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Dr. Rick Mandl - August 8, 2020
What Does Jesus Say About The Persecuted Church?
Sermon Manuscript: Upside Down Message 8- Blessed Are Those Who Are Persecuted
Sermon preached by Dr. Rick Mandl, Eagle Rock Baptist Church, August 8 & 9, 2020
Hey church family great to have you with us online, and a special welcome to you if this happens to be your first time joining us. We’ve been in a series called “Upside Down.” Looking at the Upside Down teaching of Jesus as it’s reflected in the opening verses of his S.O.M. It’s a series of 8 statements that all begin with the words, “Blessed are...” Today we come to the last of the eight which is found in Matthew 5:10. The statement is in your notes... it’s also on your screen.
Beginning at Matthew 5:10 Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. You hear those words, "Blessed are those who are persecuted..." And maybe your first reaction is “That’s one blessing that I can do without.” And the reason is that I think there’s a lot of confusion about what our mission is as believers. I think a lot of Christians are under the impression that the mission of the Christian life is to avoid persecution at all cost. Maybe you think you are successful if no one is mad at you or if nobody is giving you a hard time because you are a believer. Jesus didn’t see things that way. In fact he told us that if we are faithfully following him, then one of the things that we should expect to experience is persecution.
You read a little further and you see that he says, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." Again, notice, he didn’t say, "Blessed are you IF people insult you, persecute you, and falsely says all kinds of evil against you." It wasn’t a matter of IF, but WHEN. He said, WHEN that happens, here’s how you should respond. He said you should, "Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12). (PERSECUTION WORLDWIDE video)
What Kind Of Persecution Is Jesus Talking About? This is important for us to understand, because the persecution that Jesus is talking about. It’s not the mistreatment you experience because of Who You Are. Instead, it’s the mistreatment you experience because of Who Jesus Is. And I’d encourage you to let that sink in for a moment. In the verses we’re looking at today, Jesus says, "Blessed are you when you’re persecuted... Because of righteousness... Again, Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me..." Please don’t miss this. Mistreatment can come upon you for all kinds of reasons. And there is no innate spiritual benefit to being mistreated. God is not looking for masochists.
In order for the mistreatment that you receive, to result in the blessing that Jesus is talking about, in the beatitude that we’re looking at, it has to be coming upon you for the RIGHT REASONS. And Jesus tells us what those reasons are. Jesus is not talking here about suffering because of WHO YOU ARE. 1 Peter chapter 2 says, “For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God” (1 Peter 2:20-21). The kind of persecution that Jesus is talking about is not suffering that comes because you’re a POOR EMPLOYEE, or suffering that comes because you’re an OBNOXIOUS HUMAN BEING, or suffering that comes because you’re a SELF-RIGHTEOUS SNOB - - - It’s suffering that doesn’t come because of anything negative that YOU ARE or anything that YOU DO - - It’s suffering that comes for standing for the truth of God’s Word... Standing for the holiness of God - - If you are a believer and you feel the backlash of others because you are ARROGANT... Because you are SELF-RIGHTEOUS... Because you are OBNOXIOUS... Because you are TEMPERAMENTAL. ... Because you are HARD TO GET ALONG WITH... Because you’re OVERBEARING WHEN YOU WITNESS FOR CHRIST... Because you are INSENSITIVE TO THE NEEDS OF OTHERS... Because you’re INCONSIDERATE IN YOUR ACTIONS Or ABUSIVE IN YOUR SPEECH... Because you’re a POOR EMPLOYEE in the workplace... If that’s why you are getting the backlash of the world, that does not qualify for the blessing that Jesus promises. There is a big difference between “BEING OFFENSIVE” and “THE OFFENSE OF THE CROSS.”
If you’re suffering because you’re obnoxious, offensive, hard to get along with, then you’re not suffering because of WHO CHRIST IS. You’re suffering because of WHO YOU ARE... and that’s not what Jesus is talking about here. Jesus is talking about the kind of suffering that comes ‘FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS SAKE.’ The kind of suffering that comes when you try to “LIVE LIFE WITH JESUS.” If you do that you can expect resistance. Which begs the question. . . WHY? Why Would Anyone Treat Us This Way? If all we’re trying to do is live our lives for Jesus? I mean, “Can’t we all just get along?” That’s a fair question. And one answer is that live in a world where one of the most important values is tolerance. And what I mean by that is that you can believe anything you want, as long as your belief doesn’t pass judgment on those who believe otherwise. If you want to get along in life, and not offend anyone, then you’ll embrace the idea that no matter what anyone believes, even though we may be on different roads... At the end of the day, we’re all heading to the same place. Of course that’s the exact opposite of what the Bible says which is that, “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death” (Proverbs 16:25). The Bible says that when it comes to the road that leads to heaven, there are not many ways – there is only one. Jesus Himself said, “I am the Way..." Not a way, but The way. He said, "I am the truth." Not A Truth. And he said, "I am the Life." And he said there was no other way to get to God apart from Him. If you start talking about narrow things like that, people are going to get upset. And when people start to see God at work in your life, and they don’t understand... And when they realize that you have something they don’t have, it scares them. And sometimes instead of admitting their fear, what they do is they jump from the emotion of fear, to that of anger. And they take that anger out on those people they don’t understand.
Jesus said, we are going to have persecution in this life. But he also said, when that happens, don’t take it personal, because it’s not really about you. In John 15 he said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). Jesus said, “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me” (John 15:20-21). Again, if you’re living life for Jesus... And you’re not secret disciple. Well, then the Bible tells us, “Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you” (1 John 3:13).
Does this really happen today?Does the world, and I don’t the mean the whole world, but maybe just segments of it? Maybe segments of America? Does the world hate Christians? Take a look at this headline, and you decide "Franklin Graham And Evangelicals Aren’t The Ones Obsessed With Sex." The article begins, "Progressives keep promising conservative evangelicals, that they’ll be our friends if only we stop harping on sex and serve people. The problem is that every time evangelicals try to serve people, progressives want to harp on sex." The article explains... At the start of the pandemic in New York City, which was one of the regions in our country that was the hardest hit, the appeal from Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Mayor Bill de Blasio went out to the rest of the country for help in treating the huge number of infected patients. One of the groups that stepped up to help was Samaritan’s Purse, the evangelical medical charity run by Franklin Graham. Early on in New York City’s COVID-19 outbreak, Samaritan’s Purse set up an ICU in Central Park to treat overflow patients, mostly patients from Mount Sinai Hospital. "From almost day one, the ministry was slammed with criticism… Not from the more than three-hundred patients who were treated by their personnel, but from city officials, journalists, and LGBT activists who were worried about (you guessed it) sex." A member of the city council called Franklin Graham “notoriously bigoted,” and “hate spewing.” Protesters with the Reclaim Pride Coalition marched around the field hospital with signs demanding “help, not hate.” The New York Times quoted one member of the coalition who said the very presence of a non-affirming Christian charity has made the city’s LGBT community feel “personally attacked and personally at risk.” Under all this pressure, NYC mayor Bill de Blasio ordered the city’s Commission on Human Rights to investigate the field hospital, looking to ferret out discriminatory practices against gay, lesbian, and transgender patients. That investigation closed, having found “no evidence that [Samaritan’s Purse] had discriminated against any patients.”
You might think that after all of this melodrama, and with 333 patients treated, there might be a headline vindicating Samaritan’s Purse, or maybe an apology, or a thank you. Wasn’t going to happen. The message from the city council to Samaritan’s Purse was “Get Out and Don’t Come Back.” I don’t want to make it sound like every New Yorker was ungrateful. Comedian Jimmy Fallon arranged for a delivery of burgers to all the hospital staff. They received donut boxes with thank-you’s from patients they had treated. They said For every hateful comment hurled from the Left, there was a grateful local eager to make up for it. So when people approach Franklin now and ask if the backlash has anything to do with the teams decision to leave New York… He's quick to set the record straight: He said, it had to do with "patient load and nothing else." He said, "We got quite a bit of pushback, but the interesting thing is, we didn't get any pushback from the hospital that we're working under, Mount Sinai." That's because they understood as well as he did: "We were there to save lives. We weren't there to argue with people." And yet the critics made their position very clear. They would rather leave sick people without care than partner with people of faith. And yet, somehow, Franklin Graham and Samaritan’s Purse are the ones who are "intolerant?"
How Does This Impact You And Me? It should challenge us to realize that persecution, isn’t something that is limited to the pages of scripture, but rather it is alive and well today in the 21st Century. Maybe not so much in America, but certainly in other parts of the world. The estimates as to the number of Christians who are martyred each year range from as many as 100,000 (including those who die in genocides… To as few as 7,300 which would include only those who are killed because of their personal stand for Christ. The exact number isn’t my point. What I want you to think about is... How does God view those who die for him? And then by extension, how should we view them? If one of your sons or daughters were murdered in the past year, I’ve got a hunch that that tragedy something that would dominate your every waking moment. We need to remember that our Heavenly Father is Father of each and every martyr. He grieves their death as any parent would the death of their child. In fact, do you want to know how closely our Lord identifies with Christians who are being persecuted? Do you remember in Acts chapter 9, when Saul of Tarsus was persecuting Christians... hunting them down, to so that he could throw them in prison, or put them to death… Jesus met him on the Damascus road and asked him this question… He said, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Jesus said, “Whey you persecute them, you’re persecuting me.” If someone murdered my brother for his faith, I would grieve his death every day. Yet every Christian is my brother or sister. And for that reason we should pray for those who are oppressed for their faith and in prison... Just as if we were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if we ourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:3).
One of the next steps on your connection card this week is to “Pray for the persecuted Church Around The World.” And you can get at whole list of things to pray for from organizations like Voice Of The Martyrs. They even have a “Pray Today” app, through which they’ll send you one new prayer request each day.
As we wrap up this series on the Beatitudes. I want to read through this list of character qualities of a follower of Jesus one more time, and then I want to challenge you with a personal application. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Matt. 5:3-6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Matthew 5:6-7 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:8-9 “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Matthew 5:10-11 “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:12
You read these verses and you realize that God wants to bless your life. But the question for you and me is “Am I living the kind of life that God can bless?” So let me challenge you to do a little bit of… Application Zone. And I want you to do this application by way of two questions. The first is? Am I Closer To Jesus Today Than I Was A Year Ago? You might be thinking, that’s kind of subjective. How would I even know? One way is by using these beatitudes as a measuring stick. Today do you feel like you’re... “Hungering and thirsting for God’s righteousness... Mourning over your sin… More merciful..." And then when it comes to this whole area of persecution... One of the verses on your notes is “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” “Everyone… Doesn’t say it will happen all the time, but it does say that all of us will be a recipient of this at one or another, so if this has never happened to you, well you might want to make that an item of prayer. And then a second question... Is There Anybody today who is closer to Jesus because of me? If we’re living the blessed life that’s described in these beatitudes, then Jesus says it will annoy some, but it will attract others. So ask yourself, is there anybody today who is closer to Jesus because of me?
Somebody was once thinking about heaven and why it is that when we enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ, God leaves us here instead of taking us home to heaven right away. After all, if that’s our real home. And we’re just visitors, stranger, aliens, here why doesn’t he just take us straight to heaven the moment we believe. And they came to the conclusion that there are only two things that we can do here on earth that we can’t do in heaven... One of those is SIN. And the other is to TELL PEOPLE WHO DON’T KNOW JESUS ABOUT HIM, and how they can come to know Him. Which of those two do you think God has left us here to do? In heaven there will not be people who will “Insult you, or persecute you or falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Jesus Christ.” Do you know what there ought to be there? There ought to be those that you have influenced for Christ because you were able to show forth the character of Christ when you were going through tough times. I pray that that’s something that all of us would be able to look forward to. Let's pray...