Summary: Sermon 4 in a study in the Sermon on the Mount
“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth”
I think the best way to begin this portion of our study would be to quote Lloyd-Jones on meekness. I can’t think of a better way to put it, and what he has to say here will give us an outline to build on.
He writes: “Meekness is essentially a true view of oneself, expressing itself in attitude and conduct with respect to others…The man who is truly meek is the one who is truly amazed that God and man can think of him as well as they do and treat him as well as they do.” Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Lloyd-Jones, Eerdman’s
Now here you might ask, well, if your translation says, ‘gentle’, why the quote about meekness? Because Lloyd-Jones used a translation that says ‘meek’, and what he said applies equally to the meaning of ‘gentle’, once you begin to get a clear picture of it.
So I will ask you to lay aside any definition that may come to your mind when you hear the word ‘meek’ or the word ‘gentle’. Instead of going to lengths to explain why ‘meek and gentle’ do not mean timid or shy or weak, I’ll just ask you to forget you ever heard the words before and let’s go at it as those who have no clue what Jesus meant when He said that those of this characteristic are blessed.
THE TRUE VIEW
Lloyd-Jones spoke of the man having a true view of himself. That harks back to our previous two messages and the things we said about the progression of these beatitudes.
Only the poor in spirit, mourning for his own sin and the disastrous effects of sin in the world around him is going to begin to have a true and accurate picture of himself.
Think about it. The Pharisee standing upright in the temple and boasting of all his personal goodness and inner qualities was far from having a true picture of himself, wasn’t he?
On the other hand, the person who thinks of himself as quite humble, according to C.S. Lewis, is at that moment quite conceited indeed.
And just as poorness of spirit and Godly grieving for sin must be wrought by the Holy Spirit, so must this gentleness of spirit declared by Jesus as that which makes the Christian blessed.
The only way a man can have a true view of himself is if that view comes from without. Here is what I mean.
John Stott pointed out how dishonest we tend to be with ourselves as to our true nature. He said he has no problem calling himself a miserable sinner as he kneels before God in prayer and confession, but if he steps out of the church and some person calls him a miserable sinner his initial reaction is to want to punch the guy in the nose.
We can kick our own dog because he’s laying in the way but no one else better kick our dog.
The problem is our self pride. We’re naturally so full of pride that we cannot fully and accurately assess ourselves. At some point we become blind to the worst parts because we don’t want to admit even to ourselves that some parts of us exist. So God has to do the revealing bit by bit and by His Spirit.
It’s humiliating to have negative information about ourselves revealed to us, because that means that someone else not only knows of that information but has been thinking about it. Even if it’s something we know well, we like to think others don’t see it.
Let’s look at this in the light of the progression of these beatitudes so far.
Notice that they become more difficult with each step. The first is to be poor in spirit. To recognize our own spiritual dearth and our need for God. That’s calling ourselves a miserable sinner, to stick with Stott’s illustration. Right? That’s kicking our own dog. It might have been difficult to come to, but by the awakening and enlightening of the Holy Spirit we’ve seen it.
Then we are to mourn. A little harder, because it calls for soul-searching and introspection and honesty concerning our true condition.
Then comes meekness, which we are saying begins with having a true view of ourselves, being revealed from without, and that is the hardest yet because in order for God to show us who we really are we have to be humbled and receptive.
It’s not stuff we want to have to face and admit to in the presence of the One who is perfect and holy. And we certainly don’t take pleasure in having Him use others to develop that true view in us.
But think for a moment about the benefits. For the person who has been given a truly accurate understanding of who he is there aren’t going to be many surprises. First of all, he will then be able to come to God in the first place. That’s what these first three beatitudes are about. The person who comes to God must come having seen his need, mourned his sin, and surrendered. Remember I said in our last session that mourning for sin is the first half of repentance? Well meekness is the second half; it is the surrender.