From the Pastor's Desk
Happy are the Harassed
years ago, a popular national magazine took a survey. They wanted to determine the things that make
people happy. According to the results
of the survey, happy people enjoy other people.
At the same time they tend to focus on self and are not self-sacrificing. They are positive and upbeat and refuse to
participate in any negative feelings or emotions. In addition, the survey revealed that happy
people have a sense of accomplishment based on their own self-sufficiency.
person described as happy in that magazine article is completely contrary to
the kind of person the Lord says will be authentically happy. The Lord lays out for us His definition of
happiness in the beginning parts of the Sermon of the Mount in what we call the
Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are a list of
characteristics that describe someone who is a member of the kingdom of
to Jesus, the truly happy person recognizes his own emptiness and his own
people in God's kingdom mourn over their own sinfulness. To be genuinely content a person must not be
self-giving but self-sacrificing. He
must be gentle, merciful, pure in heart, yearn for righteousness and seek to
make peace on God's terms. He seeks
those attitudes in his life even if they cause him to suffer.
morning, we're going to finish our look at the Beatitudes by examining the
eighth and last one. Of all of them,
this one seems the most contrary with human experience and human thinking. The world does not associate happiness with
humility or mourning over sin. Usually
people don't look at gentleness, righteousness, mercy, purity and peacemaking
as avenues of happiness. It certainly
doesn't consider persecution to be associated with happiness.
as Jesus ends this section of His first major message to the masses, He leaves
us with a sobering truth: those who live
faithfully according to the first seven beatitudes are guaranteed at some point
to experience the eighth. Those who live
righteously will inevitably be persecuted for it. The crowning feature of the happy person is
persecution. Let's now read Matt.
we have said numerous times over the course of our study of this passage, these
beatitudes are not separate and distinct from each other. They all tie together. The person who recognizes his spiritual
poverty and mourns over his spiritual condition and then yields to the Master
will be brought under God's control. As
a result, he will hunger and thirst for righteousness, seeking to be merciful
and pure in heart, desiring peace for all as he has experienced it.
means that if we live like Jesus wants us to live we will experience
persecution in our lives. That's one of
the promises made to us in Scripture.
Paul tells us in 2 Timothy that "all who desire to live godly in
Christ Jesus will be persecuted."
does this play out? Imagine a man who
accepted a new job in which he had to work with especially profane people. When he came home at the end of his first
day, his wife asked him how he had managed.
He said, "Terrific! They
never even guessed that I was a Christian." Your attitude towards righteous living and
your attitude towards persecution will determine whether you think that story
was good or bad. But from Christ's
perspective, it's bad. People should
always know that we are Christians. Ask
yourself this: Is that how you live your
life? Do people even know that you're a
long as people have no reason to believe that we are Christians, we need not
worry about persecution. But if we live
for Jesus, persecution will be a part of our lives. Persecution is one of the surest and most
tangible evidences of salvation.
Suffering persecution is part of the normal Christian life. If we never experience ridicule, criticism or
rejection because of our faith, we have reason to examine the genuineness of
all believers will be in a constant state of opposition, ridicule or
persecution. But every faithful believer
will at times have some resistance and ridicule from the world. Others, meanwhile, will endure more extreme
suffering. Our responsibility is not to
seek out persecution; our responsibility is to be willing to endure whatever
comes our way.
persecution is easy. To live like the
world will cost us nothing. To mimic the
world and never criticize it will cost us nothing. To keep quiet about the gospel, will cost us
nothing. To go along with the world and
laugh at its jokes and enjoy its entertainment and smile as it mocks God and to
be ashamed to take a stand for Christ, will cost us nothing.
doing those things and living that way are habits of the sham Christian. Jesus does not take faithlessness
lightly. Luke 9:26. If we are ashamed of Christ, He will be
ashamed of us. That's because being
ashamed of Christ is evidence of a lack of salvation. To be popular with everyone is either to have
compromised the faith or not to have true faith at all.
aren't truly persecuted for our faith for simply being stupid. Having a rotten attitude; acting morally
superior to everyone else; being a hypocrite; wrongly judging others in a harsh
manner; engaging in pointless arguments where your only goal is to win are not
ways that we are persecuted for righteousness.
Those are ways that we make people dislike us because we're being dumb
and sinful; that is not persecution.
persecution stems from us living righteous lives. When we reflect Jesus to the world; when we
live according to His standards; when we share Christ with a lost world; when
we take a stand against sin; those are the attitudes and the actions that the
world hates and that will result in us suffering persecution.
have been suffering persecution since Christ started the church. In order to try to stamp out the church, the
Romans invented charges against Christians.
They accused them of being cannibals because in the Lord's Supper they
spoke of eating Jesus' body and drinking His blood. They accused them of immorality in
association with their love feasts. They
even accused the church of setting fire to Rome. They branded them as revolutionaries because
they called Jesus Lord and King and spoke of God's destroying the earth by
Roman rule, the Caesars came to be deified.
Everyone had to give a verbal oath of allegiance to Caesar once a
year. After proclaiming "Caesar is
Lord" the person was free to worship any other gods he chose. Because faithful Christians refused to
declare allegiance to anyone by Christ, they were considered traitors.
a result first century believers paid a very high price. They would lose property or work; they often
faced prison time. An example of that
might be a Christian stonemason in Ephesus in Paul's day. He might have been asked to help build a
pagan temple or shrine. Because he could
not do that in good conscience, his faith could cost him not only his job but
also his career.
we don't have to back that far, the exact same thing is happening in America,
today. Christian bakers and Christians
florists and Christian photographers are having to make decisions on jobs
they'll do based on their religious convictions. Many of them are paying a steep price for
refusing to cater same-sex wedding ceremonies.
They're paying huge fines to state human rights commissions, losing
business, being publicly ridiculed and threatened (I'm sure in a loving and
course many of them were also put to death.
There were many means of putting someone to death. Stoning was a popular means of
execution. Some believers were covered
in pitch and used as a human torch. Then
there was the ever popular method of wrapping them in animal skins and throwing
them to vicious hunting dogs.
matter what happens to us, Christ calls us to live a life of suffering and
persecution. Luke 9:23. We need to be ready to die, if need be, for
the cause of the Lord. Not everyone has
to pay that price. Some costs for
obedience will be great while others will be slight. Some will be known in advance while others
will surprise us. But no matter what
cost we may have to pay for following our Lord, a true believer is always
willing to pay it.
are a number of types of persecution that we experience as believers. First, there is physical persecution. The basic meaning of persecute is "chasing,
driving away or pursuing." From
that came the connotation of physical persecution, harassment, abuse and other
unjust treatment. This would obviously
involve beatings and death.
way this is worded in the Greek also indicates continuousness. Believers are to have a continuing
willingness to endure persecution if it is the price of godly living. It is a constant attitude of accepting
whatever faithfulness to Christ may bring.
form of persecution that true believers experience is verbal insults. This carries the idea of "reviling,
upbraiding or seriously insulting."
It literally means to cast in one's teeth. To cast insults is to throw abusive words in
the face of an opponent, to mock viciously.
Faithfulness to Christ may even cause friends and loved ones to say
things that cut and hurt deeply.
last form of persecution that we experience is false accusation. This describes evil things, primarily "abusive
words said behind our backs." This
may be harder to take purely because it is harder to defend against. It has opportunity to spread and be believed
before we even have a chance to correct it.
Much harm to our reputation can be done even before we are aware someone
has slandered us.
specific blessing promised to those who are so persecuted is that theirs is the
kingdom of heaven. The citizens of the
kingdom are going to inherit the kingdom.
we receive and we enjoy present blessings of the kingdom. We can look at OT characters like Joseph and
Daniel to see the truth of this. Joseph
had all kinds of bad things happen to him, yet eventually God put him in charge
of the entire nation of Egypt and used him to save the world from
starvation. Daniel was falsely accused
of things, but also ended up with great power and great influence with a
we also need to keep in mind that doesn't always happen. It isn't true that God only wants good,
positive things for our lives. No matter
how much faith we claim; no matter what we might say, sometimes we experience
negative things in life including what we might consider premature death. Not every believer is rewarded in this life
with the things of this life. But every
believer is rewarded in this life with the comfort, strength and joy of the
indwelling Lord. He is also blessed with
the assurance that no service or sacrifice for the Lord will be in vain.
will also experience the future reward of the eternal kingdom. As believers we have the promise of the
blessing of all blessings of living forever in our Lord's kingdom enjoying His
very presence for all eternity. Even if
the world takes from us every possession; every freedom; every comfort; every
satisfaction of physical life, it can take nothing from our spiritual life now
or throughout eternity.
believer's response to persecution and affliction should not be to retreat and
hate. To escape from the world is to
escape responsibility. Because we belong
to Christ, we are no longer of this world.
He has sent us into this world to serve, just as He Himself came into
this world to serve.
are salt and light. Matt. 5:13-14. For our salt to flavor and our light to
enlighten, we must be active in the world.
The gospel is not given to be hidden.
When we become church salt we will sting the world's open wounds of sin. When we become Christ's light we will irritate
the eyes that are used to darkness. But
even when our salt and light are restricted, rejected and thrown back into our
face, we should rejoice and be glad. We
can be glad because our reward is great.
We also rejoice because the prophets before us were also rejected.
assurance of salvation does not come from knowing we made a decision sometime
in the past. Rather, our assurance that
we are saved is found in the life of righteousness that results in suffering
for the sake of Christ. Many will claim
to have preached Christ, cast out demons and done mighty works, but will be
refused heaven. But none who have
suffered righteously for Jesus will be left out.
our singers and musicians come now, we invite you to live a life that will
produce persecution. We shouldn't be
stupid or sinful and think that's persecution when people react negatively
towards us. We also shouldn't seek
persecution. But we should live
according to God's standards. When we do
that, the world will hate us and they will persecute us. Praise God for that.
there are any decisions or professions of faith that anyone needs to make now,
we invite you to come now and speak with me as we stand and sing. Prayer.
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