Called to be Blessed

Matthew 5:1-125 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

Jesus said:

              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 children 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.

  1. This morning we will begin a several week look at the major message from Jesus to his disciples — how to live the Christian life. This topic – from the 5th through 7th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew is considered to be the pivotal teaching of Jesus. In the Gospel of Matthew the teaching of Jesus is referred to as the Sermon on the Mount and in Luke it is called the Sermon on the Plain. Two different Scriptural locations, but essentially the same message.
  2. Take a look at your pew Bibles – NIV – page 1505 –1511 – all the Sermon on the Mount. Highlight some of them.
  3. The Gospel of Matthew reports the popular success of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus went throughout the Galilea region proclaiming the message of the kingdom of God , also known as the Kingdom of Heaven, is at hand, and authenticating His claims by healing people.
  4. Throngs of people responded to His ministry from as far away as Jerusalem.
  5. So begins the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus saw the crowds coming to Him, so He went up on a mountainside and sat down, the well-known posture of the teacher. The traditional location of this “mount” is the low hills behind the region of Capernaum and the other fishing villages on the shore of Galilee. His disciples came to Him, and so Jesus began to teach them.
  6. This is the first and longest message of Jesus that we have in the gospel. Many theologians believe that these are the authentic words of Jesus. Jesus had been announcing that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, not in the future but now. Jesus has been calling for people to repent and to prepare for the kingdom.
  7. In these chapters of Matthew, Jesus unveils the foundations and character of life in that kingdom.
  8. Jesus teaches the ethical guidelines for life in His kingdom; and the guidelines point to the quality of righteousness that characterizes life in the kingdom.
  9. The Sermon on the Mount is by far Jesus’ longest explanation of what it looks like to live as His follower and to serve as a member of God’s Kingdom. In many ways, Jesus’ teachings during the Sermon on the Mount represent the major ideals of the Christian life.
  10. For example, Jesus taught about subjects such as prayer, justice, care for the needy, handling religious law, divorce, fasting, judging other people, salvation, and much more.
  11. The Sermon on the Mount also contains both the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) and the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). We are going to focus on several of the beatitudes today.
  12. Jesus made it very clear that His followers should live in a noticeably different way than other people because His followers should hold to a much higher standard of conduct — the standard of love and selflessness that Jesus Himself would embody when He died on the cross for our sins.
  13. It’s interesting that many of Jesus’ teachings are commands for His followers to do better than what society allows or expects. For example:
  14. You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27-28, NIV).
  15. Here are some other famous passages of Scripture contained within the Sermon on the Mount:
  16. You are the light of the world.
  17. You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also (5:38-39).
  18. No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money (6:24).
  19. The Sermon on the Mount begins with the beatitudes. These qualities give a picture of the character of the true people of God, those who are a part of his kingdom and have the full blessings of the kingdom to look forward to. Taken together they give the picture of the perfect disciple of Christ (which is very hard to do).
    1. Jesus does not  tell people how to become like this; that will come in subsequent teachings.
  20. The Beatitudes are a little different to study than ordinary story-passages. Each saying is proverb-like. Cryptic, precise, and full of meaning. Each one includes a topic that forms a major biblical theme.
  21. Look at the morning Scripture – classified as the beatitudes – NIV -1505 and in your bulletin.
  22. The principles Jesus is teaching in the text are commonly referred to as the “Beatitudes” because the word “blessed” at the beginning of each verse is because this should be our attitude. The text teaches us what it means to be truly blessed.
  23. Working at a church has its communication requirements just like any other job, and we send a lot of emails and letters. Lately, I find myself gravitating to the word blessings as a closing. But what exactly do I mean when I use that language? What happens to my heart and mind when someone writes or speaks that word to me?
  24. The terms blessing and bless permeate Scripture. In the Old Testament alone, the word blessing is used more than 600 times and is deeply rooted in God’s covenant relationship with the Hebrew people.
  25. Our foundational stories in Genesis 1 tell us that God created male and female humans in the image of God and blessed them as well (verses 27-28).
  26. Our origins begin not with a curse but with a blessing.
  27. Other commentaries define blessing as “a favor or gift bestowed by God
  28. In the Old Testament, we find different kinds of blessings, such as a father blessing his family, a ruler blessing his subjects and priests set apart to pronounce blessings in God’s name.
  29. Most church people think being bless is receiving the blessings of God. Jesus is teaching us in Matthew 5 that in order to be blessed we must become the blessing.
  30. The issue is never whether or not God can get a blessing to us. The issue is always whether or not God can get a blessing through us. What are you willing to sacrifice for God?
  31. The word blessed means to be happy, fortunate, or to be envied.
  32. The only real happy people are helpful people.
  33. The only real blessed people are people who are willing to be a blessing and a conduit of God’s love.
  34. The only real blessed people are people who are not looking for a window of heaven to open for God to pour a blessing out of it but are willing to be open windows for God to pour His blessings through them.
  35. The reason we receive God’s blessings to be a blessing.
  36. I want us to look at the first three beatitudes today. Later we will do the rest in the next several weeks.
  37. The first one is:“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
  38. We tend to think of the “poor” primarily in terms of finances or possessions. That is part of it, but there is a spiritual side to it too.
  39. The word Isaiah uses the word “poor” to describe the people who had been taken into exile.
  40. They were of course poor, having their land and possessions ripped away; but they were also afflicted and oppressed, they were powerless and without hope, and they were desperate.
  41. The physical poverty was intensified by the poverty in their spirit.
  42. The words that describe the poor in the Bible include these aspects, for the poor in Jesus’ day had few possessions, were usually oppressed, had little power and less hope.
  43. They had no resources to fall back on; they had to depend on others for survival. 
  44. But Jesus fulfilled that promise of bringing good news by proclaiming the gospel, the “good news” of God. He did not make them rich in earthly possessions and power; but he fulfilled their greatest need.
  45. People who are “poor in spirit” are those who are humble before God.
  46. There is no arrogance in them, no self-righteousness, no self-sufficiency.
  47. They are free from their own pretensions, and therefore they are free for God. And that is the good news for the genuinely poor and oppressed in this world.
  48. The poor person is not excluded because of their poverty; and the rich person is not accepted because of their wealth.
  49. Both must humble themselves before the Lord in order to be part of the kingdom. It is often easier for the down and out of this world to do that, than for the rich to do it.
  50. Here is another rendering of the first beatitude from The Message — “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
  51. One of the most important lessons for us to learn is to stop relying on ourselves, and to depend more on God.
  52. A good illustration of daily dependence on God comes out of the experience of the Israelites in the wilderness.
  53. When they left Egypt, they took with them the riches that God allowed them to take as plunder.
  54. Yet with all those things of monetary worth, they had no ability to feed or water themselves in the wilderness.
  55.  No amount of money can help someone who has no food or water.
  56. If they were going to live more than a few days, then they would have to depend on God to provide for them.
  57. As you know, God proceeded to provide them daily manna and quail and water.
  58. Like the Israelites, we Christians need to learn to look to God for our daily spiritual needs.
  59. We can’t fill up on what is needed just once a week, or once a quarter.
  60. We need what God offers every day, and for that matter, every moment of the day.
  61. The poor in spirit learn to walk with God expressing continual dependence.
  62. The poor in spirit don’t trust in themselves, they recognize their ongoing need for God.
  63. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (NIV) “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. (The Message)
  64. Now we have a slightly different beatitude. In the last one the promise was that those who are poor in spirit have the kingdom. Here now the promise is for the future, for those who mourn will be comforted.
  65. Isaiah also said that the Messiah would bind up the brokenhearted and proclaim the hour when the mourners would be comforted, when their ashes would be replaced by a crown of joy, and their mourning would be replaced with the oil of gladness (61:1-3).
  66. Mourning indicates the pain and the grief and the anxieties of the soul over some loss, often the death of a loved one.
  67. But it could be over the loss of a valued life, such as those Israelites who went into exile had to mourn.
  68. Or it could be over the loss of possessions, or status, or health.
  69. People mourn over any disaster or tribulation. And in times of mourning they look for hope. And most often in this world there is little hope.
  70. They understand that their grieving is ultimately for a world that is lost and ruined, in which God and his will do not prevail.
  71. But in their mourning the disciples of Jesus have opened their heavy hearts to the Lord, and they know that their grieving is not without hope.
  72. They know that their weeping and grieving is but for a time only.
  73. They know that death does not have the final victory, for the dead in Christ will be raised.
  74. They know that the Messiah will turn all that away someday. And that hope brings them comfort.
  75. So the promise is that they will be comforted. They will be consoled above all when God wipes away all tears, and death will be no more, nor grief nor tribulation (Isa. 25:8; Rev. 21:4). This is what citizens of his kingdom can expect.
  76. A ship was wrecked and the only survivor was washed up on a small uninhabited island. He was exhausted. He cried out to God to save him. Every day he scanned the horizon, searching for help. Finally, he managed to build a rough hut and put his few articles in that hut. One day, as he came home from hunting for food, he was stung with grief to see his little hut in flames and a cloud of smoke. The worst had happened. But early the next day, a ship drew in and rescued him. He asked the crew, “How did you know I was here?” They replied, “We saw your smoke signal.”
  77. God’s comfort is on the way because your mourning is a smoke signal for God. God cares for you and you will find His presence and blessing in very unusual situations.
  78. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”(NIV) “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.(The Message)
  79. The Old Testament Background. This beatitude is very much like the promise in Psalm 37:11, “The meek shall possess the land.”
  80. In the Bible the meek are those who have a spirit of gentleness and self-control; they are free from malice and a condescending spirit.
  81. The meek may like the poor have no resources of their own; but then they may, for Moses was described as being meek and humble (Num. 12:3).
  82. But the meek do not exploit and oppress others; they are not given to vengeance and vendettas, they are not violent, and they do not try to seize power for their own ends.
  83. In short, they have emulated the nature of Jesus in their lives and learned from him.
  84. This does not mean that they are weak or ineffective in life.
  85. They may be gentle and humble, but they can and do champion the needs of the weak and the oppressed.
  86. How does one become meek? What if one’s nature is not meek?
  87. The answer to this comes from other passages of the Bible that describe how the spiritual life works.
  88. Meekness and gentleness and goodness are part of the fruit of the Spirit–they are produced in the Christian by the Holy Spirit.
  89. So the direction people should follow to cultivate a spirit of meekness would be to walk by the Spirit, or be controlled by the Spirit of God so that the qualities of Christ can be produced in and through them.
  90. That instruction alone will call for some work on our part. But that is the way the Bible describes meekness developing.
  91. During World War II, a church building in Strasbourg was destroyed. After the bombing, the members surveyed the area to see what damage was done. They were pleased that a statue of Christ with outstretched hands was still standing. It had been sculpted centuries before by a great artist. Taking a closer look, the people discovered both hands of Christ had been sheared off by a falling beam. Later, a sculptor in the town offered to replace the broken hands as a gift to the church. The church leaders met to consider the offer and decided not to accept it. A member of the church said that the broken statue touched their spirits; it reminded them that Jesus has no hands to minister to the needy or feed the hungry or enrich the poor — except for ours. He inspires. We perform. If Christ is to minister to the poor, it must be through our hands!
  92. Thanks be to God.