Presentation on theme: "Presentation 11. Introduction In the last study we described the beatitudes as a picture of Christian character which hangs uncomfortably in the gallery."— Presentation transcript:
Introduction In the last study we described the beatitudes as a picture of Christian character which hangs uncomfortably in the gallery of the world’s values. Now the reason for this is that it contradicts those values and constantly clashes with them. The best way to view the beatitude -picture is not as eight separate pictures; poverty of spirit, mourning, meekness etc. but as a series of transparent overlays, each one building upon and adding to what lies underneath.
Presentation 11 Introduction For all of the qualities mentioned here are related to each other and depend upon one another to provide the kind of picture that God wants us to hold up before men. In our previous study we looked at what it meant to be ‘poor in spirit’ and concluded that the kind of poverty that Jesus was talking about was neither material poverty, nor that of a poor self image but the spiritual bankrupt. Such a man comes to God pulls out the linings of his pockets and says, ‘I have nothing at all with which to advance my spiritual condition … nothing in my hands I bring’
Presentation 11 Blessed Are They That Mourn As we turn to v 4 we examine the beatitude that makes the least sense to many people; ‘blessed are they that mourn’. The nature of the paradox is brought out by translating it, ‘happy are the unhappy’. But what kind of sorrow can open a door into the happiness and blessedness that Jesus describes? Some associate this beatitude with death thus a means of bringing assurance to those who grieve, that God will comfort them. But is this Jesus’ meaning? Is this an encouragement to persevere in bereavement assured that time will heal our wounds? No! This is far too inadequate an understanding of this beatitude.
Presentation 11 Blessed Are They That Mourn In order to understand the kind of mourning in view we need to remember that Jesus is talking about ‘life in the kingdom of God’. This beatitude builds on the previous one. What does a man do when he realises that he is poor in spirit? What is the response of the spiritual bankrupt who realises his utter inability and lack of resources to save himself? Clearly his eyes are opened to his own sinfulness. He mourns over the fact that he has failed God. And so it is not the sorrow of bereavement but the sorrow of repentance which is primarily in view. It is one thing to be spiritually poor and admit it but t is quite another step to grieve and mourn over it.
Presentation 11 Blessed Are They That Mourn This beatitude wonderfully illustrated in Psalm 130 where the trembling writer stands before God’s judgement seat and says, ‘If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?’ v3. The awareness that he has offended God’s majesty and holiness fills him with shame. Yet he is also gripped by another amazing truth about God, ‘but with you there is forgiveness that you may be feared’ v4. He mourns over his sin all the more because this God forgives sin! What causes him to do so? Grace melts our hearts and causes us to mourn over our sinfulness and grace comforts us and persuades us that God forgives sinners. Repentance is God’s gift and is required not just to enter the kingdom of God but to grow and develop in it.
Presentation 11 Blessed Are They That Mourn Now the world in which we live is implacably opposed to mourning. Its counter- beatitude is, ‘Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die’. It counsels men to wear the mask of cheerfulness, which denies or at least glosses over their sin – we must live life to the full for the show must go on. It sends out its bands and baton carrying cheerleaders to promote a pitiful superficiality found in the words of the wartime song: What’s the use of worrying, It never was worthwhile, So pack up your troubles in your old kit bag, And smile, smile, smile. The world will do all in its power to prevent us from grieving over our sin.
Presentation 11 Blessed Are They That Mourn Even among Christian people this beatitude is not always popular. When the church is unduly concerned with its external image, it promotes a Christian facial - we are expected to wear a perpetual plastic grin that tells the world how happy we are, ‘be a bubbly being for Jesus’. A college student bought into this teaching. He spotted one of his lecturers coming towards him wearing a mournful expression. He slapped the lecturer on the back, and said, ‘Praise the Lord brother, don't trip over your face?’ Later that day it was discovered that the lecturer had just received news of a family bereavement. I do not know how the backslapping student felt but I hope that he learned to let his permanent plastic grin slip.
Presentation 11 Blessed Are They That Mourn The mourning to which Jesus invites us in the beatitudes is not of course an encouragement to develop a heavy and a depressive spirit. Some people are by nature very melancholic and can become very withdrawn into themselves. Their face, manner, funereal walk and even the droop on their shoulders are all designed to tell you exactly how they are feeling. But all of these characteristics tend to reflect someone who is absorbed with themselves rather than with God’s holiness and majesty.
Presentation 11 Blessed Are They That Mourn It is significant that this beatitude is prominent in days of spiritual revival. Listen to this record of the Cambuslang Revival in Scotland in the 1740s: “I found a good many persons under the deepest exercise of soul, crying out most bitterly for their lost and miserable state by reason of sin; of their unbelief in despising Christianity and the offers of the gospel: of the hardness of their hearts; and of their gross carelessness and indifference about religion... I heard then express great sorrow for these things seemingly in the most serious manner and this not so much from fear of punishment as from a sense of dishonour done to God.”
Presentation 11 Blessed Are They That Mourn The mourning of which Jesus speaks is not something to be confined to periods of spiritual awakening, rather he intends it to be part of our daily experience. It takes place as we allow our hearts to be broken and melted as we recognise just how much we had offended God. Some, who are familiar with the Anglican liturgy, may know that Thomas Cramner, the English Reformer, introduced the words, ‘We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness’. By doing so Cramner sought to encourage the regular practice of spiritual mourning. It is this practice that Jesus said would bring his comfort.
Presentation 11 Blessed Are They That Mourn Jesus described his ministry as follows: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken- hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” Lk. 4v18 ff. The Isaiah contains more, “to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Isa 61v2-3
Presentation 11 Blessed Are They That Mourn There is no comfort like this comfort. There is no joy like this joy! Why? Because by it the Spirit of God whispers into the depths of our being, ‘You are forgiven and have been brought into a right relationship with God.’ Surely this is what the Psalmist had in mind when he wrote, ‘You have turned my mourning into dancing for me, you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy’. Psalm 30v11
Presentation 11 Blessed Are The Meek Poverty of spirit and spiritual mourning have a significant influence upon the life of the believer, they cultivate a spirit of meekness. But what does the word ‘meekness’ suggest to you? Is it some spineless creature who refuses to say boo to a fly or perhaps a human doormat who lies down and lets people walk all over him? For many people, the meek man is to be pitied above all creatures. This would have been the view of many Jews who had a materialistic picture of God’s kingdom. They wanted a conquering Messiah who would stand up to the Romans and drive them from their shores. Imagine how this teaching must have shocked them?
Presentation 11 Blessed Are The Meek The world does not value ‘meekness’. It values, strength, self-assertiveness and aggressiveness. Courses on self- assertiveness are advertised in the national newspapers but do they offer courses on meekness? No! The world scoffs at the term. Its agenda is conquest and possession. We see this in the workplace where climbing to the top of the ladder often means pushing others off, but that’s O.K.! At home we find the aggressive family member determined to have everyone else do their bidding. At the national level the slogan ‘might is right’ often prevails even if the ‘might’ is diplomatic and financial rather than physical and military. It was a self-assertive nationalistic spirit that Hitler cultivated in Germany during the 1930s.
Presentation 11 Blessed Are The Meek Though the world might laugh, meekness is a quality commended by Jesus. How did he view weakness? Meekness is a humble strength that belongs to the man who has learned to submit to difficulties- these can come in the form of difficult people or difficult circumstances - he submits because he is fully persuaded that in everything God is working out his good. The meek man is the man who has stood before God and abdicated his so-called rights. He is not always on the defensive or full of self-justification. He is not resentful. He will not bear a grudge. He is submissive under provocation. He is willing to suffer rather than inflict injury.
Presentation 11 Blessed Are The Meek The Bible provides two helpful illustrations of meekness. First, Moses who was the meekest man of his day Num. 12v3. He was not a naturally meek man. It took God many years to cultivate this spiritual quality in Moses life. We learn from Stephen’ speech in Acts 7v25 that Moses had a sense of his destiny, he knew he was God’s intended deliverer of his people. But he acted prematurely and presumptuously, killed an Egyptian taskmaster and expected the Israelites to rise up in response to his action. It took a further 40 years of desert training to subdue Moses independent, unsubmissive spirit and produce a meekness that God could use.
Presentation 11 Blessed Are The Meek This prominence given to meekness in the beatitudes provides a clue to much of what God does in our lives. We not recognise what God is but he wants to make us meek. First, he has to destroy our pride, break our independent self-sufficient spirit and humble us before he can use us. This explains so many of life’s trials and God’s determination to uncover the secret ambitions which are hidden in our hearts. He wants to replace our agenda with his. He is determined at every turn to expose our self-reliance and work submission in our lives which in turn produces meekness.
Presentation 11 Blessed Are The Meek The second and supreme example of meekness is that of the Lord Jesus who is ‘meek and lowly in heart’ Matt 11v29. And the amazing thing about this self-disclosure made about himself is that this is virtually the only personal quality to which he draws specific attention! Isaiah notes this quality when he identifies the Messianic servant of God ‘ He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets’ [He will not be the kind of person to draw attention to himself] ‘a bruised reed he will not break and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out.’ Isa. 42v2-3. He will deal gently with those who are not all that they could or ought to be.
Presentation 11 Blessed Are The Meek This is a quality needed in every sphere of Christian service. This is why Paul’s approach to the Corinthians was not to bring out the big guns but he appealed to them ‘by the meekness and gentleness of Christ’, 2Cor. 10v1. Writing to Timothy Paul says, ‘the man of God should pursue meekness and gentleness’ 1Tim.6v11. But how? By accepting God’s estimate of his life. The meek man is not caught up with himself and so not unduly sensitive about what people say about him. He is approachable. People will not dread putting their foot in it in the course of conversation because he is not touchy and will not retaliate. Jesus’ meekness made him approachable?
Presentation 11 Blessed Are The Meek The meek man is happy to leave everything to God; his rights, his cause, his future! This is a liberating truth setting us free from bitterness and anger when someone does not act towards us as we feel they should. Happiness is not dependant upon getting what we wants. And so the meek man will ‘inherit the earth’ in terms of present enjoyment. The self-assertive grasping man may increase his material possessions but he will not enjoy them because he does not possess them, they possess him. The meek ‘inherit the earth’ also in a future sense. His future is secure in the new created order. The assertive man grasps a little piece of this earth and holds onto it for a little while but the meek man can sit patiently waiting for the future inheritance which he knows will be his.
Presentation 11 Blessed Are The Meek How does the hallmark of meekness develop in our lives? As we discover the truth about ourselves before God. When we have learned to look to him as the only source of spiritual aid. When we develop a poverty of spirit and in that condition, and before God’s throne, mourn over our sinfulness. And as we learn increasingly to acknowledge and submit ourselves to God’s rule. We will be meek and gentle with others as we come to value something of the gentleness of God’s grace in dealing with us. This is the picture that God is intent upon creating and one he longs to find in our lives – a reflection of his own dear Son.