Episode 26: Understanding the Beatitudes of Jesus, Part 2

Peace to Live By Episode 26: Understanding the Beatitudes of Jesus, Part 2 - 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]

       Last time I delivered the first part of this two part series on the Beatitudes of Jesus. We looked at the first four of the nine Beatitudes, and I want to finish this short series today by looking at the last five. Undoubtedly, the Beatitudes are epic teachings from the mouth of our Lord, delivered for the first time some 2,000 years ago. Each Beatitude holds a multitude of wisdom, and each can be dissected at great lengths to gain wisdom and understanding for the Christian. And I hope to continue that process today.

       Today, we are going to look at the final five Beatitudes from Matthew’s account. So, turn with me in your Bibles or tap in your Bible apps on your digital devices, and let’s go to Matthew chapter 5. I will go ahead and read the whole passage here, and remember to focus on the final five. Matthew chapter 5, starting in verse 1:

       “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.
“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.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness 'sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:1-12, ESV)

This is such a marvelous passage from our Lord Jesus Christ.

       So, the first Beatitude we are looking at today is: ““Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (ESV).

       As we saw last time, and will continue to see today, Jesus goes very counter-culture when it comes to the Beatitudes. But that’s the way God is, really. Our world has been affected by sin—and continues to be affected by Satan and his demons, and therefore, what the world thinks often doesn’t match what Scripture says. In our world today, the drive of our society is for people to be strong. There is nothing wrong with being strong—the only problem is, the world most often has an incorrect attitude about what ‘being strong’ actually means. Jesus called his followers—his disciples—to be merciful. A lot of people, though, see mercy as weak.

       Yet throughout the New Testament we see God’s call on our hearts, as Christians, to be merciful. Indeed, it is a command from God. Jesus said on one occasion, ““Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice. ’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:12-13, ESV). Many a times, throughout the Gospels, Jesus showed mercy to those who desperately needed it. Many a times, individuals would call out to God for mercy, and Jesus would be very willing to give it. The Apostle Paul would note, in Romans chapter 11, “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all” (Romans 11:32, ESV). God is in the mercy business—he is merciful to sinners, and merciful collectively to all.

       On a more serious note, Jesus wanted to make it clear to his followers, and everybody really, that mercy is not only needed but also is required and necessary. Last time we talked a little bit about unforgiveness, and I want to touch again on this subject today. God wants the Christian to have mercy on others—whether the offender be a Christian or non-Christian. As a matter of fact, God demands it and warns anyone who does not take heed to his Words. Let’s look at Mark 11:25. Jesus said, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25, ESV). That’s a pretty startling verse because it tells us that if we are unwilling to forgive someone else of an offense committed against us, God will not forgive us our offense. In other words, God wont hear our prayer to him until our heart is right to the best of our knowledge. God isn’t interested in listening to a half-hearted Christian’s prayer. He wants us to be honest with him, and even if it’s really hard to forgive, we must because Jesus forgave everyone of us all our offenses by dying in our place for us.

       The next Beatitudes states, ““Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

       God definitely values purity of heart among his saints. He wants us, as believers, to be righteous, to do the best we can in following his rules as outlined in the Bible. God is not looking for legalistic perfectionists, but he wants people to have honest, sincere hearts in being obedient to and serving him. Remember what the Apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians about giving money? He said, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7, ESV). The same idea is conveyed in Exodus chapter 25 in the Old Testament. It says, “The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me” (Exodus 25:1-3 ESV). So God didn’t just want the gift, he wanted it to come from the ‘heart’ of people.

       And I think the same can be said for other things in the Christian life, whether it be service in helping others or spending time with God. God doesn’t want us to be compulsively, grudgingly helping others because we think it’s the right thing to do. For starters, it probably wont even help the person your trying to help that much. God wants us to act from the heart. We shouldn’t spend a certain amount of time with God everyday because we feel we ‘have to,’ but rather we should do it because we love him and want to. But someone might say, “Didn’t Jesus say to perfect as God is perfect?” Sure he did. But the idea here is that our hearts be right and we do the best we can, not that we legalistically follow a load of rules in order to try to be pleasing to God or to gain God’s acceptance. We have already been perfectly accepted by God by trusting in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for us. We should not be like the Pharisees, of which Jesus spoke, “For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others” (Matthew 23:3-5, ESV).

       But there is also a sense where we, as Christians, are to have personal purity in general. The Apostle Peter stated in his first epistle, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:22-23, ESV). So this teaching from Peter reinforces what Jesus taught us about loving our neighbors as ourselves, though Peter is focusing on specifically those within the church. Here, purity equals “obedience to the truth.” It all comes back to knowing God’s Word. We have to be familiar with our Bibles if we want to have any chance at doing what is right in our lives. God has given us the Bible so that we can live our lives to the fullest extent, doing what’s best for us and what is pleasing to him. Paul told Timothy, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22, ESV).

       Personal purity also includes sexual purity, of course. The Apostle Paul noted the following in 1 Thessalonians:

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, ESV).

It’s no mystery that here in the United States sexual immorality runs rampant in our society and culture. As believers, we are not to be like those who aren’t in personal relationship with Jesus when it comes to our personal purity. We are not be promiscuous, following the desires and feelings we have inside of us with no regard to God and what he says on this matter.

       The next Beatitudes states, ““Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

       I think we in this country often have a misunderstanding of peace. Many think that to be peaceful means that you don’t ever say anything that might offend another person. They marry tolerance and peace together, and make them one and the same. In other words, if your not tolerant of other people’s beliefs, you aren’t being peaceful toward others. But you’re not loving people if you don’t tell them the truth. After all, anyone who disbelieves in God and doesn’t live righteously is in route to hell, and freely letting people go to hell without telling them the truth isn’t very loving.

       It is true that Christians are supposed to try to live at peace with all, as the writer of Hebrews noted in Hebrews 12:14. In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus put a great emphasis on being at peace with your accuser—when your being accused of something. He also said that we, as Christians, should love our enemies and he described various ways we can do that. As a matter of fact, the third fruit of the Spirit, as mentioned by Paul, is “peace.” Paul also said, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body” (Colossians 3:15, ESV). So, in the household of God—the body of believers—we are to be peaceful within ourselves, which will then lead us to be peaceful with one another. And we can depend on God for our peace with others, as Paul said, “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all” (2 Thessalonians 3:16, ESV).

       I would like us to consider a couple of verses from the Apostle Paul written in Galatians chapter 6. I think these verses are a good summery of being a peacemaker in the body of Christ. Paul said, “Brothers and sisters, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2, ESV). So, we as fellow believers are supposed to be gracious and kind to fellow believers within our church if they caught in a sin. When the person is repentant, we are to help the best we can to restore that person to fellowship. We are not supposed to be like the world, where often times when someone is caught doing something wrong, the world will send the person into exile. The person is expected to resign or whatever it be and go off into a corner, at least for a while. And that may be true for a time even with a Christian, but the person should be restored. We are supposed to help each other, in the body, with their problems and thereby facilitate peace and be a peacemaker. This makes God happy, and makes everyone happy really.

       Now, for the final two Beatitudes: ““Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness 'sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

       You see, Jesus guarantees his true followers that they will experience persecution in some way, shape, or form in their lives. If you’re a Christian and you never experience persecution, even here in the United States, then there is something wrong. You will definitely face persecution because if you are living a life of truth and speaking truth, there are going to people you come across who don’t agree with you, who think it’s just your opinion among many opinions. And some of these people who don’t like what you have to say, or what you stand for, will persecute you. Now, they may just say something against you, or joke about you, or they may even treat us abusively, whether emotionally or physically. People of the past persecuted the Jewish people and Christian people in their times, and it will be no different for us in this life both now and in the future.

       And it’s also important to note that this persecution can come from within our own families. For Jesus said, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law” (Luke 12:51-53, ESV). Jesus said that peace would be divided in families, but we can always live by peace of mind in our relationship with God and fellow believers.

       Sometimes one or more are saved in a household while the others in the same household aren’t saved. And sometimes even marriages bring divisions in families with in-laws. Or, sometimes one person in a marriage becomes saved, while to the other person remains an unbeliever. But the Apostle Paul told us 1 Corinthians 7 for the saved married person, that he or she should be willing to remain in the marriage, in view of the possibility that the other person might become saved (see 1 Corinthians 7:12-16).

       Jesus also guaranteed that people who are against us will say false things about us. I think many of us have experienced the persecution of false accusations in our lives, whether it was in grade school, within in your family, or even perhaps it is currently going on for you in your workplace. You stand for right things—for truth—and people may twist what you stand for. People may say bad things about you, bear false witness about what you say or represent, because they don’t like what you stand for and what you tell them. But don’t worry, have thick skin because God is on your side. If you don’t have thick skin, pray to God to give you some. I understand it can be hard to face people who don’t like you and don’t agree with you. But remember when this happens that Jesus went through the same things during his time here on earth, and so did many others in the Bible. A good chapter to read in regard to this subject is Hebrews chapter 11. There, you can learn about some of the struggles of God’s people in the face of opposition and how they pressed forward through that opposition.

       Jesus said, though, that for people who are persecuted: “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” You see, this life is temporal, and we as Christians are looking forward to the next. We will live with God forever in Heaven, and what happens now doesn’t even compare to the glory that will be revealed in us. The famous disciple Stephen knew this all too well when as he was martyred for bearing strong witness to the truth, which can be seen at the end of Acts chapter 7. Jesus also went as far as to say, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.” For living a life following Jesus—a life based in truth, we build up for ourselves rewards. And this is especially true when we are persecuted for being righteous. I believe God will give us Christians—not only now but also when we get to Heaven—the desires of our hearts. People I think often presume that there wont be too much to Heaven, but really it’s the exact opposite. And if you’re not a Christian today, you can become one and get in on God’s gracious generosity. For many of you who don’t believe, think about how much God gives you now, and think about how much more he will give to those who are his own children, both now and even more so in the future!

       In closing today, perhaps you've been listening to this discussion today—about the final five Beatitudes—about the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted. Maybe, as you've listened, you've believed that what I’ve said really is true. Perhaps you’ve been feeling God speaking to your heart today. Well, no matter who you are, no matter what your position in society is, no matter how unimportant or important you think you are, I am here today to tell you that God is offering you His free gift of salvation that He offers to anyone who would believe in Him. God wants everyone to accept the truth, to accept Jesus' death on the cross as a payment for their sins.

       It may be today that you feel like there is no way that this God, whom I've talked about, could accept you because, after all, He is holy, perfect, and good, and you may feel that you are quite the opposite. But, you see, He doesn't save you based on your works. You can spend your whole life trying to do things to get God's attention, or make yourself feel good, but, in the end, it's not going to matter. All that matters, in reality, is whether or not a person is in right relationship with God. All that matters is whether you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. You cannot earn God's favor. You can't bargain with God—you can't say, “God, if I do this for you, will you do this for me?” That's not the way it works. You can have much, much more than that.

       If you will come into a personal relationship with God, He will give you eternal life, and a new life, starting today. He will forgive you of your sins, and eventually, as you seek to please Him and follow Him, he will give you, according to His will, the desires of your heart. God wants people to be at peace, to have joy, to be happy. Now, that's very counter to our society because our society teaches that obtaining things or people—whatever it be—that's what our society says will make you happy. But that's not reality. The truth of the matter is what will truly fulfill your life is being reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, knowing that your sins are forgiven, and that you are now in right standing with God in a personal relationship with Him.

       God will help you where you need help. It doesn't matter if you're struggling with an addiction or some significant engrossed problem; God has the ability to get you through that issue. Our world's systems are a nice try at best. But God is the only One who can forgive sins, and really help you through whatever it is. God isn't just wanting to save you from hell—though that is very important—God wants to be part of your life. He wants you to surrender your life over to Him, so that He can give you true life. There is nothing to lose, at all, by knowing God. All there is, by knowing God, is gain.

       So, if you believe that you would like to have a personal relationship with God today, and accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, then follow my lead in this simple prayer:

God, I am a sinner. But today I understand that Jesus died for my sins, and He forgives me of everything wrong that I have ever done. I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, and that on the third day He rose from the dead so that I might have a new life. And I, God, want to surrender my life to you now, so that you may be Lord of my life because, Father, you know what is best for me. Please, Father, come into my life, and start the transformation process, so that I become like you want me to be, so that I become pleasing to you. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

       Let's pray:

       Heavenly Father, I thank you for today. I thank you for the opportunity to look at the Beatitudes—to study your Word and examine the people you consider blessed, happy—so that we can have a better understanding of your Word and know you more. I pray for those who accepted your truth today, who accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior: I pray that you would help those people to overcome any issues in their lives, and that they would seek to be pleasing to you, in their actions, thoughts, and what they do, so that they can become more like Jesus.

       I pray for those of us who are in right relationship with you, that we would be continuing to become more like Jesus, that we would not going the other direction, away from you, but that our actions, our thoughts, our deeds, that we would be seeking to align those with your truth. Help us, Father. It can be such a struggle at times, as our inner sin natures tries to pull us away and make us not like Jesus. Help us to look at different areas of our lives in light of what we have learned today about the Beatitudes, and how we can be more pleasing to you, and more helpful and thoughtful of those around us. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

-Daniel Litton