Matthew 5

Matthew 5: Bless Your Heart!

Today we start our study of what is called: The Sermon on the Mount.  If you have a Bible that highlights Jesus’ words in red, you will notice the next three chapters are completely red.  This is the Lord’s longest recorded sermon. He would repeat portions of this sermon often as recorded in the other gospels.

It does not contain the ‘gospel’, per se. For there is no mention of his death, burial and resurrection; nor is there any mention of the Holy Spirit. However, the Holy Spirit can use this sermon to convict one of sin and righteousness, for in this sermon, sin is re-defined.

The Sermon on the Mount is the King providing the laws of His kingdom. In doing so this sermon reveals God’s standards and expresses the mind of Christ, who is the King of the Kingdom. In essence the Sermon on the Mount lets us know what God expects of us. It also shows us how man cannot keep the high standards of His law. The King of Kings is going to tell us, believers, what our attitude should be and how we should live and behave.  And when the reality of it settles in- we will see how impossible it is do so in our own power. That is why the King of the Kingdom of Heaven came the first time to be our Redeemer, our Savior.

Paul, the former Pharisee understood and tells us in Romans 8: “ For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by our sinful nature, God did by sending  his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in sinful man in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully  met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. “

Every kingdom or country has laws and standards by which it exercises authority over its subjects. The kingdom of heaven is no exception. Jesus declared that He came not to destroy the Law but to fulfill it.  The law was given by God to Moses and Paul again tells us: “ Therefore  no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law, rather, through the law we became conscious of sin.” Romans 3:26.

Jesus in His Sermon on  the Mount will give us the true meaning of the Law as He clearly enunciates the full meaning of the law of Moses- time after time- He will state:  “ You have heard it was said to the people long ago…., But I tell you.” By the time he finishes this sermon, he has told the crowd and his disciples:  “…unless your righteousness surpasses the righteousness of the Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5: 30)  The Jesus states:  “ Be perfect, therefore, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” ( Matt. 5: 48)

It is not by chance the Lord Jesus selected to give this sermon upon a mountain.  Remember it was upon a mountain that Moses received the law. In the first instance, the Lord came down to the mountain and in this case, the Lord Jesus went up the mountain. In the first giving of the law, God spoke in thunder and lightning while in the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord spoke in a still small voice. In Exodus, the people were ordered to keep their distance; now they are invited to come near.

What they are about to hear is entirely different from what the world expects as far as being ‘ blessed’ is regarded. Keep in mind, Jesus came  to bless the nations, the world. This was the promise of God to Abraham that through his seed- and the seed was the Lord Jesus , all the nations would be blessed.

Jesus is saying any reform that starts on the outside and works inward is beginning at the wrong place.  Christ starts on the inside and works outward. The only way to live a good life is to get a good heart.  Jeremiah said the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. ( Jer. 17)

Jesus knew what was in the heart of men.  Proverbs tells us as a man thinketh in his heart- so is he. Ezekiel 36 : 26-27 tells us what must happen:  “ I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” It is true- the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. We need a heart transplant.

We began this study because we want to grow in our knowledge of Jesus Christ. The Beatitudes provide a picture of Christ and describe what we are to be like, for we know we are being conformed to be like Him.

Today in the 21st century, we live in a fallen society. We are a minority. We think our problem is how to get a fallen society to behave as if they were Christians, and this is something they will never do, (for they are living according to their fallen nature.)  Our problem is not getting a fallen society to behave like Christians, our problem is getting Christians to stop behaving like the fallen society we live in.

Christians have lost their distinctiveness. Because we do not behave as ‘ salt and light’ God intends us to be in society- we see society has lost the Christian voice. The way to change our society- for us to change Jackson is through revival. And revival must always begin with God’s people.  “ If my people , which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways;  then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7)   Now do you understand the first word of the first sermon by Jesus recorded in Matthew 4:17  is : “ Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Whether it is a lost person repenting and getting saved, or a saved person confessing their sin and repenting and being cleansed- Jesus told us there was unbelievable rejoicing in heaven over the repentance of one sinner! ( Luke 15)  Can you imagine- the Lord Jesus leading the cheering throngs of  angels in heaven when you repented! It also tells us – if there is that much joy over repentance, can you imagine the depth of sadness over our sin?

When people can look at us, observe us in the workplace, in our daily activities and see something distinctive about us, a difference that makes them want to have what we have – instead of having what the rich and famous and powerful have- then we can make a difference in our society. When they look at us and see we are no different from them- what would make them desire what we have? Our divorce rate is about the same- our desire for the things of this world- seem to be identical.  We do not appear to have anything they want- and some of us appear to be nothing more than judgmental critics who practice the same things they do. The salt has lost its saltiness, its savor- what good is it?

Now ask yourself this- do you see the President, the leadership of our political parties, Republicans and Democrats alike, our Supreme Court judges and the mayors of our cities proclaiming- here is how we can heal our nation- here is what we need to do. We need to repent.  It is not going to happen, is it?

It is up to us- Christians.  Why is it so difficult to be different?  If Almighty God is so ready to bless us if we will repent and obey Him, why is it so difficult ?  There are two hindrances to being blessed- selfishness and sinfulness.  They go hand-in-hand.

Jesus had been preaching and teaching  throughout Galilee. He had been healing people of diseases, including casting out demons. His fame is spreading and he has drawn a large crowd to hear his teaching.  So let us hear from our King about the Kingdom of heaven and how we can enter into it and how we who are in His kingdom are to behave.

“ Now when he (Jesus) saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying: “    Now at reading this – we see Jesus has drawn a crowd , but as we  read this it appears his teaching is for his disciples, his followers.  Others are hearing it, for the crowds were amazed at his teaching, remarking how he taught with authority , and not as their teachers of the law. Jesus intended for them to hear these words and put them into practice. He will train this minority of disciples to impact the majority. As we study this sermon, we will see how far the church has fallen today to its lukewarm state having left its first love. You know how you get lukewarm?  You get away from that which made you hot to start with. You set a hot cup of coffee and leave it there for long and it will become the same room temperature-lukewarm. We have become the same temperature as the world society around us.  We have gotten away from what made our hearts burn within us- the Word of God. Hear what Jesus has to say to his disciples 2000 years ago and to us, his disciples today.      Thus he begins with the Beatitudes:

“ Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” The beatitudes show us who is to be blessed, what conditions are necessary to be blessed. The beatitudes also show us where true contentment lies.

The first thing we need to understand is the meaning of this word- blessed. In the South, someone is always telling us to be blessed or bless your heart.  The word blessed comes from the Greek word- makarios. The Greek used this word to describe the state of well-being in which their gods lived. A state of contentment and fulfillment and joy.

Only by having the nature of Christ indwelling us  can we experience this state of contentment, well-being and joy. To say it means to be happy- is not accurate. Happiness comes from favorable circumstances. I can be happy because Ole Miss won a football game or an accomplishment of my family, or a successful event in business.   This state of blessedness begins when Christ comes into our life. It does not depend on circumstances being favorable for us to be content, but to find our contentment in our relationship with the Lord.  As we mature this relationship progresses and we will see here in these opening verses how it begins.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This is certainly not our society’s idea of who is blessed. The world would say- blessed are the rich- for they can have whatever they want. Now if one believes riches are the way to contentment they will set themselves on the path to acquire wealth.

Listen to these verses I discovered in Isaiah 35: 8-10:  “ And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast  get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” Gladness and joy- isn’t that really what the world is searching for?

Psalm1- begins by telling us  ‘ blessed is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, or standeth in the way of the sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful…”

So we see a world around us that is looking for this blessedness. Ask 100 people on the street what is your ambition in life?  And probably 100% of them would give an answer that reflected something they thought would make them happy- thus be blessed. Whether it was having a lot of money, fame, power or being happily married- it is what they thought would make them happy, content. Most people think happiness can be found in things- as a child a new bicycle or toy. But it is only found in a right relationship with God, who alone is the giver of all good gifts. And His Greatest Gift is Himself. Now we said the two hindrances to receiving this blessing were:  selfishness and sinfulness.

Possession of more things, more money, is a symptom of selfishness.  Gina remarked the other night as we were watching an excited Bill Gates discussing what he was doing with his billions of dollars-‘ he is discovering it is greater to give than receive.’   Sin results from selfishness- lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life.  You see sin and selfishness go hand-in-hand. God gives us appetites, drives that are gifts and intended for our well-being , including ambition.  Satan wants to pervert those appetites and desires to feed our selfishness. The enemy wants us to believe God cannot provide us with this ‘ happiness’ we are searching for- but that the devil and this fallen world can and it comes from pleasing yourself rather than God.

So Jesus starts and says this blessing comes to those who realize they are spiritually poor. He told Nicodemus,a man who was called a Master Teacher, a member of the Sanhedrin, a Pharisee- unless he was born again, he could not even see the kingdom of God , much less enter the kingdom. Nicodemus had to realize he was spiritually bankrupt.

Do you see what Jesus came to make clear to us? We are all so spiritually inadequate and incapable that the Bible has to tell us what we cannot do. We can produce no fruit on our own. We cannot see the kingdom, we cannot enter the kingdom. We are controlled by our sinful nature and cannot please God. We must come to understand that in us dwells no good thing. We think we can please God with our good deeds, but apart from Him I can do nothing.

Why does this beatitude of ‘ poor in spirit’ come first on the list?  Because it is this attitude of humility that is the foundation for all that would be built upon.  God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.

So our first realization is we are spiritually bankrupt-and we realize we do not have it in ourselves to please the One we were created to please. We will never experience the joy we are looking for in our pursuit of contentment without Him. Realizing we are empty and only God can fill us- is the first step. Paul said ‘ he learned to be content’.  We have been so conditioned and conformed by the world system of values- we believe and accept making a certain amount of money and owning certain things is the key to contentment. Now Jesus will address this situation in this sermon and before I get ahead of myself, suffice it say- God knows we have need of such things. But the Lord Jesus does not want them to become our priority. Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added.

Notice as we study each of these beatitudes, they tell us not only who will be blessed, but also they contain a future promise of contentment. I can think of no better example than the account Jesus shares of the rich man and Lazarus, the diseased beggar in Luke 16.

So being poor in spirit, realizing our spiritual poverty leads to one to search for true contentment found only in salvation. Once we are saved- we begin the sanctification process. Let me ask you this question: we know, for the Word of God tells us, we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. We are accepted in the beloved; joint heirs with Christ; redeemed through his blood, forgiven of all our sins; in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished upon us with all wisdom and understanding….and I could go on and on with what all we have  but Peter summed it up pretty well with this verse:  “ For by His Divine Power, He has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who has called us by His own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1)

When you realize what all God has in store for us and how little of it we have appropriated- does it not make you realize how spiritually poor you still are?  That is why the next blessing Jesus tells us about is mourning. Mourning is the natural result of realizing how wretched we are.  Mourning comes with the realization how our sin has taken us further than we wanted to go; kept us longer than we wanted to stay and costs us more than we wanted to pay. It cost the prodigal his inherited fortune. Gone- and with nothing to show for it. It cost Adam and Eve their home, their lives and the death of a son. The first question in the Bible is one of the most profound: Where are you? ( The Lord asked Adam when he was hiding after he had sinned.)

I believe God is still asking that question to every descendant of Adam, where are you?  Take a look at your life- are you where you want to be?  He asked the prodigal as he stood, broke,filthy and lost- where are you?  Are you where you want to be?  Are you content now?  God comes looking for us.  Jesus came to seek and save. He seeks to bring us to a place where we agree with Him that we are not where we want to be, and we are where we are because of our own sin. Show us the way home, Lord. It is with this confession and repentance it begins. He came looking for me- and He came looking for you. You may have said to Him on other occasions- I like where I am- this is fun, I am having a good time.  Surely, this was true for the prodigal at some point in his journey. It was true for me- there was a season of enjoyment of my sin. But it was a clever deception designed by the Tempter. There is a way that seems right to man- it is the broad way and many enter in- but it leads to death. Travel down it too long and too far, and reject the call of the Savior and your conscience becomes seared and you can no longer be convicted of sin and righteousness. Your foolish heart is darkened.

What a restless world we live in filled with people including Christians who are desperately searching for what will satisfy their emptiness- only to be filled with the ‘ cotton candy’ of this sinful world provided by the one who is called – ‘ the tempter and the deceiver’. Going from one thing to another until we are exhausted, sick and bankrupt. And finally in desperation we cry out- for someone to help us. When we realize our lives are empty, void, and in darkness- we mourn for something or someone to give us hope.  Only the empty can be filled. Only the empty know of the gnawing hunger and thirst for something that will satisfy. Mourning will always accompany the recognition we are spiritually poor.

And Jesus has promised – blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those that mourn for they will be comforted..

It is a promise from Jesus and I can guarantee you-  He can and will bless your heart.

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14