“Blessed are those who are persecuted because 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.” – Matthew 5:10-12
What a mouthful. I find it interesting that this passage is both romanticized and avoided at the
same time. I mean, we definitely romanticize this as an idea… “blessed are you when you get
persecuted, because you have been found worthy of the Gospel. How amazing. It’s such a great honor!”
But how many people do you know that are really, truly being persecuted for living such a bold lifestyle,
proclaiming the Gospel, putting Jesus on display, living in true righteousness? We don’t. We see people
being picked on for being Christian, but what does it mean to be persecuted for righteousness?
When things get truly hard, do we lose faith, or are we encouraged and excited about it?
Matthew 5:12 says to rejoice and be glad! Too often we, as Christians, don’t count the cost for living out
a lifestyle of righteousness. We think about and imagine the cost for being a Christian, but rarely do we
truly live righteousness out. Like I said, it’s romanticized but not lived. What is the difference between
being a Christian and living righteously? Well, I would say being a Christian looks like going to church on
Sundays, maybe letting people know you pray and are available to pray for them, being kind to people,
being a good person, etc. When we say we are Christians, we typically describe that by explaining all
things that are done person to person. But living righteously, I believe, means walking as Jesus walked
(see 1 John 2:6). It isn’t enough to claim a belief system. There must be action inside you. Also, there must be JOY. Joy isn’t easily come by. You can’t simply desire to be more joyful, and
poof! You are… Psalm 16:11 tells us joy is a gift from God, and it comes from abiding in His Presence. Joy
is a product from living in close proximity to God, not in theory, but in absolute reality. Psalm 30:11 says,
“You turned my wailing into dancing, you removed my sackcloth and clothed me in joy.” See? It’s Him.
He gives us joy. We don’t just choose joy. We actually choose to be close to Him. His presence nearest
us produces something in us. This will result in JOY, obviously, but it will also produce sparks from within
us that will consume what is around us. We will bear fruit, and that fruit will be righteousness. We will
reflect His Righteousness! We won’t just be peaceful or kind. We will begin to look and act like God on
the earth, to the people around us. When we do this, persecution will definitely come, and you won’t
like it very much, but then you will know that returning to God’s presence will fill you with joy and
gladness. No one enjoys persecution. But His presence heals our hurts, as well as taking away our habits. The problem is too often, we Christians in the West try to make a shortcut. Instead of removing
things that aren’t of God and getting close to Him (hopefully you are aware the closer you are to God,
the more He burns out of you and off of you), we try to simply act like Him, or even worse we try to add
Him to our lives in a way that benefits us. Christians that live in parts of the world that suffer true
persecution count the cost for following Jesus, daily. They consider Christ to be worthy of any and every
price. To know Him, to spend time in His presence, and to read His words are literally everything. The
cost doesn’t come close to the reward. It isn’t romantic to them to suffer. His presence is romantic.
There is nothing better, to them, than looking into the eyes of their Beloved. But here in the West, Christians too often see Jesus as a benefit, or bonus, and not as a cost. Here, we tend to see Jesus as an add-on that upgrades our lives. And, of course, if the upgrades don’t come soon enough, or aren’t beneficial enough, too many people just walk away, or even worse blame Him or create doctrine around how He doesn’t always do what we ask… as if God ever says “no”, or “not right now.” We serve and love a God who first loves us, and He desires to have intimate relationships
with each and everyone of us. I am my beloved’s and He is mine. Is there anything more beautiful?
So let me ask you two questions:
1- How much has Jesus cost you? Maybe you’ve paid a heavy price for following Jesus and living
righteously. Maybe is been mostly about you and your benefits. Maybe your relationship with God is
more about you than it is about Him… Today is a good day to change that.
2-Are you filled with Joy in the midst of the heavy price of following Him? The best way to get
Joy is to get close to Him. As you can see, the remedy for a lack of joy is the same as changing your
relationship from a selfish one to all about God.
If you are anything like me, this has been an enlightening blog. I hope it has touched your heart,
and that it has given you fresh perspective. It’s time to count the cost, to see the beauty of His love, and
to invite His presence to dwell powerfully within us. Bless you…
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