Summary: A starting point for all of us in the kingdom of heaven requires basic changes in our attitudes or hearts which Jesus spelled out in the eight beatitudes.
“Developing Our Attitudes”
Text: Matthew 5:1-12
Last Sunday we kicked off this year’s theme of developing our core with seven things everyone can and should do more in 2014: to pray, study, meditate, worship, work, give and forgive more. As I considered where to start our development, I was reminded of Proverbs 23:7 – For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. This morning I want us to start with the conditioning of our hearts and I’ve chosen to do this with another of our mountain top experiences. We’ve had five from the Old Testament: Noah on the mountains of Ararat; Abraham on Mount Moriah; Moses on Mt. Sinai; Deborah on Mount Tabor; and Elijah on Mount Carmel. We had one from the New Testament on the Mount of Transfiguration. But, this morning, I want us to go back to near the beginning of our Lord’s ministry at the Mount of the Beatitudes or the Sermon on the Mount. We don’t know exactly where this was located but it was surely near the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee and Capernaum based on Matthew 8:5. I hope you’ll open your Bibles to Matthew 5:1ff. as we discuss “Developing Our Attitudes” starting with the beatitudes. As always, we plead with you to be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11 and search the scriptures daily to make sure we’re preaching the truth.
Jesus had formally begun His earthly ministry after His baptism and temptation in the wilderness in Matthew 4:17 where we read: From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Then, in verse 23 of this same chapter, Matthew states that Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus will describe the citizens of His kingdom beginning with some basic attitudes. So let’s begin with the first one in Matthew 5:3 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Blessings accrue to an individual based on God’s gracious response to our condition. In this case, the poor in spirit are those who recognize their spiritual poverty and their dependency on God’s remedies. The Greek word for “poor” in this first beatitude comes from a verb meaning “to crouch” & thus the word describes a beggar – without anything and dependent on others for their survival. Let’s go to Isaiah 66:2 where we read, “For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,” Says the LORD. “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.” The “poor in spirit” are those who realize they are spiritually bankrupt and only God can bail them out. David was such a man after his sin with Bathsheba and wrote in Psalm 51:17 – The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart – these, O God, You will not despise. So Jesus introduces us to the first requirement for citizenship in the kingdom: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” To many Jews, riches or wealth were seen as evidence of God’s blessings in one’s life – and now Jesus was teaching the opposite. Earlier this past week, I posted this little sermon quote on Facebook: “Only those who are truly aware of their sin can truly cherish grace.” Jesus means little to someone who fails to realize the need for a Savior. This is the starting point for all. We must recognize our sad spiritual state and the need for God’s rule in our lives. Verse 4: “Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.”
This is on the sign out front because we have those who are grieving – and we look to the God of all comfort for solace. But the sense in this context is spiritual: mourning over one’s spiritual state. I’m reminded of the tax collector in Luke 18 who stood afar off and would not raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” We must realize in the words of Isaiah 59:2 that our iniquities separate us from God and should cause us to be sorrowful. One of the duties of the Messiah in Isaiah 61:2 is to comfort all who mourn. Thankfully, the aged Simeon was allowed to hold the Consolation of Israel in His arms (Luke 2:25-32). Verse 5: “Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.”
While all of the beatitudes are counter-culture to our society, this may be the most difficult. The Greek word translated “meek” in the NKJV simply means “gentle”. Jesus uses this word to describe Himself in Matt. 11:28-30 – “Come to Me, all you who labor & are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” The prophet Zechariah had foretold the glorious entrance of the Messianic king and we read its fulfillment in Matthew 21:5 as Jesus makes His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Instead of riding in on a horse like a conquering general, the gentle King of Kings arrives on a donkey. Leon Morris points out in his commentary that meekness is another word for self-effacement – the act or fact of keeping oneself in the background, as in humility. The roots of this beatitude are found in Psalm 37:11 where David wrote, “But the meek shall inherit the earth.” Abraham’s descendants, put a lot of stock in the land promise. The reference to the meek in this psalm may be in contrast to the reward of the wicked as stated in Psalm 37:10 – the wicked and his place will be no more. Yet how the meek shall inherit the earth or land is not so obvious. It must refer to our future inheritance – perhaps the one John saw – a new heaven and a new earth in Revelation 21:1-4. Verse 6: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,