This past week has been a whirlwind, yet God was in it. There were great blessings of joy to be found. Finding out from Peggy’s (Caroline’s stepmother) pastor that she had gone from a faith of clichés to a faith of truly understanding the gift of Christ’s salvation before her passing was extremely awesome. Coming home to receive the news that God had softened the Board of Education’s stance of their school usage policy to allow us 3 more months was great celebration. God is certainly good and sometimes we have a hard time seeing his work. Yet despite our failure to recognize His goodness and His ways, He still continues to show Himself day by day if we have the faith to trust Him.
And you know what? Sometimes in the noise of the wind, when life seems to be at its most hectic pace and nothing seems to make sense, we get to see some answers by taking time away from the daily activities of life.
And that’s what you’ll notice about Jesus and His times of teaching. Many times when things were getting hectic with the crowds coming for His services, Jesus would get away. Jesus didn’t often teach in the chaos. He separated Himself from it and found seclusion. And it was in these places that Jesus’ disciples were able to hear the voice of God more clearly.
As we have discussed over the past couple Sundays, Jesus went up on the mountainside to get away from the crowd gathering around for healing. And His disciples came to Him and He began to teach them. He began teaching them about the Kingdom of Heaven and the characteristics that God is looking to see in those He recruits for His Kingdom.
And so far we have looked at four of these Beatitude statements, and have begun to realize that they are not separate entities, or a prescribed linear outline of what needs to be done to enter into the Kingdom. Instead, we are seeing that the statements work together in making the recruit, the person, into a Kingdom minded individual.
Think about it; meekness and humility (poor in spirit) are seen in those who are truly sorry for their mistakes against God, and through their repentance they desire more of God and His righteousness.
Today’s teaching comes from Matthew 5: 7-8
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Mercy is really receiving something we don’t deserve. It is by the grace of the one offended that we are granted mercy. And the beauty of mercy, when granted, is that it provides us with the opportunity to live again – to start afresh. By receiving mercy there should be gratitude and a willingness to grant mercy to those who have wronged us.
I think we must be careful to realize that the master Jesus was referring to in His parable is God the Father. And we see that God initially granted mercy to the servant, but took it away, because the servant was not gracious and would not forgive those who sinned against him. Though God is very forgiving, He judges those who refuse to forgive.
And that’s what we see about mercy. It goes hand-in-hand with forgiveness. I mean, if we want to receive mercy we have to ask first for forgiveness. Mercy is given to those who seek forgiveness from God. And in receiving forgiveness from God, He asks that we do the same for others who have sinned against us.
In Matthew 6: 14-15, Jesus tells us, “If you forgive, the Father will also forgive you. If you don’t forgive, neither will your Father forgive you.”
Those are tough words that Jesus gave a little later in His Sermon on the Mount. Yet we can’t throw them out because we don’t want to believe that God requires me to forgive someone who has hurt me – hurt me badly. We must forgive; we must show mercy in order to receive the same in return from God. If you believe something else, it’s a lie and you are calling Jesus a liar. I think we better take to heart what Jesus has said. He certainly knows God better than we do.
But don’t show mercy because you must. Instead show mercy because forgiveness leads to mercy, and mercy leads to hope. Mercy is the greatest gift we can give because it is the greatest gift given to us.
Now look at Blessed are the pure in heart….
Understand that Jesus is not talking about perfection. He said “pure in heart.” What does this mean? What does it look like to be pure in heart?
Jesus’ Big Idea here is this: Purity results from repentance.
I really believe that when we look at what Jesus has been defining for us in His previous statements of the sermon, we see what pure of heart looks like. He says in my paraphrase, “A person who is pure in heart is a person who mourns his/her sins, is humble and meek, and longs to know the righteousness of God.”
Paul addresses Timothy in 2 Timothy 2: 22 about purity of heart. He writes, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”
According to the Apostle Paul, purity is a pursuit of righteousness, faith, love, and peace. Purity is not mere words spoken, like “I believe in Jesus.” But rather it comes from the acknowledgement that “I believe in Jesus because without Him I am doomed to my own failures and to the eternal judgment of death that awaits me.” Purity comes in response to God’s mercy offered to me when I acknowledged before Him that I’m messed up and I have wronged Him. Purity is the result of nothing I have done or can do, but solely comes from Christ who lives within me when I allow Him to come in and cleanse me.
So in conclusion, blessed are the poor in spirit (the humble); blessed are those that mourn (those that regret their sin against God); blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (those that long to know God’s ways); blessed are the merciful (those who forgive others because they have been forgiven); and blessed are the pure in heart (those that repent of their sins and acknowledge their need for a Savior.)
Why are they blessed? They are blessed because God will pour Himself into them; God will comfort them and give them the strength to overcome; God will deliver them from the bondage of eternal death and eternal torment to an everlasting life of peace, joy, and happiness.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be blessed than cursed. I’d rather admit my need for change now while I have the chance than throw away the opportunity forever. I’d rather tell others what they can have rather than tell them what they cannot. I’d rather seek the righteousness of eternity than pursue the joys of the finite.
God is good and the life I can have in Him is far greater than what my nature, my world, tells me is great.