Summary: part one of a message about the reasons for this persecution
BLESSED ARE THE PERSECUTED Part I
Persecution is very unfamiliar territory to us. We know virtually nothing about it personally. Persecution to us is struggling to make ends meet or dealing with disease, discouragement, or everyday problems at home, school, the workplace, or even the church. Persecution is not equal with any of those things. It is not being made to do what is right. It is not how wronged you feel when you do not get your way. (It’s not about us any way, is it?) It is not even suffering for doing the wrong things.
Indeed, it is a strange thing to us. We cannot relate to the terrible maltreatment of the disciples and the early church. Most of you are familiar with Nero. "All the world knows of the Christians who were flung to the lions or burned at the stake; but these were kindly deaths. Nero wrapped the Christians in pitch and set them alight, and used them as living torches to light his gardens. He sewed them into skins of wild animals and set his hunting dogs upon them to tear them to death. They were tortured on the rack; they were scraped with pincers; molten lead was poured hissing upon them; red hot brass plates were affixed to the most tender parts of their bodies; eyes were torn out, parts of their bodies were cut off and roasted before their eyes; their hands and feet were burned while cold water was poured over them to lengthen the agony. These things are not pleasant to think about, but these are the things a man had to be prepared for, if he took his stand with Christ." Their only crime was Christ. They chose to bow down to Jesus rather than Cesaer and many, many of them paid for it with their lives. While you think persecution is mainly a historical fact, you ought to live in third world countries where it is commonplace, even in this day and time. Did you know that more people died for their faith in Christ last year than in any other year before?
Why are we so unfamiliar with persecution? I have thought a lot about that this week and have reached a conclusion that the Word of God confirms. It is because we are American Christians more than Biblical Christians. We live in a society that has taught us to be more politically correct than spiritually or even morally right. We have watered down the standards of God’s Word to the point that anyone who comes along and tries to live up to them is considered to be a little abnormal. We have learned to tolerate and accept any deviation from the straight and narrow path of God’s Word by not only the perverted infidels of our society, but people who claim to be saved. We don’t want to offend them and so we don’t. Plain and simple. We don’t want anyone to think we are different. They might not like us; and so, we compromise God’s plumb line. That’s what is going to make this message one of the toughest I have ever preached. Some of you may be offended. I’m going to call sin, Sin and righteousness, Righteousness!
I. THE REASONS OF PERSECUTION
A. For Righteousness’ Sake-->He lives a certain way
See 2 Tim. 3:12 “All that will live (present tense) godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
This person lives by the right and righteousness standards that are clearly spelled out in God’s Word. They are Godly people. They live righteous and holy lives. They are called today “narrow-minded bigots” and “extremists.” Their critics accuse them of having a “holier-than-thou” attitude. They are criticized for their lack of intolerance. They not only say they believe God’s Word. They also make it a practice to live it. They don’t cuss, smoke, drink, or do drugs. They practice sexual purity before marriage and are committed to the Biblical standards of morality and marriage itself. They are faithful to God in their finances through tithes and other offerings, church attendance, and a daily walk with Him. They hold life sacred so they know abortion is wrong. They also know that homosexuality is wrong. They guard where they go, what they watch, and even who they are with. Their testimony before both God and man is a priority. They guard their speech so that it doesn’t become critical, slanderous, and gossipy. They love the Lord with all their heart and strive to please Him. They honor and obey their parents and love and spiritually nourish their children. God’s ways become their ways. They are not perfect but know how to go to God when they stumble so that they can get back on their feet and keep going. They are truly salt and light. I could go on and on. Do you get the point? Our verse says, “Blessed are they who are persecuted for RIGHTEOUSNESS’ SAKE.”