Listening and Doing – The Beatitudes Pt 1
Thus far this year we have spent a considerable amount of time taking a look at how to make 2017 the best year yet
In doing this we have been looking at 4 key concepts
Prayer and Fasting
We have briefly looked at each of these topics
I say briefly because, to be honest, I could preach on these 4 topics alone for the rest of my life and not run out of material
Last week we started to focus in on the Word and I want to continue that this week
As I mentioned last week I am using the term “Word” as we understand it in our current Christian culture context
In our current Christian culture “Word” almost always means scripture - the Bible
This is how we understand it, but our understanding is not correct
The Word of God is not a thing, it is a person
Jesus is the Word of God - see John chapter 1
The Bible should be more accurately described as the words of God
However, as I mentioned I will be using our contemporary understand of the phrase word of God so when you hear me say that, understand that I mean scripture - the Bible
In this exploration of the Bible we took a look at a fairly familiar passage
If you have your bibles turn with me to:
Matthew 7:24-27 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."
As I mentioned last week, this passage of Scripture is at the very end of what we know as the Sermon on the Mount – the most famous, and in my opinion the best, sermon ever preached
Jesus is reminding us that we need to do way more than just listen to His words, we need to put them into practice
The problem is that many Christians would rather study and pray about the things that Jesus said rather than do them
Francis Chan gave a great analogy about this
Jesus said if we put His words into practice, when we get hit by the storms of life we will stand firm like a house built on the rock
However, if we do not put His words into practice, then when the storms of life came along we would crash like a house built on sand
Since Jesus was pretty clear on this I thought it would be a great idea to take a look at the words of Jesus, specifically the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount
So, we are going to spend the next few weeks looking at the amazing message of Jesus
Let’s start right off in Matthew chapter 5 where Jesus opens the Sermon on the Mount with what is commonly known as the Beatitudes
Matthew 5:1-12 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them, saying: 3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
As much as I’d like to explore each of these beatitudes in detail, time will not allow us to, so we are just going to take a brief look at them today
First of all, these 12 verss are known as the Beatitudes
This begs the question – “What is a beatitude?”
The dictionary defines beatitude as “Supreme blessedness or happiness.”
Really the beatitudes are nothing but cause and effect – if this, then that
If you are “poor in spirit” then the kingdom of Heaven is yours
If you mourn, then you will be comforted
So let’s start with Matthew 5:3 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
So Jesus is saying that if you are “poor in spirit” you will be blessed, and the kingdom of heaven is yours.
What does Jesus mean by “poor in spirit?”
When Jesus says “poor in spirit” He is not referring to our financial situation
“Poor in spirit” means that we have taken an accurate look at our spiritual condition and seen it for what it really is – poor.
You might be thinking “wait a minute Harry, how can you say our spiritual condition is poor? You don’t know what my spiritual life is like!”
You’re right, I really cannot know what your full spiritual life is like
I know that some of us in this room are very close to God, and some of us are not.
But no matter how close we are to God, no matter how well we are fulfilling His call in our lives, I think that if we were all totally honest we would admit that we still have a long way to go
In fact, I can honestly say that the closer I get to God, the more I realize just how far from Him I am
No one is perfect – no one has a perfect life, no one has a perfect family, no one has a perfect belief system, no one has a perfect anything
This makes us “poor in spirit”
So since all of us are poor in spirit, does that mean that all of us are blessed?
No. Part of being poor in spirit is admitting your condition.
The best analogy I can think of comes from Luke chapter 18:9-14
Luke 18:9-14 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' 13 "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' 14 "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
So here we have a story of two men – one is blessed by God and the other is not
What made the difference? What caused the one man to be blessed?
In a word – humility!
The Pharisee was full of pride, the tax collector was full of humility
Scripture has a lot to say about the dangers of pride
Why? Because ultimately, a prideful person is saying, "I don't need God. I can do it on my own."
That, folks, is how this beatitude applies to surviving the storms of life
If you think you can do it all on your own, with no help from anyone else, then your foundation is built on the sand and you are bound to come crashing down
Do you want to make sure that you will survive the storms of life?
Then throw away your pride, admit that you cannot do it on your own, and humble yourself before God
This brings us to our next beatitude fund in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
At first this sounds utterly ridiculous. "Blessed are those who mourn."
I don’t know about you, but any time I’ve ever been mourning I certainly didn’t feel blessed
Mourning is not any fun at all, why would anyone want to mourn?
Why would God want us to mourn?
To understand that we need to understand mourning
There are three types of mourning:
(a) Deficiency mourning – mourning caused by personal loss
All of us have experienced the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, the loss of a relationship, or maybe even the loss of possessions that were dear to us.
Yet the good news is that Jesus came to heal the broken hearted.
Jesus quoted Isaiah 61:1 which says "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted....."
This is a kind of mourning that all of us have experienced, but it’s not the kind of mourning that Jesus is talking about
(b) Blunder mourning - mourning over some wrong action or choice
Many times there are stupid choices made by us or others that have caused mourning
Has anyone here ever made a stupid choice?
I’ve got a Ph.D. in Stupid!
Stupid choices can cause all kinds of mourning
Everyone has experienced this kind of mourning – some of you are experiencing it now – but again it’s not the kind of mourning Jesus is referring to
So what kind of mourning was Jesus speaking of?
(c) Spiritual mourning – mourning that is caused by our own sin
Remember when we said that the phrase “Blessed are the poor in spirit” referred to accurately viewing our spiritual condition?
Here’s where “blessed are those who mourn” comes in.
All of us realize that we fall short
All of us have issues that we deal with
The question is, though, once you realize what your “issues” are, what do you do with them?
Do we ignore them and treat them like they don’t exist or do we do something about them?
I know that there are some things that I will battle with for the rest of my life
But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to give up and just accept them!
I will never survive the storms of life by coddling my sin – it must be dealt with!
Let’s move on to Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
This is another instruction from Jesus that goes against the grain of what we have been taught
In today’s society we are told that to get ahead we have to assert and express ourselves.
We feel that the more we manifest our powers and abilities, the more likely we are to succeed.
Being meek just doesn’t seem to fit into today’s society.
It wasn’t much different back in Jesus’ day.
When Jesus spoke the words, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth", I’m sure more than a few eyebrows were raised by those who heard Him.
His statement ran against the current mood of the religious leaders of the day.
To their way of thinking, the only way to inherit the land was to overthrow the Roman government, and that certainly could never be done by being meek.
It would take a massive show of force and a great deal of aggression to accomplish such a monumental task.
So what exactly was Jesus getting at when He said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth”?
The first thing we need to do is define the word meek
I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word “meek” the first thing I picture is some 90lb wimpy mama’s boy that’s always backing down from any kind of conflict.
That’s kind of what we, as a society, think of when we hear the word meek
But as is the case with most spiritual issues, society is profoundly mistaken when it comes to meekness.
Meekness is not weakness, meekness is power under control!
2 Corinthians 10:1 describes Jesus as being “meek and gentle”
As I look at the Scriptures I think this is a very accurate description of Jesus’ character.
Think about it – Scripture is clear that Jesus is not only 100% man, but also 100% God
So here we have the most powerful being in the universe walking on the earth among men.
If anybody had a right to assert themselves, it was Jesus!
If anybody had a right to be arrogant, pushy, and aggressive to accomplish their goals, it was Jesus.
Yet that’s not how Jesus was.
Don’t get me wrong, Jesus was certainly not a pushover – he was not shy, quiet, and uncomfortable around others
Remember that Jesus had no problems clearing out the temple courts by force
Jesus saw something that was morally wrong – people corrupting God’s house (His house!) – and decided to do something about it!
Probably not your idea of someone who was meek huh?
Yet Scripture describes Jesus as meek.
This is proven to me during the last hours of Jesus’ life.
Remember when Jesus was praying in the garden and asked God if there was any other way?
How did He end that prayer? “Not my will, but yours be done.”
Jesus was willingly submitting Himself to the will of Father God.
That, folks, is what meekness is all about!
Meekness is an attitude of submission to God.
Everything in the Christian life depends on this.
If you desire to survive the storms of life you need to submit yourself to God
This is easy to say, but it’s more difficult to do
It’s easy if God wants me to do something that I want to do, but it’s much harder when it’s something that I definitely do not want to do
We all need to admit that God is smarter than us, that His ways are better than our ways
Then, and only then, will we be able to survive the storms of life
So, let’s recap our progression through the beatitudes so far:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit” – we need to humble ourselves before God, admit that we fall short of His standards, and that we cannot do it on our own and need His help
“Blessed are those who mourn” – We need to identify and deal with our sin
“Blessed are the meek” – we need to be willing to submit to God and follow His will for our lives
When a storm is coming you need to be prepared.
Although these things we have been discussing this morning may not be easy, they are certainly worthwhile especially if you want to still be standing when the storm passes
Next week we will continue our look at the beatitudes