As we enter this Sunday into the study of the gospel of Matthew, we’re calling it The King And His Kingdom. And this will be the Beatitudes, Part three today. I wonder if you would like a paper copy, raise your hand up real high. As we always say around here, we study through books to the Bible. So we also like to offer those if you don’t have one, you can also jump online of course, here at The Village Chapel and the network. If you want a copy, just keep your hand up. Someone will bring one around to you. I wonder if you could ask anyone in the entire world, what the secret of a flourishing life is, who would you ask? Maybe a philosopher, a poet, politician, probably not, priest or a pastor? Maybe not. I wonder if it would be a famous musician, a movie star, perhaps a scientist or a social media influencer, or who would you ask? If you could ask anybody in the entire world, what’s the secret of a flourishing life? As I say, we study through books of the Bible here, and we’re going to ask that question of Jesus and continue to ask it as we go through the life in the teachings of Jesus in the gospel according to Matthew, before we do, let me just offer a little prayer for illumination. If you’ll bow your hearts, and open your hearts to the Lord with me.
Almighty God, in you are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge as we study your word today, give us humble, teachable and obedient hearts that we may receive, what you have revealed and do what you command. We pray for a clearer vision of your truth, a greater faith in your power, and a more confident assurance of your love for us in Jesus’s name amen and amen.
So I’m gonna reread verse seven through 12 and will be part three of the Beatitudes. We’ll close up the Beatitudes with this study this week. Next week, we’ll continue on in, that sort of Mona Lisa of sermons, the sermon on the Mount and pastor Matt will be here and talking about what it means to be salt and light in this world. And for now though, let’s take a look at verse seven through 12, as I said, remember, these are the Beatitudes, not the ‘Do Attitudes’. Okay, just remember that. Keep that in mind. ‘Cause the Christian faith is always about ontology before it is about biography. It’s about the kinds of beings or new creatures. As Matt just said from second Corinthians chapter five, the new creatures we are in Christ. And this is not a list of the requirements of entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. This is a list of characteristics of those who have already entered. These are the results, not requirements. The results of God’s salvation that work in our lives. So verse seven is “blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy”. We’re saying “blessed to the pure in heart for they shall see God”. “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God”. Some of the translations will say ‘sons’, that’s just the old way of saying these are children of God, not just property, but children of God, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness for theirs is (present tense) the Kingdom of Heaven, blessed are you. When men revile you and to persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you, falsely on account of me. Rejoice and be glad for your reward in heaven is great for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Well, let’s put up on the screen. If you don’t mind just a couple of things. First of all, a little summary, as I characterize it for us.
The Beatitudes described the character of those whose values, affections and allegiances have been transferred to King Jesus in the kingdom of heaven.
In other words, it’s a complete reorientation. It’s a complete different kind of way of being and now everything you value most, everything that you have given your loyalty to and your loves, if you will, in life, all of that is transferred to Jesus focused on Jesus. Why? Because if the Beattitudes look like something, what do they look like? Look to Jesus, that’s what they look like. Poor in spirit. Yeah. The one who came a man of sorrows showed us what mourning is really like. And I want you to know something in this day and age it’s so important for us to understand the wonderful gift God has given us in the word ‘lament’ of proper biblical lament acknowledges the sadness in this world and even in ourselves, the sin that grips us, that has a vise-like grip in our own lives. We properly lament these things. We’re not just screaming out into an empty darkness. We’re actually saying, ‘God help us’ because we need help. And we can’t save ourselves.
Whether you’re talking globally or personally within the context of your relationships, you need God’s help, I need God’s help. Within the context or sphere of your work, your neighborhood you need God’s help. I need God’s help. And so we run to him and we transfer. We redirect our values, affections, and allegiances as he gives us the grace to do that. And we trust him to do that.
The Pattern of the Beatitudes:
- Pronouncement of blessedness
- Condition of the heart
- Reward or benefit
Pronouncement of blessedness.There’s Jesus saying, ‘Macarius’ (blessed). It’s not just happy. I know some of your English translators will say that, but the English language is so kind of fluid, in many ways, kind of shallow. And this word is much richer than that. More properly, it’s flourish. Flourishing are those who are poor in spirit. Flourishing are those who mourn. Flourishing are the meek. Flourishing are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they will be satisfied. And if you’re never satisfied, if I’m chronically dissatisfied, I have to stop and ask myself, ‘What is it I’m so hungry for? What is it I’m longing for? Perhaps I’m longing for the wrong stuff all the time.’
And then the condition of the heart is mentioned, and then the reward or benefit that attends with it. I love the way Dr. Jonathan T. Pennington has summarized the beatitudes. He calls them and his book, by the way, on the sermon of the mountain is just brilliant. He’s an associate professor of New Testament interpretation, and he’s just brilliant.
Grace based wisdom, invitations to human flourishing in God’s kingdom.–Dr. Jonathan T. Pennington
And so, with the Beatitudes we have a declaration or a pronouncement, but we also have an invitation. Let me surrender that part of who I am to Jesus and watch Him begin to transform me. And I love the way as we’ve said, the Beatitudes open with that present tense reward and close with that present tense reward. Blessed are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven. All the others in between shall be future promises. And then it closes with those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. Theirs is the kingdom of heaven. It’s as if God is saying their book ends and all of this is what God wants to do in my life and in your life. If I will surrender to His grace based wisdom, invitation to human flourishing.
Well, let’s talk about the first of these last four. We’re gonna say four or five because it’s most of, you know, some people count them as eight Beatitudes, some people count them as nine, which is it? You would think you could come here and find out for sure. And I would simply say to you, you can be a member of The Village Chapel, and think there are eight, see it as eight. You can see it as nine. It’s really okay. This is not necessary for your salvation. And that’s really great news, isn’t it? (Oh boy, I don’t wanna get that wrong!)
The first one or the first that we’ll look at today is actually the fifth Beatitude.
“Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.”Matthew 5:7
Some of you have read C.S. Lewis’s brilliant and creative imaginative book The Great Divorce where a busload of the deceased travel from hell up to heaven with the view of switching the residents permanently. They meet some of the citizens from heaven. And one man from hell is astonished to find in heaven this man who on earth had been tried and executed for murder. “What I would like to know,” he explodes, (the man from hell), “is what are you doing here? You are a murderer while I, am a pillar of society. A self-respecting decent citizen, I’m forced to walk the streets down here in the midst of smoke and fumes and live in a place like a pigsty.” The man from heaven tries to explain that he’s been forgiven, that he and the man he had murdered have been reunited in heaven at the seat of Christ. The ghost from hell replies. “I can’t buy that! My rights! I demand my rights the same as you.” The man from heaven, who’s been forgiven says. “Oh no, no, no. It’s not as bad as all that. You don’t want your rights. Well, if I had gotten my rights, I would never be here. You’ll not get your rights. You’ll get something far better. You’ll get the mercy of God.” It’s really beautiful when you think of it, it’s upside down and inside it out, just like the Beatitudes themselves when you read them, it’s kind of first reading, you go ‘Blessed or the poor in spirit? Blessed are those who mourn?’ It seems hypothetical in so many ways. So he says, ‘blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.’ What is mercy? What is grace? What is mercy? These two words we talk about the time. Grace, as we seem to go through the Bible, grace seems to be this thing that is extended to the guilty and undeserving. It’s God’s favor to the guilty and undeserving. And I for one am so grateful for God’s grace. I don’t need karma, I need grace. ‘Cause if I rely on karma, I’m sunk. So grace is God’s favor to the guilty and undeserving. Mercy on the other hand is where God comes to help those who are helpless and needy. And that’s me too. That’s you as well if we’re all honest. I think the way the word ‘mercy’ is used throughout the Bible indicates both a legal and a societal application. In the legal sense the word is clemency leniency, not receiving a punishment that you actually deserve
In the social sense of the word, ‘mercy’ seems to be a more personal active compassion, the kind of sympathy or empathy that we show to another benevolence or kindness. When one sees a need one must move to meet that need. You may have heard a statement that goes something like this. “Be kind, everyone, you know, is fighting a great battle.” It’s been variously attributed to people like Plato, Philo of Alexandria, the Scottish author, John Watson. Whose Penn name is Ian McLaren. The who isn’t I couldn’t tell you. I don’t know, but I think it sounds really interesting. I’ll try to think of that little saying every now and then the point is a kind heart overflows with mercy, especially a heart that’s aware of the lavish amount of mercy that it has received from God. Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy. Being merciful is what Jesus did. When He became one of us He literally slipped into human shoes, walked the earth. As one of us knew what it meant to get tired, to become hungry, to be yelled at, to be rejected, to be betrayed and have to live with obnoxious people. Some of whom were out to put an end, not only to his career, but to his very life. And we’ll see that as we go through Matthew and yet Jesus, the merciful one hung on a cross on their behalf on my behalf. His body beaten into a bloody pulp, He still uttered the words of mercy for his persecutor “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” This was the most amazing display of mercy the world has ever known and let’s face it. God’s mercy shown to us in the person and work of Jesus is nothing short of extravagant and magnificent.
Why is this characteristic mentioned in the Beatitudes as describing the heart of those who follow Jesus? Blessed are the merciful. Is it perhaps because our souls on their own would go the other way? How many of you are merciful in traffic? Don’t raise your hand ’cause we know. How many of you are merciful when pushed to the limit with your spouse? Or with your coworkers or with your children or with your parents for that matter. Merciful. What does that look like in your world and in mine? It’s so easy to see it on the world stage. Just so easy for me to get up here right now. I want to so bad ’cause we know what merciless looks like don’t we? It’s everywhere. But the shocking thing is, well, I can see it so easily out there and I can certainly, I think we’d have 100% unanimity on what we see out there. But what about what we see in here. Got to ask that question, ’cause Jesus is talking about what’s in here and he’s saying the blessed life, the flourishing life is the life that has become a merciful life. A heart that overflows with mercy. I struggle with that, I don’t know about you. There are two ways I struggle with God’s mercy.
Two ways we struggle with God’s mercy:
- We struggle to believe God would offer mercy to us.
- We struggle to believe God should/would offer mercy to our “repugnant other”.
I struggle to believe sometimes that he would offer mercy to me, you ever struggle with that? Oh man, I’ve done it. I’ve fallen to that same temptation so many times. There’s no way he’s gonna forgive me that number of times. But more often I probably struggle with it to believe that God should offer mercy to my repugnant others in life. And who are my repugnant others? It’s those people I don’t think God should be merciful to. Do you have any repugnant others? Is it a weird
neighbor? A strange family member, a coworker, perhaps groups that we don’t happen to like? Is it the conservatives or maybe it’s the liberals? Republicans? Are they repugnant? How about the Democrats? Libertarians? Are they they repugnant? How about people that watch Fox News? Are they the repugnant others in your life? Or the people that watch CNN, maybe they’re the repugnant others in your life? (Or one of the other news networks.) Are the repugnant others in your life members of BLM? Or perhaps they’re white supremacists or people you think are white supremacists? Are there repugnant others in your life, ISIS or Putin? Maybe some past president? Is there anyone that you would not even consider showing mercy to? It’s off the table. See that’s what is wrong with my heart? I can think of some repugnant others. And if I asked you to raise your hand, if you were really honest, you would be able to think of some repugnant others, wouldn’t you? And yet Jesus Christ left the comforts of heaven to actually come and die for the people that would drive nails into His hands. And so I gotta think it would include all of my repugnant others as well. All of your repugnant others. I struggle with God’s mercy sometimes.
We see the merciful heart of Jesus and of the God of the Bible. When we look at the story, of course of the Prodigal Son, here’s the extravagant love of this father, looking out the window, waiting for his young prodigal son who runs off and lives, you know, a horrible life wretched life squanders his inheritance turns around finally he’s so desperate turns around, starts to come home hoping his dad will just take him back as a slave, as a worker in the household. And the father of this prodigal son, the father runs out to greet him. And with a huge amount of mercy, lavishes on his son and is just so generous. Talk about magnificent. This is so generous it’s to be shocking. In that same story we see the older brother who’s like, ‘I ain’t coming into that party. I’ve been good all my life. What are you doing, dad, being good to him?’ You know, and he’s struggling with the mercy being shown to the younger son. And I like the way one pastor put it. One of the hardest things in the world is to stop being the prodigal son without turning into the elder brother. That’s what happens to me so often. Mercy’s for the helpless and the needy. Look for the brokenness behind the behavior, instead of reacting to it. Look for the brokenness behind the behavior and ask yourself what great battle is this person struggling with? And it might be an internal battle. Like they’re just struggling with their own ego, with their own sense of significance. With their own meaning or hope in life. And of course, so many times how many of us have just almost leveled somebody just to discover at the last minute, before we let those words fly, that they had just gone through some really horrible thing. And had we let those words fly, been merciless, it would’ve just added insult to injury. Blessed are the merciful for, they shall receive mercy.
Here at TVC, this Gospel Centered Community, we recognize that we have received so much mercy. And I want you to know, we intend to be a fountain of God’s mercy here at this church. To the broken-hearted person who lost a loved one. To the elderly person who has nobody to talk to. To the single mom who is financially strapped. To the orphans soul who just hasn’t found a community where they fit in. To a homeless person who can’t quite find their footing. Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.
Alan Noble is the associate professor of English at Oklahoma Baptist University and Editor inChief of Christ and Pop Culture. He says,
“Jesus has not stopped receiving sinners and eating with them. And people have not stopped accusing Him for that mercy. Sometimes the accusers are also those He eats with, but He receives them still.”–Alan Noble
John Stott said,
“Nothing moves us to forgive like the wondering knowledge that we ourselves have been forgiven. Nothing proves more clearly that we’ve been forgiven than our own readiness to forgive.”–John Stott
It’s the only conditional statement here in the Lord’s prayer. Forgive us our trespasses. As we forgive those who trespass against us. What if God literally answered that prayer the way it’s stated? Would you be forgiven? Forgive us our trespass in the same way that we forgive others, who trespass, who are you withholding forgiveness from? When it would just so cause your heart to be blessed and flourishing if you would just move in this Beatitude and live in it. Because that’s what your soul was designed to do, was to reflect the image of God. And who’s more merciful than this God of the Bible?
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”Matthew 5:8
This is the sixth Beatitude and some of you are thinking, ‘well, I guess I won’t be seeing God anytime soon.’ I’m so glad this Beatitude does not say blessed are the pure in life or blessed are the pure in behavior. It says blessed are the pure in heart. What does that mean? And we have to ask that question don’t we? Pure in our Bibles means at least in two different ways. One, unalloyed free from contamination. And whenever the Bible talks about the heart of a person, please understand. It’s really referring to the totality of who you are, who I am, our mind, our soul, our will, our emotions, all of that comes under this sort of big word ‘heart’ in the Bible to be pure in heart means to have hearts completely open to God, pure unalloyed. There’s nothing blocking Him being God in my heart. There’s nothing gumming up the works. He’s taken over my heart. To be pure in heart means to hold nothing back to have an undivided loyalty to God. As we said earlier, values, affections, allegiances all belong to King Jesus in his kingdom. To allow God to redirect all of those things to live out. The prayer ‘hallowed be thy Name thy kingdom come thy will be done.’ It is to have that single purpose of heart that wants God to be God in your life. Not just wants God to exist, but you want God to be God in your life. Pure in heart for they shall see God, isn’t it beautiful and poetic the way he said that? C. S Lewis picked up on it a little bit. When he said,
“It’s safe to tell the pure in heart that they will see God, because only the pure in heart want to.”–C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
There’s a whole lot of people that want to argue about the existence of God. There’s a lot of people that believe in the existence of God, but actually having God be God in their lives. I see Him become God in their lives is another subject. Another level that they may or may not quite have aspired to or desired it. Oh, how about you? Do you really want to see God? Do you want to see Him in this way? The more passionate your desire becomes for God. Then I think the more clearly we will see God at work. And in other words, you will walk into a room and you begin to see what God is doing. You walk outside and you start to see His creation differently. You look up into the night sky and you see all those stars. And if you’re like me, you’re kind of geeking out on all of that and you wanna know the names of them and all of that. But then you sense the beauty of the order of it all and you think about how grand and huge and massive His creation is. And you really start to see that there’s so many times I just walk right past all of that. If Moses had to been like that, he would’ve walked right past the burning bush. Help us, Lord, to be pure and heart so that we might see you and help us to remind one another to be looking for you.
“Blessed are the peacemakers. As the seventh beatitude, they shall be called children of God.”Matthew 5:9
Several obvious assumptions are implicit here. Number one, peace is a good thing. Is that a good thing? I guess we would all say that peace. Secondly, peace doesn’t simply just happen. Sometimes peace has to be made. And I know some of you’re starting to ask where’s he going with this? Well, I’m just saying Jesus is the one that said peacemakers. Sometimes that has to be made. It might be made by you humbling yourself before that person that you’ve had conflict with. That’s part of making peace, isn’t it? Even though they were the one who was in the wrong at first, in your own mind, but now like Jesus, you come to the broken people to the sinners and you offer yourself. You lay yourself down, your rights down and you pick up His power. And sometimes peace is made in some really beautiful ways. How do we make peace? Some have never even known peace in this world. Again, we look to Christ Jesus. Each and every one of these Beatitudes fulfilled in His life most clearly for us. Let us tell others about this Jesus who is a peacemaker. He came, laid down his life to make peace between God, a holy righteous God and sinful humanity. And then by belonging to Him by following Him, by being His disciples and students. All of a sudden what we find out is that He’s drawn us up into His kingdom and we now have peace with God. And now we begin to have peace with one another. As we in the kingdom of heaven are peacemakers there. And then there’s even another aspect where his peace comes into play in our lives. And that’s where there’s peace within my own heart about who I’m not struggling any longer to discover who I am. I’m receiving who I am as a gift. See, if I’m struggling to discover who I am it’s probably because I’m putting all of my value system into something finite and it might be something good, but it’s finite. I have to put all of my values and all of my affections and all of my allegiances in the direction of Jesus, my savior, the one who came to bring me peace with God, peace with others, and peace within. John Stott, whose commentary on the sermon of the mountain is just brilliant. If you’re gonna buy one, buy that one.
“I wonder if anything is more urgent today, for the honor of Christ for the spread of the gospel, than what the church should be, and should be seen to be what by God’s purpose and Christ’s achievement it already is a single new humanity, a model of human community, a family of reconciled brothers and sisters who love their Father and love each other, the evident dwelling place of God by his Spirit. Only then will the world believe in Christ as Peacemaker. Only then will God receive the glory due His name.”–John Stott
“Blessed are the peacemakers. They shall be called the children of God.”Matthew 5:9
They bear the family resemblance in that way. I gotta hurry.
This is the eighth and if you are counting nine, this would also be the ninth Beatitude:
“Blessed it to those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs as the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.”Matthew 5:10-11
Now, that’s interesting ‘for the sake of righteousness because of Me.’ And sometimes we think persecution is we got laughed at. Sometimes we think persecution is when we got marginalized. Those things may be wrong and they may be rude, but they probably don’t rise to the level of persecution. Persecution is what we’re seeing on a global stage right now, not just with the Christians in Ukraine or in Russia, whatever, but with Christians for a long, long time, for 2000 years, some 70 million, it’s estimated, 70 million Christians dying for their faith. And the shocking thing to me is that 45 million of that number are actually in the 20th century alone. See, the first few hundred years of the Christian Church on this planet with Nero and Decius and Diocletian, really horrible persecution, graphic, you know, Nero literally strapped Christians to poles in his garden, covered him in tar and then used him as lanterns at night. How, how vial, how evil, but similar kinds of things happen in the world today. And unfortunately in much greater numbers today. And yet Jesus says blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness. “Blessed are those who are reviled because of Jesus.” Listen, Jesus was and is on the side of the week. Jesus was and is on the side of the poor and all who are suffering, especially those who suffer for the sake of righteousness and for the name of Jesus. I sometimes suffer because I’m foolish. That’s not what this is talking about. If I suffer because I’m foolish. It’s because I kind of got what I deserved. So raise your hand if you understand that. It’s a law of natural consequences and we’ve forgotten about it all together in our day and age. We don’t teach it anymore in philosophy, we don’t teach it in our schools, but the law of natural consequences is a great bit of philosophy. The great news I have to tell you is that when it comes to Jesus, you don’t have to get what you deserve because He’s merciful and He’s gracious to sinner like us. And what He wants to do is pour that through us so that even if we are persecuted for His name sake, even if we’re persecuted for righteousness sake, when we suffer, we do it in a way that He has declared blessed and flourishing. And then all of a sudden the glory doesn’t go to us because we steeled our way through it. No, the glory is who, but God could be responsible for what we’re seeing in this person. We live in relative freedom here in the west. And I do call it relative freedom. I’ve been saying this for years. We can worship without really being persecuted for our faith here. I’m no alarmist. I’m definitely not interested in making sure I experience this persecution we’re talking about, but we must remain aware that the religious freedoms we enjoy, they may not always exist, especially if our belief in Christ and the way the Bible defines righteousness runs contrary to the way the world thinks right living is. Are we prepared for that? Jesus tried to prepare us for it 2000 years ago when He spoke these words to his followers, most of whom would actually suffer persecution and die for their faith. Now, how are we to respond when that kind of stuff happens? This is, the upside down kingdom of heaven. “
“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:12
And can you see those guys, those disciples, that band of guys that would follow Him around, you know, some of them would go out on mission for Him. Can you see them after the Beatitudes right when it comes to the end and He does this persecuted thing and He goes ‘rejoice, and be glad’, can you see all them look at each other going, what’s he talking about? How can we possibly do that? How is that possible? Well, they did by the grace of God. And most of the twelve went to their deaths because of their faith. And then the Christian Church itself, the gospel spread around the Roman empire without anybody drawing a sword to make it so. Nobody shooting a bow and arrow, nobody riding a chariot into battle to make it so it spread throughout and swept the mighty Roman empire because people lived in the kingdom of heaven while they were here on a earth following Jesus along the way with these grace based invitations to wise living and human flourishing that Jesus put on offer.
Henry Gwatkin, wrote about early church history. He said,
“No wonder the Christians made an impression out of all proportion to their numbers. Conviction in the midst of waivers? Fiery energy in a world of disillusion? Purity in an age of easy morals? Firm brotherhood, and a loose society and heroic courage in the time of persecution formed a problem that could not be set aside.”–Henry M. Gwatkin
What would it look like for that to be said about us? What would it look like if we became more merciful in our marriages or in our friendship relationships, in our homes, at our office, at our school? What would it look like for us to become a church full of people whose hearts overflow with love for God and one another. And that love then motivated us to acts of kindness and mercy like we saw with Men of Valor and compassion toward the poor, the broken and the needy of Nashville. I’d like to find out. Anybody else? Just say, amen.
Let’s pray. Lord made a good seed of your word. Take root and bear fruit in our lives. Grant us grace to love, mercy, grace to do justice and grace to walk humbly with you our God in every sphere of life. In Jesus Name and for His sake. Amen and amen.
(Edited for Reading)