b. Chapter 5 of the gospel of Matthew opens with what has been most frequently called “the sermon on the Mount”. This consists of a series of statements of Jesus which have been called the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes offer a perspective on how the Christian is to live and evaluate their life and decisions. In each of these Jesus offers a category of people who are blessed as well as the reason that they are blessed. Today we will get through at least two more of the Beatitudes and possibly the four remaining.
c. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
i. What is mercy?
1. I’ve often heard mercy described in the context of punishment and as a contrast to grace.
2. For example, grace is described as unmerited favor and mercy unmerited forgiveness. God’s grace is often described as the gift of salvation or of spiritual gifts which we have done nothing to deserve. In fact the word grace is the same word from which we get the concept of spiritual gifts.
3. God’s mercy is described in that we are not receiving a punishment that we are due. This is a true definition of mercy but an incomplete one. In this context we can see mercy as forgiveness. Someone merits punishment for an offense but the offended party decides to forego delivering the consequence. This would be analogous to getting a speeding ticket and the judge forgives the fine. Another example might be a late charge that is forgiven or perhaps a bounced check fee at your bank that they remove from the account. In these examples the offender knows they transgressed but the other party has mercy.
4. Mercy also means taking care of others who have not committed an offense but are in need. When Jesus was asked by a lawyer in Luke chapter 10 “who is my neighbor” he told the story of the good Samaritan which you are all familiar with. At the end of the story he asks the lawyer which of the three men who came upon the Samaritan was his neighbor. The lawyer responds “He who showed mercy on him”.
a. Phil 2:27 For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.
ii. I want you to take notice here, of the second part of this beatitude where it says “for they will be shown mercy”. It seems that what Jesus is saying here is that if you want to receive mercy you must first show it. In fact as we will see throughout Scripture we find the concept that receiving mercy is contingent on showing mercy.
iii. There is a mistaken idea in the church today that the promises of God are unconditional. The idea that God offers everything to us independent of what we do. This is simply a mistaken idea.
iv. A covenant is an agreement between two parties. Some would put forth the idea that the covenant of God with Abraham with David and the new covenant of Jesus are promises of God that make no requirements of the recipients. Biblical truth on the matter is that to receive the blessings of God is always conditional and I’m going to show you that with a few verses.
v. No sooner do I say that than someone will say that this is a matter of earning these things. Making an agreement with someone or extending an offer to them contingent on them fulfilling their end of the covenant doesn’t mean they’ve earned it.
1. For example: Let’s say you are walking down the street encounter someone who is begging for money. You can tell by their appearance that they are likely homeless and penniless and probably without sufficient food or sufficient finances to meet other basic needs. So being moved with compassion you pull a $50 bill out of your wallet and give it to them saying “I’ll give you this money as long as you agree not to use it for drugs or alcohol”. Has the beggar earned your $50? Of course not. The beggar has done nothing to merit your generosity. It is a free gift from you to them. In agreeing to use the money for things besides drugs and alcohol they have not merited the receipt of this money. It is simply that you have attached some conditions to the gift.
2. This is exactly the way God gives gifts through his covenants. His covenants are always “if-then” statements.
vi. The promises made to Abraham and to Israel or conditional upon them doing certain things. One of these appears in Genesis 17. Some would have us believe that the promises made to Abraham and his descendants are without condition. God tells Abraham on several occasions, in Genesis 12, 13 and 15 that he will inherit the land in his descendants will number as the stars or the sand of the sea. God is establishing what will happen, but we need to see the whole story of Abraham and not just take a handful of verses out of context. Further in the story God establishes the conditions for these promises let me share with you one of the relevant verses:
1. Genesis 17:13-14 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant. 13 He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”
2. Genesis 22:16-18 “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— 17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”
3. The promises of God to Abraham were not unconditional. There were also not merited and therefore were grace. Abraham practicing circumcision and being willing to sacrifice Isaac did not merit God making him the patriarch of Israel. These were among other things conditions to receive the promise.
vii. Salvation for the Christian is also conditional. It is conditioned on believing and following Jesus.
1. Romans 10:9-13 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
2. To be saved according to Paul requires the confession of the mouth, the belief of the heart and calling on the name of the Lord. None of these earn salvation. It is not as though somehow I confessing, believing and calling on Jesus God owes me salvation. He owes me nothing and I owe him everything. Obtaining salvation does have some conditions.
viii. In this beatitude receiving mercy is contingent on being merciful. Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy. There’s just no way around it. The Prophets, Jesus, and the apostles also taught it.
ix. Here are some examples:
1. the Lord’s prayer: “and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” we are asking God to forgive us in the same way that we forgive others. At the end of the Lord’s prayer Jesus tax on one more statement for good measure. Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. What? God won’t forgive us unless we forgive first?
2. James 2:13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy.
3. Psalm 18:25 With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful; With a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless;
4. Matthew 18:34-35 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
5. Mark 11:25-26 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
d. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
i. This verse encapsulates a spiritual principle that transcends time and holds deep significance in the Christian faith.
ii. We all know what pure means. It means unadulterated, consisting of only one substance. For example: we want jewelry made of pure gold, many chefs want to only use pure olive oil or pure honey. My boss at work is from Greece. Some of his family members grow olives and after his last trip there he gave me a small jar of olive oil that his family produces. Upon giving it to me to be 100% pure. He told me that he was with them when they harvested the olives and put them into the press that extracts the oil right there in the olive grove. Likewise, my friend Bob is a beekeeper, and he provides us with a jar or two of pure honey from his hives every year.
iii. So what did Jesus mean by a pure heart?
1. We must consider the cultural and historical context in which Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount. The Jewish audience, well-versed in the Old Testament scriptures, would have recognized the emphasis on purity and holiness throughout their religious traditions.
2. Those who kept the law and followed it were considered to be purer than others.
3. There was much emphasis on the concept of defilement in the law and in practice. The law was full of conditions by which one was defiled or unclean.
4. The concept of purity extended beyond external rituals to encompass the innermost thoughts and intentions of the heart, but this was a minor focus in the religious leadership of the day. The religious leaders of the day almost promoted the idea that it didn’t matter what you did outside of religious behavior if you practiced the appropriate religious behaviors.
5. We see this in some people who call themselves Christians today. They engage in all kinds of sinful behavior while maintaining a religiosity that they believe somehow absolves them of their sinfulness. The Mafia crime families who are involved in all kinds of organized criminal behavior and yet adhere to the rituals of Catholicism as though somehow these behaviors are sufficient.
6. In the Jewish tradition, the heart represented the core of a person's being, the seat of emotions, thoughts, and intentions. The call to be "pure in heart" challenged people to maintain integrity in their inner lives, aligning their thoughts and desires with God's standards. This Beatitude was a radical shift in focus from a mere external adherence to religious laws, urging a holistic commitment to righteousness, the righteousness we are to hunger and thirst for.
7. We see the psalmist say in Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me
8. later in the same Psalm Chapter 51 and verses 16-17 "For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise."
9. Psalm 24:3-4 "Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god."
iv. The phrase "for they shall see God" suggests a direct correlation between purity of heart and the ability to perceive the divine.
1. Sin is often viewed as a barrier that separates humanity from God. The call to purity echoes the biblical theme of redemption and restoration.
2. The promise of seeing God implies not only a future eschatological reality but also in present experience.
3. We have to recognize that no one has “seen God”. In the book of James we find that God is spirit. Since God quite literally fills the universe and has no physical body there is simply no way to see God.
a. Yet we have in the Old Testament many examples of people who “saw God”. Ezekiel’s vision at the beginning of his book is a great example.
b. Genesis 32:24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.
c. Isaiah 6:1 (NKJV): "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple."
d. These are called theophanies. Times when God appeared to men in one form or another. Sometimes these appearances were in the world and sometimes they were in the mind as in a vision. But none of these are a complete view of God which is impossible.
4. Paul tells us this in Romans 1:19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
5. If you’re looking, you can see God all around you. But you can’t do this without a pure heart.
6. Does this mean a perfectly pure heart? It does not, but it does mean heart whose orientation is toward God. A heart that desires to be pure. Heart that desires to cease from sinfulness.
7. Why is it that the Christian can look at the sunset, the blooming of a flower or the structure of a single cell and see the glory of God and the atheist cannot see God in this at all?
8. On the day Jesus was baptized it says that there was a voice from heaven proclaiming Jesus the son of God. It also says that some said it thundered. So there was this difference in perception from the same event.
9. Paul answers how this can be in Romans 1:21-23 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
10. Atheism doesn’t arise out of scientific analysis or out of observation. It results out of a rebellion to a God-given conscience. Those who rebel against God love their sin and can’t bear the thought of being without it.
a. James 1:14-15 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
11. Paul describes the result in Romans 1:24-25 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
v. Through a pure heart, one oriented toward God and hungering and thirsting for righteousness believers gain a clearer understanding of God's character, discern His will more effectively, and experience a deeper communion with Him.
1. Jeremiah 29:13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
vi. The pursuit of a pure heart involves a continuous process of self-examination, repentance, and transformation. It challenges us to address the hidden motives, attitudes, and sins that may lurk within the recesses of their hearts.
1. Let me offer a personal example: Mrs. O’Kelly is a tea drinker. She is also a person who sticks to her routine and most days she will come downstairs to the kitchen after her workout around 8:30 AM. Often I will start the teapot so that when she gets downstairs, she has hot tea water. Sounds nice right? But here is a challenge that I’ve offered myself continually: my heating up the tea water out of kindness for her so that she will be blessed? Or am I heating up the tea water so that I will get brownie points and benefit from that? I suppose it could be both simultaneously but one of those is motivated by personal gain.
vii. It can be the same with God. Are we worshiping him because he merits it and we desire for him to be honored? Or do we worship God because of hope of future gain for ourselves after death or in the end times?
viii. Practical purity encompasses moral integrity, honesty, and a genuine desire for righteousness. We are called to live transparently, with a consistency between our public and private lives.
ix. Additionally, the call to purity extends to interpersonal relationships, emphasizing the importance of forgiveness, humility, and love in fostering unity within the body of Christ.
x. There is a transformative power of a pure heart.
xi. It should deepen our appreciation for the profound connection between purity and the ability to perceive and experience God.
xii. As believers we must recognize the ongoing need for inner transformation and alignment with God's standards.
xiii. By so doing we can receive the assurance that we shall see God, both in the present reality of our life with Him and the future hope of eternal fellowship.
e. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
f. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
g. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
2) Salt and Light
a. 13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
b. 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
3) The Fulfillment of the Law
a. 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
a. 21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister[b][c] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’[d] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
b. 23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
c. 25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
a. 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’[e] 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
a. 31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’[f] 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
a. 33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.[g
8) Eye for Eye
a. 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[h] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
9) Love for Enemies
a. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.