Summary: The Beatitudes: Building Blocks to Be Like Jesus # 8
Thousands filled the coliseum to see the lions. When the lions entered the arena a deafening roar comes from the wild fans gathered to watch the event. The lions are undefeated. No one has been able to tame this lions’ team, or stand up to them. The crowd knows this day will be no different. Lion pride is at an all time high; everyone wants to wear the team colors: red and black.
You didn’t think I was talking about the Detroit Lions did you? I’m talking about the lions that played in the Roman Coliseum. The Cleveland Browns were not the first to have a Dawg Pound. The Romans had a wild group of fans that wouldn’t just throw their team a bone. The Romans threw Christians to the lions.
It’s still lion versus Christian, or well at least it should be.
Matthew 5:10-12 10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (NIV)
What two things are we supposed to remember when we look at the Beatitudes?  These are “BE-ATTITUDES” the beatitudes are the qualities and characteristics being developed in our lives making us to be like Jesus.  The beatitudes are PARADOXICAL STATEMENTS OF JOY.
If ever a beatitude was a paradox this one is. How can the persecuted be blessed? Can you even imagine someone saying, “I’m so happy I have people to pick on me and beat me up,” and actually mean what they are saying!? No one in his or her right mind finds pleasure in pain.
Jesus must have known his followers would have a hard time with this statement. Out of all the beatitudes this is the only one Jesus repeated for emphasis. Jesus doesn’t just say the persecuted are blessed once; JESUS SAYS IT TWICE! We are even told to “rejoice and be glad!”
As Americans we find it hard to “rejoice and be glad” if we have a bad day let alone if we should ever face persecution. The Apostle Paul apparently understood what Jesus said. He not only knew it to be true intellectually, but Paul lived what Jesus said. In Acts 16 when Paul was in the city of Philippi, he was overtaken by a mob, arrested, beaten, locked in chains and put into prison. This is not my idea of a good day. Most of us would have been inclined to just want to try to get some sleep and hope things looked better in the morning. Yet at about midnight Paul and his companion Silas were not sleeping and they weren’t up singing the blues, comparing cuts and bruises or telling sob stories. Instead these two sore, uncomfortable and weary men were singing praise to God and praying! Years later Paul would write to the church in Philippi from another prison in Rome, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philip. 4:4 NIV)
HOW CAN THE PERSECUTED BE BLESSED?
Persecution will bring you a blessing when you keep four “R’s” in mind: Righteousness, Reaction, Reminder, and Reward.
1. YOU ARE BLESSED WHEN PERSECUTION IS FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Jesus did not say, “Blessed are the persecuted; happy are the picked on and poked fun of people.” Jesus is not offering comfort to those who are mistreated with an “Akuna-matata,” no worries mentality. Look again at what Jesus said.
Matthew 5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness. (NIV)
God blesses those who are persecuted because they live for God. (NLT)
You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. (MsgB)
Persecution is blessed by God when it comes as a result of righteousness.
What is righteousness?
Righteousness is first the DECLARATION OF GOD. Righteousness is not based upon anything we do; the Bible says our righteousness is as filthy rags to God. God says we are righteous through faith in Christ Jesus. The blood of Christ makes it possible for us to be made righteous. As we “come clean” before God confessing our sin, with the full knowledge that Jesus paid the death penalty in our place, God declares us righteous.
Righteousness is also the DYNAMIC POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. The Spirit of God within you empowers you to live a holy life. Righteousness is not living according to a legalistic set of “dos and don’ts.” Righteousness is a life lived under the control and influence of God’s Spirit living in you. Righteousness is not forced upon you from the outside, but flows from within you by the dynamic power of God for the world to see.