There is a cost to true discipleship to Christ, and we cannot offer Christ on false premises to people and say that the whole idea of Christianity is so that God would bless you, that God would give you whatever you want. That's not biblical Christianity, beloved. Thanks for joining us on the Truth Pulpit with Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Hello, I'm Bill Wright, and we're continuing our series When You're Ejected Because of Christ, with part two of a message called Privilege to Suffer. Last time, Don posed the first two of six questions about persecution to help put in perspective the beatitudes spelled out in Matthew 5, verse 10. Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. So, will Christians be persecuted? Yes. When will it come? At various times.
You can't know for sure when, only that it will. Well, today, as Don continues to teach God's people God's word, he'll explore a third question concerning what form the persecution will take. So, turn in your Bible to Matthew 5, and let's join Don now, in the Truth Pulpit. Maybe, maybe you're not suffering for Christ right now. That does not mean that you have to worry about your lack of spirituality.
Maybe God has given you a time of peace and comfort and respite from the hostility of the world. What's true of individuals is true of churches. Churches go through times of peace, comparative prosperity, sometimes they go through hostility. What I want you to see is, especially in a place where, you know, we live in a land of comparative peace and prosperity, I don't want you to wrongly question your salvation simply because, well, right now, life seems pretty good. That's not what Jesus is teaching. He's not saying it's the unbroken pattern for all time, but he is saying this, it is inevitable. It does happen.
It may be brief and mild, it may be prolonged and painful. And so Jesus tells us to expect it. Having said that, looking for balance in what we say here, if you've claimed to be a Christian for any length of time at all, and you would look at your life and say, I have never, ever, once, ever tasted any kind of opposition for being a Christian, you might want to step back and re-examine your whole spiritual life. If it has never cost you in any way, shape, or form, in any conversation whatsoever, speaking at the most basic, broad level, and it's never cost you, no one's ever reacted against your claim to know Christ, maybe you need to reconsider whether you're really in the faith. Because Jesus says, blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs, and theirs alone, is the kingdom of heaven. And that's just especially so important when a weak gospel dominates the church today, when it is made so simple for people, supposedly, to come to Christ.
Raise your hand and we won't ask you any questions later. And people are conditioned to think about Christianity in the most minimalistic way that never impacts their life. Jesus doesn't teach you Christianity like that. That's a false gospel. And in an environment where people have been conditioned to think that way, we need to bring the full weight of scripture to bear, and scripture says those who love Christ will pay a price for it.
And if that is the biblical reality of salvation, then we ask ourselves, have I tasted something of that or not? Have I ever been, have you ever been rejected for the sake of Christ? Has a family member ever spoke out against you and said, you're too harsh, you're too narrow, as you're simply trying to talk about the Bible.
You're too negative, you're too harsh, you're too strict. Something like that, indicating that someone is reacting against the inner convictions that true repentance produces in the human heart. If you never, ever faced anything like that, beloved, take a look at scripture and examine yourself. When does persecution come?
There's no way to know. The timing of it is in his hands, but it does, it does come. Now, thirdly, we ask this question, how does persecution come to us? How does persecution come to us?
What is it like? And again, we have to guard against extremes. We're just trying to be balanced in our teaching here, trying to be even more important than balanced, we're trying to be biblical in our teaching here.
And what I want you to do, those of us who live in the comparative bubble of peace that comes from being Americans in this time in our national history, recognizing that, you know, there's virtually no chance that someone's going to fire bomb our building during a worship service, that no one's going to come in with machetes trying to shut us down or to slice up our leadership, as happens in other parts of the world, and we're not like that, it's easy for us to think and say, well, you know, there's no suffering in my life and to feel somewhat diminished by it. Understand that that is not the terms on which Jesus presents it to us. Jesus tells us that persecution comes in many different forms.
Some of them are more painful than others. Look at Matthew chapter 5 verse 11 with me. Matthew chapter 5 verse 11. You know, you hear the grand stories of those who spilled blood for the faith, and we do respect that, we honor it, we recognize it, we would not run from it if it came to us, but the whole point here is this. Jesus doesn't limit it to that.
Jesus is a gracious commander in chief who recognizes the smallest of flesh wounds for the spiritual purple heart, not simply those who give their lives on behalf of the gospel. Look at verse 11 with me. Jesus says, blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Now notice something here. Jesus has subtly shifted from the third person, blessed are those who do such and such, are such and such, to verse 11. Now he's speaking in the second person. He says, blessed are you. He elaborates and he makes it personal, and we can come to these words from our Lord and realize that he speaks in the second person, you, to help us. Now, how does persecution come to us? For some in whose wake we walk, for some it's come in the form of bloodshed, it's come in the form of awful human suffering. Look over at Hebrews chapter 11. Hebrews chapter 11.
We have to teach on both sides of this today. In Hebrews chapter 11 verse 36, the writer of Hebrews is expressing the great hall of faith, honorable men and women who paid a price for following Christ, and he says in verse 36, others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned. They were sawn in two.
They were tempted. They were put to death with the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated, men of whom the world was not worthy, wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. And Scripture recognizes and honors those who suffered like that for Christ, to the point of shedding blood, to the point of exile, to the point of whips crashing down again on the flesh of their backs as they did upon Christ.
Severe bloodletting infidelity to Christ. And Scripture says that form of persecution is embedded in the broader reality of true Christianity. Notice something, beloved, realizing that probably none of us in this room have suffered like that for Christ, and you would be tempted to feel inferior, to feel like, you know, why haven't I been more faithful?
And you start to ask questions. You know, maybe if I were more godly, maybe if I was more righteous, then that would happen and that would vindicate and validate my faith. But Jesus doesn't put it that way.
That's not the full teaching of Scripture. Does that happen? Yes. Is it happening in our world today? Yes. Are there people in prison simply for the love of the name of Christ today? Yes. Does that mean that you're not a Christian because you're not in prison with them?
No. Because Jesus doesn't frame it that way. Go back to Matthew 5, verse 11, and see how He frames it and be stunned by the condescending kindness, the gentle bowing down to our position and the gentle gracious way in which our Lord blesses and leads us. Jesus says in verse 11, blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Do you realize that Jesus is pronouncing blessing on forms of persecution, forms of suffering that are of a much lesser degree than those more extreme examples that we saw in Hebrews 11? Sometimes in the blessing that Jesus pronounces here is simply on verbal harassment like audible complaints to your face or false accusations behind your back. No one actually lifts a dagger against you and causes your blood to spill. It's simply that they attack you with the tongue or give you the silence or leave your presence and say, I want nothing to do with you. You see, beloved, what Jesus is saying is is that He's pronouncing blessing even on that kind of persecution.
And I want to tell you something. Just speaking personally, I love Him for that. I love Him for that because this is not according to the way that the world operates.
The world would magnify those who simply shed their blood. Jesus says, I'll give honor also to those who simply suffer verbal harassment, who are insulted. And in humility you say, but Lord, Lord, they just insulted me.
They cut Isaiah in half with a saw. You're going to bless me along with him? And the answer to the Lord is yes. You see, when you're wounded in battle for this great commander, he gives you, as it were, a spiritual purple heart and says, you were injured by the enemy serving me. I won't forget that. I'll honor that with my blessing.
And since this is the level that you and I kind of would deal with it more than whips and chains and execution in our day and age right now, I think it's important for us to probe this a little bit. And maybe you find, maybe you find that, you know, you've suffered for Christ perhaps more than you realize. Things that you don't take into account as a matter of living life or being gracious, and you don't say, I'm not, you know, I don't think about these things. I don't rehearse the way people have wronged me. I don't have to dwell on the insults from family. But what I want you to see here is that there is a rich deposit of grace and blessing from Christ in this, and also for you to see that when it does strike, when the viper does strike with the false accusations, when the dog does bite your hand with insults, with lies, with misrepresentations, I want you to be able to see what's going on.
Because when we're not thinking in this realm, if you're only thinking about it horizontally, you're tempted to say, well, wait a second, why are they saying that? That's not even true! They didn't even talk to me! This is absolutely inconceivable that this person is saying these things that have no basis in fact whatsoever against me. Well, look, here's what I want you to understand. Of course it's false. Of course it's untrue. It wouldn't be persecution if they were simply saying true things about you. When they speak falsely about you, that's where you're entering into the realm that Jesus is saying that he describes as persecution, that you are suffering, that injury is being inflicted upon you because false things are being stated about you. It wouldn't be persecution if it was true. And so Jesus recognizes, Jesus prepares you for the reality that as you follow Christ, there will be times where people say the most outrageous, demonstrably false things about you in order to slander your reputation, in order to diminish your testimony for Christ, and it's all false.
And Jesus says when that happens, blessing be upon you. So persecution may be verbal. It may be unfair treatment. Yes, it may be physical abuse. It may be imprisonment.
It may be death. How does persecution come to us? It comes to us in a wide variety of ways. But beloved, for those of you whom I'm about to describe, let this be that which would bring encouragement to your heart. If you hear yourself being described in what I'm about to say, realize that Christ brought you here today in order to speak words of grace and encouragement to your heart, and to say that Christ knows, it brings to your mind that Christ is aware of these things, that he anticipated it, and his full intention and promise is to bless you in the midst of them. So what is persecution? It may be the worker who has passed over for a promotion because of his biblical ethics. It may be the student who is penalized for speaking biblical truth in a college classroom. It may be the woman who loses a friendship for rebuking gossip in the church. It's often the Christian, rejected, criticized, badgered by those in their family that they cherish.
So why are you doing this? And what I want you to see, those and a thousand more that we could illustrate it with, seeing that Jesus graciously deals with his church here today through his word and says, as it were, makes it known that he understands that life is like this for us, that there are these slights that are minor, there are more significant costs that people pay. In the lands of Russia, it was common for Christians not to be able to get good work because they were excluded from the jobs because of their fidelity to Christ.
And all of a sudden livelihood is at stake in addition to the other ways. And what Christ does in his word, and all beloved, all beloved, I want you to love him for this. Having anticipated it in advance, Christ gives us a permanent record that has endured for 2000 and will continue to endure forever and ever, amen. Christ gives in his word his promise that he will bless us, that he will bestow favor upon us, that he sees that and it's not lost on him that you're suffering for Christ in your family, in your workplace, in school, wherever it may be. And what I want you to see is it's the fact of persecution, not the particular form that it takes, that Jesus is blessing.
It's the fact. I say, well, it's just some family slights, Lord, you know, it's really not that big a deal, Jesus, not that Jesus. No, no, you're suffering those wounds on my behalf, Christ would say.
I intend to honor that. And what I love about this passage of Scripture here in the Beatitudes where Jesus has set such lofty standards of character, what I love about this is when he talks about persecution, he doesn't talk about imprisonment or martyrdom or those things that probably only a fraction of Christians throughout the ages are actually going to suffer. He goes to the areas of verbal abuse, harassment, and insults that to us seem minor by comparison but which are not lost on the books of heaven. And where someone has given you a Judas kiss and betrayed you later on because of your commitment to Christ, our Lord graciously comes and as it were, wipes that kiss away and replaces it with his blessing upon your life and heart. How gracious, how wonderful, how loving, because we say, Lord, this just seems so mild by comparison and yet what you see is that Christ values, watch this, Christ values the faithfulness in your life that produces that adverse reaction against you so much to reward and bless you and to make it prominent in his word that he intends not to forget.
Bless his holy name. Those of you that have lost position because of commitment to biblical conviction, the blessing of Christ rests upon you. Those of you that have lost relationships, that suffer estrangement, the blessing of Christ rests upon you. Guaranteed not by me but by his own precious word. And as we look to the future, as the Christian people throughout the world, and we look through to the future and maybe things become more severe, we'll rest on this same promise that he gives to us here. And so, beloved, have you suffered for Christ?
Have family members isolated and mocked you in get-togethers? Let this be that which would prepare your heart for those family times with unbelieving family members that have mocked you throughout the time. And just let it prepare you and equip you to be gracious through that and to accept it with an eye on Christ as it comes. Have you suffered for Christ? Our Lord speaks blessing to you. Have you been kissed by Judas? That hurt is a blessing from God. You have the privilege of sharing in the suffering of Christ. Judas literally kissed Christ and then handed him over to the Roman soldiers. In a false act of affection, one that had been with Christ and had experienced his teaching and blessing for three solid years betrayed him at the drop of a hat for thirty pieces of silver. Christ says, they did it to me.
They'll do it to you. When they do, I'll see it and I won't forget. You see, beloved, what those things are doing is that they're showing that you have true salvation, not the cheap imitation that won't survive the fires of judgment. You have the real deal because it's to you and to you alone belongs the kingdom of heaven. Those that have suffered for the name of Christ are the ones that he'll gladly enter in and receive into his kingdom. Beloved, Christ sees. Beloved, Christ cares. Beloved, Christ will never forget.
Beloved, Christ will bless you in the end. What do we say in response to that? What do we say in response to the reality that you will pay a price to follow Christ?
What do we say in response to that? The true believer says this, from the bottom of his heart, with the fullness of all of his affections, with a conviction that says, here I stand. I can do no other and I would do no other if I could. The true believer says, no cost is too great as I follow Christ. I won't be the hypocrite that wants the crown without the cross. I won't hold the nail-pierced hands of Jesus with hands unscarred by persecution of my own. The true believer looks up to heaven, sees, as it were, the wounds of Christ, the persecution that was inflicted on him by which he bore our sins, by which he purchased our eternal redemption, by which he showered us with grace. We look up to heaven, as it were. We see those wounds and we say, Lord, my heart is filled to overflowing with gratitude for that. Lord, you suffered on earth on my behalf. Gratefully, Lord, will I suffer on your behalf in the short time that you give? Your sufferings for me were redemptive.
Mine aren't like that. They're simply the meager price I pay for belonging to you. Is that the resolve of your heart?
Do you know something of this kind of persecution? Jesus says, great reward awaits you. Jesus says, the favor of God is upon you. However that reward looks, whatever it looks like, if we use the figure of a crown when we're in heaven and he's rewarded us like this, the believing heart, the desire of the believing heart is simply going to want to throw that reward back at his feet and say, Lord, this is all from you to begin with. You take the reward. You take the glory. You take the credit. I just give it all over to you because my suffering was in response to a redemptive love that I never could have earned and that you graciously gave. Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. What will that reward be like?
We'll see that next week. Come back and join us. While the persecution we suffer in our day, age, and location might not be as dramatic as that going on in the Middle East, we are seeing bakers and photographers losing their businesses to political correctness run amok. But as Pastor Don Green has pointed out today on The Truth Pulpit, even the smallest snub for our Lord's sake is blessed by him. Don will tackle three more questions about persecution on our next broadcast as he takes us further into our series, When You're Rejected Because of Christ.
So be sure to be with us then. Meanwhile, we invite you to visit our website, thetruthpulpit.com. There you can download podcasts or find out how to receive CD copies of Don's radio messages for your personal study library. And if you want to go even more in depth, you'll also find the link Follow Don's Pulpit. That'll take you to Don's full-length weekly sermons, not subject to the time editing we need for radio broadcasts. Again, that's thetruthpulpit.com. And now for Don Green, I'm Bill Wright, and we'll see you again next time when Don again teaches God's people God's Word from the Truth Pulpit.
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