So we are here, school is out and it’s summer time! Which has everyone super excited because that means that we are now full go into our big summer series where we are studying Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount!” We are calling this series “Foundations” because Jesus really is giving us the foundational teaching needed to live life as His disciple and I’m just going to come out and say it, when it comes to living life as Jesus would have us live, many people say they want it, but few actually live it out. Why is that? Are they bad people? No they aren’t bad people. Are they just set on rebelling against Jesus? No, I don’t think they are rebellious at least not intentionally…the real challenging to following Jesus is that everything He asked of us is just so opposite to our human nature. He seemed to think different about everything, which is why you heard Ken last week mentioning that the kingdom of God is an upside down Kingdom…where Jesus who is the Savior of the Universe explains how God would have us live, and lead, and show things like strength, which in so many ways is just so opposite of what we humans would instinctively do. I could show you example after example of this in scripture.
Matthew 20:25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave- 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” NIV
Is this how the Savior of the Universe, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords should act? He is God in skin sent to this Earth, to vanquish the Roman Empire in the disciple’s eyes…not to lay down His life for us lowly people…that doesn’t seem to be the way we would view a King in our world does it? It isn’t how we view power and strength is it? No it isn’t…yet this is what Jesus taught, and this is what He modeled…and in most of His teaching He really pushes against the ways of this world which is a big reason why so many have a hard time with actually following Jesus’ teaching. It’s one thing to say you love Jesus and are leading, or serving, or jumping into the church stuff to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, but let’s be very clear it’s a whole other thing to actually live those words out. Why? Because it is simply so opposite to what our human nature would want to do. So it’s pushing against my natural instincts as a person. On top of that it’s so opposite of what everyone on the planet is doing so you are literally going against the flow of this world, and let’s face it that isn’t all that easy either! So make no mistake about this, what Jesus asks of us is very challenging, I like saying it this way. Jesus came and made Spirituality very simple and clear to understand, but I never said it was easy to live out, and frankly I don’t think you can live it out in your own strength which I truly believe is the point. We need God’s help. We can only live this out if we are walking in a relationship with Jesus, and we have the power of God in us (the Holy Spirit) guiding us through it. It’s a deep transformation of the heart…it’s real and true life change that is seen and comes out in our behaviors, meaning it isn’t for the faint of heart. Jesus will always push in on our hearts, and things that are deeper than just external behaviors, and today will be no different there.
So last week Ken opened the series last week really giving us an overview of the Sermon on the Mount and then hitting a very profound statement that we see as this sermon is about to get underway. There is so many amazing parts to this teaching that we will get into on everything from love, to giving, to prayer and with so much good stuff to look at, it can be easy to miss this one really profound statement that we see at the beginning of the chapter that really sets the scene of this sermon…
Matthew 5:1 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down 2 and taught his climbing companions. MSG
I love this. I love the idea that the committed climbed with Him and because they climbed they were given the gift of His teaching, and if you think about it, this would also mean that not everybody heard it right? So Jesus again seems to do the opposite. If you were going to be the next great preacher of your era, literally coming to save the world, wouldn’t you go to a very popular place, probably to the center of town where the most people would be, and start to gather a following there and then drop all this amazing knowledge? That would make more sense to us right? Well not Jesus, he saw His ministry drawing huge crowds, and what does he do? Jesus climbed to a quiet place, then He sat down and taught the committed who climbed with Him. So interesting isn’t it? It wasn’t like He was going to put it out on a podcast later. He wasn’t on Facebook live watching the online followers rack up as He spoke. He pulled away from the crowds and taught who came with Him…always opposite, amazing isn’t it to think this is God in skin, who has come to save the world…and He is constantly pushing against culture, working at His rhythm, and showing us a new way, the way to live our lives, without chasing our tails the way we do and it isn’t a popular way because it doesn’t lead to stardom, popularity, or power and strength as the world sees it…what it leads to is a life WITH God, which as we start this great sermon on the mount today you will see is actually true greatness and leads to real life in the eyes of God. But it is exactly opposite of what we people would see as great in every way.
So Jesus climbs this hill, and the committed climb with Him. When Jesus gets to a quiet place He begins to preach this famous sermon, and does He start with a big story about His life to get the crowd warmed up to Him? Does He tell a joke or two and get them laughing to soften them up before He goes for it? Nope, He hit the ground running, jumping into eight statements that all start the same way with the idea that; “You are blessed when __________.” We refer to this section of the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ as “The Beattitudes.”
Matthew 5:3 “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. 4 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. 5 “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are — no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. 6 “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat. 7 “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘carefull,’ you find yourselves cared for. 8 “You’re blessed when you get your inside world — your mind and heart — put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. 9 “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family. 10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. 11 “Not only that — count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. 12 You can be glad when that happens — give a cheer, even! — for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble. MSG
So if I said fill in the blank here, “You are blessed when ________.” How many of you would answer the way Jesus filled in the blank there. I don’t know about you but I’m thinking I’m blessed when I get the nice new car, or the beautiful beach vacation, or when all the bills are paid, or something along those lines. Can’t say I would be thinking that I’m blessed when I’m at the end of my rope or when my faith provokes persecution! Ken warned you last week, that God’s kingdom doesn’t always make sense because it is an upside down Kingdom and today, as we start diving deeper into Jesus’ teaching I think you may be realizing just how challenging Jesus’ teaching can actually be, and it’s starts with these 8 simple, but clear one liners on when we are actually blessed.
As followers of Jesus we are greatly blessed. People may make fun of us and even hurt us but no matter what happens to us we are greatly blessed because Jesus’ love and his life is right inside us; just like the treasure in the old tin can. We have been greatly blessed because of Jesus. We also know that that we will be in his love and care for ever and ever!
How awesome is that? Can you imagine these children being able to grab hold of that principle at such a young age? Maybe Jesus was really on to something here! Well in the time I have left I would actually like to take a closer look at these eight one liners, and really pull somethings from each one.
(verse 3) “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
So I have to tell you, for so many of us in life I think we read this one and think as busy, and stressed out as I am…I must be really blessed because I seem to live on the end of my rope right? Well, there must be something bigger than just being tired and worn out to this whole thing and there is. It’s about understanding your deep need of God, the same verse in the NLT is so clear…
(verse 3) “God blesses those who realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them. NLT
Can I tell you something, I think for most of us, tired, stressed out, and beat down by life isn’t the place we would feel very blessed. But I want you to be honest with me for a moment. When is it that you are most focused on God? When is your prayer life the strongest? When are you most centered on God? I will tell you I think many of us if we are honest would say we are most focused on God, and spending the most time in prayer when we really need God to come through for us. It isn’t when life is singing like a song, when everyone is healthy and all the bills are paid. I don’t know if we want to admit it, but most of the time it’s when things aren’t going well, that we really run to God, and lean out on Him…so maybe Jesus is on to something about this end of the rope thing because if you are like me, it often takes pain for me to learn and recognize my deep need of God…even though the reality of life is we desperately need Him in all things and all ways.
How we doing? Getting a little warm in here? LOL, Ok hang in there just seven more to go! I know that one is a little challenging I’m sure they will lighten up a bit as we go along here…J Jesus continues…
(verse 4) God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. NLT
Ok, so this is another very challenging thing to hear, and as a young man growing up and reading that it never really seemed to make sense to me…let’s turn around and see that same verse in the Message version because I believe it really comes to life here…
(verse 4) “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.” MSG
So when I see it here in the Message version it is still challenging but it is helping me understand that God is the most important thing in my life or He should be, and it’s when I’m at the end of my rope, it’s when I’ve lost what is most dear to me that I can truly center my life and depend on God, keeping Him in the place in my life where He should always be. I told you, this wasn’t going to be easy. We are just two verses into this sermon and already I think the committed who climbed the mountain were wondering why they didn’t just go back home and play video games like the others! Now this next one is so important I think especially in our culture today of having more than enough…
(verse 5) “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are — no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.” MSG
We live in a time where contentment seems almost impossible. Even when we get the next great thing, it never seems to be enough. We are constantly scrolling through social media time lines and what are we seeing? We are seeing every possible highlight reel moment that our friends and family and acquaintances can put out there…the great vacation, the best moment possible, with the best filter on the picture possible and we can want that too! Yet Jesus would say we are blessed when we simply are content with just who we are – no more, no less. Every time I read this one, I think of a beautiful statement that Paul makes to his young leader Timothy that has always resonated in my heart…
1 Timothy 6:6 A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. MSG
While this could be an entire sermon in itself, I really love the statement “it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God.” So awesome. You know, I think we all could find this as the first of Jesus’ Beattidudes that we can really say with certainty yes, we are absolutely blessed to find contentment, so this seems to be getting a little lighter, so on we go!
(verse 6) “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.” MSG
So Jesus continues with saying something in verse 6 here that is one of my biggest prayers for our community and us here at MRC. That we would work up an appetite or a desire for God. It’s actually pretty rare to see people with a deep desire for Him, especially in the world we live in with so many other things to focus on, and to distract us from Him, look at this in the NIV version…
(Verse 6) Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. NIV
So I read that and immediately thought, ok, what does it really mean to hunger and thirst for righteousness and as I was investigating that some, I found this really good quote on the subject…
“To hunger and thirst after righteousness is when nothing in the world can fascinate us so much as being near God.” – Smith Wigglesworth
Can we slow ourselves down enough this morning to think that through? How rare and how challenging is it in the times that we live in to hunger and thirst first for the opportunity to be near God. It’s such a challenge in a world that is ruled by our enemy working to keep your eyes and focus off of God and onto the popular ways of today. You truly are blessed when God is your focus and priority which seems to be a theme here with these “your blessed when’s!”
(verse 7) “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘carefull,’ you find yourselves cared for.” MSG
In most other versions we see the word “mercy” like here in the NIV…
(verse 7) Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. NIV
We see Jesus talk this way from time to time, if you want love, you should love. If you want mercy you should show mercy. This is why we remind you so often that we Christians who have been forgiven of so much, must also forgive. You will see that come up later in Jesus’ teaching in this series where He talks to us about prayer, and He says what I feel to be a very intense statement about the importance of forgiveness…
Matthew 6:14 “In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. 15 If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.” MSG
This is a big time lesson, we are truly blessed when we care or show mercy because we will see it coming back, this is why love and forgiveness are so important because we know that forgiven people forgive.
I just have to tell you I think this next one is the real sticking point for so many of us. I think it was the biggest source of conflict and confrontation that Jesus had with the religious leaders of His time. If you remember Jesus came and loved on those in great need of Him, and was in constant confrontation with the good religious leaders of that time, and I think this becomes one of the first times that He really introduces the key problem between religion and relationship…it’s a deeper, internal issue of the heart.
(verse 8) “You’re blessed when you get your inside world — your mind and heart — put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.” MSG
So this is a big deal, and it becomes the real hot button issue between Jesus and the Pharisees, Sadducees, and teachers of the law. They were great at all the external behaviors of religion, and Jesus said that you can’t argue with what they know…their knowledge was great…the issue wasn’t their head knowledge or their religious activity or traditions they had that stuff down…the issue was their hearts. Over and over and over again Jesus pushes in hard on the religious about what was going on, on the inside. Yes we are blessed when our inside world is right because your heart is pure and right and love is coming in and out of you. How do we see God in the outside world as stated there in the verse 8? Well the Bible tells us in 1 John that as we love and show love in this world, we literally are showing God to this world, so this makes total sense, and is one loaded sentence. I believe it’s the sentence that leads to so much of the confrontation of Jesus’ time between Jesus and those stuck in religion, and it’s in that sentence that He is really encapsulating real religion as God wants it verse the spirit of religion which so many slide into. Jesus isn’t interested in your external behaviors, He is all about the condition of your heart, because your inside world is where we find transformation and life change…that is what makes it real…or not. This again could be an entire sermon but we need to keep moving.
(verse 9) “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.” MSG
So time and time again these little one liners are completely opposite of the ways of our culture aren’t they? You would be blessed if you weren’t competing and battling with people all the time wouldn’t you, but that is easier said than done. Again we go to social media and see the new house, or the great vacation, or the job promotion our friend gets and are we happy or are we competing with them? LOL it’s hard to not compete…again Jesus is pushing against our human nature, and the ways of this world and as if it wasn’t hard enough Jesus ends with this…
(verse 10) “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. 11 “Not only that — count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. 12 You can be glad when that happens —give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.” MSG
Hmm…so not only am I blessed when all this other stuff happens but now Jesus is saying your blessed when your commitment to God causes you to be persecuted…not only that but when people talk poorly about me that I should count myself blessed in that…I should be glad and even cheer over these things? Come on! Well what is in the deeper theme that we see once again. In the pain, in the hurts, in the adversity who does it drive you closer too? Typically it drives us deeper into God’s kingdom.
So in the end when I look at these eight one liners that take me to this idea of being blessed. I wonder how would you fill in the blank?
“You are blessed when _________.”
Because if we are really honest, I don’t think we would have listed out these 8 things that Jesus listed in the idea of being blessed. For me, I would probably answer that much, much differently than Jesus did…and really I believe that is the point. Jesus teaches us to live opposite of our human nature, and opposite of the pulls of this world and the culture of today which is a challenge but think about how peaceful a life lived this way could be!
Think of the peace in your heart if you could actually walk through life with Jesus as the number one priority of your life. Think of how centered your life would be if you weren’t competing, if you weren’t looking over your shoulder at everyone else, and if you could simply be content just as you are, no more acting, no more lies. What would life look like if every tough thing that hit you was actually pushing you deeper into the arms of Christ?
I think if any of what I just said was an actual part of my life, if those 8 “Your Blessed When Statements” literally became part of my life, things would be very different for me. I actually would be blessed in all those situations and I’m not sure we would have thought that way coming in. Interesting isn’t it. We are truly blessed when our lives are centered and focused on Him.