By Nicole McLeod
Please open your Bibles to Matthew 5 as we continue taking our fresh look at the teachings of Jesus called “The Beatitudes.” These were the opening statements He made to all His followers as He began teaching his well-known Sermon on the Mount. These beautiful beatitudes show us not only the new heart and a transformed character of a Christian, but the mind of Christ, and heart of Jesus for His disciples as well. One writer calls these verses “The Disciple’s Portrait” because they give us a beautiful picture of the heart of a man or woman in whom Christ dwells. He wrote this: “Here, then, are the foundational principles of The Sermon on The Mount. Here's the summary description of the man or woman in whom Jesus Christ dwells. Here is the pathway to true blessedness. Here is the portrait of the disciple of Christ.” If I were to give them a title, I would call them “A Portrait of Growing in Grace” as we see in these verses the kind of heart that we all desire to have as we keep growing in grace.
Each of these eight statements proclaim God’s blessing. The word “Blessed”, Makarios –from the Greek word makar, used to describe a person who is “especially favored by God and who is therefore fortunate because of it”. It’s the kind of happiness that comes when we know we belong to Jesus and are made right with God. The world would disagree with Christ’s description of a “happy” person, but Jesus gets to the heart of where true happiness and true righteousness comes from. They come from Him. These beautiful and powerful teachings are further expanded upon throughout the NT to help us better understand them and apply them rightly.
Last week we looked at the first 4 beatitudes, verses 1-6, which relate to our relationship with God and how they lead us into the Kingdom. We talked about how we all must come to God, Poor in spirit, humbly, not proud in spirit, (for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble). and we are promised the Kingdom of God. We Mourn over our sins and the sins those around the world, knowing how they grieve the heart of God and we are promised God’s comfort. We are Meek spirited, not mean spirited, as we stand for Christ, and we exhibit power under the control of the Holy Spirit. We receive God’s teaching with meekness and a heart to obey. We Hunger and thirst for righteousness - always longing to live to know Christ and make Him known and we are filled. We ended our study with the picture the cross of Christ. We talked about how the vertical relationship we have with God is key to the horizonal relationship being right with Him.
Today we’ll study the second 4 beatitudes – looking at the horizontal aspect and the kinds of heart attitudes Jesus wants to see expressed our relationships with others. I’m excited to see God use these Beatitudes as we apply them in our lives. May the Lord minister their beauty, grace and truth to our hearts as we study them.
Matthew 5:7-12 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Because we have received such undeserved mercy and forgiveness from God, we are to show this mercy to others, and are blessed in doing so. Mercy is grace in action, and extending mercy is very important to God.
*Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
We see that justice, mercy and humility are “good” and what God expects of His beloved and redeemed. We show God’s mercy to others when we 1) forgive those who sin against us, and when we 2) help people who are weak, poor, elderly, ill and the outcasts of society. Our homeless ministry is made up of mostly women showing mercy to the poor. His mercies refresh us every morning, so we will always have enough, and can never run out when called to show it to others. In showing mercy we are blessed. Proverbs 14:21 “He who despises his neighbor sins; But he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he.” How happy = How blessed. Jesus had compassion for the multitudes, so we show this by having a heart of mercy in a broken hurting world. The Holy Spirit impresses upon us the importance of choosing mercy throughout the scriptures.
Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
James 2:13 “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
Do we want God to show us mercy? Show mercy. Do we want others to show us mercy? Show them mercy. Matthew 7:12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Where do you need to show mercy, and to whom do you need to show mercy? Whom do you need to forgive, or whom can you bless who is in need? We are pleasing God when we show mercy because “ He delights in mercy”.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
The pure in heart have a single focus on God and His good, acceptable and perfect will. The word pure is a Greek word "katharos," we get the term "catharsis," it means to cleanse something by removing the dirt. Jesus’ sacrifice has cleansed our hearts and we are forgiven of our sins. This word speaks 1) of an inward purity of heart before God and 2) unmixed sincerity before men. This is an “authentic” Christian, honest and sincere with God and people.
In the Bible, the heart is the center of the personality, the mind, will and emotions. It is the center also the source of many of our problems. Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” Most of our struggles with following Christ and living out these teachings come down to our old nature (our old heart attitudes) wanting to live independently and selfishly and not yield to the new nature and Spirit of Christ in us. We may feel “torn between two masters” as one writer put it. (Matt. 6:24) Issues come up and we are faced with choices, and often it takes prayer to make the difficult choice to follow God’s ways. We need to guard our hearts so our thought and emotions don’t run away with us!
Proverbs 4:23 “ Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it precede the issues of life. ” One pastor commented, ‘watch your thoughts, your thoughts form the blue prints for everything else in life; what you do and what you say.’ And here is the point: 1 Timothy 1:5 “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith.” To love God and people sincerely, in His name.
How do we maintain a pure heart? By remaining devoted to Jesus. This involves prayer – asking God for help and staying in His Word regularly and remaining in fellowship which gives us all a level of accountability. His Word teaches us, His Spirit convicts us when we need correction and fellowship encourages us that we are not alone, and not to give up. Whatever is corrupting our hearts, selfishness, covetousness, sinfulness of any kind, we must bring it to God and deal with it.
The promise is that the pure in heart will see God. What does this mean? John 3:3 “Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” We see/experience God when we receive Christ and yield our lives to Him. Our spiritual eyes are opened. Do you remember experiencing this? For me, it was like not seeing God at all to seeing Him at work everywhere – not only in His Word, and in Christians, but even in the natural world around me. Someday we will “see” Him as He is, risen and glorified, face to face.
*1 John 3:2 “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”
Knowing we will one day see Jesus face to face motivates us to keep our hearts and lives pure.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
The word for Peace is eirene which means binding or joining together what is broken or divided, and to set at one again. Jesus is our supreme peacemaker, making peace between God and us. The Bible says that all mankind by nature, are enemies of God and that our greatest need is for peace with God. (Romans 5) Once we have experienced peace with God through Christ, we are called to be peacemakers wherever God leads us - in our homes, at church, with relatives and friends. There is something very “Christ-like” in bringing people to peace and peace to people. Peace is harmony. It is the resolving of conflicts with the truth. Do you share His passion for peace and reconciliation? Here are four ways we can serve as peacemakers.
First, we must have peace with God personally, (that's salvation). We have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ by receiving Him.
Secondly, we share the gospel of grace with other people and tell them how to have peace with God, (that's evangelism). In evangelism we make peace between man and the God whom they had rejected and offended. God has given to us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18).
Third, we make peace with other people, (that’s reconciliation). When something isn't right between us and a brother or a sister, we do what we can. Romans 12:18 " If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." I'm glad it says "as far as it depends on you" because sometimes we try to make peace with people, and they just won’t have it, but we try, and we pray for it. Romans 12: 21 “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good”.
*1 Corinthians 13:11 “ Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”
Fourthly, we help other people to be at peace with others, (that’s restoration), like a bridge, helping one person who's offended, and another person come together. James 3:18 “And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” And we “shall be called sons of God.” In other words, people will look at your life and say, "You must be related to God." Not just heaven will notice, but people will take notice, and some will see Christ in you and be drawn to Christ …and others will see Christ in you and respond hatefully, which brings us to our next beatitude. How does the world receive people who live like Jesus describes? They persecute them!
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
This is perhaps the most paradoxical and challenging beatitude of all! This word ‘persecuted’ describes suffering inflicted upon people who hold beliefs that are frowned upon. Those living truly Christian lives will be persecuted for “MY” sake, Jesus says. “Blessed are those who are persecuted because by God’s grace they are determined to live as I live.” In what ways are we blessed? I will suggest four ways.
1.First, persecution is evidence we are united to Jesus Christ.
John 15:19-25 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin,[ b ]but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’
The Apostle Paul wrote that all who “ walk worthy of the gospel” will face opposition (Phil. 1:27-28) and he tells them be “ not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.
We are blessed when persecuted, Jesus said, because will have greatreward in heaven, and are in good company: the prophets before them were also persecuted. All of us suffer persecution to one degree or another, just by being a light in a dark world. For most of us, it comes via looks, ridicule, slander or comments, the rejection of family and friends. We are blessed, when because of our love for and loyalty to Christ, we endure any suffering.
*1 Peter 4:12-14 “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”
We can rejoice knowing God sees the little sacrifices and insults, patiently born for His sake as well as the great sacrifices of martyrs that have been made throughout history. Many brothers and sisters in Christ around the world today are suffering greatly, simply because they go to church and they love Jesus and they worship Him. And in some places, they pay the ultimate price. It is a deeply solemn subject, and we must always pray for the persecuted church!
2.Second, if we are persecuted “for righteousness sake”, and not just for being obnoxious or offensive, we can be sure the Holy Spirit has been making progress molding us in Christ’s image. Immediately following what Jesus just taught about persecution inJohn 15, He says, *John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”
When we are yielding to His Spirit in us, He is making us effective witnesses. We must always hold this hope, especially in distressing and perplexing times.
*Romans 8:16-18 “16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 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.
3.Thirdly, the knowledge that God often uses persecution to perfect the believer and help us along the road to practical holiness, which is making us more like Jesus. It was this knowledge that gave joy to the first Christians to be persecuted. Peter and John:
* Acts 5:40-42 “and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.” They were blessed to be identified with the Lord.
4.Fourthly, we can be blessed in the knowledge of God’s rewards for the faithful as it says here in Matthew 5:12 “ Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Did you know that there are some 70 other passages where Jesus addressed suffering with His disciples? Suffering was a major topic in the preaching of Jesus. Persecution not only strengthens our faith in the Lord, it proves we have been faithful We will all receive the reward of fellowship with Christ and dwelling in His presence in heaven which is more than we could ever ask or imagine.
in conclusion, it’s so important to remember, that all of the Beatitudes show us our dependence upon God’s grace as we cultivate these inner attitudes and see them grow. It is His grace that saves us, and it is this same power of grace and faith at work in our lives which helps us live out these right attitudes towards God and others. He wants us to live God blessed lives growing in grace.
I pray whatever challenging relationships we find yourself in today, that these Beatitude teachings will help us be honest with ourselves and others. Let’s close here and go to small group prayer. Today is a perfect day to give our challenging relationships up to Him.
Prayer: Thank you for saving us and for all the changes you make in our lives and help us keep growing to be more like You. Lord, we pray that you would encourage the persecuted church around the world today. We are truly blessed to be a part of your great kingdom. Thank you for these Beatitudes. Use these teachings in all of our lives we pray. In Jesus Name.