“And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him.” -Luke 23:27 Amid the rabble rout which hounded the Redeemer to his doom, there were some gracious souls whose bitter anguish sought vent in wailing and lamentations–fit music to accompany that march of woe. When my soul…
“No proud man reigns–he is the slave of his boastings, the serf of his own loftiness. The ambitious worldling grasps after a kingdom, but he does not possess one. The humble in heart are content and in that contentment they are made to reign high!” – Charles Spurgeon
Let’s take a moment and look again at the full text of the Beatitudes:
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”–Matthew 5:1-11
We are at the beginning, and one thing that strikes me right away is that in the same way, this is how the life of a believer in Christ begins: we become aware of what we really need. The lack of fulfillment, the lack of peace, the lack of righteousness–these are attempts to express in limited words what are needs in the deepest parts of our being. More even than that, someone who is about to take the first step on this journey has come face to face with two facts: 1) There is a God, who made me and made everything, and who has been generous to me in ways that are unspeakably great, and 2) I am guilty of great sin against this God, because I have been eating His food, drinking His drink, breathing His air, and taking every last bit of it for granted, believing that it is mine by all rights. Paul describes this person in Romans 1:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.Claiming to be wise, they became fools,and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.–Romans 1:18-23
And at the close of the same chapter, he reveals the depths of darkness such hearts descend to:
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.–Romans 1:28-32
Reborn to the deepest need
But we’re talking about the person who sees this in themselves in a way he’s never seen it before. He perceives that he has spent his life taking from God without gratitude, hating Him who made him, blaming Him for his pain all the while not taking it to Him for healing, and compounding sin upon sin–and his eyes are opened by the grace of God through His Holy Spirit. He sees his true state, and he mourns it. He is in the temple of God beside the tax collector who cries out “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!”
Just like that: that is one who will inherit the kingdom of heaven. Not because he has done anything or said magic words, not because he has atoned for his sins–he could never hope to atone for such a mountain–but yet here he is, someone who has come face to face with his complete poverty of spirit, with the fact that all the achievements of his life will be like ashes in the wind one day, and that eternity is a vastness which he cannot comprehend, yet he feels its great weight on him. He counts himself at the center of the mass included in Paul’s words from Romans, “For all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God,” and as one who is due to receive a great sum in pay, “For the wages of sin is death.”
This was me, when I had my eyes opened to the reality of my life and my heart. The amazing thing about this, however, is that God never leaves us there. He didn’t leave me sitting with a handful of nothing except promises of judgment, He instead turned me to the next truth, the one that follows from this: in seeing this deep poverty which I am unable to overcome, I can instead look to His promise that instead of striving to fill myself with things that only frustrate and never soothe, I will be inheriting something so great I can hardly conceive of it.
“The kingdom of heaven is like…”
Yet, that kingdom is not one of lording authority over another. It is not like an earthly kingdom, but as Jesus said, “The one who would be greatest, must be the servant of all.” So our sense of poverty of spirit drives us back to the beginning, back to humility and to service.
So what if you don’t feel like this? What if you don’t feel that you are poor in spirit, but that you have been deprived, that you have not been given a fair shake? This world is fractured by sin and our lives in it are hard. We enter it in pain and leave it in pain. We only are able to get what we need through great toil, because our first parents did not trust God to be God and instead tried to stand alongside Him. So if you are someone who hears this and reacts in anger, and says “Well maybe I wouldn’t need so much from God if He would just give me what I want! My life has been full of pain and hardship, I have lost everything!” And I don’t begrudge such a person their pain, nor do I pretend it isn’t real.
However, just as much I would also point to the fact that such pain serves a purpose even in its darkest times. It is a reminder to me that this world is not ultimate. It’s a blip in time, a glancing look in the grand scope of eternity, and those who trust in Christ, as the Lord himself said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel,who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29)
The kingdom of heaven turns the world upside down. Suffering finds its complete healing and fulfillment. Pain and heartbreak end, and what has been broken is restored. We look to the future and the fulfillment of the words of John in Revelation 21:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
Lean on Him, my friends. If you have tasted that emptiness, that pain and knowledge of your own sin, if you long to know how to soothe the damage done by the evils of the world, look to Jesus! Heed the words of the very next chapter of Revelation, and know that your heart can worship and find real peace.
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
As mentioned on the podcast, below is the full video of the discussion I took part in through my church.
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” -Matthew 5:9 This is the seventh of the beatitudes: and seven was the number of perfection among the Hebrews. It may be that the Saviour placed the peacemaker the seventh upon the list because he most nearly approaches the perfect man in…
I wanted to remind again about the ongoing Morning and Evening podcast devotional every day at Theology Mix, which you can subscribe to through any podcast catcher. It was also a good opportunity though, with this particular episode, to remind about the ongoing series here as well. God willing, tomorrow will see part 2 of the Beatitudes series posted with sermon 3156, “The First Beatitude.” Come back tomorrow and listen, download and share!
“Though we are nothing, Christ is All. All that we need to begin with we must find in Him, just as surely as we must look for our ultimate perfecting to the same Source!”–Charles Spurgeon, “The First Beatitude”
“They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house.” -Psalm 36:8 Sheba’s queen was amazed at the sumptuousness of Solomon’s table. She lost all heart when she saw the provision of a single day; and she marvelled equally at the company of servants who were feasted at the royal board. But what is…
“Salvation is of the Lord.” -Jonah 2:9 Salvation is the work of God. It is he alone who quickens the soul “dead in trespasses and sins,” and it is he also who maintains the soul in its spiritual life. He is both “Alpha and Omega.” “Salvation is of the Lord.” If I am prayerful, God…
I have desired to begin this series on the Beatitudes since before Christmas, but schedule and then illness held me back. I am very grateful to finally be able to begin this, and the extra time has only allowed me to think and meditate more on this, on the passages in question and to anticipate the effect of preaching on Jesus’ words both on myself and on anyone who listens.
This sermon is definitely one of the shorter ones I have done, but it is the beginning of the second series I’ve ever done here, and the longest one I have attempted. It has been a blessing to read and prepare for it, and it has prompted me to not just spend time talking about my thoughts, but to want to study the text more and speak on it.
One of the points that struck me as I did this, was that these are not simply “good ways to be,” which is how many people think about the word. “Beatitude,” after all, is not “be-attitude,” but rather it comes from the Latin word beati which can be understood as “happiness,” or “blessedness.” In his famous commentary, Matthew Henry notes the same thing Charles Spurgeon did in contrasting the end of the Old Testament, which pronounces a curse, with the opening of Jesus’ first sermon with a blessing:
The Old Testament ended with a curse (Mal. 4:6), the gospel begins with a blessing; for hereunto are we called, that we should inherit the blessing. Each of the blessings Christ here pronounces has a double intention: 1. To show who they are that are to be accounted truly happy, and what their characters are. 2. What that is wherein true happiness consists, in the promises made to persons of certain characters, the performance of which will make them happy. Now,
1. This is designed to rectify the ruinous mistakes of a blind and carnal world. Blessedness is the thing which men pretend to pursue; Who will make us to see good? Ps. 4:6. But most mistake the end, and form a wrong notion of happiness; and then no wonder that they miss the way; they choose their own delusions, and court a shadow. The general opinion is, Blessed are they that are rich, and great, and honourable in the world; they spend their days in mirth, and their years in pleasure; they eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and carry all before them with a high hand, and have every sheaf bowing to their sheaf; happy the people that is in such a case; and their designs, aims, and purposes are accordingly; they bless the covetous (Ps. 10:3); they will be rich. Now our Lord Jesus comes to correct this fundamental error, to advance a new hypothesis, and to give us quite another notion of blessedness and blessed people, which, however paradoxical it may appear to those who are prejudiced, yet is in itself, and appears to be to all who are savingly enlightened, a rule and doctrine of eternal truth and certainty, by which we must shortly be judged. If this, therefore, be the beginning of Christ’s doctrine, the beginning of a Christian’s practice must be to take his measures of happiness from those maxims, and to direct his pursuits accordingly.
Another thing I would like to draw out of this, and which I hope will be very evident by the end of this series, is the God-centeredness of these blessings. Not that He is talking about what God is doing directly, because Jesus is most certainly talking about men here, but that He is talking about what the life of one who truly has God as Lord and center of worship looks like. There is an aspect of holiness that is married to this, and in seeking after these blessings, it is holiness that the believer will find, as he grows in reflecting these.
I want to close by recommending the book The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. You may have heard that Dr. Sproul passed away recently, and it was in light of that, that I decided to take time out and read this book I have heard mentioned so many times, and it has had a profound impact upon me. If you can, I highly recommend that you do the same, because the grace of God is perhaps most profoundly understood, and most sweetly tasted, in light of His tremendous and awesome holiness.
I will try to keep these coming more regularly, God willing, and I am hopeful that my work on this has an influence leading to worship on anyone who is able to listen.
Listen to twice-daily Morning and Evening updates on the Theology Mix podcast feed.
Apologies to everyone for the delay both in getting out new episodes and Morning & Evenings. I have been dealing with a nasty chest cold/bronchitis and I’m only finally starting to get back near 100% again. God willing, I will be getting Morning and Evenings rolling again on Theology Mix at the beginning of next week.
“Continue in prayer.” -Colossians 4:2 It is interesting to remark how large a portion of Sacred Writ is occupied with the subject of prayer, either in furnishing examples, enforcing precepts, or pronouncing promises. We scarcely open the Bible before we read, “Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord;” and just as…
If you missed it, I did a livestream while I was recording on the Facebook page. Follow this link if you want to see this sermon read unedited for mistakes, coughing, etc.
I won’t belabor this final episode of the year, except to wish you all a merry Christmas and happy new year. I ran a little poll on the Twitter account to see what people would choose for the Christmas episode, and this sermon won out by a large margin. I found it very fitting as well.
Right before things began to officially blow up in my life earlier this year, I recorded an episode called “Joy in Place of Sorrow.” In it I talked about two phrases from Scripture that struck me as being very central to the day to day life of a Christian: “Rejoice” and “Do not fear.” Furthermore, they both seem linked directly to the greatest commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength; and the second which is like it: love your neighbor as yourself. If you are loving God completely, you will rejoice in all circumstances, and that love will kill what Brother Spurgeon here calls “slavish fear,” the fear that drove Adam and Eve into hiding in the garden.
I have been put through a crash course in these truths this year, and as we prepare to close out one year and begin a new one, I want to say to you, my listeners: Rejoice in the coming of Christ, every day. Do not fear the Lord, but call out to Him and seek to worship Him in everything you do. Let that love spill over to how you treat your neighbors, how you love the people close to you and the strangers you meet. I have seen a disturbing trend of many Christians digging in trying to find safety for their traditions and I want to tell you: stop. Safety is not why we are here. Love is why we are here, and we must have our eyes open to those around us, for every way we can show it.
We don’t do it out of fear, but because of the love He has shown us. Do not let your thinking be so high that you cannot lower yourself to the level of Jesus loving the poor, broken, desperate people around Him. If you want to show the truth of Jesus, let your hands match your words, brethren. I pray that I will live as consistently with that as I can in this coming year.
“For your sakes he became poor.” -2 Corinthians 8:9 The Lord Jesus Christ was eternally rich, glorious, and exalted; but “though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor.” As the rich saint cannot be true in his communion with his poor brethren unless of his substance he ministers to their necessities, so…
Morning and Evening does continue apace even through the holidays thanks to Theology Mix. I intend to record the sermon for the Christmas episode of Spurgeon Audio this evening. Furthermore, I am planning to livestream that on Facebook, so if you would enjoy hearing the sermon with all my coughs, water-drinking, and puppy interruptions intact, keep an eye on the Spurgeon Audio Facebook page.