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THE BLESSING OF STANDING UP FOR WHAT’S RIGHT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
This is our eighth and final message in our series on the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount and today’s message is titled, “THE BLESSING OF STANDING UP FOR WHAT’S RIGHT.” Keep in mind the series called SALT AND LIGHT on the Sermon on the Mount is far from over.
Matthew 5 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Overall Background: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This final beatitude is very different from the rest. It deals with a subject that is very painful and has brought great sorrow to the people of God through the centuries. It has tested the reality of their faith and the firmness of their convictions. In fact, I don’t like to talk about it much because I had to experience it growing up. The subject is Persecution. Simply defined, it means – “any form of harassment and aggression against you because of your faith in Jesus Christ.” I’m sure we’ve all heard of the persecution of the early church and through the Middle Ages, and even now in Russia, China, and the Middle East. Unfortunately, persecution is not that far away anymore. It’s already on your doorstep. Ask Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of the Oregon-based Sweet Cakes by Melissa, who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple and were fined $135,000. Eventually, they were forced to close their business.
Application: What would you have done? Would you have stood up for righteousness or would you have given in? How would you handle persecution? Here’s a deeper question – Is there enough evidence in your life for the world persecute you? Are you saved?
Many of you have told me how much you have enjoyed this series. If you ask me, this is the most important message in this entire series on the Beatitudes. It is important for us individually, for our children, for our grandchildren, for our church, and for our nation’s future. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you like never before. 3 questions again:
I. WHY DOES PERSECUTION COME?
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake…”
Background: Jesus makes it clear that persecution comes for righteousness sake. Now, what is righteousness? Remember, the fourth beatitude – Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.” In this context, righteousness is not just the imputed righteousness of Christ – the righteousness that is accounted to us as Paul talks about it in Romans 4, the forensic righteousness – but it is the daily practical righteousness. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that brings about an external change. Because we are saved we begin to live a life that day-by-day pleases God, that step-by-step obeys His word, and that moment-by-moment looks more and more like Jesus Christ. There’s a difference in the way we walk, talk, see, and hear. There is a difference in the way we work, play, shop, and live in this world. There is a difference in the way we treat our friends and families. There is also a difference in the way we treat our enemies and our opponents. In short, it’s not the righteousness that saves but the righteousness that shows that I’m saved.
How does the world react to this kind of righteousness in us? Some people admire us. Some people aspire to be like us. But, there are others who avoid us and even attack us. This is persecution for righteousness sake. Jesus was actually quoting the Old Testament when He gave this beatitude. Psalm 37:12 The wicked plots against the just (righteous), And gnashes at him with his teeth. Psalm 119 157 Many are my persecutors and my enemies, Yet I do not turn from Your testimonies…161 Princes persecute me without a cause, But my heart stands in awe of Your word. But Jesus gave a deeper reason for this hatred. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In other words, if you are persecuted for being godly, it’s because you have the kingdom of heaven. What is the kingdom of heaven? Do you remember the first beatitude? “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The Kingdom of Heaven is the rule of God through the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those who have received Jesus as their Savior. Remember what Paul said in Romans 14:17 “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Persecution is the assurance that the Holy Spirit is in your life. Listen carefully – “The real reason the world hates you is not you but the one who is in you.”
For e.g. I used to work at a job laying Cat 5’s all over the state. The guys I worked with knew what I was doing. Some of them were fine with me but others hated me and I never understood that. Maybe its because I wanted to go home rather than drink and go to the doll house.
Application: The question is not “Are you facing persecution?” The real question is “Are you godly?” 2 Tim. 3:12 “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Here’s a different way of asking that question: “Do you have the Holy Spirit in your life?” If you’re not saved, then you don’t have the Holy Spirit and there’s no reason for the world to hate you.
II. HOW SHOULD WE HANDLE PERSECUTION?
Background: Unfortunately, most messages end with – “Persecution proves that America is not a Christian nation anymore.” “It’s just gonna get worse and worse.” “It’s just the signs of the times.” The problem with these statements is that it is contrary to what the Bible says. Thank goodness Jesus told us what to do! Listen to verse 11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Who are the prophets before you? We don’t have time to recount each of them but here are just a few:
Moses – Exodus 17:3 And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, “Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” 4 So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me!”
Jeremiah – Jeremiah 20 1 Now Pashhur the son of Immer, the priest who was also chief governor in the house of the LORD, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things. 2 Then Pashhur struck Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the LORD.
Daniel – Daniel 6 4 So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.”…16 So the king gave the command, and they brought Daniel and cast him into the den of lions.
Application: This is a hard one to apply because many of us haven’t faced hard-core persecution. Let me ask in a different way – how do you respond when you get slighted, mistreated, and neglected? Do you rejoice? Are you exceedingly glad? Do you consider your great reward in heaven? Or do you pitch a fit? Do you pay back ten fold? Our response to our trials is just a precursor of our response to persecution.
III. HOW DOES THIS BLESSING WORK?
13 “You are the salt of the earth;
Background: Keep in mind that this is all one message. Just when you think that the message is over, the most important point is about to come. We use just a pinch of salt in our food. That’s all we typically need. What’s the point? Persecution has a way of thinning out the crowd down to a pinch. What’s happening in America is that God is weeding out the imposters from the real deals. The problem in America is too many people are pretending to be something they’re not which is hindering those who are really searching for God from coming to Him. That’s why I believe that the greatest revival and awakening is coming very soon to America.
Now the crowd is down to a pinch but the pinch becomes indispensable. Just like salt – it’s a very small in proportion to the whole meal but it changes the flavour and the taste of the meal. “but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?” What happens to those who have lost the flavour of Christianity? “It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. Churches are closing all over America but that’s not a bad thing. Too many sincere people are stuck because of some obligation and some loyalty but it’s killing the cause of Christ. But a new day is coming!
What will happen in this new day? 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Have you ever driven towards a big city at night? You can see the glow towards the sky. Those who’s truly have the light will shine brightly in this dark world and people near and far will come to them. By the way, I love it when people refer to our church as “the church on the hill.” This is not the time to hide your light but to shine it even more. Our job is not to hunker down and wait for the storm to pass. But listen to verse 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
Personal Illustration: As a 9-10 year old, I remember coming back home from school and trying to turn on the lights and the fan and nothing happened. Imagine 115° temperatures in the hot summer and not having any electricity to turn on the fan, forget about any air condition. I went to the kitchen and asked my grandmother if the power was out and she told me that our electrical connection has been cut. “Why?” “Because we’re on the same line as the church. They cut the power to the church and so our power is out as well.” I remember that night my mom crying as she went around the house lighting candles and oil lamps. We ate in the dark by candlelight, not something unusual because when power would go out, we would do that. But this time it was different. There was no estimated time when services would be restored. We went to bed early that night obviously, hoping against hope that somewhere in the middle of the night the fan would start blowing but it never did. The next morning, no hot showers. This was for real. Later that week, my dad was able to talk to a so-called “Christian” neighbor who was kind enough to run a single line to our house, just enough to turn on a light bulb. At least, we could have light. Unfortunately, some time later he got upset with us for some reason and cut the line. I think that hurt much more than the first time. But that experience and many more shaped me into the person I am today.
People have a lot of false ideas about persecution in America. Some think that it’s going to get worse and worse and it’s time to fly out. Others think that it automatically grows the church. Neither is true when you study the Bible carefully. First, God thins out the numbers to those who are truly godly. But He doesn’t stop there. Then, He holds them up like the pinch of salt and a little oil lamp to change the world for the better.
Listen to verse 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Imagine once again people in America praising your Father in heaven!
Persecution is not what God is doing to Christians in America but what God is doing through Christians for America.
Are you saved? Are you living a godly life?