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The Glory of Persecution #1

The Truth Pulpit / Don Green
The Truth Network Radio
April 18, 2023 12:00 am

The Glory of Persecution #1

The Truth Pulpit / Don Green

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In some manner or form, persecution is inevitable. So when you find there is a relational cost to following Christ, you should not think immediately that you've done something wrong or something's gone wrong. You should step back and say, oh, this is what Scripture told me to expect. How do you respond to being mocked for your faith? Does the Bible offer any instruction in that regard? Well, it most certainly does, as Pastor Don Green will cover on this edition of The Truth Pulpit. We're continuing our series, When You're Rejected Because of Christ.

I'm Bill Wright. And Don, we're in for some real challenges, aren't we? Well, Bill, as we've said before, Scripture says that all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. It's part of the life that Christ called us to, my friend. I understand we all tend to get defensive or want to respond with a sharp word if someone comes after us. But when you're persecuted for your faith in Christ, he tells you to rejoice instead. It sounds counterintuitive.

Maybe it sounds impossible. But what we have to say today will be a great encouragement to you. Thanks, Don. And friend, have your Bible open to the book of Matthew. Let's join our teacher now as he continues to teach God's people God's Word from the Truth Pulpit.

As we introduced this passage, we introduced six questions. We considered the first question, Will true Christians be persecuted? And we said that the answer to that question is yes, without exception. Because the Apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy, he said, All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Jesus said, If they persecuted me, they will persecute you. And so we expect some form of persecution.

We expect some form of alienation from the world. We expect, in accordance with the teaching of Christ, that sometimes even our nearest and dearest of flesh and blood will oppose us, resist us, reject us, separate from us as a result of our faith in Christ. The funny thing of it is, is that this will come at the hands of those who profess to know Christ as well. That they'll think they're rendering service to Christ when they reject those who are truly his. The point for today simply is this, is that in some manner or form, persecution is inevitable. So when you find there is a relational cost to following Christ, you should not think immediately that you've done something wrong or something's gone wrong. You should step back and say, Oh, this is what Scripture told me to expect. That there would be times when people would dislike me and be hostile toward me as a result of my faith in Christ. And knowing the reality of it, you're no longer thrown off and into a spiritual tailspin as a result.

Second question that we asked, and answered last time, was this. When will persecution come? When will persecution come?

And we said that there's no way to know. Sometimes it'll just surprise us out of nowhere. Sometimes you can see the storm clouds building on the horizon. But look at chapter 5 verse 11 with me as we just dive into the text a little bit by way of reminder of what we looked at last time. Jesus said 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. What he's saying there, and what the sense of the passage is, is that whenever this happens have this response. It's not an indication that that persecution will be the unbroken pattern of life and that we'll always suffer under a heavy hand of opposition. That's not what Scripture tells us to expect. But it says that there will be times in life where this comes.

There will be times in the life of a church where it will come, where there is a cost paid for following Christ. And so we recognize this in advance. We understand that it will come. And when it comes, we're not surprised. And quite importantly, beloved, when it comes, we're not intimidated. And when it comes, we're not afraid.

And when it comes, we don't step back and shrink back in fear simply because opposition has come. This is why we exist. We exist to live for righteousness. We exist to live for Christ. We exist to be faithful to Him, especially when the conflict comes. That is when the valor of a soldier is proven. And so we realize when we understand that persecution is inevitable, when we recognize that it will come, then we are prepared to respond with courage and to rise to duty when that comes. We thank the Lord for this teaching on persecution because it prepares us and equips us for when the time comes. And then we can stand like men. We can stand like true women of valor that say, this is what Christ has called me to.

No, I don't back down. No, I'm all the more strong when the fire starts to flame up, when the opposition comes. Third question that we asked, how does persecution come to us?

In what form does it come? And we said this, that it comes in many forms. You know, one of the things that I like about this passage is the gracious way that Jesus expands the blessing to those who suffer only in verbal ways and don't go to the point of shedding blood. Indeed, Scripture talks about that, doesn't it?

That you haven't yet resisted to the point of shedding blood. Shedding blood is not the only sense in which we think about persecution and it's certainly not the only way that Jesus spoke about it. Look at verse 10 with me again. Just by way of reminder, he said, blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Then he expands on the thought as he moves into verse 11.

He says, blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. You see, we shouldn't have a romantic, a kind of falsely distorted view of a romantic view of persecution that only thinks about it in terms of the martyrs who gave their lives and shed their blood for the faith. Oh, that's true persecution. True enough and that's happened in Scripture.

It happened to the apostles and it happened to many of our beloved brethren throughout the course of church history. But persecution isn't always like that and it's not only that. Jesus says that there will be times where persecution is simply in the matter of insult and personal rejection. And so it can come in a variety of forms, some very severe, some that seem so mild that you don't even really contemplate it. And yet when you step back and you realize that insult came to me simply because of Christ.

Those family members are pushing me away because of Christ, not to the point of shedding blood or anything like that, but there are costs. The cost of discipleship is paid in the currency of persecution. And so we realize that there's a breadth to persecution as Jesus teaches on it here that helps us understand what he is referring to.

That's a review from last time. Now we're going to turn our attention to three more questions here. Question number four, why will we be persecuted? Why will you be persecuted, you could say? And Jesus puts it this way, you will be persecuted for righteous loyalty to Christ.

You will be persecuted for righteous loyalty to Christ. Look at verses 10 and 11 with me again and notice, I'll point this out, notice the parallel statements that help us see that this is something tied personally to our Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 10, 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, watch it here because of me. Because of me, Jesus says, it's parallel with the phrase in verse 10, for the sake of righteousness. Jesus says blessed are you when you're persecuted for the sake of righteousness.

Blessed are you when people insult you because of me. It's a parallel statement and the parallelism shows us that this is a righteousness that is specifically identified with loyalty to Christ. It's because of your loyalty to Christ, because of your obedience to him, because of your holding to the truth of God's word that this persecution comes. And you see, this is coming at the climax of that section, this opening section of the Sermon on the Mount called the Beatitudes, where Jesus expands on the whole nature of the character of the true believer as someone who is repentant, someone who is meek, someone who is hungering and thirsting after righteousness, someone whose heart is united and undivided in its devotion and seeking after Christ, someone who is a peacemaker, someone who is pure in heart. That is a character, beloved, that does not fit in a world that is hostile to God.

You must understand that. It is this character, this righteous character that comes from the new birth that is aligned and loyal to Christ that creates all of the conflict with the world. The world does not hate its own. It hates that. It hates those which step apart from the world, say, I reject the world and my affections and loyalty belong to someone else.

They belong to Christ, not to you. The world does not like that. The world rejects that.

The world attacks that as being something which is an assault on them. What you must understand then is this, is that the man of the Beatitudes is someone who has consciously aligned himself with Christ, the King of the Kingdom of Heaven. Says, my King, my Lord, my devotion belongs to him.

And that brings inevitable conflict. It is about a Christ-centered righteousness. What you need to understand is that this righteousness of which Jesus speaks is not simply a matter of being a good guy, being a good person, being someone who's fair in his dealings with his fellow man. That is not the point of what Jesus is speaking here. Jesus is speaking far more profoundly.

He's speaking in that which flows from a character that has been thoroughly renewed by the Spirit of God, someone in whom old things have passed away, behold, new things have come. You see, Jesus is talking about, in the context here, this is unavoidable and you can't miss it when you just pay attention to the context. Jesus is talking about someone whose entire heart and entire life is oriented toward Christ and toward his will.

That is what draws the conflict like a magnet drawing steel flakes to it. It comes at a personal cost and it comes because of righteous loyalty to Christ. So it's not simply that someone lives a morally upright life, it's when at the center of that moral life is a devotion and a testimony to Christ. When that brings persecution, that's what Christ is talking about here. Jesus is talking about something in one sense that is narrow. When a so-called Christian is criticized for being obnoxious or proud or lazy, he's not the subject of this blessing that Jesus describes here. It's not when people rightly criticize you or confront you over ungodliness and you experience inner turmoil as a result of that.

That's not it. That conflict is simply coming from being sinful. It's not righteous loyalty to Christ that provokes that. Picture a Christian in the marketplace who neglects his job duties, who does a poor job for his employer, while at the same time, on company time and against company policy, shares the gospel with his co-workers.

And the boss comes and imposes vocational discipline upon that employee saying you cannot do that on company time. Quite common for Christians in that position to post on social media things that are designed to arouse sympathy, to create a sense that this is suffering for Christ. That is not what Jesus is talking about here. That is not suffering for Christ because it is not suffering for Christ when you are not honoring the Scriptures which tell you to submit to your boss and to do your work in a way that brings blessing to him. And so a Christian who neglects his job duties to share the gospel with co-workers is not being persecuted for the sake of righteousness when the boss steps in and stops it.

We have to understand what's going on here. That is the boss's prerogative to say I am paying you for a job, not for you to be a witness for Christ. And the Christian who says no, I don't want to do my job, I want to do this, that's not what Christ is talking about here. 1 Peter chapter 4 verse 12. The apostle Peter says, Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you which comes upon you for your testing as though some strange thing were happening to you. But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing so that also at the revelation of his glory you may rejoice with exaltation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed because the spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

Notice the distinction he makes. Not all suffering is righteous suffering. Not all suffering is persecution for the sake of Christ. Look at verse 15. Make sure that none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or a troublesome meddler. But if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed but is to glorify God in this name. Then he sums it up in verse 19. Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful creator in doing what is right. So, a godly character that brings insults for the simplicity of devotion to Christ, that is where Jesus is speaking. Not in disobedience to authority. Not for being a troublesome meddler. Not for being someone who is unsanctified and fleshly and you get on people's nerves because you're hard to live with.

That's not it. No, this is the man who is poor in spirit, mourning over sin, gentle in spirit, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, out of a love and devotion to the Christ who suffered and bled and died for our sins. When you suffer for that reason, when people assault you because of Christ, that's what Jesus is talking about here. And so, why is it that we suffer? Why is it that we're persecuted? It's for the sake of righteous loyalty to Christ.

That leads us to another question. When that comes, what do you do? How should you respond to persecution? Jesus makes this clear. Go back to Matthew 5, beginning in verse 11.

This is so counterintuitive. This is not what you would expect at a superficial level if perhaps you were new to Christianity because everything in life, everything in culture, everything in marketing conditions you to develop your own comfort, to find that which pleases you, to be self-centered in your approach and whatever makes you happy to pursue that. And if suffering comes, well, that's something to be avoided. Jesus says when this kind of suffering comes, have a completely different reaction. Look at verse 11. How should you respond to persecution? You should respond with joy, with glad delight.

Look at verse 11. 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. Jesus here is talking about something that you respond with gladness to, and at a superficial level that just seems to be in conflict.

You're insulted. Someone speaks lies about you. Someone makes life difficult for you for the sake of our brethren, maybe in Muslim countries who are fleeing in the dark of night from the persecutors who would silence their testimony for Christ. God blessed them, right? We think of them as we think about this kind of persecution that is foreign to our own spiritual experience. But Jesus says when this happens, consider it a blessing. Consider it something that is a gift from God.

Consider it something that you respond with joy to. Look at what he says there in verse 10. Blessed are those who have been persecuted.

Verse 11, he repeats himself lest we miss it. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you. Verse 12, rejoice and be glad. He is saying you are the privileged recipient of divine favor when this happens to you. Far from viewing this as something that is unpleasant, something that you reject, something that you resent, and God forbid, something that you would retaliate against. Jesus says respond with the fullness of the heart that receives it as a blessing from God.

This is positive joy that overwhelms the soul. This is not a grudging acceptance that simply says this is inevitable. Jesus said it would happen and I can't do anything about it.

I'm going to grip my teeth and get through it. No. No, that is not a godly response, beloved. That is not the way to think when your job is on the line, when you lose work on account of your testimony for Christ, a true testimony for Christ.

That's not the response. Jesus commands us. Jesus gives an imperative and says no, you rejoice.

You be glad that this is happening to you. This turns the world upside down to think like that. This is totally contrary to how we are conditioned to think about our personal comfort and our personal reputations.

This is completely different. See persecution isn't designed to make you bitter, and it is not a Christian response to respond that way. And we have biblical examples abounding to us of those who responded in just this way. Let's start with the supreme example of our Lord Jesus Christ. Remember that you're following him. Remember that he saved you and bought you as his own, that you might belong to him, that he might be your master and you be his slave, that he would be the teacher and you would be his disciple, and that you are under his authority, under his teaching, under his example, gladly belonging to him.

And what was it like for him? In his severest test of the most unjust persecution, as they plucked out his beard, as they thrust thorns into his head, as they beat him with whips, he maintained silence. No response, no retaliation, even though he could have called legions of angels to his defense. Go further down the road with Christ. Go further and see him there on the cross.

See him hanging on the cross, crucified for your sins, and looking down on those who hated him, those who had nailed him there, those who were mocking him in his hour of extremity. And what did Christ say? Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing.

This is supernatural. When Christ himself was suffering unrighteously, at the hands of unrighteous men, let's say it that way, when Christ himself was following in this path of suffering, he himself said, Father, forgive them. When Stephen was stoned in Acts chapter 7 in like manner, as the rocks are raining down on him, and in hatred and vitriol, they are stoning him to silence him after he had rebuked them from the Old Testament Scriptures and shown that they were just like those who had persecuted the prophets in the past. Stephen said, looked up into heaven and said, Lord, do not hold this sin against them.

Do you see the composure of spirit? Do you see the generosity of attitude toward those who are inflicting the punishment? And this is repeated often in the course of church history. This is the noble tradition that belongs to us as those who belong to Christ. This is the inheritance that has been given to us, starting from the fountainhead of Christ, flowing through the apostles who were all martyred, with the exception of John, and he was exiled, through the blood of martyrs shed throughout church history. This is what we have received as our inheritance, noble, bodily suffering in response to unjust persecution. Today on The Truth Pulpit, Pastor Don Green has dealt with two more questions about persecution. Why are Christians persecuted? For our loyalty to Jesus.

And how should we respond? With rejoicing. Don will look at the rewards of doing so next time as we continue our series when you're rejected because of Christ. We hope you'll plan now to be with us.

Right now, though, Don's back in studio, and he has some closing thoughts. Friend, one of the things that I'm always mindful of when I'm here in studio is I'm mindful that there are people out in the audience that are like I used to be, thinking that they were Christians but not really having the life of God in their soul. You've perhaps read the Bible or gone to church, but you've never really turned your life to Christ in repentance and saving faith. I just encourage you, if you've just viewed Christianity as something kind of casual and not all that important, my friend, examine yourself.

See if you're truly born again, and let that work of God in your heart lead you to truth, lead you to the Scriptures, so that you would enter into the profound life that belongs only to those who are true Christians. Thanks, Don. And friend, we hope you'll visit to learn more about our ministry. Again, that's And now for Don Green, this is Bill Wright inviting you back next time when Don teaches God's people God's Word from the Truth Pulpit.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-18 04:53:55 / 2023-04-18 05:02:48 / 9

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