Preached: January 19. 2014 at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA
Today we continue our trip through the Beatitudes and we find ourselves in Matthew 5:5. As always, it is nice to review, especially since these beatitudes build upon each other. We started our journey looking at verse 3, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” When we examined this text we saw that Christ was preaching the need for us to recognize our need for Him. We saw that in order to enter the Kingdom of God, we must accept the truth that it is Christ alone that provides the pathway to salvation. We do not and cannot add one ounce of merit to our salvation. Jesus is the founder and perfecter of our faith.
Last week we looked at verse 4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Here we saw that this recognition of our need for Christ is not only an intellectual understanding, but that it should effect our heart. We saw that a true disciple of Christ mourns over his sin, and the sin of the world. And this mourning is the pathway to the comfort that flows through the cross. We saw that without mourning, there is no comfort.
Today we take yet another step deeper into what it looks like to be a disciple of Christ, verse 5. Let us read it, pray and see what it has to say.
Have you ever heard anyone advocate for this strategy when it comes to world domination? Was this the strategy used by Alexander the Great, Attila the Hun, Caesar Augustus, Charlemagne, Napoleon, or Hitler? Absolutely not. These men would laugh at such words. Meekness, in their opinion was synonymous with weakness, and weakness meant loser. No what they subscribed to was a display and use of power. Might makes right was their motto.
These world conquerors are not alone in this particular life philosophy. Humanity from the bullies on the playground to the CEOs of Google stake their success on strength. Whether it be intellectual, physical, or charisma, the display of power is what most people accept as the way to succeed in this world.
This was definitely true in 30 A.D. when Jesus was preaching the Sermon on the Mount. At that moment in time, Rome was the most powerful nation on the planet, and they were experts in the display of power. This is one reason they created death by crucifixion. It was to show everyone that they were in utter control, therefore don't mess with them. If you were to use one word to describe Rome, it would be dominance. They would cause nations to submit to their strength. During the life of Jesus, Rome was in political and military control over the nation of Israel.
Having said that, Rome was not the only group that believed in the display of power. The Jews themselves were a nation of conquest. If you recall, after exiting Egypt and wandering in the dessert for 40 years, the nation of Israel was in constant battle with gentile nations so as to secure their borders and provide peace. Every springtime it was the same thing, get out the swords and ride their horses into battle. Eventually the nation of Israel lost, and found themselves submissive to other nations. First it was Assyrian rule, then Babylonian rule, then Persian rule, then Macedonian rule, then eventually around 200 B.C. they were rule by the Seleucid Empire, a division of the Macedonian rule.
During this time, the bloody Maccabean revolt occurred. This was a revolt lead by a family nicknamed the Maccabeus; which means “hammer”. This is because the Maccabean philosophy was one of force. This revolution consisted of the display of the sword. The Maccabean’s strategy to take back the land of Israel can best be described as guerrilla warfare. They would raid towns and kill people in the name of God. Around the year of 165 B.C., there were successful in a battle against the Seleucids and marched into the temple and set up shop. This is what Hanukkah celebrates. However, to be honest, there is not much to celebrate because the Maccabean revolution was extremely short lived, almost as quickly as they conquered one group, they were conquered by another group, Rome. This was the culture that Jesus was born into.
You would think that this failed bloody revolution would cause the Jewish people to rethink there strategy, but it didn't. In fact, I believed it added to their desire for a military Messiah. One that would rise up and by shear strength drive out the Romans and take back the Promised Land with an iron sword. I believe this idea of a military messiah was commonly taught to the young men during the times of Jesus. When children were taught in the synagogues I can imagine the rabbi's painting a picture of a descendant of David that would rise up, and spill the blood of the gentiles and secure freedom for the nation of Israel once again. A song that was sung during David's time is found in 1 Samuel 18:7
In the garden, we see the same old thing, soldiers, swords, torches, betrayal. This was an event that had unfolded time and time again, a display of force. And Peter was in the thick of it. He was ready to kill whomever he had to kill and take matters into his own hands. His only hope was that Jesus would follow suit and watch his back, but Jesus did not. Jesus responded in a way that was unheard of, He gave in to their demands. Jesus who had just knocked everyone over by saying “I am he” was giving up. He told Peter to put the sword away. In this moment he was living out meekness. But make no mistake, this was foreign to everyone around him, including Peter, because the culture of the world is not meek, it is might makes right.
And it is in the midst of that culture that Jesus proclaims on the Mount, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” So what does Jesus mean by this hard to swallow statement?
First what does meek mean? The Greek word for meek is “prays” (prä-ü's). This word can be translated as meek, but it also can be translated as gentle or lowly. Another common way to view meekness is mildness of disposition. In common Greek usage “Prays” was used to describe a tamed animal. So a good way to understand the meaning behind meek, is not to think of it as the lack of power, but as restrained power. This helps somewhat, but not enough, in my opinion. Turn with me to Psalm 37.
The statement by Jesus that the meek shall inherit the earth is not original. This phrase has been proclaimed before in Psalm 37, and there is no doubt in my mind, that when Jesus spoke these words he was pulling together old testament truth and new testament reality. With that said, lets read the first 11 verse of Psalm 37.
When we examine Psalm 37 we are given a picture of what it means to be meek. And what we see is that the foundation of meekness is trust. Verse 3, “Trust in the LORD.” Verse 5, “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him.” Verse 7, “wait patiently for him.” Trust is at the core of a person who is meek. Without trust, meekness does not exist.
Next we see how what this trust produces in a person life. Verse 1, “Fret not...be not envious.” Verse 7, “Fret not yourself.” Verse 8, “Refrain from anger...fret not.” A person who trusts in the Lord is someone who does not get tossed back and forth by the waves of circumstances. A person who trusts in God is not one who is takes matters into their own hands. They don't demand what they what they believe they deserve. Whether it be blessings or vengeance. A person who trust in God and has set their life on the rock that is God is able to withstand whatever attacks Satan or anyone else throws there way. A person who trusts in the Lord, sheaths their sword and drinks the cup that God has given them. A person who embodies these things is a person who is demonstrating restrained power, it is a person who is meek.
And as we have already shown, the greatest example of meekness is, Jesus Christ. In fact, he described himself as meek in Matthew 11:29.
I like how one author I read put it, Jesus was the incarnation of meekness. So how was Jesus meek?
Think about this. Jesus was God, the second person of the trinity. It was through him that everything was made that was made. He holds together the world with the word of his power. Everything that is exists on this planet is made for him. Yet, he became nothing and became a man. He was born in a stable to a 15 year old girl and lived under the radar until he was about 30 years old. Talk about power under control.
Once he revealed himself as the Messiah he filled his days with teaching, healings, feeding thousands, casting out demons, walking on water, and the occasional raising from the dead, and he did this without ever once committing a sin. You would think that he would be the most loved man on the planet, but we all know that he wasn't. He was despised. He was hated. Even in his home town, Nazareth they tried to throw him off a cliff. Everywhere that Jesus went he was harassed. His presence produced worship and war. However, despite the hate of him and the regular attempts to murder him, he stayed unbelievably calm. This is what Peter said about him in 1 Peter 2:23.
We already looked at one example of this when Jesus was arrested, but another example that I find extremely helpful is Jesus before Pontius Pilate.
What an interesting picture. Jesus, the God of the Universe, the Creator, shackled by chains made by men, standing before one of His creatures. Pilate thinking that he has the power over the life of Jesus, yet he has none. For it is Jesus who lays down his life, not PIlate. Yet Jesus lets him play his game and strut his stuff, and He does not fret. For he trusts in his father's plan. It is stories like this that make me admire Jesus so much. What amazing strength under control. His meekness is a display of his Godness.
And as Peter said earlier, Jesus is to be our example. The disciples are to learn from their Lord, and be meek as He is meek. We are trust in the Lord to the extent that we are not a victim of our emotions. We are not to fret, we are not to be offended, we are not to become angry and sin, we are to trust.
I am always amazed by Christians that get bent out of shape. Whether it be someone making fun of them at work, cutting them off on the road, or being passed over for a promotion. Really? These things make you mad? Why? Don't you know who your father is? Your dad is the Creator of the universe, and he has promised you all things through Jesus Christ.
Because we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, we are heirs to the kingdom. Listen to what Romans 8:16-17 says.
When we are God's children we will inherit the earth. It is ours. This is what our future holds for us. It is a sure as sure can be. When this is our future, does it make sense to get bent out of shape because you are mistreated or misunderstood? No, it does not. This is meekness.
So how doe we get this? The first step is to recognize your need for Christ and accept him into your life. If you have not been born again, then meekness is unattainable. However, if you have accepted Christ, you must realize and remember that the same meek spirit that was in Christ now lives in you. You have the capacity, you just need to get out of your own way. This week pray that God would help you trust in him more deeply so that you will not fret and you will not be angry, butthat you will be meek, as Christ was meek.
Preached: January 12, 2014 at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA
Last week we began our journey through what is called the Sermon on the Mount. This is without a doubt the greatest sermon that was ever preached. Why? Because it was funny? Because it had a great power point presentation? Because it had great illustrations? No, it was the greatest sermon ever preached because it came straight from the mouth of God. It was pure unadulterated truth, and truth is what our hearts desperately need, not amusement.
With that said, last week we unpacked Jesus's first statement, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” What we saw was that this statement was not only the beginning of the sermon, it is the beginning of new life in Christ; for it is impossible to enter the Kingdom of God, unless you first humble yourself and recognize your complete, and utter inability to save yourself. To be poor in spirit is to recognize that you need a Savior, that you need Jesus.
After making that statement, Jesus does not waste anytime. He moves very quickly to the next powerful beatitude. So with that said let us do the same and read it, pray and dwell upon it.
· Matthew 5:4 - “"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.“
To begin, as I stated last week, it is important for us to understand the word “blessed.” It is the word that Jesus chooses to use to begin each of the beatitudes. The word is regularly understood to mean “happy” however being happy is incomplete in its description. For to be blessed is to be approved by God, or to think about it as “the applause of heaven.”This makes sense when we think about it. When we say, “I am blessed.” What we are saying is that God has chosen to give us something that pleases us, or makes us happy.
Having said that, we should ask, “Why would God accept those who mourn?” What is good about mourning? How can this be acquainted with happiness? Isn't this a paradox to say, “Happy are those who are sad?” Isn't the key to happiness the avoidance of mourning?
There is no doubt that this is the philosophy of the World, especially today in America. We have rejected the reality of mourning. We see it as something to avoid at all cost. We fill our lives with as much entertainment, music, people, and stuff as possible so that we never have a moment of mourning. We buy books, attend small groups, listen to speakers, and take medication so as to never taste the bitterness of sorrow. We flee sadness like a cockroach flees light. Yet, here stands Jesus proclaiming to the disciples and the crowds who were eavesdropping, that those who mourn are blessed. How can this be?
To understand the second beatitude, we must consider the first. Last week we saw that “ blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” and we understood this to mean that to be poor in spirit is to recognize who we are in comparison to who God is. To be poor in spirit is to recognize that we are not gods, and that we are desperately in need of Jesus Christ. To be poor in spirit is to be a dog begging for scraps at the table of Christ. Without this humility we cannot enter into the Kingdom.
Mourning is directly connected to being poor in spirit; for it is the emotion that flows out of humility before a Holy God. The intellectual recognition of our need for Jesus is good, but it is not enough. Not only must we accept the truth of our need in our heads, but this need must affect our hearts. It must cause us to be sad, to weep, to mourn because of our condition, our actions, our sin. We must feel the weight of the reality of our depravity. Unfortunately, I fear that to few people feel the prick of sin in their hearts, and therefore to few people are actually in the Kingdom even though they think they are.
To understand this truth of mourning, turn with me to Genesis 6:5-6. We have looked at this text before, but not necessarily at this angle. What I find interesting is that this is the first time we see mourning, or grief, mentioned in the Bible. What is interesting is that it comes not from who you think it should come from.
· Genesis 6:5-6 - “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.”
Isn't this interesting? If anyone should be mourning, it should be humanity, but it is not. Instead we see humanity's pride. However when we look at God we see grief.
God looked down on mankind, people just like you and me, doing things, thinking things, and how are they described? Evil. Remember, just a few chapters before this in Genesis 1, we were told that when God had finished creating everything on the 6th day and he looked down at his work and he described it as “very good.” God was pleased with what he saw. However, in Genesis 6, we see a different response. When God gazed down upon creation, His reaction was, “grief.” What changed? Sin. The difference between Genesis 1 and Genesis 6, was that sin had entered the world and had corrupted the heart of man. So when God now looked down on his creation instead of being pleased, God's heart was grieved. He was mourning over sin and its consequences.
This was not the last time that God was grieved by the sin of man. Listen to the description of God's feeling towards the people of Israel after he called them out of Egypt in Psalm 78
· Psalm 78:37-40 - “Their heart was not steadfast toward him; they were not faithful to his covenant. 38Yet he, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath. 39 He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and comes not again. 40 How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert! “
Once again, the people of Israel were people, just like you and me. They dreamed, they loved, they worked, they played and when God looked down on them he saw rebellion, he saw their iniquity, he saw how they were unfaithful to Him, and it grieved Him. He was not indifferent towards their evil. He didn't laugh it off. It caused an infinitely Holy and Awesome God grief, pain, sorrow. It caused him to mourn. I think this is so important for us to recognize. I feel like so many people see God as a character on the Simpsons. He is portrayed with a “C'est la vie” attitude, as if he could care less about his creatures spitting in his face and living independent of their Maker. This is not the God that is portrayed in the Bible. God is grieved by sin, it breaks his heart.
This mourning was not exclusive to only God, but it also flowed to His chosen people. Probably the most well known mourner in the old testament was Jeremiah, otherwise known as the weeping prophet. In fact, one of his books is titled lamentations. There is nothing more mourning then to lament. So what was he so sad about?
· Jeremiah 8:18-22 - “My joy is gone; grief is upon me; my heart is sick within me. 19 Behold, the cry of the daughter of my people from the length and breadth of the land: "Is the LORD not in Zion? Is her King not in her?" "Why have they provoked me to anger with their carved images and with their foreign idols?"20 "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved." 21 For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded; I mourn, and dismay has taken hold on me. 22 Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of the daughter of my people not been restored? “
It is not the economy, the lack of food, or the lack of entertainment that Jeremiah's weeping. It is their idol worship. The people of God where worshiping things other that God, and it made the heart of Jeremiah sick. It pierced him. It wounded him. Why? Because it wounded the heart of His God. And because of his wounds, he cried out for a physician, he desired what he called the “the balm of Gilead.” He sought comfort. Jeremiah was not alone, every prophet from Abraham to John the Baptist mourned for the sins of the world. Just as God did, and just as Christ did.
In Isaiah 53, the famous suffering servant passage of the old testament, it tells the world what will be the distinguishing characteristic of the long awaited for Messiah, and what are we told?
· Isaiah 53:3 - “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;”
Of all things that God could say about His Son, Jesus, He wanted us to know that Jesus would be a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief. Jesus, the Son of God, was defined by mourning. Too often I think we see Jesus as being ok with sin. We see him hanging out with tax collectors, prostitutes, thieves, and we make the assumption that Jesus is not emotionally effected by sin. This is not true. Jesus is grieved by sin. It breaks his heart to see people seek pleasure in something other than his father. We see this played out most vividly in Luke 19.
· Luke 19:41-42 - “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, "Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. “
In Luke 19 we are given a window into Jesus heart. It is as if Jesus is reenacting Genesis 6 in this moment. The grief of the sin of Jerusalem was overwhelming for the Him and He did not like what he saw. His spirit was grieved. His desire was for them to come to Him, the Prince of Peace, the great Physician, the balm of Gilead.
This was the spirit of Christ, grief; grief over sin; grief over rebellion. And as Jesus stood on the side of the mountain and taught his disciples, He told them that they must be like Him, like the prophets, like God. He invited them to participate in his mourning. In fact, it wasn't just an invitation, it was a description of true disciple, one who was approved. A disciple must mourn over the reality of sin. As I stated earlier, being poor in spirit is a necessity to enter the Kingdom of God, however mourning is the evidence.
As I look across Christianity in America, I worry that many self-proclaimed Christians have never mourned over their sin against a Holy God. They have never felt sorry for it. They have never stared their rebellion in the face and saw it for the wretchedness that it is. They do not love God to the extent that it breaks their heart to have grieved Him.
The death of Jesus in their place does not resonate with them in that they don't recognize that the scourging, the spitting, the nailing, and the suffocating of Jesus is because of their sins. They feel no remorse. This so called Christians are merely intellectually following Jesus, just as many people intellectually follow Muhammad, or Gandhi, or humanism. Christianity is just a philosophy to them. They have never felt the weight of their sin and they live in blissful ignorance, therefore they have not and do not mourn.
The problem with this blissful ignorance is that Jesus says that those who mourn will be comforted. This is an exclusive statement, for there is a correlation between mourning and comfort. If you want comfort, you must mourn. Mourning is the pathway to comfort. No mourning, no comfort, and trust me, you want this comfort.
This comfort is none other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The verse that I think best shows us the mourning and the comfort is played out is Romans 7. In this text Paul is mourning over the sin in his life and at the end of the chapter this is his conclusion:
· Romans 7:24-25 - “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! “
In this moment we see Paul recognizing his complete inability to live a Holy life, and he is therefore poor in spirit. This reality of his need pierces his heart and he feels the weight of his sin. He sees his wretchedness. This feeling of wretchedness leads him to one place, the person of Jesus Christ. For there is no other place that true comfort can be found. It is at the cross that we find ultimate comfort; because it is at the cross where Jesus takes our punishment, and we are granted his righteousness. It is at the cross that we find forgiveness and therefore it is at the cross we find comfort. Our sins are washed away, the chains are broken, our wretchedness is replaced with righteousness. Therefore, when God looks down on his disciples, his not grieved, he is pleased for he sees not the sins of you and me, he sees the righteousness of His Son. There is no greater comfort than the removal of God's wrath.
With that said, it should be noted that mourning does end when we first accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Mourning is continuous for a true disciples for two reasons.
First, sin will never be absent in our lives as long as we live in this fallen world. No matter who we are and how long we have been walking with the Lord we will continue to battle our sinful flesh. We will lie, cheat, swear, gossip, lust, covet, worship idols, and we will forget and doubt God's goodness. There is no doubt that we will fall prey to our weakness, it will happen over and over again until we die or until Christ's return. Having said that, a true disciple is not ok with this. A true disciple is distraught with every sin that becomes of them. When sin in their life rears its ugly head it breaks their heart, for they have sinned against their Father whom they love. It grieves them to be lacking in faith and therefore vulnerable to sin. Therefore, when they recognize their sinfulness they do not compare themselves to the world and shrug it off, but instead with tears in their eyes they confess their sins, and stand in the grace of the cross and praise Jesus for His atoning blood.
Second, a true disciple continues to mourn because it breaks our heart to see others living in rebellion to God. When we become a follower of Christ, the Spirit of God comes and dwells in us. The same spirit that grieved over the world in Genesis 6. The same spirit that looked out over Jerusalem and wept. The same spirit that was in Paul when he agonized over his fellow Jews. Listen to what he says in Romans 9: 1-3.
· Romans 9:1-3 - “I am speaking the truth in Christ--I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit-- 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”
What grieved Paul more than anything was not his stoning, whippings, ship wrecks, lack of money or lack of food, it was that the people he grew up with, whom he went to school with, who he lived life with were not reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. That their sin was not atoned for. That they were still dead in their trespasses. His mourning was the fuel his relentless mission to proclaim the Gospel to anyone and everyone who was within earshot.
This should be us. We must look out in the world and not laugh at sin, but mourn for those who are lost and condemned and bound for Hell. It should break out heart that our children could care less about loving the Lord. When we see sin glamorized on TV we should not be drawn to it, but repulsed by it and grieve over those who are promoting it and being deceived by it.
Should cornerstone Church be full of love and joy on Sunday mornings? Absolutely! However, this love and joy must be genuine. Let us not put on fake smiles and entertain ourselves for an hour. Let us instead face the realities of our wretchedness and humble ourselves before the cross of Jesus Christ and let the the Grace of God be the source of love and the source of joy. Let the comfort that we receive through faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus be our peace in the midst of the storms of our lives.
Let us weep for those who are lost and and not stand back and let darkness reign in our families, communities, country and world. Let us be a shining light, taking the Gospel everyone God has placed in your life. Let us take the true comfort of God to the broken hearted. The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few, let us pray that our mourning leads to action.
Finally, we must remember that their will come a day where mourning will be no more. A day will dawn when brokenness will be cast into the lake of fire and the Garden of Eden will rebloom.
· Revelation 21:1-4 -”Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." “
How about that for comfort? Come Lord Jesus come!
Preached: January 5, 2014 at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA
Today we begin our journey through the most famous sermon ever preached, the Sermon on the Mount. Approximately 1 month ago when I was debating what to preach on following the Christmas series, this idea of preaching through the Sermon on the Mount came to mind, and to be honest, I was not that excited about it. Yes, I had read this section of many times, but it had never spoken to my heart.
Having said that, as seems the case quite frequently, when I began to read, really read it, I started to fall in love with it, and I, for the first time saw its beauty. My hope is that as we walk through the sermon, verse by verse, you will likewise see the riches of the Sermon on the Mount.
With that said, please turn with me to Matthew 5:1-3. We will read it, pray, and then lay the groundwork.
• Matthew 5:1-3 - “Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
The first thing I want to draw our attention to is that there are two groups of people who benefit from the Sermon on the Mount, the crowds and the disciples. At this point in Jesus' ministry, he was extremely popular. In Matthew 4:24 we are told, “his fame spread throughout all Syria” and in verse 25 we are told, “great crowds followed him.”
This is one thing that I believe we under appreciate about Jesus ministry, the crowds. Jesus was not a lone wolf, he was a force to be reckoned with. There was something extremely attractive about Jesus that caused throngs of people to flock to him. These people would leave there homes, their jobs, their responsibilities and follow him to remote regions to hear his teaching, be healed, or to be free from demonic oppression. In fact, some of these crowds were so captivated by who Jesus was, they would follow him out into the middle of no where and completely forget about basic necessities such as food. With that said, remember that Jesus was not anything special to look at. He wasn't the Brad Pitt of the Jews.
· Isaiah 53:2 - “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. “
Likewise, he was not born of noble blood, nor did he grow up on the right side of the tracks. His own disciple, Nathaniel even commented, “"Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46). He was simply a carpenter's son, yet here he was in Matthew 5 with great crowds hanging on every word. Why? Because this is what happens when God becomes man and walks amongst us.
The second group we see are the disciples. Like the crowds they also follow Jesus, however, they followed Jesus differently. They are not culturally curious about Jesus, they are committed converts. They have counted the cost, and have made a decision in their heart to lay down their lives, and submit to Jesus' authority over them. Jesus is not a side show, He is their King. The no longer follow the world, and its teaching, they follow Christ and His teachings.
Both of these groups benefit from the Sermon of the Mount. Mathew 5 tells us that it was the disciples that came to Jesus to be taught. However at the end of the sermon we are told in Matthew 7:28.
· Matthew 7:28 - “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching,”
Therefore the audience that heard the Sermon was a mixed bag. It was not just the disciples who hear these words, by also the crowds.
Today, as we sit here today, we most likely also have a mixed bag of crowd and disciples. Each Sunday I preach I anticipate this reality. Having said that I do not frequently, if ever, write sermons that are purely evangelical, or seeker sensitive. Why? Because Jesus did not cater to the world, and therefore, nor will I. Jesus above all spoke truth. This truth was not softened, sugar coated, or abundantly clear. Jesus spoke at an intellectual and spiritual level that is, and always will be, unmatched. Having said that, when he spoke His words had an effect on the crowds. Even when they didn't completely grasp his teachings, they left astonished at his teachings. There is something about truth when proclaimed that speaks to our souls. When the light of Christ is shining, we tend to be like moths to a flame.
The second thing I want us to recognize is not only the people, but the location. I don't want to focus on this too much, because I don't believe it is of primary importance, but it is hard to avoid the connection. This sermon took place on a mountain. Jesus intentionally walked up a mountain with the purpose of teaching the ins and out of the Kingdom of God. This is not the first time something like this had happened. A guy by the name of Moses, spent a lot of time on a Mountain with the purpose of hearing from God and then proclaiming what he heard to the people of Israel. Moses's main purpose was to lay out the rules on how the people of Israel were to live in relationship with God, and with the World. Jesus is doing something similar with the Sermon on the Mount. What is interesting about Moses, is that he knew that he was not the final authority when it came to the the realities of God's Kingdom. Listen what he told the people in Deuteronomy 18:15
· Deuteronomy 18:15 - “"The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers--it is to him you shall listen”
As great as the Prophet Moses was, he was not THE Prophet. He knew that the day would come when Jesus would show up and preach a deeper truth. With that said, let us take a look at this deeper truth.
Jesus starts out the Sermon on the Mount with what has been named the beatitudes. These are the verses that begin with “Blessed are the...” For any of this to make sense we have to understand what “blessed” means. Many times the word blessed is defined as to be happy. I do not believe this understanding is wrong, but it does not go far enough in its definition because I think it begs the question of “Why are you happy?” I believe a better way to think about the word “blessed” is to understand it as being approved by God. Kent Hughes describes blessed as the smile of God. Max Lucado describes “blessed” as the applause from heaven. However, make no mistake, this approval produces happiness, in fact God's applause is the only source of true happiness.
With this in mind, lets re-read verse 3 with the word approved inserted: “[approved] are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This changes it a little bit doesn't it? As we work through these in the weeks to come, I want you to think of the word blessed this way. I think it will assist you greatly in your understanding of the beatitudes.
The first thing that Jesus tells us that God approves us, smiles up, or brings happiness are people who are “poor in spirit.” What does this mean?
To be poor means to lack, to be without. If I am financially poor, this means I lack money. If I am intellectually poor, this means I lack knowledge. If I am spiritually poor, this means I lack spirit. The Greek word for poor is ptochos. The root word of ptochos means to “cower and cringe like a beggar.” This understanding or power fits very well with our understanding of what it means to be financially poor, but think about this in a spiritual sense. A spiritual beggar is someone who is who recognizes their desperate spiritual condition, their spiritual bankruptcy and seeks out some One to help. Another word we could use for “poor in spirit” is humble.
Perhaps it would help to understand the opposite of “poor in spirit.” The opposite of poor in spirit is is rich in spirit. Someone who is confident in their abilities, there resources They are not beggars, they are people who believe they have everything. They are self-confident, self-reliant, self-centered. To use an accepted psychological tern, they have high self-esteem. Another word for rich in spirit is pride. Notice that there is not a beatitude that says, “blessed are those who think highly of themselves.”
To assist us in understanding what it means to be poor in spirit, lets take a look at a few examples.
King David was an amazing person. God and him had a very unique relationship. A very intimate relationship. God was not a religion to David, He was everything. In Psalm 51, we see David pouring out his heart to God after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba and killed her husband. This is what he said.
· Psalm 51:16-17 - For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. “
In this moment of repentance, David recognized that he had nothing, absolutely nothing, to offer God in light of his sin. He realized that no amount of animal sacrifices was going to earn a right standing before God. He was completely at the mercy of his Creator. In this moment he realized that the only thing he could give God was a recognition of his complete and utter spiritual bankruptcy. In this moment, David was poor in spirit. He was not relying on his ability, his righteousness, or his effort to earn God's approval. He was broken and contrite, and this is exactly where God wanted him. This is what God approves of. This is poor in spirit. Lets look at another example.
Moses. According to Numbers 12:3, Moses was the most meek, or humble, person on the planet. Listen to what transpired at the burning bush.
· Exodus 3:10 - “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt." 11 But Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?"
The first words out of Moses mouth was “Who am I.” This is a great picture of true humility. Moses was given the task of being God's messenger to Pharaoh, and Moses looked upon his own self and his own abilities, and saw nothing. He saw himself as completely incapable to achieve the task requested. Moses understood his bankruptcy. Moses was poor in spirit, and this was exactly who God called to be His prophet. One more example, Isaiah.
· Isaiah 6:1-7 - “1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!" 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!" 6Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for."
This is one of the most intense passages in the entire Bible. Isaiah saw the Lord in a way that very few people ever saw God. He saw God in a way that produced one response, poor in spirit. Imagine the scene. God, in all his Glory, sitting on a throne. His majesty so complete that his robe filled the temple. The creatures that worshiped God were so powerful that their worship shook the foundations of the building, and in the midst of this insane picture stood little Isaiah. He was the most insignificant thing in the room, and he knew it. As Isaiah looked around at the greatness of God, his one response, his appropriate response was, “"Woe is me! For I am lost"
Once again, Isaiah looked upon himself and saw that he was nothing in comparison to greatness of God. He realized he had zero to offer. He realized his poverty. He realized he was a beggar before the almighty God, and this is what God approves of.
So how does this translate to your life? It has everything to do with the kingdom of heaven.
· Matthew 5:3 - “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
When Jesus left heaven and came to Earth, he had one purpose, to set up a new Kingdom on earth. To put right what had gone tragically wrong in the Garden of Eden. This was the Kingdom that Israel had been waiting for. Jesus described this Kingdom as a peal of great value. This Kingdom would abound with love, joy, and peace between God and man. This Kingdom would have life abundant. This Kingdom is what your soul craves, whether you know it or not. And Jesus says that the only way into the Kingdom of Heaven is to be poor in spirit; to be spiritually bankrupt; to recognize that you a sinner have nothing that you can offer a Holy God; to be a beggar before the throne of God.
A phrase that we hear from time to time and one we should keep in the forefront of our mind is: Faith alone, Grace alone, Christ alone. This statement is a summary of what it means to be poor in spirit when it comes to entering into the Kingdom of God. One of the purposes of this statement is to remind us that we have nothing to do with our salvation. It is all Jesus. The truth of our condition is that we are sinners who are dead in our trespasses, depraved, spiritually bankrupt and completely and utterly incapable of saving ourselves. In this condition, we have no hope of entering into the Kingdom of God on our own accord. We need help. We need Jesus.
This idea of relying upon Christ alone for our salvation is fundamental to the gospel. Having said that, many people do not understand this crucial component. Instead of being poor in spirit, they think wrongly about their own spiritual condition.
For example, some people believe that they are a good person, and therefore God will let them into heaven because he is impressed by them. Others cannot humble themselves enough to accept that they have nothing to do with their salvation, therefore they attempt to add to the sacrifice of Christ, as if the blood of God's son was not enough.
This may include wrongly trusting in their church attendance, the taking of communion, or their baptism, believing that their religion will get them access to the Kingdom. This is not poor in spirit. This is pride of the flesh. This is works based salvation. This is not accepting Jesus as your Savior, this is making yourself your Savior. And so many people are imprisoned by these false teachings. It breaks my heart. And it breaks Jesus heart because this is not the gospel he proclaimed.
· Matthew 16:24 - “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
If you attempt to save yourself, or add to Christ's work on the cross, you will lose everything.
· Matthew 18:2 - “And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, 'Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like a child, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom.”
There is no one more dependent in this world, then a child. They depend on adults for food, shelter, security, everything. They are as poor and beggarly as they come. We must be spiritual children.
· Matthew 19:24 - ”Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." 25When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?"26 But Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Jesus flat out says, that no one has the capacity within themselves to enter the Kingdom of God. It is impossible. There is no such thing as being good enough, smart enough, religious enough. We must accept that we are spiritually dead and void. It is God who does it. It is Christ alone. I will now end with a great text that reinforces this great truth of being poor in spirit. It is the words of Jesus as recorded in Revelation 3:17.
· Revelation 3:17 - “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes,so that you may see. “
As we sit here today, some of you may believe that you are doing just fine without Christ, that you need nothing. I pray that God would open your eyes to the reality of who you are apart from Christ. You are a wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked beggar, but Jesus wants to change that, if you will let him. If you will humble yourself enough to come to him. If you do, everything changes.