• Jem Howe

#293 – WHY ARE CHRISTIANS PERSECUTED? (24/2/21)


Matthew 5:10-11. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”

As we looked at yesterday, Jesus is saying that his followers will be persecuted, But why?

We need to understand what persecution means in the context of being a Christian. As a child, I would often utter the phrase “it's not fair”. But what I really meant was that I got caught out; now you are punishing me or restricting me and I don’t think you should be doing that! Sometimes we can be deliberately provocative and when we are challenged because of our personality or our attitude we say we are being persecuted when in actual fact we deserve to be challenged! That is not persecution.


Jesus says that persecution against Christians is because they follow a different leader and therefore behave differently than the world around them. Being righteous, practising righteousness, really means being like Jesus.

John 15:18-25. “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 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. 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…But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: They hated me without a cause.”

See also John 10:25-33


Jesus was persecuted and, ultimately, crucified? Herod could find nothing in Jesus to justify his punishment and execution. Yet he was crucified because of who he was, what he taught and how he lived. He challenged their sin and self-righteous religious leadership in Israel.


Followers of Jesus are persecuted on account of Jesus, what he stands for and for being like him.

Martin Lloyd-Jones - Studies from Sermon on the Mount. “therefore the blessed are persecuted for being like him. what is more, those who are like him always will be persecuted”

Jesus was persecuted - so we will be persecuted. As we are promised,

2 Timothy 3:12. ’In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.


COMMUNITY GROUP STUDY - BLESSED ARE THE PERSECUTED


Notices

It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.


Suggested opener/Ice-breaker

Can you remember a time when you were wrongly accused of doing something?


Introduction - please share in your group

This week we are finishing the Beatitudes with the final one.

Please read Matthew 5: 10-12.

"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

In many ways, this is perhaps the most challenging Beatitude. It is hard to imagine how being persecuted is a sign of being blessed.


In finishing with this, Jesus brings the Beatitudes to a close. He concludes as he started by reminding his hearers and us that it is those who are followers of Jesus - those who are now in the 'kingdom of Heaven' should expect to be persecuted. Jesus emphasises that this is “You”.


These verses highlight 2 reasons for the persecution of people in the kingdom of heaven.


1. Righteousness sake: a great cause

Gods righteousness and justice - a life shaped by the Beatitudes is one that, turns the world's values on its head. When you but up against a different value system - you are going to face opposition


2. On Jesus account: a great name.

Please read John 15:20-21.

“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. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.”

The world, the flesh and the devil will attack those who are active citizens of the Kingdom of God. Our response is to be one of peacemaking, gratitude to God, prayer and love, even for our enemies! We are to respond by keeping our eyes on the 'reward' that we will receive.


Discussion questions

1. Did God speak to you about anything in particular from Sunday's message or the blogs this week?

2. How, and from whom, could we expect persecution?

3. Jesus says our response to persecution is to “rejoice and be glad”. What makes it possible for a Christian to do this?

4. What other verses can you think of that link joy and persecution?

5. How can these help you and others?

6. What could your response be to the fact that Christians face persecution?

A helpful resource to help us to pray for the persecuted church is Open Doors - World watch list - 2021 top 50 countries that face worst persecution at the moment. To watch the Parliamentary 'watch list' launch click the link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEG7lY-3Bho&ab_channel=OpenDoorsUK%26Ireland


They also have great children’s and family resources to help engage everyone in this.


Investing and inviting

Those who are prepared to suffer will seek to share their lives and the gospel.

1) Who has God put into your life that we could pray for together?

2) How are you planning to 'invest and invite'?

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