The first is, once again, that he is unlike everybody who is not a Christian. We have repeated that many times already because it is, surely, the principle that our Lord wished to stress above everything else. He Himself said, you remember, “Do not think that I have come to send peace on earth. I did not come to send peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10.34). In other words, “The effect of My ministry is going to be a division, a division even between the father and the son and the mother and the daughter, and a man’s foes may very well be those of his own household.” The gospel of Jesus Christ creates a clear-cut division and distinction between the Christian and the non-Christian. The non-Christian himself proves that by persecuting the Christian. The way in which he persecutes him does not matter. The fact is that, in some shape or form, he is almost certain to do so. There is an antagonism in the non-Christian towards the true Christian. That is why, as we saw in our last chapter, the last Beatitude is such a subtle and profound test of the Christian. There is something, as we saw, about the Christian character, due to its being like the character of our Lord Himself, which always calls forth this persecution. No one was ever so persecuted in this world as the Son of God Himself, and “the servant is not greater than his Lord.” So, he experiences the same fate. That, then, can be seen here as a very clear and striking principle. The non-Christian tends to revile, to persecute, and to speak all manner of evil falsely against the Christian. Why? Because he is fundamentally different, and the non-Christian recognizes this. The Christian is not just like everybody else, with a slight difference. He is essentially different. He has a different nature and he is a different man.
The second principle is that the Christian’s life is controlled and dominated by Jesus Christ, by his loyalty to Christ, and by his concern to do everything for Christ’s sake. “Blessed are you, when men shall revile you and persecute you and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake.” Why are they persecuted? Because they are living for Christ’s sake. From this, I deduce that the whole object of the Christian should be to live for Christ’s sake and no longer to live for his own. People are unpleasant to one another and may persecute one another even when they are not Christian, but that is not for Christ’s sake. The peculiar thing about the persecution of the Christian is that it is for Christ’s sake. The Christian’s life should always be controlled and dominated by the Lord Jesus Christ and by considerations of what will be well-pleasing in His sight. That is something which you find everywhere in the New Testament. The Christian, being a new man, having received new life from Christ, realizing that he owes everything to Christ and His perfect work and, particularly, to His death upon the cross, says to himself, “I am not my own. I have been bought with a price.” He, therefore, wants to live his whole life to the glory of Him who has thus died for him, and bought him, and rose again. So, he desires to present himself, “body, soul, and spirit” – everything to Christ. This, you will agree, is something that was not only taught by our Lord. It is emphasized everywhere in all the New Testament epistles. “For Christ’s sake” is the motive, the great controlling motive in the life of the Christian. Here is something that differentiates us from everybody else and provides a thorough test of our profession of the Christian faith. If we are truly Christian, our desire must be, however much we may fail in practice, to live for Christ, to glory in His name, and to live to glorify Him.
The third general characteristic of the Christian is that his life should be controlled by thoughts of heaven and of the world to come. “Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” This, again, is something that is all a part of the warp and woof of the New Testament teaching. It is vital and is, indeed, to be found everywhere. Look at that marvelous summary of the Old Testament in Hebrews 11. Consider these men, the author is saying, these heroes of the faith. What was their secret? It was just that they said, “Here, we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.” They were all men who were looking “for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” That is the secret. It must, therefore, be an essential part of the differentia of the Christian man, as we are reminded here. Again, you see this obvious difference between the Christian and the non-Christian. The non-Christian does everything he can not to think of the world beyond. That is the whole meaning of the pleasure mania of today. It is just a great conspiracy and effort to stop thinking and, especially, to avoid thinking of death and the world to come. That is typical of the non-Christian. There is nothing he so hates as talking about death and eternity. But, the Christian, on the other hand, is a man who thinks a great deal about these things, and dwells upon them. They are great controlling principles and factors in the whole of his life and outlook.
From: Studies in the Sermon on the Mount: Volume 1: Matthew 5:1-48 by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing company, 1959), pp. 138-140.