LIFE OF CHRIST
In our last lesson, we began to look at the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus starts His lesson with what is known as the Beatitudes. Last week, we looked at the first 3, but I want to go ahead and read all 9 Beatitudes once again.
Matthew 5:2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: 3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
The fourth Beatitude says:
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.
What does it mean to hunger and thirst? Let’s look a few definitions from Thayer:
Hunger means: 1) to hunger, be hungry 1a) to suffer want 1b) to be needy 2) metaph. to crave ardently, to seek with eager desire
Thirst means: 1) to suffer thirst, suffer from thirst 1a) figuratively, those who are said to thirst who painfully feel their want of, and eagerly long for, those things by which the soul is refreshed, supported, strengthened
There are two different ways that these words are used in Scripture. First, they are used in a physical sense. Let me give one example of each:
Luke 4:2 being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry.
John 19:28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I thirst!"
Both of these examples are about Jesus. I feel pretty confident in saying that none of us have ever fasted for 40 days, but I think we could imagine how ravenous one would be if they even went half that long without food. I am sure all of you have experienced that ravenous feeling when you get really hunger and begin to eagerly desire to eat anything. What amazes me is that Jesus could have used His powers to make Himself food and though He was prodded by the devil to do this very thing, He did not.
As challenging as the 40 day fast was, Jesus had a much more difficult task to face, which was His crucifixion and everything that went along with it. We can only image how much pain He was in, which would have made Him even thirstier. As He was getting close to the end of His physical life, He said, “I thirst.” No doubt, He was fulfilling Scripture when He said this, but I also have no doubt that He was thirsty because anyone in that situation would be.
I am guessing that most of us understand what it means to thirst. If you have done any kind of exercise, it does not take long until your body tells you with authority “give me something to drink.” Perhaps you went on a walk or a bike ride in the hot sun and forget to bring water with you, you will begin to thirst. What do you do when you get to get some water? You drink it like a fish. Sometimes you are so thirsty that you drink too much water and it makes your stomach hurt.
The second way hunger and thirst are used in Scripture is in a spiritual sense. Let me give you two examples:
John 6:35 And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.
John 4:13 Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 "but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."
Both these examples also involve Jesus and He certainly not talking about satisfying physical hunger or physical thirst, but spiritual hunger and thirst. However, the same principle of having a strong desire for food and water is the same strong desire we should have for the spiritual. When Jesus says that we are blessed if we hunger and thirst for righteousness, He is talking about this in a spiritual sense. However, our desire for righteousness should be greater than our desire to fill our bellies with food and water.
Imagine what would happen if we had the attitude of Job who said:
Job 23:12 I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth More than my necessary food.
I also like what David says:
Psalm 63:1 …O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water.
Are you beginning to see why I said last week that the Sermon on the Mount will challenge you to become a better Christian? How many of us can honestly say, we do not have room to grow in the area of hungering and thirsting for righteousness. I have already alluded to it, but let us see what righteousness is.
Thayer defines righteousness this way:
1) in a broad sense: state of him who is as he ought to be, righteousness, the condition acceptable to God 1a) the doctrine concerning the way in which man may attain a state approved of God 1b) integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking feeling, and acting
The source of righteousness is God’s Word.
Psalm 119:172 My tongue shall speak of Your word, For all Your commandments are righteousness.
Righteousness in revealed in the gospel:
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."
Those who follow the commandments of God are considered righteous as we can see what is said about Aaron and Elizabeth:
Luke 1:6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
So, if we put all this together we can see that we are to have a strong desire to hunger and thirst for righteousness, which means we should be focused on feeding ourselves with the Word of God and living by what it says. When we walk by the commandments of God, we will be righteous and pleasing to God.
Jesus also said that when we hunger and thirst for righteousness that we be filled. Certainly, there are times when we eat food, we are filled. Even when we come close to gluttony on holidays like Thanksgiving, we will be filled for a short time before we get hungry again. In other words, we can never be satisfied for long when it comes to physical food or water.
However, when it comes feeding yourself with the Word of God it can and will satisfy you spiritually. You will never be left thinking that something was missing because God has given us everything we need to live a righteous life that is pleasing to Him. Remember how Jesus told the woman that He had water that would cause her to never thirst again and how He told those people following Him in John 6 that if they came to Him that they would never thirst or hunger again. As:
Psalm 107:9 For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness.
So let us be challenged by this fourth beatitude to hunger and thirst for righteousness. Our fifth Beatitude is:
7 Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.
There are two different Greek words here. The merciful is defined this way:
FRIBERG- merciful, compassionate, sympathetic … of a person who shows pity to others
The Word mercy means:
THAYER - 1) to have mercy on 2) to help one afflicted or seeking aid 3) to help the afflicted, to bring help to the wretched 4) to experience mercy
One who is merciful is one who does something for another out of compassion and love, which also includes the idea of forgiveness. Those who show mercy usually receive mercy, but even if a person does not receive mercy from another, that person will receive mercy from God.
Proverbs 11:17 The merciful man does good for his own soul, But he who is cruel troubles his own flesh.
We are going to look at two examples that fit perfectly with our Beatitude and with what our passage in Proverbs says. First, let’s focus on the first half of the Proverb. Those who are merciful do good for their own soul. While there are several examples I could use, I want you to notice what we learn about Rahab:
Joshua 2:1 Now Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men from Acacia Grove to spy secretly, saying, "Go, view the land, especially Jericho." So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there. 2 And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, "Behold, men have come here tonight from the children of Israel to search out the country." 3 So the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, "Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the country." 4 Then the woman took the two men and hid them. So she said, "Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. 5 "And it happened as the gate was being shut, when it was dark, that the men went out. Where the men went I do not know; pursue them quickly, for you may overtake them." 6 (But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order on the roof.) 7 Then the men pursued them by the road to the Jordan, to the fords. And as soon as those who pursued them had gone out, they shut the gate. 8 Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, 9 and said to the men: "I know that the LORD has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. 10 "For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11 "And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. 12 "Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the LORD, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father's house, and give me a true token, 13 "and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death." 14 So the men answered her, "Our lives for yours, if none of you tell this business of ours. And it shall be, when the LORD has given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with you."
These verses are a great study within themselves, but the point is that Rahab did not have to be merciful on these men and she had no idea if her mercy would save her life and all those she wanted to be saved. However, since she hid them and saved their lives, they swore to save her life and those she mentioned. This certainly worked out well for her and those she cared for. Just as Jesus said, blessed are merciful for they shall obtain mercy.
The second half our Proverb is the opposite of mercy. Remember it said: But he who is cruel troubles his own flesh.
A great example of this comes from the parable that Jesus taught in:
Matthew 18:23 "Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 "And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 "But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 "The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, 'Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' 27 "Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. 28 "But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, 'Pay me what you owe!' 29 "So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' 30 "And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 "So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 "Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 'Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?' 34 "And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 "So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses."
Much could be said about this parable as well, but the main point I want you to see is that this man who owed a huge debt begged for mercy to the king and he gave it to him and forgave him his whole debt, but this man was not interested in receiving mercy and not giving it. We can see how he treated this other man that did not owe much at all and would not grant him mercy. We can see the results of cruel behavior. His king took back his mercy and gave him the full punishment he deserved. As James said:
James 2:13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
This teaches us a great lesson on the importance of being merciful to others because if we show no mercy to others, then our Father in heaven will have mercy on us. Of course, being merciful means that we will be moved by compassion to help others such as the good Samaritan who helped the poor man on the side of the road, when the priest and the Levite would not.
Of course our greatest example of mercy is the mercy God gave to us all. Paul talks about this regarding himself in:
1 Timothy 1:12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, 13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.
Think about what Paul says about himself. He was a blasphemer, persecutor of Christians and an insolent man, which means that he was a prideful man who was violent. How many of us would have a hard time showing mercy to a man like this, especially when we know he was responsible for the deaths of Christians both men and women? If Paul got what he deserved, he would have been struck dead on the road to Damascus instead being struck blind. But God had mercy on his soul.
Unlike the foolish man we read about in the parable earlier, Paul did not take the mercy of God for granted because he became a changed man and gave himself fully over to God. Paul’s example shows every unbeliever that no matter what they have done in their past, God will grant them mercy and allow them to have the gift of grace that He offers. Just as our Father is merciful, we must be merciful. Being merciful is not an option. As Paul taught in:
Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.
So, let always do our best be merciful, and we too will obtain mercy. Our sixth Beatitude is:
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.
The word pure means: free from corrupt desire, from sin and guilt (Thayer). Many times when you see the word “heart” in the Bible, it is talking about our minds not the blood pump in our chests. The Bible certainly emphasizes the need for us to have pure hearts that are not defiled by sin.
For examples, notice what Jesus said to His disciples in:
Matthew 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" 2 Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, 3 and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 "Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
I think we can all agree that young children who have not been corrupted by the world are definitely pure in heart and we are to become like them. Every Christian must strive to clean out all the junk in their heads and work on transforming their minds to the way of God:
Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
We should all have the attitude of David who said:
Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
When we become Christians, we have to make a lot changes in our lives and it will not happen overnight, but if we ever hope to be pleasing to God and to keep away from sinful things, we must continue to work on purifying our hearts. This is another attribute that is not optional:
James 4:8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
How can we make such a transformation? Well, as simple as it may sound, it comes from reprograming our minds with the Word of God.
1 Peter 1:22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,
The beginning point of purifying our souls is by obeying the truth. We can also see this when Peter was making his point about whether gentiles should be circumcised or not. He said:
Acts 15:7 And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: "Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 "So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 "and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
These gentiles, more specifically Cornelius’ household, hearts were purified by faith, and we know that faith comes from hearing God’s Word (Rom. 10:17). So, if we want to know how to create a clean heart in ourselves, we must use God’s Word.
We certainly do not want to be like the Pharisees who were not pure in heart. As we read in:
Matthew 23:25 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. 26 "Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. 27 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. 28 "Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
God does not want us to just look the part, or just do the right things especially to be seen by others. He wants us to be genuine Christians from the inside out, which begins with the heart.
Proverbs 23:7 For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.
Those who are pure in heart, will have clean minds and will keep even the thought of sin out of their minds, which is why so many of the things Jesus teaches in His sermon challenges us to a higher standard because it is one thing to not physically commit a sin and it is another to keep even the thought of committing the sin out of your head.
As Jesus said, those who have pure hearts will see God. While we can see the works of God all around us, when we remain pure by keeping the sin out of lives, we will get see God and be with Him in heaven in the end. As John wrote in:
1 John 3:2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
Let’s all continue to work on purifying our minds with the Word of God. We have examined 6 of the 9 Beatitudes. I hope you will be able to hear the next lesson in this series as I will finish up the remaining Beatitudes.