Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Sermon Notes: Happy are the Humble (The Beatitudes pt 2)

This is the second in a series of posts. Read the first post and an intro here.

A view of Lake Galilee and the Golan Heights from the shores of Capernaum

Title: Happy Are the Humble
Passage: Matthew 5:3
Series: The Beatitudes
Pastor: Rev. John MacArthur
Date Preached: September 10, 1978
You can read or listen to this sermon here. 

Jesus came to bring mankind blessing (happiness) and meaningful life—the key to this is following a new selfless standard of living which is portrayed in the Sermon on the Mount.

The greatest possible understanding of the term blessed comes when you understand that God is called blessed in the Bible. Therefore, only those who partake in that blessed divine nature can know that same blessedness. 
The manufacturer knows more about the product than anybody else: God knows exactly what will make us happy, and he’s told us in the Sermon on the Mount.

Some think the Sermon on the Mount is too hard for us to live, so they say it’s for the Millennium. It can’t be because:
  • The text doesn’t say “this is for the Millennium."
  • It was preached to people who weren’t living in the Millennium.
  • It becomes meaningless if you push it into the Millennium because Matt 5:11 & 44 tell of persecution, and no one will get away with persecution in the kingdom.
  • Every principle in the Sermon on the Mount is found somewhere else in the New Testament.

Once again, Jesus was emphasizing not external behaviour, but the internal attitude which will lead to right behaviour. When the inside is right, the outside will be right. 
To claim the Spirit without living according to God’s law is to be a liar. To live out the law without the Spirit is to be a hypocrite. The Spirit and God’s law are inseparable—they go together. True spirituality starts on the inside and touches the outside.

The word “blessed” and the opposite word “woe,” are not wishes. They are a judgmental pronunciation. Jesus is not saying, “I wish you blessedness.” He is saying, “Blessed is the man who goes this way, does this, thinks this way.” And in other places, “Woe to the man who does this.” They are judicial pronunciations. Jesus has the power and authority to say this because he made us and therefore knows best how we can be blessed or happy.

We see a sequence in these verses. First we see the poor in spirit (v. 3). “Poor in spirit” is the right attitude towards sin, which leads to mourning over your sin (v. 4), which leads, after you’ve seen your sinfulness and you’ve mourned, to a meekness (v. 5), a sense of humility, then to a seeking and hunger and thirst for righteousness (v. 6). And that manifests itself in mercy (v. 7) in purity of heart (v. 8), and in a peacemaking spirit (v. 9). The result of being merciful and pure in heart and peacemaking is that you are reviled and you are persecuted and you are falsely accused (v. 10-11). Why? Because by the time you have been poor in spirit, mourned over it, become humble, sought righteousness, lived a merciful, pure, and peacemaking life, you have sufficiently irritated the world so they’re going to react. 
Verse 12 says you can “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven.” And when you live like that, poor in spirit, mourning, meek, seeking righteousness, and as a result of it becoming merciful and pure, and peacemaking, and having the world revile and persecute and say all these things against you, then you can be sure that verse 13 is true. You are the salt of the earth. That’s what it takes. You are the light of the world. You can’t start in verse 13 until you start in verse 3.

Why does Jesus start with “Blessed are the poor in spirit” in verse 3?

Because it is the fundamental characteristic of a Christian. Nobody yet ever entered God’s kingdom on the basis of pride. You can’t be filled until you’re empty. You can’t be worthwhile until you’re worthless. We can’t receive grace or salvation until we’re poor in Spirit.  We can’t grow the fruit of a Christian life without humility. Until we comprehend how doomed we are, we can’t understand how wondrous his love to redeem us is. The only way to come to God’s kingdom is to confess your own unrighteousness, confess your inability to meet God’s standards, confess that you can’t do it.

What does “poor in spirit” mean?

Not financially poor because that would mean the worst possible thing Christians could do is give somebody money or help the poor.
The verb for “poor” in the Greek means a shrinking from something or someone to cower and cringe like a beggar. It speaks of a person who can in no way provide for themselves, so they cringe and cower, ashamed to have their identity discovered. This is not physical, it’s spiritual. We’re talking about the man who knows that no matter how hard he might work, he cannot get salvation, so he begs for it. Only those who see how spiritually destitute they are will be given salvation (Isaiah 57:15, Isaiah 66:2, Psalm 34:18, Psalm 51:17). This is illustrated in Luke 18:9-14 with the Pharisee and the Tax collector, in Genesis 32:22-32 (Jacob wasn’t blessed until God dislocated his hip and he was helpless), in Isaiah 6:1-8 (after Isaiah saw visions, he realized how small he was and then, God blessed him), in Judges 6 (Gideon humbly knew he was helpless but God used him anyway), etc., etc.
Jesus is talking about humility.

The purpose of the Sermon on the Mount is the same as the purpose of the Ten Commandments: to show us we can’t make it (we can't live up to Matthew 5:48).

 You can’t preach the Sermon on the Mount to an unregenerate person and expect them to live it. He’s got to have a new nature. It all begins with poverty of spirit.

What is the result?

“Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This is an announcement. It’s theirs and theirs alone. It’s a present tense verb. We have it now.

 How do I become poor in spirit?

1.   Concentrate on God and Christ in His word, and you will lose yourself
2.   Starve the flesh of pride
3.   Ask God for it—beggars are always asking

How can I know I'm poor in spirit?

If you're poor in spirit, you will:

1.   Be weaned from yourself: you think instead about God and His glory and others and their needs.
2.   Be lost and satisfied in the wonder of Christ
3.   Never complain about your situation because you know you don't deserve anything
4.   See only the excellencies of others and only your own weaknesses
5.   Spend much time in prayer begging for grace at heaven's gate
6.   Take Christ on His terms: giving up anything
7.   Praise and thank God for His grace