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Thinking Differently About Your Approval

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(6/17) We are approaching another Presidential election. Republicans and Democrats are gearing up for debates and campaigning to get their candidates elected. A lot of polls will be taken to get the publics opinion on who has or may do a better job as President. Some of these polls will be approval polls. What are the candidatesí approval ratings? The publicís approval will be based on what the candidates have done or are doing. Likewise some of you get regular job evaluations from an overseer at work. Your raises or promotions may well be based on your evaluations.

What does that have to do with Revival or the text we are about to look at? Actually, it has a lot to do with it. This Greatest of all Sermons is really about the people that God approves of and favors. Does God have favorites? Yes, He does. And our Lord Jesus tells us who they are. This Sermon on the Mount is a summary of the characteristics of the people that God favors and approves of. Letís be clear from the beginning, this is not a check list to go to heaven, but it is a check list for those who will be ready to meet the king.

This sermon is based on Jesusí basic proclamation to, Repent, for the rule of God is close. To repent is to change your mind with a view to changing your actions. This sermon is a summary of what needs to change in the lives of those who will be in His kingdom. Do you want to be ready to meet the King, whether it is by your death or His return? Letís begin by:

Setting the Stage.

It has been over four hundred years since Israel has had a prophet from God. Malachi was the last one. Since Malachiís time, Israel has been occupied, first by the Greeks and now by the Romans. The conservative branch of Judaism called the separatists or Pharisees, wanting to keep the people under the Word of God, have added their opinions as to what constitutes keeping or breaking Godís laws. The result is that over the last 400 years the law of God has become quite burdensome. Faith in the one true but invisible God has become more about religion and less about a relationship with God. That was a hard yoke to bear. Still, these were the people of promise, people who had the Words of God, People of the Covenant, People of Hope in a coming Messiah that would some day, set up a kingdom on earth, and restore the glory of God to Israel, and put an end to sin and establish peace on earth.

Thirty years ago, there was a small stir in the land. Some shepherds from Bethlehem reported seeing a special baby and hearing angels say that baby would be the Savior. Two older adults, Anna and Simeon declared they had seen the infant Messiah. Strangers from the east, called Magi had come to seek a King of the Jews that they believed had been born, and an enraged and paranoid Herod slaughtered babies in Bethlehem in an attempt to kill Godís Messiah. But all of that went silent and was over 30 years ago. But 6 months ago, a wild looking man showed up and began to proclaim that he was the prophesied fore-runner of the Messiah, the coming King that Isaiah 40 spoke of. Look at Mark 1:1-8. Matthew tells us that Johnís message was simple, "Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." Johnís Gospel also tells us that he identified Jesus as that King, the promised Messiah. Two months later, Jesus also began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand." To be ready to meet the king, and be part of His kingdom, people must change their thinking and then change their actions.

To demonstrate that He was, indeed, the King, Jesus began to heal people of all manner of maladies (Matt. 23-25). Isaiah the Prophet declared that this would be a sign of the kingdom (Look at Isaiah 29:18-19; 35:1-6). A combination of curiosity, hope, and concern for ill loved ones caused crowds of people to come to see, hear and be touched by Jesus. Opposite from an amphitheatre where the speaker or performers are lower and people are seated above, Jesus went up on a mountain and the people were below Him and He sat down and began to teach His disciples. Disciples were more than curiosity seekers, they had come to learn and be taught more about the Rabbiís philosophy and manner of living. And there were many more than 12. On this day there may have been multiple thousands of people who had come to hear this young Rabbi who could do such extraordinary things. That is the setting for this sermon.

Surveying the Sermon

The whole sermon is based on the word, ĎRepent.í You must change your mind with a view to changing your actions. You must re-think your character (5:3-12); Your purpose (5:13-16); The Word of God (5:17-20), it has to exceed the religious leaders; 5:21-44, 5 times He says, "You have heard it said, but I say to youÖ"; Ch. 6 you must re-think prayer and trust in your Fatherís provision. Ch. 7 you must re-think what your future is built on. Each of these things you are to re-think will lead you to a change of action. Some have called this, the Constitution of the Kingdom of Heaven. This is what will characterize all who will be part of Godís Kingdom. Look at Matt. 5:20.

Surmising the Statements

Verses 3-12 comprise 8 statements we have called, the Beatitudes. Before we get into each one letís make some observations.

  • Every one of these statements is in direction opposition to the worldís philosophy.
  • Every one of these statements begins with the word, Blessed. We call them Beatitudes because the Latin for this word is Beatus. The Greek word, however, is Makarios which most will say means, Ďhappy.í While that may be true, it doesnít refer to the happiness as an inner feeling of joy. Itís not talking about feeling happy; instead, it refers to being approved, or to being highly favored by God. These are characteristics of the onesí that God favors because He approves of them (Cp. Luke 1:28, 30)
  • The Language implies that His favor and approval are on these alone and no one else. Only these are the favored of God.
  • These are not 8 separate and distinct people, but eight characteristics of the one person that God favors. The person blessed by God is characterized by these 8 traits.
  • Each characteristic has a corresponding reward or promise that only belongs to this person. Are you ready? Letís re-think our Righteousness.

The Poor in Spirit (v.3)

A. What it doesnít mean. To be poor in Spirit doesnít mean to be an introvert or being nervous or having a low self-esteem. Itís not having a repressed spirit like Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh.

B. What it does mean. The Greeks had two words for poor. Penchros means to live below the poverty level; that is, having a little just not much. Ptochus means to be bankrupt, having zero, zip, zilch, nada thing. Thatís the word here. It means that, spiritually speaking, I have nothing by which to gain Godís favor or approval. Paul says that, "In me; that is, in my flesh dwells no good thing (Rom. 7:18). Apart from knowing the King personally, the scriptures say that there is none righteous, no not one (Rom. 3:10). The people who heard this were the people of God, the Jews, and the people who had the scriptures, the temple, the covenants, circumcision, and the promises; people who thought they were favored already by God. Many thought that the Kingdom would automatically be theirs. They deserved it, they were the chosen people. Many even thought they could measure their worth by what they did. Like the Pharisee in Luke 18:10-14. The tax collectorís attitude was that of Isaiah 64:6, "But we are all like an unclean thing, and all righteousnesses are like filthy rags." Four observations

  • Before God can fill us with Himself, we have to be empty of our self. It is the man that knows he has nothing to offer that God wants to use.
  • This is the truly humble person (Contrast to the Laodicians in Rev. 3:15-17 who say they are rich and have need of nothing and donít know that they are poor wretched and blind.)
  • It is the person that knows that he or she has nothing to offer that God wants to be with. Look at Isaiah 57:15 and 66:2.
  • This is the person that trusts in Godís grace alone and has salvation, because he knows he or she has nothing else to trust in but Godís grace.

C. The Promise is that to these and these alone belongs the Kingdom of Heaven. These are the only ones who will be there. The way up is down. To exceed the Pharisees righteousness one must realize that apart from grace he or she has nothing. These are truly the approved and favored ones of God.

Those Who Mourn (v.4)

There are nine Greek words for expressing sorrow. The one used here is the heaviest one of all. It implies a deep inner agony over a loss. It could refer to mourning a personal loss, a death, or the sinfulness and wrong committed by someone, or the suffering and sinfulness in the world. As it fits in this context and with the theme of repentance, it seems to not be so much the grieving of personal loss or death, but of the sinful conditions of a country or oneís self that has resulted in a nation adrift from God, and the reason we are spiritually bankrupt. We grieve that our sins have costs us, and others, so much.

Look at Joel 2:12-13, James 4:8-10, and Jeremiah 9:1.

David said that it was because of his sin and its consequences that he went mourning all day long (Ps. 38:6). These are those who see the poverty, death, destruction, depravity and so much more in our world is because of sin and it breaks their hearts. Chuck Swindoll says that the word compassion is a characteristic of this kind of mourning because it moves us to want to do something to change things or to help relieve the suffering that exists. I believe that this is why Jesus wept at Lazarusí tomb. Sin has resulted in so much pain.

Contrast this to the, "Donít worry be happy," philosophy.

Let me ask you this, When is the last time that the consequences of sin broke your heart? When is the last time that the thought of someone going to hell caused you to weep? When is the last time the consequences of your own sins and poor choices pained your soul and caused you to cry out to God?

The Promise is, that these and these alone are the ones who will be comforted. Jeremiah promises that when the King comes He will turn their mourning into joy, will comfort them and make them rejoice rather than sorrow (Jer. 33:13). Isaiah says, that as a Mother comforts her children so He will comfort us (Isa. 66:13; and 61:2-3).

Jesus said that he would send His Holy Spirit to be our ever present internal Comforter. And God has given us exceedingly great and precious promises to comfort us. The world may laugh and embrace sin as fun and hilarious, but for all eternity they will bemoan it because they would not turn away from it nor repent. Only those who mourn it will be comforted because they are the favored of God.

Those who are Meek (v.5)

A. What it doesnít mean- To be weak, or passive, or cowardly, or with out convictions. Nor is it just being a nice guy.

B. What it means Ė This word is a word that refers to gentleness, but in an unusual way. It means to have strength under control. For example:

  • It was used of a stallion that has been broken or trained to be ridden.
  • It was used of carefully spoken words that sooth strong emotions
  • It was used of a medicine or ointment that took the sting from a fever or wound.
  • It is strength under control.
  • It refers to the man or woman who has given themselves over to the control of God rather than try to live, respond to others, or serve God, in their own strength. Moses was anything but weak but he was called the meekest man on earth in Numbers 12:3. The only place recorded in the Bible where our Lord Jesus describes His own character is in Matthew 11:28-30 where He says, "I am meek and lowly in heart, or gentle and humble."
  • The meek person will stay calm and peaceful though surrounded by a heated atmosphere. He or she will be courteous regardless of hostility and can emit a calming effect on others who are angry or in some way beside themselves.
  • Meekness is allowing the Spirit of God to control your strength and emotions. A meek person will honor God, oppose evil, and defend the weak, without defending self. (1 Peter 2:21-23) The World says that nice guys finish last but God says they finish first.

C. The Promise is that the meek and only the meek will inherit the earth when the King returns Look at Psalm 37:7-11. These and these only will share in the governing and care of Christís kingdom, because they alone are approved and favored by God.

Letís look at just one more today.

Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness (v. 6)

Dr. M. L. Jones said of this verse, "I do not know of a better test that anyone can apply to himself or herself in this whole matter of the Christian profession than a verse like this, If this verse is to you one of the most blessed statements of the whole of scripture you can be quite sure you are a Christian; if it is not then you had better examine he foundation again."

To hunger or thirst for something, is to crave the desire for somethingís satisfaction (Psalm 42:1-2; 63:1). While those who come to Jesus will have their desire for a relationship with God satisfied, they will still crave for more of Godís will and ways in the world.

What is Righteousness? The word refers to at least 3 different things.

  • A right standing with God. That is to be saved and forgiven (2 Cor. 5:21; Romans 3:21-22)
  • The right way to live (Romans 1:16-17; Eph. 4:22-24; Ps. 23:3)
  • Wanting justice and fairness in government and society (Micah 6:8; Isa. 32:1).

It is craving to know God intimately, personally, to be in a right relationship with Him in every area. It is, desiring to know His will and to do His will in every area of life. It is, desiring to see people treated fairly and for laws to be just and protecting the sanctity of life. These people are not clock conscious on Sunday, nor do they limit their desire for God to one meal served on Sunday by a pastor, rather, they want to be in the word studying and listening for the voice of God.

The Promise is that these and these alone will be filled, that is their craving will be satisfied like cattle under a shade tree chewing their cud. These will be satisfied with the Imputed Righteousness of Christ, the knowledge of His will, and the guidance of His Holy Spirit.

Are you one of Godís favored and approved? Are you different? Do you take this stuff seriously? Are you ready to change so that you will be one of the approved and favored of God and ready to meet the king? Letís pray.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman