The Beauty of Becoming: Persecuted

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

In Jesus’ Beatitudes we are being trained to reshape our desires, understanding of personal beauty, definition and experience of God’s blessing, and making the kingdom of heaven our top priority.

It is as if Jesus said, “There is a new kingdom in town, I am the King, these are the guidelines of the King for His kingdom, and you are invited into citizenship. Although this glorious kingdom is on earth, it is the kingdom of heaven.  This kingdom has no physical borders, yet one is either in or out the kingdom.  The kingdom has been fully inaugurated but is not yet completely consummated.”

In the first Beatitude the group of folks who are poor in spirit discover “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In the final Beatitudes the group “theirs” becomes the more specific, “yours is the kingdom of heaven.”

What the King offers and demands in the Beatitudes is both for the “theirs” and for you.  The kingdom of heaven includes you, personally.

Jesus both taught and lived, personally, that His kingdom includes crucifixions, being reviled, beatings, whippings, nails, spears, thorns, mocking, and various forms of persecution.

Why would any sane, intellectually sound person sign up for citizenship in this painful kingdom?  We sign up for the kingdom because of love for the King, the joy of the kingdom (both now and forever) and the rewards of kingdom life.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you. 2 Corinthians 4:7-12

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Notice the rewards of kingdom life:

  1. Kingdom life includes the treasure of God’s glory in these jars of clay.
  2. Kingdom life includes “this surpassing power is from God.”
  3. Kingdom life includes “carrying in the body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus might be manifest in our bodies.”
  4. Kingdom life includes “the life of Jesus in our mortal bodies.”
  5. Kingdom life includes “our inner self is being renewed day by day.”
  6. Kingdom life is preparing an “eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”
  7. Kingdom life isn’t based in a temporary body and existence, but in the eternal.

Can you sense the blessing of life in the kingdom of heaven?  WOW!

Virtually every church person states the claim, “I live the beatitudes and the kingdom of heaven is mine.”

Some Bible passages may urge us to personally reevaluate this position.

  1. Jeremiah suggests our heart may or may not be honest with us, in fact the human heart is deceitful. Jeremiah 17:9-10

The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?
10 “I the Lord search the heart
and test the mind,[b]
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds.”

2. The entrance into the kingdom is through a narrow gate and few find it and enter. Matthew 7:13, 14

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

3. Satan believes, deeply in his soul, that you are a fake. Given enough difficulty, you will turn and run from the kingdom, he reasons.  He therefore asks God for permission to sift you like wheat.  Pound on you, cause you great pain, persecute you, all in hopes of showing that your true colors are cowardice, self-preserving, and loving yourself more than God.  Luke 22:31

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you,[d] that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter[e] said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus[f] said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”

In persecution I discover if my heart is deceitfully claiming to be poor in spirit, in mourning, meek, hungry and thirsty for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, and a peacemaker.

In persecution I discover if I am truly finding the narrow gate and participating with the few who have found it.

In persecution Satan seeks to sift me to show once and for all that I am chaff.  In persecution Jesus is praying for me that my faith fail not.

Persecution reveals that I am not chaff, I have found the narrow gate, and have overcome my deceitful heart.

And that is the beauty of becoming!