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PERSECUTED

PERSECUTED

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake…” (Matthew 5:10)

 

INTRODUCTION:

“And they lived happily ever after." We are all familiar with the principal ending of many fairy tales. “They lived happily ever after". Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ of God, is not a fairy tale! Jesus was prophesied in the Old Testament according to God's Holy Word, and, in the fullness of time “the Word became flesh". “God sent forth His Son born of a woman". Jesus really lived in Nazareth after having been born in Bethlehem according to the Holy Scriptures. It is important to realize that “Jesus is The Way, The Truth, and The Life, and no man comes unto the Father but by Him". This is real, it is not a fable or a fairy tale! Nevertheless, it is equally important to understand that persecution is equally real and is coming, but it is the special blessing of Christians!

This is the exact meaning of verse 10, as explained by verses 11 and 12 of the 5th Chapter of Matthew's gospel. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." This is the exact meaning of this particular passage of scripture because Jesus also said in John 15 verse 18 and following: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.". The great Apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé Timothy, who did not understand this teaching and was apparently unhappy because he was being persecuted, “yes, and all who desire to live Godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." (2 Timothy 3:12)

Persecution is a special blessing for all those who seek to live Godly in Christ Jesus! In Paul's letter to the Church at Philippi, he exhorted them to “live as becomes the Gospel of Christ". He also exhorted them “not to be terrified by their adversaries in any way". The reason that Paul gave in the First Chapter of his letter to the Church at Philippi in the 29th verse is “for unto you has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, BUT TO SUFFER FOR HIS SAKE." What a privilege! It is as if Jesus, our kinsman Redeemer, said to the Father, “Father I have a special request to ask of you for one of My brethren. Allow him to suffer for my sake"! Do we handle it that way? Do we understand that persecution "for righteousness sake" is a blessing?

In the long history of the Christian Church, there have been periods of persecution, some of which have been very severe. As we consider this important doctrine set forth in the Beatitudes and preached by Jesus Himself in the Sermon on the Mount, it is important to recognize that in the history of the world there have been countless reports of Christian people who have been actively and bitterly persecuted in many countries around the world and there are many at this present moment. According to Dr. D Martyn-Lloyd Jones, “there may well be a strong case for saying that this may be the most important verse in your life and mine." As we take a brief look at this very significant and important doctrine, remember that it is a blessing to all those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, “for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven".

Notice first that the scriptures are not merely talking about suffering. The blessing comes not to those who are persecuted, but for those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. Therefore, this is not persecution just because one is a zealous, obnoxious, fanatic! Actually we are to be “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves". Note also that this is not persecution as a result of someone's wrongdoing. The Apostle Peter stated, “…let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, or as an evildoer” (1 Peter 4:15b)

 

I.PERSECUTION FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS SAKE

This beatitude couples the persecution, or one could say the suffering, with being righteous. That is practicing righteousness, or one might say being like the Lord Jesus Christ. Looking again at the passage in the Gospel of John from Chapter 15, Jesus said to his disciples the following:

“’If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you were not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master’." (John 15:18-20)

What we see here from the Lord Jesus Himself is that because He was persecuted, His followers also will be persecuted. Evil is organized according to a pattern. The Apostle Paul in the 6th Chapter of his letter to the Church of Ephesus called Christians to "be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might," “to put on the whole armor of God that they would be able to stand against the wiles of the devil". He gave the explanation that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers against the rulers of the darkness of this age against spiritual wickedness in high places”.

The great enemy of mankind, that old serpent the devil causes “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus [to] suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12) Be on guard so you are not caught by surprise and remember that our reaction is to “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad,...for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you”. (Matthew 5:12)

 

II. HOW SHALL WE THEN LIVE?

The Great Apostle Peter, who denied our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, wrote in his first epistle the following: “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God."(1 Peter 4:1) Thus, Peter is saying exactly the same thing that the Apostle Paul said to the Church at Philippi when he said, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death of the Cross." (Philippians 2:5-8) Therefore, the first thing that we ought to do is to arm ourselves with the “the mind of Christ". “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus!"

In writing to the Church at Colossi, the Apostle Paul also directed their attention to the things that we all should be thinking about, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on the things on the earth." (Colossians 3:1 and 2)

Our citizenship is in Heaven. We are called to turn our attention away from thinking about the things of the earth and to set our affection on things above- letting the mind of Christ be in us. How are you doing in this regard? This is the preparation for the times of persecution that are coming on the earth and which many in our day who are Christians are actually experiencing. Of course, there is a time coming, which may soon be here, when persecution is coming to all Christians. The Apostle Peter said in the 4th Chapter of his first epistle “But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love one for another, for love will cover a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." (1 Peter 4:7-10) These are some of the weapons with which we are to arm ourselves. Peter goes on to say the following:

“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part he is blasphemed, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people's matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now if the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.” (1 Peter 4:12-19)

 

III. REJOICING

Beloved, we see that many around the world are being persecuted just for being a Christian . The Apostle Peter tells us that a fiery trial is coming on the earth. The apostle Paul tells us that the wrath of God is coming. Therefore, be watching and be steadfast. Hold fast your profession!

 

When we look around us at the things that are happening in this nation and around the world; Christians being shot in colleges merely for being a Christian, Christians being beheaded by a terrorist, merely for being a Christian, and Christians being hated and compared to terrorist merely for being a Christian. As we have read of recent accounts of Christians being shot and killed instantaneously for no other known reason than being a Christian, one must ask the question of oneself “Am I ready"? Being ready begins first with being in Christ. “For He who knew no sin, became sin for us, that we may be the righteousness of God in Him.” This involves hearing the Glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. God The Son, The Eternal Word of God, came into this world according to Gods’ Holy plan to redeem fallen mankind. Jesus, Himself, actually bore our sin in His own body on the Cross that we might be dead unto sin and alive unto righteousness. Jesus is our Righteousness! Jehovah Tsidkenu – The Lord our Righteousness! The Lord our Righteousness gave His life a ransom for us. He is the atonement for our sin. He said, “It is finished!” God and His Holy law are fully satisfied and we are free. There is no double-jeopardy in God’s court. The penalty and punishment has been paid by Jesus for you. We receive this great reward by first, repentance-surrender of our will to God’s will; and second, faith-placing our trust in Jesus alone for our salvation. Our record is worthless and so we place no confidence in the flesh. Therefore, begin at the starting point of “being in Christ”. Make your calling and election sure.

Then have the mind of Christ in you, seek those things which are above where Christ sits on the right hand of the Father. Set your affection on things above and not on the things of the earth. Practice these things, seek to walk in righteousness and true holiness. Seek to manifest Jesus and live as becomes the Gospel of Christ. Let it be said that if the evildoers are looking for evidence to persecute those “for righteousness sake" let there be overwhelming evidence of our seeking to live for righteousness sake! The great reformer, Martin Luther, when confronted with the demand to recant his statements that salvation is by faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ alone and a sheer gift, not of works, said, “here I stand I can do naught else God help me. Amen!” Let that be our profession, for we do not have a high priest who cannot be touched by the feeling of our infirmities “but was in all points tempted as are we, yet without sin."(Hebrews 4:15b) Let us, therefore, hold fast our profession firm to the end. Let us live as becomes the Gospel of Christ for righteousness sake, and when we suffer persecution rejoice; be exceedingly glad; for our reward in heaven is great. We serve a great God!

 

CONCLUSION

Challenge yourself on these matters. Read Fox's book of martyrs. Are you ready to withstand that persecution? God help you and each of us to withstand that persecution in the evil day and in the fiery trial that is to come upon the earth and which may come sooner than we think. Let the mind of Christ be in you. Seek to live godly in Christ Jesus, and when you suffer persecution rejoice and be exceedingly glad for you know that your reward is great in heaven for yours is the Kingdom of heaven and they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, the great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21)

Your Friend and Brother in Christ,

Bill Gray

O for a thousand tongues to sing My great Redeemer’s praise, the glories of my God and King, the triumphs of His grace.

My gracious Master and my God, assist me to proclaim, to spread through all the earth abroad, the honors of Thy name.

Jesus! The name that charms our fears, that bids our sorrows cease; “tis music in the sinner’s ears, ‘tis life, and health, and peace.

He breaks the power of canceled sin, He sets the prisoner free; His blood can make the foulest clean; His blood availed for me.

Hear Him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb, your loosened tongues employ; Ye blind, behold your Saviour come; and leap, ye lame, for joy. Amen

 

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