Last week we began a two-part series concerning just one section of Jesus' first public discourse, after officially beginning His public ministry—we began studying the Beatitudes. Which is one of the best known, but least understood and least pursued discourses Jesus ever spoke. The Beatitudes were spoken primarily to His disciples, but with hundreds joining in as He taught. Therefore, this teaching was purposefully directed towards those who have already made the decision to follow Christ with their lives.
This first part of the sermon, the Beatitudes, focuses not on how we act and what we do for God, but on the deepest thoughts, feelings and goals of our very soul. Who we are before God; what we are striving to be with all of our hearts; not what we do, or how we look on the outside. The first four things that Jesus mentioned in this sermon, seemed to build upon one another: 1) He wants us to see and understand how completely selfish, lost and dirty we are without Him! "Blessed are the poor in spirit..." (Which is near impossible for many today) 2) He wants us to realize how hurtful our sin is to Him and others and care enough to be broken over the damage done. "Blessed are those who mourn..." 3) He wants us to be powerful and bold through His Spirit, but humble in how we use that power to love and serve others (Meekness) "Blessed are the meek..." 4) He wants to see us literally long for, and thirst for, a selfless and serving heart of righteousness. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness..." Today, let's continue this study of the very foundational principles that Jesus Christ Himself spoke in His first sermon to men when the Author of the Book personally told us what He thought of how we were interpreting and living out the principles He has given to us.
Matthew 5:7: To begin studying this next verse, we must first define what "mercy" truly means because we often confuse or add to the meaning. It has been very truly said that grace is getting what you do not deserve and have not earned, and mercy is not getting what you do rightfully deserve and have earned. Mercy, therefore is, being forgiven and pardoned from a debt, hurt, or injustice against you from another. Even if that mercy sometimes costs you financially or materially, it cost Jesus everything. Even if they were completely wrong and you have a right to be mad or take vengeance. We are often very wrong and deserve God's anger and wrath. True mercy stems from realizing that God has put so much worth on us that He was willing to pay any price to make a way to reconciliation over giving us what was deserved. In other words, we were more important to Him than the wrong we did to Him. When we realize that is how we are loved, that is how much it cost Him, how can we not give the same worth to others in gratitude and understanding? How can we not choose to love with the same sacrificial love? And if you don’t think Jesus takes this with the utmost seriousness, you have not read the story of the King's Forgiveness, that He, Himself told in a parable in Matthew 18:21-35. Jesus tells of a man who was forgiven an unpayable amount from his Master, only to show contempt and hostility to someone who owed him a handful of dollars. Having that man held accountable and locked up until he paid all that was due, rather than showing mercy. When the Master heard how the man had not shown mercy to others after being shown such an incredible amount of love and mercy himself, the Master locked the man away until he could pay his debt—which would have been a lifetime: Matthew 18:32-35. This Beatitude stresses the same thing the parable did: "For they shall obtain mercy." You will receive mercy under the condition that you show mercy. I don't think we take this warning seriously enough. And why is God so demanding about this? Because our very existence in this room is based upon nothing but undeserved mercy shown from Him. How can we not show the same? It takes an extreme amount of humility to put others before yourself, and not claim the justice that is yours; to not demand pain or recompense before showing more love than you were shown. To truly understand God's Love and Character, we must realize the worth of another person, and the chance to show God's love is more important than anything that has occurred. To show undeserved mercy may be the clearest, strongest picture of Jesus Christ that someone will ever see in their lives: Romans 2:4. To show mercy, reveals that we have faith in our God to bring justice and punishment on our behalf if necessary, and to take the punishment on Himself if the offender asked mercy from Him. Sometimes tough love is not only acceptable, but necessary, or it would not be love at all. Showing mercy does not mean there are no consequences. Showing mercy does not mean that we must trust and embrace someone who is still hostile or untrustworthy. It simply means that we do not hold feelings of contempt and we do not lash out in punishment from anger and vengeance. When David had been pursued by King Saul for fifteen years, he was given the opportunity to take Saul's life, but David showed mercy instead. (Which is surely a major reason David was shown so much mercy in His own mistakes later in life.) Yet, David did not go back to Saul's Kingdom in trust. Why would this make us happy ad blessed now? You are not led and overcome by your bitterness and need for justice. You are free to focus on the things of God. You obtain more mercy in return.
Matthew 5:8: When we hear "Pure" we think perfect, untainted, saintly, and we think, "How will I ever attain this one?"
But this is not at all what the passage is saying. For example, when you look at a water bottle that reads, "Purified" on the side, do you assume it is sinless and holy? Of course not—it simply means that it is not mixed with anything else—it is purely, simply all water. Jesus is saying here, that He wants the heart of a disciple to be undivided for Him. That means two things 1) setting aside the things that will taint our hearts and minds and distract us from wanting Him above all, 2) and actively pursuing Him with our thoughts and actions. "For they shall see God." This is a literal and direct result of being pure or single-minded in our pursuit of Him. Look at just a few of the overwhelmingly many verses which communicate this Truth: Matthew 22:37-38; James 1:7-8; Matthew 6:24; 1 John 2:15; Revelation 3:15-16 ; Jeremiah 29:13-14. How does this make you happy now? Because you can have a taste of the Kingdom of Heaven here and now; you can see Him, hear Him, be comforted by Him, and know His will in incredible ways; you can become more aware of Him in nature, in blessings, in His Word, and in your circumstances than ever before. For example, when you are single-minded, focused, looking for Him diligently, you can and will see Him.
Matthew 5:9: This command may seem like a repeat of the first Beatitude we discussed today, "Blessed are the merciful..." but being a peacemaker is very distinct from showing mercy. To show mercy is to refrain from giving punishment or even hatred that is deserved, but that does not take the steps to create or restore fellowship, acceptance, or peace of mind to the offender. It is not a call to be walked on, act cowardly, not to defend others, or refrain from war. There are many times in life that all of these things are necessary to show proper love, and not to oppose would actually be to enable someone to be even worse: Romans 12:17-18. There are times we are forced to have conflict and even battle because of the actions of another. We are to stand for Truth and righteousness, and we are to defend those we are called to protect, no matter the cost to self, but only when forced to do so by others, never in vengeance or attitude ourselves. To be a peacemaker is to care not only for refraining from the desire for revenge and recompense, but to have a desire for the offender to truly know they are forgiven and set free; to establish our desire for peace in the offender's hearts, even if a relationship is not possible. It is to alleviate the strife and attitude between you and another to the best of your ability. It is to communicate the worth of an offender even in the presence of their hostility; to show their worth even though they have failed. Why is this one key to being called, "The sons of God?" Because all of the Mercy and forgiveness ever shown by God had one purpose and goal: to establish peace and reconciliation between God and man. To do the same—to want reconciliation and peace with others—is to show His heart and attitude to the world, is to help us relate to Him in thought and purpose. And this makes us happy here and now by not living in dread, avoidance and division; by giving us an outward focus rather than an inward pain; by helping us see others' worth.
Matthew 5:10-12: These verses do not say blessed are those who suffer for their own sins, or even those who suffer through the various trials of life including sickness, unwanted events etc.—although all of these can be used of God to draw you close to Him and give Him Glory—but these passages are speaking directly to the persecution we will receive as a direct result of our love and faith in Him. In any culture, at any time, to love and live for Jesus Christ as He desires will bring a certain amount of persecution, but in very recent years, we have gone from comfortable and safe Christianity, to being haters, troublemakers, and lawbreakers who blindly ignore science; who show prejudice and judgment towards almost everyone; who cause many of the social problems of our culture; who's doctrine of beliefs are being misquoted, misrepresented, and seen as worthy of being monitored, changed or taken away; who's rights to their beliefs, even lived out peaceably in love, have caused loss of business, finances and even personal freedom; who should be silenced, removed, and even killed according to some in open, public comment. How does God say to respond to these changes? "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad." In other words, "Jump for joy!" Why does God say this should make us happy and blessed now? Because (as these verses say) we are accumulating incredible rewards in Heaven for our faithfulness. Do you truly believe that? Do you ponder that? And because we are being tested by God: 1 Peter 4:12. Not to prove ourselves to Him, but to help us see the depth or shallow state of our own faith and to grow that faith in experience: 1 Peter 4:13. And because the persecution allows us to share in what Christ had to endure... Relating to His pain, and showing our love for Him in return: 1 Peter 4:14. And because we know that God is near to us in an incredible and intimate way when we choose to suffer on His behalf: 1 Peter 4:14. And because we can show the world how real our faith in Christ truly is bringing Him Glory through our persecution. Jesus says that our attitude towards persecution will reflect our true heart for Him because it reveals whether love for self or love for Christ is most important in our lives. And for Christ, it was love for us over His own life. And, it reveals whether we truly love our enemies more than ourselves when our desire is still to reach them with Truth, even when being hated and done unjustly. In this first section of Jesus' opening Sermon to His disciples, God directly tells us this is exactly what He would like for us to be (not do). How can you not give serious consideration to these passages? How does your heart compare to what our God Almighty has literally spelled out for us to strive for in His Eyes? Not in doing, but in being: the Be-Attitudes.
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