“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Because of the present pandemic, we need peace more than ever. The troubles we face – physical, financial, emotional – are beyond our control. We are prone to worry. What shall we do? The Bible wants us to realize these three things.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Those who belong to Christ will be persecuted. If the Master himself was persecuted, his disciples will be persecuted too.
1. PERSECUTION IS INEVITABLE (John 15:18-20).
(a) Persecution in the workplace.
Such was the experience of a committed Christian who tried to set things right in the corrupt government agency she worked in. She was ostracized and given a desk in a corner of the workplace where in virtual isolation she practically had no choice but to be left alone and to leave others alone.
 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.  For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,  who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (ESV)
While there are those who faithfully serve Christ and persevere in righteousness (whose example we ought to imitate), there are those who oppose him, especially his work on the cross. These are the enemies of Christ’s cross.
(a) They oppose Christ’s righteousness (Gal. 2:21).
Instead of proclaiming the good news that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, they teach that we can be saved by our own strength and good works, contrary to what Paul teaches in Ephesians 2:8-10. In effect, they devalue what Christ did on the cross for us. On the cross, Jesus cried, “It is paid in full!” There is nothing more we can add to the work of salvation which he accomplished for us. Ours is simply to receive by faith the free gift of salvation.
I was in court one day when I heard the news that two good friends of mine were appointed judges. I was happy for them; I was also a bit envious. I couldn’t help myself; I think it comes with being human.
On that same day I sat before a judge who was due to retire in a couple more weeks. He looked sad. He had spent more than half his life as a government lawyer, although I’m just assuming this. He handed out sentences, which, according to the other lawyers there with me, were more lenient than usual. Then it hit me: My friends were surely very happy – and deservedly so – over this milestone in their lives. But for this judge the curtains were about to fall; his time onstage was about to end; he had to step off and let others take his place. New faces, fresh and smiling, were coming onstage. Old faces, sad and tired were leaving. God was reminding me that day what life under the sun is all about.
 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.  Only let us hold true to what we have attained. (ESV)
Receiving Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior is just the beginning of the Christian life. We still have a lot of growing up to do (Eph. 4:11-14). We should not be content to remain spiritual infants (Heb. 5:12-14).
Here are the steps we need to take in order to make progress in the Christian life.
– We need to realize that we are not yet perfect. – We must forget the past. – We must press on.
“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
One of the chief characteristics of God’s children is their disposition to make peace. After all, the Holy Spirit lives in their hearts and the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, etc. Of course, this peace doesn’t mean “appeasement”. This isn’t “peace at all costs.” This peace is allied with divine love, which includes love for God, his kingdom, and his righteousness. Interestingly, Jesus also said he came not to bring peace but a sword (Matthew 10:34)! By that he means, devotion to him who is the Prince of Peace inevitably brings persecution from those who oppose his peaceful reign and his gospel of peace.
“Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)
The people referred to in the Beatitudes are blessed because they belong to the kingdom and they possess the traits that identify them as belonging to the kingdom.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE “PURE IN HEART”?
A) “Clean on the inside”, not like white-washed tombs which are clean only on the outside. B) “Sincere” or unadulterated like unmixed wine. C) “Single-minded” like a faithful husband who has eyes only for his wife.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO SEE GOD?
They are blessed because they will see God. In other words, they are those who will be saved because by the purity of their hearts they prove that they really have put their faith in Christ (1 John 3:1-3). Without holiness, no one will see God. The holy God is too pure for sinful hearts to see. To the pure all things are pure; to the impure, all things are impure.
HOW CAN WE BECOME PURE?
The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9). But we can become pure –
(a) By God’s grace. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Ps. 51:10) See also Ezekiel 36:25-27.
It is a good thing (safe) to review the basics of the Christian life, especially the doctrine of salvation. And it becomes more urgent to do this in the face of false teachers who distort the Bible’s teaching on salvation by telling us that it is by means of our personal spiritual achievements (confidence in the flesh) that we can be saved. These people focus so much on external righteousness that they miss the fact that if the heart remains unchanged, their efforts amount to nothing. On the other hand, those who put their faith in Christ instead of relying on themselves can rejoice because they have received true righteousness and have experienced as well the transforming work of the Spirit in their hearts. That is why to them Christ is precious and worth every sacrifice. How can we experience Christ’s preciousness in our lives?
“Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)
INTRODUCTION: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MERCY AND GRACE?
The previous beatitudes have to do with our attitude or relationship towards God. The beatitudes that follow have to do with our actions towards others resulting from our right attitudes towards God.
Mercy is compassion towards others who are in a miserable state. Grace, on the other hand, is generosity to the undeserving. Grace views the unworthiness of the recipient. Mercy views the misery of the recipient. Grace has to do with cleansing the guilt of the person. Mercy has to do with alleviating the miserable condition of the person.