Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Beatitudes

Matthew 5:1 – 12

The Christian Life

Wesley noted there were three ways to look at the “Beatitudes.” They could be seen as steps a Christian necessarily takes, particulars of all Christians at all times, the ideal character of the believer.

If we take them as a whole we see there is a necessary connection between character and blessing. What Jesus is describing is a happiness in the deepest sense. Jesus is literally saying “fortunate are the...”

In each case the blessing describes the fact that people with certain characteristics are possessors not recipients. The blessings are here and now not some future hope.

When we look at the blessings, they do not make sense. It seems that Jesus has is backwards. How is it fortunate for those poor in spirit, or mourn, or meek? These cut against our culture and in some cases our theological beliefs. They require something difficult from us.


I.         Our standing before God: Who we really are.


            A.        [v 3] We are poor in spirit.

Wesley noted that the foundation of understanding the spiritual life is “poverty of spirit.”


                        1.         Jesus uses a word picture for poor: The beggar.


                                    a.         The beggar is completely dependent on others. In the spiritual sense, we are completely dependent on God.


                                    b.         It was thought that the beggar will always be a beggar. They have nothing and they will never have anything.


                        2.         Spiritual reality:


                                    a.         In and of ourselves we are spiritually absolutely poor and destitute. We have nothing, can earn nothing, and certainly do not deserve anything.

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” [Isaiah 64:6]

[Ill.] David and Mephibosheth. Saul’s family was at war with David. After David became King he wanted to keep a covenant he had made with Jonathan (King Saul’s son).

“David asked, Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan's sake?” [2 Samuel 9:1]

He found Mephibosheth. “The king asked, Is there no one still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show God's kindness? Ziba answered the king, There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in both feet.” [2 Samuel 9:3]

Mephibosheth had two things going against him. First, he was the next in line to claim King Saul’s throne (against David). Second, he was completely crippled making him appear to be “worthless.”

David honors his covenant with Jonathan. “Don't be afraid, David said to him, for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.” [2 Samuel 9:7]

David spares Mephibosheth’s life, restores the family fortune, and gives him a special place of honor in his government. Mephibosheth understands what is happening to him: “Mephibosheth bowed down and said, "What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?” [2 Samuel 9:8]


                                    b.         That is what we are: Completely dependent on the covenant established in the blood of Jesus


            B.        [v 4]    We mourn


                        1.         This seems to be a contradiction, but it is not.


                                    a.         We mourn over who we are without Christ and without the Holy Spirit.


                                    b.         Not physical mourning but a deep sense of sorrow that comes from recognizing our spiritual poverty.


                        2.         Once we realize the kingdom of heaven as a special share in eternal life we receive a comfort now for sins forgiven.


                                    a.         Mourning is the first step. It’s part of repentance.


                                    b.         Our spiritual life is more than one step. The next steps should be filled with an “inexpressible and glorious joy” [see 1 Peter 1:8]


            C.        [v 5] We develop a lifestyle that is meek before God.


                        1.         Meek is reference to the relationship we have with others and God.


                                    a.         The idea of “meek” is quiet and gentle. Trent called it “inward grace of the soul.”


                                    b.         Meekness allows us to accept God working in our lives without resistance.


                                    c.         It is a life lived like in genuine need and utter gratitude.


                        2.         The blessing here is “already but not yet.” (Like Abraham)


                                    a.         It assumes others well possess the earth until the appointed time.


                                    b.         This is the image of receiving an inheritance.


II.       Our understanding of ourselves: What we do.


            A.        [v 6] Hunger and thirst.


                        1.         Desire is a powerful enemy or ally.


                                    a.         Selfish desire (money, power, pleasure) leads to all sorts of misery: Sharp and seemingly unending conflict, shameful behavior, stunted prayer. (See James 4:1 – 3)

“But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. [15] Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” [James 1:14 – 15]


                                    b.         Hunger and thirst implies an emptiness for specific righteousness.


                                                1.)       “The” from the Greek text is missing in English texts.


                                                2.)       Jesus is referring to a specific righteousness: His.

“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 5:20]

“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. [22] This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. [Romans 3:21 – 22a]

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” [2 Corinthians 5:21]

“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.” [Philippians 3:9]


                        2.         “Filled” means to be satisfied.


                                    a.         How many things in this world are truly satisfying? (Ultimately, none.)


                                    b.         “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. [2] 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.” [Isaiah 55:1 – 2]


            B.        [v 7]    We show mercy.


                        1.         Mercy is an action verb, it means to show “compassion or forgiveness towards an enemy or offender.” [Oxford]


                                    a.         We put into action what we know. We know we do not deserve God’s grace and forgiveness but God has given those to us. We, in turn, give grace and forgiveness to others.

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. [15] But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” [Matthew 6:14 – 15]

“To keep saved we must keep a spirit of forgiveness. . . . Nursing animosities is dangerous business for anyone who has a desire to ever enter Heaven.” [B. T. Roberts]


                                    b.         Biblical standard that God will reciprocate and reflect our treatment of others.

“For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” [Matthew 7:2]


                        2.         Caution: We who demand holiness of ourselves CANNOT demand it of others! (It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict. It’s our job to communicate.)


            C.        [v 8] We aim for bing pure in heart


                        1.         Action evaluates and validates and purifies our thoughts.


                                    a.         The “heart” is the center of who we are, our words and actions. It is the place where decisions are made.


                                    b.         “Pure” is in God’s perspective.

“Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? [4] He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.” [Psalm 24:3 – 4]


                        2.         Purity of heart clarified our vision and allows us to see God.


                                    a.         We can see God at work today.


                                    b.         We will see God in eternity.


III.      Our outstanding debt toward others: How we relate to others.


            A.        [v 9]    Peacemakers.


                        1.         The peaceful character extends outside us.


                                    a.         “We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.” [2 Corinthians 5:17]


                                    b.         Intervention in others lives by sharing the good news of Jesus sacrifice on the cross, His resurrection and return.


                        2.         Recognized as belonging to God as “sons


            B.        [vv 10 – 11] Persecuted.


                        1.         Communication that causes understanding is our task. Trouble is that it will be rejected and we will suffer.


                                    a.         Insults and false statements are part of the territory.

“Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.” [Luke 6:26]

“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” [2 Timothy 3:12]


                                    b.         Understanding does not mean agreement.


                        2.         This is the first Beatitude with instructions: “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven...” [v 12]

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