One thing that I love about taking a few moments at the end of each teaching for any possible questions is that it shows me the gaps in what we are going over… it shows me the things were communicated clearly and the things that were not necessarily made clear or sensible.
Sometimes when we fly through this much content it can be easy for something to get missed entirely… because there is a lot of depth to these Thursday night teachings, but if we had to throw out everything we have ever learned about the sermon on the mount and about the beatitudes, we would still be okay as long as we understand this one principle:
You can’t make it on your own.
That is the reason for the cross. That is the reason for Jesus. You are a mess. I am a mess. Without the saving grace of Jesus Christ, we are literally the walking dead… and the breath of life that is breathed into Christians is given to them on account of nothing that they have done, but merely on the realization that apart from Jesus they are broken. They are lost. Salvation comes hand in hand with dependency.
When you realize, I am a dependent of Jesus Christ.
So Jesus came preaching this message, REPENT. Change your mind because you can not save yourself… Repent. For the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.
This is what Jesus is offering us. He is offering us salvation that only comes through grace by the acknowledgment that you are broken and you can not save yourself… Salvation… Eternal life. A new destiny. This has almost nothing to do with you.
and with that salvation… that eternal life that is to come, along with that he also invites us to be citizens of a new Kingdom here on earth. And though your eternal price was paid for on the cross of Jesus Christ, and eternity belongs to you if you remain in Christ,
your level of success in this Kingdom… both personal success and success for how effective you are for Jesus, does have to do with you.
How Kingdom life looks like here and now, does have to do with you!
We have said several times that the Beatitudes truly are a proclamation to a very broken group of people that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them.
and the word he constantly uses, over and over again is the word “blessed.” It is the Greek word “makarios” (ma-kaa-ri-ase) and it could most simply be translated as “happy.”
another meaning could also mean “approved by God.”
and it is very important to understand that the big picture of what Jesus is saying is that he comes into the lives of the ones who know that they are sick, and then he becomes life to them.
Our eternity does not lie in anything other than the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
But that doesn’t null and void our duty as a Christian to live a Christian life. To walk in the gifts of the spirit, to live in a such way that the fruit of the spirit is evident in our lives….
In Hebrew… so in the old testament, we have two different words that come up as “blessed” and both of those words have very different meanings. The first word is the word:
baruk - a blessing from God to you or from you to God.
This is what we tend to think of when we think of the reality that we are poor in Spirit. It is just a gift… it is from God to us and we know that nothing about it, we deserve. It is generally the word that I default too because I constantly find myself so dependent on Jesus… but the truth is, there is a second word in Hebrew for “blessed” and in fact it is the word that David uses a lot in the Psalms, including many of the “blessed’s” that we have quoted… that word in Hebrew is the word:
Asre- (az-ree) - and that means “happiness, as a result of right decisions.”
I don’t ever want you to think that the way you live on this earth doesn’t matter. It matters immensely.
And sometimes it can be difficult to understand, when is Jesus talking about life, now, and when is he talking about eternal life, then… after?
And the beatitudes are especially difficult in these terms because so many of them are promises of things, that Jesus in other places says will never come on this side of eternity.
There will never be peace. But blessed are the peacemakers… the ones who work for peace… the ones who bring peace to their world even though we know that it will never fully be realized in our current world. Blessed are people who hunger and thirst for things to be the way that they ought to be… for order to be restored, and for justice to come. Blessed are you when you have that void in your own life… because then Jesus can fill it in your life, and you carry that hope into our broken world.
Giving your life to loving people in that capacity will greatly change your life now. and it will greatly impact the kingdom, now… and it will greatly impact all the lives that you come in contact with, now, as long as your life is a testimony for Jesus.
But until Jesus returns in all of his glory, total restoration will not come. Nor will justice.
But happy is the one, here, and now… who makes the types of decisions that help usher people into the Kingdom of God.
Last week, Chris’s example of the overlapping circles was the perfect example. But it can be frustrating when it feels like the work we are doing is not making a difference.
But it is.
It is easy to think, it doesn't make much difference. Its easy to think that me thinking that things aren’t as they should be, doesn't change much. Take a story we told last week. It is screwed up, when I think about how Noodles got murdered two years ago a couple hundred feet from where I am teaching Milly to ride her bike today… that just doesn’t seem right. Because its not right. It is not as it ought to be. We live in a neighborhood full of families who at one point in history were afraid to even let their kids come outside and play. Who still have bars on their front doors and sometimes even their windows… but that culture is beginning to shift because families like ours, and others who came before us, ARE teaching their kids to ride bikes in those streets, and ARE doing what we can to reclaim our neighborhoods for families.
The realization of brokenness has launched us into restoration.
And that restoration is a now blessing. The world that we are helping to create, we hopefully will have an opportunity to enjoy. There is an obvious void there, something is not as it ought to be… and truthfully, we mourn for what it once was as we work to create what it will be. And that is what life in the Kingdom looks like, now.
What will it take for me to spend eternity with Jesus? Its in the beatitudes.
What will it take for my neighbors to see Jesus through my life so that they can spend eternity with Jesus too? its in the beatitudes.
The first four beatitudes, the ones we studied up until today, those tell you, really, what it takes to become a Christian.
It describes what it looks like to be completely dependent on Jesus.
Because you are not saved by works. You are saved by grace, but Jesus came for those who know that they are sick, not the ones who think that they are healthy and they have it all together. The first four beatitudes, if nothing else, show us, we really, on our own, do not have it together.
Salvation comes by realizing, “oh my gosh, I can’t do this myself. I need someone else to carry me.”
and that is what the first four beatitudes are referencing.
Then Jesus moves on, into what your new life in the Kingdom of heaven looks like. When Jesus has a hold of your life:
You are merciful. You are pure in heart. You are a peace maker… and… the one that I find to be the hardest to wrap my brain around…
you are persecuted.
So lets explore the second half of the beatitudes. Todays beatitude is found in Matthew 5:7 and it says “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
This is the first and ONLY beatitude that GIVES YOU WHAT YOU GIVE.
Asre- (az-ree) - “happiness, as a result of right decisions.”
You get what you give.
This is as close as you are going to find to karma in the bible. You show mercy. Then you are shown mercy. You made the right decision, and that same decision is going to yield you the same reward as the sacrifice that you offered.
So what is mercy?
Mercy is the Greek word eleēmōn (e-lay-ā’-mōan) and its literal definition is to be “actively compassionate.”
It goes beyond what we addressed last week… last week we focused on this hunger… this thirst… almost as if you are trapped inside a box or locked inside a room so desperate to do something but knowing that there is little or in some cases nothing you can do…
But eleēmōn (e-lay-ā’-mōan) says, there is ALWAYS SOMETHING you can do to actively make a difference. Maybe you don’t solve the entire problem, but you do what you can. I heard mercy described this way, the teacher (Ed Dobson) was quoting William Barclay and the way that Barclay explains mercy is essentially that you get into someone’s skin. Not under their skin… but into it. You put yourself in their world so that you can see what they see and feel what they feel.
You put yourself in the center of the need… even if it is not your need and you train yourself to take the action steps to meet those needs not in the way that you think that they should be met, but through the eyes of the person whose needs you are actually meeting.
Here is an example… and this is not actually a need but like, have you everbeen given a gift, and you are so grateful that someone thought of you enough to give you that gift, but when you find out how much that gift cost, knowing how you have other much more tangible and real needs that are going unmet in your family... and so even though its generous, its not really that practical?
And this is not necessarily a good way to think, but you almost start to think, “man, for that much money we could have done ________” and if you aren’t careful you can even start to think, “did they do this for me? or did the do this for them? Because this is so impractical for where we are right now…”
But a person who is merciful will actually see the need through the eyes of the needy… they will actually evaluate, what is it? What will show compassion, and what will actually, actively, meet the need?”
That is the way Jesus operated all the time, and ultimately mercy is one of the things he achieved on the cross. He met our ultimate needs by facing the world through our lens.
Look at Hebrews 2:17-18. This is talking about the ultimate act of mercy, the most perfect image we have of what it means to be merciful:
“Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
He had to be made like us in every respect. In every way, so that he could truly show us mercy. He had to know what the world looked like through the lens of a person living in it every day. He had to face what we face so that he could give us what we needed. And Jesus will always be our greatest example for everything that we should become.
But mercy is about more than compassion. It is also about justice.
It is about us, desiring justice for the world and yet not implementing justice against those who have done us wrong.
and I put “implementing” justice on the slide… but really, even seeking justice… even desiring Justice for something done to you is an active sign of a lack of mercy. The bible actually says that we should seek justice but not when it pertains to ourselves. When it comes to our own lives, mercy triumphs over justice.
We have said, Grace is getting what you don’t deserve… and mercy is not getting what you do deserve.
Jesus gave us both, as our example.
So if you are merciful toward others, you would not give them what they deserve.
I love what R.T. Kendall says about mercy in his book about the sermon on the mount, and I gave you this quote on the first Sunday when we did the overview of the Beatitudes, but he says: “True graciousness-showing mercy-is letting people off the hook. It is doing what you can do to see they never get caught for what they did to you…. True graciousness is not reminding people of their faults, their failures or their past. It is not even letting on as if you know what they have done.”
Jesus says this at one point, he says, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
Jesus doesn’t care about what you give up. I know that is a sacred cow, and everyone loves giving up stuff… but it is completely true. Salvation is not about what you let go of.
He cares about what are becoming. He cares about what you give because what you give, and what you are able to let go of on account of your love for him and for others, is a clear as day window into what you are becoming and have become.
It is not about our sacrifice.
But we go through our entire Christian life priding ourselves on the things that we have given up. Our “sacrifices.” and all the while Jesus is over here thinking, “I gave my entire life away so that you could stop drinking beer?” Or “so you could stop swearing?” Or even “so you could stop sinning”
If you gave up those things for my names sake, that is great, and sometimes necessary for you in your relationship with Jesus but don’t make your Christian existence about those things… put them behind you and move along because Christianity is not about sacrifice it is about Kingdom living… and mercy is Kingdom living.
Don't you see? If your salvation can be watered down to "what you have given up... Or let go of for the sake of the gospel..." Then you haven't really let it go at all. The centrality of your hope is still pointing back to something other than Jesus.
Abandon your sin. Yes. But abandon it and never look back, because living in the kingdom is about what Jesus is doing in you, not about what you gave up doing yourself.
A kingdom person views the world through the lens of “what is the way, in this this moment, that I can live the love of Jesus out for someone else?”
That is Mercy. Through the eyes of those who need it.
And how could we not show mercy to others when Jesus, knowing exactly what we needed, gave that to us at the greatest cost to himself.
You simply can not say that you follow Jesus if your life looks nothing like him.
You can believe that you are under his grace, and I am very careful about how and when I tell someone that they are NOT under the grace of God… because I truly believe that Jesus meets people in their brokenness and if your life never moves from being poor in Spirit to being merciful, that is still between you and God… but there is no way that you can claim to be his disciple if you are not climbing the staircase of the beatitudes. If you have not accepted the grace, been changed by the grace, and then begin learning to live that grace out to others.
But this is one of the few things… mercy toward other people… that when I see it lacking in a person who claims to be a Christian I get very very very concerned for the well being even of their very soul. I believe that Jesus was pretty clear about this.
Turn with me to Matthew 18:21-35. And I know that we have been reading some longer passages this series, but this is EQUIP… it is a bible study… and this one is way shorter than the one that we read last week. So here we go.
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
(Note) - The accurate translation here is actually 70x7, and all on the same day for the same sin. So Jesus, before he gives us this parable, he says thatyou should be willing to forgive your brother 490 times in one day for the same sin. But even in our English translations, it should be abundantly clear that what Jesus is getting at here is that there is no limit to how often you forgive. He in no way was saying that when you get to the 69th time, you say to yourself “if it happens once more, I AM DONE!” That would make no sense at all.
23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. (NOTE: I read this in the footnotes of bible gateway this week when I was studying this… and I have heard various explanations for talents but I will share this one with you just to give you a bit of an idea of what was forgiven… bible gateway says that a talent is worth the equivalent of 20 straight years of your day’s wage. So whatever the average day’s wage was, one talent was 20 years of that. I mean, remember in the parable of the talents, one was given 1, another 2 and another 5. And giving someone 5 talents was a HUGE deal… and this guy in this parablejust got forgiven 10,000 of these. That was the first time that I had heard that exact explanation of it, but every explanation I have ever heard has been similar… this is a TON of money) 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
This is one of the most obvious parables that Jesus tells. There is not a ton of room for debating what Jesus is getting at here, at least not much that I have found. Jesus makes it even more clear with his use of 10,000 talents… so much more money than anyone would ever have been able to pay back ever. The point of this parable is this… you have been cleared a debt that you literally had no chance of every paying back. There was no way. It would be impossible. That is what he did on the cross. He cleared you. Pastor Dave always used to tell us that every time we sinned there was like a little calculator adding them up, 1 at a time… pastor Dave said he had somewhere in the millions of sins, but when he accepted Jesus… when he realized that he was poor in Spirit and could not save himself, then Jesus hit the clear button on the calculator. He cleared the debt.
But if you in your heart can not forgive someone else who has done something to you… after every single time that you broke God’s heart, and he still forgave you… then you are telling God, “I learned nothing from this. I am utterly selfish. And not in a “poor in spirit, I realize that my world is only about me and that is wrong” kind of way.
You are selfish. And you are in trouble.
and I think its easy for us to wonder, “Why?”
Why does it matter if I forgive someone else?
I came across this verse in John 20. It is John 20:23. It is after Jesus died, and rose from the dead, and begins appearing to the disciples, and its an incredibly empowering moment in the bible because Jesus comes to these disciples and he says “peace be with you… just as the Father sent me, I am now sending you. (John 20:21)”
He tells them, in the same way I was sent, you are about to be sent.
Then Jesus breaths on the disciples…
and this is what he says:
“Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus literally breaths the spirit into the disciples in that moment… it is similar to what Jesus says when he says that he has given us the keys to the kingdom, which we will one day do a study on that… hopefully soon… but he empowers them with the Holy Spirit… giving them more power than any person had ever had before that moment… and then he says this:
“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” (John 20:23)
Jesus hands us the reigns on this. He tells us that we hold peoples future in our hands to do with it what we will. And as ambassadors of Christ in a Kingdom that so desperately needs him, that seems like a lot of power to give to someone who is as broken as I am.
But that is why being poor in Spirit comes before mercy. Because until you can realize just how much mercy you have already received, you will constantly struggle to offer it to anyone.
and for many of us, it is easy to think, of course I will forgive…
until you REALLY get hurt. Until you really have something that happens to you that in your heart you wonder… “maybe it is worth it to not forgive.”
And I know some of us have come to that point already… where you would say “but you don’t know what they did to me!”
your parents abandoned you, your wife cheated on you, your kids won’t talk to you… your best friend betrayed you… This person took advantage of you, this person hurt someone in your family.
We can keep going… and we can find things, one that is worse than the last, and not as bad as the next. Because there are people in our broken world who do really really bad things. And it seems like every time we turn on the news somebody figured out a way to do something even worse. Even more extreme. Even more radical.
It seems like more and more the stories people are telling me of things that they have gone through are getting darker and darker. I am getting less and less surprised by destruction. Less and less surprised by people being used, and hurt, and beaten, and left for dead.
I don’t know what it is for you, and the last thing I want to be, is insensitive to the wounds of your past because those things are very real… but the truth is that they are SO REAL that they can define your future. They have that kind of power if you let them… and if tomorrow is defined by today’s unforgiveness then the days are only going to get darker.
because it is poison.
and in reality, I don’t know what all you have been through, and even if I knew it all, I may still not understand… but I know that most people would think that I have a great life, and I truly believe that I do too, and nothing so incredibly crazy has happened to me… and yet at times I find myself bitter about the dumbest things… not wanting to let go of the dumbest things… and if I have let even the small things poison my life then I can’t even imagine what would have happened had I been through something more dramatic.
Something that I don’t understand.
Something that is so obviously not right.
I know how it easy it is. But it is poison.
I have said this before and I will probably say it for the rest of my life… I am not judge… but from everything I read in the red letters it seems clear to me that “if there is one thing that will keep you separated from the God you think you are serving, it is an unforgiving, unmerciful heart toward someone else.”
The reason I say it this way... "The God you think that you are serving" is because many of us, and often I have to put myself in this category... But we often claim to follow Jesus and believe we are following him and serving Him when in reality our lives look nothing like him. But you have to remember, the first four beatitudes are salvation. It's how you enter, it is how you inherit. And they have almost nothing to do with you being anything and everything to do with Jesus being your source. But the second half of the beatitudes directly address what your life in the kingdom should look like if you are truly a disciple of Jesus. And there is no room for grudges, unforgiveness, or bitterness in the Kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 6:14-15 “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.”
But if you show mercy, then you will be shown mercy.
I read this week that the first debt in the parable of the unforgiving servant was around 600,000 TIMES the value of the second debt.
Jesus has already forgiven us of the greatest debt.
But he is asking us to do the same to our brother, to our neighbor, to our spouses, to our parents, to the stranger who hurt us without even knowing us.
Nothing anybody has done to us can amount to the pain that we caused God. It can't amount to what we put Jesus through. I know that there are some really dark stories, of really bad things. But Jesus died on the cross and declared that your debt has been paid.
Don’t make him lock us up until we can pay every penny… because we all know that there is simply no way that we could ever pay.
There is a blessing waiting for those who walk on the road of forgiveness.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. (Matthew 5:7)