The Greatest Sermon in History Part 3
Matters of the Heart
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
January 25, 2004

 

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

 

About five or six years ago, I had the opportunity to have breakfast with Paul Henderson. Paul Henderson, of course, scored what became known as “The Goal of the Century” which allowed the Canadian hockey team to beat the Russians in the 1972 Summit Series. No, it wasn’t a private breakfast… there were probably over 200 other people there. And I sat at a table at the far end of the banquet hall away from where Paul was sitting. But I was still thrilled to be there, because Paul Henderson is a hero in this country. And it’s amazing to hear him speak about playing in that series, because he knows what he’s talking about. He’s been there.

Some of you will remember that I attended a conference last spring in Montreal. It was a conference with Bill Hybels. Bill Hybels started a church in the suburbs of Chicago back in the 70s, and that church is currently averaging about 20,000 people in attendance every week. This is one of the most influential churches in the world and has had a dramatic effect on the way “church is done” in North America. I sat riveted in my seat during that conference. I was listening to a man who has a deep passion for helping people find God and a sincere heart for ministry and presenting the Church as relevant for the 21st century.

There’s nothing quite like listening to someone who knows what they’re talking about. There’s nothing quite like learning from a master. There’s nothing like hearing from someone who’s been there.

I think that’s how the crowds on the hillside in Galilee felt listening to Jesus speak. He was a teacher, He was a Rabbi, He was a master… He spoke with authority and conviction… He spoke about the Kingdom of God… and He knew what He was talking about because He had been there. And the people were amazed at His teaching.

Last week we started to look at the verses at the beginning of Matthew 5 in the section of the Sermon on the Mount that we’ve come to know as the Beatitudes. We looked at the first three Beatitudes last week. Here’s a quick review…

 

The Beatitudes (Part 2)

 

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

We talked about how the religious leaders of the day lived their lives according to a high level of religion… a code of conduct almost impossible to equal. The average person in the society would have seen themselves as failures in comparison. They would have known that they would never be able to be as “rich in spirit” as the Scribes and Pharisees. And the Scribes and Pharisees made sure the people never forgot how superior they were.

But Jesus tells the people, “Blessed are the poor in spirit… You are blessed and 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. You may be spiritually bankrupt, you may you may live in religious poverty… that’s okay, because the doors of My Kingdom are wide open to you. They’re wide open to anyone who is humble enough to recognize their sinfulness, repent and walk in.”

 

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

When you experience loss, when you recognize the devastation of evil and suffering in this world, when you are confronted with your own sinfulness… those are times to mourn. Those are times to express deep sorrow. And when those times come, you can be sure that God will provide ease and comfort for you. He will do this through His love, through His Church, and through the presence of the Holy Spirit. That’s the way it works in the Kingdom.

“The Christian life does not deny brokenness; it denies that brokenness has the last word.”
~ Brennan Manning

 

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

In a world where the pushy prevail, where the domineering dominate, where to get to the top you have to trample on others, 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.”

 

Okay, that’s a quick review of the first three Beatitudes. If you missed last week and want to read the full message, check it out on our website. The people sat in amazement at His teaching. They sat with wide-eyed wonderment at what He was saying. So He continued…

 

4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (v.6)

There are a couple of different aspects of this desire for righteousness. And we’re going to talk about both, because I think both apply.

  1. Desire for a right relationship with God

    Jesus knew that there were people on the hillside that day with hunger pangs to be in a right relationship with God. Ever know anybody like that? Perhaps you’ve been that person. Perhaps you’ve experienced gnawing hunger pangs to know God… the stomach-growling kind of hunger pangs. Perhaps you experienced them over a period of time. Or perhaps you experienced them sharply… perhaps you experienced them suddenly. Maybe in an emergency situation you’ve felt the need to get right with God.

    Let me give you two terms and you tell me what comes to mind:

    "Court case"
    "Media Frenzy"

    PARTICIPATION

    Right now there are a few major court cases being tried in the media. One of them is the trial involving basketball star Kobe Bryant. You may remember last summer when the charges of rape were first made against him by a 19-year old girl. Within a few days of the charges being made, Kobe Bryant appeared at a press conference on television with his wife, Vanessa, sitting next to him. He denied the rape charges, but this is what he did say, speaking to his wife…

    “You're the strongest person I know and I'm so sorry for having to put you through this and put our family through this.”
    ~ Kobe Bryant

    He went on to say…

    “I'm a human being. I'm a man just like everybody. … and I sit here before you guys embarrassed and ashamed for committing adultery.”
    ~ Kobe Bryant

    I’m sure at that moment Kobe felt the hunger pangs for a right relationship with his wife. I’m not talking about a general craving, like you might have for chocolate. I’m talking about a deep rooted all-consuming desire to restore that relationship. And I don’t think that desire was exclusive to his wife… I think Kobe also felt the sharp hunger pangs to be in a right relationship with God. In fact, this is what he said…

    “I made the mistake of adultery. I have to answer to my wife and my God for my actions that night and I pray that both will forgive me.”
    ~ Kobe Bryant

    I think he felt like some of us do when we get caught in situations where we don’t measure up… or where we have failed ethically or morally… where we find ourselves saying, “Oh, I’d give anything if I could only be right with God.”

    In the Bible in Matthew 19, there’s the account of a rich young man who had it all. He was wealthy, he was successful, but he knew he was missing something. He felt the hunger pangs. So he sought out Jesus to find out how to be right with God. (Matthew 19:16-30)

    In John 3, there’s a Pharisee and member of the Jewish ruling council named Nicodemus, who came to Jesus saying, “I teach religion, but I know I’m not right with God. How…” (John 3:1-21)

    There’s an Ethiopian talked about in Acts 8. He was an important man… in charge of all the treasury of the Ethiopian queen. And he experienced such a hunger and thirst that he got in his chariot and traveled all the way to Jerusalem to worship. But on his way back, he knew that wasn’t enough. His hunger hadn’t been satisfied. So we see him flipping through the Scriptures trying to find out how to get right with God.

    Some of you may be able to identify with that. Maybe you’ve tried all kinds of things… gone through all kinds of religious rituals… only to discover that you’re not satisfied. You’re looking in the wrong places. Don’t look to rituals, don’t look to religion… look to a right relationship with God. Get to know Him. And Jesus promises, “If you sincerely and deeply hunger and thirst to be in a right relationship with God, that desire will be satisfied completely. You will be filled.”

    “Have you noticed that nothing in this world truly satisfies? This world is full of promises that it can’t keep. It pacifies, but it never satisfies. But Jesus pronounces God’s blessing to satisfy us.”
    ~ Greg Nance

    Let me tell you something. You’re righteousness not based on who you are or what you can do. It’s based in who you know.

     

  2. Desire for what is right, just and honorable

    You want the innocent to be protected and the corrupt to be found guilty. You want people to be treated with respect. You want there to be punishment for crime, and you want there to be reward for the honorable. As far as it is up to us, we need to act justly. We need to act justly in our relationships, we need to act justly with those that we might have some level of power over, we need to act justly in our business dealing. We need to be sure that we act in good conscience… that our motive isn’t to swindle, harm or rip-off somebody.

    “We are to be truthful, honest, and sincere toward ourselves, toward God, toward our civil and business obligations, and in all other relationships with our fellowman.”
    ~ Armor D. Peisker
    Beacon Bible Commentary Vol. 5

    Desire justice, but be sure to balance that with the next Beatitude…

 

5. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. (v.7)

Yes, you can and should have a deep desire for what is right, but be sure to balance that with mercy for those who are wrong. Aren’t you glad you don’t always get what you deserve? How many of you have ever been forgiven for doing something wrong?

PARTICIPATION

Mercy is a vital ingredient in any relationship. In fact, I don’t think a relationship can survive without mercy. Take marriage for example. Can you imagine a marriage void of mercy? It’d end faster than a marriage to Britney Spears.

We all want our mistakes to be forgiven. We all want people to show mercy toward us. We all want God to be merciful toward us. And Jesus tells us, “God wants to have mercy you… He wants to forgive your sins… and He’s offering it to you free of charge. But if you refuse to show the same consideration to others when they wrong you, then that measure of mercy from God will be revoked.”

On the other hand, if you are someone who is generous with mercy… if you willingly forgive without holding grudges… then you will be richly blessed because God will be just as generous with you.

Jesus illustrated this in a story in Matthew 18…

Matthew 18:21-35 (NLT)
Then Peter came to him and asked, "Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?"
"No!" Jesus replied, "seventy times seven!
"For this reason, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn't pay, so the king ordered that he, his wife, his children, and everything he had be sold to pay the debt. But the man fell down before the king and begged him, `Oh, sir, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.' Then the king was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.
"But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. `Be patient and I will pay it,' he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn't wait. He had the man arrested and jailed until the debt could be paid in full.
"When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him what had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, `You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn't you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?' Then the angry king sent the man to prison until he had paid every penny.
"That's what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters in your heart."

 

6. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (v.8)

Jesus is saying, “In the Kingdom, more attention is paid to internals than externals. Blessed are the pure IN HEART…” This would have been a slap to the face for the Scribes and for the Pharisees. They would have taught that the measure of worthiness to see God would rest in your actions and in your ability to follow the external religious rituals. And Jesus says, “No. it’s the internals that matter. It’s the purity of the heart. The externals will follow, but what matters is a transformation of the heart… of the real person. Is there a gradual purification of the heart?”

You can’t play a part, you can’t grandstand, you can wear a mask… It’s not what you do, it’s your motivation for what you do. You may be able to fool all kinds of people by acting right and by talking right… but God look beyond external appearances and looks straight into your heart… at the person you really are, at what really motivates you, at what desires drive you.

1 Samuel 16:7 (NLT)
“The LORD doesn't make decisions the way you do! People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at a person's thoughts and intentions.”

“The Heart of Worship” is a song we sing here sometimes on Sunday mornings. Matt Redman who wrote that song wrote in it;

I’ll bring You more than a song,
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required.
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear;
You’re looking into my heart.
~ Matt Redman

Do externals matter? Yes. But only as they are a reflection of what is on the inside. Jesus served notice to the people on the hillside that day and to us today that His primary concern has been and always will be with the heart. And for those of us who share that concern, who desire to develop hearts that are completely His, who allow God’s value system to be reflected not just in what we do but in who we are… our vision of who God is will become clearer and clearer, and we will see and recognize His holiness, and we will see God.

And understand something: you can’t purify your own heart. It’s a work of God. All you can do is submit to Him and allow Him to transform your life. Ask Him to, and He will. Allow Him to take you through His refining fire.

God looks at the heart. What does He see when He looks at yours?


Let’s handle just one more…

 

7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. (v.9)

Yes, I know it says “sons of God.” I don’t think there would be any disservice to the text to understand it as “sons and daughters” or “children of God.”

We all know people who are skilled at stirring up dissent. But they’re not the people God is going to bless. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” What are some characteristics of a peacemaker?

PARTICIPATION

A peacemaker will not start unnecessary arguments, will not join in unnecessary quarrels, will refuse to spread gossip, will not stab people in the back, will not play people against each other, will not lie or mislead you concerning someone else, will not push your buttons just to get a rise out of you… a peacemaker will encourage people to make amends, will mediate a conflict if necessary, will strive to reconcile relationships, will help people find peace with each other and with God.

Now understand something. Jesus didn’t say, “Blessed are you if you avoid conflict.” That can simply be cowardice. And He didn’t say, “Blessed are you if you are a peace lover.” You can love peace but play no role in bringing about its existence. He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers…” The people who are active in pursuing peace. The people who make sure their own relationships are peaceful. The people who put peace ahead of vengeance and comfort.

Jesus Himself came to earth to make peace. He was called the Prince of Peace. He came to make peace between self-willed sinners and a holy God. There had been enough separation between us and God. Enough isolation and alienation. And so God extended a peace offering… His Son… so that relationship could be restored. Jesus was the ultimate peacemaker. And if you and I are also peacemakers, we are following in His footsteps.

In fact, 1 Corinthians 5 tells us that if we have been made right with God, if we have had our hearts made pure, then we have a ministry of reconciliation… we have the opportunity and privilege of helping others get right with God, too.

1 Corinthians 5:17-18 (NLT)
What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!
All this newness of life is from God, who brought us back to himself through what Christ did. And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him.

It’s our task. It’s our calling. It’s our responsibility. We need to be in the business of reconciling people to God… helping people enter into a relationship with God and growing in that relationship.

This coming weekend, you and I have the opportunity to learn how to become better peacemakers. We are hosting a seminar this Saturday called, “Share Jesus Without Fear.” I want as many as possible to come to this seminar. We’ve talked before about how Sunrise exists to introduce individuals to Christ and to help them grow. Just a few weeks ago we had our Global Challenge Sunday, when we talked about the Great Commission and how we’ve been given this great mandate to spread the message of Jesus around the world beginning right here in PEI. This seminar is an opportunity to receive some practical help in accomplishing all this. So please make it a priority to be there if at all possible. We’ll talk more about that in a minute.

 

You know, it’s interesting how all these Beatitudes fit together. It’s almost as if Jesus had a flow going. You are blessed if you are poor in spirit, recognize your spiritual bankruptcy, and acknowledge your need of God. If you will see how poor in spirit you are and will mourn for that, expressing deep sorrow your sinfulness, and if you will do this in a humble, gentle and meek way, God will fill you with His righteousness. He will show mercy to you, and you’d better show mercy to others, too. As His righteousness washes over you, your heart will be made pure. You will experience the presence of God in your live, which is so great that it will drive you to bring others into His presence, too, by helping them be reconciled in their relationship with God.

That’s the first seven Beatitudes. There is one more, which Jesus emphasized more than the others. So we’ll look at that one another week all by itself.

 

 

 

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