Around the turn of the century there was a group of applicants waiting to be interviewed for a job as a wireless operator. With the exception of one person the entire group was busy talking among themselves. The one person who was not talking was listening intently to the sound of dots and dashes coming over the loudspeaker.
Without warning this person jumped out of the chair and almost raced into the hiring manager’s office. The rest of the group stopped their talking long enough to chuckle at the sight, thinking the person would certainly be disqualified for bursting into the manager’s office unannounced.
Moments later this same person came out of the office with a huge smile and the exclamation, “I got the job!” Bewildered, the entire group began to protest and said, “How did you do that?”
The person responded, “If you hadn’t all been talking you would have heard the hiring manager’s coded message over the loudspeaker. It said, ‘The person I need for this job must always be on the alert. The first one who hears this message and comes into my office will get the job as the wireless operator.’ ”
Last week we began our study of Jesus’ great Sermon on the Mount. We learned that in order to enter the Kingdom of God – i.e. be born again – we must come to a place where we see our spiritual poverty; we come to see that we are sinners needing God’s mercy and grace.
As I thought about this text, I realized it is possible to hear the greatest sermon ever taught and go away unchanged by it. I’m sure it happened the very day Jesus spoke the words we’ll study today.
But I pray that as we look at what Jesus said concerning the Christian life that no one will leave this place unchanged today.
Is there anything we can do as individuals to make sure we hear all that God is speaking to us? I believe there is and I want to point out 3 things as we begin our study this morning.
The first thing we can do is to develop an attentive heart. That is the point of the wireless operator illustration. James said:
“Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (1:19-22).
“Quick to hear” refers to an “alert ear.” James is not talking about physically hearing words, because it is possible to hear and yet not hear. We do this all the time with our spouses. J (Is it just me or do our wives ignore us when a football game is on TV?)
When James says we must be quick to hear he means we must be alert at all times to listen to what God has to say. Jesus constantly talked about “having ears to hear.” What He meant by that was people need to have hearts that are attentive to God; that are sensitive, that are listening. We must have a sensitive spirit if we are going to live for God because He is constantly communicating with us.
James mentions 2 other things in the passage I just cited that can keep us from hearing God’s Word. He says we must be “slow to speak.” What does this mean? It means exactly what it says. Someone once said, “We have 2 ears and 1 mouth. That should tell us something about the ratio of talking to listening that God desires.”
The other thing James points out in that passage is that we are to be slow to anger. This means we must work to cultivate a calm spirit. It’s a fact that when we are upset our capacity to hear diminishes greatly.
So, the 1st thing we can do as individuals to make sure we hear God when He speaks is that we cultivate an attentive heart. The 2nd thing we can do is maintain a “teachable spirit.”
After telling us to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, James says “in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.” How do we receive God’s Word? We receive God’s Word humbly – in humility.
This speaks directly to the 3rd thing we can do – develop an obedient walk. The reason God gives us His Word is to make us wise so that we will listen and obey. The result of listening and obeying is the salvation of our souls.
There seems to be a huge disconnect today within the church though. There are many people who know facts about God but do not know God. They think knowing facts about God is the same thing as knowing God in a saving relationship. That is a lie of the devil.
A.W. Tozer, the late pastor and author once wrote:
“There is an evil which, in its effect on the Christian religion, may be more destructive than communism, romanism (Roman Catholicism), and liberalism combined. It is the glaring disparity between theology and practice among professing Christians. So wide is this gulf between theory and practice in the church that an inquiring stranger who chances upon both, would scarcely dream that there was any relation between the two of them. An intelligent observer of our human scene who heard a Sunday morning message and later watched the Sunday afternoon conduct of those who heard it would conclude that he had been examining two distinct and contrary religions. It appears to me that too many Christians want to enjoy the thrill of feeling right but are not willing to endure the inconvenience of being right. And so, the divorce between theory and practice becomes permanent in fact. Truth sits forsaken and grieves till her professed followers come home for a brief visit. But she sees them depart again when the bills come due.”
Tozer was not one to mince words. The interesting thing about his comments here is that he wrote them as a critique of what he saw 50 years ago!!
Folks, there should be no disparity between what we profess and what we possess! There should be no difference between what we say we believe and our actions!
Jesus has not called us to be people who know His words only. He has called us to be people who obey His words always.
Steven Curtis Chapman wrote a song a few years ago that illustrates this point perfectly. The name of the song is called “The Change.” Here’s what it says in part:
“Well I got myself a t-shirt that says what I believe;
I got letters on my bracelet to serve as my ID;
I got the necklace and the keychain, and almost everything a good Christian needs.
I got the little Bible magnets on my refrigerator door;
And a welcome mat to bless you before walk across my floor.
I got a Jesus bumper sticker, and the outline of a fish stuck on my car;
And even though this stuff is all well and good, I cannot help but ask myself;
What about the change? What about the difference? What about the grace? What about forgiveness? What about a life that’s showing I’m undergoing the change?”
We are to be people who live the Word, who obey the Word, who speak the Word, and who share the Word all because we know it is the way to salvation in Christ.
Let’s see what God will tell us today from His Word.
We learned last week that the path to happiness, to being blessed, to experiencing joy in this life begins with understanding and accepting that without God we are spiritually bankrupt.
Thus we could read verse 3 this way: “Happy is the person who finally recognizes that he or she can’t make it; can’t handle life all by him/her self. So he/she comes to God and says, “God I need you in my life. I can’t do this alone.”
What you’ll see from this basis is a progression of sorts in the remaining Beatitudes.
This verse reminds me of Charlie Brown’s favorite expression – “Good grief!”
How can grief be good? It’s good when it is the result of seeing your spiritual poverty in verse 3. Jesus is saying, “When you finally accept your spiritual poverty and that your only hope is to have God in your life, then your sins will break your heart and you will mourn.”
Let me ask you a question. How long has it been since you agonized over your sinfulness? How long has it been since you took a serious inventory of your life?
What happens during the process of mourning over our shortcomings? Confession and repentance washes over us and draws us closer to God.
That’s one of many points that are made in the parable of the prodigal son. Now, the world tends to laugh at such talk. Sin? What is that? It is fashionable today to believe that sin is an outdated way of thinking. People increasingly believe that there are only good choices and bad choices. Good choices produce what we want and bad choices don’t.
Many people today live as if life is one big party. They believe the live in a morally neutral universe where there are no consequences to their actions because there is no such thing as an absolute standard of right and wrong.
Those people are much like the man at the Los Angeles International Airport who was worried about missing his plane. He did not wear a watch and he could not locate a clock so he walked up to a total stranger and asked what time it was.
The stranger said of course and set down 2 large suitcases to look at his wristwatch. After glancing at his watch the stranger said, “It is exactly 5:09. The temperature outside is 73 degrees and it is supposed to rain tonight. The barometer reading is 29.14 and falling. And, let’s see, in Singapore the sun is shining and it is 85 degrees. In London it is sunny and 65. And by the way, the moon should be full tonight here in Los Angeles.” At that the stranger stooped down to pick up his large suitcases and started of again.
But the first man stopped him and asked, “Your watch tells you all that?” To which the 2nd man said, “Oh, yes, that and more. You see I invented this watch as a gift for my son. I can guarantee you there is not another watch in the world like this one.”
The first man then said, “I want to buy that watch. How much? I’ll give you $1000 cash right now.” “No it’s not for sale, it’s for my son.” “Ok, I’ll give you $2000 cash.” “No, I’m sorry it’s not for sale.” “Ok, $5000 cash.” The stranger said, well for $5000 I could make another one I guess. Ok, it’s your’s for $5000.”
The first man was elated. He strapped the watch on his wrist and with a big smile on his face started to walk off. That’s when the stranger pointed to the 2 large suitcases and said, “Don’t forget the batteries.”
Folks, sin is devastating. It will take you farther than you want to go; it will keep you longer than you want to stay; and it will cost you more than you want to pay.
But praise God, when we realize this and turn to God He will comfort us. Comfort is from the Greek word “parakaleo” that means “Comforter or Helper.” Clearly this is a reference to the Holy Spirit that indwells, fills, and baptizes us.
As our mourning, our broken-heartedness over our sin rises to the throne of God, His unsurpassed and matchless comfort descends upon us. God stands ready to meet our every need; to encourage us; to admonish us; to strengthen us. We shall be comforted. This is a promise from God.
And this is just the beginning – Verse 5
The picture Jesus gives us of the path to God’s joy is upside down by the world’s standard. Most people today think meek means weak. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. In the original language of the NT, this word for meek was the same word used for “bridling a horse” and “training a wild animal.”
So as it is used here meek is a picture of “power under control.” That’s a far cry from weak or timid isn’t it?
Jesus is saying in this verse that the person who’s life has been brought under the influence and power of the Holy Spirit, the person who turns control of his/her life over to God will inherit the earth.
In one sense this refers to the promise that Jesus made to all believers that they would rule with Him. But in a second context I believe it refers to that fact that we will experience an order, a peace in our lives in the here and now. The world won’t rule us. The time constraints of the world will not bog us down. The pressures we all face in this life will not separate us from God.
The “flow” of God’s Word is intentional. There is design and purpose even in the construction and sequence of what is said. The first three Beatitudes demonstrate this truth. They correspond to the steps we take in becoming a Christian.
When we recognize how spiritually broke we are it breaks our hearts and we allow God to have control over our lives. This is a description of being born-again.
The Bible refers to new Christians as babies. We are spiritual infants so to speak. The apostle Peter tells us this in his first epistle:
“Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God . . .like newborn babes long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,” (1 Peter 1:22-23, 2:2).
That is why we read – Verse 6
Babies need fed often. Midnight, 3AM, it doesn’t matter. When babies are hungry they will let you know about it. The same is true for Christians. When we are born-again there should be a hunger and thirst for God.
This is precisely where some Christians get stuck though. They recognize their sin, seek forgiveness, and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. But there is never a hunger and thirst for God.
They are perfectly content to slurp milk out of a sippy cup their whole lives. Is there anything that is more ridiculous looking than a person who has been saved for many years and still does not understand even the most elementary things of God?
One of the best things you can do for your relationship with God is to develop a serious study of the Bible. When you commit yourself to feeding on God’s Word you will be amazed at where He will take you.
Psalm 42 is a good description of where you want to be as a Christian:
“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (42:1-2).
Now, notice a shift in focus starting in Verse 7.
The first 4 Beatitudes deal with internal things leading to salvation. Recognizing our spiritual poverty; mourning leading to repentance; humbleness leading to giving God control; growing in faith by feeding on God’s Word.
So after outlining the necessity of the new birth Jesus begins to explain what being a Christian looks like. In approaching it this way Jesus is saying that the internal changes He spoke of will result in specific external characteristics.
The first one He mentions is mercy or forgiveness. This is a message that permeates the entire NT. It is a message that we need to hear again and again and again. Our culture is becoming increasingly unforgiving. Instead of forgiving, the first thing on too many people’s minds is getting even.
I want to point out the importance of forgiveness from Jesus’ perspective by giving you a preview of what we’ll look at in a couple of weeks. In chapter 6:14-15 we read:
“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”
Now, this is where we stopped last week; or more accurately God put the brakes on me last week. I hadn’t planned on it but I sensed that there was more that needed to be said on this subject.
Forgiveness, extending mercy is one of those areas where Christians can struggle sometimes. In spite of the clear teaching of the Bible on this subject Christians do find it difficult to extend mercy.
Sometimes people will do something to hurt you and when they find out how gracious you are, they will do it all over again.
A couple was just finishing their shopping at the mall when they discover their brand new car has been stolen. They file a report with the police and a detective drives them back to the parking lot to look for evidence. To their amazement, the car has been returned, and there’s a note on it that says, “I apologize for taking your car. My wife was having a baby and I had to hot-wire your ignition and rush her to the hospital. Please forgive the inconvenience. Here are two tickets to tonight’s Rolling Stones concert.” Their faith in humanity restored, the couple attends the concert. But when they return home, they find their house has been ransacked. On the bathroom mirror is another note: “I have to put my kid through college somehow, don’t I?”
There are 2 words that the Bible uses for the English word “forgive.”
1) aphiemi – to send away; to bid going away or depart; to let go, give up a debt, forgive. This is the word used in 1 John 1:9;
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
This verse tells us that God “sends away” our sins. He casts them away from us; and He remembers them no more.
Another verse that uses the same idea of casting sins away or forgiving without remembering is 1 Corinthians 13:4-5.
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,”
There is one sure fire way to know whether or not someone has truly forgiven you of something. That is to notice if when a disagreement arises the other person brings out the “laundry list” of your past mistakes. If you hear something like “you always do that” then someone is keeping an account and true forgiveness is not happening.
There’s another saying that is prevalent today as well that gives us some insight. Have you ever heard someone say “I’ll forgive but I’ll never forget?” The thing I’ve noticed about most of the people who say that is they are normally angry when they do. It seems obvious to me that they haven’t really forgiven.
Sometimes forgiveness is a process. If we have been deeply hurt, it takes time for the wound to heal. In this case forgiveness acts as a continual cleansing of the wound so that it can heal properly.
As we think about a person who has hurt us or sinned against us, feelings of resentment and emotional pain well up. Then we must reaffirm our commitment to forgive them. It is not that the first act of forgiveness was invalid, but that an ongoing process may be necessary until we are completely healed.
Ok, a second word used in the NT for forgive is:
2) charizomai – to be kind, benevolent; to grant forgiveness, to pardon; to give graciously, give freely, bestow; to forgive; graciously to restore one to another; to preserve a person in peril.
What is interesting about this 2nd word for forgive is that it is from the same root word for “grace” – charis. So the idea in this 2nd case is to give something that is not deserved; to forgive the undeserving. That is radical folks!
Now if you’re like me one of the questions in your mind at this point is why would I do that and the other question might be how do I do that?
Let me answer the why question first by again citing the words of Jesus is Matthew 6:14-15.
The principle is this – if you refuse to forgive you are intentionally placing a barrier between you and God. If we do not treat others with the same attitude of forgiveness that God has shown toward us, the consequences are horrible – our own sins are left hanging over us, resulting in alienation from God.
Now for the “how” do I forgive answer. It starts with “letting go” of your hurts. I know that this has become an even bigger challenge today that it was in years past because we have so many self-appointed experts in human relationships and behavior telling us to vent and hold onto our anger. There are therapies that counsel people to use their anger as a motivation to succeed or worse, to get even.
Brothers and sisters, none of this is biblical. We hold onto things sometimes for the sole purpose of justifying the way we choose to think about a person. We need to let things go.
Another step in forgiving people is confrontation. As difficult as this is sometimes it’s the only way to move beyond the hurt to being able to let go of things. One thing that I’ve discovered over the years is that there are times when I do go to a brother I find out that there has been a misunderstanding. I find out that my perspective of things was not entirely accurate.
Clearly forgiveness is not an option that we decide to exercise IF we feel like it. When we’re able to forgive and receive forgiveness then we can experience and demonstrate.
“Pure” in this context means “real or undiluted.” We could translate this verse: “Blessed is the man or woman who is genuine in heart, who is authentic, who is not a phony. Such a person will see God.”
Jesus is telling us to be real. He’s not saying “get real” like we do to each other J We can be real because of the Holy Spirit living within us. We are “real,” Jesus is calling us to act like it! Real people see God.
This begs the question of “what is real” doesn’t it? What is authentic Christianity? Some people believe that “real” means “letting your hair hang down.” You know the type – whatever they feel like saying or doing that’s what they do because they’re just being real.
Is that what it means though? I don’t think it does. Being real for the Christian means being as close to Jesus in word and deed that you possible can. It means that you are being nurtured everyday in your relationship with God to manifest the characteristics of Jesus.
You see, being pure in heart is what Jesus was and nothing characterizes the Christian better than mirroring Jesus.
When you begin to grasp these 2 qualities – being a gracious and forgiving person and living in such a way that you mirror the character of Jesus you radiate peace.
What is a peacemaker? Is it someone who smoothes out arguments? Is it someone who separates 2 people who are fighting? It could be but more accurately what Jesus is talking about here is much more than that.
A peacemaker is someone who changes the whole climate of what is going on in a situation. Let me illustrate it this way. There are basically 2 kinds of people. Thermostat and thermometer people.
A thermometer reflects the climate around it. If the room is cold the thermometer is cold. If the room is hot the thermometer is hot.
A thermostat on the other hand can change the climate of a room from a cold one to a warm one. A peacemaker is a thermostat person. A peacemaker can change the climate of a room when he or she walks in. Have you ever seen that happen?
Notice that peacemaking is one sure way to be identified with God. Godliness is demonstrated by those who change the climate and the culture in which they live.
Jesus declared that being peacemakers shows that we are genuinely children of God. We are Children of God because we now have within us the same forgiving heart that Jesus revealed when He cried out from the cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
Well, if the multitudes on the mountainside that day thought they understood the direction Jesus’ teaching was taking they were certainly throw a curveball by what we read next.
Why does Jesus save this for last? Perhaps because it’s one of the hardest truths to accept. We all want to be liked and accepted. It’s hard to take when people reject us.
The world doesn’t know how to respond to people who seek God in the way Jesus has been describing this morning. The reality of life is this – the closer you get to God, the more willing you are to live for Him instead of the world, the more you increase the odds that the world will mistreat you.
Jesus is warning us that living for Him will make the world very uncomfortable with us.
I’m going to date myself yet again with this but I remember watching the Tonight Show back when Johnny Carson was still living and hosting it. That tells you how long ago that was.
On this particular night Orel Hirschheiser was a guest. At the time Orel was a star pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team. The Dodgers had just won the World Series and Orel had been named the series MVP.
They showed a couple of clips of the games and on one of the clips they showed Orel standing in the dugout all by himself and his lips were moving. It was obvious that he was saying something to himself.
Well, Johnny asked him about that. He wanted to know what Orel was saying. Orel politely refused to say what he was saying twice. The 3rd time he was asked Orel said “I wasn’t talking to myself, I was singing.”
This really intrigued Johnny and he got the audience involved in asking Orel to tell what he was singing. Finally Orel gave in and as the audience quieted down to listen, Orel began to sing, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above ye heavenly host. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”
Johnny Carson for perhaps the first time in his hosting career on the Tonight Show was speechless. The silence was deafening in that studio. You could have heard the proverbial pin drop. And then one person began to applaud and soon the whole audience was applauding.
You see Orel was a born-again Christian who was not afraid or ashamed to share Jesus with his teammates. Evidently Johnny didn’t know that.
Folks Jesus is telling us ahead of time that the world won’t understand us. In some cases people will seek to harm you. It is happening all over the world today. But the point Jesus is making here is the world will persecute you because of Him. It is Christ in you that they are seeking to destroy.
As Jesus taught these truths to the multitudes on the mountainside that day I wonder if he had in mind the words the apostle Paul would write to the Ephesian Christians barely 60 years later:
8For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (here is the basis of our forgiveness).
11Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands– 12remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (because we have been forgiven we can forgive others)
14For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. (the result being we have the peace of God and peace with God)
17AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; (to those who believe and to those who had not yet believed – just like on the mountainside that day).
A very wise person once wrote … “I grew up in the 40s/50s with practical parents. A mother, God love her, who washed aluminum foil after she cooked in it, then reused it. She was the original recycle queen, before they had a name for it.
A father who was happier getting old shoes fixed than buying new ones. Their marriage was good, their dreams focused. Their best friends lived barely a wave away. I can see them now: Dad in trousers, tee shirt and a hat and Mom in a house dress, lawn mower in dad’s hands, and dish towel in mom’s. It was the time for fixing things. A curtain rod, the kitchen radio, screen door, the oven door, the hem in a dress – things we keep. It was a way of life, and sometimes it made me crazy. All that re-fixing, eating, renewing, I wanted just once to be wasteful. Waste meant affluence. Throwing things away meant you knew there’d always be more.
But then my mother died, and on that clear summer’s night, in the warmth of the hospital room, I was struck with the pain of learning that sometimes there isn’t any more. Sometimes, what we care about most gets all used up and goes away…never to return.
So…while we have it… it’s best we love it…and care for it…and fix it when it’s broken…and heal it when it’s sick. This is true…for marriage….and old cars…and children with bad report cards…and dogs with bad hips…and aging parents…and grandparents.
We keep them because they are worth it, because we are worth it. Some things we keep. Like a best friend that moved away or a classmate we grew up with. There are just some things that make life important, like people we know who are special…and so, we keep them close.
Don’t throw away your relationships. The key to “fixing” broken relationships is forgiveness.
Understanding who we are in Jesus and that we were created for relationships brings great joy to life.
Perhaps you’ve never known this kind of joy. Maybe you gave God control of your life years ago but you’ve never really reached a place of hungering and thirsting for Him.
Or perhaps you’re reading this and you’ve never allowed God to have control of your life. You’ve never been so burdened down by your sin that you asked God to forgive you and cleanse you in Jesus name.
You might be reading this and you’re struggling with the issue of forgiveness. You’ve carried this burden around with you for a long time.
Is it time to lay those burdens down? Is it time to forgive as you’ve been forgiven?
Call out to God and confess, repent, and receive His forgiveness as a starting point. Then forgive those who have hurt you. Third, find a Bible believing and teaching church and seek fellowship with other believers on a consistent basis.
God bless you today as you seek Him.
This message was originally delivered to the believers of Calvary Chapel of Lima. For more information about us visit our website Calvary Chapel of Lima
*This is from my Matthew series taught at Calvary Chapel of Lima from 2006-2008. I am currently teaching through Matthew again. This will be the 2015-2016 series and will be available in audio format soon. Look for those teachings on my teaching ministry site – The Transforming Word.
The Sermon on the Mount picture from Vinelife UK.