(7/1) I became a Christian in 1971. That was a time when a lot of folks were into the prophetic part of the Bible. In 1970, Hal Lindsay came out with his best seller, The Late Great Planet Earth, and around that time the series of movies about the Tribulation came out like A Thief in the Night, A Distant Thunder, and The Mark of The Beast. And, there
was a lot of preaching about the Return of Jesus to Rapture His Church. A decade ago Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins wrote the best selling series called Left Behind.
I donít know if we hear as much about the return of our Lord as we used to. The point of these series and sermons was to encourage people to be ready and not ashamed when Jesus comes back for His own (1 John 2:28). But letís be honest, itís hard to maintain that level of expectancy. Itís been nearly 2000 years since He made those promises like the one
in John 14:3.We are convinced that itís going to happen; we just arenít convinced that it could be in our lifetime.
A similar feeling existed 2000 years ago. It had also been nearly 1500 years since Moses began to write down the promises that God had made to send a Messiah. For over a thousand years other prophets also would record more information about the Messiah that would be a King like David, a Prophet like Moses and a Priest like Melchizedek. The last Prophet
of God was 400 years ago and the King hadnít come yet. Isaiah 40:2-8, tells us that there would be a forerunner of the Messiah King that would announce His coming. All four Gospel writers tell us that John the son of Zachariah was that forerunner. The purpose for a forerunner was to announce the Kingís coming so the people would be ready to receive Him. The advanced notice
was to give you time to get cleaned up and make whatever adjustments were necessary to meet and honor the King. Johnís message was simple, "Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand," (Matt. 3:2), and he would baptize people who came and confessed their sins and sought forgiveness. Jesus also began His ministry by telling people that they needed to repent and be ready for
the rule of God (Matt. 4:17).
His Sermon on the Mount is, in my opinion, an explanation of what it is involved in being ready to meet the King. By the way, are you ready to meet the King? What if death or the return of Jesus were to occur today, are you really ready? In this sermon, our Lord begins by telling us who the Lord approves of and favors and who will be ready to meet the
King. The word, ĎBlessed,í means may mean, Ďhappy,í but it doesnít mean an inner feeling of joy, but as a state of being approved and favored. There is an intentional progression of thought; that is, each characteristic comes from the one before it and leads to the one after it. So, who does God favor and approve of? What does he or she look like? Who will be ready to meet
1st. Only the Poor in Spirit will be ready to meet the King; that is, the one who realizes that he or she has nothing by which to present to the King any worth. I can not offer Him my good deeds, my good nature, or anything worthy of being in His presence. The Poor in Spirit knows that all his own goodness is like filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). These are the
people on whom God will bestow Grace. These are the people that God will favor and fill. These will be the only ones ready to meet the King. (v.3)
2nd. Only those who Mourn the fact that their poverty is because of their sinful nature will be ready to meet the King. Sin has damaged our lives and those of our world. We are all under its curse and we are helpless to change it ourselves. These only will be comforted with Grace and the Holy Spirit and Godís promises. (v.4)
3rd. Only the Meek who willing gives over the control of their lives to the Lord will be ready to meet the King. These know that living life apart from God is what gets us into trouble and so we give ourselves to living life Godís way with His help we obey His commands, seek His will, and follow Him. Only these are favored by God and will reign with
Him over His earth. (v.5)
4th. Only those who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness will be ready to meet the King. These long to know God and His will and His ways. These long for their community, and their world to live right and fair. They crave to know God intimately. These only will be satisfied in this life and when they meet the King. (v.6)
These first four, all concern the inner part of our heart and soul; the next four concern the outward expression of the first four. Today, I want you to:
Re-Think Your Calling
5th (v.7) Hungering and Thirsting, or craving righteousness, will cause us to want do righteousness. When people begin to desire God and His will and His ways, they also begin to see people as God sees them; that is, as lost, lonely, hurting, and hopeless, and they want to do something to relieve that. Those whom God approves and favors do not believe
in Karma, (Unlike the people of India), that is, that people are getting what they deserve and therefore we should not help them, on the contrary, they believe that everyone should have the opportunity to taste grace. Their craving for righteousness will lead them to give of their time, their treasures and their talents to help people. Those whom God approves of and favors
are the Merciful. The word mercy has to do with wanting to give people what they may not deserve in order to help them. Mercy wants to relieve the pain, heal the wounds, relieve the misery, and comfort the distressed and more. This person knows that manís sin nature has led to the misery that people experience, but they also know that Jesus came to relieve manís misery and
give him hope. He came in our skin, with our flesh and blood so He could help us. Look at Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:15-16. cp. Psalm 103:6-11. Our Lord Jesus will tell us that He will know who are His when He comes as King because His will be people of mercy. Look at Matthew 25:31-46 (Also Isaiah 58:6-9; James 1:27). The Merciful are the ones who know what they have received grace
for and they minister the same to drug addicts, the lost, the poor, the alcoholics, the prisoners, the sick, the outcasts, and even their enemies as our Lord reminded us in Luke 10 with the Good Samaritan.
The Promise is that only the merciful will receive mercy from the King, as our Lord Jesus points out in Matt. 25. No one else will receive mercy. James says this in James 2:13, "For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment." Q. Who are you showing mercy to? Whose misery, or pain, or distress are
attempting to relieve? Who are you giving hope to? The question is not do they deserve it, no one does, just as we didnít, but God was and is merciful (Eph. 2:4-5).
6th. (v.8) The Favored of God are those who are Pure in Heart. The word, ĎPure,í comes from the word catharsis, and means to make pure by cleansing, like refining metal in to remove the impurities, or the scrubbing a surgeon does before an operation. Debbie and I had the opportunity to visit Gideon King and his parents in the nick unit when he was
born. But before we could go in there we had to scrub for 3 minutes to our elbows. The word, Ďheart,í does not refer to the blood pumping organ in our bodies but rather; it refers to the center of our thinking and being. Proverbs 23:7 reminds us that as a man, "thinks in his heart so is he." Proverbs 4:23 reminds us to, Ďguard or keep our hearts with all diligence for out of
them spring the issues of life.í The pure in heart are those who hearts have been cleansed by their faith in the provision of God, and they have one single motive for all they do, and that is to Glorify God, nothing else. The pure in heart want to demonstrate mercy to others because it is right, and God is honored. (Are you listening, say, "Amen.") They are not doing it for
wealth, or even monetary gain, neither are they doing it for fame, or for power, or even for recognition. Their concern is that people are shown mercy and God receives the glory (1 Cor. 10:31; Isa. 43:7). Again, James reminds us that personal conflicts arise when self trumps God; that is, when we want more than Godís glory. (Cp. James 3-4, especially 4:1-10.)
Q. Are you seeking Godís honor in all you do? Is your life about how you benefit, or about His honor? Have you sought for God, by the blood of Christ to cleanse every bit of sin and filth from your heart, no exceptions? David said, "Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow." Is that your desire, I hope it is
before you take communion today. The Promise to the pure in heart is that they and they alone will see God. (Job 19:25-27 and Revelation 22:3-4)
7th. Those who are Favored and Approved of God are the Peacemakers. These are not just peace wishers but peace makers. These know that the world is full of conflict because our sin natures have led us and the entire world to seek our own desires and not the things of God. Again, I remind you of James 3:13-4:4. All mankind is at odds with God because
our sin natures and our sinful actions have separated us from God and unchanged they will do so for eternity. The Bible declares that apart from grace all mankind are enemies of God as Colossian 1:19-21 reminds us. But God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor. 5:18). It was God who sought to take sinners and enemies and bring them to peace and adopt them as
His children. It was God that paid for manís sins on the cross, and He gives us His peace when we receive His grace by faith, (Romans 5:1).
Peace makers are children of God who do several things:
- They tell people how to have peace with God and even plead with people to receive Godís peace (2 Cor.5:20).
- They confess their sins and maintain their peace with God
- They seek forgiveness from those they have offended and seek reconciliation especially with Christians.
- They seek to mediate and to intercede with others in conflict so as to make peace (James 3:13-18). None of this is peace at any price, rather it is peace based on truth and purity of heart for the good of others and the glory of God.
Q. Are you a peace maker? Do you seek for others to be at peace with God and with each other? Is there someone you need to seek forgiveness from or to give forgiveness? Is there anyone that you are trying to help resolve their differences by focusing on what is really important in the long run of life?
The Promise is that, these and only these will be called the children of God, because they are just like their Father.
8th. (vv. 10-12) Those who are favored and approved by God are the Persecuted. Sadly, what makes us favored by God, also makes us enemies of those whom we live among, often in our own families (Matt. 10:36). Our Lord would later tell us why in John 15:18-21. Living lives that reflect God and His nature exposes the selfishness and sinfulness of those
who choose to live apart from God and His ways. It is as simple as that. If you stop drinking, drugging, using unholy language, and being dis-honest in your business dealings, you will, without a word, be saying, that those who continue in that are sinning. This will be compounded when you tell others what the truth of Godís Word says about life apart from God. Notice:
ē That people will insult you (v.11a), slander you, to your face and on the internet Ė (revile). They will attack your character and your motives
ē That people will harass you (persecute), chase after you like dogs after a fox or coon, or an escaped convict in the movies (v.11b).
ē That people will lie about you, accuse you and say all manner of evil against you falsely (v. 11c).
Here is what I want you to understand. While this may not be constant and there will be seasons of peace, it will happen. It will happen because you have an enemy who hates your Lord and the only way he can attack your Lord is by hating and attacking you. If you seek Godís will, Godís way, Godís peace, and demonstrate Godís mercy, you will experience
Godís enemies. There are no ifs, ands, buts, or exceptions. The world will hate you because it hates Jesus. It will hate your righteousness because it will expose its own unrighteousness. It will hate anyone who claims Lordship over their lives. When you pursue righteousness and show mercy in Jesus name and seek peace and purity, the world will hate you, Satan will hate you.
And there are only two ways to avoid it.
1.) Donít follow Jesus or,
2.) Donít live for His glory. The apostle Paul said that, "all who live Godly in Christ Jesus WILL suffer persecution." (2 Tim. 3:12). This is why Jesus said you must count the cost. If you choose to follow Him there is a cross to bear. The cross was not a hard life or a nagging problem to put up with; it was an instrument of cruel death. To take up
the cross meant just one thing. You were a dead man walking. Following Christ may really mean the loss of friends, loss of family, loss of job, loss of liberty, and/or the loss of life as nearly ľ million people in the world discover every year as they die for simply being followers of Jesus.
Often this persecution will come from religious people as in the case of Jesus and the prophets, (I know that one first hand). The Apostle Paul also said this, "For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him but to suffer for His sake." (Phil. 1:30).
Notice that Jesus says to, rejoice and be exceedingly glad (v.12), when persecution occurs. He is not talking about being masochists, or finding pleasure in pain, but again, a state of being, as it is an honor to bear His sufferings. He died for us. He has provided heaven for us. He was not ashamed of us, and this shows we are not ashamed of Him. I can
rejoice and be exceedingly glad because I know:
- I am favored and approved of God
- I am in Good company (cp. Acts 5:41)
- No one else will be in the kingdom of heaven
- God has a great reward for me (v.12)
I once read where John Wesley was concerned because it was a while since anyone insulted him or attacked his character. He knew the scripture that says "Woe unto you when all men speak well of you (Luke 6:26)." He was wondering, "Am I not living Godly," when someone threw a brick at him and immediately he praised God.
Have you felt the attacks of the enemy because you follow Jesus and seek righteousness in your life and in your community? You are in good company and great is your reward in heaven. While there will be periods of peace, the enemy of your soul will assault you. If he hasnít or doesnít, then you need to re-think your relationship with Jesus, because
either you are not following Him or you are not living Godly.
Who are the approved and favored by God?
- The Poor in Spirit
- Those who Mourn over the results of sin in their lives & in the world.
- Those who give the control of their lives to Godís (the Meek)
- Those who crave Godís Righteousness in their lives and in the world
- Those who Mercifully relieve the misery and suffering in others
- Those whose hearts are clean and whose motives for mercy are purely and simply, the good of others and the Glory of God, and not for any kind of self gain
- Those who want others to know the Peace of God and the Peace with others that comes from the Peace of God
- Those who are willing to suffer the Persecution that comes from following Jesus Christ. These are the only ones who are favored and approved by God. These only will be ready to meet their King. No one else will be -No one! These are the only ones that will be in His kingdom. Itís not by praying a prayer, or going to church, or being baptized or
taking communion, or doing good deeds. Itís only by lifting empty hands up to receive His Grace which will result in giving grace out that same grace. Are you one of the approved and favored by God? Before we partake of the Communion table, letís do some soul searching.
Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman