If you were to deconstruct a blessed person, or church, or family, to identify all of the ingredients that go in to making a person blessed, what would you find?
I'd like to start the sermon today with a brief cooking lesson. The other night Dee and I were watching some TV and tuned into one of those reality shows that is based on cooking competition between chefs. And they had certain challenges that they are given, and they are judged, and then they are eliminated one at a time until at the end of the year's completion there's only one chef left remaining. And the challenge on this particular show was something we had never heard of before. They were told that they had to deconstruct a dish. You know what deconstructing a dish is - some of you will know, but most of us don't perhaps. Well, we found out that in the culinary world, deconstructing means taking all of the ingredients that are normally combined into a dish, and then you use those same ingredients to make a brand new creation.
Now, as one of the judges explained, you could take, for example, like minestrone soup. In minestrone soup, in this competition, they would have to know the ingredients, be able to identify them, and all that goes into minestrone, like vegetables, meat, your beef, your broth, your noodles, your spices etc. You have to have those ingredients in you head, so you have to know what it's made of in the first place, and then take those ingredients and create a brand new dish. For instance, he said, for your beef you may use a steak, instead of cubing it out, and you may garnish it with roasted vegetables, take what would be a soup and turn it into a sauce. Instead of noodles you might make ravioli - but basically it's the same core ingredients, and you make a new dish out of it. And all those ingredients should interact with each other and make a, you know, wonderful combination just as they would in the original dish. In fact, they said, the closer you could come to it, your new creation will remind people of the original, even though it may not look just like it.
So that's the competition. Now in this competition each chef had a blind drawing to see what he or she had to work with. They drew things like Caesar's Salad, a pot roast, lasagna, eggs Florentine, Shepherd's pie - things like that. And they had to come up with these ingredients, take these ingredients, and from scratch come up with a new creation. Well, some did very well, and some did poorly. The poor guy who had Shepherd's pie... he had the right idea. Shepherd's pie has lamb in it, so he decided that, "I'll use lamb and plate some lamb chops, and it has broth, and some other vegetables"... so he made a nice sauce and some vegetables dishes as well. But the other main ingredient of Shepherd's pie is mashed potatoes, and he wanted to make a fancy puree of some sort. And when he was through with the process he said, "this is just too gummy, I can't even put this out there." So he made a puree, instead, of green peas - green pea puree. You can imagine!
Well, the judges couldn't - they really nailed him for that, and when they evaluated him they said, "look, you cannot leave out of a menu one of the essential ingredients and expect to have the right result." Now they told him, "If you're going to be a successful chef, you'd better know what goes into making something, and the importance of every ingredient." Well, it was somewhat interesting. Personally, I have no interest in being a chef - I have no interest in getting involved in that high of a level of cooking. I like to cook some things, especially on the grill - I enjoy grilling. But my idea of deconstructing a meal...let me put it this way, I came to the warehouse then - I saw some of those things that you were bringing and putting out there...hang around, fill my plate, give me a fork and I'll show you my idea of deconstructing a meal after while at the pot-luck! That's as far as I want to go with it!
However, I did find the principle of thinking about how ingredients combine and work together rather interesting, and it quickly related in my mind to this idea on the subject I'd been planning to give in this sermon, which relates to what we have seen here today: the whole concept of deconstructing. Today we had a, you know, one of the most delightful ceremonies that we have every year in the church: the blessing of little children. As we heard it explained before, that ceremony actually is only part of the value of the day, because for the rest of us sitting here, we are to be considering the lessons that we learn spiritually as we watch this, and we draw from it as well, and it really should be a day of blessing upon all of us for everything from the prayer for the specific children, to the lessons that we are reminded of and that we learn, because we're all God's little children.
You know, it's easy to sit there and think, "Hey, I'd like to be blessed too." Would you like to be blessed? I hope my life is blessed. I want your lives to be blessed. You know, it's something that we all ask for. I don't want to ask Mr. Welty to come up here and hold me up in his arms and have somebody else lay hands on me - I'm sure the feeling's mutual! But don't you want to be blessed as God's children? Don't we all want to be blessed? We actually should all be praying for God's blessing upon each other regularly - not just for ourselves, but for one another. We want out families to be blessed; we want our church to be blessed; we need to be blessed, to be God's children.
But what does a "blessed person" look like? What does a blessed person look like - what is a blessed family? What does a blessed marriage look like? What does a blessed congregation, a blessed church, look like actually? How do you look at someone, or any of these entities and say, "that is what blessed is all about." If you were to deconstruct a blessed person, or church, or family, to identify all of the ingredients that go in to making a person blessed, what would you find? You know as Christians, to paraphrase what the judges said about chefs, if we're going to be a blessed Christian, we'd better know what goes into making a person blessed, and the importance of every ingredient.
I plan to go through today a critically important section of God's word that talks about "blessed people", that describes exactly what the blessings are, and specifically explains what it is about those people that make them blessed. This section of Scripture deconstructs, if you will, the ingredients, and then we are left to put them together to make one of a new "spiritual creation". We're very familiar with this section of verse, but I hope that it offers us something to think about in a deeper way than perhaps we usually do, because this truly is spiritual food that Christ was giving in Matthew, Chapter 5. Matthew 5, commonly known as the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, and the beginning section of this called the Beatitudes. In Matthew 5 and Verse 1, we see it said that:
Verse 1: "seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him.
Verse 2: Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
(I'm not going to read through the whole section - we will come one verse at a time as we consider these things, but He said first of all):
Verse 3: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
These are people who are blessed; these are people who will be blessed in life. If we want to see a blessed person, we should look for someone poor in spirit. But what in the world does that mean? What is the spirit of a person? I believe we all understand that the foundation of any person, the way we think, the way we act, the way we speak, is based upon the state of our human spirit, the spirit in man that God has given, but yet for those in the church, He's given the added benefit of the spirit of God, to mold and shape the way we think, and act, and behave. But there must be a poverty of spirit. There are many ways to see it, and I certainly won't have time to analyze all of these to any degree of depth, but let's think about a few things, and maybe the best way to understand being poor in spirit is by considering the opposite: what is somebody who's rich in spirit? What would you consider is somebody rich in spirit? Well, one example, you remember the story of the rich young man who came to Christ? He came to Christ seeking the greatest blessing of all, eternal life. And he said, "What do I need to do to have eternal life?" Now Christ offered the way, but Christ also cut right to the heart of the spirit that was dominating this individual, the spiritual issue. And finally He said, "you have to go and sell what you have and give it to the poor, and follow Me."
Now, this man had a lot, and Christ was answering his question, but it says, he turned away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. He made a decision, and that decision was based on some wrong values that were dominated by the way he thought about life. His spirit was wrong - it was based on selfishness, and there was a certain self righteousness: "I've done all these things, he said, what do I lack?" As though there wasn't a whole lot Christ could come up with. But he had a blindness to his spirit.
Now, what do we draw from that? How do we insert ourselves into that picture to learn lessons? Well, brethren, everyone of us has great possessions as well. And let's not think in terms of physical wealth. We all own a lot of things; we possess a lot of things of the spirit. We all possess a lot of things of the spirit, for instance, we often possess, and hold very dear, our own ideas. We all have our ideas, our opinions about things, and we hold them very dear - we treasure most of our opinions, don't we? We have to deal with that. Sometimes we can be rich in confidence of our own judgment. We can be filled with a wealth of spiritual, or intellectual, pride. Human beings are like that. Humans tend to have an abundance of pride; rich in that. We can possess a love for habits of life that may not be the best habits, but we love them enough that we don't want to let them go. We may be rich in them.
We may have a wealth of desire for human respect, or social prestige. That's common in the human realm. Some people have a great abundance of fear of what other people think, and therefore they will mold and shape their lives based on that spirit that they have. Others have a rich interest in honor, or distinction. Some are very rich and possess a lot of stubbornness. Humans can measure their abundance of the things they have in more ways than just money, and humans tend to be very rich in spirit. Christ was calling on him to give up whatever he had, but he couldn't give it up because he was rich in possessions. But he could not understand that he was not poor in spirit.
By contrast, being poor in spirit means being able to let go of what that young man could not let go of. It means to be emptied of all desire to exercise personal self-will; it means to be willing to let go of our ways of thinking, because we recognize what God said when He said "My ways are not your ways; my thoughts are not your thoughts." When a person begins to really comprehend that, they begin to reduce the value of the human spirit. And they become poor in the human spirit. They get rid of everything that stands in the way of finding what God wants. And that's why God also says in Isaiah 66: "On this one will I look, on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at My word." There aren't many people in this world that really tremble at God's word. There aren't many people who have a poor and contrite spirit; therefore, the world is not being very blessed, is it? It's a paradox for the human spirit to understand and accept that only when we see ourselves compared to God, and in the light of the standards of God, that we can become poor in spirit, and only then will God begin to look upon us with favor. That just doesn't work in the carnal, human, spirit. It's hard to strip away all the pretense and see the human spirit for really what it is. And the Bible makes it very clear. It's hard to see and accept weaknesses and faults and sins.
That's why Christ so often could never get through to the Pharisees; they were rich in human spirit. They had great possessions of position and honor and pride and importance, and to accept what He was telling them would mean that they would have to give it up. They would have to give up the values that they had built up in their lives; they were rich in the human spirit. On the other hand, the reason why Christ could get through to somebody like Paul, was that Paul lost it - Paul gave it up, and the more he gave up as his life went on, the more he began...the deeper he saw the human spirit. That's why he could write later, "all these things, I count them as garbage - they're just garbage, that's all I had." The longer Paul was converted the more poor in spirit he became. It was an attitude, it was an entire attitude. The more he learned, the more he lost. And people who want to be blessed of God must understand, this is the very beginning of spiritual growth.
Why would this be? Well, the very phrase of what describes the blessing, the blessing is "for theirs is the kingdom of heaven", tells us something that's very revealing, from God's point of view. God cannot have in the kingdom of heaven, He cannot have anything other than the right spirit. Otherwise he will end up with more Lucifers on His hand. He will have the right spirit in the kingdom of God - theirs is the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven. God had seen enough of high-spirited beings. He's seen plenty, and He's seen all the damage that causes, and so His kingdom will be comprised of those who are poor in spirit. This is a vast study that we should all engage in.
Let's consider something else though - this leads to something. What occurs next in the life of a person who comes to the state of being poor in spirit? As somebody gets to that state of poor in spirit, what happens? Something does happen. You can tell, either through self-examination, or in talking to someone else, if someone is poor in spirit, because when one has truly reached that state, they cannot help but mourn over that state. They can't help but mourn over that state if they truly come to that state. Being poor in spirit is learning about human nature, and understanding it, and admitting it about ourselves. Mourning is how we emotionally react to what we have learned and what we feel about what we've learned. Guess what?
Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted,
Mourning doesn't happen without a reason. We don't mourn because we decide one day to get up, and say, "I just think I'll mourn today." No, mourning is a result of something. What type of mourning is He speaking of here? If we think about the first point, it's not fun, it's not enjoyable for a human to see himself and all of his spiritual weakness and come to a point of realizing, "I am just spiritually helpless by myself." But the word mourn here is the word that Christ chose to describe the response of a person who becomes poor in spirit, one whose eyes are really open to see his or her spiritual state. If they really see that, they will really feel about that, and their feeling will be one of mourning. You know what we call it in a different terminology? Repentance! It's called repentance, if you want to work it in a different way. Repentance is mourning over sin. But there will truly be no spiritual mourning unless we first see the human spirit. Proper spiritual mourning is typified by the beggar that Christ spoke of in Luke 18 and Verse 9 - keep your finger here in Matthew 5 of course, but in Luke 18:9 we read:
Luke 18:9 He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
Let's stop for a second...how would you describe somebody who trusted in themselves and that they were righteous and despised others? Is that somebody rich in their own human spirit, or is that poverty of spirit? Well, obviously this is somebody who is pretty rich in their own opinion of themselves. He goes on:
Verse 10: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector,
Verse 11: "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men - extortioners, unjust, adulterers, even this guy - this tax collector,
Verse 12: 'I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.'
Blah, blah, blah - me, blah, blah, blah - my; blah, blah, me, I - blah, blah - you know. Pure self-confidence - "I'm okay; I'm good." This type of pride is the emotional response of somebody who is rich in human spirit.
Verse 13: "The tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God be merciful to me a sinner!'
Verse 14: "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather that the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Why do we exalt ourselves? Or why do we abase ourselves? Something has to happen before hand. Why did this person come to the temple to seek mercy? Why was he in this state of mourning over his condition? It's because he saw it - "I'm a sinner." And his coming, his whole response here, not even raising his eyes, beating his breast, pleading for mercy - that is mourning. Now the other one, the Pharisee, is a dead give-away that, what was he comparing to? When one says "I am a sinner", that is simply comparing himself to God and what God says is right and wrong. The Pharisee was comparing himself to everybody else, and therefore could not come to the right state; he could not mourn, because he had not seen the spirit. He had not come to see that yet. Being poor in spirit comes from comparing ourselves, and seeing ourselves, in the light of God. And the poor beggar was praying this way because he had come to see what he was - be merciful to me a sinner. He wasn't saying, "I'm better than anybody else" - he was aware of his own weakness. He was aware of his own state. He was repentant over his condition. The Pharisee could not do it. The poor man was mourning, because he had seen and had admitted his spiritual poverty.
Now this is a difficult, admittedly, a difficult spiritual position for humans to come to, but it's essential. And Christ said, there's a blessing that comes with this: Blessed are those who mourn. What's the blessing? They shall be comforted. How great of a blessing is it in life to have a comfort, that is also within the human spirit, that you know that God has forgiven you, that God has extended mercy, to know the love of God, to know the encouragement of God, to know that God is there with you, that God's going to be working with you, helping you along - how comforting is that? How comforting do you think it was for the man, the beggar, to go back to his home with a sense of being justified? Of being forgiven. How comforting is that? First and foremost, we are comforted by knowing that we can be justified by God - there is no greater comfort than to receive mercy and forgiveness from God.
You know, brethren, I think there may be another way to briefly analyze it as well, that maybe we should stop and think, just for a moment. There's also a comforting that comes from our relationships with other people of the same mind. There's something that comes from others who are of the same mind. Now let's look at it this way, that account of the Pharisee and the Publican, the beggar. Of those two men...of those two men, which one would you rather have as a friend? Which one would you rather talk to if you were having troubles in life? Which one do you think would be more likely to understand, and listen? It's pretty clear, isn't it? I think all of us would say, "the poor man." Why, though? Why? Because you look at his mental frame, you look at his spiritual condition, and it's not hard to conclude that this person would be much less self-absorbed. It was that person who would be less snobbish, less judgmental. It's that beggar who would be more likely to be compassionate, who would be far more likely to understand what you're coming through in your times of trouble, who'd be a better listener, would be more sympathetic, would be less likely to condemn you, would be a better friend - that's the one.
When we become poor in spirit and mourn over our sins and weaknesses, something happens to us, not only in our relationship with God, which is primary, but also in our relationship with our fellow human beings. There is a blessing of being comforted, because there's an attitude change that pleases God. But that same attitude also tends to attract other people who are of the same mind. That same attitude attracts others with whom we can build deep relationships and close bonds. When you have been comforted, you know better how to comfort others. And so a blessing that comes from this is the capacity to weep with those who weep, the capacity to have better compassion upon others. One of the great blessings in life is to have that comfort, but that comes from the foundation of first being poor in spirit, having the right attitude toward God, looking to God, not self, resulting in an attitude of mourning.
What then would you expect to see? If we understand that when we have causes, when we have situations come up, things result. What would result from this? Is there anything that would logically follow the next two steps (or these two steps, rather)? Well, what follows next is not accidental:
Verse 5: Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Now meekness is an attitudeof humility, of course, but it's not limited only to humility. But where does it come from? Where does meekness come from?Is not meekness an attitude that settles over our lives as a result of mourning, which is a result of being poor in spirit? Isn't that pretty much where it has to come from? By now we're seeing a pattern emerge...let me digress for a moment to say something I think we probably are beginning to see - it's important to see that these beatitudes are a progressive series of steps. They are progressive series of steps, each laying the foundation for the next. We should not look at the beatitudes as being just independent, stand alone, qualities. These are steps on a ladder of growth, that leads to growth, to become the person God wants us to be. Then we read Verse 5 - we should consider that being truly poor in spirit cannot help but result in mourning, and mourning cannot help but result in a meek attitude - meekness. Can anybody be humble without being poor in spirit? Can it happen? Can you be meek without being poor in spirit? I would submit it's impossible - it's impossible, to have both of those things, conflicting.
You may remember it was said of Moses in Numbers 12 that he was meeker than any other man. It's interesting, the circumstances in which that comment is made is when he was being attacked and accused by his brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam. Now, by saying he was meeker than any man, he wasn't "wishy-washy" - he wasn't letting them walk all over him; the term suggests nothing of that kind of thought. Jesus Christ was meek. It's not just humility that is implied in meekness. It means a lack of self-will. A lack of self-will, not being self-asserting. Christ was not preoccupied with being elevated in His opinion; he wasn't preoccupied with being debased and cast down in spirit. When you look at Christ, He wasn't preoccupied with himself at all; He was preoccupied with serving God, and serving others. His preoccupation was in that direction. Moses' preoccupation was with sparing his brother and sister. He wanted God to be merciful to them. He went to God pleading for them, despite what they were doing to him. That's meekness. Is it humility? Yes, it's humility, but it's more than that - it's what we are preoccupied with.
Vine's dictionary says this word meek, and the Greek denotes: gentle or mild. It says, "The exercises of it are first and chiefly toward God." It is that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good. We don't dispute with God about the way He deals with us. We don't resist God, the way he deals with us. It says, "It is closely linked with the words humility, but it is also associated with the fruit of the spirit of self control." That's what meekness is. Christ was meek because He was willing to allow the will of God to come in and dominate any other desire, whatever way God saw fit; He was not self-willed. It is meekness that allows us to submit to God. It is meekness that allows us to be gentle towards other people - Titus 3:2. It is meekness that conveys the spirit of willing to turn the other cheek, to bear provocation without being inflammatory ourselves. It is that spirit of meekness that is more interested in forgiveness than revenge - and healing. The person who is poor in spirit and who mourns and who is meek is a person that has been emptied of self - they've been emptied of self.
It's a good thing - it's a necessary thing, but we cannot stay emptied; we have to replace that emptiness with something else. We see the next logical step, Matthew 5:6.
Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
Follow the logic and you cannot help but submit first, that without addressing these first three issues in life, being poor in spirit, mourning, and being meek - without addressing those first we will never have a deep hunger and thirst for righteousness. The hunger and thirst for righteousness comes when we have been emptied of self. That's the only reason why we hunger and thirst is when we need something else; when we come to see that need. We cannot hunger and thirst for the things of God if we are filled with things of self. But when we are...when we are spiritually awakened to our sense of need, obtaining the right spiritual state becomes a craving. It becomes a craving - the living bread Christ talked about. Hunger and thirst are appetites that return frequently. We all ate this morning, probably - we'll be ready to eat again this evening; so it is spiritually. It is a need that must satisfied regularly, but this describes a relationship with God that only God can fill, and God can only fill that when a person is hungering for it, when they need it, when they know they need it.
In Job 23 and Verse 12, Job said - when he reached a point in his life, he said:
Job 23:12 I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.
I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food - a craving had set in to Job; the words of God's mouth. When it talks about hungering and thirsting for righteousness,
Psalm 119:172 Thy commandments are righteousness.
It's a desire to hunger, to understand - understand the law and the ways of God. It's a desire to have that, so that that can fill the emptiness that comes from the human spirit. We will hunger to live by those words. We will have a yearning to develop the right responses to God because of the right thinking that has replaced the emptiness of wrong thinking that existed previously. And as we eat of that bread of life, we will be filled - that's the promise; that's the blessing. The blessing is, you'll be filled. But the point is, we can't come to a point of hunger until we first have these other things working. Righteousness is all about living by the law of God, and that law of God is a law of love and its intent, and its direction, its application - and that leads to the next point.
Now before we go there, it's important to note something here. The first four beatitudes deal with us as humans becoming aware of our need for God and of His salvation, and seeking the knowledge of God as a result. The next three beatitudes represent the actions of those who are now conducting themselves accordingly. The first four have to do more with what's going on inside, and then we see the effect of what happens as a result.
Verse 7: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Perhaps we can best understand this by considering first the nature of mercy. Mercy is part of the law. Christ talked about omitting some of the weightier matters of the law: judgment, mercy, and faith. But mercy is not codified in the law. It is a part of the law of the legal system, but nowhere is it defined in a legal sort of way, because it cannot be. It can't be defined in some legal kind of way. By its nature, mercy is a judgment call. It's a judgment call on how issues of wrong doing are handled - how issues of wrong doing are handled. And that varies considerably, according to the circumstances and the individual involved. Some of you parents have probably asked for the blessing of your children - to have the wisdom to know how to handle various situations with your kids. Sometimes your kids will say: "Well you're not fair - you let them off the hook and you don't let me." And you say, "That's right! They were different than you." They had a different attitude; they had a different approach. You're more merciful to one because of circumstance than you are to the other because of where they are, and it may reverse next time.
Mercy is a judgment call. Now the codified law of God defines right and wrong, and it lays out the penalty, and it's properly the first part of judgment because it clearly sets the standards; it clearly lays out what is right and wrong. But God in His law reserves the right...as our judge, He reserves the right to interject mercy, depending on the response of each one of us, depending on the attitude of the law breaker, primarily. Now the person who's been through these first four steps here, Verses 3,4,5 and 6, will clearly understand something - if you've been through that process you will clearly understand something. They will understand God's mercy towards themselves. If you've been through steps 1,2,3 and 4, you'll have a pretty clear picture and a sense of how "God has extended mercy to me." That will be pretty clear. The person then who is fully aware of God's righteousness, His grace and mercy, and wants to live like God, will then begin to think in those terms as he deals with other people. If he's going to accept it from God he will begin to deal with that in response to other people. You know, we too, are put in positions daily where we make judgments about the behaviors and the attitudes of other people. But we also make judgments about the behaviors and the attitudes that we will take towards other people. We all do it, everyday.
The person who's been through these first four steps will begin to go about treating others according to what they've learned about the way God has dealt with them. Mercy is a profoundly deep concept. On two occasions, Christ was in two situations where He said these things to His audience: He said to one audience, "Go and learn what this means. I will have mercy and not sacrifice." What did He mean? Well, it behooves us to read that and consider that deeply. What did He mean when He said, "go and learn what it means?" There's a lot of depth in that. He said on another occasion, Matthew 12:7 (the first one was Matthew 9:13) - but in Matthew 12:7, He said:
Matthew 12:7 "If you had known what this means, 'I will have mercy and not sacrifice', you would not have condemned the guiltless."
This is really important. He said, If you would have known what it means, I will have mercy and not sacrifice. Well, what does that mean? There's a tremendous amount of spiritual depth and comprehension that has to go into contemplating this. But, let's put it this way, the person who has learned this understands the frailty of human nature because he has already confronted his own. The person who understands this, understands the frailty of human nature because he has already confronted his own, with God. There are many Scriptures and principles on mercy that need to be understood and it's far too broad to adequately be covered here, but this is very fundamental. The merciful does not shrink back from clearly identifying what is, and is not, righteous. Being merciful is not being cowardly; being merciful does not mean ignoring things. But it does maintain a state and a sense of attitude and mercy of how to deal with something.
You know, it seems to be that the "God method" of helping us understand mercy comes primarily by His exercise toward us of that; that's how we learn it, first and foremost. Every human being...we all stand, we always stand, somewhere between mercy needed, and mercy received - we all stand between mercy needed and mercy received, from God, and often toward other human beings. When we can look back on the mercy received, in terms of understanding the mind of God, and the source and the motive for the mercy that we must show, it helps us understand how mercy acts. It's mercy that drives the person to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to visit those in prison, to clothe the naked, to take in the stranger - it's mercy that drives many attitudes in life.
When Christ talked about that, about those that did these things, remember what He said would be the reward - "Come you blessed, inherit the kingdom prepared for you." Being merciful is part of being a blessed person, but it doesn't just come easily. It comes through a process of growth and deepening understanding. You know where the reminder part's coming in now, right? We cannot be merciful from the heart, as God is, if we have not become poor in spirit, if we have not mourned over our own state, have not become meek, and have not become filled with God's righteousness. We can't skip those things and understand mercy - doesn't work. Now when we get to this state, a tremendous transformation is occurring in the human mind. These five steps lead to a changed heart:
Verse 8: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. The word heart here is a comprehensive word that stands for the once complete character. True Christianity lies at the heart...out of the heart spring the issues of life, Proverbs said. And it says to guard it. So many statements about the heart - everything flows from the heart. And the blessing that God says is that a heart can change from being polluted and defiled, to being pure again, or to being pure for the first time, I should say - through God's influence.
Now Vine's makes several interesting notes on these words. It says the word heart is used in the New Testament to denote the seat of physical life; the seat of moral nature, and spiritual life; the seat of grief, joy; the desires, affections, perceptions, thoughts, understanding, reasoning powers, imagination, conscience, attentions, purpose, will, faith - all these things have to do with just the way we think. That's the heart of a person. It describes the word pure; Vine says pure means being cleansed, ethically clean - ethically clean, with the significance of being free from corrupt desire, from guilt - blameless, innocent. David prayed in Psalm 51, "create in me a clean heart, O God." David realized, "the core of my problem is the heart - the way I've been thinking." David said, "yes, I made a big sin" - he had made a huge mistake, but the problem was, "my heart was in the wrong place to begin with that led me to that action." And so he went to God seeking to cleanse the heart. The creation of a pure heart is called conversion - that's what conversion is, change; moving the heart. Blessed are they who are pure in heart, for they shall see God.
And Vine's makes this note, the word see denotes either bodily or mental vision. It especially indicates the direction of thought toward the object seen. If you see God, what that's saying, that the word implies that you're directing your thought toward what you see. And if we see God, we'll be directing our thoughts in that way. It also adds, it means a discerning mind; it's perception resulting from vision. So, in essence, what it is saying that the blessing of a pure heart means that you really begin to understand the mind of God - we really begin to understand the mind of God.
Being of a pure heart is the outcome of walking through these previous states of spiritual development. Ask yourself, "could I leave out any one of those previous ones and come to a pure heart?" Could I say, " hey, four out of five's not bad!" Can you leave one out and expect to come to a pure heart? See how they fit together? See how they build on each other? As that develops now, we are prepared to be something. In Verse 9, it says:
Verse 9: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
You undoubtedly heard at the Feast a lot of emphasis on the need for peace, and what the Millennium pictures; probably entire sermons on how we're going to reach that point. Where does peace need to be made? Well it needs to be made first between humans and God, on an individual basis. It also needs to be made between humans and other humans, sometimes groups of humans, and sometimes individuals. Peacemakers come into the picture in both of these arenas. Sometimes a human can help another human in his or her relationship with God by explaining things to them, by explaining what they've been through, and how they can make peace with God. It doesn't make peace for them, butit can help them along the way. Many times that's really what baptism counseling is all about, is helping an individual come to make peace with God. Sometimes we can help mediate between other humans who are having conflict, help them resolve it. But sometimes, and maybe most often, we ourselves have to be the peacemakers in our own conflicts with other people.
Now, here's the rub, we cannot effectively engage in peacemaking until we are, internally, peacemakers. Peacemaking is an event; peacemakers is what we must be, it's what we are. And being a peacemaker can really only come from first going through these other steps. Is that a premise that has to be proven? Well, let's ask this: Can one truly be a Godly, spiritually oriented, peacemaker, without being pure in heart? Can one be a peacemaker if they are not merciful, or understand mercy? Can one be a peacemaker if they are not righteous, or understand righteousness? Can one be a peacemaker if they are not, themselves, meek? So much of conflict has to do with pride; a peacemaker has to be of an opposite spirit. You see the picture: take any of these ingredients out of the scenario and it destroys the ability to be an effective peacemaker. We all want peace in our lives; we want, we crave, peace. It's one of the greatest blessings we can have, ranging from peace of mind, to peace in marriages, to peace in churches, to peace in the world. How deeply we want it, but we can't have it without all of those other ingredients.
Christ said, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, give I to you." He also said, "These things I've spoken to you that in Me you may have peace." Well, what we are reading here are some of the things that He spoke to us. It is in these things, it's in a process of growth and development, that we become peacemakers. Now the blessing is, "They shall be called sons of God." Just like Christ, the Son of God. The Son of God was a peacemaker, and when He said "in Me you will have peace", he was not describing some kind of hazy idea; He was describing a divine pathway.
I won't go into Verses 10 and 11, the two remaining beatitudes, because the focus in those two changes to the tests that come upon you from the outside. From anyone who has tried to follow Christ, they will be viewed in a different way from the world, and there will be certain persecutions and conflicts. The focus of this message has to be on the spiritual ingredients that make that follower of God what he or she is.
Let's walk back down the ladder from Verse 9. If our relationships with others are to be peaceful, we must be clean in thought, and attitude, and behavior. In other words, we must be pure in heart. We must be a person after God's own heart. But if we're going to be pure in heart, when we do have troubles with others, then we have to appropriately deal with the problems, be willing to repent, be willing to forgive, be willing to not carry grudges, to have a compassionate, not a hard-hearted spirit - in other words, we must be merciful. But if we are to be merciful, we have to know how to live by and be filled with the knowledge and the ways of God. We must hunger and thirst for righteousness. But if we are to hunger and thirst for righteousness, we must first be willing to be submissive to God, and to listen to God - not haughty, not arrogant. We must be meek. If we are to be meek, we must have a sense, first, of our own weaknesses, and truly be sorrowful and repentant, not justifying or defensive. We must mourn, but if we are to mourn, we must realize that we have no claim to superiority in life. Nothing to be arrogant about, like we used to be in a carnal state, nothing to feel superior about, like we used to - nothing but seeing God, and how we are compared to God, and what He wants from us, and how much we need His help. We must be poor in spirit.
This is deconstructing, if you will, to see what it is that a blessed family, what a blessed person, what a blessed church, has going on in their lives. You want to see a blessed person? Look for these things. This is what will make it up, these are the core ingredients - put them together correctly, and they will come together perfectly, and make profound changes. Leave anything out, say, "well, you know, I think I'll skip that one", and it just won't come together. We may put something on the plate, but it's not going to be...it's not going to please the judges; not going to please the judge. Each ingredient here is not a stand alone; it's dependent upon others being established in working. Nothing can be left out - take out any one, the process falls apart. You can't omit mashed potatoes and say it represents Shepherd's pie - just can't do it. We can't take out any one of these and say, "well, we'll still be blessed - we can still be blessed." Nope, won't happen, it's all part of the picture.
We saw these beautiful babies up here today, you know. You just beam when you see them - even when you hear them! You just love to see those little babies, and it's such a pleasure and we all say Amen with such hearty feeling of wanting God's blessings upon them. But all God's children need to be blessed, and we all want to be blessed, and we can be. But it won't just fall out of the sky on us. We have to understand what makes the blessings, understand the process of spiritual growth that Christ is really talking about here, and set about working to be the type of people represented here that He would have us to be. If we will be these people, the blessings will flow.