This message was preached at Word Of Grace Church on December 5th 2021 by Navaz D via zoom. For the audio & video please click here. To listen to the worship please click here.
CREATING A COUNTERCULTURE PART 8. CONCLUDING PART
Blessed are those
who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matt 5:10
Over the last few weeks, we have been looking at how Jesus came to usher in the Father's Kingdom-We called it an upside-down, inside out Kingdom.
Actually, Jesus came to turn his Kingdom from the right side up and lived from the inside -out. The Pharisees had turned it upside down and corrupted the beautiful law of the Lord.
I was thinking about this. How did David love the law of the Lord so much that he wrote amazing psalms around it? In fact, the longest Psalm 119, is a tribute to the Law of God. Surely it could not have been so bad!!! It was the interpretation and practice of it that was messed up.
It’s like someone using a Ferrari as a waggon being pulled by 2 bulls. It is a complete misuse and abuse of a beautiful car. Till the maker of the car comes along and shows you how to use it. He unhinges the car and shows them its proper use.
So, let’s dive into today’s concluding verse in this series. And it is a timely word given the season in which we are living.
Remember we said the Beatitudes cannot be understood nor practised in isolation of each other. They build upon each one another.
Notice that the beatitudes have a progression. We first need to be poor in spirit, recognizing your spiritual bankruptcy, which leads us to mourn over our condition, and then we are meek and humble because of that condition and realize we need to hunger and thirst for His kingdom. From that place, we can grant mercy to others because we have experienced it first. Those who seek righteousness will cultivate a pure heart and want to bring peace in every situation.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness.
True happiness, the blessing of God and favour come from living in the right relationship with Him and in the right manner with people. When we fulfil the law of God we are truly blessed.
The first 7 are about what is expected of a Christian who is living our Kingdom culture.
The last one tells you what will happen to you when you want to be Christ-like!!! Any takers? This is the litmus test. If we are living up to the other 7, the eighth one will follow. Will we give up the standard of Kingdom culture to avoid being persecuted?
Blessed are the persecuted for the sake of righteousness.
I like the way Jesus is not careless with His words. HE is very clear who is blessed and why.
2. WHAT PERSECUTION IS NOT.
· Now if we do something foolish we are not blessed. Even if it is a Christian thing. We are to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
We must be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks. And our speech needs to be seasoned with salt. Our deeds must speak more than our words. Let your love provoke the questions asking about the hope you enjoy.
· Do not be offensive in your language toward other people’s faith.
· Do not force people to do things against their conviction.
· Do not provoke the authorities by being brash or obnoxious. The church in China and South Korea survived and flourished because they learned to be wise as serpents. If you are living the beatitudes right, trust me you will face persecution. Why? Am I not living a good life?
Exactly for that reason. Light and darkness have nothing in common. We come from not only two different but opposing kingdoms. Our new nature in Christ is offensive and a stench in the nostrils of some.
As Paul warned in 2 Timothy 3:12, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Peter told his readers, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you . . . as though some strange thing were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).
Remember is it persecuted because of Christ i.e when we live like Him and do what He tell us to do.
3. WHAT IS RIGHTEOUS LIVING?
It is living according to the Word of God. There is a difference between being self-righteous and righteous for Christ’s sake. Self-righteous is when we think we are right and feel we need to defend our convictions.
Righteousness for Christ’s sake is the qualifier. Not every moral person who is persecuted is blessed in this manner. Righteousness for Christ’s sake may sometimes mean letting go of your ego or the issue because in that situation love is the greater motive. That is why we need to always walk in step with the Holy Spirit and abide in His Word to understand what the will of the Lord is.
Putting the sermon on the mount into practice is not easy. We are asked to love our enemy, to pray for those who hate us and to bless those who curse us. This is counterculture. The Kingdom of God is not about entitlement, my rights etc. It is about laying down your life.
WHAT DOES PERSECUTION LOOK LIKE ON A DAY-TO-DAY BASIS?
Not everyone will be called to be a martyr or go to jail etc. Yet our convictions are challenged daily. And we need to learn to grow strong in our convictions by taking a stand in small steps.
· At work –Doing what is asked without fudging anything even if team members are pressurizing you to do it. What will you do?
· Those white lies you are asked to tell to cover up for deadlines missed
· When the boss has it in for you when you work hard but want to establish a work life balance and log off on time so you can spend time with your family. Your promotion is denied.
· When family taunt you for your faith or threaten to disown you.
“If you have run with men on foot and they have made you tired, then how can you run as fast as horses? ( Jer 12:5)
4. WHY DO YOU GET PERSECUTED?
Why would anyone have something against a meek person? Against someone who shows mercy, or the pure in heart or for that matter a peacemaker? It does not make sense.
Two responses to righteous living –
It can provoke someone to want to know the hope to which you are called.
It can provoke persecution because they cannot deal with their guilty conscience. So, they blame you for making them feel the way they do.
When people love their evil lifestyle or choices or something false, they need to justify that love. And then they need to demonize you because unless they do that, they can’t hate you. So, they begin to believe false things about you to justify their hate. This is the root cause of persecution.
In church when you confront sin, people lash out at you. Don’t expect everyone to applaud your sacrifice. You did not do it for them. If you live for the praises of men, you will die by their criticism.
I would ask this question today – Have you been persecuted for righteousness’s sake. Be careful how you answer this? Sometimes we can be right, but our actions are so wrong that it invites brickbats. But if people have never noticed that you are different then you need to examine yourself. We are in this World but not of its values and systems.
God has given us His holy spirit to strengthen us, encourage and comfort us, guide and lead us into all truth. His Holy Spirit is the divine power that gives us the strength to say no to sin and yes to ungodly choices.
Examples of righteous living that got persecuted
· Abel was killed by Cain
· David was hunted by Saul
· Uriah was murdered by David
· Elijah by Jezebel
· Daniel and his friends
· The apostles
· Foxes Book of Martyrs
· Chinse church and elsewhere.
5. CONCLUSION: HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND TO PERSECUTION?
How do we display our kingdom culture? Firstly, do not go seeking persecution.
V11 says we are blessed when people falsely accuse us and slander us. We need to rejoice and be glad because we suffer the same fate as Jesus. No servant is greater than his Master.
We must bless them, pray for them, do good to them.
Remind yourself that these troubles are but for a while. (2 Cor 4:17) There is a crown that awaits all those who persevere till the end. We do not stand alone. We have 1000s stand beside us cheering us on – the great cloud of witnesses. (Heb 12:1)
The promise is the Kingdom of heaven – here and now and in the age to come.
Let’s pray for the persecuted church now.
By being salt and light (v13) We preserve society and prevent its decay
We are asked to rejoice and be exceedingly glad because we have a reward in heaven waiting for us.
The Christian calling is a great one. It is the highest and the most challenging one you will ever have to live up to.
All of us have a Christian calling – to live to glorify Jesus. And if we are children then we are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. ( Rom 8:17)
Kingdom culture is God’s will for the earth. Your kingdom comes you will be done on earth as it is in heaven. This is what we are asked to pray for. And it will come as you and I usher it in by our lifestyle and our practice.
Over the last few weeks, we took you through what it is to be poor in spirit, to mourn, to be meek, to hunger and thrust for righteousness, to be merciful, to be pure in heart, to be a peacemaker.
How has this teaching challenged and changed you? Ask God to show you how. He will strengthen you, guide you and lead you.
Word of Grace is an Evangelical (Born Again), Spirit-filled (Charismatic), Reformed, English speaking in Pune that upholds the Bible as God's inspired Word for life. We are a church community that has people from every part of India and parts of the world. We are here to put the Great Command and the into practice by equipping and releasing every member into works of service. Word of Grace is a part of a wider international family of Churches called RegionsBeyond.To know about us please log onto www.wordofgracechurch.org.