INTRODUCTION: This week we shift gears in our study of the
Beatitudes and study those who are persecuted for righteousness.
The writer of Hebrews describes those that are persecuted in
Hebrews 11:37 as being "stoned ... sawed in two ... put to death by
the sword ... destitute, persecuted, mistreated...." Persecution
of that type is a frightening idea. I doubt that most of you who
are studying with me know from first-hand experience what it means
to be persecuted in this way. Let's find out what Jesus is teaching
us in this Beatitude.
I. SOMETHING DIFFERENT
A. Some tests of intelligence give lists ofthings and ask us
to identify what does not belong in the list.Let's do that
with the Beatitudes. Turn with me to Matthew5. Let's just run
down the Beatitudes we have studied so far.Blessed are the:
poor in spirit, those who mourn, meek, hungerand thirst for
righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers.Read
Matthew 5:10, the Beatitude we are studyingtoday.
1. Which of thesedoes not belong in the list? Which is
"different"in some fundamental way? (Persecuted. All the
rest deal witha person's attitudes and character. Being
persecuted issomething that is done to you by a third
B. If being persecuted refers to somethingdone to you by a
third person, why is it one of the Beatitudes? If it has
nothing to do with your character development,why do you
think Jesus included it?
1. Or does beingpersecuted have something to do with
character development?(Remember we have discussed the
fact that theBeatitudes reflect a progression in our
relationshipwith Jesus? Recognizing our poverty of
spirit ("poorin spirit") is an initial step towards a
change in ourheart so that we will become merciful, pure
in heart andpeacemakers. Once this change is seen in
our attitudeand our life, Jesus suggests that those
around us willbecome hostile to us.)
II. AN ACCURATE FORECAST?
A. Last week I preached a sermon entitled "Boomerang"which
dealt with the Golden Rule: "Do to othersas you would have
them do to you." (Luke 7:12) The teachingthat the way you
treat others will come back to reward or penalizeyou is a
thread that runs through the entire Bible.(Compare
Ecclesiastes 11:1 with Galatians 6:7.)
1. If "Boomerang"is the law (you reap what you sow) why
would we expectto be persecuted for righteousness?
2. If you arekind and loving to your neighbor, and
always doinggood things for him, isn't it a "rule" that
he will be kindto you?
3. If peopledo evil to you for you doing good, then
"Boomerang"is not the law! We should not expect to have
"our bread return"or "reap what we sow" (to quote the
texts in Ecclesiastesand Galatians). How can the
"Golden Rule"be true and Matthew 5:10 also be true?
a. We obviously need to dig deeper!
A. Turn with me to Genesis 4:1-10. Read. Wehave the story of
1. Were theyin different lines of work? (Yes.)
2. Do you thinkthere was competition between the two?
(Certainly notas it would be if they were in the same
line of work.)
3. What is Cain'sworship problem? (v.7. Cain failed to
obey God whenit came to what kind of sacrifice he would
4. Put yourselfin Cain's place. Do you have any excuse?
Any argumentin your favor? ("I gave my best. I'm not
into animals,I am a vegetable grower! I gave the best
of what I do.")
5. Is there anyhint here that Abel failed to follow the
Golden Rulewhen it came to his relationship with his
6. Verse 5 saysCain was "very angry." With whom was he
angry? What two personalities were in conflict? (Cain
and God. Cain'sgrievance was with God. God's grievance
was with Cain.)
7. Was Abel'sdeath premeditated? (Yes, v.8. "Let's go
out to the field."Cain lured Abel to the field with the
plan of killinghim.)
8. If Cain spentsome time thinking about and planning
the murder ofhis brother, what motivated him? His gripe
was with God,not Abel! How does Abel even get in
"harm's way"in this story?
a. Verses 6 and 7 suggest a reason that Cain would
be upset with Abel even though the conflict is
apparently between God and Cain. What does God
suggest is Cain's goal in v.7? (To be accepted.)
b. How does that implicate Abel? (Abel was
"accepted" by God and Cain was not. That made Cain
angry with Abel.)
c. How does killing Abel help Cain to be accepted?
9. Let's lookat verse 7 again. God says to Cain, "if you
do not do whatis right, sin is crouching at your door."
(Remember, thiswas before he killed Abel.) How can this
statement beaccurate? Cain had already sinned by
disobeying Godin the kind of sacrifice he was supposed
to bring. Howis sin "crouching" (KJV-"lying") "at the
door?" Hasn't sin already pushed through the door and
come to livein Cain's heart? Isn't sin is in, not out
for Mr. Cain?(Cain was still at the decision stage.
Remember, Ihave often suggested that the Bible teaches
sin is not anaction, it is an attitude. Cain disobeyed
God in his sacrifice.But the real battle was whether he
would learnfrom this sin or become a rebel. He did not
"master" hisrebellion, he embraced rebellion when he
killed his brother. At that point, he no longer wanted
to be "accepted."He wanted to strike back at God and
Abel was anaccessible "stand in.")
10. Now, canyou see a way to reconcile the "Golden Rule"
and Matthew5:10? Can you now see how they can both be
true? (Yes.We are not persecuted because we follow the
Golden Rule.It is true that doing good results in good
being done tous. The persecution arises because of a
conflict betweenevil people and God! We will be
persecuted becausewe are seen as a "stand in" for God.)
11. What if theevil person complains that we have done
something todeserve persecution? (Note Matthew 5:10 says
we are blessedwhen we are persecuted "because of
righteousness." We need to be sure that we are
persecuted becausewe are righteous, and not because we
have done somethingto "deserve" persecution.)
B. Is a conflict over "acceptance" still anissue for sinners?
(The current dispute over homosexuality isan excellent
illustration of this. Notice how much of thecampaign for
homosexuality is aimed at convincing the publicthat
homosexuality should be "accepted" as beingnormal. It is
argued to be an "alternative" lifestyle. You can see the
conflict in the heart of the homosexual andthe desire to be
accepted. You can also see the greatanger that results over
not being accepted. No matter what thesin, those who
practice it want to be "accepted." Thisis reflected in the
phrase, "Everyone is doing it," and all thinkingthat compares
our sins to other people instead of comparingour sin to a
1. Is the sinner'sconflict over acceptance good or bad?
(It is good.When Cain was still struggling with the
acceptance issuethere was still hope for him. It was
when he decidednot to be accepted, but instead embraced
rebellion and"struck back," that he became a permanent
captive to sin.)
IV. THE WAR
A. So far we have discussed why a sinner whois angry with God
would strike back at a Christian. Do you thinkthat there is
more to this than one person attacking another?
1. Will someoneread Revelation 12:13, 16-17. Will
someone elseread John 15:18-20. What do these two verses
suggest? (Theysuggest that persecution is not just a
sinner who hasnot been "accepted" striking out at a
Christian. The attack on God's people is a coordinated
attack by theDevil.)
B. Assume you were in an actual war and noone from the other
side ever shot at you? What if you couldwalk through enemy
lines in broad daylight and not be attacked? What would you
have to conclude? (Either they thought youwere on their side,
or thought you were harmless.)
1. Are you "persecuted?" If not, is it possible it is
because theDevil thinks you are on his side or thinks
you are harmless?
C. Forget the Devil for a moment. Is thereany evidence at all
that you are fighting for God's side?
D. As you know, I litigate religious libertycases. When an
employee comes to me about a religious libertyproblem at his
work I tell him that the law requires himto prove that his
religious beliefs are sincere if we go tocourt. I ask a
number of questions that go to the issue ofsincerity.
Consider these questions: Aside from the currentproblem about
which you have a religious objection, is thereanything in
your life that you do differently becauseof your religious
beliefs? Is there anything that youdo not like to do, that
you do simply because of your religious beliefs?
1. Some peoplewho come to me cannot think of a single
thing. I do not represent those people.
2. How aboutyou? Could you prove the sincerity of your
religious beliefsin court? Can you prove that your
beliefs makea difference in your life? Could you win a
jury verdicton the issue of whether you are a soldier on
God's side ofthe battle?
V. THE BLESSING THAT COMES OUT OF THE WAR
A. Remember that we said that "blessed" inthe Greek can mean
"happy?" Matthew 5:10 says "Blessed are thosewho are
persecuted." Do you have any suggestion onhow being
persecuted can make us happy?
1. The end ofMatthew 5:10 says, "for theirs is the
kingdom of heaven."Is the only happiness in persecution
knowing thatwe will go to heaven?
B. Turn with me to 1 Peter 4:12-14. Read. Petergives us two
reasons to rejoice in persecution. What arethey? (First,
verse 13 keys our rejoicing to the secondcoming. The second
reason, found in verse 14 is more complex.Peter seems to say
that if we are insulted for being faithful,we can look at it
as getting an "A" in our test. If youare concerned about
your walk with Christ, if you get insultedbecause of your
faith it shows that "the Spirit of glory andof God rests on
1. Keep yourfinger in 1 Peter 4 while I ask you the next
C. Does this mean we should seek persecution?(No. Matthew
10:23 suggests that we should avoid beingpersecuted. God is
not seeking to have us injured. He is simplycomforting us
when we are injured because we live a lifeof obedience.)
1. How can weavoid unnecessary persecution? Look at
1 Peter 4:15(where you left your finger). Do you know of
any Christianswho are persecuted for being "meddlers,"
who think theyare being persecuted for righteousness
sake? (The Greekfor "meddler" according to Thayer means
"one who takesthe supervision of affairs pertaining to
others but in no way toward himself...." Perhaps we are
not being persecutedbecause we are a stand in for God
(as was Abel.Perhaps we get into trouble because we are
a stand in forthe Devil who is "the accuser of our
VI. NEXT WEEK: "WHEN MEN SHALL REVILE YOU." Matthew 5:11. Study!