Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Blessed are they - Matthew 5:7-12

FBCRB 7/8/12

"Blessed are they..." - Matthew 5:7-12

James 5:16 says to confess your sins one to another so I have a confession. I said a bad word the other day and I got in trouble for it. My 6 year old nephew, Tristan, busted me for saying "Idiot". I don't know who I was talking about but somebody on the news was doing something I thought was not very smart and so I called the guy an idiot. Tristan gasped, shook his head and immediately scolded me. I tried to explain that I wasn't calling him an idiot but I just thought he was doing something that idiots do but that didn't help. So I just apologized. But it got me thinking about how I talk about other people which led me to think about how I think about other people which led me to think about how I treat other people. They are all related. One affects the other, so today's sermon is not just for y'all. I am glad you are here but if you weren't I would still preach this.

Have you dealt with any idiots lately? Don't tell Tristan I said that. I mean have you dealt with someone that is hard to get along with? I read something the other day that said everybody will deal with someone that is hard to get along with at least once in their lives. Good grief, you probably think like I do that it's at least once a day. I joke around that being a pastor would be alot of fun if it weren't for all these people. I promise you that is just a joke. I absolutely do not feel that way. But sometimes it is hard to deal with some people, right?

A little boy had misbehaved big time. As punishment his mother made his sit at a table by himself during the evening meal. After the meal was finished and his mom, dad, two brothers and sister were about to leave, the little boy bowed his head and said, “Thank you, Lord, for preparing a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”

Prayer is definitely one way to deal with people. I’m not sure that’s the right way to pray, however. But if you did pray and if you asked God how to handle difficult people, what do you think He would say? Let me ask it this way: if you were God and somebody asked you, what would you say? Would you tell them to just be nice and hopefully they will be nice back? Would you tell them if they are not nice then to walk away? Would you tell them not to worry because those people will get what is coming to them? Would you promise "shock and awe" vengeance on those people?

If we were God, that may be how we would handle it, but it is not what God tells us through His Word in Matthew 5. We saw last week that those first 4 Beatitudes in verses 3-6 concentrate on how we are to relate to God. The next 4 deal with how we are to relate to other people, even people that are hard to get along with. It's real easy to be merciful to somebody that you love and enjoy being around. If that was what Jesus was saying, this would be pretty easy. In fact, that is what our culture would say to do but as I have said several times, these words from Jesus were counter-cultural then and they certainly are today as well.

Let's look closely at these counter-cultural words from Jesus as He preached on the side of a hill on the banks of the Sea of Galilee . Turn to Matthew 5 and let's look specifically at verses 7-12.

So simple…yet so profound. I read one commentator who said of the Beatitudes: “We are near heaven here.” Why do you think he would say that? Surely we don’t know what Heaven will be like but I think he is on to something here. Do you remember what the word “Blessed”means? It means more than happy but that is included in it. To be completely blessed means to ultimately have everything we need. I don’t know exactly what Heaven is going to look like but I think that is a pretty good description of our life there, having everything we need.

We have seen before that this is not a guide on how to get to Heaven. When Jesus says that we can inherit the earth or have the kingdom of Heaven he is not saying if you do this you go there. We see that some of these blessings are for the here and now and some are for the hereafter but Jesus is saying that if we live our lives in accordance to what He says here, we can ultimately have everything we need.

He says blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy. The word simply means to have compassion on those in need. It is the same word used to describe the Good Samaritan when he helped the traveler when the man had been assaulted and robbed. If I were to give you an illustration of mercy I would use…you. I would use this church as a perfect example of mercy. It describes you for several reasons but one that stands out id the food pantry that y’all have been so generous toward lately.

Just this past week I was trying to be helpful to a lady in our community and I asked her if she had enough to eat. She quietly just said “no”. I found out that she had not eaten anything in about a day and a half and had no prospects for another meal. But because you had already shown mercy in giving she didn’t have to continue to go hungry. She was so grateful to our church and I was just tickled to be a part of it. Thank you.

Now, the way this is worded some people would believe that only through being merciful will God show you mercy but that is not correct. We don’t merit mercy with mercy just like we don’t merit forgiveness with forgiveness. It is only when we repent that we find mercy and forgiveness and we can’t claim to have repented of OUR sins when we have not forgiven others of THEIR sins and nothing proves more clearly that we have been shown mercy than by our showing of mercy.

I have found that each one of these Beatitudes makes you realize more and more who God is and who you are and when you see that clearly, it will change your life. You will show mercy. You will be poor in spirit. You will hunger and thirst for righteousness and that leads us to the next one in verse 8. When you realize who you are and who God is you will be pure in heart.

It is, of course, a good thing to be pure in heart before God.  David cried out in Psalm 51, “Create in me a pure heart, oh God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me!”  We are told in several places how we should be pure in heart when we deal with God.  But in this verse Jesus is telling us to be pure in heart when dealing with other people. 

To be pure in heart means to literally be “unmixed or not having mixed allegiances”.  The basic idea is of integrity, singleness of heart, as opposed to duplicity, or a divided heart.  Do you know of anybody like that?  Do you know someone who would be described as “what you see is what you get”?  I know some people describe themselves like that in order to justify not being sensitive to others.  They are rude and harsh but say, “Hey, what you see is what you get.  It’s just who I am.”  Well…that doesn’t make it right.  That’s nothing to brag about.  And it is not the kind of person Jesus is describing here.

The heart of the person Jesus is describing is pure including their thoughts and their motives, not mixed with anything ulterior.  They are not hypocrites nor do they deceive.  A physician told this story about her then four-year-old daughter. On the way to preschool, the doctor had left her stethoscope on the car seat, and her little girl picked it up and began playing with it. Be still, my heart, thought the doctor, my daughter wants to follow in my footsteps!
Then the child spoke into the instrument: "Welcome to McDonald's. May I take your order?"

That’s just being who you are without trying to impress or deceive anyone.  Isn’t it refreshing when you meet someone like that?  What comes naturally and easily for a child can be so difficult for us as adults.  And because it is so difficult to be pure of heart we get good at being not so pure of heart and we fool a lot of people but Proverbs 21:2 says, “All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart.“ 

So the pure in heart will see God, now with the eye of faith and later face to face but now and then we will be blessed.

Verse 9 says the peacemakers will be blessed as well.  I believe Jesus spoke these in a certain order for a reason.  How much easier it is for the pure in heart to keep the peace.  The #1 cause for lack of peace is somebody is saying or doing something to give the impression they are something they are not.  But this says we are to be peacemakers or reconcilers which is the same word Paul uses for what God has done through Christ.  In Colossians 1:20 it says that He made peace through His blood shed on the cross.

Now some people like to think of themselves as peacemakers but all they are are appeasers.  They avoid conflict at all costs but true peace will nearly always come at the cost of some pain.  It may be painful to apologize to someone or it may also be painful to approach someone who has wronged you and rebuke them in love.  If it is not painful then you are probably doing it wrong. 

God has called us to be in unity but we have no mandate from God anywhere that we are to be unified without purity; purity of conduct and of doctrine.  If someone in the church continues to live a life outside the bounds of what the Bible teaches we are instructed in Matthew 18 to go to that person and get it straightened out.  If there is ultimately no repentance then there is ultimately no peace and it will be painful but we can’t allow that to be lived out in our fellowship.

Just smoothing over a problem or pretending like it is not there is not being a peacemaker.  It’s not easy and maybe that’s why the blessing is to be called the sons of God because that is what He did through His Son Jesus and that’s also what Jesus did as He had such love for people He allowed Himself to go through pain to bring peace.  The question is:  how much do you love people?

Again I will say that it is appropriate that Jesus would say these in order for the last one says that those who are persecuted will be blessed.  And if you live your life according to all the previous Beatitudes, it will be rightfully seen as counter-cultural and when you live your life counter to what the culture says, you will be persecuted.

That same righteousness that we are to hunger and thirst for is the same thing that will cause you to be persecuted no matter how hard you try to make peace; no matter how much you show you love them.  And when you have done all you can and they still hate you God has a special blessing reserved for you.  Jesus continues this thought in verses 11 and 12, saying that when this happens we are to be glad because our reward in Heaven will be…pretty good…not bad…almost worth it.  No, He says our reward in Heaven will be great.

Have you been persecuted lately?  Let me warn you that the name of Jesus is highly offensive.  I heard just the other day about a judge that barred anyone praying at a high school graduation from saying the name “Jesus” in the prayer.  They don’t want the 10 Commandments in the school.  You can break out your prayer mat in the middle of Times Square, face east and pray to Allah but don’t say, “…in Jesus’ name” in the prayer or you will be branded an anarchist and face all kinds of persecution. 

So, if you are not seeing any persecution in your life that says a lot more about you than it does our culture because if you go around saying the name Jesus you will be persecuted.  Do you have enough passion for people and passion for other people that you would dare say that name to somebody this week?  Do you have enough mercy in you to want your neighbor to know how to avoid eternity in Hell?

Is your heart pure enough toward your co-worker that you would get out of your comfort zone, quit telling yourself that your life will be witness enough and start saying the name Jesus?  He is the great Physician.  He has the grace and mercy to forgive and restore.  He has the power to reward.  He can change lives, situations and attitudes.  Do you care enough about your family?  In fact, how bad do you have to hate somebody not to tell them the Good News that Jesus died for their sins, rose again and is waiting to forgive them and give them new life here and eternal life there?

Living your life according to the Beatitudes is not going to be easy.  But it will make you more like Jesus and that’s what this life is about.  And the more you realize Who God is and who you are the more you will want it.  Let’s pray about it right now.

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