Matthew tells us in his Gospel that Jesus began his ministry by preaching the message, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Jesus was calling people to turn from their sin and rebellion and surrender their lives to God.
After some obeyed his call, he went up on a mountain and preached the Sermon on the Mount to some of his closest followers. Now that they had become members of the kingdom of heaven and children of the King, he needed to explain to them what life as a kingdom member and child of the King should look like. Basically, the Sermon on the Mount describes what the Christian life should look like.
The Beatitudes, the first part of the sermon, are sometimes misunderstood to describe different people, some who are meek, some who are merciful, some who are peacemakers, etc. But actually, the Beatitudes are properly understood as a set of characteristics that every Christian should manifest. It is the manifestation of these characteristics that is the evidence that a person is a member of the kingdom of heaven and a child of the King. The manifestation of these characteristics is the evidence that a person is a Christian.
One of the characteristics mentioned by Jesus is being persecuted for his sake.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
― Matthew 5:10–12 ESV
Notice that it is not only being persecuted for Jesus’ sake, but also rejoicing and being glad in the midst of that persecution that characterizes the Christian. Jesus was persecuted, and although he did not enjoy the persecution, he rejoiced and was glad because he knew that the Father had a purpose for his persecution.
A Christian is a person who God has supernaturally recreated (Ephesians 2:10) and placed the Spirit of Jesus within them (Romans 8:9), and now through that Spirit inside them Jesus continues to live his life out through them (Galatians 2:20). So, if the life Jesus lived out in his own body resulted in persecution, then the life he lives through the Christian will also lead to persecution. We see this truth in Scripture. The four Gospels describe the ministry of Jesus before his ascension (return to heaven) and the book of Acts describes the continued ministry of Jesus (through his followers) after his ascension. In the Gospels we see the ministry of Jesus leading to his own persecution and death. And in the book of Acts we see the ministry of Jesus through his followers leading to their persecution and deaths.
What does this mean for you? If you are a true Christian and not just a person that wears the title, if you a person who God has supernaturally recreated and placed the Spirit of Jesus within, if through the Spirit inside you Jesus is continuing to live his life out through you, then you will be persecuted. The life Jesus lives always leads to persecution, including the life he lives out through his followers. Jesus said:
“Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you…”
— John 15:20
So, if you never experience persecution, you might want to take a moment to examine your life to see if it resembles the life of Jesus, or if it really only resembles the life of a 21st-century American churchgoer.
If your life doesn’t resemble the life of Jesus as seen in the Gospels and through his followers in the book of Acts, then it’s possible that you have been seriously mistaken, and God has not supernaturally recreated you and placed the Spirit of Jesus within you.
And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.
― Romans 8:9 NLT
If this is the case, please call out to him today and “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).
“If a Christian is not having tribulation in the world, there’s something wrong!”
― Leonard Ravenhill