Matt 5:10-12 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kids of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
The Apostle Peter says, don’t be surprised when people criticise you for your faith. Persecution is not something that is alien to the Christian life. God declared war on Satan after the Fall of man (Gen 3:15), and Satan has been attacking God through His people ever since. Christians are “strangers and pilgrims” in an alien world where Satan is the god and prince (John 14:30; 2 Cor 4:3-4). Whatever glorifies God will anger the enemy, and he will attack. For believers, persecution is not a strange thing. The absence of satanic opposition would be strange!
If you are without some kind of persecution or opposition it could be an indicator that you are not having much effect against the darkness in our world. Some of you wish you were not having so much effect. One of the signs that you are standing for something worthwhile is that it will be opposed. We are trying to do the right thing in a world hell bent on doing the wrong thing. We are going against the tide of feeling in the world. What we stand for will be mocked, criticized and opposed.
1 John 5:19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.
There has always been a dark, sinister, yet invisible and well-camouflaged hater of people connected to Christ. The motivation behind all the persecution is a malignant evil spirit that cannot help itself but seek to destroy anything that has the scent of Christ. It is the spirit of anti-Christ. God’s people have never been immune from opposition, persecution. The very first record in Scripture was Abel, who was killed by his brother Cain, because of his righteousness. His brother was also religious but was wanting to do religion his way, not God’s. This has always been a mystifying fact, that some of the most monstrous enemies of Christians have been religious people, claiming they are doing God’s work.
Persecution takes on many forms, from very public oppositions with dire results all the way through to mere unfounded, unnecessary criticisms at the office. Persecution can be invisible pressure coming upon you for no reason at all, temptations, spiritual oppression warfare in your mind and emotions. Persecution can come through relationships both close and far, family, friends, associates.
But let me say this, when acceptance and respectability come to the church, she will die. This is not said so we seek to irritate the world around us or attack them. But as you simply live out the life of following Christ you will not be able to escape the inevitable evil opposition of the religious people, evil spirited people intent on opposing all you stand for. Yet rejoice said Jesus, because He has overcome the world. We will live in victory in spite of the fact that we are under pressure.
When you step out to obey God, all hell will break loose against you. When you decide to help build the church, to be a connect-group leader, to volunteer, to become a Vision Builder and give above your tithes to the Vision, you will enter into a spiritual warfare that seems completely out of proportion to the level of what you have so far accomplished. The devil is the patron of overkill. But it's because he recognises the power of one persons influence. To kill every child under two in the nation seems like overkill, but Moses lived and delivered 3 million slaves and destroyed a God hating nation, birthing a God loving nation with laws that the entire civilised world has based their society upon. Moses became the greatest hero of antiquity. We need to recognise this reality so we understand whom our warfare is with. It is not with people, but with spiritual evil (Eph 6:12).
We have named this series ‘The Beautiful Attitudes’ obviously a play on the words ‘The Beatitudes’. Yet the condition for this kind of opposition to happen is because of the Christ centeredness of believers. You are not going to be opposed if Christ is not the center of your life and activity. You will not be opposed if you are merely religious and not empowered by the Holy Spirit. The word Christ means ‘anointed’. The anti Christ spirit doesn’t seem to bother religious people who are not filled with the Holy Spirit, but once the people of God become empowered with the great Holy Spirit of God, the anointing, then that demon reacts.
However, it is not just the fact that we are persecuted that we are blessed but also because of our response to that persecution.
Matt 5:44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you
Here is the key of what Jesus was speaking to. He said we are blessed, not cursed when people say all manner of things against us falsely. We inherit the blessing when we respond with the love of God.
1 Peter 3:9 Not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.
A little later on in this verse Peter says to not avenge yourself. Leave it to God, because He has said ‘Vengeance is Mine’. I have experienced this first hand many times, when I have been tempted to take matters into my own hands, but then what I have instead, forgiven them, blessed them and left it to the Lord, they certainly have discovered the Lord looks after His own.
Today I want you to let go any desire for revenge you have towards people who have hurt you, opposed you, hated you, said things against you falsely, used you, lied about you and done you wrong.
Pray for them.
Thanks for following along with our series on the Beatitudes. If you need to catch up on any of my previous messages on this click this link here to check them out. If you'd like to read some of my leadership teaching, be sure to check out my blog posts on LinkedIn.
See you in church!