Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted
January 10th, 2021

We tend to consider those who mourn as unfortunate.  No-one is happy about mourning—if they’re happy, then they aren’t really mourning, but the joy of salvation is something that is independent of the circumstances of the moment. 

People have this idea that if they could do whatever they want, they would be happy, when experience has shown, over and over again, that experience, unbound by morality, just brings death and destruction. 

those who mourn

Mourning is when grief inside us pours out from us in some outward expression, often tears or crying out.  Now, our first instinct, especially as adults is often to conceal grief. 

Passages like James 1:6-10 make it clear that we are to walk like a Citizen of Heaven, as a child of the light, walking in the light, in fellowship with Jesus. 

John 3:19-20Hiding and refusing to come to the light is not new.  It is, and has always been, the natural fleshly reaction.  While Jesus was saying these words, there was a crowd at the bottom of the hill that mostly just didn’t want to hear it. 

Mathew 5:20 says 20 “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”    Because everyone thought that the Pharisees were the most righteous people there were, then these Pharisees had a reputation to uphold.  Well, if our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, what should be our reaction to sin?  Cover it up and appear to others to be Super-Christian?  No. Walk in humility before your God.  Self-righteousness always causes problems.  Self-righteous attitude is often a defense mechanism that we use so that we don’t have to bring our sins to God and confess them. 

But when you mourn over sin, you will find that God mourns with you over the hurt and pain that the sin has caused you, over the anguish and grief that it has caused others.  He will hurt with you, because you are hurting.  That’s God’s reaction to confessed sin.  It is the unconfessed sin that hurts us, as we try to carry that weight around.  Proverbs 28:13 tells us He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.  

Model of mourning and sorrow over sin, repentance and forgiveness in Luke 7:36-38.

37 And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, 38 and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and she wiped them with the hair of her head, and began kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. 

Her sins were forgiven (v. 48).  Simon the Pharisee thought of the woman only as a sinner, and was probably worried about his own reputation when this woman came to his house.  Jesus ties her remorse for her sin together with her love for him, saying “her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much.   If we love Jesus, we obey Him, and a fundamental teaching of Jesus is that we should repent of sin, and be mournful of it.

Is God going to refuse someone who comes to Him in this way? NO!  When we come to Him with remorse, in brokenness of spirit, He will comfort us, as he did this woman.

Mourning over sin doesn’t feel like a good thing, but it is.  Paul talks in II Corinthians about Godly Sorrow in chapter 7vs.10 10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.

They shall be comforted

The Corinthians Godly sorrow and repentance will cause them not to suffer loss.  It caused them to turn from their evil, and to stop missing out on the blessing and reward that can be theirs now by obeying God, and will be theirs someday, when they stand before Jesus to be rewarded for their faithful service to the Kingdom. But there is also a more fundamental meaning as well: If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus, and you do come to God in humility with repentance and sorrow for sin, you will find salvation.  Remember Psalm 51:17  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, God, You will not despise.  He will not turn away from you—He will make sure that you have the opportunity to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and give you the faith to step out and receive Jesus into your heart. 





Blessed are the Poor in Spirit—Mathew 5:3
January 3rd, 2021

Now that they are chosen, Jesus must teach them what it means to be His followers, what it means to live their lives as Christians and what message that they are to teach others later.  This is the first among the five discourses of Jesus, or sermons listed in Mathew.  The Sermon on the Mount is foundational to what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.  It exhorts us to apply His teachings to our lives, so that we can be rooted more deeply into our Foundation—God.

Now to be a disciple meant that you were committed to a particular teachers’ understanding of the Word of God—you goal was to be just like your teacher.  To be a disciple meant to pattern your life after your teacher.  And this relationship of Jesus’ disciples with Him is what provides the pattern, the way of life that Jesus calls us to, and challenges us to in the Sermon on the Mount. 

He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,

Verse 2 starts out with the phrase “Jesus opened His mouth”.   It’s a very Hebrew way of telling us to stop and pay attention to what’s about to be said.

The second thing to notice in verse 2 is that he is teaching the disciples, instructing them.

The target audience for this lesson, this Sermon on the Mount are those who have committed their lives to a discipleship-relationship with Jesus.  Back in Mathew 4:17 Jesus had called those who would be His disciples to Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.  Now, Jesus is telling these penitent disciples that there is a whole new way of life that has opened up for them.  That this repentance and coming to Jesus was only the first step in their new life, and that this life is full of contentedness and blessings.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed

We get the word beatitude by the way from the Latin word for blessed which is Beatus.  The word used in the Bible for Blessed here is the the Greek work Makarioi (Maka’-rio-i).  It means supremely blessed, fortunate, well off, Happy.  Throughout the New Testament, this word Blessed refers to the joy that comes from salvation.  Happiness depends on circumstances, Happenstance, but the Joy of the Lord in being “completely satisfied” in Him in no way depends on favorable circumstances-it depends only on salvation and that justification, that state of being right with God that it brings.

It’s important to understand that this sermon was preached to disciples, because no person can live out the sermon on the Mount unaided by the Holy Spirit.  These strange words “Blessed are the poor in spirit” begin to make sense only when we understand that the source of this blessedness is Salvation, a right relationship with God.  Some say that the “demands” of the Sermon on the Mount make it unattainable by human capabilities, and therefore not to be taken literally, I believe that a central point of the sermon on the mount is that it is unreachable by human effort.  It should be taken just as God wrote it precisely because only God could call us to this kind of life, and only God can empower us to live it.  People always try to wrestle away from hard passages, and twist and turn them because they don’t want to be wholly dependent on God. 

Life as a Citizen of Heaven depends on an inner righteousness not achievable by human effort.  It’s not about outer works, but the inner attitude of the heart, which will tend to overflow into outward acts of righteousness.  Jesus is teaching us what true righteousness, looks like.

poor in spirit

The word used here is ptochoi – it means poor destitute, and unable to help oneself.  As Citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, then this is a perfect place to start.

Psalm 51:17 says The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, God, You will not despise.  In other words the true sacrifices that God regards are a broken, crushed spirit, and a broken heart, and one that has been crushed can come to Him—and He will not despise the person who comes to Him like this.

We don’t like to think of ourselves as helpless—in this case it’s appropriate—since the best way to do God’s work on earth as we’re supposed to do is get ourselves out of the way.  A person who is poor in spirit isn’t someone with a self-esteem problem.  On the contrary it’s someone who is really being honest with themselves, and realizing that their dignity and worth comes from being made in the image of God.

It is the attitude of those who have recognized their spiritual proverty, indeed their spiritual state of bankruptcy, that without coming to a saving faith in Jesus they were spiritually dead, and that they must continually die to themselves:  As Jesus said in John 12:24-25 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. 

 A man who is poor in spirit is someone who makes room for God to work in their life and dies to themselves, so that there is room for the Holy Spirit to work in them and through them. Humility brings a willingness to do the will of God, and an openness to God’s Word and His plan for your life that nothing else does.  And that’s why it’s so critical, and that’s why it’s mentioned first

Phillipians 2:5-7a: Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant,

So, this poverty of spirit was not something that we experience once, when we finally realize our need for Jesus, but something that the Holy Spirit seeks to cultivate in us.  In 1 Cor 15, the resurrection chapter, in verses 30 and 31 Paul says 30 Why are we also in danger every hour? 31 I affirm, brothers and sisters, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, that I die daily.  And he goes onto say that it’s because this dying to self is motivated by God, and not by human motivation, that it is profitable to Him.  This is what taking up our cross is all about—Romans 8:17  if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.  And this makes us heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ .  Jesus links this inner poverty of spirit and submission to the Will of God, with this blessing, and with us being able to lay hold of the Kingdom of Heaven.  He says:

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. By having this inner life of one who is poor in spirit, you open the door, and step out of the way for God to help because you’re not trying to do it yourself all of the time.  And so Jesus is teaching us that this continual inner-self attitude of poverty of spirit, of knowing that we can do nothing for ourselves is what opens the door, not only for realizing our need for God, but for God showing Himself mighty on our behalf.





Repent, the Kingdom of God is at Hand
December 27th, 2020

 It helps our appreciation of what the Sermon on the Mount is all about to put it in the larger context of Jesus’ earthly ministry. 

The Sermon on the Mount took place around the area of the Sea of Galilee, in the Northeast of Israel, and in fact in some areas that today are part of Lebanon.  Isaiah had prophesied, and Mathew recounts in 4:16 that 16 The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, Upon them a Light dawned.”

Verse 12 tells us that this was also during the time when Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been arrested.  John’s message was for everyone to repent, to turn back from their evil ways, so that they would be able to receive Jesus when He came.  (Mathew 3:1-2).  What is Jesus’ Message? Mathew 4:17 tells us: 17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  The exact same message!   The word for repent is the Greek verb metanoeó. (met-an-o-eh’-o), which means to change one’s mind or purpose, to “think differently afterwards”, to make a u-turn in the direction of one’s life. 

Baptism is symbolic of the old life of sinfulness being over and a commitment to walk in newness of life.  In Mathew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” emphasizes the importance of making disciples, but also the importance of this public declaration as a witness to others and as an event commemorating the new birth in Christ. 

Repentance must come first, then the baptism.  So, we see this consistency in the message of John the Baptist, and from Jesus and the Apostles.

In other words, Jesus’ ministry was to speak the words that God had for men about the Good News of salvation found in belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior, and trust in Jesus for eternal life. 

God’s sovereign rule extends everywhere. But Earth is in rebellion

It’s not exaggerating to say that the Kingdom of God was the heart of Jesus’ message in preaching.

The Pharisees were looking for future signs of the Kingdom of God coming, when Jesus was doing miracles all around them demonstrating that His coming was the coming of the Kingdom of God.  Jesus is our perfect example of what living as a citizen of the Kingdom looks like, and He teaches us through His life, teachings, death, resurrection and revelation throughout the New Testament what it means to live as a follower in Christ, a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus’ earthly ministry was directed toward telling people the Good News of the Gospel, that there WAS a way to be reconciled to God, and in teaching His disciples what it meant to be the recipients of this reconciliation–citizens of the Kingdom of God

The Sermon on the Mount is about Jesus, who said “You must be Born Again”, telling people what this new life in Christ looks like. 

5 When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying, He’s up on a mountain and His disciples came to him and he’s directing this entire sermon toward His disciples.  Now that they are chosen, Jesus must teach them what it means to be His followers, what it means to live their lives as Christians and what message that they are to teach others later.  This is the first among the five discourses of Jesus, or sermons listed in Mathew.  The Sermon on the Mount is foundational to what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.  It exhorts us to apply His teachings to our lives, so that we can be rooted more deeply into our Foundation—God.