SOTM – Blessed Are the Persecuted

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)

We must not deceive ourselves that because we have accepted Jesus for who He is, the Son of God and our Savior, that life now will be in any kind of harmony with the world that we have repented from. Let us bear in mind that as we are living in the reflection of paradise, that our eternal future is secured in the Kingdom of Heaven, that we have the conviction and guidance of the power of the universe sitting upon the throne of our life, and the world will not accept us and treat us with goodness. When we have completed our race then we will find peace and joy in the full presence of our Master and Savior. Until then as we are consecrated unto God, set apart from the world we live in to the world we are bound for, the world will be at odds with us. When the Son of God came into the world to seek and save that which was lost His own people rejected Him. Jesus the man from Nazareth came and healed the broken hearted, set the captives of sin free, made the lame to walk again, cause the blind to see and the deaf to hear, and taught a gospel of love. He set the perfect example for righteous living and was crucified in Jerusalem with not one criminal charge against Him. Can we expect any less from this world? Jesus told His disciples, we, that the world will hate us. “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.” (John 15:18)

How bad is Christian persecution in the world today? On an average 180 Christians are killed for their faith in Jesus Christ each year. (Open Doors USA) In sixty countries around the their governments persecute their Christian citizens because of their Christian faith. (U.S. Department of State) In 41 of the worst 50 nations in the world Christians are being persecuted by the Islamic extremist many of them are executed. (Open Doors USA) This is not a surprise to the Christian, as we had been warned by our Lord that these things would happen. The Apostles Paul wrote of the evil spiritual forces that come against us in Ephesians chapter 6. The battles will come against the Church of Jesus Christ until our Lord Himself shall come and defeat Satan and his demons. Till then we as Christians are to live apart from that which tries to destroy us that His light will shine through us. “Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.” (1 John 3:13)

In Matthew 10:16-23 we read what Jesus instructed us to do in spreading the gospel message and the reaction that the world would have. Yet we go in service to Him as sheep amongst the wolves and are advised to be discerning in are movements and remain innocent without hatred but love towards those who persecute us. But know that even those in the Church who fail to desire the true doctrine of the Lord’s teaching will hand us over to the religious leaders and we may be put out of the Church because they will have none of the truth we teach. We will be brought before the governors of our government as criminals but even so, as the Apostle Paul, this is an opportunity to preach the gospel for the glory of our Lord. We will not need to fear or be anxious as our Lord will be with us and His Spirit of Truth will give us the words to say in the hour of our need.

It will be a troubling time for us as our brothers and sisters will come against us and the work we do for our Lord. Our fathers may condemn us and our children may rise up against us and even put us their parents to death. All these things we may suffer for the one who loves us and suffered the cross for us and delivering His message to the captives of sin is our reasonable service to Him who gave us His all. This is the life of a servant of the Lord to serve one another for the glory of the Father until Christ returns for His own. We shall prevail for it is the Lord who sustains us. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

As Christians we are to be growing into the image of our Master. We are to take on the virtues that He had and we are to live a Christ like life. Of course, this would be righteous living. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18) This is at odds with the world, as the world lives in the desires of the flesh and lives for present pleasures. The world does not like being revealed of their evil desires and therefore repels a Christ like nature. This is why the Christian is hated and persecuted.

The Christian lives by the sound doctrine of the truth of God’s Word and this restrains the wickedness of the world that is under the temptations of the evil one. If the Christian perseveres and does not sacrifice his Christian principles he will be blessed because of his righteous living. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Some believe that they are facing persecution because they have a lack of faith. That their trials and suffering is caused by not trusting enough in God’s Word. But this is inconsistent with the teaching of Jesus. We have been told that the world will revile us for our faith in Jesus. The Apostle Peter encourages us, “But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled.” (1 Peter 3:14) Living in a world that is in opposition to the faith that we have in Jesus Christ is going to cause friction as we pass through society and as a result they will come against us for our righteous desire. “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (1 Timothy 3:12)

Our perseverance in the Christian faith will build a proven Christian character that will strengthen our resolve to live our faith without fear and openly that our Lord may be glorified though us. Our persecution then is not a hindrance to our Christian walk but a blessing that will enhance our life here and in the life to come in the presence of our Lord. “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

We should as Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, face our persecution in the example that he gave us. Jesus went willingly to the cross. No man placed Jesus on the cross but He was placed upon the cross because of His love for man. If we have this attitude that we are in His service because of our love for one another as He loved us, then we should not have an air of retaliation towards those who persecute us. Jesus forgave those who persecuted Him on the cross. “But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) We have been forgiven and we must forgive those who transgress against us. As it was for Stephen, a deacon in the early Church, who was stoned to death for his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. With his last words, in the example of his Lord, Stephen asked that his persecutors be forgiven. “Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:60)

As unpleasant as it may be persecution is an honor to the Christian. Persecution is not a time of murmuring but a time of rejoicing. That our witness for Jesus Christ has made such an impact that the forces of evil are trying to thwart our efforts. As Paul says in Ephesians chapter 6, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) If Satan feels us worthy to prohibit our ministry for Jesus Christ, then our witness to Jesus must be of great value. Our mission is not to remain in this world but to journey to the greater world to come. Praying along the way that we might be instrumental in drawing many a sinner to the gospel truth leading to their salvation through Jesus Christ. The best witness is a life well lived for the Lord. This was the work of the Apostles Peter and John in Jerusalem when they were arrested, and beaten. They rejoiced and marveled that they were worthy. “They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.” (Acts 5:40-41) (Acts 5:40-41)

The Christian has been bought with the imperishable blood of the Lamb of God, the Christian is bound for an imperishable home in the Kingdom of Heaven, and the Christian shall live throughout eternity in the love, peace, and joy of his heavenly Father. The persecutions of this fallen world is but a blip in the measure of eternity. We must, as the Apostle Paul, keep our eyes focused upon our Lord and Savior and the reward that He has promised us. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

The prophets of old were persecuted, (Acts 7:52) the Apostles were persecuted and Jesus Himself was persecuted, and for His sake we shall be persecuted too. Let it all be for the glory of God our Father in heaven.

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, March 6, 2016

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