I want to read for you the verses that are the setting for our thoughts: Matthew 5:1-12.
"Seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain, and when he was set, his disciples came unto him, and he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."
When all of these other realities have found their place in the life of an individual, the result is in verses 9-12. The first result of living in the Beatitudes is a positive thing. Verse 9 says, "Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the sons of God." A person like this, who lives according to these principles and life patterns is going to be a peacemaker in the world and will thus identify himself as a son of God. But how strange it is that, in an absolute contrast to that, we have verse 10. "Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad; for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you."
It is fascinating to me that the believer who lives in the Beatitudes will be both a peacemaker and one who creates persecution. You will both make peace and make trouble. There is an almost awesome ambivalence. The believer is a peacemaker, and yet, the believer is one who stirs up strife. We hear it from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who said that He came as the Prince of Peace to bring peace, and then elsewhere, He said, "I came not to send peace, but a sword." There is this constant ambivalence where the believer is, in the world, a peacemaker who is able to make a man at peace with God by the presentation of the Gospel. But on the other hand, where there are those who will not respond to his peacemaking effort, he is a troublemaker, and invariably, brings about persecution.
After studying the Beatitudes and realizing that they are the characteristics of the man or woman in God's Kingdom, it is easy to feel inadequate, isn't it? You see the tremendous power and impact of these truths. This kind of person seems a little too good to be true. You feel like you are looking at someone on a stained-glass window, or at a plaster saint, or something carved out of wood or stone. Certainly there is no one who lives this way in the reality of day-to-day life, no one who could fulfill all of these incredible characteristics!
However, God doesn't deal with stained-glass window saints and plaster facsimiles. I believe that what Jesus presents here, in this tremendous introduction to the Sermon on the Mount, is no less than the portrait of the believer, no less than the picture of the genuine Christian. Of course it's ideal, because God never lowers His standards because man is sinful. God simply gives that individual Christ so that Christ can work through that individual the meeting of God's standard.
As we've seen, this is the person who is truly happy; this is the person who is really blessed, who is really in a state of well-being. This person knows bliss, the person who lives these principles. Every one of us who is genuinely Christ's, and every one of us who is genuinely born again, every one of us who really is a Kingdom son must have come to Jesus Christ with these attitudes, or we never came at all. We must have seen something of these attitudes manifest in our lives, and we should certainly see a progress and growth to see more of them every day we live, until finally, we pass into the fullness and the richness of Kingdom character.
Tonight we are going to look at the last one. If you are one who fulfills all of the elements of the Beatitudes, then on those conditions, you enter His Kingdom. Maybe you only fulfill them in a very minimal way, but you had to come with a broken spirit, mourning over sin, humble before a holy God, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, as one seeking mercy and ready to give it, as one seeking to be purified in your heart, as one who desired to make peace with God. If all of these things were there, however minimally they were there, if they were there in reality, then you entered His Kingdom. Then, God is saying that they should bloom within His Kingdom, and you should progress and grow until they become more than minimal, but rather, they become characteristics that are dominant in your life.
Where this happens, you will find that the eighth Beatitude will always happen. Verse 10 says, "Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." When you pass into the richness and the fullness of Kingdom character, and when you begin to live the way God wants you to live, when you begin to fulfill the principles that God has ordained, you're going to find there will be a process of pain and suffering involved. You will be a peacemaker, yes, but you will be a troublemaker too.
I'll show you some Scripture to set your thinking in the context of the whole New Testament. James 1:2-4 says, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing this, that the testing of your faith works patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing." What he's saying there is, "There is going to be some suffering. There are going to be trials, testing, hardships." I Peter 5:10 says, "The God of all grace, who has called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered awhile, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you."
Invariably, in the life of the believer who lives out the Beatitude character, there is going to be a reaction in the world. All of the virtues that we have seen in this context, all of them summed up are intolerable to an evil world. The world can't really handle someone who is poor in spirit because the world lives in a state of pride and self-promotion and ego-substantiation. The world can't tolerate someone who is mourning over sinfulness; the world wants to bypass sin altogether and continue to convince itself that it's alright. The world can't tolerate meekness; it honors pride. The world can't tolerate someone who knows he is nothing and seeks something that can only be given as a gift. The world says that we have the right to everything because we have earned it. The world knows little about mercy, nothing about purity, and has never learned how to make the peace. All of these characteristics, when they exist in the believer, as they progressively bloom in his or her life, counter the system flagrantly. That's the way it is going to be if you live out the Beatitudes.
Let's look at three distinct features of this last Beatitude, three things that stand out in verses 10-12. First of all, persecution; secondly, promise; thirdly, posture. I'll explain these as we go.
First of all, persecution is obvious in verses 10-11. "Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Verse 11 simply personalizes verse 10. Verse 10 says, "Blessed are they," verse 11 says, "Blessed are you," and personalizes it. "When men shall revile you, persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake."
I really believe that this is one Beatitude. The reason I believe it is the same one is because the term 'persecute' is used in verse 10, and the term 'persecute' is used again in verse 11. It's really the same thing, it's just expanded in verse 11. Another reason I believe it's only one Beatitude is because there is only one result given. The only result of verses 10 and 11 is at the end of verse 10, "For theirs is the kingdom of heaven." All of the Beatitudes have a promise with the character, and there is only one promise in verses 10-11, and it's at the end of verse 10.
You say, "If it's only one promise, why does it have two 'blesseds'?" I believe that God double-blesses those who suffer; I believe God double-blesses those who are persecuted. It's almost as if we need it in this particular case. Double-blessed are those who are persecuted.
Let's look and see who is involved first of all. Who is it that is persecuted? It doesn't really say. It just says, in verse 10, "Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness' sake." In verse 11, "Blessed are you when men shall revile and persecute you." It's pretty simple to know who they are. The blessed ones in verse 10-11 are the same blessed ones in verses 3-9. There is no change in character. It is the people who have lived out the Beatitudes, the Kingdom people, and the more you live the Beatitudes, the more likely it is that there will be a reaction in the world. The more you live for Christ, the more likely you are to create a response in the world. So it is those who fulfill the first seven Beatitudes, and to the degree that they fulfill it, who will experience this, the eighth.
I can show you that in another text, II Timothy 3:11. Here we have a picture of the future, yet it is certainly pertinent to us. It says in verse 11 that, "Persecutions and afflictions came unto me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. I endured persecutions, but out of them all the Lord delivered me." Paul says, "I was persecuted as one who lived a Kingdom life; as one who manifested Jesus Christ, I was persecuted. In verse 12, he says, "Yes, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." In other words, this is a gilt-edged guarantee that anyone who lives out the Christlike character will suffer.
By the way, the Beatitudes are best manifested in the character of Jesus Christ Himself. Even He bore sin for us. As we live out the characteristics of the Beatitudes, we are going to find that we cross grain the society in which we live. The greater the manifestation of this kind of character, the more inevitable will be the consequences.
Galatians 4:29 says simply, "As then," no different than in our day, "He that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now." Nothing has changed. He that is born of the flesh will always persecute him that is born of the Spirit.
I think of the man who took a new job working among a group of profligate and evil men and was very fearful of what they might do to him because he was a Christian. They were rather vile, obstreperous, evil men. After his first day at work, he came home and his wife asked him, "How did you get along?" He said, "I got along terrifically with them. They never even found out I was a Christian."
You will get along well terrifically if people don't know you are a Christian. But as you begin to live the Christ-life, and as you begin to manifest the Beatitudes, as you share the reproach of Christ and participate in the fellowship of His sufferings, as you live righteously in the world, you will find that sons of the flesh will always persecute those born of the Spirit. Living in direct opposition to Satan in his world and in his system will inevitably bring antagonism and persecution from people who don't respond to your message.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, if you aren't experiencing persecution it's probably because people aren't too sure you are a Christian or you say you're a Christian, but it doesn't seem to make much difference. You aren't living a confrontive, Christlike life. Because Christlikeness produces the same reaction it did when Christ was producing it on earth.
There was never anyone more loving than Jesus Christ. There was never a greater peacemaker than Jesus Christ. Some people responded to His love and entered into that peace. But even though Jesus was the most loving, gracious, kind, and peaceful person who ever lived, everywhere He went, He created antagonism because He confronted the issues. It is so with all the righteous; if you chart the course of the righteous throughout history, they have always suffered for their godliness. It began in the book of Genesis, when a godly, righteous man named Abel was murdered by an ungodly, unrighteous brother who simply could not tolerate his righteousness. It has been so ever since. Moses had to choose to suffer affliction with the people of God rather than compromise himself in the pleasures of Egyptian society, Hebrews 11 tells us. There was always a price to pay.
Thomas Watson, the Puritan writer, said, "Though they be ever so meek, merciful, pure in heart, their piety will never shield them from suffering. They must hang their harp on the willows and take up the cross. The way to Heaven is by way of thorns and blood. Set it down as a maxim: if you will follow Christ, you must see the swords and staves. Put the cross in your creed." In fact, if you want to know the truth of it, one of the most wonderful guarantees that your salvation is real is to be persecuted. If you don't see persecution in your life, you have reason to question.
In Philippians 1:29, it says, "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake." That's just part of it. Back up to verse 28; this is wonderful. He says, "In nothing be terrified by your adversaries, which is to them an evident token of perdition." In other words, when your adversaries come against you, and they hate the Gospel, and they hate the Christ in you, and they resent the character of Kingdom living, when they do that, it is a token of their destiny and perdition. That is a proof that they're going to Hell. But to you it is an evident token of salvation (verse 28). Isn't that interesting? Whereas the persecution proves that they are going to perdition, the persecution proves that you are redeemed. It is living the redeemed life and seeing the antagonism of a godless world that is evidence that your salvation is genuine.
In I Thessalonians 3:3, the Apostle Paul says that, "No man should be moved by these afflictions." You shouldn't be worried if you're persecuted; you shouldn't be fearful if you have to endure a little bit. Why? "For you yourselves know that we are appointed to these things." In other words, this is the design of God! We are to be like Christ, set for the rising and the falling of many. We are to be loved and hated. We are to be honored and cursed. He says in verse 4, "For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation, even as it came to pass, and you know."
What he's saying is that it's part of being a Christian; it was ordained that way. You knew it was to come to pass; it was given to you to suffer in the behalf of Christ. When they persecute you, it is an evident token of their perdition. It is also an evident token of the genuineness of your salvation, so I would back up and say that if you don't have any persecution in your life, you had better examine whether you're a Christian. If you're not cause for flak in the world, if you're not making waves, if you're not generating some kind of a conflict, then maybe something is seriously wrong. I don't care where you live.
I'm sure all of the Bible writers, inspired by the Holy Spirit, were well aware that we would live in a rather tolerant time, a rather tolerant country, at least in terms of national or governmental persecution. But whether you're living in the most tolerant country, in the most tolerant time in history, the Cross will never cease to be a reality. Where you live a redeemed life to its hilt, where you live out the principles of the Kingdom life, there is going to be a reaction. Always, those who are the obedient sons of the Kingdom, those who live the righteousness of Christ in this world are going to be obnoxious to Satan. Always they are!
Just because we live in a so-called Christian country, just because we think the attitude of the world has changed, that's the Devil's lie. That is his lie! Christians now sort of pride themselves on the fact that they are popular. You can be a Christian now and be in show business. You can be a Christian and be in anything. We say, "The world has changed; Christians are now popular and famous and accepted and paraded along, made a part of our society without any hassles at all." The issue is not that the world has changed, beloved, it is that we have lowered the standard of righteousness. We have people claiming to be Christians who don't live enough of a righteous life to give an honest definition of Christianity, or the systems they are engulfed in would spit them right out. That's the issue.
God's standards haven't changed, but ours have. We think the world is more tolerant but the fact is, we just don't live that kind of life anymore. We want to be popular, famous, and acceptable. But if you live the righteous life that God wants you to live, and if you live as a true Christian, the world can only resent you and hate you.
I'm not saying that every Christian will be burned at the stake, and I'm not saying that persecution is going to go on all the time. But it says in verse 10, "Blessed are they who are persecuted." It doesn't mean that every single one of us is going to know constant persecution all our lives to an intense degree, he is simply saying that the world will pick some of us out. I believe that all of us who live righteously in the world, at some time or another, are going to know the rebuke of the Cross.
You say, "Well, it's not like in the days when Christians were burned at the stake." I've often thought to myself, "Which is worse?" To be burnt at the stake or to live your whole life in a business organization where you can never get the promotion you deserve because you know they resent your Christianity? Or where you're always ostracized by people around you, your community, because you live for Jesus Christ? Or where the people in your neighborhood don't talk to you anymore because when you talk to them, you don't pander their evil, you confront them with it? There are lots of ways that the believer endures the reaction of the world. I'm not saying that every believer is always persecuted all the time to a great, intense degree. But the world is set against the things of God, and as you live them out, you will experience something of the reproach of Christ, some more than others.
Now if you want, you can escape. You can go through your whole life and never get persecuted. It's very simple, really. I'll tell you how to do it. First of all, approve all of the world's standards, morals, and ethics. Just join in; live like the world lives and don't tell people they are sinners, don't tell them they are lost without Jesus Christ. Don't tell people that they are doomed to death, and for goodness' sake, don't talk about Hell! Don't preach and teach that Christ is the only way and that every other religious system is a lie. Don't separate yourself from the world and all of its activities and all of its enterprises. Go along with the world - laugh at its jokes, enjoy its entertainment, smile when it mocks God, and let people take the Lord's name in vain. Just be ashamed to take a stand for Christ, and I promise that you will never be persecuted. Then, when you're all done doing that, examine yourself to see whether you're in the faith or not, because there might be good question as to whether you really are. You may be a Christian living in disobedience.
May I add this? If you decide to live this way, remember Luke 9:26, where Jesus said this: "Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed." Jesus said, "If you're ashamed of me, I'll be ashamed of you." The last thing I want, and I think the last thing any of us wants, is for Christ to be ashamed of us. But it can happen. In Luke 6:26, Jesus said, "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you!" Don't ever forget that. When you are popular with everybody, then they don't know the truth about you; you have either masked your Christianity or are not a Christian at all.
So here we are, people. If we're going to live out the Beatitude life, we've got to get ready for a reaction; that's the way it's going to be. That's the way it has always been, that's how it will continue to be. There is no way to escape that. You can't live a righteous life in the face of an unrighteous society and ever, ever get by without reaction.
Do you know something? When our Lord gave these Beatitudes early in His ministry, they already hated Him. Right around this time that He even gave the Beatitudes, it says in Mark 3:6 that, "The Pharisees went forth and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him." They were already thinking of destroying Jesus Christ before He ever really got very far into His ministry.
It has always been interesting to me that in Luke 6:20, we have the Beatitudes. But in Luke 6:7, in verses before, "The scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the Sabbath day, that they might find an accusation against him." In verse 11, it says the scribes and Pharisees, "Were filled with fury, and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus." It didn't take very long. He had hardly articulated the principles of His kingdom before hatred began to rise.
Jesus' message to the Pharisees, the disciples, and the others in the crowd around Him, right at the very beginning was, "There is a price to pay for living in My Kingdom. It isn't going to be all thrones, crowns, fame, glory, prestige, acceptance, or exaltation. If you're coming into My Kingdom, you will suffer. Let it be known to you." It's that kind of honesty that separates the wheat from the chaff right at the very start. No one comes in with any illusions.
Beloved, we need more preaching like this; we need to say to people more often, "If you're going to become a Christian, then God is calling you to live a life contrary to the system of the world. There will be a price to pay."
For those people who heard Him that day on the shore of Galilee, following Him could affect their work, first of all. Think of how it would be to be a stonemason. If you were a stonemason in those days, maybe you had a contract to build some sort of pagan temple. As the later Gentile Christians were studying the things that Jesus had said, they would say to themselves, "I'm a stonemason and I'm working on building a pagan temple. What am I going to do now? How am I going to get out of this? I'll lose my job if I stop building the temple and start living out these principles. I won't have any way of making a living."
What if you were a tailor employed to make robes for the priests of false gods, and all of a sudden, you became a believer and wanted to live out the Kingdom principles. You might say, "If I'm going to live the way God wants me to live, then I can't be a tailor anymore." It might affect you in your work.
What if you worked for someone who was ungodly, dishonest, ruthless, and vile, but you became a Christian and had a new principle for living? You wouldn't be able to work for that person anymore, and you would have to step out of the only trade and the only job you knew. Do you get the point? That's true even today.
There are people today whose jobs will be affected if they decide to live like kingdom citizens. It might affect what they do, how they make their money and get their living. They will have to trust God to supply their needs if they turn their back on what they have known in the past. It could have affected secular jobs then, and it still can today.
More than a 100 years after this, a man came to the church father Tertullian with his business difficulties and said, "I've come to Christ, but I don't know what to do about my job. I don't think my job is right, but I don't know what to do about it." Then he said, "What can I do? I must live!" To which Tertullian replied, "Must you?" The only choice is loyalty to Jesus Christ, even if that means you die. Loyalty to Christ is the only choice.
Loyalty to Christ would not only disrupt their work life, but you can imagine what loyalty to Christ would do to their social lives. You know what it does to your social life. You're going along, doing what all your friends do, living the way all your friends live, being entertained the way all your friends are being entertained, doing stuff like everyone else. Then you come to Jesus Christ and all of a sudden, you have a decision to make: do you still go out with the boys and do what you did? Do you still go out and take the trips and do the things and engage in the activities? What do you do? Your whole social life is disrupted.
In the ancient world, most feasts were held in the temples of different gods. These were the great social events. That's where the music, dancing, and entertainment was. Sacrifices would be made to various gods and very often, the people would eat what was left over. In fact, it got so ridiculous that people who would bring sacrifices to the gods didn't want to waste any meat, so they waved the sacrifice over the fire and singed the hair on the outer part of it. Then they would whack off some for the priests, keep the rest, and hold a wild party for their friends.
When they became Christians, they wondered, "What do I do with my friends? Do I go and eat the meat offered to the idols? Do I go to the pagan temple for the entertainment? This could affect my whole social life!" A Jew who became a Christian risked being thrown out of the synagogue, being disowned by his family, and losing everything he knew.
Let me tell you something: if you are going to live a kingdom life, you need to be prepared to be lonely in some crowds, very lonely. That's why we need each other so much. Christianity can disrupt your home life. When one member of a family received Jesus Christ, it was chaos in the home. There were all kinds of problems. Often they had to choose between Jesus Christ and someone they loved very dearly. In those days, too, Christians had to pay a penalty. There were some Christians who were flung to the lions. Others were burned at the stake.
In fact, Nero used to light his garden parties with flaming Christians. He would cover them with pitch and light them. He used to sew Christians into the skins of wild animals and then set his hunting dogs to tear them to pieces. They were tortured on the rack, they were scraped, molten lead was poured hissing on them, red-hot brass plates were affixed to the tenderest parts of their bodies, eyes were torn out, parts of their bodies were cut off and roasted before their eyes, their hands and feet were burned while cold water was poured over them to prolong the agony, and so forth.
The Romans trumped up all kinds of charges against Christians. They said Christians were cannibals because Jesus said, "My flesh is food and my blood is drink." They were accused of eating each other. Christians were accused of immorality; it was said that their love feasts were orgies of lust. They even accused them of the kiss of peace being some illicit thing. They were slandered for setting fires; Nero blamed Christians for the burning of Rome. They were branded as revolutionaries because Christians taught that God was going to destroy the earth with fire, repeating the message of Peter. So when the fire started, it was easy to blame the Christians. They were accused of breaking up families and being political rebels.
The Roman Empire was vast. After the time of Christ, it stretched from the British Isles in the west to the Euphrates River in the east, and from the north tip of Germany to the coast of North Africa in the south. It was a massive empire, the whole known world. The Romans were tremendously concerned with maintaining the unity of the empire. They realized that one man personified the empire, and that was the emperor Caesar. So they realized Caesar was the cohesive element, and declared him a god.
They decided that if they could get everyone to worship Caesar, and ascribe to him divine honor, and build temples all over the empire to his divinity, then there would be a cohesive unit. It started very slowly, but after a few years, there had developed a real emperor-worshiping cult. It became the unifying factor of the Roman Empire. In fact, it was compulsory that once a year, every person in the Roman Empire had to burn a pinch of incense to Caesar and say, "Caesar is lord."
Now the Christians had trouble with that because they would only say that Jesus was Lord. The Christians refused to do it. When a man burned his incense, he was given a certificate called a libellus. Once he had the certificate, then he could worship any god he wanted to worship. They just wanted everyone to plug in, at some point, to Caesar. The Christians wouldn't do it; they never got their libellus, therefore they were constantly worshiping illegally. They chose Christ, they refused to compromise, they became dissidents, rebels, pockets of disloyalty, threats to the Empire's solidarity. One poet spoke of them as 'the panting, huddling flock whose only crime was Christ.' So they faced torture for their stand. They faced alienation for their stand.
You know something? I think that maybe the reason our Christianity is so tolerable in our society today is because our standard is so low. So Jesus adds to the list of Beatitudes the inevitability of persecution. Who? Anyone who lives out the Beatitudes. How? How are we to be persecuted? Look at verse 11. "Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake." There you have the three ways: persecuted, reviled, and all manner of evil said against you falsely.
First of all, He says you will be persecuted. In the Greek, it comes from dioko, which means 'to pursue' or 'to drive' or 'to chase away.' It's the idea of running after. It is to persecute, or to harass, or to treat evilly . He's simply saying, "Blessed are the harassed; happy are the harassed. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake."
I want to show you something fascinating here. All of the Beatitudes previous to this one are inner attitudes, inside attitudes. The Jews had an external religion, and Christ was giving them an internal one. They are all attitudes; and this is also an attitude. This is an attitude of willingness to be persecuted, that's what He's saying. It is that lack of fear, that lack of shame, that presence of boldness that says, "I will be in this world what Christ would have me be. I will say in this world what Christ would have me say. If persecution results, let it be." It's that attitude.
It is a passive participle in the Greek, and it indicates a permissiveness. "Blessed are they who allow themselves to be persecuted. Blessed are they whose attitude is, 'I will never flee it; I will face it, if I must face it to live the principles of Christ.'" Since it is a passive perfect participle, the perfect tense means it happened and continues to happen; it gives the idea of a constant attitude where the believer is constantly willing to accept whatever comes as a result of living a Beatitude kind of life. You could translate it this way, "They have been and continue to be willing to be persecuted. They are the blessed."
I guess this is where some of us bail out, isn't it? We're not willing. We're not willing. I struggle with that myself. I'm not willing to take what I'll get if I say what I ought to say. Do you have that problem? I'm not willing to be bold and just confront the situation sometimes, and say what needs to be said. I'm not willing to live the Christ life in the midst of a Christless situation and so be light and salt in the world, and let whatever comes come my way. I tend to want to accommodate myself and have the world like me. Ultimately, I justify myself by saying, "If I'm popular with them and they like me a lot, then eventually I'll be able to sneak in the Gospel." But God never needed sneaky preachers, prophets, witnesses, or evangelists. He needs people who are willing to confront the world.
So first of all, they were going to be chased, pursued, and harassed; they were going to be willing to do that. So there is the idea of pursuing, and chasing, and of course, the end result was imprisonment. The end result was death for some. For others, there was just kind of a chasing away. In other words, if you really live a Christlike life in this society, you can't co-mingle with it. You can't go to the parties with the boys, or do what all the gals in the neighborhood do, or take off with the couples you used to take off with and do the things they do. You just can't do it anymore. There is something about living the life that Christ wants you to live that causes them to chase you out of the group; you just don't fit anymore. That's the way it ought to be.
There is a second element. He says in verse 11 that they will revile you. The Greek word translated 'reviled' is oneidizo, which literally means 'to cast in one's teeth.' It is used in Matthew 27:44. "The thieves also, who were crucified with him, cast in his teeth, mocked him, made fun of him, reviled him, scorned him." It is to throw something in your face, it's to abuse someone with vile, vicious, mocking words.
So we will be chased out of the groups we used to be in, we'll be ostracized from the activities that we used to be a part of. Not only that, but people will speak evil of us, say things about us, use unkind words when our names come up. They did it to Jesus. They said, "He hangs around with prostitutes and winebibbers," and so forth. So if you're going to live the Beatitude life, you've got to be willing to be persecuted and reviled. There will be people who will say unkind things about you. Even people you may care about.
There's a third thing, and it's a hard one to take. I've always found that I can take being chased away. No one wants me around much after they find out I'm a minister. It's amazing how fast people want to get out of my presence after they find out I'm not like other ministers they've known, that I'm a little more confrontive. They'll find that out as I confront them with the things of Christ, and then they're really itchy to get out of there! I am rarely invited to the activities that they engage in. I can even handle people saying unkind, vile, vicious things about me, and I get some of that.
I just got a letter from a man in Boston who listened to our radio program who called me a dirty, fascist pig. I don't know how many people he has told that I am a dirty, fascist pig, and I'm sorry he feels that way, and I don't know why he feels that way, but that's just part of it. I know what it is to be arrested for preaching. I preached a sermon in a certain place in the South. I hadn't gotten very far from there until a police car caught up with me. The policeman arrested me and threw me in jail and threatened to strip my clothes off and beat me with a whip and so forth if I continued to do what I was doing. That happened in the United States of America!
Those things I can tolerate, but then there is that third thing. He says here, "They will say all manner of evil against you falsely." Sometimes that is so hard to take. I don't mind if they don't like what I do say, but when they accuse me of saying things that I don't say, that's hard to take. You end up trying to defend yourself for something you never even said.
"They will say slanderous and evil things against you." Some accused Jesus of being the illegitimate son of a Roman soldier, and that wasn't true. They've tried to say things about God's people throughout all of history. Commentator Arthur Pink well said, "It is a strong proof of human depravity that men's curses and Christ's blessings should meet on the same person." Isn't that interesting? What a picture of depravity. The people the Lord blesses, the world curses. That shows you how far removed they are from God. Living a righteous life provokes resentment from the ungodly. It is the enmity of the serpent against the Holy Seed of Genesis 3:15.
I love the Lord's honesty. In His first sermon, He starts out, "Happy, happy, happy." The first time, He just wants to smooth the waters, let them know how neat it is to be a Christian, how wonderful. But the first thing He ever said set the standards so high that they must have fallen flat on their backs. Then when He gets done, He says, "By the way, if you want to live this way, you will be persecuted and chased away from your jobs, homes, and society. You will be reviled; people will speak viciously against you. They will also say things about you that aren't true, so be ready." It's going to happen; it's inevitable.
Why does the world persecute Christians? Why does it have to be this way? Why is it that if we live God's way in this world that it is this way? That's the 'why.' Why? Look at verse 10. "Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness' sake." Look at the end of verse 11, "For My sake."
Let me tell you something shocking. They really don't hate you. That's comforting, isn't it? They really don't hate you. Who do they hate? Christ. It really isn't you that they resent; it's the life you live. Our Lord Jesus told His disciples in John 15 and 16, "If they killed me, they will kill you. If they hate me, they will hate you. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you. As long as they know that you belong to me."
Jesus revealed holiness in action to an unholy world. Before Christ's birth, the world had never seen a perfect man. The longer people went without seeing a perfect man, the more smug they became in their contented sinfulness. There was never a perfect man. When Jesus came into the world, the world saw a perfect man. All of a sudden, it blew apart their self-confidence; it destroyed the basis on which they had stood. In the face of a perfect man, they felt rebuked and so they killed that perfect man. "If you can't meet His standard," they said, "Wipe it out so it isn't around." That's the way it will always be. As you and I allow Christ to live through us, we set a standard that unbelievers cannot attain. Because they can't attain that standard, they will want to remove it so they can remain content in their delusion. It's for righteousness' sake.
It happened to the twelve disciples just as Jesus said it would. Andrew persisted in preaching and was ordered to be crucified. According to tradition, he was fastened with cords to a cross so his death would be slow, and he remained in that condition until he died. Tradition also records that Peter, after nine months in prison, was crucified upside-down. Paul was beheaded by Nero. James, Matthew, Matthias, Bartholomew, and Thomas were martyred. It is likely that every disciple was martyred except John, who died in lonely exile on the island of Patmos. It happened the way He said it would happen.
There is always a price to pay when you live the Kingdom life. But beloved, listen. The fruit of living such a life is forever! For what you give up in this life, verse 10 says, "You inherit the kingdom of heaven." When they take away everything you possess in this world, they'll never be able to touch what God will give you in the next. This is the Beatitude that sums it up, and we didn't even get started, so we'll continue it next time.
I'll never forget a few years ago, when a young man in our church was sharing Christ in a park. Some men jumped on him and beat him up, but that didn't stop him. He recovered from it in a few weeks. He was down on the corner of 7thand Broadway in Los Angeles, telling people about Jesus Christ, and some men attacked him again, and this time they had sticks. They fractured his skull in four places. They took this young man to the hospital and drilled three holes in his skull to try and relieve the pressure, and in three days, he awoke in the presence of Jesus Christ. You don't think about that in our day, do you? I thank God for the courage and boldness of such a one.
What about you? Do you know what it is to live such a Godly life that you become a rebuke to people around you, not because you're obnoxious, not because you're proud, not because you're demanding, not because you're authoritarian, not because you talk too much, but because there is too much of Christ manifest in you? There is too much of that perfection that the world can't tolerate.
Are you willing to pay the price? Are you willing to live the way God wants you to live, to live the Kingdom life, to be a living illustration of the Beatitudes whatever the price? To bear the reproach of Jesus Christ? Are you willing to take your cross like He took it? Are you willing to suffer the loss of all things that you may gain the Kingdom? Are you willing to pay any price? That's what Jesus is asking for, and those are the only kind of people who can change the world for His glory.
Father, thank You for our fellowship tonight. Thank You for ministering to us the Spirit of God through the Word of God. Lord, teach us to so live our lives in conformity to Your principles and truths that we will confront the world. Protect us and preserve us from lowering the standard. Let us be bold, let us be firm, let us be walking in the Spirit so that Christ is manifest in us. Whether we live, we live unto Christ, whether we die, we die unto Christ, so that whether we live or die, we are His.
Oh Father, may we be those whose lives rebuke. May we be such a standard that those around us are so discomforted that either they seek God and let us be peacemakers or they will react negatively. But God, may we not be content to be neutral. May we not be content to do nothing. May we not be that despicable lukewarm that will cause our Lord to spew us out of His mouth.
In the silence of this moment, let me ask you to talk to the Lord in your own heart. Maybe some of you need to say, "Lord Jesus, I don't even know what it is to live the kind of life that is a rebuke to the world. I'm so caught up in the world that they wouldn't even know the difference; they wouldn't even know I was a Christian." If so, there is a good possibility that you're not a Christian, but you just think you are and you've never given your life to Christ, maybe this is the time for that.
On the other hand, you may say, "John, I know I'm a Christian, and I love Christ and this is the way I want to live. I'm like Paul in Romans 7, I want it so much but I just fail all the time." That's not necessary either. God has given you the resource in His Holy Spirit that if you will yield to His Spirit one moment at a time, to so live this kind of life, that you can live it to the glory of God. This is the way to live. If you never had anything in the world, you'd have the blessing of God, and if you have His blessing, you have everything there is. That's why Peter said, "If you be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you."
Do you want to really be happy in your heart? Pay the price of living the Beatitudes in your life.
Father, each of us is searching our own hearts, because this is a strong word, we are examining our own lives to see if we are the ones who are willing to pay the price. If we are truly the ones who have inherited the Kingdom, then we are the ones who are willing to be persecuted continuously. We are the ones who are willing to be reviled, who are willing to have all manner of evil said against us falsely. If that's what it means to live for you, then we choose loyalty to you no matter what the price. Father, we are the ones who can rejoice and be glad, because this is the way it was supposed to be. This is the way it has always been from the beginning. So we identify with all Your people who have lived the righteous life.
God, I pray for all those who have never given their lives to Christ, that this might be the time they really make that commitment. For Christians who don't know what it is to come out and be separate from the world, to pay the price, to live the life that you've asked us to live, may this be the time that they do that. God, help us not to lower the standard, help us not to be conformed to the world but to transform the world by being conformed to You.
Father, thank You for our time tonight, for the fellowship of the saints that we love and enjoy. Father, how precious it is to us. We don't know what to do when with other people; we're not a part, we're ostracized, rejected, we don't fit in. Oh, God, to think that You have provided for us this rich, wonderful fellowship, this cherished love of the brethren, this so deeply needed communion, it is so great. For every precious soul here, for every wonderful life, for the potential we have to love and care for and minister to each other, how thankful we are. Help us never to take it for granted; help us never to become petty or critical of each other, but to cherish every precious person within this community.
For those who don't yet know what it is to be a part, we pray that You will call them out of the world to Yourself, for Your glory in Jesus' name, Amen.
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