November 15, 2009

Sermon on the Mount, #2

Matthew 5:1-12

Now we come to the Beatitudes themselves.

The Old Testament ended with a curse:

Malachi 4:4 ¶ Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. 5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: 6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

The New Testament opens with a blessing:

5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The Old blessings and curses emphasized physical results. The New emphasized spiritual results.

Dispensationalism rejects the Beatitudes, including the Lord's prayer in chapter 6. Though they admit that the Lord here gave the Laws that control his Kingdom, they insist that his Kingdom is not here yet. So they do not apply for our day.

I certainly do not understand how they can say that these seven things are not required of God's people today, but they do. If nothing else, all Christians confess that we are to follow Christ. Christ lived these seven requirements to the fullest, so if nothing else, even dispensationalists who claim to follow Christ are bound by these laws also.

Their problem may be the fact that this sermon is simply a continuation of the sermon in Deuteronomy 27 & 28. Dispensationalists disassociate the law of Moses from the Church Age. They will not recognize the law as binding until the Lord renews the old Jewish hope in a literal, physical reign.

Vv. 13-16 identifies the results for not applying these laws, and we are certainly living in the results of dispensationalism.

These are the laws of the Kingdom with which the Great commission can be accomplished. By putting these laws into action, the Apostles turned the world upside down in their generation. By putting these laws into action, the early church conquered Rome when Constantine recognized Christianity as a legitimate religion.

We closed last time with this statement:

These 7 things are not some mystical feelings and inner attitudes which offend no one. Rather, they are strong Biblical actions which emanate from the heart. They are practical applications of the laws of Christianity, and cannot be separated one from another nor from every-day life. They create astounding hostility from the wicked, as well as from some professed Christians. When consistently followed, they led to persecution and even death, as happened to the prophets of old, to Christ and to all of the apostles except John.

Christ gives an opening outline of Christ's sermon with the seven blesseds, and then he gives two illustrations for each of his seven opening points.

Every aspect of His sermon is perfect.
7 represents God's perfection
3 represents the Tri-Une God

The Lord opens with salvation and closes with salvation, showing us that these works are the result of salvation, not the cause. In Matthew 7:21-23, the Lord clearly tells us that though one might keep all of these Beatitudes, many wonderful works, v. 22, those wonderful works will not take them to heaven. The only hope of heaven is through Faith in Christ.

One can do these things and think "I am doing all of these things, so I am sure I am fine." Or we can observe these fruits in the lives of others, and say, "Surely they are saved." The question must always be, "DO THEY HAVE REGENERATING FAITH IN CHRIST?"

He closes this sermon by telling us that the only foundation that will work for life is building upon the laws he gave in this sermon. 7:24-27.

As we look at these seven laws, notice the perfect order of Beatitudes. Each point is built upon the one before it, with the climax in vv. 13-16.

He opens with a totally inward blessing. He progresses to the point where the application of his points bring persecution. How can the application of these things bring about persecution and even death? We will see the progression as we go.

Christ gave no new laws while hear on this earth.

John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

Leviticus 19:18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

The old commandment was as thyself. The new commandment is as I have loved you.

All of our Lord's points were revealed in the Old Testament, but were overshadowed by commands.

The Lord gave a seven point outline, and then gave two illustrations for each point. We will follow his method though I would like to combine each point with its two illustrations. It may seem redundant, but that is the way the Lord did it.

FIRST BEATITUDE, v. 3, poor in spirit, or humility. It is significant that the Lord makes the transition from the 5 blessings which Moses gave to the blessings which he gives with this particular blessing. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The blessings of God promised in the Old Testament to the faithful contained material blessings with no real promise of the Kingdom of heaven attached to them. That Kingdom blessings had to wait for Christ. Now the Lord is here, and He continues the blessings. The blessings of God are only through Christ.

Isaiah 66:2 For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

Spiritual poverty.

The Lord started right at the root of the blessings of God with humility before God for salvation. One cannot enter the kingdom of God apart from the new birth, John 3. One must realize that he is utterly without hope apart from Christ. He must humble himself, become as a child and come in simple trust in Christ for his only hope of the Kingdom of God.

Christ started His sermon with salvation and completed it with salvation, 7:21-23. The blessings of God are accomplished through Christ and are built upon the foundation of regeneration.

The world and most Christian teachers start their teachings about happiness with the gospel of self. That is, the necessity of good self-esteem, self-worth and self-acceptance.

One of the most renowned and promoted sin of our day is the sin of self-esteem. James Dobson has been one of the chief proponents of the gospel of self-esteem, and he has admitted failure.

The results of the gospel of self have come to pass, as promised in Matthew 5:13. The earth that is to be claimed for the Kingdom of God has been willingly turned over to the enemy by those who preach or teach the gospel of self-esteem.

To the gospel of self is added the importance of worldly honour, pleasure and/or riches, as even professed Christians set out to build their own kingdom on earth.

And then we are SHOCKED that these things do not work, and society continues to deteriorate.

But Christ started totally opposed of human thinking: Blessed are the poor in spirit.

Spiritual poverty is both commanded and commended. It is the basis of the Christian experience. No one can enter into the King's kingdom nor into his service unless he has experienced this poverty in spirit.

The blessings of God start with poverty. The blessings of God can only come when the individual realizes that he is poverty-stricken and he has no self-worth nor self-esteem.

Poor in spirit is,

* to have a humble opinion of himself.
* to be aware that he is a sinner, and has no righteousness or hope of heaven on his own.
* to be willing to be saved only by the rich grace and mercy of God;
* to be willing to be where God places him, to bear what He sees fit to lay upon him, to go where He bids, and to die where He commands;
* to be willing to be in His hands and to understand that we deserve no favor from Him.

Poor in spirit is opposite of pride, vanity and ambition.

Poor in spirit is the foundation of true happiness and peace and the blessings of God.

Those who realize they are helpless without the Lord will inherit the kingdom of heaven.

SECOND BEATITUDE, v. 4, mourn. how do we view sins in our lives, in the lives of others and in society?

* Do we mourn?
* Do we ignore them?
* Do we let sin in us and in others go unchallenged?
* Do we entertain sin?
* How do we view sin?
* Do we avoid all appearance of evil when it comes our way?
* Are we grieved in our hearts when sin appears in us or before us?

Ezekiel 9:4 And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.

garden-weeds.

When weeds come up in our gardens, we mourn over those weeds enough to destroy them, or they will destroy the good fruit. However, all the mourning in the world will not improve the good plants one whit. We can weep and wail all summer over the weeds, but unless there is action taken against those weeds, the mourning is hypocrisy. The one who is in genuine mourning over those weeds will get out there and remove them, and they will be comforted in their mourning when the good fruit is harvested.

I have met more than a few folks who mourned over sin in their lives, yet they made no effort to remove that sin. They weep great tears of mourning over sin in their families, yet they make no effort to remove it or stand against it. They profess great anguish and mourning over sin in society, yet they make no effort to try to hold it back.

In 6:16, our Lord identifies them as hypocrites. As we used to say in the "Muscle Car" era of the 60s — the car would look like it was hot and always ready to race, but it would have a six cylinder engine in it. It was all show and no go

The Lord does not want to hear how much we are against evil. He wants to see how much we are against evil. He does not want to hear about our grief over sin (mourn). He wants to see our grief over evil in action.

In 5:10, 13 & 16, the Lord says that those who mourn over sin will take an active stand against sin no matter where they find it. The stand will cause them to be persecuted, but it will hold back the corruption. Their stand will be a light in the dark age around them. Those who profess grief and anguish over sin, yet refuse to stand against that sin do not mourn over sin.

We are told that those who profess grief over sin but do not name it and stand against it have actually joined with the evil doers.

Psalms 50:17 Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee. 18 When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers. 19 Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit.

"Christian" pulpits filled with hypocrites loudly proclaim how much they mourn over sin, but they will not make any kind of a move against sin which might bring problems to them for their stand.

they shall be comforted. The Lord does not say when they will be comforted, only that they will be. What does he mean?

Psalms 9:17 The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.

As we mourn and stand against wickedness, maybe our whole effort against sin seems useless and hopeless. God promises that there is coming a day when our efforts will be vindicated.

Psalms 50:22 Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.

The hypocrite who proclaims his hatred of evil yet will not do anything has a place reserved for him.

they shall be comforted... The Lord is keeping score.

5:4 clearly tells us that those that mourn will be comforted. Maybe our comfort will not be in this life, but it will come, v. 12. I don't know about you, but those who mourn over sin and are actively engaged in the battle against sin, particularly sin in their own lives, feel defeated at times. But there is a day coming when we will see the Lord give the victory, and give to the wicked his just due for His wickedness.

Christians must give up their hypocrisy and get involved against evil. If they do, they will be persecuted. If they do not, they will be overcome by corruption, and will be cast aside to be trodden under the feet of evil men.

THIRD BEATITUDE, meekness. This is 1/7th of our instructions as to how to conquer the world for Christ. The Captain of the Lord's host has an army, and that army's power lies in its meekness.

Meekness refers to being broken to harness, as you would break a horse or elephant for domestic use.

Illustration:

I like the old western movies, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and others of that era. Many of those westerns have men breaking horses. Notice how the horse bucks until it finally realizes it cannot buck off the rider. The horse does not lose his strength, but he is broken so his strength can be used constructively.

Look at Jacob, Moses, Joseph and many other of the Old Testament saints. Their pride had to be broken before they could be used of the Lord. Yet the Lord left then with their natural abilities.

The horse's or elephant's strength and stamina is not compromised. Rather, it is harnessed. Meekness refers to our natural strength and abilities being harnessed by the Lord to be used according to His word.

Meekness...

Jeremiah 17:5 Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. 6 For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. 7 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. 8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

Those who do not see how that the Lord can conquer the earth through His Spirit of Grace are depending upon the arm of the flesh. Their heart is departed from the Lord.

On the other hand, those who simply go about doing the word of God and depending upon Him to do what the individual cannot do, work in the hearts of others and subdue them unto Himself, are trusting in the Lord. The spirit of meekness or dependance upon the Lord comes from the Lord. Furthermore, it could be identified as faith.

* Meekness includes receiving injuries with the confidence that God will vindicate us.
* Meekness is opposite of sudden anger, malice and long-harbored vengeance.
* Meekness does not include the surrender of our rights, nor does it include cowardice.
* Meekness has an honest opinion of self. It neither boasts, contends nor exalts itself over others.
* Meekness describes our King:

Matthew 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
1 Peter 3:4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

Those who have the meekness of Christ are like their King, and they shall reign with Him.

Meekness is not mouseness:

Moses' was the meekest of all men, yet he was the greatest of men, Numbers 12:3. After he was broken, in his meekness, he depended solely upon the Lord. He is a good example of what happens when someone sets out to change the world in their own strength—they fail.

Joshua's meekness is seen in his total dependance upon the Lord as he conquered the Promised Land.

Christ's meekness is seen in the fact that he did not come to do his own will. Even as God on earth, he was in total subject to the Heavenly Father.

John 5:30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

Martin Luther is a good example of meekness as he took on the world-wide religious authority of his day.

When we think of meekness, we often think of hiding in a cave or behind closed doors for fear of what is going on outside. Godly meekness does not sit back fearful of attacking evil and wickedness. Rather, godly meekness enters into the fray depending not on self and self-esteem, but on the Lord working through us according to his word.

Godly meekness is defined in Psalms 37 (Read entire Psalm)

Ps 37:12, The godly are assured that the power and craft of the wicked shall not prevail against them, but fall on their own necks, and therefore ought patiently to abide God's time, and in the meanwhile bewail their sin; and offer up their tears, as a sacrifice of their obedience. (Geneva)

Look at the promises to the meek in the New Testament:

2 Timothy 2:25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

James 1:21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

Meekness not only hears the word, but it submits to it in thought, word and deed.

Through meekness, we are promised that sin in ourselves and in the world around us can be conquered. Meekness is required in the one offering the truth, and meekness is required in the one receiving the truth. Meekness conforms to God's truth.

There are many more passages that go here, e.g., Isaiah 61: 1 (preach good tidings unto the meek...), Psalms 25:9; 76:9; 147:6; 149:4, Galatians 6:1

Shall inherit the earth..

Poor in spirit inherits the kingdom of heaven. Mourning inherits comfort. Meekness inherits the earth.

When we compare the promise given to Abraham in Genesis 12:2, 3 with its New Testament explanation in Romans 4:13 & Galatians 3:16, 19, we find that Abraham was promised that he would be heir to the whole world, through his seed, Christ. Through the righteousness of faith, his people are joint heirs with Christ. Romans 8:17.

Genesis12:2 The world shall recover by the seed, which is Christ, the blessings which they lost in Adam. (Geneva)

The bridge between the Old Covenant to Abraham's seed and the New Covenant promise to Abraham's seed is Matthew 28:19, 20. There Christ's people are charged with the responsibility to go into the whole world, and disciple the nations for Christ.

The covenant promise is the same, heir to the world, but it is changed to a different people. It is changed from national Israel to the spiritual Israel, the church. The blood of Christ makes the change.

In the last 150 years, Christianity has lost its faith in the ability of the Spirit of God to fulfill his world-conquering promises. The fulfillment of those promises can be obtained as it was by the early church by applying the seven beatitudes to everyday life.

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