes I believe in God” --- “yes I pray” --- “I love Jesus” etc etc etc
Doing these things cannot save you
It is through a total and complete repentance and turning away from our sins that is evidence that God has saved us----- it is the evidence that the Holy Spirit has made you new and now lives within your heart-------it is the proof that when persecution comes to you----you will spend an eternity with God------if that is your time to leave this earth.
If this is you------
If I am describing you-----
If you have turned away from sin----
If you hate your sin and fight against it whenever it surfaces-----
If you have repented of your sins and believed in the gospel of Jesus Christ, then WHEN persecution comes to you-----you will not lose your salvation.
God will save you.
He may not save your body from the pain of what is to come----
But He will save your eternal soul and welcome you with open arms.
-------is that the only choice, though?
Cant we-----offer them lip service?
Cant we ------ keep our fingers crossed and say “oh I didnt mean it, my fingers were crossed”
Cant we placate the means of our persecution and just say the words that will prevent us from being murdered or imprisoned?
And if we do-----will God abandon us?
The answer to that question can be found in
Luke 12:11-12 - “11 “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”
God will never leave you----
He will never forsake you----
There is no sin so dark He will turn His back on you----
There is no evil that will come against you that can take you from His hand-----
There are no words you can say that will strip the Holy Spirit from you heart------
When persecution comes to you, if you have repented of your sins and believed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ--------you will not quickly fall away.
Persecution highlights the distinction between those within whom the Holy Spirit dwells----and those who are Christians merely by name.
The second thing Persecution accomplishes, can be found in Acts chapter 7 starting at verse 54-----and going through to Chapter 8 verse 4. This is right at the beginning of the Christian Church.
Jesus has died, risen back to life, and ascended to heaven.
One of His followers, Stephen, is testifying before the court of the religious leaders, called the “Sanhedrin”.
He’s telling them who Jesus is, giving evidence, giving proof,
He’s showing them how the prophecies in the Old Testament talk about Jesus
And then He tells them they are wrong, and are they are the ones who killed Him.
Then, we have these verses:
Acts 7:54 - 8:4 - “54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. 8 And Saul approved of their killing him. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. 4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.”
Listen to those last 2 verses again:
3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. 4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.”
From the very beginning of the Church, they were persecuted.
House to house searches------ Doors kicked in ------- and people dragged from their homes.
But what did they do?
What was the outcome of this?
What did this persecution accomplish?
You can see it in verse 4:
4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.”
People are fleeing persecution, and spreading the very same message across the country that they are being persecuted for.
The second thing that persecution accomplishes, is that it grows the Church.
It galvanizes Christians
It strengthens them
It gives them a mission
It give us power, strength, focus,
It brushes aside all the stuff in this world that doesn’t have eternal meaning, and causes us to see that the only thing in this world that truly matters, is that we try and save as many people from hell as we possibly can.
Persecution grows the Church by empowering believers----
And it grows the Church by showing the world that the side of the line we stand on, is worth it in the end.
We can see this truth in Scripture, and in history:
In Scripture we see it in:
Luke 23:39-42 - “39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
This man is in the literal act of dying.
Hes been whipped, beaten,
Hes bleeding and sore
Hes been nailed to a tree and will be hung there until he dies a slow agonizing and painful death
And what does he do??
He sees persecution, and he converts to Christianity.
In history we can see it as well:
In 2015, a group of 20 Christians, working as day laborers, were kidnaped from Egypt, and brought to a beach. There, their kidnappers forced them to their knees, and asked them if they believed in Jesus Christ as God.
20 christians in row, went into eternity that day.
There was one other person there that day, kidnapped with them. He wasn’t with the church group, he wasn’t even a Christian. His name was Matthew Ayairga, and he was a construction worker from Ghana. He traveled to Egypt to find work, and was with the other men that day.
Like the others, he was handcuffed, forced to his knees, and asked if he believed in Jesus Christ as God.
This question came to him last. He was last in line. He just witnessed 20men lose their lives, and all he had to do to save his own, would be to tell them that he was not a Christian.
But instead, he said this: “Their God, is my God.”
The persecution of Christianity, creates Christians.
There was a leader from the early Church, named Tertullian. Hes been quoted as saying:
“The blood of the martyrs, is the seed of the Church.”
Christianity--------flourishes in the middle of heartache
In the midst of pain and suffering, Christianity rises
In the middle of sorrow and despair, Christianity grows
Amongst anxiety and fear-----the reality of Scripture shines like the Sun-------
When things are hard ----- Christians step up to the plate
When storms rage------ Christians stay level headed
When fear and hurt are thrust upon us ----- those within whom the Holy Spirit dwells, keep their eyes upon Jesus Christ, and show the rest of the world where there is hope.
Persecution creates Christians
So what do we do with this?
Why does this matter?
First, we need to understand that our enemy is not flesh and blood.
There will be times when we need to remind ourselves of this, over and over again.
No matter the level to which our faith is ridiculed or attacked
If its simple apathy and they dont care
Or if its anger and were attacked
No matter the level to which we face persecution-----it is always because of our enemy.
You see, when he attacks us, if its just a thought he knews we struggle with----
Or if its house to house searches----
We were made by God with that already in His mind.
God knew what the enemy was going to throw at us, and made us in a way to be prepared.
Some of us can handle huge life changing struggles
Some of us can look worry and anxiety in the face and tell it where to go
Some of us can barely handle any stress or worry
Some of us have to try their hardest to not come undone at the first hint of fear.
And I want to tell you this morning, that you should never compare yourself to someone else based on the level to which the enemy attacks you.
“Oh what your going through isnt that bad---look at what that happened to me!”
“Why are you so stressed, ive been through worse and Im fine!”
Or the other way around:
“If they were only going through the same persecution or hardship as I am, then they wouldnt be so calm”
“My problems are worse than everyone elses”
Each and every single one of you, was made in such a way that in your weakness, is where God will shine in your life.
When persecution comes to you-----call out to your God, and He will hear you.
When other people ridicule your faith
When they mock your values
When believing in what Scripture teaches, leaves you on the other side of people’s arguments
When we are persecuted for righteousness sake, God is there
Not when were persecuted for being an arrogant jerk
Not when were persecuted for being cold and unloving
But when we are persecuted for righteousness sake, we are blessed.
Id like to close with a quick little story about a man named Lawrence of Rome.
( → Excerpt from Foxes book of martyrs ← ← )
We are the descendents of God Himself.
Let the trials come, our God is bigger than them
Let the anxiety breaks like waves upon the shore at the power of the God who lives within us.
Let the worry wash over us, our God is bigger
We are the sons and daughters of the king of all creation.
We are in His hands
Not the worlds
Not the governements
Not our own
We are in HIS hands
If you have repented of your sins and believed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then He lives within your heart, and nothing the enemy can throw at us can stop our God from pouring out His will in our lives.
Remember that persecution is always because if our enemy
Remember that we all have weaknesses
And lastly-----this may sound weird ------- but
persecute the devil,
Persecute the devil by opening your bible, and reading the words of your God-------
Harass him by displaying each and everyone of the beatitudes through your daily life--
Attack him by telling other people about the love and hope that lies nowhere but a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Open your Bible and give the devil hell.
Because the absolute worst thing he can do, is spill your blood and create more Christians.
( → → Close in prayer ← ← )