Sermon: All Who Live Like Jesus Will Be Persecuted Matthew 5:10-12

Truth Taught-As we seek to imitate Christ we will be persecuted because He was persecuted. 

Truth Taught-As we seek to imitate Christ we will be persecuted because He was persecuted. 

Matthew 5:10–12 (ESV) 

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 

Introduction

As we have worked our way through the Beatitudes, we have discovered that they are full of surprises and to expect the unexpected. What Jesus tells us often doesn’t make sense at first.  His teaching seems strange at times.  The reason this is so is because we are accustomed to thinking like the world thinks and responding like the world responds.  So, when we hear pure truth from our Lord we have to pause and think it through.  The final Beatitude is no different; Jesus tells us that persecution is a blessing not a curse and that if you’re persecuted for righteousness you’re doing something right not wrong. 

The blessing Jesus promises is restricted to those who suffer persecution because of righteousness.  This blessing is not given to those who are persecuted for stupidity, laziness or simply being obnoxious.  For example, God will not bless the Christian who is persecuted/fired from his job because after many warnings, he talks about Jesus when he is getting paid to work.  This is not what Christ is referring to here.  When you’re at work and getting paid to do a certain job do it well. Please be a witness for Christ during lunch or after hours but not while you’re being paid to work. 

Jesus is also not talking about the Christian who while sharing their faith is too pushy or over the top arrogant or simply a jerk.  These people may be persecuted and they may deserve it.

1.  Persecuted Because of Righteousness

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

The last Beatitude tells us that God will bless us and we will be happy even though through perusing righteousness we are persecuted.   

Here’s Peter’s commentary on this Beatitude:

1 Peter 3:13–17 (ESV) 
            13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. 

Those Peter is talking about here and those Jesus refers to are Christians who seek to live like Jesus. Those who seek righteousness will, on some level, be persecuted.  

Why does the world persecute those who are trying to be righteous?  If I’m hungering and thirsting for righteousness why do lost people even care?  Here’s what Paul tells Timothy so he’s not caught by surprise…

2 Timothy 3:12 (ESV) 

12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 

Why is it that the righteous suffer persecution?  Why was Paul persecuted?  Why were the prophets persecuted?  Why was Jesus persecuted? Why are Christians today persecuted?

If the world doesn’t like our message then why don’t they simply ignore it and turn their backs to it and go the other way?  

God has designed the Christian life to be an offense to the lost world.  I’m not saying we need to be offensive but just because you are seeking righteousness makes you offensive.  

How could Paul make such a sweeping statement? All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.He makes it on the basis of a deep conviction about the nature of Christianity and the nature of the sinfulness of man. He is convinced that there is such a tension between the message and way of life of Christians on the one hand, and the mindset and way of life of the world on the other, that conflict is inevitable.

This conviction is rooted in the nature of fallen man and the nature of the new creation in Christ. As believers we are a new creation with a new worldview and a new attitude toward God.  Fallen man hates God, hates righteousness and has an entirely different worldview than we do.  When we live with different goals etc we are by default and without words telling them their life is all wrong.

Remember what I’ve said throughout the Beatitudes about how radically different Jesus’ teaching is than what anyone would expect?  It’s like that when they see us living out our faith.  It doesn’t make sense to them.  But it goes much further than that.  By our living differently than they do we are telling them they are wrong.

If you cherish chastity, your life will be an attack on people’s love for free sex.

If you embrace temperance, your life will be a statement against the love of alcohol.

If you pursue self-control, your life will indict excess eating.

If you live simply and happily, you will show the folly of luxury.

If you walk humbly with your God, you will expose the evil of pride.[1]

Your very lifestyle is an affront to the lost world.  

John 3:16–21 (ESV) 

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” 

The world hates the light and anything associated with the light because their works are exposed. That’s why persecutions comes.

This explains, for example, why your family really doesn’t have much to do with you anymore. Perhaps you have friends who don’t come around like they used to.  You marriage is strained now that you’re a Christian.  You are overlooked for a raise or promotion at work.  The list could go on.  

The bottom line is without being offensive you are offensive just because you desire to be like Jesus.

2.  Persecuted Because of Jesus

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

Now Jesus takes us a little deeper and explains the real reason you are persecuted as a Christian, it’s because of Him.  Jesus tells us this very thing…

John 15:18–20 (ESV) 

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 

We can also read Paul telling us the same thing…

Philippians 1:29 (ESV) 

29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 

I want us to see something together.  In this last Beatitude Jesus expands it to address us personally.  Look with me at verse 10…

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted- third person and somewhat less personalized.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you– first person very personal.  

Why does Jesus expand it like this?  He expands it and makes it personal to broaden scope of persecution to include things like insults, malice talk and even hatred toward us.  Jesus also expands it to make it more personal from persecuted because of righteousness to persecuted because of Me to make sure we understand that the righteousness we pursue is an imitation of Jesus’ life.  So, the disciple is identified with Jesus by means of how they are living.  

We seek righteousness because Jesus lived a righteous life.  We are commanded to be imitators of Christ.      

1 John 2:6 (ESV) 

whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 

Matthew 10:22 (ESV) 

22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 

Now the persecution comes about because we not only seek to live a righteous life but because our lives are the mirror in which the lost world can see Jesus.  They hate Jesus and as we seek to live like Him, they will hate us too.  

Jesus is the real issue here.  He’s the One who demands allegiance from all people.  He’s the One who stands in contradistinction to the lost world. He’s the One telling the world repent or perish.  He’s the One who will not tolerate sin.  When anything or anyone reminds the world of Jesus that thing will be torn down and that person persecuted.

Here are the types of people the world likes. People who say they’re Christians, but don’t rain on the wicked parade of others. The world likes people like T.D. Jakes, Joel Osteen, or those who turn the Gospel into therapy etc. These people condone wickedness and never talk about sin or Hell. They are friends of the world.  The world loves a Christianity that accepts them and their sin with open arms.   

Luke 6:26, “Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.”

I want to lead into our third point from Luke 6:26.  I want to go from the world loving the false prophets to the world hating the true prophets…

3.  The Right Christian Response

12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 

Why are the persecuted Christians blessed?  What is it that overshadows persecution so much that not only is it worth it but even a great thing?  It shows that we are the real deal, genuine Christians and not just people who claim to be Christians.  Genuine Christians, true believers who live out their faith as an imitation of Jesus and who are persecuted for it are blessed and can rejoice because we will receive a great reward in heaven.

Acts 5:41 (ESV) 

41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 

The Apostle Peter saw trials and persecution for what they really are.  He tells us that they are a means of grace to prove that our faith is genuine.

1 Peter 1:6–7 (ESV) 

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 

We must realize that Jesus tells us that we can rejoice and be glad now because our reward is great in heaven.  He does not tell us our reward is great on earth now but in heaven later.  As we seek to live a godly life now we may endure many hardships and not see any reward until we get to heaven.  Yet, we can rejoice and be glad now as we wait for that great reward.  As Jesus’ disciples our value system must be based in eternity not in this world.  

Matthew 6:19–21 (ESV) 

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 

Paul gives us a clear reason why we can endure persecution now and rejoice…

2 Corinthians 4:17–18 (ESV) 

17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 

These commands to rejoice and be glad are not coming from some preacher who is into the power of positive thinking or some preacher at a funeral who slaps the grieving on the back saying praise God anyway.  These words come from the Apostle Paul and Peter.  These words come from Jesus Christ.  These words are true.

He can say it because he knows, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that the reward of heaven will more than compensate for any suffering we must endure in the service of Christ. Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven.  There is a mystery here — the mystery of joy in the midst of agony; the mystery of gladness in the midst of misery and groaning. And this mystery is contained in a miracle, namely, the miracle of faith — the bedrock assurance that heaven is a hundredfold compensation for every pain. To the degree that you believe what Jesus sees in heaven, to that degree you will be able to rejoice and be glad in suffering. Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven.[2]

So, beloved remember our persecution on whatever level is not a depressing prospect but has come about because we are seeking to live a righteous and holy life, imitating our Lord Jesus and this persecution is a signal to us that our faith is genuine and the Kingdom of God is ours.  This is great cause for joy.

Chase hard after righteousness because as we do we are imitating our Lord.  The lost world persecuted Him and it will persecute us. When we are, praise God our faith has just been shown to be real and we are blessed.

*Resources Used:

Matthew by D A Carson in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary

A Theology of Matthew by Charles Quarles

A Gospel of Matthew by France

Matthew by Craig Bloomberg

Matthew by Doriani

Matthew by Charles Price

Matthew by Leon Morris

Blue Letter Bible


[1]Piper

[2]Piper

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