The sermon on the mount begins with the beatitudes, or we might refer to them as the attitudes that God desires of us. This is a sermon in which Jesus at the very beginning describes the kind of person we are to be on the inside, the person of the heart. It is what is on the inside that matters, and Jesus goes straight to this point in the beginning.
If you were to go to the book of Proverbs 4.23, you would find these words: "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it springs the issues of life.” When you turn to the New Testament, you read the words of Jesus in Matthew 12.34: “for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” You will find repeatedly throughout the Bible that your attention is being drawn to this concept of the heart.
In the Sermon of the Mount, Jesus is preaching perhaps the most popular and well known sermon ever preached, and He begins with the attitudes of the heart.
If you just do a quick review of these beatitudes, you would find that they contain three components.
Let's examine each of these beatitudes to see the kind of attitude or mindset God desires of us.
The poor in spirit is a reference to the attitude of humility. Notice that Jesus did not just reference the poor. That would automatically eliminate the middle class and the wealthy. Notice that Jesus did not just reference those who have a spirit. That would include everybody, because we are all spirits living inside physical bodies. Jesus referred to the "poor in spirit."
The Greeks had two words for "poor."
It is the second of these two words that is used in this first beatitude. Jesus is saying that the one who is truly happy is the one who sees himself so spiritually impoverished that he has to beg God for spiritual survival. In other words, the one who is truly happy is the one who humbles himself before God.
Take this thought to 1 Peter 5.5,6: "Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for 'God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'
In Bible times, a free man would distinguish himself from a slave by the color of the girdle that bound his outer garment. A free man would wear a girdle that would be a certain color. A slave would wear a girdle that would be a a different color. Someone who was just passing by could see the color of an individual’s garment and immediately identify him as either being a slave or being free.
With that imagery in mind, Peter says that Christians are to gird their waists with humility. People ought to be able to see us as children of God because of the humility that we wear around our waste as a girdle. There must be an attitude of humiliation.
The kingdom of God is used in the Bible in one of two ways.
Jesus is telling us in this beatitude that if we want to be a member of the Lord's church, and we want to eventually enjoy a home in heaven, we must have this attitude of humility. We must see our complete dependence upon God.
The Greek word for “mourn” is the word that describes the grief that someone expresses because of a loss of someone in death. In this beatitude, Jesus says that those who are truly happy are those who are absolutely grief stricken. Does that not sound contradictory?
Jesus had a specific kind of grief in mind. It was a grief over being guilty of sin. Listen to how the apostle Paul put it in 2 Corinthians 7.10: "For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death."
There needs to be an attitude of humility, and there must be a contrite heart that moves me to say, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" (Luke 18.13).
People are not coming to Christ being baptized for the remission of their sins because they are not troubled by the sin in their lives. You do not have the kind of heart that God desires if you are not troubled by sin when it enters your life.
In this beatitude, Jesus refers to a consequence of having this sorrow over sin. He says that they shall be comforted. Indeed, those who are troubled by the sin in their lives will find comfort in the fact that they can be cleansed from their sins by the blood of Jesus (1 John 1.7).
The Greek word translated for “meek” was sometimes used in the field of medicine. In that application, it referred to medicine that goes down smoothly. Are you familiar with Mary Poppins? She would sing a song about how a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. When I was growing up, medicine was bitter. Nowadays, medicine is flavored. You can buy it in variety of flavors including grape, cherry, and bubblegum. These flavors help the medicine go down smoothly.
If I lived in the first century, and I took medicine that went down smoothly, this word for "meek" would be the word that I would use to describe it.
When this word "meek" is applied to human behavior, it referred to someone who had a very gentle temperament. It was someone who was careful toward the sensitivities of others. Not only is there to be a humble spirit before God, and a sorrowful spirit in reference to sin, but there is also to be a gentleness toward the sensitivities of others. You are to have a temperament where you approach others gently.
Is not gentleness part of the fruit that you bear when you allow your life to be guided by the word of God (Gal. 5.22,23)?
Is not gentleness to be the way you approach someone who is caught up in sin (Gal. 6.1)? If someone is making a mistake and hurting themselves by their choices, you are not to approach him with an "I told you so" attitude. You are not to approach him with a sense of superiority. You are to approach him with a spirit of gentleness. It is this same word that we find in Matthew 5.5. In this beatitude, Jesus says that the truly happy are those who are gentle.
He then explains that the meek are truly happy because they will inherit the earth. The idea is not that we will someday be given this earth as a possession. Peter tells us that this earth will be destroyed at the end of time (2 Pet. 3.10). Instead it refers to the blessings of this earth that we will enjoy as a result of living a life of gentleness.
What is righteousness? The Bible tells us that the commands of God are righteous (Ps. 19,9). Righteous is what you become when you hear and obey the commands of God.
In this beatitude, Jesus is saying that those who are truly happy are those who have an insatiable desire for what God says to the point where they obey what God says. This attitude is one in which an individual has a passion for God’s word.
The psalmist wrote in Psalm 119.97: "Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.” Jesus said in Matthew 4.4: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” We do not just eat bread to live. We live on the sustenance and nutrients of every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. We are to have a passion for what God says.
This beatitude expresses an attitude of compassion for those who hurt. Some translations will use the word "lovingkindness." It is going that extra mile to help someone who is hurting and in need. It is putting yourself in their shoes and then treating them the way you would want to be treated if your positions were reversed.
Jesus said in Luke 6.36 that you are to “be merciful, just as your Father is also merciful.” James tells us in James 2.13 that "judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment." You are to be merciful to other if you want the mercy of God.
The word “pure” comes from the Greek word "katharos." We might think of the word "catharsis" or "cathartic." The English word carries the idea of releasing strong emotions by venting. Some might consider a good cry to be cathartic. Some might consider exercising to be cathartic. It is an emotional release, a purging of emotions.
In this beatitude, Jesus is saying that those who are truly happy are those who have purged their hearts of spiritual and moral impurities from our lives.
The apostle Paul refers to being pure in heart in Romans 12.2: "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
We cannot see, know, or have a relationship with God when we are not pure in heart. James said as much in James 4.4: "Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."
When one wears clothes that leave little to the imagination, how can they say that they are pure in heart? When one engages in activities that associate them with the people of the world instead of separating them from the world how can they say that they are pure in heart? When one's speech is just as profane as that of the world, how can they say that they are pure in heart?
We need to think pure thoughts, so they can translate into pure living (Phil. 4.8). The way you think defines the person you are. So we are to be people who are pure in heart, that is, pure in the way that you think.
Jesus does not use the word "piece makers." He uses the word "peacemakers." But many of us are not peacemakers, but piece makers. We are troublemakers causing people's hearts and lives to be broken into pieces rather than making peace.
In this beatitude, Jesus refers to a cooperative attitude. There is nothing more deplorable, and there is nothing more preventable than people not being able to get along. It is absolutely ridiculous for division to happen.
If there are doctrinal differences, then they are resolved by opening up the Bible and studying them together. If there is division because of hurt feelings, then they are resolved by people sitting down and working out their differences.
It is beyond comprehension that people cannot seem to think the same way, and there is only one way to think the same way. How do I think like you, and you think like me? We need to both be thinking like Jesus. If you think like Jesus, and I think like Jesus, then you and I will be thinking the same way, and there will never be division among us.
Don’t miss the fact that this is a compound word. It isn't just peace. It’s "peacemakers." Peace is not something that just happens. It has to be made. It takes a lot of hard work. It is a process of each of us putting in the effort to conform our minds to think like Jesus and being able to come together and think the same thing as one another regardless of our differences of opinion and preferences.
The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 14.19: "pursue the things which make for peace." So you have an attitude of cooperation.
In this beatitude, Jesus refers to the attitude of conviction. It is being so convicted that you are willing to suffer for the sake of righteousness.
The apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 4.16: "Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.”
You need to be willing to hold on to what you believe even when it causes you to hurt. In Matthew 13, you will find the parable of the sower. Jesus makes reference to the seeds that fell on stony ground, but because of persecution due to the word, what began to grow, withered away and died (Matt. 13.21).
There are those who become Christians and are added to the Lord’s church, but they are Christians for a very short time until they are persecuted by the world. Because Christians don’t like being a part of something that makes them a target by the world, they forfeit their place in it. And so we have this last beatitude.
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