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LESSON 9 - THE PERSECUTED (MATTHEW 5:10)

Copr. 1998, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to
the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984
International Bible Society,  unless otherwise noted. Quotations
from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes
the teacher uses a blackboard.

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
          person.)

     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!

III. ILLUSTRATIONS

     A. Turn with me to Genesis 4:1-10. Read. Wehave the story of
     two sons.

          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
          offer.)

          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
          brother?

          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
     Holy God.)

          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
     you.")

          1. Keep yourfinger in 1 Peter 4 while I ask you the next
          question.

     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
          brothers." (Revelation12:10))

VI. NEXT WEEK: "WHEN MEN SHALL REVILE YOU."  Matthew 5:11. Study!