Matthew 5:9 – Blessed are the Peacemakers (1986)

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

March 9, 1986

Matthew 5:9

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

With each beatitude another nail is driven into a coffin. Inside the coffin lies the corpse of a false understanding of salvation. The false understanding said that a person can be saved without being changed. Or: that a person can inherit eternal life even if his attitudes and actions are like the attitudes and actions of unbelievers.

One after the other the beatitudes tell us that the blessings of eternity will be given only to those who have become new creatures. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.

If we don’t obtain mercy, we receive judgment. If we don’t see God, we are not in heaven. If we aren’t called the sons of God, we are outside the family. In other words these are all descriptions of final salvation. And it is promised only to the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers.

Therefore the beatitudes are like long spikes holding down the lid of the coffin on the false teaching which says that if you just believe in Jesus you will go to heaven whether or not you are merciful or pure in heart or a peacemaker. In fact, from beginning to end the Sermon on the Mount cries out, “Get yourself a new heart! Become a new person! The river of judgment is at the door!” You recall the words of verse 20: “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

And at the very end of the sermon in 7:26f the Lord calls out over the crowds, “Every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it”. In other words, a life of disobedience to the beatitudes and to the Sermon on the Mount will not stand in the judgment no matter what we believe!

I have been convicted this past week that I have probably not treated this dimension of the beatitudes with as much earnestness and seriousness as I should, and that the care that I have for your eternal good has not shown itself as genuinely as it must. My conscience was pricked in reading an old book by Horatius Bonar to pastors in which he said,

Our words are feeble, even when sound and true; our looks are careless, even when our words are weighty; and our tones betray the apathy which both words and looks disguise. (Words to Winners of Souls, p. 55)

So I want to impress upon your consciences this morning with as much as earnestness as I can that in the beatitudes Jesus is not making optional suggestions, and this sermon is not a series of suggestions on how to make the world better. On the contrary, Jesus is describing the pathway to heaven, and this sermon is a message from God to urge you to get on that pathway and stay on that pathway so that you can be called sons of God at the last judgment.

That is what is at stake this morning. If you are on the narrow path which leads to life my purpose is to help you stay on it. And if you are still in the broad way that leads to destruction my purpose is to direct you to the path of life.

When Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God,” he does not tell us how to become a son of God. He simply says that sons of God are in fact peacemakers. People who are peacemakers will be recognized as the sons of God at the judgment and they will be called what they are and welcomed into the Father’s house.

To see how to become sons of God we can look, for example, at John 1:12 and Galatians 3:26. John 1:12 says, “To all who received him (Jesus), who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” And Galatians 3:26 says, “For in Christ we are all sons of God through faith.” In other words, we become sons of God by trusting in Christ for our forgiveness and hope.

What Jesus is saying in Matthew 5:9 is that people who have become sons of God have the character of their heavenly Father. And we know from Scripture that their heavenly Father is a “God of peace” (Romans 16:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 13:20). We know that heaven is a world of peace (Luke 19:38). And most important of all, we know that God is a peacemaker!

“God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). He made peace by the blood of the cross (Colossians 1:20). In other words, even though by nature we are rebels against God and have committed high treason and are worthy to be eternally court marshalled and hanged by the neck until dead, nevertheless, God has sacrificed his own Son and now declares amnesty free and clear to any who will lay down their arms of independence and come home to faith.

God is a peaceloving God, and a peacemaking God. The whole history of redemption, climaxing in the death and resurrection of Jesus, is God’s strategy to bring about a just and lasting peace between rebel man and himself, and then between man and man. Therefore, God’s children are that way, too. They have the character of their Father. What he loves they love. What he pursues they pursue. You can know his children by whether they are willing to make sacrifices for peace the way God did.

By the sovereign work of God’s grace rebel human beings are born again, and brought from rebellion to faith, and made into children of God. We were given a new nature, after the image of our heavenly Father (1 John 3:9). If he is a peacemaker, then his children, who have his nature, will be peacemakers too.

Or to put it another way, as Paul says in Galatians 4:6, “Since we are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!.'” And therefore, as he says in Romans 8:14, “All who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.” And being led by the Spirit always includes bearing the fruit of the Spirit. And the fruit of the Spirit is peace!

So you see why it must be so, that the children of God must be peacemakers. It is by the Spirit of God that we are made children of God, and the Spirit of God is the Spirit of peace. If we are not peacemakers we don’t have the Spirit of Christ.

So we do not earn or merit the privilege to be called sons of God. Instead we owe our new birth to the sovereign grace of God (John 1:13). We owe our faith to the impulses of the new birth (1 John 5:1). We receive the Holy Spirit by the exercise of this faith (Galatians 3:2). The fruit of this Spirit is peace (Galatians 5:22). And those who bear the fruit of peace are the sons of God.

Our whole salvation, from beginning to end, is all of grace — therein lies our hope and joy and freedom. But our final salvation is not unconditional, we must be peacemakers — therein lies our earnestness and the great seriousness with which we must deal with these beatitudes, and seek the grace of God in our lives.

Now let’s look at what it means to be a peacemaker.

The promise of sonship in the second half of the Matthew 5:9 points us to Matthew 5:43-45 for our main insight. Both of these texts describe how we can show ourselves to be sons of God.

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Notice verse 45, “… so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” The thought is the same as in Matthew 5:9. There, we must be peacemakers to be called sons of God. Here, we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us if we would be sons of God.

So probably Jesus thinks of peacemaking as all the acts of love by which we try to overcome the enmity between us and other people. And if we ask for specifics he gives two examples.

The first thing he mentions is prayer (verse 44): Pray for those who persecute you. Pray what? The next chapter tells us. In Matthew 6:9-10 Jesus says, “Pray like this…”. Pray that you and your enemy would hallow God’s name. Pray that God’s kingdom be acknowledged in your life and his life. Pray that you and he would do God’s will the way the angels do it in heaven. In other words, pray for conversion and sanctification. The basis of peace is purity. Pray for yours and pray for his, that there might be peace.

Then in Matthew 5:47 Jesus gives the other specific example of peacemaking-love in this text: “If you salute (or greet) only your brethren, what more are you doing than others?” In other words, if there is a rupture in one of your relationships, or if there is someone who opposes you, don’t nurse that grudge. Don’t feed the animosity by ignoring and avoiding that person. That is the natural thing to do–just cross the street so that you don’t have to greet them. But that is not the impulse of the Spirit of a peacemaking God, who sacrificed his Son to reconcile us to himself and to each other.

Peacemaking tries to build bridges to people. It does not want the animosity to remain. It wants reconciliation. It wants harmony. And so it tries to show what may be the only courtesy the enemy will tolerate, namely, a greeting. The peacemaker looks the enemy right in the eye and says, “Good morning, John.” And he says it with a longing for peace in his heart, not with a phony gloss of politeness to cover his anger.

So we pray and we take whatever practical initiatives we can to make peace beginning with something as simple as a greeting. But we do not always succeed. And I want to make sure you don’t equate peacemaking with peace-achieving. A peacemaker longs for peace, and works for peace, and sacrifices for peace. But the attainment of peace may not come.

Romans 12:18 is very important at this point. There Paul says, “If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all.” That is the goal of a peacemaker: “If possible, so far as it depends on you…” Don’t let the rupture in the relationship be your fault.

Ah, but that raises a tough question: Is it your fault when the stand that you take is causing the pision? If you have alienated someone and brought down their anger upon your head because you have done or said what is right, have you ceased to be a peacemaker?

Not necessarily. Paul said, “If it is possible … live at peace.” He thus admits that there will be times that standing for the truth will make it impossible. For example, he says to the Corinthians (in 11:18-19), “I hear that there are pisions among you; and I partly believe it, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.” Now he would not have said that if the genuine Christians should have compromised the truth in order to prevent pisions at all cost. It was precisely because some of the Christians were genuine — genuine peacemakers — that some of the pisions existed. (Also see I Corinthians 7:15.)

Jesus said in Matthew 10:34,

Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household.

In other words, you must love peace and work for peace. You must pray for your enemies, and do good to them, and greet them, and long for the the barriers between you to be overcome. But you must never abandon your allegiance to me and my word, no matter how much animosity it brings down on your head. You are not guilty; you are not in the wrong if your life of obedience and your message of love and truth elicit hostility from some and affirmation from others.

Perhaps it’s just this warning that Jesus wants to sound when the very next beatitude says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” In other words, righteousness must not be compromised in order to make peace with your persecutors. When Jesus pronounces a blessing on you for being persecuted for the sake of righteousness, he clearly subordinates the goal of peace to the goal of righteousness.

In James 3:17 it says “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable.” First pure, then peaceable, not the other way around. And that is the order we have in the beatitudes also (in verses 8 and 9): First, “Blessed are the pure in heart,” then, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Purity takes precedence over peace. Purity is the basis of Biblical peace. Purity may not be compromised in order to make peace.

Now I want to close by dealing with one more question that a message like this would raise for some people today. Why, in view of the world situation, does this message on peacemaking confine itself to the personal dimensions of prayer and greetings and individual reconciliation? Aren’t these personal issues insignificant in comparison with the issues of nuclear war, military budgets, arms talks in Geneva, apartheid in South Africa, civil wars in Central America, religious oppression in Romania and Russia, and international terrorism?

Before we answer that question, let’s ask another one. Was Jesus unaware that the iron hand of the Roman empire rested on the tiny land of the Jews without their consent? Was he aware that Archelaus slaughtered 3,000 Jews at a Passover celebration? Was he aware that the Roman soldiers could conscript any Jew they chose to carry their baggage? Was he aware that Pilate had his soldiers bludgeon a crowd of Jews protesting his stealing from the temple treasury? Was he aware that Pilate massacred Jews on the temple ground and mixed their blood with their sacrifices they were offering?

When Jesus spoke of enemies, why did he confine himself to prayer and personal greetings and blessings and individual deeds of generosity and kindness? Why didn’t he talk about the issues of national humiliation, and Roman oppression and political corruption and the unbridled militarism of his day? Was he utterly out of touch with the big issues of his day?

No. There is another explanation for why he preaches the way he does. In Luke 13:1-5 some people confronted Jesus with one of Pilate’s atrocities. Here’s the way he responded:

There were some present at that very time who told him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

He took a major social outrage of injustice and turned it into a demand for personal, individual repentance. “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish!” That’s what he always did. Why did he do this? Because for Jesus the eternal destiny of a human soul is a weightier matter, a bigger issue, than the temporal destiny of a nation.

If you come to Jesus with a question about the justice of taxes to Tiberias Caesar he will turn it into a personal command aimed right a your own heart: “You give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:15-21).

If your come to Jesus with a complaint about the injustice of your brother who will not divide the inheritance with you, he will turn it into a warning to your own conscience, “Man, who made me a judge or divider over you? … Take heed and beware of all covetousness; for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:13-15).

Now let’s go back to the question. Why does a message on peacemaking from the Sermon on the Mount focus on the individual issues of prayer and greetings and personal reconciliation? Aren’t these personal issues insignificant in comparison with the issues of nuclear war, military budgets, arms talks in Geneva, apartheid in South Africa, civil wars in Central America, religious oppression in Romania and Russia, and international terrorism?

The answer is no, because the point of these personal issues in the Sermon on the Mount is to make crystal clear that every individual within the hearing of my voice must become a new creature if you are to have eternal life. You must have a new heart. Without a merciful, pure, peacemaking heart you cannot be called a son of God at the judgment day. And that is the truly weighty matter in the world today. Is the Son of Man confined in his views of the world, is he he out of touch with the real issues of life because he regards the eternal salvation of your soul as a weightier matter than the temporal destiny of any nation on earth?

Blessed are you peacemakers who pray for your enemies and greet your opponents with love and sacrifice like your heavenly Father for the reconciliation of people to God and to each other, for you will be called sons of God and inherit eternal life in kingdom of your Father.



Matthew 5:9 – Peacemakers

Matthew 5:9 – Peacemakers


I don’t think that it is without significance that we come to this Beatitude on Remembrance Sunday. Esp. as we look back on a week in which the UN Security Council passed a strong resolution demanding weapons inspectors be readmitted to Iraq and a week where US troop build up continues in the Gulf.

WW1 was supposed to be the war to end all wars, yet more were killed in wars during 20th C than all previous centuries combined.

Why are there wars in the world?

Why does world peace elude our government leaders?

Why are there at numerous civil wars going on all the time in various parts of the world?

Why, on a smaller scale are there conflicts within local communities and families?

Some people are never seem happy unless they are fighting with someone. A peacemaker on the other hand finds great satisfaction in removing hostilities and effecting reconciliation between adversaries.

Most world leaders won’t acknowledge it but the source of the problem is within the human heart – old-fashioned selfishness and greed. Until there is a change in the heart there will never be a solution to the problems on the surface. What is in the heart of a person inevitably comes out of that person.

As we have seen in previous Beatitudes these are not natural dispositions, but dynamic spiritual changes in a person’s heart — a life changing encounter with God. That life-changing experience affects the way we approach every relationship in our lives.


Blessed = Spiritually prosperous

The Spiritually prosperous, are in no way kin to the “prosperity gospel” cult in our day [those who reduce God’s blessing to only health and money]. Rather Spiritually prosperous are those who have a right relationship with God based upon a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Peace” is God’s highest good for man. In the NT sense “peace” is not just the absence of trouble; it is everything that makes for our highest good.



Creation – shalom – equilibrium – sin caused disequilibrium.

In OT Jehovah – Shalom “the LORD our peace” (Judges 6:24), and in NT our Jesus is the Prince of Peace – God’s Peacemaker. “He is our peace” (Eph. 2:14). He has brought us near by His death on the cross (v. 15) and brought us into the presence of the Father and introduced us to Him (v. 18).

Jesus gives us His peace (John 14:27; 16:33).

John 14:27 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (NIV)

John 16:33            33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of peace. He applies and supplies the peace of God to our hearts (Gal. 5:22).

Galatians 5:22 22 … the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (NIV)

The one clear objective of the peacemaker is that the LORD God be glorified.

Jesus is our best model for a peacemaker. His concern was to glorify the Father at all times (John 17).

Peacemakers – who are they?

“Peacemakers” are those disciples who strive to prevent contention and strife. However, they are not keepers-of -peace at any price, but are active makers of peace. They use their influence to reconcile opposing parties among individuals, families, churches, and the community. They change hostile attitudes to attitudes that seek the best interests of everyone.

Now peacemaking is a divine work. For peace means reconciliation, and God is the author of peace and of reconciliation. Indeed, the very verb, which is used in this beatitude of us, is applied by the apostle Paul to what God has done through Christ. Through Christ God was pleased “to reconcile to Himself all things, . . . making peace by the blood of His cross.” And Christ’s purpose was to “create in Himself one new man in place of the two (sc. Jew and Gentile), so making peace” (Col. 1:20; Eph. 2:15).

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the particular blessing which attaches to peacemakers is that “they shall be called sons of God.” For they are seeking to do what their Father has done, loving people with His love, …. It is the devil who is a troublemaker; it is God who loves reconciliation and who now through his children, as formerly through his only Son, is bent on making peace (The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, p. 50). John R. W. Stott

It must be kept in mind that “the peace of God is not peace at any price.” God brought sin out in the open and dealt with it. God made peace with sinful humanity at “immense cost.” Only the blood of Jesus Christ can make propitiation for us (Romans 3:24-25). “Jesus Christ the righteous . . . is the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 2:2). “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (4:10). Propitiate [means what??] – “the turning away of wrath by an offering.” God’s wrath is His settled, controlled, holy antagonism against all sin. Propitiation is the appeasement of the wrath of God by the love of God through the death of Christ.

God Himself takes the initiative in sheer unmerited love. He turns His own wrath away by the death of his own Son. God’s justice has now been satisfied. Our sin has been dealt with. His holiness is satisfied. God’s wrath is turned away from us on to His Son who died in our place.

Any other concept of peace with God is a “cheap peace.” True peace with God is an expensive treasure. We must never compromise with truth just to bring about peace. The moment we do we cheapen it. A false peace is more dangerous than open war. All it does is cover up the symptoms. James wrote, “The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable” (3:17). We enjoy peace with God at a very high price.

Are these peacemakers those who make peace between man and God or between man and man? Probably either interpretation is possible, however, you can never bring peace between men until they have peace with God. His peace is the solid foundation for all other relationships.

ILLUS.: Ant Greenham – Israel and Jordan – no peace without regeneration of heart and God-given ability to forgive.


Peace with God

Peacemakers are at peace with God  Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (NIV)

Romans 5:11 11 Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (NIV)

You cannot be an active maker of peace until you have first found peace. Peace with God involves a new nature, and a pure heart. Only the person who is pure in heart can become a peacemaker. There must be no hidden agendas, not selfish ambitions, and no double-mindedness with the peacemaker. The person who if filled with envy, jealousy, covetousness, hostility, etc. can never be a peacemaker.

“Peace” is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22; Phil. 4:7). We most resemble our heavenly Father when we are filled with peace.

“The perfect peacemaker is the Son of God (Eph. 2:14f.)” (McNeile).

These “peacemakers”demonstrate in their own lives how to have inward peace with God and how to be instruments of peace in the world. We can never be peacemakers until Jesus Christ is Lord of our lives and sin is put to death by the work of the Holy Spirit. We have been called to be ministers of reconciliation because “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). Therefore, because we are no longer at war with God we are no longer at war with ourselves. The “peace of God that passes all understanding” reigns in our lives (Phil. 4:7).

Peace with other people

John Broadus said, “There is no more Godlike work to be done in this world than peacemaking.”

Peacemakers show they are “children of God” by using every opportunity to bring about reconciliation with others. God is a peacemaker and they are like their father. “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:18-20).

Peacemakers seek to live at peace with others (Rom. 12:17-21; 14:1, 13, 15-20; 15:1-2, 5-7; I Thess. 5:13; II Tim. 3:16; Heb. 12:14; 1 Cor. 7:15; 1 Pet. 3:11).

Ministry of reconciliation

Ultimately peacemakers are concerned that all men be at peace with God. That essentially is the role of the peacemaker.

A great example of a peacemaker is the apostle Paul. If anyone was transformed from troublemaker to peacemaker it was Saul of Tarsus. How would you have liked him as a friend before his conversion to Christ? Luke tells us the very air he breathed was “threats and murder” against believers in Christ (Acts 9:1). Then he met Christ on the road to Damascus and he became a “man in Christ.” Stephen’s death was a testimony to Saul of God’s peace. As Saul’s henchmen were stoning Stephen to death he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit! . . . Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (7:59-60). You can’t kill a peacemaker because the source of his peace is an eternal God who shall never die.

Even today in many parts of the world peacemakers give up their lives making peace. Men still treat them like they did our Lord.

Warren Wiersbe writes:

As you and I seek to be peacemakers, men will treat us as they did Jesus. They will misunderstand us and not honestly seek for the truth. They will criticise us and accuse us. Eventually they will condemn us and crucify us. Hatred blinds, while love sharpens the vision. Hatred looks for a victim, while love seeks a victory. The man of war throws stones, and the peacemaker builds a bridge out of those stones. The man of war comes with a sword, and the peacemaker disarms him with love and beats that sword into a ploughshare. The man of war throws his spear, and the peacemaker beats it into a pruning hook. The peacemaker does not avoid the battle; instead, he transforms the battle into a ministry of reconciliation. How does he do this? Certainly not in his own strength! “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given unto us” (Rom. 5:5). “But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . peace” (Gal. 5:22) (Live Like a King! p. 135).


The world has its share of troublemakers. They are also called agitators, rabble-rousers, instigators, dissidents, heretics, insurgents, mavericks, misfits, rebels, renegades, and turncoats.

I am not talking about those agents of change we need in every organisation including the local church. We need those individuals who make us think, evaluate, and don’t always think the way we do, or see things the way we see them.

However, the opposite of a peacemaker is one who has attitudes which are hostile, indifferent, angry, bitter, judgmental, obsessively critical nit-picking. (Cf. III John 9-11).

John Stott – “true reconciliation can be degraded into cheap peace.” Visible peace in the church must never be obtained at the expense of doctrine. “We have no mandate from Christ to seek unity without purity, purity of both doctrine and conduct.” There are shortcuts to peace that we dare not take.


Let’s examine our attitudes and behaviours.

Observe our own behaviour and attitudes toward other believers, the church, and its leadership. If we are prone to be a bearer of gossip, bad news, negative attitudes, bitterness, resentments, hostility toward others, then let’s start working at changing attitudes toward ourselves and others.

Let’s decide now to make love a priority in our lives.

Let’s make the building of relationships based on love and grace an emphasis in our lives.

Take some time and do an in-depth study of the principles of interpersonal relationships in the Bible. Study Romans chapters 12-16. You will be amazed at how many passages are addressed to interpersonal relationships. These chapters’ emphasise good relationships in the body of Christ.

The peacemaker also learns to be quiet. “Be swift to hear, slow speak, slow to wrath,” is the behaviour of a peacemaker. There are times when it is best not to reply, don’t make comment, and don’t react with your natural instincts. Don’t repeat what you hear. Don’t take sides. Lay aside your personal biases in decision–making. Strive to be objective. Know when not to speak. Humble yourself before man and God and ask for wisdom from Him.


Pray with thanksgiving – Paul says, “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” (v. 6b). Have you sincerely prayed for God’s will to be done? Have you prayed that God will bless your enemy? – be specific.


Change what you are saying about these individuals.

Do what you know to be the right thing to do. Instead of expressing your bitterness, pause and don’t say a word. Find something encouraging to say, or don’t say anything.

Start taking off your own masks. Remind yourself out loud that just like you they are sinners saved by grace!

Remind yourself of the good things in life. Become a peacemaker.

Do what you know to be the right thing to do. It is a volitional choice; it is something we do.

Corrie ten Boom who was imprisoned by the Nazis in WW2 and whose sister died in a camp – tells of an experience while speaking at a church in Munich, Germany.

“It was at a church service in Munich, Germany, that I saw him, the former S S man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing centre at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there––the room full of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, my sister’s pain-blanched face.

As the church was emptying, he came up to me. “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein. To think that, as you say, [God] has washed my sins away!”

His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.

Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? “Lord Jesus,” I prayed, “forgive me, and help me to forgive him.”

I tried to smile; I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer: “Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness.”

As I took the man’s hand, the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.

And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on God’s. When God tells us to love our enemies, he gives, along with the command, the love itself (“When We Can’t, God Can,” Decision, May 1992, p. 34).


The peacemaker enjoys inner peace and security in relationships with God, others and himself.

“God will call them His children” (TEV). “To be called” means “to become.” “They shall be called children of God” means “owned.” “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be owned as the children of God.”

God has made peace with man. “He has humbled Himself in His Son to produce it,” Peacemakers do what their Father has done.

Lloyd-Jones: If God stood upon His rights and dignity, upon His person, every one of us, and the whole of mankind, would be consigned to hell and absolute perdition. It is because God is a “God of peace” that He sent His Son, and thus provided a way of salvation for us. To be a peacemaker is to be like God, and like the Son of God. He is called the “Prince of Peace,” and you know what He did as the Prince of Peace. Though He counted it not robbery to be equal with God, He humbled Himself. There was no need for Him to come. He came deliberately because He is the Prince of Peace (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 126).

Jesus is our peace because He gave Himself that we might be at peace with God.

The promise is that you will be “called sons (and daughters) of God.” If you want to resemble God, be a peacemaker.

Every time someone is led to Christ the tide of world history is changed. You can’t legislate it, you can’t socialise it, and you can’t educate it. The problem is so deep in the heart of humankind that there has to be a radical change. Only God can do that.

Are you concerned about world peace? Then you need to be concerned for World evangelism?

All the Politicians in the world will not bring peace – there may in places, at times be absence of conflict BUT until the human heart is at peace with God peace between people will remain elusive

Are you at peace with God? If not you can be, that is why Jesus died on a cross – that what he desires for you above all else.

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons (and daughters) of God

If you are a child of God then you must reflect his characteristics and be a peacemaker.




Wil Pounds (c) 1999.





Matthew 5v9

  • The Lord God is our Peace – Judges 6v24
  • Jesus is our peace – Ephesians 2v14
  • Holy Spirit is Spirit of peace – Galatians 5v22

 2.       Peacemakers – who are they?

  • Those who have peace with God
  • Those who engage in a ministry of reconciliation / peacemaking

 3.       The reward of the peacemaker

  • Belonging to God and becoming like him

Matthew 5:8 – Blessed are the pure in heart (1986)

Blessed Are the Pure in Heart

March 2, 1986

Matthew 5:8

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

The first thing we learn from this beatitude is that Jesus is concerned with our heart. It is not enough to clean up our act on the outside.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and rapacity. You blind Pharisee! First cleanse the inside of the cup and of the plate, that the outside also may be clean. Matthew 23:25-26.

The aim of Jesus Christ is not to reform the manners of society, but to change the hearts of sinners like you and me. So, for example, Jesus would not be satisfied with a society in which there were no acts of adultery.

You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28.

The heart is what you are, in the secrecy of your thought and feeling, when nobody knows but God. And what you are at the invisible root matters as much to God as what your are at the visible branch. “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). From the heart are all the issues of life.

What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart… For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man. Matthew 15:18-19.

Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit… For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Matthew 12:33-34.

So the heart is utterly crucial to Jesus. What we are in the deep, private recesses of our lives is what he cares about most. Jesus did not come into the world simply because we have some bad habits that need to be broken. He came into the world because we have such dirty hearts that need to be purified.

Have you thought recently how helpless the local, state and federal government is to solve problems of our society? A month ago CBS aired a program called “The Vanishing Family — Crisis in Black America.” The focus was on the black community but the problem is true in differing measures in all groups of our society. The statistic was given that 58% of all black babies are born to unmarried mothers. Only about 1% of these are put up for adoption.

So over half of the next generation in the black community is being raised without a dad at home. The long term effect of that tragedy nobody knows. What can the government do? It seems that all it can do is try to find ways to soften the financial burden on these children and their mothers.

Do you see how amazingly relevant the words of Jesus are? He says, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication…” Out of the heart comes fornication! All babies born to unmarried mothers (and fathers!) are born from fornication. Therefore Jesus would say, if he were here today, that this massive problem in our society is a problem with the heart. If people — white people, black people, red people, yellow people — were pure in heart, they would be blessed. Their society would be blessed. And the impotence of the state to deal with the inner collapse of our culture would be replaced by the power of purity.

Now the reason I mention the social relevance of Jesus’ teaching on purity of heart is not because that is what the beatitude is about. In fact, this beatitude is emphatically irrelevant if measured by contemporary social standards. Blessed are the pure in heart, Jesus says, not for they shall save the legislature millions of dollars in AFDC payments. Rather, blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

The reason I mention the social impact implicit in Jesus’ teaching is so that our socially sensitive consciences can gladly affirm the centrality of God in this beatitude. My own conviction is that the fundamental problem in American society and culture is that we attempt to solve human problems while neglecting the centrality of God in the life of the soul.

We are so bombarded by human tragedies of poverty and crime and abuse and neglect and war and the manifold injustices of man to man, that we are tempted to agree with the world that it is useless pie in the sky by and by to be concerned with whether the soul will ever see God. But this is the greatest of all tragedies — that in seeking to relieve the temporal miseries of man we set aside the centrality of God.

But Jesus comes to us this morning and says, Blessed are the pure in heart, not first because they change society, but first because they will see God. Seeing God is the great goal of being pure. Abandon that goal and human culture collapses into ruin.

So let’s ask briefly in the moments we have, What is it to see God? What is it to be pure in heart? And, How are these two things bound together.

First, What is it to see God?

I would mention three things. First, to see God means to be admitted to his presence. After the plague of darkness on Egypt Pharaoh exploded to Moses with these words:

“Get away from me; take heed to yourself; never see my face again; for in the day you see my face you shall die.” Moses said, “As you say! I will not see your face again.” Exodus 10:28-29

When a king says, “You will never see my face again,” he means, “I will never grant you admission again into my presence.”

In the same way we call the doctor today and say, “Can I see Dr. Lundgren today?” We don’t mean, Can I see him from a distance. Or, Can I see a picture of him? We mean, Can I have an appointment to be with him?

So the first thing seeing God means is being admitted to his presence.

Second, seeing God means being awestruck by his glory — by a direct experience of his holiness. After God confronted Job in the whirlwind, Job said, “I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

Virtually all of our spiritual sight in this life is mediated to us through the word of God or the work of God in providence. We “see” images and reflections of his glory. We hear echoes and reverberations of his voice.

But there will come a day when God himself will dwell among us. His glory will no longer be inferred from lightnings and mountains and roaring seas and constellations of stars. Instead our experience of him will be direct. His glory will be the very light in which we move (Revelation 21:23) and the beauty of his holiness will be tasted directly like honey on the tongue.

So seeing God means not only being admitted to his presence, but also being awestruck by a direct experience of his glory.

Finally, seeing God means being comforted by his grace. Again and again the psalmists cry out to God that he not hide his face from them. For example in Psalm 27 (verses 7-9) David says,

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,

be gracious to me and answer me!

…Hide not thy face from me.

“Hide not thy face from me,” is the same as saying, “Be gracious to me!” This means that seeing the face of God is considered to be a sweet and comforting experience. If God shows his face we are helped. If he turns his face away, we are dismayed.

So when Jesus promises the reward of “seeing God” there are at least these three things implied: we will be admitted to his presence, not just kept in the waiting room. We will be awestruck with a direct experience of his glory. And we will be helped and comforted by his grace.

And this we will have — in part now, and fully in the age to come — if we are pure in heart.

What is it to be pure in heart?

Soren Kierkegaard wrote a book called Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing. That is not a bad definition provided that the one thing we will is the glory of God.

Let me try to show you where that definition comes from in Scripture. We start with the closest OT parallel to this beatitude, namely, Psalm 24:3-4.

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?

And who shall stand in his holy place?

He who has clean hands and a pure heart,

who does not lift up his soul to what is false,

and does not swear deceitfully.

You can see what David means by a “pure heart” in the phrases that follow it. A pure heart is a heart that has nothing to do with falsehood. It is painstakingly truthful and free from deceitfulness. Deceit is what you do when you will two things, not one thing. You will to do one thing and you will that people think you are doing another. You will to feel one thing and you will that people think you are feeling another. That is impurity of heart. Purity of heart is to will one thing, namely, to “seek the face of the Lord” (verse 6).

You can see this idea of purity in James 4:8.

Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind.

Notice that just like Psalm 24 there is reference to both clean hands and a pure heart as preparation for drawing near to God, or “ascending the hill of the Lord.” But notice how the men are described who need to purify their hearts: “men of double mind.” That is they are men that will two things not just one thing.

The impurity of double-mindedness is explained in James 4:4.

Unfaithful creatures [lit. adultresses], Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

So the double-minded man of verse 8 has his heart divided between the world and God, like a wife who has a husband and a boyfriend. Purity of heart on the other hand is to will one thing, namely, full and total allegiance to God.

So if we ask, Where in the gospels did Jesus explain purity of heart in this way, the answer would be Matthew 22:37,

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart.

Not with part of your heart. Not with a double or divided heart. That would be impurity. Purity of heart is no deception, no double-mindedness, no divided allegiance.

(Note: you can see the echo of this meaning of purity of heart in 1 Timothy 1:5, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere [i.e. unhypocritical faith).”

Purity of heart is to will one thing, namely, God’s truth and God’s value in everything we do. The aim of the pure heart is to align itself with the truth of God and magnify the worth of God. If you want to be pure in heart pursue God with utter singlemindedness. Purity of heart is to will that one thing.

That leaves one last question: how are purity of heart and seeing God bound together?

Jesus only gives us part of the answer here. It is a true part, but only part. He says that the pure will see God. That is, purity is a prerequisite for seeing God. The impure are neither granted admittance to his presence, nor are they awed by the glory of his holiness, nor are they comforted by his grace.

Jesus’ point is the same as Hebrews 12:14, “Strive for … the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” In other words, blessed are the holy for they shall see God. There is a real purity and a real holiness which fits us to see the king of glory.

And of course that leads every sensitive soul to cry out with the words of Proverbs 20:9, “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart clean; I am pure from my sin?'” And with the disciples: “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus’ answer comes back just like it did to the disciples in Matthew 19:26 — and this is the rest of the answer — “With men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” In other words, God creates a purity for us and in us so that we can pursue purity. And by his grace we must seek that gift by praying with David, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Psalm 51:10). And we must look to Christ “who gave himself for us … to purify for himself a people” (Titus 3:l4).

And the response of our hearts to God’s act of creation and Christ’s act of sacrifice is single-minded faith in Jesus Christ as Lord an Savior. As the Scripture says in Acts 15:9, “God made no distinction between us and them, but purified their hearts by faith.” God is the one who purifies the heart, and the instrument with which he cleans it is faith.

Therefore, trust in the Lord with ALL your heart (Proverbs 3:5). Will this one thing. And you will see God.


Matthew 5:8 – Blessed are the pure in heart

Matthew 5:8



The Bible says that no-one can look at God {In all his glory} and still live.

WHO then can see God? This is the question King David of Israel asked, Psalm 24:3-4

            3 Who may ascend the hill of the LORD?

                        Who may stand in his holy place?

            4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,

                        who does not lift up his soul to an idol

                        or swear by what is false. (NIV)


Moses was one who saw God.  Exodus 33:11 11 The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. (NIV)

But even Moses could not look upon the “glory” of God and live. Exodus 33:19-20             19 And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. .. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no-one may see me and live.”


No one had looked into the face of God until He became flesh and dwelt among men. John 1:14  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (NIV)

John 1:18 18 No-one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. (NIV)



“Blessed are the pure in heart”

Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” That is what Christianity is all about.


The Pharisees in Jesus day, much like legalists in our day, [Don’t do this…. Don’t do that]  were scrupulously concerned with the external, ritual purification. They ignored the inside. They kept the letter of the law, but the heart was unclean. Jesus was not concerned with religious rituals but “the defiling influences of sin upon the inner man” (Matt. 23:25, 28). “Out of the heart proceeds . . .evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies, etc” The condition of the heart was the centre of all His teachings. Everything comes from the heart.



The word “heart” refers to the centre and source of the whole inner life, with its thinking, feeling, and volition. It is the place where we make our moral decisions. In a psychological sense it is “the seat of man’s collective energies, the focus of personal life, the seat of the rational as well as the emotional and volitional elements in human life.” (AS).



The word “pure” has the root idea of one that is being cleansed, free from impure mixtures, without blemish, spotless. The basic idea is single-mindedness. The pure in heart have clarified their values, and have pure motives. There are no hidden agendas, no double motives, and no self-interests.


The pure in heart have an intimate fellowship with God which can come only from a personal encounter with Christ. It is not a once-in-a-lifetime, or once-in-a-great-while, but a daily following Christ as Lord of your life.

A Lawyer asked Jesus Matthew 22:36-38 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. (NIV)


Single–minded: – free from the tyranny of a divided self, trying to serve God and the world at the same time.

Single-motive: This purity “means singleness of motive and of devotion, as opposed to divided motive . . .”


The Hebrew word for “heart” refers “a symbol of one’s mind or thoughts, and here the reference is to thoughts or to a mind concerned solely to please God.”


Hypocrisy and deceit are abhorrent to The Pure in Heart; they are without guile.

ILLUS. Greek theatre – one actor many masks – root meaning of Hypocrite.

Yet how few of us live one life and live it in the open! We are tempted to wear a mask and play a different role according to each occasion. This is not reality but play–acting, which is the essence of hypocrisy.

Some people weave round themselves such a web of lies that they can no longer tell which part of them is real and which is make–believe.

Alone among men Jesus Christ was absolutely pure in heart, being entirely guileless.

Only the pure in heart will see God, see Him now with the eye of faith and see His glory in the hereafter.


Opposite of the pure in heart

The opposite of a pure heart is one that is divided. Without singleness of purpose it is impure. The double-minded person tries to serve both God and the world system.


James in 4:8 wrote: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

The divided self tries to serve two opposing masters at the same time. The double-minded are blind spiritually and their loyalties are divided and therefore cannot see God.


Jesus warned Matthew 6:19-24.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.


ILLUS.: Demo!! When was the last time you tried to walk in both directions at the same time? Why try to do it spiritually?


1 John 2:15-16, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”

Jesus demanded that we have pure hearts, open, honest, genuine, nothing hidden, with sincerity and single–mindedness. Can you give some examples of such people?




Moses. We have already noted Moses who “By faith left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen” (Hebrews 11:27).


Origen said, “Every sin stains the soul.”

David is the only person in the Bible who is described as “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22). When we turn to the Psalms we see the man who saw God in his heart because God had cleansed him. Psalms 32 and 51 beautifully illustrate this cleansing of the soul.

“How blessed is he whose transgressions is forgiven, Whose sin is covered!” (32:1). How blessed many times over, blessing upon blessing, upon blessing.” That was God’s cure for David’s sin of murder and adultery. Only God can cleanse like that!

In Psalm 51 King David shares the cleansing of his heart. The imagery is powerfully set against the ugliness sin. “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin” (v. 2). We can hear the pounding, stamping and vigorous rubbing of the clothes against the stones to loosen the dirt.

Psalm 51:6-7       6 Surely you desire truth [purity] in the inner parts;

                        you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

            7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;

                        wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (NIV)

 Only after cleansing has taken place can he hear the “joy and gladness” of the LORD. Psalm 51:9-12 9  Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. 10  Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11  … 12  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (NIV)


God is not interested in the “sacrifices and burnt offerings” of our modern society. He is not interested in our religious platitudes and intense religious emotions without a pure heart.

Psalm 51:17 17  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (NIV)

 What God longed for in David’s heart is the same thing He desires of us.

What made David a man after God’s own heart?

Warren Wiersbe reminds us, “David did not have a sinless heart, but he did have a single heart



Paul had is heart changed on the road to Damascus. Acts 9:3-7 records the event.


Paul had an encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus and it radically revolutionised his life. From that time on with singleness of purpose he lived Christ. Philippians 1:21 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (NIV)

 He had a singleness of purpose to serve Christ and his life was characterised as being “in Christ.”

BUT this was not only for Paul, “If any person is in Christ, he is a new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17a; cf. Phil. 3:8-16).


Jesus – our best example

He had an undivided heart. He alone has loved the LORD God with all His heart, and with all His soul and with all His mind. “My food [my sole reason for being on earth] is to do the will of him who sent me.”

Listen to Him praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Not My will, Thy will be done.” In Matthew 6:33 Jesus got to the heart of our problem when He said to His disciples, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”



To the pure in heart is given the promise that “they will see God.”

“There is a sense and a measure in which this is true of life here and now,” writes Leon Morris. “The pure in heart see God in a way that the impure never know. But the main thought is surely eschatological; it points us to a vision too wonderful to be fully experienced in this life but that will come to its consummation in the world to come” (p. 100).


The possibility is ours

Jesus said it is possible to have a direct, intimate personal knowledge of God. “No, God in His essence cannot be seen. How, then, do we see God? When the heart is pure, then the eyes are open to the vision of God wherever He may appear,” writes Wiersbe. “Jesus is promising us the vision of God here and now.”


When we have a pure heart, “We will live in a world that is filled with God!”

Paul wrote, “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18). The child of God who has a pure heart has notHing to hide, nothing to defend and nothing to explain. He is free to be honest, open, genuine and transparent. His face is unveiled before God and men. He advances from “glory to glory” until that blessed day when Christ comes and he is like Him through all eternity.

In the Pursuit of God A. W. Tozer wrote of the divine immanence meaning simply that God is here. Wherever we are, God is here. There is no place, there can be no place, where He is not. . . No one is in mere distance any further from or any nearer to God than any other person is.


Paul in Athens Acts 17:27-28 27 God … is not far from each one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’


God is never far BUT we fail to see him if sin blinds us.

BUT when we come in repentance, by faith, we see God.  If we cooperate with Him in loving obedience God will manifest Himself to us.

Always, everywhere God is present, and always He seeks to ‘discover’ Himself.


Our pursuit of God can be successful just because He is forever seeking to manifest Himself to us. . . . He is nearer than our own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts.

. . . He has no favorites within His household. All He has ever done for any of His children He will do for all of His children. The difference lies not with God but with us.

Do we hunger and thirst for God?

Matthew 5:6 6  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (NIV)


When do we see God?

We see God when we have fellowship with God based upon personal faith in Jesus Christ (cf. 1 John 1:1-3, 6-7). Sin breaks our fellowship, but not our son-ship. In the context of this marvellous fellowship with God John reminds us that we have something that cleanses when that fellowship is broken. All self–effort at cleaning is futile. Only God alone can cleanse the heart because there is only one detergent that will cleanse. “If we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His son, cleanses us from all sin” (v. 7). This is the only way fellowship can be restored. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us for all unrighteousness” (v. 9).


We see God when we worship Him with a pure heart (1 Jn. 1:8-10). When the heart is pure we see Him in our own experiences, in His gracious dealings with us in His grace and mercy. As we grow in His grace we see Him in ways we have never experienced Him before. Like Paul, “Now we see through a glass, darkly.” One day however we will see Him face to face.


The pure in heart will see Jesus when He returns in power and glory at the consummation of the Kingdom of God (Rev. 1:7, 9ff; I John 3:1-3; 4:4-6; Jn. 17:24; Rev. 22:3-4). It is a life lived in fellowship with God that begins now in the new birth and reaches its fulfilment at the consummation when Christ returns. Seeing God implies a direct and immediate knowledge of God.


1 John 3:2-3. We are already called the children of God because of the great love the Father has bestowed upon us. “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”

Not only will we see Him, but also we will be like Him!

In Christ we will at last attain God’s original intention for mankind. What awesome grace.


One day every eye shall see Him

The Bible teaches that every eye will see Him, whether we plan to, or don’t want to. Both saved and the lost will see Him. “Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen” (Rev. 1:7).

Moreover, because Jesus was obedient and humbled Himself even to die on the cross, “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 1:8-11). We have the opportunity today of bowing before Him as a volitional choice. But there is a day coming when we not have a choice. He will come as a sovereign King and every knew will bow and confess Him before men.


Have you seen God?


The pure in heart “are those who are mourning about the impurity of their hearts,” D. M. Lloyd-Jones. “Because the only way to have a pure heart is to realise you have an impure heart, and to mourn about it to such an extent that you do that which alone can lead to cleansing and purity.”  [1Jn1v9]


Our hearts aren’t pure. We by nature tend to be double–minded.

The pure in heart are willing to ask themselves:

What is my motive of service?

What is my purpose in serving Christ?

There are no hidden agendas, no double purposes.

They come with pure motives, high and holy principles and singleness of purpose.

Ask God to reveal to you anything in your life that is causing you to lose your first love for Him.


“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1). “Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22).

We see Him as we grow in His love and grace.


Jesus prayed for his followers…

John 17:24            24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. (NIV)

Those who with a simple, undivided heart seek the kingdom of God shall see Him.



Wil Pounds (c) 1999.








Matthew 5:8


Blessed are the pure in heart …


  • Heart – centre and source of whole inner

life, thoughts, feeling and will.

  • Pure – free from impure mixtures, without

blemish, spotless, single-minded,

pure motives.


  • Opposite of a pure heart

           Double minded

           Two masters


… they shall see God.


  • The possibility is ours.
  • When do we see God?

     In fellowship with Him

     In worship of Him

     When Jesus returns

  • One day ALL will see him 
  • Have you seen Him?

Matthew 5:7 – Blessed are the Merciful (1986)

Blessed Are the Merciful

February 23, 1986

Matthew 5:7

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

In the brief time that we have for such an important subject, I would like to answer four questions.

  • First, how does a heart become merciful? Or: where does mercy come from?
  • Second, what is mercy? Or: what is a merciful person like?
  • Third, should a merciful person always show mercy? Or: can a Christian be a prosecuting attorney?
  • Fourth, why will only merciful people find mercy from God in the Judgment Day, if salvation is by grace through faith?

You can see that these are very practical and immensely important questions. To answer the first question let’s look at the immediate context. How does a heart become merciful?

Recall from last week how we saw the first three beatitudes in verses 3-5 describing the emptiness of the blessed person: verse 3: poverty-stricken in spirit, verse 4: grieving over the sin and misery of his condition, and verse 5: accepting the hardships and accusations of life in meekness without defensiveness.

This condition of blessed emptiness is followed in verse 6 by a hunger and thirst for the fullness of righteousness. Then come three descriptions of how righteousness abounds in the heart of the hungry. Mercy in verse 7, purity in verse 8 and peacemaking in verse 9.

So the answer to the first question is that mercy comes from a heart that has first felt its spiritual bankruptcy, and has come to grief over its sin, and has learned to wait meekly for the timing of the Lord, and to cry out in hunger for the work of his mercy to satisfy us with the righteousness we need.

The mercy that God blesses is itself the blessing of God. It grows up like fruit in a broken heart and a meek spirit and a soul that hungers and thirsts for God to be merciful. Mercy comes from mercy. Our mercy to each other comes from God’s mercy to us.

The key to becoming a merciful person is to become a broken person. You get the power to show mercy from the the real feeling in your heart that you owe everything you are and have to sheer divine mercy. Therefore, if we want to become merciful people it is imperative that we cultivate a view of God and ourselves that helps us to say with all our heart that every joy and virtue and distress of our lives is owing to the free and undeserved mercy of God.

The second question is, What is mercy? Or: what is a merciful person like? Sometimes it helps get something clear if we can see it over against its opposite. So I have tried to find where mercy is contrasted with its opposite. Matthew and Luke give some very helpful illustrations. First let’s look at Matthew 9:10-13.

And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

In this illustration, the opposite of mercy is sacrifice. Verse 13: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” This is a quote from Hosea 6:6 where God accuses the people that their love is like the dew on the grass. It is there for a brief morning hour, and then is gone, and all that is left is the empty form of burt offerings.

The point is that God wants his people to be alive in their hearts. He wants them to have feelings of affection toward him and mercy toward each other. He does not want a people who do their religious duties in a perfunctory or merely formal way.

Here in Matthew 9 Jesus saw sinners as sick and miserable people in need of a physician, even though they were the rich money movers of the day, the tax collectors. They were sick. He had medicine.

But all that the Pharisees saw was a ceremonial problem with becoming contaminated by eating with sinners. Their life seemed to be a mechanical implementation of rules. Something huge was at stake here. But they could not see it or feel it. They were enslaved to the trivial issues of ceremonial cleanness when eternal sickness was about to be healed.

The opposite of mercy is bondage to religious trivia.

Let’s look at another example of this same thing in Matthew 23:23-24.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

What is the opposite of mercy in these stinging words of the Lord? The opposite of mercy is the straining out of gnats. The opposite of mercy is when your religious impulses are exhausted after you have decided whether to tithe your gross income or your net income or your birthday gifts.

The lesson we learn from the words of Jesus when he says, “I desire mercy not sacrifice,” and when he says, “You strain out a gnat and swallow a camel,” is that a great obstacle and enemy to mercy is the preoccupation with trifles in life. The bondage to triviality is the curse of the unmerciful.

When Jesus says, “Don’t neglect the weightier matters of the law,” he means, “Beware of going through the day doing only trivial things, thinking only trivial thoughts, feeling only trivial feelings. The Lord wants us to pinch ourselves again and again lest we be found swooning in front of the television, making no plans for the weighty matter of mercy.

Blessed are the merciful. Therefore, if you want to be blessed, you must make war against the bondage of religious and secular trifles, and devote your life to the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, faith. Mercy is no trifle. It is one of the weightiest matters in all of life.

Another illustration of the opposite of mercy is found in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37.

And behold a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? How do you read?’ And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all you mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have answered right; do this, and you will live.’

The man asked Jesus how a person should act who may expect to find mercy at the judgment day and inherit eternal life. And Jesus answers that the persons who will receive the mercy of eternal life are those who have loved God with all their hearts and their neighbor as themselves. In other words, “Blessed are those who are merciful now to their neighbor, for they shall receive the mercy of eternal life in the future.”

So this story is very relevant to our text this morning: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

This will be even more obvious when we look at the parable that follows. The lawyer asks, “Who is my neighbor?” And Jesus answers with the parable of the Good Samaritan in verses 30-37.

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho (and so he was probably a Jew and thus hated by the Samaritans), and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of the three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?’ [The lawyer] said, ‘The one who showed mercy on him.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’

Here we have a very sharp photograph of mercy and its opposite. Mercy has four dimensions in this story.

First, it sees distress (verse 33: “A Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and he saw him”).

Second, it responds internally with a heart of compassion or pity toward a person in distress (verse 33: “When he saw him he had compassion on him”).

Third, it responds externally with a practical effort to relieve the distress (verse 33: “He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him…”).

And the fourth dimension of mercy is that it happens even when the person in distress is by religion and race an enemy (verse 33: “But a Samaritan…”). A half-breed Jew with a warped religious tradition stops to help the Jew who who hates him.

An eye for distress, a heart of pity, an effort to help, in spite of enmity — that’s mercy.

And its opposite?

Isn’t it remarkable that this parable makes the same point as Matthew 9:13? There Jesus said, “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.'” Here he says, “Go and show mercy like the Samaritan not like the Priest and the Levite.” The Priest and the Levite stand for the same thing in the parable that the word “sacrifice” stands for in Matthew 9:13, namely empty religious formalism.

Jesus made up this story. Why did he choose to illustrate the opposite of mercy with a Priest and a Levite? With a pastor and a minister of music? Is it not a warning to me and Dean and all of us that there are far too many people who are caught up in the mechanics of religious activity with no eye to see distress, no heart to respond with compassion and no effort to bring the relief of the gospel?

So in answer to our second question, What is mercy?, we should say that mercy is one of the weightier matters of life. It is always in danger of being neglected because of our preoccupation with trifles, whether secular trifles like watching too much television or consuming yourself with some hobby, or whether religious trifles. What’s a religious trifle? A religious trifle is any religious activity (from preaching to praying, from teaching to tithing) — any religious activity at all that does not cultivate a heart that is taken up with the weightier matters of life, like mercy. The proof of the religious pudding is in the power to see distress, feel pity, perform relief, and all of that even toward an enemy.

The third question we asked was, Should a merciful person always show mercy? Or: can a Christian be a prosecuting attorney?

Real life is very complex for Christian people who seriously want live out their faith in a sinful world. What would you answer to these questions:

Can a Christian be consistently merciful and yet be a parent who spanks a child for disobedience instead of turning the other cheek to the child’s insolence?

Can a Christian be consistently merciful and yet be an employer who pays good wages for excellent work but dismisses irresponsible employees who do shoddy work?

Can a Christian be consistently merciful and yet be a legislator who enacts laws that give stiff penalties for drunk driving and child abuse?

Can a Christian be consistently merciful and yet be on a Council of Deacons who follow the Biblical mandate for church discipline and excommunicate a member for unforsaken, public sin?

Each of these four questions corresponds to a sheer of life: the sphere of the family, the sphere of business and economics, the sphere of government and law enforcement, and the sphere of the church. And my answer to the questions is that it is God’s will that as long as this age lasts there be a mingling of mercy and justice in all these spheres.

God’s will is that sometimes we recompense people with what they deserve, whether punishment or reward, (call that justice) And God’s will is that sometimes we recompense people with better than what they deserve (call that mercy). In upholding the claims of justice, we bear witness to the truth that God is a God of justice. And in showing mercy we bear witness to the truth that God is a God of mercy.

A Biblical parent will usually follow the wisdom that sparing the rod spoils the child (Proverbs 13:24; Ephesians 6:4). But there will be times when a child’s fault will be forgiven without punishment to teach the meaning of mercy and woo the child to Christ.

A Biblical judge will usually be scrupulously just by impartially sentencing criminals according to the grievousness of their crimes (Romans 13:4). But there will be times when he will dispense clemency for some greater good.

A Biblical employer will usually pay a fair wage and insist on good workmanship (2 Thessalonians 3:10). But there will be times when he will pay more than a person’s work deserves, and go an extra mile, with a sick or aging or distressed or inadequately trained employee.

And a Biblical Deacon will call public sin in the church to account and exercise discipline and even exclusion from the fellowship (1 Corinthians 5:1-13), but will also remember the parable of the wheat and the tares that teaches patience with the imperfection of the church till the end of the age (Matthew 13:24-30).

If we ask, How shall we know when to do justice and how to show mercy, I would answer, by getting as close to Jesus as you possibly can. I know of no hard and fast rules in Scripture to dictate for every situation. And I don’t think this is an accident. The aim of Scripture is to produce a certain kind of person, not provide and exhaustive list of rules for every situation.

The beatitude says, “Blessed are the merciful,” not “Blessed are those who know exactly when and how to show mercy in all circumstances.” We must be merciful people even when we act with severity in the service of justice. That is, we must be

— poor in spirit,

— sorrowful for our own sin,

— meekly free from defensiveness an self-exaltation,

— hungering and thirsting for all that is right to be done,

— perceptive of a person’s distress and misery,

— feeling pity for his pain,

— and making every effort to see the greatest good done for the greatest number.

So the answer to our third question (Should a merciful person always show mercy?) is a qualified “no.” No, you will often support the claims of justice and recompense a person the way he deserves, in order to bear witness to the truth of God’s justice and to accomplish a greater good for greater numbers of people.

But I say it is a qualified “no” because if you are a merciful person, then even the way you spank a child or prosecute a criminal or dismiss an employee will be different. The mercy will show. The parent may cry. The attorney may visit the criminal and his family. The employer may pay for remedial training. The heart of mercy will show.

The fourth and final question we asked was, Why will only merciful people find mercy from God in the Judgment Day, if salvation is by grace through faith?

The text (Matthew 5:7) says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” In other words, in the age to come when we meet God face to face, the people who will receive mercy from him are people who have been merciful.

Is this a salvation by works? Do we earn his mercy by our mercy? No, because an “earned mercy” would be a contradiction in terms. If mercy is earned it is not mercy; it’s a wage. Be assured, if we get anything good at the judgment it will be mercy, 100% mercy!

When God asks for a record of your mercy at the Judgment Day he will not be asking for a punched time card. You won’t say, “Here it is. Eight hours of mercy. Now where’s my wage?”

Instead, God will be asking for your medical charts. You will hand them to him in all lowliness and meekness, and there he will read the evidences of how you trusted him as your divine Physician, and how the medicine of his Word and the therapy of his Spirit took effect in your life because you relied on them to heal you of your unmerciful disposition. And when he sees the evidence of your faith and his healing, he will complete your healing and welcome you into the kingdom for ever. Therefore, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”


Matthew 5:7 – Blessed are the Merciful


Matthew 5:7



Matthew tells us in his Gospel that Jesus was going about in the cities and villages teaching and proclaiming the good news of God’s kingdom. As He looked over the multitudes that were gathering around Him “He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).

Jesus was putting into action those deep feelings of compassion for the sad and pitiful state in which He saw the people. The original word suggests strong emotion; it means, “to feel deep sympathy.” He not only felt compassion but also He reached out with those deep feelings to touch people in their deepest needs.


Let’s face it, we live in a day when “winner-takes-all” and “whoever-dies-with-all-the-toys-wins” philosophy rebels at the idea of “mercy.”

People are treated like things where power is supreme and personal success is the chief end of man. If you practice mercy in our highly competitive society you are the real loser. How do we put into practice the words of Jesus when He said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy”?


The first 4 Beatitudes express our total dependence upon God and the next three are the outworking in everyday life of that dependence upon Him.



Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

A definition of merciful

The word “merciful,” is defined as: “good will towards the miserable and afflicted, joined with a desire to relieve them.” [Thayer] It not only means to feel deeply but is also a word of action.


The word for “merciful” indicates being moved to pity and compassion by a tragedy and includes the fear that this could happen to me as well. There but for the grace of God, go I. But as always this word goes further. Having a feeling of sorrow over someone’s bad situation I now want to try to do something about it.


William Barclay noted the Hebrew word (chesedh) for “merciful” has the idea of “the ability to get right inside the other person’s skin until we can see things with his eyes, think things with his mind, and feel things with his feelings.”


A lifestyle of being merciful

The emphasis is on those who are inclined to show mercy, not those who occasionally show mercy. It is a habitual action. As Leon Morris observes, “These are people who show by their habitual merciful deeds that they have responded to God’s love and are living by His grace. They will receive mercy on the last day”


There is an eschatological [explain!] application in this verse: People who show mercy to others will have mercy shown to them on judgement day. The person who does not show mercy cannot count on God’s mercy. The emphasis in our text is “God will be merciful to them.” That is the eschatological blessing in the beatitude. God will take pity on them, or will forgive them, or will show mercy on them.


A self–acting law of mercy

Robert Nicoll explains, “This Beatitude states a self-acting law of the moral world. The exercise of mercy, active pity, tends to elicit mercy from others––God and men.”



God has shown mercy toward guilty sinners

“God in His grace gives me what I do not deserve, and in His mercy He does not give me what I do deserve”.


God has the power and authority to deal with us in His righteousness. We deserve eternal punishment. He does not give us what we deserve; He treats us with mercy. God does not give us what we deserve; yet there is no mercy apart from justice. The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ paid the price for our sin. “The wages of sin is death.” Jesus in His love died for us paying our sin debt to the righteousness of God. God has demonstrated His mercy toward us on the basis of the vicarious substitutionary sacrifice of Christ for our sins. Now He demonstrates mercy to the guilty sinner.

Jesus showed mercy at the cross when He prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).


ILLUS.: Good Samaritan – Luke 10: Jesus told story to a Jewish lawyer who trying to justify himself. A man was travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho and robbers assaulted him and stripped him of his clothing and possessions and beat him and left him half dead.

A priest and a Levite {religious types}each came down the road, saw the man lying there and they crossed on the other side. Later a Samaritan [Despised as half breeds by the Jews] came upon the bleeding man, and saw him and felt compassion. Instead of walking on by and doing nothing he took the poor man and bandaged him up put him on his own beast and took him to a Travel Inn and took care of him. When it came time for the businessman to go on his journey he told the innkeeper, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you” (v. 35). Jesus asked, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” His listener replied correctly, “The one who showed mercy toward him. And Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same” (vv. 36-37).


Nothing proves that we have been forgiven better than our own readiness to forgive.

Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Peter had been putting some hard thought into that question. Jesus responded, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22).


Parable about an unmerciful servant in Matt.18:Who having had his debt of millions cancelled by his merciful Master goes and throws into prison a fellow servant who own him a few pounds. His master, the King, is incensed and punishes him severely.


How much do we own God and he forgives us in Christ. How little, by comparison to others owe us – how merciful are we?


Jesus said in the context is talking about loving our enemies. Luke 6:36-38 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (NIV)


The exercise of showing mercy tends to elicit mercy from others. “You get back what you give.” Our worldly wisdom says “You get what you keep for yourself!”



We get back both negative and positive attitudes and behaviours

We see this in the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:1-2. “Do not judge (krino, meaning to separate, critic, criticise, criticism, discriminate) lest you be judged yourselves. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it shall be measured to you.”


The opposite of mercy is hostility. This attitude produces bitterness, resentment, and anger on the part of others. It is a critical spirit that expresses itself in stingyness,  unforgiveness, condemning, judging, faultfinding attitudes and behaviour.

We parrot back what we get. We also give people what they expect from us.


ILLUS.: Did you hear about the man who drove a concrete mixer truck for a living? One day he went to pick up his load of concrete and discovered that he had forgotten his wallet at home. So he drove back to his house after he loaded up his mixer. When he got there he saw a brand new black BMW parked in front of his house. He wondered who was visiting this early in the morning. So he quietly walked in and discovered his wife in bed with another man. In sheer shock he thought should I shoot them! Gathering up his thoughts, he composed himself and walked out of the house and as he did he eyed that beautiful new BMW in his driveway and thought for a moment.

He backed up his concrete mixer and rolled down the windows of the car and poured it full of wet cement! Can you imagine what the man fooling around with his wife thought when he went outside and saw his car? Imagine the pictures in the front page of the newspaper!


That is the negative side of this principle in action. We tend to give back what we receive in life. Each person gets back what he gives. We get the kind of reaction back from others that we give out.


ILLUS.: There were a group of U. S. soldiers living in their own rented house in South Korea after the fierce conflict there. They had a houseboy working for them and they would play terrible practical jokes on him. They would put a bucket of water on the top of a slightly ajar door and he would open it and the water would come down on him getting him wet and making a mess of everything. He would have to clean it up, of course. They would put grease on the knobs on his stove making them slippery. They would dump dirt on the floor or track mud in on their feet. It just went on and on and this little Korean guy would just smile and nod and keep on going whistling a happy tune.

One day these GI’s could stand it no more and got to feel really bay about their behavior. No matter what they did he just took it and never got angry. It finally got to them. So they decided to go to him and apologise.

They told him that they had not treated him well and they were never going to do it again. They really meant business. He had, “no more water on top of door?” They said “no, no more.” “He said no more grease on knobs.” They said, “no, no more grease.” He said, “no more dirt on floor?” “No, no more,” they said.

The Korea replied with the big happy smile across his face: “OK, then no more spit in soup!”

Yes, we give back what we get.

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. … For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return” (Luke 6:36-38).


What am I sowing and giving? Hostility or kindness, hate or goodness, revenge, or peace? Generally people give back to us what we give to them.


Our attitudes and emotions are contagious. If we are critical and grumpy with others that’s how they tend to treat us. Happy attitude invites happiness ILLUS.: NY Bus-driver  – cheerful and chatty – passenger that got on grumpy later got off with a smile and a cheery ‘goodbye’. We get the kind of reaction back from others that we give out.”

What about those to whom we show mercy, but we receive just the opposite in return?

The mature Christian gives what others need, not what they deserve.

In the context of Luke 6:36-38 Jesus had just mentioned seven aspects of unconditional love. We by nature give back what we get; therefore all of these proactive behaviours require supernatural enabling.

(1) Love your enemies.

(2) Do good to those who hate you.

(3) Bless those who curse you.

(4) Pray for those who mistreat you.

(5) Do not retaliate (v. 29a).

(6) Give freely (vv. 29b-30).

(7) Treat others the way you want to be treated (v. 31).


Jesus then taught His followers a fundamental principle of the universe—what one sows he will reap (v. 36-38).


The Spirit-controlled person has the inner power to love the offender and demonstrate mercy. God chose to forgive us and show His mercy to us on the basis of the death of Christ, and now we can choose to demonstrate that same kind of mercy to those who “sin” against us. It is a gift of God.

Joseph [many-coloured-coat Jo] who was the victim of jealousy among his siblings, sold into slavery, thrown into prison and forced to live in a foreign country. If you had the power of the prime Minister of Egypt years later when his brothers arrived begging for food and they did to you what they had done to him, how would you have treated them?

…let them know what it is like to rot in an Egyptian prison.


If I am a forgiven sinner who has experienced God’s mercy at Calvary, I can now choose to extend mercy to the unmerciful.

Francis of Assisi expressed this principle beautifully …

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me show love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not
So much seek to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying
That we are born to eternal life.


Only with the help of God’s Holy Spirit can we take what people give to us and turn it around and give them what they need instead of what they deserve. I can’t do it. You can’t do it in your own power. It has to be God at work in us. As we hand over to Him the hostility and hatred we receive from others we can give them what they need––unmerited love and grace.

1. We choose to forgive.

2. We choose to seek what is in their highest good.

3. We respect their choices in life.

4. It is not something we do out of our own strength, but God does it through us.

Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – in NT ..  “every one be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (Jas. 1:19).



How can I show mercy to a Christian caught in some sin?

What is my attitude to those less fortunate than myself?

Who am I to condemn another person?

When I forgive someone, do I choose to forget?

Do I have a tendency to treat people like things or objects?

Do I tend to give people what I THINK they deserve?

Do I use power or position I have to hurt others who hurt me?


. . . By its very definition, mercy cannot be earned any more than grace can be earned.

The Beatitude is saying: “When you experience mercy, and share mercy, then your heart is in such a condition that you can receive more mercy to share with others.”

In other words, Jesus is not asking us to be merciful occasionally; he is asking us to be constant channels of mercy. “Give, and it shall be given unto you” (Luke 6:38).



The Christian is surrounded by mercy.

Back in OT “Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6).

To the future Jude 21––”Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”

Each new day: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

. . . How thrilling it is to go through life sharing God’s mercy and not having to judge people to see if they are “worthy” of what we have to offer. We stop looking at the externals and begin to see people through the merciful eyes of Christ. . . . (Live Like a King! pp. 105-06).


Wil Pounds (c) 1999.

J R W Stott – Christian Counter Culture.

D M Lloyd-Jones – Studies in the sermon on the mount.

D A Carson – Sermon on the mount

W W Wiersbe “Be ……..”

Matthew 5:6 – Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness (1986)

Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

February 16, 1986

Matthew 5:6

Blessed Are those who hunger and thirst for Righteousness
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Some of the most evocative words in the Old Testament come from Ecclesiastes 3:11,

God has made everything beautiful in its time; also He has put eternity into man’s mind, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

What does this mean: that God has put eternity in man’s mind and yet has withheld from us the vision of what He has done from everlasting to everlasting?

St. Augustine said,

Thou madest us for Thyself,

and our heart is restless,

until it rest in Thee.

Restlessness and longing are universal traits of the human heart. George Herbert, one of the poets I came to love during my college days, wrote a poem called The Pulley which goes like this:

When God at first made man,

Having a glass of blessings standing by —

Let us (said he) pour on him all we can;

Let the world’s riches which dispersed lie,

Contract into a span.

So strength first made a way;

Then beauty flow’d, then wisdom, honour, pleasure:

When almost all was out, God made a stay,

Perceiving that, alone, of all His treasure,

Rest in the bottom lay.

For if I should (said He)

Bestow this jewel also on My creature,

He would adore My gifts instead of Me,

And rest in nature, not the God of Nature:

So both should losers be.

Yet let him keep the rest,

But keep them with repining restlessness;

Let him be rich and weary, that at least

If goodness lead him not, yet weariness

May toss him to My breast.

God has put eternity in our hearts and we have an inconsolable longing. We try to satisfy it with scenic vacations, accomplishments of creativity, stunning cinematic productions, sexual exploits, national sports extravaganzas, hallucinogenic drugs, ascetic rigors, managerial excellence, etc., etc. But the longing remains.

Isaiah put it like this in 55:2-3:

Why do you spend your money

for that which is not bread,

and your labor

for that which does not satisfy?

Hearken diligently to me, and eat what is good,

and delight yourselves in abundance.

Incline your ear, and come to me;

hear that your soul may live.

And Jeremiah, like this in 2:12-13:

My people have committed two evils:

They have forsaken me,

the fountain of living waters,

and hewed out cisterns for themselves,

broken cisterns, that can hold no water.

Many of you here this morning are like this. Your soul is hungry and your heart is thirsty. You feel an insatiable longing for something. You are restless. Almost everywhere you turn the grass is greener than where you stand. And the great tragedy for some of you is that even though this is the Spirit of God beckoning you to himself, you turn away again and again to short-run, temporary, backfiring pleasures of R-rated video cassettes or movies, or drugs or alcohol or tanning parlors or a new toy.

And everything turns to ashes in your hands. The thrill of lust leaves the sediment of guilt and loneliness. The drugs and alcohol can’t keep you from waking up in the real world again and again with your messed-up relationships. The tan looks so artificial and fades so quickly. And the new toy is so boring in just a few weeks.

We drink at broken cisterns. And we eat bread which does not satisfy. And the words of C.S. Lewis ring more and more true. He said,

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.

Jesus has something to say to us this morning about this universal experience of an inconsolable longing. He has something to say about the insatiable hunger of the human heart, and about the relentless thirst of our soul.

His words are found in Matthew 5:6 where he says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

What I would like to do is simply meditate with you on two things: l) the nature of the righteousness that Jesus has in view, and 2) the nature of our hunger and thirst for it, and how that hunger turns into the satisfaction which he promises.

First, then what is this righteousness? “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for RIGHTEOUSNESS.”

Last week we explained the meaning of meekness by going back to Psalm 37:11. The reason was that Jesus seemed to be quoting that Psalm almost verbatim in Matthew 5:5. And, besides that, the word “meekness” does not occur again in the Sermon on the Mount.

But today’s beatitude is not a quote from the OT and the word “righteousness” occurs five times in this sermon (5:6,10,20; 6:1,33). So the best way to catch on to Jesus’ meaning in this sermon is to look at these other instances of the word righteousness.

But we will only have time to look at a couple. So let’s look at the ones that are closest.

The next use is found in verse 10. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” What does righteousness mean here when it says “persecuted for righteousness’ sake?”

To answer this it helps to see the structure of the beatitudes again. You recall that there are eight beatitudes with verse ten as the last one and verse eleven as an expansion of it. The first beatitude (verse 3) and the last beatitude (verse 10) give the same words of assurance: “For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It looks like a kind of sandwich: the top piece of bread and the bottom piece of bread both say, “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

What we didn’t notice yet is that there are two groups of four, and the first four and the second four end with a reference to “righteousness”. The first group of four ends with verse 6: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” And the second group of four ends with verse 10: “Blessed are those who are persecuted the sake of righteousness.”

The more you ponder it the more significant this becomes. Notice that the three beatitudes leading up to hunger for righteousness in verse 6 are descriptions of emptiness or passivity: poverty-stricken in spirit (verse 3), mourning over our sin and our misery (verse 4), meekly accepting criticism without retaliation or defensiveness (verse 5). These are not characteristics of overflowing fullness. They are beautiful and good in their proper place, but they are not yet the richness and fullness and overflowing activity of goodness that we long for. And so isn’t it natural that following these first three beatitudes the Lord would say, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” — those who long to be filled with righteousness.

In other words, after pronouncing a blessing upon those who recognize their emptiness and grieve over it and don’t try to justify or defend themselves, Jesus now makes a transition from emptiness to fullness by saying that hunger and thirst for righteousness is also blessed.

Then look at the next three beatitudes. This is just what we find. After hunger and satisfaction in verse 6 comes, “Blessed are the merciful” (in verse 7). Now the blessed person is full and overflowing in mercy. He is not merely broken and sorrowful and meek. He is now active and overflowing with deeds of mercy. Verse 8 says that he is pure in heart and verse 9 says that he is not just peaceful, but a peacemaker.

Then this second group of four beatitudes ends with another reference to righteousness. Only this time it is not a hunger for righteousness which we were lacking, but a persecution for righteousness with which we are overflowing.

Do you see the structure? The first four beatitudes describe the broken, grieving, quiet person who hungers and thirsts for righteousness. And the next four beatitudes describe the merciful, pure, peacemaker who gets persecuted for his righteousness. Doesn’t this structure then give us the definition of righteousness? If we were hungering for righteousness in verse 6 because we were empty, and then we get persecuted for righteousness in verse 10 because we’ve been filled, isn’t it proper to define righteousness as that with which we have been filled? — Namely, mercy, purity, and peacemaking?

Well, let’s look at one other use of “righteousness” in the sermon to see if they confirm this understanding.

In 5:20 Jesus says, “I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Then what follows in the rest of chapter five are six illustrations of how our righteousness must surpass the righteousness of the scrupulous law keepers of the day. In verses 21-26 we must not only not kill, but more, we must not sustain anger against a brother but seek peace.

In verses 27-30 we must not only not commit adultery, but more, we must not look upon a person lustfully.

In verses 31-32 we should not condone divorce just because there is a legal provision for it in the Old Testament. We should surpass the righteousness that makes peace with hardness of heart and keep our covenant commitments and not marry those who don’t.

In verses 33-37 we should not only keep our oaths, but more, we should be the kind of people who do not need to take oaths in order to be believed.

In verse 38-42 we should not only not poke out an eye because one of ours was poked out, but more, we should turn the other cheek and return good for evil.

And in verses 43-48 we should not only love our neighbor, but more, we should love our enemy and pray for those who persecute us.

So it is pretty clear what Jesus meant back in 5:20 when he said that our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. It has to do with showing mercy, and being radically pure in your heart, and making peace instead of retaliating. So our understanding of righteousness from the structure of the beatitudes is indeed confirmed. Righteousness is showing mercy to other people; and righteousness is being pure in heart before God who alone can see the heart; and righteousness is the effort to make peace.

Now there may be much more to it than that. But that seems to be the focus of these verses and this chapter, and so we will leave our focus on this: mercy, purity and peacemaking.

The second thing we want to meditate on briefly is the nature of hunger and thirst and how they turn into satisfaction. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”

Let’s think about children for a moment. We can learn much about ourselves by watching the children. You children listen to this too. See if you don’t find yourself in what I have to say. Let me read from G. K. Chesterton who wrote these words 80 years ago:

We all like astonishing tales because they touch the nerve of the ancient instinct of astonishment. This is proved by the fact that when we are very young children we do not need fairy tales: we only need tales. Mere life is interesting enough. A child of seven is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door and saw a dragon. But a child of three is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door. Boys like romantic tales; but babies like realistic tales — because they find them romantic… This proves that even nursery tales only echo an almost pre-natal leap of interest and amazement. These tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water. (Orthodoxy p. 53f.)

I know this is true because I have been telling stories to my sons for 13 years. We have some imaginary boys named Quintle, Quingy, Quabe and Quarney. I can remember holding 2 year old Karsten spellbound with a narrative that would go something like this:

Once upon a time there was a little boy named Quintle. One morning he woke up very early. He got out of bed and put on his red slippers and his blue bathrobe and came downstairs to breakfast. There on the plate was a hot egg that mommy had just cooked. Smoke curled up in the air from it. It was yellow in the middle and white around the edges, and tasted sooo good. After breakfast Quintle got dressed and went outside in the sunshine to play, and had fun all day.

That’s all it took. He was spellbound by the romance of reality. But now, I have to produce accurate descriptions of monsters and weapons with complicated plots and sound effects. But not with Barnabas, the two-year old. He still thinks sunshine and smoking eggs and red slippers are really amazing.

What does this mean? Does it mean that the longings we all feel for greener grass are really longings to go back to that two year old simplicity when we were awed by the fact that rivers run with water and giraffes have long necks and eggs are yellow in the middle?

No. That would be like a man who looked at my photograph of the Reformer’s wall in Geneva and said, “O, to return to the day that you stood there and took that picture! O to be there like you were there and to see those great towering figures of Calvin and Luther and Zwingli in Geneva!” No. That is not what we really want. We want the real Calvin and Luther and Zwingli. We want to be swept up in the realities they were swept up in. We don’t want a great statue. We want the flesh and blood reality of these men and their cause.

So it is with the world. We don’t really want the first thrill of wonder that rivers run with water. We want the eternal reality behind the river. The reason the river awakens wonder in us and then leaves us thirsty again is because the river is just a picture. It is just a pointer. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. It flows with the water of life, bright as crystal from the throne of God and from the Lamb.

The hunger and the thirst of your life that cannot be satisfied by anything in this world is the constant beckoning of God to remember that you were made for another world, you were made for God.

But let us be very careful at this point. For just here we could make a very dangerous mistake. We could withdraw from the world. We could become monks or nuns or forest rangers. But just here is where the words of Jesus become all-important — to keep us from making that mistake.

Jesus says that the people who will be satisfied in the end are not people who have gone off into the woods to find solitary communion with God. Rather they are the people whose hunger and thirst has been for righteousness, people who have craved for the grace to be merciful, people who have yearned for radical purity of thoughts and feelings, people who have passionately desired to make peace.

And if someone should ask why the promise of satisfaction is made to those who hunger for righteousness and not to those who simply hunger for God, there are two reasons.

One is that Jesus surely means God’s righteousness — a righteousness like God’s, and a righteousness that God gives. Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” Surely that is basically the same as saying, “Hunger and thirst for righteousness.” When we hunger and thirst for righteousness we don’t look to the broken cisterns of our own resources. We look to God. So it is not either-or: we hunger for righteousness in God.

But there is a deeper reason why Jesus promises satisfaction to those who hunger for God’s righteousness instead of promising satisfaction to those who simply hunger for God.

The Sermon on the Mount ends in 7:22-23 with these words of Jesus:

On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.”

They called him Lord. They seemed to have the charismatic gift of prophesy. They were engaged in exorcisms of demons and miracles in Jesus’ name. And he turned them away at the last day saying he never knew them, because they were doers of evil and not righteousness.

They thought they knew him. They thought he knew them. But they were strangers: “I never knew you.” Why? Because they had not hungered and thirsted for his righteousness. They had been religious! They had gone to church. They had gotten involved in many religious activities. But the passion, the hunger, the thirst of their lives was not righteousness. And therefore they will not be satisfied, neither in this age nor in the age to come.

Deep and lasting satisfaction for our souls comes not from the the delights of the world nor from a merely religious or vertical relationship with with God. Satisfaction comes from God to those whose passion in life is to know him in the struggle to be like him in the world (5:48).

So to children this morning I would say, Don’t just make believe that you are that prince who leads his army out against the forces of evil and risks his life to do what is right and to save the kingdom. Don’t just pretend that you are that captive princess who escapes from the villain’s dungeon and crosses swollen rivers and and snake-infested deserts to warn the king of danger. Don’t settle for the desires of make believe! BE that prince someday! BE that princess someday! The great tales of the future will be written of real men and women who were passionately committed to one thing — the righteousness of God.

Make it the passion and the hunger and the thirst of your life to do great acts of righteousness. Don’t settle for the little half-hearted satisfaction of being a millionaire.

And to the rest of us grownups I would say. It is never too late to change your diet. Do you plan to eat tomorrow? Then why not plan to eat righteousness?. Do you plan to drink tomorrow? Then why not plan to drink righteousness?

Could it be that one of the reasons the grass is greener everywhere you look is that your life is not devoted to the central pursuit of righteousness, but to the pursuit of other things? Let us consider with what regularity and perseverance and strong urges we pursue food and drink day after day. And let us make it our prayer that we will hunger and thirst in that same way to establish righteousness — in our own souls and in all our relationships and in our land and in the world.


Matthew 5:6 – Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness

Matthew 5:6

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness


ILLUS.: 1975 – invitation to join the SADF – one of those invitations that doesn’t have the option “I regret I am unable to attend…” During one of my stints in 1979 – was in SWA [Nambia] and Angola – very arid – stuck out for day – ran out of water and food – drank juice of tinned peas and eventually ran out of peas!! The helicopter tat eventually brought supplies was most welcome sight!


When there is deep hunger and thirst your consuming goal becomes satisfying that desire.

In the beatitudes there is a spiritual progression as they build on one another.

There is “spiritual progression of relentless logic,” observes John Stott. Each step leads to the next and presupposes the one that has gone before.

  • To begin with, we are to be “poor in spirit,” acknowledging our complete and utter spiritual bankruptcy before God.
  • Next we are to “mourn” over the cause of it, our sin, yes, and our sins too––the corruption of our fallen nature, and the reign of sin and death in the world.
  • Thirdly, we are to be “meek,” humble and gentle towards others, allowing our spiritual poverty (admitted and bewailed) to condition our behaviour to them as well as to God.
  • Fourthly we are to “hunger and thirst for righteousness.”

– For what is the use of confessing and lamenting our sin, of acknowledging the truth about ourselves to both God and men, if we leave it there? Confession of sin must lead to hunger for righteousness (The Message of the sermon on the Mount, p. 46).

Can we sincerely describe our relationship with God saying, “Lord, I love You with all my heart?”


So the question before us is how badly do I want to change? How intense is my hunger and thirst for God?




The first beatitudes is Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (NIV)

The poor in spirit will become spiritually prosperous BUT the road to that prosperity is by way of hungering / thirsting for righteousness.


This “hungering and thirsting” signifies a genuine continual craving of the soul. He is not referring to an occasional desire to be right, but “a passionate concern” for that which is right. This is a metaphor for an intense longing desire. You want it so strongly you feel the pangs for it. It is a matter of life and death. Your very existence depends on that one-cup of water, or that one loaf of bread.

This intense craving is the evidence of life. Spiritually dead people have no appetite for spiritual things. The apathetic are anaemic in their spiritual life?


The Greek grammar expresses a “hunger and thirst” for complete things. I want the whole loaf of bread. I want the whole bucket of water.


Jesus told a one-sentence parable … (Matthew 13:45-46). Jesus said, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

His passion for one thing caused him to get rid of all else!


“Righteousness” means to be right with God, and in our personal lives it means being and doing what is right. It is a conformity to God’s Word and Will.


John Stott … “The hungry and thirsty whom God satisfies are those who ‘hunger and thirst for righteousness.’ Such spiritual hunger is characteristic of all God’s people, whose supreme ambition is not material but spiritual. Christians are not like pagans, engrossed in the pursuit of possessions; what they have set themselves to ‘seek first’ is God’s kingdom and righteousness.'”

Some Christians don’t think we should talk about money and possessions in Church – as if a personal / private affair outside God’s concern. 15% of what Jesus taught was about money/ possessions .. more than on Heaven and hell.

Another way … Matthew 22:37 … Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” If we love Him we will obey Him (John 14:15). If we have an obedience problem we have a love problem. This beatitude helps us to love Him with all our heart.

Imputed Righteousness

Jesus is addressing those who already belong to Him. Such individuals have been pronounced right with God based upon what Christ did for us. This is our legal righteousness or justification. God declared us righteous in His presence the very moment we believed on Jesus Christ personally.


This is not a self–righteousness, or righteousness obtained by works of obedience or fulfilling a religious law. What God offers is righteousness by faith in Jesus Christ. “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4). The only obedience that satisfies God the Father is the obedience of Christ. We are declared to be in a right relationship with God based upon the person and atoning work of Jesus Christ. “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation . . . for whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:9-10, 13).


Matthew “is not suggesting that people can make a strong effort and achieve the righteousness of which he is writing: it is a given righteousness, not an achieved righteousness. The blessed do not achieve it but hunger and thirst for it,”


The legal basis of such imputed righteousness is the death of Christ. Jesus died as our substitute (2 Cor. 8:9; Matt. 20:28; Mk. 10:45; Matt. 26:28; Eph. 1:7; 1 Pet. 1:19; Rev. 5:9). Paul makes that clear in II Corinthians 5:21. “He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” This is our position in Christ. Cf. Ps. 32:1-2; Rom. 4:3, 5, 9b, 13, 16, 22, 24; Gal. 3:5ff.

Imparted Righteousness

In these words of Jesus there is the emphasis on the impartation of righteousness or sanctification.

“Though it is impossible for good works to justify anybody, it is just as impossible for a justified person to live without doing good works,” … William Hendriksen.


There must be an intense desire to live a life of righteousness, pleasing God with my daily life.

The Bible knows nothing of those who say they are saved, but care nothing for their daily walk with Christ.

Surely that is not what Jesus has in mind here. … later in Matthew Jesus says, “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).


Just as the body craves food and water these people hunger to be like God.

It is the hunger for moral good. … depending not upon our own power to achieve this righteousness, but upon God. It depends on our cooperating with the Holy Spirit.

It is only those who “hunger and thirst” after God’s righteousness who will be fully satisfied.


How does this hunger and thirst for righteousness become fully satisfied?

By the imputation of Christ’s merits. Thus we obtain a righteousness of inner condition and outward conduct.

[Cf. Romans 8:3-5; II Corinthians 3:18; II Thessalonians 2:13.] These two are inseparable: those for whom Christ died are sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

Thus Paul prayed for the Philippian church, “that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:11).


The Christian life is not static; it is a growing thing (3:12-14).

On a scale from 1 to 10 …

  • how hungry am I for spiritual things?
  • What is my attitude toward personal righteousness?
  • What do I hunger for in life?
  • How is my appetite for the truth of the Bible?
  • How is my appetite for fellowship with other believers?
  • What is my attitude toward worship?
  • What is my attitude toward deep spiritual truths?
  • Do I have a passionate concern for unbelievers?

Jesus Christ is our perfect model of hungering and thirsting for righteousness.




Jesus said those who have this “wholehearted longing” for righteousness will have a full measure. They won’t get just a taste; they will get the whole thing.


Don’t miss the emphasis Jesus is making. This is all of grace. Even in the Christian’s life this righteousness is a gift of God. We do not achieve it in ourselves.


Jesus used the word “satisfied” with a root meaning the placing where the grass grows and animals graze. It describes cattle feeding on a beautiful, luscious, green meadow. The ideas are to satisfy with food, to be fed full, and completely satisfied. “They who hunger and thirst for righteousness shall, under the Messiah’s reign, be fed full, completely satisfied.”


However, it does not mean to be full once and for all, so as to have no more desire. “Hungering and thirsting” are in durative present tenses, i.e., the hungering and thirsting continues and increases in the very act of being satisfied.


So our prayer should be … “Lord Jesus increase my hunger for you. Please increase my capacity to love you”.


Even the apostle Paul did not come to a place of no further growth in his spiritual life. In a context which speaks of being conformed to the image and likeness of Christ he says, “Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained” (Philippians 3:15-16). {NASB}


Paul makes it clear that he had not come to the place in his Christian life where growth in spiritual maturity has been completed, beyond which there is no room for future development.

The word “perfect” [or mature – NIV]  here is not referring to sinless perfection. He is talking about relative, spiritual mature, stages of growth. We are perfect in growth at a certain stage in our lives.

ILLUS.: an 18 month old baby girl maybe said to be perfect for an eighteen month old, but not for an eighteen year old.


It means “full–grown” in contradistinction to undeveloped. In other words, there is plenty of room for us to continue to grow in His image and likeness until He returns for us.

This attitude is the opposite of the righteousness of the Pharisees which was fatal. Theirs was a self–righteousness.


How is my spiritual appetite? “It is not enough to mourn over past sin; we must also hunger for future righteousness” (Stott).

Not only must we have a sense of poverty in righteousness, but Jesus emphasized we must “have a passionate and persistent longing for it” (Plummer).


How serious am I about having a right relationship with God? Do I crave for a mature, intimate love relationship with Jesus Christ? Am I serious about it? How strongly do I crave that kind of relationship with Him?

What am I hungering and thirsting for in life?

Complete this sentence: “I would be happy if _________?” “For to me living is ___________, and to die is ____________.”


In a very real sense we are what we eat – also spiritually.

What is it that I desire above all else?

If it is a passion for righteousness – then it is a passion to be like Christ.

Jesus said “My food I to do the will of him who sent me – God”

Matthew 5:48 48 Be perfect, …, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 9:36-37 36 When he saw the crowds, he was moved with compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. (NIV)

Do we want to be happy, blessed, fulfilled in your life … do you want the kind of righteousness that Jesus talks about here?

How passionate is your desire to receive this righteousness?


ILLUS.: a man lost in a desert. He was dying for a drink of water. He stumbled upon an old, weather-beaten shack. Sat down in the shade of the shack to get away from the heat of the desert sun. About 15 feet away there was a rusty, old water pump. He dragged himself over to it and began to pump up and down, up and down. Nothing! Bone dry!

Disappointed he sank to the ground. As he glanced around he noticed an old jug in a corner with a message written on the old label. “You have to prime the pump with all the water in this jug, my friend. P. S.: Be sure you fill the jug again before you leave.”

He unscrewed the cap and sure enough there was a jug full of water. Now he was faced with a decision. He could drink the water and survive awhile; OR he could pour all the water into the rusty old pump, and maybe it would yield fresh, cool water from the deep well. He could have all the water he wanted.

What should he do? There was no telling how long ago those instructions were written.

Nervously he picked up the jug and walked over to the well and poured all the water into the pump. Then he grabbed the handle of the pump and began to pump as fast as he could. . . squeak, squeak, squeak the old leather valves sounded like they were tearing apart. Then a little bit of water began to dribble out, then a little more water, and finally it gushed forth. Clean, clear, cold, fresh water poured out the rust old pump. He drank and almost drowned himself in the beautiful, clear water.

Then he filled the jug for the next weary traveller. Before setting the jug down he added this note: “Believe me, it really works. You have to give it all away before you can get anything back.”


Jim Elliott – “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot loose!”


John 7:37-38 37Jesus … said …, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, …, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (NIV)


Wil Pounds (c) 1999

J R W Stott – Christian Counter Culture

D A Carson – The Sermon on the Mount

D Martin Lloyd-Jones – Studies in the Sermon on the Mount.

Wm. Hendriksen – Matthew.

Michael Green – Matthew

J M Boice – The Sermon on the Mount


Blessed are those who hunger

and thirst for righteousness.


Matthew 5v6


  1. 1.       The spiritually prosperous have a passion for personal righteousness.
  • Not an occasional desire to be right but a passionate concern for that which is right


Imputed Righteousness

–  a legal righteousness / justification

based upon what Christ has done.

–          given, not achieved .


Imparted Righteousness …

–          becoming like Christ / sanctification based on God’s work in us.

–          given not earned.


2. A righteousness that satisfies.

  • A righteousness of inner condition and outer conduct.
  • ALL of grace


“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” Jim Elliott

Matthew 5:3-4 – Blessed Are the Meek

Blessed Are the Meek

February 9, 1986

Matthew 5:3-4

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

I think the most important question that we can ask of every beatitude is: What does this beatitude have to do with God? So today the question would be, What does meekness have to do with God?

The reason this question should be uppermost in our minds is that if we don’t have an answer to it, we will not be able to fulfill the aim of our Lord in this sermon. He said in verse 16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount so that his Father would get the glory for the way the disciples lived. His aim was to create a lifestyle in his disciples that would make people think about the value of God. And so, if meekness is what some people are like just because they always got beat down as a kid or because their parents never raised their voices or because they have some peculiar metabolism, then how would meekness call attention to the glory of God?

Jesus does not care about the reformation of manners or the transformation of personalities for their own sake. The first petition of the the Lord’s prayer, which stands at the center of this sermon, is, “Hallowed be thy name!” This was the passion of our Lord’s life. Therefore it is the passion of ours. And we must ask, What does meekness have to do with God? How does becoming meek and being meek promote the hallowing of God’s name?

In answering this question we will in fact discover that meekness is a very beautiful thing even though it may be very painful.

Probably the best place to begin is in Psalm 37, because it is almost certain that this beatitude is a quotation or allusion to Psalm 37:11. It says, “The meek shall possess the land, and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.” In the Greek Old Testament the words of Psalm 37:11 are almost identical with Matthew 5:5. It says, “The meek shall inherit the land.” And the word for “land” in Greek and Hebrew also means “earth.”

So lets try to see what meekness means in this Psalm and what it has to do with God.

Notice the parallel between verse 11 and verse 9. Verse 11 says, “The meek shall possess the land.” Verse 9b says, “Those who wait for the Lord shall possess the land.” So I would conclude first that the meek are people who wait for the Lord. But what does it mean to wait for the Lord?

We get a picture of those who wait for the Lord, that is, the meek, if we read verses 5-8.

5) Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.

6) He will bring forth your vindication as the light, and your right as the noonday.

7) Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over him who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!

8) Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.

What are these people like who, according to verse 11 are meek and according to verse 9, wait for the Lord? Well, verse 5 says they commit their way to the Lord and trust in the Lord. Verse 7 says they are quiet or still before the Lord and do not fret over others who prosper. And verse 8 says they refrain from anger and forsake wrath. So let’s try to put all this together into a portrait of the meek.

Meek people begin by trusting God (verse 5b). They believe that he will work for them and vindicate them when others oppose them. Biblical meekness is rooted in the deep confidence that God is for you and not against you.

Next, meek people commit their way to the Lord (verse 5a). The Hebrew word for “commit” means literally to “roll.” Meek people have discovered that God is trustworthy, and so they roll their “way” — their business, their problems, their relationships, their health, their fears, their frustrations — they roll all this onto the Lord. They admit that they are insufficient to cope with the complexities and pressures and obstacles of life, and they trust that God is able and willing to sustain them and guide them and protect them.

Next, according to verse 7a, meek people are quiet or still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. First, they discover that God can be trusted. Then, second, they commit their way to him. And then, third, they wait patiently in stillness for the work of God in their lives.

This doesn’t mean they become lazy. It means that they’re free of frenzy. They have a kind of steady calm that comes from knowing that God is omnipotent, that he has their affairs under his control, and that he is gracious and and will work things out for the best. Meek people have a quiet steadiness about their lives in the midst of upheaval.

And so the fourth thing about them (in verse 7b) is that they don’t fret themselves over the wicked who prosper in their way. Or, as verse 8 says, they refrain from anger. Their family and work and life are in God’s sovereign hands; they trust him; they wait patiently and quietly to see how his power and goodness will work things out; and so the setbacks and obstacles and opponents of life do not produce the kind of bitterness and anger and fretfulness that is so common among men.

So the portrait we have of meekness so far, based on the the closest Biblical parallel (in Psalm 37:11) to the third beatitude, is that it begins by trusting God. Then it commits its way to the Lord in the confidence that he will use his power and mercy to do good for us. Then it waits patiently and quietly for the outcome. And, finally, it does not give way to anger and fretfulness when faced with opposition and set backs.

So it is clear already, in this preliminary sketch from Psalm 37, that meekness has very much to do with God. It consists in a peaceful freedom from fretful anger and is based on trusting God and rolling all our ways onto God and waiting patiently for God. Meekness has very much to do with God.

Now let’s add some detail to our portrait with some other Biblical instances of meekness. Numbers 12:1-4 describes an occasion when Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses severely.

Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for the had married a Cushite woman; and they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard it. Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all men that were on the face of the earth. And suddenly the Lord said to Moses and to Aaron and Miriam, Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.”

What happens in the following verses is that the Lord rebukes Miriam and Aaron and vindicates his servant Moses.

Now what is the point of calling Moses meek right here in this context — right between bitter opposition and God’s vindication? I think the point is that meekness means committing your cause to God and not needing to defend yourself. Just where we would expect the text to tell us what Moses said to justify himself against the charge of Miriam and Aaron, the text says he was the meekest man on the earth. Moses doesn’t say a word. Instead he waits patiently for the Lord. He frets not over these critical words. And God comes to his defense.

So we can add to our portrait of meekness this: not only does it trust God, and commit its way to God, and wait patiently for God, and refrain from anger; it also refrains from revenge and defensiveness. Meekness loves to give place to wrath and leave its vindication with God. Meekness is the power to absorb adversity and criticism without lashing back.

To see another feature of the portrait of meekness let’s turn to the book of James. We will read 1:19-21.

Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

James has in mind two kinds of people here. He pictures on the one hand a person who does not like to listen to what other people have to say, especially if they speak with authority. This person is quick to speak and and quickly becomes angry if the words of others cross his opinion or call his behavior into question. He is not receptive to the word of God. He filters it through his own desires and receives it selectively, if at all.

On the other hand James pictures another kind of person. This person is slow to speak, and quick to listen (vs. 19). This person recognizes the limitations of his knowledge and the fallibility of his thinking, and so is eager to listen and learn anything valuable that he can. If he hears something new or contrary to his own view his first reaction is not fretful anger. He is slow to anger. He listens and considers. And when it comes to the Word of God, he receives it with meekness.

So the new feature of our portrait of meekness is teachability. To receive the word with meekness means that we don’t have a resistant, hostile spirit when we are being taught. It doesn’t mean we are gullible. It doesn’t even mean that we will never get angry about what some people teach. Verse 19 says that we should be “SLOW to anger,” not that we should never experience anger. Jesus said in Matthew 11:29, “I am meek and lowly in heart.” But in Mark 3:5 it says he became angry and grieved at the hardheartedness of the Pharisees; and Matthew 21:12ff he drove the merchants out of the temple and turned over their tables.

Meekness does not OK as is the absence of passion and conviction and even indignation for the glory of God. But it does mean that we don’t have hair-triggers. It does mean that our disposition is one of readiness to listen and learn. It does mean that we are slow to write a person off, slow to condemn, slow to anger.

Let us be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves in discerning what is meekness and what is pride.

This becomes even clearer in James 3:13 and 17. Verse 13 says, “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good life let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” This is a very beautiful phrase, “the meekness of wisdom.” The truly wise people are also the truly meek people. Why?

Look at verse 17: “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason…” Notice that the reason the truly wise person is also the truly meek person is that true wisdom is peaceable, gentle and open to reason.” But these are the marks of meekness! Isn’t it remarkable that the marks of Biblical wisdom and Biblical meekness are the same?

Wisdom in the Bible is never a merely intellectual affair. It is a disposition of the heart as well as ideas in the head. And therefore, in a sense, meekness and wisdom are one thing. They are both peaceable, gentle and open to reason.

You can see how that ties back into James 1:19-21. Back there we saw that meekness meant being quick to listen and slow to criticize and condemn. Here meekness is open to reason. What a beautiful thing it is to sit on a board of Deacons where, when a man speaks, the others listen and then deal reasonably with what was said instead of just blurting out something irrelevant or making a quick judgment without thinking through the reasons for it.

Does not this Scripture teach us that there is a correlation between meekness and reasonableness? And is not reasonableness basically the willingness to listen to another person’s reasons for his opinion and the willingness to give reasons for yours? If I put forward my opinion without giving any reasons for it except that it is my opinion — I would not be acting in meekness, no matter how soft-spoken I might be. On the contrary, I would be acting in an authoritarian way, because I would be appealing to nothing outside myself.

There is, I think, a good deal of confusion at this point about the meaning of meekness. And this is very important for the way we do our business together here at Bethlehem as well as elsewhere. We must beware of confusing certain temperaments with meekness or with the absence of meekness. A conversation between two people may become passionate and heated and still be marked by meekness, if both of these people are speaking reasonably, that is, if they are defending their opinions by appealing not to themselves but to a standard of truth that is over them and of which they are humble servants.

But on the other hand there could be a very soft-spoken, laid-back conversation between two people in which they express their different opinions, but instead of arguing for them with reasons, and submitting themselves together to a higher standard of truth, they give the impression of being very self-effacing by saying that they just want to give their opinion and not argue about it. No one has to accept my opinion and I don’t have to accept anyone elses. Live and let live.

Too often we think this is the spirit of meekness. Two people making no claim on the other person’s opinion, refusing to submit their own opinion to an independent standard of truth, unwilling to make themselves vulnerable to the claims of truth and the possible need to admit error — that is not the spirit of meekness, no matter how soft-spoken or self-effacing it looks on the outside. It is not self-effacing. It is self-protecting and truth effacing. What could be more serviceable to the spirit of pride than the view that neither you nor I have to give an account of our opinions before any standard but our own private selves?

Sixty years ago G. K. Chesterton spoke about the dislocation of humility. He said,

What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert — himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt — the Divine Reason… We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table. (Orthodoxy, 31f.)

We are no longer on the road. We have arrived. The most seminal thinkers of our day would call the multiplication table a way of using language to help us get what we want. That’s all. You know that the secular world in which we live is populated by people who do not make their choices on the basis of an ultimate standard of truth. All truth has become relative.

Robert Bellah, in one of last year’s best sellers, Habits of the Heart, described the basic doctrine of twentieth century American culture like this:

It is an understanding of life generally hostile to older ideas of moral order. Its center is the autonomous individual, presumed able to choose the roles he will play and the commitments he will make, not on the basis of higher truths but according to the criterion of life-effectiveness as the individual judges it.” (p. 47)

That is the world we live in. That is the spirit of this age. It is the very atmosphere we breath. And unless we are extraordinarily alert we will breathe it right into the church as so many have already. And one of the ways it will make its way into the church is if we are so naive as to mistake it for meekness.

So let me say it again: the meekness of wisdom is open to reason — it is quick to listen to the reasons give by others for their opinions, and it is willing to give reasons for its own opinions. It cares about truth and whether others agree. And therefore it may become passionate and forceful. But it is always a servant. It is always submissive to a higher standard of truth. It is always willing to change to bring its opinions into line with truth. Meekness knows its own fallibility. But for that reason it takes debate and argument so seriously. It wants to discern its own errors and forsake them.

But the soft-spoken conversation in which two modern people defer to each other’s opposite opinions, neither feeling the need to submit his opinion to a standard of truth higher than himself, and thus neither exposing himself to the possibility of error and repentance — that is not the spirit of meekness.

Let’s look at one other feature in the portrait of meekness. It is found in Galatians 6:1-2.

Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in spirit of meekness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted.

Not only is meekness slow to speak and slow to anger, but when it decides that it must speak — even words of correction as we have here in Galatians 6:1-2 — it speaks with the deep awareness that it is fallible. More specifically when meekness reaches out to bring back a person overtaken in sin, it first takes the log out of its own eye and then admits that apart form grace — free and undeserved — it would fall to the very sin it is now trying to correct. “Look to yourself lest you too be tempted.” “Let him who thinks that he stand take heed lest he fall.”

Now let’s stand back and see if we can see the portrait whole. Meekness begins when we put our trust in God. Then, because we trust him, we commit our way to him. We roll onto him our anxieties, or frustrations, our plans, our relationships, our jobs, our health. And then we wait patiently for the Lord. We trust his timing and his power and his grace to work things out in the best way for his glory and for our good.

The result of trusting God and rolling of our anxieties onto God and waiting patiently for God is that we don’t give way to quick and fretful anger. But instead, like Moses we give place to wrath and hand our cause over to God and let him vindicate us if he chooses. And then, as James says, in this quiet confidence we are slow to speak and quick to listen. We become reasonable and open to correction. Meekness loves to learn. And it counts the blows of a friend as precious. And when it must say a critical word to a person caught in sin or error, it speaks from the deep conviction of its own fallibility and its own susceptibility to sin and its utter dependence on the grace of God.

Meekness begins with God and ends with God. And therefore whenever we see a person like that we give God the glory and the aim of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount is fulfilled.

Now let’s turn our attention to the second half of the beatitude:

“Blessed are the meek,


What effect does Jesus want this promise to have on the disciples? I think the answer is that he wants the promise to give them strength to continue in their meekness. This is the way the promise works in verse 12: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.” In other words, the promise of great reward gives the disciples strength to endure persecution with joy.

So I think the promise that the meek shall inherit the earth is intended by the Lord to give us the strength to endure in meekness when the natural inclination would be to defend ourselves or retaliate or give way to fretful anger.

There is a passage in 1 Corinthians 3 that has helped me see how the promise of inheriting the earth gives strength to our meekness. In verses 18-23 Paul tries to help us overcome pride. The Corinthians were boasting in different teachers and in their worldly wisdom. So Paul says,

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” So let no one boast of men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future, all are yours; and you are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.

Now notice the logic in verse 21: Let no one boast of men, FOR all things are yours. And one of the things mentioned is the world. Don’t boast, because the world is yours. Does that make sense to you?

Isn’t it this: you don’t need the vain pleasures of one-up-manship because God has already made you an heir of the world. Would I feel the need to brag that my house is bigger than your house if I knew that my Father owned the city and I was the beneficiary in his will?

The quietness and openness and vulnerability of meekness is a very beautiful and a very painful thing. It goes against all that we are by our sinful nature. It requires supernatural help. And that help is available, thank God!

If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, sitting at his feet on the Mount this morning, that is, if you trust him and commit your way to him and wait patiently for him, God has already begun help you and will help you more. And the primary way that he will help you is to assure your heart that you are a fellow heir of Jesus Christ and that the world and everything in it is yours. He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not freely give us all things with him? All things! No good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly. “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”


Matthew 5:3-4 – Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit Who Mourn

Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit Who Mourn

Matthew 5:3-4

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.”

Back in 1978 I spoke in Aspen, Colorado, to a gathering of Inter-Varsity students and people off the street. At the end of my talk one of the students asked a very common question. He said, “Isn’t Christianity a crutch for people who can’t make it on their own?

My answer was very simple. I said, yes. Period.

I can’t remember how the conversation went from there. So let me just pick it up here. My return question would be, Why is the thought that Christianity is a crutch considered to be a valid criticism of Christianity? People don’t usually look at a crutch and say, “That’s bad. It’s just a crutch.” People don’t in general think that crutches are bad things. Why does a crutch become a bad thing when it’s Christianity?

I think the answer that most critics would give is this: if Christianity is a crutch then it’s only good for cripples. But we don’t like to see ourselves as cripples. And so it is offensive to our self-sufficiency to label Christianity as a crutch.

But Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). In other words, the only people who will ever come to get what Jesus has to give are sick people, people who know that they are spiritually and morally and very often physically crippled.

Everybody has a creed. All people believe in something and shape their lives around it. Even agnostics believe very strongly that you ought not believe anything very strongly (which is why it is so hard to be a consistent agnostic). We all have a creed that we live by, whether we can articulate it or not.

What is the creed behind the conviction that if Christianity is a crutch, it is undesirable and unworthy of acceptance? I think the answer is this: the creed behind this criticism of Christianity is the confidence that we are not cripples, and that real joy and fulfillment in life are to be found in the pursuit of self-reliance, self-confidence, self-determination, and self-esteem.

Any Messiah who comes along and proposes to replace self-reliance with childlike God-reliance, and self-confidence with submissive God-confidence, and self-determination with sovereign grace and self-esteem with magnificent mercy for the unworthy — that Messiah is going to be a threat to the religion of self-admiration. That religion has dominated the world ever since Adam and Eve fell in love with the image of their own independent potential when they it saw reflected back to them in the eye of the serpent: “You will not die; you will be like God.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, an American poet and philosopher who died about 100 years ago wrote a famous essay called “Self-Reliance.” It captured the spirit of the age, and the spirit of our age.

Trust thyself, every heart vibrates to that iron string. Discontent is the want of self-reliance. It is infirmity of will.

Ah-ha! Now we see the creed behind the criticism of Christianity as a crutch. The real infirmity of the world, according to Emerson, is lack of self-reliance. And so, to his dismay, along comes Christ, not with a cure for the disease, but a crutch! Christ is a stumbling block and an offense to Emerson and to all the Terry Cole-Whittaker’s of our day — yes, and even to us — because it takes the disease that we hate most, namely, helplessness, and instead of curing it, makes it the doorway to heaven.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

What does this mean? What does it mean to be poor in spirit? To find out let’s look at some great men of God in Scripture.


In dealing with the Lord about Sodom and Gomorrah he said, “Behold, I have taken upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27).


When Jacob returned to the promised land after spending 20 years in exile, he wrestled with God in prayer and said, “I am not worthy of the least of all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness which thou hast shown to thy servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan; and now I have become two companies” (Genesis 32:10).


When God came to him with a mission to lead his people out of Israel, he said, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt? … Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either heretofore or since thou hast spoken to thy servant; but I am slow of speech and of tongue” (Exodus 3;11; 4:10).

The reason God got angry at Moses is not because of his humble assessment of his own abilities, but of his lack of faith in God’s ability. God responded and said to Moses, “Who made man’s mouth? Who makes him dumb, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak” (Exodus 4:11-12).

What is the Biblical solution when a person is paralyzed by a sense of guilt or unworthiness or uselessness? I believe with all my heart that the solution is not self-esteem. God did not say to Moses, “Stop putting yourself down. You are somebody. You are eloquent.” That is not the Biblical way. What God said was, “Stop looking at your own unworthiness and uselessness and look at me. I made the mouth. I will be with you. I will help you. I will teach you what to say. Look to me and live!”

The Biblical answer to the paralysis of low self-esteem is not high self-esteem; it is sovereign grace. You can test whether you agree with this by whether you can gladly repeat the words of Isaiah 41:13, “Fear not, you worm Jacob…I will help you, says the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” In other words, God’s way of freeing and mobilizing people who see themselves as worms is not to tell them that they are beautiful butterflies but rather to say, “I will help you. I am your redeemer… Go to Egypt now, and I will be with you.”

William Carey did not have high self esteem. He castigated himself again and again for his sin. When the fire of 1812 destroyed dozens of his precious manuscripts he didn’t blame the devil. He said, “How unsearchable are the ways of God!” And then he accused himself of too much self-congratulation in his labors, and said, “The Lord has smitten us, he had a right to do so, and we deserve his corrections.”

When he had outlived four of his comrades in mission he wrote back to Andrew Fuller, “I know not why so fruitless a tree is preserved; but the Lord is too wise to err.” When he died in 1834 in Serampore a simple tablet was put on his grave with the words he requested. And when you hear these I want you to ask, What was William Carey’s secret? How could he persevere for 40 years over all obstacles — as a homely man, suffering from recurrent fever, limping for years from an injury in 1817, and yet putting the entire Bible into six languages and parts of it into 29 other languages — what was the secret of this man’s usefulness and productivity for the kingdom? The tablet on his grave reads,


Born August 17the, 1761
Died June 9the, 1834
A wretched, poor, and helpless worm,
On Thy kind arms I fall.

The secret for William Carey was not self esteem. He was poor in spirit to the very end. “A wretched, poor, and helpless worm,” he calls himself, knowing very well his sin and failures.

His secret was in the last line of his epitaph: “On Thy kind arms I fall.” This was his secret in dying and this was his secret in living. He cast himself, poor, helpless, despicable on the kind arms of God. For he knew the promise of Jesus: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for to them belong the merciful and mighty arms of the King of kings.

My prayer is that all of us at Bethlehem will find the secret of productivity and usefulness and happiness NOT in the pleasures of self esteem, but in the power of sovereign grace. “Fear not you worm Jacob… I will help you, says the Lord.”


“The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17). Everyone agrees that this is the spirit that pleases God after you are taken in adultery and murder. But what about the times when you are doing good?

When the collection for the temple was being taken David prayed, “Who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from thee, and of thy own have we given thee” (1 Chronicles 29:14).

In other words, that even when David and his people were performing an act of virtue, David did not yield to the impulses of self-esteem. Instead he was carried away by the impulses of sovereign grace: “Who are we that we should be able thus to offer willingly! To God be the esteem, to God! and not to us, even in our virtue.


“O Lord my God, thou hast made thy servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in” (1 Kings 3:7).


“I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6).


“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5).

So we learn from Job and Isaiah that one source of lowliness is to see God in his power and holiness.

John the Baptist:

“I baptize with water; but among you stands one whom you do not know, even he who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie… He must increase, I must decrease” (John 1:27; 3:30). Could this be why Jesus said, “Among those born of women, none is greater than John” (Luke 7:28). “If anyone would be first he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).

The tax collector:

Jesus told a parable of a Pharisee and a tax collector who went up the the Temple to pray. Concerning the tax collector he said, “But the tax collector, standing far off, he would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you this man went down to his house justified” (Luke 18:13-14). Which is just another way of saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit.

The centurion:

When Jesus was not far off from his house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying to him, “Lord do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed…” When Jesus heard this he marveled at him, and turned and said to the multitude, “I tell you, not ever in Israel have I found such faith” (Luke 7:6-9).

The Canaanite woman:

When Jesus at first refused her request for help, since she was not a Jew, she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” To which Jesus responds, “O woman, great is your faith!”

So we learn from the centurion and the Canaanite woman that poverty of spirit is right at the very heart of what true faith is.


When he saw the power of Jesus on the Lake of Gennesaret, “Simon Peter fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord'” (Luke 5:8).


“I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is , in my flesh…” (Roman 7:18).

“We have this treasure in earthen vessels to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us…” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth…” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).

“I am the foremost of sinners; but I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience for an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

What then is poverty of spirit?

It is a sense of powerlessness in ourselves.

It is a sense of spiritual bankruptcy and helplessness before God.

It is a sense of moral uncleanness before God.

It is a sense of personal unworthiness before God.

It is a sense that if there is to be any life or joy or usefulness, it will have to be all of God and all of grace.

The reason I say it is a SENSE of powerlessness and a SENSE of bankruptcy and a SENSE of uncleanness and a SENSE of unworthiness, is that, objectively speaking, everybody is poor in spirit. Everybody, whether they sense it or not, is powerless without God and bankrupt and helpless and unclean and unworthy before God. But not everybody is “blessed”.

When Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” he does not mean everybody. He means those who feel it. That is why it is so appropriate to take the first and second beatitudes together. “Blessed are those who mourn,” clarifies the subjective side of being poor in spirit.

Blessed are the poor in spirit who mourn. Blessed are the people who feel keenly their inadequacies and their guilt and their failures and their helplessness and their unworthiness and their emptiness — who don’t try to hide these things under a cloak of self-sufficiency, but who are honest about them and grieved and driven to the grace of God.

Blessed are you! because you are going to be comforted. Fear not, you worm, Jacob! Fear not, Moses, Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:6-8), Isaiah, Peter! For I will be with you, I will help you, I will strengthen you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. Yours is the very kingdom of God. Amen.