Overcoming During Persecution
February 28th, 2021

Mathew 5:11-12 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in this same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The more we identify with Jesus, the more we are persecuted.  As Christians live our lives surrounded by those with opposition toward us, but at the same time knowing that if we stand strong, there are a few who will come to Christ through our true witness.  And so, today, we’re going to talk about how to keep our witness true during persecution.

Insult- This word means to reproach, revile, defame, chide or taunt. 

Persecution- This may be violent types of persecution, such as Paul and the other Apostles endured.  Like them, we may be arrested or imprisoned.  It is only fear of God that stops people from giving full-reign to their persecutions, and as fear of God decreases, they will persecute more.  As we are less and less a Christian nation, we will find that these laws against persecuting Christians will be either ignored, or changed.    

saying all kinds of evil against us falsely-They’ll lie or tell half-truths, or insinuate things that they know aren’t true to stir up trouble. 

The Natural Reaction

Remembering that these injuries are to be expected in the Christian life, and that no strange or unusual thing has happened to us helps us endure it. 

The natural reaction is to get angry and retaliate. But, Jesus didn’t do so.  Isaiah 53:7 tells us He was oppressed and afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth, and we must not either.  The Bible teaches us not to reply in kind to the evil of others.  1 Peter 3:9 not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you would inherit a blessing. 

The second thing that we are going to be tempted to do, is to feel resentment toward those who are persecuting us.  This is only natural, but it is not Christian.  And this is tougher to live out in practice. 

The last thing that we’re going to be tempted to do is to be down-cast and feel sorry for ourselves.  A sense of depression or oppression can overcome us if we are not careful.  The temptation during this time is going to be to accuse God of being unfair.

This is a dangerous place for the Christian to be.  Psalm 73:21 21 When my heart was embittered And I was pierced within, 22 Then I was stupid and ignorant;  

But this kind of thinking is far from innocent – it is deadly.  It represents the edge of the pit of unbelief.

For Christ’s Sake

Persecutions are not the real danger, but the peril comes from our un-Christian reactions to them.  Remember why the persecution is coming upon us in the first place:  “For Christ’s Sake”.  It serves a purpose.  If our first consideration is “what would be well-pleasing in His sight”, then our suffering can continue to be “For Christ’s sake”.  If your suffering is for Christ, then He will give you the strength to endure it.  Philippians 1:27  27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, …standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28 and in no way alarmed by your opponents which is a sign of destruction for them , but of salvation for you, and this too, from God. 29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer on His behalf,

Our reaction to persecution

  1. Rejoice

The word used here is chairo (he-arroh).  It means to rejoice and be glad—in a state of happiness or well-being.  But this word also means an action that one chooses.  Jesus isn’t saying that we should rejoice because of the persecution itself: but because of the opportunity it brings to make a choice.  To rejoice and we learn to trust God more.  

  • Be glad

The word translated be glad here is agalliao (agalyaow), which means to exult, to feel elation or jubilation, especially as a result of success.  We should smell victory when God allows a persecution to come upon us.  What can they do to you, kill you and send you to heaven?  There is no-one strong enough, and nothing that anyone can do will remove you from the care, loving-kindness and provision of God.   35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or trouble, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 Just as it is written:  “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We were regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”  37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. There is just no way we can lose, even if we are killed, as long as we do not lose heart.  As long as we stand, we win.  So, stand.

  • Pray for our enemies

Jesus teaches us another way to cope with persecution a little later on in the Sermon on the Mount, saying in Mathew 5:44 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.  And in Luke 6:28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who are abusive to you.  Learn to pray for them instead of letting your anger rise up in resentment and bitterness.  Pray for them, and you will sooner or later find any anger or resentment you have toward them melting away.  Not the easiest thing to do, but the rewards are great, both in this life and in eternity.

  • Be kind to them.

Our temptation is always going to be to fight fire with fire, to repay them evil for evil, to take vengeance, to feel bitter toward them, and even to feel downcast because of them, but as a Christian, we must follow The Way, which as Paul described it in Romans 12:20 20 “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” We serve the Lord best in obedience and trust in Him.  And service to God never goes unrewarded.

for your reward in heaven is great

Jesus counsels us to look forward to our reward in heaven.  Our primary motivation should always be love for Jesus, since He first loved us, and died for us, so that we can be saved.  But, when I find myself tempted by resentment or depression, I find that the thought of eternal glory in a place where every tear has been wiped away by God is very comforting.  As Christians, we are to think about eternity

In 1 Peter 4:14 we are assured If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory, and of God, rests upon you.  And so, if we are reviled, if people rail against us, scorn and malign us because we are Christians, we can look at it as a blessing for a very specific reason:  God has given us an opportunity to glorify His name on Earth, and has given us spiritual strength to endure.

Jesus said in Mathew 10:42 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones just a cup of cold water to drink in the name of a disciple, truly I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”  And times of persecution and suffering for Christ are the times when we can really let our love for Jesus show.  We  can Join Paul in saying in verse 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 

Get God’s eternal perspective on the matter, stand firm, and don’t despair, because getting to be with God in Heaven for one instant will make it all worth it, and you get to have this for eternity, if you are in Christ.  Or as Paul put it in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 17 For our momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

So they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

We look to the prophets and saints who have gone before us for examples of how to endure.  And we see that their example is one that kept their eyes on Jesus, and looked forward to the reward of being with Him.  That is the secret to overcoming persecution in the Christian life. 

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
February 21st, 2021

Actions motivated out of love for those around us, are not always well-received.  And it is this very action of peacemaking between God and man which is the action most likely to result in people coming against you.  Rather than describing a further characteristic of a Citizen of Heaven, it describes the result of this life, in terms of the world’s reaction to it. 

They who are Persecuted

The Beatitudes put a mirror up to us as we live our lives in Christ to let us see how we are doing.  That’s why people try to explain them away and minimize them as a simple guide to moral living, or a list of things to do as a Christian, or even pictures of what the Christian life is supposed to look like.  It’s a lot easier to set them up as an ideal, than to realize that Jesus expects us to live them out. 

For Righteousness Sake

This is the key phrase in this scripture.  Sometimes, we as Christians call persecution down on our own heads by either our character flaws, or our foolish actions, and this is not persecution for righteousness’ sake.

When we are offensive, the fault lies in us, and we must pray that God changes our heart to be better servants of His.  When the offense is because of the Gospel, we must pray that God changes their hearts and makes them willing to receive.  Either way, the answer is the same—pray that God changes hearts to look more like Jesus’. 

When Peter is encouraging us in times of persecution, he is also very quick to warn us in 1 Peter 4:15 to Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler;  In other words, make sure that you don’t do things deserving of judgement. 

True persecution for Righteousness’ sake

Being righteous, the righteousness that comes from the inside out is being like Jesus.  And so, being persecuted for righteousness’ sake is being persecuted for His sake, for being like Him, identified with Him.

You can do all the good deeds you want, and the World will praise you for it.  But do that same good work and give God the praise, and you will find that those same people who were so willing to glorify you for your good works, will refuse to glorify God.

When we are persecuted for our identity with Jesus, our claiming Him and striving to be like Him, then we are in Good Company.  Remember Jesus’ words in John 15:18-20 18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.

The identification with Him is the issue.  Have you ever noticed that people don’t seem to get all that upset when you mention God, or even thank Him, but when you mention Jesus, they suddenly start taking offense?   

Because we are His, and are living for Him, and not the world’s system, we are hated.  We are chosen out of the world.

Since Jesus points to Himself as the ultimate example of persecution for righteousness’ sake, and our model, it’s important to understand just why was Jesus crucified.  Jesus was killed for two primary reasons.  The first, and most important was that He chose to follow God’s plan for His life completely, and this plan included His death on the cross for our sins.  And the second reason had to do with the motivation to murderous hatred on the part of the religious authorities.  They were jealous and envious with a spiritual jealousy that motivated them.  Even Pilate knew that the motives of the religious leaders for handing Jesus over to be crucified were rotten.  Mathew 27:18 says   18 For he knew that it was because of envy that they had handed Him over. 

Now the reason why it was the Jews who kept rising up against the Christians, is that the Jews knew exactly what Jesus was claiming, and they did not want to submit to God, but rather wanted to keep their traditions which kept them in power.  Those amongst the gentiles who tended to rise up were often those committed to the worship of false Gods, and so had their own brand of spiritual jealousy to deal with. 

Persecution is expected

God does not want us to be surprised when these kind of things happen, because when we’re surprise, we’re caught off-guard, and can become downcast, and start blaming God. 

We are to keep on rejoicing.  Persecutions are part of the Christian life. 

Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

Promise to those who have recognized that they are poor in Spirit and come to Jesus on His terms, is reiterated to those who endure persecution—Theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.  The promises in the beatitudes start and end with being Citizens of Heaven.

Keep your eyes on the prize—Jesus

Being continually in the presence of Jesus will be the real prize.

Keep your eyes on the prize—Heaven

Our inheritance, in terms of our reward in eternity is closely linked to our willingness to identify ourselves closely with Jesus in this life, and indeed to how much we suffer for Him in this life.  Keep the faith in persecution.

Warriors Who Wage Peace-Mathew 5:9
February 14th, 2021

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

When God created man, there was peace between God and Adam, and Eve.  It was the decision of Adam and Eve to disobey God that broke the peace.  There are two reasons for lack of peace in the world:  the opposition of Satan to God’s plan, and man’s disobedience to God. 

In the Old Testament, the word most often used is shalom, which not only means a lack of war, but also a wholeness, prosperity or well-being that pervades a person, usually coming from a relationship of love and loyalty with God and one another. In the New Testament, the Greek word for peace is Irene.  It describes a peace which comes from a true reconciliation between God and man based on the New Covenant in the blood of Jesus shed for us at the cross in payment for our sins.  God calls Himself the God of Peace (Jud 6:24, Rom 15:33, Phil 4:9, 1 Cor 14:33, 2 Cor 13:11, and 2 Thes 3:16.  Jesus is called the Prince of Peace in Is 9:6. 

This section of the beatitudes is about demonstrating our love for Jesus in action like demonstrating mercy and maintaining a pure, clean heart for service to Him.  As we come back to Jesus for our strength over and over again we are able to walk out these “action” beatitudes. 

When we talk about peace, we often think of an absence of war.  There are temporary truces and peace negotiations, but they’re not permanent.  Peace in the bible is not about concessions or compromises, because the goal isn’t peace between people.  Biblical peace is about dissolving the ground of conflict that separates two people, which is always about sin.  It’s pride, it’s strife, it’s greed, and covetousness that causes conflict and wars, and so biblical peace has to deal with the sin problem first. 

In James 3:17, 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, free of hypocrisy.  So, first purity and righteousness, then peace. 

The problem

Since, as we are reminded of in Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is more deceitful than all else, and is desperately sick; Who can understand it? And Isaiah says in 57:21 “There is no peace,” Says my God, “for the wicked.”.  That leaves the search for peace through any means except righteousness is really an exercise in futility. 

For there to be peace, both parties have to want peace.  You can’t have peace, if only one side is seeking it.  Peace with God is something that God has wanted from the beginning.  We’re the ones who broke the peace, and so if we come to Him on His terms, He will make peace with us.  He has even sacrificed His own son, allowing Him to be murdered at Calvary, so that Christ could achieve victory over sin, and make peace between God and Man possible for a Righteous and Just God.  We just have to reach out our hand and make peace with God by accepting His offer of forgiveness based on a relationship with His son whom He has sent.

For they shall be called Sons of God

Marching Orders

This is an action beatitude, it means that we have marching orders from our Father in Heaven to do something here.  We have work for the Kingdom to do.  2 Corinthians 5:17-19:  17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, this person is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their wrongdoings against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

Reconciling people to God is what being a peacemaker is all about, and it’s only possible if we ourselves have been reconciled to God, in Christ.  This wisdom to conduct the business of God that is first pure, then peaceable comes out in our ministries as (James 3:18)  18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.  We sow righteousness in the peace that we have in Jesus if we are those who make peace—peacemakers. 

Sometimes you’re actually going to come into conflict because you are a peacemaker.  This does not make you less of a peacemaker, but more-so.  Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted as it says in 2 Tim 3:12. And what should be our attitude when this happens?  Paul tells us in 10 Therefore I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in distresses, in persecutions, in difficulties, in behalf of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.  It’s receiving these kinds of Worldly conflicts with delight in the opportunity to serve God that makes the difference.  That’s the kind of behavior that has no earthly explanation, and the kind of behavior that will get the attention of a generation that is disillusioned with the broken promises of lasting peace and unity.  Or as Jesus will tell us later in the sermon on the Mount in Mathew 5:43-45a 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may prove yourselves to be sons of your Father who is in heaven; 

And so, we see, that it’s this ministry of reconciliation, this leading people to Jesus by teaching them the truth about God through our words and actions, that marks us as true citizens of the kingdom, true sons of God.  And because this takes place as a witness to people, this verse emphasizes that we “will be called” sons of God—the testimony of Christ that it gives, is emphasized.  People are watching you, Christian, to see if there is a difference between you and the world.  Pursuing this ministry of reconciliation God’s way is the quickest way to show that difference.