The Blessing of Audacious Attitudes–Part 2
Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:6-8
What do some people say after you sneeze? “God bless you!” Politicians close speeches with, “God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.” But what does it mean–to be blessed? Does it mean good health? I hope that sneeze, by divine intervention, doesn’t turn into something worse. Does it mean wealth? I hope God prospers you and this country economically? Blessed can mean those things–health and wealth can be great blessings from God.
Proverbs speaks of health and wealth blessings. The prophets predict when God’s Kingdom arrives there will be a reign of peace and plenty–health and wealth. As Jesus begins His earthly ministry, a time of blessing has arrived, as the Lord, in Matthew 4, is “healing every disease and every affliction among the people.”
But now, as people are wondering what Jesus will do next, the Lord preaches His Sermon on the Mount. In it, He talks about blessing, but He does not teach what they thought He’d teach. As people long for happiness, Jesus says the route to that happiness is not what you think. It’s not health or wealth, but a deep, internal, life-transforming blessing. And each truth Christ utters sounds like a contradiction.
Read aloud with me verses 3 through 8 of Matthew 5. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. 6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5: 3 to 8).
According to Jesus, who is blessed? It is not the courageous, the wise, the sensible, the wealthy, the healthy or the just–no. It’s not even the agreeable, funny, intelligent, attractive, sensitive, or fit—no. Blessed means happy, fortunate, or favored. According to Jesus, the one who is poor, sad, lowly, hungry and mistreated is blessed. Welcome to the strange but perfect wisdom of Christ.
Welcome to Christ’s narrow-gate theology–teaching that separates the crowds who want health and wealth in the here and now from the disciples who are willing to deny themselves, pick up their crosses and follow Christ. Welcome, not to “the few, the proud, the Marines”—but to “the few, the humble, the followers of Christ.” Welcome to what it means to be a blessed disciple of Jesus Christ.
We’re in the midst of expositing the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 to 7. Join the Lord today as we sit on a slope overlooking the north side of the Sea of Galilee with its sweet southern California weather and perfect acoustics. Christ is sitting, His twelve and other disciples are closest to Him, and you are part of the crowd, as Jesus describes happiness. There are people present who only want Christ to overthrow the Romans, others who want healing and food–but most of them want to be freed from their guilt of sin.
So Christ will go straight for the heart, the internal person, the real you, and shock you. He will shock you out of your external religion and fake show. Christ will deal with internal reality not external steps, as He verbally moves people to deal with their hearts. Leave here today asking yourself and every Christian—how is your heart? Be honest. Christ will teach you through these beatitudes, that true happiness comes to anyone who depends on Christ for everything.
My concern today is this–are you one of those who wants six dollars’ worth of God? Just like my chocolate almond shaken espresso decaf, light ice, extra almond milk and an extra scoop of powder–I want my coffee like these people want a God, on their terms. You order him up–you pick the church that makes your ideas about faith reasonable, and easy. As you do, you don’t mind suffering a little inconvenience, giving up a little conviction, showing a little commitment, offering a little giving, embracing a little fellowship, admitting a little sin, so you can have a Savior–but not one you submit to or obey. Not a God who selects who you hang with or alters your free time. Because you only want 6 dollars’ worth of God–not a God you offer yourself to as a living sacrifice in worship.
Those who know the real Christ, the Creator, the Lord, the King, the Master—you will pay anything, give anything, do anything in order to have Christ and His salvation. Is that the kind of heart you have? Our Lord is exposing hearts and describing true happiness. Last week, we exposited verses 3 through 5 and found that . . .
#1 Happiness comes from the awareness of your spiritual BANKRUPTCY
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
#2 Happiness comes from the awareness of your deep GRIEF over sin
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
#3 Happiness comes from the awareness of your DEPENDENCE on God”
“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).
Today, the Lord continues with verses 6, 7 & 8. Look at beatitude #4.
#4 Happiness comes from the awareness of your DESPERATATION to be righteous–blessing in the form of internal SATISFACTION
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).
This is difficult for Americans to understand. All of us have experienced thirst and hunger, but not to the point of starvation– not to the point where you might violate your convictions just to get a drink of water or a morsel of food. But most of the people listening to Jesus by the sea knew what it was like to be hungry and to be desperate for water, so they understood this drive Jesus is describing. Our Lord is calling His listeners to be consumed for righteousness–being right and living right with God.
Like Moses longing to see God’s glory. Like David’s zeal for the house of God. Like Paul’s passion to know Christ more than anything. Like the prodigal—starving, eating the corn husks of the world, returned home to his father to be given real food. God wants you to have an insatiable appetite, an intense longing, a keep-you-awake-at-night yearning–an unsatisfied aching for righteousness. But what is that? Righteousness is God is right–in character and action. It’s an attribute of God that Christians are to pursue, synonymous with salvation and descriptive of sanctification–living in such a way as to please God in attitude, thought and action.
Here in chapter 5, Matthew describes Christ’s words in a unique way. Christ says all righteousness. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for [all] righteousness.” Christians are never satisfied, because no matter how much righteousness they might have, they don’t have all that is available. How much righteousness do we need? Jesus says it. “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).
Plus, the Greek text includes the article here, what is all –the righteousness? It is all the righteousness of God. To understand this, it helps to call His righteousness the perfection of God. You need to be perfect to get to Heaven, and you can never be–so God must make you perfect. But how? By taking your sin upon Himself and covering you in His righteous perfection all by faith in Him.
So hungering and thirsting for righteousness begins with salvation and continues with sanctification. You can never be satisfied with the righteousness you have, but you can be satisfied as you depend on the Lord to make you righteous, then empower you to live righteous in this life. God wants to make you like Christ. Christlikeness. Without becoming like Him–righteous in thought, attitude and action, a true Christian will die from hunger or thirst. This is what the Spirit wants to do in your life–make you like Christ.
Romans 8:29, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.” Galatians 4:19, “My children, with whom I am again in labor, until Christ is formed in you.” JC Ryle says, “Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness means those who desire above all things to be entirely conformed to the mind of God will be satisfied–they don’t long to be rich, or wealthy or learned, but long to be holy.”
The truly born again believer moves from wondering about God to longing to be like Him. Those who’re saved want to live a God-like life so badly, they’re compared to a starving man who is looking for a single slice of bread, or a dehydrated man who needs just a cup of water. They’re not satisfied until they know the righteous one, and live like the righteous one. They are the ones, verse 6, “For they shall be satisfied.”
The Stones sang it, “I can’t get no, satisfaction, but I try, and I try and I try.” Shut up and turn to Christ! By means of Christ’s redeeming work and transforming grace, God gives each one of you new appetites that He promises to satisfy–and He alone can. Those without Christ try to find satisfaction in drinking, physical pleasure, drugs, sex–or the distraction of entertainment, the enthusiasm of sports, the emptiness of escapism, or drowning themselves in family and friendships.
Those with Christ try to find satisfaction in churches, preachers, Christian friends, conferences, seeking some sort of spiritual high instead of finding satisfaction in Christ. Verse 6, “satisfy” means to be filled–used in the New Testament of feeding an animal until it can eat no more. Here it means to be completely satisfied. Now this seems paradoxical, since He is saying God will satisfy me–but I’ll continue to hunger and thirst.
But you know this, men. Your wife makes her special apple pie and you’re satisfied. But you still desperately want more–anyone with me? Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us God….put eternity in our hearts. Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Each of you have a hole in your soul, an emptiness that cannot be filled by anyone but God Himself. He is our Creator, and He made each of us for Himself—and until we stop rebelling from His purpose and path for us, we will never be satisfied. We were made to be in relationship with Him, and even as His children, when we go through a season of drifting away in our relationship with Christ, we’ll not be satisfied.
In Matthew 6:33 later in this sermon, Jesus says it so well, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Who are those who truly hunger and thirst for “righteousness? Those who want God’s will over their own will in everything, are dissatisfied with themselves. They say and believe, “Oh wretched man that I am”–are not satisfied by anything more than Christ.
You can give a starving man a massage, sexual intimacy, true friends, high-end Disney passes, a sports team, a massive inheritance–yet he will not be satisfied until he gets food. It is the same with those who hunger after the Lord. Those who find the things of God to be their highest and sweetest satisfaction–they desire Christ plus nothing. Unlike the Rich Young Ruler, who wanted Christ plus his riches, the one who hungers here only wants Christ. They don’t justify, “I want Christ plus my sin, or I want Christ plus my money, or I want Christ plus my reputation–but I just want Christ.
Those without Christ are hungry for happiness, yet are starving. But when those with Christ hunger for holiness, they will be satisfied. Happiness belongs to the holy. This is the path to happiness, for true happiness comes to anyone who depends on Christ for everything.
#5 Happiness comes from your life of mercy extended to the UNDERSERVING–Blessing in the form of God’s MERCY given to you
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
There is a two-fold pattern described in the beatitudes—1) to get into God’s kingdom, you must seek mercy. And 2) when you are in His Kingdom, you will show mercy. Jesus gives this as a test to see if you are truly His and what happens when you are His. If you demonstrate mercy to others, you will receive mercy from God. Christ always emphasizes it’s what’s inside a person that counts. That doesn’t mean Christ is not concerned with your behavior–He is. But it’s your inside which produces and directs our behavior.
Lloyd-Jones said, “A Christian is something before he does anything.” Think about this–he also said, “We are not meant to control our Christianity, but our Christianity is rather meant to control us.” The beatitudes are describing deep internal transformational changes that come from genuine salvation. God is never interested in superficiality. The listening crowd on the slope by the Sea of Galilee were mainly externalists–religion was a show. Now Christ is cracking through their fake faith.
Christ is not interested in offerings or sacrifices, but obedience which comes from a willing transformed heart–real internal change. And mercy is one of the expressions of a born again heart. Mercy is a loving response prompted by the misery and helplessness of another. Grace is given to the undeserving. But mercy is given to the miserable. Think about it–mercy flows directly out of the previous beatitudes.
The person who knows he’s spiritually bankrupt (poor in spirit—verse 3) will grieve over his pitiful condition (mourning, from verse 4), then submit his will to God’s will in all things (gentle/humble, from verse 5), and will long for godly righteousness (from verse 6), and show mercy (verse 7) to other undeserving people, since he knows he himself is also undeserving.
This is the heart of one who comes to Christ—and this is the heart of someone whom Christ is in. Mercy means you’re willing to get down on your hands and knees in order to help the undeserving, who are as broken as you. Verse 7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” This specific Greek word, “mercy” is only used twice in the New Testament. It means to give help to the wretched, or rescue the miserable–it is compassion in action.
Please note–you’re not merciful if you merely feel bad. No, real mercy acts. But Jesus is not saying, “Just be good to people and they will be good to you.” Jesus is not suggesting if people see us care, then they will care. Or, “Be nice and God will save you.” No–the Romans and some Jews in the first century often viewed mercy as a sign of weakness. In Rome, if the father didn’t want his baby daughter, he could kill it. Slaves were property they could kill with no recourse. A husband could even kill his wife if he wanted to. The Roman people had little mercy.
But Jesus says real mercy–help for the undeserving, is a reflection of His heart toward you. Christ, who healed the leper, raised the son of grieving parents, even cared for the most despised in the land–the tax-gatherers, showed mercy. He showed mercy to you too. Mercy is expressed in desperately needed words. Mercy is shown in sacrificial gifts of money or supply. Mercy is proven with time given to those who can’t give back. And mercy is displayed in forgiveness to those who have wounded you, remembering that you will never forgive anyone as much as God in Christ has forgiven you.
Embracing how much mercy God has given to you is the key to you showing mercy. How much mercy you show is almost certainly the result of how much mercy you know. We live in a difficult time. There is so much growing injustice and suffering in the world and with modern media, we’re alerted to the need for mercy all around the world (Maui, Niger, India). So for now, just evaluate your heart over the mercy needed right around you. If you manifest an I-don’t-care heart, that’s a strong indicator you don’t know Christ.
Then add this–if you don’t care for people’s eternal soul more than their physical suffering, your mercy is misplaced. Augustine said, “If I weep for that body from which the soul is departed, how should I weep for that soul from which God is departed.” Do you look on the lost with mercy or disdain? Also, do you take steps to show mercy, guided by the truth of God’s Word and God’s wisdom? Coupons or gifts to give away, so that you don’t enable drugs or drunkenness with cash. Discussions about the Gospel and truth shared in the midst of mercy expressions–that’s a big one. Being prepared budgetarily in order to act when Christians are in peril.
Have you received God’s abundant mercy to you as an undeserving, broken sinner? And are you giving His mercy away to the undeserving around you? True happiness comes to anyone who depends on Christ for everything.
#6 Happiness comes from those who’ve been made NEW in heart–Blessing in the form of INTIMACY with God
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
One more time, hear the Lord Jesus as He encourages and exhorts you–the Lord is more concerned with your inward character than your outward conduct. With your attitudes more than our actions. When you evaluate anyone’s life on the basis of their trials, circumstances, difficulties with their kids, how much money they make, whether they said “hi” to you or ghosted you–you’re missing the point. What matters above all is their heart.
The word heart here is describing the condition of your inner spiritual life, your inner person, the real you where you deliberate, decide and direct your life. The heart is critically important to the Lord Jesus–therefore, it should be equally important to us. David even prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, Oh God” (Psalm 51:10). What’s a pure heart? The Greek word for pure means three things, 1) to cleanse from filth and iniquity, 2) to remain unmixed, with no foreign elements in it, and 3) to be single-mindedly focused—pure.
To be pure in heart is to have a fallen, evil, impure heart made pure by God. Pure in heart is making a filthy heart clean. Remember who is listening. The Israelites of the first century are desperate–economically, politically, and more important spiritually. They thought their Messiah should deliver them from Roman oppression–but their bigger need was deliverance from Pharisee oppression. They were taught to obey God’s Law–all 613 commandments found in the Old Testament.
But they were also intimidated into obeying thousands of applications to those laws and misinterpretations of those laws which were designed by thousands of rabbis over hundreds of years. They had to follow thousands of laws in order to be acceptable before their God–to be saved and to be accepted by their culture. It was impossible. So rabbis modified the expectations down to a few laws–sometimes even boiling it down to one law. But even that was impossible to live perfectly. So the people remained under a mountain of guilt, massively burdened by their sinfulness.
The population desired forgiveness. The listening crowd had no sense of security, living under a religious system they couldn’t keep–so they were desperate to know how they could be made right before a holy God. So Jesus says you must be pure in heart to see God? Wow–Jesus says you have to be 100% pure. No sin, no fault, no failure–you must be absolutely perfect.
A little later on in this same sermon, Jesus will say in Matthew 5:48, “You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” God must take out your old stony heart and replace it with a brand new transformed one. Nicodemus wanted to be made right. So Jesus told him, “You must be [what?] born again.” What Jesus is teaching here is you must rely upon divine accomplishment to get a pure heart–never human achievement.
You can’t earn salvation. You can’t be religious enough, serve enough, give enough, or obey enough in order to become acceptable to God. God must pay the price for your sins, transform your heart, and purify your heart so you will now want to follow Him, please Him, and obey Him from a made new pure heart. When your heart is made pure, you will want to live pure, unless you are unrepentant, intentionally disobedient or unwilling to submit to the Spirit’s work. How do you know you have a pure heart?
1 How you talk
The words you choose, the priorities reflected in your speech are an indicator of your heart. Matthew 15:18 to 19, “…the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.”
2 How you draw near to the Lord
James 4:8, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
3 How you deal with idols in your heart
What’s an idol in your heart? Anything that might usurp God from His rightful place as Lord and first love in your life. Ezekiel warned of idols you set up in your heart that compete against the Lord in 14:3 and 7, “These men have set up their idols in their hearts …7For anyone of the house of Israel or of the immigrants who stay in Israel who separates himself from Me, sets up his idols in his heart.”
Do you have an idol in your heart? Repent. There is a hymn called, “Oh for a closer walk with God”, and one verse describes this desire for a pure heart and no idols in this way. “The dearest idol I have known; Whatever that idol may be; Help me tear it from its throne; And worship only thee.”
Then Jesus adds, the blessing of pursuing a pure heart is verse 8, “For they shall see God.” The Greek tense and voice says “see” (“see God”)–a reflexive continual action. So verse 8 means this—”Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall [continually] see God [for themselves].
Do you know what happens when your heart is purified at your salvation? You live in the presence of God. You don’t see him physically, but you see Him spiritually. You realize He is here, real, present, working, and alive. Moses saw the Lord. Job said, “But now my eye sees Him.” Christian, you are now blessed to see God in creation, in circumstances, in trials, in ministry, on dark days and easy days.
Do you long to see God in all of life? Then purify your heart. Be the rare Christian who is continually longing for God’s presence, pursuing God’s purity, delighting in God’s pleasure, for when that’s your passion, you’ll be pure in heart. True happiness comes to anyone who depends on Christ for everything.
A You can’t PURIFY your own heart
Proverbs 20:9, “Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin?’” No one can say, “I am clean–I am not stained with sin.” No–you and I are saturated with sin. Sin is not something we merely do, it evidences who we are. We want to get angry. We want to be selfish. we love being proud. We desire lust. Grow to the place where you recognize you can’t deliver yourself from sin–that your sin will destroy you and send you to Hell, and your only hope is for God to rescue you from its penalty, its power, and one day its presence.
But not one of you can say, “I can clean myself up before a perfect God!” Jeremiah 13:23, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good who are accustomed to doing evil.”
B Rejoice in God’s MERCY and your positional righteousness
As a part of the human race, you were corrupted when Adam chose to sin. Paul says it this way in Romans 5:19, “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.” Because of the sacrifice of the perfect Son of God, taking the punishment you deserve for your sin–being the one who bore all of God’s eternal wrath for your sin upon Himself as our substitute, in our place. Because He loved you and had mercy toward you, you have been made righteous.
All your sin is forgiven, all your punishment is finished. All the eternal condemnation you deserve in Hell was taken care of. And though you hate sin and still battle with sin, you must also rejoice that Christ died for you. And because He made you positionally righteous, you will want to passionately pursue practical righteousness. With your anger, thoughts of lust, selfishness and pride today, say to the Lord, “Help me want to live right because you made me right.”
C PLEAD for God’s mercy, and ask for a new heart
Ephesians 2:4 and 5, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” God is rich in mercy. He can forgive you, embrace you and wash you new because of the sacrificial death and resurrection from the dead of His own Son. This blessing costs you nothing–it is a gift given by God’s grace. Not as a tag to wear, but a life to live–not as a get out of Hell card, but as a pursue God’s will lifestyle. God is rich in mercy.
Won’t you respond to His gracious invitation? Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one will come to the Father except through Him. No other faith, no other religion will get you to Heaven. It doesn’t matter how good you are, how sincere you are, how religious you are–you must believe Christ is God, who died for your sins and rose to give you a new life. You must submit to His Lordship by following His Word, the Bible. And you must trust Him and when you do, you will want to be living for Him and not for yourself. Will you repent today?