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The Beatitudes - Part 1 (Mat. 5:1-4)

Scripture quotations are from RSV unless otherwise indicated.

The sermon on the mount was spoken during the early part of the Lord's ministry when He was very popular with the people. In fact Matthew says great multitudes followed Him from all parts of the country, and when He saw them He went up into the mountain and taught His disciples. So what He had to say was primarily to His followers, although at the end of the sermon the multitudes were astonished at His teaching, so evidently they'd been listening.

"Blessed"

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth," and so on. It's arresting to see that the Lord Jesus began His teaching with the word blessed and repeated it rime times over. What does it mean? Happy? Yes, but more than that at least more than what the world counts as happiness. The world's happiness can be such a fleeting thing. But the happiness that the Lord Jesus gives comes from a settled peace in the heart, and it doesn't depend upon our circumstances at all. God is described in the Bible as the blessed or happy God, and He wants us to be happy too happy with a deep sense of well-being, happy in the knowledge that our sins are forgiven and we're bound for heaven.

That's were happiness begins. "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered" wrote king David (Psalm 32:1), and the apostle Paul quotes his words in Romans chapter 4. And when Simon Peter confessed that the Lord Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus said, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 16:16, 17).

That's where happiness begins for any person, when he understands that the Lord Jesus is the Son of God, and for his sins and for his salvation He went to Calvary and died. The gospel Paul preached was in two parts, repentance toward God, and that comes when we are convinced of the seriousness of our sin, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, and that happens when we discover as Peter did that He is the Son of the living God.

One of the happiest persons I ever met was a little Chinese lady we called Aunty Hannah. She came into my life when I first went to Burma. I thank God for Aunty Hannah and what I learned from her. "Having nothing and yet

possessing all things" just described her. She was so poor she could literally pack all her treasures in one small bag and carry them over her shoulder. But she was radiant with the joy of Christ and she used to spend a lot of her time visiting her many Chinese friends and telling them all about Him. Certainly she was a living proof that happiness doesn't depend on what you possess, nor upon the circumstances of your life. It's a deeper thing than that. It begins when we accept Christ as our own Saviour, and it grows as we go on to acknowledge Him as Lord.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit"

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven". With these impressive words the Lord Jesus began His sermon on the mount. Showing us the way to real happiness and leaving us in no doubt whatever that this is what He desires for us so deeply, that we should enjoy this happiness in our lives.

I suppose that's what most people in the world are searching for. If we took a consensus of what people are wanting above anything else, happiness would be very high on the list, I'm sure. Men and women seek it in different ways of course in pleasure and sport, in sex, in politics, sometimes in religion, but are they finding it? They're not, are they? A glance through our daily newspaper convinces us of that. They're trying so hard and failing so miserably. The real happiness that lasts, that contentment of spirit which affects a person's whole life is evading them. No, the world hasn't found it, hard as it has tried.

That's why I'm so thankful for the privilege of sharing with you these words the Lord Jesus spoke, for I'm convinced with all my heart they're the answer to the deepest need. Take time to think seriously with me about it, please, and when you've found it yourself, pass it on urgently to others, for time is running out and the message Jesus spoke must be passed around the world.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit," He said, "for theirs is the kingdom of heaven". In other words, that's how we enter the kingdom of heaven and enjoy its lasting happiness. It's not by anything we do, nor by any gifts we bring. It's an attitude of heart.

Blessed are the poor in spirit. What exactly did the Lord Jesus mean by that? Certainly it's the very opposite of what the world is advancing. If you want to get ahead believe in yourself, the world says. Self-confidence, self-expression, self-reliance, these are the things our youth are learning in schools and colleges. But Jesus said - and His words are undying - their truth lasts for all time - "Blessed are the poor in spirit".

What did He mean? There's a verse in Isaiah 66 which I believe sums it up. God says, "This is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at My word". You remember Gideon? He was a young man when God told him He was going to use him to save Israel from their enemies. His reaction is interesting. He said, "My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family". That was poverty of spirit, wasn't it? He had small thoughts about himself. To such a man God looked. He was the man God chose to use.

Or think of Simon Peter. Plenty of self-confidence he had naturally, but when he came to know the Lord Jesus he fell at His knees and said, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, 0 Lord" (Luke 5:8). But the Lord didn't depart from him. Not at all. This was the very man He could use, a man who in His presence felt his own unworthiness.

And I believe that leads us right into the secret, if you can call it that, of how we become poor in spirit. The more we get acquainted with God through His Word, the less we shall think of ourselves. The more we learn of Christ, the more He will increase in our estimation, and we shall decrease. And I believe that's what He meant when He said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven". So "Fix your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His glorious face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace".

"Blessed are those who mourn"

In the 53rd chapter of Isaiah the Lord Jesus is described as a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. It's interesting we never read of Him laughing, but we do read a few times about Him shedding tears. That doesn't mean He wasn't happy, of course. He was, sublimely so. In His parting message to His disciples He said, "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full" (John 15:11). Like the apostle Paul, He was "sorrowful yet always rejoicing", and I believe that just opens up to us the meaning of the second beatitude: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted".

There may well be a word of comfort here for someone who mourns the loss of a loved one. God has a wonderful way of bringing blessing out of seeming tragedy. The Father of mercies and God of all comfort will comfort your heart in a very special way.

But it will not take away from your comfort, I'm sure, if I remind you that the Lord Jesus had far more than that in mind when He spoke these words. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted". He was a mourner Himself. He groaned at the grave of Lazarus. "Jesus wept", is the terse way the gospel writer records it. But why? It couldn't have been because His friend Lazarus had died, for in a few minutes He was going to raise him from the dead. Nor was it only in sympathy with the sorrowing sisters, although He was undoubtedly touched by their sorrow. No, there's a deeper reason. The scripture says, "He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled". It was the effect of sin and its fearful results which troubled Him so deeply. That's why He mourned and wept.

The world laughs at sin, but God doesn't. He loathes it. On every page of His Word He calls on us to take account of the seriousness of sin. The wages of sin is death, the Bible says, and to pay its awful wages, and to free us from its power, God gave His Son in death at Calvary. That is what sin cost God. Let us never forget that.

Woodrow Wilson was one of America's God-fearing presidents. He was reputed to be a man of few words. One day when he returned from church his wife asked, "What was the preacher's message today?" "Sin," he replied. "But what did he say about it?" she queried. "He was against it," said the president.

God is against sin. Men laugh about it, but God doesn't. They call it by other names. They cover it up to try and forget its seriousness. "Let us eat, drink and be merry," they say. That's a very common philosophy of life the world's prescription for happiness, but it doesn't last. Oh hear what the Lord Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted". That's the way to real happiness. When we mourn over sin, that brings us to repentance and draws us back to God for forgiveness and cleansing. And there's no joy to be compared with the joy of sins forgiven. Let us make known the message that Jesus spoke. Never was it needed more urgently than today. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted".