Sunday, 21 June 2020
Ps Ben Hooman
Please open your Bible at Matthew 5:7. We are resuming our series in the Beatitudes, these marvelous words of blessing that come directly from the Son of God.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)
What the Beatitudes Are and How to Use Them
The Beatitudes describe the distinguishing marks of a true Christian. They are not given to tell us how to become Christians. Christ did not come into the world to give us a formula. He did not come to tell us that if we do certain things, we will receive certain blessings as a result.
The Beatitudes are not telling you how to become a Christian, they are telling you what a true Christian looks like. We are saved by Christ through union with him in his death and resurrection.
How would you recognize a person who has this union with Christ?
The Beatitudes are the distinguishing marks of a true Christian. We are to use the Beatitudes like a mirror. They invite us to examine ourselves. Here are the distinguishing marks a true Christian. Are these the things that are true of me? Are these the things that I am pursuing with all I am?
The Beatitudes are given to us in a particular order
There is a progression in which each one leads to the next, and each comes out of the one that went before. We’ve tried to picture this by thinking about someone doing the monkey swing, in which you reach each ring with the momentum you gained from the last.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3)
Blessed is the person who knows that they do not have what it takes before God. All of us can begin there. All of us must begin there. There is no other place to begin.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4)
When you see that you do not have what God requires of you, you begin to mourn. You see the position you are in and you recognize your own responsibility for it, and you begin to hate the sin that has put you there.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5)
We saw that meekness is about becoming “used to the hand,” submitting yourself to the hand of God. When you see your own position before God, you will be ready to submit yourself to God and to ask of Him, “Give me what I do not have.”
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6)
As you submit yourself to Christ, the Holy Spirit will create in you a great desire to be like Him. A longing for holiness will be birthed in you. The Holy Spirit creates a hunger, a desire, a pursuit of righteousness in the life of every true believer.
There is order and progress here. The Beatitudes are like jewels and Christ does not throw them down in a heap. He arranges them in order and strings them together like a beautiful necklace.
We all find this series profoundly challenging, and the further we go, the more challenging it gets. We will often find ourselves falling off and going back to the beginning: “Lord, I don’t have what it takes, be merciful to me. I hate the sin that has prevailed over me. I submit myself to you and long to grow in righteousness…” And off you go again.
We saw that there is a “Roots-Life-Fruit” pattern in these Beatitudes: to be poor in Spirit, to mourn our sins, to end our rebellion and submit ourselves in meekness to God, and these are the roots of a blessed life.
From these roots come the green shoots of new life: a genuine hunger and thirst for God and his righteousness. The pursuit of righteousness is the soul of a godly life. The roots of knowing your need, mourning your sin, and submitting yourself in meekness to God will produce, nourish and sustain a life that goes after righteousness.
The flesh can never produce this. But where the roots of God’s redeeming work are planted in a soul, this life begins to grow. And from this life comes wonderful fruit: mercy, purity and peace.
Think what your life would be like if there was a bumper crop of mercy, purity and peace in your soul. How blessed you would be if the heart that is often angry would soften with compassion and, being filled with mercy, you were finally able to forgive?
How blessed you would be if the heart that has so often been divided, causing you to fall into the same sins time and time again, would become one? That’s what purity is. How blessed you would be if there was a bumper crop of purity in your heart?
How blessed you would be if there was a bumper crop of peace, a peace in your own soul that makes you a peace maker? If you became the kind of person who has peace abounding in you, so that wherever you go you bring peace into the lives of others.
If you are a Christian at all, then just to describe these things, is to desire them: “Lord, these are the things I seek in my life!”
We will look at the fifth beatitude over two sermons. Today, we ask the question: To what is Christ calling us? Next time we ask: How can we have more of this in our lives?
What Mercy Is and Why It Matters
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)
The place to begin in understanding mercy is with the Good Samaritan. We know the story: A man on a journey is attacked, robbed, beaten and left for dead. Another traveller comes along. He sees the man in his need but passes by on the other side. Sometime later another traveller comes to the same spot. He sees the need but he also passes by. Then Jesus says,
“But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine” (Luke 10:33-34).
At the end of the story Jesus asks:
“Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers? He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37)
This is a parable about mercy, and Jesus says mercy has two parts: First, there is a tenderness of heart: “When he saw him, he had compassion”. Second, there is action: “He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine”.
Mercy is the character of God
“The Lord passes before him and proclaimed, ‘the LORD, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,” (Exodus 34:6)
When God appeared to Moses at Sinai, He revealed Himself in this four-fold description that is repeated seven times in the Old Testament. This is your God in His four-fold glory and beauty: Gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in love. Here is what redeemed people most need to know about God: He has a tender heart that cares and acts for your good.
The rest of the Bible takes up this same theme. God is not only merciful, he is “rich in mercy”:
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us,” (Ephesians 2:4).
His mercy is “forever,” so that David is able to say:
“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6).
It is because of God’s mercy that we are saved. “He saved us… according to His own mercy” (Titus 3:5). When Paul describes his salvation he simply says: Even though I was the first among sinners, yet “I received mercy” (1 Timothy 1:13).
The book of Hebrews zooms in especially on the mercy of Christ:
“Therefore He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful High Priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people”” (Hebrews 2:17).
Think about the mercy of Jesus to Peter: “The rooster will not crow till you have denied Me three times” (John 13:38). “Peter, you are going to fail in spectacular fashion. It will be the mother of all mess-ups. It will leave you wondering “How in the world did I end up doing that?”
Jesus says, “Satan wants to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith will not fail” (Luke 22:31). Peter’s faith did not fail but his testimony failed. He denied Christ, but his faith could not live with his denial.
Peter’s faith produced repentance and he say to Christ, “Lord, you know that I love you.” And Christ says to him, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17). Mercy means that failure need not have the last word.
In Jesus Christ, God says to His people:
“I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12).
When you know that Christ is our merciful High Priest, you will come to Him:
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16)
Think about the mercy of Jesus to Thomas. Here’s this man in spiritual leadership. He is an apostle, but his own faith is not in good shape. The unanswered questions are piling up for him, and in his heart, he must have felt that he was slipping away.
Christ never lets his children go. Christ comes to Thomas: “Put your finger in the nail prints. Put your fist in My side. Stop doubting and believe.
The risen Christ can draw near to you today and bring you, like Thomas, to a place where, in a whole new way, you will look up to Him and say, “My Lord and my God!”
Mercy is God’s calling to us
The whole point of the Christian life is that the character of Jesus will be reproduced in all of our lives. God multiplies the image that He loves, so that Christ will be the first born of many brothers and sisters.
That means a community of brothers and sisters who have a tender heart that cares and acts for the good of others. This is our calling:
“He has told you, O man, what is good; does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8 NIV)
You won’t find a clearer description of our calling. And to some leaders who misunderstood what God requires of us, Jesus said:
“Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice. ’For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:13)
Think of the difference that one teacher who is merciful can make in a school, one teacher with a tender heart who cares and acts for the good of the children and the other staff, and for those in the administration.
Think of the difference in a business or a church or a family when there’s one person with a tender heart who cares and acts for the good of others.
Where and how can I be merciful? What would this look like?
Seven Opportunities for Manifesting Mercy
You will be saying, “Surely he is not beginning a list of seven things at this stage in the message!” Let me assure you, the end is near! I want you to be looking for opportunities to show mercy this week.
“If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17)
A believer opens his heart to a believer in need and does something to help him. Sinclair Ferguson says: Mercy is getting down on your hands and knees and doing something to restore dignity to someone whose life has been broken by sin.
“And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 22-23)
God calls us to have a tender heart towards brothers and sisters in Christ who are struggling in their faith. Have mercy on those who doubt.
Warren Wiersbe once said; If he could have his time over again, he would “do more to encourage God’s people.” Lord, save me from being hard and demanding. Make me tender towards others, sensitive to the loads they bear, and faithful in bringing help, as Christ is faithful to me.
Christ does not break the bruised reed. He will not snuff out a smouldering wick. David captures the mercy of God when he says, “Your gentleness has made me great” (Psalm 18:35).
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)
Some things should not be covered up. Peter speaks about sins, not crimes, and there’s an important difference. But there are a multitude of sins a merciful person will be glad to cover up. Spurgeon says: I recommend you, brothers and sisters, always to have one blind eye and one deaf ear.
Notice its only one! In this sinful world you need to have one eye that sees and one ear that hears. But Spurgeon says: My blind eye is the best eye that I have, and my deaf ear is the best ear I have.
A hard heart always makes a big deal of another person’s failure, but a tender heart, a merciful heart, often uses the blind eye and the deaf ear!
God does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. He is merciful. And love covers over a multitude of sins. Look for opportunities to do that this week.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
Satan is the father of lies. He is always manufacturing rumours that would make a person think less of someone who is their brother or sister in Christ. Some Christians seem to be adept at helping him!
Remember this: It is as bad to believe a lie as it as to tell one. It is as bad to repeat a lie as it is to invent one. There is a harshness in our culture (and too often it is creeping into the church) that is quick to believe the worst about a person, and slow to think the best.
It is so easy to slide into making much of other people’s failures and little of their strengths and virtues. A merciful person goes the other way; he or she will make more of a person’s virtues than their failures. A merciful person will close his ears to slander unless he’s compelled to do otherwise.
Thomas Watson says: A man’s name is worth more than his goods, and, he that takes away the good name of another, sins more than if he had taken the corn out of his field or the goods out of his shop. The receiver of stolen goods is as bad as the thief. We must not only raise a false report, but not take it up. You, who take away the good name of another, wound him in that which is most dear to him. Better take away a man’s life than his name. It is an irreparable injury; something will remain.
“For He [God] knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:14)
I must remember this in relation to others. I must not set unreasonable expectations of my spouse, my children or of others who work with me. I must learn not to be surprised by discouragements and disappointments.
I must get beyond thinking that a person will be a consistent paragon of virtue simply because he or she is a Christian. I must think more about the weights and burdens others may carry, and the strength of temptations they may face. I must remember, as God remembers about me, that they are dust.
“Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
If someone has hurt you, injured you, or wronged you in some way, don’t be surprised if at some point God puts you in a position when you have the opportunity to get your own back.
That’s what happened to Joseph. His brothers wronged him terribly, but God blessed him. He became the Prime Minister of Egypt, next to Pharaoh himself. One day, the brothers needed food and they came to Egypt, and Joseph had them in his power.
Now, what you do at that moment will be the most revealing thing about you. Joseph forgave his brothers. That’s what mercy does.
“Save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear.” (Jude 23)
If you have mercy in your heart, you will speak to Christ about lost people and you will speak to lost people about Christ. Augustine said: If I weep for the body from which the soul is departed. How should I weep for the soul from which God is departed?
A tender heart that cares and acts for the good of others will care deeply about people without Christ, and will act by sharing the Gospel with them.
Spurgeon says: There are some Christians who do not seem to have much zeal for the conversion of others, and are quite content to sit down or to stand idle believing that the decrees and purposes of God will be fulfilled. So they will, brethren, but it will be through warm-hearted Christians who bring others to Jesus, It will be by the one who is saved telling of salvation to another, and that other to a third, and so on till the sacred fire spreads, until the earth shall be girdled with its flame.
The Lord Jesus Christ stands before you and reaches out to you in mercy today! His tender heart cares for you, and He is ready to do you good. You need have no fear in coming to Jesus Christ today.
You may have messed up like Peter or like the prodigal son. You may feel beaten and bruised like the man on the Jericho road, and now you find it hard to let anyone come near you. If someone comes over, you think they are going to beat you again.
You need have no fear of Jesus. He is the merciful High Priest. He has seen human life from the inside. He knows what it is to be beaten and bruised Himself. He cares for you and He stands ready to do good for you today.
This is a Christ to whom you can come. And this is a Christ in whom you can trust. His mercy is not for a moment, but for a lifetime.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
And those who know Him are able to say:
“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6)
Let us pray:
For this mercy we give You all glory O Lord as we lift our hearts to You in thankfulness. Your steadfastness never ends, and Your mercies endure forever, new it is every morning and great is your faithfulness. Father thank You for our Lord Jesus Christ that has reconciled us with You, and therefore we can say that we dwell in the house of the Lord forever. All glory and honor to you and in Jesus mighty and worthy Name we pray, Amen