And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the [a]earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
If the person has never experienced poor in Spirit, it is unlikely that he will mourn in his own sinfulness. If the person is not meek, it is unlikely that the person will thirst for righteousness. The question is: What did Jesus have in mind when He pronounced blessings on the God’s persecuted people? God’s people are also troublemakers in the eyes of the world. Anyone of us who lived up to the Beatitudes will find ourselves in a awkward position as he/she is a peace-maker and also making a stand against unrighteousness.
My past: I was a non-Christian. I saw a lot of my Christian friends who are sharing the gospel and it was irritating to me. I found that they were troublemakers. Today’s sermon outline:
- Examples of persecution (Now/Then)
- Reasons for Persecution
- How to escape persecution
- What is the biblical response for God’s people under persecution?
Examples of persecution
June 2021: Christians under persecution are dying in the rate 1 in 5 minutes. That year alone, every 5 minute 1 Christian will die for his faith. A young man I knew 20 odd years ago, he decided to serve God and his mother disowned him. Are we living in a more tolerant and inclusive world today compared to the Jesus’s times? The issue of persecution has not changed. We have changed. We are not an authentic representation of Jesus Christ. We have lowered the standards of righteousness. We are no longer fulfilling the lifestyle of God’s standards and we desired to merge with the world.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.- Romans 12:2
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.- 1 John 2:15-17
If we stick to God’s standards, persecution for righteousness is very real.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. – Matthew 5:10-11
If we ever get persecuted, its for God’s sake. It is a Christian thing to be persecuted for the right thing. If there is ever a verse in the bible that Jesus is getting personal, it is this verse “FOR MY SAKE!” When we obeyed him and make a stand for righteousness, it is because of our relationship with Jesus. Jesus is taking all the blame for our righteous living. The world is targeting at you but targeting at me. Who does the world hate? Jesus’s Christ! Your life as an obedient believer is an exact replica of Jesus Christ when He came on earth.
Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.- John 16:7-11
Jesus was talking about the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God work in us, and He works through us to convict people of sin and righteousness. By the way we believe, the world will be judged. If we lived in obedience in Christ, people would literally hate us as it will convict them of the righteousness of God. Jesus revealed God’s righteousness to an upside-down world. Jesus Christ was God’s walking Righteousness when He came. Some people hated what they saw (Jesus), some were drawn to Jesus’s acts. The Jewish has never seen a perfect man keeping all the commandments of God. They were devout and very religious. They believed that they kept God’s commandments until they saw Jesus, the walking ‘Righteousness of God’.
1 John 3:19-20
19 And by this we [a]know that we are of the truth, and shall [b]assure our hearts before Him. 20 For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
Do you like cockroaches? Many people don’t like cockroaches. They like to fellowship in the dark and when there is light, they will scampered. The religious people were like the cockroaches. There was a story in the bible about a woman who was caught in adultery and the religious people brought her for judgement. Jesus asked anyone if they have no sin, they can stone the woman to death. Everyone walked away. Jesus’s words pricked the conscience of the religious leaders and they hated it. They wanted to crucify Jesus.
If we fixed our eyes on pleasing God, the world will be convicted. Imagine if you are the only one who refused to play politics in a political office, you will stick up like a sore thumb. How much will you experience persecution or backlash? The degree of persecution will be determined by the 7 Beatitudes: how much you live up to it.
2 Timothy 3:10-12
You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
If you have never been persecuted, ridiculed, resented, misunderstood by the world-please check if your light is shining.
How to escape persecution?
You simply merge with the world, approve all the world’s values, parenting, business. You then can escape persecution and live your life peacefully. Don’t tell people they are sinful, don’t preach about Jesus, don’t talk about hell. Stay neutral. Are you then Christian but you are living in disobedience. If our salvation is real, we should know what it means to be oppressed, ostracized.
I know of people who are under-Christians and I was once an under cover Christian. I heard their jokes about Christianity and how they mock our faith yet I kept quiet. I also gave thanks for the food quietly without anyone noticing. The Lord rebuked me. “Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and my words, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed. Jesus said: if you are ashamed of me, I will be ashamed of you.” I repented of my ways and learnt how to stand out of Jesus.
What is the biblical response for God’s people under persecution:
“in nothing be terrified by your adversaries, which is to them an evident token of perdition. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.”-Philippians 1:28-29
It is more than just believing in Christ but also suffering for Christ. When we are persecuted, don’t be imitated by your enemies. When people hate the gospel or Christ in us, it is a prove that they are making themselves enemies of God. Our suffering of Christ is evidence that we are truly saved, it is an assurance of salvation. Those who persecuted us, will also have to face the judgement of God. When you faced persecution, it will strengthen your faith. Don’t be shaken or frightened. When someone strike you, you wanted to strike back, it is a natural reaction. If you don’t strike back, it’s a supernatural reaction. Its all about the reaction!
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven…” Matthew 5:44,45
Everyone will carry some wounds like “holes on my body”. Sometimes its because of my wrong-doing and sometimes its because of my walk with Jesus. I learn to pray for the people who hurt me and healing will take place. Bitterness will not grow in me.
In army, I saw a Christian soldier and we did not like him. We bullied him and hated him. One night, the soldier came back to camp and started praying. I did not like what I saw and threw my boots at him. He did not respond to it and continued praying. The next day, I found that my boots were polished by the side of the bed. That day, I was ashamed of myself and came to know the Lord that day.
“So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God”- 2 Tim 1:8
There were no signs of self-pity. I am paraphrasing what Paul says : “I will be in this world of what Christ wants me to be. I will be in this world to say what Christ wants me to say. If persecution comes, let it be. I must obey Christ and will not back up”
My prayer and my wish are willing to accept the consequences of living out the Beatitudes. Once we live out the Beatitudes, we will truly be the salt of the light. Is that your aspiration? Your desire? Anyone who desires to live out this life is a mark of a Christian.