For two and a half months, we’ve been blessed in this show to explore the Beatitudes, finding out how we are blessed by being poor in spirit, by mourning, by being meek, by hungering and thirsting for righteousness, by being merciful, pure in spirit, and by being a peacemaker.
Now, we need to prepare ourselves to hear the last and hardest beatitude, the one that is most difficult to accept, but one that promises us the greatest blessing of all.
Table Talk Notes
Continuation in v 11 &12
Blessed are you when men revile you & persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me;
Rejoice and be glad for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
This is the blessing that NO ONE wants!
A final overview
The eighth and final beatitude may strike us as negative. Up to this point, the beatitudes have focused on humility, meekness, right relationships, mercy, purity of heart, and peacemaking—all positive qualities. But Jesus includes the possibility of “persecution for righteousness’ sake.” This arises from the previous seven, because the forces that oppose God’s ways still hold great power in the world.
Basically, Jesus concludes by acknowledging that living righteously is going to cost us, perhaps cost us dearly.
A Personal Testimony: scathing Facebook pm for openly taking a stand against ordaining homosexuals… may not have been written by Satan, but it was definitely dictated by him.
We need to keep an eternal perspective in all things, but especially where true persecution for our faith is concerned.
Sometimes we feel overwhelmed to realize that what we know to be good, massive numbers of others considered evil: to learn what we know is righteous others view as bigoted, intolerant, homophobic, and as grounds for unfriending and outright dismissal.
2 Timothy 3:1-5 | But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
South Bend Mayor and Dem Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg to VP Mike Pence (at Victory Fund event 4/7/19):
“Being married to Chasten has made me a better human being because it has made me more compassionate, more understanding, more self-aware and more decent. My marriage to Chasten has made me a better man. And yes, Mr. Vice President, it has moved me closer to God… If me being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade. And that’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand. That if you got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me — your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”
We can go to the Lord and file a complaint, “Lord, they are on my back: Lord they are persecuting me.” But don’t expect the Lord to say “My, how I pity you. I want you to know how terrible I feel about all of this.” Instead be fully prepared to hear him say, “Congratulations!”
5 facts we can’t ignore
1). It is the last and longest beatitude (three verses)
2). The only beatitude with a command: “rejoice”
3). It is the only beatitude with an explanation.
4). It is the only beatitude that is repeated by Jesus, and
5). It’s the only beatitude addressed directly to the reader. This is so important that Jesus even changes from the third person “they” or “those” in which all the other Beatitudes are written, to the second person “you” in verse eleven in order to focus our attention on the personal application.
Persecution will come
Persecution has been a fact of faith since Christianity’s inception and continues, even to death for some, today.
In the Western world, we may not be put to death; persecution may require not the courage to die for our faith but the courage to live for it.
2 Tim 3:12 | We preach a prosperity gospel but Jesus preached a persecution gospel. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted
John 15:18-20 | We are no greater than the Master // “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.
1 Pet 4:12-13 | We are partakers of His suffering // Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
What persecution is NOT
There is no promise of happiness for those who are persecuted for being a nuisance, for Christians who have shown themselves to be offensive, difficult, and insulting to their co-workers and neighbors. The sad reality is that many times Christians are not persecuted for their Christianity but for their lack of it!
1 Pet 2:12 | Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
“When men speak ill of thee, live so as nobody may believe them.” ~Plato
You can not claim persecution because you were involved in wrongdoing and now suffer the consequences; poor choices and consequences to don’t equate to true persecution.Poor choices and consequences to don’t equate to true persecution. Click To Tweet
v 10: The word translated “persecute” (dediomenoi) in Greek literally means “to pursue, to drive or chase away.”
v11: verbal insults – revealed in the use of the word – “revile”- which literally means to cast in one’s teeth and carries the idea of criticizing severely with the aim of discrediting and then there are also false accusations -“say all manner of evil against you” – which means harsh, abusive words usually said behind our backs. One crucial word to make sure we do not miss is the word, “falsely.”
“If I get in trouble because I talk too much or because I meddle or because I try to force my faith on other people, that is not persecution. If I am promoting my own cause and men reject me, that is not persecution. If I am arrogant and abusive in my attempt to witness for Christ, and people want nothing to do with me, that is not persecution. But if I seek to do His will and honor His name and I suffer, then that is persecution.”[Warren Weirsbe. “Live Like a King: Developing a Royal Lifestyle from the Beatitudes.”]
The promise is the Kingdom of heaven
1 Pet 4:14 | “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (present tense – now!)
“Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
The verb for “rejoice” is an imperative, in other words it is not a suggestion, it is a command (same word as Phil 4:4 – rejoice in the Lord always)
The reward for the faithful is “great” (polus) which means not just great but “immeasurably great.”
Our response to persecution
We are not to retaliate like an unbeliever, we are not to sulk like a child nor are we to lick our wounds in self-pity, we are not called to just grin and bear it like a Stoic, nor are we to just pretend to enjoy it like a Masochist. We are called to “rejoice and be exceedingly glad”… to literally skip and hop with excitement.
How can we do that? Because we understand we are experiencing, in the here and now, the Kingdom of God.
1. We can rejoice in persecution because we know that it Is a demonstration of our identity…our faith is genuine, like that of the prophets.
Acts 5:41 | when they were released, “… they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer – “When Christ calls a man, He bids him, come, die.”
2. We know that God uses persecution to refine us.
1 Pet 1: 6-9 | It is only in the trials by fire that we can be refined; God wants the honor and glory from us IN the persecution. // In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
3. We know that it gives us the opportunity to show the difference that Christ makes in a person’s life.
If everything is going well with you and you rejoice, what makes you different from all the non-believers around you? But when you rejoice in the midst of suffering, you stand out from the “norm”
2 Cor 5:17 | we no longer look like the world // Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
4. We know the promise of the reward.
Heb 11:24-26 | By faith, Moses understood the greater reward // By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.
2 Cor 4: 16-18 | We see beyond the moment; we keep an eternal perspective. // So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
5. We know that Jesus is near when we are suffering.
Dan 3: 24-25 | I see a fourth man! (Let’s talk about “but even if….”) // Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king.
Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up?
Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.
If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.
But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated.
And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.
Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace.
Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.”
He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire.
And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them.
Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.
Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.”
Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
Mt 28:20 | the promise of never forsaking us, no matter what we are experiencing “… And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Some Final Thoughts
The reality in a fallen world is that if we demonstrate genuine righteousness, many will reject us. Jesus elaborates by pointing out that the prophets, who like him announced God’s kingdom, were persecuted
The blessing is that active persecution for the right reasons indicates that the powers of darkness believe you are succeeding in furthering God’s kingdom.
Even the best organizations and most admirable people are still tainted by the Fall. None are perfect. This beatitude serves as a reminder that working in a fallen world requires courage.
We want also to make note of the fact that following the beatitudes, Jesus tells His disciples that they are the salt and light of the earth.
Persecution will inevitably enhance our testimony (if we are faithful) and cause men to thirst (like salt does) for the true and living water, Jesus Christ.
Salt preserves – we are to preserve what is good/godly in our culture.
Light exposes darkness – evil must be exposed. How we choose to live out the beatitudes will expose either our carnal man, or Jesus. The choice is ours.