Summary: There are many merciful people who are not Christians, and many unforgiving people who claim to be Christians. There are many meek non-Christians and many pride filled Christians. The point is that you will never be able to always distinguish a true Chris
This is really one of the big issues in the world today. There are many merciful people who are not Christians, and many unforgiving people who claim to be Christians. There are many meek non-Christians and many pride filled Christians. The point is that you will never be able to always distinguish a true Christian from a non-Christian solely based on outward appearance or even behavior. Lots of people can be good, but not necessarily be saved souls.
If you could, we might look at zealous Muslims who pray to Mecca several times a day and say they are zealous, maybe they know the real God. Or the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons who are constantly going door to door, wow those are committed Christians.
Then we look at the reformed alcoholic biker who’s heart has been utterly transformed by Christ, even though he still rides a Harley and hangs out with less than desirable looking people to minister and witness to them, and we say there’s no way that person could be a Christian.
These qualities in a Christian come from a vital, intimate relationship with Christ and that is often unseen. It’s very easy then for a person who doesn’t know Jesus to say, “I’m poor in spirit (I don’t think too highly of myself), I grieve over the state of the world, I am gentle, I am compassionate, I do my best to be good”. These qualities are not a map for salvation though, but a mirror of a transformed Christian heart.
We can read these beatitudes and with strong personal discipline pull them off fairly consistently. But that’s not what they are about. The things that you will see missing in the non-Christian person or even the Christian who is attempting to gain salvation or God’s approval through doing these things, will be the blessings and the fruit. They will not inherit the Kingdom of heaven, they will not be satisfied, they will not be comforted, they will not see God, they will not be children of God and so on.
Because what’s missing? A relationship with Christ which transforms our hearts, and the hunger and thirst for him that we saw last week. These are not instructions, but they are descriptions of true Christians who have a saving relationship with Jesus, and are being sanctified by the indwelling Holy Spirit. They are not sanctifying themselves.
The absence of these qualities is more telling than their presence. Those who profess to be Christians should all manifest all these qualities. So, many unbelieving people can certainly be good merciful people. But Jesus is saying that if you are a Christian and you don’t have these qualities than clearly you are not being sanctified. In a sense these are defaults for a Christian. You can’t not display these characteristics and still be a growing believer. Something has stopped the process in you.
A.W. Pink calls these qualities the birthmarks of the Christian. If someone looks at your skin and doesn’t see them, there is a problem. They are snapshots into the heart of a true Christian, and Jesus always puts the heart, character, before conduct.
So to put it as simply as I can, this paradox shows that even though it is possible for a non-Christian to display many of these character traits and attitudes through their own effort, it is impossible for a growing disciple of Christ not to display them. Jesus is telling us flat out, if this is not you, professing Christian person, you need to go back to the beginning, back to the drawing board, and see what you missed along the way.
Anyone can be good, but they’ll probably also believe they are good and are going to whatever they believe heaven is, and Jesus is saying if you haven’t become poor in spirit and repented, I don’t care how good you are, you are still vile to my Father because you in your sinful nature have not been saved through my blood. A good person who has not repented is still a dead good person.
This is about a process that God takes you through starting at the first beatitude, and He will not skip over any of them. I realize my true nature before God, it grieves me deep in my heart, I become meek because of this knowledge, but I don’t shrink away from life, it develops a desperate hunger and thirst for God and His righteousness and salvation that no non-Christian or counterfeit Christian will ever have.
And this will inevitably lead to our beatitude today. We are finally filled, satisfied by the righteousness of God, and as we continue to hunger and thirst, we continue to be filled until we what – overflow. If we are filled with God’s righteousness and the core of it is His mercy toward sinners, than we will be merciful.