Welcome to week nine of my series on The Beatitudes.

The Sermon on the Mount teachings are a demonstration of what we should be living as Christ followers.   Jesus set the tone early on in His ministry regarding what He was about and what it meant to be His disciple and have a Kingdom mindset. These teachings are the foundation for what Jesus modeled and would be doing for the next three years of His earthly ministry, and what He longs for us His followers to do as well.

The Beatitudes are the good news of the Gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus preached for the here and now and also for the Kingdom to come.   I look forward to diving in deeper to each one of the 8 Beatitudes in the weeks to come.

 


 

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10 NIV)

 

It’s was a cold, clear Friday night as I stood at the edge of the stadium bleachers, pretending to watch the game. I noticed a few of my friends huddled in a circle with a group of other people. Football wasn’t my thing, attending the games was more about socializing, than watching the action. When I approached the group of kids, the murmuring and whispers abruptly stopped. It was an awkward moment of silence and then I asked what they were talking about. The reply from one the kids was, “We can’t tell you!”  I was shocked, “What? Why Not!”  The reply came as even more of a shock, “Your a goodie-goodie Christian girl, and you will tell on us and then we will all get into trouble.”  I protested until they relented and finally agreed to include me.

 

I use to think the kids teasing me for being a goodie-goodie Christian was persecution.  However, now that I have more life experience, and I understand that it was the farthest thing from the truth.  I know in my teenage mind, it sure felt like the persecution Jesus was talking about here in the Beatitudes, but as I look back, I understand I was a little naïve back then.  I didn’t fully understand what persecution really meant.  Truthfully, I am not sure any of us really can understand the fullness of what it means to be persecuted for our faith unless we have experienced it first hand or observed it with someone we are connected with.

There is a huge difference in reading about persecution of the early church, or even Christians today and it’s a completely different thing to experience it.  In American, we have many freedoms.  We even have the freedom of religion.  We can meet regularly without worrying about persecution from the authorities.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that, we won’t be persecuted, in other ways though.

 

To be persecuted means: to pursue with harassing or oppressive treatment, especially because of religious or political beliefs.[1]

 

As we look at Bible history, the New Testament Scriptures and world history, we can see the kind of persecution Jesus was talking about.  Most of the disciples were put to death because they preached the Gospel of the Kingdom. Many in the early church were also persecuted unto death for their beliefs. They all however, were glad to do so.  As Jesus sat on the mount that day speaking to the multitude, His disciples would have been the closest surrounding Him.  He was speaking directly to them about what they were signing on for, as well as speaking to those who were following after Him.

 

 

 

As He spoke, Jesus was giving them a glimpse of what was to come, not just for himself, but for them as well.  Before, Jesus death, they may not have understood the fullness of His words, but as they watched the events leading up and past His crucifixion, I am sure there was no doubt in their minds exactly what it meant to be persecuted for living a right and holy life unto God.

As Jesus wraps up this section on the beatitudes, “Blessed are the persecuted,” is the eighth one. However, He expands on this last one a little more than the others.  Why?  He wants them to fully understand the depth of what He is talking about and what it means to be persecuted.  As we dive in deeper to these verses, we will see the spectrum of persecution Jesus was talking about.  At one end of the spectrum is death. At the other end of the spectrum is people speaking insults.

 

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 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 5:11-12 NIV)

 

I don’t know about you, but I have had people insult me and say all kinds of untruths about me.  These actions and words from others are hurtful, and yet, we are told to rejoice, and be glad.

 

Let’s look at these verses in a few other translations:

 

 

 “How enriched you are when you bear the wounds of being persecuted for doing what is right For that is when you experience the realm of heaven’s kingdom. “How ecstatic you can be when people insult and persecute you and speak all kinds of cruel lies about you because of your love for me! So leap for joy—since your heavenly reward is great. For you are being rejected the same way the prophets were before you (Matthew 5:10-12 The Passion Translation).

 

The Passion Translation tells us not only will we be wounded and bear the marks, but that our lives will be enriched because of persecution. We are told to be ecstatic and leap for joy when people insult us and speak lies about us.  Why?  Because then we will experience heaven’s kingdom!  The Message translation (see below) goes on to say, it is our commitment to God that will provoke the persecution.  We may not like it, but Jesus does, because this persecution will drive us closer and deeper in relationship with Him.

 

“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble. (Matthew 5:10-12 MSG)

 

Honestly, this is one of those times, where when I read some of the Scriptures I fully realize: Gods ways are definetly not my ways, nor are His thoughts my thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). However, I choose to trust Him and press into Him.

 

 

 

Growing up in church, the question was often poised to us:  Would you be willing to die for your belief in Jesus?  As a teenager, I said yes, but I am not sure I fully understood the magnitude of the question.  If asked that now, I would still say yes, and while I may not fully understand the gravity of that response, I do understand more now what it means to live for God and yet be persecuted.   It’s not just about being put to death for what I believe.  It’s also about being persecuted and ridiculed because I am following after Jesus with my whole heart.  It is being persecuted and hated because I bring light into the darkness. It is being persecuted and talked bad about because I choose to speak truth in love and stand upon the foundation of Scripture.

 

What about you? Would you be willing to die for your belief in Jesus?

 

Are you willing to endure persecution, be talked about and endure hardships all because you pursue Jesus with your whole heart?

 

Don’t run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately find joy in them; if you embrace them, your faith will blossom under pressure and teach you true patience as you endure. And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line—mature, complete, and wanting nothing (James 1:2-4 The Voice).

 

[1] Dictionary.com

This week, I’m at a conference so I wasn’t able to do the featured portion of #TuneInThursday this week. 

 

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Tune In Thursday

 

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Do you wonder if God still speaks today?  Do you wonder if He would ever speak to you personally?  Do you long to hear the voice of God in your life?

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God is speaking, Can you Hear Him?

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Trusting God When it Seems Illogical

Will You Sit with Me? (Jesus is Calling.)

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