Persecuted for His Name\' Sake

Persecuted for His Name' Sake [TRANSCRIPT]

Rejoice and Be Glad?

In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 it says, 
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own. For you have been bought for a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

Philippians 1:29 says, 
For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer on His behalf...

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 says,
For our momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
 
In Colossians 3:1-3 it says,
Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

In Matthew 5:11-12 Jesus said,
Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in this same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
 
Jesus ends these Beatitudes by declaring that there is a blessedness, a happiness for being insulted and persecuted on false charges for His name’s sake. What does Jesus mean that such things will occur and that they will occur for His name’s sake? And then of all things, why should we rejoice and be glad that such things have occurred? Let’s discover what all of this means today and why it matters.

As we look at the last of the Beatitudes, I want to provide us with some perspective that will help answer the way Jesus concludes the Beatitudes. Now remember, the Beatitudes and the Sermon of the Mount as a whole describes and points to the character traits that should be in His followers. This helps us understand why Jesus says what He does in this last of the Beatitudes.

You see, Jesus didn’t come as a moral teacher to the world. He came a Savior for the world. The world was and is broken in sin and rebellion. He came to rescue sinners, to provide a way of escape from what, left on our own, would be rightful judgment upon sinners. You see, as long as Jesus remains a nice, loving moral teacher, He’s not a threat to the world. The world is perfectly willing to allow Jesus or anyone else to come along and be nice and go along and get along.

But the truth is, Jesus is God. God enters the world, which in reality is not nice place. This world is populated by self-driven, self-indulging egos who are perfectly content to take advantage of the weak. The pushers and shovers advance at the expense of anyone who gets in their way. From individual homes to world governments, sin is written in blood in the treatment of one person against another. People don’t like to think of themselves as sinful. Self-measurement provides individuals with plenty of room to claim that they are pretty good or least, not as bad at others. But under the measurement of God’s righteousness, we don’t fare well at all. And despite any bright spots we might point out, history does not provide a pleasant portrayal of mankind. The Bible says it correctly, this is a fallen world filled with fallen people that needed rescuing. This is why God sent a Savior to rescue us from ourselves. But when that Savior came into the world, the world rejected Him because their deeds were evil.

But He does save those who admit their condition and receive what He alone provides. And when they do, He rescues them and changes them as only He can. And so, His followers should not be surprised when they are persecuted for living and walking in a right relationship with God. Such a life bothers the world. The world reacted when Jesus appeared on the world scene. His life and light stood in contradiction and in contrast with the world. And in the same way, His followers will confront the same treatment of hostility and rejection as God lives His life through them. This is a part of being a citizen of the Kingdom.

Now, with that in mind, there are some realities that should ring true in the life of Jesus followers. Firstly, the follower should be different from non-followers. The Lord creates a clear-cut distinction and a separation between the follower and non-follower. A new reality now exists in the life of a believer. It’s an internal transformation which will manifest itself outwardly. And this distinction creates problems in the world. And the darker the world, the darker the heart, the greater the dissimilarity. The world does not like for their condition to be pointed out. This is a source of problems for believers in this world.

And then secondly, a Christians’ life is dominated by Jesus Christ. Our Savior is the central reality of our life. He is to reign in our hearts. We are to love God above any and all else. Self-interest is to take a back seat to the will and desire of our Lord and Savior. So, it shouldn’t shock us that we are persecuted “for His name’s sake.” Because we are to live “for His name’s sake.

Make note of this, people in this world hurt each other all on their own. They do it for causes both selfish and self-assigned noble reasons. But this I not what Jesus is referring to in this Beatitude. This Beatitude is about those who are mistreated “for His name’s sake.” Because Jesus is the over-riding reality of the believer’s life they will come in conflict with the world. We give ourselves to our Lord and that comes at a price.

In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 it says,
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own. For you have been bought for a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
There is a third thing to point out about a follower of Christ. Our thoughts are not confined to this world. Death is not the end of our story. Death does not have the last word. Our Lord speaks and we look towards another kingdom and a world to come.

A typical non-believer avoids talking about death and eternity. They would rather keep it at arm’s length. If it comes up, they would rather change the subject. Death, death frightens them. And although death is an enemy to the believer, it is an enemy who has, in reality been defeated. The resurrection of our Lord changed everything about this subject and altered the way the follower faces death however it may come.

Therefore, these three things: our distinctiveness from the non-believer; the dominance of Christ as our Lord; and our Lord’s ultimate victory over death, these three things changes how a believer faces persecution. Again, be reminded that Jesus is speaking about being persecuted falsely “for His name’s sake” and not for any other reason. The promise of blessedness is not about being persecuted for being who we are in ourselves but instead for being a transformed follower of His name, the name of Jesus Christ.

So, how should we face such persecution which the Lord speaks about in this Beatitude? Well, we should face it without a sense or spirit of retaliation. You see, retaliation implies that the attack is about us, that we take it personally. But remember, this is about being persecuted because of His name’s sake. Therefore, any sense of personal justice or vindication should not enter our hearts. It’s about Him. Philippians 1:29 says, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer on His behalf,” We bear His name. We trust in that name. We suffer for that name. It’s a great name. It’s a wonderful name.

And when we’re persecuted for that name, we should also not feel resentment. Now, that’s easy to say but harder to do. Our Master reacted that way on the cross. He didn’t feel resentment. Likewise, we saw the same reaction from our brother Stephen when he was stoned for the name of Christ. He prayed to the Lord for the forgiveness of those who did it to him. And, you never know. Remember in the crowd there when Stephen died was a young man named Saul, who became the Apostle Paul.

Another way we should react to such persecution points to how we are to be different from the world. You see, mistreatment can be isolating and it can be a cause for depression. Depression is an isolating focus inward. Reality centers in on me.  And that is not to be the reaction of the believer. Even as the mistreatment is not about ME, neither should the perspective of the believer be fixated on the “Woe is ME.” Remember again our brother Stephen. What did he do? He turned his eyes towards heaven.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 says,
For our momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

The perspective of a believer extends far beyond the moment, even of death or of suffering. He says that there is a reality reaching far beyond comparison to what is happening at that moment or under any circumstance.

Again, in Colossians 3:1-3 it says,
Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

What a difference that makes during dark times to know that above the dark clouds that our Lord is seated at the right hand of God. And when death, even violent death comes, our life is hidden with Christ in God. What a safer place can there be? None, none at all.

And then, what does our Lord say in this context? He says, “Rejoice and be glad.” Why would Jesus say such a thing? Well, He tells us that, “Great is your reward in heaven…” First of all, because He sees and knows, he also rewards. Imagine that. We suffer for the name of our Hero and He rewards us. We have eternity to thank Him for rescuing us and He grants us a way to say it, and then He promises a reward. In a million eternities we could never pay Him back for saving us and yet He reaches out to us with a reward. The very thought of it quiets my soul with amazement.

And at a time when persecution seeks to isolate the believer, Jesus tells us, “Rejoice and be glad.” For rather than being alone, we are in fact in the company of heroes. Imagine that. I don’t know about you, but I most often I feel like anything else other than a hero of the faith. I’m just an ordinary man. We’re all just ordinary people. But our Lord chooses to use just such people to give testimony in a darken world, to bear witness of His name.

And maybe, just maybe His light shining in our lives will show the way to someone else like us who is lost and in need of a Savior to rescue them from the darkness.

Now, no one should ever seek out persecution. Such a thought is twisted and self-serving. But if we bear His name out loud in this world, the day may come when the darkness comes against us. Let us make sure that if we suffer, we do it for His name’s sake. And when that happens, remember…

“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in this same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Blessedness in the presence of our Hero and in the company of heroes.
What an amazing truth. It’s a Truth that Matters.

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