When you start to suffer for Christ, the first thing that you should do is go to Christ.
The one who brings and is the occasion for your suffering, you go to him so that he can help you understand what's happening. We welcome you again to the Truth Pulpit with Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Hello there, I'm Bill Wright, and as Don continues teaching God's people God's word, we continue our series, When You're Rejected Because of Christ. Our teacher has part two of a message called, The Glory of Persecution. Last time, Don dealt with two more questions about persecution. Why are Christians persecuted? For our loyalty to Jesus. And how should we respond? With rejoicing.
Today, our teacher will look at the rewards of doing so. Have your Bible open to Matthew chapter 5 verse 12 as we join Don now in the Truth Pulpit. Look over at Acts chapter 5 in verse 40.
They took his advice. And after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus and then released them. They had physically suffered for Christ. They had been the unjust recipients of authority exercised against them.
And how did they respond? Verse 41, they went on their way from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for his name. And every day in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. They had just been beaten and they go out singing, rejoicing.
Why? Because their focus was heavenward. Because they understood that persecution was a blessing.
Because they realized that it was a great privilege as a sinner to be identified with the holy, righteous, suffering Son of God. That's a privilege that it pains me that I know so little of personally in my own experience. It's a privilege to suffer with Christ.
Not something to be angry about. Not something to resist. You mean I can be identified with such a lovely one as Christ that I could share a small portion of that which he endured for the salvation of my soul? Oh, let me into that realm.
That's a blessing to be with him. The apostles understood that. Look at Acts chapter 16. Paul and Silas suffered again, Acts 16 verse 22. The crowd rose up together against them and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods. When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely. And he, after having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. They had been beaten. They had been imprisoned. They were in chains, all unjustly. What do you see in verse 25? But about midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and then the story proceeds.
There they were in stocks, in chains, no doubt still bleeding from their wounds. And they're singing and rejoicing and praising God. This is what it looks like when suffering in the name of Christ comes.
Realize that God has brought a blessing into your life. This is a testimony of the reality of your salvation. This is an opportunity to identify more closely with the Christ who saved you. The Christ who was accused of being the devil himself. The Christ who was beaten. The Christ who suffered.
And when a small portion of that splashes over to you as one of his disciples, what do you do? Oh, God, thank you for the privilege of belonging to you. This is a matter of joy to me.
I don't live for this world anyway. I rejoice in the fact that people who hate you want nothing to do with me either. It's a testimony to where my true heart is. And that becomes a ground for joy. And not only do you respond with joy, go back to Matthew chapter 5. Matthew chapter 5, you not only respond with joy, you remember your heritage. You remember what has been given to you.
You remember the flow that you stand in spiritually. Look at verse 12. Jesus tells us why it is that you can rejoice like this under the rejection of the world. Matthew chapter 5 verse 12, Jesus says, 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 says what you're experiencing when this comes into your life is nothing new. He says it has always been thus with the righteous people of God. Always.
From the beginning, it has always been this way. And so you should rejoice with the opportunity to identify with such noble people who have gone before you. To stand and to be associated with men of honor, with men of valor, with men who belong to the true Christ, who testified to him against a hostile world. Think about it, beloved.
Think about it and let it strengthen your resolve. Let it draw your affections closer to the suffering of Christ. Just on a human level, what can we remember from Scripture as we just walk through a few high points? Cain killed righteous Abel. From the very beginning, this was the case, Cain killed Abel. Saul persecuted David, the man after God's own heart. The Jews persecuted the prophets.
Jeremiah spent his decades of ministry alone and rejected by everyone to whom he spoke. The Jews killed Jesus. Saul persecuted the church, went after them with violent hatred, held the coats, watched the coats of those who were stoning Stephen, persecuted the church before his conversion. The apostles were martyred. You can get volumes of church history about those who suffered in the name of Christ tortured and then killed and slaughtered in the most unimaginable ways.
We've spoken of how Nero, the Roman emperor, would encase Christians in wax, set them on fire and use them to light his nighttime garden. Beloved, do you understand that these are all men of flesh and blood like you and I? And do you further understand that these are men and women who had the same simple affections of heart and loyalties to Christ that you and I do? And we look at them now, we look at them in retrospect, and we look at them with respect. We look at those who suffered for the name of Christ, who spilled their blood simply for the sake of being true to the testimony of God and to the testimony of Christ, to the testimony of the gospel.
We look at the courage of Luther after he posted his 95 Thesis and was pursued relentlessly by the Catholic Church. And we look back and say, that was a noble man. Those were noble people now forgotten by the world but not forgotten in the books of heaven. And we respect them and we say they were noble. They showed the way to us that we might see how far devotion to Christ goes. That we put no limits, we don't withhold even our blood from this one who didn't withhold his blood from us. And we see in their example, we see in their lives, we see from the scriptural testimonies, we see, ah, this is what true discipleship looks like. And we realize that we benefit from their example and that we draw strength and courage from it in our own way. Now, when Jesus says, this is how they treated them in the past, now you bring it in and you let it inform your own response.
How can I rejoice and be glad? Well one, it's a great privilege to be identified with such a rich tradition of Christian nobility. And you say, you know what, and maybe in the little sacrifices that I get, maybe someone down the road would draw courage from my example and be stronger than they otherwise would have been if they saw when they know my suffering, when they know my loyalty to Christ. In the words of the song that Steve Green made famous, may all who come behind us find us faithful. And it would be a blessing if we collectively, if we individually somehow had a life testimony that others look back on. That's how you do it.
That's how I'm going to be today in 2050. And to be in a position to encourage even future believers through your response to suffering is a grounds to joy. This is a grounds to rejoice, to say, I am living in the realm of the kingdom of God. God has blessed me to give me a life that has transcendent value and meaning beyond my own personal comfort and physical well-being. I am glad I rejoiced to share in that.
You say to yourself, and that's how you respond. And the cost teaches you. The cost sobers you. The cost makes you realize the great value of the gospel. Makes you realize the great value of the Lord Jesus Christ. That he is so preeminently worthy of praise, devotion, and affection that no earthly cost, that no earthly relationship is worth valuing over him. And if it costs me an earthly relationship, I embrace that. I gladly accept that even though it wasn't my choice.
That wasn't what I would have had. But if that's the cost that they put on it, I'm glad to be identified with Christ. And the suffering teaches you how preeminently worthy the Lord Jesus Christ is. And he is, beloved, preeminently worthy. There is no one more lovely than Jesus Christ. There is no one more worthy of your devotion.
And so, beloved, just applying this a little bit. When the time comes in your own life, you'll know the moment when it comes. Sometime down the future, maybe tomorrow, maybe 10 years from now. Remember this now.
Remember what I'm telling you right now. When the time comes for you, when you realize that if you maintain your loyalty to Christ, you'll lose a relationship. When the time comes that you realize that righteous living might cost you your job.
When you realize that if you would just bend the truth a little bit to take the edge off the persecution, or just stay silent in the moment, when it cries out for you to be faithful to Christ, when that moment comes, remember this text. And don't back away. Don't step away from it.
Don't shrink back. Don't be disloyal to the Christ who gave himself to you and for you. When the time comes, when your kids are on the verge of rejecting you because of your testimony to Christ, let that be the moment when you graciously, dependently, looking to Christ, step forward and say with your life, with your words, with whatever the situation calls for, I belong to Christ, here I stand, I can do no other, God help me, amen. And stand alone for him if you must.
Stand alone for the Christ who suffered alone on the tree for you. That's true Christianity, and we value loyalty to Christ more than we value popularity with the world. We love Christ more than we love our families. We love Christ more than we love life itself.
That's how great he is. And that is the right way to respond to him. That is his true and righteous claim on your affections. This is what it means to be a Christian. I am a Christian to the point that I'm willing to suffer for him. If he brings it, I won't flinch, you say in your heart.
You settle it as a matter of conviction. I will not flinch when it comes to that. When people say compromise, I say no, I won't compromise. I can't.
Don't you understand? I cannot compromise righteousness for the sake of your approval. Some of you young people like to say these things to you from time to time. Some of you young people to realize that you're in a position where you could give your life for Christ, not in the sense of dying for him, but in the sense of saying, I'm going to give myself over to his service. I will rise up and become a man who preaches the word of God. I will go where Christ has not been named. I will give myself for him.
This is the cost that I gladly pay. This life means nothing to me by comparison of belonging to Christ. And I want to give everything that I have to righteous devotion to him. So beloved, when you're persecuted for the sake of Christ, you remember that you stand in a noble tradition and count yourself blessed. You mean that I might somehow be associated with the prophets who suffered for loyalty to the Christ who is still yet to come? You mean that I could be in that group, that I could be under the favor of God this way? I am greatly blessed, you say to yourself. One older writer said this, commentator on the book of Matthew.
He said, and I quote, the witnesses for unwelcome truths have never had anywhere at any time a light or easy task, end quote. To which we say, I embrace that. I welcome that.
I'm blessed to be in a position to do that. That brings us to our sixth and final question, what is the reward for persecution? What is the reward for persecution?
Beloved, let's do this. Let's stop thinking stingy thoughts about God. Let's stop thinking about God as being someone who is perhaps a little bit harsh, reluctant to bless us, never quite satisfied, someone who deals out his blessings with reluctance.
Let's not think that way about God. Let's realize that to the extent that we would pay a price for following Christ, God is not going to forget that. Scripture says God is not unjust so as to forget your labor for Him. And here, Christ makes this plain, look at verse 12, what is the reward for persecution? Point number six, what is the reward for persecution? Jesus says the reward is great glory.
Great glory. Look at verse 12 with me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great. You see, beloved, you have to think about these things from an eternal perspective. We have to think completely differently. We get it all wrong when we start calculating human costs and relational separations when these things come into our lives, when persecution and insults and suffering comes because of Christ. We cannot think about it from a human perspective. We think about it from an eternal perspective. We go... Oh, listen, this is so simple.
This is so obvious what I'm about to say. When you start to suffer for Christ, the first thing that you should do is go to Christ. The one who brings and is the occasion for your suffering, you go to Him so that He can help you understand what's happening and what the outcome of this is and the way that you should think about it. I'm suffering for Christ rather than calculating human consequences, which don't matter at all in the big picture of things, you go to Christ and say, Christ, how should I think about this? And Jesus in effect says, God is no man's debtor. God is not indifferent to those who suffer for the name of His Son. This is something that is precious in the sight of God when His children follow and obey Him and are loyal to Him and even when it costs them, that matters eternally.
And so you evaluate opposition from an eternal perspective. And what do you find in verse 12? Your reward in heaven is great. Jesus says, the Father rewards those who patiently endure suffering for the sake of My name. That an unseen God who has revealed Himself in His Word makes promises. The work of the Spirit in your heart is such to change you and change your affections that you disregard, you discount the opposition from the world. And when God sees those motions in a believing heart, it pleases Him. And He bestows a reward upon that when you arrive in heaven.
Indeed, the reward has already started. Look at verse 10. Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, present tense.
When this happens, you can say, I know the King now. You're tasting His blessings now. To be in the kingdom now, to know His truth now, to know Christ now is a great, great blessing.
It's worth far more than anything that this world has to offer. But then you realize, then you go to verse 11, and it says your reward in heaven is great. There is a reward waiting for you as you patiently endure these unjust sufferings in the name of righteous fidelity to Christ. And that when you enter into heaven, however that comes to pass, when we receive our reward from Christ, however and whatever that's going to look like, we don't know exactly what it's going to be.
The Bible doesn't tell us all the details that we might like to know. But oh, beloved, God will bring you into His eternal kingdom. And beloved, when you are there, all opposition to you for your faith in Christ will be over. You will simply be surrounded, those of you who are walking alone for Christ in the midst of a lot of family hostility, you will be surrounded in heaven, not just with the glory of God, but also with others who have known Him. You will be with those of like-minded faith, perfected and free from sin. What will this great reward be?
I can't tell you in detail. I can only point out the shadows from a distance, but it will be something of unmixed joy, of unmixed glory, of unmixed, unspeakable wonder that tongue today could not describe. This will be a reward where there are no sorrow, tears, or regrets. No one, no one will be in heaven and look back at their earthly sufferings in the name of Christ and say, this really wasn't worth it.
That's not going to happen. The truth of the matter is, is that the nature of God, the grace of God, the goodness of God as such is that the blessing that awaits you in heaven for suffering for Him will be eternally, geometrically, exponentially, completely disproportionate, inversely proportionate to the measure of the brief temporary sorrow that you had here on earth. God is a generous, gracious God and when He designs to give blessing on His people, He'll go overboard.
Your reward in heaven will be great and the earthly price will seem like flipping a penny and getting Buckingham Palace in return, except that our earthly sufferings are even less than the penny and heaven is infinitely greater than Buckingham Palace. That's how great this is. That's how good God is. This is how perfect the promise of Christ is and I live in no fear of overstating the promise of His goodness to you. I have no doubt that as much as I try to exalt these things with my limited human language, I have no doubt that I've fallen miserably short of showing you the grandeur that awaits.
No doubt. That's why you can rejoice. Bible says in 2 Corinthians 4.17, momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison. So friends, have loved ones rejected you? Have you lost opportunity because you were a Christian? Have people insulted you, abandoned you, lied about you because you were a Christian?
Remember your heritage. Remember the promise of Christ and respond with joy. Rest in Christ because the rejection proves that you belong to Him and one day, soon enough, you will know unspeakable joy and glory beyond all comparison. And with that, Pastor Don Green concludes his message, The Glory of Persecution. We hope your understanding and appreciation of the Beatitudes in our Lord's Sermon on the Mount has increased. Don will continue our series, When You're Rejected Because of Christ, next time here on The Truth Pulpit.
So be sure to join us then. And right now, here again is Don with some exciting ministry news. Well, my friend, today I have an opportunity to offer you something for free that goes beyond what we've done on our radio broadcast. It's a 10-message CD album titled The Bible and Roman Catholicism.
It's a series I recently completed at Truth Community Church, taking Scripture and evaluating what Catholics teach and believe about the pope, about Mary, about the mass, and about the whole nature of salvation. It's a resource that you really need to have in your hands, either for yourself or for your friends and loved ones, to know how to interact with them. And it's available for free at the place that Bill's going to point you to right now. Just visit us at thetruthpulpit.com and click on Radio Offers to learn more. That's thetruthpulpit.com. Now for Don Green, I'm Bill Wright, inviting you back next time as Don teaches God's people God's Word from the truth pulpit.
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