Summary: Week 8 of an 8 week sermon series on the Beatitudes that focuses on our call to stand in persecution.

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February 26, 2006

Blessed are the Persecuted

Funny: A Texan billionaire w/ a beautiful daughter loved having parties at his pool which was home to a 20 ft. great-white. Every night he’d issue a challenge to the men: “½ my fortune or my daughter’s hand in marriage to the man who swims across the pool!” He never had a challenger. Then one PM, after the dare was issued, a tall, muscular guy hit the water. W/ arms churning he raced across the pool and just as the shark was about to get him, he reached the other side of the pool safely. The guests cheered. “Bravo!” cried the Texan, “That’s the greatest act of courage I’ve ever seen. Half my fortune is yours!” “No thanks,” replied the guy. “Then, I’d be proud to call you son, you can marry daughter.” “I don’t want her either,” he replied. “What do want?” He replied, “I just want the guy who pushed me in the pool.”

Trans: Some might consider this a kind of persecution, but unless the guy was singled out for his race, religion, nationality, or creed, it was just a horrifying prank.

Note: Persecution is when someone comes under physical and verbal attack for what they believe and for how they live their life.

Story: Adam is a young Christian in India. In his Hindu village, people were opposed to the gospel. One day Adam’s brother and wife became the first believers in the village. Although Adam wasn’t willing to follow, he observed their changed lives. They began to share the gospel w/ other villagers, but no one would listen. Then the beatings began. Every time the Hindus beat Adam’s brother, someone in the crowd believed in Christ. Eventually, Adam believed in Christ too, and began to suffer the same persecution as his brother. One day the villagers surrounded Adam, his brother, and the small group of new Christians. In rage they had prepared a huge pot of boiling water and were preparing to cook the Christians alive. Then one of the Hindus calmed the mob and said, "If we do this even more will become Christians," so they agreed to just beat the believers. As a result, others came to Christ and now their is a church of more than 35 families in the village. IMB

Trans: Can you imagine? You’ve just been beaten for your faith and you see the mob preparing to throw you into a pot of boiling water so as to extinguish your witness. Persecution comes in many forms - but it is very real – even in White House, TN.

Trans: Today we finish our series on the (8) attitudes Jesus said we’re to have as His disciples by looking at the one beatitude no one wants – persecution. Before we begin, let me remind you the intent of the beatitudes. Jesus offered these attitudes to give us an internal barometer for the condition of our lives and to remind us that God isn’t focused on man’s outward performance but rather w/ what is in the heart. He gave us these attitudes to help determine our altitude in life.

Trans: You might have noticed that we’ve started asking (4) questions during baptism.

 Do you believe Jesus is your Savior and Lord and that He died on the cross to pay for you sin?

 Have you invited Him into you life and asked Him to forgive you?

 Will you strive to honor Him in your daily life by living according to the Bible and by sharing His love and truth w/ others in your words and by your actions?

 When you face trials, persecution, and hardship for confessing Jesus as your Lord and Savior, will you remain faithful to your calling?

Trans: The reason we made this change is b/c of the likelihood that each of us might experience persecution for testifying that we’re followers of Jesus. The world is becoming increasingly more hostile to those who profess Christ. Persecution is no longer what happens to missionary overseas or to the Christian in the 3rd world – it can now happen to you at work, at school, at home, and even at church.

Story: In September 1999, Larry Ashbrook walked into the Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, TX and opened fire during a Wednesday night services killed (7).

Story: In April 1999, two teenage gunmen walked into at Columbine High in Littleton, CO, and shot the students they knew were Christians. On that fateful day, Cassie Bernall was in the library when the gunman burst into the room and asked her, "Do you believe in God?" Among her final words she said “Yes!” and stepped in God’s arms. Also on that day, Rachael Scott stepped into eternity for her faith. What’s interesting is that a year earlier, Rachel penned these words in her diary: "I’m not going to justify my faith to them, and I’m not going to hide the light that God has put into me. If I have to sacrifice everything, I will. I will take it. If my friends have to become my enemies for me to be w/ my best friend Jesus, then that’s fine w/ me.

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