Saturday, November 19, 2016

Matthew 5:7-9 - The Blessed Life, p. 3

Matthew 5:7-9 - The Blessed Life, p. 3

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.  
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called ‘sons of God.’

All of us, at one time or another, have experienced a ‘rude awakening,’ where, we learned something about ourselves that we hadn’t yet realized… something humbling.

For instance - when I was a young person, I thought I was a pretty good athlete.  I received praise from my coaches… was made to feel like a valuable part of the team by my teammates.  I had visions of getting a scholarship to the University of Alabama and playing for Bear Bryant after I sacked the quarterback or recovered a fumble.  

I felt good about myself…

till  our team faced SERIOUS competition from a team that was bigger, stronger, and better coached in every facet of the game… until I lined up across from a guy that should have been named “bruiser” and probably ate raw steak when he was an infant.  The doctor didn’t slap HIM on the bottom when he was born - let me tell ya!

… That’s when I realized, I wasn’t good at football - at all!  In fact, I suddenly wanted to hang up the cleats and get a job! Thank God for TV, amen???

Rude awakenings.  There is a reason we call them “rude.”
It is - a sudden and often unwelcome realization; an occurrence of being made to face an unpleasant fact
It isn’t fun to realize you are NOT ‘all that.’  

And nowhere are these sudden realizations more ‘unpleasant’ than in our spiritual lives.  

We might have THOUGHT we were decent people.  We might have BELIEVED that, in comparison to others, we were moral, respectable citizens. But THEN we come face to face with God’s TRUTH and we realize we are spiritually bankrupt, without hope… LOST.

That is reality.  That is our rude awakening.  

But our gracious God doesn’t drop that ton of bricks on us and leave us without a solution. No.  When we come to see our need for Him, when we cry out for His mercy and grace - HE accepts us and makes us new.  Praise God for that!  

And that’s one of the messages of the Beatitudes: those who realize their spiritual poverty ⇒  find heaven… those who mourn over their sins ⇒  are comforted… those who are humble ⇒ inherit the earth!

This radical AWAKENING doesn’t stop with how we view God and ourselves, however.  This challenge to be like Jesus must impact how we view others too! Jesus said:

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

3 beautiful attitudes of the Child of God… 3 traits that DEFINE who we are as followers of Jesus Christ.  Let’s look at them individually…

  1. FIRST, “Blessed are the Merciful, for they shall RECEIVE mercy.”

What IS mercy? Maybe the better question is, “What is it NOT?”  As you study the life of Jesus and His interactions with the religious leaders of His day, we see Him repeatedly demonstrating the importance of ‘MERCY’ towards those who deserve NONE.  These LESSONS chafed the religious leaders who had turned religion into a way to enrich themselves.

Observing these interactions with people who THOUGHT they were honoring the Lord, we see very quickly what mercy is NOT:

Mercy is NOT prejudiced.

Jesus associated with the sick, the poor, and those chewed up and spit out by sin - and the religious leaders condemned Him for it.  They saw His kindness to sinners as PROOF that He was not a respectable teacher of the Law, much less, God’s Son.  

But our Lord’s friendship with sinners PROVED His mercy.

Mercy can be defined as - WITHHOLDING what someone deserves.  People deserve judgment.  We deserve to be cut off from God without an opportunity to know His grace and love.  But mercy WITHHOLDS what we deserve.  It isn’t prejudiced.  It doesn’t place more value on certain colors - not even if the color is GREEN.  It demonstrates the love of God to those whom society offers little, if any, hope.

Additionally, mercy is NOT petty.  The problem with the Pharisees in Jesus’ day was their tendency to make mountains out of molehills.  Jesus told them, “you strain at gnats and swallow camels!”  A graphic way of saying, they put great importance on things that do not matter - while ignoring the things that DO.  They were petty.

It doesn’t take long to discover where a person’s heart is.  If in the first few minutes you hear them drawing attention to everyone’s mistakes and grumbling about how things don’t suit them - you can rightly conclude they probably aren’t very merciful.  :)


But not only is mercy not prejudiced or petty, it isn’t PASSIVE either.  

Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan to teach the Pharisees the importance of helping the hurting.  Of a man who was beaten within an inch of his life, robbed, and left for dead.  Just so happened that a priest and a Levite passed that way and neither stopped to help the suffering victim. But a Samaritan. .. someone HATED by the Jews, stopped, helped, and paid the man's medical bills, even though he would never receive so much as a “Thank you” in return.

WHY?? Because it is what we OUGHT TO DO!

God’s love would have us be PROACTIVE - NOT PASSIVE.  The Pharisees were always looking to pass the buck when facing needy people.  They couldn’t be expected to actually make a difference, could they?!?  They were more interested in accessing blame than finding solutions.

That isn’t mercy.  

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that serving the Lord is about receiving honor and respect.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking you are better than others because you go to church or have a little money in your pocket.  Jesus would have His followers be MERCIFUL.

Are you?

  1. After mercy, Jesus says, “Blessed are the Pure in Heart, for they shall SEE GOD.”

Pure in heart doesn’t mean that you are perfect… that you never struggle doing what is right… or don’t do dumb things.  When I think of “pure in heart,” two things come to my mind:

Someone who is pure in heart is UNDILUTED.  They love the things God loves.  They are locked in - focused - not distracted by the things of this world. Their first inclination is to follow the Lord. Not vacillating back and forth between the new life and the old.  Undiluted.

One of the problems most church people face is an over-obligated calendar. They're too busy... too strung out.  They always feel bad because godly priorities take a back seat to ballgames and PTA meetings. They are trying to be so many things, they can’t be anything with excellence.

But the pure in heart are undiluted - they’ve settled what is most important.

They are also undefiled. - While the undiluted heart LOVES the things God loves and orders his life accordingly, the undefiled heart hates the things God hates.  

For instance, those with pure hearts love truth and transparency.  They hate lies and deception.  People with right hearts are people who have no problem with accountability.  They aren’t self-righteous pretenders… they are REAL.  Their walk pleases the Lord.

Psalm 37 explains:  “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delights in his way.  Though he stumbles, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”

Proverbs 28 adds, “He who walks blamelessly and uprightly will be kept safe, But he who is crooked will suddenly fall.”

Key in on the phrase:  “They shall see God.”  “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”  What does it mean to “see God?”  It means 3 things:

First, they will see Him personally.  One day, when THIS LIFE is over, the man who is pure in heart will see the Lord - in heaven.  At that moment, all the difficulties we faced, all the persecution and struggles, will PALE in comparison to the joy of seeing Him face to face.

Not only will we see Him personally, we will see Him PRACTICALLY.  When a man’s heart is right with God, he sees the Lord at work in everything.  When he sees the mountains or oceans - he sees God.  When he sees the election, he sees God.  When he looks into the face of a newborn baby, he sees the handiwork of God.

When good times come - he sees God.  When bad times strike - he sees God.

But he doesn’t just see God personally and practically, he sees God PROVISIONALLY.  God’s isn’t just involved out there… He is with ME… involved in my life… protecting me… providing for me… meeting my needs and so much more.

THIS is the promise God makes to the Pure in Heart - He will be an active participant in their lives, blessing, directing, helping.

  1. And FINALLY, Jesus said “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the SONS OF GOD.

When someone says, “You remind me of your father,” it MAY or MAY NOT be a complement - depending on who your father is.  If he is a good man - great!  If he was a scoundrel - not so much!  But Jesus wants us to know that OUR Father is a peace-loving Father.  And we remind others of our Father when we are PEACEMAKERS.

I hate drama.  I hate controversy and squabbling.  But instead of distancing myself from it, I am to be an active participant in making and keeping peace. What does this require of me??

First, a peacemaker FORGIVES.  When someone wrongs you - rather than return evil for evil, you are to forgive them and quit obsessing over the wrongs you have suffered.  Let it go and treat them as if you‘ve let it go… not like they OWE you something.

That offends our sense of justice, doesn’t it?  “Forgive THEM???  No way!  I want them to PAY FOR what they did to me!!”  But you need to understand, forgiveness isn’t for THEM - it’s for YOU!  Jesus specifically states here that those who SHOW mercy will RECEIVE mercy: whether it be from others or from God.  You need to forgive - because:

  • Unforgiveness will make you bitter and sullen and will rob you of joy.
  • Unforgiveness will quench the Spirit and destroy any efforts you make to grow.  
  • Worst of all, unforgiveness strangles other relationships that have nothing to do with the crime whatsoever - specifically - our relationship with God. Jesus even said, “if you don't forgive men of their trespasses, neither will He forgive you!”

Are you forgiving?

Peacemakers also create an atmosphere of peace.  In other words, we don’t get sucked into office or family drama.  We refuse to.  And when it starts, we try to be a solution rather than finding offense.  We are to smother the flames, not fan them.  

If you want to be like Jesus, then you’ve got to cultivate peace in your surroundings… whether that is among family, friends, or co-workers.  

Sadly, church can be a hotbed for division.  Things can be going well, then all of the sudden people are twisted up with each other and no one knows WHY! You should do everything in your power to, as Barney Fife used to say, “Nip it in the bud!”  Stop controversy early and often. Strife hurts EVERYONE.

And ultimately, peacemakers introduce their associates to the King of Peace - Jesus Christ.  What our friends need is NOT more money or a better marriage or a new job.  No.  What they NEED is Jesus.  Everything in their lives that seems to be in so much disarray will straighten out or become less important when Jesus is at the center of their lives.  Introduce them to Him.

Are YOU a peacemaker?

Telemachus was a 4th century monk who lived in a monastery. But he felt God saying to him, "Go to Rome." So he put his few possessions in a sack and set out for Rome.

When he arrived in the city, people were thronging in the streets. He asked ‘why all the excitement’ and was told that ‘this was the day that the gladiators would be fighting and killing each other in the coliseum.’  He thought to himself, "Four centuries after Christ and they are still killing each other for entertainment!?!"

He ran to the coliseum and heard the gladiators saying, "Hail Caesar!  We die for Caesar" and he thought, "this isn't right." He jumped over the railing and went out into the middle of the field, got between two gladiators, held up his hands and said "In the name of Christ, STOP!"

The angry crowd began to shout, "Run him through, Run him through." A gladiator came over and punched him in the stomach, sending him sprawling on the sand. He got up and ran back and again said, "In the name of Christ, STOP!"

The crowd continued to chant, "Run him through." One gladiator came over and plunged his sword through the monk's stomach and he fell into the sand, which began to turn crimson with his blood.

One last time he gasped out, "In the name of Christ, STOP!"

A hush came over the 80,000 bloodthirsty people in the coliseum. Soon, one man stood and left, then another and another, and within a few minutes all 80,000 had emptied out of the arena.

That peacemaking monk brought an end to a centuries old lust for blood.  And you can do that too - by choosing to be a peacemaker. Strife isn’t nearly as fun when there's one guy in the room who refuses to fight.

The beautiful attitudes of Christian:

  • Blessed are the Merciful
  • Blessed are the Pure in heart
  • Blessed are the Peacemakers

This describes Jesus.  Does it describe you??

Maybe you want it to… maybe you realize that for too long, you have not demonstrated these attitudes and you really want to.  Will you make a fresh commitment today?  Will you ask the Lord to give you the strength and the desire to show Christ to a lost and dying world?

We give you that opportunity right now.