Blessed Are those Who Are Persecuted for My Sake

  • Blessed Are those Who Are Persecuted for My Sake
  • Matthew 5:10-12
  • Lyndol Loyd
  • November 20, 2016
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11-20-16 Sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

Today, we’re wrapping up our series called, “Beattitudes for Families.” If maybe you missed other weeks, let me tell you what we’re doing.  We’re looking at the teaching of Jesus in Mathew chapter 5, in a little section that we call the “beatitudes” where Jesus gave us different qualities of those who would be blessed.

 

And although Jesus was talking to everybody, we’re applying his teaching to our homes. Because, the reality is, if you look around today at so many homes where we live, most people wouldn’t say, “Man, they’re really blessed. They’ve got a blessed marriage, their kids are blessed.”  We’re asking God to teach us to live according to his word so that he would bless our homes.

 

Let me give you the key thought that we’ve been looking at every single week. It’s a paradigm shift about how we think about faith in our families. What are we not?  We are not just a Christian home.  What are we?  We are a Christ-centered family.

 

About 80% of those in our country would say, “Yes, we’re Christians.” If you looked on their families and you didn’t know what they said, you might say, “Are they Christians? I’m not sure.  I don’t know.  There’s no evidence to tell me they are. There’s not really—I just don’t know.”

 

If we take a different title and we take it seriously and say, “We’re not just a Christian home, in the cultural sense, but we are Christ-centered in all we do.”  In other words, Jesus isn’t just a convenient part of our life, the guy we call on when we need him and go to church on Easter and whenever we feel like it. Jesus isn’t just a part of our lives, but he is our lives.  We are Christ-centered in what we do.

 

Our key thought for today is this:  If you are a Christ-centered family, you will be persecuted.  “Well, fantastic.  That’s what I came to hear today, a little uplifting message to make me feel good.  I can tell I’m going to love this one.”  But it’s true.  If you are a Christ-centered family, you need to understand that people will mock you, make fun of you and ridicule you, or worse, because that’s what happens when you are Christ-centered.

 

And Jesus said very clearly in our final beatitude found in Mathew 5:10, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Now, here’s what he said and this sounds very unusual to us: “Blessed are you when people insult you, when they persecute you, when they say falsely all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in heaven.”

 

Now, some of you may say, “Okay, what exactly does that mean? Blessed are you when you’re persecuted for right living, for doing the right thing.”  You might think, “Well, obviously, Lyndol, you’re going to be persecuted because you’re a preacher, and you’re kind of odd.  So, you’ve got it coming to you.”  The reality is you don’t need to be a preacher to be persecuted.

 

In fact, the very first illustration of persecution in the Bible between Cain and Abel wasn’t because Abel was preaching to Cain.  The reason Cain was angry is because Abel was living the right way.  He was doing the right thing before God and Cain wasn’t.  And his own sin convicted him and he felt angry, and maybe mad at himself, and he lashed out and killed his own brother.  Not because his brother did anything wrong, but because his brother did everything right.  He was convicted by that right living.

 

I don’t know what it will be for you, but when you are a Christ-centered family, you will have different values.

  • Maybe you’re a teenager or a young adult and you think, “I’m going to honor God with sexual purity. I’m not going to have sex until I’m married.”  And all your friends say, “You’re an idiot.  That’s the stupidest thing.  Who would give that up?  That’s just stupid.”  And they’re going to make fun of you.  “Blessed are you when people persecute you for righteousness sake.”

 

  • Maybe, you’re not going to go to certain movies that all your friends are going to. Why? Because there’s a little bit of poop in the brownies.  Right? Who knows what I’m talking about?  And you say, “I’m not going to do this even though everybody else is,” and they make fun of you.

 

  • Or maybe you’re so crazy, you say, “We’re not going to put our child in this one sports league.” Why not?  “Well, because they play games when we go to church.”  “Oh, how can you put church in front of your four-year-old’s future?” Maybe church is a better investment in your four-year-old’s future, and let them make fun of you.

 

That raises the question:  How do we prepare our families for persecution?  How do we prepare them to have roots in their faith in Christ so they can handle the inevitable persecution that will come?  And let me just give you three different thoughts that I pray will build your faith.

 

How do we prepare our families?  Number one, we’re going to teach them to expect persecution.

 

 

Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:12, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  If your family is Christ-centered, in some way, you will be different, and people won’t understand, and they will criticize you.  You won’t be different like everybody else, you’ll be different in your unique way because you’re seeking God and you’re hearing from him in how he would lead you to follow him.

 

I don’t know what it’s going to be for you, but when you’re Christ-centered, you’re going to be different from the values of the world.  And they’re going to make fun of you.  It may be at Thanksgiving dinner and they’re all taking little jabs at you as you want to pray over the Thanksgiving meal.  They may not invite you to certain parties.  They may make fun of you when you’re reading your Bible during your lunch break.

 

Whatever it may be, if they make fun of you, you expect it.  It’s a part of following Christ.  Here’s my advice to you: Introduce your kids to controlled and small doses of persecution.  You teach them, as followers of Christ, you will be persecuted.  You introduce them to small and almost controlled doses of persecution when they’re young.

 

This is what we did, one of the many things. When I tell you this, some of you will make fun of it and persecute me for this.  I don’t care; I’ve actually got an e-mail address you can e-mail.  It’s called “Lyndol@Idon’tgivearip.com”. E-mail anytime you want, any day you don’t like what I say.  Just e-mail that and there’s an automatic reply that comes back and says, “See, I don’t give a rip.”  And that’s what happens.

 

When our daughters were in middle school and older elementary school the Twilight Movies were all the rage. I remember that there were large groups of girls who were going to go to the midnight premiere of one of the movies. And I’m sure it felt like everyone else was going to be there, but for our family it didn’t feel like a right decision to send our tweens and early teens to a movie about a love affair between a thousand year old vampire and a young girl in a love triangle with a werewolf. Grown women were running around drooling over the two young actors in the movie. In my opinion the whole thing was dark and just inappropriate.

 

Their friends didn’t understand why they couldn’t go. Their friends’ parents thought we were way too hard line. What we were trying to do was plant the value in our children that we’re willing to be different and we will be persecuted for it.

 

Whatever that looks like in your life, whatever God convicts you to do, you teach your kids early.  We expect it; we’re Christ-centered and people will make fun of us. And the reason this is so important—and you need to hear this—is because the persecution in our country has been relatively light, but it is increasing every single day.

 

There is tremendous growing hostility towards Christianity, and Christ’s values, and you better learn to stand strong and teach your children to stand strong because the heat is going to increase.  And they need to have their roots planted deeply.  You will be persecuted.

 

Jesus said it very directly in John 15:18-20. He said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world but I’ve chosen you out of the world.  This is why the world hates you.  Remember what I told you,” Jesus said, “a servant is not greater than his master.”  Jesus said this: “if they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.  If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”  We teach our families to expect it.

 

The second thing we teach them to do is we teach them is to endure persecution.  In fact, Paul told the Corinthians this, in 1 Corinthians 4:12, he said, “When we are cursed, we bless.”  And when we are persecuted, what do we do?  We endure  it.  When we’re persecuted, we endure it.

What do we not do?  We don’t whine about it, we don’t cry about it, we don’t gripe about it, “This isn’t fair. My friend de-friended me on Facebook because I’m a Christian. I just can’t suffer anymore. Boo-hoo!”  We don’t do that, we endure it.

 

  • When someone makes fun of you because you’re going on a mission trip on your Spring Break, instead of going and partying, you endure it. You just take it like a man of God or a woman of God. You just endure it with a smile on your face.
  • When God calls you to do something different and to get out of debt, not to be in bondage, so you drive an old car, and they make fun of you. Or you live in a smaller place and they laugh and they say, “Hey, come on over here where we are.  We’re broke and loving it.” You just endure it, you just endure it because you are a follower of Christ.

 

And when you do, it’s amazing what happens.  God does something inside of you.  When you endure persecution, your spiritual roots grow deeper.  In fact, when you endure persecution, your intimacy with Christ increases, your spiritual resolve is strengthened.

 

There’s a great principle I want to share with you: Where family identity is strong, peer pressure is weak. Where family identity is weak, peer pressure is strong.  This is so important, parents, as you’re raising your kids.

 

 

Where there is a deep-grounded spiritual identity, “We are Christ followers, we’re going to be persecuted, that’s okay.  We are on a mission, we have got a calling, we are living for something higher than the lower things of this world,” then there’s a strong family identity and all the pressure your kids, or even you, will face, it’s not as strong because we have a purpose, we have an identity, we have values.

 

But where there is no real family identity, no mission, no purpose, no higher calling, no cause outside of, “Yeah, we’re just trying to have a good time and buy a better car.”  When there’s not that, the peer pressure is so much stronger because we don’t really know who we are, and whose we are.

 

We’re not just a Christian family in name only, we’re Christ-centered; it means something to us. He’s the center of all that we do.  Therefore, we tell our family, “We’re going to be persecuted, expect it.”  And then when it comes, you endure it.

 

But you don’t just endure it, there’s another word that I want to tell you, and you teach your family.  And that is, “You embrace it.”  You thank God that you get to suffer in some small way like his Son, who gave it all for us.  You embrace it.

 

In fact, Peter said this—and when I read you what he said, I want to give you the context.  Peter was talking to a group of Christians that were suffering and being persecuted beyond anything that our little safe world can imagine.  In fact, one of the things they would do is they would take the Christians who wouldn’t renounce the name of Christ and they would put them into the center of a coliseum, in front of huge crowds, they would release lions who would physically devour those who would not walk away from their faith in Christ.  Peter was talking to them.

 

And here’s what he said, 1Peter 4:12 and following.  He said, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you as though something strange were happening to you,” he said, “But rejoice in as much as you participate in the sufferings of Christ.”

 

Verse 16—this is so powerful—He said, “However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed but when you suffer as a Christian, you praise God that you bear that name.”  You praise God that you bear that name.

 

When your friends make fun of you at lunch because you’re praying over the meal, you praise God that you bear that name.  Whenever everybody else is going to the Hooters on a Friday night, and you say, “No, I’m not doing that.” “Why aren’t you going?” “Well, I’m going to get married one day and I want to honor my future wife today.” “What? You idiot, what’s looking at some ‘you-know’ today going to hurt your wife?” “No, no, no, I’m going to honor my God, I’m going to keep my mind pure and I’m going to treat women respectfully.”  Blessed are you when you’re persecuted for that.  Praise God, gentlemen, when you are persecuted because you don’t treat women as sex objects but you honor them and treat them as children of God.

 

Blessed are you when people make fun of you because you walk away from a business deal that was very profitable but you realized it was slightly unethical.  And everybody else says, “But in our business, everybody fudges there,” but you don’t.  And they make fun of you and they laugh at you and mock you because you could have made a lot of money, and you stand up and say, “No, I made a covenant with God, and I’m going to do what’s right.  I believe God will bless me more later.  And even if he doesn’t, I did what’s right today.” Thank you, God, that I get to suffer in some small way. Blessed are you when you’re persecuted for righteousness sake for yours is the kingdom of God.  It does something inside of you.

 

Some of you right now, you feel like you must be doing something wrong because you’ve got opposition all around you.  Someone may even say, “Hey, how’s that God thing going for you now,” when all hell’s breaking loose in your life. May I remind you that things may be going wrong not because you’re doing something wrong, but because you’re doing something right.  Blessed are you when you are persecuted for righteousness sake.  This is a spiritual battle and it’s very real.

 

So, here’s the deal.  Listen to me:  Don’t ever worry when your family is being persecuted for righteousness; the only time you should worry is when you’re not ever being persecuted at all.  Because, if you’re not being persecuted at all, let me say it as lovingly as I can:  You just might be a Christian family in name only.

 

“What are we about, Mom and Dad?” “Going to the game…Going to the beach…Granite counter tops…

 

“What are we about?”  “We’re about Jesus, his kingdom, his purpose, his glory, making a difference in this world!”

 

And you need to know, when you’re about him, you will be persecuted.  So, don’t worry when you are, worry when you’re not.  Because, when you’re walking toward God, there’s always spiritual opposition.  Blessed are you when you are persecuted for righteousness sake.  If you’re a Christian family, you will be persecuted.  It’s a part of it.

 

 

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of God.  You are not just going to settle for being a blend-in, average, cultural Christian family.  God has called you to something more.  We are Christ centered in all we do because we are created for his glory.  God bless this home, that this home could make a difference eternally for your name sake.