Summary: 8th sermon in an 8 part series on the Beatitudes. This series challenges us to "Shift" our thinking in what really brings true happiness. (*Powerpoint and video clips are available on request)
THE DUNGEON WORTH DYING FOR
For 7 weeks we have looked at the attitudes that Jesus has said will bring true and genuine happiness. I hope these messages have been beneficial and I hope you’ve been trying to put them into practice. To be humble (poor in spirit), to be repentant (mourn), to surrender to His control, (Meek), to yearn for a personal relationship with Jesus, to read the Bible, talk to him on a daily basis (hunger & thirst), to be forgiving (merciful), to be genuine- the same on the inside as the outside (pure in heart), & to pursue harmony between man & God and man & man (peacemakers.)
So now, we come to the last Beatitude. Allow me to make three observations here before we dig into this last truth. (1) This Beatitude is different as to the primary audience Jesus addresses. When Jesus gave these sayings they were a part of a sermon we call “The Sermon on the Mount.” The first seven Beatitudes are given to both seeker and believer alike. However, this one is given specifically to those who believe. Jesus says in vs:11 - “Blessed are you when people insult you...” etc., “because of me.” Now, it’s the same crowd and most of them were seekers, because Jesus was just starting his ministry and they were wondering about who he was. But Jesus also knew that there would be those that listened to him that would place their belief in Him and he wanted them to know what they were up against. Plus, even the seeker wants the truth. Jesus is not a doctor who touches up the x-rays in order to give you the politically correct diagnosis. No, Jesus Christ always gives you the straight scoop. Interestingly, in a recent study of unchurched people by Thom Rainer, those who were seekers said that when they came to church they expected to be challenged. They did not want diluted, pop-psychology but the truth from the Bible.
And that brings me to the (2) second observation. Jesus gives us a different kind of end result. He tells us here that after we’ve incorporated all of the attitudes of the first seven Beatitudes here’s what we get: Earthly blessings? No. Prestige, popularity, prominence? None of those. Jesus says, “If the first seven are now the basis for your life you get ... persecuted.” What? You mean after we have done the best we can to assimilate these attitudes into our character we get punished? Yes, that’s what Jesus says you can expect. And to make matters more surprising, how are we supposed to react to this mistreatment? We are to "Rejoice and be glad! Does that make sense? Is that fair? But Jesus is a realist and He wants you to know the truth.
You know one thing about Jesus- He never pulled any punches. Jesus always spoke with startling honesty. He didn’t say, "Now that you’ve have heard all the things I want you to incorporate in your character everything in your life will turn out healthy and wealthy." Jesus fully intended for us to be aware that there would be a cost to our discipleship. He never left any doubt what would happen to those who chose to follow Him. Christianity is a paradox. You do what He says & you are not promised comfort but a cross, not worldly security but suffering, not earthly triumph but tribulation. But don’t miss this. Jesus is reminding us that He did not come into the world to make life easy but to make people great.. for God. Jesus is saying, "Happy many times over are those whose beliefs are so strong that they can withstand attack."
And then (3) the third observation is the most obvious. This Beatitude is different in its emphasis. It’s the longest of the eight. It is the only one that Jesus takes the time to define. It’s the only beatitude that He repeats twice. This saying gets more space than any other. Since it’s that important to Jesus, let’s dig in and see what He means by: "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you.."
I. THE DEFINITION:
The word that Jesus uses here for persecute is the Greek word "dioko." It literally means to "be pursued." It can have a positive definition, to "run after something good," but in this context it has to do with hostility, so it means to "be pursued by a hostile force." Maybe the word today that we would most closely connect with "Dioko," is the word harassment. Jesus is saying that harassment, mistreatment and ridicule is what the committed Christian receives from the world.
And notice that He leaves no room for doubt that mistreatment is inevitable. He doesn’t say, "Blessed are you "if" people insult you, etc.” What does He say? "Blessed are you "when" people insult you, persecute you, etc.” Persecution will happen. And I’m convinced that as the world gets more and more secular in its thinking, it will become more and more hostile to Christianity.