A Brief Update
For those of you who are unable to gather corporately with us this Sunday, you are loved and missed! If this is you, we are providing the songs we are singing together this afternoon and a devotional based on the sermon being preached.
Songs We are Singing Together
Devotional on Matthew 5:1-3
Matthew’s gospel highlights the main theme of scripture as it highlights Jesus’ saving work and saving grace in the lives of those he has redeemed. Writing to a primarily Jewish audience that has been waiting for the Messiah to come and establish his kingdom, Matthew reveals the stunning news along with stunning proof that this has happened by showing them that all the Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The king has come with his kingdom, and what a king he is, and what a kingdom he brings.
In Matthew 4:17, we see the inauguration of Jesus’s kingdom, as he explains what must happen before a person can become a citizen of his kingdom. They must repent. This message of repentance is not what they expected, and neither are the miracles they see in Matthew 4:23-25. Disease and sickness are healed, pain is removed, and demons are cast out. His fame spreads and thousands follow him, but there is more to the kingdom than miracles. After a time, he pulls away from the large crowds to teach his disciples what life in his kingdom is all about.
[Read Matthew 5:1]
When Matthew speaks of the disciples he is speaking about more than the twelve. It isn’t until Matthew 10 that we see the twelve named and set apart for ministry. As a Rabbi, Jesus would naturally have a following of those who desired to be disciples, but not all were true believers.
In John 6 many disciples left him after his teaching became too hard to abide by, but here this weeding out process has yet to happen. There are surely many who truly believe, and it is these who are to learn what life in Christ’s kingdom is all about. There is no doubt though that with huge crowds that some who did not consider themselves disciples hung around the fringes anyway to eavesdrop on this profound sermon.
[Read Matthew 5:2]
As Jesus continues to fulfill the words of Matthew 4:23, a common phrase is used that describes a solemn and important moment, and what a moment this is when Jesus describes life in his kingdom.
The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 is an extended moment where Jesus’s teaching reveals the gospel in a most powerful and unique way. It is clearly evident that the requirements to be a disciple of Jesus are impossible to keep. To live in God’s kingdom, a disciple must do all that Jesus commands, but how can one who is a sinner possibly do this? He can because God has made a way. In his mercy, and through the Holy Spirit he makes us aware of our sin so that we might see ourselves for who we really are, and who Christ is.
Even as Jesus defines his kingdom and describes the demands of his kingdom he wisely begins with the beatitudes, and in particular this first beatitude.
The word “Beatitude” comes from a Greek word that means “blessing” which many define as meaning “happy,” but “blessed” in Matthew 5:1-10 goes so much deeper than the word “happy.” This happiness is one that is only found only in saving grace. To be counted as a citizen in God’s kingdom is to be divinely happy because it is to know God’s acceptance and be confident of God’s approval.
There is a reason this sermon begins with the beatitudes rather than imperatives. The theology of the kingdom must precede the ethics of the kingdom.
The theme of the beatitudes is about the kingdom of God and how that kingdom has invaded the life of an unbeliever. They are about the transformation that has occurred through the person of Jesus Christ. We can only live these beatitudes because we have first been born-again, and it is in the first beatitude that we see how that happens.
[Read Matthew 5:3]
Divinely happy are those whose eyes have been open to their need for God’s saving grace. Divinely happy are those who by the Spirit’s revelation see their need for God when, by the light of the gospel, they see how deep, pervasive, evil, and wicked, is their sin against the Holy God who created them.
This beatitude sets the foundation for the other seven that follow because it is a window into the transforming power and effect of the gospel. The kingdom belongs to those who are poor in spirit. The poor in spirit are those who come to God empty handed, bringing nothing to God but their sin, and their need for his saving grace, his forgiving grace, and his transforming grace, just like the tax gatherer in Luke 18:10.
To be poor in spirit is to see ourselves as beggars cringing and hiding our face from God because we are aware of the depth and ugliness of our sin. This is not our natural disposition. Our minds and our hearts typically lean towards minimizing, softening, and sanitizing our sin. We are often tempted to rationalize our sinful thoughts and actions with excuses, and when we do, we are blinded, not seeing how wicked and evil our sin is towards God and others. The reality of our sin is that it is so evil God had to put to death his own son to redeem us.
Unlike us Jesus was not poor in spirit because he lived a sinless life, and yet he became poor for our sake, that we might become rich in his grace. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
He became poor by giving up his heavenly glory for our earthly filth. He came and lived in our world, took on our flesh, faced our temptations without sinning, and then took upon himself our sins – past – present – and future, being punished on our behalf, paying the debt our sin created, and receiving all of God’s righteous wrath for our sin that it might be dealt with once and for all.
Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that Jesus took our sin to give us his righteousness. He rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, sending the Holy Spirit that we might experience the riches of his grace through salvation. When we come to Christ, we repent of our sin, following him, recognizing; “nothing in my hands I bring, simply to his cross I cling, naked come to thee for dress, helpless look to thee for grace, to your fountain Lord I fly, wash me savior or I die.”
Oh, to know the joy of being poor in spirit. It means we’ve recognized we don’t have to earn God’s approval for either our salvation or our sanctification because we already enjoy his approval in Christ. We have been made the righteousness of God in Christ so we please him by living in his kingdom as a disciple should.
Throughout the centuries the people of Israel kept forgetting their uniqueness as the people of God. They mingled with nations and learned to live the way they did, becoming more like them and less like the people of God.
In Matthew 4:17 Jesus announced the good news that the kingdom of heaven has come, and he is here to inaugurate it. He is here not only to establish his kingdom, but to bring others into his kingdom. As we see in Matthew 4:18-22 he never planned on doing that alone. It is through his disciples that his kingdom will go forward, but those disciples must represent what is true about the kingdom. Lives are transformed. People are different. God’s grace has changed them.
How are we to look? Different! The Sermon on the Mount is a call to be different, and it begins with the beatitudes that describe the transformed character of those who are now citizens of this new kingdom. Those who are in the kingdom are to shine like lights in the darkness of this world. Every paragraph in this sermon presents a contrast between the Christian and non-Christian, and every disciple must do the same. We never have to do it alone. We could never do it alone, especially in a world so broken and darkened by sin.
The beatitudes inform us of this: to be blessed in the fullest meaning of the term is to have an inward contentedness that is not affected by circumstances. That is the kind of divine happiness God desires for his children, a state of joy and well-being that does not depend on physical, or temporary circumstances, but on the eternal promise and hope of a kingdom to come. The kingdom is ours now, but it is not a kingdom that is complete. That is yet to come, but come it will.
Until we experience the full blessing of his kingdom and inherit all he has promised, we can live in the blessings bestowed on us the Holy Spirit who has given us the gifts of the Spirit. These gifts are a wonderful and assuring evidence that we belong in his kingdom, and they are given to us that we might, like his first disciples, be “fishers of men” until he returns.
Song of Response
Sermon Audio from Recent Sundays