1 The eighth step in discipleship-only the strong survive Matthew 5:10-12 Proposition: When we are persecuted for the

sake of Christ on our steps to deeper discipleship, we are blessed. Saints of God, would it be true if I said that most of us see persecution as a negative thing. Most of us have the feeling that persecution and mistreatment in any way, shape, or form is wrong. We feel that to endure mistreatment at anytime is a sin against ourselves. In fact, we have such an aversion to being mishandled and mistreated that we have elevated the ability to defend ourselves and fight back to a virtue, and have demoted the endurance of wrongs to a sign of weakness. When we see someone silently suffering and enduring persecution, we often shake our heads and say , I would never or Somebody would be dead if . , or the ever popular, I wouldn t take that . . We look at them and feel sorry for them because they are so weak to us, but we secretly despise them because they remind us of our own moments of weakness, when we did allow and we did take, and nobody died, or even got cussed out. But why do we feel this way? Because the culture that we exist in and the society that we live in teach us that to endure persecution, mistreatment and abuse in any form is a sign of impotency and cowardice, and that the only way to deal with persecution is diplomacy at best, force at worse, but never endurance. Because of the influence of our culture, we don t want anyone to assume that they can do or say anything to us. But the truth of the matter is that often we are too weak to handle any persecution, so we fight against all persecution. Now saints, I m not saying that you should be a doormat or that there are some persecutions and mistreatments that are not sinful, there are and they must be opposed. But the interesting this is that when we shy away from all suffering and persecution, we actually miss out on persecution that is blessed, because of our discipleship. Saints, it is a truth that if we are faithful disciples of our Lord Jesus, we will be mistreated, taken advantage of, and persecuted. Brothers and sisters there is a reason why the Apostle Paul describes his discipleship as an athletic event where he writes in his first letter to the Corinthians, Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one received the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified (1 Cor 9: 24-27). It s no accident that our Lord Jesus teaches us that, You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. The fact that our Lord and the Apostle Paul bring up the element of endurance is an indication that as disciples, we will go through issues and situations that may seem like an affront to our sense of honor and will strike at the high opinions that we have of ourselves. Saints, because of the endurance that is involved, discipleship is not for the weak or the faint of heart. Not everyone can be a disciple, not because God

2 don t call everybody, but because not everybody is capable of doing what is necessary and going through what comes with being a disciple of our Lord Jesus. To be a disciple you have to be tough, but sensitive. You have to live to the fullest, but do it for the Lord and not yourself. You have to be a person of steel with a soft heart. Not everyone can do that, and that s why most of us don t try. In fact most of us would rather be members of churches than disciples of the Lord Jesus, because being a member of a church is safe, but being a disciple is a struggle. To be a member of a church is to be a part of a community, but to be a disciple of the Lord is to be at war with the world and the target of persecution and battle. But in these verses our Lord Jesus tells us, Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 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 you reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. In these verses, our Lord gives us the last beatitude and the last step in discipleship, but in this step he shows us three things, 1) the reason for our persecution, 2) the activity of our persecution, and 3) the remedy of our persecution. I In v.10, our Lord teaches us, Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven . In this verse we see that Jesus calls those disciples who are persecuted for righteousness blessed. Saints, we remember that to be blessed in the eyes of God is to be on the right track in establishing a right relationship with Him. To be on the right track means that you have understood that you are poor without God and you mourn the time spent doing everything else, but neglecting God. To be on the right track means that you have allowed your realization of your spiritual poverty and your mourning to soften your heart that has been calloused by selfishness. It means that you have begun to hunger and thirst for that which only God can give. To be blessed means that you have learned and started developing a heart of mercy and allowed the mercy that you receive from God to purify your heart. It means that you have allowed God s peace to rule in your life, making you His child in the process. Saints, once these things start to happen, you become a threat to the world. When we become threats to the world, we become threats to the enemy who uses the illusions of the world to ensnare and enslave us. We become threats because we understand that only God and what He gives is not illusionary and because of this understanding Satan seeks to put us to flight and pursues us. Because we are threats to him, he will systematically harass us in an attempt to push us away from Christ. Brothers and sisters, when we answer the call to be disciples, Satan pulls out all the stops, and all hell breaks loose. When folks push to be disciples, all of a sudden where there was understanding between people, divisions seem to pop up. Your home becomes a source of chaos, when it seemed to be peaceful just yesterday. Husbands and wives fight over nothing and children seem to lose their minds.

3 When Satan has you in his sights, your job becomes a battleground and even church folks start acting like a fool. But this hell aint caused for nothing. Everything seems to be going wrong because you are headed in the right direction. Everything seems to be chaotic because we have allowed the Spirit to mellow the chaos of our hearts. Everything seems to go to hell in a hand basket, because we have turned to God striving to be upright by doing right because we are in right relationship with the Father. We are attacked because we strive to act in ways that are in line with the teachings of our Lord Jesus, the movement of the Spirit, and the commandments of God. Saints it is only for this reason that we should be persecuted, because to be persecuted for any other reason is foolish and beneath a disciple of the Lord Jesus. So saints if you are suffering, being mistreated or persecuted, you have to ask yourself, is this because I am a disciple or is this because I trusted in my own wisdom, or my own desires Why? Because we have to keep the words of the Apostle Peter in our hearts at all times, Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name II We must always make sure that we suffer for the sake of Christ because if we bring persecution on ourselves for any other reason, we do ourselves harm. To drive the point home, our Lord gives us an immediate refresher in v.11, Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. In this verse, our Lord repeats the blessed state of disciples who are harassed for His sake, but He also lifts up the activity of the harassment that we will receive. When we are attacked as disciples, those who attack us will do it in two ways. They will attack who we are and what we are. When they attach who we are, they will insult and denounce us. We will be treated as if we are worthless and we will be declared to be nothing. We will be disgraced and publically shamed, humiliated and run down. We will be maligned privately and disregarded publically. We will be disrespected and no one will take any account for us, because those of the world will not be able to look past themselves. Saints when you strive to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus, the very folks who cuss with you, whore with you, joke with you, sleep with you and sin with you will be the first ones to call you, no good , foolish . Those who supported you when you acted a fool will drop you the minute you become a true disciple and they will do anything they can to tear the image of God within you. But they will also attack what you are. They will attempt to assassinate your character. Its not enough that they don t like you, but they got to lie on you so others won t like you either. Those who persecute you and harass you when you become a disciple of the Lord Jesus will attempt to systematically deconstruct your reputation. They will try to deceive others about who you are, and most of us will go along with it, because most of us don t want to do the hard work of building relationship.

4 But Jesus reminds us that its not because of ourselves that we are mistreated but because of Him, if we suffer for His sake. When we suffer because we are disciples, when we struggle because we are disciples, we will understand that we are insulted because of the God in us. We are disgraced because of the Jesus in us. We are reproached and lied on, because we seek to say like the Apostle Paul, I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me Saints we will be maligned as disciples, because we have accepted the Lord for who He is. We accept Him as the Man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief. We accept Him as the one who created all, but had on place to lay His head. We accept Jesus as the one whose beauty makes Him the lily of the valley and whose light in our darkness, makes Him our bright and morning star. The one whose provision makes Him bread in a starving land. Whose blood, shed on a hill called Calvary, makes Him the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The one whose victory over death makes Him the resurrection and the life. When we are insulted, abused, misused, lied on, talked about, laughed at, misunderstood, put out, thrown out and cast down because we have acquired a single minded devotion to our Lord, our Lord calls this mistreatment and abuse blessed. Why? Because what humanity disregards because of Jesus, God values. What humanity throws away because of Jesus, God holds close. Because what humans, seduced by satanic selfishness and pride, God loves and glorifies. III But our Lord not only teaches us the activity of our persecution because of our discipleship, He also teaches us how to deal with our persecution. In v. 12, our Lord tells us, Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way the persecuted the prophets who were before you Our Lord commands us to Rejoice and be glad . No pity parties or woe is me speeches, or complaining, just rejoice and be glad. No calling Dr. Phil, but simply rejoice and be glad. He don t tell us to call up our sister girl circle. He don t tell us to drown them in a drink. He don t tell us to send anonymous letters to Tony Scott, Tammie Holland, or Michael Baisdon. Our Lord Jesus simply commands us to rejoice. This word rejoice is interesting because in the Greek it means to enjoy ourselves as if we were already living in a certain disposition. And with be glad in the Greek the word means to experience Joy with the whole person, body and soul. So what is our Lord telling us. He is telling us to rejoice and enjoy ourselves as if we are already victorious and experience a joy that flows from the heart and fills the whole person with warmth and hope. He is telling us to rejoice as if the storm is over, because if He s on deck the storm can t win. He is telling us to have such a joy in our hearts that it cause our very bodies to explode with hopeful anticipation. So saints, rejoice in the midst of your mistreatment as a disciple, because through Jesus we are more than conquers. Be glad with a joy in your heart that is expressed through your hole body, Be glad with a joy that understands, We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed Why? Because our reward, our wage,

5 our pay back is great in heaven. Some folks may say that our reward is a simple crown, but we will toss that when we bow before God. Some say that we will get a new body, but whatever body it is it will look just like Christ, because when we suffer for Christ we are glorified with Christ. Some say that we will have a mansion, but we won t be in it long because every day we will want to worship God. Somebody else says that there will be streets of gold, but it must not be that important if folks are walking on it. Somebody else may say that my reward is seeing my mother, another my father, another my sister, brother, friends, uncles, aunts, grandparents who left us. But my reward is to see the one who kept me, who never left men, who held me, who taught me, whose blood washed me, who came on a mission of mercy from a Father who loved us too much to see us destroyed. I want to see my friend that sticketh closer than a brother; I got a savior that I want to see. But a songwriter says it best. As I Journey through this land, singing as I go. Pointing souls to Calvary-to the crimson flow, many arrows pierce my soul from without; within. But my Lord leads me on, through Him I must win. Oh I want to see Him, look upon His face, there to sing forever of His saving grace; on the streets of glory let me lift my voice, cares all past, home at last, ever to rejoice

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