January 31, 2021 Who Enters the Kingdom? Part 4

Who Enters the Kingdom?

Part Four

January 31, 2021

 

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

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. [1]

 

The Sermon on the Mount is about entering the kingdom. There is a kingdom coming to this earth. The Lord will establish it when he returns. For nearly two thousand years our Lord’s words in this famous sermon have been available to his own people to prepare them for the kingdom. Not all those who belong to Christ will enter the kingdom. I do not refer to salvation from the lake of fire. All those who belong to Christ will not be cast into the lake of fire because their names have been written in the Book of Life. Only those who both belong to Christ and overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil will inherit the kingdom. Those who fail to overcome will be excluded from the kingdom and will be in outer darkness until the kingdom age has been completed.

 

This blessed sermon of our Lord was given so that the Lord’s own people would prepare themselves for the kingdom. Yet, it is both a sad and alarming fact that many of the Lord’s own are not taking his words to heart. Brothers and sisters, we must build our lives upon the teachings of our Lord. If we fail to do this then the rains will come and our foundation will be washed away. If our foundation washes away, then we will be washed away with it!

 

Who will enter the kingdom of heaven? Jesus said that those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake will possess the kingdom. To possess the kingdom and to enter the kingdom mean the same thing because our Lord uses these expressions interchangeably (see verse 20). Those who are persecuted will enter the kingdom.

 

Persecution ought to be the usual experience of those who follow Christ. It ought to be, but it is not. We will see why that is so.

 

It was the experience of the apostle Paul.

 

8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;[2]

The “we” there is both Paul and Timothy (2 Cor 1:1). Paul and Timothy were afflicted in every way. The reason they were afflicted is not because they were so good at their jobs. Paul was a tent-maker. Knowing Paul’s character, his workmanship was probably excellent. But he wasn’t afflicted because he was a good tent-maker. He and Timothy were afflicted and persecuted because of their speaking two things: they were proclaiming Jesus as Lord (4:5, 13) and they were exposing unclean things (6:17; 7:1).

 

When we proclaim these two things – Jesus as Lord and righteousness – then we will be afflicted and persecuted. Consider John the Baptist. He was arrested, and eventually beheaded, for boldly speaking the truth and calling out sin. Street preachers and campus preachers today are still being arrested for this same reason. John Bunyan, the blessed author of Pilgrim’s Progress, was arrested and imprisoned for 14 years for this same reason. Watchman Nee was arrested for this reason and died in prison after being there for 20 years. There is a price to be paid when you are bold for the truth. How few are willing to be bold and call out sin! We need to be willing to go to jail, lose our jobs, get passed over for promotion, and suffer ridicule for proclaiming the truth. We only get in trouble when we proclaim sin and its consequences.

 

The natural inclination when we are afflicted or persecuted is to become despondent. We have a desire to be accepted and, when we are not, our emotional condition is not satisfactory. But the Lord does not leave us to our own emotions. The verse right before Paul’s revelation of his and Timothy’s affliction, he writes:

 

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.[3]

 

We are the jars of clay. You know that jars of clay are fragile, right? If you drop one it will surely break. That is the way we are. Our bodies are fragile and so are our emotions. But in these jars of clay is a treasure! This treasure is the Triune God! God is the treasure that is within every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ! Because we have this treasure within us, we have a surpassing power that will overcome every affliction and every persecution!

 

Why do some Christians suffer persecution and some do not? It is because some Christians speak about their faith and some do not. If you keep your faith to yourself, then you will not be bothered by people. But we are not here not to be bothered. We are here to be bothered and to bother others.

 

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. [4]

 

You see, to follow Jesus is not like taking up a hobby. To follow Jesus is making a radical commitment to live for him and die for him. It is all or nothing! Jesus demands our complete allegiance! This allegiance includes speaking up for him and the righteousness of his kingdom. It is when you begin to speak that you will begin to experience persecution.

 

This is the normal Christian life. The apostle Paul, after writing about his persecution, adds:

 

13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak,[5]

 

Paul is saying that speaking is the outflow of genuine faith.

 

I will never forget the first year that I was a Christian. I was 20 years old and in the service. The Lord saved me from my sins and I was so thrilled to have a new life with new faith that I spoke to my fellow airmen very often about the Lord. “I believed, and so I spoke!” About 18 airmen made professions of faith and were baptized that first year or year and a half that I was a babe in Christ. I didn’t know 2 Corinthians 4:13 back then, but I lived it! To speak is the outflow of the spirit of faith.

 

Every Christian has this spirit of faith. Some may suppress it because of their timidity. Some may lack faith, that is, they had genuine faith when they first came to the Lord, but they are not fully trusting in the Lord’s words now.

 

It is essential that we speak on behalf of the Lord. Not only do we have the spirit of faith that issues in speaking, but without speaking we will have little or no persecution. And without persecution we are not certain we will possess the kingdom.

 

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. [6]

 

Consider the divine motivations that the Lord has granted to us in order to stimulate us to speak on his behalf. He has put a treasure with us, the jars of clay, and this treasure has within it a surpassing power. This surpassing power enables us to receive whatever affliction or persecution comes our way. We have the spirit of faith which compels us to speak the truth. It is only when we quench the spirit of faith due to our timidity that we fail to speak.

 

On the Mount, our Lord gives us another incentive to be bold for him.

 

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. [7]

 

He holds out a reward for those who experience the lies of opposers. When people speak evil about us we can actually rejoice! Why? Because our reward will be great!

 

Rewards, and our seeking for them in the next age, are a good thing. Just as some Christians try to be nicer than God in their toleration of sin, others try to be holier than Jesus in rejecting rewards, as if it were something beneath them. Yet, Jesus Himself sought rewards.

 

let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. [8]

 

Even Keith Green fell into this trap. In an otherwise wonderful song, he sings:

“I want to take your word and shine it all around.
But first help me to just, live it Lord.
And when I'm doing well, help me to never seek a crown.
For my reward is giving glory to you.”[9]

 

We are commanded to seek crowns and rewards many times throughout the New Testament. Jesus and Paul are wiser than Keith Green.

 

Are you experiencing persecution because of your faith? Have you ever experienced persecution for your faith? If your answer is no then it may be because you are neither proclaiming Jesus nor righteousness.

 

But this is the normal Christian life! How can you speak up? The three truths we saw this morning will help you to speak:

 

  • The spirit of faith that you have (if you belong to Jesus) is a spirit that speaks. Paul affirmed this and we see it in each person in the Bible who possessed genuine faith. Heed your spirit. Walk in the spirit and you will be stirred up to speak!
  • This spirit, your human spirit, has a treasure within it. This treasure is nothing less than the Triune God in us, the jars of clay! This treasure brings with it a surpassing power that enables you to deal with any persecution that may come your way. Rely on this wonderful, surpassing power!
  • The Lord Jesus promised you rewards if you will speak for him. Let these rewards motivate you to do what you have been called to do. It is a good thing to seek the rewards that the Lord has promised! Your seeking of them testifies that you believe the promises of our Lord. And your belief, your faith, is pleasing to the Father.

 

Oh! These are three great and precious promises! The only thing left for you to do is get back on the path of faithfulness, that is, commit to be bold for Jesus. “I believe, therefore I speak.” Can you say these words? If you believe, you can! Say them every morning. Then see what the Spirit does.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 5:10–12). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 4:8–9). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 4:7). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 10:34–39). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 4:13). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 5:10). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 5:11–12). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Heb 12:1–2). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[9] “Oh Lord, Your Beautiful” from the album, So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt.