Thursday, January 03, 2008

Matthew 5:10-12


Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

#8 REJOICE IN PERSECUTION--To rejoice in persecution is to develop the big picture on all troubles-especially the stresses that others bring upon you! Life is full of stress and distress. Many of life's stresses are circumstantial! I recently read: "You know it's a bad day, when the sun comes up in the West, you jump out of bed and miss the floor, the bird singing outside your window is a buzzard, you put both contact lenses in the same eye, your pet rock snaps at you, the blind date turns out to be your ex-wife, your income tax refund check bounces, you put your bra on backwards and it fits better, and Suicide Prevention puts you on hold."

Note the reason for persecution. It's that same word we saw earlier-righteousness. As you hunger and thirst for righteousness-being like Jesus (allowing Him to live His life through you)-you will make people uncomfortable and they will pick away at you. Note the kinds of persecution mentioned here. It's insults, falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of the Jesus lifestyle you've embraced. And when you note who it is who is doing the persecuting in the New Testament against the early followers of Jesus, you will quickly find that this kind of persecution comes from other religious people who are jealous.

When Jesus, the Righteous One, came to explain the love of God to mankind, His simple message that He was the Gospel was just too easy. It didn't contain a system of do's and don'ts that normal religious groups do, so this made the religious people of the day uncomfortable enough to persecute Him terribly to the point of putting Him to death-to silence this simple one. If you are simply walking with Jesus, walking with others and waiting on Jesus to lead out in your life, you will face the same kind of criticism and backlash. Your simple faith will make others very uncomfortable, especially those who believe they have it all together. However, for those who are discontent, hurting, burdened down by the all of the religiosities in the world, you will be a welcome sight-a bright light of hope.

REFOCUS YOUR HEART--REJOICE IN PERSECUTION The pre-requisite necessary for you to rejoice in persecution is to refocus your heart! Your passion for filling up the hole in your soul with simply Jesus-for genuine satisfaction and fulfillment in Him-can set you up as a primary target for an onslaught of verbal persecution. When you begin to experience a sense of inner satisfaction and some level of fulfillment, you will find the jealousy and envy of others waiting to cut you down to their size-or lower!

Rejoice in persecution is the attitude that is necessary to stand up against this verbal barrage. The attitude is to take a bigger view of it all. Those who are verbally attacking you are hurting deeply within themselves. What is most encouraging is that they have noticed something about you. You are growing up! You are beginning to find a personal satisfaction that sets you apart!

Your response must be to redouble your efforts to refocus your heart even more. You'll need it to truly rejoice in the midst of this kind of persecution! Keep hungering and thirsting for that inner, spiritual satisfaction for your soul by walking with Jesus and walking with others! Then rejoice in persecution! This will drive your detractors nuts! Enjoy it!

BLESSED-YOU ARE TO BE CONGRATULATED! These 8 disciplines or attitudes are taken directly from the first seminar that Jesus gave on the hillside of the Sea of Galilee. They all begin with "Blessed" which means to be congratulated or to be filled with happiness! Take on these attitudes and make them your primary disciplines of life! Meditate on them and discover the great depth within them! They offer you the ingredients that will produce the most valuable and powerful emotional riches you could ever experience!

Note that every one of these beatitudes are different from your natural instincts. When you follow Jesus, you are walking to the beat of a different drummer. I have spent most of my life meditating and referring back to these 8 dynamics. Make them yours. Go back to them often. Maybe even memorize them and ask God to emblazon them on your soul.

Here's how it works: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. THEN, Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. THEN, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. THEN, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. THEN, Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

NOTE that each of these beatitudes or disciplines run against the grain of popular lifestyles. Jesus paints a portrait of a blessed or happy follower. These are Kingdom disciplines and describe what it means to be like Jesus. You see, Jesus moves to the beat of a different drummer than this world. Follow Jesus and you will also be moving to this beat. It's the beat of the different drummer that turns those who dare to follow Jesus in this way inside out. And, when people are turned inside out by Jesus, the world will be turned upside down. CAN YOU HEAR THE BEAT?