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“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.… https://t.co/av96vSe4y9"

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.

So the translation of the fifth beatitude might read: O THE BLISS OF THE MAN WHO GETS RIGHT INSIDE OTHER PEOPLE, UNTIL HE CAN SEE WITH THEIR EYES, THINK WITH THEIR THOUGHTS, FEEL WITH THEIR FEELINGS, FOR HE WHO DOES THAT WILL FIND OTHERS DO THE SAME FOR HIM, AND WILLKNOW THAT THAT IS WHAT GOD IN JESUS CHRIST HAS DONE!

(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:

Friends

A good job

Being in love

Recognition or success

Sex

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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