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What would God say to you if He caught you in the middle of your deepest, darkest secret? The answer might surprise you. Todd Wagner walks us through Matthew 5:1-12, commonly known as the “Beatitudes,” as we continue our series, “Summer on the Mount."
How to Never Hear, “Depart From Me I Never Knew You.”
Broad vs Narrow
The Golden Rule
Prayer Connected to Promise
Matthew 7:1-6 : Judging Others
Finding Freedom From Worry
Is Money Your Servant or Master?
The Lord’s Prayer
False Religion & Outward Righteousness
Radical Love of Real Disciples
What Jesus Says About Divorce in Matthew 5:31-32
The Murderer and Adulterer Within Me
Salt, Light, the Saved, the Savior and the Law
The Life that Flourishes
A Summary of Matthew 5-7
What would God say to you if He caught you in the middle of your deepest, darkest secret? The answer might surprise you. Todd Wagner walks us through Matthew 5:1-12, commonly known as the “Beatitudes,” as we continue our series, “Summer on the Mount."
Well, good morning, friends! It is awesome to be together with you! I have said many times (I'll repeat it again now) that my favorite place in Scripture is always where I've been spending the most time, and I have been hanging out in the Sermon on the Mount lately because we are going to spend the rest of our summer in this little series called Summer on the Mount.
Behind me is a picture of where tradition holds Jesus stood when he gave this message, taken with an iPhone right there on the little hill that's called a mount in the Scripture, looking out over the Sea of Galilee. This is where Jesus put together these 107 verses, these 2,416 words he shared with us that are still as relevant as can possibly be imagined. I love this little section of Scripture because of what it does. It answers the greatest question people still have today.
Let me give you proof. We do this thing called Real Truth. Real Quick. right here, where people can submit questions either through the app or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, and every week, they kind of put together questions that came in for me, and they group them just to let me know a little bit of what's going on.
This is the grouping of this week's questions that came into Real Truth. Real Quick. It says there were about four questions that dealt with Community Group issues, three you can see based on an earlier Real Truth. Real Quick., and a couple from the message last week, and you see all the way through, but look at the number one most asked series in groups of questions.
It's basically on this issue of, "How can I know I'm saved? If there is a God and there is judgment, how can I be rightly related to him? How do I know for sure that I haven't just let it pass through me, that I missed heaven by 18 inches, you know, that I intellectually embrace the story of the gospel, but it doesn't hit my heart? What kind of person has peace with God?"
It won't surprise you that the most famous message ever given perfectly answers the question, specifically the verses we're going to look at today. They're known throughout history as the Beatitudes. You might ask yourself, "Why are they called the Beatitudes? That's a weird word."
Well, it just is a transliteration, if you will, of a Latin word beatitudo, which just basically means blessing, so in the Latin translation of Matthew 5:3-12, you have nine different times that word shows up, so it commonly became known as the Beatitudes section of the Sermon on the Mount. Let me remind you that the Sermon on the Mount is one long message.
It's a message that, frankly, has so many statements that are still largely embraced in part of our even biblically illiterate society. They want to talk about these things, the most famous of which is what? "Man, hey, don't be judging me. Judge not lest you be judged. Right? Isn't that somewhere in the Bible?" Yes, it is, and you should know what it means.
If you're here July 21, 2019, I will tell you exactly what Jesus meant by that because that's when we'll be in Matthew, chapter 7. You're like, "Wait a minute, Todd. What's going on? Jesus ripped through this in about 15 minutes, the whole thing. Why is it going to take us till July to get there?" It's because what Jesus was doing in this little message was giving you some highlights of things you absolutely want to understand and know.
He was speaking to his cultural contacts as winsomely and powerfully as he could, but he wasn't fully explaining. There's a word we use around here called exegesis. Have you ever heard that word? What's it mean to exegete a text? Let me explain to you something. When Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount, it wasn't the only time he gave this message. In Luke 6, it shows up. It was called the Sermon on the Plain .
Jesus would often share the things that make up this little section of Scripture everywhere he went. One of the most frustrating things, by the way, about being a pastor is you're not a musician. What I mean by that is this. If you like a certain musician and you buy a ticket to go hear them sing, you're angry if, when you show up, they don't sing the song you bought the ticket to hear them sing.
Like, when The Beatles were alive, if you went and saw The Beatles, and they didn't sing "Yesterday," you're like, "What? That's why I bought the ticket." I mean, like "Yesterday" is like your song. If you went and saw John Denver when he was alive, and he didn't sing "Annie's Song," you'd be like, "What? You didn't sing 'Annie's Song!'" If you're a fan of U2, and they don't sing the song that like screams to your mind, I don't know, if it's "Sunday Bloody Sunday" or whatever it might be for you… I don't know.
Every fan is like, "I'm coming to see you Taylor Swift, so you can sing 'Our Song.' I'm all great with all your new stuff, but you better drop a little 'Teardrops on My Guitar' to me," or whatever it is that you're into. Right? You're angry. Now if you're a pastor, and you use the same illustration twice, people are like, "Aw, man. Sweetie, it's time we find another church. Clearly, he's not very creative. He's recycling these stories. I mean, how many times he is going to tell the fireball story."
Right? Three times in 20 years. That's your answer, but people are like, "Aw, come on, man!" Jesus, in the midst of sharing the Sermon on the Mount, spent almost the rest of his ministry exegeting Matthew 5-7. He explained constantly what he meant by these little pithy statements and these summary statements and this introduction to his ministry and who he was and what he was about.
Our society has held onto these, "an eye for an eye," "a tooth for a tooth," "judge not lest you be judged," all these different little things that show up in this message, and you want to make sure you get them correct. His disciples would get with him later and go, "Hey, what'd you mean when you said, "Blessed are…" and he would expound on that. I'm going to show you that a couple of times today.
What we're going to do is what Jesus did with his disciples. We're going to give you the pithy summary statements that are contained in Matthew 5-7, Luke 6, and other places interspersed throughout the Gospels, but we're going to spend some time there like his disciples did and a little bit later, say, "Will you explain to me what you really meant by that so I don't take it out of context and get myself in a lot of trouble?"
It'll get you in a lot of trouble if you think you should never make judgments. There is nothing in the Bible that says you shouldn't make judgments. It does say you shouldn't be judgmental about what makes people righteous in God's eyes, but that doesn't mean you can't quote them what God says make you righteous in his eyes. Do you want to know what makes you righteous in God's eyes? Hang in there today with me. This section tells you.
Now what's really interesting about this section is it doesn't have the gospel in it. None of the Sermon on the Mount has the gospel in it. How can you know your saved if the section that tells you how you're saved doesn't have the gospel story in it? What do I mean by the gospel story? Well, in 1 Corinthians 15, you have Paul, and he says, "Hey, I delivered to you as of first importance, the gospel message."
He says, "I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…" That's the gospel story, and it's nowhere in Matthew 5-7.
What's in Matthew 5-7 is an explanation of why Jesus had to go to the cross and be crucified so that you can be saved and the heart that is necessary for you to embrace that message. Let me set it up for you this way, and then we're going to read it. I want you to think about the moment in your life you're most embarrassed about. I want you to think about when you were doing the darkest, nastiest, most vile, repulsive, God-dishonoring, worthy-of-judgment thing.
I want you to think about doing that, you know, not the act and the sadness that it creates, but I just want you to find yourself in that moment, when you knew, if there was a God and he showed up at that moment, there is very little question what your destiny should be. I want you to ask yourself what you think would happen if, in that little dark room where you're hiding, even though God is omniscient and he knows all things…
You think you've kind of gotten away with it. You're kind of past it. Maybe you're haunted by it. You've never shared it with anybody. I want you to put yourself back in that moment, and I want you to ask yourself, "What would God say to me if, in that moment, he kicked the door open, and the light flooded in, and he was there?" How you answer that question is going to determine whether or not you're going to want to know God and whether or not you're going to be encouraged by who God is or whether you're going to continue to live inside a lie.
This series of verses is the answer to what God would do because probably most of us think it would go down like this. Door kicked open: "Hey! What are you doing? That right there is why I made hell! It's what you deserve, and it's what you're getting!" You couldn't be more wrong about that being God's response to you in that moment; that most vile, shameful moment. Can I tell you exactly what God would say? I'm going to prove it to you.
This is what would happen. Are you ready? Boom! "Oh, child, child. I love you so much! This is not the future I had for you. This is not what I designed for you. I didn't want you caught in this debauchery. I didn't want you a slave to that sin. I didn't want you addicted. I didn't want you lonely. I didn't want you depressed. I didn't want you abused. I didn't want you abusing. I didn't want you to be scared.
I didn't want you to love the dark. I didn't want you to be a slave to anything less than life and blessing and goodness. Do you want out? Do you want to come to me and live with me and be forgiven and be restored? Come, come." Let me just say, that is almost too wonderful to believe it's true, but it is. Nothing twists and deforms the soul more than an unworthy conception of God.
There's an Enemy, and all he wants to do is deceive you and make you think that God is trying to rip you off, that God is trying to oppress you, that God delights in judgment, and that he knows what you've been up to and you're going to get yours. This section of Scripture will correct your thinking if you'll just listen and if you'll quit making God in your image and what you would do in that moment to somebody who had betrayed you, stabbed you in the back, forsaken all the love you have shown them, because he's nothing like you.
He's more wonderful than you can imagine, unspeakably kind. Now make no mistake, God will eliminate sin. He will judge disobedience, but he's made provision so you could be forgiven and pulled out. He loves you. He is a Father King. You are his child, and you might be a slave right now and a tool of the Enemy, but he wants to rescue you from that, restore you, and this section of Scripture proves it.
Where are we in the Bible? We are in Matthew 5, which is important because it comes right after this little section of verses in Matthew, chapter 4, verses 23-25. Let's set the context. This is what's going on. We have been in the middle of what has been known as the silent years. It's been 400 years since God has had any prophet, any revelation, any suggestion that he was who he said he was in terms of wanting to reveal himself to a specific group of people.
It was said well last week. There are really only two kinds of folks on Earth. There is the Jew who has been given the law of God as a source of revelation to show you that God is holy. He doesn't trifle with sin, but he loves people, so he was going to rescue a specific group of people from real Earth circumstance for real Earth provision, the oppression and the horror of men against men, because men don't know God. That's what we do. We abuse one another.
He was going to deliver some people out, and he was going to tell them how to live and fellowship and walk together as God intended them to. He was going to create a new community that was blessed and protected, that the rest of the world could see the blessing and the protection of their way. They were to call others to follow in the way, and those others would come to love God so the message of God's goodness and his way would spread throughout all the earth.
Now here's the problem. Those people called Jews decided that, what God had given them, was a bunch of rules they needed to not only obey but they needed to become more specific with and add to, and that, if you didn't do all these little things, there was no way you could know God. God was saying to them from the very beginning, "This is not the way you get to know me. The law is for you to get to know who I am, that I'm righteous and I don't trifle with sin.
The law was never to show you how you become righteous. The law was there to teach you that you're not like me, and that's why embedded in the law was a provision of grace. Embedded in the law was a sacrificial system: if you had faith in what I told you to do, I would forgive you until the picture of the means of forgiveness would become a reality and not just the blood of bulls and goats.
The perfect Lamb of God, the infinite, eternal perfection of God would come and be the ultimate sacrifice to appease the eternal infinite perfection of God so that God could then be just and judge sin completely and still be a lover of those who had committed those sins," but the Jews became prideful, and they became committed to the system and didn't love God as a Savior. What they started to do was kind of have festivals and do all the things God said they should do.
Then they did whatever they wanted the rest of the time, but they showed up at the festivals. They showed up at the temple. The showed up at the sacrifices, and they did whatever they wanted to do. There was no relationship. Imagine, you being a hateful son who, 364 days a year, bad-mouthed your mom, hated your mom, talked poorly of your mom, cursed your mom, and then on Mother's Day, you sent her chocolate-covered strawberries. Would you be a good son?
God says, "You're not good people if you do these temple ceremonies and festivals but you don't love me. The whole purpose of those festivals is to remind me of my grace so you would love me because all I want is a relationship with you." That's all God has ever wanted. Let me show you how God views men. In Genesis, chapter 1, verse 26, it says, "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…'" And let's let men do what wedo.
We rule over all of creation; God the Father, Son, and Spirit. Let's let men rule over the earth that we create. "…over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." We're going to make them sovereign. There is going to be nothing like them, no one who has the cognitive ability and the sovereign endowment to rule. " God created man in His own image…"
That's not the word for male. It's the word for humans. Now he's going to tell you what humans are. They are male and female, distinct, equal, both valuable, together representing God, not the same, separate, but they love each other, and they should become one as they walk with God and love each other the way that God the Father, Son, and Spirit are distinct, separate, equal, and subordinate in their clear definition of roles.
The Father is not the Son. The Son is not the Spirit. The Spirit is not the Father. The Father says, "This is my Son, in whom I'm well pleased. Listen to him." The Son says, "I don't do anything unless the Father tells me to do it. The Spirit says, "My whole job is to exalt the Son." The Son says, "It's better for you that I leave that the Spirit might come." Do you see the mutual love, admiration, and celebration that exists in the Trinity?
It's what God intends for us in the perfection of which he created us for us to be two and yet one. It's the only picture God has given us of multiplicity that dwells in unity as we walk with God, but when we leave God, we can't walk with one another, so we go to war with one another. We act like there's no difference between us. Men use their strength to oppress women. Women try and usurp men's authority, and there is no peace, but that's not the way God designed it. God designed us to enjoy him and, in our enjoying him, live and love for one another.
Here comes the very first words that God ever spoke to man. Without looking, do you know what the very first word God ever spoke to man was? Well, in Latin, it would be the word beatitudo, which I want to tell you it's the word blessed…makarios in the Greek. It's a word that basically means beloved, good fortune, blessed, favored, privileged among creatures, one on whom fortune smiles.
It was a word used in Classical Greek of the state of the life of the gods on Mount Olympus. They alone were in this place of great prosperity and blessing who got to live the way people should live. It's the word that just basically means human flourishing. The very first thing God did is he just said, "Flourish, privileged ones, those who good fortune and kindness comes their way." God blessed them.
Then part of that blessing was, "I want you to increase others who will be blessed. I'll give you the ability to procreate, and I want you to fill the earth. I want you to rule, and in the way we have purpose and meaning in ruling, you have purpose and meaning in ruling," but from there, in the place of perfection, men said, "I don't know if we really want to walk with this God who blesses us and puts us in a state of perfection called Eden.
I think, maybe… God warned us there'd be a liar there who would say, "Hey, God's not good. He's not a blessed one. He's one to be avoided. He's one to be managed. What you need to do is figure out what's good and evil on your own and choose it." God said, "I wouldn't do that. You're free. I'm not going to rape you. I'm not going to make you love me. I'm not going to make you robots, so you have to love me.
You're free to have a relationship with me, but if you don't want a relationship with me, then go find your own good," and when we did, there came death. Now if you read the story, you know that God, right away, came back and said, "Hey, where are you, Adam? Do you like what you have? This isolation from woman, this now creation which has lost my protection? Do you like the death and destruction and disease? Take my provision. I'll bring you home.
I'll bless you again, but now the world's going to be a little different until I rescue the world completely," so we have the story go forward, and ultimately, what God does is he takes a group of descendants of Adam, specifically the sons of Noah called Shem, the Shemites, which we know as the Jewish people, to whom he says, "I'm going to reveal myself to you specifically, and you're going to be blessed among nations of the earth, if you walk with me."
They didn't walk with him. They just sent him flowers on Mother's Day, and he finally said, "Enough." He took his hand of protection off them, and they went into judgment, and in their judgment, they came back home, and they kind of reminded themselves that, "Hey, God does not take just kind of superficial devotion to him very well." Then the Bible goes silent, and for 400 years, we don't really hear any message from God.
Then all of a sudden in Matthew, chapter 1, we find out there's a woman who is told she is going to give birth to a child and that she should name him Jesus. Then a little bit later, there's a man in Matthew, chapter 1, verse 23 to whom he says, "Hey, Joseph, remember the verse back there a long time ago where the prophet Isaiah said, 'Behold the virgin shall be with child?' That girl you're engaged to, she's the virgin.
She's going to bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel. Joseph, that name Immanuel means 'God with us.' I'm about to kick down the door of separation between created humanity and infinite God, and I am about to come and visit you." Then it says, as a result of that, when he heard these words, "Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth…"
This was so that sin would not be imputed to him because God put life inside of her that was perfect and good. It was him in his image in the person of the Son, and it says when the child was born, even though Joseph knew that it was "God with us," they gave him a name, and the name was Jesus. The name Jesus is the Hebrew name Yeshua. It means God saves. This young man grew up, and in Matthew, chapter 4, verse 23, we have this.
It says that Yeshua, the Lord's Saving One who has come, who has kicked the door in of creation that is depraved and full of debauchery or stuck in dead religion… There are only really two kinds of people. There is the Gentile who doesn't know God and never loved God and never pursued God. This is what the Gentiles did. They made up this story, this mythology: "This is who god is. The god is in the heavens." That's what the word Baal means.
The word Baal means god in Canaanite language, and he is the Lord of the heavens, and he has a consort. He has a wife. Her name is Asherah or Anat, and she is the goddess of the earth, and what happens is, periodically, they have relations. They're intimate, and his semen comes from heaven in the form of rain. It hits the earth, and then what happens is it causes the seed of Asherah to grow.
When it grows, it turns into crops, and we eat the children of Baal and Asherah, and so it's only right, since they're sacrificing their children that we might live, that we create Baal worship and we sacrifice our children to them so it will rain again and the harvest can grow. That was the mythological idea of Canaanite worship. It was surrounded with temple prostitution because you slept with temple prostitutes. They would have babies. Those babies would be sacrificed.
God said, "That is just unspeakable." You have every kind of perversion and deviation and craziness and mythology that came out of it. That's the Gentiles. The Jews had the law. "We're righteous enough if we do the things you tell us we should do," instead of falling in love with the God who made gracious provision for them, and God is kicking the door in. He's about to show up to those two groups of people.
It says Jesus wanted to let people know something special was going on, so this is what happened. "Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues…" That's just a place where folks were who said they knew the Bible and what God had said was going to happen. "…and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease…" Why? He was reversing the effects of the fall.
He was showing he's the Sovereign One who can reverse disease and death and war and destruction and anxiety and depression. Every kind of sickness was being reversed. That's the way God intended it. He's bringing back Edenic moments. "The news about Him spread throughout all Syria…" Can you imagine that? "…and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. Large crowds followed Him…"
They came from all over the region, the northern region, the non-Jewish region east of the Jordan River (that's called Decapolis), all the way down there where the temple is. Everyone came. When Jesus saw he was becoming more popular, he said, "I didn't come to be popular. I came to tell you who God is, and you may not like it, but this is who he is." "…He went up on the mountain…"
He said, "Other people can come, but people who want to follow me and really learn from me, I'm going to tell them more." "…He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach 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.'" You know these words, right? You have never even tried to memorize them, but they're just kind of out there all the time.
"Blessed are the gentle, 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." Then he stops for a second, and if you will, I think he paused.
Then he went into verses 10 through 12. We'll get to those in just a moment, but let me just show you what Jesus is doing right here. I think this is the way to understand the Sermon on the Mount. This is the way the Beatitudes went. We're going to talk about these first three just in a second…the poor in spirit, the mourning, and the meek…are just foundational beliefs and characteristics of folks who will experience what God wants humans to experience.
I'm going to explain to you, if you're not poor in spirit, if you're not an individual who mourns your own brokenness, if you don't want to be surrendered to your King, then you don't have the foundation to receive the gospel, but if you have those things, you're going to want the God who can give you what you don't have, which is righteousness, so you're going to hunger for more of God.
If you hunger for more of God, when you come back into relationship with God by grace, you will be, among a lot of other things, symbolically merciful, a lover of good, and you will be a maker of peace. That's the fruit. See, when the Spirit of God is there, love is there. Peace is there. Patience is there. Goodness is there. Kindness is there. Gentleness is there. Self-control is there.
Don't ever pray for more patience. Just say, "God, right now, I need more of the Spirit in my life. If I'm yielded to your Spirit and not leaning according to my own understanding, I will have self-control." In your marriage, when you're not being kind and you're not being good, you can be sure in that moment you're not walking with God because, when God is there, the fruit…the fruit (singular) of the Spirit… All these things are present when you walk with God: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness.
It's not an exhaustive list. It's just symbolic of every good and beautiful thing that is there when God is there. The same thing is happening in the Sermon on the Mount in these Beatitudes. It's the fruit of being reconciled to God: mercy, lover of good, peacemaker. What happens in verses 10 through 12, if you get the foundational characteristic right, the focus will be on more of God. The fruit will be more of the things I just said, but there are foes who will not like it.
That's 10 through 12. They will persecute you because they don't like the fact that you're confronting their dead religion, and they might not like the fact your calling them out their rebellion against God and living against their own way. They love their Baal worship. They love defining humanity and sexuality and freedom the way they do. It maybe isn't bringing a lot of joy that's sustaining, but they like it enough right now that they're going to keep doing it.
The world that is rebellious is going to hate you, and the world that is religious is going to hate you, but that doesn't mean you don't love them. Can I just tell you really quickly? If you want to know Jesus, how he told the Beatitudes, in a symbolic way, I would take you to the most famous story in the New Testament. That story is found in Luke 15. It's a story called the prodigal son, and it's wrongly named the prodigal son.
It should be called the prodigal sons…plural…because there are two boys in that story, neither of whom had a relationship with the father. The one, we can see his godlessness. We can see his debauchery. We can see his selfishness because he just wishes the father was dead. "Give me my inheritance. Let me do what I want to do." He went, and he squandered his fortune on loose living. It led to destruction and sadness, and he's eating with the pigs.
If you read the story, you see the father's just looking to kick down the door of separation and just saying, "Son, do you want to come home?" In fact, the father's feet are on the edge of the ranch, and all he wants to do is run to him the second the son, in his brokenness goes, "What am I doing? I'm a child of a king. I've left my father. My father's servants eat better, and I want to run back to him." The father would run to him in that moment.
Meanwhile, there's another son at home who's not enjoying the father either. He never left in debauchery, but he's stuck in his dead religion and his self-righteousness. What's he do? He sees the father's kindness and his grace and his love, the rejoicing at the intimacy and the restored relationship, and he goes, "What are you doing, man? You've never slaughtered a fatted calf for me."
The father is like, "It's because you don't want to have fellowship with me. You're just living in my house, taking advantage of all that's going on in my wealth and my provision, but you don't love me. I would love to kill the calf for you, but you never want to dine with me. You never want to be with me. You're stuck in your dead self-righteousness and your religion. I'm not mad at you, but oh, son, come. Be intimate and near your father, not just polite, civil. The reason you're on the ranch is to have a relationship with me."
Do you see that? It's the story of those who are caught in dead religion or self-righteousness and debauchery or sin, and what they both need is a relationship with the Father. They need to know that, on their own, they're not righteous, that their rebellion isn't going to work out well for them, that there's forgiveness here. Jesus says, "Blessed." The word means one who lives as God intends, one who lives not dependent upon the circumstances of the world but who has contentment in the fullness of God.
God said, "This world right now is going to have trouble, but I can give you peace in the midst of it, and you will flourish, even in a world that's still largely defined and ruled by sin, because you won't be a slave to the ways of the world and sin. The world's not going to like you when you say, 'Religion doesn't work, and rebellion doesn't work,' but love the world, and there's going to be a day when you'll be glad you loved them in my name and you lived my way, but you'll never live my way just by wanting to. You have to be poor in spirit."
That word literally means bankrupt. It means just grinding poverty, that you have nothing. That's what the son who was at home should've said. "Dad, I have nothing. The only reason that we have a relationship is you want a relationship with me and that God, you in your sovereignty; Father, you in your sovereignty, made me and longed for me to be intimate with you, not to behave and be polite but to love Father. I have nothing except what you've given me."
It's what the rebellious son needs to say. "I have nothing unless you restore me. My wealth and riches and blessing are tied to you." Blessed are those who know they have nothing they bring God to please him, for theirs and theirs alone is the kingdom of heaven. You can't get to the kingdom of heaven, apart from God saying, "I want you to be blessed. Don't perform for me. Love me. In fact, be broken over your hardheartedness, your self-righteousness or your sin.
Weep and cry, and I'll comfort you because I don't want you to be stuck in dead, burdensome religion, and I don't want you to be stuck in wild and loose living that seems right to you but always leads to death. Come." Jesus says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock…" On your closed bedroom or on your closed heart. "…if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.""I will bless them. I want them to enjoy me."
Are you broken about your sin? Let me tell you what Jesus did at one point. He explained Matthew, chapter 5, verse 3. He did it through a story. Stories help people understand, so Jesus tells a story. Do you want to know who the poor in spirit are? Here he goes. In Luke, chapter 18, verses 9 through 14, he says, "'Two men went up to the temple to pray…'"
"I'm going to tell this story," he says to the son who's here in the house with him who's locked in his room and doesn't have a relationship with him, who thinks he's righteous because he's never done what his corrupt brother has done, this brother who views others with contempt. Here comes the story. "'Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee…"
These are the people who basically the Sermon on the Mount is addressed to, but he says under Matthew, chapter 5, verse 20 that unless you're more righteous than the brother who never went away and was full of debauchery, you'll never get into an intimacy with the Father, so he says this. "The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people…'" The homosexuals, the pro-choice movement, the folks who put unrighteous folks in office, the socialists.
God, I thank you I'm not like those people who live in really nice houses. I mean, nicer than mine because, you know, mine's okay, but those really rich people…thank you that I'm not like them. I'm not like this guy who divorced his wife. I'm still married. I may not have the relationship I want, but let's not go there.
What I really have is I'm doing better than most. I fast twice a week. I go to Watermark. I go to re:gen. I've been to re|engage with my wife, for goodness sake. I've been to Equipped Disciple 1 and 2. I teach Equipped Disciple! Thank you. Thank you that I'm not like them."
"But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes…" He was mourning his sin. He was broken in spirit. "…beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself [thinks he has righteousness of his own] will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."
You see, what's foundational to acceptance with God is to realize you can't put together a resume, church planter; you can't put together a resume, faithful husband, that's good enough to please God. It's why a little bit later in verse 48 he says, "Unless you are perfect, you have a problem. Be perfect like my heavenly Father is perfect." This should immediately make you go, "Hey, anybody else here perfect? I'm not."
We'll just acknowledge your poverty and mourn over the separation from God because the truth is that radical feminist, that lesbian, that homosexual, that person who had an affair with your wife…that person…the distance between you and them is infinitely closer than you and a holy God. Your problem is your distance between you and a holy God, and you'd better close that. Then you take his peacemaking message back to all those who are still stuck in their debauchery or their dead self-righteousness, just like you.
Can I tell you another story? I'll tell you this because I heard somebody say something this week that really saddened me. It was somebody who said, "You know, I don't know if Watermark is the church for me. I mean, Watermark is an amazing place. It has crazy stories of redemption, but I don't have a crazy story." You know, the Watermark news stories every week are just nuts. Remember the video we showed two weeks ago?
Edwin on his 26th birthday gets strung out on crystal meth, car jacks two different cars, causes a police chase that shuts down the Metroplex, is naked and cuffed and thrown down in the middle of a highway, and the news stories cover it. Then some Mexican drug cartel gets involved in his life, and he gets redeemed. You're like, "Wow! Me? That's not my story. I wonder if this is the place for me." Let me just tell you something. It's the place for you because this is a church for both sons, and both sons need the Father.
Here's the story. It's the story of a church in England, and I don't even like the way the story is told. It's the story of a church who has a church in a dignified part of town, and they have some mission churches. I hate that because every church should be a mission, but they have mission churches down where the scum live, the scoundrels, the ex-prisoners and thieves. Twice a year, they would get together just to worship, and on this one Sunday when they were together, the pastor was walking his way down the Communion rail.
He saw that a member of his distinguished church who happened to be a part of the Supreme Court of England was there on the rail, and next to him was a guy from the mission church who that guy earlier in his judicial career had sent to jail for a couple of decades and now was out, had come to know Christ, and was a part of the church down there, but together they were at the rail. After the service was over, the pastor who was a friend of the judge was walking home.
The judge said to him, "Pastor, did you see who was next me on the Communion rail today?" The guy goes, "Yes, I did. I didn't know if you did." He goes, "Oh, I did. What an amazing story of grace!" The pastor said, "I know. I marveled at the same." The judge said, "Can I ask you who you're speaking of?" The pastor said, "Well, the criminal, of course," and the judge said, "I was talking about me. I mean, of course, that guy trusted Jesus. Everything in his life…
He was born without a father. He lived in a home where he was never instructed in the way of righteousness and good. It led to incredible despair. He was eventually a slave to his actions and lost all of his freedom. He had nothing, and he cried out to God, and of course, he sought God. Of course, God in his mercy redeemed him. I'm talking about me, Pastor. You know my father. He was a leader in this church. I was raised in this church. I was taught Bible verses.
My father loved my mother. I was trained in the best schools. I went to Oxford. Everything about my career and my life is thick with dignity, and the fact that God would show me my depravity and my desperation for a Savior and my need to be redeemed, that is story of grace." Amen. My kids who have been raised, and they say, "Dad, you've love us well. When we think of a father, we think of a father who loves us unconditionally and seeks us, who models for us presence and faithfulness and kindness. You've modeled that for us.
Dad, you've loved our mom. You and Mom have created a home where there's been security. You taught us the truth about God. You told your imperfection was not a reflection of God, that God is the perfection of where you lack, and you taught us always the beauty and kindness of God's way, and we've seen it. We were part of a church where people really loved God and did the things God wants them to do."
My kids, every one of them, have described their lives this way: "Dad, we have more joy and less scars because we were raised in a community of grace," but every one of them has said, "Oh, but God has shown us our need for grace. We are sinners, and if it weren't for the kindness of God to redeem us, we would never want to worship him, but he has shown us in our more joy and less scars that we need a Savior." That's a Watermark News story.
There is no other church for anybody except for sons who think they're okay without the Father and sons who have tried to find life without the Father. They both need him. "Blessed are the poor in spirt. Blessed are those who mourn." Jesus says, "Come. Are you weary and heavy laden?"
He kicks that door open, and he says, "Do you want to be blessed? I'm not mad at you. I want to rescue you. This is God. I'm with you. I am Yeshua. I'm the one who saves. My child, you don't have to be this way. My child, you don't need to be here and not enjoy me. Get out of your dead religion and your self-righteousness. Start to wed your heart to me. Come. Sit at my table."
"Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth." This is a passage that you need to understand. The word gentle… The word meek is what most Bibles say. The word meek isn't weak. Blessed are those who just say, "God saddle up on me. Take me." I have a friend who I, privately and every now and then, will write a note to. I'll call him Thunderhoof. That's his nickname. He was here. He came in here hungover, smelling like smoke, living in the back row; Jonathan Pokluda.
I was teaching Matthew, chapter 5, verse 5, and I described who God is and how people who know God live with him. I was talking about how blessed are the meek, and I used an illustration that came from this children's book. It's called Thunderhoof. Here's a picture of it up here. It's an Early I Can Read Book, so it's one I hang out in a lot.
I described the story of Thunderhoof, and J.P., this 6 foot 7 strong young man who was just terrorizing Lower Greenville, running riot with his friends and having the time of his life, trying to kick and scream and whinny and be a stallion, was a little bit sick and tired of smelling like smoke and being hungover.
I explained the story of how word meek was used. The word meek is used in Scripture of a stallion who has been broken so it can be what God intended for it to be. Thunderhoof is this story. It's a story of a stallion the cowboys always wanted. They could never get him. He was too fast, too wild, too strong, so they just let him go. Thunderhoof loved his life, free, until at some point in his strength there was a drought, and poverty came to his strength.
Thirst came to his throat, and hunger came to his bones, and he became weak and was vulnerable. The cowboys went and took him and said, "Come here," and they brought that stallion in, and they said, "Hey, drink our water. Hey, here's some food." They brushed him. They took the burrs out of his mane. They nestled up against him, and they said, "Good horse." They loved him. They showed him kindness.
They showed him what he was created for, and they tried to saddle him up, and in the story, Thunderhoof bucks off every cowboy. He's like, "Hey! No, no, no! No, no, no!" Finally, they couldn't break him, so they just let him go. Thunderhoof goes back out, and he's strong again. It had rained again, so now he's through his pain, and he's kind of back at it. He wants to be a stallion again, but even though he's being a stallion, he remembers the kindness he was shown.
He has some burrs in his mane again. No one is whispering love to him and combing him and encouraging him, so he makes his way back. It's the kindness of the cowboys that led him to repentance, and he goes back. This time, he lets them saddle him, and this time, he's cared for, and they build a relationship. He's restored to his sovereign, and the glory of what God intended him to always be is known to all men and all the earth. That's meek.
He's still a stallion. He's just the glorious stallion God created him to be. He's not cold and lonely. He's cared for, shepherded, and loved and provided for. "…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…" That's not a verse of judgment. That's just saying, "You're not experiencing the life you were created to experience if you don't saddle up and ride with the King, if you don't say, 'God, take Todd Wagner and all his strength. Take the apostle John, who's very different.
Take Peter. Take Paul. Take Jenny. Take Becky. Take every one of us exactly how you made us, and Lord, make us the one you created and ride our hearts and let the glory return.'" See, that foundational belief, "God you're good. I'm left alone without you. I'm self-righteous or I'm a slave to sin. I want to be the son who's there who enjoys the father, who's not eating pig food. Come, Father. Make me the child of a King."
That's literally, again, what the word blessed means. It's a child who gets to live as the King intended, blessed. Watch what happens. Those foundational ideas… I am poor. I'm bankrupt. I hate my bankruptcy. I wish God could show me and make more of what he has designed me to be. That means, when you see that God is a merciful God who speaks blessed to you, you're going to want more of God. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…"
"Give me more, God. Give me more. I know who I am. I know who you are. I want more of you." Can I just say this to you? If you don't want more of God, I doubt you know him at all. If a man doesn't want to know more of God, it's doubtful if he really knows him at all. That was what I wrote in my Bible. That's what I wrote in my notes as I was reading that.
That's what this means when it says, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." When you delight yourself in the person of God and run towards him and quit thinking he's there to rip you off … That's the lie of the Enemy: God's not good. His Word's not true. Disobeying him is not that big of a deal.
When you say, "God, I want more of you because I see you're good, full of loving kindness and true, slow to anger. I know you're going to judge sin. I've confessed my sin, and you want to bless me? Oh, God, show me more of this God who has come to save. Show me more of the God who's not angry at me because of my disease and who wants to heal me."
I wrote that down, and I found out there was another guy who's called the Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon. He actually said something very similar when he read Matthew 5:6. He said something like, "If you don't want to know God more, you know nothing of him yet."
If you're here and you don't want community and you don't want to be a part of God's family, I don't know if you know God. If you're here and you're indifferent to the Bible, I don't know if you know God. If you're here and you don't want to declare his deeds and share his love with others and study his Word and pray and seek intimacy, then I don't think you know God.
Do you know who this is? He loves you! He wants to bless you, make you what you were created to be, free you from anxiety and despair and disease and selfishness and self-righteousness! If you don't think God is worth running to with every discipline you have, it's because you have a toxic view of God and you're buying a lie.
Now watch what happens to the focus of your life when you're broken and you realize the goodness and beauty of God, that he's not trying to rip you off and lasso you and put a bit in your mouth but to make you what he created you to be. You're going to want more of him, and when you want more of him and that's your focus, then you're going to bear a certain fruit.
"Blessed are the merciful…" People who have been forsaken much forgive. Jesus, a little bit later, didn't tell a story, but he exegeted Matthew, chapter 5, verse 7. It happened that he was with a Pharisee. His name was Simon. This is found in Luke 7. The Pharisee requested that he come and dine with him because he thought he was doing Jesus a favor to help him, and when Jesus showed up, at the same time Jesus showed up, there was a woman who showed up.
This woman took an alabaster full of perfume and broke it, and she was so broken by her sin (she happened to be a woman of ill repute) her tears wet his feet, and then she used her hair to dry her tears and to anoint his feet with oil and perfume. Simon, sitting there, looked and thought to himself, "If this guy was a prophet, he would know that's not a good woman, and he wouldn't let her do that."
Jesus, to show he was a prophet said, "Simon, let me tell you what that woman's doing. She's showing me love. Do you know why she's showing me love? She's received mercy from me. She knows who I am, that I have the ability to forgive sins, that I don't hate people in their darkest moment, and she's lived some dark moments.
When I came in, you didn't kiss me. She's kissing my feet. When I came in, you didn't anoint my head with oil. She is anointing my feet. When I came in, you didn't cleanse me. That's just a simple, step-one way to greet a person when we all wear sandals. She is cleaning my feet with my hair. Do you know why? She has received mercy. You don't love me because you don't think you need mercy. Daughter, your sins are forgiven."
They're like, "What? Who can forgive sins except God?" "Exactly. My name is Jesus. The Lord saves. I am Immanuel. The Lord is with you." That's the story. Are you merciful? Man, yesterday, I got up early. It was pouring down rain. I don't know if you remember. I went over here to John Wallace's office. He's an oral surgeon here in town. He works with us in our clinic.
We have other doctors who are part of our clinic on a normal basis. We get a backlog of people who are specifically in need in the dental area because they're indigent or underresourced. They can't even get basic dental care, so every now and then, four times a year, what they do is open up their office on the weekend. Let me tell you who's in this picture right here, members of our body. One guy who's been married for five days left his new bride in bed. There is a single mom of four kids.
People who had worked 65 hours a week in their dental practice who got up early on a rainy Saturday morning to come so about 35 or 40 people who were backlogged at the clinic could have diseased teeth pulled from their mouths that they might have some relief. When I got there to talk with them, I see my buddy, Kevin, there with his Bible open reading out of Isaiah 58, talking about the kind of fasting from injustice that God wants us to do, not going through forms of self-righteousness but to fast from being self-righteous and to be merciful.
This is what pleases God. He said, "We're here because we've received, that we can give mercy to these people, and they have disease in their lives. We're going to pull it in Jesus' name, and we're going to say, 'We're not going to love you more now that we've done this if you agree with us, but you need to know the reason we're here is because Jesus' loves you, and we have a means through our profession to give you some relief.'"
It moved me to tears to watch these saints of God bear the fruit of hungering for more of God's intention for them. It was beautiful. Blessed are the merciful. They've received mercy, and they extend it. "Blessed are the pure in heart…" This doesn't mean, if you're good long enough, God will give you a little glimpse behind Oz's curtain and let you see him. What this means is what Paul exegeted Matthew 5:8 in Romans 12:2.
Romans 12:2 says, "Don't be like the world. Don't be conformed to the world's way that doesn't know that God is good but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that he's the blessed one, the one who loves you." Watch this. "…be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove…" In other words, your life might testify to and you would personally experience "…what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."
What this verse means is not, if you behave, God will let you be called a good boy, "You're an acceptable Christian." No. It means, when you walk with God and you seek what God wants and you love God and you want more of him, you're going to live the life, the pure life God intends, and you're going to say, "This is the good life. This is the blessed life. This is the flourishing life. I'm going to see more of God's character the more I love what is good."
The fruit of knowing God means, "I want more of him. I hunger and thirst after righteousness." Guess what do you get? More righteousness. What do you get when you get more righteous? You go, "This is right. I see the beauty of God." That's Matthew 5:8. Then Matthew 5:9: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." That's what God is.
He's a peacemaker. "Self-righteous son, sinful son, I'll make peace with you through my shed blood and my body on the cross. I am the Lord who saves." What have you done this week to be a peacemaker with the lost and the rebellious of the world to tell them of the kindness of God? How have you modeled that kindness has come to you in the way you're making peace with your spouse and your children and those who have offended you?
Are you the kind of person who, when you're nailed to a cross because they don't know who you are that you say, "Father, forgive them. They don't know what they do. I know they wouldn't treat me this way if they knew you are. O God, let me be a means of peace to them." It's the fruit, Christian, of who you are. Now watch. There's a foe.
When you tell the world that their religion and their self-righteousness doesn't save, and when you tell them, "Hey, your sexual gender dysphoria, God's not mad at you about that. It's just because you're broken. Hey, your lusting after other women, your addiction to pornography, God's not mad at you. It's just because you're broken.
Hey, your anxiety and your depression, it's just because your broken. I'm not mad at you. I just want to help you be restored. I mean, your disease, your quadriplegia, is because you live in a broken world, and I want you to have strength even in your brokenness." When you tell people that God is sufficient in all of these things, they're not going to always like you. That's why verses 10 through 12 are there. I end with this.
"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness…" That's for the sake of righteousness, not because they're self-righteous. Make sure you're persecuted for the good you're doing in Jesus' name and not for the craziness your capable of when you don't walk like Jesus wants you to. "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Blessed are you when people insult and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil things against you. That's just par for the course.
The Pharisees heard this message in the Sermon on the Mount, heard what he said to Simon, heard the way he lived, and they go, "We're not going to kill our tradition. We're going to kill you." Jesus says that some of the people who were wicked and Romans who were kind of into the Roman mythology, they go, "You know what? We're going to keep the peace. We're going to kill Jesus because we like our little Roman way."
He said, "Don't be surprised, when you call Romans, Gentiles, out of their paganism, that they hate you. Don't be surprised when who people think they're righteous in and of themselves hate you when you say Jesus alone is the way. It's just what happens," but watch what he says. "Blessed are you… Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great…""You're coming home to dad."
"…for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.""Don't be surprised. The truth isn't always popular, but prophets aren't running for mayor. You're here to serve me." This thing's been thick with application, but I close with just these little points.
First, when Jesus got done with the entire message (he went all the way through to Matthew, chapter 7), this is what the people said. Matthew, chapter 7, verse 28: "When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching…" Some of you guys this morning are going, "Todd, if you're saying is true, that's amazing!"
Here's the truth. Amazement doesn't save. What saves is absolute conviction of sin and abandonment of self-righteousness and self-will. Being amazed at what I'm saying this morning won't save you. You have to go, "I abandon. I repent. I change my thinking about God and about me and my sin and my love of self and my love of self-righteousness, and I want more of God." That's what saves. That's what saves.
Secondly, disciples do. These are called the Be-atitudes. I will tell you they are the do actions. Disciples do. The deluded don't. You can come in here all day long and sing songs to God, and you can like what I said today, but if you don't do, then you are not rightly responding to this message.
This is James, chapter 1, verse 22, when James explains the Sermon on the Mount, "But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves." That is Matthew 7:24-27, which says, "A wise man hears and acts." Believers do. Disciples do. The deluded don't. By the way, he goes on in James, chapter 1, verse 25, when he says, "But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does." This is the same word.
Lastly is this. Believers are blessed. It says, "The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord Are riches, honor and life." Believers are blessed among men, but they are promised persecution not health, wealth, and prosperity. That is a lie from the pit of hell. I don't know if you're going get healthier, wealthier, or wiser. You might be persecuted. You probably will be in some way, but you are promised there's a blessing in that because the prophets who spoke and did for God what he wanted them to do before you were persecuted in the same way.
It's glorious to be a peacemaker, merciful to those who don't know the goodness of God yet, seekers of good, so they can experience the fullness of what God intended because you're poor in spirit, broken and mourning over your sin, saying, "God, saddle me up. Give me more of you, and I want to seek you." I love this text because it reminds me how much Jesus loves me.
Father, I pray that my friends in this room see the love of God and they repent of their self-righteousness and they are poor in spirit and broken over their sin and they say, "Saddle me up, Lord. Sign me up. Give me more of you." I pray they hunger and thirst for more of you, and as they do, they bear fruit of mercy as they've received it and a lover of kindness and goodness because they see it in you and that they are peacemakers, singing the song of redemption to others and modeling redemption in their love for one another.
Help us, Lord, to be peacemakers and not peacefakers. Lord, help us to brace for the coming storm, the persecution of Romans who don't like us telling them that that's not going to lead to life when you live in rebellion and the Jews and Christian elitists who think their churchgoing and Bible reading is enough to please you.
Help us to love religious people and help us to love rebellious people. Help us to know your kindness. If there's anybody today stuck in their dead religion or their debauchery, would you bring them to you, Father? You just stand at door and you knock, and you say, "Hey, come on. I want to bless you." Let them come and let those of us who know you go, until the whole world knows. In Jesus' name, amen.
Enjoy your Father this Mother's Day. Have a great week of worship!