15 November 1999

"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven"-Matthew 5:10 In His final Beatitude, Jesus describes the highest level of Christian maturity: when one is willing to be "persecuted for righteousness sake". As a General would prepare his soldiers for battle, Jesus forewarns His disciples what to expect as they followed Him. When the miracles were performed and the multitudes were fed, there were many who followed. But when the abstract turned into the concrete principles that Jesus stood for, "many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him"-John 6:66. But those who had been made poor; who saw their bankrupt condition; who were hungry; who displayed the fruits of meekness and peace; they were willing to be "persecuted for righteousness sake". This maxim must be true for disciples in every age. Today, we do not see the physical persecution in this country that the disciples endured. Though it is little publicized, Christians are being persecuted in other countries as you read this article. While the suffering of humanity, due to their own depravity, is sensationalized by the media, the suffering of Christians is not. I do not have the space to write about the suffering that God's people have endured in ages past. "Foxe's Book of Martyrs"; "Jones' Church History"; and "Hasssel's History of the Christian Church" are replete with these historical evidences, books well hidden by the enemy. From these we will learn that Christians have been tortured in many ways for their public testimony for Christ. They were beheaded, thrown to wild beasts, chained and dragged off into the ocean, burned at the stake, their children were taken away as the parents were jailed, murdered and their property confiscated. The freedoms that we now enjoy, to be able to attend God's house unharmed, have a Bible in our homes to read and teach our children, is a precious privilege afforded us today that many have never known. Persecution comes in many forms. If Satan can not bring about physical suffering, he will endeavor to remove principles and truths from the minds of God's people. He will remove the "Ten Commandments" from our children's eyes for fear that they might follow them. It is o.k. to pray, but you can not mention the name of our intercessor, Jesus, when you do it. Children are taught to "accept" other religions, even when their system of belief opposes the fundamentals of the Bible. Evolution is placed above God's biblical account of creation. When I was in High School, we read a scripture every morning from the old King James Bible. We knew what it meant. The teachers didn't have to do it, but it was their liberty to do so. I am thankful for my peers, those teachers who stood for such principles. Today, jobs are on the line if people speak out for Christ. Do we not see persecution? THE BLESSING The blessing is found in our Lord's personal commentary of His last Beatitude. He pronounces them "Blessed" because their suffering was not due to their personal failings, nor was it for vain glory: it was "for my sake"-v11. It is also a time to "rejoice, and be exceeding glad" because this suffering has a special reward, "Great is your reward in heaven." And they were found to be in noble company, "for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." THE PARADOX The paradox is plain. How could people that are suffering and persecuted be happy or "Blessed"? Why would God allow His own to suffer for "righteousness" sake? THE PARADOX EXPLAINED The paradox is explained by the present blessing: "theirs is the kingdom of heaven". This kingdom does not belong to the persecutor. Treasures are found here that supercedes all the kingdoms that this world has to offer. A kingdom where peace and righteousness dwell as well as personal fellowship with the King. It is the kingdom of "Heaven" because it is an extension of heaven itself. It is the kingdom of "God" because God is the author of it. It is the kingdom of our "Lord", because Christ is the King. We presently live in the longest running era of Christian liberties since the days of the apostles. Most of history is marked with the endeavors of principalities and powers, and rulers of darkness, attempting to suppress and extirpate Christ's followers. During this holiday season, what better reason do we have to bow the knee and lift up holy hands with "Thanksgiving" from the heart to God for this liberty that we now enjoy. Come and worship with us at Harmony Primitive Baptist Church, at Donaldson, where God is sovereign, and salvation is by His abundant and amazing grace. Services begin at 10:30 each Sunday morning. By His mercy and grace, Neil Phelan, Jr., Pastor