Are You Happy When You’re Pushed Down?
Sermon on the Mount–Matthew 5:9-12
For me, one of the most poignant moments of the movie, “Chariots of Fire”, highlighting missionary athlete Eric Liddell, is when in an early race, Eric is physically pushed down by another runner. He could have laid there in defeat. He could have cried foul to the official. He could have whined and pounded his fists like a baby. He could have done what I would have done, which is cut across the track and cleat the offending athlete. But he didn’t–he rolled right back onto his feet, and even though behind, ran his race and won.
The Christian life is like a farmer who works hard against the elements and weeds. Your faith is like a soldier in an army fighting a powerful enemy army. Your time on Earth as a child of God is like an athlete running a race to win. There will be times when there is conflict. Plus, there will be times when there are unjust actions taken against you. You will be slammed by friends, shunned by classmates, attacked by a brother, maligned by a sister, hurt by a family member, crushed by unloving parents, worn down by a spouse, defeated by a failure, devastated by betrayal, attacked for your convictions, even persecuted for your faith.
What will you do? Our Lord Jesus gives you His perfect answer. Dr. Phil has lots to say. “The View” will warp your mind. Judge Judy can offer strong advice. But the Lord Jesus Christ knows what to do and tells you in the Sermon on the Mount. Turn to Matthew 5:9 to 12 for the last two beatitudes in our series. Christ is describing what He does in His children’s life internally at salvation. Also, how we live as His children in a hostile world. We bring warring people together and we endure incredible injustice, because of what Christ has done to us and for us.
Our Lord is preaching His sermon on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, with perfect acoustics, surrounded by His disciples and a mammoth crowd. And as He continues His introduction, everyone is shocked by Christ’s words in verses 9 to 12. Read it with me beginning in verse 9, “’Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil [lying] against you because of Me. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’”
Christ has already taught us that . . .
Verse 3, Happiness comes from the awareness of your spiritual BANKRUPTCY
Verse 4, Happiness comes from the awareness of your deep GRIEF over sin
Verse 5, Happiness comes from the awareness of your DEPENDENCE on God
Verse 6, Happiness comes from the awareness of your DESPERATION to be righteous
Verse 7, Happiness comes from your life of mercy extended to the UNDESERVING
Verse 8, Happiness comes from those who’ve been made NEW in heart
Of the eight total beatitudes, the last two beatitudes are found in verse 9, then 10 to 12
Verse 9, Happiness comes from the internal passion to be a PEACEMAKER
Verse 10 to 12, Happiness comes in the midst of persecution, aware that you are
living for Christ NOW and will be rewarded LATER
Too many who claim Christ, run away when there is conflict–they ignore the issue, avoid the persons, or excuse their involvement. But Jesus says be a peacemaker. Too many Christians hide when there is heat, pushback, inconvenience and persecution. They move to Tennessee. They isolate themselves from Christians. They get off the grid. But Jesus says, “Rejoice and be glad in the midst of persecution.” Let’s look at them both.
#7 Happiness comes from the internal passion to be a PEACEMAKER Verse 9
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Peace is massively misunderstood and misapplied today. Everyone wants peace and they seek peace through circumstances, drugs, political deals, meditation, exercise endorphins–anywhere and everywhere other than the only place you can get it. You can only find peace when it’s given to you by the author of peace–the Prince of Peace.
Our God is the God of Peace. The world began in peace–peace was broken when man sinned in the garden. At the cross of Christ, peace became a reality again. Now there can be peace in the heart of the person who submits to Christ in salvation. And someday soon, Christ will come again, and His title will be the Prince of Peace as He establishes a Kingdom of peace that will lead to an eternal age of peace.
Peace is one of the main topics of Scripture–used over 400 times in your Bible. And one of the greatest gifts God gives at salvation is peace with God. But under your breath right now, you’re whispering, “There is no peace in our world.” It is true, peace is that glorious moment in history when everyone stops to reload. We have never known a season of peace as a nation. If you challenge that, just include the unjust Indian Wars and you will realize there has been no peace in the USA.
And the fault lies clearly with people and fallen angels. You understand, God is not at war with us–we are at war with Him. And until that war stops, there will be no peace. The solution to the problems of society is not social but spiritual. People must be first transformed by God in order to experience the peace of God–stop their war with God, be at peace with one another, offer salvation as the path to peace and be able to help believers live in peace, to become a peacemaker.
You should not be shocked when you see that people have no ability to get along with each other. People have emotional and mental breakdowns, family breakups, fights at school, gangs killing each other, marches, sit-ins, rallies, protests and demonstrations because people have no peace within them and no way to make peace with others. But Christians have Christ’s peace within them. Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
But don’t misunderstand peace–so many people do. Peace is not merely the absence of conflict. Peace is not the absence of something, but the presence of something. Biblically, peace is not the absence of conflict, but peace is the presence of righteousness which brings about right relationships. Peace is not merely stopping a battle, it is creating the righteousness that brings two parties together in love. Peacemakers don’t merely call a truce–no, they establish a peace where all strife is forgotten, and everyone embraces each other.
There is a big difference between a truce and peace. A truce is when people put down their guns and don’t shoot each other while they are reloading. They’ve stopped acting on their internal grudge by not fighting, but they’re still burning with hate, waiting for an opportunity. But peace is about heart change–where the hate is gone, thoughts of revenge are over, and unity exists because of a passion to do what is right (righteous) and to love your enemy. With peacemaking, you don’t isolate or separate fighting parties, you bring them together so they can see each other and come to love one another.
If you separate them, the issue often smolders and gets worse. Like the little boy, with his dad on the right and mom on the left, each parent holding their son’s hand while they are in divorce court standing before the judge. At the right moment, he took their hands in his and made his parents hold hands with each other, bringing tears and stopping the divorce.
I had two junior high staff gals who, for over a year, never got along. It wasn’t constant, but it would show its ugly head every three months or so. They were solid people (one of them is a missionary to this day), but I could not have this continue. So in my usual, subtle fashion, I sat them both down, shared Scripture with them, told them they were to go into a private room and not come out until peace was achieved, or they would both be off staff forever. They did and it was never a problem again.
True peace only comes when truth reigns. Christ never pronounced blessing on a false teacher or an apostate. Peacemakers will have to confront, because that is the path to true peace. We don’t “Rodney King” it—“Why can’t we all just get along?” No, we can only find peace in Christ and only find peace according to the Word of God. God is the God of peace–He has made peace for us through Christ. He reconciled us to Himself. Making peace is part of God’s gracious character. Those who have become members of His family will share in His family likeness. His sons and daughters will be peacemakers. Verse 9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” What does it mean to be a peacemaker?
First Being a peacemaker means you believe that EVANGELISM is one of your responsibilities and sharing the Gospel to those without Christ is of first priority
You desire to make peace between lost friends and God through the proclamation of the Gospel. You tell others Christ is the only way. Depend on Christ alone by faith and turn from your sin in repentance. You call them to trust in His work on the cross on their behalf. You remind them they can’t save themselves and encourage them to cry out to God to change their heart. You call them to stop their independent war against God and find peace. As a peacemaker you say, Romans 5:1, “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Second Being a peacemaker will change your own HEART before God
You’ll stop blaming others, being a victim, carrying resentment, holding grudges, being offended and seeking revenge. God gives you a unique positional peace which becomes peace of heart. John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
Third Being a peacemaker will cause you to HELP your brothers and sisters in Christ to live in peace and harmony with each other
Romans 14:19, “So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” Hebrews 12:14, “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.” What happens when I show my transformed heart of peace and become a peacemaker? Jesus lays it out in verse 9, “For they shall be called sons of God.” I can’t think of a better title to be called–the sons and daughters of God. I’m glad I’m a Mueller–my family is special and the vast majority of our memories are sweet. Even in our toughest times, we have always been there for each other.
But nothing compares to being a Son of God–that’s the blessing of peacemaking. The Greek term “son” is not describing tender affection, but son here is dignity and honor. How can you tell if someone is a son of the living God? They are a peacemaker–they are the blessed, the happy, and the cared for ones. Why? Because God has a personal, eternal, intimate love for those who are His own. He bears with your weaknesses and sins. He accepts your imperfect service. He provides for your needs. He shields you from danger and He works everything in your life together for your good. But Jesus is not through cleaning out our internal person–He also states lastly . . .
#8 Happiness comes in the midst of persecution, aware that you are living for Christ NOW and will be rewarded LATER Verses 10 to 12
This is the eighth and final beatitude. Happy are the harassed. Verse 10 states it, then verses 11 to 12 explain it. Verse 10, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil [lying] against you because of Me. 12“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Who are those who are persecuted? The context demands it is those who are blessed, with the beatitudes from verses 3 to 9.
Verse 10 says, “those who have been persecuted.” The term “persecuted” has a basic meaning of to pursue, like someone pursuing you in order to do you harm. The basic word “persecuted” also means to chase away, like chasing a dog to get away from you. Finally, the Greek “persecuted” came to mean to treat you in an evil manner. My friends, persecution is on the rise in America–prepare your life and heart.
You ask, “Chris, is there any way I can avoid persecution?” Yes, you can. Write these down. Here is Chris’s sure-fire formula for avoiding persecution. Start by approving of the world’s morals, sex-on-demand, lying is necessary, there is no gender, and living for yourself. Next, live like everyone else on Instagram and Tik Tok–constantly post promiscuous selfies and talk about yourself incessantly on social media.
Next, don’t tell people they are lost sinners and don’t talk about Hell at all. And never mention that Jesus is the only way to Heaven. Next, instead of separating yourself from the world and living uniquely different, loving, joyful, peaceful, and heart-driven–just show you approve of sin and the world by laughing at its jokes, watching its shows, enjoying its entertainment, smiling when they mock God. Or live immoral, and always let people use the Lord’s name as a cuss word and I promise, you’ll never be persecuted. Hopefully, that is not the reason you have not been persecuted, because 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
Look back at verses 10 to 12 and listen to one translation which states it like this, “Take delight and be happy when people revile you, persecute you, speak evil and lie about you.” Now that doesn’t make sense, does it? That’s like saying, “Be sad when people are good to you. Or, get mad when people compliment you. How should we understand verses 10 to 12? Maybe you noticed in my one translation, I left out “for righteousness sake”, and “on my account”–on Christ’s account, or “because of Me”.
Focus on, “for righteousness sake” and “because of Christ”. Put those phrases back into these verses and it will start to make sense. Jesus is telling you–living a life that reflects the beatitudes and the righteousness of God is an invitation to persecution. You’d think lost people would applaud a beatitude-manifesting Christian, but they don’t. They do not! They actually nailed the perfect example of the beatitudes to a cross. John 15:18, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.” And John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
So why persecute you for righteousness, verse 10, “for the sake of righteousness”? Because by your righteous words and righteous living you expose their sin (and make them look bad). Because your Savior is the only way to be saved, so all their religious efforts will not save them. Because your faith gives you love, joy, peace, relationship, freedom–all things they don’t have. Because Christ makes you righteous by faith and they’re trying to earn righteousness by works.
By living out a transformed, born again, beatitude loving life, you attack people’s pride. You awaken their guilt, you remind them they are accountable to God, you prove judgment is coming and you show them Christ is not merely the only way–but a better way. And they hate you for it. Is it worth it? Verse 10 promises, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” You pay a price for living under God’s rule–persecution. If you come into God’s kingdom, you will suffer. But living under His rule on Earth now, and living under His rule in the future 1000-year Kingdom, then eternally with Christ will also result in massive blessing. All that God’s rule now, God’s future Kingdom, and eternal blessing can give us is ours.
Does living under Christ physically ruling this planet, a glorified body, living in a perfect, Edenic environment, never struggling with sin again, and all the blessings of being one with Christ and one with each other, while representing Christ and ruling over Maui–does that sound good to you? You get Hemet, but still—”for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus began the beatitudes with a promise of the Kingdom in verse 3, and He ends the beatitudes with a promise of the Kingdom of Heaven in verse 8. Christ wants you to know you are blessed now, and you’ll be blessed forever under His rule. This is crucial, because if you live godly now, the world will hate you and persecute you. Jesus adds in verse 11, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil [lying] against you because of Me.”
Verse 11, happy are the harassed–even though you will be insulted. “When people insult you” is the word revile, describing verbal insults—literally, to cast in one’s teeth, to viciously mock, and to throw words of abuse at an opponent. Verse 11, happy are the harassed–even though others will speak evil of you. In verse 11 Jesus says, “They’ll falsely say all kinds of evil against you.” Falsely say is speak evil. They will lie about you, figure out how to cancel you–they will talk behind your back in order to destroy you. They will bring up your past, find the flaws in your character, misquote you, then exploit their lies in order to justify their abuse to destroy you.
To revile are words harshly said to you–but falsely speak evil is what they say about you. Our Lord is pointed. The lost of this world will act against you, insult you and lie about you. And Jesus repeats the term persecution in verse 11 to remind you that eventually it will go beyond words to hurting, wounding, rejecting, even torturing or killing you. Today, many have already experienced harsh separations, insults and evil speak in families, at school, at the workplace and with friendships because of their convictions.
There are already cases of job loss, economic loss, freedoms lost, even imprisonment. And coming soon, there will be torture and martyrdom–all for Christ’s sake. And do not be surprised–most persecution comes from government. When that happens, know you are blessed. When that happens, rejoice and be glad. Our Lord actually commands both rejoicing and gladness in verse 12, “Rejoice and be glad.”
Your response to persecution is not to retreat or hide, but to “rejoice and be glad.” Rejoicing is the smile of the heart with joy, and be glad is literally to skip and jump with happy excitement. Wow; that’s a command of Christ–to not be glad when we suffer for Christ’s sake is to be untrusting and disobedient. Nothing can take your joy away. They may attack you, but you still have a washed, forgiven heart, and a glorious eternity.
Like the apostles, you are counted worthy by God to suffer dishonor for His name. After flogging them and ordering them not to speak about Christ, Acts 5:41 tells us the apostles, “went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.” Why would you and I rejoice? Why would any of you be glad over persecution? Jesus answers His listening audience by the Sea of Galilee, so listen in . . .
First Persecution is EVIDENCE you’re a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven
You’re proving you are truly a born-again believer. God promised—”all who live godly will be persecuted.” So when you are, you verify you’re a genuine child of God. But another reason to skip and jump with happy excitement over persecution is . . .
Second Great reward awaits you in Heaven
Verse 12, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great.” Our present life on this planet is truly a vapor, but Heaven is forever, my friends–forever. Don’t lay up treasures here. Don’t allow your budget and calendar to look like this life is all there is. Start canceling your earthly commitments and start prioritizing your heavenly priorities. What you do for Christ now, especially suffering for Him, will reap amazing reward in the future. Lay up treasure in Heaven. Serve him weekly, serve in secret–your reward is great.
Third Be glad when persecuted, because you find yourself in SPECIAL company
Verse 12, “For in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” When we suffer for Christ’s sake, we are in awesome company. This is a club every Christian wants to be a member in. MacArthur says, “To be afflicted for righteousness’s sake is to stand in the ranks of the prophets. Persecution is a mark of our faithfulness just as it was a mark of the prophets’ faithfulness. When we suffer for Christ’s sake, we know beyond a doubt we belong to God, because we are experiencing the same reaction from the world that the prophets experienced.”
If you are a genuine Christian, you will want to become a peacemaker, but in doing so, as you live out the beatitudes, you will be persecuted. But all of it results in blessing–happiness of heart and great eternal reward. Is that you?
A Genuine Christian, embrace WHY you will be persecuted
John Piper clarifies the reasons why Christians will be persecuted. I modified them.
If you cherish moral purity, your life will be an attack on people’s love for unbridled sex.
If you embrace discipline with alcohol, then your life will be a statement against those who often get drunk.
If you pursue self-control, your life will indict excess eating.
If you live simply and happily, your life will show the folly of luxury.
If you walk humbly with your God, your life will expose the evil of pride.
If you are punctual and thorough in your dealings, your life will lay open the inferiority of laziness and negligence.
If you speak with compassion, your life will reveal callousness as harsh.
If you are earnest, your life will make the flippant look superficial instead of clever.
If you are spiritually-minded, your life will display the worldly mindedness of those around you.
They will accuse you. They will cancel you. They will lie about you. They will bring up bad choices you have made in the past. They will expect you to live perfect. They will reproach you for judging them. But we who are saved, forgiven, cleansed and made new will keep pointing them to God’s grace, salvation, transformation, and the Gospel message. Be glad and rejoice when this happens to you. Paul said it so well in Philippians 1:28 and 29, “In no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. 29For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”
B Genuine Christian, love the LORD of the beatitudes
Why do we love the beatitudes? Simply because they give us a portrait of Jesus and who we are becoming in Him
No one sympathized with spiritual beggars more than Christ.
No one grieved over sin more than Christ.
No one was more meek in submitting to God’s will than Christ.
No one hungered and thirsted more for righteousness than Christ.
No one showed more mercy to others than Christ.
No one sought peace between God and man and between people more than Christ.
No one suffered unjust persecution and evil against themselves more than Jesus.
Grow in your love for Christ–I know you do, but excel still more. See who Christ is and what He is doing in your life, and let that motivate you to sweeter communion and deeper study. Don’t begin a day without remembering who He is and what He’s done for you.
C Genuine Christians, proclaim the message of PEACE to a world in turmoil
In his book, Peace Child, Don Richardson tells of his long struggle to bring the Gospel to the cannibalistic, headhunting Sawi tribe in Indonesia. Don could not find a way to make the people understand the Gospel message, especially the significance of Christ’s atoning death on the cross.
MacArthur writes, “Sawi villages were constantly fighting among themselves, and because treachery, revenge, and murder were highly honored, there seemed no hope of peace. The tribe, however, had a legendary custom that if one village gave a baby boy to another village, peace would prevail between the two villages as long as the child lived. The baby was called a ‘PEACE CHILD’.
“The missionary seized that story as an analogy for the reconciling work of Christ. Christ, he said, is God’s divine Peace Child that He has offered to man, and because Christ lives eternally, His peace will never end. That was the key that unlocked the Gospel for the Sawis. In a miraculous working of the Holy Spirit, many of them believed in Christ, and a strong, evangelistic church soon developed–and peace came to the Sawis.”
If the Father is the source of peace, and the Son is the manifestation of that peace, then the Holy Spirit is the agent of that peace. The God of peace sent the Prince of peace, who sends the Spirit of peace to give the fruit of peace. And that is the message we share–Christ alone brings peace to a heart, then to their relationships, and ultimately one day to this world. Turn to Christ in repentance and faith, trust He died for your sin, rose from the dead–the only way to peace.
D Genuine Christian, test your SALVATION only against God’s Word
Your assurance of salvation doesn’t come from knowing we made a decision somewhere in the past. No, your assurance that the decision was a true decision for Jesus Christ is found in the life of righteousness that results in suffering for the sake of Christ. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7, many will claim to have preached Christ, cast out demons, and done mighty works for His sake, but will be refused Heaven. But none who imperfectly live the beatitudes and have suffered righteously for Christ will be left out.