Summary: Eighth and final sermon on developing Christian character. Sermon includes examples of Christian persecution both in the United States and around the world.
Blessed Are Those Who Are Persecuted
TEXT: Mat 5:10-12
· Finishing up series on the Beatitudes
· Other sermons deal ingredients of Christian character
· This one talks about the maltreatment the Christian can expect
· Basic Beatitude is in verse 10; expanded on in vss 11-12
· Why talk about it here in the United States in the 21st Century?
· Alive & well & happening today
EXAMPLE: A FEW YEARS AGO A GROUP OF STUDENTS AT AN ALABAMA HIGH SCHOOL RECITED THE LORD’S PRAYER TOGETHER IN THE LUNCH ROOM, WHICH PROMPTED A SUIT BY THE PARENTS OF ANOTHER STUDENT. IN RESPONSE, JUDGE IRA DEMENT, ON OCTOBER 29, 1997 TERMED THE ACTION “RELIGIOUSLY BASED HARASSMENT” & ISSUED A BROAD RULING THAT BANNED ALL FORMS OF PRAYER IN ALABAMA SCHOOLS, INCLUDING THOSE THAT ARE VOLUNTARY & STUDENT-LED. HE ALSO PROHIBITED GROUPS LIKE THE GIDEONS FROM DISTRIBUTING BIBLES IN SCHOOLS, AND EVEN SPECIFICALLY BARRED PRAYER IN TIMES OF NATIONAL EMERGENCIES, SUCH AS WARS OR NATURAL DISASTERS. HE THEN ORDERED FEDERAL MONITORS TO STALK HALLWAYS & CLASSROOMS IN SEARCH OF ANY STUDENTS OR TEACHERS WHO DARED TO PRAY ON SCHOOL GROUNDS.
· The secret prayer police had arrived
· Fortunately, 3 years later, in October 2000, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Judge DeMent’s ruling
· There is application of this Beatitude for today in our country
I. JESUS BEGINS BY GIVING US SOME EXAMPLES OF THREE DIFFERENT
TYPES OF MALTREATMENT
A. Insulted – throw something in your face; to be abused with vile, vicious
B. Persecuted - harass
C. Say evil things about you falsely - bad enough being talked about, but being
lied about is even worse
D. Why the maltreatment?
1. Vs 10 – “because of righteousness”
2. Vs 11 – “because of me”
3. Not because of a lousy personality, an obnoxious in-your-face Xy,
standing up for political principles or a noble cause
4. Because of Jesus…because of living a righteous life
E. Persecution always was & always will be alive & well for those who live
(IL) "ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS OF ALL THE MARTYRS WAS POLYCARP, THE AGED BISHOP OF SMYRNA WHO WAS KILLED IN 156 A.D. THE MOB DRAGGED HIM TO THE TRIBUNAL OF THE ROMAN MAGISTRATE. HE WAS GIVEN THE INEVITABLE CHOICE - SACRIFICE TO THE GODHEAD OF CAESAR OR DIE. POLYCARP RESPONDED, ’EIGHTY AND SIX YEARS HAVE I SERVED CHRIST, AND HE HAS DONE ME NO WRONG. HOW CAN I BLASPHEME MY KING WHO SAVED ME?’ SO THEY BROUGHT HIM TO THE STAKE, AND HE PRAYED HIS LAST PRAYER: ’O LORD GOD ALMIGHTY, THE FATHER OF THY WELL-BELOVED AND EVERLASTING SON, BY WHOM WE HAVE RECEIVED THE KNOWLEDGE OF YOU...I THANK YOU THAT YOU HAVE GRACIOUSLY THOUGHT ME WORTHY OF THE DAY AND OF THIS HOUR.’" AND WITH THOSE WORDS POLYCARP WAS BURNED AT THE STAKE.
II. WHY ARE THE RIGHTEOUS PERSECUTED?
A. The one who is righteous is the conscience of society
1. If you are living righteously and following the Lord 100%, you are going
to be different than those around you
2. Your life will prick the conscience of others’
(IL) Chaplains see this principle at work all the time – goes to visit a group
of soldiers & language changes – stories aren’t as dirty, four letter
words aren’t used as frequently. They know its wrong.
3. Some won’t like it & will look for ways to get back at you, will talk about
you behind your back, etc
B. Maltreatment can be God’s way of strengthening His children
1. Ja 1:2-4: Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many
kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops
perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be
mature & complete, not lacking anything.
2. Spiritual muscles are built, faith is strengthened during trials
a. Persecution is one of those trials
C. Some of the purest churches in the world have been in countries where
Christians are persecuted
1. Only serious Christians are a part of it.
D. Examples of maltreatment of Christians throughout the world today
1. (Mona Claren, The Washington Times, 1997) “LAI MAN PENG WAS A 22 YEAR OLD CHINESE CHRISTIAN EVANGELIST. IN 1994, AT A MEETING OF ONE OF CHINA’S HOUSE CHURCHES (A NON-GOVERNMENT-SANCTIONED PRAYER MEETING), HE AND FOUR OTHER EVANGELISTS WERE SEIZED BY AGENTS OF THE PUBLIC SECURITY BUREAU, CHINA’S KGB. IN FRONT OF THE CONGREGATION, MR. LAI & THE OTHERS WERE SEVERELY BEATEN. THE SECURITY OFFICERS NEXT HANDED THE TRUNCHEONS TO THE CONGREGANTS & ORDERED THEM TO BEAT THE PREACHERS, ON PAIN OF BEING BEATEN THEMSELVES. MR. LAI WAS SO BADLY INJURED THAT THE SECURITY TEAM FEARED HE WOULD DIE IN THEIR PRESENCE (LEAVING TOO MUCH TO EXPLAIN), SO THEY RELEASED HIM. HE CRAWLED & HOBBLED FOR SEVERAL MILES ATTEMPTING TO REACH HIS HOME, BUT FINALLY COLLAPSED & DIED ON THE ROAD. SUCH PERSECUTION IS COMMONPLACE IN CHINA. AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORTS CASES OF CHRISTIAN WOMEN HUNG BY THEIR THUMBS FROM WIRES & BEATEN WITH HEAVY RODS, DENIED FOOD & WATER & SHOCKED WITH ELECTRIC PROBES.”