Matthew 5:1-12 1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
About 75 of you are taking the NT reading challenge with me. We are reading the NT through during the 40 days of Lent. If you are adding a discipline like extra reading or if you are fasting something, Sundays are a day off from those pursuits. You will still get your 40 days in if you take Sundays off. Just so you know. What struck me on day 1 of our reading was the order of events. Jesus began His earthly ministry by being baptized. The second big event was how He went toe to toe with the devil and won in the desert temptation encounter. Then, as He started to teach He pulled no punches. Right out of the shoot Jesus talked about internal affairs, internal attitudes, internal heart positions. He eloquently and in a detailed and precise way described the attitude and lifestyle of those who would belong to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Remember, the Jews were looking for a military hero. They were looking for someone to make their lives easier. They were looking for someone to liberate them from other people. They never expected someone to throw down the challenge that they be liberated from themselves, their sin, their selfishness, and their earthly agendas.
Jesus called the state of living to which He was calling His followers, the “Blessed Life.” Developing the internal postures of the heart which would lead to the attitudes He described would result in a sense of blessing. Blessing here is more than happiness. It is about being true to God and true to who we have been called to be. It is about wholeness and completeness. It is about rightness in our living. It is about deep joy, contentment and true peace. It’s about a willingness to become something other than we are. We aren’t born into the blessed state Jesus described here. But we are born again into the opportunity to experience it through the transforming power of the Spirit. For the Kingdom of God isn’t experienced in earthly ways, through human reasoning and responses. It is only experienced through supernatural means and through the surrender of our natural, fleshly instincts to something much, much higher.
The Greek word for “blessed” is makarios. It literally means joy which finds its secret within itself. Jesus said in Luke 17:21 that “The Kingdom of God is within you.”
Don’t be misled to think I am saying that you possess blessedness on your own, that it is simply within you and must be discovered. That is faulty, New Age thinking. It does, however mean that the key to blessedness is not from external earthly factors, but it is about an inside surrender, an internal reflection, and internal attitude that no matter what happens on the outside to us and around us, we still maintain a certain posture, a certain demeanor, a certain tenacity, peace, and hope because of the real Kingdom in which we live which is the Kingdom of God.
When you are struggling with some difficulty, the answer isn’t found in trying to manage the difficulty, eradicate the difficulty or manipulate the difficulty, but it is found in exercising the attitudes described here by Jesus. That internal posture is what will enable us to be victorious in any earthly or spiritual circumstance.
Let’s look at each one. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
People who have this attitude are people who have realized and admitted they can’t save themselves. They need God to intervene. In order to be poor in spirit we have to admit we are spiritually helpless. People who are poor in spirit willingly allow themselves to be ruled by God.
Some of us learn this truth and embrace it as we grow up because we were taught what the Bible has to say about our need for salvation and a relationship with God. Reading and hearing it causes our hearts to connect with our need for God. Others of us learn this truth when life unravels, when we walk through a dark valley, or when we face an unexpected illness or loss. When we find ourselves in over our heads in some situation we realize how limited we are. Those moments tend to prompt us to look up.
Being poor in spirit doesn’t mean we adopt the idea that we are valueless or worthless or not qualified for a task. I found a picture this week that perhaps says it best.
People who are poor in spirit realize that without Christ they can do nothing (John 15:5), but with Christ they can do all things (Philippians 4:13).
I Samuel 16:7 tells us God looks at our insides. He sees our hearts. He knows who and what we really are. Agreeing with God about His evaluation is the first step to experiencing the blessed life. I don’t care if you have a great pension, a good marriage, a job you enjoy and health to boot, if you don’t have salvation you aren’t blessed.
I believe God helped me see this week that those who haven’t yet accepted Christ as Savior aren’t poor in spirit. They don’t have a proper view of themselves. There is an element of pride and self-sufficiency that keep them from surrendering which unfortunately keeps them from living the blessed life.
Congregational Prayer: God, help me see my spiritual helplessness and turn to you for salvation and daily life.
The second Beatitude is: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
This beatitude isn’t referring to being comforted when you are grieving the loss of a loved one, although God is present to comfort us in those difficult moments. This beatitude is tied to the first one as it relates to our spiritual condition. Recognizing we are spiritually helpless leads us to look at what our problem is.
You see, in the first beatitude we express our condition. We agree with God that we are sinners. In this second one, we express our sorrow over our condition. We are comforted by the Spirit of God when we are sorry for our sin. Just think, when was the last time you told anyone you were sorry about anything? It’s probably not a regular phrase or regular enough phrase for most if not all of us. Being sorry means we stop defending our behavior. It means we stop justifying it, minimizing it and trying to blame other people for the reason we act the way we do.
When you are truly broken over what you have done and express it to God without any “reason” for why you do what you do, you will receive the comfort God promises which lifts the weight of sin off your back. When was the last time you told God you were sorry for your sin?
When you read King David’s words of sorrow over his sin, you see that he got it. He understood how ugly his sin was, and he let himself feel it so deeply that he didn’t want to repeat it. Why is it a blessing to mourn over sin? There is a “sorrow that leads to repentance.” (II Corinthians 7:10) We are blessed when we mourn over sin because it leads us to repentance that frees us from and keeps us from repeating the sin.
Forgiveness isn’t just an exchange of words, but it is a transformation of our condition. When God forgives us it is more than words. His forgiveness frees us from shame, guilt and condemnation. And when He forgives us He teaches us and encourages us so that we can live free from that sinful pattern. That is the blessed part. The word “comforted” means more than just being soothed, but it carries the idea of gaining strength. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to come alongside us when we are sorry for our sins to strengthen us to enable us to run from that temptation the next time.
Congregational Prayer: God, help me to see how much my sin hurts You, hurts our relationship, and diminishes the quality of my life and testimony. Help me to experience godly sorrow for my sin.
Verse 5 lists the third beatitude: Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. A meek person is someone who demonstrates power and authority under the control of the Holy Spirit. We know Jesus was a meek person. He was born in a place where animals grazed. He didn’t have a house to call His own. He rode into Jerusalem the last week of His life on a lowly donkey, not on a horse as a conquering king would. He was humble. He was gentle, but He was also aggressive, confident and strong. Meekness is power under Holy Spirit control.
Meek people don’t have to “take everything into their hands.” They place things in God’s hands. Meek people don’t have to have the last word. They let God have the final say. When they experience anger and passion it is for the right reasons.
What about the idea that meek people inherit the earth? What is that all about? To help us let’s look at what we would call a parallel passage in Psalm 37:5-11. 5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: 6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. 7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. 8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret–it leads only to evil. 9 For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land. 10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. 11 But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.
The Psalmist helps us understand that meek people are those who commit their way to the Lord, waiting patiently on Him. Meek people don’t run ahead of God. They will get all that God has planned for them. Land was the prime inheritance of people at that time, but God gives many other good gifts to give now. Whatever He has in store for the meek will be a wonderful inheritance.
The fourth Beatitude says: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Jesus wanted to know if His would-be followers wanted a deep relationship with Him as much as a starving person would want something to eat or as much as someone who was dying of thirst would want something to drink. Are you there with your spiritual passions? Do you echo the words of the Psalmist in 42:1? “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” And do you long not just for God, but also do you long to live God’s way? It is the way of righteousness. Is that what you crave? Righteousness in all of your ways and thoughts and dealings with people?
It’s time for us to get restless. It is time for us to be stirred up for “the more” that awaits. It’s time for someone’s fire to be re-lit and others to have the flames in their hearts fanned to burn with deep passion. It is time for a commitment to do more than come to church and keep our noses clean. It is time for some extended time on our faces before God, weeping before God, arms raised to God in prayer, and extended times of pouring out our hearts in worship to Him.
Think with me for a minute about hunger and thirst. Aren’t you hungry more than once a week? Aren’t you hungry more than on Sundays? More than on Wednesdays and Sundays? Don’t you get thirsty more than a few times a week? How often do you pay attention to satisfy your hunger and your thirst? It is regular, ongoing, and is several times a day. That is the way we are to approach our spiritual lives. We want to be satisfied with Him more than once a week, more than a few times a week, even more than once a day. We are pursuing Him, and His righteousness all throughout every day.
The promise here is that for all who do hunger and thirst for righteousness, they will be filled. I personally like feeling full, don’t you? The satisfaction and contentment that comes from being full? The feeling of strength and vitality that results from eating well? I also personally look forward to eating. I’m glad our bodies need more than breakfast. I like to eat. I like to eat three and four times a day. We should look forward to spending time with Jesus as much as we look forward to buffalo chicken dip which happens to be one of my new specialties!
We hunger and thirst for a lot of things; too many to list. Why does Jesus take a back seat to all of those? Why do many of those things sabotage our relationship with Jesus? Is Jesus your first love? Do you pursue Him and His way with a passion?
Congregational Prayer: Lord, help me to cultivate a hunger and thirst for You above all things. I want to be filled with the good things You desire to bring to my life.
Number 5: Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
You know, not everything is black and white. There are times that even though someone’s situation is a mess of their own making, we are called to show mercy, to provide support, and to help them. How else will people ever get back on the right track? People who are on the wrong track, who have made bad decisions, they know they are on the wrong road. They know they have driven their lives into the ditch. Merciful people aren’t willing to just let people lay in the ditch. I was blessed to offer a prayer for mercy this week for a friend whose suffering has gotten to the point of being overwhelming. I understood why the person was dealing with what they were dealing with, but out of human love and friendship I could empathize with them about what they were enduring, and I prayed for mercy!
The word used for “mercy” here is an Aramaic word that involves seeing things through the eyes of the person in trouble, feeling things the way the person in trouble feels them. I’m not talking about enabling behavior that will keep people in the ditch, but I’m talking about expressing the care and concern that will help pull them out. Many of us read Matthew 18 this past week. It tells the story of the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant which reminds us that we have all received mercy. Therefore we are commanded to show it to others.
Number 6: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Pure in heart. Purity in heart isn’t something we can muster. We don’t bring a pure heart to God, but we bring our dirty, divided, complicated hearts to God with a total desire that He will clean our hearts to make them pure. “Create in me a clean, heart, O God!” That was what the Psalmist prayed in Psalm 51:10. “Give me an undivided heart, God” was echoed in Psalm 86:11. It’s not about a perfect heart, but a heart filled with the pure intention of allowing God to do His transforming work. It is laying down lip service and picking up the life service of the single agenda of becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. We are called to love the Lord with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, all our strength. You can tell when someone’s heart isn’t in something they are doing. You know right now if your heart is really into this Jesus thing or not. There is to be a single devotion on loving Him correctly. When that is our goal, when that is our aim, when that is our passion, when that is our desire, we will see Him. We will see Him at work in our lives to transform our hearts and take us to new places in our walk with Him.
Congregational Prayer: Search our hearts, God. Show us who we really are. Work in us to change us. Help us to pursue you whole-heartedly and see You fully.
Number 7: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
The idea of peace has many meanings. Peace isn’t just the absence of war. It is a state of being no matter what. It is seeking what is best for all involved. It is embracing the desire that harmony with God and harmony with others is of utmost importance. Being a peacemaker means we work to love others correctly, patiently, and with love. Peacemakers don’t look for ways to stir the pot, to hurt or exploit others or to win an argument. Peacemakers encourage others to seek peace. When someone comes to you and they are hurt or angry because of something someone else has said or done, do you add your two cents about the third person? When your friend tells you what so and so has done, do you chime in that they should pay for what they have done or do you point your offended friend in the way of peace?
Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” There are times in order to make peace for ourselves we have to disconnect from other people. That is true. Peace isn’t always possible, but we are to live with the mindset that it is our desire. My parents used to tell me I could be part of a problem or part of the solution. It’s such a true statement. Jesus asked His people to live as part of the solution whenever possible. That doesn’t mean we ever compromise the integrity of God’s Word! It means that we promote peace whenever possible.
Congregational Prayer: Lord, let me be focused on pursuing peace, promoting peace, and contributing to peace whenever possible.
Finally number eight: Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
If you are persecuted because of Christ it must mean you are living in such a way as to have been recognized as one of Christ’s followers. Good job! 🙂 People who follow Christ will challenge the status quo because that is what He did. He turned things upside down a lot. People oppose those who shake things up. Jesus was persecuted long before crucifixion week. Perhaps this last Beatitude really is tied to every previous one.
People who are poor in spirit may be labeled as needing Jesus for a crutch.
People who mourn out of sorrow for their sin may be called weak.
People who are meek may be called powerless and ineffective.
People who hunger and thirst after righteousness may be heralded as misguided.
People who are merciful may be called foolish and stupid.
People who are attempting to be pure in heart may be pigeonholed as “goodie-two-shoes.”
People who seek peace may be labeled as cowards.
All kinds of insults will likely come to those who follow Christ because they came to Him. What we have to focus on, however, isn’t what happens in the moment, but what happens in the end. Jesus was magnified. Jesus was glorified. Jesus was exalted. If you are truly a Kingdom person, then adopt these Kingdom Attitudes and be satisfied with letting eternity tell the story!