“Dead in our trespasses and sins;” that is God’s description of the natural condition of man’s heart, our heart. Mankind’s chief problem is not ignorance, it is not faulty upbringing, it is not bad philosophy, nor is it flawed morality. All of these are problems, for sure, and there are more; but the chief problem for the natural man is the deadness in our hearts.
This deadness is the result of sin. It is the result of our rebellion against our Creator God. It is the natural condition of our heart because our first parents (Adam and Eve) sinned against God and the consequence of their rebellion was death, spiritual death. This death, this inherited deadness has spread out to all of mankind and it is the root cause of all the problems that we face in the world.
This deadness was on display over the past week as the new reports rolled in from Las Vegas of a man in his 60’s opening fire on a crowd of music fans. His attack killed 59 and injured more than 500. His actions were evil and they originated from his corrupt and sinful heart; a heart that God says is “dead in trespasses and sins.”
Throughout the Bible, we can read God’s description of the condition of man’s heart.
· Gen 6:5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
· Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
· Matt 15:19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person.
The Las Vegas massacre that took place last week was a terrible tragedy and an act of pure evil; and God wants us to understand that the sinful heart of man was at the root of it. The man responsible for the crime will be held responsible for his actions by the Judge of all the Earth and at this point he is beyond redemption. He will answer to God for the sin that flowed out of his wicked heart.
But I want us to understand something about ourselves from this. By God’s grace we will not all commit such monstrous crimes, but our hearts are far more sinful than we care to admit. The engine that drives the kingdom of this world is the sinful heart of man. It is capable of doing amazing things but it is also capable of doing unthinkable evil.
But there is another Kingdom at work among us and it requires that the heart of man be changed. This Kingdom requires a heart that recognizes its deadness and emptiness. It requires a heart that grieves over sin, that is humbled by its own corruption and that longs to be made new.
This is the heart that Jesus is announcing to the world in the Sermon on the Mount and this new heart is what He has come to give us.
Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Looking back over the past few weeks, we have seen that the first four Blessings are not only aimed at the heart but they follow a progressive logic. Each step leads to the next but the whole process begins with recognizing that we are poor in spirit, our hearts are bankrupt before God. Next, we are moved to the point of mourning over our sin. We grieve the fact that our hearts are so corrupt.
Thirdly, our recognition and grief over sin makes us humble. We are made to see that we are no better than any other man, in fact, we may be worse and this produces meekness. Finally, now that we have seen ourselves truly as with the eyes of God we now know that our deepest need is righteousness. I can’t produce it on my own but I hunger for it and thirst after it so that I can be right with God and free from the sin in my heart.
The first three beatitudes/blessings are concerned with our need and our own awareness of that need. The fourth deals with how God satisfies our need. He fills us with the righteousness of Jesus and satisfies the deep need of our soul. But as we move forward starting with verse 6 we are going to see the result of that satisfaction. God has changed our hearts and filled us with the righteous love of Christ and now our lives will put the fruit of our salvation on display.
This begins with a display of mercy.
I. Happy are the Merciful
7 “Happy are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
To be merciful is to show compassion to those who are in need. It is to be sympathetic to others. A lot of times when we think of mercy we think of it alongside its companion, grace. And when we think of mercy and grace we tend to think of God the Father. He is a merciful God and a full of grace toward His people. But what do these terms actually mean?
“‘Grace is especially associated with men in their sins; mercy is especially associated with men in their misery.’ In other words, while grace looks down upon sin as a whole, mercy looks especially upon the miserable consequences of sin. So that mercy really means a sense of pity and a desire to relieve suffering.’”
What Jesus is calling for here is not simply to feel merciful toward someone but to act with mercy toward someone who is suffering. It is to take the time to help those in need even though it will cost you.
Jesus illustrates mercy for us in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. He tells the story of a man who was travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho when he is attacked, robbed and left for dead on the side of the road. And the question is who will show him compassion by helping him.
A priest is the first on the scene but he avoids the helpless man and keeps walking. Next, a Levite comes by and once again he avoids the man and keeps walking. But then another man comes and he goes out of his way to show mercy.
Luke 10:33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion…
1. 34 He went to him – this alone was more than the other two men.
2. He bound up his wounds – And likely tore his own clothes in order to make the bandages.
3. He poured oil and wine on the man’s wounds – The wine would act as a mild disinfectant while the oil would work to soothe.
4. Then he set him on his own animal – which meant that he would have to walk the rest of the way.
5. He brought him to an inn and took care of him – He didn’t just bring him there and drop him off, he stayed through the night to tend to the needs of this stranger that he met on the road.
6. 35 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.’
This is mercy. This is what it means to be merciful. It means that we care for the needs of others and are willing to do something about those needs even though it will cost us.
Now it’s one thing to show mercy to someone you know and care about, but Jesus is telling this story to a group of Jewish men who would have seen Samaritans as their natural enemies. You mean to tell me that Jesus’ kingdom is one where we show mercy to our enemies? Yes. The way of this world is not to show mercy but to be merciless. It is to take what you can and give nothing back.
Jesus knows this better than we do so He’s not just trying to encourage us to alter our behavior, don’t forget that this teaching is aimed at our hearts. He wants us to be merciful toward others because we ourselves were in need and He showed us mercy at the cost of His life.
Jesus was full of love and compassion when he came to us and found us lying on the side of the road. He bound up our wounds by tearing up his own rich garments. He anointed us with wine that cleanses and with oil that soothes. He placed us upon his back and he bore the burden of our sin. He paid our ransom price on the cross when He died in our place. He has also promised that even though He has gone away He will return and settle our account once and for all.
Because we have been forgiven, our Savior calls us to forgive. Because we have been shown mercy, He leads us to be merciful. So, here’s the question that we need to ask before we move on, “Are you merciful?” Have you been moved to show compassion to those around you in need? When people come to you for help do you help them? Has your need of mercy and Christ’s supply of mercy to your heart, resulted in you being merciful? This is the way of Christ’s kingdom.
Happy are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
II. Happy are the Pure-Hearted
V. 8 “Happy are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
What does Jesus mean by “pure in heart?” Some have used this verse to suggest that sinless perfection is what God requires for salvation. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day would have believed something like this. They would say that you must achieve total ritual and moral purity in order to see God. But this interpretation doesn’t fit with the rest of the NT teaching, such as that found in 1 John 1:8. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
The NT also teaches that by the works of the flesh no man can change the condition of his heart. Heart work is God’s work. A leopard can’t change his spots, nor can man change his own heart. The Christian is one who has come to understand that if I am to have a pure heart then God must do this and He does this by the Holy Spirit.
I want to let A.W. Pink help us to understand how the Spirit does this.
The heart of the Christian is made pure by a fourfold operation of the Holy Spirit. First, by imparting a holy nature at the new birth. Second, by bestowing a saving faith which unites its possessor to a holy Christ. Third, by sprinkling him with the precious blood of Christ, which purges his conscience. Fourth, by a progressive and life-long process of sanctification so that we, through His aid, mortify the flesh and live unto God. The result it that the believer has a sincere desire not to sin against God in thought or word or deed, but to please Him in all things.
By faith in Christ, our hearts are washed clean from the guilt and power of sin. Before God, our hearts have been, “sprinkled clean from an evil conscience (Heb 10:22).” When we believed in Christ and turned from our sin the Holy Spirit was at work in us cleansing and purifying our heart by faith…that is the theological side of this phrase.
But there is also a practical side to this and it is that we are to live now not simply putting on an external show of religion, but to serve Christ with a purity of heart, with a sincere and undivided desire to honor and serve God.
1 Tim 1:5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
I don’t want to love others simply as an outward show, I want to love them with a pure heart. This means that we aren’t living and acting so that men will praise us but we are serving with joy in order to honor God. We want our service to be pure worship to God.
2 Tim 2:22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
I don’t want my turning from sin and obedience to simply be an outward performance, I want to turn from my sin and obey Christ because He has changed my heart and set me free from my slavery to sin. I want to glorify God in my life.
And listen, I know I will fail. I know that even when I succeed and do the right thing there are often impure motives inside. If we are honest we can all confess that our motives are less than pure much of the time. Out of all these beatitudes this one seems to be the most impossible of them all. It seems to me that the longer I walk with Christ and the more I learn from His word, the more convinced I am that my sin is deeper than I ever imagined. But as I go on in life I am striving to live out what Christ has put in me, a pure heart.
I trust that when I recognize the impurity of my heart (my sin) and confess that to God, that He will be “faithful to forgive my sin and to cleanse my heart from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).” My hope is that “God, who began this good work in me, will bring it to completion at the day of Christ (Phil 1:6).” I will strive with all His might to live and serve with a pure heart trusting that by His grace I will see God.
What about you? Are you serving the Lord out of an undivided desire to honor the One who loved you and gave His life for you? Are you serving for your glory or for His?
Happy are the Pure in Heart, for they shall see God.
III. Happy are those who make peace
9 “Happy are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
This statement would have been hard to swallow for the Jews of Jesus’ day. They weren’t looking for a peaceful Messiah, but one ready to lead an army. Sure they would have accepted peace once the battle was won and once their freedom from Rome had been secured. But on the front-end, they wanted a deliverer, a military conqueror like David who would defeat their enemies and secure their borders once more.
But, Jesus came to make peace and that peace came at a cost. In Ephesians 2, the Apostle Paul explains how we should view the work of the gospel from Heaven’s perspective. He says that we were once alienated from God but now in Christ, we have been brought near by virtue of His redeeming blood. Based on what Christ has done on the cross, we who were separated from God and from one another have been brought together into a state of divine peace. Jesus is the global peacemaker.
Colossians 1:19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
In other words, the only begotten Son of God paid the ultimate price of His life in order to usher us into a relationship of peace with God and with one another. We are the recipients and beneficiaries of divine peace and Jesus was the peacemaker who made it all possible. No wonder we are called to be peacemakers.
Did you know that as a Christian you are called to be a peacemaker? The desire to make peace flows out of a heart that wants to serve the Lord purely and show mercy to others, but the calling to be a peacemaker is actually connected to the purpose of Christ in the gospel.
The NT teaches that we are to pursue peace, to be at peace, to seek for peace, to pray for peace, and even to strive for peace with everyone, so long as it depends on us. In Colossians, we are told to allow the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts. Christ gives to His disciples His peace, which is unlike anything the world has seen and we are to trust our troubled lives to God and rest in the peace that He gives which passes all understanding. Peace is not just something we do it is the state of our Christian lives.
But what does it mean to be a peacemaker? Peace is a state of harmony between two parties and a peacemaker is someone who works to establish peace between two people who have been separated by some disagreement. A Peacemaker is one who labors to bring reconciliation.
Ken Sande has written an excellent book titled The Peacemaker and in the preface, he explains the role of a peacemaker in this way.
Peacemakers are people who breathe grace. They draw continually on the goodness and power of Jesus, and then they bring His love, mercy, forgiveness, strength, and wisdom to the conflicts of daily life. God uses them to dissipate anger, improve understanding, promote justice and encourage repentance and reconciliation.
I really like Sande’s book and recommend it to you; but let’s make sure that we are clear on what forms the basis of this peace, it is the truth of God’s Word. To be one who seeks to extend the peace of God means that this is not peace at all costs. This is not cheap peace but true and lasting peace that seeks to glorify God by honoring Christ and the Word. This means that we will not always be able to make peace, but we can always seek it.
We will not always be able to reconcile people to one another but we must try and sometimes it will cost us dearly, but true and lasting peace is a costly treasure. Peace means faith and repentance. Peace means confession and forgiveness. Peacemaking is not a simple labor but it comes with great reward.
Happy are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.
“The Christian faith is not something on the surface of a man’s life, it is not merely a kind of coating or veneer. It is something that has been happening in the very center of his personality. That is why the New Testament talks about being born again (MLJ).” Becoming a Christian is primarily a work of God in our hearts and this change of heart results in a changed life. All of our Christian activities are the result of our new nature.
If you read these blessings and see them as a to-do-list that you must follow in order to earn God’s love then you have misunderstood the gospel. The Christian gospel, the good news, of Jesus Christ is not about what you and I do for God in order to earn salvation; it’s about what Christ has done on the cross to save us though we were dead in our trespasses and sins. The message of Christianity is not do, but done.
Our hope is in Him and His work. Our confidence before God is that Jesus has paid the price for our sins. Our song in this life is that, “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe; sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.” And now, in our gratitude for what He’s done and with a desire to bring our Savior glory, we display to the world what He has done in our hearts.
 Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Pg. 99)
 Pink, Arthur W.. An Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount (Arthur Pink Collection Book 22) (Kindle Locations 600-604). Prisbrary Publishing. Kindle Edition.
 Ken Sande, The Peacemaker (Pg. 11).