“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me” (Matt. 5:10-11).

The persecution you receive for proclaiming Christ is really aimed at Christ Himself.

Savonarola has been called the Burning Beacon of the Reformation. His sermons denouncing the sin and corruption of the Roman Catholic Church of his day helped pave the way for the Protestant Reformation. Many who heard his powerful sermons went away half-dazed, bewildered, and speechless. Often sobs of repentance resounded throughout the entire congregation as the Spirit of God moved in their hearts. However, some who heard him couldn’t tolerate the truth and eventually had him burned at the stake.

Jesus said, “‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Sinful people will not tolerate a righteous standard. Prior to Christ’s birth, the world had never seen a perfect man. The more people observed Christ, the more their own sinfulness stood out in stark contrast. That led some to persecute and finally kill Him, apparently thinking that by eliminating the standard they wouldn’t have to keep it.

Psalm 35:19 prophesies that people would hate Christ without just cause. That is true of Christians as well. People don’t necessarily hate us personally but resent the holy standard we represent. They hate Christ, but He isn’t here to receive their hatred, so they lash out at His people. For Savonarola that meant death. For you it might mean social alienation or other forms of persecution.

Whatever comes your way, remember that your present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory you will one day experience (Rom. 8:18). Therefore, “to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing” (1 Pet. 4:13).

Suggestions for Prayer

  • When you suffer for Christ’s sake, thank Him for that privilege, recalling how much He suffered for you.

For Further Study

  • Before his conversion, the apostle Paul (otherwise known as Saul) violently persecuted Christians, thinking he was doing God a favor. Read Acts 8:1-3, 9:1-31, and 1 Timothy 1:12-17, noting Paul’s transformation from persecutor to preacher.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9).

True peace exists only where truth reigns.

People often define peace as the absence of conflict, but God sees it differently. The absence of conflict is merely a truce, which might end overt hostilities but doesn’t resolve the underlying issues. A truce simply introduces a cold war, which often drives the conflict underground, where it smolders until erupting in physical or emotional disaster.

James 3:17 says, “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable.” Godly wisdom, purity, and peace go hand- in-hand. Peace is wisdom in action and is never established at the expense of righteousness. It brings righteousness to bear on the situation, seeking to eliminate the source of conflict and create right relationships. Feuding parties will know true peace only when they are willing to admit that their bitterness and hatred is wrong and humbly seek God’s grace to make things right.

Some people equate peacemaking with evading issues, but true peace can be very confrontive. In Matthew 10:34 Jesus says, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” That may seem to contradict Matthew 5:9, but it doesn’t: Jesus knew that sinful people have to be confronted with the truth before they can experience peace. That can be a painful and difficult process because people usually have a hostile reaction to the gospel before they finally embrace it. Even believers will sometimes react negatively when confronted with God’s truth.

Being a biblical peacemaker has its price. You can expect to upset unbelievers who openly oppose God’s Word as well as believers who compromise its truth for the sake of maintaining “peace” among people of differing doctrinal persuasions. Some will call you narrow-minded and divisive for dealing with controversial issues. Some will misunderstand your motives or even attack you personally. But that’s been the path of every true peacemaker— including our Lord Himself. Take heart and be faithful. Your efforts to bring peace show that you are a child of God.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God for the boldness never to compromise His truth.
  • Pray for those you know who are suffering for the sake of the gospel.

For Further Study

  • Read Luke 12:51-53, noting how the gospel can bring division even among families.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matt. 5:7).

There are many ways to show mercy.

God delights in mercy, and as a believer you have the privilege of showing mercy in many ways. In the physical realm you can give money to the poor, food to the hungry, or a bed to the homeless. God has always wanted His people to be that way. Deuteronomy 15 says, “If there is a poor man with you . . . you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from [him]; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks” (vv. 7-8). Verses 12-14 instruct Israelites who release a slave to provide for the slave’s needs. That was the merciful thing to do.

In the spiritual realm you can show mercy by pitying the lost. St. Augustine said, “If I weep for that body from which the soul is departed, how should I weep for that soul from which God is departed?” (cited by Thomas Watson in The Beatitudes, p. 144). We mourn over the dead but do we mourn as much for lost souls? When Stephen was being stoned, he pitied his wretched murderers, asking God to forgive them (Acts 7:60). Jesus did the same (Luke 23:34). That should be our attitude as well.

Another way of showing mercy is to rebuke sin. Second Timothy 2:24-25 says, “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all . . . with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth.” It is merciful and loving to rebuke sinners because it gives them a chance to repent and be forgiven.

Prayer is also an act of mercy, as is preaching the gospel. In fact, sharing Christ with someone is the most merciful thing you can do!

There are many more ways to be merciful, but I hope these will stimulate your thinking and encourage you to discover as many ways as possible to pass on the abundant mercy God has shown to you.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the mercies you have received from others.
  • Take advantage of every opportunity to minister to others.

For Further Study

  • Determine who receives mercy according to the following verses: Matthew 6:14; Titus 3:5-6; Hebrews 4:14-16; James 2:13; and 1 Peter 2:9-10.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5).

Gentleness is power under control.

The Greek word translated “gentle” in Matthew 5:5 speaks of humility, meekness, and non-retaliation—traits that in our proud society are often equated with weakness or cowardice. But in reality they are virtues that identify kingdom citizens.

The same word was used by the Greeks to describe a gentle breeze, a soothing medicine, or a domesticated colt. Those are examples of power under control: a gentle breeze brings pleasure, but a hurricane brings destruction; a soothing medicine brings healing, but an overdose can kill; a domesticated colt is useful, but a wild horse is dangerous.

Christ Himself is the epitome of gentleness. Even when officially announcing His messiahship to Jerusalem, He humbly entered the city astride a donkey (Matt. 21:5). His behavior amid persecution was exemplary: “Christ . . . suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats” (1 Pet. 2:21-23).

Despite His humility and restraint, Jesus wasn’t weak or cowardly. He never defended Himself, but when His Father’s house was being desecrated, He made a whip and beat those who were defiling it (John 2:13-16; Matt. 21:12-13). He never shirked from pronouncing judgment on unrepentant sinners, and never compromised His integrity or disobeyed His Father’s will.

The hypocritical Jewish religious leaders expected that when Israel’s Messiah came He would commend them for their wonderful spirituality. Instead, Jesus condemned them and called them children of the devil (John 8:44). In retaliation they had Him murdered. His power was always under control; theirs wasn’t.

Our society has little use for gentleness. The macho, do-your-own-thing mentality characterizes most of our heroes. But you are called to a higher standard. When you pattern your life after Jesus, you will have a significant impact on society and will know true happiness.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the virtue of gentleness, which He is producing in you by the power of His Spirit. Follow Christ’s example today so that gentleness will mark your character.

For Further Study

  • Read the following passages, noting the responsibilities and blessings that accompany self-restraint: Proverbs 16:32, Ephesians 4:1-2, Colossians 3:12, and Titus 3:1-2.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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