19th January 2023
Read (Matthew 5v1-12)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
Long before the coming of Christ a man called Moses was used by God to lead the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land of Canaan. I'm sure you'll remember what happened at Mount Sinai...that was the place where the Lord appeared to His people and gave them the Ten Commandments written on tablets of stone. We have already heard that Jesus is the true Israel called out of Egypt and now we see Christ as the greater Moses. How? Because in Matthew 5, Christ went up on the mountain, sat down and began to teach his "law" to his disciples (v1-2).
What follows is the famous Sermon on the Mount and that sermon begins with the "beatitudes" or "blessings" How are we to understand these blessings? Are we to do these things in order to be saved? Absolutely not, for then no one would be saved. Instead as we consider the beatitudes we are to realise that by faith in Christ we are saved and therefore we are already truly blessed. In Christ the blessings outlined in these verses already apply to us and because we are in Christ we are to respond to our salvation by striving to keep Christ's law. Brothers and sisters, the beatitudes speak to Christians telling us who we already are and what we are to be.
So as the greater Moses sat on the mountain, what did He teach us? "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (v3) Christ's followers understand who they are and who God is. A major mistake is to think that we're not that bad and that God is a slightly better version of us. Such a perspective is wrong. The Christian understands the depth of their sin and the unfathomable holiness of God. Therefore we are to be constantly humble before Him, decreasing everyday and seeking the increase of Christ in our lives.
Those who mourn are blessed says Jesus for they shall be comforted (v4). It is true to say that Christ comforts us when we mourn the loss of loved ones but this blessing speaks of our mourning for sin. Tragically this is often missing from our lives as we wink at sin and believe it to be unimportant. Sin is a heinous thing before a sinless God. The Christian is to mourn sin, repent of it and receive the blessing of Christ's comfort.
Meekness is yet another virtue of the child of God. The meek will inherit the earth says Jesus (v5) but that seems to go against all earthly wisdom. To be meek is to be weak isn't it? Well no. Meekness understands our position and strives to live in this world with humility and gentleness in all our dealings. The new heavens and earth will not be taken by force but will be given to the meek followers of Christ. Those who refused to exalt themselves on earth will find themselves exalted in glory.
Likewise the Christian is to hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will surely be satisfied (v6). This beatitude speaks about our pursuit of the things of God. Do we love His Word and seek to sit under it? Is prayer a chore or a joyous means of grace? We are righteous in Christ and therefore we are hunger and thirst for righteousness.
Jesus tells us that the merciful will receive mercy (v7). What is mercy? It is an attitude of kindness and generosity to those around us. It is hard to be merciful to those who have wronged us and sometimes we tell ourselves that the suffering of others is none of our concern. But just as we have received mercy, we are to cultivate mercy in our own lives.
Equally those with pure hearts will see God (v8). Thanks be to God for the Gospel for He has made our hearts pure by taking away our sin. Therefore the pure in heart are those who continue to seek holiness without which no one see God. Furthermore the pure in heart are not double minded. They realise that God is their supreme treasure and so they are "purely" focused on Him saying “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” (Psalm 16v2)
God will call the peacemakers His sons (v9). Who are the peacemakers? Those who are unashamed of the Gospel which brings peace between God and man. The one who receives Christ knows true peace and in response to the Gospel they will seek to bring peace to the strained relationships all around us. Peacemaking is hard work which often we would prefer to be left undone but as we are at peace with God through Christ, we are to be at peace with others in this world.
We should be under no illusion that those who seek to follow Christ walk a difficult road. Samuel Rutherford once warned that because we are with Christ we cannot expect the sunny or the sheltered side of the hill. As the beatitudes finish, Jesus tells us that even during trouble we are called blessed. When we are persecuted for righteousness sake we will remember that to us belongs the kingdom (v10) and when others oppose us in a multitude of ways we rejoice and remember that our reward in heaven is great (v11).
Brothers and sisters, contending for the faith in this harlot world will see us persecuted for righteousness sake and even bearing the title "Christian" will cause us to be mocked, persecuted and slandered. It happened to the prophets before us (v12) and it happened to Christ. Nevertheless we press on knowing that the blessed life is the one that follows Christ.
How should we respond to the beatitudes? In praise for the knowledge of who we already are in Christ and in prayer asking for further sanctification and growth in the Christian life. True blessedness is not found in early retirement or dancing on your one hundredth birthday - blessed is the one who is found in Christ.
Q54 What is required in the third commandment? The third commandment requireth the holy and reverent use of God’s names, titles, attributes, ordinances, word, and works.