The Sermon on the Mount-The King’s Mandate: How to Handle Persecution
Sermon Series: The Life of Jesus: From Creation to the Cradle to the Cross to the Crown
Sermon Title: The Sermon on the Mount-The King’s Mandate: How to Handle Persecution
Sermon Text: Matthew 5: 10-12
Jesus here is presenting the portrait of a believer and to one extent or another this characterizes all of us. There are times in our lives when it's maybe hard to see ourselves here, but in fact we are. We are the poor in spirit, that is we are the ones who know we are spiritually bankrupt. And if we are to enter into the kingdom of God we bring nothing except our need and cry out to God in our poverty for a salvation that only He can give. We are those who mourn, mourning over our plight, mourning over our sin, mourning over judgment, recognizing what awaits us, mourning over the separation from God that characterizes us. And we are therefore the meek, we come not proud and self confident but humble and broken, seeking salvation from a merciful God. We are those who recognize we don't have righteousness but we hunger and thirst for it. We are those who having received mercy can show it to others. We are those whose hearts have been cleansed and made pure. We are those who rather than being at war with God and everybody else have become peacemakers because we've made our peace with Him. And consequently we are those who will to one extent or another suffer persecution from a God-hating, Christ-rejecting, Satan-controlled society.
This is not some far off identity to be attained by a select few. This is simply a genuine description of those who are God's children. Everyone of us who is genuinely Christ's came with these attitudes, came through this process so that we have been transformed into beatitude-type people. We don't always manifest the same poverty of spirit, or sorrow over our sin, or meekness, or mercy, or purity. We don't always manifest that hunger and thirst for righteousness as we should. We're not always the peacemaker we ought to be. But that is the character of our life. Those are the things that mark us out as God's children.
And ultimately because we are transformed, because we are this kind of person we are at odds with the world around us and that leads to suffering, that leads to pain, problems. First the poverty of spirit which ends rebellion and produces submission to the King, that poverty of spirit which realizes personal bankruptcy and bows down before the King to plead for Him to be gracious. That mourning that causes us to look at our sin, that meekness that therefore follows as we rightly assess ourselves, that passion that flames into a hunger and thirst for righteousness, then that service that is merciful toward others, that purity of heart that enables us to truly understand and know our God, that peace that fills our hearts and makes us peacemakers. All of that granted to us by God in the matter of salvation in one proportion or another produces a character which not only is content and blessed and happy, but is contradictory to everything around it. And the realization of such a character, of such a pattern of life, such a disposition in the midst of the conditions of worldly life no doubt stirs up, to one degree or another, opposition.
Scripture repeated says we will suffer persecution in this world. “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” 2 Timothy 3:12.
Philippians 1:29 "For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear to be in me."
1 Peter 4 entire chapter
The Greek word here is dioko. Means to pursue, drive or chase away. To harass and to treat evilly. The tense here is a passive prefect participle and indicates a continuous permissiveness. Blessed are those who have willingly allowed themselves to be continually persecuted.
I. The Reason for Persecution
A. The Life we Show “For righteousness sake”
i. Not for being jerks
II. Not for being jokes
III. But for being join-heirs with Christ
B. The Lies we Suffer verse 11
i. The anger we will face
ii. The arguments that people will have
iii. The answer we will give
C. The Lord we Serve “for my sake”
John 15:18-19 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.”
i. We will speak of His goodness-the perfect Lamb of God
ii. We will speak of His greatness-the perfect Son of Man
iii. We will speak of His gospel-the perfect sacrifices
II. Our Response to Persecution
A. Remember we will reign in life “theirs is the kingdom of heaven”
i. The hellish life-this returns evil for good
ii. The human life-this returns good for good and evil for evil
iii. The heaven life-this returns good for evil
B. Rejoice in the Lord verse 12 “rejoice and be exceedingly glad.”
i. Remembering the company we resemble v-12 “for so they persecuted the prophets which were before you.
ii. Showing the character we reveal that we are living for Jesus
iii. Remembering the compensation we will receive “Great is your reward in heaven.”
C. Release the Love of Jesus on those who persecute us Matthew 5:44-45
Dmitri lived in a small village in Russia. He was raised in a Christian home and when he was young often went to the church with his parents. But over the years, communism slowly destroyed the churches, and many pastors were imprisoned or killed. Dmitri realized his sons were growing up without learning about Jesus whom he loved.
So he decided that one night a week he would read the Bible with his family and try to explain what it meant. His wife was overjoyed and told him she had been praying he would do this for years. As the family gathered and studied the Bible, they also began to sing some of the old songs they used to sing in church, including Dmitri’s heart song, a well-known Russian hymn. Soon neighbors caught wind of what was going on and they too wanted to sing those songs and study the bible. Soon Dmitri’s tiny house was filled with 25 extra people every week. The authorities could not ignore what was happening.
One night while they were meeting, a police officer came and threatened Dmitri with violence. He accused Dmitri of running an illegal church. “This isn’t a church!” said Dmitri “I have no religious training, and this is not a church building.” The officer didn’t care. “It looks like a church to me,” he said, “If you don’t stop meeting, bad things are going to happen.” When the group reached 50 people the authorities made good on their threats. Dmitri was fired from his factory job, his wife lost her teaching job, and their son was expelled from school. When the groups reached 75, the villagers could barely squeeze in. Outside faces pressed up to the windows, straining to hear from the Word of God. The authorities made good on their promise. They burst into the house and pushed their way through the crowd. Slapping and throwing Dmitri against the wall. They told him, “We warned you and warned you. We will not warn you again. If you meet one more time this is the least that is going to happen to you.” Just then an old women stepped out from the crownd. She pointed her finger at the officer who pushed Dmitri. Sounding like a prophet from the Old Testament, she said. “You have touched the man of God and you will not survive.” That was Tuesday night. The following Thursday the police officer had a heart attack and died. The fear of God swept through the community, and at the next meeting one hundred and fifty people showed up. Outraged, the police finally carried out their threats and threw Dmitri in prison. He stayed there for 17 years.
Dmitri was the only Christian surrounded by 1,500 hardened criminals and was tortured regularly. But the hardest thing for him was separation from the body of Christ. When asked later by Nik Ripken who captured the story in his book The Insanity of God, how had he stayed faithful to the Lord all those years, Dmitri told him of two disciplines he learned from his father. First, he rose every morning at dawn and stood at attention beside his bed. As the sun rose he would face east, raise his hands in praise to God and sing what he called his heart song. The other prisoners didn’t like it and would yell at him, mock him and throw things at him to try to make him stop. Every morning year after year, he would sing one of two songs. Second, whenever he found a little scrap of paper he would write on it as many verses or songs as possible. Then he would stick it to the wall in his cell. The guards would eventually find the paper and tear it down, beating him terribly and threatening him with death. But Dmitri neve stopped. Determined to make Dmitri give up his faith, the guards broke into his house and stole his wife’s clothes. Then they marched a female prisoner past his cell, telling him it was his wife. Next they torcher her for three days to where he could hear it and finally killing her and telling him it was his fault. They then lied saying Dmitri’s sons were now wards of the State and they were going to kill them also. It was then Dmitri broke. He told his guards that he would sign the confession stating he didn’t believe in Jesus anymore. He felt awful but thought he needed to do this in order to save his sons. Dmitri told them to write up whatever they wanted, he would sign it. The guards left feeling they had won. That night drowning in grief, Dmitri was crushed. Not only did he believe his wife was killed and he realized he had denied Jesus. As he wept, many miles away Dmitri’s wife, songs and brother sensed something was wrong. They came together that night and asked God to help Dmitri stand strong. God allowed Dmitri hear the voices of his loved ones as they prayed. He realized God was showing him they were still alive and still following Jesus. He also realized God was showing him mercy even after denying him like Peter and Jesus had shown him mercy. He experienced love and forgiveness of Jesus in a new a fresh way.
The next morning when the guards came with the documents, Dmitri sat with shoulders straight and strength in his eyes and he refused to sign. They asked him why he changed his mind and boldly proclaim “You lied to me. I know my wife is alive and my children are with her. I also know they are still following Christ! I am not signing anything. After they left, Dmitri was walking in the courtyard and he found a whole sheet of paper on the ground with a pencil next to it. “God put it there for me,” he said. He rushed back to his cell and immediately started writing as many verses and songs he found fit on the paper. He knew it was foolish but he couldn’t help it. He wanted to offer Jesus the biggest love offering he could. When the guards found the paper, they were furious and beat him and dragged him to his window where they showed him a bloody whipping post and told him in 15 minutes that is where he will be and in 30 minutes he will be dead. After beating him in his cell some more they dragged him out of his cell through the corridor to the center of the prison. Suddenly 1,500 men stood up next to their beds, they raised their arms toward heaven and began to sing the song they had heard every single morning for 17 years. Dmitri said it sounded like the most glorious choir in all of human history.
The guards let go of him in terror and asked him “Who are you?” and Dmitri stood as tall and as proud as he could and said, “I am a son of the living God, and Jesus is His name!” The guards immediately put him back into his cell and not long afterwards he was released.” Dmitri’s son later became a Chaplin in that prison.