From Your Pastor, July 22

From Your Pastor, July 22

What a Christian is: Epilogue

 
Would you like greater assurance of salvation? What about fuller fellowship with Jesus Christ? Would it be a blessing to grow your dependence upon the Lord? And wouldn’t it be wonderful to treasure spiritual blessings more than fading earthly ones?

In the previous devotion on Matthew 5:10, we looked at the final Beatitude where Jesus says that every Christian will be persecuted.  It’s an odd way to end… After all, beatitudes are supposed to be good things.

So, as an epilogue of sorts for this series, let’s consider why persecution is good. Jesus even expands his typical pattern for this one, in Matt 5:11–12, he goes on to say: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

How could persecution be a blessing? Not only does Jesus promise heavenly reward, it brings all of the blessings we began with at the start:

(1) Persecution is sign of our own salvation.  Each beatitude is a description of every Christian.  There is no such thing as a Christian who is not purified in heart; there is no such thing as a Christian who does not mourn his or her sin.  And, there is no such thing as a Christian who is not persecuted for Christ’s sake.  The world hates Christ. It hates righteousness and the display of spiritual fruit. Jesus said elsewhere that every good tree will bear good fruit (Matt 7:17). So, persecution for Christ should be a sign to us that we really do belong to his kingdom.  It is an assurance of salvation.

(2) Persecution means fellowship in Christ’s suffering. With the caveat that persecution really is because of Christ (and not because we’re being difficult), to be persecuted is an honor. We’re being treated exactly like our Lord was. That is precisely why the Apostles rejoiced (Acts 5:41).

(3) Persecution shows us our own sin and weaknesses.  When evil people say evil things about us it will show us that we care what they people think, perhaps more than what God thinks. It will expose our idols. When our faith is challenged, tested, undermined, or responded against with hatred it forces us to respond. Some will expose the weakness (or falseness) of their faith and just give up (I’m thinking of rocky or thorny ground hearers from the parable of the sower, Matt 13:22–23). For others, that kind of treatment often exposes an all-too-weak faith and, so, leads us to pray for more faith and the wisdom to handle it.  James 1:2–3 gets at this when it says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” 

Finally, (4) Persecution takes away worldly pleasure. It reminds us––who belong to the kingdom of Heaven––that we don’t really belong in this sinful world. We belong in the mansion that our Lord Jesus is preparing for us.  We belong in the realm of light and glory. And so, every hardship, every evil word, every sadness and sorrow should remind us of that hope. And when this world turns against us? All the more does that show us where our home really is.

Even the world’s hatred is something our Father uses for our good.
 
—Pastor Barry