As we come to this eight and final beatitude, it appears at first sight to be a contradiction in terms. “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake…” How can it be, that the words “blessed” and “persecuted” could ever appear in the same sentence? Doesn’t persecution involve pain and suffering; torment and affliction? Aren’t these bad and to be avoided at all costs? So, our Western mind theorises because we’re so used to a Christianity that’s crossless. Yet for the vast majority of believers today who find themselves living in Communist countries or in Muslim countries, they know firsthand the meaning of the words; “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mt. 16:24).
The secret of the blessing lies in the second part of the verse; “…for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. There are two senses in which I believe the idea of the kingdom of heaven being “theirs” is to be understood. One points to the here and now and the other to the kingdom which is to come at the appearing of our Blessed Saviour. May the Lord bless this teaching to your heart and prepare you to stand for the coming storm.
The longer that I walk with the Lord, the more I realise that I’m not an island. Must I walk with the Lord alone, absolutely!! But my personal walk with the Saviour is for the purpose of a corporate walk with the Body of Christ to which I am a member. The time that I spend alone with the Saviour in fellowship, is fitting and preparing me for the fellowship that I am to spend with others! My relationship vertically is not in isolation to my relationship horizontally. The two are not mutually exclusive but rather are interdependent. I’m only as good to the Body of Christ as I am rightly related to God but...I’m only as rightly related to God as I am rightly related to the Brethren!
This sermon is a call for the Body of Christ to strive to be peacemakers. One of the great themes of salvation is reconciliation. We have peace with God through the blood of His dear Son. How much more should we now pursue peace with all men?
I’ve found that a man will study theology all day so long as nothing is required of Him that will disturb the stagnant waters of the heart. Someone once told me of a minister who when pressed on the matter of the quality of his personal devotional life to God, he refused to give an answer. Business was his cover and when backed into a corner and forced to give an answer, he slumped into a chair and said; “...the reason why I won’t get alone with God is because I’m scared of what He might say to me!!”. THIS MY FRIENDS IS THE HEART OF THE MATTER!! I fear that in many quarters of the so-called remnant Church, the sheep run frantically to and fro from one conference to the next; amassing to themselves much truth after the head kind. Yet, these same people are not willing to get alone with God and to expose themselves to convicting light of God the Holy Ghost!!
The easiest way for me to explain what I believe is meant in part by “Blessed are the pure in heart” is this. Happy (in a most favourable condition) is the man or the woman who will get alone with God in the secret place and say with the Psalmist David; “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24). Purity of heart has everything to do with honesty. Is there one who would say; “Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart” (Ps. 26:2)?
I’ve found generally, that in times of peace, man is much more the ready to cast judgment upon his neighbour and throw stones at his fellow man. From his seat of comfort and safety, he peeks his haughty head over his proud shoulder to peer down on those beneath him. “Thank God” he say’s that I am not as other men are. You say, I’d never say that...ah friend, you might not say it in so many words but I tell you, these sentiments express many a prideful heart that is only too quick to get the magnifying glass out to remove the speck out of their Brother’s eye when they’ve a beam 10 inches thick in their own!
Hear the fifth beatitude stated plainly in our hearing and answer me this; what is the attitude of your heart when it comes to this attribute of mercy? “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy”. Seeing that we ourselves hope to receive mercy in abundance from the Lord, it is incumbent upon us that we show mercy to others. “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32).
There are some things that you cannot give to a man in this life, and one of those things is an appetite. You can set a plate of food before a man sick with an illness and he’s no stomach for it, even it be his favourite meal! In fact, rather than crave the food, he’s repulsed by it...and you know, when we open the door to sin in our lives and we allow worry and unbelief to consume us; when we go wondering in our hearts after the world’s possessions; do you know what happens? The hunger and thirst for righteousness in our lives are quenched.
Do you hunger and thirst after righteousness? “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled”. What a promise!!! We can have as much righteousness as we have the appetite for!! Oh God, what is hindering me from moving forward? What is stopping me from climbing higher? God is always wanting to take His people up higher, the question is, are we willing?
There are some characteristics which heap upon the man or woman possessing them, all the scorn and derision of a society which maintains that weakness is a thing most to be pitied! Yet our Lord dared to run counter to it all when He declared a blessing upon the head of the one who would pursue the way of meekness!! Perhaps in no other area is the demonstration of the power of Christianity tried and tested before men so as to prove the genuineness of its profession than in the area of meekness. Win the battleground here and we’re on our way to securing victory!!
No-one ever set forth in more splendorous array, this glorious virtue than the man Christ Jesus!! In this sermon we move from the gates of Jerusalem to the garden; then to the house of Caiaphas before moving to the courts of Pilate. Our final destination…Calvary!! At every step our Lord evidenced meekness in the face of His accusers and having led the way now commands us to walk in the same! In this life it has been given us to tread the pathway of meekness, but in the age to come, we shall rule and reign with Christ if we faint not. “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth”.
Perhaps of all of the beatitudes, this second one, is at first glance, one that fallen man could perhaps go along with; that is until he understands the reason for the mourning! “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted”. Who doesn’t like to be comforted when heavy–laden and grieved of heart? When some great ill afflicts the human soul? The loss of a precious family member, news of some terrible illness; a miscarriage of justice, betrayal by one you thought was a friend? It is on account of these things and others besides, that a man will mourn and will find to himself relief from the comfort of a friend. I dare say, that some would even seek for relief in God. However, it is my firm conviction that the mourning to which Jesus has so clearly in mind, is that mourning on account of sin!
Men will mourn for many things, but one thing they seldom will ever mourn is their sins!! O glad day, when upon learning the condition of our blackened hearts by the tender working of the Holy Spirit, we began to mourn our sins!! However, it is not only upon becoming a believer that we mourn our sins; as we journey through this life ever sensing our pilgrim status in this world, is it not the case that we continue to mourn our sinful flesh, looking for that final day in which we shall be forever comforted by our Lord? Do not lose heart in the battle Saints against sin; we shall reap soon if we faint not.
This sermon is the first in a series of eight sermons preaching through the beatitudes. You will notice that the word ‘beatitude’ has a single ‘t’ rather than a double as in ‘beattitude’. This is because, in Latin, ‘beatitudo’ means “a state of blessedness”. In fact, the word beatitude means “supreme blessedness” which is why each of the eight beatitudes begins with the word ‘Blessed’. Here before us then, stand a number of statements spoken by our Lord, that offer to men supreme happiness, well-being, and prosperity if they are found in such condition!
In the first of this eight-part series, we will examine the nature of what it means to be poor in spirit and the great blessings that attend the soul that truly senses moment by moment, their absolute need for the Saviour! “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.