Blessed are those who are Persecuted for Righteousness

BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO ARE PERSECUTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS
(THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT, PART 8)

I) INTRODUCTION
TODAY WE ARE CONCLUDING OUR SERIES OF MESSAGES ON THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT FOUND IN MATTHEW. WE ARE GOING TO BE TALKING ABOUT PERSECUTION, NOT A POPULAR SUBJECT TODAY BUT ONE THAT WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND. THE EXPERIENCE OF AMERICAN CHRISTIANS IS NOT TYPICAL. WE HAVE LED A SHELTERED LIFE. PERSECUTION HAS BEEN THE NORM NOT THE EXCEPTION DOWN THROUGH THE CENTURIES. LET’S SET THE STAGE:

RECALL MATTHEW 16:13 – 19 WHERE JESUS ASKED PETER WHO HE (JESUS) WAS PETER CONFESSED THAT JESUS WAS THE CHRIST THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD. JESUS TURNED TO PETER UPON THIS ROCK (TRUTH) I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH AND THE GATES OF HELL WILL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST IT. THIS TELL US THAT:
A) CHRIST WOULD HAVE A CHURCH IN THE WORLD
B) THE CHURCH WOULD BE PERSECUTED NOT ONLY BY THIS WORLD BUT BY ALL THE FORCES OF HELL
C) DESPITE PERSECUTIONS THE CHURCH WOULD SURVIVE AND FLOURISH.

WORD PERSECUTE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT COMES FROM THE GREEK WORD WHICH MEANS TO PUT FLIGHT OR TO DRIVE AWAY. THE DEVIL, THE ADVSARY WOULD LIKE TO PUT THE CHURCH TO FLIGHT TO DRIVE IT INTO OBLIVION, BUT GOD HAS OTHER PLANS.

TEXT: Matt 5:10-12: Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. NKJV

III) WHO WILL SUFFER PERSECUTION?
A) Matt 10:16-20: I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 “Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.
B) 2 Tim 3:10-12: You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings-what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…
C) WE ARE IN THE WORLD BUT NOT OF THE WORLD…
IV) WHY DOES PERSECUTION TO COME?
John 15:18-25 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet 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.

V) WHAT SHOULD BE OUR RESPONSE TO PERSECUTION?
A) Matt 5:43-48: “You have heard that it was said, `Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.
B) Rom 12:12-21: Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. NIV
C) 1 Cor 4:12-13: Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; 13 being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now. NKJV

VI) PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS IN HISTORY
A) JESUS WAS PERSECUTED THROUGHOUT HIS MINISTRY, ARRESTED, FALSELY ACCUSED, GIVEN A MOCK TRIAL AND CONDEMNED TO DEATH FOR DOING GOOD
B) EARLY CHRISTIANS (FOXE: “CHRISTIAN MARTYRS OF THE WORLD”)
1) STEPHEN WAS THE FIRST CHRISTIAN MARTYR-STONED TO DEATH AT THE HANDS OF SAUL (WHO BECAME PAUL THE APOSTLE). (ACTS )
2) JAMES BROTHER OF JOHN BEHEADED 36 A.D. (1ST APOSTLE)
3) THOMAS PREACHED TO PARTHIANS, MEDES, PERSIANS, PEOPLES OF INDIA KILLED IN CALAMINA, INDIA.
4) SIMON, BROTHER OF JUDE AND JAMES THE YOUNGER, CRUCIFIED IN EGYPT DURING REIGN OF ROMAN EMPEROR TRAJAN.
5) SIMON THE APOSTLE, CALLED ZELOTES, PREACHED IN AFRICA AND BRITAIN: CRUCIFIED.
6) MARK, FIRST BISHOP OF ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT. BURNED TO DEATH DURING EMPEROR TRAJAN’S REIGN.
7) BARTHOLOMEW IS SAID TO HAVE PREACHED IN INDIA AND TRANSLATED THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW INTO THEIR TONGUE BEATEN, CRUCIFIED AND BEHEADED IN ALBINOPOLIS, ARMENIA.
8) ANDREW, PETER’S BROTHER, PREACHED TO THE SCYTHIANS, SOGDIANS, AND THE SACAE IN ETHIOPIA IN 80 A.D. CRUCIFIED BY AEGEAS, IN ARCHAIA.
9) JAMES THE STEP BROTHER OF JESUS, THROWN FROM THE TEMPLE, STILL NOT DEAD, BEATEN BY A BLUNT INSTRUMENT UNTIL DEAD.
10) PETER CRUCIFIED BY EMPEROR NERO IN ROME (CRUCIFIED UPSIDE DOWN BY HIS OWN REQUEST)
11) PAUL BEHEADED BY EMPEROR NERO AFTER BEING IMPRISIONED
12) APOSTLE JOHN WAS ONLY APOSTLE THOUGHT TO HAVE DIED BY NATURAL CAUSES AFTER BEING EXILED TO THE ISLAND OF PATMOS (THEY HAD TRIED TO BOIL HIM IN OIL BUT HE WOULD NOT DIE)
C) TESTIMONY OF PAUL:
1) 2 Cor 11:24-31: Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? 30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. NIV
2) 1 Cor 4:9-13: For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! 11 To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. 12 And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; 13 being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now. NKJV

VII) PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS TODAY
MORE CHRISTIANS DIED FOR THEIR FAITH IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY THAN AT ANY OTHER TIME IN HISTORY, SAYS CHRISTIAN SOLIDARITY INTERNATIONAL. GLOBAL REPORTS INDICATE THAT OVER 150,000 CHRISTIANS WERE MARTYRED LAST YEAR, CHIEFLY OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES. THOUSANDS OF CHRISTIANS WERE KILLED AND DRIVEN FROM THEIR HOMES IN INDONESIA AND SUDAN. CHRISTIANS HARSHLY PERSECUTED IN MOSLEM COUNTRIES AND IN PARTS OF INDIA AND PAKISTAN. PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS IS ON THE INCREASE IN THE UNITED STATES. WHAT’S HAPPENING TO BRING ABOUT THIS CHANGE?
A)
SAME EVIL SPIRITUAL FORCES AT WORK BEHIND THE SCENE – SPIRIT OF THE ANTICHRIST AT WORK IN THE WORLD. SATAN KNOWS THAT JESUS IS COMING WHICH MEANS THE END OF HIS REIGN OF TERROR.
B) U.S. GOVERNMENT TRYING TO ACCOMMODATE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF IMMIGRANTS AND THEIR RELIGIONS HAVE INTREPRETED THE FIRST AMENDMENT TO REQUIRE THE SEPARATION TO CHURCH AND STATE, DENYING THAT WE WERE FOUNDED AS ONE NATION UNDER A JUDEO CHRISTIAN GOD: PROHIBITING PUBLIC PRAYER, PUBLIC BIBLE READING, DISPLAY OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, ETC. FIRST AMENDMENT STATES: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
C) HOLLYWOOD & MEDIA MOCK AND MARGINIALIZE CHRISTIANITY; CHRISTIANS PORTRAYED AS INTOLERANT BIGOTS BECAUSE WE DO NOT EMBRACE AND CONDONE THE GAY LIFESTYLE
D) OUR 15 YEAR OLD DAUGHTERS CAN HAVE AN ABORTION WITHOUT PARENTAL CONSENT
E) FUNDAMENTAL CHRISTIANS THAT ARE NOMINATED TO GOVERNMENT POSTS FACING INCREASING OPPOSITION: JOHN ASHCROFT
F) PEOPLE LIVING UNDER CONDEMNATION DO NOT WANT TO BE REMINDED OF THEIR SIN OR OF COMING JUDGEMENT
G) THE CHANGE HAS BEEN GRADUAL BUT IT IS ACCELERATING. IF THE TREND DOES NOT CHANGE CHRISTIANS WILL BE FACING STIFF PERSECUTION IN AMERICA.

VIII) CONCLUSION
A) Heb 11:35-39: Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37 They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated- 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. 39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. NIV
B) 2 Cor 4:7-10: But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed– 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. NKJV
C) Rev 12:10-17:Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God,and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. 11 They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

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