Prayer


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Last week we talked about three ways we need to approach the sermon on the mount. And as we pray this morning let me review those in a couple of minutes and then we can incorporate those thoughts into our prayers. 1. Come with Fresh Ears - Resist Familiarity 2. Come with Soft Hearts - Embrace Evaluation 3. Come with Quick Feet - Obey Don't Unsay

Prayer Lord, we are fickle creatures who are enamored with new and resist discomfort at all cost. You are asking us something that is extremely difficult, even impossible. We need to lean into your Holy Spirit for help. And it's in that supernatural power that we will receive that we become bright. By ourselves we are dull and uninteresting. But you can light us up. Help us to

embrace the evaluation of your message to us today and be quick to obey. Help us to see that this is the path toward blessing and obedience!

Introduction Analogy I've spent a lot of time organizing this box here. This box represents comfort. This box represents money. This box represents my free time. This box represents my valuable relationships. Here's how Jesus starts the sermon on the mount, "Can I see your box?" [dump it]

Review Last week was introduction and background. We talked about how the main purpose of the sermon on the mount is to introduce the values of Jesus' kingdom. And the analogy we used was of a coach. Any time a new coach comes in you get a new set of values. When a new coach comes in you might expect him to say, "The last coach didn't emphasize conditioning. Well, I do. Conditioning is what we are all about here." That's a tweak. But Jesus, in the sermon on the mount, flips everything on it's head. His kingdom values are completely different. It would be like Jesus taking over a sports program and saying: The last coach was into winning, we are into losing.

The last coach was into weight lifting and getting stronger. I'm into dieting and getting weaker. The last coach was into increasing salaries of the players. I'm into decreasing them.

Everything about his kingdom values are upside down, inside out. The one word we are to remember as we enter into the Sermon on the Mount is the word counter-cultural. The more counter-cultural we are the more we are in line with Jesus' kingdom values and the brighter we shine. The more our behavior is unexplainable the saltier we become. And the Sermon on the Mount begins with the beatitudes which are exactly this. They are the intentional embracing of these bright, salty counter-cultural values. Blessed are the poor in Spirit. Who values poverty? Blessed are the meek? When is the last time you heard meekness glorified? Blessed are those who are made fun of? Really?

These are definitely crazy reversals of what we normally think. Jesus is preaching in this sermon the values of his kingdom. That's the big idea. Now we are going to spend just two weeks on these Beatitudes - this week and next. I was very tempted to go sermon by sermon through each of the Beatitudes because there is so much to say about this. But, I really do think if we did that we'd lose the forest for the trees.

What I think would be more beneficial is to really focus on how the sermon on the mount fits into the big picture of what Jesus is saying. Because the Beatitudes, really, are just the introduction to Jesus' message. The sermon on the mount as we have it recorded for us is probably a summary of a much longer message that Jesus preached. As it stands it would only take about 10 minutes to read it. That wouldn't make a very long sermon. And the Beatitudes which takes less that a minute to read was Jesus introduction. And that's how we want to preach it as well. This is the introduction to what Jesus is going to say. So this week and next we want to show why Jesus started with the Beatitudes and how they function as an introduction to the rest of His message. Let's just take a moment to read Jesus’ introduction:

Jesus is such a great preacher. An introduction is supposed to draw you in. It's supposed to grab your attention and say, "I have something you need to hear. I bet you can't stop listening right now. I dare you to just walk away!" And Jesus does exactly that. Unfortunately, our familiarly with these words is a liability. We don't automatically here them the way the 1st century reader would have. So we have to work a bit.

The Shocking Nature of the Message And the way to do that is to imagine what it would have been like to be a listener in the audience. I think we can put together a pretty good picture of what what was going through the heads of 90 percent of the people who listened to

those words that day. This sermon did not take place in a vacuum. There were some very key events that led up to this. We are going to think about this beneath two headings: 1. His Lore and 2. His location.

His Lore What I mean by that is what is the story that is circulating among the common guy about Jesus. Think about what precedes the sermon on the mount in the Bible. The sermon on the mount is Mt chapter 5 so this is pretty early on in Jesus ministry. Jesus was at the peak of his popularity when he opens his mouth. And don't just accept that statement at face value. Think about what has happened. Think about how the recent events have crescendoed. 1. Baptism.

When did Jesus public ministry begin? Think about it. There was a period of time in which Jesus just existed as a carpenter and just fit into society. But something obviously changed at some point. And some point he had to start claiming to be God. He had to be introduced. It was at the Baptism of John. John the Baptist was this radical living out in the desert calling for reform and he was pointing people's hope to the imminent coming of Messiah. And then Jesus shows up! Here is the Messiah we have all been waiting

for! For thousands of years we've been waiting. Thousands! This was a big deal! So you can imagine there was quite a stir among those who were there. 2. But then he just disappears. Temptation.

Immediately after his Baptism Jesus is thrust into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights. This is where he is tempted by Satan. And you can imagine this was horribly difficult spiritually and physically. I imagine that as he emerges from the wilderness he looks like a homeless guy with an overgrown beard, unshowered, unkept, emaciated from lack of food. And I really wonder what everyone thought during this period of time. We were introduced to Messiah and then he just disappeared. It's been 5 weeks. That's kind of weird. 3. Jesus emerges from the dessert and immediately begins to function as a Rabbi.

The definition of a Rabbi is that you have students. Jesus calls his disciples and it that calling of disciples and the collecting of disciples to himself that he is beginning to insert himself as authority. 4. Now with disciples in tow he goes to the wedding in Cana and performs his first miracle.

Now this miracle is nothing like the feeding of the 5000. Of all

of Jesus' miracles this one is perhaps the most subtle. Only a few people know about it. I'm sure word spreads. And it kind of has a way of building anticipation. People are still not sure what to think of this guy. Is he the Messiah? But rumors are spreading. Word is getting out. This might be big. 4. Cleansing of the Temple

And now he does something that is truly staggering. He takes on the religious establishment. He is bold enough to actually walk into the temple and call out the corruption. He is establishing himself as authority. And of course all the people, who have been shackled by the oppression explode in spontaneous applause. So he's getting popular. 5. The Son of the Nobleman Healed

Jesus heals the son of the nobleman which is a pretty big deal ingratiating himself with a wealthy man. And now word is spinning around in these circles. 6. Healing all around Galilee and Judea

And now we've arrived at the verses that immediately precede the sermon on the mount. And they are no accident. You have to read the sermon on the mount with the last 3 verses of chapter 4 ringing in your head. They are pure setup verses:

Jesus is at the peak of the Hype Cycle. He has wild popularity. Why? He's been identified as Messiah by John the Baptist

He's taken on the religious establishment He's got some sort of direct line to God because he's healing people. Jesus is the best show in town.

So the crowds are wild with excitement over this guy. One more detail is key setup to understand the sermon on the mount.

His Location Where is Jesus when he is preaching the Sermon on the Mount? We are told in Mt. 4:13 that Jesus has made his home in Capernaum which is on the north shore of the sea of Galilee. And he's going about teaching in that area. That is more a statement about where he is not than about where he is. Galilee was a pleasant farming community. It was not at all like Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the religious capitol of Israel. Undisputed, without question since the time of David 1000BC. Jerusalem was the heart. This was the place you went if you wanted to be influential. Galilee was religiously insignificant. Galilee is to Greenleaf as Jerusalem is to New York City. When we find Jesus in Jerusalem what is he doing? He’s up on the temple mount overturning money tables and making bold speeches, he’s taking on the rich and the powerful and the influential. He’s taking on the sanhedrin and he’s addressing important lawyers and politicians.

But when he’s in Galilee, he’s talking to the average guy. A farmer. A fisherman. An winemaker. A sheep herder. Simple people. But here's what's so interesting. The text says that everyone was coming to him from so many areas around Israel. He's got people coming from the Decapolis. This is an areas that is almost entirely Gentile. He's got people coming from Galilee of course because that is where he has been preaching But get this. He has people comign from Jerusalem. That is something else. He's got businessmen from New York interested enough in him to leave Wall Street and move to Greenleaf.

That's pretty astounding. Both his Lore and his Location are a testament to his popularity. He’s got the attention of the masses! He’s on the most exciting point of the popularity curve. So people are leaving their farms, leaving their cattle, leaving their fishing jobs, but also leaving the synagogues, leaving their Roman outposts, leaving the temple, leaving their money changing business, leaving their positions of influence to come hear a guy speak? Why would they do that? Because they are so incredibly curious. #The Dirty Human Desire for Messiah This guy heals people. What’s he going to say? They all have a sense that history is being written before their eyes and they don't want to miss it. They want to be in the

moment. Messiah just might be here. What is Messiah going to say? They are incredibly hopeful and anxious. But don't hear this hopeful, anxious excitement as entirely a good thing. In fact, for most of them, it almost certainly wasn't. What do the masses want their Messiah to say? What are the expectations they have for Messiah? Well, they want him to say the same thing all people, at all times want their Messiah to say. Give us that secret ingredient that will fix our problems. You see we all, even right now this very minute, want a Messiah of sorts. People are people. Time and culture does nothing to alter the core elements of the human heart. It does nothing. We all have a somewhat dirty human desire for Messiah. Religious, irreligious, it doesn’t matter. We are all waiting for Messiah in our own sense. I can prove this to you by the way you feel when you hear certain things. For example: You hear of a guy who grew up in India, studied in Singapore, worked Medicine in south America, worked as a liaison in middle eastern politics, started a business in Germany and now is living in Manhattan teaching business. This guys is diverse. Who has a background like that? And he writes a book entitled, “What the West doesn’t teach you about happiness.” You are on the edge of your seat. What secret thing might he tell me? Certainly this guy has an angle on happiness that nobody else has. What is going on there?

You heart has been longing for Messiah. Maybe this is it. Maybe this is the thing I never knew? Or it could be just that secret hope. Have you ever imagined that you go to a doctor one day and he does a routine check and discovers this really rare, nearly undetectable disease in you that has secretly been sapping 75% of your energy. But you’ve never known anything else. And with one treatment, that disease is gone and you have 75% more energy than you have ever had before. What is going on there? You'd love to hear that! Your heart is longing for Messiah. There must be some secret potion in life that will undo all the hardship that wears me down. This is how many weight loss programs work, many financial investment programs work. This is how the powerball lottery grows to 1.3 billion dollars. I heard a statistic that Friday and Saturday tickets were being sold at a rate of 1 million tickets per hour. How many have let your mind wanter, "What if I won that lottery!" I absolutely confess. I did not buy a lottery ticket, but I did check to see if there was winner and my heart fluttered for a moment when I saw that there was no winner. There's still a chance. I didn't miss my Messiah. He actually grew in size! What is going on here? We want Messiah. All you need is one winning ticket and all your problems solved. All you need is this Messianic deliverer and all your problems will be solved.

So we all have this God-given instinct to look for Messiah. Now think about it. These guys are staring not at a falseMessiah but the actual Messiah. And you’ve talked to a person who has been healed by him in real life. And you heard about how he healed some dude who was blind, that blind guy that everyone knows about in Jerusalem. So they have real reason to be super excited. And then you get a flyer in the mail that he’s coming to speak in your home town on Friday. Is this exciting or what? This guy has a connection to heaven. Whatever word comes out of his mouth is literally going to be connected straight to God. How could it not? He can do miracles. What’s the magic word going to be? What’s the secret to life? What have we all been missing out on? What is this key ingredient we needed added to our life to be swept away in eternal euphoria?

And he opens his mouth and says, You ready for this? You ready for the magic? You ready for the word from heaven? The key to happiness is becoming a loser. The path to blessing is becoming despised in the eyes of the world. Want happiness? Become an outcast.

Want off the charts blessing from heaven? Look for ways to become marginalized. Now that is a downer. Now this is crazy talk. When was the last time you heard of the survival of the weak and helpless, the survival of the rejected, the survival of the sacrificing? Forget it! It’s the powerful, fit, strong, assertive that survive. This could not have been expected as the introduction to the what may have been the most anticipated message of all time. And again, big picture, what is Jesus doing here? He's flipping the values of the world on its head. It's not wrong to want Messiah. It's not wrong to even want the blessings of Messiah. In fact, to not want Messiah and his blessings would be the worst possible thing you could do. But, are you willing to give up everything to get them? He wants to expose what is really controlling people and drive them to a decision. Will you come to me as your Messiah even if it cost you everything you hold dear? Will you come to me as your Messiah even if it means being rejected by the world, losing all your money, having no friends, having no esteem in the eyes of men?

And so Jesus starts out this message by flipping things

upsidedown. Let's just take your nicely neat set of values that you've spent your whole life building and creating and organizing and I'm going to take your box of values and dump them on the ground. Let's start over. So what does Jesus want us to value? Let's take a look at the first four.

The Progression of the Beatitudes Now the beatitudes, I think, should be taken as a progression. In other words. The first beatitude sets us up for the second. The second informs the third and the third gives us what we need to understand the fourth. So there is a progression in the first four and a progression in the second four. The first four have to do with God and the second four have to do with men.

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit And today we are going to look at the progression of the first four as it relates to God. What do you value Jesus?

Now this is the most important one to understand because it is the foundation upon which all the rest stand. Now notice he says, Blessed are the poor in SPIRIT. Not the rich in their bank account or the poor in their bank account. Blessed are the poor in spirit! What does that mean, poor in spirit? Blessed are those who realize that they have nothing within themselves to commend them to God, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Their money does not commend them to God, but neither does their lack of money commend them to God. Their poverty of spirit, their attitude of dependence, their willingness to receive from God, commends them to God. Do you see this?

One of the big traps of coming to the sermon on the mount is thinking that poverty is a virtue. It's no more a virtue than wealth. Neither are virtues. But both can be vices. It's more common that wealth can be a vice than poverty but both can be vices. Jesus in this message absolutely values poverty and suffering. But hear this carefully. There is a difference between prizing or valuing the poverty and suffering and seeking it as an end it itself. Valuing it is good. Seeking it is very bad. In fact to seek poverty as some sort of ultimate mark of spirituality means your just as controlled by the old world's values as if you were seeking wealth. Let me point this out to you for a second. If you hate rich people. If you can’t take them into your home and love them, if you run away from them, if you can’t stand being around money, if you have no idea what to do with recognition when it comes to you, if you absolutely can’t stand being around people with any power at all, if you run from them, you are still controlled by them.

What does that mean? It probably means you're scared of them. It probably means down deep inside you’re intimidated by

them Or you still really want them.

A lot of times poor people love to hear sermons castigating the rich, not because they are so inflamed with love for God and they are burdened because they are so concerned for the heart of the rich, but because they really wish they were rich and since they can't be, I want the rich to suffer and get a sense of what it feels like to be poor. But the reality is that being rich is not a vice and neither is being poor. The poor tend to look at the rich and judge them for their selfishness and privilege and ease. The rich tend to look at the poor and judge them for their incompetence, lack of ambition, and indolence. But both of these attitudes are the very attitudes that Jesus condemns. So what is Jesus saying? Let's listen closely. Blessed are the poor in Spirit. Blessed are those who realize they bring nothing to the table to commend themselves to God. We have nothing to offer, nothing to plead, nothing with which to buy the favor of heaven. The old hymn rock of ages says,

As Calvin wrote: ‘He only who is reduced to nothing in himself, and relies on the mercy of God, is poor in spirit. It is this man who Jesus is calling blessed. BLESSED! What does that mean? The poor in spirit will be BLESSED? My whole life I’ve heard that blessed really just means happy. And whenever I hear a preacher say that I always think, “Well why didn’t they just translate it happy if that’s what it means?” The reason it's usually not translated that way is because it's more complicated than that. The word blessed does not just mean “happy” but happiness is definitely part of the idea. Happiness of course is a feeling. And I don’t know that even the most pious person in the world is going to feel happy

when people persecute them and say all kinds of evil against them and revile them and have all their money stolen. It has to be more than just the emotion. And of course it is. I think the better way to understand the word is to see it as an objective statement about what God thinks of them. Blessed is a positive judgment by God on a person. It means “to be approved” or “to find approval.” So when God blesses us, he approves us. And of course when we are approved by God that makes us happy. So it is generally true that blessed people are happy. But we have to remember that the root idea of “blessed” is an awareness of approval by God. I am approved by God. I am blessed. And even if my situation is horribly difficult there is a sustaining blessing beneath it all. Max Lucado calls this blessedness the Applause of Heaven. I think that is good. So let's just say it with these words defined. Approved by God is the man who comes to God confessing his spiritual bankruptcy. The man who says he can bring nothing receives everything. So the first beatitude speaks of an intellectual understanding that we bring nothing to the table to commend ourselves to God. The second beatitude focus more on the emotional side of that same coin.

Blessed are Those Who Mourn Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. This isn't talking about those who experience a financial loss or a tragedy in their family. It's talking about the sorrow of repentance, the sorrow of contrition. The person who knows he brings nothing but sin realizes just how pitiful a condition this is and mourns over it. This mourning is the opposite of haughty laughter. In Luke’s version of the Sermon Jesus added to this beatitude a solemn woe: ‘Woe to you that laugh now.’ That word laugh is not the kind of laughing at a joke. It's more the idea of gloating. It's the laugh of the man who thinks he got away with something. It's the laugh of the man who ripped someone off. May I suggest that this is not talking about atheists. This is talking about the guy who thinks he can name the name of Christ and have an affair. The guy who thinks he can name the name of Christ and not love his wife and kids. The guy who thinks he can name the name of Christ and live in some sort of open rebellion against God. And he says, "Ah, I'll just keep living my life the way I will." And God will forgive me. After all blessed are the poor in spirit. I'll just sweep in last

second, ask for forgiveness and it will all be done. What is this man doing? He's gloating. I've figured out a way to have it both ways. And what does Jesus say? Woe to you who laugh. The man who realizes he brings nothing but sin to the table mourns over his spiritual poverty. The man who thinks his sin is nothing, who thinks he gets away with it, laughs. But God says, blessed is the one who mourns. In other words, if you don't cry now, you will cry later. Your poverty of spirit will result in mourning. If you laugh you were never poor in spirit. Your sin will catch up with you my friend. You can either mourn now and receive the forgiveness of Jesus now and forever or you can laugh now and pay for it yourself later. And woe to that man who pays for it later! But blessed is the one who mourns now. David cries out to the Lord and it is repeated for us in Romans

It's not a happy thing to be poor in spirit. It's not a happy thing to mourn as some sort of end. But it is most surely a blessing to receive the reward which is often obtained by enduring these things. So poverty of spirit leads to mourning. And Mourning leads to meekness.

Blessed are the Meek Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. The Greek word meek means ‘gentle’, ‘humble’, ‘considerate’, ‘courteous.’ Meekness for some conjures up the idea of effeminacy and

weakness. But that's not correct. Meekness is a hard concept to understand because we don't use it often. Both Paul and Jesus describe themselves and meek and gentle. To be sure, meekness and gentleness are synonyms. But what sort of gentleness is it. What kind of gentleness are we to have that produces this blessing? The key to understanding it is to think of the progression we've seen so far. If I am truly poor in spirit, and if I truly have mourned over my sin, how will I approach others in their weakness and sin? I of course will not come in arrogant superiority. There will be a meekness. Dr Lloyd-Jones in his commentary makes this really great point. He says that meekness in regards to other people has everything to do with having a right estimation of yourself. He points out that it is comparatively easy to be honest with ourselves before God and acknowledge ourselves to be sinners in his sight. He goes on: But how much more difficult it is to allow other people to say things like that about me! I instinctively resent it. We all of us prefer to condemn ourselves than to allow somebody else to condemn us. I can say to Lisa, "Man I have been a lousy husband today." That is not easy for me to hear, but ten thousand times easier for me to hear than to have Lisa say to me, "Jason, you've been a lousy husband today." That makes me want to get up and fight!

In other words, I am not prepared to allow my wife to think or speak of me what I have just acknowledged before God that I am. Which means that I have not truly acknowledged to God what I think I have. There is a basic hypocrisy here; the best test of meekness then is your ability to let others say of you what you have said to God. There will always be defensiveness where meekness is absent. Dr Loyd Jones says,

We will always be tempted in the flesh to boast and throw our weight around and try to get what we want and yet if we do that the real prize will always elude us. The meek, on the other hand, in acknowledging who they really are can live in the freedom of simply being blessed by God.

That's how Paul can talk about ‘having nothing’ and yet describes himself as ‘possessing everything’. It's not that poverty is blessing. It's just that we need to experience poverty, or to say it more frankly confess reality, to receive the blessing. If you take out the first part of the Beatitudes what he is saying grammatically is not really disputable. blessed are those who enter heaven, blessed are those who are comforted blessed are those who inherit the earth blessed are those who are satisfied blessed are those who receive mercy blessed are those who will see God and who are called sons of God

These blessings are give to those who acknowledge reality. Yes, I am bring nothing to the table. I am a spiritual beggar. I bring nothing to commend myself to God. That causes me to mourn. That causes me to treat others with dignity and respect. And so I am blessed. The reason he phrases it the way he does, is to call us early on, right out of the gate to a quick, sharp call toward decision. Are you willing to suffer the humiliation of acknowledging your dependence to receive the rewards of heaven? What rewards are you ultimately seeking? Whose applause do you ultimately care about?

Whose applause controls you?

It’s yet another call to Lordship. You are in one of two kingdoms and these kingdoms are mutually exclusive. One kingdom values winning. The other values loosing. And you are being drafted by both kingdoms. Which one are you going to choose? You can’t choose both.

Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness Now if you are to be poor in spirit and mourn and be meek toward others that might conjure up in your mind a thought of passiveness. But the next beatitude will dispel that notion. Jesus says blessed are you who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied. So all your poverty of spirit and mourning and meekness should not cause you to crawl into a corner or into the desert, but to run out, and to offer your hands and your feet and your whole body, and to wager everything you have and everything you can do. The idea is that you have a spiritual appetite that can never be curbed or stopped or sated. You don't look to anything else to fill that appetite. You don't care for the substitutes. You just want Jesus. You despise those things that hinder and weaken the appetite.

John Stott in his commentary says, "There is perhaps no greater secret of progress in Christian living than a healthy, hearty spiritual appetite."

Application Jesus in the introduction to the sermon on the mount is flipping the world's values on their head. It's not about winning. It's about losing. It's not about making money. It's about giving it away? Why would he do this? Some have criticized the Sermon on the Mount as spiritual masochism. Is that a fair criticism? Not at all. He is doing this to show us the path to joy. Jesus wants you to be happy! Jesus wants to have you experience the blessing spoken of in the Beatitudes. But the he will not dispense his joys and blessing until he has undisputed reign over your affections. Why? Because it is only when he has undisputed reign over your affections that you can be happy. It is the surrendering that produces the joy! So really the prayer this week and even right now. Have you surrendered in this way? Does poverty of Spirit describe the way you see yourself before God? Test yourself! Does your sin cause you to mourn?

Are you meek toward others? Are you defensive when they point out the things you have 'confessed' to God? Do you hunger for God as described in Proverbs 2:1-5?

Pray that God would allow you to see suffering and poverty and meekness not as ends in themselves but as necessary obstacles along the path that leads to the blessing of God!