Episode 25: Understanding the Beatitudes of Jesus, Part 1

Peace to Live By Episode 25: Understanding the Beatitudes of Jesus, Part 1 - Daniel Litton
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[Transcripts may not match broadcasted sermon word for word, and may contain extra material that was cut from the broadcast due to time constraints]

       I am starting a new short series today on the Beatitudes of Jesus, and we will be looking at Matthew’s account of them. The Beatitudes are an interesting list from the Lord Jesus Christ, which begins the Sermon on the Mount, about certain, specific groups of people whom God considers blessed, or happy. Jesus shows through these teachings the core essence of why he came to earth to begin with. On one account, he would say, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17, ESV). This is the spirit behind the Beatitudes. They display God’s graciousness.

       So, in coming to the Beatitudes, interestingly, Matthew records this sermon as first and foremost of all of Jesus’ sermons and everything that he taught. The Beatitudes are good news really. They provide people, who are willingly to recognize their need for God, with hope. They show that God wants to help people. He demonstrated his full love in this regard by sending Jesus to the earth, and having him die on the cross for the sins of the whole world. But only people who acknowledge that they are sinners can actually come to know him. That is the prerequisite—understanding one’s sin, one’s separation from God. If a person isn’t willing to acknowledge him or herself as a sinner, there really isn’t much God can do for the person.

       Today, I want to focus on the first four beatitudes of the nine that Jesus talks about. Next time we will focus on the latter five. I want us to dig somewhat deep into these today, and try to get a grip on what Jesus is teaching us. So, turn with me in your Bibles or tap in your Bible apps, and let’s look at Matthew chapter 5, and verses 1 through 7. I will be using the English Standard Version of the Bible today.

       Before we read the passage, though, I would like to note that the word “Blessed” I don’t think really conveys the correct meaning of what the original text was trying to state. When we think of someone who is blessed, we most likely think of a person who has blessing, or favor, on him or herself. While it is true that this is the case with each Beatitude, in that each type of person in such and such a condition is ‘blessed,’ I don’t think this really conveys the meaning of the text. What Jesus meant here, what the original text means, is ‘Happy’ are these people. I think that’s a better translation. And the word “Blessed” can mean happy as a definition; we just often think of the former definition I just mentioned. So, when we are reading the text, think “Happy” when Jesus is saying, “Blessed.” Matthew chapter 5, and verse 1. The text says:

“Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:1-6, ESV)

This might seem like a rather short text in that it is explained in and of itself, but there is much we can derive from a closer look at these teachings of Jesus.

       First, let’s consider, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3, ESV)

       There are many reasons why a person can be “poor in spirit.” When we think of being poor in spirit, probably what comes to mind for a lot of us is a person who is depressed. Undoubtedly, a depressed person is poor in spirit. And I think this is what the Lord Jesus Christ is trying to convey here. Now, it might sound rather odd that a person who is depressed is one who should be happy. But, the reason the person is happy is because the kingdom of heaven belongs to him or her. That is, to that person belongs God’s goodness now and in the future. There is no waiting for the goodness of God. When a person becomes a Christian, he or she instantly becomes a child of God the Father, and is imputed all the rights he gives to his children.

       Becoming saved as God’s children, we become a new creation, as the Apostle Paul talked about. And not only are we a new creation, the blood of Jesus has declared and continues to declare us forgiven of all our sins against God. God the Holy Spirit has come to make His home is us, enabling us to live out the Christian life in the ways which are pleasing to God and beneficial to us. We can trust God because he always knows what is best for his children—he always knows the right way, the correct way, and wants what is best for us. Sure, we come into the Christian life with lots of issues, but God through the Holy Spirit works to make us more like Jesus. Of course, you have to want to change to have any chance at change actually occurring in your life. But when we want to change, God works in us and through us for his glory.

       You may already realize that you have a long way to go in your Christian life, in your battle against sin and becoming all that God wants you to be. This realization may make you feel “poor in spirit.” We have to realize though that, no matter what happens, God still loves us. He chose us to be conformed to the image of his Son. With this confidence that God does love us and will always love us, we can press forward in our lives to being more pleasing to him. Life will challenge us daily. We live in a fallen world, and this realization in and of itself will make many of us “poor in spirit.” But just because we all need to grow—we all need to change our behaviors—doesn’t mean we have to let that feeling of being poor in spirit overtake us. God doesn’t want us to walk around joyless and without peace. Why, the fruits of the Spirit include both joy and peace.

       We will all make mistakes in life, both big and small, and we will always make mistakes to some degree. God doesn’t rid us of our human flesh when we become Christians, but rather is he waiting until we die or are Raptured in order to give us our new, resurrection bodies. Now, understanding we will always make mistakes as long as we live here on earth shouldn’t discourage us from being happy. Rather, we should be happy in this realization so that we will not worry that we are unusual or unspiritual when we do in fact make mistakes. We have to allow God to change us from the inside out, yielding to God the Holy Spirit as he convicts us of sin and works in us for our own good. And we must never give up at trying to do good, no matter how often we receive correction or find ourselves correcting ourselves.

       Now, the second Beatitude states: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4, ESV)

       When Jesus talks about those who are mourning, that they should be happy, who is he talking about? Is he talking about those who have lost a loved one and are continuing to mourn for the person long after he or she is gone? The Apostle Paul told us never to have prolonged grief over a deceased Christian like unbelievers who have no hope. You see, we as Christians always have hope when a fellow brother or sister dies. This is because we know the person is in a far better place now. We know the person is in complete peace and has full assurance of security in Heaven. It is really us who are left behind who are in bad shape compared to Christians who die. Is Jesus then talking about an unbeliever who has died? No, I don’t think that’s his point here.

       Jesus isn’t talking about the mourning that comes from grieving over a person who had died, but rather he is talking about the mourning the occurs from realizing our own sinful state and the corruption of the world around us. It grieves us, as Christians, when we realize how bad we are—how unlike Christ we can be. Remember what the Apostle Paul said at the end of Romans chapter 7? Let’s turn over there quickly. So turn or tap there, and let’s consider Romans chapter 7 and verses 21 through 25. This text states:

“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” (ESV)

Here, Paul is talking about his current condition as a Christian. It grieved Paul that even though he wanted to do good to please God, his sin nature in his body would get the best of him from time to time. And as I already stated, it is true that we as Christians don’t lose our sin nature in this life. We will still sin against God even though we want to do good. Now, this is not an excuse to sin at will, but it simply means that no matter how hard we try, we will still fail. But God still loves us.

       We not only realize that our own sinful human flesh is corrupt, and this makes us mourn, but we also realize that the world is fallen and corrupted. Again, let’s look at what Paul had to say about this subject. If we turn the next chapter over, to Romans 8, we see the following, starting in verse 18:

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.” (Romans 8:18-24, ESV)

So, the world in which we live has been corrupted by our own sin natures. This occurred when Adam and Eve first sinned in the garden of Eden back at the beginning of time. Remember, though, that God has promised that he will renovate the earth for the 1,000-year Reign of Christ, and not only that, but he has promised a new heaven and new earth afterwards which will be glorious. We, as Christians, will be comforted because we have this hope. Not only will we go to Heaven when we die, but in the future we will reign with Christ as fellow heirs and be included in the new creation.

       The third Beatitude is this: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5, ESV)

       When we look at meekness, I think it is important to have the right idea in mind. Meekness means to be gentle and submissive. Looking at the fruits of the Spirit, you’ll remember that one of them is “gentleness.” It is important that we as believers are not quick tempered and that we are kind to others. But, as Christians we also need to be meek in that we are submissive to the Lordship of Christ. When we were saved, we accepted Jesus as Savior and ‘Lord.’ That is, we acknowledged that Jesus would be in control of our lives—that he would have the say in the things that really matter because he knows what is best for us. We surrendered our lives over to him.

       Having an angry spirit will definitely hinder our ability, as believers, to be “meek.” Sometimes we have anger deep down because of things that have happened to us in the past. Perhaps we were mistreated by a parent, or perhaps we got teased by others at school. Perhaps someone we loved in the past betrayed us. These kinds of things in our past can cause us to have anger imbedded into our temperaments, causing us not to be meek. Remember, we all know you cannot control what others to do you—no matter how bad. But you can control how you react to those situations. You can control how you feel about your life. You can choose not the think about the past—no matter how hard it may seem because you have the Spirit of God living inside of you. It is God’s will that we forget bad things in our past.

       Unforgiveness will rob your soul of life. Jesus talked about this on one occasion. Remember the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant? In the parable, a man had been forgiven the very much that he owed, but yet refused to forgive his fellow man just a little. Jesus ended the parable, speaking of the man, “And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:34-35, ESV). You see, if we don’t forgive others their little offenses against us, God will become angry at our sin because he has forgiven us all of it. He will release us to be tormented in our spirits until we do what it is right. I think we all have had this experience, at one time or another, in our lives in a situation when we didn’t forgive someone for something committed against us.

       It is interesting how Jesus stated that the “meek” will be the ones who actually “inherit the earth,” and not the rich and proud like we might think. We are taught, in our society, that it is the rich and famous, the proud and successful who will inherit the earth—inherit everything that life has to offer. But Jesus says, “No, this is not the case.” Jesus wants us, as Christians, to be meek. He wants us to live godly, humble lives honoring what pleases him. It’s not our goal in life to get everything the earth has to offer. This doesn’t mean we may not get a lot of the good of this world. It just means our goal in life is not simply to strive for money, for possessions, for the lusts of the flesh, for the things that are corrupted and are corrupting people.

       Finally, the fourth and last Beatitude we are considering today is: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6, ESV)

       What does it mean for the Christian to “hunger and thirst for righteousness”? To put it simply, the Apostle Paul stated that in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3, ESV). Jesus equals life. It’s a simple equation. He said himself that he is the way, the truth, and the life. Without Jesus, there is no life, in reality. To the Ephesians, Paul would put it another way. He said:

“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 1:16-20, ESV)

In Christ is wisdom, revelation of God’s truth, knowledge, enlightenment, calling, inheritance and riches, great power, and the list goes on and on. To hunger and thirst for righteousness is everything.

       I think it is safe to say that as Christians we all have a hunger and thirst for righteousness. After all, we have been born-again. We are a new creation. We have the Spirit of God living inside us. I want us to consider what the Apostle John stated in his epistle of 1 John. Turn over there, or tap there, to 1 John chapter 3. Let’s start in verse 4:

“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:4-10, ESV)

We see that part of being a Christian, in our new nature, is to have the desire to do what is pleasing to God. We should want to do good and not to do evil. The Holy Spirit will convict us when we do wrong things, and He will give us a desire to want to do what is right in day-to-day life. Sin is easily identifiable through the reading of Scripture, and God the Holy Spirit reminds us of what he has said in his Word. Trying to be good and do good is a characteristic of a truly born-again person. It is the way we can detect and understand if someone is truly saved. Do we see change in the person’s life?

       In closing today, it could be that you’ve been listening to what I’ve been talking about; perhaps what I have said has been foreign to you, and you don’t know Jesus. It is true that real life is found only Jesus. One doesn’t find the best life in just trying to be good—or trying to be pleasing to everyone—not trying to offend anyone. One finds real life in the living of life through the Spirit of God—though the Words of Jesus. The Apostle Paul noted in Romans, “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (8:6, ESV).

       Possibly today you are poor in spirit—maybe you’re depressed. Maybe you see no hope in this world, nothing to live for. Well, I’ve got good news for you today. You can have real fulfilling life by recognizing a new identity in Christ. If you will turn from the things that offend God and give yourself over to him, he promises you an inheritance, one that includes both benefits now and even many more in the future. And God indwells each believer who gives him or herself to him, giving the person a new reason to live.

       God wants to be your God. He wants everyone to believe in him, no exceptions. No matter what you’ve done in your life—how far you’ve strayed away from God, he wants you to come to him in brokeness and humbleness. God is in the business of saving lives and giving people new lives, and that includes you today, if you will believe in Him. Recognize that your current way of living isn’t giving you the true fulfillment that you are desperately seeking, and realize that God wants you to be fulfilled in Him.

       If you want to accept Jesus Christ today as your personal Lord, and your personal Savior from all your sins—if you want to accept Jesus today, then follow my lead in this prayer:

God, I realize today that I don’t have life inside me. The life I have been living isn’t right, and today I want to turn from this life and have a new life in you. I give myself over to you. Please forgive me of my sins from Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and resurrection, and make me to live in a new way. Give me life through Jesus, one that he have created. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

-Daniel Litton