The Greatest Sermon in History Part 2
"God Bless You"
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
January 18, 2004

 

Main Passage: Matthew 5:1-12 (NLT)

 

She’s 14 years old and has the attention of millions. This past week she entered the world of men and competed with guys two and three times her age. And the wonder of it all is that she beat several men with much more strength and experience than her… Men who not long ago would have scoffed at the idea of such a young girl ever having a place in their ranks.

Who am I talking about?

PARTICIPATION

Michelle Wie. Michelle is the 14-year-old marvel who took on the men in the PGA Tour this past week at the Sony Open. And she really held her own. She has an excellent swing and is able to find the middle of the fairway more times than not. She raised her own game to a new level and presented a real challenge to the people around her. And when all was said and done, she missed the cut by only one stroke when she shot a 2-under-par on Friday. And get this: she tied for 80th and beat 48 other players!

Some of us here this morning are weekend hackers. Last summer I became a bit of one myself. I know that I’m just a beginner and I’ve got a long, long…. Long ways to go. But every once in a while I impress myself. Every once in a while, I’m able to get the ball up in the air and still have it land in bounds on the fairway three or even four times in a row!

But imagine… Imagine if I had the opportunity to take on Michelle Wie. Imagine if we went head-to-head in a battle of the sexes. Imagine if we had a showdown on the greens. Imagine how I’d feel after being completely beaten and trounced upon by a fourteen year old girl! It wouldn’t take me long to realize that she’s completely out of my league. In fact, maybe the league I’m in should be disbanded and any records of its existence destroyed.

No matter how good I think I may be doing and how far I think I’ve come in learning how to golf, all I have to do is turn on the TV and watch real pros go at it. I can watch them step up to the first tee and drive that ball farther through the air than I can drive it in a car. And what really gets me is when they do that and then step back to their caddy and say, just loud enough for the cameras to pick it up, “I didn’t get all of it.” It’s as if they’re rubbing it in my face! “I’m out of your league, punk!”

The Scribes and the Pharisees mentioned in the New Testament were pros when it came to religion. They lived according to a religious code of conduct that most people in the society could never attain. They raised the bar high and were able to clear it almost without fail. And they made no secret of it. In fact, they would parade their religious superiority around and make sure that everyone knew how incredibly gifted they were when it came to living a spiritually rich life. They made sure everyone around them knew that they were out of their league.

Enter Jesus. This unknown teacher starts traveling around the countryside talking about the Kingdom of God. And because of the incredible miracles He was performing, news about Him began to spread. People started asking, “What is this Kingdom Jesus is talking about? And more importantly, how do I get in? What do I have to do? Could I ever measure up?” Would this Kingdom be out of their league, and would they be left feeling discouraged, defeated, and in despair?

Last week we started a new series on The Greatest Sermon in History… the Sermon on the Mount. We commented that in this sermon, Jesus was primarily teaching His disciples. But others were in earshot, too. Crowds of people had heard about Jesus and had come out to see Him by the thousands. And as He taught His disciples, they edged closer and closer to hear what He was saying. How do I know this? Because at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the Bible tells us that the crowds were amazed at His teaching. (Matthew 7:28)

So here you have the crowds. They had shown up to hear this Jesus talk about the Kingdom of Heaven. Would Jesus give them a list of requirements to get in? Would He tell them who could qualify? Would He tell them if they even had a shot?

And then Jesus begins to speak… and he begins with “Blessed…”

He tells them, “You may have come here today with all kinds of doubts and all kinds of questions about what you have to do to be part of the Kingdom. You may question your qualifications and you may wonder if you measure up. But I tell you, you are blessed. You have reason to celebrate. You are greatly favoured by God. You are one lucky person!”

People who had shown up, probably expecting to hear how they didn’t measure up, were told to take heart… they were blessed.

And thus begins the Beatitudes. At least, that’s what we’ve come to call these 10 verses at the beginning of Matthew chapter 5. There are eight Beatitudes in all. We’re going to look at the first three this morning and finish them up next week. And we’re going to have to move through them rather quickly… each one really could be a message on it’s own. So if we were going to cover each one in depth this morning, it’d take us another hour or two. So I hope you packed a lunch.


As we go though the Beatitudes this week and next, you’ll notice some things.

 

Observations on the Beatitudes:

 

A. God’s Value System Does Not Equal World’s Value System

The things that we think are important in this world are not necessarily the things that God thinks are important.

 

B. There are Apparent Contradictions

If you’re poor in spirit, the Kingdom of Heaven is yours. If you’re meek, you will inherit the earth. If you experience pain and suffering, you’re lucky. These things don’t seem to go together.

 

C. Deal with Attitudes, not Actions; Heart, not Hands

The Beatitudes are more concerned about who you are than what you do. And that’s a theme you’ll find throughout the Sermon on the Mount and throughout all of Scripture. God is much more concerned about sincerity than He is about show.

 

D. The Blessings are Real

They are not obscure or abstract. They are not wishful thinking. They are genuine promises that Jesus presents in a real way… as if they are really going to happen.

 

So let’s get a start on the Beatitudes…

 

The Beatitudes (Part 1)

 

1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (v.3)

What is Jesus saying? He is saying, “You are blessed if you recognize your need of God, because Heaven is meant for you.”

Now, remember who was listening in… People who for years had been shown up by the religious leaders, the Scribes and the Pharisees. These Scribes and Pharisees would have considered themselves rich in spirit, and others would have seen them that way, too. They would have been considered affluent in religiosity. They would have been seen as wealthy in spiritual stature.

But Jesus says, “The Kingdom of Heaven is for the poor in spirit. It’s for the spiritually bankrupt. It’s for those wallowing in religious poverty. It’s for the people who can’t measure up to a religious code of conduct and know it!”

At another time, Jesus told a story to illustrate this truth…

Luke 18:10-14 (NLT)
“Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a dishonest tax collector. The proud Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there! For I never cheat, I don’t sin, I don’t commit adultery, I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For the proud will be humbled, but the humble will be honored.”


You can be a good person, attend church, and throw a few bucks in the offering box, and all that’s fine. But if you’re depending on that to get you into Heaven, it ain’t gonna happen.

I heard Billy Graham on the radio this week say…

“Religion alone will not get you into Heaven.”
~ Billy Graham

Isaiah 64:6 (NLT)
We are all infected and impure with sin. When we proudly display our righteous deeds, we find they are but filthy rags.

Greg Nance says,

“To be poor in spirit is more than to be humble. It is like comparing myself to the perfection of Jesus and seeing the truth and accepting it as truth. I not only do not measure up, but I am like a miserable beggar standing by a King.”
~ Greg Nance

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“You have reason to celebrate if you recognize that you don’t measure up, that you never can, and that you need God, because Heaven is meant for you.”

 

2. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (v.4)

Some people will look at this Beatitude and conclude that you always have to be somber and sad and in mourning. But that would fly in the face of other passages that promise us as believers joy and gladness.

No, I don’t believe we’re always supposed to be in mourning. That’s not how this Beatitude should be taken. But when we are in mourning, we will be comforted. That’s the way it works in the Kingdom.

What are some reasons to mourn?

PARTICIPATION

Let me give you three things you can mourn for…

 

Three Reasons to Mourn:

  • For Personal Losses

    I’ve had a personal lose recently. Before the first snowfall, I went out and bought a couple of reflectors for the end of my driveway. And I went out and put them in the ground, one on each side of the driveway. Not more than a week later, a car pulled up and stopped, somebody got out, grabbed one of the reflectors, jumped back in the car and took off. So I lost one of the reflectors right away. Over the past couple of days, Shera and I were out of town. We got back last night to find that a snowplow had run over our one remaining reflector. I know personal lose!

    Truthfully, we all do experience lose. We may experience the death of someone we love… a co-worker, a friend, a family member. We may have our dreams dashed and destroyed. We may have some kind of serious setback in our lives. These are personal loses, and there are things that should be mourned. And as you do, you will be comforted. That’s the way it works in the Kingdom.

    Psalm 147:3 (NLT)
    He heals the brokenhearted, binding up their wounds.
     

  • For Evil & Suffering in the World

    There’s a lot of it. You see it every day. You can mourn for some of the terrible things that happen and the lives that are destroyed.
     

  • For Your Own Sinfulness

    Do you know there are some people who are proud of the way they rebel against God and how they follow their own evil desire instead? But you are to mourn for your sinfulness. If you mourn your sinfulness, that means you’re not proud of it. And you don’t just confess it and keep doing it. Instead, you repent, which means you’re sorry enough to do a full 180 and turn away from it.

 

When you mourn, be genuine about it. And realize this incredible truth:

God has given the Hold Spirit the assignment of providing comfort when we need it.

 

3. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (v.5)

Here’s one of those contradictions we were talking about. Here’s one of those times when you see that the value system of God is completely different than the value system of this world. Because in this world, the meek are trampled on. If you want to get ahead, you have to assert yourself, you need to be a go-getter, you need to take charge, you need to lead the way, you need to fight off the competition and win at any cost.

But Jesus says, “If you are meek… if you are gentle and lowly… if you sometimes feel like the world is passing you by because you’re not assertive enough… if you feel marginalized by society… then take heart, because everything that others struggle and fight and compete to win will be yours. You will inherit the earth.”

You don’t have to step on other people. You don’t have to push your way to the top. You don’t have to have a domineering Type-A personality. Be kind, be gentle, be humble, be lowly… and it will all work out in your favour. That’s how it works in the Kingdom.

Matthew 23:11-13 (NLT)
The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
“How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you won’t let others enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and you won’t go in yourselves.”

I think there’s a danger in discussing meekness, and that is that we equate meekness with weakness. But meek does not equal weak.

Meek does not equal Weak

You can be meek and have a firm confidence in who God made you to be. You can have certainty of you actions and your obedience to the will of God. You can have your self-worth based not in who others think you are but in who God thinks you are.

And it doesn’t mean that you don’t strive to do your best and succeed at whatever you do. But it means that you are gentle in how you interact with others and you treat others as more important than yourself. You don’t behave as a bully or demand to get your own way. You can look out for your own interests, but also look out for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)

A.W. Tozer wrote a book called, “The Pursuit of God.” And in it he said…

“The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather, he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life. He know he is as weak and helpless as God declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is in the sight of God of more importance than angels. ‘In himself, nothing; in God, everything.’ That is his motto.”
~ A. W. Tozer, in The Pursuit of God

 

There’s where we’re going to stop this morning. We’ll finish up with the other five Beatitudes next Sunday. (Or possibly look at the next four and save the eighth for the week after that.) But for now, I want to give you a chance to allow what we’ve been talking about already to sink in.

Have you been relying in your religiosity to gain entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven? Do you think you’re good enough to earn your admittance? I’ve got to tell you, you’re not. Compared to God’s holiness, you’re the scum of the earth… just like the rest of us. Recognize that there’s no way you can make it on your own. You need Jesus to help you in.

And how are you with mourning? I don’t mean, are you sad all the time and do you always focus on your faults. But do you mourn for your sinfulness? Do you confess your inadequacies? Do you recognize that you fail God from time to time and fall short of His standard for living? And are you sorry enough to change the way you’re living and strive to follow Him and live for Him?

That deals with your relationship with God. How are you with others? Are you meek? Do you handle other people with care and compassion? Are you gentle? Do you genuinely care about others or are you only looking out for number 1? If you have difficulty being meek, then you need to ask God to soften your spirit and help you see others through His eyes. Recognize that every person you know is another person that Jesus died for. And if they matter that much to Him, they need to matter to me and to you, too.

Would you close your eyes. If God’s been speaking to you this morning and dealing with you in areas of your life… perhaps areas that have been closed to him in recent months or years… perhaps areas that you’ve never opened up to Him before… then I want to pray for you. I’m not going to mention you by name, but while everyone else has their eyes closed out of respect for you, would you look up from where you are and make eye contact with me?

If you’re here this morning and you don’t know this Jesus we’re talking about… if you’ve been relying on your own goodness to gain entrance to the Kingdom and this morning you realize that you can’t make it on your own… If you want to start a relationship with Jesus today and live for Him from this day forward, I’m going to ask you to slip up your hand and hold it up long enough for me to see it.


 

 

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