Kingdom Hearts, Part One (Matthew 5:1-6)

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones commented that “the Christian gospel places all its primary emphasis upon being rather than doing.  The gospel puts a greater weight upon our attitude than upon our actions.”  The introductory portion of the Sermon on the Mount is really a presentation of the character qualities that should be found in the hearts of those who follow Jesus…

1 When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,

It is notable that while the sermon seems initially directed to “disciples only,” by its end it has been listened to with rapt attention by “the crowds” (Matt 7:28-29). This sermon is for anyone, at all stages of spiritual interest, who decides to draw near enough to Jesus to hear what He has to say…

 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

People who see themselves as spiritually destitute, and therefore completely in need of mercy and grace, are considered “blessed” by God.  It doesn’t make sense to me to interpret the word “blessed” as “happy,” as some have doneHappy is a feeling, a great feeling, but still, a feeling.  People who endure pain, suffering, and spiritual famine are NOT happy.  But the word blessed might be better understood as commended.  It is commendable to see and acknowledge your spiritual inadequacy and incompetency, but in doing so you gain God’s favor and commendation; in doing so you swing the door of your soul wide open to receive King Jesus, along with His kingdom.

 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

People mourn when they have lost something or someone.  This commended mourning of a follower of Jesus has to do with the sense of sadness, regret, and sorrow we experience when we come to terms with our own sinful actions, thoughts, and words, and when we suffer as a result of the sin of others.  It is commendable to have such a view of sin, and opens the door to a better Day, when a perfect comfort will be given.

 5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

Gentle (also translated “meek”) people do NOT inherit the earth, or much of anything else!  But in this new kingdom of God, this quality of gentleness gains a great promise of future power, possession, and influence—in and eternal kingdom!  Meekness does NOT mean weakness, either!  Jesus described Himself as “gentle and humble of heart” (Matt 11:29), and He demonstrated it in two ways.  First, He refused to use His divine power for personal vengeance or gain, never “getting back at” those who attacked and maligned Him.  Second, He unleashed His divine fury against those who mistreated the young, weak, poor, sinful, and marginalized.  (i.e., Mark 10:13-14; 11:15-18, John 2:13-22; 8:1-11)  Mean people really didn’t like it when Jesus came around!  They still don’t today, I think.

 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

This quality of the heart describes a person who craves an increasingly obedient, God-pleasing life for themselves.  They are sorely aware of their own failures, and feel an ache in their soul for a deeper walk with God.  They are not embarrassed let everyone know that they interested in living lives of purity, godliness, chastity, holiness, submission, and the like.  Also, they long to see the righteousness of God fully, and finally, made known on the earth.  The day approaches when these folks will certainly be satisfied—filled to the full!

So, what does this all mean for us today?  I noted as I prepared this sermon that these kingdom-heart qualities are simply descriptive of character qualities and their rewards, and not given as commands to be followed.  Jesus did not provide any steps, processes, or principles on How to Develop a Kingdom Heart.  He simply listed the qualities, period!  I suspect the implication is that the only way to begin to develop these kingdom qualities is to stay needy for them, and to stay close to the King!

 

Sermon on the Mount series (Matt 4:17-5:2)

I thought I’d try putting the basic sermon points, outlines, etc., on our site, after we preach them, during our series on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  The main idea that I wanted to convey from this passage (that actually falls right before the Sermon the Mount) is that to be faithful follower of Jesus Christ, and to be able to make personal application of the Sermon on the Mount, there are some decisions that a disciple must make, and be making!

1.  He/she must have repented, and continue to live a life of repentance.  (4:17)  There must be a fundamental shift in how one views themselves, life, Jesus, etc., in light of the marvelous opportunity to actually enter into His kingdom.  The one-time repentance that often accompanies faith is just a start.  Faithful citizens of this Kingdom become experts at rethinking and challenge both their ideas AND their behaviors.  I don’t see much of a case for saying that genuine repentance exists if one of the two are missing, since a person always acts in accordance to what they believe, even if only at that moment of action.

2.   He/she must become increasingly identified as a follower of Jesus.  (4:19)  Through a process that occurred over a course of months prior to this account in Matthew’s gospel, Peter, Andrew, James and John became increasingly close to Jesus, and made increasingly significant decisions to spend time with Him, learn from Him, and finally, to receive His calling to be apostles.  They became known as belonging to Him; by their families, their village, their synagogue, and their co-workers in the fishing industry.  Followers of Jesus today can decide to identify themselves with Jesus through their behavior, their speech, and the way they prioritize life around His interests and purposes, as revealed in Scripture, instead of their own.

3.  He/she must simply obey Jesus. (4:20-21)  These men “immediately” left nets, boats, and a father when Jesus simply said, “Follow Me.”  There is no doubt as to what the phrase meant, particularly in the culture of the ancient middle east.  To “follow” someone as a disciple was to increasingly pattern and plan one’s life around the teaching of that person, largely through imitation of the teacher’s behavior and attention to the teacher’s words.  Obedience was assumed in the disciple-teacher relationship.  A follower of Jesus today is marked not by his/her theological insights or academic titles, nor by their bumper stickers or tattoos, but by the degree to which they simply, immediately obey Jesus when He tells them what to do.  Obedience is also the way a disciple demonstrates love for Jesus! (John 14:21)

4.  He/she must seek a life of learning from Jesus at every opportunity. (5:1-2)  The Sermon on the Mount was preached in front of a large crowd, but it was preached TO those disciples who gathered themselves around Jesus for His instruction.  It seems to me today that we followers of Jesus often are more motivated to teach other believers than we are to learn from Jesus through drawing close to Him to listen to His Word.  Have you ever been to one of those “bible studies” where everyone seems more interested demonstrating the wealth and depth of their own knowledge and ideas, instead of humbly listening and learning to the Word of God as it is being shared? But this isn’t really about going to a bible study, or church, or learning the complexities and variations of theology–it is about drawing close to Jesus to learn.  What has he been teaching you lately?  A faithful disciple never stops learning!

So there are four areas to think over this week, regarding our relationship to Jesus as His disciples: Repentance, Identification with Him, Obedience to Him, and Learning from Him.

Thanks! Pastor Ken

Grace Bible Church, Portland, and the Gospel…

I’d love to hear your input regarding some things I’ve been thinking about lately, especially as I’ve had some extra time for reading as I go through treatments!  I’m doing fine, miss my BELOVED church, and look forward to seeing you all soon!  Thanks for your prayers for me and my family while I’ve been away!  Here’s a little blog piece that I’ve written, just for thought and conversation….  http://downtownpastor.wordpress.com/2012/05/05/the-church-the-neighborhood-the-gospel/

Blessings!  Pastor Ken