MESSAGE DELIVERED: MAY 7, 2017
What I want to do this morning is begin a SERIES of messages, based on “The Sermon on the Mount”. I don’t usually DO series like this, because I prefer to allow the Spirit of God to direct me, each week, to what HE wants me to speak to you about.
But lately, and by that I mean for the last several weeks, THIS is what I have felt led to. So if you’re one that doesn’t care for series, I offer my sincere apologies, but I have to do what I have to do.
And obviously the passage begins with what are called “The Beatitudes”, and there are several things I want to point out before we actually dig into the Word. First, there are NINE ‘Beatitudes’ listed. Some will tell you there are only eight, as verse 10 and verse 11 are both speaking of the same thing. So as to that, I don’t really care how you number them. What my intention is, is to try to make sure that we LIVE them.
And second, this is NOT a “pick and choose menu”. You are not allowed to say “OK, I’ll be a ‘peacemaker’, because that sounds kinda cool, but I am NOT going to ‘mourn’, or try to be ‘meek’”.
What the Lord intended when He made these remarks, (I believe) was that EVERY Christian was to be ALL of these things. In other words, this list of virtues is not so much a MENU, as it is a RESUMÉ.
It’s like this: you cannot be ‘poor in spirit’, without ‘mourning’ for the presence of sin in your life. And you cannot mourn the presence of sin, without “hungering for righteousness”.
See, each of the items, or virtues, on this list, actually DEMANDS the presence of the OTHERS. Each will lead to the next, and the next, and so on.
Then thirdly, and probably most important…NONE of these things are what you could call a NATURAL tendency. They all represent the workings of the Holy Spirit of God at work in the life of that believer, through the GRACE of God!
And having said that, someone will always say “Well, I know this guy who will be quick to tell you that he is NOT a Christian, never goes to Church, never prays…but whose life is a living example of MEEKNESS. He’s always doing good, never says a bad word about anybody…etc”.
And that is completely true. There are people who, without the Spirit of God in their lives, will still exhibit certain ‘graces’. But go back to what I just said. This is NOT a ‘pick and choose menu’. And that person who exhibits MEEKNESS, does he ALSO ‘hunger and thirst after righteousness’? (He has already stated that he does NOT!)
See, ANYone may show ONE of these graces, but ONLY a true BELIEVER will demonstrate ALL of them! And THAT is what I want to see as the GOAL of EVERY believer!
This section of Scripture that we are looking at this morning, will demonstrate, more so than ANY other, the difference between the CHRISTIAN, and the NON-Christian. That is a BASIC and FUNDAMENTAL Truth. And this is a truth that needs to be RE-EMPHASISED in the Church, because lately that difference is becoming blurred.
In a lot of churches these days, the doors of the church has been thrown open and the world invited in. And without that FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCE, the church becomes LESS than what the Lord intends. The idea seems to be that we have to make the church as attractive as we CAN, to those who are outside.
But the truth is, when the church is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from the world, that the world becomes attracted TO her. Just look at the things the WORLD ‘hungers’ for wealth, power, status, fame. And what is the believer supposed to ‘hunger for’? Meekness, righteousness, mercy. HOW can those goals possibly be seen as compatible?
Okay, let’s look at what the Lord said. The first of these beatitudes, and I want to remind you that the WORD, ‘beatitude’ simply means “HAPPY”, or actually “happiness and contentment” is a better description…but the first is “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”. “Poor in spirit” is the exact opposite of “self-sufficiency”.
We have to understand that these virtues were not placed in RANDOM order. There is a logical, spiritual sequence here. And there is good reason why this one is listed first. There is NO entrance into God’s Heaven, apart from being ‘poor in spirit’. The Bible says, in both JOB and JAMES, that “God resists the PROUD, and gives GRACE to the humble.”
The very TRUTH of Salvation by Grace is presented here, Jesus is now teaching that HEAVEN ITSELF, is a gracious gift from Jehovah God, ONLY to those who understand their own ‘poverty of spirit’…their actual NOTHINGNESS in comparison TO God Almighty. Those who understand that they CANNOT be FILLED, unless they are EMPTY!
And that will lead logically to “Blessed are they who MOURN, for they shall be comforted”. And that obviously means those who recognize that they are SINFUL creatures, and MOURN for that reason…mourn for the presence of sin in their lives.
That Godly SORROW leads to REGRET, and Regret leads to REPENTENCE, and repentance leads to FORGIVENESS, and forgiveness leads to SALVATION! The COMFORT that Jesus was speaking of, is the knowledge that forgiveness is available FOR those who mourn over their sins.
Then comes “Blessed are the MEEK, for they shall inherit the earth”. And ‘meekness’ is not ‘weakness’. There is in the world a common JOKE that says, kinda half-serious, that “yeah, the meek will inherit the earth, and in about 5 minutes the STRONG will take it away from them”. I can guarantee you THAT will NOT happen.
It is a common mistake, out there in the world, to equate ‘meekness’ with ‘weakness’. Nothing could be further from the truth. Maybe the best way to describe meekness, is by saying it is the OPPOSITE of being “out of control”. Meekness is actually GREAT STRENGTH, held in check.
Look at the obvious example of Jesus Himself, as He was unmercifully BEATEN with the Scourge…beaten until He was nearly dead…and then He was forced up the Via Dolorosa, the ‘Way of Sorrow’, and there He was NAILED to a rough, wooden CROSS, and then supposedly HELPLESS, He was lifted up to DIE, slowly and in unimaginable AGONY. That was done to Him, even though He held within Himself, all the incredible Power of God Himself! HOW were sinful men able to DO that to One Who holds such Power? Only because HE ALLOWED it! ONLY because He demonstrated FOR US, Perfect Meekness!
You KNOW, at ANY point during the whole Crucifixion Episode, had Jesus decided that WE were NOT WORTH all this agony…(which we are NOT, of course)…but had HE decided that we weren’t worth the PAIN and HUMILIATION, all the HORROR of Calvary…ALL He had to do was SPEAK!, and every one of those wicked men, the Romans, the priests, the Pharisees…all He had to do was SPEAK, and those men would have died in the most horrible manner imaginable. WHY? Because He HAD that POWER, but He CHOSE not to USE it! He HELD all that incredible Power, UNDER CONTROL! And before HE did THAT, He told US…right here in Matthew 5:5…that He expects US to do the same. We are to be meek, LIKE that! Not WEAK!
That doesn’t mean we are to RETALIATE against those that mistreat us. We are to always remember that ‘turn the other cheek’ thing, when we are used badly by someone out there in the world, even when we are misused by one IN the CHURCH! And yes, that will happen! Often, the worse wounds we will RECIEVE, will come from one who is SUPPOSED to be MEEK themselves, and MOURNING for the sin in their lives. STILL, we are NOT to retaliate. And that ain’t easy…but you MUST!
Verse 6 says “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for Righteousness…” And can’t you see that if you are doing THAT…if you’re seeking to be FILLED with the righteousness of Almighty God, you are NOT gonna be all UPSET by the petty actions of those who are Christians in NAME ONLY!
Notice that Jesus didn’t say ‘blessed are they that seek after BLESSEDNESS’, and He didn’t say ‘blessed are they that hunger for HAPPINESS’. It is RIGHTEOUSNESS…HIS Righteousness we are to hunger for. For the believer, what you HUNGER for, is what you will be FILLED with.
Let me try to make this easy to understand…to ‘hunger and thirst after righteousness’ means that you want to remove every TRACE of sin from your life. It means you understand that SIN separates us from God, and you are eager and anxious to REMOVE it from your life. THAT is when the state of BLESSEDNESS occurs.
When you truly seek God’s Righteousness, you will be filled with it. And what you hunger and thirst after, you will receive. You will find the relationship that God has always wanted, with His own people, which is to be LIKE the Lord Jesus!
Next He said “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy”. Maybe the simplest translation of “MERCY” is: TO RECIEVE THAT WHICH YOU DO NOT DESERVE”. So, for you to treat others this way, means God will treat YOU that way. And, since at Calvary, everyone who believes in Jesus’ finished Work of Redemption, WILL RECIEVE Mercy from God, it is helpful for us to read that particular virtue as “BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HAVE RECIEVED MERCY, FOR THEY WILL DISPENSE MERCY”.
But there is also a Biblical warning that we should look at. In James 2:13, we are told (paraphrased) “Those who have shown no mercy, will be judged with no mercy”. That’s another way of looking at Galatians 6:7, which says “As you SOW, so shall you REAP”. But it’s actually the LAST part of James 2:13 I want to remind you of, because IT says “Mercy triumphs over judgement”. The King James Version reads “Mercy rejoiceth against judgement”.
It is an unavoidable truth that every person ever born will one day stand before Jehovah God to be judged. Those who have refused to accept God’s son will be judged as worthy of eternal suffering, but we who have joyfully EMBRACED Jesus and the Salvation He offers, will be judged as to the degree of REWARDS you will receive. THAT is “MERCY”…to receive that which you do NOT deserve! You who have SHOWN mercy, will RECEIVE mercy!
Then, “BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART, FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD”. THAT is the ultimate goal of Christianity…of religion itself. Remember Moses, on Mt. Sinai, where he spent 40 days in close communion with God, as he was receiving God’s Commandments concerning His people. And do you remember what Moses desired above all, during that time? He wanted to see the Face of God. But THEN, that was not possible, so God HID Moses, in the cleft of the rock, and then passed by him, and allowed him to see only the BACK of his God, for no man could see his FACE and live. But one day, we SHALL! Like Moses, that should be our heart’s cry…to SEE our God!
But we should look at Philip’s request, from the 14th chapter of John, where he asked of Jesus “Show us the Father, and it is enough for us”. And Jesus answered “If you have seen ME, you have seen the Father, for He and I are One”…Jesus then gave as the requisite for seeing God…BELIEF! He said “Believe that the Father and I are One”. And He said “Believe in the WORKS that have been done in the father’s Name”.
The desire of religion is to “SEE GOD”…and the ANSWER to that desire is “FAITH!”…pure, unquestioning, undoubting FAITH, that Jesus IS Who He SAID He was, and that He will DO, what He SAID He will do. Faith, and one day, we shall SEE the God Who loves us enough to allow His Son to suffer as He did, for OUR sakes!
Then we have “BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS, FOR THEY SHALL BE CALLED THE SONS OF GOD”. So, what IS a ‘peacemaker’? It is that person who understands that every OTHER person should be at peace WITH GOD! It says nothing about WARS and FIGHTING among people, only the state of ENMITY that exists between every soul that has not been touched by the Blood of Calvary. And who then attempts to lead others TO that Cleansing Blood.
And please understand, we are NEVER called to be SUCCESSFUL as peacemakers. We are only called to faithfully TRY to present Jesus to lost souls. Ultimately, it is the work of He, the Holy Spirit, to bring each soul to Salvation in Christ. So those who will make themselves available to be used BY The Holy Spirit, in LEADING others TO the Lord, that will be called the CHILDREN OF God.
I think I also need to remind you of John the Beloved’s outburst of PRAISE and WONDER, in 1st John 3:1, where he said “Behold, what manner of LOVE the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the CHILDREN of God”! And THAT then PRESUPPOSES that we WILL DO what we were CALLED to do, by Jesus Himself, in the very LAST thing He TOLD us, Matthew 28, which was to “GO, and make disciples”!
1st John 3:1 presupposes that we have done, and are doing, what we were told, and therefore are eligible to be CALLED ‘children of God’, because John FINISHED that first verse by saying “THEREFORE THE WORLD DOESN’T KNOW US, BECAUSE IT DOESN’T KNOW HIM”!
And THAT takes us right back to the START of this list of Virtues, and tells us that we who are “Humble before God”…who “Mourn for the presence of sin in their lives”…who are “Self-controlled before a world that is contrary to them”…and who “Hunger to be filled with God’s righteousness”.
They are those who are so DIFFERENT from those who are “in the world”, that the world will want to know WHY they are so different.
BUT, because that world is under the control of Satan for now, those of the world will seek to DESTROY you, because you ARE different from them.
We can take verses 10 through 12 as the final BEATITUDE, which says “BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO ARE PERSECUTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS’ SAKE, FOR THEIRS IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN”. And that goes all the way back to verse 3, to COMPLETE this CIRCLE of teaching, where Jesus said “BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT, FOR THEIR’S IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN”!
In the 6th chapter of Luke, where we find an “abridged” version of these Beatitudes, in verse 22 we find Jesus saying “BLESSED ARE YOU WHEN MEN HATE YOU…EXCLUDE YOU…REVILE YOU…AND CALL YOU EVIL…FOR MY SAKE. FOR GREAT IS YOUR REWARD IN HEAVEN”.
That is not saying that we should SEEK to be persecuted for His sake, just to pile UP REWARDS. We are NEVER to look at service for the Lord as a way to gain rewards. We worship and serve our Lord simply because He is WORTHY of all service.
But the Lord wanted us to know that when we ARE persecuted, He KNOWS, and He WILL BLESS YOU FOR it.
And I want to stand before you as one who has attempted to serve my Lord for 30 some years, and I can assure you that I have had a small share OF that persecution…mostly in the form of SHEEP BITES!
See, SHEEP have this reputation of being HARMLESS, and DEFENCELESS…and generally, before the WORLD that is true. But among THEMSELVES, sheep can be VICIOUS! They will BUTT, and KICK, and SHOVE, and yes, BITE…at other sheep. So yes, I have my share of SCARS from sheep bites.
Okay…we have this list of virtues, and this PROMISE that as we try to live BY them, we ARE going to suffer persecution.
We here in America, are pretty much INSULATED from most of the persecution the rest of the world is suffering, at least for now.
But let me close with this. “IF” you should EVER find yourself being persecuted from your stand for the Lord, that persecution is the absolute PROOF that you ARE a ‘Child of God’. And for THAT, you can rejoice! So we are NOT to LOOK for persecution, but when it shows UP, don’t just ask for it to be taken AWAY. Ask that you be able to WITHSTAND it, and PRAISE God FOR it.
Well, next week, Lord willing…we will look at “SALT AND LIGHT”. But for now, we need to do what Jesus asked us, and REMEMBER HIS DEATH. [Communion Service]