Welcome to Calvary Albuquerque.
We pursue the God who is passionately pursuing a lost world. We do this with one another through worship, by the Word, to the world.
Lord God, we become before you this evening excited and filled with anticipation for what you're going to share with us. God we pray that you would open up our hearts and our minds, that as we hear your word and receive your Word, God, that you would speak into our hearts and into the recesses of our lives.
God, I pray that you will help us to take a long, hard look at who we are, who we are at our core, God, what your desire, what your will is for our lives, to go deeper, to climb higher, to do something bigger than what we've yet to see. And so God I pray you would use this time to speak wondrous truths into our lives.
And Lord we pray for Pastor Skip. We just pray that you hand would be upon him. We pray that you will take away whatever stomach flu, whatever thing is going on within his body Lori petty your hand would be upon him and that this weekend he'll come with a renewed fire in his bones, a renewed vigor to preach the Word. In your name we pray, amen.
Turn in your bibles to Matthew chapter five. We're going to be verses 3 through 12 tonight for a message that I've titled "Standing up in a fallen world." I don't think it would be any stretch to say that we live in a fallen world. Could you guys agree with that? We live in a very fallen world.
It seems like every year the boundaries get pushed a little bit further. The crimes become a bit more shocking. The headlines become more depressing. And the moral line becomes a little bit more blurred.
All you have to do is take a look at this year's news headlines. I did a little search today of the most popular news headlines of 2015 so far, and here's the top headlines. Glamour magazine name's Bruce Jenner Woman of the Year.
Talk about a wide category. 57% of the population could have that award and they took away the one qualification, which is an XX chromosome, they took that away and they give it to someone else talk about moral relativism.
Another headline this year. Hacked data from Ashley Madison cheating site is released. Bill Cosby pays women to keep affairs secret. And Obama says gay marriage ruling is a victory for America.
We live in interesting times as our culture. We live in an interesting period within history, a period in which we can truly see the depravity of man. We realize we live in a fallen and corrupt world, and we can recognize with certainty that Christ is coming soon. We can realize that we are in this time period of which the Bible speaks.
Let me tell you something. It's only going to get worse. I know that there should be some hopeful message like it's really going to get better. If we push through it, things are going to get better. But the reality is that we know the ending and we know that things are going to get worse.
Romans 3:10 through 18 continues to mark humanity in what it says, that "No one is righteous, not even one. No one is wise. no one is seeking God. All have turned away all have become useless. No one does good. Not a single one.
Their talk is foul like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are filled with lies. Snake venom drips from their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. They rush to commit murder. Destruction and misery always follow them. They don't know where to find peace. They have no fear of God at all."
What an accurate description of this day and age. I read an article online. It was titled, "Young Adults Struggle with Morality," and it said this. A nationwide survey by the Barna Group indicates that Americans have redefined what it means to do the right thing in their own lives. Americans have redefined morality. We have redefined what's OK to do and what is not OK to do.
The article continues to say researchers asked adults which, if any, of eight behaviors with moral overtones they engaged in during the past week. The behaviors included exposure to pornography, using profanity in public, gambling, gossiping, engaging in sexual intercourse with someone to whom they were not married, retaliating against someone, getting drunk, and lying.
And a majority of adults had engaged in at least one of those eight behaviors during the past week. And here are some of the findings from their poll. 65% admitted to using profanity in public. 38% had engaged in sex outside of marriage. 37% had lied. 33% had admitted to intentional exposure to pornography. And 25% had gotten drunk.
The article continued to say that these results reflect a shift in American life. "We're witnessing the development and acceptance of a new moral code within America." And It said that Mosaics have had little exposure to traditional moral teaching and limited accountability for behavior.
The moral code began to disintegrate when the generation before them, the Baby Busters push the limits that had been challenged by their parents, the Baby Boomers. The result is that without much fanfare or visible leadership, the US has created a moral system based on convenience, feelings, and selfishness.
The consistent deterioration of the Bible as the source of moral truth has led to a nation where people have become independent judges over right and wrong, basing their choices, basing their feelings on circumstances.
And the article said this, and this really struck home, "It is not likely that America will return to a more traditional moral code until the nation experiences significant pain from its moral choices."
Talk about a biblical prophecy becoming a modern reality. You know what that significant pain will be? A significant pain will be judgment, the final judgment where God will no longer tolerate sin, and He will destroy the Earth not by water but by fire. That is the pain to which we are going to explain it's as a nation that will bring us to our knees.
And I got to tell you something, I believe that we're already in it. The Bible, talking about judgment, always says that the first part of the judgment of God is when God gives them over to the desires of their heart. When God gives them over to those desires, we're already in the judgment.
And based on that article, based on the reality of where we are as a culture, I think it would be safe to say that we as a culture have been given over to the desires of our heart. All you have to do is look at the shift in the fact that the overarching majority of the nation ratifies and agrees with sin rather than righteousness.
There's no doubt that we live in a fallen world, but my question is how do we stand up? Because I think there's two responses to living in a fallen world. You can either say, oh my gosh, the world so broken. It's so fallen. Everything's bad. I'm just going to sit in my house and be a pacifist and read the Bible and wear my What Would Jesus Do bracelet and pretend like everything's OK until Jesus Christ comes and burns it all, and then I'll go to heaven.
That's one reaction. I don't think it's the right one. The other reaction is to stand up in a fallen world. Say. You know what? The world is fallen, but I'm going to make sure that I can bring as many people as I can with me to heaven before the world ends. I'm going to bring as many people as I can into a relationship with Christ before Christ comes back and judges the world.
I'm not going to be a passive Christian sitting in the backseat saying, oh my goodness, I can't believe we're going this direction. Instead, I'm going to be an active Christian. I'm going to be a part of my faith. I'm going to do what Christ called me to do. And I will stand up in a fallen world. And I will see that to the best of my ability those around me are going to go to heaven with me.
And that is the appropriate response.
And so tonight we're going to look at how we as Christians can stand up in a fallen world. Tonight we're going to look at the final beattitude in the Sermon on the Mount. That beattitude ends with this, "Happy are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake." Before we look at that beattitude, I want to show you a clear progression through the beattitudes. The beattitudes, to me, are one of the finest concise sermons that has ever been preached in the entire world.
Obviously was preached by Jesus Himself, so it's got to be good. But within the Sermon on the Mount you have this power-pack section that we call the beattitudes. It's a simple 12 verses, and yet these verses reveal such truth with into our lives.
As we see this progression starts with, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." This is the point of entry into the Sermon on the Mount. This is where personal happiness is found, in seeing myself is I really am. Sinful, in need of God's help. Poor in spirit.
Which leads me to the next one, "Blessed are they that mourn," or as we've said before, "How happy are the unhappy." And that is to say seeing ourselves as we really are, poor in spirit, we mourn over our condition to make the necessary changes. Godly sorrow leads to repentance that we need in order live righteous lives.
That continues on to "Blessed are the meek." After I've seen myself in a new light, I begin to respond differently to who I am. This is not weakness. But rather meekness is power under constraint. No longer demanding my rights, but thinking of the needs of others. Meekness.
Continues on and says, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness." As I've gone through this process, I have new priorities in my life. I have a hunger and thirst to know and to live for God, not to live for the world.
And that leads to, "Blessed are the merciful." As I no longer have the holier-than-thou attitude, I develop a new sense of God's mercy as I have been so richly blessed and given the grace that Christ has given to me.
The beattitudes is a progression. One leads to the next. And those beattitudes lead us to this verse there will be looking at this evening, bringing us to this wonderful beattitude. Look at verse eight of Matthew chapter five. Verse eight says, "Happy are the pure in heart."
Now this, too, of course, is the result of what has happened earlier. As we as Christians mourn over our condition, as we realize the reality of sin, the depravity of sin, as we realize the impurity of our heart and repent, we recognize that the heart is deceitful above all things. Desperately wicked. Who can know it? We cry out like David, "Create in me a clean heart, oh God."
You know this is a really important aspect within the Christian life, within life in general. This is what separates those who know of God and those who know God. It's one thing to know of God. It's one thing to realize that, yeah, the Bible's true. Yeah, there is a Jesus. Yeah, there is a God. Yeah, there is a heaven and hell. That's knowing of God.
But to know God takes it to a deeper level where it becomes a personal desire to create in me a clean heart. And this is an important distinction, because the heart is incredibly important within scripture because the heart is the center of our personality. The heart is the center a bar will. It's the center our emotions. It includes our thinking process. In Proverbs were told, "As a man thinks in his heart, so he is."
Let me begin by asking a question tonight. If the heart is who you are, who are you? Ask yourself that right now. Who are you? Not my name is so and so and I have this job and I live in this Zip code and I'm married to this person. But really, who are you? Deep inside, in your heart, who are you?
Not who do your friends think you are, not who do you want to be, but tonight, here and now, who are you at your core? How can you find out who you are? Well, what do you think about? It's a good indication.
What do you do when no one's looking? What do you want? What do you desire? Here's a really revealing question. If there were no consequences or judgment from other people, would you be the same person that you are right now? If there were no consequences for your action.
Jesus asked a group of Pharisees, "Why are you thinking evil in your heart?" You know the world today puts an emphasis on the outward, but Jesus always focuses on the inward. Some people become so obsessed with the outward. Not only with their outward, but with other people's outward.
And this was the sin of the Pharisees. Not just thinking about themselves and making sure that they were keeping the letter of the law and that they looked good and that they washed their hands and wore nice clothes. They were worried about other people doing the same.
And it was a level of hypocrisy, a level of not really looking at what mattered, but only looking at that which didn't matter. And Christ is always more concerned with what's going on inside our lives, on who we are really, not on what's going on the outside.
The writer of Proverbs had long ago stated, "Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life." See this is not a new truth, just the rediscovery of an old one. A truth that is lost in each culture. The problem that caused God to destroy the Earth was a heart problem.
Again, in Genesis 6:5 it says, "Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the Earth, and every intent of the thoughts of his heart was evil continually." The issue wasn't as much as to what they were doing, but to what their heart was doing.
What happens when a factory is bad is that that factory will only produce bad products. The issue isn't the products. The issue is the factory. Take the whole scandal it was going on with Volkswagen a while ago. The issue wasn't so much the product that they had created with the EPA. Issue was the factory that had purposed to create that product. And that became the issue, not the product. It was the factory that had created the product.
When you have a bad factory that's creating a bad product, the issue that needs to be solved is not the product, it's the factory. Because from the factory flows the product.
And so when we look at the human life, when we look at the human condition and sin, sometimes we can become so focused on the sin, on the issue, when the real issue isn't the sin, it's the heart, because the heart is producing the sin.
This is why it doesn't matter if you come to church and change all the things on the outside and you become a better person. Becoming a better person won't save you. What will save you is by having a heart change. But also keep in mind that by having a heart change you're going to see your behavior change. The two are part and parcel.
You can't experience a heart change and not also have a life change. If your heart is truly changed, then the product that is flowing out of your life will be grace, peace, truth, mercy, love, understanding, gentleness, kindness. You will not be quick to anger. What will flow out of your factory will be good things, not bad things.
And so that's why I ask you, who are you not what do you do? Not are you a good person? Not do you do good Things but who are you inside? What's going on inside your life is what matters.
When you get down to it, all of our problems boil down to what is happening inside our heart. And that is where God concentrates His work. And this seems to be something that is lacking today, purity. Romans 16:19 says, "But I want you to be wise about what is good. I want you," here it is, "to be innocent about what is evil." Or from the Greek, "I would have you well versed and wise as to what is good and innocent and guileless as to what is evil."
Think about this in the framework of modern culture, pop culture. Some people know more about Miley Cyrus and her twerk than about Jesus and His work. They know more about the relationship of Jay Z and Beyonce than they do about the relationship of Jesus with humanity.
It seems our culture there are more true Beliebers than true believers. Some people spend more time reading the trash in People, Time, and Rolling Stone than they do the teachings of Philippians, Timothy, and Romans. They know more about the rich and the famous than they do about the righteous and the faithful.
The world today knows far more than we need to about the things that are evil and far less than we need to about the things that are holy. Look, Miley Cyrus doesn't care about your eternal destiny. Jay Z and Beyonce can't give you peace and joy despite what life brings.
Justin Bieber didn't die for your sins, and he certainly can't forgive you of them. People, Time, and Rolling Stone fill your head with useless gossip about the latest celebrity relationships and fashion faux pas, but they don't hold the words of life and truth.
This world does not purify our heart. This world corrupts our heart. And yet, we look to the world for help with love, for help with our issues. But what has the world figured out so far?
Well, Taylor Swift is still looking for a love story but, all she has so far as a blank space. Justin Bieber is just looking for somebody to love, but I don't even think he knows what he means. Sara Bareilles will not write you a love song, so you better not ask her. And somewhere out there Beyonce is drunk in love, whatever that means.
Purity of heart sounds like something that is impossible to achieve in the world today. But you need to know that it's attainable. Otherwise, Jesus never would have promised it. So what exactly is it? Purity is a word that means "without hypocrisy," or "single." It's a single-minded methodology.
Later we will read the words of Jesus on the same idea when He says this, "If your eye is good," single, "your whole body will be full of life. But if your eye is bad," which is double-visioned, "your whole body will be filled with darkness."
To be single or to be pure means that you as a believer in Jesus Christ have a single-minded devotion for God. As the psalmist wrote, "Unite my heart to fear your name."
And double-mindedness is a real snare within the life of the believer. And we've all experienced it. Before I get too deep into it, I want you to understand and I want to know that every one of us, whether we're going to be honest with ourselves or not, deal with this on a daily basis.
We're in good company. Paul had the same struggle when he said, "That which I want to do, I don't do, and that which I do, I don't want to do." It's a double-minded behavior where you want to do something, but you find that you're not doing it because you're getting pulled by the world standards of right and wrong.
We want to serve the Lord and follow the world at the same time. We want one foot in the church and one foot in the world. We want eternal life, but we also want to live our own lives. We want the appearance of righteousness, but we also want to have sex and get drunk or go to parties or use foul language or lie, steal and cheat to get what we want.
In essence, we want to go to heaven, but we want to live like hell on the way there. It's a double-minded behavior, saying, you know what, Lord? I want all the benefits of salvation, but I don't want the lifestyle to match it.
It's a daily struggle. It's a struggle we all have. It's a struggle I have. It's a struggle that I experience. It's a struggle that we all deal with on a daily basid-- the desire to live holy lives but the pull of an unholy world.
We at times are double-minded, the epitome of hypocrisy, lukewarm. Matthew 6:24, Jesus says this, "No one can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other. Or he will hold to the one and despise the other." when you serve two masters, when you serve God in the world, God becomes a roadblock to you living life the way you want to. And although you might be able to for a time have one foot in the church and one foot in the world, eventually you're going to hit a block where you begin to view Jesus as a roadblock to you doing what you want to do. He'll become a hindrance to you living the life that you want to live.
You'll begin to despise your master, which is Jesus Christ, because you're trying to serve the world. And Jesus says, no you can't do that. And you'll say, well, but I'm happy. But I really love that person. But I really, sincerely desire to do this. And there's nothing wrong with it because it's just sincere, it's from my heart.
And you'll begin to despise God. You'll begin to rewrite scripture to fit your own methodology, to fit your own views. You'll begin to despise one to cling to the other.
I hope that the thing in our lives that we despise and cling to is the other way around. I hope that we took place in our lives where we despise sin or we despise the world. And instead we run from sin, we run from the world, and we cling to Christ.
I pray that that would be our desire. That we would be driven from the bondage and the slavery of sin. And we would be embraced in the servitude and the bond servant relationship of Jesus Christ, where we willingly come and say, Lord, I no longer want to be a slave to sin. I want to be a slave to Christ.
Because within that slavery to Christ, there's true freedom. Freedom that the world can't understand. Freedom that the world can't comprehend. A freedom that will help us sleep better at night as we lay our head our pillow and realize that we're going to heaven. That no matter what happens within our lives, that we have an eternal destiny that is marked and sealed by the blood of Jesus Christ, and that nothing can take that away.
We'll have a peace and a joy that the world can't experience as we flee from sin and cling to Christ. James puts the same truth in another way, where he says, "Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility towards God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."
Now before you take that too far and Christians say, well, that means I can't be friends with any non-believers. No, it doesn't say you can't have friendships with people in the world. Friendship with the world. What it's speaking of is the ideology of the world.
Think of this as your foundation within your life. Think of this as your worldview. You can't have a worldview of Christ and have a friendship with the worldview of the world. Doesn't work, because the worldview of the world is at enmity with the worldview of Jesus Christ. The two are not interchangeable. You cannot marry the two together.
So in order to be friends with God, to have the worldview and the mindset of Christ, we cannot be friends with the worldview of the modern culture, the modern day and age.
At one time or another, we face the struggle within our own lives. As I said before, but I'll quote the full verse, Romans chapter seven verse 15, 21, and 25.
"For that which I am doing, I do not understand. For I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I'm doing the very thing I hate. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. So then on the one hand I find myself with my mind I'm serving the law of God, but on the other hand, with my flash the law of sin."
The answer to this double-minded dilemma that Paul speaks of is to realize that you're in it and to get out of it. I know it sounds really simple but it really is.
I read a story online about-- get ready for it-- gravy wrestling. I'm not making this up. These people literally wrestle around in giant pools of gravy while wearing Speedos. Now I don't know about you, but if this was my life at some point I would stop and say, wow, what am I doing? My life is depressing. Let me tell you, the only thing that should be covered in gravy is turkey, and preferably not in a Speedo.
But the answer to gravy wrestling is a very simple answer, and it's the same answer to double mindedness. Realize what you're doing. Realize what you're in and get out of it. Man, I'm covered in gravy and I'm wearing a Speedo. Done with that. I'm putting on clothes like a normal person and not wrestling around in pools of gravy.
I'm a double-minded Christian. I'm living a life it is contrary to what the Bible says. I'm stuck in a place where I'm covered in sin but I'm smiling church. I'm done with it. I'm getting out of that. I'm washing myself in the blood of Christ and I'm no longer going to live that lifestyle.
It's a decision.
It's a decision that we make within our hearts. The first step to that decision is justification, realizing our need for Jesus Christ. Realizing our depravity as mankind and coming forward and giving our lives to Jesus Christ.
The second part to that, which is just as important and we all know it, is sanctification. Which, you know what? I really wish sanctification was an instant process, but it's not. It's a continual process.
It's a daily struggle. It's a daily fight, whereby the believer, you and I, are constantly evaluating and looking at our lives and seeing the areas in which we are not yet pleasing God. And cleansing those areas, getting ourselves out of it, and getting ourselves in to the righteousness of Christ.
It's a daily process. And so what that means is that you can't take any days off. It means you can't wake up one day and say, you know what? I'm feeling pretty sanctified today, so I'm going to relax. I'm going to take it easy. I'm going to put it in neutral.
Sanctification always needs to be in drive. Every day when we wake up we need to say, Lord, what is it that you want me to do within my life? How do you want me to cleanse my life? What areas am I not pleasing you yet? Not because my works are going to save me, but because your works saved me and now I want to live a life that is pleasing and acceptable to you, which is my reasonable service.
So that when the world looks at my life, they can see you through my life. They can see your works through my works. And they can in turn to glorify your name. So that all honor and glory can be given to God.
That's what we're called to do. My wife and I had a conversation this week where we said, hey, what are some areas in our life that we need to continue to give over to God? And we have this conversation every couple months, because we always want to, as a couple, see if there's any areas in our life that are falling, any areas in our life that we have a blind spot to, and that we as a couple can help one another see.
And so I'll have an honest conversation where I'll say, honey, what are some areas in my life you think I need to do better at? And then she'll ask me the same question, what are some areas of my life that you think I need to do better at?
Now a lot of you husbands and wives are like, I wish I could say that to my wife or husband. I think it's important that we have an open form of dialogue, not just with our self but with others, about where we need improvement, about where we need growth, where we need strength. Because if we don't do that, eventually we'll get in a place where enough junk is piled on the top of our life that it is really hard to pull it off and get to the bottom of it because we're too far under.
And what happens then is what that open illustration says. We have to come to a place of pain and brokenness where God breaks us and then rebuilds us back up. And God will do that, but let me tell you, it's not pleasant.
And so you can wait until that happens, but it's going to hurt. It's going to be painful. It's going to be way more painful than asking somebody close to you, hey, do you see any blind spots in my life? Do you see any areas that I need to grow in? That hurts, but it doesn't hurt nearly as bad as being confronted with your sin by God when He brings you to your knees.
So let's get into a place as Christians where we have a constant dialogue with ourselves and others of how we can be more sanctified within our relationship with Christ. James 4:8 perfectly sums up the simple process that is so difficult for us. It says, "Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded."
James makes it sound so easy. Cleanse your hands, purify your hearts, done. Let's find that place in our lives where we're constantly doing that. Verse eight says, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
And I love the Greek meaning here, because it literally means within the Greek language that they shall be continuously seeing God for themselves. Not like you see your friend that hey, it was good to see today, bye. But they will continuously see God. They will live in a constant state of seeing God with their eyes focused, a single-minded vision on God and who He is.
The barriers are removed and you begin to hear His voice and His hand on your life. If you're stuck in a place where you say, man, I feel like I haven't heard God's voice in a long time, the first place to look at your heart.
Because if you haven't heard the voice of God in a long time or you feel like you haven't seen the work or the hand of God within your life, the chances are very great that there is something within your life that is a barrier to your relationship with God. There is something blocking your relationship with God.
There are sins, there are things that are piled high upon your life because you didn't take the time to remove them and it is blocking your relationship with God. You have truly a spiritual cap because the sin is weighing you down. And so if you want to see God, have a pure heart.
With a thankful heart for all that God has done for us, it then becomes our desire to share our faith with others. Roman 10:15 says, "And how shall they preach, except that they be sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things.'"
And this is really what leads us to the final beattitude. When we get to a place in our lives where we're taking part in sanctification, where we are having a pure heart and a deep relationship with God, and the world sees that, the world is going to have one of two responses to your holiness, to your righteousness.
Either they will glorify your Father in heaven by seeing your good works and righteousness, or they will persecute you for your good works and righteousness. And that's what leads us to the final one, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake." It is because we are peacemakers or like Christ that we are persecuted.
Consider what Jesus said in John 15:18, "If the world hates you, know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said unto you, the servant is not greater than his Lord. If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you."
So if you are like God, you will at some point experience persecution. You will at some point be ridiculed. You will at some point be tried for your faith in Jesus Christ. Because you're not greater than your master. And if Jesus Christ was persecuted, you will be persecuted.
Think of it like this way. Do we have any football fans in here? OK, we have any Raiders fans? Keep my eye on you guys. When you're a football fan or a Raiders fan-- my out brother-in-law's a Raiders fan-- and you go to some of those games, it can get pretty scary. If you're a fan of another team, any other team, it can be a pretty scary.
Because the servant is not greater than as master. And if the Raiders hate every other team, the Raiders fans typically don't like other fans. Because it becomes a pretty territorial sport.
Now this is not just the case with Raiders fans. This is the case with any fan. It goes into baseball as well. You know you're a Dodgers fan, you're going to have enmity with other sports teams. It's just the way that your life is going to be being a Dodgers fan or Yankees fan or any fan. Unless you're an Angels fan, then God really shines His face upon you and you have favor and mercy and peace and everyone's going to love you.
But a servant is not greater than his master. And this is the mentality that we have with the world. Think of being on the team of Jesus, like being the fan or being a part of a really great sports team. And think of Satan and the world system as being part of another sports team that's probably going to lose in that game.
Well that team that's going to lose really doesn't like that they're going to lose. They're really mad that they're going to lose because they've been cheering for the wrong team for a long time. And so that when they see the home team come in and bring out the win and secure the win, they're going to get really mad about it.
And they're going to get really frustrated about it. Because they just look at you as a part of that system that they hate and that has defeated them. And so when the world sees our good works, when the world hears our message of grace and truth that says, hey, Jesus Christ loves you and you can go to heaven if you accept Him, but they don't want to accept them because they want to live within their world system.
And so by the nature of you telling them that if they accept Christ they can go to heaven, they realized that they don't accept Christ they're going to go to hell. And they don't like that. Because that means it going to lose, and that's not funding hear. And so the world is at enmity with Jesus.
You know this is an area of the Christian life that most people would love to avoid, a subject that many of us don't want to face or perhaps dismiss as a phenomenon that happens to believers elsewhere, but not here.
And so we think of persecution is the Foxe's Book of Martyrs, and that only happens there. And we in our culture can be very desensitized to what persecution is. Maybe you think that persecution is something that only happened a long time ago. That it's like the slave trade. If you don't talk about it, you'll be OK. Or maybe you think that it only happens in foreign countries. Come on people, it's not the Great Wall of China or the Eiffel Tower. Is not a monument stuck in one place. It's everywhere.
Or perhaps you don't know much about it at all. But persecution isn't the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus, and pretending that is not there won't make it go away. Let's be honest, nobody wants to be persecuted. Nobody wakes up in the morning hoping to be mocked and ridiculed.
And yet God has made us a promise that "all that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." How many does it say? All. Does it say some? No, it says all. Does it say only those who live in other countries? No, it says all. All true believers in Jesus Christ will experience persecution.
Now that doesn't mean they're going to be martyred for your faith, but that might I mean you don't get a job that you are applying for because the person, whether he tells you or not, see that you're a Christian and he doesn't want that inside his office.
Or it might mean that at school you get picked on by a professor because you believe in what he calls a myth, and so he picks on you. Or it might mean that you're a Christian business owner and you own a cake store and you get picked on because you refuse to make a cake for a wedding that you believe is not honoring in the sight of God. And so you get persecuted.
Or it could mean, like a football team in Georgia, that their coach had given is heart to Jesus Christ and he want to get baptized. And so he decided the best place to get baptized would be on the field. And so he called the pastor and the pastor came out to the field at the school and this coach got baptized in front of his team. And in doing so, the team got inspired and many of the team gave their life to Jesus Christ and also got baptized.
And then an organization who is very much known for targeting attacking Christians heard about this and sued the school by saying that a public representation of the school they coached could not identify with Christianity in front of his teammates. At some point in your life, you will be persecuted. You will experience enmity with the world.
There is an increasingly hostile attitude that's developing towards Christians and the gospel today. Every week I hear of a new case of the banning of some cross or religious symbol, or not allowing prayer in some public setting, or restricting the rights of Christians to worship, or trying to force Christians to do things they're not supposed to do.
There is an assault, church, on the Judeo-Christian view of marriage, family, and morality. And maybe you've experienced that persecution at school, at work, from your family, your friends. And add to this the consistent ridiculing and villainization of Christians and preachers in the media such as movies and television. In the name of tolerance, people seem to be tolerating and even pushing every behavior and practice except Christianity.
The view today is, hey, tolerate everything except Christianity. It boggles my mind that Christianity seems be the only religion that college professors go out of their way to try and combat.
If a college professor were to go out of their way to try to combat Islam, I think we'd probably hear about in the news. And it would be a huge rights issue, and they would say, how dare they talk about Muslims in that way? Or if a professor were to go out of his way to talk about Buddhism or a Jewish view or a Jewish faith, man, it would be all over the news. It would be everywhere.
And yet, it seems that college professors and people everywhere can discriminate against Christianity and can talk bad about Christianity and no one blinks an eye. And you know what? It's not just Christians the realize it.
Do you know that one of the most profound atheists comments on it and realized the same thing. A guy named Bill Maher, who has a television show on HBO, he commented on that fact that Christianity is not held in the same letter or to the same standards as other religions. And that it's picked on by other religions in a way that others are not.
And to me it's only proof of what Jesus said, is that we would be persecuted for righteousness' sake. Now sadly, sometimes this hostility is being brought on by ill-conceived activities and actions of well-meaning but very misled believers.
Let me tell you something. The gospel is offensive enough on its own. You don't need to try to make it more offensive. And some believers try to make the gospel a more offensive than it needs to be. And so they hold rallies and they hold signs that says God hates sinners.
And that's part of why we as a church this past year did what I believe is one of the most profound series in our church history, and that is that Jesus loves people. And we rallied around the fact that the church should be a safe place for sinners to come. The church should be a place that people can come and feel loved and can feel cared for.
Because the message of Jesus Christ is a message of love, that God so loved the world that He gave his only Son. It's not a message the God so hated to the world so He judged the world before they ever got a chance to repent. God loved the world, and so He gives us that chance to repent.
And finally, added to that are the bizarre antics of people that are not believers at all, but are actually nothing more than lunatics and ripoff artists from the word and they take their activities in the name of Jesus Christ and quote the Bible as well and bring a bad name to Christians.
And yet here Jesus is telling us, happy, to be envied and spiritually prosperous are the persecuted. In fact the word "blessed" is used twice to emphasize the generous blessing given by God to the persecuted.
Jesus is in essence saying, doubly blessed are the persecuted. And yet, persecution is dreaded by most believers, to be avoided at all costs. But the bottom line is that if we are the people that God wants us to be, we will be persecuted. Why? Because righteousness is confrontational, even when it's not preached in so many words.
Righteousness, by its very nature, confronts wickedness and contrasts itself with wickedness. John 3:20 says, "Everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed."
First John 2:4 says, "He who says I know Him and does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him." First John 3:8 says, "He who sins is of the devil, for the devil is in from the beginning." That's offensive. "For this purpose, the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. In this, the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest. Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother."
Newsflash, church. That is offensive. And if you tell someone that, it'll probably tick them off. Go tell a non-believer that he who sins is of the devil, and that the devil is sin from the beginning and at the Son of Man was manifested so that He could destroy the works of the devil. In essence, saying, hey, the Son of God came to the destroy the works of the devil and the works of the devil are-- oh, sorry. It's not politically correct.
The gospel is offensive. But guess what? Hell's more offensive. As I said before, within a Christian life we need to be confronted with the offense of our sin as well. And I said that it can hurt when the wounds of a friend strike you and tell you that you have a blind spot in your life and that need to grow, that you need to be sanctified a little bit more.
That can hurt. But it hurts far more to wait until that sin piles up and you hit the bottom and you've got to rebuild your life in Christ.
Well, the same is true within the worldly standards, but unfortunately the penalty in the worldly standards is far greater. And it's offensive to be told that you're a sinner, but it's way more offensive for Jesus Christ to tell you a sinner when you stand before Him on Judgment Day and He says, "Depart for me, I never knew you. You who practice lawlessness."
That's offensive. There's no recovery from that offense. We share with them the offense of the gospel so they don't have to experience the offense of hell. Noah prepared an ark to save his family by which he condemned the world. How? By is faith, by building the ark. It exposed and confronted their unbelief.
Our godly lifestyle exposes others' ungodly lifestyle. Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to being bring peace on Earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I've come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother. A man's enemies will be those of his own household."
This is painful, but when we live a godly lifestyle, the first people that it will offend are those closest to us. It'll offend the world, but first it will offend your household. When you give your life to Christ and your husband or your wife doesn't like it because they really loved sinning with you, they really love living an unrighteous lifestyle with you.
And they view Jesus is having stolen you from them, not realizing the unity they could have with you as a believer is far greater than the unity they ever could have had with you as a non-believer. They don't realize that you don't see the benefits. All they see is the negative connotation to them, so it offends them.
It offends your family when you go back to a family reunion and you all of a sudden don't want to do the things that you did in college. You all of a sudden don't want to get high. You don't want to get drunk. You don't want to go out and party. You don't want to sit around and play cards and curse and smoke with them.
You want to live a different lifestyle. It offends them. It bothers them. And in turn, they're going to pick on you for it. They're going to persecute you for it. They're going to say things like, oh, you Christian, you're too good for us. Not realizing that your heart couldn't be any further from the truth.
That's why I think as Christians it's important for us when we hear those kind of things when we're persecuted to not be bashful and shy away from it, but to speak the truth. When they say, oh, you're too good for us, it's important for you to say things like, you know what? I'm actually just as bad as you.
I'm just as deserving of punishment. I'm just as deserving of all the things that you claim and profess that I judge you with. I'm just as deserving of that. But Jesus Christ loved me and He cared for me enough to die for my sins.
It's important that we don't shy away from persecution, but that it emboldens us, that it further ratifies within us a heart to see our families, to see our friends, to see those closest to us and those who are most far from us, come into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
A. W. Pink said, "It is a strong proof of human depravity that man's curses and Christ's blessings should meet on the same person."
Verse 10 gives us a clarifying remark that I think we need to look at before we close. And that is that blessed are those who were persecuted for righteousness' sake. I pray that God would help me to be a person that is persecuted for the right reason. I pray that God would help us as a church to be a church that is persecuted for the right reason.
Not because we're self-righteous or that we act holier-than-thou. Not for being obnoxious or tactless or condemning. Not for being moronic or idiotic. Not for be like a Pharisee and drawing unnecessary attention to ourselves. First Peter 4:12 says, "Let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evil-doer, or as a busy body in other people's matters, but for righteousness sake."
Persecution shows itself in many ways. It can be violent. Many have lost their lives in church history. Nero had them covered with pitch and used as human torches or wrapped in animal skins and thrown to dogs.
In modern history, in communist countries torture, exile, and death still happen on a daily basis. We see it with ISIS. It can be more subtle-- the loss of a job, being the brunt of people's jokes, the loss of friends. The word "persecute" means to be chased, to be driven away, or to be pursued.
Verse 11 uses another word. It says, "When they revile and persecute you." This word "revile" means to "upbraid, to seriously insult, or to mock." As Jesus stood trial after His arrest at Gethsemane, He was mocked, beaten, and spit upon.
These evil things are primarily abusive words said behind our backs. First Peter 3:13 says, "Even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear their intimidation and do not be troubled, but set apart Jesus Christ as Lord in your hearts, and always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you for the hope that is in you."
I think we should also clarify with that, people who ask you for the hope that is in you, even if they do so when in an insincere manner. It doesn't just mean those who come and say, hey, you know what? I'm a sinner. I'm a really bad person. But I saw how good you are. Can you tell me how I can be that good?
Now that's not how they usually ask, is it? So I think we need to be ready to give the defense, even when they ask in not so nice of way. And how are we to respond to being asked?
Well, it continues, it says, "Yet with gentleness and reverence, and keeping a good conscience so that the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame."
So when you post that Facebook post about the newest thing you heard in the news and somebody goes on your Facebook post and ridicules you and says something really bad about you so all your Facebook friends can see it, don't respond in anger and decide, I'm going to dismantle their so bad.
I want to make them feel so stupid for saying that. I'm going to make them feel so shamed for coming on my Facebook page and making me feel bad for my beliefs. I'm going to put them in their place.
No, respond with gentleness. Respond with reverence. Respond with something like hey, I'd love to talk about this. If I can pray for you, if there's anything I can do for you. Sounds like there's a lot of hurt in your life. Maybe you've been hurt by Christians. If I can remedy that, please let me know how. Or just ignore it.
But when we experience that persecution, let us not respond with, in turn, persecution towards them. Let us respond with gentleness and reverence, keeping a good conscience so those who are slandered, those who revile you, will be put to shame by your good.
The best defense is a good offense. You know persecution has its good points. Not only are we doubly blessed in a confirmation that you are truly a child of God. But it also causes you to cling closer to Jesus, to be reminded that this world is not your home.
G. Campbell Morgan said, "It is a remarkable thing that the church of Christ persecuted has been the church of Christ purified. On the other hand, the church of Christ patronized has been the church of Christ impure." The history of the church bears this out.
The beattitude closes and it says, "Theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Persecution becomes a tangible evidence of salvation. Persecution becomes a tangible evidence of salvation, a confirmation from the enemy that you were a child of God. You can tell a lot about someone by who their enemies are." you can tell a lot by somebody by who their enemies are. It speaks volumes.
Typically, you want bad people to be your enemies, not good people. Because typically, every child knows in a movie the bad guy who attacks the good guy, we can tell that because they're enemies. You can tell up under your enemies are.
And so our enemy, as Christians, should be the devil. And if the devil's attacking us, that's a good sign of whose team were on. Verse 12 closes out and it says, "Rejoice and be glad," literally jump and skip with happy excitement.
Also in the Greek the word is in the imperative mood, which means that Jesus commands as us to be glad, not sad. It's not a concept that He's recommending to us, hey, you know when you think about those things, I really recommend to you be happy about that.
No, He's commanding us, He's telling us, be glad. Don't be sad, be happy when you get persecuted. It's a command. It's a word of authority from Jesus Christ. We rejoice and be glad because great is our reward. Not only does it draw us closer to Jesus, and as a result further away from the world system, which is hostile to Him and us. It guarantees a reward. Not that our primary motive should be a reward, but it should be in our minds.
Jesus says, "For the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross." The heroes of the faith had this hope is well. Hebrews 11 says, "They desired a better country, that is, a heavenly, wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city."
These are the kind of believers that this world needs to see today, ones that are poor in spirit, meek, pure, merciful, peacemakers. Ones whose very lives causes people to take stock spiritually on an individual basis. Ones who will live the normal Christian life, not some watered-down version. This is what we as Christians need to strive for.
Now I want to close out by letting you know there's a way out of persecution. If you really don't want to be a part of it, there's a way out. Don't be a peacemaker. Don't tell others about Him. Don't try to reconcile people to Christ. Mix in with others. Act like the world. Don't take a stand for righteousness.
But remember what Jesus said, "Whoever is ashamed of me and my works, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in his glory." And I'll close with 1 Timothy 2:12, "If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He will also deny us."
So as I opened up tonight, I want to close by asking the same question, who are you? Who are you deep inside, at your core? Who are you? Now who do you want to be, not who do your friends think you are? Not what are you pretending to be? But who are at your core, at your heart? What does the factory look like?
And I pray that tonight as we close in prayer that we would all take some spiritual stock, that we would all look at our lives and say, "Lord, is there any areas in which I need to continue to be sanctified? Lord, I want to be pure in heart. I want to see you. So I pray that you will remove the barriers and the boundaries that are keeping me from that relationship with you."
And Christian, when you get persecuted for righteousness' sake, count at all joy, because great is your reward.
Lord, we thank you for a verse that is both convicting and encouraging. Lord, convicting because on a daily basis we need to look at our own lives and ask ourselves, am I living a life that is pleasing to you? Am I living a life that is sanctified, so the one day I can be glorified?
But Lord I thank you to that conviction leads us to repentance, and so God I pray for anyone in here tonight who needs to repent, Lord, who needs to be cleansed, be cleaned of the sin within their life.
Lord, they realize as they're taking stock of their spiritual life that there's some gaps, there's some areas they need to give over to you. Lord, I pray for those who need to make that decision for the first time.
Lord, perhaps they've come to church for a long time, they've put on the show, they've done the song, they've done the dance. Their friends think they've got it together. They really want to be a good person, but they haven't taken that step. They haven't truly been cleansed. They haven't been purified.
God, I pray that tonight you would speak to them and that you would draw them close to you. I pray that tonight they would purify their hearts. That is they look at themselves in sin they would take the simple step and get out of it.
And as we are praying right now with our eyes closed and our heads bowed, if that's you tonight, if you realize that you need to purify your heart, you realize that you're stuck under the weight of sin, that you've reached the spiritual cap, that there's only so righteous that you can be on your own, that you need to experience the righteousness of God to be cleansed and forgiven.
If Jesus Christ is speaking to you tonight, you realize you need to take that step of faith and give your life to Him either for the first time or perhaps you need to rededicate your life to Him. You realize that one time you might have walked with Him, but you have strayed. You are no longer walking with Him. You're like the prodigal son. You're like Peter who's denied Him.
And Jesus is calling you from the shore, asking, do you love me? If that's you tonight and you need to give your life to Christ for the first time or you need to rededicate your heart, will when you raise your hand up and say, "Nate, pray for me. I need Jesus in my life. I need to be forgiven."
Over here to my right. Over here to the left a few hands. If that's you, just raise your hand up. Over here in the back to my left. In the center to the left. Anyone else? In the far back. In the family room. And one of the balcony. I see your hand in the far back to my right. In the middle to the right.
Lord, I thank you for all the hands. People that are admitting and acknowledging that they need forgiveness, that they need to be washed and cleansed. Lord, I pray that you'd help them to take that step of faith, to take their foot out of the world, to get out of it, to walk in faith with you. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.
Hey, will you stand up? We're going to close in the chorus of a song, and as we do, I know we're slightly over time, but I want to give those of you who raised your hands acknowledging your need for Christ an opportunity to put feet to your faith.
If you raised your hand up acknowledging the need to be forgiven for your sin, you need to purify your heart, right now I want you to get up from right where you are, come down to the front and say a prayer to accept Jesus Christ. You come right now. If God has called you, if you raised your hand, you come right now. We're going to clap for you. We're excited for you, for what God's do it in your life.
[MUSIC PLAYING IN BACKGROUND]
Amen. You come. If God has called you, you come. You purify your heart tonight. If you're in the family room, if you're there in the balcony, we'll wait for you. You come. Amen. Amen. Praise the Lord. Let's give them a round of applause as they come. Let's make it easier for them. Praise the Lord.
If God is speaking to your heart right now, don't resist that call. You come to Him. You cling to Him. He died on the cross for you, and now He's calling you to take a step of faith and give your life to Him. This is a restart for you. This is a reset for you. This is an opportunity for you to change your life.
This is your opportunity to step out of sin and into a life with Jesus Christ. And maybe you say, "Nate, what are people going to think about me?" Guess what. It doesn't matter what people think about you. It matters what Jesus thinks about you. And He loves you and He cares for you and He died on the cross for you.
And He wants to give you the life that you so desire, that you so want. A life free from the burden and the bondage of sin. A life that's alive in Him. A life where you don't cry yourself to sleep. But a life that you live with joy, knowing that when you die you have a reward that is set before you, a reward that is heaven. And in the meantime, you have a peace that surpasses understanding.
So we're not going to drag this on. In just a second I'm going to pray with those who have come. But if there's anyone else, you're here right now and God is speaking to you and you realize you need to be up here with these people, you realize you need to make this decision.
If right now you're standing there and you don't know that if you were to die tonight that you'd go to heaven, please, by the grace of God, be sure. We don't know when the day or the hour is that our time will come. But we know that it's coming. And when you stand before Jesus Christ, you're going to hear one of two things. Either, "Well done, good and faithful servant," or "Depart from me, I never knew you."
And although it might feel a little bit shameful to have people see you-- which it shouldn't, because we're excited for you, we're happy for you-- although it might feel a little embarrassing, it'll be far more embarrassing to stand in front of the Lord on Judgment Day and hear those words.
It'll be far more offensive, far more painful to experience that than experiencing a church of people who love you, clapping for you, cheering for you, excited for you, because you're joining the family of Christ.
So before we pray, is there anyone else? Right now God is speaking to you. You want to come up here and accept Jesus Christ. You come right now. Anyone else before we pray? This is your moment.
All right, well let's give those who came forward one huge round of applause.
[APPLAUSE AND CHEERS]
This is the moment where you're going to purify your heart. And what you're going to do is you're going to say simple prayer. And you're going to say it from your heart to Jesus Christ, inviting Him in, asking Him to forgive you for the things that you've done. Repenting of the life that you've lived and acknowledging you want to live a new life of Jesus Christ.
And I love their families up here. Sons and daughters, wives, people who come from far different lifestyles but have one thing in common, and that is the blood of Jesus Christ, which He bled for us all.
And so as you say these words, I want you to say them out loud. I want the say them from your heart. I want you to say them to Jesus. Let's say this together. Lord, I know that I'm a sinner, I know that I've done many things that have hurt you. But Lord I believe the die for those things. And I believe that you rose from the dead.
So Lord, I ask you to come into my life. Forgive me of my sin. I turn from my old life and I turn to you. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. Purify my heart. Help me to live for you. In Jesus' name I pray, amen. Amen. Praise the Lord.
What binds us together is devotion to worshiping our heavenly Father, dedication to studying His Word, and determination to proclaim our eternal hope in Jesus Christ.
For more teachings from Calvary Albuquerque and Skip Heitzig, visit Calvaryabq.org.