Sermon on the Mount: The Beatitudes (Part 5)

Wow, what a long ride through the Beatitudes but God has allowed me to grow closer to him through his Word and I hope you have too. This is the last part of the Beatitudes and it’s probably the hardest to swallow. The first 7 Beatitudes lead up to the last subject:  Persecution. My prayer for you this week is that you will open your heart and your mind to what God has ultimately called us to do. As his followers, may we “count it all as pure joy.”

Matthew 5:10-12, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Our spiritual rebirth begins when we realize our spiritual poverty. This leads to the mourning over our past sin, humbling ourselves, and craving to be right in the sight of God. These things will give us the strength to give mercy, have a pure heart, and become a peacemaker. A true Christian will possess all of these characteristics and do anything to proclaim the name of Jesus. What will the world do? It will do anything to defame the name of Jesus. It will persecute those who stand up for the cause of Christ. Over time, Christians have been killed, beaten, tortured, made fun of, cursed at, because the world does not understand the message of Christ. But Jesus tells us in these two verses that “happy is the man who is persecuted to be right with God,” or “happy is the man who is made fun of and persecuted because of me.”

Why should we be happy about persecution?

a. Persecution is a testing of your faith. James 1:2-3 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James pretty much says that if you are a Christian, you will definitely face hardships and trials in your life and these moments will prove whether your faith is real. Persecution will make or break your faith. Barclay puts it this way, “When a man is called on to suffer something for his Christianity that is always a crucial moment; it is the great occasion; it is the clash between the world and Christ; it is a moment in the drama of eternity.” The moment you are in a situation of persecution, how will your loyalty lie? Will you hunker down and allow the world to have its say? Or will you rise up and stand firm in your faith?

b. Persecution allows your faith to grow. The testing of your faith allows you to grow in your faith. 1 Peter 1:6-7 says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”  Enduring persecution produces genuine faith. Peter describes faith as gold being refined through fire. This will mold, shape and strengthen your faith. The Life Application Study Bible says we should respond to suffering with these responses:  1. Confidence that God knows, plans, and directs our lives for the good. God always provides his love and strength for us and leads us toward a better future. 2. Perseverance when facing grief, anger, sorrow, and pain. We express grief, but we don’t give in to bitterness and despair. 3. Courage because with Jesus as Brother and Savior, we need not be afraid. He who suffered for us will not abandon us. Jesus carries us through everything. Your response to persecution will allow your faith to grow more and more as you allow Christ to be the center of life.   

c. Persecution allows the Good News to be spread. Acts. 11:19-20, “Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.” The world uses persecution to try and shut the Christians up. But persecution lights the match and the Good News of Jesus Christ is spread like wildfire. After Stephen’s death, the believers began to scatter and this caused the seeds of his ministry to grow. Paul faced all kinds of persecution but his purpose was to spread the news of Jesus and eventually he had proclaimed it go high officials in the government, kings, and even the emperor Nero. Tertullian states, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” God uses persecution in our lives for his purpose. Don’t let the fear of persecution keep you from telling others the Good News.

d. Persecution for his name’s sake, gives us a home in Heaven. The martyrs, the beaten, the mocked, the cursed, the hated; for their perseverance through persecution, their reward is eternal life with Jesus Christ. All of the earthly trials, hardships, and tribulations are not the end! Jesus says, “Rejoice and be glad, because Great is your reward in heaven.” (v. 12) This literally translates to “leap for joy.”  The earthly life ends in death. The body will rot and decay in the ground. But the soul who lives for Christ, will have eternal life with Jesus where there is no more persecution.

e. Persecution allows us to share in a great succession with those who were persecuted before us. Barclay states, “To have to suffer persecution is, as Jesus himself said, that way to walk the same road as the prophets, and the saints, and the martyrs have walked. To suffer for the right is to gain a share in a great succession.” The Bible is full of stories of the prophets persecutions and deaths; Isaiah (2 Kings 21:16), Amos (Amos 7:10-13), Elijah (1 Kings 19:1-2). The 12 Disciples were all persecuted and most of them martyred. Stephen was stoned to death for proclaiming the Good News. Paul was beaten, thrown in jail, stoned, falsely accused, shipwrecked, and eventually martyred for Christ. But these persecutions and deaths were not in vain. Christ faced the ultimate persecution when he was crucified on a cross for the sins of the world. But Jesus’ death was not in vain. He rose from the dead so we can have eternal life with him. Charles Spurgeon says, “You are in the true prophetic succession, if you cheerfully bear reproach of this kind for Christ’s sake, you prove that you have the stamp and seal of those who are in the service of God.” Oh, how happy we should be to share in such a succession!

Why will the world persecute them? Because the values and character expressed in these Beatitudes are so opposite to the world’s manner of thinking. Our persecution may not be much compared to others, but if no one speaks evil of you, are these Beatitudes traits of your life? -David Guzik

Sermon on the Mount: The Beatitudes (Part 4)

In Matthew 5:3-6, Jesus describes the steps of spiritual rebirth and growth.  As a Christian, these are the most important character traits that we can possess (spiritual poverty, mourn over past sin, meekness, hunger and thirst for righteousness). Verses 7-9 explain what a Christian should look like when he/she portrays these characteristics. To truly be a follower of Christ, we must possess these in our everyday lives just as Christ did.

Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

a. To be merciful you must be “full of mercy.” This also means that we should be compassionate or forgiving. William Barclay says that being merciful is, “the ability to get right inside the other person’s skin until we can see things with his eyes, think things with his mind, and feel things with his feelings.” We can sympathize with their needs. To be merciful, Ray Pritchard explains 3 elements that we should have:  1. ”I see the need”—that’s recognition. 2. “I am moved by the need”—that’s motivation. 3. “I move to meet the need”—that’s action.” We first have to see it with our own eyes, let our hearts be moved with compassion, and move to action by showing the act of mercy. Spurgeon puts it simply, “As you hope for mercy, show mercy.”

b. When we are merciful to others, others will show mercy to us. David Guzik says, “If you want mercy from others – especially God – then you should take care to be merciful to others.” James tells us in chapter 2 that if we do not show mercy to others than God will not show mercy to us (13). God will forgive us in an instant if we truly repent. Shouldn’t we do this for others? What if you turned away someone with a need and in the future you had that same need? It is not fair to receive mercy if we cannot give it.

c. How can we develop this attitude? Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children. and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Love others as God loves you. Forgive others as God has forgiven you. Show mercy to others as God has shown mercy to you. Imitate him in everything and he will give you the strength and the discernment to be merciful. “Mercy is a bridge God built to mankind. Mercy is a bridge we build toward others.” -Wiersbe 

Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

a. Pure in Heart – MacArthur:   purity means unmixed, unalloyed, unadulterated. Ray Pritchard:  pure in heart means that you are sincere, transparent and without guile. Wm. Barclay:   a pure heart is a heart whose motives are absolutely pure and absolutely unmixed. A pure heart is a heart that flees from the disease of sin and desires the wholeness and pure love of Christ. Our lives should reflect and imitate Christ’s love with no alterior motive.  My prayer is that you will desire a clean, faithful heart; “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Ps. 51:10)

b. “For they will see God.” – This does not mean we will actually see God with our human eyes, but when our hearts are pure, that’s when we can have a true intimate relationship with Christ. Guzik puts it this way, “the pure of heart receive the most wonderful reward. They shall enjoy greater intimacy with God than they could have imagined.” When our hearts are lined up with God’s we can stand on the mountain of the Lord and stand in his holy place (Ps. 24:3). Spurgeon gives us a beautiful picture of a pure heart, “It is a most blessed attainment to have such a longing for purity as to love everything that is chaste and holy, and to abhor everything that is questionable and unhallowed: There is a wonderful connection between hearts and eyes. A man who has the stains of filth on his soul cannot see God, but they who are purified in heart are purified in vision too: “they shall see God.” What a wonderful feeling it is to walk with God and see him in everything.

c. How can we develop this attitude? Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:22, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” Our hearts are naturally deceitful. But if we get rid of our fleshly desires daily and pursue the things of God will we be able to have a clean heart and have an intimate relationship with God. We must seek him through his word and constantly be in prayer. “Blest are the pure, whose hearts are clean, Who never tread the ways of sin; With endless pleasures they shall see a God of spotless purity. ” -Isaac Watts

Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”

a. Peacemakers are those that strive to bring peace with men through God. David Guzik explains, “This does not describe those who live in peace, but those who actually bring about peace, overcoming evil with good.” Peacemakers should not seek trouble but rather help settle arguments and try to restore good into the world. Warren Wiersbe gives a good summary of the way Christians should promote peace, “Christians should bring peace, between people and God and between those who are at odds with each other. We share the Gospel of peace.” Hate does not bring peaceWe are to love others the way Christ did and through his love we can bring peace to others. The writer of Hebrews tell us to, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). There will never be infinite peace in the world, but we have to show God’s love to fully show his peace. 

b. For they will be called sons of God…or children of God. Guzik explains, “The reward of peacemakers is that they are recognized as true children of God. They share His passion for peace and reconciliation, the breaking down of walls between people.” When it says we have been called, it means we have been chosen. It’s humbling to know that God has chosen me as one of his children. And his true children bring peace to the world through his name (Romans 5:1).

c. How can we develop this attitude? “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Live in harmony with each other. Do all you can to live in peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:9,12,14,18) Show them the love of God. Pray unceasingly. Pray for those who hurt you. Live in the peace of Christ the ultimate Peacemaker.

When we realize our need for God, mourn over our past sin, humble ourselves, and desire to be right with God; we can show mercy, attain a heart of purity, and become peacemakers.

Sermon on the Mount: The Beatitudes (Part 3)

I just got back from a wonderful ladies bible study at our church and I have felt the inspiration to write. God continually opens my eyes to his mercy and grace every day and especially through this study.  This week, I hope that this study will allow you to want to grow more in God’s word and his will. This verse is my prayer for you not only for this lesson but for the lessons to come. 2 Thess. 3:5, “May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.” Blessings!

Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” 

a. Let’s take a look at the first part of this verse. Blessed are those who hunger and thirstJesus is talking to the crowd about a “spiritual” hunger and thirst, not physical. What does he mean when he says this? Thomas Watson puts it this way, “Spiritual hunger is a blessed hunger. What is meant by hunger? Hunger is put for desire. Spiritual hunger is the rational appetite whereby the soul pants after that which it apprehends most suitable and proportional to itself. Whence is this hunger? Hunger is from the sense of lack. He who spiritually hungers, has a real sense of his own indigence.” It is the desire for the Word of God and the yearning to know God. The psalmist in Psalm 42 has a longing and desire to seek out God, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (42:1-2). He is comparing his thirst for God as one actually thirsts for water. We cannot survive without water, therefore we cannot survive without God. Kent Hughes gives us a picture of the parallels between physical and spiritual hunger, “The fourth Beatitude is a call to pursue conformity to God’s will stated in the most extreme of terms. The intensity of the expression is difficult for us to feel because if we are thirsty today, all we need to do is turn on the tap for cold, refreshing water; or if we are hungry, we just open the refrigerator. However, to the ancient Palestinian the expression was terribly alive because he was never far from the possibility of dehydration or starvation. It is not a comfortable picture. Jesus is far from recommending a genteel desire for spiritual nourishment, but rather a starvation for righteousness, a desperate hungering to be conformed to God’s will.”  As we hunger and thirst for food and water physically, we hunger and thirst to be in the will of God spiritually.

b. The second part of the sentence says those who hunger and thirst for righteousnessRighteousness in this sense means to be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  God sent his son for our sins and bridged the gap between God and man. Now we can be made right through Christ and if we accept the free gift of salvation, we can be made right with God. This cannot be achieved by “self-righteousness” but through the unfailing righteous love of Christ. Kay Arthur warns us about self-righteousness, “Self-righteousness is always man’s interpretation or addition to the clear-cut teaching of God’s Word. It’s a process of tacking on extra laws, requirements, and expectations, and then saying that if you are really going to be righteous, you must keep all these rules. It is judging others by your standards rather than God’s. How deceptive this is, Beloved! What a terrible trap it becomes!” Reader, beware of this type of righteousness! We should be hungry and thirsty for God’s righteousness and not our own. 

c. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. When we desire and yearn to be right with God, we will be satisfied! What a wonderful promise Jesus gives us here. Psalm 23:1 says, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” We have all we need through our Savior. We can seek out all the things that world has to offer just as Solomon did but in the end it will be meaningless unless we have God. The Lord gives us an invitation to his table in Isaiah 55:1-2, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” Let us stop eating the bread and drinking the wine of the world and start dining with Jesus at his table of fulfillment. Jesus says, “”I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35) and “but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).  Our spiritual hunger and thirst will be quenched when we lay down the worldly food that does not satisfy and join him in eating the bread of life and sipping on the living water.

d. How can we develop this attitude? Philippians 3:7-9, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” We have to let the Holy Spirit first convict us and then guide us to a place of hunger and thirst. We have to die daily to the desires of the world. We must continually ask, seek and knock on God’s door (Mt. 7:7-8). We must eat the bread of life and drink from the God’s living well. Then we will truly be satisfied.

There’s really a paradox here. For in one sense you are deeply satisfied when you hunger and thirst for Christ’s righteousness to be radiantly evident in your life, and yet you will keep hungering and thirsting for more. The Christian life is one of knowing something of immediate satisfaction in the forgiveness of sins and assurance of salvation (in justification), but it is also an ongoing process in which you continue to hunger and thirst, and you continue to find deeper satisfaction (in sanctification), until one day you will stand completed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ with no more sin, no more temptation, no more desire for sin, but only the perfections of Christ clothing you (in glorification).”  -Phil Newton

Sermon on the Mount: The Beatitudes (Part 2)

The Beatitudes are such simple words that Jesus uttered, yet they have so much meaning and purpose that I can only write about so many at a time. Please pray for me throughout the next few weeks so I can unfold the messages behind these great words of Jesus.

Matthew 5:5 – “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

a. To be meek or have meekness means to be humble or gentle-spirited. Matthew Henry describes meek as, “who are rarely and hardly provoked, but quickly and easily pacified; and who would rather forgive twenty injuries than revenge one, having the rule of their own spirits.” To be meek, we are to be forgiving, slow to anger, peaceful and loving. When your enemy slaps your right cheek, you offer the left cheek (Matt. 5:39). John MacArthur explains the meek person beautifully, “The meek person has died to self, and he therefore does not worry about injury to himself, or about loss, insult, or abuse. The meek person does not defend himself, first of all because that is His Lord’s command and example, and second because he knows that he does not deserve defending. Being poor in spirit and having mourned over his great sinfulness, the gentle person stands humbly before God, knowing he has nothing to commend himself.” We first have to realize our spiritual poverty (Mt. 5:3) and mourn over our former sin (Mt. 5:4) before we can truly become meek. We must die daily to our fleshly desires. Meekness has no room for boastfulness, arrogance, vanity, greediness, pride, etc. Kent Hughes gives us the benchmarks in which we should evaluate our personal manifesting of Christ’s call to meekness:

  • Harshness: If you are mean in your treatment of others, if there is an absence of gentleness in your treatment of others, take heed.
  • Grasping: If you make sure you always get yours first, if numero uno is the subtle driving force in your life, if you care little about how your actions affect others, beware. 
  • Vengeful: If you are known as someone never to cross, if you always get your “pound of flesh,” be on your guard.
  • Uncontrolled: If rage fills your soul so that life is a series of explosions occasioned by the “fools” in your life, watch out.

Convicting right? Let us lay down our burdens of our sinful nature and take up the cross of meekness. Why? Because James tells us in James 4:10, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.”  God will exalt us for our humility. Once we realize our worth does not come from ourselves but from the Father above, can we fully humble ourselves.

b. Jesus says that if we are meek, we will inherit the earth. He is not saying that we will gain the earth’s riches and glory and fame, but we will be absolutely happy and content with the things that he has given us. The allegory of Charles Spurgeon’s words describe it in a new light, “The quiet-spirited, the gentle, the self-sacrificing, it looks as if they would be pushed out of the world but they shall not be, “for they shall inherit the earth.” The wolves devour the sheep, yet there are more sheep in the world than there are wolves, and the sheep, continue to multiply, and to feed in green pastures.” The wolves of this world can never overcome the sheep if they truly follow their Shepherd. Other Biblical scholars such as Kent Hughes describe inheriting the earth as, “It is the meek who own the earth now, for when their life is free from the tyranny of “just a little more,” when a gentle spirit caresses their approach to their rights, then they possess all” and Lloyd-Jones who describes is as, “The meek already inherit the earth in this life, in this way. A man who is truly meek is a man who is always satisfied; he is a man who is already content.” But my favorite quote is described from a man named Goldsmith who puts it simply, “Having nothing yet hath all.” To put it plainly, it means to be content. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 6:6, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” If we are humble before God, we can have the least of this earth and we will be content because we have all we need through Jesus.

c. How can we develop this attitude? Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus wants us to take off the yoke of boastfulness, arrogance, vanity, and pride and put on his yoke of humility, loving-kindness, forgiveness, and peacefulness. The yoke of the world is hard and burdensome. But when we put on God’s yoke, we have someone to help us and guide us. We don’t have to do this alone. He is pulling along side us.

Psalm 37:11 gives us God’s promise, “But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.” Let us humble ourselves before the King so we can have contentment on this earth until we reach our ultimate reward which is the Kingdom of Heaven.