Happy and Persecuted Part 1

Happy Ridge

“Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!  Matthew 5:10   *MEMORY VERSE

 “Happy are you when people insult you and persecute you and tell all kinds of evil lies against you because you are my followers. Be happy and glad, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven. This is how the prophets who lived before you were persecuted.” Matthew 5:11-12

A Texan billionaire with a beautiful, 22 year old daughter, was fond of holding parties around his deep, opulent swimming pool. In the pool he kept a vicious 20 foot great-white shark. Every party night he would issue a challenge to all the young men present: “Half my fortune, or my daughter’s hand in marriage to the man who swims across this pool!”
Of course he could never get a challenger. Then one night, immediately the challenge was issued, a tall, muscular hunk hit the water. With arms churning he charged across the pool like a speed-boat. In a wink the shark sped after him closing in fast. The hunk reached the other side whipping out of the water just as the shark smashed into the concrete.
The pool guests screamed and applauded the incredible hero. “Bravo! Fantastic!” cried the Texan, “That’s the greatest act of courage I’ve ever seen. Half my fortune is yours!”
“I don’t want your fortune”, replied the hunk quietly.
With tears of pride in his eyes the Texan looking at his daughter who nodded excitedly, said, “I’d be so proud to call you son, you can have my daughter’s hand in marriage.”
“I don’t want your daughter either”, he replied.
“Well”, quizzed the Texan, “you don’t want my money or my daughter. What do you want?”
The hunk hissed through clenched teeth, “Just get me the name of the guy who pushed me into the pool.”

Today we’re looking at persecution.  Jesus said the “persecuted” are happy or blessed. The word “persecuted” means to pursue with hostile intent; thus, ridiculed, denounced, ill–treated, injured, threatened with death, inflict injury upon you. It is the imagery of being hunted down like an animal and killing it.

Why should we study persecution?  Persecution Is Part of Christianity If you live in the United States, you may think that the idea of persecution of Christians is not very relevant today. Why? We are not experiencing any real persecution here. But a little book by Nina Shea, In the Lion’s Den , published by Broadman and Holman, gives evidence that more Christians around the world have been martyred for their faith in the last one hundred years than in the combined previous nineteen centuries of the church’s history. In many countries today it is a crime to be a Christian.

We must study persecution because it is a part of Christianity. True Christians have been persecuted throughout the history of the church.

You know it’s going to be a bad day when:

  • You jump out of bed in the morning and you miss the floor.
  • You put both contact lenses into the same eye.
  • Your horn goes off accidentally and remains stuck as you follow a group of Hell’s Angels on the freeway.
  • You call suicide prevention and they put you on hold.
  • You know your going to get harassed for being a Christian. 
  1. PERSECUTION IS INEVITABLE

“ . . . when people insult you . . .”  (vs 11a)

That is the truth and there is no question or doubt about it. Jesus did not express this in terms of maybe. Persecution is real.  Persecution is for all believers. All believers will not be in a constant state of persecution, but it will eventually come to all of us. Therefore we should not be surprised.

“Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  2 Tim 3:12    That is a guarantee of persecution.

Jesus is specific as to the cause of persecution.  Let us consider, however, what Jesus does say and what He doesn’t say. People will suffer for doing evil things, but such suffering is punishment, not persecution. Jesus is not saying that people in general will receive a blessing because they are persecuted for whatever cause.  He doesn’t say that we will be blessed if we are persecuted because we are obnoxious human beings. No, if you are persecuted because you are being obnoxious, you deserve it. I am sure you have known people like that. We would probably agree that they need a little persecution in order to straighten them out.

He is also not saying that we will be blessed if we are persecuted because we stand for a just cause. Standing for a just cause is not necessarily standing for Christ. And we must make this distinction. In fact, some people have almost try for martyrdom for the sake of their cause. They have seen it as a way to bring attention and notoriety to their cause. So, they have done things in order to be persecuted. This is not what Jesus is talking about.

Finally, He is not talking about our being persecuted for being good. We may be good, or noble, or self-sacrificing and not be righteous. As a matter of fact, the world generally praises good and noble and self-sacrificing people. In fact, they’re generally thought of as fine individuals. But the fact that the world praises them should perhaps raise a flag of warning to us. This is not what Jesus is talking about.

What is He talking about? When He talks about “because you are my followers, what does He mean? It means being like the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you are not being persecuted, you must ask, “Why?” And what is the answer? You are not living a godly life.  If you don’t experience persecution it is probably because the world doesn’t realize that you are a Christian. Even when you tell them that you are a Christian, your life proves it doesn’t make much difference.

**In the book, The Triumphant Church, Richard Wurmbrand recounts the last Sunday School class he taught before leaving Romania. He writes: “I remember my last Sunday School class…I took a group of ten to fifteen boys and girls on a Sunday morning, not to a church, but to the zoo. Before the cage of lions I told them, ‘Your forefathers in faith were thrown before such wild beasts for their faith. Know that you also will have to suffer. You will not be thrown before lions, but you will have to suffer at the hands of men who would be much worse than lions. Decide here and now whether you wish to pledge allegiance to Christ’” (p.15).

If that were you what would you have done? Would you have brushed it off and treated it lightly or would you have considered the cost?

 

  1. PERSECUTION IS BECAUSE OF JESUS

“ . . . because you are my followers”  (vs. 11b)

“No servant is greater than his master.  If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”  John 15:20

Why is the gospel offensive to some? Because of Jesus Christ. In John 3:20 Jesus said, “Everyone who does evil hates the light,” and in John 7:7 he declared, “The world . . . hates me because I testify that what it does is evil.”

The idea there is that if the master is hated, the servants of the master will also be hated. He then said that the world hates him without reason, which is what persecution for righteousness’ sake is. The world hated Jesus because he was light, righteousness, and holiness. They hated him because he revealed the wickedness of the people of the world. They hated him because he exposed their evil.

The persecution Jesus speaks of is when two irreconcilable value systems collide. When that occurs those who choose to stand on the truth of God’s Word can count on persecution.

**A Christian man accepted a new job among very profane men. He we very anxious and fearful about how he would be received. When he came home from the first day on the job, his wife asked how it had been. He replied, “Wonderful! They never knew that I was a Christian.” You’ll get long fine with unbelievers as long as you live like an unbeliever.

We must always keep in mind that sinners are enemies of God. In fact, sin at its heart is enmity against the true God. So if God is hated by the world, then Jesus will also be hated, because Jesus is God–very God and very man. And if Jesus is hated by the world, all his followers will also be hated by the world.

If you believe that Jesus Christ is the only Savior—the God man–you will be persecuted. Now, you will not experience persecution if you believe that Jesus is a savior along with many other saviors. You will not be persecuted if you say that Jesus is a god or a prophet among other gods and prophets. There won’t be any problem at all if you say these things. In fact, people will say you are a very nice person. But when you believe that Jesus alone is God and the only Savior, you will experience trouble. And especially if you believe this in certain countries in the world today, you will be persecuted. Read about it in The Lion’s Den.

What if you believe that our ultimate loyalty is due to Jesus Christ, the Sovereign Lord of the universe, and not to any other guru or Caesar in the whole world? You will be persecuted.

What if you believe that and declare that the Bible is the truth? No one will persecute you if you Believe multiculturalism or multi-religious ideas. But the moment you believe the in the truth of God’s word the Bible and not in other religious books, you will be persecuted.

What should we do? I say, go ahead and Believe on these things.  Tell people that Jesus is the way.  But be ready for misunderstanding, anger and persecution.

A number of years ago Bob Dylan wrote a song in which he was watching the verbal persecution of a Christian man take place:

Go ahead and talk about him because he makes you doubt,
Because he’s denied himself things that you can’t do without,
Because he can’t be exploited by superstition anymore,
Because he can’t be bribed or bought by things that you adore.
He’s the property of Jesus, resent him to the bone.
You’ve got something better—you’ve got a heart of stone.
When the whip that’s keeping you in line doesn’t make him jump,
Say he’s hard of hearing, say that he’s a chump.
Say he’s out of step with reality as you try to test his nerve.
Because he doesn’t pay tribute to the sovereign that you serve.
He’s the property of Jesus, resent him to the bone.
You’ve got something better—you’ve got a heart of stone.

In the next post, we’ll look at “My Response to Persecution”

Darrell

www.RidgeFellowship.com

About dkoop

Lead Pastor of The Ridge Fellowship: Leander, Jarrell & Taylor, TX
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