Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. [Matthew 5:10-12 ESV]
I have been dreading this part of the study.
It is not easy talking about sin, recognizing it, realizing the consequences of it, repenting of and relinquishing control of self over to God. After doing all this hungering and thirsting for righteousness becomes joyful. But then discovering God’s compassion, purity and peace, and my lack is equally devastating. God does not simply remake the non-Christian into someone who belongs to Him, He recreates, completely changes, takes someone who is absolutely spiritually dead, and spiritually resurrects new and different. The whole Christian, when God is finished, will be a citizen of the kingdom of God. Being changed is traumatic, the fire of faith burning away sin, giving the joy of eternity here and now. God changes the whole person.
Our world hates this eternal change because it implies those changed are in a good and growing relationship with God. Our world hates God because He demands righteousness on His terms and under His conditions. Righteousness is the absolute, immutable standard of God who created all things. His image, found in all people, is a reflection of His righteousness. Sin corrupts the moral standard of righteousness inherent in people. All those created in His image corrupted by sin are against Him and judged by Him.
Our world embraces the corruption of sin and compromises God’s absolute moral standard by imagining and conceiving a contrary philosophy of truth. While rebelling against God they seek to destroy those who have the true image of Christ, who live according to the truth of God’s moral code and believe, trust and obey the truth of God’s Word.
God leaves those who are His in the world for two reasons. Christian’s are being prepared for eternity and the best place for this to happen is in the crucible of the world. It is here faith and action, attitude and belief are tested and refined. But the Christian is also a witness to the world. Where the world takes a lie and proclaims it as truth the Christian, influenced by the Holy Spirit lives the truth and, in doing so, exposes the lie.
All Christians struggle, fight and war against the desires of their sinful flesh and the compulsion of the Holy Spirit to righteousness. It is this struggle we have with sin which most influences those around us. God uses the war we fight with sin to bring to Him those He has called into His kingdom.
Like Cain, “if you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it”[Genesis 4:7 ESV]. Sin has not been expunged from the Christian’s life but power given to us to control it. In a world where sin has enslaved all, bending all to its will, those who are not controlled by sin illicit a furious reaction from those controlled by sin. Either condemnation or conviction. Every Christian faces persecution even if they are unaware of its presence. Persecution is an identifying mark of those who belong to God, who are covered by the blood of Christ and are filled with the Holy Spirit.
Many Christians in large parts of our world are persecuted because they worship God. They are attacked, terrorized, injured and persecuted because they are Christians and for no other reason. Yet, this is not the only kind of persecution we face. We may face life and death. More often we face persecution because of right and wrong, righteous and unrighteous. God’s citizen as described by the statements made by Jesus will face the wrath of the world while inheriting the presences of God.