Summary: Scripture tells us that "everyone who wants to live a godly life will be persecuted." Jesus tells us that there is a blessing in the persecution. How can that possibly be? Includes a Communion Service.
The Cost of the Cross - Matthew 5:10-12 - September 21, 2011
Series: Kingdom Life - A World Turned Upside Down #8
300,000. Folks, right now that’s nothing but a number to you. And as a number it does not convey any particular significance whatsoever. For that number to have any significance, it has to be put in context – you have to understand what it is that that number represents.
So if I told you that that number represented the income of the average Canadian household last year, you would have something to grasp, something you could identify with. You would know right away how you stacked up against others across this country. That figure would assume a certain significance for you.
But if I told you that 300,000 was the number of Canadians who will be living on the streets this winter, that number would take on a completely different meaning for you, wouldn’t it?
Or if I went on to tell you that 300,000 represented the number of couples whose lives would be transformed by the birth of a child, or the number of farmers who would have to give up farming this year because they couldn’t afford to farm any longer, or the number of Canadian men who would be diagnosed with an incurable disease in the next 12 months, those numbers would once again take on new significance for you.
Context makes all the difference, doesn’t it? Depending upon the context those numbers could represent something of great joy; they could represent something of great sorrow.
I want to put them in a proper context for you now. You see, they really have nothing to do with income, or homelessness or childbirth or any of those other things. They have everything to do though, with our faith in Jesus. 300,000 is just one of many estimates, by different organizations, as to the number of Christians worldwide who have died for their faith in the last year.
Now those estimates range from a low of 56,000 to well over 300,000. It’s impossible to find exact figures. That’s because most of the deaths are never reported to any credible source. Our brothers and sisters who die for Jesus often do so alone and anonymous; their stories never told but in the halls of heaven.
And that’s just those who give their lives. In addition to those who die, the Voice of the Martyrs website estimates that there are another 200 million Christians who are denied basic human rights simply because of their faith in Jesus.
This is the world in which we live. This is the world in which thousands will die for their faith in any given month. In fact, using 56,000 as the number of those who will be martyred this year, in the time we spend worshipping together this morning, another 6 Christians will have been killed for their faith. Using 300,000 as the total, the number rises to 34. Around the world, the body of Christ is suffering and we’ll talk a bit more about that in November when we participate in the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. But it also touches on the Word of the Lord that we are going to look at together this morning.
So I invite you to open your Bibles with me to the 5th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. Today we wrap up our study of the Beatitudes. These words that Jesus has given us will, if we take them seriously, turn our world upside down. They clearly illustrate the way of living that we are called to as Christians and which is made possible by the Holy Spirit living in us and through us. So let’s begin reading in verse 1 …
“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Now read verse 10 out loud with me …
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
And … “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:1–12, NIV)