What makes you happy and satisfied? What motivates and excites you? If you are the person God wants you to be, you can rejoice with the Apostle Paul in Philippians 1:21 “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” If in your heart of hearts your answer is anything but knowing Christ and living for Him and serving Him, I fear for you. You are setting yourself up for great disappointment and sorrow. The blessed life is not found searching for happiness, personal fulfillment and success; rather, we stumble over happiness on the road to serving God and seeking to live for His glory.
The Beatitudes, found in Matthew 5:1-12, introduce Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount found in chapters 5-7. The Beatitudes describe the true Christian. The first and foremost fact about a Christian is that he is blessed beyond measure now and throughout eternity.
The Beatitudes do not make us Christians. That is the supernatural work of God which takes place in our heart when we come to Christ as a sinner and put our trust in His shed blood sacrificed for us on the cross. By God’s grace and through simple faith in Him, He forgives our sins and justifies us, imputing Jesus righteousness to our account and thus making us fit for Heaven. That truth is found in II Corinthians 5:21.
The most important need for a Christian is that his life be rooted deeply in God’s Word, the Bible. He is in it day and night, reading it and meditating on it. He appreciates all that God has done for him and his one great desire in life is to know and enjoy God and live for Him.
Join me in this study of the Beatitudes and in other topics on this web site as we search for hidden Treasures from God’s Word.
Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, introduced by His Beatitudes, is found in Matthew 5-7. This sermon does not show us the way of salvation. Rather, it gives us a description of one who is already a Christian. The Beatitudes, in particular, describe for us that blessed life. In this mini-series on the Beatitudes we want to take you on a wonderful journey, describing what it means to be a Christian.
Jesus, in John 14:6, presents Himself as the way, the truth and the life and He adds, “No man cometh to the Father, but by Me.”
Christ, the Way
The way of salvation is through faith in Christ’s shed blood. “Christ died for our sins: and we are “justified by His shed blood” alone. Romans 5:8-9. Peter preached in Acts 4:12 “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” You see, we are all sinners, deserving of death and hell. But God in His love has provided His Son, Jesus, to bear the penalty for our sins in His body on the cross. Peter writes, “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness, by whose stripes ye were healed.” I Peter 2:24
“All roads lead to Heaven” is a popular lie of Satan.
Don’t believe it! Being baptized, being confirmed, joining a church, taking communion, doing good works to try to please God; none of these good works save us. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost; which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.” Titus 3:5-6 “For by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10
Christ, the Truth
Christ is The Truth, revealing God’s standards of righteousness throughout His Word. Especially in His Sermon on the Mount, introduced by His Beatitudes, we learn the truth of what it means to be a Christian. As we continue our study of the Beatitudes, we will better understand this truth.
Christ, the Life
But not only is Christ the Way and the Truth; He is also The Life. As we observe His life in the Gospels, we are impressed with His pure, holy, sinless, perfectly righteous life. Even the Romans Centurion who executed Jesus on the cross, carefully observed Jesus as He died and exclaimed, “Truly this was the Son of God!” Matthew 27:54 And best of all, this beautiful, perfect life of Jesus can be lived out in us through Christ’s indwelling Holy Spirit as we live surrendered to Him. Paul teaches this wonderful truth of Christ living in us. In Galatians 2:20 he testifies, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
The Crucified Life
“I am crucified with Christ.” Isn’t that an intriguing statement? When did that happen? Paul explains it in Romans 6-8. There you will learn the wonderful truth of Identification with Christ. There we learn that when we were born again, we were BORN CRUCIFIED.
L.E. Maxwell, founder of Prairie Bible Institute in Alberta Canada taught me this truth when I was a sophomore in PrairieHigh School. He wrote a book on the subject over fifty years ago. Born crucified is the truth that when you were born again, you were identified with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. Christian friend, when you understand this truth, the struggle is over. The stress is gone. No more do you struggle to try to crucify your flesh with its sinful desires.
I’m not saying that you will never have problems with your sinful flesh as a Christian. The Apostle Paul did. He describes it in Romans 7. As you read Romans 6-8 you will learn how daily victory over sin is possible.
Rather than a life of struggle, the Christian life can be a life of rest.
Hebrews chapters 3 and 4 deal with this topic of the life of rest that we can enjoy as Christians. For further explanation of what it means to allow Christ to live through you, go to my comments on the topic of VICTORY. I’m looking forward to sharing with you the blessed life described in the Beatitudes.
Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount is recorded in Matthew 5-7. His Sermon on the Plain is recorded in Luke 6:20-28. They are two distinct sermons preached in different times and places. Jesus, no doubt, preached these truths wherever He went during His three short years of ministry. In these sermons He contrasts those whose lives are filled with blessing with those whose lives are filled with sorrow and woe. Proverbs 10:22 promises us, “The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and He addeth no sorrow with it.”
God Wants to Bless You.
God wants to bless you and fill your life with joy and purpose; but I warn you, if you turn from that life and seek to live your life independent of God; your only alternative is a life of woe. God is not a kill-joy. He wants to fill your life with satisfaction, fulfillment and joy. In these sermons He teaches us how to live the blessed life and warns those who reject His teaching that they will face woe and judgment. I beg you to take this seriously. You are this very moment either on the road of God’s blessing or on the road of woe and judgment.
Don’t drown out the voice of God
The worldy-minded person is searching for happiness by trying to drown out the voice of God by immersing himself in entertainment, sports, music and making and spending money, etc.. This is LIFE for the average person. In fact, this is LIFE for the average Christian. These things are not in themselves sinful, but anything can become sinful for us if we allow it to be the priority of our life and draw us away from God and from His Word.
It’s NEVER right to watch TV programs, videos and movies or go to shows that glorify sin and mock righteousness.
Paul warns in I Timothy 4:8 that some sports and some exercise profits us a little, but a life given over to this is unbalanced and courting disaster.
Music, of itself, cannot bring us blessing or lasting happiness. It brought wicked King Saul temporary peace when David played his harp before him; but afterwards he reverted to his sinful life style. Music is powerful. The right music can be used of God to bless us and draw us closer to Himself. The wrong music can stir up rebellion in our hearts and draw us away from Him.
The Christian gifted with music has the responsibility to use that talent only for God’s glory. If music is an important part of your life, be careful that you do not make music your god and live only for your music. Such a Christian is unbalanced and courting God’s woes and not His blessings.
The person whose driving passion is to be wealthy is headed down the wrong road. Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things ( money and material things) will be added unto you. There is nothing wrong in working hard and smart to be successful in business. In fact, God promises that if we saturate ourselves with the Word of God and are obedient to Him, we will be successful and prosperous. Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:1-3.
Understand that there is lots more to prosperity and blessing than being wealthy. My wife and I have lived together for the Lord for over fifty years, never wealthy, according to American standards; however, we have enjoyed God’s blessing and never lacked anything that we needed.
Financial success will not of itself bring happiness and contentment. King Solomon, the richest man in the world, found that out and admits it in Ecclesiastes 2:4-11. It’s only as we use our business skills and success to glorify God that we enjoy His blessings. Those who live only to hoard money and live for themselves eventually face God’s woes. Read in Luke 12:15-21 about the rich farmer who made a fool of himself.
So where is happiness found?
It is not found searching for it. Rather, we stumble over it as we seek to know God and live for Him. True happiness and blessing comes only from God. David testifies in Psalm 16:11 “Thou wilt show me the path of life: in Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”
God created us to be happy all of our lives.
He placed Adam and Eve in a beautiful garden paradise. Life could not have been better. They were totally free. God gave them only one prohibition. Satan tempted Eve to disobey God and Adam shared with her in that disobedience and thus brought sin and death on the entire human race. See Romans 5:12
God’s Laws are to bless us; nor to squelch us and make us miserable.
The Psalmist testified in Psalm 40:8 “I delight to do Thy will, O my God: yea, Thy Law is within my heart.”
Christ alone is our source of blessing
I encourage you to receive God’s Gift to you. Receive The Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour. He alone is our source of blessing. Ephesians 1:3 Praise God that our blessings in Christ are not just for eternity. We can experience them right now. Notice all the Beatitudes. “Blessed ARE for they SHALL BE.” They are given to us to enrich our lives presently as well eternally.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3 This is the first of Jesus’ Beatitudes. Jesus is not talking about material poverty. There is no moral virtue in being poor or wealthy.
It’s true that Jesus taught in Matthew 19:23-24 that it is hard for a rich man to be saved. Why? Because of the deceitfulness of riches. Matthew 13:22 The wealthy, in general, have a difficult time seeing any need for God. Psalm 73:1-12 describes how the typical rich man thinks. “Why do I need God? I can take care of myself.” is their thinking. It’s true that some rich people gain their wealth by taking advantage of the poor. In James 5:1-9 he warns about this. Actually the poor can be every bit as covetous as the rich. In fact, some poor people are actually proud of their poverty and feel self-righteous about it. They tend to look down in disdain and envy on the rich.
In this Beatitude, Jesus is not talking about being religious.
Many religious people are proud and self righteous and obnoxious towards others whom they feel have not attained their spirituality. That is not poverty of spirit. In fact, it is exactly the opposite of it. The Bible gives some examples of this anti-poverty of spirit.
First the self-righteous Pharisees. Jesus gave an example of this in Luke 18:10-14. The Pharisee went into the temple to pray and observed a lowly publican. The Pharisee thanked God that he was not like the publican. He went on to tell God all his supposed good points. The publican bowed down before God and begged for His mercy. Jesus explained that the Pharisee went out just as he came in, still lost in his sin and self-righteousness. The publican, coming in poverty of spirit, went out forgiven, justified and blessed.
The Laodicean Church
Another example of anti-poverty of spirit is the church of Laodicea described in Revelation 3. They were a miserable group of self-righteous, arrogant snobs who thought they had need of nothing. God cannot bless such a church. When will we ever learn that growth, wealth, lots of activity and excitement are not always evidences of God’s blessing. Praise God for growth, wealth, activity and excitement if God is glorified, if His Word is honored and preached without compromise, if sin is dealt with, if souls are saved and Christians are strengthened in their faith.
Nothing to do with natural temperaments
Poverty of spirit has nothing to do with our natural temperaments. We are all different. Some are quiet and shy and tend to be introverts. Others are outgoing and aggressive, take-charge type people. They demand attention and they demand to be heard and followed.
Both kinds of people need poverty of spirit. Nathaniel was a quiet thinker and somewhat cynical. We meet him in John 1:45-49 He did not evidence poverty of spirit until he met Jesus, then things changed. God gave him a new heart that evidenced poverty of spirit.
Being given a position of leadership can result in pride or humility. If one lacks poverty of spirit, it will lead to pride. If one has poverty of spirit it will lead to humble dependence on God to carry out his responsibilities.
Certainly not fake humility
Only a genuine Christian can have poverty of spirit. On the other hand, a hypocrite trying to act like a Christian and trying to appear humble is so phony it is ridiculous. Fake humility is one of the worst forms of pride. It reminds me of the dirty, smelly man from skid row who crashes a beautiful wedding reception and then goes off and sits quietly in the corner with his head bowed in order to try to appear humble so people won’t think too highly of him.
So then what IS poverty of spirit?
It is the very opposite of what the world demands and admires. The world demands equality and a fair deal. They shout in anger, “I have my rights!” “I demand my rights!” The world admires self-expression and self-assertion. The world glories in ancestry, attainments, gifts, education, and their own politically-correct standards of morality that are not based on God’s Word; but on popular opinion.
The one who has poverty of spirit recognizes himself as a helpless, lost sinner undeserving of anything but the wrath of God. He rejoices in the grace of God and in his salvation through Christ. The more he grows in the grace and knowledge of Christ, the less he is impressed with his own attainments and the more he is impressed with Jesus. His motto is that of John the Baptist. Speaking of Jesus he said, “He must increase: I must decrease.” John 3:30. Poverty of spirit is recognizing I am nothing and deserve nothing. Romans 7:18 Poverty of spirit is bringing our empty cup to Jesus so that He can fill it. Christ can fill only empty vessels.
Poverty of spirit is foundational to having any of the other beatitudes. It is pre-requisite to spiritual growth. Only as we have poverty of spirit can we be filled with the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 5:18
Some of the great men of the Bible, such as Moses and Gideon had poverty of spirit. That’s why God could use them. Peter went from being a proud, loud-mouthed braggart to becoming a broken, humble servant whom God powerfully used. How do we know that Peter was a humble man with poverty of spirit? Paul tells us in Galatians 2:11-21 how he had to rebuke Peter sharply and publicly for some hypocrisy in his life. The normal man would have held that against Paul the rest of his life, but Peter did not. Later Peter spoke lovingly of Paul in II Peter 3:15. He could do that because he had poverty of spirit. Paul went from being a proud, self-righteous Pharisee to becoming a broken, humble, faithful servant mightily used of God. Finally, Jesus is the personification of meekness and poverty of spirit. Matthew 11:28-30 Philippians 2:5-12
How do we attain poverty of spirit?
By reading and meditating on the Word of God and learning to know Christ. It’s then that we see ourselves as we really are; helpless, hopeless, unworthy sinners with no righteousness to offer God. We receive the Gift of His Son Jesus and He becomes our righteousness and our life. Even as mature Christians, we never lose that poverty of spirit that brought us to know Christ.
Thank God for the assurance we have that if we have come to Christ in poverty of Spirit, we know we are born again, that we have been delivered from the kingdom of Satan and have entered the Kingdom of Heaven. Colossians 1:13 Matthew 5:3. One day we will be with Jesus and see Him face to face in our glorified, sinless bodies. Philippians 3:20-21 I John 3:1-3
Those who mourn and grieve over their sins and put their trust in Christ discover the blessing and joy of salvation now and will continues to rejoice throughout eternity. That is what Christ does for Christians. Isaiah prophesied of Christ's ministry in Isaiah. 61:1-3 and spoke of the joy He would bring to heavy, grieving hearts. The beginning of Jesus' public ministry is recorded in Luke 4:16-21. There He explains to the people that He is the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy.
On the other hand, those who have no conviction of sin; those who never weep nor mourn over their sins; but approach life lightheartedly as though life were simply a bowl of cherries or with the attitude "eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die" will one day weep and mourn; but it will be too late in hell where there will be eternal weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 13:41-42
No Need for Old Man Gloom
Jesus' beatitude concerning mourning, found in Matthew 5:4 and in Luke 6:21 and 25, does not mean that Christians are to go through life with a doom and gloom attitude and make ourselves and everyone we meet miserable. Rather, we are to live a normal life with its joys and sorrows; but always with a heaviness and sorrow and burden for the lost and for a sin-cursed world. The Old Testament prophets did not just present cold, academic facts about the future. Their messages were described as burdens. Jeremiah was known as the
"weeping prophet". In Romans 9-10 Paul speaks of the heavy burden he carried for the salvation of his kinsmen who rejected Christ.
Jesus, a Man of Sorrows
Isaiah prophesied in Isaiah 53:3 that Jesus would be " a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." So should we, as followers of Christ. The Bible does not say that Jesus ever laughed. I think He probably did, but it doesn't say so; but it does say He wept. As Jesus wept over those who rejected Him, so we should weep as we pray for those who continue to reject Christ.
A time to Laugh and A Time to Weep
King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 explains that there is a time to laugh and a time to weep. There is a time to be light-hearted and there is a time to be heavy-hearted. We can laugh and have fun with others; but underneath the laughing exterior is a grieving and weeping heart for Christ-rejecters. Church socials is a time for fun and laughter; but church worship services is a time to be sober-minded and thoughtful. Sober-mindedness is a quality of spiritual maturity. Titus 2:1-6, 2:11-14 I Timothy 3:1-11. The preacher of God's Word should not be stuffy and pompous; but temperate, dignified and sensible.
There are three kinds of mourning.
First, there is the natural mourning that everyone: both saved and unsaved experience. We all grieve over shattered hopes, losses and death. In Romans 8:22-23 Paul talks of this general mourning that the whole world experiences. Sorrow at death is natural. But we who know Christ as Saviour and Lord do not grieve as the lost grieve with hopelessness and despair. I Thessalonians 4:13
Then there is a sinful mourning. This is the mourning and utter hopelessness of those who refuse to be comforted by God's Word. Sinful mourning also includes the hypocritical mourning of those who put on an outward show of mourning, but there is no mourning in the heart. In Joel 2:12-13 we are exhorted to rend our hearts and not our garments to show genuine mourning. We also sin against God when we mourn and despair when God is chastening us for sin. Rather, we ought to rejoice that God loves us enough as His children to chasten us when we need it. Hebrews 12:11-12.
Finally, there is godly mourning. II Corinthians 6:10 This springs from true conviction of sin and brings God's blessing of forgiveness, joy and peace. Any other kind of mourning is useless if there is no brokenness or conviction of sin. Godly mourning is not simply acknowledging the fact that we are sinners. It involves weeping and sorrow for our sins. With the Laodicean Church described in Revelation 3 there was no mourning for sin and therefore, no blessing from God.
Godly mourning a life style
Godly mourning over sin does not just take place at the time of conversion; it becomes part of our life style as Christians. As long as we are in any way unlike Jesus, it should be cause for mourning and it should continue throughout our lives until at last we are perfected in the presence of Christ.
Godly mourning also includes mourning for the lost. In Psalm 126:6 we are promised that if we will take the Gospel to the lost with a heart that weeps for their conversion, we will have the joy of leading people to Christ.
The Christian life a paradox.
We are sorrowing, yet always rejoicing. II Corinthians 6:10 We are always groaning over our sins, yet rejoicing in victory. Romans 7:18, 25 We mourn over world conditions, yet rejoice in Christ's resurrection and our own coming resurrection. I Corinthians 15. We understand with the Psalmist in Psalm 30:5 that "weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."
No more tears and sorrow
Praise God that the day is coming for us as Christians when "God shall wipe away all tears and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying; neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away." Revelation 21:4
Cheer up, saint of God! The night of sin is almost over! The Day of the Lord is at hand!
In our study of the Beatitudes we are describing a true Christian. When one approaches our holy God in poverty of spirit, mourning over his sins and lack of righteousness, he hears the Gospel and “receives with meekness the engrafted Word which is able to save his soul.” James 1:21 As a branch is grafted into a tree, so God’s Word is grafted into our hearts and it becomes a part of us.
Because God has given us this spirit of meekness, we are not surprised, offended nor insulted when we read in God’s Word that we are sinners and have no righteousness to offer God.
On the other hand, one who lacks meekness IS insulted and offended by what God’s Word says about him. He bristles in anger when he hears the Gospel or when he is offered a Gospel tract. The proud religionist has no time nor use for the Gospel of Christ. The carnal Christian is offended and turned off by the preacher who deals with sin in his life and he eventually goes elsewhere where he can hear what he wants to hear.
Meekness is NOT weakness.
This idea of meekness may be confusing to some. Don’t confuse meekness with natural timidity. One can be timid, but not necessarily meek. Don’t confuse it with femininity or being a sissy. A woman is not necessarily meek just because she is feminine. Jesus was the personification of meekness as He walked this earth; but He was also the personification of manhood and strength. The preacher who treads lightly around sin in his preaching and refuses to deal with sin, is not meek. He is a weak. Some say such a preacher is “meek and mealy-mouthed.” Those two terms are in no way the same. Meekness does not mean peace at any price. Some preachers who preach only peace and love reveal a harsh, intolerant attitude towards those who take a Biblical stand against sin. They know nothing about meekness. In short, meekness is not weakness.
So then what is meekness?
Meekness is not bristling and becoming upset when insulted or crossed. Rather, meekness is that spiritual quality of being mild-tempered, patient under injuries, long suffering, humble, slow to anger and gladly willing to accept God’s will. Meekness is a characteristic of Christ. See Christ described in Isaiah 53:7 Matthew 11:28-30 and Philippians 2:3-8. As we grow in Christ-likeness, we ought to grow in meekness. Our attitude towards God should be that of reverence, meekness, humility and gratitude for all He has done and is doing for us. If we have the meekness of Christ, it will show in our attitude towards others. We will esteem others better than ourselves. Philippians 2:3 Meekness involves a humbling of ourselves before others. Meekness is one of the most beautiful characteristics of a Christians. Whereas pride and fake-humility are ugly and repulsive, genuine meekness is attractive and beautiful. Psalm 149:4
A meek person is not upset by insults and injuries.
Read the story of Abraham and his nephew, Lot in Genesis 13 and see the meekness of Abraham. Read the stories of Moses and his dealing with Israel as he led them from Egypt to the borders of Canaan. Numbers 12:3 Moses was the meekest of men, though a strong leader.
A meek person is not defensive when attacked personally.
If we are already in the dust before God, we can’t be thrown down much further by men. Read of the meekness of David as he was confronted by a repulsive, obnoxious man named Shimei. II Samuel 16 Earlier, when confronted by the prophet Nathan concerning his sin, David meekly admitted his sin and made no excuses for himself. II Sam. 12:13. He quickly and humbly accepted his guilt and punishment from God.
One who is meek is not concerned nor offended by withheld appreciation or honor.
God’s honor is really all that matters. A meek person is humble and lowly. Matthew 11:29. He is gentle with others. II Corinthians 10:1; Titus 3:2; II Timothy 2:24-26. He is long-suffering and forbearing. Ephesians 4:2
A meek person is quiet and has a submissive attitude. This is one of most outstanding characteristics of a truly beautiful woman. I Peter 3:1-6
Don’t be a Diotrophes.
Diotrophes was an obnoxious man in his church who sought only prominence and power, rather than humble service. III John 9. the Apostle John warned others of the danger of this man.
Meekness is a quality of true wisdom. James 3:13 One who lacks meekness lacks wisdom.
A true witness for Christ is always meek in his dealings with others. I Peter 3:15-17 He is never arrogant nor rude.
Certainly every pastor should have this trait. II Timothy 2:24-26 Without it, he is not ready to minister and will do more harm than good to the Body of Christ.
What are the rewards of meekness?
First, one who is meek is prepared to receive Christ’s salvation. Isaiah 61:1 The meek will one day inherit the earth. Matthew 5:3 Psalm 37:11 The meek are easily satisfied. They can enjoy all the seemingly little blessings of life. The meek are taught of God. Psalm 25:8-9
How do we become meek?
Come to Jesus as Saviour and Lord and learn of Him. Matthew 11:28-30 Yield to Him and be filled with His Spirit. He will produce meekness in us. It is part of the Fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23
The lost seek the world’s fame, prestige, fortune and applause and end up losing it all. The saint comes in poverty of spirit to God, willing to sacrifice everything for Christ and ends up inheriting the earth.
When you understand that every insult; every confrontation with an angry, unreasonable person gives you the opportunity to manifest Christ’s work of meekness in your life, then you can welcome and truly be thankful for every humbling experience, for it helps you learn meekness and you are blessed.
The Sermon on the Mount does not show us the way of salvation, but rather it gives us a description of the Christian life. Jesus Himself is the Way, the Truth and the Life. John 14:6 He is the Way, through His blood sacrifice for sin. He is the Truth as His Word reveals to us His standard of righteousness. He is the Life in that He lives that Life through us as we are surrendered to Him and filled with His Holy Spirit.
Note the progression of the Beatitudes in the life of the blest Christian.
He approaches God in poverty of spirit, mourning over His sins. He meekly receives the Word of God and all that it says about him. That meekness reflects also in his attitude towards others. Such a person, seeing his total bankruptcy as a sinner, hungers and thirsts after God's righteousness.
Consider now this righteousness for which we crave.
It all starts with God Himself. One of His many attributes is righteousness. It's evident throughout the Bible. Read of this attribute in Psalm 119:137-144 and in Psalm 145:17. The prophet in Habakkuk 1:13 says, "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity."
We as sinners cannot stand in His sight.
In our sins we would be consumed by His holiness and wrath. That's why Christ-rejecting sinners are consigned to Hell fire. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves presentable to God. We are lost and undone, hopeless and helpless to save ourselves.
As we continue reading Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, we are confronted in Matthew 5:20 by His high and holy standards.
Our righteousness MUST EXCEED the righteousness of the Pharisees. Outwardly they kept God's law as perfectly as they could, although inwardly their hearts were full of sinful motives and desires. Jesus exposed their hearts in Matthew 23.
Furthermore, in the Sermon in Matthew 5:48 Jesus commanded us to be as perfect as God Himself, a humanly impossible standard.
There's no question about it. We are bankrupt of God's righteousness.
Isaiah 64:6-7 says, "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. There is none that calleth upon Thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of Thee: for Thou hast hidden Thy face from us and hast consumed us because of our iniquities." Paul, in Romans 3:10 quoting from Isaiah says, "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one." Again, Paul shows us our helplessness to save ourselves in Titus 3:5-6 "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Saviour."
The righteousness we need to be saved comes from above.
It comes from God alone. In Isaiah 45:8 we read, "Drop down, ye Heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open and let them bring forth salvation and let righteousness spring up together. I the Lord have created it." Perhaps you are thinking, "I don't like this idea that only God is righteous. I think I am good enough to merit Heaven.' The next verse speaks to you. "Woe to him that striveth with His Maker."
Dear reader, Give up!
Don't try to fight with God. Be honest with yourself. You and I are both hopeless sinners, helpless to save ourselves. Our only hope is in the One who created us, God Himself. Isaiah 61:10 describes the salvation we need this way. "He hath clothed me with the garment of salvation: He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness." This is the righteousness for which we must hunger and thirst.
Do you have Christ? Is He your righteousness? Are you sure?
Praise God! HE provides the righteousness we so desperately need. This righteousness is a free gift of His grace to us. It comes to us in three separate gifts. All of them come through our Saviour, the Lord Jesus.
The first gift is that of Justification. That is God's legal transaction that takes place in Heaven whereby when we by faith receive Christ as our Saviour, He transfers the guilt of our sins to His Son Jesus, who died and rose again to pay the full penalty for the sins of the whole world. Not only does God transfer our sins to Jesus, but He also transfers Jesus righteousness to our account. What an amazing, wonderful plan of salvation. Only our Holy, Righteous, Gracious, Loving God could have ever devised it. It's all clearly explained in II Corinthians 5:21 and in Romans 3:20-28. Read these verses and ask God to open the eyes of your understanding until you grasp this wonderful truth.
The second gift God give us is His Gift of Sanctification. This is the ongoing work of God in the life of the believer whereby He makes us more and more like Jesus. To put it another way, it is God's process of making saints saintly. This starts at the moment of salvation and is completed at the moment of death. This is not an experience you and I need to seek. We have it the moment we are born again. We are born again crucified with Christ, buried with Him and raised with Him to walk a new life. Read Romans 6 on this subject. LE Maxwell, founder of Prairie Bible Institute of Three Hills, Alberta Canada has written a book, Born Crucified on this subject For a more detailed study of this topic go to my comments on VICTORY on this web site. God uses three tools to sanctify us: His indwelling Holy Spirit, The Word of God and His chastening.
The first tool God uses in us as believers is His gift of the Holy Spirit living in us. Every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Roman 8:9 tells us if we do not have His Spirit, we do not belong to Him. Although every Christian has the Holy Spirit, every Christian is not controlled by Him. As we surrender our lives to Christ our Saviour, His Holy Spirit fills and controls our lives so that we begin to reflect the righteousness of Christ in our daily lives. Every Christian is commanded in Ephesians 5:18 to be filled with the Spirit. We are never perfect and sinless as I John 1:8-10 teaches us, but we are making progress daily. Paul describes this progression in holiness in his testimony in Philippians 3:7-15.
The second tool God uses to work out His sanctification in our lives is His Holy Word, the Bible. Ephesians 5:26. As we read His Word and hear it preached faithfully, we are made aware of the spots and blemishes of sin in our lives and as we agree with God that He is right and we are wrong, He purifies us. I John 1:9 The person who rejects Bible preaching and seeks after emotional experiences is going to be misled. See the warning in II Timothy 4:1-4. I encourage you to hunger after preaching that exposes sin in your life and draws you into victory through Christ.
The third tool God uses is suffering. In love, He allows suffering in our lives to bring us to the end of ourselves and turn our eyes to Him alone. Study I Peter and take note of I Peter 5:10. Read what the Psalmist said about affliction in Psalm 119:67 and 71. In II Corinthians 12:7-10 Paul writes about the blessing of suffering.
The third gift is glorification. Although Paul teaches us in II Corinthians 3:18 that we can experience degrees of glory in this life as we spend time in Christ's presence in His Word and in prayer; the full, perfect glorification awaits us when we are in Heaven. Read these thrilling testimonies. Job 19:23-27 Philippians 3:20-21 I John 3:1-3
Though God offers us His righteousness through justification, sanctification and glorification; there is one thing that Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:6 we must do to attain it. and that is hunger after it. The Psalmist in Psalm 42:1 tells us we must thirst after God as the deer fleeing from the hunter, exhausted and about to drop pants after the water brook. Job in Job 23:12 teaches us we must desire God and His Word more than we desire our necessary food for our bodies. Think about that next time you are in church and the preacher has gone on past noon.
Praise God the day is coming in Heaven when everyone who has hungered and thirsted after God and has found their satisfaction in Christ alone will awake in eternity satisfied with His likeness. David wrote in Psalm 17:15 "As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake with Thy likeness."
God is rich in mercy. Ephesians 2:4-5 Psalm 103:8-18 Psalm 136 We see evidences of His mercy every day. Lamentations 3:22-23 We are surrounded by His mercy. Psalm 23:6 32:10 His mercy is eternal. Psalm 136.
A Twin of Grace
Mercy is a twin and companion of grace. I Timothy 1:2 II Timothy 1:2 Titus 1:4 II John 3. Mercy is an outgrowth of God's grace. Ephesians 2:1-10 God in His grace sees us in our lost condition and in His mercy does something about it.
God's mercy does not overlook sin.
God's righteousness and holiness cannot overlook sin; therefore, the only way God can forbear punishing us for our sins is to pour out that punishment on an innocent, undeserving victim. In Old Testament times that wrath and punishment was poured out on innocent animals that were sacrificed by the priests in the temple. The blood of these innocent victims was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat, a covering for the Ark of the Covenant which was a sacred piece of furniture that rested in the Holy of Holies in the Temple. Exodus 25:17-22 Leviticus 16:1-15 Leviticus 17:11. This was God's meeting place for sinful man and the meeting was made possible through the shed blood of the sacrifices.
Animal blood does not save.
Of course, the blood of animals did not take away sin. It did not cleanse the conscience, It only covered sin temporarily. These sacrifices had to be repeated year after year. That's why in the fullness of time God in His grace and mercy sent His Son Jesus into the world as a human baby, born of the virgin Mary who had been impregnated by the Holy Spirit. Jesus came as the sinless Lamb of God to offer His blood on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins. Read Hebrews 10 carefully and ask God to show you the meaning of Christ's sacrifice for you. Notice that this sacrifice is never again to be repeated. It is the once for all, final sacrifice for sin forever. That's why we do not offer the body and blood of Christ in our communion services. That was offered once for all two thousand years ago. Instead, we remember His shed blood and broken body when we take the communion elements as Jesus taught us in Luke 22:19-20 " And Jesus took bread and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them saying, "This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of Me. Likewise also the cup after supper saying, "This cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you."
Sacraments do not save nor make us holy.
We are not saved nor kept saved by taking Communion. Eating and drinking the elements do not save. Only faith in the sacrifice of Christ Himself saves us. As Christians, we gladly observe the Lord's Supper as a memorial to the sacrifice Jesus endured for us on the cross. Let us never forget it.
Have you received God's mercy?
Have you come as a sinner to God, resting in the finished work of Christ? Have you received the grace and mercy of God by receiving The Lamb of God as your sacrifice for sin?
We, who have experienced the mercy of God in salvation, should be able to show mercy to others. In fact, it is unthinkable that any Christian who has been the recipient of God’s great mercy would not show mercy toward others. Jesus told a story recorded in Matthew 18:23-35 about a king who showed mercy and forgave one who had a huge debt he could never pay off in his life time. Later this forgiven man, who had been shown great mercy, confronted a man who owed him a small debt. The debtor begged for mercy and patience and promised to pay off the debt as soon as he could. The first man who had been forgiven the huge debt, refused to wait. Instead he had the debtor thrown into prison. When the king learned about this unmerciful man he was furious. He said, “O thou wicked servant. I forgave thee all that debt because thou desiredst me. Should not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? The king then turned him over to the tormentors until he paid all that was due to him. What a solemn warning this is to us as Christians who hold grudges and refuse to forgive and show mercy to others.
What is mercy?
Webster’s dictionary defines it this way. “Mercy implies compassion so great as to enable one to forbear punishment, even when justice demands it.” Though a good definition; it is not quite Biblical and accurate. When it comes to God’s mercy something is lacking in Webster’s definition. God could not just overlook our sins because He loves us. The reason God can show mercy and lovingkindness to us guilty sinners and forbear punishing us for our sins, is because in His righteousness and justice He has already poured out the punishment for our sins on His Son, the Lord Jesus. Isaiah prophesied of it in Isaiah 53:5-6. “But He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him and with His stripes we are healed.” All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned everyone to his own way and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquities of us all.”
False mercy overlooks sin in the name of love and grace and fails to carry our punishment. King Saul sinned in showing false mercy to King Agag when God commanded him to kill him. Parents show false mercy when they ignore disobedience in their children and fail to punish them. Judges and juries show false mercy when they give a murderer or rapist a “slap on the wrist” of three of four years in prison when he deserves capital punishment or life imprisonment.
Biblical examples of genuine mercy
Some Biblical examples of genuine mercy include Abraham showing mercy to his undeserving, selfish nephew, Lot. Joseph showed mercy to his undeserving brothers when they came down to Egypt to get relief from the famine in Israel. Moses prayed for healing for his undeserving sister Miriam when she had dishonored him. David spared undeserving Saul when he found him asleep in a cave. In each of these examples mercy was shown to undeserving people. But beyond all these illustrations is the matchless mercy of God when He poured out His mercy on us undeserving sinners.
How can we as Christians show mercy to others?
We can lead the lost to Christ. Jude 21-23 We can minister to the temporal needs of others. I John 3:17 We can treat others who have wronged us and fallen under our power to pay back, with mercy, love and kindness. Of course, mercy must be shown with cheerfulness, (Romans 12:8) or it is not mercy at all.
“Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8
Not the way to Heaven
Jesus is not teaching that if we try to live a pure, sinless life we can be worthy of Heaven. He is not teaching that we are saved by our own merits or our own efforts. Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:5-6 teach that it is not by our works of righteousness that we are saved. He is not teaching we must seek an experience whereby we attain perfection. In fact, we learn in I John 1:8-10 that if we say we no longer sin, we are deceiving ourselves and are making God a liar.
All the great saints of the Bible were men and women of faith in God, but they all sinned without exception. Noah got drunk. Abraham lied. Moses lost his temper. Job cursed the day he was born. David committed adultery and murder. Peter denied Jesus and Paul struggled with sin; but their sins do not give us an excuse to sin. If we are Christians, we have a heart that longs to do right. When we are controlled by our flesh; we do wrong. Only as we are controlled by the Holy Spirit, can we do right.
Consider three words in this beatitude: heart, pure and blessed.
What do we mean when we talk about our hearts? Certainly, we are not talking about the organ that pumps blood through our body. Rather, we are talking about the non-material, innermost part of our being from which flow our actions, speech and attitude. Our heart involves our intellect, our emotions and our will.
Read what the Bible says about our hearts.
1. Guard your heart for out of it are the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23
2. God sees our hearts and knows exactly what we really are. We can’t “fake Him out”. I Samuel 16:1
3. Our hearts are desperately wicked, even more than we can imagine. Jeremiah 17:9
4. God alone can change our hearts. Ezekiel 36:26-27
5. Conviction takes place in the heart. Acts. 2:37
6. Salvation takes place in the heart. Romans 10:9-10
7. When our hearts are changed by the power of God; our thinking, our attitudes and our conduct radically
change. II Corinthians 5:17
In Hebrews 10:19-22 we learn that we are cleansed of sin and our conscience is made pure through the shed blood of Christ. By trusting in His sacrifice for sin, our sins are transferred to His account and He transfers His righteousness to our account.
When our hearts are purified, everything changes: our thinking, our affections, our interests, our priorities, EVERYTHING! We are radically changed to the depths of our being! We begin to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Though sinful and imperfect, our heart cries for purity. We do not enjoy sin. We hate sin in ourselves. We have no taste for it. It is repulsive to us. Read David’s confession recorded in Psalm 51 after his sin with Bathsheba. Read in Romans 7 of Paul’s frustration, grief and burden of sin and how he longed to be cleansed. Both of these cries are evidence that David and Paul had pure hearts, even though they did not enjoy perfection on earth.
We hunger for the Word of God because we know it cleanses us from sin. Psalm 119:1, 5, 9-16. The true Christian loves God’s Word. He does not merely give intellectual assent to a doctrinal statement. He gives heart-assent to God and to God’s standards and God’s will for His life. Psalm 119:10
In John 13 we have a record of Jesus washing His disciple’s feet. From this story we can learn a lesson about purity. Two Greek verbs are used in the story; louo and nipto. Louo is a verb that means to bathe the whole body as in a tub or shower. Nipto describes hand washing as in a wash basin.
When Jesus came to Peter, Peter refused at first. “Thou shalt never wash (nipto) my feet.” Jesus responded by explaining to him that if he would not allow Him to wash (nipto) his feet, he did not belong to Jesus. Then Peter, the extremist of the group, went to the opposite extreme. He cried out, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” He was asking Jesus for a bath.
Jesus replied to Peter “He that is washed (louo), needeth not but to wash (nipto) his feet, but is already clean.”
Among other lessons, Jesus is teaching us here that if we have had the louo bath of salvation, we don’t need to repeat that bath whenever we sin. Rather we need to confess our sins each time and allow Him to give us the nipto washing. Going back to John 13:8 Jesus is teaching us that if we have no desire for the nipto washing and if we reject the need for it, it is evidence that we do not belong to Christ. We are not Christians.
So purity is given to us by the grace of God when we trust Christ as Saviour. But if we have had the bath of salvation, then we are going to have the desire to stay pure by going to His Word for daily washing and confessing our sins to God and receiving the cleansing of Jesus’ blood. I John 1:9 If we have no desire for the daily washing of the Word, it is evidence that we have never had the bath of salvation.
The blessed promise to the pure in heart is that they will see God. When does that take place? We see Him now by faith. Moses saw God by faith and was able to endure. Hebrews 11:27.
By living in His presence now, we can behold His beauty. Psalm 27:4
Isaiah, in a time of tragedy, saw the Lord. As he saw the holiness of God, he became aware of his own sinfulness. When he confessed his sinfulness, God cleansed Him, purifying his lips and using him mightily for His glory. Isaiah 6
When our heart is pure, we can be used of God. II Timothy 2:19-22
“Now ye are clean through the Word that I have spoken unto you. John 15:3 If you have received The Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, you’ve had the bath of salvation. If you daily receive His Word in meekness and humility and if you daily deal with known sin by confessing it to God as sin; you can know the blessing of a pure heart, seeing and walking with God by faith.
I Corinthians 13:12 explains “For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” One day we shall see God in all of His glory when we awake in His presence. David said in Psalm 17:15 “As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied when I awake with Thy likeness.” To think about this is a purifying hope. I John 3:1-3
“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” Matt. 5:9
Two groups of people are opposed to all war and refuse to fight.
The first group are the politically liberal, anti-war protestors who refuse to go to war for any cause. They think they are being peacemakers. Moral causes mean nothing to them because they reject the Bible as God’s Word and believe morality is relative. That’s why they claim to believe that America is fighting the war against the Terrorists simply for oil. That’s why they believe those Americans involved in leading the war are immoral.
A second group opposed to war are the religious pacifists. This includes the Mennonites, Amish and other smaller groups who take this beatitude as the basis for refusing to go to war. These people are for the most part conservatives and believe the Bible to be the Word of God. They are good people who have been led to believe that based on this Beatitude; Christians should not be involved in war. They are called conscientious objectors.
No Escape from War in This World
Regardless of what you think about war, the world has been at war from the beginning of time. Actually, war started in Heaven when Lucifer, the highest of God’s creation, decided to fight against God. The story of his rebellion and fall from Heaven is recorded in Isaiah 14:12-16.
When God created the earth and put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden; fallen, wicked Lucifer, now called Satan, deceived them and tempted them to sin. Now not only was Satan at war with God, but also the fallen human race had joined him in his war against God.
God graciously provided salvation for Adam by slaying an animal, perhaps a lamb, as an atonement for Adam and Eve’s sin. Then He clothed them for the first time with the skins of the slain animals in anticipation of the time when He would send His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world.
Then God declared war on Satan and all those who follow him in sin. Genesis 3:15 is the seed plot of the Bible. It explains what has been going on in the world for over 6000 years and He announces how it will all end. “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise His heel.” Thus God pronounces doom on Satan and on his followers.
The Old Testament is a history of that war, starting with Cain killing his brother Abel and continuing through Israel, God’s Covenant People, warring against their enemies. This warfare was commanded by God repeatedly. Study these Scriptures. Deuteronomy 7:1-6; 9:1-3; 20:1-4 Joshua 1:1-11; 6:20-24; the book of Judges. I Samuel 15:1-3; 17:40-50; II Chronicles 20; Psalm 2; 18:30-50: 144:1-2. These are just a few of the many passages in the Old Testament that show God’s will about Israel fighting their enemies.
Jesus explains to His disciples that war will continue on this earth until He returns to set up His Kingdom of righteousness and peace. Matthew 24:3-8 In Revelation 19:11-21 we read of how Christ will return to this earth one day as Conqueror and King.
Until Jesus returns there will be no peace.
Those who reject Christ will never know peace. Isaiah 48:22 Whatever peace there is in the world today is a false peace. As we near the close of this age, we will be hearing lots more about the peace that mankind can bring about. I Thessalonians 5:1-4 The more we hear about man’s efforts to bring about peace on earth, the more evidence we have that we are drawing closer to the return of Christ and to sudden destruction on this anti-Christian world.
Basically, there is only one reason for all the warfare in this world and that is that man, in his sinful, depraved condition, is at war with God. The natural man is an enemy of God. Ephesians 2:1-3 Colossians 1:20-21. As a result of this warfare with God, he is at war with himself. When a man opposes God he is opposing himself also. Acts 18:6; II Timothy 2:25 Because he is at war with God and with himself, he finds himself also opposed to his fellow men. James 4:1-4.
False preachers don’t talk about sin and depravity. Like the false prophets in Jeremiah’s day, “From the least of them even unto the greatest of them, every one is given to coveteousness, and from the prophet even unto the priest everyone dealeth falsely. They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.” Jeremiah 6:13-14 They ignore sin and preach a gospel of positive thinking and help people to think good about themselves. They teach that warfare and division over moral issues is evil.
Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 10:34-38 “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I am come not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. He that findeth his life shall lose it and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”
What is Jesus doing here?
He is not teaching us that we should hate our families. He is basically continuing the war He declared in Genesis 3:15. To be a Christian involves joining Him in the fight against Satan and his followers.
He is not talking of a warfare of flesh and blood, but a warfare for the minds and souls of men and women; a warfare of rescuing people from the captivity and slavery to Satan. When we stand for Christ, this may involve the misunderstanding and hatred of those who are closest to us. Though we continue to love them and pray for them and show kindness to them, we love the Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour to a far greater degree. When Christ’s Church has fulfilled her task, Christ will return and bind Satan and make him powerless to thwart God’s plan. Then He will set up His Kingdom on this earth and we will live in everlasting righteousness and peace.
What then is the Christian’s responsibility now as a peace maker? That will be the our topic next time.
What is our calling as Christian peacemakers? Psalm 34:14 tells us to “seek peace and pursue it.” We do that, not by evading or ignoring the sin problem; but by facing the fact of sin and dealing with it by showing people that Christ is the answer to the war between God and man. We are peacemakers when we reach out to the enemies of Christ with the message of God’s reconciliation. II Corinthians 5:18-21 We are peacemakers when we show people that they can have peace with God when they are justified by faith. Romans 5:1 teaches us “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
When we have peace with God, then we can experience the peace of God in our lives. When we are enjoying the peace of God in our lives, then we can work for peace with one another. Hebrews 12:14. It is the responsibility of every Christian to make every effort, as far as we are concerned, to live peaceably with everyone. Romans 12:18-19 We do that, not by appeasement and compromise with sin; but by forgiving those who have personally offended us.
The Responsibility of Human government.
The responsibility of the leaders of our nation is a totally different matter. Romans 13:1-5 teaches us that our national leaders have the responsibility of protecting the citizens of their nation with lethal force if necessary.
For example, a police officer is a servant of God sent by government to protect her citizens. That officer bears a gun and has the authority to use it when necessary to protect himself and others from violent criminals.
Our national leaders have the God-given responsibility to protect our citizens from foreign and domestic dangers. In World War II they protected us from the Nazi and Japanese invaders. In our present war against the terrorists, they continue to have God’s authority for using whatever force is necessary to destroy the power of terrorists.
Dealing with our Personal Enemies
But let’s get back to our responsibility as Christians in dealing with our own personal enemies. What are we to do? We are to be peace makers. Look at Romans 12:18-21 again. “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mind; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” When dealing with our personal enemies we are to do everything in our power to get along and show kindness to them. We are not to pay back or try to get even. We are to leave all that in God’s hands. He is far more able to even the score than we can ever accomplish in our anger. My preacher uncle, now with the Lord, had a simple motto concerning his personal enemies. “No attack; no defense!” For years I have lived by that motto, leaving my attackers in God’s hands and I have seen Him wonderfully protect and vindicate me.
Perhaps the best way we are peacemakers is to take the Gospel to those around us who are still without Christ. In Romans 10:9-11 we have the message of salvation. “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed.”
Then in Romans 10:15 we are told that those who take the Gospel to the lost are the real peacemakers. “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things.” If you are a Christian, it is your calling to be one of those peacemakers.
In Matthew 5:10-12 and Luke 6:22-23 Jesus speaks about the blessings of being persecuted for righteousness sake. This persecution includes hatred, rejection, mockery, reproach, being lied about and having evil things said about us. Jesus warned his followers in John 15:18-23 that they would be despised and hated because of their relationship with Him. He was basically warning us that this is our lot in life if we identify ourselves with Him.
Reasons for persecution
Peter warns us in I Peter 4:14-16 that we are not to do foolish, wicked things. He warned that the persecution we receive for our foolishness is not blessed; only the persecution we endure for Christ’s sake. There are many worthwhile and good causes to which we can devote our time and money; but no cause is worth persecution or martyrdom except the cause of Christ.
Most people do not experience persecution by simply being good or noble or sacrificial. In fact, such people are usually well-spoken of and honored. Only the cause of Christ brings hatred and persecution. Jesus said, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” Jesus is not talking about self-righteous. He’s talking about true righteousness that comes through faith in Christ alone. He’s talking about the righteousness of Christ that is imputed to us through faith. He’s talking about Christ’s righteousness that is imparted to us through the indwelling Holy Spirit. People who are simply nice do not experience persecution; but Christians whose only glory and message is Christ alone, will certainly experience persecution. You see, the natural man is offended when he is told he has no righteousness and that he is a sinner and in need of Christ’s righteousness. When confronted by this message, he either receives it and is born again or he becomes incensed and angry with Christ and with the messenger who brought him the message Paul reminds us in II Timothy 3:12 “Yes, ALL that live godly in Christ Jesus SHALL suffer persecution.”
Examples of persecution
Persecution has been the lot of God’s people from the beginning of time. Abel was murdered by his brother because of the quality of his life and his love for God. I John 3:12-15.
David was hunted down as an animal by King Saul, a man who should have appreciated David as one of the best friends he had. I Samuel 18 and in the chapters that follow describe the intense hatred of Saul for David. Saul’s hatred reached the point of insanity.
In Daniel 6 we read of the hatred and jealousy of the princes of Persia for Daniel because of his flawless life. Daniel had been appointed to a very high office by Darius. The princes talked Darius into changing laws concerning prayer and so caught Daniel in the “crime” of praying. For that he was cast to the lions, but God spared him. Read the story. It’s amazing!
In the New Testament are a number of stories of persecution for Christ’s sake. One outstanding story is found in John 9. Read the story and see how intensely the enemies of Jesus hated Him. Then note how this hatred was transferred to a blind man to whom Jesus had given sight.
No one who reads the accounts of Christ’s crucifixion at the end of each of the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, can miss the hatred of men towards Jesus. There we read the awful accounts of the most intense hatred humans could express toward another. The whole world was guilty of the crucifixion of Christ. I was just as guilty as the Roman soldiers and the Jewish leaders. It was my sins and your sins that caused Jesus to willingly go to the cross and offer His life for our sins. No one took Jesus life from Him. He willingly laid it down of His own will. John 10:17-18.
Persecution is part of being a Christian. We not only believe in Christ and receive Him as our Saviour and Lord, but we also experience degrees of persecution as we stand publicly for Him in this Christ-hating world. Philippians 1:29
The blessings of being persecuted for Christ
Is persecution for Christ worth it? It certainly is. Look again at those passages from the Beatitudes. Matthew 5:10-12 and Luke 6:22-23. Rather than mourn and feel sorry for ourselves, we are to rejoice and leap for joy when we are privileged to suffer for Christ. Why should we rejoice?
1. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church” Exodus 1:12 tells us of Israel’s persecution down in Egypt. Exodus 1:12 As Israel grew when they were persecuted so in places where people are suffering and dying for Christ, the Church is growing rapidly.
2. Persecution teaches us patience. Romans 5:3
3. Persecution brings us to maturity. I Peter 5:10
4. Persecution draws us to a closer fellowship with Christ. Philippians 3:10
5. Persecution for Christ brings glory to God. I Peter 4:12-19
6. Persecution for Christ brings future glory for us. Romans 8:17-18 II Timothy 2:12
The choice we must Make
Living for Christ and enduring suffering for His sake is a choice each of us must make. Those who make the right choice and live and suffer for Christ will be rewarded. Hebrews 11:24-27 13:12-15 Those who choose to try to be secret followers of Christ, will one day be ashamed. Mark 8:34-38 and Luke 9:26
How shall we treat those who persecute us?
Love them, do good to them and pray for them. Romans 12:14, 12:17-21 Where do you stand? Are you an enemy of Christ and those who belong to Him or are you a Christian who is not ashamed to be known as a Christian, no matter what the cost?
I've got plans for my life. Leave me alone, God!
We've looked at the blessed life of the Christian as Jesus described it in His Beatitudes in Matthew 5-7 and again in Luke 6. The warnings of Jesus in Luke 6:24-26 are addressed to those who are not serious about living the Christian life. The only concern of many Christians is that they have trusted Christ and now have assurance of Heaven when they die. That's all they want from God. As far as learning how to live the Christian life and please God, they have no interest or concern, nor do they care about God's blessings. They've got plans for their lives and they want to be left alone to pursue their goals and dreams. They have no time for God or the Bible. "Perhaps when I am older," they think, "I will get serious about God and try to please Him before I die."
To such a person I would cry, "WHOA, WHOA, WHOA!!!"
As one riding a horse and trying to stop it, I would cry to you who are running from God as fast as you can, "Whoa, Whoa, Whoa!!! Before you start down the road of rebellion and independence from God, I want to warn you of what lies ahead. Life is filled with the devil's landmines. Unless you are walking in fellowship with God, seeking to obey His Word; you could be maimed for life or be blown up and destroyed by Satan. Everyone who continues down the road of rebellion and independence from God can expect a life of misery, grief, sorrow and a broken heart. Read Proverbs 1-2 and take very seriously the warnings in those chapters. Before you start down the road of sexual promiscuity, read and heed the warnings of Proverbs 5-7. Hebrews 13:4 teaches, "Marriage is honorable in every respect, and the bed is undefiled; but whoremongers and adulterers, God will judge." Proverbs 13:4 warns "The way of the transgressor is HARD!"
If you reject the Lordship of Christ, you will never know true freedom.
If you are not a bond slave of Jesus Christ, you are a slave of the devil. You may think you are free and run your own life, but soon you will discover you are bound by Satan. You will find that though the pleasures of sin seem sweet, at the end you will find there's a terrible after-taste. If you want to play dangerously, play with the high tension wires or play Russian roulette. You just might get away without getting hurt, but don't play with sin. There is no way you can escape tragedy! You can't play the game of sin and win. You'll lose every time.
Note some of the things of which Jesus warns and pronounces woes in Luke 6:24-26
RICHES Jesus is not against a person working hard and investing wisely and accumulating wealth. In fact, Deuteronomy 8:18 reminds us that it is God who give us the ability to gain wealth. What Jesus is warning of in this passage is the arrogant attitude of many rich who believe they are "self-made" men or women. People who trust their riches and have no room for God in their lives are facing God's judgment. Psalm 10 describes these people. In Luke 12:15-21 and again in Luke 16:19-31 you have the stories of two wealthy men who suddenly faced God's judgment. James 5 warns the rich who made their money by taking advantage of their employees or slaves. Read the sober warnings in these passages of Scripture.
FULLNESS Jesus continues His warning in Luke 6:25 to those who are full. Again, Jesus is not preaching against eating a good dinner and going away from the table full and satisfied. Although the Bible warns about the sin of gluttony, it is not sinful to eat a good meal and feel satisfied. What He is warning about here is the sin of being full of ourselves, living self-satisfied lives with no sense of our need for God. He is warning that those who live with no sense of mourning over sin, but who just laugh off God's warnings, will one day weep and mourn, but then it will be too late for salvation. Read what lies ahead in Rev. 6:12-17.
PRIDE In contrast to God's blessing on the meek, God's Word warns of woes on the proud. Pride is one of the worst of sins. It led to Lucifer's fall in Heaven. God calls it an abomination in Proverbs 6:16-19 where He warns about a proud look. Psalm 138:6 "Though the Lord be high, yet hath He respect unto the lowly: but the proud He knoweth afar off." I Timothy 6:3-5 tells us that pride is a mark of false teachers. Pride is a growing sin of the last days. II Timothy 3:1-7.
Seeking the favor of man rather than the favor of God.
In Luke 6:26 Jesus warns "Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you for so did their fathers to the false prophets."In other words, woe on those who seek the favor of man rather than the favor of God; whereas those who are persecuted for righteousness sake are blessed. Preacher, take comfort if you find yourself in a battle. Not one because of your own foolishness, but because you faithfully preach God's Word. It's not a pleasant feeling to be hated and opposed by people, but Jesus' words have always been a comfort to me.
Moses is an example of one who chose God's favor over man's favor. When he was old enough to make his own decision, he chose to identify himself with God's people, Israel. In making that decision he gave up the glories of being a son of Pharaoh, choosing rather to suffer with God's people. Read of his choice in Hebrews 11:24-27
The Apostle Paul was one who experienced the hatred of men wherever He went. In the closing hours of his life he wrote poignant words to Timothy, his son in the faith from a cold, lonely, damp Roman prison cell as he awaited the day of his execution. I encourage you to read those words in II Timothy 4. I can seldom read them without tears.
Look at the life of Jesus. When you read the four Gospels, you can't miss the fact that everywhere Jesus went He had enemies, as well as a little circle of friends who loved Him. God's faithful servants can expect no better treatment.
On which road are you traveling? If you choose to walk with God, you can count on the disfavor of Satan and his world system; but you can also count on God's blessing on your life. If you choose the favor and popularity of the world system, you are walking the road that leads to woe. This is not my opinion. This is the message of Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount.