June 7, 2010 David Balzer

Matthew 5:1-12: Living the Ultimate Life

The Apprentice Australia is about a group of, let’s be honest, not very attractive people. Overly ambitious is probably the NICE way of describing them. Ruthless, cold-blooded, and hard-nosed is probably closer to the truth.

Mark Bouris, the founder of Wizard Home loans, is the millionaire businessman looking for an apprentice. In his words, he’s OFFERING THE WORLD to the right person, and he wants to find out what the contestants are willing to do to GET it. It’s the chance of a lifetime – a top job, great salary and benefits, connections, first-class mentoring, and a leg-up from one of the premier business minds in Australia.

And each person on the show wants that DESPERATELY. More than almost ANYTHING. And they’ll DO almost anything to GET it.

They’re all HUNGRY for SUCCESS. They hunger for it and thirst for it. They’ll only be SATISFIED when they GET it. Desperate to climb the corporate ladder to success, and they’ll drag down anyone who stands in their way. It’s not a show about the niceties of good manners, and opening doors for people.

(pause) Why? Why do they DO it? Why put themselves through so much? Sacrifice so much? What’s so attractive that they hunger for it so badly?

I’m not sure they’d put it this way, but they’re hungry for a BLESSED LIFE. The job, and the money, and opportunities that go with it, are the keys that unlock the door to BLESSING. To living the ULTIMATE life. That’s what they’re HUNGRY for.

And how do they go about GETTING it? If Mark Bouris was going to write a set of criteria about how to GET that blessed life, it might go something like this: A framed poster on his office wall.

“Blessed are the DESPERATE, for the world is their oyster.

Blessed are those who RISK EVERYTHING, for they will make their fortune.

Blessed are the RUTHLESS, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for SUCCESS, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the MERCILESS, for they will be victorious.

Blessed are the CRAFTY, for they will see fool everyone.

Blessed are the FIGHTERS, for they will be called sons of power.

Blessed are those who are willing to push the limits and get away with it, for the spoils go to the brave.

And the contestants on the show just LAP UP that sort of advice.

On one level, it seems they’re very UNIQUE people. Willing to go to great lengths to achieve their goals. Hungry to get what they want, and blow everybody else.

But I don’t think they’re really that much different from the rest of us. Perhaps just a little more OBVIOUS in the way they go about it. A little more DRIVEN. But each of us, if we’re HONEST, wouldn’t mind a bit more of the sorts of things they’re hungry and thirsty for. A few more toys, or a bit more money, or influence, or opportunity, or recognition, or comfort. And I wonder what a television camera trained on US 12 hours a day might discover about OUR hunger, and how we go about satisfying it!

What are YOU hungry and thirsty for? What is it that you think will SATISFY you? What are YOU sacrificing to achieve it?

But the way they behave on the show is really just the human way we all go about life. The way to get what you want is to push to the front of the queue. To push yourself forward, and others back. We want something badly enough, so we’ll shift all sorts of things out of the way to GET it. To fool, and fight, and trick, and abandon, and tread down.

Scientists and anthropologists say it’s survival of the fittest. The law of the jungle, where only the strongest survive.

A portrait and a pathway

It might be . But it’s not GOD’S way. Not the way he designed the ultimate life. In these first verses of Jesus’ sermon on the mount, we get a PORTRAIT of a blessed life. A life according to God’s design, not ours. And it’s completely upside down to the human way of seeing the world. Counter-cultural. Radical. The closest we get to a revolutionary manifesto from the lips of Jesus.

It’s a PORTRAIT of a blessed life, but it’s also a PATHWAY. A step-by-step process of ACHIEVING the blessed life God’s planned.

Instead of “dog eat dog” and “me-first”, God’s people, people of the kingdom, will follow a different pathway to the ultimate life. To the life of blessing.

Blessing from the inside out

And it was no less counter-cultural to Jesus’ FIRST HEARERS than it is to us today. For Jews of Jesus’ day, it was the rich who were thought to be living under God’s blessing, the happy and those who had all the external trappings of success.

And they’ve got a bunch of leaders who go around thinking that God’s blessings will come if they can all just be GOOD ENOUGH. And academics who think that by dissecting the law into a thousand pieces and putting it back together in lots of different ways, God will be impressed with THAT, and send his blessing.

But, they’ve missed just ONE THING. Something Jesus points out. Just like the long line of prophets before him, Jesus says that God wants to see change on the INSIDE. Repentant hearts that turn away from idols and greed and hatred, and that seek out God, and HIS ways instead. THEN blessing will come. Blessing comes from the inside out.

“Enough words, enough action. Let me see BROKEN HEARTS instead”, says God. Like in Isaiah 57:14

And it will be said: “Build up, build up, prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.” For this is what the high and lofty One says – he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, BUT ALSO WITH HIM WHO IS CONTRITE AND LOWLY IN SPIRIT, TO REVIVE THE SPIRIT OF THE LOWLY AND TO REVIVE THE HEART OF THE CONTRITE.”

God’s ready to restore. When Israel’s ready to be contrite. Isaiah says. That’s what God wants to see.

Kevin Rudd will go down in history as the Prime Minister who said SORRY. First to the stolen generation. Aboriginal kids taken from their families. And, last week, to the FORGOTTEN generation. The foster kids and orphans imprisoned and abandoned in state and church-run homes decades ago. Ruined their lives.

Kevin Rudd felt the political temperature, and worked out that people wanted the government TO SHOW SOME REPENTANT SORROW. To recognise they could have done things better. And the media and the victims have been overjoyed. Everyone’s cheering him. It’s what they wanted all along. I’m not sure what it will look like in the long run. But it’s a step in the right direction.

Sometimes, the most appropriate response is repentant sorrow.

And it’s what God wants to see above anything else in his people Israel. Repentant sorrow.

But more than just WORDS. It’s got to be REAL. On the inside. Real hunger and thirst, real sorrow, real repentance. And then real change in behaviour. Enough WORDS.

Blessing will come. But it’s going to come when his people begin with changing the INSIDE. Blessing from the inside out. Blessing comes when you work on YOURSELF and your motivations and desires. Rather than working on manipulating other people.

And that’s the way Jesus sets it out before us in these incredible verses. A portrait of what God’s blessed life LOOKS like. And a PATHWAY to ACHIEVING it.

And it’s a pathway that begins from the INSIDE. And works its way OUT. Let me show you what I mean.

Each of the FIRST FOUR qualities are INTERNAL attitudes focussed on GOD. Internal qualities God wants to see towards him, so he can bring blessing. Exactly what the prophets had been calling for down through the ages.

And the culmination, the most important and significant of them is right there in the middle. HUNGERING AND THIRSTING FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS. That desire to achieve it that overrides everything else. A desire as strong as that to stay alive.

1. Poor in Spirit

First. Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. To be poor in spirit means to recognise you’ve got nothing to offer God.

It’s the opposite of the rich young ruler. Matthew 19. “What must I DO to inherit eternal life?” he demands of Jesus. He thinks he’s obeyed every commandment since he was a boy. Jesus replies,

“If you want to be PERFECT, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

The man leaves distraught. And the disciples are puzzled. “If that guy can’t be saved, WHO CAN?

And Jesus replies with the startling perspective anyone poor in spirit already knows. “With man this is … IMPOSSIBLE.” NO chance. More chance of drinking the ocean dry, or flying to the moon by flapping your wings. With man, it’s impossible to be saved.

To be poor in spirit is to recognise your spiritual cupboards are bare. Your pockets are empty. It means you’ve stopped demanding justice from God, and starting pleading for mercy. To be poor in spirit means to stop bragging and start begging.

And it’s the first step in receiving God’s blessing that comes from the inside out.

2. Mourn

Next, says Jesus, blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. To mourn is to recognise your sin and bankruptcy before God, and to be genuinely distressed about it.

Jacob was telling me about an old guy he visited in the hospital. Terminally ill. He was an atheist, and proudly and stubbornly resisted all Jacob’s attempts to describe what it meant to reach out to God. To reach out to God would be a sign of WEAKNESS. An admission he was WRONG. And he just wasn’t willing to DO that.

But to MOURN is to recognise your situation. Your helplessness and sin. And reach out to the God who promises to COMFORT you. Like a father cuddling a child who’s had nightmares. A mother washing a bleeding knee. A GOD who promises to swap our mourning for BLESSING. Forgiving our sins, and making us his friends. Comforting us with love.

Blessed are those who MOURN, for they will be comforted.

3. Meek

Third. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. To be meek is to hand over control to someone else. Once you recognise your spiritual poverty, and your sin and powerlessness, who else can you hand over control to than GOD?

The meek are willing to be clay in God’s hands. They don’t second-guess him, add conditions, keep one hand on the wheel, or peek under the blindfold.

A few months ago the sign on the Reformed church said, “If God’s your co-pilot, swap seats”. Lots of people are happy to have God as their CO-pilot, just in case they get into trouble. But they’re the ones in control. Who set the course, and steer the plane.

But the meek don’t do that. They hand over control to God, and sit in the co-pilot seat. And let GOD do as he wishes. And God’s promise is that they’ll INHERIT THE EARTH.

To inherit the earth means it’s YOURS. Nothing on earth is GREATER than you. There’s nothing out there for you to fear, or worry about. Nothing to lose sleep over. Nothing to hide from, or run away from. Because the earth is YOURS.

For the meek, the world is your oyster because God is the pilot.

4. Hunger and thirst

The fourth attitude Jesus mentions SUMMARISES, or is the result of, the FIRST three. V6.

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

We hunger and thirst for all sorts of things. The contestants on the Apprentice Australia hungered for victory, for success, for money and power. And they might even FIND them.

And we’re no different. We hunt through the catalogues, or the Trading Post, or the internet chat rooms, or the stock market reports, or the travel section, or the job ads. Hungry and thirsty for all sorts of things.

But will they satisfy?

Whatever we chase after and taste PROMISES MUCH, but delivers LITTLE. It looks like LIFE, but delivers .

It’s A MIRAGE IN THE DESERT. An empty water bottle. Mouldy bread. It’s a stockmarket crash and worthless shares. It’s a fake Bali Rolex. It’s bowls of ratsac.

PROMISES MUCH, but delivers LITTLE. It looks like LIFE, but delivers

I heard the story recently about a little boy whose hand was caught inside his father’s priceless Ming vase. The parents tried everything to pry his hand lose, but the boy was just getting more and more upset. They couldn’t work out how he was able to get his hand IN, but then not get it OUT.

Finally they realised the only way would be to smash the vase.

When they did, they found his little hand was tightly closed in a FIST. THAT was why his hand wouldn’t come out. But why didn’t he just open his hand and slide it out of the mouth of the vase? Because when he opened his fist, they saw he was holding a $2 coin.

He’d refused to let go of the coin, and so the priceless treasure was destroyed.

And s are just the same. Hungry and thirsty for all the wrong stuff. And they risk missing out on the GREATEST treasure, because they’re clinging onto worthless junk.

And it was no different in Israel’s time. God makes this accusation through the prophet Jeremiah. Ch 2:13

13 “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

God offers the water of righteousness. And people would rather drink out of the toilet. THEN and TODAY.

Instead, says Jesus, hunger and thirst for RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Now, in Matthew’s gospel, righteousness means DOING right. Right thinking and right LIVING. And it’s what these blessings are all about. The people God blesses are RIGHTEOUS people. Right in their attitudes and actions.

Matthew 1. Joseph, Jesus’ step-father, was a RIGHTEOUS man.

In 3:15, Jesus is baptised to FULFIL all righteousness. In other words, to DO THE RIGHT THINGS expected of him.

In 6:1 Jesus warns not to DO YOUR ACTS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS where people can see, otherwise you’ll miss God’s reward.

So hunger and thirst for righteousness like THAT. Make it your top priority to be thinking and doing what’s right in God’s kingdom. Hunger and thirst for being right with God. And DOING right FOR him. Ultimately, it’s a hunger and thirst FOR GOD HIMSELF.

That’s the desire God wants. That God promises to satisfy. To BLESS.

5. Merciful

Next Jesus moves on to what righteousness will LOOK LIKE. To how an attitude towards God will SHOW ITSELF in the way we treat PEOPLE.

And I think there’s a connection between each of the first three and these three ACTIONS.

First. V7.

7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

The poor in spirit recognise they’re spiritual cupboards are bare, and they throw themselves on God’s mercy. When we see ourselves like that, we’re more likely to see others differently. And to show mercy to THEM.

To be willing to forgive. To choose not to hold a grudge. To let go of resentment. To throw cold water on the fire of our hurt or embarrassment. And choose, instead, to overlook it.

Merciful/ is the servant who recognises the huge debt the king has forgiven him. And so forgives the OTHER servant who owes him a few dollars. That’s mercy that flows from being poor in spirit.

And God promises to bless by showing mercy to servants like THAT.

6. Pure in heart.

Next. The pure in heart. V8. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. It works from the inside out. Those who MOURN for their own sin. Who own it, but who turn from it towards God who can DEAL with it. Those people will desire to be pure in heart. They their sin, and so they LOVE what’s pure.

Those who mourn for the state of their heart, will conscientiously root out all sorts of evil. They’ll FLEE it. They’ll cut off the hand. They’ll poke out the eye. Whatever drastic action is needed, they’ll do it. Because they mourn their condition, and are pure in heart.

And God promises that they’ll SEE HIM. If their heart’s desire is purity, then they’ll find it. Because God is LIGHT, and there’s no darkness in him.

7. Peacemakers

And when you’ve found God, and are pure in heart, you’ll resemble him. You’ll bear the family resemblance of your heavenly Father. V9.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

And I think this one connects with meekness. One of the ways meekness works itself out is in peacemaking. Meekness is about handing over the wheel to another. If it’s not always about OUR AGENDA. If we don’t always have to be right, or have to win. Then we’ll be less likely to cause strife. We’ll be able to be the oil on troubled waters. To bring peace between people who ARE struggling to be meek.

Now and then

And while all of those things describe our life NOW, and each reward we begin to experience now. The full expression of God’s promises will only be understand in ETERNITY. With God. That’s what v10-12 go on to describe.

Full comfort, full inheritance, full mercy, full revelation of God.

Which is a wonderful comfort to put our hope in. Because this life ALSO has PERSECUTION that goes with it, says Jesus v10-12. People who ridicule you because you stand up for what’s right. Speak it, think it and live it.

They may do WORSE. You might be discriminated against. Or arrested. Or beaten. Countless thousands of your Christian brothers and sisters have lost their LIVES THIS YEAR around the world. In Africa and Asia.

And yet, despite all that, Jesus says such people are BLESSED. Blessed because our kingdom is more real. Our treasure is much greater. Our comfort much deeper Our joy more long-lasting. Our future more secure. Our hope more certain. Our inheritance much richer.

Do you HUNGER and THIRST for a kingdom like that?

Follow Jesus’ advice.

That’s the way to GET it.

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