Sunday, March 04, 2018

[Matt's Messages] "The Good Life (Part One)"

“The Good Life (Part One)”
Jesus’ Sermon the Mount
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
March 4, 2018 :: Matthew 5:3-12

Last time, we saw that Jesus was drawing large crowds.

Jesus had been baptized by John and tempted by Satan, and had now begun His public ministry of teaching, preaching, and healing (4:23-25).

He had begun calling disciples, followers, to Himself.

And He told them that if they followed Him, Jesus would make them fishers of men.

And men were coming. Big crowds of people were coming to hear Jesus teach.

Jesus had been, like John the Baptist, preaching, “Repent! Turn around! For the kingdom of heaven is near.”

And big crowds had gathered to find out what that means. What does He mean by Kingdom of Heaven?

And like a new and greater Moses, Jesus had ascended up onto a mountainside, sat down in the authoritative posture of a teacher, opened his mouth and preached what we now call, “The Sermon on the Mount.”

Do you remember what He said? I read the whole thing to you a few weeks ago. Do you remember?

Do you remember how it hit you?

How it made you feel?

The Sermon on the Mount is the first of five major blocks of teaching in the Gospel of Matthew and arguably the most important.

Jesus teaches like no else. He says things that no else ever would.

And He teaches with a full authority. An unmitigated, unparalleled authority.

He doesn’t teach with a derived authority. He teaches with His own authority.

And out of His own authority He differs with the religious leaders of that day. What He says contrasts with them. Argues with them. Overrules them.

In fact, He even overrules Moses in this Sermon!

Not that Moses was wrong. The Law of Moses was the Law of God.

But Jesus is going to update and change that Law!

Because of Who He is!

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The point is that this is Jesus’ Sermon. It’s all about Him and all about Who He is and all about what He wants from us and for us.

And when at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, on another mountainside, Jesus tells the apostles to make more followers of Him, He commissions them to teach new followers to obey all that He has commanded.

And that includes Matthew chapters 5 through 7.

This is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

This is what it means to follow King Jesus.

It’s a description of living within the Kingdom of Heaven which is near.

And the Kingdom of Heaven is unlike any other kingdom there ever was.

There’s so much surprise here. So many twists.

So much that is unexpected and counter-intuitive.

And counter-cultural. And upside-down.

Jesus’ Kingdom is a kingdom that challenges every other kingdom, including the little kingdoms we set up in our hearts and lives.

So these marching orders that King Jesus will issue our way will often make us uncomfortable.

The new laws, the new rules, the new norms that we are called to live under as citizens of this Kingdom of Heaven will challenge us and make us feel uncomfortable, often at a loss.

They are different than what we are used to. They are different than what we are comfortable with.

They are different than what the other kingdoms say.

They have a different language and rhythm and custom and culture than the other kingdoms, so they will require some change on our part and some time to get used to. (That’s why repentance is necessary.)

But living in this Kingdom is the greatest thing and will be the greatest experience that we can ever imagine!

And it all starts in verse 3 with what I’m going to call Jesus’ invitation to “the good life.”

More popularly known as the “The Beatitudes.”

Which comes from the Latin (this is our year for Latin, I guess) “Beatus” which means “a state of being happy or blessed.”

We don’t use that word “beatitude” or “statement of happiness or blessing” in other way in our modern culture, so it’s not easy at first to understand what it means.

There are 9 beatitudes in verse 3 through 12. We will not get through all of them today. I expect to only make it through the first four.

They all follow a set pattern. It’s really obvious as you read them, but it’s also really important.

First there is a statement of blessing or happiness.

“Blessed are...” Jesus says.

And then there is a description of the kind of people who are blessed.

And then the reason for their blessing is given.

Blessed are people X for reason Y.
Blessed are people X for reason Y.
Blessed are people X for reason Y.

And there are 9 of them.

There are some subtle differences between them, but they all fit that pattern.

Blessed are people X for reason Y.

But here’s where it gets interesting.

At least for most of them, and I think you could argue for all of them, the people who are called blessed don’t seem very blessed at all.

What I mean is that Jesus picks out some strange people to called “blessed!”

The twist isn’t a surprise ending to the Sermon the Mount.

The twist begins in the very first sentence. In the “opening salvo” of the Sermon!

Jesus loves to turn everything you expect upside down, doesn’t He?

For example, this word “blessed” that shows up in every verse.

It’s really hard to translate. “Happy” sounds too emotional and too temporary.

But this isn’t “blessed” as in a word of blessing that comes from God.

Both Hebrew and Greek have a different word for that kind of blessing.

This is a word “Makarioi” in Greek (and its Hebrew companion is “Ashre”), and it means to be in a state which is to be congratulated.

It means to be in a really good place.

It describes a person whose life is good.

I’m reading an excellent book right now by a professor at Southern Seminary who got his PhD from Trinity, and I think we were students at Trinity at the same time back in the 90's. His name is Jonathan Pennington.  [Check out these videos of Dr. Pennington on The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing.]

And he translates this word, “Flourishing.”

“Flourishing are the poor in spirit...”
“Flourishing are those who mourn...”
“Flourishing are the meek...”
“Flourishing area those who hunger and thirst for righteousness...”

Now that hits our ears a little awkwardly, doesn’t it?

I don’t think even Pennington likes it over much either, but it really gets at what this word originally meant.

He says that in Australia they have a phrase, “Good On ‘Yer.” That comes close.

We use the phrase, “Good For You!”

Or “Way to Be!”

To be “blessed” in this way is to be in a state of well-being.

It is to be living the good life.

Do you want to be living the good life?

Of course you do! That’s what everybody wants.

Well, this is what Jesus says is the good life.

This is the good life, according to Jesus.

King Jesus.

And so this is a description of discipleship.

This is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

This is what a disciple of Jesus looks like.

This is what it means to live as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven right now.

And it’s the life that Jesus is inviting us into.

The good life.

Now, by the way, this is a grace-based invitation. These beatitudes are not laws to follow to earn God’s favor.

“Work up your poverty of spirit, and God will owe you some kingdom.

Jack up your purity of heart and God will show you Himself!”

That’s not how it works.

It never has, and it never will be.

That’s what just talked about all last year in Galatians, and we just went over it again this morning in Sunday School.

This is not some salvation by good works sort of thing.

This is a grace-based invitation to live the good life according to Jesus.

The only problem is that Jesus’ description does not sound like a very good life!

I mean if you were going to put on social media the hashtag, #blessed, what kind of things would you be posting on?

What do you think is the good life?

What do your friends think is the good life?

What does the world say is the good life?

I know that I would have never guessed these on my own!

Let’s look at them. Look at verse 3.

“Blessed [flourishing] are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Good for you! Way to be!

Living the good life are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

That sounds strange, doesn’t it?

It’s supposed. Jesus wants it to.

What does it mean to be “poor in spirit?”

I don’t think it means that you don’t have any spirit. Or that you don’t have enough spirit. This is not a rally cry at the High School.

“We’ve spirit, how about you?”

It means, in a word, that you know that you are:

#1. NEEDY.

You don’t have what it takes spiritually speaking to impress God.

You haven’t arrived.

You are poor. You are at the end of your own resources.

And spiritually speaking, you are turning out your pockets, and all you have is lint.

D.A. Carson says, “Poverty of spirit is the personal acknowledgment of spiritual bankruptcy. It is the conscious confession of unworth before God. As such, it is the deepest form of repentance.”

It’s the opposite of what the Pharisees had.

They said, “Look at me! Check me out!” I’ve got what it takes to impress God.

Bryan Elliff says, “It is the lack of inward capabilities and resources to achieve the virtue and heart-level righteousness that Jesus calls us toward. In our desires, emotions, mind, and in our relationship with God, we come up short.”

But does that sound like the good life?


Oh yes. Because that’s exactly what we are. We are needy.

And paradoxically, that’s the kind of people who make up Jesus’s kingdom. V.3 again.

“Blessed [flourishing] are the poor in spirit, for [notice the FOR] theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

The folks who are needy and know they are needy are the kinds of people who own the kingdom. They belong to the Kingdom.

They own up to their spiritual poverty, and amazingly, they own everything there is!

“...for theirs is (not just will be but is) the kingdom of heaven.”

Remember the Kingdom is already but not yet.

It has come now, and it will come later.

But those who own up to their own spiritual neediness have the kingdom right now.

Isn’t that amazing?

By the way, this helps to understand the rest of the beatitudes and the rest of the Sermon on the Mount.

I think it comes first because you need it to get the rest.

Because you are not going to see yourself in some of these.

Some of you feel so condemned by the Sermon on the Mount.

When I read it to you a couple of weeks ago, you were just looking at your feet and hoping to go home. Just feeling shame.

Because you know that you don’t measure up.

Well, this says, “Good for you!” that’s the first step of living the good life.

You don’t measure up.

You are a mess.

And so am I.

Admit it. You. Are. Needy.

This helps us to understand the rest of the beatitudes.

But it does more than that.

It describes who we really are right now.

If you belong to Jesus, then this is you.

You are blessed.

You are flourishing.

You belong to the Kingdom of Heaven.

It’s not just something you hope for or wish you had, it’s yours by grace through faith in Jesus.

You are living the Kingdom Life right now.

It’s not as good as it gets.

That’s still to come. But it is really good because you belong to the King you belong to Kingdom, and that is truly the good life.

You’re flourishing. Even if it doesn’t feel like it.

Look at the second one. Verse 4.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

“Flourishing are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Those who mourn are really living the good life, for they will be comforted.

So in a word:

#2. SAD.

I’m not sure if this is sad because you are suffering or sad because you’ve been sinning.

It could be either. It could be both.

I lean towards both.

The mourning here could be more repentance. Hating your sin. Being so devastated by realizing just how poor you are and how it goes against the holiness of God.

True disciples deeply regret and sorrow over their sin.

But I tend to think that Jesus means any kind of genuine sorrow. Any kind of sadness that comes from any kind of suffering.

Especially grief over the loss of a loved one.

And Jesus says, “Good for you if you are sad.”

You are blessed if you are sad.

Because our world is sad.

You see it right. You see it correctly. You are feeling the right thing.

Anybody who thinks that Jesus wants us to just grin and bear it has never met Jesus.

“Jesus wept.”

Jesus mourned.

Jesus never sorrowed over His own sin, but He sure sorrowed over ours!

But Jesus says that being sad like this is the good life.

Why? What’s the “for?” v.4

“...for they will be comforted.”

That’s future tense.

Not that God doesn’t provide some comfort now (this verse is God comforting us now!), but there is a promise here of a time when every tear will be wiped away.

By whom?

By God Himself!

Things are not as they seem.

Followers of Jesus are sorrowful and mourning and blessed all at the same time.

Right now, the sad life is the good life.

Because some day there will be no sad life, and all of the sadness will have been worth it.

Number three.

#3. LOWLY. V.5

“Blessed [flourishing] are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

The meek are the lowly. They are the humble. They are the people on the bottom rung. They are the gentle ones that aren’t exercising power.

It’s not necessarily that they don’t have the power, but they don’t throw their power around.

They don’t use their power or their strength (if they have it) for their own agendas.

They use any power or strength they have been given for the agenda of the Kingdom.

This is a choice they are making.

A choice you and I are making.

Because this is a description of a Christian, of a follower of Jesus.

We are lowly. We are humble.

That’s our calling.

It’s the calling to be a servant.

Jesus did this one, too, didn’t He?

It’s not that He didn’t have strength or power, but He didn’t use it for His own agenda, His own selfishness. He took the form of a servant.

And He lived out His Father’s agenda.

He was meek and lowly of heart.

And because of that, He was given the highest place and His name is higher than any other name!

Jesus as a servant was blessed. He was flourishing. He was living the good life.

What’s the for in verse 5?

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

Again, it’s future.

It’s okay to take second place, to put somebody else first.

Because you are going to inherit EVERYTHING.

You won’t lose anything by serving others because you are going to inherit a re-created earth. And forever!

You see how you are flourishing even as you are lowly?

Now, this is something you choose.

Being this kind of meek is.

Being this kind of humble is a choice.

It’s what Jesus is inviting you to do with your life.

He’s inviting you into the good life.

Be needy.
Be sad.
Be lowly.

Take second place. Serve the people around you. Drop down a notch.

And you’ll be blessed.

You’ll flourish. Now and especially then.

One more.


Isn’t Jesus strange?

I would have never come up with this.

Of course, I’m the strange one. He’s the definition of normal.

But I’ve never lived in a normal world.

And that’s the point. V.6

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

You are flourishing if you are hungry and thirsty.

You are living the good life if you are unsatisfied.

If you are longing, hungering, thirsting.

Have you ever been really hungry?

I mean like gone a few days without eating hungry?

How about thirsty? Gone a day without drinking?

Jesus knew all about hunger and thirst.

And He says if you are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, then you are blessed.

Righteousness is obedience. It’s holiness. It’s doing what is right. It’s a right standing with God because of right living.

And it’s justice. It’s doing what is just and right.

And Jesus says that those people who can’t get along without righteousness are flourishing.

Those people who are unsatisfied with their own righteousness and with the righteousness they encounter in the world...they are blessed.

You see what I’m saying?

These people know that this world is not as it should be.

And they know that they are not as they should be.

And they LONG for the world be as it should be.

And they LONG for them to be as they should be.

Does that sound like you?

Good for you!

Way to be!


“... for they will be filled.”

I think that means filled with righteousness.

If you are unsatisfied now, that’s good. Because you will be satisfied.

You will be conformed to God’s will.

And the world will be conformed to God’s will.

Jesus’ kingdom will come in all of its righteousness!

He rules the earth with truth and grace,
and makes the nations prove
the glories of his righteousness
and wonders of his love

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

Right now, everything is upside down.

That’s why what Jesus says feels upside down.

But one day, Jesus will make everything righteous-side up.

And if you long for that right now, good for you.

You’re living the Good Life.

So, needy, sad, lowly, unsatisfied...that’s where it’s at?

That’s blessed?

It sure is!

According to Jesus, that’s the Good Life.

And He should know.

Because at the Cross, he took on our spiritual poverty, he carried our sorrows, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death.

He was famished for righteousness.

And He won righteousness for all of us.

At the Cross, He turned everything upside down.

And now He gives us the Kingdom and invites us to live the Kingdom life.


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