Listening and Doing – The Beatitudes Pt 2
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
We’ve recently been focusing in on the Word and I want to continue that this week
As I have mentioned before 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."
We’ve discussed how this passage of Scripture in Matthew 7 was the closing words of the Sermon on the Mount
Jesus says that if we want to survive the storms that life brings we need to do more than listen to His words, we need to put them into practice
We need to make them an active part of our life
So when Jesus was talking about putting His teachings into practice, He was directly referring to the words He just spoke
That’s exactly what we’re doing – looking at how to survive the storms of life by examining the Sermon on the Mount
We’ve been looking specifically at the first part of the Sermon on the Mount known as the beatitudes
 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
In our last message on this topic we spoke about:
“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
I want to jump right in this week with the next beatitude:
Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
To fully understand this we need to take a look first at the words “hunger” and “thirst.”
The original Greek word used here for hunger is [pee-nah’-oh] and it means to ardently crave food
The Greek word used for thirst is similar [dip-sah’-oh] which means to painfully feel the need for water
So the word picture here is really describing a desperate situation – one that most of us are totally unfamiliar with
Certainly we’ve all said we were hungry or thirsty, but I’m certain that for most of us it was far from a life threatening situation
That is what Jesus was describing – hunger and thirst to the point of death
Where all you can think about is food and water – nothing else matters
Jesus said that if we seek righteousness like this – where all we can think about is righteousness, nothing else matters, then we will be filled
So the next question that we must answer is “What is righteousness?”
According to the dictionary it means “Morally upright; without guilt or sin”
Too many Christians have a warped idea about what that really means
To most, righteousness is following a long list of do’s and don’ts
“Don’t drink smoke or chew or hang out with those who do”
That somehow, by following this list of rules we will become righteous
This is not righteousness, this is self-righteousness – and there’s a big difference!
Self-righteousness is another word for pride.
People think that by doing this and doing that, that they can obtain God’s favor.
Scripture has something to say about this though:
Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
I like how the God’s Word translation puts is
Ephesians 2:8-9 (GW) God saved you through faith as an act of kindness. You had nothing to do with it. Being saved is a gift from God.  It's not the result of anything you've done, so no one can brag about it.
In other words, salvation is a gift, we cannot earn it on our own
Nothing you say or do can earn you God’s love – He already loves you right where you are
That doesn’t mean that there’s not certain behaviors that are expected of Christians
As a Christian there are things that we should and shouldn’t do, BUT, those things come naturally as our relationship with Christ improves
So many times people say things like “If you’re hungering and thirsting for righteousness you are going to be memorizing Bible verses, praying for at least an hour every day, reading and studying your Bible, and never missing a church service”
This just isn’t so.
Yes those are good things, but if we don’t succeed we only bring guilt and condemnation on ourselves
I thank God that He didn’t say “blessed are those who attain righteousness”
He said blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
The blessing comes in the desire, not necessarily in the results
Let me say that again
The blessing comes in our desire to pursue righteousness, not necessarily in the results
The fact remains that I’m a sinner.
No matter how hard I try not to, I’m going to mess up
That’s not an excuse, it’s a fact of life
But if I hunger and thirst after righteousness I will be blessed regardless of the results of my hungering and thirsting
Something else I’ve discovered is that everyone is hungry and thirsty
The problem is, that most people hunger and thirst for the wrong things
The problem with seeking after those things is that they never satisfy.
We all have a “God shaped vacuum” within us
A desire that only God can fulfill
The only way to obtain this is to make sure that we are hungering and thirsting after righteousness
Making sure that we are seeking to please God in all that we say and do
And Scripture says that if we hunger and thirst after righteousness, we will be filled!
So, how does this help us in our daily life?
Let’s think about it for a moment
If we are not hungering and thirsting after righteousness, we are hungering and thirsting after other things
Our attention and focus is not on God, it’s on ourselves
When we focus on ourselves, we tend to do dumb things
Dumb things generally bring about a storm of life
And I don’t know about you, but I’ve discovered for me that the dumber the thing, the bigger the storm
There are enough storms in life that happen all on their own, I do not need to go around creating storms for myself!
If I hunger and thirst after righteousness – if I keep my eyes and my focus on Christ and Christ alone, I can avoid some potentially debilitating storms
Now let’s take a look at the 5th beatitude -
Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
The subject of mercy is something that goes against the grain of what society is teaching
We are told that in order to succeed we must show no mercy – do whatever you can to get ahead even at the expense of others
But as we know, what society says and what Jesus says are often at odds with each other
Jesus said that if we extend mercy to others, it will be given to us.
So this begs the question, “what is mercy?”
When I first started thinking about this it brought to mind a game I played as a kid called “mercy”
The goal of the game was to grab the hand of the other person and cause enough pain in them to get them to shout “mercy!”
I know, it must sound like a stupid game to many of you, but to a testosterone filled young man it was pretty cool!
The dictionary defines mercy as - Compassionate treatment, especially of those under one's power or A disposition to be kind and forgiving
For my message today I want to focus on the second definition – to be kind and forgiving.
A perfect example of true mercy is found in Matt 18:21 & 22
Matthew 18:21-22 “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"  Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
I love the apostle Peter!
I can really identify with his character!
As this parable opens we see him asking Jesus how many times he should forgive someone when they do something to him.
He said, “Would seven times be sufficient?”
Makes sense to me.
If someone does something to me once, it’s generally easy to forgive
If they do it twice it gets a little more difficult
By the third time it’s starting to get pretty old!
Peter says, “how about 7 times?” thinking when he said it that he was being very gracious and Godly
But Jesus says to him, not seven times, but 77 times, some passages say 70 times 7
Jesus was not talking about a literal 77 times or 490 times [keeping a list]
What Jesus was saying was that no matter how many times they do something to you, you should forgive them
Uh, you mean that I’m supposed to forgive people when they do stuff to me? – Yep!
Mark 11:24-25 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."
The inference here is that if we do not forgive others of their sins against us, then God will not forgive us of our sins against Him.
Luke 6:36-37 “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
Again, the inference is that is we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us.
Even in the Lord’s prayer we say: Forgive us our trespasses (sins) as we forgive those who trespass (sin) against us
A couple of verses later we read:
Matt 6:14-15 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Did you hear that? If we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us!
You might be sitting there thinking to yourself, “That’s easy for you to say Harry, but you don’t know what they did to me.”
That’s right, I may not know. But for some of you I do know and I agree that what was done to you was horrible and unfair
But the bottom line is, if you want forgiveness you need to forgive.
Again you might be thinking, “But I can’t forgive them!”
Yes you can! God commands us to forgive, and He never asks us to do anything that we are unable to do.
Forgiveness is an act of the will - I don’t have to feel like it to do it
Forgiveness is simply giving up my right for revenge
You might be thinking, “they don’t deserve my forgiveness” – maybe not, but you still need to do it.
I’m reminded of Jesus’ words on the cross – after all He went through, all the pain, all the sorrow, all the verbal and physical abuse, He said 10 of the most powerful words ever said:
“Father, forgive them. For they know not what they do.”
Jesus didn’t deserve what He got. If anyone had a right to be bitter and unforgiving it was Him.
Yet He wasn’t. If Jesus can do it, so can you.
Or let me put it another way – Whatever that person did to you, no matter how awful or unfair it was – Jesus desires to forgive them
If they’re good enough for Jesus, they ought to be good enough for you!
Sometimes it’s a matter of asking God to help you get to the point of being able to forgive them
It may take some time, but you need to make the effort.
You are never more like your Heavenly Father than when you are giving out mercy.
Matthew 9:13 tells us that Jesus desires acts of “mercy and not sacrifice”
In other words, all the “sacrifices” you make for Jesus – all the stuff you do for Him – will mean nothing if you do not have mercy!
Mercy is forgiveness soaked in the love of God.
It’s only through the giving of mercy that your emotional wounds will be healed.
If you do not show mercy and forgive the unforgivable you may never find total healing for your spirit, mind and body.
And this is how showing mercy relates to surviving the storms of life
Storms can take a lot out of you spiritually, physically and emotionally
If you are unforgiving, your spiritual life is not what it should be
If you are unforgiving your emotional life is not what it should be – unforgiveness produces bitterness, envy, and stress
If you are unforgiving your physical life is also not what it should be – bitterness, envy, and stress all cause negative physical reactions in the body
If I want to remain standing during and after the storms of life then I must forgive those who have done me wrong
Let’s look at the progression of the beatitudes so far as they relate to surviving the storms of life:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit” – we need to realize that we fall short of God’s standards of holiness
“Blessed are those who mourn” – not only do we need to realize that we fall short of God’s standards, we need to be willing to do something about it – we need to repent
“Blessed are the meek” – we now need to be willing to submit our lives to God and follow His will for our lives
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness” – we need to be willing to admit that only God will ever be able to satisfy
“Blessed are the merciful” – we need to show the same mercy and forgiveness to others that God has shown to us
We will continue our look at the beatitudes next week