#294 – WHO PERSECUTE CHRISTIANS? (25/2/21)
Matthew 5:11. “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 in the first blog on these verses, the words and actions of Jesus show that the kingdom of heaven has broken into the world and that Jesus is the King of this kingdom. This throws down a challenge to existing authorities because someone who follows Jesus has a new allegiance. Jesus says it’s “others” who will accuse and persecute those who follow Jesus. This implies that it’s those who are not of the Kingdom of Heaven. Who are these “others” and what authorities are challenged?
Firstly, Political and secular authorities that do not recognise Jesus and his rule.
Secondly, Nominal, religious people who view the kingdom of heaven as a formal set or rules and regulations. Martin Lloyd-jones wrote that “formal Christianity is often the greatest enemy of the pure faith”
Lastly, we must understand that behind all these people is the Devil at work.
Ephesians 6:12. ‘For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.’
1 Peter 5:6-11. ‘Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.’
Because we understand this, our response to persecution is different as we will see tomorrow.
COMMUNITY GROUP STUDY - BLESSED ARE THE PERSECUTED
It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.
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.
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?