Who we are in Christ | Matthew 5.1-9
February 9, 2014 Series: The King Has Come | Matthew
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 5:1–5:9
Matthew 5.1-9 | character of a Christian
INTRO | Sermon on the Mount
For the next three months we will preach through chapters 5, 6, and 7 in the book of Matthew. These THREE chapters are part of ONE sermon that Jesus originally preached to his disciples on top of a mountain in earshot of a large crowd of people. It is Jesus’ longest recorded Sermon in the Bible, the most comprehensive collection of His teaching, the most love and most commonly misunderstood passage in the Matthew. If we don’t read this sermon through the lens of the gospel, we’ll end up either prideful that we’re so godly; or despairing because we aren’t. The sermon should lead us to the cross.
There are two groups that hear Jesus preaching, his disciples and the crowds. In the crowds there are two kinds of people—religious and irreligious. Everyone in the crowd wants healing, but they don’t all want relationship. The irreligious avoid relationship with Jesus by living according to their own rules and, therefore, become their own saviors. The religious avoid relationship with Jesus by living out His moral rules in order to earn their own salvation. But Jesus teaches a third way which condemns both of these ways revealing that God does have a standard of living that leads to blessing, but that God’s’ standard is impossibly high to attain on our own. So instead of viewing this sermon like a code of ethics, we need to see it as an elaboration on what a Christian looks like. Because it is relationship that sin has essentially destroyed, we need to read this sermon in terms of what restored relationship looks like. I have divided the next three chapters are divided into five parts: 5.1-12 | Relationship with the Self; 5.13-16 | Relationship with the World; 5.17-48 | Relationship with the Law; 6 | Relationship with God the Loving Father; 7 | Relationship with God the Holy Judge.
The Sermon on the Mount is a description of life in the Kingdom with God. The Jews had a false conception of what it meant to be in the Kingdom just as many have a false conception of what it means to be a Christian. The Jews thought the Kingdom of God was something merely material. They thought the King would come and give them political freedom. They thought the King would give them physical healing. They thought the King would give them economic prosperity. The Kingdom of God is something spiritual. NOW, the Kingdom of God is essentially something “within you”. It is that which governs and controls your heart, mind, attitude, and view. Jesus does not tell us we need to LIVE LIKE THIS in order to enter the Kingdom. Rather, He says that because you are a citizen of the King, live like this. The Sermon is not merely how Christians OUGHT to live; it is how Christians are MEANT to live.
The Beatitudes & True Happiness
The first 12 verses of the sermon contain what have come to be known as the “beatitudes.” The word “beatitudes” refers to the declarations of “blessedness” found in the first 12 verses of this sermon. Jesus begins 9 statements with “blessed are”, meaning, HAPPY are. This first section is essentially about what it means to be truly happy. Sin is always offering happiness in external things with can only lead to unhappiness. Jesus here takes us internal, revealing that true happiness is not found with changed circumstances, but a changed heart. A few things to understand as we read the beatitudes: 1) They are spiritual 2) They are literal 3) They build on one another. 4) They are difficult. 5) They come from grace.
#1 “Blessed are the POOR IN SPIRIT, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
This first beatitude is foundational to the rest. There is no one in the kingdom of God who is not poor in the spirit. This is not material poverty, this is spiritual poverty. Spiritual poverty is not the prerequisite to enter the Kingdom, it is the fundamental characteristic of any citizen of the Kingdom—the first thing God produces in us as Christians. To be poor in the Spirit is recognize our spiritual bankruptcy, our emptiness. When men encounter the presence of God, they encounter His worthiness. And God’s worthiness reveals our unworthiness. If you have never felt that, then perhaps you have not encountered God.
In large part, this is about a man’s attitude toward himself. When we encounter the presence of God, we feel our utter poverty. As Martin Lloyd Jones has said, “[It is] the complete absence of pride, a complete absence of self-assurance, a complete absence of self-reliance. It means a consciousness that we are nothing in the presence of God. It is nothing then, that we can produce, it is nothing that we can do in ourselves. It is just this tremendous awareness of our utter-nothingness.” This is very different than a world which emphasizes self-reliance, self-confidence, and self-expression. If you want to succeed you just have to BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. If you believe in your worthiness enough, you can do anything, including saving yourself from whatever problem you might nave AND enjoying true happiness. . Christians belong to an entirely different realm and his happiness is found in self-denial because it is found in the humility of Christ. We do not rely on anything “natural” for our identity or success, (pedigree, money, education, love, respect) but only on the Spirit of God. Poor in Spirit is not weak or fearful. It is a recognition of need, a true acknowledgement of our sin, a right view of yourself. I can do nothing; I am utterly dependent upon Him.
#2 Blessed are those who MOURN, for they shall be comforted
From the very beginning, the sermon condemns that idea that living out what Jesus preaches is something that we can do ourselves. And each beatitude builds on the next. In verse four, Jesus calls us to mourn. This is not a command to be a boring, religious, sad person. This is a spiritual mourning. The recognition of our emptiness, exposure of our weakness, the revelation of our sinfulness, moves us to mourn. We are grieved by our own sin. We are grieved by the sins of others. We are grieved about the sin in the world. We are grieved because we know we are broken people living in a broken world and it grieves God. The world attempts to convince us we are not broken because the world does not believe in sin. They celebrate that we are “born this way” blind to the reality that men are born into sin. More than that, the world laughs at sin. In Luke’s recording of this Sermon, Jesus says, “Woe to those who laugh now”. This is spiritual laughing. The world goes on as if nothing is wrong. The world goes on saying let us drink and be merry. The world embraces sin, accommodates sin, legislates sin, and celebrates sin.
We have a shallow idea of sin and an equally shallow idea of joy or comfort. Jesus says, only those who mourn experience true happiness. There must be a real sense of sin before there can be any true joy of salvation. As the Christian looks at himself and the world, and he is unhappy. He feels the burden of sin but he is comforted because He knows this is not all there is. We experience true happiness because we have certain hope that the King will return and sin will be banished from the earth forever.
#3 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Sadness over our weakness leads us to meekness. Jesus says those who are meek will inherit the earth. The meek do not need to fight for their rights. The meek do not need to defend themselves from wrong. The meek do not need to celebrate their achievements. The meek do not need to feel sorry for his lack of achievement. In many ways, the meek never thinks about how bad or awesome he is—he doesn’t think of himself much at all. This is because the meek have a very true view of themselves. The meek are not the quiet, the nice, or the passive. The meek can be very powerful materially, but they do not trust in their own power to find true happiness spiritually. The meek is the one who, knowing his poverty, is amazed that God or man can think of him as well as they do. All too often we want people to believe I am better than you think I am. This is the heart of the proud. The heart of the meek says I am worse than you think I am.
The meek may be nothing, but they have everything. No one wants to be meek because they believe if they don’t fight for themselves they will have nothing. They have to fight for their power, wealth, or reputation. IN Christ we have all of those things. Jesus says that those who refuse to fight for themselves, because they know they can’t, shall inherit the earth. TO INHERIT THE EARTH is to be content. We need not work to be meek, rather, when we receive the gospel we become meek. Why? Because we receive everything we would have ever fought for. The man who is meek is already content because, as Paul says, “I am one who has nothing and yet everything (2Corinthians 6.10).
4 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Instead of chasing after whatever we believe is going to make us happy, Jesus says true satisfaction comes from hungering and thirsting for righteousness. Everybody wants to be happy, just like everyone wants to eat when they are hungry. Satisfying this hunger is the motivation behind every ambition. Despite all efforts, even those who find success, no one ever seems to find happiness in the world. Part of the problem is they are pursuing the wrong thing. Jesus does not say we are to hunger and thirst for happiness. According to the Bible, true happiness is not something that result from an a person, an experience, or a thing—it comes from righteousness. What is righteousness?
Righteousness is not moral or ethical living. At its core, righteousness is the absence of sin—that which keeps us separated from our holy God. To hunger and thirst for righteousness, therefore, is a desire to be free from sin and to be right with God. A man who hungers and thirsts for righteousness, hungers is the man who sees that his sinful poverty and rebellion has separated him from God. This grieves Him because he longs to be back in relationship with God. Having tried everything the world has to offer, they know that TRUE CONTENTMENT and SATISFACTION comes only in right relationship with God. And in his sermon, Jesus will address the religious men who try to restore that relationship by their own power. They need to be meek, to realize that they need a power outside of themselves to restore that relationship. Enter Jesus who makes us right with God by His death and resurrection. He gives us his righteousness and that hunger is continual—all of our life is a process of continual gospel-reorientation.
#5 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
The Christian is the man who lives realizing he is under the Lordship of Jesus—and that this is true happiness. The world does not live this way. The Christian is a man whose every action should be performed in light of his intimate relationship with God, a relationship that transforms our disposition towards others. As Martin Lloyd-Jones has written, “We are not meant to control our Christianity; our Christianity is rather meant to control us.” And though the main thrust of Jesus’ sermon is a transformed heart, such transformation will always lead to action. First Jesus said men see their own sin, they mourn over their sin, they recognize their need for a savior (and stop trying to save themselves), now Jesus says that Christians are characterized by mercy. Are we merciful?
Being merciful does not mean that we are easy-going or indifferent. It does not mean we are affirming and absolutely tolerant of sin. It means that we have a deep sense of empathy (not sympathy) for the consequences of sin AND a desire to relieve that suffering. Pity plus action. And when someone sins against you, it is the decision to go beyond justice, or what is legal, to forgive. Understanding our broken position empowers us to have compassion on others. I have received mercy feely and undeservedly, therefore, my attitude towards those I see as undeserving sinners is entirely changed. True happiness does not come from vengeance, unforgiveness, or indifference, but from radical love and mercy.
#6 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Jesus says that happy are the pure in heart. There is a difference between purity of behavior and purity of heart. The gospel of Jesus is concerned with the heart and belief before behavior. From the outside, the Pharisees looked clean and without blemish. But Jesus calls them children of the devil, white washed tombs full of death. Their hearts were black and impure. They were moral, bible-reading prayer warriors. But they had reduced righteousness to a mere matter of conduct, ethics, and behavior.When Jesus talks about the heart, he is talking about all that embodies a person—their intellect, their emotion, and their will. The heart is what the Bible says is evil and sick. When we see this manifested in impure actions, we wrongly try to find an external cleaner. The problem is internal with an impure heart.
The purity of heart relates less to cleanliness and more to wholeness/singleness. Our problem is a divided heart. We have an divided love with regards to God—he does not have our undivided worship. A pure heart, therefore, is one that is single-minded, singly devoted to The Lord. It means that we have an undivided love for God as supreme in and central to our lives. You cannot clean your own heart. David in Psalm 51 writes, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. 13Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.” The pure in heart, those singly devote to God, will not only be happy—they will see God. What does that mean? The more that God becomes central to our lives, the most you begin to see His presence in all area of your life. You see him in your success, trials, joys, and in your sorrows. Though you don’t see, you trust God, because you know that one day they will see all things (C.S. Lewis “Sun”).
#7 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Finally, we end with BLESSED are the peacemakers. Jesus does not say true happiness resides in being a peacekeeper, but a peacemaker. There is a difference between a peace keeper and a peace maker. A peacekeeper is a nice, well-liked appeaser who keeps maintains peace with people at any price—even compromise. A peacekeeper does whatever they can to avoid conflict, whether that is to share power, change law, enforce will, or do nothing at all. The goal of peacekeeping is always prevention, even if that means peace through tyranny.
A peacemaker produces genuine peace. The Bible says that until the heart of man can be changed, there can be no real peace with God or men. Our peacemaking, therefore, is aimed at the heart. Peacemaking efforts that attack the heart are entirely different than peacekeeping efforts that attack behavior. One is in the control of men; the other is completely God’s power.
And for Christians, those who life differently, they work with a different kind of hope for this world. A peacemaker does everything to promote the glory of God through the cross of Christ. A peacemaker realizes that the happiness men truly need is not economic, political, social, or material. It is spiritual and, more than anything, the Christian wants to see their family, friends, and enemies HAPPY in Jesus, reconciled to their God. Why, because they have experienced the love of God in Christ. And because you have this new view of yourself, you see your responsibility in the world differently.
They have come to believe that they are more sinful than they can ever know or admit, but they are more loved than they can fathom. And that love controls them. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died an was raised. 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2Corinthians 5.14-20)
We have peace with God in Christ. Jesus does not tell us we need to LIVE LIKE THIS in order to enter the Kingdom. Rather, He says that because you are a citizen of the King, live like this. Those, whom God has brought into the kingdom of heaven, know they are undeserving. Those who are comforted by the hope of heaven, grieve over their sin. Those who have inherited all that God has to give through Christ, care less about success. Those who have experienced the satisfaction of a right relationship with God through Christ, hunger and thirst for a deeper relationship. Those who have received great mercy, forgive radically. Those who have seen see God as supreme, live under His Lordship alone. And those who are called God’s kids, work that others might be brought into the family.
The Sermon is not merely how Christians OUGHT to live; it is how Christians are MEANT to live. Jesus has DONE ALL that the Sermon on the Mount teaches so that we can live and do it also.
More in The King Has Come | Matthew
May 11, 2014Jesus the Rock | Matthew 7:24-29 (Mville)
May 11, 2014Jesus is (Scary) Gracious | Matthew 7.15-23 (Snoh)
May 4, 2014Kingdom Admission | Matthew 7:13-23 (Mville)