Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness’ sake

Ds J Bruintjes
Mattheus 5: 10 - 12
Preek Inhoud: 

There are those who live for themselves. My kingdom. My money. My family. My Marriage. My work. My church. My way of life. My Culture. My…. The list goes on and one and on. And there are those who have experienced and live in the reality of Jesus. Who have been drawn into the kingdom life? Into the reality of heaven. Into the person of Jesus Christ. Whose eyes have been opened to real life. Where it their kingdom become his. “my” turns to “His”/ My money become His money. My family become his family. My marriage a reflection of His marriage. My work in service to him. my church become His church. And my way of life is His way of life.

This is about a community of people that look different. That stand out as a community. Not just as individuals – you in your corner and I in mine. He is a life that in fact exposes the self-seeking life for it is an exodus out of oneself, and yet is the way that one truly finds himself again – but this tim not in himself but in the one for whom he was created – God. It exposes those who life for themselves in the hear and now. And this brings reviling persecution, and yet it will also bring glory to God the Father. This sermon we will focus on how it brings persecution and then in the next sermon we will look at how it brings glory to the Father.  Blessed are those who are persecuted For you will receive the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Wow, rabbi, that’s a bit of jump, you just went from peacemaking to persecution. Why do these two follow each other? You would not think that peacemakers are persecuted. But that is how much the world enjoys its cherished hates. The world thrives off conflict. The world loves its divisions. It gives them the illusion of superiority. We even see this with todays gender and race politics. We want to create divisions. Whether it be your rank, your color, your wealth, or gender.

True peacemaking requires poverty, brokenness and confession, humility, a deep hunger and thirst for righteousness. Peacemaking destroys these markers of division in Christ.  The world loves identity politics. The world loves to be with their kind of people and be suspicious of those people.

But when you live as a peacemaker – in the way of Jesus – it exposes sin, and self-righteousness. It exposes the way the world deals with its own. And the world does not like this at all. No one likes being shown for who they truly are. No one likes it pointed out that they are holding grudges and need to repent. No one likes to be shown their own poverty. That is true of me and everyone else. And when you do live this way it looks different, even a bit strange to a watching world.

There are two reactions you will find the longer someone knows a Christian – a softening of heart, or persecution. As Paul tells Timothy, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” How can he make such a great big generalization? Because it is true. There will be reviling, when you do not join in with the slandering of others, when you say no to the extra drink, when you stand up for Christ in the work. When you oppose the will to power in and out of the church. Indeed, sometimes as we see throughout the scriptures the persecution can come from within the covenant people.

But in all this we can rejoice. For we know that in this Jesus is being glorified. The cross is the chariot to glory. And even in this suffering we are profoundly united to Christ. As the next verse makes clear. blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”

Suffering for Righteousness and suffering for Christ here are joined. Inseparably. We will be persecuted. But for what? Is it for doing something wrong? No. It it for be difficult, hardheaded, fanatical, overzealous, or foolish? No. How about for fighting for a cause, even a good one, a religious political one? No. what about bieing good, noble and self-sacrificing. No. Then what? For your indetifcation with Jesus the Christ.

We do not follow the law, but Christ. That is what faith is. Faith is walking with Christ in whom the law is fulfilled. Faith unites us to the righteousness of Christ. Faith is about turning the rule of law into the relationship with Christ which deepens it. So that being persecuted for righteousness and persecuted for Jesus sake become identical. Because ultimately it is not for righteousness sake, but the righteous one’s sake that you are enduring persecution. The righteousness of life that is in view is the imitation of Jesus. The disciple of Jesus is so identified by righteousness that there is no place for professed allegiance to Jesus that is not full of righteousness.

Humanity longs is to be free from Gods will to follow his own will. By Faith that longing is turned right side up so we long to do Gods will in Christ and forsake our own.

By faith we will live the ordinary kingdom life. Which shines. We will speak out for the oppressed, and downtrodden! We will be holy, and different as we follow our savior. We will stand up against corruption and abuse of power wherever we see it. We will voice our opposition to excess and for self-control. We will care for those the world does not care for, the child in the womb, the immigrant, the helpless in society. In Christ we find joy in work again. We will find eternal meaning in relationship. These are things the world wants but cant have until the see Jesus! So  along with this we will preach boldly the Lord Jesus Christ! For his names sake we are led like lambs to the slaughter! But in all these things we know we are more then conquerors!  It was true then; it is true today!

As one Roman historian wrote about Christians (AD 100) , “... The poor wretches have convinced themselves first and foremost, that they are going to be immortal and live for all time, because of this they despise death and even willingly give themselves into custody…. they despise all things indiscriminately and share everything that they have. So if any trickster comes among them he is able to profit from them, and he quickly acquires sudden wealth by imposing upon simple folk.”

Laughed at because of you being too merciful, and gracious. Reviled because we have a higher standard of righteousness. Considered simple for not pursing money first.  When is the last time you were persecuted because of righteousness sake? When is the last time you were persecuted for Jesus sake? Many of you have been considered worthy and rejoice in the fact! Jesus says opposition is a normal mark of being a disciple of Jesus, as normal as hunger and thirsting for righteousness.  Not persecuted because of the color of your skin, or persecuted because you are young, but for righteousness sake – because you were passionate in your discipleship.

So what we learn from this is that true righteousness — the righteousness that surpasses the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20) — always involves a relationship with Jesus. True righteousness is not done for its own sake. It is done for Jesus’s sake. The mercy and the purity and the peacemaking of a disciple of Jesus comes from Jesus (“Without me you can do nothing.” [John 15:5]) and is done for the honor of Jesus. It’s this attachment to Jesus that gives our righteousness its distinct character.

As Jesus tells his disciples. As he tells you today, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the world that I said to you: “A servant is not greater then his master.” IF they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”

This is very important. Otherwise, it can easily happen that our own persecution makes us self-righteous. That we do not do it for Jesus sake but for own sake to stand out. To make a scene. To show others how good we are. Its not righteousness if it is not done to glorify Jesus. If it diminishes the name of Jesus in anyway it is not righteous. Better to just suffer wrongly or not respond then to cause people to slander Christianity by responding without grace or mercy.

And we can rejoice in this suffering for two reasons. 1. Great is our reward in heaven. Heaven here is not first of all a place but a reality. This is not a quid pro quo. We suffer this much God gives us this much. No this is a reward. This is Gods kingdom which you will inherit! And is being revealed now. Even through suffering.

And the second reason you can rejoice is it proves you are in a long line of faith followers, including you Lord himself. This is an invitation to unite with the body of all times and places under the cross.

It is the crucified Christ – he is the persecuted just man that is pictured in the Old covenant prophecies particularly in the suffering servant songs of Isaiah. the beatitudes is an invitation to follow the crucified Christ – an invitation to individual as well as the church. Jesus promises joy, exultation, and great reward. In fact, we share in all that is his. He was rewarded the kingdom of heaven, and now he gives it to those who pick up their cross and follow him.  The one who speaks is the reference point of all the beatitudes. The I of Jesus, fidelity to his person becomes the criteria for righteousness.

And to suffer for Christ is not new, or is not just something that we are encountering anew in our generation, it has always been around, as Jesus himself says, “For in this way they persecuted the prophets who went before you. The legend is Jeremiah was stoned to death in Egypt, another prophet possibly Zechariah was killed in the courtyard of the temple and the king had his blood splashed on the wall of the temple. Isaiah was said to be killed by being sawed in two while he was hiding inside a tree. Regardless of whether these are true, these prophets came up against considerable persecution. And it would not stop there. Most of the apostle were martyred. And it would not stop there.

What gave the famous martyrs Rowland Taylor and Bishop Ridley and John Bradford the impulse to kiss the stakes at which they were burned? What moved another pastor, after ninety lashes turned his back to jelly, to say to the magistrates, “You have struck me with roses”? Why did one theologian who suffered terrible say that persecution is “a precious season of grace”? Why did the apostles rejoice when they were whipped on account of Jesus? What were all these men waiting for?

I think the answer is found in 2 Corinthians 4:17–18: “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.” He says that affliction “prepares” or “brings about” an eternal weight of glory. As Charles Hodge says, “Afflictions are the cause of eternal glory. Not the meritorious cause, but still the procuring cause. God has seen fit to reveal his purpose not only to reward with exceeding joy the afflictions of his people, but to make those afflictions the means of working out that joy.” He makes the affliction the means of working out that joy.

It reminds me of Job who said, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.”  Or in the words of the song based on that text

 My heart and flesh may fail
The earth below give way
But with my eyes, with my eyes I'll see the Lord
Lifted high on that day
Behold, the Lamb that was slain
And I'll know every tear was worth it all

Dear church – if you are going to go all in, If you are truly going to lay down you life. If you are willing to put yourself second in every situation because Christ thought of you first. Then you will be persecuted. You will be ridiculed! But take courage! Be encouraged! Listen to the promises of your savior. Of your king, of your God! Yours is the kingdom of heaven! Great is your reward in heaven! O Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Indeed, the joy was incomparable to suffering of the cross. And it was the suffering that made the joy possible and made our joy a reality.

I just love how the Bible puts it, “persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you…we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Dear Church. Eternity lies before you. Eternal joy, blessing, peace, holiness, righteousness, goodness, mercy. Eternity of life. Eternity in the presence of God, of Jesus. You may behold the face of him who died for you, who lives for evermore. He is the path of life, the fulness of joy, pleasures for evermore!

As so we will encounter various trials with joy, for we know that in them our God has counted us worthy to suffer for his sake! In them we know that life is at work in us! In them we are reminded again that our live is hidden with Christ in God. And se we enter this world boldly this week, knowing we have nothing to lose and everything gain. We enter it boldly proclaiming the name of Jesus far and wide in all that we do throughout every moment of every day. Till he comes again! Come lord Jesus!