Christian persecution is a reality today just like it was in the time of Jesus and the first disciples. Because of the wickedness of man’s heart they suppress the truth by trying to suppress the truth bearers. However, despite the tactics of governments, false religions, and god-haters the gospel is still thriving around the world- even in the most dangerous of places. This sermon is intended to give voice to the suffering and hope for the oppressed. May we all be willing to live for Jesus in such a way that even death itself cannot hinder our faith.
Matthew 5:1-10, “1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them. He said: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
- Disciples: Committed learners and students of Jesus Christ.
- Sermon on the Mount: The longest single portion of Jesus’ teaching found in Matthew 5-7 that serves as the foundation of Christian morality and spiritual practice.
- Beatitudes: From the Latin word, “beatitudo,” means, “the blissful, happy, and blessed sayings of Jesus.”
- Blessed: From “beatus” in Latin, means “to be spiritually happy and successful because of God’s favor upon one’s life.” Also, the term “blessed” has to do with God’s divine approval of one’s life resulting in His favor, Numbers 6:24-26.
- Kingdom of Heaven: The active rule and reign of Jesus in one’s life and upon the earth with kingdom blessings, v. 3 & v. 10. Notice that Jesus teaches the kingdom of heaven is currently given to the disciple, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” not, “for they will have the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 5:10, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
PERSECUTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS
- DEFINITION: To both be verbally/physically attacked or discriminated against because of one’s biblical beliefs and actions.
- FIRST DISCIPLES: Stephen was stoned to death. James, John’s brother was beheaded. Philip was crucified. Matthew was beaten to death. James, Jesus’ brother, was stoned to death. Matthias was beheaded. Andrew was crucified. Mark beaten to death. Peter was crucified upside-down. Paul was beheaded. Jude was crucified. Bartholomew crucified. Thomas was speared to death. Luke was hung on a tree. Simon was crucified. Timothy was stoned to death. Source.
- CHURCH HISTORY: For the first 300 years after Jesus Christians were martyred by the tens of thousands by the Roman Empire. Please note the following three stories from Foxe’s book of Martyrs: (1) “Peter, a young man, amiable for the superior qualities of his body and mind, was beheaded for refusing to sacrifice to Venus. He said, “I am astonished you should sacrifice to an infamous woman, whose debaucheries even your own historians record, and whose life consisted of such actions as your laws would punish. No, I shall offer the true God the acceptable sacrifice of praises and prayers.” Optimus, the proconsul of Asia, on hearing this, ordered the prisoner to be stretched upon a wheel, by which all his bones were broken, and then he was sent to be beheaded.” (2) “Agatha, a Sicilian lady, was not more remarkable for her personal and acquired endowments, than her piety; her beauty was such, that Quintian, governor of Sicily, became enamored of her, and made many attempts upon her chastity without success. In order to gratify his passions with the greater conveniency, he put the virtuous lady into the hands of Aphrodica, a very infamous and licentious woman. This wretch tried every artifice to win her to the desired prostitution; but found all her efforts were vain; for her chastity was impregnable, and she well knew that virtue alone could procure true happiness. Aphrodica acquainted Quintian with the inefficacy of her endeavors, who, enaged to be foiled in his designs, changed his lust into resentment. On her confessing that she was a Christian, he determined to gratify his revenge, as he could not his passion. Pursuant to his orders, she was scourged, burnt with red-hot irons, and torn with sharp hooks. Having borne these torments with admirable fortitude, she was next laid naked upon live coals, intermingled with glass, and then being carried back to prison, she there expired on February 5, 251.” (3) “Trypho and Respicius, two eminent men, were seized as Christians, and imprisoned at Nice. Their feet were pierced with nails; they were dragged through the streets, scourged, torn with iron hooks, scorched with lighted torches, and at length beheaded.” (4) “Julianus, an old man, lame with the gout, and Cronion, another Christian, were bound on the backs of camels, severely scourged, and then thrown into a fire and consumed. Also forty virgins, at Antioch, after being imprisoned, and scourged, were burnt.” (5) “At Utica, a most terrible tragedy was exhibited: three hundred Christians were, by the orders of the proconsul, placed round a burning limekiln. A pan of coals and incense being prepared, they were commanded either to sacrifice to Jupiter, or to be thrown into the kiln. Unanimously refusing, they bravely jumped into the pit, and were immediately suffocated.” Source.
- CURRENTLY PERSECUTED: There are roughly 100 million Christians living in persecuted nations such as China, Nigeria, India, North Korea, Indonesia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia. Source.
- CURRENTLY MARTYRED: Over 170,000 Christians are put to death each year for their faith. Source.
- DIFFERENT KINDS OF PERSECUTION: (1) Verbal Mockery, (2) Public Shaming, (3) Discrimination, (4) Shunning, (5) Loss of property, (6) Imprisonment, (7) Loss of Basic Human Rights, (8) Physical Beatings, (9) Torture, & (10) Death. To read about all these things in one person’s life in Romania during the Communist’s reign consider, “Tortured for Christ” and “In God’s Underground” by Richard Wurmbrand.
- BIBLICAL RESPONSES: (1) Rejoice, Matthew 5:11-12. (2) Pray for Your Enemies, Luke 6:28. (3) Endure it For the Sake of Christ, Hebrews 12:1-3.
- THINGS YOU CAN DO IN THE U.S.: (1) Try to overlook the persecution if you can, (2) Report it to the authorities, & (3) Pray for your persecutors.
- THINGS WE CAN DO FOR OTHER NATIONS: (1) Pray for the persecuted people and their nations, (2) Support the work missionaries and local leaders do in these nations, & (3) Report the persecution to peace keeping people and support those who protect Christians.
ROMAN PERSECUTION: Christians were killed for entertainment by wild animals in arenas. Source.
NIGERIA: Christians burned alive. Source.
IRAQ: Iraqi Christians killed in a suicide bombing by Muslim jihadists. (Warning: Because this link contains actual graphic pictures, I will only give source to those who Facebook message me. Minors sorry, I will only share with adults).
PRAYER CHART: Top 50 nations that need our prayers to stop their persecution of Christians. Source.
INDIA: Video of actual beatings and persecution of Christians in India.
KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
- Those who give theirs lives for the sake of Christ have a special place in heaven under the throne of God, Revelation 6:9-11.
- They overcome the devil! Revelation 12:11, “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”
- Open Door Watch List of Worst Persecuted Nations
- Five Myths About Christian Persecution
- Voice of the Martyrs Prayer Map for Persecuted Nations
“Before entering prison, I loved Christ very much. Now, after having seen the Bride of Christ (His spiritual Body) in prison, I would say that I love the Underground Church almost as much as I love Christ Himself. I have seen her beauty, her spirit of sacrifice,” Richard Wurmbrand, “Tortured for Christ.”