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The Beatitudes, Part 2

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Today we’ll hear the 2nd part of the beatitudes, but first we need to review a little bit from last week.

Worldly beatitudes

·         Blessed are the wealthy, for theirs is the kingdom of earth.

·         Blessed are those who play, for they shall be amused.

·         Blessed are the strong, for they shall rule the earth.

·         Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after meeting their own needs, for you need to look after your own needs first.

·         Blessed are the just, for they need no mercy.

·         Blessed are the pure, for they shall be seen and recognized for their good deeds.

·         Blessed are the peacekeepers, for they might win the Nobel peace prize.

·         Blessed are those who are praised for their righteousness sake, for they have worked hard and deserve it.

·         Blessed are you when people shall flatter you and praise you and shall say all manner of nice things  about you constantly. Rejoice and be
exceeding glad, for great is your reward on earth.

These are things that the world teaches we need in order to be blessed and to be happy.  We are taught that money can bring happiness, that we need to look after numero uno, that we can pull ourselves up by our boot straps and it’s a sin to rely upon someone else.

Matthew 5:1-12

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up a mountainside and sat down.  His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

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.”

The only common theme between the beatitudes of the world and the beatitudes of Jesus is the fact that we are seeking to be blessed.  So what does it mean to be blessed?  In the Bible we see that humans can bless God and God can bless humans.  To be “blessed” means, to be approved, to find approval.  So whose blessing are we seeking?  Whose approval do we want?  Do we want to be approved of by God or by our colleagues?  That is the fundamental difference between the beatitudes of the world and of Jesus.  Whose blessing are you seeking?

Last week we looked at the first beatitudes – blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted; blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth; blessed those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

The poor in spirit are those who are spiritually bankrupt.  Those who have absolutely nothing to offer God.  One commentator said that there is no one in God’s kingdom that isn’t poor in spirit.

Those who mourn aren’t just sad over something bad that happened to them.  But they are sorry because of their sin and the sin of the world.

The meek aren’t a wishy-washy bunch that can be lead around like a bunch of sheep.  The meek are humble – they put other people’s needs ahead of theirs.  They are teachable and willing to be lead by the Holy Spirit.

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness have a desire to know God more.  Their supreme goal in life is to know God and be in fellowship with Him.

The first 4 beatitudes primarily deal with attitude.  They are something that we are rather than what we do.  The New Testament talks about our actions as well, but first it focuses on what we are and being.  A Christian is something before he does anything; and we have to be Christian before we can act as Christians.  Let me explain that a little – often times we feel that we need to get better and do good things before we can go to God and become a Christian.  But Jesus didn’t say to people go and do 5 good things and then I’ll heal you or go and do something nice for your neighbor and then you can follow me.  No, he went right to where the people were at and didn’t expect them to come to him.  We are Christians not because of what we’ve done, but only the grace of God and our actions are an outcome of that.

5. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

So what is it to be merciful?  It is to feel pity and sorrow for a person who is suffering or in a bad situation?  Perhaps it means that we aren’t to punish someone when they do something wrong.

I would say that an example of mercy can be found in the parable of the Good Samaritan.  The Samaritan who is traveling on a journey sees a man who is beaten and laying half-dead in the ditch.  He stops and goes up to the man.  There have been others who went by and saw the man lying in the ditch.  They may have felt pity and sorrow for the man, perhaps even had some compassion for him.  But they didn’t stop.  The Samaritan was somebody who was merciful – he felt sorry for the victim, he went up to the man and cleaned up his wounds and put bandages on him.  Then he took the man with him and made provisions for him.  That is being merciful.  It’s not just feeling pity, but it’s a desire and an effort to do something to relieve the situation.

The ultimate example of showing mercy is of God sending Jesus Christ, His only Son, into the world.  God knew our pitiful state, living in darkness, and suffering.  We broke the law and deserved our situation, but God had mercy on us.  He saw our condition and took action upon it.

  1. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

The pure in heart – something that is difficult for us as humans to recognize.  Jesus says later in Matthew 5:19 that “for out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander.”  So if these are the things that come out of the heart how can we be pure? 

A pure heart is a necessity because God is pure.  The kingdom of God, heaven, in its perfected form will only admit people who are pure.  Not just those who appear pure on the surface, but whose purity goes to their inmost being.

Dr. Lloyd-Jones says that to be pure in heart is to say that “it means we have an undivided love which regards God as our highest good, and which is concerned only about loving God.  To be pure in heart, in other words, means to keep the ‘first and greatest commandment’, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind.

  1. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

Here is the world’s view of a peacemaker (slide of pistol).  In order to have peace we must have the means to wage war and defend ourselves from our enemies.  But a peacemaker in God’s eye is a little bit different.

Sometimes people take this and they believe that peace means that we must give into others’ demands.  That we aren’t to cause trouble and everyone should be able to get along even if we have any differences.  This is what happened in the late 1930s.  European leaders continually gave into the demands of Hitler expecting that each one would be the last demand and it would mean peace.  However compromising and giving in only lead to death, destruction, and war.

Peace means reconciliation.  It’s a big word, but to be reconciled with someone means that those two people who once had problems with each other were once again able to be friends again.  This is what had to happen for those of us who are Christians.  In order for us to have a relationship with God there had to be a reconciliation that took place.  The relationship with God was broken in the Garden of Eden because of sin.  The peace that was made was made at a great cost – it took the blood and life of God’s only Son.

For us to be peacemakers means that we forgive someone who has treated us wrongly.  We might have to try and be the mediator of two groups that are fighting.  Other examples of peacemaking are the work of reunion and evangelism.  Seeking to unite churches and bring sinners to Christ.

Just a quick side-note about sons of God.  Many times the Bible uses sons of God and can mean sons and daughters – in other words children of God.  But in Jewish thought “son” often mean that you took on that character of that.  So “son of God” here doesn’t mean child of God, but it means that you have the character of God.

  1. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and false say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

No thanks.  I would rather not be persecuted, insulted, or have false rumors spread about me.

Last week when reading this I misread and I said “blessed are those who are persecuted because of their righteousness.”  The righteousness that we are persecuted for isn’t because of anything that we’ve done, but it is for the righteousness given to us by Christ that we are persecuted.

Persecution can take many forms.  Some of the severest forms mean that to be a Christian you might forfeit your life.  In this area it doesn’t mean the chance to be persecuted to death, but we can be ridiculed by family or even ostracized by relatives.  There are many forms of persecution.

Jesus doesn’t say “if” you are persecuted.  Being persecuted because of righteousness will happen.  2 Timothy 3:12 says that “everyone who wants to lead a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…”  We live in a sinful world and genuine righteousness will condemn people merely by existing.  People look at a righteous person and they feel convicted of their sin. 

Jesus doesn’t say that you need to be saddened and down because of this.  But to consider it joy, because it means that the reward in heaven is theirs.  It is a triumphant sign that the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

The beatitudes of Jesus is in direct conflict with the commonly accepted values and standards of the world.  The world judges the rich to be blessed, not the poor; the happy-go-lucky and carefree, not those who take evil so seriously that they mourn over it; the strong and brash, not the meek and gentle; the full not the hungry; those who mind their own business, not those who meddle in other men’s matters and occupy their time in do-goodery like ‘showing mercy’ and ‘making peace’; those who attain their ends even if necessary by devious means, not those pure in heart who refuse to compromise their integrity; those who are secure and popular and live at ease, not those who have to suffer persecution.

Perhaps it would be easy to say I can follow beatitudes number 2, 5, and 7.  I’m able to feel sorrow over my sins and the sins of the world.  I’m able to feel compassion and act upon it.  I’m also a pretty good negotiator and I can bring peace to people.  We break up the beatitudes for convenience sake to study them and memorize them.  But these 8 beatitudes aren’t 8 – they are one.  They don’t describe 8 different kinds of people, but one kind of person – a Christian.  It’s all or none.

Again it might be easy to go away saddened and dejected because we feel that we don’t fit into these categories, that we have failed.  Remember though the first beatitude – blessed are the poor in spirit.  Blessed are those who have nothing to offer God.  Those who can buy their way into the kingdom of heaven through money, talents, or hard work won’t get there.  It is those who cling to the cross of Christ and rely upon the righteousness of Christ who attain the kingdom of heaven.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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