Category Archives: Be-Attitudes

“God’s Person in an Upside-Down World” — The Be-attitudes Series #8 “Happiness Through Harassment”

“‘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.'”

Robert Schuller wrote a commentary on them. He calls them the “Be Happy Attitudes”. And my point is, they’re not physical traits. They’re not inborn parts of our personality. They are attitudes that we choose. And the point is, happiness is a choice. You and I can apply each and every one of these if we choose, too.

Today, we’re going to look at the last beatitude, and it may be the toughest of all. It addresses the myth that in order to be happy, I must be liked by everyone. Jesus explodes that myth and at the same time, he’s very honest about the consequences of following him. He says, folks, if you follow me, there are going to be a lot of people who don’t like that decision. And if you really are committed to being characterized by these first seven beatitudes, you’re going to sail some turbulent waters.

Look at verse 10 in Matthew 5. “‘Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'” Wow! Jesus makes a statement there that is so shocking that he repeats it. Look at verse 11, “‘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.'”

I find this last beatitude tremendously interesting for a number of reasons. Number one, Jesus gives more space to it than any other. Number two, this is the only one that he personalizes. He doesn’t make this generic, “‘Blessed are they,'” “‘Blessed is he.'” Look what he says, “‘Blessed are you when men persecute you,'” “‘Blessed are you when men insult you.'” And this one is fascinating because in the other seven, Jesus addresses the character of the Christian, but in this one he addresses the character of the world and how it will treat the Christian life that is characterized by the seven beatitudes we’ve studied up until this point.

What Jesus basically says is, happy and healthy are those who can handle rejection. Happy and healthy are those who can withstand any attacks on their faith. Now in a few moments, we’re going to look at how you respond to persecution, how you respond to harassment in our world. But first let’s consider the reality of persecution.

Notice Jesus said, “Blessed are you when men insult you and when they persecute you. He doesn’t say, if, he says, when. It’s a given. It’s a reality. Folks, as this world gets more and more secular, it is becoming more and more hostile to Christianity. Would you agree with that? Yes, I see it, we all see it. But you say, “Gary, we’re not being persecuted, I mean not like Paul and Peter and James, not like those folks in Hebrews 11.” When you get to the end of Hebrews 11, it said some of them were beaten, some were stoned, some were even sawed into. That’s not happening to us. You’re right, even in the secular nature of our current culture, we are not, in this country, suffering overt persecution. What you may not know is that hundreds of people worldwide are dying for the cause of Christ, especially in radical Muslim countries. But worldwide, people are dying for the name of Christ.

But this beatitude is not just about physical martyrdom. Look at verse 11 again, read it carefully, “‘Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.'” Do you see there, Jesus specifies three things that the world loves to do to Christians in any generation.

The first one is they just love to insult us. People try to dishonor, to discredit you, you know say derogatory things about you. Second, they like to persecute us. Now that means mistreatment. And that mistreatment may be physical, it may be psychological, it may be emotional, it may be social isolation. And then the third thing, if the insulting doesn’t work, and the mistreatment doesn’t work, then the last option is, they’ll tell lies. They’ll just make up stuff about us. You know the world loves to find fault with Christians. Let me ask you a question, if a preacher in this town were to run off with some woman in parts unknown, or an elder were to embezzle $10,000 out of the church treasury; do you think that would make the paper if reporters find out about it? You could bet your life it would make the papers. If a bartender down the street did either of those two things, would it be in the paper? No.

The world loves to find fault with Christians. And if you walk with integrity, and if you walk blamelessly, they’ll just make stuff up. That’s what they did with Jesus. Do you realize they called Jesus a glutton and a drunk? Remember? They called him an illegitimate son. The rumor on the street was he was an illegitimate son of a Roman soldier. LIES! But they made those things up to persecute Him.

Folks, there is a reality of persecution and harassment for the person who is faithful to Christ. What’s the reason for it. Why are we persecuted? Why are we harassed, and for goodness sakes, why on earth should we be happy about it? Well, the first thing I want you to notice are the reasons for persecution that are not covered by this wonderful promise. Jesus does not say, “Happy are those who are persecuted for being irritated.” Or, “Happy are those who are persecuted for being obnoxious.”

There are some people in this world who set themselves up for emotional martyrdom by being irritating, stubborn, loud, nosy, no wonder they’re put down. They’re just obnoxious. Jesus did not say, “Happy are those who are persecuted for being a jerk.” That’s not the beatitudes. Neither did he make the promise to those who are harassed for self-righteousness. Now let’s face it. I think over life, all of us have run into the guy or to the gal who come off as some kind of Holy Joe, and very smug, and when they talk to you, they give you that condescending look and they’re offensive in sharing their faith. I mean they’re first words are turn or burn, you know. And they look at it like, I’ve got all the answers about the Bible, and you’re an idiot. You don’t know anything. God DOES NOT commend that kind of faith. People like that will go out into the world and they’ll come back spurned and they’ll say something like, “Oh, I’m being persecuted for my faith.” No, you’re being persecuted for being a Pharisee. And even Jesus persecuted Pharisees. Self-righteousness is not commended here. No, that’s not what Jesus is talking about.

In this last beatitude, our Lord is talking about the right reason for being harassed….it’s for being like Him. He said, “Blessed are you if you’re persecuted because of following me.” Look at John 15:20, our Lord said, “‘No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.'” There is a right reason for being harassed, and the bottom line is for being like Jesus.

I’m sure you’ve noticed as I have that our world tends to be merciless on Christians, particularly the media. Constantly putting down, attacking, making fun of, when is the last time you’ve seen a Christian portrayed positively in a television drama, or a television sitcom? Frankly, if they had their way, it’s almost like Christianity does not exist. Everybody spends all their time in a bar or some other place. But remember, the world crucified Jesus, and it would still do it to Him today.

Our sin-conquered world is uncomfortable around goodness. And if you and I are really going to be the light of the world, you will, and I mean now without any self-righteousness, without any obnoxiousness, if you’re the light of the world, you will reveal darkness in other people’s lives. And when bright light pierces darkness, in that darkness there is a natural re-coil. That’s just the way it is.

I hope by now you have discovered this basic law of life, surely you have. The more positive you are, the more negative people will hate you. Have you learned that? The more positive you are, the more negative people will hate you.

Look at II Timothy 3:12, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” circle the word “will”. See it, if you’re a team and you want to be persecuted, just humbly say if there are a group of kids at school and all of a sudden one of them starts talking about sex and starts bragging about some things he or she may or may not have done, just humbly say, “I’m a Christian, and and I’ll tell you I’m just committed to being a virgin until I’m married.” You just say that and see what happens. Or in business, if there is a group around the coffee pot talking about what they are going to go out and do that night and they want you to come along. And you’re not smart-alecky about it, you say, “No, you guys know about my faith, and I just don’t think that would please the Lord.” What kind of snide remarks do you think are going to come as you walk away?

Some of you are here this morning and you were persecuted before you came because you’ve got a spouse or family member who ridicules you for getting up and making your way to worship your God this morning. Do you know what Jesus said? He said, “I’ll never ask you to go where I’ve not been. The world hated me before it ever hated you.”

Now you say, “Wait a minute, Gary, I don’t really need this message this morning. Nobody hassles me about living for Christ.” What does that tell you? What does that tell you? It tells you one or two things. You are either insulated and isolated from the world like some type of Tibetan monk, or you are no different than anybody else. Paul said in II Timothy 3:12, all who live godly lives will be persecuted. You will be harassed. It’s a given, and the given is because we’re like Jesus.

How do we respond to that kind of harassment? How do we respond to persecution? Jesus said, “Happy are you if you’re persecuted for my sake.” Now frankly, that sounds bizarre even to a mature believer, but it’s true. I’m genuinely happy when I’m harassed, if, IF NOW, I follow biblical principles for dealing with it. I’ve got five…these are not comprehensive, but they sure are a good start.

Number one is this, remember the source.

Remember the source of the persecution. Look at Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world…” Folks, the enemy is who? The enemy is the devil, right? Now when somebody comes up and persecutes me at school or at work or on the street or in daily life, when they persecute me, they’re not the enemy, they’re just a pawn. They’re just people like you and me, the difference is, they have been deceived by Satan. And they’re just tools in the hands of the devil, he’s the enemy.

Let me ask you a question here, those of you who are parents out there. If I wanted to hurt you, how could I most hurt you? That’s a terrible question, but just imagine that. I know I could do some things directly to you, but if I were as low and conniving and despicable as a human being could be, the way that I could hurt you the most is to hurt your kids, isn’t that right? I’ve had people try to persecute me and most of the time it’s no big deal. But if they get on the kids, and all of a sudden we turn into wolverines, don’t we? Listen, the devil cannot get at God, so he does what in his mind is the next best thing, he attacks His (God’s) children. Revelation 12:10 says, “Satan is the accuser of the brethren. He is the enemy.” Remember that when you are persecuted.

The second thing you do is refuse to retaliate.
Remember, the person doing the persecuting, they’re just a tool of Satan. I don’t need to retaliate, it would just intensify it. Look at Romans 12, two verses there, beginning at verse 19, Paul says, “Do not take revenge my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘it is mine to avenge; I will repay says the Lord.'” And then drop down two verses later to verse 21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Jesus said in Matthew 5, you turn the other cheek when you are insulted. You don’t retaliate. Now the natural state is to do what? “Hey, I’m going to get even. I’m going to get that guy back.” God says, “Wrong!” God says you never get ahead by trying to get even. You never get ahead by trying to get even. And besides, if you try to retaliate, if you try to get revenge, all you do is end up playing into the persecutor’s hands.

When I was a child, I hate to admit this, but I am the second oldest of nine, and I had three younger sisters, and on rare occasions, I would tease my younger sisters. Quit imagining stuff here, just on RARE occasions, I would tease my sisters. Do you know what I learned when I did that? I learned that once they started to react, I was in control. Once I got them, and they began to squeal, I had them right where I wanted them, you know. I was in control. See, that’s not what you do Christians, you don’t retaliate, you respond, positively, in a way they wouldn’t expect.

Look at Matthew 5:44. Here’s what Jesus said, “‘But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.'” Have you got somebody giving you a hard time, harassing you, you don’t yell back at them, you don’t slap them, you don’t manipulate them, you just go home and pray for them. Now is that easy? No. Is that unusual? Yes. Is that what Jesus said do? Yes. Hear me, if you do it, you’ll find happiness. If you try to get even, you let them control you by their persecution, you will get more and more and more miserable. But if you can pray for them, you’ll start loving them. And there is not a thing that they can do to you to keep you in misery.

Now people I will admit to you that this is the height of Christian maturity. This is the reason it’s the last beatitude. If Jesus had started with this one, everybody would have read that and said, “Well, that’s crazy,” closed the book and walked on. Only when I have grown those first seven beatitudes in my life, can I really have the maturity to where I say, “Man, if people can persecute me, I can even be happy through that.”

Following this chain of beatitudes, you learn one of the greatest principles of life, you can control your reaction. There are a lot of things in life you can’t control, you can’t control what happens to you, you can’t control what people say about you. You can’t control the hassles you might receive, but you can control how you respond.

And now the third principle, and this is the one people really stumble over, they don’t understand—Rejoice over it. Rejoice over it.
Remember who the real enemy is, refuse to retaliate, and now rejoice over it. Say what? Rejoice over the persecution? You say, Gary, isn’t that being a masochist? You know saying, “Hurt me, hurt me, come on please, hurt me.” No, Jesus is not saying, rejoice in the pain, but he says, when people put you down for your faith, not for being obnoxious or haughty, but if people put you down for being like Jesus, don’t complain, celebrate.

I’ve given you three great reasons from the Bible that we can do that. I hope you learn these well, because this is the key.
Number one, I can rejoice over persecution because when I’m harassed for my faith, it means the Spirit of Christ can be seen in my life.
When I’m harassed for my faith, IT MEANS THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST CAN BE SEEN IN MY LIFE. If it couldn’t be, nobody would be hassling us. Look at I Peter 4:14, “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”

Do you see what Peter said? He said when people put you down for being a Christian, it just means they see Jesus in you. It means that God’s Spirit is bearing its fruit in your life. It means the light of Christ is shining brightly enough in you that people are noticing. It means that you’re not a Lady Clairol Christian. Do you know what a Lady Clairol Christian is? You know, “Only God knows for sure.”

That’s funny, but I want to tell you the truth, we need more persecuted Christians. That’s a bold statement, but we need a lot more persecuted Christians. And we need fewer secret agent Christians and believers. We need audio/visual Christians that you can see and you can hear. We need show and tell Christians. They show it in the way they live and they tell it in their talk. And it takes both. If you don’t show it, you’re a hypocrite. If you don’t tell it, you’re not an ambassador.

One of the cop-outs I hear all the time is, “Well, my life is my witness to other people.” Have you ever thought about how arrogant a statement that is? I never say a word about Jesus, but my life is a testimony to people about Christ. You know that is saying that you’re so good that people just come in your presence and bow down and say, “I repent. I repent because here is somebody so Christ-like.” Has anybody ever done that in your life? Maybe your life is not quite the witness you think it is. Maybe we need to show and to tell. Even Jesus had to tell them, didn’t he? Even Jesus had to tell them! Speak a good word for Jesus. If I am persecuted and harassed, it shows that I’m walking the talk, and the Spirit of God is on me.

The second reason I can rejoice when I’m persecuted is I’m in good company.
Look at Matthew 5:12, our original beatitude paragraph. Jesus said, “‘Rejoice and be glad, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.'” Hebrews 11 is that great chapter of faith, the stories of the heroes and the heroines who went on before us. And you know one of the things that I read about Able, Noah, and Moses, and David, and Joshua, and all those listed, there was not a one of them who did not suffer for their faith. And the verse that follows that chapter, Hebrews 12:1, Paul says, “Since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders…and run the race with perseverance…”

I don’t know how you like to picture that, but every time I see one of those big white cumulus clouds, I like to pretend that’s my cloud of witnesses. I like to pretend that Moses and Abraham and Joseph are sitting on top of that cloud, and they’re looking down at me, and they’re cheering me on. They’re saying, “Come on, Gary, come on buddy, you can make it through life. You can be faithful, we did.”

Listen to Acts 5:41, it says, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” If I am persecuted, it’s a badge of honor. Again, not for self-righteousness, not for obnoxiousness, counted WORTHY to follow the footsteps of my Lord. He suffered for me.

And the third reason I have for rejoicing even in persecution is: It’s only temporary.
It’s only temporary. In II Corinthians 4:17, Paul said, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” Would you agree with me when I say that nobody I ever knew anything about was persecuted like Paul. The man was beaten and beaten, he was stoned two different times. He was imprisoned we know of four times, he was shipwrecked, he was maligned, he was finally beheaded. But he rejoiced through all that because he kept an eternal perspective. In fact, he was the one who wrote these words, he said, “Our light and momentary troubles…” Think about that. This guy has been beaten, stoned, imprisoned, and shipwrecked, he says, “…light and momentary…” If his were light and momentary, what are ours, ridiculous and ludicrous? I mean what would we call ours?

I love the story of the fellow who was asked what his favorite verse in the Bible was, and he looked back and he said, “And it came to pass…” Somebody says, “What do you mean? Why is that your favorite verse?” He said, “Because anytime I get harassed, anytime I have a difficult time, I know it didn’t come to stay, it came to pass.” And it does, it always passes. Rejoice, not over the hurt, not over the embarrassment, but because it confirms your moving toward your goal of being like Jesus.

Remember my reward. Our beatitude Matthew 5:12 says, “‘Rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in heaven.'” I circled the word, “great”, not little, not average, but great is your reward in heaven. Did you know that Scripture teaches that there are degrees of reward in heaven? It does, you really can’t deny it, all the way through. You say, “Gary, do you understand all that?” No, I really don’t. I’ll have to get there before I really understand it. But we’re told right here that there are special honors, special glory for those who experience persecution. Great is your reward if you are persecuted for my sake.

Look at Romans 8:17, wonderful verse, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ,” look at the last part of the verse, “if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” We share His sufferings, we share His glory.

Matthew 19:29, Jesus said, “‘Whatever you give us for the Lord’s sake will be given back to you a hundred-fold.” Do you know what a hundred-fold is? That’s 10,000 percent interest. Anybody got a mutual fund doing that well? Ten thousand percent interest.

And finally, remain faithful. I don’t know what else to say. After looking at all we’ve looked at, just remain faithful. I Peter 4:19, Peter said, “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” I like those two words, commit and continue. Commit and continue, that’s what we do as long as God let’s us live.

I want to ask you a couple of tough questions as we close, and I’m not picking on you, I’m picking on me. I’m asking them to me before I ever ask them to you. What is your faith costing you? That’s a pretty hard question to answer. We’ve got it so easy in America, and we thank God for that blessing, but we pay a price for it. I’m not so sure but what apathy and complacency aren’t the worst of all sins. What’s your faith costing you?

The second question I would ask, at what cost would you stay faithful to Christ? I could have told you stories today about missionaries who had guns put to their heads or to their children’s heads in places like China years ago, and demanded that they renounce the name of Jesus so their family would be shot. And those families most of the time were shot.

At what cost would you be faithful? You know persecution is really out of our vocabulary. We just talk about convenience. I heard one preacher get up and say to people, “I thank you for braving the rain to be here today.” I tell you our folks on our cloud of witnesses like David and Samson are going, “Braving the RAIN?” “Braving the RAIN? Leaving your warm house and walking 20 feet with an umbrella and coming into an air-conditioned/heated auditorium? Braving the RAIN?” You don’t brave rain, it’s just minor inconvenience.

I really, folks, think we all need to kind of re-grip who we’re called to be, and the commitment we’re called to have. Because if you don’t, you won’t be happy. See we’re all going to die one of these days, and the only way you’ll be happy is if you die for something, not just die. That’s really what the beatitudes are all about. The capstone is you will be happy if you are committed. You will be happy if your heart is singular and pure and devoted. And nobody can take that away from you, even people who would persecute you.

(5:10-12) Persecuted: to endure suffering for Christ; to be mocked, ridiculed, criticized, ostracized; to be treated with hostility; to be martyred. Note several significant points.

1.   There are three major kinds of persecution mentioned by Christ in this passage:
·          Being reviled: verbally abused, insulted, scolded, mocked (cruel mockings, Hebrews 11:36).
·          Persecuted: hurt, ostracized, attacked, tortured, martyred, and treated hostily.
·          Having all manner of evil spoken against: slandered, cursed, and lied about (cp. Psalm 35:11; Acts 17:6-7; cp. “hard speeches,” that is, harsh, defiant words, Jude 15).

2.    Who are the persecuted?
a.   The person who lives and speaks for righteousness and is reacted against.
b.   The person who lives and speaks for Christ and is reviled, persecuted, and spoken against.

3.   Persecution is a paradox. It reveals that the true nature of the world is evil. Think about it: the person who lives and speaks for righteousness is opposed and persecuted. The person who cares and works for the true love, justice, and salvation of the world is actually fought against. How deceived is the world and its humanity, to rush onward in madness for nothing but to return to dust, to seek life only for some seventy years (if nothing happens before then)!

4.   Believers are forewarned, they shall suffer persecution.
a.   Believers shall suffer persecution because they are not of this world. They are called out of the world. They are in the world, but they are not of the world. They are separated from the behavior of the world. Therefore, the world reacts against them.

5.   Persecutions can erupt from the most devilish imaginations of men (see Deeper Study #1—1 Peter 4:12 for a description of some of the sufferings of God’s dear people).

6.   What is to be the believer’s attitude toward persecution?
a.   It is not to be retaliation, pride, spiritual superiority.
b.   It is to be joy and gladness (Matthew 5:12; 2 Cor. 12:10; 1 Peter 4:12-13).

7.   The persecuted are promised great rewards.
a.   The Kingdom of Heaven—now.
·          They experience a special honor (Acts 5:41).
·          They experience a special consolation (2 Cor. 1:5).
·          They are given a very special closeness, a glow of the Lord’s presence (see note—§1 Peter 4:14).
They become a greater witness for Christ (2 Cor. 1:4-6)

“If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:19).

b.   They shall suffer persecution because believers strip away the world’s cloak of sin. They live and demonstrate a life of righteousness. They do not compromise with the world and its sinful behavior. They live pure and godly lives, having nothing to do with the sinful pleasures of a corruptible world. Such living exposes the sins of people.

“If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you….If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin” (John 15:18, 22).

“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).

c.   They shall suffer persecution because the world does not know God nor Christ. The ungodly of the world want no God other than themselves and their own imaginations. They want to do just what they want—to fulfill their own desires, not what God wishes and demands. However, the godly believer dedicates his life to God, to His worship and service. The ungodly want no part of God; therefore, they oppose those who talk about God and man’s duty to honor and worship God.

“But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me” (John 15:21).

“And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me” (John 16:3).

d.   They shall suffer persecution because the world is deceived in its concept and belief of God. The world conceives God to be the One who fulfills their earthly desires and lusts (John 16:2-3). Man’s idea of God is that of a Supreme Grandfather. They think that God protects, provides, and gives no matter what a person’s behavior is, just so the behavior is not too far out, that God will accept and work all things out in the final analysis. However, the true believer teaches against this. God is love, but He is also just and demands righteousness. The world rebels against this concept of God.

“They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me” (John 16:2-3).

“Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also” (John 15:20).

“These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not know the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you” (John 16:1-4).

“That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto” (1 Thes. 3:3).

“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake” (Phil. 1:29).

“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).

“Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you” (1 John 3:13).

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified” (1 Peter 4:12-14).

It is hard for us to realize what the first Christians had to suffer. Every department of their life was disrupted.

(i) Their Christianity might well disrupt their work. Suppose a man was a stone-mason. That seems a harmless enough occupation. But suppose his firm received a contract to build a temple to one of the heathen gods, what was that man to do? Suppose a man was a tailor, and suppose his firm was asked to  produce robes for the heathen priests, what was that man to do? In a situation such as that in which the early Christians found themselves there was hardly any job in which a man might not find a conflict between his business interests and his loyalty to Jesus Christ.

The Church was in no doubt where a man’s duty lay. More than a hundred years after this a man came to Tertullian with this very problem. He told of his business difficulties. He ended by saying, “What can I do? I must live!” “Must you?” said Tertullian. If it came to a choice between a loyalty and a living, the real Christian never hesitated to choose loyalty.

(ii) Their Christianity would certainly disrupt their social life. In the ancient world most feasts were held in the temple of some god. In very few sacrifices was the whole animal burned upon the altar. It might be that only a few hairs from the forehead of the beast were burned as a symbolic sacrifice.  Part of the meat went to the priests as their perquisite; and part of the meat was returned to the worshipper. With his share he made a feast for his friends and his relations. One of the gods most commonly worshipped was Serapis. And when the invitations to the feast went out, they would read:

“I invite you to dine with me at the table of our Lord Serapis.”

Could a Christian share in a feast held in the temple of a heathen god? Even an ordinary meal in an ordinary house began with a libation, a cup of wine, poured out in honor of the gods. It was like grace before meat. Could a Christian become a sharer in a heathen act of worship like that? Again the Christian answer was clear. The Christian must cut himself off from his fellows rather than by his presence give approval to such a thing. A man had to be prepared to be lonely in order to be a Christian.

(iii) Worst of all, their Christianity was liable to disrupt their home life. It happened again and again that one member of a family became a Christian while the others did not. A wife might become a Christian while her husband did not. A son or a daughter might become a Christian while the rest of the family did not. Immediately there was a split in the family. Often the door was shut for ever in the face of the one who had accepted Christ.

Christianity often came to send, not peace, but a sword which divided families in two. It was literally true that a man might have to love Christ more than he loved father or mother, wife, or brother or sister. Christianity often involved in those days a choice between a man’s nearest and dearest and Jesus Christ.

Still further, the penalties which a Christian had to suffer were terrible beyond description. All the world knows of the Christians who were flung to the lions or burned at the stake; but these were kindly deaths. Nero wrapped the Christians in pitch and set them alight, and used them as living torches to light his gardens. He sewed them in the skins of wild animals and set his hunting dogs upon them to tear them to death. They were tortured on the rack; they were scraped with pincers; molten lead was poured hissing upon them; red hot brass plates were affixed to the tenderest parts of their bodies; eyes were torn out; parts of their bodies were cut off and roasted before their eyes;  their hands and feet were burned while cold water was poured over them to lengthen the agony. These things are not pleasant to think about, but these are the things a man had to be prepared for, if he took his stand with Christ.

We may well ask why the Romans persecuted the Christians. It seems an extraordinary thing that anyone living a Christian life should seem a fit victim for persecution and death. There were two reasons.

(i) There were certain slanders which were spread abroad about the Christians, slanders for which the Jews were in no small measure responsible.

(a) The Christians were accused of cannibalism. The words of the Last Supper—“This is my body.”: “this cup is the New Testament in my blood”—were taken and twisted into a story that the Christians sacrificed a child and ate the flesh.

(b) The Christians were accused of immoral practices, and their meetings were said to be orgies of lust. The Christian weekly meeting was called the Agape, the Love Feast; and the name was grossly misinterpreted. Christians greeted each other with the kiss of peace; and the kiss of peace became a ground on which to build the slanderous accusations.

(c) The Christians were accused of being incendiaries. It is true that they spoke of the coming end of the world, and they clothed their message in the apocalyptic pictures of the end of the world in flames. Their slanderers took these words and twisted them into threats of political and revolutionary incendiarism.

(d) The Christians were accused of tampering with family relationships. Christianity did in fact split families as we have seen; and so Christianity was represented as something which divided man and wife, and disrupted the home. There were slanders enough waiting to be invented by malicious-minded men.

(ii) But the great ground of persecution was in fact political. Let us think of the situation. The Roman Empire included almost the whole known world, from Britain to the Euphrates, and from Germany to North Africa. How could that vast amalgam of peoples be somehow welded into one? Where could a unifying principle be found? At first it was found in the worship of the goddess Roma, the spirit of Rome. This was a worship which the provincial peoples were happy to give, for Rome had brought them peace and good government, and civil order and justice. The roads were cleared of brigands and the seas of pirates; the despots and tyrants had been banished by impartial Roman justice. The provincial was very willing to sacrifice to the spirit of the Empire which had done so much for him.

But this worship of Roma took a further step. There was one man who personified the Empire, one man in whom Roma might be felt to be incarnated, and that was the Emperor; and so the Emperor came to be regarded as a god, and divine honors came to be paid to him, and temples were raised to his divinity. The Roman government did not begin this worship; at first, in fact, it did all it could to discourage it. Claudius, the Emperor, said that he deprecated divine honors being paid to any human being. But as the years went on the Roman government saw in this Emperor-worship the one thing which could unify the vast Empire of Rome; here was the one center on which they all could come together. So, in the end, the worship of the Emperor became, not voluntary, but compulsory. Once a year a man had to go and burn a pinch of incense to the godhead of Caesar and say, “Caesar is Lord.” And that is precisely what the Christians refused to do. For them Jesus Christ was the Lord, and to no man would they give that title which belonged to Christ.

It can be seen at once that Caesar-worship was far more a test of political loyalty than anything else. In actual fact when a man had burned his pinch of incense he received a certificate, a libellus, to say that he had done so, and then he could go and worship any god he liked, so long as his worship did not interfere with public order and decency. The Christians refused to conform. Confronted with the choice, “Caesar or Christ?” they uncompromisingly chose Christ. They utterly refused to compromise. The result was that, however good a man, however fine a citizen a Christian was, he was automatically an outlaw. In the vast Empire Rome could not afford pockets of disloyalty, and that is exactly what every Christian congregation appeared to the Roman authorities to be. A poet has spoken of “The panting, huddled flock whose crime was Christ.”

The only crime of the Christian was that he set Christ above Caesar; and for that supreme loyalty the Christians died in their thousands, and faced torture for the sake of the lonely supremacy of Jesus Christ.

When we see how persecution arose, we are in a position to see the real glory of the martyr’s way. It may seem an extraordinary thing to talk about the bliss of the persecuted; but for him who had eyes to see beyond the immediate present, and a mind to understand the greatness of the issues involved, there must have been a glory in that blood-stained way.

(i) To have to suffer persecution was an opportunity to show one’s loyalty to Jesus Christ. One of the most famous of all the martyrs was Polycarp, the aged bishop of Smyrna. The mob dragged him to the tribunal of the Roman magistrate. He was given the inevitable choice—sacrifice to the godhead of Caesar or die. “Eighty and six years,” came the immortal reply, “have I served Christ, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” So they brought him to the stake, and he prayed his last prayer: “O Lord God Almighty, the Father of thy well-beloved and ever-blessed son, by whom we have received the knowledge of thee…I thank thee that thou hast graciously thought me worthy of this day and of this hour.” Here was the supreme opportunity to demonstrate his loyalty to Jesus Christ.

In the First World War Rupert Brooke, the poet, was one of those who died too young. Before he went out to the battle he wrote: “Now God be thanked who has matched us with his hour.”

There are so many of us who have never in our lives made anything like a real sacrifice for Jesus Christ. The moment when Christianity seems likely to cost us something is the moment when it is open to us to demonstrate our loyalty to Jesus Christ in a way that all the world can see.

(ii) To have to suffer persecution is, as Jesus himself said, the way to walk the same road as the prophets, and the saints, and the martyrs have walked. To suffer for the right is to gain a share in a great succession. The man who has to suffer something for his faith can throw back his head and say, “Brothers, we are treading where saints have trod.”

(iii) To have to suffer persecution is to share in the great occasion. There is always something thrilling in even being present on the great occasion, in being there when something memorable and crucial is happening. There is an even greater thrill in having a share, however, small, in the actual action. That is the feeling about which Shakespeare wrote so unforgettably in Henry the Fifth in the words he put into Henry’s mouth before the battle of Agincourt: “He that shall live this day and see old age, Will yearly on the vigil feast his friends, And say, ‘Tomorrow is Saint Crispian;”  Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars, And say, ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’ And gentlemen in England now a-bed Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here , And hold their manhoods cheap while any speaks That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”

When a man is called on to suffer something for his Christianity that is always a crucial moment; it is the great occasion; it is the clash between the world and Christ; it is a moment in the drama of eternity. To have a share in such a moment is not a penalty but a glory. “Rejoice at such a moment,” says Jesus, “and be glad.” The word for be glad  is from the verb agalliasthai which has been derived from two Greek words which mean to leap exceedingly. It is the joy which leaps for joy. As it has been put, it is the joy of the climber who has reached the summit, and who leaps for joy that the mountain path is conquered.

(iv) To suffer persecution is to make things easier for those who are to follow. Today we enjoy the blessing of liberty because men in the past were willing to buy it for us at the cost of blood, and sweat, and tears. They made it easier for us, and by a steadfast and immovable witness for Christ we may make it easier for others who are still to come.

In the great Boulder Dam scheme in America men lost their lives in that project which was to turn a dust-bowl into fertile land. When the scheme was completed, the names of those who had died were put on a tablet and the tablet was put into the great wall of the dam, and on it there was the inscription: “These died that the desert might rejoice and blossom as the rose.”

The man who fights his battle for Christ will always make things easier for those who follow after. For them there will be one less struggle to be encountered on the way.

(v) Still further, no man ever suffers persecution alone; if a man is called upon to bear material loss, the failure of friends, slander, loneliness, even the death of love, for his principles, he will not be left alone. Christ will be nearer to him than at any other time.

The old story in Daniel tells how Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the furnace heated seven times hot because of their refusal to move from their loyalty to God. The courtiers watched. “Did we not cast three men, bound, into the fire?” they asked. The reply was that it was indeed so. Then came the astonished answer, “but I see four men, loose, walking in the midst of the fire and they are not hurt; and the appearnace of the fourth is like a son of the gods” (Daniel 3:19-25).

When a man has to suffer something for his faith, that is the way to the closest possible companionship with Christ.

There remains only one question to ask—why is this persecution so inevitable? It is inevitable because the Church, when it really is the Church, is bound to be the conscience of the nation and the conscience of society. Where there is good the Church must praise; where there is evil the Church must condemn—and inevitably men will try to silence the troublesome voice of conscience. It is not the duty of the individual Christian habitually to find fault, to criticize, to condemn, but it may well be that his every action is a silent condemnation of the unchristian lives of others, and he will not escape their hatred.

It is not likely that death awaits us because of our loyalty to the Christian faith. But insult awaits the man who insists on Christian honor. Mockery awaits the man who practices Christian love and Christian forgiveness. Actual persecution may well await the Christian in industry who insists on doing an honest days’ work. Christ still needs his witnesses; he needs those who are prepared, not so much to die for him, as to live for him. The Christian struggle and the Christian glory still exist.




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Posted by on March 18, 2021 in Be-Attitudes


God’s Person in an Upside-Down World: The Be-attitudes Series #7 “Happiness Through Making Peace”

Regardless of when this passage is studied, strangers will be killing strangers, neighbors will be killing neighbors, brothers will be killing brothers, religious factions will be trying to destroy each other, and nations will be trying to eradicate other nations.

In the midst of hatred and strife, this beatitude comes as a refreshing breeze: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

It has not always been readily apparent how some of the Beatitudes relate to happiness, but we have little trouble with this one. It is difficult to be happy in an atmosphere of animosity and turmoil, but happy are those who work at promoting peace.

Think about it. Are happy people irritable, always ready to take offense, or eager to stir up strife? People such as these are miserable, and the only “enjoyment” they get is in making others miserable also.

What about the gentle, the kindly, the affectionate, those who love peace, and those who do all they can to promote peace in their homes, in the church, and among their neighbors and friends? You know which group is happier. In the fruit of the Spirit, joy and peace are joined together—and both are preceded by love (Galatians 5:22).

5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”NRSV Jesus came as “the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6-7) and gave the ultimate sacrifice to bring peace between God and humanity (Ephesians 2:14-18; Colossians 1:20). God calls his children to be peacemakers. This involves action, not just passive compliance.

Peacemakers do more than just live peaceful lives; they actively seek to “make peace,” to cause reconciliation, to end bitterness and strife. This peace is not appeasement but dealing with and solving problems to maintain peace.

Arrogant, selfish people do not concern themselves with peacemaking. Peacemakers will be called children of God because they reflect their Father’s character. This has a royal sense—they will share the glories of the Messiah’s kingdom.


How do you resolve conflict? Most people use different means for different settings.
·       Making peace with your children includes defining the boundaries between right and wrong, enforcing discipline, and affirming each child with love and affection.
·       Making peace with friends includes broadening your mind to include the possibility that someone else’s ideas make sense. It means accepting your friend’s explanation at face value and applying the least hurtful meaning to the offensive words you heard. It means taking a step toward trust, away from anger, and onto an unmarked playing field called vulnerability. That’s the risky price of friendship.
·       Making peace with your spouse can be the most difficult of all. Sometimes it requires outside help, often a lot of listening, mutual confession, and rebuilding of love that’s been burned. Too often today, the alternative is to quit.

We must investigate certain matters of meaning in it.

(i) First, there is the word peace. In Greek, the word is eirene), and in Hebrew it is shalom). In Hebrew peace is never only a negative state; it never means only the absence of trouble; in Hebrew peace always means everything which makes for a man’s highest good. In the east when one man says to another, Salaam—which is the same word—he does not mean that he wishes for the other man only the absence of evil things; he wishes for him tile presence of all good things. In the Bible peace means not only freedom from all trouble; it means enjoyment of all good.

(ii) Second, it must carefully be noted what the beatitude is saying. The blessing is on the peace-makers, not necessarily on the peace-lovers. The peace calls blessed does not come from the evasion of issues; it comes from facing them, dealing with them, and conquering them. What this beatitude demands is not the passive acceptance of things because we are afraid of the trouble of doing anything about them, but the active facing of things, and the making of peace, even when the way to peace is through struggle.

(iii) The King James Version says that the peace-makers shall be called the children of God; the Greek more literally is that the peace-makers will be called the sons (huioi, of God. This is a typical Hebrew way of expression. Hebrew is not rich in adjectives, and often when Hebrew wishes to describe something, it uses, not an adjective, but the phrase son of… plus an abstract noun. Hence a man may be called a son of peace instead of a peaceful man. Barnabas is called a son of consolation instead of a consoling and comforting man. This beatitude says: Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the sons of God; what it means is: Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be doing a God-like work. The man who makes peace is engaged on the very work which the God of peace is doing (Rom 15:33; 2 Cor 13:11; 1 Th 5:23; Heb 13:20).

The meaning of this beatitude has been sought along three main lines.

(i) It has been suggested that, since shalom  means everything which makes for a man’s highest good, this beatitude means: Blessed are those who make this world a better place for all men to live in. Abraham Lincoln once said: “Die when I may, I would like it to be said of me, that I always pulled up a weed and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow.” This then would be the beatitude of those who have lifted the world a little further on.

ch took this beatitude in a purely spiritual sense, and held that it meant: Blessed is the man who makes peace in his own heart and in his own soul. In every one of us there is an inner conflict between good and evil; we are always tugged in two directions at once; every man is at least to some extent a walking civil war. Happy indeed is the man who has won through to inner peace, in which the inner warfare is over, and his whole heart is given to God.

(iii) But there is another meaning for this word peace. It is a meaning on which the Jewish Rabbis loved to dwell, and it is almost certainly the meaning which Jesus had in his mind. The Jewish Rabbis held that the highest task which a man can perform is to establish right relationships between man and man. That is what Jesus means.

There are people who are always storm-centers of trouble and bitterness and strife. Wherever they are they are either involved in quarrels themselves or the cause of quarrels between others. They are trouble-makers. There are people like that in almost every society and every Church, and such people are doing the devil’s own work. On the other hand—thank God—there are people in whose presence bitterness cannot live, people who bridge the gulfs, and heal the breaches, and sweeten the bitternesses. Such people are doing a godlike work, for it is the great purpose of God to bring peace between men and himself, and between man and man. The man who divides men is doing the devil’s work; the man who unites men is doing God’s work.

So, then, this beatitude might read: O the bliss of those who produce right relationships between man and man, for they are doing a godlike work!

 The Meaning. God is the God of peace; His whole plan of redemption is to provide peace with God for those who were formerly alienated from God, and ultimately bring peace to the whole world (Isa. 9:6,7). This is the goal of the work of the Messiah.

But in the human race, however, there is strife and conflict with little hope for peace and unity. The peace that God brings is not a cessation of hostilities, tolerance, or the readiness to give way. True peace that the world needs calls for a complete change of nature. And only God can give this kind of peace. It is a peace that the world does not understand (John 14:27). It begins with reconciliation with God and extends to reconciliation with other people.

Those who are peacemakers are then first and foremost people who understand what true peace is. Their effort is to strive to establish a peace that embraces God’s provision of peace, so that people will be in harmony with one another because they are at peace with God. In other words, the true peacemakers are they who promote the kingdom of God. Their lives are given to working for promoting the kingdom of God, reconciling adversaries, quenching hatred, uniting those who are divided, promoting true understanding and spiritual love. And they do this because they know what true peace is. So the quality described here is one that is spiritual and not simply a political seeking of peace.

And the promise is that they shall be called the sons of God. That means they will be true children of God. This adds to what life will be like in the kingdom–possession of land, stilling of hunger, vision of God, and now sonship. And all these begin when people enter the kingdom by faith, but will be fulfilled completely when the kingdom finally comes.

In the New Testament sonship is a powerful expression for salvation. It means that believers have been born into the family of God by the Holy Spirit, and that those so designated have a personal relationship with the Father through Christ the Son, that they are joint heirs with Him, that they have a place in their heavenly home by birthright. Not yet in the full sense, but truly in the certainty of the promise can believers say, “We are called the children of God” (see John 1:12,13 and 1 John 3:1).

 The Application. So the disciples of Jesus should be promoting peace. They do this by spreading the Gospel of peace to the world, and by promoting reconciliation within the household of faith as well. In short, they should be doing the work of the Messiah.

Several questions about our text need to be answered. What is involved in being a peacemaker, and what does the term “sons of God” imply? In our study of the seventh beatitude, we will approach the text a little differently than we did with the previous beatitudes. We will first talk about the end of the verse (the promise): “They shall be called sons of God.” Then we will discuss the beginning of the verse (the requirement): “Blessed are the peacemakers.” This will allow us to conclude with an application of Matthew 5:9 to our day.


As has been the case in all the Beatitudes, the primary source of the blessedness or happiness of peacemakers is found in the promise: “For they shall be called sons of God.” The KJV has “for they shall be called the children of God,” but the word translated “children” is the plural of the Greek word for “son” (ui˚o/ß,  huios).  The term is used here in a generic sense to refer to both males and females, both sons and daughters of God.3  What a wonderful promise this is: to be called sons and daughters of God, to be sons and daughters of the King, to be sons and daughters of the Creator of the universe!

The phrases “daughter of God” and “daughters of God” are not found in the Bible. Perhaps the emphasis is on “sons” because, in ancient times, usually only sons were heirs.

derstand the implications in the phrase “sons of God.” “Son of ” was a Hebrew expression mean- ing “partaking of the nature of.” Barnabas was called the “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36) because it was his nature to encourage others. “Sons of God” implies those who partake of the nature of God. We have an expression: “Like father, like son.” That is our challenge as children of God (see Matthew 5:48). In our text the phrase “sons of God” specifically refers to those who partake of God’s nature to be a peacemaker.

The Divine Peacemaker

According to Proverbs 6:16–19, “there are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him.” The seventh is “one who spreads strife among brothers.” God hates strife and loves peace. He is called “the God of peace” (Romans 15:33).

He created a world which was filled with peace until sin brought disharmony and death. To restore peace, He sent His Son, “His only begotten Son,” into this sin-sick, turbulent world (see John 3:16).

To appreciate how much God loves peace, we need only look at His Son, Jesus (see John 14:9). It was prophesied that Christ would be the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). His birth was heralded with the phrase “on earth peace among men” (Luke 2:14). Shortly before He died, He told His disciples, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you” (John 14:27a). Through His death He brought peace both to Jews (those near) and to Gentiles (those far away) (Ephesians 2:16, 17;see Colossians 1:20).

Imitating Our Father

You and I are challenged to be like God and Jesus. “Pursue peace with all men” (Hebrews 12:14; see 2 Timothy 2:22); “. . . pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another” (Romans 14:19).


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Posted by on March 11, 2021 in Be-Attitudes


“God’s Person in an Upside-Down World” #6 — The Be-attitudes Series Happy Are the Holy (5:8)

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (5:8)

This beatitude has been called “one of the greatest utterances to be found anywhere in the whole realm of Holy Scripture.” It is certainly one of the most challenging  statements in the Scriptures.

Americans are increasingly concerned about purity. We want to breathe pure air, we want to drink pure water, we want to eat pure food. I was amazed that last year in America, we spent over half-a-billion dollars on water purifiers alone…and nearly as much on bottled water.

People characterized as pure in heart are morally pure, honest, and sincere. They are people of integrity and single-minded commitment to God. Moral purity, honesty, and integrity come only through such a commitment. In turn, people committed totally to God will seek to be morally clean. Because of their sincere devotion to Christ, they will see God, here and now through the eyes of faith (Hebrews 11:27), and finally face-to-face (1 John 3:2).

The subject of holiness, of purity of heart, can be traced from Genesis to Revelation. .   The person who is “pure in heart” lives a clean life.

He “keeps himself unspotted from the world.” Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).

 He washes his heart from wickedness that he may be saved. Jeremiah 4:14 (ESV) O Jerusalem, wash your heart from evil, that you may be saved. How long shall your wicked thoughts lodge within you?

¨  He obeys the truth through the working of the Holy Spirit. 1 Peter 1:22 (ESV) Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,

¨  He keeps his hands clean. Psalm 24:4-5 (ESV) He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.
5  He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

¨  He seeks to be without spot and blameless. 2 Peter 3:14 (ESV) Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.

A person’s very best behavior is seldom (if ever) free from some mixture of self. It is questionable if a sinful creature can ever act perfectly—perfectly free from mixed motives. As the Bible says, “there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:12). The believer is to constantly search his heart and cleanse it of impure motives. Motives involving self are insidious and deceptive.

Is a person employed primarily for self, or to serve Christ and to earn enough to help others who have a need (Col. 3:24; Ephes. 4:28)?

Is a person ministering to help the needful, or to have a sense of self-satisfaction (cp. Matthew 5:7)?

Is a person worshipping to honor God, or to satisfy a feeling of obligation?

Is a person praying daily to fellowship with God, or to gain comfortable feelings that he pleases God through praying?

Impure motives enter the believer’s heart so quietly, so deceptively. The believer is too often unaware of their presence. He needs to pray often: “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Psalm 51:10)!

The “pure in heart” minister in two very practical areas:

  • They visit the fatherless.
  • They visit widows in their affliction.

(5:8) Pure in Heart: there are two wonderful promises made to the “pure in heart.” The pure in heart “shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).

  1. Presently, the pure in heart shall see God by faith, “through a glass darkly” (1 Cor. 13:12). Just imagine! The “pure in heart” endure in the faith “as already seeing Him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27).

      “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” (1 Cor. 13:12).

      “By faith he [Moses] forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27).

  1. Eternally, the pure in heart shall see God face to face. They shall see Him as He is and behold “His face in righteousness.”

      “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” (1 Cor. 13:12).

      “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

      “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” (Psalm 17:15).

 The Historical Context

As discussed in some detail in earlier chapters, when Jesus began His earthly ministry, Israel was in desperate condition—politically, economically, and spiritually. For hundreds of years, with only brief respites, she had been under the oppression of foreign conquerors. The country had limited freedom to develop its economy, and a large part of income and profit was paid to Rome in taxes. Those were problems that every person saw and felt.

The less obvious problem, however, was by far the worst. For longer than she had suffered political and economic oppression, Israel had suffered spiritual weakness and faithlessness. Yet that problem was not recognized by many Jews. Jewish leaders thought their religion was in fine shape, and believed the Messiah would soon solve the political and economic problems. But when Re came, His only concern was for the spiritual problem, the problem of their hearts.

At the time of Christ the most influential religious force in Judaism was the Pharisees. They were the chief managers and promoters of the pervasive legalistic and ritualistic system that dominated Jewish society. Over the centuries various rabbis had interpreted and reinterpreted the Jewish Scriptures, especially the law, until those interpretations—known as the traditions of the elders—became more authoritative than Scripture itself. The essence of the traditions was a system of dos and don’ts that gradually expanded to cover almost every aspect of Jewish life.

To conscientious and honest Jews it had become obvious that total observance of all the religious requirements was impossible. Because they could not keep all of the law, they doubtlessly developed terrible feelings of guilt, frustration, and anxiety. Their religion was their life, but they could not fulfill everything their religion demanded. Consequently, some of the religious leaders devised the idea that, if a person could perfectly keep just a few of the laws, God would understand. When even that proved impossible, some narrowed the requirement to one law perfectly kept.

That idea may have been in the mind of the lawyer who tested Jesus with the question, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” (Matt. 22:36). Perhaps he wanted to see which of the many hundreds of laws Jesus believed was the single most important one to keep—the one that would satisfy God even if a person failed to keep the others.

This oppressive and confusing religious system probably contributed to the initial popularity of John the Baptist. He was radically different from the scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and priests, and it was obvious that he did not bother to observe most of the religious traditions. He was a breath of fresh air in a stifling, never-ending system of demands and prohibitions. Perhaps in this prophet’s teaching they would find some relief. They did not want another rabbi with another law, but someone who could show them how to be forgiven for those laws they had already broken. They wanted to know the real way of salvation, the real way to please God, the true way of peace and relief from sin. They knew that the Scriptures taught of One who would come not simply to demand but to redeem, not to add to their burdens but to help carry them, not to increase their guilt but to remove it. No doubt it was such expectations as those that caused many people to think John the Baptist might be the Messiah.

The people knew from Ezekiel that someday God was going to come and sprinkle their souls with water, cleanse them from their sin, and replace their hearts of stone with hearts of flesh (Ezek. 36:25-26). They knew the testimony of David, who cried out, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit!” (Ps. 32:1-2). They knew of those truths, and they longed to experience the reality of them.

Nicodemus was one such person. He was a Pharisee and “a ruler of the Jews,” that is, a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high court. We are not told specifically what his intentions were in coming to Jesus, because his first words were not a question but a testimony. The fact that he came at night suggests he was ashamed of being seen with Jesus. But there is no reason to doubt the sincerity of his words, which showed unusual spiritual insight: “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). Nicodemus knew that, whatever else Jesus might be, He was a teacher truly sent from God.

Though he does not state it, the question that was on his mind is implied both from his testimony and from Jesus’ reply. The Lord knew Nicodemus’s mind, and He said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (v. 3). Nicodemus wanted to know how to please God, to be forgiven. “How can I be made righteous?” he wondered. “How can I be redeemed and become a child of God? How can I become part of God’s kingdom?” Had he not had a deep, compelling desire to know God’s will, he would not have risked coming to Jesus even at night. Nicodemus was honest enough to admit his sinfulness. He was a Pharisee, a teacher of the law, and a ruler in the Sanhedrin; but he knew in his heart that all of that did not make him right with God.

After Jesus had fed the great multitude near the Sea of Galilee, some of the people who had seen the miracle asked Jesus, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” (John 6:28). The same question troubled them that had troubled Nicodemus: “How can a person get right with God? What must we do to truly please Him?” Like Nicodemus, they had been through all the ceremonies and rituals. They had attended the feasts and offered the required sacrifices. They had tried to keep the law and the traditions. But they knew that something was missing—something crucial that they did not know of, much less had experienced.

Luke tells of another lawyer who asked Jesus, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25). He asked the question to test Jesus (v. 25a), and after Jesus gave an answer the man tried “to justify himself” (v. 29). But despite his insincerity, he had asked the right question, the question that was on the minds of many Jews who were sincere.

A rich ruler asked Jesus the same question: “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18). This man apparently asked sincerely, but he was unwilling to pay the cost. He wanted to keep the wealth of this life more than he wanted to gain the wealth of eternal life, and he went away “very sad” (v. 23). He knew he needed something more than outward obedience to the law, at which he had been diligent since childhood (v. 21). He knew that, with all his devotion and effort to please God, he had no assurance of possessing eternal life. He was seeking the kingdom, but he was not seeking it first (Matt. 6:33).

Others were asking, “what must I he to belong to the kingdom of God? What is the standard for eternal life?” All of those people, at various levels of understanding and sincerity, knew that they had not found what they sought. Many knew that they had not kept even a single law perfectly. If honest, they became more and more convinced that they could not keep even a single law perfectly, and that they were powerless to please God.

It was to answer that need that Jesus came to earth. It was to answer that need that He gave the Beatitudes. He shows simply and directly how sinful man can he made right with holy God.

The Literary Context

At first glance this beatitude seems out of place, inserted indiscriminately into an otherwise orderly development of truths. Because of its supreme importance, a more strategic place—either at the beginning as the foundation, or at the end as the culmination—might seem more appropriate.

But the sixth beatitude, like every part of God’s Word, is in the right place. It is part of the beautiful and marvelous sequence of truths that are here laid out according to the mind of God. It is the climax of the Beatitudes, the central truth to which the previous five lead and from which the following two flow

The Meaning

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (5:8)

The word blessed implies the condition of well-being that results from  salvation, the status of one who has a right relation to God. Being accepted by Him is a matter of internal transformation.

Heart translates kardia, from which we get cardiac and similar terms. Throughout Scripture, as well as in many languages and cultures throughout the world, the heart is used metaphorically to represent the inner person, the seat of motives and attitudes, the center of personality. But in Scripture it represents much more than emotion, feelings. It also includes the thinking process and particularly the will. In Proverbs we are told, “As [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7, KJV). Jesus asked a group of scribes, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?” (Matt. 9:4; cf. Mark 2:8; 7:21). The heart is the control center of mind and will as well as emotion.

In total contrast to the outward, superficial, and hypocritical religion of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus said that it is in the inner man, in the core of his very being, that God requires purity. That was not a new truth, but an old one long forgotten amidst ceremony and tradition. “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life,” the writer of Proverbs had counseled (Prov. 4:23). The problem that caused God to destroy the earth in the Flood was a heart problem. “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).

David acknowledged before the Lord, “Behold, Thou dost desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part Thou wilt make me know wisdom”; and then he prayed “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps. 51:6, 10). Asaph wrote, “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart!” (Ps. 73:1). Jeremiah declared, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways,
according to the results of his deeds” (Jer. 17:9-10). Evil ways and deeds begin in the heart and mind, which are here used synonymously. Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witnesses, slanders. These are the things which defile the man” (Matt. 15:19).

God has always been concerned above all else with the inside of man, with the condition of his heart. When the Lord called Saul to be Israel’s first king, “God changed his heart” (1 Sam. 10:9). Until then Saul had been handsome, athletic, and not much more. But the new king soon began to revert to his old heart patterns. He chose to disobey God and to trust in himself.

Among other things, he presumed to take for himself the priestly role of offering sacrifice (13:9) and refused to destroy all of the Amalekites and their possessions as God had commanded (15:3-19). Consequently, the Lord took the kingdom from Saul and gave it to David (15:23, 28). Saul’s actions were wrong because his heart rebelled, and it is by our hearts that the Lord judges us (16:7). It was said of David’s leadership over Israel, “He shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them with his skillful hands” (Ps. 78:72).

God took the kingdom from Saul because he refused to live by the new heart God had given him. He gave the kingdom to David because David was “a man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14). David pleased God’s heart because God pleased David’s heart. “I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart,” he sang (Ps. 9:1). His deepest desire was, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer” (Ps. 19:14). He prayed, “Examine me, O Lord, and try me; test my mind and my heart” (Ps. 26:2). When God told David, “Seek My face,” David’s heart replied, “Thy face, O Lord, I shall seek” (Ps. 27:8).

Once when David was fleeing from Saul he went to Gath, a Philistine city, for help. When he realized that his life was also in danger there, he “acted insanely in their hands, and scribbled on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva run down into his beard” (1 Sam. 21:13). Thinking him to be mad, the Philistines let him go, and he went to hide in the cave of Adullum. He came to his senses and realized how foolish and unfaithful he had been to trust the Philistines for help instead of the Lord. It was there that he wrote Psalm 57, in which he declared, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast” (v. 7). He rededicated his heart, his innermost being, single-mindedly to God. David often failed, but his heart was fixed on God. The evidence of his true-hearted commitment to God is found in all the first 175 verses of Psalm 119. The fact that his flesh sometimes overruled his heart is the final admission of verse 176: “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Thy servant.”

 Pure translates katharos, a form of the word from which we get catharsis. The basic meaning is to make pure by cleansing from dirt, filth, and contamination. Catharsis is a term used in psychology and counseling for a
cleansing of the mind or emotions. The Greek word is related to the Latin castus, from which we get chaste. The related word chasten refers to discipline given in order to cleanse from wrong behavior.

The Greek term was often used of metals that had been refined until all impurities were removed, leaving only the pure metal. In that sense, purity means unmixed, unalloyed, unadulterated. Applied to the heart, the idea is that of pure motive—of single-mindedness, undivided devotion, spiritual integrity, and true righteousness.

Here is the beatitude which demands that every man who reads it should stop, and think, and examine himself.

The Greek word for pure is katharos, and it has a variety of usages, all of which have something to add to the meaning of this beatitude for the Christian life.

(i) Originally it simply meant clean, and could, for instance, be used of soiled clothes which have been washed clean.

(ii) It is regularly used for corn which has been winnowed or sifted and cleansed of all chaff. In the same way it is used of an army which has been purged of all discontented, cowardly, unwilling and inefficient soldiers, and which is a force composed solely of first-class fighting men.

(iii) It very commonly appears in company with another Greek adjective—akeratos. Akeratos can be used of milk or wine which is unadulterated with water, or of metal which has in it no tinge of alloy.

So, then, the basic meaning of katharos is unmixed, unadulterated, unalloyed. That is why this beatitude is so demanding a beatitude. It could be translated: Blessed is the man whose motives are always entirely unmixed, for that man shall see God.

It is very seldom indeed that we do even our finest actions from absolutely unmixed motives. If we give generously and liberally to some good cause, it may be that there lingers in the depths of our hearts some contentment in basking in the sunshine of our own self-approval, some pleasure in the praise and thanks and credit which we will receive. If we do some fine thing, which demands some sacrifice from us, it may well be that we are not altogether free from the feeling that men will see something heroic in us and that we may regard ourselves as martyrs. Even a preacher at his most sincere is not altogether free from the danger of self-satisfaction in having preached a good sermon. Was it not John Bunyan who was once told by someone that he had preached well that day, and who answered sadly, “The devil already told me that as I was coming down the pulpit steps”?

This beatitude demands from us the most exacting self-examination. Is our work done from motives of service or from motives of pay? Is our service given from selfless motives or from motives of self-display? Is the work we do in Church done for Christ or for our own prestige? Is our Church-going an attempt to meet God or a fulfilling of an habitual and conventional respectability? Are even our prayer and our Bible reading engaged upon with the sincere desire to company with God or because it gives us a pleasant feeling of superiority to do these things? Is our religion a thing in which we are conscious of nothing so much as the need of God within our hearts, or a thing in which we have comfortable thoughts of our own piety? To examine one’s own motives is a daunting and a shaming thing, for there are few things in this world that even the best of us do with completely unmixed motives.

Jesus went on to say that only the pure in heart will see God. It is one of the simple facts of life that we see only what we are able to see; and that is true not only in the physical sense; it is also true in every other possible sense.

If the ordinary person goes out on a night of stars, he sees only a host of pinpoints of light in the sky; he sees what he is fit to see. But in that same sky the astronomer will call the stars and the planets by their names, and will move amongst them as his friends; and from that same sky the navigator could find the means to bring his ship across the trackless seas to the desired haven.

The ordinary person can walk along a country road, and see by the hedgerows nothing but a tangle of weeds and wild flowers and grasses. The trained botanist would see this and that, and call if by name and know its use; and he might even see something of infinite value and rarity because he had eyes to see.

Put two men into a room filled with ancient pictures. A man with no knowledge and no skill could not tell an old master from a worthless daub, whereas a trained art critic might well discern a picture worth thousands of pounds in a collection which someone else might dismiss as junk.

There are people with filthy minds who can see in any situation material for a prurient snigger and a soiled jest. In every sphere of life we see what we are able to see.

So, says Jesus, it is only the pure in heart who shall see God. It is a warning thing to remember that, as by God’s grace we keep our hearts clean, or as by human lust we soil them, we are either fitting or unfitting ourselves some day to see God.


Double-mindedness has always been one of the great plagues of the church. We want to serve the Lord and follow the world at the same time. But that, says Jesus, is impossible. “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other” (Matt. 6:24). James puts the same truth in another way: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). He then gives the solution to the problem: “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (v. 8).

Christians have the right heart motive concerning God. Even though we often fail to be single-minded, it is our deep desire to be so. We confess with Paul, “For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate…. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good…. So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin” (Rom. 7:15, 21, 25). Paul’s deepest spiritual desires were pure, although the sin dwelling in his flesh sometimes overrode those desires. Those who truly belong to God will be motivated to purity. Psalm 119 is the classic illustration of that longing, and Romans 7:15-25 is the Pauline counterpart. The deepest desire of the redeemed is for holiness, even when sin halts the fulfillment of that desire.

Purity of heart is more than sincerity. A motive can be sincere, yet lead to worthless and sinful things. The pagan priests who opposed Elijah demonstrated great sincerity when they lacerated their bodies in order to induce Baal to send fire down to consume their sacrifices (1 Kings 18:28). But their sincerity did not produce the desired results, and it did not enable them to see the wrongness of their paganism—because their sincere trust was in that very paganism. Sincere devotees walk on nails to prove their spiritual power. Others crawl on their knees
for hundreds of yards, bleeding and grimacing in pain, to show their devotion to a saint or a shrine. Yet their sincere devotion is sincerely wrong and is completely worthless before God.

The scribes and Pharisees believed they could please God by such superficial practices as tithing “mint and dill and cummin”; but they “neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness” (Matt.
23:23). They were meticulously careful about what they did outwardly but paid no attention to what they were inwardly. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! “Jesus told them, “For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also” (vv. 25-26).

Even genuinely good deeds that do not come from a genuinely good heart are of no spiritual value. Thomas Watson said, “Morality can drown a man as fast as vice,” and, “A vessel may sink with gold or with dung.” Though we may be extremely religious and constantly engaged in doing good things, we cannot please God unless our hearts are right with Him.

The ultimate standard for purity of heart is perfection of heart. In the same sermon in which He gave the Beatitudes Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). One hundred percent purity is God’s standard for the heart.

Man’s tendency is to set the opposite standard. We are inclined to judge ourselves by the worst instead of the best. The Pharisee who prayed in the Temple, thanking God that he was not like other men, considered himself to be
righteous simply because he was not a swindler, an adulterer, or a tax-gatherer (Luke 18:11). We are all tempted to feel better about ourselves when we see someone doing a terrible thing that we have never done. The “good” person looks down on the one who seems to be less good than himself, and that person looks down on those worse than he is. Carried to its extreme, that spiral of judgment would go down and down until it reached the most rotten person on earth—and that last person, the worst on earth, would be the standard by which the rest of the world judged itself!

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Posted by on March 4, 2021 in Be-Attitudes


“God’s Person in an Upside-Down World” — The Be-attitudes Series #5 Happy Are the Merciful (5:7)

Shari Fenn on Twitter: "SHOW MERCY "Blessed are the merciful, for they will  be shown mercy." Matthew 5:7 #Mercy is not giving others what they  deserve.…"

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. (5:7)

The first four beatitudes deal entirely with inner principles, principles of the heart and mind. They are concerned with the way we see ourselves before God. The last four are outward manifestations of those attitudes. Those who in poverty of spirit recognize their need of mercy are led to show mercy to others (v. 7). Those who mourn over their sin are led to purity of heart (v. 8). Those who are meek always seek to make peace (v. 9). And those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are never unwilling to pay the price of being persecuted for righteousness’ sake (v. 10).

5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”NIV Merciful people realize that, because they received mercy from God, they must extend mercy to others. The word “merciful” implies generosity, forgiveness, and compassion, and it includes a desire to remove the wrong as well as alleviate the suffering. Jesus repeated this warning several times in this Gospel (see 6:12, 14-15; 18:21-35). We must be people who show mercy. That they will be shown mercy is not contingent upon how much mercy they showed; it is not that God will be merciful because these people have been merciful. Instead, believers understand true mercy because they have received mercy from God. Also, this promise does not guarantee mercy in return from people. The believers’ comfort comes in the knowledge that, no matter how the world treats them, God will show them mercy both now and when he returns.

The concept of mercy is seen throughout Scripture, from the Fall to the consummation of history at the return of Christ. Mercy is a desperately needed gift of God’s providential and redemptive work on behalf of sinners—and the Lord requires His people to follow His example by extending mercy to others.

His Mercy is More by Matt Boswell and Matt Papa

What love could remember no wrongs we have done
Omniscient, all knowing, He counts not their sum
Thrown into a sea without bottom or shore
Our sins they are many, His mercy is more

Praise the Lord, His mercy is more
Stronger than darkness, new every morn
Our sins they are many, His mercy is more

What patience would wait as we constantly roam
What Father, so tender, is calling us home
He welcomes the weakest, the vilest, the poor
Our sins they are many, His mercy is more

What riches of kindness he lavished on us
His blood was the payment, His life was the cost
We stood ‘neath a debt we could never afford
Our sins they are many, His mercy is more

 Obtaining mercy—rejecting mercy (vv. 23-24; 5:7).

(Matthew 9:13)  “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.””

(Matthew 12:7)  “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”

Justice, mercy, and faithfulness are the important qualities God is seeking. Obeying the rules is no substitute. While it is good to pay attention to details, we must never lose our sense of priorities in spiritual matters. Jesus did not condemn the practice of tithing. But He did condemn those who allowed their legalistic scruples to keep them from developing true Christian character.

To discover its essence we will look at three basic aspects of mercy: its meaning, its source, and its practice.

The Meaning of Mercy

For the most part, the days in which Jesus lived and taught were not characterized by mercy. The Jewish religionists themselves were not inclined to show mercy, because mercy is not characteristic of those who are proud, self-righteous, and judgmental. To many—perhaps most—of Jesus’ hearers, showing mercy was considered one of the least of virtues, if it was thought to be a virtue at all. It was in the same category as love—reserved for those who had shown the virtue to you. You loved those who loved you, and you showed mercy to those who showed mercy to you. That attitude was condemned by Jesus later in the Sermon on the Mount. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy’” (Matt. 5:43).

But such a shallow selfish kind of love that even the outcast tax-gatherers practiced (v. 46) was not acceptable to the Savior. He said, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?… And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (vv. 44-47).

Yet many people have interpreted this beatitude in another way that is just as selfish and humanistic: they maintain that our being merciful causes those around us, especially those to whom we show mercy, to be merciful to us. Mercy given will mean mercy received. For such people, mercy is shown to others purely in an effort toward self-seeking.

The ancient rabbi Gamaliel is quoted in the Talmud as saying, “Whenever thou hast mercy, God will have mercy upon thee, and if thou hast not mercy, neither will God have mercy on thee.” Gamaliel’s idea is right. When God is involved there will be mercy for mercy. “If you forgive men for their transgressions,” Jesus said, “your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matt. 6:14-15).

But as a platitude applied among men, the principle does not work. One writer sentimentally says, “This is the great truth of life: if people see us care, they will care.” Yet neither Scripture nor experience bears out that idea. God works that way, but the world does not. With God there is always proper reciprocation, and with interest. If we honor God, He will honor us; if we show mercy to others, especially to His children, He will show even more abundant mercy to us. But that is not the world’s way.

A popular Roman philosopher called mercy “the disease of the soul.” It was the supreme sign of weakness. Mercy was a sign that you did not have what it takes to be a real man and especially a real Roman. The Romans glorified manly courage, strict justice, firm discipline, and, above all, absolute power. They looked down on mercy, because mercy to them was weakness, and weakness was despised above all other human limitations.

During much of Roman history, a father had the right of deciding whether or not his newborn child would live or die. As the infant was held up for him to see, the father would turn his thumb up if he wanted the child to live, down if he wanted it to die. If his thumb turned down the child was immediately drowned. Citizens had the same life-or-death power over slaves. At any time and for any reason they could kill and bury a slave, with
no fear of arrest or reprisal. Husbands could even have their wives put to death on the least provocation. Today abortion reflects the same merciless attitude. A society that despises mercy is a society that glorifies brutality.

The underlying motive of self-concern has characterized men in general and societies in general since the Fall. We see it expressed today in such sayings as, “If you don’t look out for yourself, no one else will.” Such popular proverbs are generally true, because they reflect the basic selfish nature of fallen man. Men are not naturally inclined to repay mercy for mercy.

The best illustration of that fact is the Lord Himself. Jesus Christ was the most merciful human being who ever lived. He reached out to heal the sick, restore the crippled, give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and even life to the dead. He found prostitutes, tax collectors, the debauched and the drunken, and drew them into His circle of love and forgiveness. When the scribes and Pharisees brought the adulteress to Him to see if He would agree to her stoning, He confronted them with their merciless hypocrisy: “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” When no one stepped forward to condemn her, Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go your way. From now on sin no more” (John 8:7-11). Jesus wept with the sorrowing and gave companionship to the lonely. He took little children into His arms and blessed them. He was merciful to everyone. He was mercy incarnate, just as He was love incarnate.

Yet what was the response to Jesus’ mercy? He shamed the woman’s accusers into inaction, but they did not become merciful. By the time the accounts of John 8 ended, Jesus’ opponents “picked up stones to throw at Him” (v. 59). When the scribes and Pharisees saw Jesus “eating with the sinners and tax-gatherers,” they asked His disciples why their Master associated with such unworthy people (Mark 2:16).

The more Jesus showed mercy, the more He showed up the unmercifulness of the Jewish religious leaders. The more He showed mercy, the more they were determined to put Him out of the way. The ultimate outcome of His mercy was the cross. In Jesus’ crucifixion, two merciless systems—merciless government and merciless religion—united to kill Him. Totalitarian Rome joined intolerant Judaism to destroy the Prince of mercy.

The fifth beatitude does not teach that mercy to men brings mercy from men, but that mercy to men brings mercy from God. If we are merciful to others, God will be merciful to us, whether men are or not. God is the subject of the second clause, just as in the other beatitudes. It is God who gives the kingdom of heaven to the poor in spirit, comfort to those who mourn, the earth to the meek, and satisfaction to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Those who are merciful… shall receive mercy from God. God gives the divine blessings to those who obey His divine standards.

Merciful comes from a word from which we also get eleemosynary, meaning beneficial or charitable. Hebrews 2:17 speaks of Jesus as our “merciful and faithful high priest.” Christ is the supreme example of mercy and the supreme dispenser of mercy. It is from Jesus Christ that both redeeming and sustaining mercy come.

In the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament) the same term is used to translate the Hebrew hÖesed, one of the most commonly used words to describe God’s character. It is usually translated as mercy, love, lovingkindness, or steadfast love (Ps. 17:7; 51:1; Isa. 63:7; Jer. 9:24; etc.). The basic meaning is to give help to the afflicted and to rescue the helpless. It is compassion in action.

Jesus is not speaking of detached or powerless sentiment that is unwilling or unable to help those for whom there is sympathy. Nor is He speaking of the false mercy, the feigned pity, that gives help only to salve a guilty conscience or to impress others with its appearance of virtue. And it is not passive, silent concern which, though genuine, is unable to give tangible help. It is genuine compassion expressed in genuine help, selfless concern expressed in selfless deeds.

Jesus says in effect, “The people in My kingdom are not takers but givers, not pretending helpers but practical helpers. They are not condemners but mercy givers.” The selfish, self-satisfied, and self-righteous do not bother to help anyone—unless they think something is in it for them. Sometimes they even justify their lack of love and mercy under the guise of religious duty. Once when the Pharisees and scribes questioned why His disciples did not observe the traditions of the elders, Jesus replied, “Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death’; but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, anything of mine you might have been helped by is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down” (Mark 7:10-13). In the name of hypocritical religious tradition, compassion toward parents in such a case was actually forbidden.

Mercy is meeting people’s needs. It is not simply feeling compassion but showing compassion, not only sympathizing but giving a helping hand. Mercy is giving food to the hungry, comfort to the bereaved, love to the rejected, forgiveness to the offender, companionship to the lonely. It is therefore one of the loveliest and noblest of all virtues.

The Source of Mercy

Pure mercy is a gift of God. It is not a natural attribute of man but is a gift that comes with the new birth. We can be merciful in its full sense and with a righteous motive only when we have experienced God’s mercy. Mercy is only for those who through grace and divine power have met the requirements of the first four beatitudes. It is only for those who by the work of the Holy Spirit bow humbly before God in poverty of spirit, who mourn over and turn from their sin, who are meek and submissive to His control, and who hunger and thirst above all else for His righteousness. The way of mercy is the way of humility, repentance, surrender, and holiness.

Balaam continually prostituted his ministry; trying to keep within the letter of God’s will while conspiring with a pagan king against God’s people. He presumptuously prayed, “Let me die the death of the upright, and let my end be like his!” (Num. 23:10). As one Puritan commentator observed, Balaam wanted to die like the righteous, but he did not want to live like the righteous. Many people want God’s mercy but not on God’s terms.

God has both absolute and relative attributes. His absolute attributes—such as love, truth, and holiness—have characterized Him from all eternity. They were characteristic of Him before He created angels, or the world, or man. But His relative attributes—such as mercy, justice, and grace—were not expressed until His creatures came into being. In fact they were not manifest until man, the creature made in His own image, sinned and became separated from his Creator. Apart from sin and evil, mercy, justice, and grace have no meaning.

When man fell, God’s love was extended to His fallen creatures in mercy. And only when they receive His mercy can they reflect His mercy. God is the source of mercy. “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness [mercy] toward those who fear Him” (Ps. 103:11). It is because we have the resource of God’s mercy that Jesus commanded, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

Donald Barnhouse writes, When Jesus Christ died on the cross, all the work of God for man’s salvation passed out of the realm of prophecy and became historical fact. God has now had mercy upon us. For anyone to pray, “God have mercy on me” is the equivalent of asking Him to repeat the sacrifice of Christ. All the mercy that God ever will have on man He has already had, when Christ died. That is the totality of mercy. There could not be any more…. The fountain is now opened, and it is flowing, and it continues to flow freely. (Romans [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983], 4:4)

We cannot have the blessing apart from the Blesser. We cannot even meet the condition apart from the One who has set the condition. We are blessed by God when we are merciful to others, and we are able to be merciful to others because we have already received salvation’s mercy. And when we share the mercy received, we shall receive mercy even beyond what we already have.

We never sing more truthfully than when we sing, “Mercy there was great and grace was free; pardon there was multiplied to me; there my burdened soul found liberty, at Calvary.”

The Practice of Mercy

The most obvious way we can show mercy is through physical acts, as did the good Samaritan. As Jesus specifically commands, we are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, and give any other practical help that is needed. In serving others in need, we demonstrate a heart of mercy.

It is helpful to note that the way of mercy did not begin with the New Testament. God has always intended for mercy to characterize His people. The Old Testament law taught, “You shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks” (Deut. 15:7-8). Even in the year of release, when all debts were canceled, Israelites were to give their poor countrymen whatever they needed. They were warned, “Beware, lest there is a base thought in your heart, saying ‘The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,’ and your eye is hostile toward your poor brother, and you give him nothing” (v. 9).

Mercy is also to be shown in our attitudes. Mercy does not hold a grudge, harbor resentment, capitalize on another’s failure or weakness, or publicize another’s sin. On a great table at which he fed countless hundreds of people, Augustine inscribed, Whoever thinks that he is able,To nibble at the life of absent friends,

The vindictive, heartless, indifferent are not subjects of Christ’s kingdom. When they pass need by on the other side, as the priest and the Levite did in the story of the good Samaritan, they show they have passed Christ by.

Mercy is also to be shown spiritually. First, it is shown through pity. Augustine said, “If I weep for the body from which the soul is departed, should I not weep for the soul from which God is departed?” The sensitive Christian will grieve more for lost souls than for lost bodies. Because we have experienced God’s mercy, we are to have great concern for those who have not.

Jesus’ last words from the cross were words of mercy. For His executioners He prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). To the penitent thief hanging beside Him He said, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (v. 43). To His mother He said, ‘“Woman, behold your son! ‘ Then He said to the disciple [John], ‘Behold, your mother! ‘ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own household” (John 19:26-27). Like his Master, Stephen prayed for those who were taking his life, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7:60).

Second, we are to show spiritual mercy by confrontation. Paul says that, as Christ’s servants, we should gently correct “those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:25). We are to be willing to confront others about their sin in order that they might come to God for salvation. When certain teachers were “upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach, for the sake of sordid gain,” Paul told Titus to “reprove them severely that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:11, 13). Love and mercy will be severe when that is necessary for the sake of an erring brother and for the sake of Christ’s church. In such cases it is cruel to say nothing and let the harm continue.

As Jude closed his letter with the encouragement to “keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life,” he also admonished, “And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh” (Jude 21-23). Extreme situations require extreme care, but we are to show mercy even to those trapped in the worst systems of apostasy

Third, we are to show spiritual mercy by praying. The sacrifice of prayer for those without God is an act of mercy. Our mercy can be measured by our prayer for the unsaved and for Christians who are walking in disobedience.

Fourth, we are to show spiritual mercy by proclaiming the saving gospel of Jesus Christ—the most merciful thing we can do.

The Result of Mercy

Reflecting on the fact that when we are merciful we receive mercy, we see God’s cycle of mercy. God is merciful to us by saving us through Christ; in obedience we are merciful to others; and God in faithfulness gives us even more mercy, pouring out blessing for our needs and withholding severe chastening for our sin.

As in the other beatitudes, the emphatic pronoun autos (they) indicates that only those who are merciful qualify to receive mercy David sang of the Lord, “With the kind Thou dost show Thyself kind” (2 Sam. 22:26). Speaking of the opposite side of the same truth, James says, “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy” (James 2:13). At the end of the disciples’ prayer Jesus explained, “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matt. 6:14-15). Again the emphatic truth is that God will respond with chastening for an unforgiving disciple.

Neither in that passage nor in this beatitude is Jesus speaking of our mercy gaining us salvation. We do not earn salvation by being merciful. We must be saved by God’s mercy before we can truly be merciful. We cannot work our way into heaven even by a lifetime of merciful deeds, any more than by good works of any sort. God does not give mercy for merit; He gives mercy in grace, because it is needed, not because it is earned.

To illustrate the working of God’s mercy Jesus told the parable of a slave who had been graciously forgiven a great debt by the king. The man then went to a fellow slave who owed him a pittance by comparison and demanded that every cent be repaid and had him thrown into prison. When the king heard of the incident, he called the first man to him and said, ‘“You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you entreated me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you?’ And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart” (Matt. 18:23-35).

In that parable Jesus gives a picture of God’s saving mercy in relation to forgiving others (vv. 21-22). The first man pleaded with God for mercy and received it. The fact that he, in turn, was unmerciful was so inconsistent with his own salvation that he was chastened until he repented. The Lord will chasten, if need be, to produce repentance in a stubborn child. Mercy to others is a mark of salvation. When we do not show it, we may be disciplined until we do. When we hold back mercy, God restricts His flow of mercy to us, and we forfeit blessing. The presence of chastening and the absence of blessing attend an unmerciful believer.

If we have received from a holy God unlimited mercy that cancels our unpayable debt of sin—we who had no righteousness but were poor in spirit, mourning over our load of sin in beggarly, helpless condition, wretched and
doomed, meek before almighty God, hungry and thirsty for a righteousness we did not have and could not attain—it surely follows that we should be merciful to others.

Even as it stands this is surely a great saying; and it is the statement of a principle which runs all through the New Testament. The New Testament is insistent that to be forgiven we must be forgiving. As James had it: “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy” (James 2:13). Jesus finishes the story of the unforgiving debtor with the warning: “So also my heavenly Father will do to everyone of you; if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:35). The Lord’s Prayer is followed by the two verses which explain and underline the petition, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors”. “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:12,14,15). It is the consistent teaching of the New Testament that indeed only the merciful shall receive mercy.

But there is even more to this beatitude than that. The Greek word for merciful is eleemon. But, as we have repeatedly seen, the Greek of the New Testament as we possess it goes back to an original Hebrew and Aramaic. The Hebrew word for mercy is chesedh; and it is an untranslatable word. It does not mean only to sympathize with a person in the popular sense of the term; it does not mean simply to feel sorry for someone in trouble. Chesedh, mercy, means the ability to get right inside the other person’s skin until we can see things with his eyes, think things with his mind, and feel things with his feelings.

Clearly this is much more than an emotional wave of pity; clearly this demands a quite deliberate effort of the mind and of the will. It denotes a sympathy which is not given, as it were, from outside, but which comes from a deliberate identification with the other person, until we see things as he sees them, and feel things as he feels them. This is sympathy in the literal sense of the word. Sympathy is derived from two Greek words, syn which means together with, and paschein which means to experience or to suffer. Sympathy means experiencing things together with the other person, literally going through what he is going through.

This is precisely what many people do not even try to do. Most people are so concerned with their own feelings that they are not much concerned with the feelings of anyone else. When they are sorry for someone, it is, as it were, from the outside; they do not make the deliberate effort to get inside the other person’s mind and heart, until they see and feel things as he sees and feels them.

If we did make this deliberate attempt, and if we did achieve this identification with the other person, it would obviously make a very great difference.

(i) It would save us from being kind in the wrong way. There is one outstanding example of insensitive and mistaken kindness in the New Testament. It is in the story of Jesus’ visit to the house of Martha and Mary at Bethany (Luke 10:38-42). When Jesus paid that visit, the Cross was only a few days ahead. All that he wanted was an opportunity for so short a time to rest and to relax, and to lay down the terrible tension of living.

Martha loved Jesus; he was her most honored guest; and because she loved him she would provide the best meal the house could supply. She bustled and scurried here and there with the clatter of dishes and the clash of pans; and every moment was torture to the tense nerves of Jesus. All he wanted was quiet.

Martha meant to be kind, but she could hardly have been more cruel. But Mary understood that Jesus wished only for peace. So often when we wish to be kind the kindness has to be given in our way, and the other person has to put up with it whether he likes it or not. Our kindness would be doubly kind, and would be saved from much quite unintentional unkindness, if we would only make the effort to get inside the other person.

(ii) It would make forgiveness, and it would make tolerance ever so much easier. There is one principle in life which we often forget—there is always a reason why a person thinks and acts as he does, and if we knew that reason, it would be so much easier to understand and to sympathize and to forgive. If a person thinks, as we see it, mistakenly ,he may have come through experiences, he may have a heritage which has made him think as he does. If a person is irritable and discourteous, he may be worried or he may be in pain. If a person treats us badly, it may be because there is some idea in his mind which is quite mistaken.

Truly, as the French proverb has it, “To know all is to forgive all,” but we will never know all until we make the deliberate attempt to get inside the other person’s mind and heart.

(iii) In the last analysis, is not that what God did in Jesus Christ? In Jesus Christ, in the most literal sense, God got inside the skin of men. He came as a man; he came seeing things with men’s eyes, feeling things with men’s feelings, thinking things with men’s minds. God knows what life is like, because God came right inside life.

It is only those who show this mercy who will receive it. This is true on the human side, for it is the great truth of life that in other people we see the reflection of ourselves. If we are detached and disinterested in them, they will be detached and disinterested in us. If they see that we care, their hearts will respond in caring. It is supremely true on the divine side, for he who shows this mercy has become nothing less than like God.


(5:7) Merciful (eleemones): to have a forgiving spirit and a compassionate heart. It is showing mercy and being benevolent. It is forgiving those who are wrong, yet it is much more. It is empathy; it is getting right inside the person and feeling right along with him. It is a deliberate effort, an act of the will to understand the person and to meet his need by forgiving and showing mercy. It is the opposite of being hard, unforgiving, and unfeeling. God forgives only those who forgive others. A person receives mercy only if he is merciful (cp. Matthew 6:12; James 2:13). Several significant facts need to be noted about mercy.

  1. The person who is merciful has a tender heart—a heart that cares for all who have need, seen or unseen. If he sees the needful, he feels for them and reaches out to do all he can. If he does not see them, he feels and reaches out through prayer and giving as opportunity arises. The merciful just do not hoard or hold back any kind of help, no matter the cost.
  2. They have the love of God dwelling in them.
  3. They know that it is “more blessed to give than to receive.”
  4. Every believer can be merciful. Some may not have money or other means to help, but they can be tender and compassionate and demonstrate mercy through expression and prayer. In fact, God instructs the believer to be merciful. He charges the believer to do some very practical things:
  5. “Deal…bread to the hungry” (Isaiah 58:7; James 2:15).
  6. “Bring the poor that are cast out to thy house” (Isaiah 58:7).
  7. “Cover him [the naked]” (Isaiah 58:7; James 2:15).
  8. Strengthen and comfort the broken and grieving soul (Job 16:5).
  9. Pity the afflicted (Job 6:14).
  10. Bear the burdens of others—even to the point of restoring them when they sin. But we reach out to them in a spirit of meekness. (Galatians 6:2 cp. Galatians 6:1).
  11. Support the weak (Acts 20:35).
  12. The results of being merciful are numerous.
  13. A person is given the mercy of God—forgiveness of sins (Psalm 18:25; cp. 2 Samuel 22:26).
  14. A person does good to his own soul (Proverbs 19:17).
  15. A person is paid back what he gives—by God Himself (Proverbs 19:17).
  16. A person behaves like God Himself (Luke 6:36; cp. Psalm 103:8; Joel 2:15).
  17. A person is blessed (Psalm 51:1).
  18. A person is assured of finding “mercy in that day” (2 Tim. 1:18).
  19. A person shall inherit the Kingdom of God—forever (Matthew 25:34-35).
  20. The unmerciful are warned by God.
  21. They shall face “judgment without mercy” (James 2:13).
  22. They shall face the anger and wrath of God (Matthew 18:34-35).
  23. They are not forgiven their sins (Matthew 6:12, 14-15).
  24. Two opposite attitudes are shown toward mercy.
  25. The attitude of shutting up one’s compassion from those in need (1 John 3:17; cp. James 2:15-16).
  26. The attitude of putting on a heart of mercy (Col. 3:12).


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Posted by on February 25, 2021 in Be-Attitudes


God’s Person in a Upside-Down World” — The Be-attitudes Series  #4 “Happy Are The Hungry, the Thirsty”

Very few of us in modern conditions of life know what it is to be really hungry or really thirsty. In the ancient world it was very different. A working man in Palestine ate meat only once a week, and in Palestine the working man and the day laborer were never far from the border-line of real hunger and actual starvation.

It was still more so in the case of thirst. It was not possible for the vast majority of people to turn a tap and find the clear, cold water pouring into their house.

So, then, the hunger which this beatitude describes is no genteel hunger which could be satisfied with a mid-morning snack; the thirst of which it speaks is no thirst which could be slaked with a cup of coffee or an iced drink.

It is the hunger of the man who is starving for food, and the thirst of the man who will die unless he drinks.

If we recognize our deep spiritual need (the first beatitude), we will be filled with profound sorrow (the second beatitude), and we will be ready and anxious to yield ourselves to God and His will (the third beatitude).

This will make us cry out, “God, I want You in my life. Please bless my life. Tell me what to do, and I’ll do it!” This is hungering and thirsting after righteousness (the fourth beatitude).

Christians growing closer to the Lord Jesus want what he wants. Whenever you pray for God’s will to be done, you are getting hungry for righteousness. Pray often, until the little pangs become a passion and your heart becomes centered on what God wants most.

This beatitude is in reality a question and a challenge. In effect it demands. “How much do you want goodness? Do you want it as much as a starving man wants food, and as much as a man dying of thirst wants water?” How intense is our desire for goodness?

Most people suffer from what Robert Louis Stevenson called “the malady of not wanting.” It would obviously make the biggest difference in the world if we desired goodness more than anything else.

In his mercy God judges us, not only by our achievements, but also by our dreams. Even if a man never attains goodness, if to the end of the day he is still hungering and thirsting for it, he is not shut out from blessings.

This beatitude puts righteousness is in the direct accusative. The meaning is that the hunger and the thirst is for the whole thing. To say I hunger for bread in the accusative means, I want the whole loaf. To say I thirst for water in the accusative means, I want the whole pitcher.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for the whole of righteousness, for complete righteousness.

The psalmist wrote, “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?” (Psalm 42:1-2 nrsv).

Those who have an intense longing for righteousness are blessed.

This refers to being so filled with God that the person completely does God’s will, without tripping up, sinning, making mistakes, and disappointing God.

Righteousness refers to total discipleship and complete obedience. It may also refer to righteousness for the entire world—an end to the sin and evil that fill it. In both cases, God’s promise is sure—they will be filled. He will completely satisfy their spiritual hunger and thirst.

Regarding the longing for a righteous world, Peter wrote “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13 niv).

The fourth beatitude bridges the God-centered concerns of the first three and the neighbor-centered focus of the last four. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness experience that longing in at least three forms:

The desire to be righteous—to be forgiven and accepted by God; to be right with God.

The desire to do what is right—to do what God commands; imitating and reflecting God’s righteousness.

The desire to see right done—to help bring about God’s will in the world.

The Bible has a number of examples of how strong the motivation of hunger can be. Esau became so hungry that he “sold his own birthright for a single meal (Hebrews 12:16; Genesis 25:27–34).

The Israelites in the wilderness angered the Lord by crying for “the fish . . . , the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic they had eaten in Egypt (Numbers 11:5; see v. 10).

They shall be filled … The desire for righteousness is the only desire of man that can be truly and finally satisfied. Appetites of the flesh, all of them, can be satisfied only for the moment.

The question each of us should ask is “Do I have that intensity of hunger and thirst for God, His way, and His will?”

Following are some tests that might help you determine whether or not you really hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Are you more concerned about physical things or spiritual things? Is being close to God more important to you than acquiring possessions? Is being right with God of greater concern than being popular with people?

Are you more desirous of living a godly life than you are of being successful? What are your priorities? Some find it difficult to sit still for a sermon, while they have little trouble sitting for hours of entertainment.

Do you take advantage of every opportunity to be “fed spiritually, to learn about God and His way? An old farmer told a preacher, “You seem to spend a lot of time urging people to come to Bible classes and worship. I never have to urge my cows to come to the feeding trough.”

A starving person does not have to be begged to go where food is available.

Are you on time for spiritual “meals,or do you show up late? A really hungry person is waiting at the table when mealtime is near.

Is your spiritual appetite growing and maturing? Are you starting to enjoy “solid food,” or are you still on a “milk” diet (see Hebrews 5:12–14; 1 Corinthians 3:2)?

Develop an appreciation for spiritual nourishment. Is there some physical food you enjoy now that you did not enjoy the first time you ate it?

Perhaps you had parents who insisted you eat it, so you gradually learned to like it. Perhaps, as an adult, you discovered you needed certain foods for good health and have persisted in eating them until you now enjoy them. Even as we can develop an appreciation for physical food, so we can develop an appreciation for spiritual food.

Improve your spiritual appetite by spiritual exercise. Nothing makes food taste better than a hard day of physical labor. Even so, spiritual exercise will make us long for and enjoy spiritual food.

Paul told Timothy, “Exercise thyself . . . unto godliness (1 Timothy 4:7b).

Improve your spiritual appetite by “eating” regularly. A person who does not have regular mealtimes may lose his appetite or fill himself with “junk food” which destroys his appetite for healthy food.

Spiritually, we need to have regular “mealtimes.” The Bereans were complimented by Luke because “they received the word with great eagernessand examined the Scriptures “daily (Acts 17:11). We need to be present for congregational “mealtimes,” and we also need daily times for personal study and prayer. Regular study will enable us to handle the Word accurately (2 Timothy 2:15).

(5)  Beware of appetite killers. Even as physical junk food can destroy one’s appetite for healthy food, mental junk food can diminish our interest in God’s Word. We can so fill our minds with worldly matters and worldly entertainment that spiritual food loses its appeal for us. Some people long for things of this world which cannot satisfy the soul (see Isaiah 55:2).

Even as God satisfied the physically thirsty and hungry  in the  wilderness, so He satisfies the spiritually thirsty and hungry today.


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Posted by on February 18, 2021 in Be-Attitudes


God’s Person in a Upside-Down World” — The Be-attitudes Series  #3 “Reacting Responsibly: Strength Under Control”  

Matthew 5:5 “Blessed (or happy) are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

We are studying the eight keys to real happiness in the form of beatitudes—attitudes of the heart. And they really do run against the grain of our modern culture. If we ever wondered what we’re dealing with in this world–read the beatitudes and reverse them because our human nature and our modern culture recoils at everything Jesus said in Matthew 5. Let’s just read a few of them and see if we’re not right.

  1. He says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”The world would say, “Blessed are the proud in spirit.”
  2. “Blessed are those who mourn.” We know that means to mourn over the sinful state. The world would say, “Blessed are those who mock at sin, who are proud because of their sins.”
  3. “Blessed are the meek.” The world would say, “Blessed are those who will try to get ahead by any means.

But I think perhaps the most misunderstood beatitude that we have is the one that is before us this morning, “Blessed are the meek.”

A study of its usage in Scripture reveals, first, that it is linked with and cannot be separated from lowliness: “Learn of Me: for I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29)

“Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called; with all lowliness and meekness” (Eph. 4:1, 2).

Second, it is associated with and cannot be divorced from gentleness“I beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:1)

“To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men” (Titus 3:2).

Third, the Divine promise is “the meek will He guide in judgment, and the meek will He teach His way” (Ps. 25:9), intimating that this grace consists of a pliant heart and will.

Meekness is the opposite of self-will toward God, and of ill-will toward men.

“The meek are those who quietly submit themselves before God, to His Word, to His rod, who follow His directions and comply with His designs, and are gentle toward men” (Matthew Henry).

Our modern culture thinks and equates meekness with weakness. And people today crave power and strength and authority and we men want to be macho.

Galatians 5 gives several fruit of the Spirit: Peace, patience, kindness, one of them is gentleness. This is the same Greek word that Matthew translates as meekness.

Meekness or gentleness…it’s not something that I can muster of my own power, of my own ability, it’s got to come from God, or it’s not going to come from me at all. And this word really is a word that was used to describe a wild animal that had been tamed or had been domesticated.

I want you to imagine a wild stallion. No one has ever ridden him. Bridle and bit have never been put upon him. He’s wild. He’s full of energy and strength and spirit. Now you take that horse and you tame him, you domesticate him. He becomes meek. You can put a saddle on him. His master can ride him, you can put a bit in his mouth and reins over his neck and he’s meek.

Now what have you done to that horse, for that horse? Have you taken away any of that horse’s strength? None at all. Have you taken away any of that horse’s spirit or his power? None at all. Have you taken away any of that horse’s energy? No.

The only difference is, now that horse’s strength and energy, that horse’s life force are being controlled by his master and channeled for youthful purposes. The wild stallion was controlled by himself, his wants, his passions, his emotions. But the domesticated, saddled horse is controlled by his master, and he has learned to obey his master’s touch on his reins.

When Jesus says how very happy are the meek, he’s not saying, happy is the person that has no strength, that has no spirit, that has no personality, that has no energy. He’s not saying, blessed is the whimp, or the timid, or the coward.

He IS saying, blessed, happy is that person who has all of his strength, and all of his spirit, or all of her personality or energy, but they’ve allowed someone else to master them and to control them.

Why are you happy if you’re meek? Because you’re no longer at the mercy of your own passion. You’re no longer at the the whim of your emotions or your anger or your temper. You can take an insult without giving one back. You can turn the other cheek, not because you’re weak, but because you’re stable and because you’re strong in the Lord.

You’re happy because you’re free, free from bitterness, and you’re not easily provoked to anger. You don’t have to resort to revenge. You’re God-controlled, you’ve allowed his Spirit to direct your spirit.

It takes strength and power to be meek. Way back in the book of Numbers 12:3, the Bible says that Moses was the meekest man on the face of the earth. Now I doubt that anybody that really knows Moses would call him a weak person, but the Bible says he was meek.

Do you remember when Moses came down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments and he saw that the people were worshipping a golden calf? Moses was hot, he was mad, and he was angry at the right time. He was angry because the people had insulted God.

But in Numbers 12:1, it says that Miriam and Aaron were speaking against Moses, perhaps they were jealous of him. But they personally attacked him, and Moses there was the meekest man on the face of the earth. So when he was personally attacked, he was very humble. But when he was noticing people that were insulting God and disobeying God then he was angry at the right time.

Abraham was God’s chosen father of the nations, and when Abraham decided that he and Lot needed to part company, he didn’t say, Lot, now God has chosen me, I want all of this land that I want, then you can have what’s left. He said, “Lot, you choose and I’ll take what’s left.” Abraham had the power to take what he wanted, but he was meek and he let Lot have the good land.

David had several opportunities when he was in Saul’s court to take that kingdom by force, to even kill Saul if he wanted to. But he would not raise his own hand and take by his own power what he knew God had promised to him. He was patient, he was meek.

When Jesus saw the merchants in the Temple, he was angry. They were making a mockery of the place of worship. And he made himself a weapon, and he drove them out. When Jesus denounced the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, he was angry.

But our Lord said of himself, “I am meek and lowly in heart.” He was angry at the right time. Near the end of Jesus’ life when he was beaten, when he was ridiculed and spat upon and crucified, he remained meek and compliant. Do you think he acted that way out of weakness? No. He acted that way out of the strength that he received from his Father.

So meekness is when strength and gentleness are perfectly combined. It takes more power for a person to be meek than to do anything else in this life that we usually equate with power. You know all of us have so much God-given energy and passion, so much life and so much spirit, it needs to be controlled.

Now our human tendency is to just let that energy and spirit just run its course, just do what it wants to do. But the Bible says that leads to ruin.

How is meekness shown? Jesus gives us a great picture of this if you’re still in Matthew 5. Look down at verse 38, let’s read a few of these verses together. Jesus says, ‘”You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go wit him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.'”

“‘You have heard that it was said, (verse 43) ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'” By the way, the law never did say that, that was a pharisaical addition to the law. Verse 44 says, “‘But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.'”

And then he says what God would do in a situation, “‘God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, (or whole) as your heavenly Father is perfect.'”

Have you noticed that everything Jesus talked about in those ten verses had to do with how we react to things? You see meekness is not shown in our action, but in our reaction.

Most of us evaluate our Christianity based on how we act. God never has that as the final and ultimate evaluation of our Christian life. It’s not how you act, it’s how you react. It’s easy to act right…it’s tough to react right.

Aristotle, speaking of the ancient Greeks, listen to what he said about meek. “A meek man is angry on the right ground and against the right persons and in the right manner and at the right moment and for the right length of time.”

Meekness rewarded, the Bible says, “The meek will inherit the earth.” One version says the meek inherit all. This is probably a quotation from Psalm 37 where David says the meek will inherit the land or the land of Canaan, and to us we’re talking about heaven here, about being in heaven and being rewarded.

Part of inheriting the earth in Matthew 5:5 is enjoying the earth now. The meek have the greatest capacity to appreciate the blessings that God has given us.

If you’re controlled by your own anger or by vindictiveness of being revengeful, you can’t enjoy God’s creation. But if you’re God-controlled and love-controlled, you may have less than others in the world, but God enables you to enjoy it more.

You inherit the earth in the sense that you really possess it more than the other person, you possess more of what God has given mankind.

To inherit the earth is to grow more and more alive to the presence of God in the world. And then that awareness enables you to prosper in the ways that really count.

Number one, you’ll prosper because your calmness gives you good judgment. Now that’s a blessing from God when you can be calm enough and meek enough to exercise good judgment for you, for your family, for your business associates, that’s a gift from God.

Secondly, if you’re meek, your contentment will give you security and peace of mind, and that’s being happy in this life.

Thirdly, if you’re meek, your gentleness and your fairness with others will gain the confidence of others. You know folks like to deal with people they can trust and people with whom they feel at ease.

So we inherit the earth and we’re going to enjoy God’s blessings more in this life, but secondly, there is a future blessing. The meek will have their ultimate reward in heaven in that land beyond.

To be meek, is to be eternity-controlled. God wants us to look toward eternity and let that control our actions here. The person who is controlled by his own lust, by his own selfish ambitions is going to struggle and strain to get every ounce of dirt he can here in this life. What a miserable life. And really that’s foolish the Bible says because the world is winding down, it’s passing away. And so if we’re putting our eggs in this basket, we’re going to be ultimately unhappy and not blessed.

I heard the other day that in the past several years the eastern Atlantic seacoast is sinking into the ocean at a rate of about a foot every 30 years. Now it’s going to take a while before it sinks, but it’s interesting how God keeps giving us these little reminders that this earth is not eternal. He gives us reminders in our own bodies as we age and the pains come and the feebleness comes.

This earth is not going to last forever. He seems to be tapping us on the shoulder and saying, son, this world is passing away. But he that does the will of God abides forever. The will of God is, “Blessed are the meek.” See, everything is eventually coming under God’s control.

So God wants you to experience the peace of mind that comes by letting Christ rule your heart, how very happy are the meek. You know you’ll never ever be sorry for yielding to God’s control. That has a lot to do with the invitation of Christ. I’ve never known anyone who has completely given their life to the Lord and who later regretted it.


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Posted by on February 11, 2021 in Be-Attitudes


God’s Person in an Upside-Down World’ — The Be-attitudes Series: #2 “How Sadness Becomes Happiness”

Few people like to weep. We pay comedians to make us laugh.

Most agree with the sentiment expressed by Ella Wheeler Wilcox: “Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone, For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth, But has trouble enough of its own.”

The Greek word for to mourn, used here, is the strongest word for mourning in the Greek language. It is the word which is used for mourning for the dead, for the passionate lament for one who was loved.

In the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament, it is the word which is used of Jacob’s grief when he believed that Joseph, his son, was dead (Genesis 37:34). It was used to describe David’s mourning when his son Absalom died (see 2 Samuel 19:2).

It is defined as the kind of grief which takes such a hold on a man that it cannot be hid. It is not only the sorrow which brings an ache to the heart; it is the sorrow which brings the unrestrainable tears to the eyes.

How can I be happy when I’m mourning? By receiving the comfort of God.

The fourth century religious leader John Chrysostom says in one of his writings that the Beatitudes with which Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount succeed one another “like links in a golden chain”. . . . Jesus did not group the Beatitudes haphazardly; He arranged them in a divinely logical sequence. Each of them builds on the one before it.

James Tolle called the mourning of Matthew 5:4 “the emotional expression of poverty in spirit.”

The first beatitude underlines the fact that we must depend on God and not on self, while the second beatitude is an initial step toward God. Mourning over sins produces a penitent heart which leads to obedience and forgiveness.

Jesus reminded his disciples that the prophet Isaiah had promised that the Messiah would “comfort all who mourn” (Isaiah 61:2 niv).

Scholars differ on the exact nature of this mourning. Some say that Jesus was referring to the nation of Israel mourning for its sins; others interpret this more personally, explaining that it refers to those who mourn for their own sins or even for personal grief or oppression.

Tied with the 1st beatitude, this means that humility (realization of one’s unworthiness before God) also requires sorrow for sins.

Still other scholars see in the word mourning a picture of God’s people who suffer because of their faith in him.

Whether Jesus’ followers mourn for sin or in suffering, God’s promise is sure—they will be comforted.

Only God can take away sorrow for sin; only God can forgive and erase it.

Only God can give comfort to those who suffer for his sake because they know their reward in the kingdom. There he will “wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17 niv).

Jesus explained to his disciples that following him would not involve fame, popularity, and wealth. Instead, it could very well mean sorrow, mourning, and suffering. But they would always know that God would be their comfort.

The Arabs have a proverb: “All sunshine makes a desert.” The land on which the sun always shines will soon become an arid place in which no fruit will grow.

There are certain things which only the rains will produce; and certain experiences which only sorrow can beget.

Sorrow can do two things for us. it can show us, as nothing else can, the essential kindness of our fellowmen; and it can show us as nothing else can the comfort and the compassion of God.

“I walked a mile with Pleasure, She chattered all the way, But left me none the wiser For all she had to say. I walked a mile with Sorrow, And ne’er a word said she,  But, oh, the things I learned from her When Sorrow walked with me!”

Blessed are those who are desperately sorry for the sorrow and the suffering of this world. It is never right to be detached from people.

This world would have been a very much poorer place, if there had not been those who cared intensely about the sorrows and the sufferings of others.

Christianity is caring. Blessed is the man who cares intensely for the sufferings, and for the sorrows, and for the needs of others.

Blessed is the man who is desperately sorry for his own sin and his own unworthiness.

Christianity begins with a sense of sin. Blessed is the man who is intensely sorry for his sin, the man who is heart-broken for what his sin has done to God and to Jesus Christ, the man who sees the Cross and who is appalled by the havoc wrought by sin.

How do I get through that by the power of God so that I’m happy way yonder more than I’m sad?

Realize God is with you.

You know when we’re hurting, we tend to forget where God is. We think he’s distant that he is far away. Look at Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

When you’re mourning, when you’re in pain, remember three simple things: God is aware, God cares, and God is there.

I’ve heard people say hundreds of times, nobody knows what I’m going through. That may be right if you’re talking about somebody else in the flesh, but somebody knows what you’re going through. God is keenly aware of everything you’re going through.

He cares. Nahum 1:7, “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him,” Our pain matters to God.

He’s there. That’s the best thing of all. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Release the hurt. Here’s the key thing, you stop focusing on what’s lost and start focusing on what’s left.

The whole idea here is to quit looking backward and start looking forward. Isaiah 43:18 says, “‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.'”

The Bible says your past is your past, let it go. It doesn’t need to hurt you anymore. Some of you are letting memories of people who have hurt you in the past, hurt you right now.

You can repress those hurts.

You know you can just push them down. You can swallow them, try to keep them way down deep inside. But I’ve said many times, if you swallow your feelings, your stomach keeps score.

There are so many thousands and thousands of Christians right now who are walking wounded, and they are walking wounded because they have repressed their hurt. They’ve never dealt with them, they’ve never even admitted them, they just keep them deep.

You can rehearse the pain.

Have you ever seen somebody who just won’t let it go? They keep bringing it up in their mind and going over and over and over.

There’s a big difference between mourning and moaning. Mourning is legitimate grief. There are times for bona fide sadness. And when you go through that, God wants to comfort that; but moaning is self pity.

And if you’re moaning, you’re doing it honestly because you want to. You just kind of want to hold on to that hurt because that’s your attention-getter.

Resent those things.

I guess that’s the greatest tendency of all. We tend to resent what we believe to be the cause of our pain.

If that’s another person, we tend to resent them. If it’s our job, we tend to resent it.

If we can’t blame it on a specific person, place, or thing, then often God is resented for just letting it happen. The problem with resentment is, it hurts you more than the person you resent.

  1. The way God will comfort me is by relying on God’s resources When you’re mourning and when you’re hurting, people try all kinds of things. Some get drunk, some pop pills, some watch tv all day long, some escape in novels, or just 1,001 things, all trying to dull the pain.

God says, “No, no, those don’t work.” There are escapes, diversions, but they’re all dead-ends, they bring you right back to where you were.

God’s word. Psalm 119:25: “I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word.”

Psalm 119:62, David says, “I remember your ancient laws O Lord, and I find comfort in them.”

His people. That’s why he designed his church. See we weren’t made to be individually isolated or islands unto ourselves. There’s no such thing as a “lone ranger” Christian. We need each other. We’re supposed to be a family. We’re a God-given resource to provide comfort.

God also uses his Spirit to comfort us. When Jesus was here physically, knowing he was going to a cross, he made a promise, John 14:26, he said, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

Then he said, “My peace I leave with you;…” That was a promise to the apostles, but the Bible says that promise of the comfort from the Spirit is still applicable.

Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

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Posted by on February 4, 2021 in Be-Attitudes


“God’s Person in an Upside-Down World” — The Be-attitudes Series #1 “The Poor in Spirit”

A devotional book from Gary: The Measure of One’s Life book

Matthew 5:1-3 (ESV)
1  Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
2  And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

In Matthew 5 we have the opening lines of Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount, and that sermon begins with eight positive statements about happiness that we’ve come to call the Be-attitudes.

Jesus says I want to teach you that happiness doesn’t depend on having the right circumstances, it depends on having the right attitudes.

Now it’s interesting to me that of all the subjects that Jesus could have picked to start the greatest, most famous sermon of all time, he chose to speak on, “How to Be Happy.”

Isn’t that fascinating? Do you know why? Because he knew that is what everybody wants and what so few people find.

Being a master Teacher, our Lord did not begin this important sermon with a negative criticism of the scribes and Pharisees. He began with a positive emphasis on righteous character and the blessings that it brings to the life of the believer. Jesus described Christian character that flowed from within.

Jesus says it’s not how much we have that makes us happy, it’s what we are that makes us happy.

It doesn’t depend upon the circumstances outside, it depends upon the attitude inside.

What Jesus is getting at then is that happiness is a choice. You choose it as you choose the right attitudes.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit.” What is poverty of spirit? It is the opposite of that haughty, self-assertive, and self-sufficient disposition that the world so much admires and praises.

It is the very reverse of that independent and defiant attitude that refuses to bow to God, that determines to brave things out, and that says with Pharaoh, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice?” (Ex.5:2).

Our attitude toward ourselves (v. 3).

In Greek, the word that is used for poor is the word ptochos. In Greek there are two words for poor. There is the word penes. Penes describes a man who has to work for his living; it is defined by the Greeks as describing the man who is autodiakonos, that is, the man who serves his own needs with his own hands. Penes describes the working man, the man who has nothing superfluous, the man who is not rich, but who is not destitute either.

The word used in this beatitude, it is ptochos, which describes absolute and abject poverty.

It is connected with the root ptossein, which means to crouch or to cower; and it describes the poverty which is beaten to its knees.

So this beatitude becomes even more surprising. Blessed is the man who is abjectly and completely poverty-stricken. Blessed is the man who is absolutely destitute.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit” means: Blessed is the man who has realised his own utter helplessness, and who has put his whole trust in God.

The poor in spirit realize that they cannot please God on their own. They are “poor” or “bankrupt” inwardly, unable to give anything of value to God and thus must depend on his mercy.

Only those who humbly depend on God are admitted into the kingdom of heaven. In this beatitude and in the very last one (5:10) the reward is the same. And in both places the reward is described in the present tense—”theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

To be poor in spirit is to realize that I have nothing, am nothing, and can do nothing, and have need of all things.

To be poor in spirit means to be humble, to have a correct estimate of oneself (Rom. 12:3).

It does not mean to be “poor spirited” and have no backbone at all! “Poor in spirit” is the opposite of the world’s attitudes of self-praise and self- assertion.

It is not a false humility that says, “I am not worth anything, I can’t do anything!”

Being poor in spirit doesn’t mean to have low self-esteem.

It doesn’t mean to walk around having some kind of inferiority complex.

Jesus didn’t die for junk. God didn’t make trash in his own image.

You are infinitely valuable to God because you’re made in his image, and Jesus died on that cross redeeming you with his precious blood.

You weren’t paid for by silly stuff like silver and gold.

It is honesty with ourselves: we know ourselves, accept ourselves, and try to be ourselves to the glory of God.

The first step to happiness….be humble.

Verse 3: “Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

It simply means to depend on God. It means to be humble. It means admitting daily, I don’t have it altogether, because you don’t.

It means admitting that I haven’t arrived, that I’ve got more to learn, that God didn’t build the universe to revolve around me.

I think maybe the best way to get a picture of what being poor in Spirit is, is to tell you what the opposite is. It is the opposite of being arrogant. It’s the opposite of being prideful and egotistical. Jesus says if you’re full of pride, if you’re full of ego and arrogance, you’re never going to be really happy.

But the more you depend upon the God and the more that you’re humble, the more you open the door to happiness.

Humility and happiness are twins. They go together, you can’t have one without the other. If you want genuine happiness, you start by humbling yourself before God.

People who want to live for God must be ready to say and do what seems strange to the world. Christians must be willing to give when others take, to love when others hate, to help when others abuse.

By putting aside our selfish interests so that we can serve others, we will one day receive everything God has in store for us.

To find hope and joy, the deepest form of happiness, we must follow Jesus no matter what the cost.

Three ways that humility will bring you happiness:

  1. humility will bring you happiness by reducing your stress.

Jesus talks about this principle later in his Sermon on the Mount in the section about worry that begins in Matthew 6:25, where he basically says, why do you fret about over what you’re going to eat, what you’re going to wear, and how long you’re going to live, and how many hairs you have?

He says, why do you worry about all that when you’ve got a God who’s bigger than everything you can worry about?

Humility accepts the fact that things aren’t ideal, and yet I can still be happy because I’m depending upon an ideal God. He’s going to make everything all right. It’s not perfect until we get to heaven, but he’s going to make it all right. Humility re duces my stress because I don’t have to take myself that seriously.

Do you know what I think one of the biggest problems in the world is? This is my opinion, but I think one of the biggest problems in the world is that we take ourselves too seriously, and we don’t take God seriously enough. I think that’s the crux of the human problem.

We’re out there trying to do it all, impress people with who we are, and because we know who we really are underneath, there’s all this stress. But when I walk humbly, dependent upon God, the stress goes down and happiness goes up. That will make you happy.

  1. Here’s the second way humility will make you happy, it will improve your relationships.

How many of you love to be around big-headed, egotistical people? How many of you love to do that? How many of you wake up on a Monday morning and say, “Man, I hope I can take an irritating, conceited jerk out to lunch today?”

You know the fact is, prideful people are a pain to be around. Somebody says that pride is the only human disease that makes everybody else sick.

I mean egotists are irritating, and they wreck relationships. Why? Because self-centered people are never happy. And because they aren’t happy when they come into a relationship, they tend to drag everybody in that relationship down.

On the other hand, how many of you like to be around humble people? Don’t you just love that. Because they’re always lifting you up. Don’t you love to be around somebody who when you tell a little story, they don’t have to top it?

When you are humble, you get along better with others, not because you think less of yourself, but because you’re thinking more about others. And this is a key to good, happy social living.

When you become more interested in others, you become more interesting to others.

So you have better relationships when you’re humble. You’re not afraid to say, “Hey, I’m sorry. I messed up, I didn’t mean to. Forgive me, I’ll do better.”

If you walk humbly before the Lord, you’re almost immune to insults. It doesn’t mean that you don’t accept criticism, it’s just that you don’t take it so personally that you get all upset. Humility will improve your relationships. It will make you happy.

  1. This is the best of all. How am I happy through humility? Humility unleashes God’s power. This is the best one. It’s humility that unleashes God’s power.

The Bible says the secret of spiritual power is to walk humbly before God. Let me read to you about three verses. Isaiah 66:2, God says through Isaiah, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.”

James 4:6: “God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.”

James 4:10, James says, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

I want to tell you this morning that if you are not humble before God, you’re cutting the cord through which he’s going to channel all of his power.

If you’re not humble, your prayers are not answered. Is anybody going through a barren period with your prayer life? Check your humility before God.

The man didn’t leave justified because he was full of arrogance. But that old publican who committed every sin in the book, he followed beatitude number one, and he was poor in spirit, and he said, “Lord, please be merciful to me, I’m a sinner.” And God said, “He walked out of there with his sins washed away.”

The secret of strength is admitting weakness. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “Therefore I boast all the more gladly in my weakness so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”



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Posted by on January 28, 2021 in Be-Attitudes


“God’s Person in an Upside-Down World” — The Be-attitudes Series and The Good Life: Ecclesiastes An Introduction


(Sermon presented as introduction to the Be-Attitudes series but also a class study of the book of Ecclesiastes)

What would it take to make you happy? That’s the question Psychology Today asked 52,000 Americans. And their answers in rank order included:


A good job

Being in love

Recognition or success


Personal growth

A good house or apartment

Being attractive or beautiful

Good health

The city that I live in

My religion

Recreation and exercise

Being a parent

Ironically, the last one was: My partner’s happiness

The most interesting thing about that entire list is that virtually everything the respondents named was an external thing or an external situation.

In other words, the popular idea of happiness is that I’ll have it if I can ever line up the right circumstances.

Now that’s not a new idea. In fact, our English word “happiness” is from the same root word as our English word “happening.” Do you get the connection? If I can just get enough positive happenings in my life, then surely I will receive happiness. I call it “WHEN AND THEN” thinking:

  • Like, when I get out of school then I’ll be happy.
  • Or, when I get a job then I’ll be happy.
  • Or, when I get rich then I’ll be happy.
  • Or, when I get married then I’ll be happy.
  • When I have children then I’ll be happy.
  • When all the children have left home then I’ll be happy.
  • When and then…When and then…When and then…I’ll be happy.

Well maybe, it’s some consolation to know that man has always thought that way. If you’ll turn with me to Ecclesiastes 2, we’re going to take a look real quickly at a book, a journal, that was written by King Solomon as he chased that elusive pot of gold called, “happiness.”

 “I thought in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find  out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless.”    (Ecclesiastes 2:1)

By the way, if you want to save yourself a lot of time, a lot of frustration, and a lot of heartache in your quest for happiness. Go home and read very thoroughly, the book of Ecclesiastes.

Solomon, who was far and away the most powerful man in the world in his day and likely the richest man who ever walked the face of the earth, he said, “I tried it all and I found three dead ends.

The first dead end was accumulating things.

7  I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem.
8  I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man.

O Solomon said, you name it, I had it. But, we’ll see what the result was in just a moment.

The second thing he tried was experiencing pleasure.

1  I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity.
2  I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?”
3  I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine—my heart still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life.

10  And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil.

And the third thing he tried was achieving success.

4  I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself.
5  I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees.
6  I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees.
9  So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me.
11  Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.

 Do you see what he tried? He said, I tried accumulating things, experiencing pleasure, achieving success.

3,000 years later, those are still the things we think we’ve got to chase to achieve happiness. Isn’t that right? Starting with accumulating things.

A bumper sticker: “Whoever said money can’t buy happiness just doesn’t know where to shop.” That’s the way most people think. How many times have I heard somebody say, “Man, if I could just win the lottery, I’d be so happy.”

Two newspaper articles a few years back, one was about a man by the name of Buddy Post. Buddy is now 58 years old, a former carnival worker and cook. He hit the jackpot in the Pennsylvania lottery. He won $16.2 million. Buddy is on Easy Street now, isn’t he? NOT!

He has been convicted of assault. His sixth wife has left him. His brother has been convicted of trying to kill him for the money. His landlady has sued him for one-third of his winnings. And the gas company has shut off the gas to the decrepit old mansion that he bought and can’t keep up.

From the Dallas Morning News, about Jim and Lynette Nichols. Lynette bought 23 one-dollar tickets and she was thrilled when one of those was good for one-third of a $48,000,000 jackpot.

Now Jim and Lynette are getting a divorce after 12 years of marriage. The divorce proceedings have taken over two years because, you guessed it, they’re trying to sort out who gets how much of the money. Lynette Nichols, who had the ticket, said, “We had one month of good times and three years of misery. It was a curse. It didn’t help at all.”

Solomon found it out the hard way. You don’t get happy by accumulating things. You don’t get happy by experiencing pleasure: sex, drugs, gambling, whatever, anything to give a thrill, anything to give a rush, anything to give a buzz. It’s like the old Eagles song says, “After the thrill is gone, you’re unhappier than you ever were.”

And you don’t receive it by achieving success. The idea that if I can just get to the top of the ladder, at least make everybody think I’ve got it made, then I’ll be happy.

Ecclesiastes 2:17 (ESV) So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind.

If you don’t leave here with anything else today, leave here knowing this. Your happiness will not come from your happenings. Your happiness will not come from any external force.

Turn in your Bibles to Matthew 5 where we’ll camp for the rest of our time together.

We’re going to see what Jesus says about happiness. I’ll tell you right now that he says your happiness doesn’t depend on your circumstances, it depends on your attitudes.

In Matthew 5 we have the opening lines of Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount, and that sermon begins with eight positive statements about happiness that we’ve come to call the Be-attitudes.

Now it’s interesting to me that of all the subjects that Jesus could have picked to start the greatest, most famous sermon of all time, he chose to speak on, “How to Be Happy.”

Do you know why? Because he knew that is what everybody wants and what so few people find. So for the next eight weeks we’re going to look at those eight beatitudes.

Being a master Teacher, our Lord did not begin this important sermon with a negative criticism of the scribes and Pharisees. He began with a positive emphasis on righteous character and the blessings that it brings to the life of the believer.

In the Beatitudes and the pictures of the believer, Jesus described Christian character that flowed from within.

If you’ve turned to Matthew 5 beginning in verse 3, you see that each beatitude begins with the word, “Blessed.” The word, “blessed,” in English is really a holdover in the Old English in the King James. The Greek word there is “makarios” and it just literally means “happy.”

The meaning of makarios can best be seen from one particular usage of it. The Greeks always called Cyprus the makaria, which means The Happy Isle, and they did so because they believed that Cyprus was so lovely, so rich, and so fertile an island that a man would never need to go beyond its coastline to find the perfectly happy life.

It had such a climate, such flowers and fruits and trees, such minerals, such natural resources that it contained within itself all the materials for perfect happiness.

Makarios then describes that joy which has its secret within itself, that joy which is serene and untouchable, and self-contained, that joy which is completely independent of all the chances and the changes of life.

The beatitudes are not pious hopes of what shall be; they are not glowing, but nebulous prophecies of some future bliss; they are congratulations on what is.


The blessedness which belongs to the Christian is not a blessedness which is postponed to some future world of glory; it is a blessedness which exists here and now. It is not something into which the Christian will enter; it is something into which he has entered.

True, it will find its fulness and its consummation in the presence of God; but for all that it is a present reality to be enjoyed here and now.

Let me ask you something right now.

  • If you’re going to have to have all your problems solved before you’re going to be happy, will you ever be happy? NO.
  • If you’re going to have to have everything perfect in your life before you’re going to be happy, will you ever be happy? NO.
  • So Jesus says I want to teach you that happiness doesn’t depend on having the right circumstances, it depends on having the right attitudes.


In other words, “My happiness is not determined by what’s happening to me, but what’s happening in me.”

  • Jesus says it’s not how much we have that makes us happy, it’s what we are that makes us happy.
  • It doesn’t depend upon the circumstances outside, it depends upon the attitude inside.
  • What Jesus is getting at then is that happiness is a choice. You choose it as you choose the right attitudes.


Mark Twain over 100 years ago had a great statement. He said, “Do you know what happens to most people over life?…About the same things.” Mark Twain concluded, he says then most people are about as happy as they choose to be.


The world can win its joys, and the world can equally well lose its joys. A change in fortune, a collapse in health, the failure of a plan, the disappointment of an ambition, even a change in the weather, can take away the fickle joy the world can give.


But the Christian has the serene and untouchable joy which comes from walking for ever in the company and in the presence of Jesus Christ.


The greatness of the beatitudes is that they are not wistful glimpses of some future beauty; they are not even golden promises of some distant glory; they are triumphant shouts of bliss for a permanent joy that nothing in the world can ever take away.


We all cry, we all laugh, we all smile, we all frown, we all hurt, we all have pleasure. You know if you live long enough about the same things happen.


You hurt and you cry, does that mean you cannot be happy? Absolutely not. Your happiness depends upon the right attitudes. And that is what we will be seeing in coming weeks.





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Posted by on January 21, 2021 in Be-Attitudes, Ecclesiastes

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