Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and say all kinds of things 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.
In the previous study we looked at the characteristic of righteousness. There are those who would bind you in chains of rules and regulations in order to demonstrate righteousness in your life. They would fill you with fear of wrath and judgement in order to make you fit in with their idea of who and what god is and how he reveals himself in scripture.
Brothers and sisters, this is NOT the righteousness of the gospel and is as filthy rags when we come before the Lord on the day of judgement. This is not salvation and we will need to cover our faces with shame when we are called to stand before our Lord.
The only righteousness that is acceptable before our Lord, is the righteousness of Jesus which covers us who are in Him, having accepted his wonderful work of salvation on the cross.
When we are ‘born again’ and then walk closely with our Lord, this will make a difference in our lives! Just think how children learn to speak. It takes time before they speak fluently, and you will still not hear mature language from them even after 5 or 6 years. But do they learn how to speak by first being taught what they must and must not do with their voices? Are they taught about all the sounds and the rules. Can the 4-year-old explain grammar, the nouns, pronouns, and subjunctive clauses of his language to you? Of course not! That is a nonsense! We all know that by normal familial life and friendship with peers every child will succeed in learning to talk.
In the same way, as a young person in Christ continues to walk closely with the Lord, in the family of the Father, and as that person enjoys fellowship with the brethren of those who truly love and accept the true gospel of our Lord Jesus, then you will see the developing of all the characteristics spoken of in these beatitudes, including a walk through life that can be described as righteousness.
It does not happen overnight, and neither does it happen by following a set of rules. It will not happen by making promises (in fact that just adds to the number of things that we can fail at, and the failures then rob us of joy in our lives). It happens in the same way that tiny children learn to talk. It is the nature of the true new life in Christ and should be nurtured with love and with care.
This verse above is different from the other beatitudes, and not because it is 2 verses and not only one (in fact the verse numbers did not even exist in the original text, being added later for the sake of helping to identify and reference portions of scripture). In all the other beatitudes the promise part of the verses revealed things that become available to you in this life, here and now. This is the only one of the beatitudes pointing us to future blessing. But note that it is in the present tense: great is your reward in heaven, and NOT great will be your reward. We will return to this later.
The first part is the characteristic. This is the part that we expect to be growing in the lives of all true believers who accepted the saving grace bought for us by the Lord Jesus, and who live their lives wishing to become closer to Him and pleasing to Him. And something that will happen for sure is that we will be insulted, have all kinds of things said against us, and be persecuted, because of Jesus.
Why because of Jesus?
Let me describe it this way… Have you even had a conversation with a friend who recently fell in love? Have you noticed how the object of their love begins to fill the words and thoughts of that person? They almost can’t go for more than a few minutes without mentioning that other person, what they did together and what they plan to do together in the future. You almost become tired to hear about that other person.
In a similar way, those who are saved by grace and love Jesus will find that their conversation is filled with thoughts about Him, and the wonderful things that happen in their lives as a result of being believers who have met with Jesus and who experience the results of His saving work in their lives every day. Even more so when filled with the Holy Spirit, who enables us to live and walk powerful lives, as Jesus did. Because as it says in the New Testament, as He was, so are we in this world (1 John 4:17).
Walking and living as Jesus did, we can expect the same kind of treatment from others that Jesus received.
There were those who wanted Jesus and His followers enslaved in legalism as they themselves were – but the scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees could not lead people to salvation or free them from their sins.
When people were being released from demonic bondage, sicknesses, and even death – to their great joy and the joy of their friends and families, Jesus was being accused of ‘breaking the law’ or of doing this by the devil. The hardness of people’s hearts that could not rejoice in healing and freedom from demons, but instead sought to bring down the healer and deliverer!
And these same things that Jesus was doing in His ministry, these things can and will happen through our lives also. In fact Jesus told His followers that they would do ‘greater than these things, because I go to the Father’ (John 14:12). So expect not only all those characteristics of personality to develop in you, but also that you will naturally speak with others and tell them about Jesus, and teach about Him. You will have compassion for the lost, the sick, and the demon bound. You will have the power available from heaven to face and overcome these things, yes even miraculously.
And there will still be those who say you do this from the devil, or that you do not follow this scripture or that scripture… Their hearts will be hardened against you and they will seek to destroy the good work that the Lord started in you.
But now that we have been adopted into a new family, we also have a new home. That home is no longer of this world. As we work to the benefit of building this kingdom that we have become a part of, so we will also receive.
A worker on this earth working hard for his employers will receive reward on this earth from those employers. So it is for us, who work for the Kingdom of God, we have our wages… And the Lord is not a stingy master who would begrudge, as some do here on earth, even paying the national minimum wage.
The minimum in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than riches on the earth!
But the fact is that, as we grow in our Christian lives, we are more like the children in the earthly family who want to help in the home, who copy and do the things that they see their mothers and fathers doing. It is not a matter of working for wages, but of the natural loving instinct of wanting to be like mum and like dad. And like the loving parent He is, he careful teaches us to become skilled. Praise God!