Beatitudes of Life

In this sermon, Brother Finny Kuruvilla delivers a powerful message to the church of today. The framework of his sermon is the Beatitudes. The picture he paints is that of Jesus standing with His hand on your head giving you a blessing as a result of you keeping the Beatitudes. If you or your church is struggling to receive the blessing and glory of God take time to listen to this blowing of the trumpet in Zion.

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In World War II, there was a man named Francis Chichester who was teaching plane navigation (aviation) to military students in the British Air Force. On one particular day of his training, two of his students who were learning navigation and aviation from him did not return. Chichester spent days looking for them in his light aircraft without success. Three months later he learned that those two young men had become prisoners of war. What happened was that they misread the compass by exactly 180 degrees in the wrong direction, and they crossed the English Channel thinking that it was the Bristol Channel. So they cross over, and they were so relieved and happy because they see an airfield with searchlights on. So they land on this runway. They open the hatch, and the next thing they know, they see a rifle from a German soldier into their cockpit, as they had landed on a German airstrip. They misread their navigation.

Indeed getting lost is something that is very deep in our psyche. There are a lot of fairy tales like “Hansel and Gretel” about getting lost. Probably a lot of us, when we were children, worried about getting lost in the store or getting lost in the wilderness. It’s very interesting, in the 18th and 19th century, one of the leading causes of death for children in America, believe it or not, was getting lost in the wilderness. It was one of the top causes of death. Now this was long before everybody had maps and compasses. People would not be able to find their way back.

I’m going to be talking today about a roadmap for our discipleship. I’m going to be building on what we heard earlier in that talk from Brother Dale about structure. I want to ask you a question: Do you have a roadmap for discipleship? I think a lot of us know the story of Pilgrim’s Progress who starts at “The City of Destruction” and makes it all the way to “The Celestial Kingdom.” Where are you on this journey? Do you have a road map? Do you have a plan? If I were to ask you what that is, could you tell me?

I know that none of you would build a house without a blueprint. You would say, “Oh, I’m building the foundation, I’m putting in rebar, I’m doing electrical, I’m doing plumbing, I’m doing drywall.” There are different stages there. Similarly, I’m asking you today: What is the plan for your discipleship, or is it aimless? So my goal is very simple for this morning: it’s to give you that roadmap for your discipleship, and then to give you some sense of where you are on this map. So this is going to entail some heart searching. This is not for the person next to you; this is for you.

So with that, I want us to turn to our passage, which is Matthew 5. We’re only looking at one passage, so if you could open your Bible or reading device to Matthew 5, we’re going to look at verses 1-12. This is a very familiar passage. It’s the opening of “The Sermon on the Mount.” Matthew 5:1-12.

1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him.
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.

So here we have the opening of the greatest sermon by the greatest Preacher of all time. This sermon is, of course, normally called “The Sermon on the Mount.” It’s Jesus’ discourse on discipleship. It’s Jesus’ longest sermon that we have in the whole Bible. And it’s where He tells us what it means to follow Him. It’s only fitting that Jesus gave this sermon up on a mountain, because when Moses gave the Old Covenant laws, he, of course, was up on Mount Sinai. In fact, in the Bible, because God has mercy on us and we’re slow, He’s very careful to have the most important events happen up on a mountain.

  • Moses’ reception of the law happened at Sinai.
  • Zion, Mount Zion, is where the people are in Jerusalem; it’s the center of Jerusalem.
  • Here, of course, we have this famous mountain where Jesus gave this sermon.
  • Calvary is another mountain where Jesus dies.
  • At the end of Matthew, it says of the Great Commission that Jesus goes up a mountain; it’s a different mountain in Galilee, and He tells the disciples to go into all the nations and make disciples.
  • And then, when He ascended into heaven, He goes back into the Jerusalem area, and He ascends from Mount Olivet.

So, like I said, because we’re slow, God says, pay attention. If something is really high up, if it’s prominent, it’s going to be important. God wants to make it obvious, so the Sermon on the Mount is the place where God is trying to communicate the importance of the message by its lofty position. This is no ordinary sermon. This should be the defining sermon of your life.

Now, I’m going to walk through these verses, verse by verse here, and hopefully bring out some new thoughts for you, and give you this roadmap.

Now verse 2 might seem a little strange; it says, “He opened His mouth and taught them.” Now a lot of people read that and think that it’s redundant. Why would you say open your mouth and teach them? Obviously, I’m opening my mouth when I’m teaching you, right? Well, this is because all the way back to the early Church, people have noted that Jesus more commonly taught people by His actions than by His words. In fact, some of His greatest teachings were simply His actions. Did you know that for any teacher, his life is his message? And this is something that all of us in any kind of teaching role should know. Whether it’s from a pulpit, or teaching in a classroom or a homeschool, your teaching consists of your actions and your words. So it’s not redundant in verse 2 that He opens His mouth and teaches them. He’s now teaching us verbally in this sermon.

The very first word out of Jesus’ mouth in the original Greek and in English is the word “blessed.” The word beatitude is the Latin word for “blessed.” This is a word that we struggle to understand, that we struggle to grasp. It’s a little bit of a hobby horse of mine, that we overuse and misuse the word blessing or bless. And so we say it when we sneeze (I’m not totally opposed to that). A lot of times when something good happens to someone they’ll say, “Well, that’s a blessing.” You hear that a lot: “That’s a blessing.” I notice it has become popular, although it’s kind of fading now, that people in their emails, they’ll say instead of “Sincerely,” they’ll say “Blessings,” and then you write your name. You’ve seen that right? A lot of people do that. In the world, you’ll see someone snapping a picture of them drinking a margarita on a beach; they’ll post it on some forum, and the hashtag will say, “Blessed.” In the cabin where I’m staying right now, there’s a bunch of Etsy type things (I don’t know if they’re from Etsy, but they look like they’re from Etsy) up on the wall that have “Blessing” and “Blessed” and all that. And it doesn’t feel like a very powerful word. It feels more quaint than powerful. The word has been very diluted or misused.

I’ve even seen some translations – there are a couple of modern translations that actually say, “Happy” instead of “Blessed.” So they’ll say, “Happy are the poor in spirit,” and they’ll use “Happy” all throughout. Now, I don’t like that translation; I think that’s a mistake, because it almost seems like Jesus is making some sort of description, some sort of factual description about where people are at.

Blessings are totally different, totally different! They are not just descriptions.

In a blessing, something is actually happening; forces are moving; forces are flowing; and reality is being changed.

So let’s consider one of the most famous examples of blessing in the Bible, which is the blessing of Isaac. Remember how Isaac has the two twins, Jacob and Esau? We know that story. And Esau is the one who is supposed to get the blessing, right? But we know the story. Jacob tricks his father and puts the animal skin on his arms, and he gains the blessing for himself. And Esau finds out about this and he’s devastated. And he goes to his father, Isaac, and he’s weeping. Esau is weeping, and he says, “Isn’t there a blessing for me?” And listen to what Isaac says. (Genesis 27:37)

Isaac answered and said to Esau, “Indeed, I have made him your master, and all his brethren I have given to him as servants; with grain and wine I have sustained him. What shall I do now for you, my son?”

And Esau continues to weep there. Did you notice what happened in Isaac’s mind when he blessed Jacob? It was not just a description of reality. He believed that he changed reality with that blessing. And Esau is devastated because Esau thinks, “There’s nothing,” (and he’s right) “the blessing’s gone, it’s already been transferred to my brother; what’s left for me?”

Blessings are not just descriptions; they are reality-changing pronouncements. People have used analogies like a judge declaring people guilty or innocent.

When I was a teenager, my grandfather who lived in South India, was old and sick. He lived in a state called Kerala, and he gave a call to my parents and said, “I think I’m about to die; I want to give my final blessing. Would Finny be interested to get that blessing?” I was in college at the time, and this was no small feat. (I was in California.) But I had enough sense from the Bible to know that I needed to drop everything, jump on a plane, and fly all the way to India. And I got to the small village where my grandfather lived. I knelt down there. He put his hands on my head, and he prayed this beautiful prayer in Malayalam, which is the language he speaks, and he gave me his final blessing. It was a very very moving experience.

Now, let’s think back to what I just mentioned about the blessing of Isaac. If the blessing of Isaac could confer that kind of reality changing power, let’s pretend for a moment, or let’s pose the question, “How much greater would be the blessing of Jesus?” Let’s say, it wasn’t me standing up here, but let’s say Jesus in the flesh was up here, and He said, “All right, everyone, after this meeting, I’m going to stand here and I’m going to put My hands on you and bless whoever wants a blessing from Me Jesus.” I hope the line would stretch all the back to the very end of Roxbury and not a person would neglect that. I hope that, right? Would you all line up even if it was an hour wait? I hope you would.

Well, what we see in the Beatitudes, is how Jesus is telling us how He’s going to bless us. This is the way that – If you want Jesus to bless you, this is what you’re going to follow. The Beatitudes are the core, the very core of what it is to be blessed by God. So we should be reading this with bated breath. We should think, “Wait a minute, I get to get the blessing of Jesus! Not just Isaac or some human, but Jesus Himself!”
Ok, I want us to sing a song before we go on. Let’s sing the song, “Lord, Prepare Me to Be a Sanctuary.” [All singing]

Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary,
Pure and holy, tried and true.
With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living
Sanctuary, for You.

Ok, so we’re getting ready to have Jesus bless us here. Now the structure of The Beatitudes is carefully organized. I don’t have enough time to go into this in a lot of details. There are seven Beatitudes that we do, and then the eighth Beatitude is something that happens to us. Number One and number Eight end with the same blessing: “For theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” And, interestingly, the first four use alliteration. In Greek, they all start with the letter p. Someone has tried to render this in English. (He did a decent job.) David Garland says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, the plaintive, the powerless, and those who pine for righteousness.” He was trying to capture the rhythm of what Jesus was actually saying there.

This is a sermon that was given with a high degree of intent for us to remember everything about it. The first four Beatitudes contain exactly 36 words; the second four Blessings contain exactly 36 words. And these are not unrelated sayings. It’s not some jumble here. One writer, McLaren, says it this way: “There is a vital connection and progress in them. The jewels are not slung down in a heap; they are wreathed into a chain.”

I like the way that Spurgeon describes it. He says, “Our Lord has, in a few telling sentences, told us all about it without using a solitary redundant word, or allowing the slightest omission. The seven golden sentences, (the first seven Beatitudes) are perfect as a whole, and each one occupies its appropriate place. Together, they are a ladder of light, and each one is a step of purest sunshine. They are the natural sequel and completion of each other.” I love that expression, “ladder of light.”

Ok, so we just heard about structure. This is Jesus’ structure for discipleship.

Now, in the secular world, I think we all know, there’s this concept of making steps, and you recognize those steps, and you assess progress at every step. So in the medical world, for example, at the end of the second year of medical school, you take an exam called Step 1 of the Boards. It’s a 12-hour test, (or at least it was when I took it.) A 12-hour test, and they want to know that you know all the things that you’ve learned in your first two years of medical school. Then you do what is called Shelf Exams after you do radiology, neurology, and pediatrics, testing you on each of those disciplines. Then you take Step Two which is a 9-hour exam. Then you do your residency. Then you do an 18-hour exam. It’s intense. And you can’t go on, you will not get your license, unless you pass every single one of those. Someone who’s an electrician was telling me they have something not as elaborate, but they have something like that in the electrical world.

So here Jesus is giving us levels of discipleship. These seven Beatitudes are the ascent of God’s holy mountain. So let’s look at each one in turn.

Beatitude 1, says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

“Poor in spirit” basically means humble. It’s a way of expressing humility. And I’m very glad that Jesus starts with humility. He starts with something which is like the ABC’s. He doesn’t start with calculus; He starts with the ABC’s. The question is, why doesn’t He say, “Blessed are the humble?” That would be a natural thing to do, right? This is where the greatest Teacher of all time shows us His master skill. What He does is He gives us a picture that we can better understand what humility is like. Now I like pictures more so than abstract ideas, so Jesus’ teaching suits me well. And the picture is simply this: picture an utterly destitute person who has nothing, maybe just a few scraps of clothing on his body, but that’s it. The Greek word that’s used here designates not just an ordinary poor person, but the absolute most destitute person that you can picture.

I remember when I was a young boy in the 1980’s. I was in India, and I was with my parents and we were riding on a bus, riding through – back then it was called Bombay. (Now they call it Mumbai.) We were riding on this bus, and it was monsoon rain season. I don’t know how many of you have experienced monsoon rains, but they’re nothing like we have in America. They are intense, just torrential! It just goes on and on and on – these monsoon rains. Well, we were on this bus driving from one part to another part of Mumbai, and whenever we would stop — (It was hot even though it was monsoon rains.) The windows were open, and all these beggars would come and surround the bus – I mean 360 degrees around the bus. And they would stick their hands inside the window so that it was about a foot away from your face. So you’re riding on this bus, and at every stop, as soon as they can, they would just get there and just put their hands right in front of you. And you look out. (How can you not look at these people?) and with their other hand, they’re making this gesture here, which means that “I’m hungry.” These people were sick. I remember seeing a lot of nursing mothers. I remember seeing a little boy who looked just like my brother (the picture still haunts me.) And what a scene, to just stop after stop have people who have nothing but the clothes on their back, begging. That’s the picture when I think of Jesus describing the poor in spirit. That’s what I imagine.

Now this has a very powerful effect on us because the poor in spirit see themselves as needy and powerless. If you look into the eyes of someone who’s truly poor, if you just gaze into their eyes for a moment, you will see them speaking with their eyes, saying “Please help. I’ve got nothing, I can’t help myself, I need you to help me.” The poor in spirit are those who are utterly desperate. Who is the poorest person in spirit ever to live? It was Jesus. Jesus was the One Who said, “I can do nothing apart from my Father in heaven.”

Another genius aspect of this metaphor it that the poor in spirit need provision daily. If you’re a poor person and someone gives you a sandwich or a cup of chai, or some rice, that’s going to be great for today. But tomorrow, guess what, you’re going to go back to the streets again and beg. The genius of Jesus’ picture is that He wants us to see that the poor in spirit person goes to God every single day with this portrait of being humble, of being desperate.

One of the best tests – so I’m going to ask you now – (remember, I said I’m giving you a roadmap for you to test where you are.) One of the best tests to see if you are poor in spirit, which is the very first rung in this “ladder of light,” as Spurgeon calls it, is simply to ask, “Do you have daily times of prayer, crying out to Him for mercy and help? Are you desperate for God every day?” It’s been said that if you’re not hungry for God, you’re full of yourself. I think this is an excellent test for whether you’ve even begun this journey.

Again, look at Jesus. Look at His prayer life, look at His dependency on the Father. This was a Man who cried out in prayer even though He was the sinless Son of God.

The poor person (who is poor in spirit) also sees himself or herself accurately. The poor in spirit person may not have much by way of possessions, but they have the truth. In a spiritual sense, we have all become debtors to the tune of millions of dollars; we’ve squandered our Father’s inheritance. Do you see that? Do you feel that? Do you feel that sense of debt? What does Jesus tell us to pray in the Lord’s prayer? “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”

If you get this, then one of the things that will happen to you is you suddenly won’t really care what people say about you. I have a set of quotes that I read through every day. (It’s different every day; it’s several pages of quotes.) But one of my quotes for Sunday, which is today, I was reading earlier today, says, “If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him, for you are worse than he thinks you to be.” Ok? It’s true! If somebody insults you, say, ‘You know what? You don’t know the half of it. You’re right.” That’s what the poor in spirit person says.

Another genius element in this portrait is that the poor in spirit person sees himself or herself as the person in need. They’re begging because they’ve got an empty stomach. They’re not asking for Joe or Suzy over there. This is a personal need.

When you look at some of the greats in the Bible – I think of Isaiah, that famous chapter in Isaiah 6. Isaiah sees God in the throne room, and he cries out, “Woe is Israel” No! I’m seeing shaking heads. No, he cries out, “Woe is me!” He starts with himself.

Jesus tells another famous parable in Luke 18. He talks about a Pharisee and a tax collector, and the Pharisee goes and – I love how the New King James renders it. It says, Luke 18:11

11 “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself. . .”

So he prayed with himself; that’s kind of an interesting picture.

“God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.
12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.”
13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!”

I’ve read this verse in Greek and I’m disappointed with the English translations. If you read it in the Greek (you can check me on this), what he literally says that this tax collector says is, “God, make atonement for me THE sinner.” “The sinner.” It’s like in his mind he’s the only sinner. Isn’t that amazing? “God, make atonement for me, the sinner.”

Back in India (true story), there was a family who – the father was a drunk; he would waste a lot of the family’s money. He was cursed: he was “come-late.” He had lots of problems. It was a very dysfunctional home because of him. And his wife had converted to Christianity. And he knew that his wife, as part of her day, would spend some time in prayer. And so this man who was not such a good character, decides one day to spy on his wife and listen to her pray. And this is what she prayed. He thought she would pray, “God, help my rotten husband, who is just this messed up guy who is wasting our money, all that.” But do you know what she prayed? She prayed, “God, help me to be a better wife. I’m failing him. What am I doing wrong?”

That is Ladder One of the Sermon on the Mount!

Most people – (I say this in all love. I truly believe this.) Most people, most churches of all stripes fail to really practice the Sermon on the Mount, which is a tragedy! But there’s something that’s even a greater tragedy than that, which is seeing it more for other people than for yourself. If you see the Sermon on the Mount more for the person next to you or for somebody that you’re having problems with back at your home church, then the Sermon becomes ugly. If you read this and think, “Wow, such and such really needs to hear this!” then you’re not poor in spirit; you’re haughty in spirit. You may be able to live some of the externalities of the Sermon on the Mount, but if you don’t have the foundational step, this poverty in spirit, you’re going to be legalistic, ugly, and condemning. I’ve seen this all too often. They say that holiness without brokenness produces legalism. We can judge and condemn and not ourselves be healed or have compassion.

I know there’s a lot of pressure in our settings, and many settings, to look good and to appear “put together.” It’s hard sometimes to confess our sins openly. It really is. My plea is that you begin your journey of discipleship with poverty in spirit. Confess freely. I have a brother, Tim Kuepfer, who you heard yesterday here. He and I are involved in what are called “Freedom Groups.” It’s groups that work with men and women who are addicted to pornography. I always listen and pay attention to how people confess. It’s very interesting. Some people will say things like “I fell into pornography.” And, even that language “I fell into it,” it’s almost like they’re a victim, like “I was just walking along, and there was this hole and I just fell into it.” Our language – pay attention to the language you use, that most people use. It’s very blame-shifting. We tend to minimize our sins, even when we confess. Think about how you receive and act on admonishment; that’s another powerful indicator.

Ok, I’m going to go very quickly through the remaining seven, so I can illustrate more high-level principles.

The next Beatitude is “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

So the first step is knowledge of our self, of our poverty. The second step is to translate that into our hearts, to have it be something that is a sacred grief that is not just a head knowledge but is something that we express in our hearts. We grieve.

I worry, I genuinely worry when I see people who don’t have a well of tears that flows. Jesus weeps often. I mentioned in my Friday night message that Jesus’ prayer life was characterized by loud cries and tears, (Hebrews 5:7.) He weeps publicly. He weeps over Jerusalem. He weeps over Lazarus. He weeps.

The Psalmist says, “My eyes shed streams of tears.” (Psalm 119:136 ESV) Jeremiah is called the weeping prophet. Nehemiah weeps. Paul weeps. Are you someone who is known as a person who mourns, or are you the jokester or the comedian?

People confuse mourning with moping. There’s a world of difference. Moping is self-pity; it’s not hope in God. The person who mourns is moved to action. The person who mopes is stagnant and despairs.

Now, one of the tests here – (I gave you one already.) This is: Are you a person who weeps? You should be weeping in your prayers; you should be weeping in front of others; you should be weeping as you speak with others. If not, there’s something wrong. Your heart is still stony.

One of the other tests here – Paul describes this in 2 Corinthians where he talks about godly sorrow versus worldly sorrow. If you are struggling with the same sin again and again and again, that means you are in worldly sorrow; you have not attained this rung of the ladder yet.

The third Beatitude is “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”

Now the word “meek” a lot of people confuse with being weak. They think meek and they think “Ugh, I don’t know if I want that.” They think “Meekness is weakness.” There was one individual, Bill Farmer, who has a newspaper column, and he published an article by J. Upton Dixon, who founded a group for meek people and called it “DOORMATS.” (DOORMATS stands for Dependent Organization Of Really Meek And Timid Souls.) D-O-O-R-M-A-T-S. And do you know what their motto was? “The meek shall inherit the earth, if that’s okay with everybody.” And their symbol was the yellow traffic light.

Now, everybody here, when they’re hearing Jesus, is thinking, “Is this the Messiah?” And I think a lot of people, when they heard this, they would have just said, “Oh, no! Please no! A meek Messiah? I want a conquering Messiah. Give me a Hercules. Give me a Samson. Give me a warrior who can go out and shatter some skulls of some Romans. That’s what I want.” But instead, Jesus shatters the expectations of their world to bring in the new world order that He is inaugurating. He’s going to bless the gentle. Instead of telling people to hunger and thirst for power, He’s going to tell them to hunger and thirst for righteousness.

The picture that I like to use when I think of meekness is a muscular stallion. So we’ve all seen very muscular horses, right? And that stallion that’s untamed kicks people, and it’s terrifying, and you don’t want to get near it. But now, somebody tames that horse. It’s still a muscular horse, but now it can be ridden; it can pull things. Is the stallion any weaker now? No, it’s simply having its strength in control. Meekness is not weakness. What is it? It is power under control. Strength harnessed for service.

Meekness is primarily something that we exhibit one with another; it’s an interpersonal virtue. It’s almost like horizontal humility. It entails being gentle, submissive, forgiving. Many of you know the word gelassenheit. I think gelassenheit is very close to this word “meek” here that Jesus speaks to. It’s being a team player. I mentioned on Friday night that one of the cancers of the world today is individualism. Way too many people, way too many people, are wise in their own eyes. And they don’t know how to submit to a body.

The fourth Beatitude is “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

I’m not going to spend too much time on this one. Jesus is going to describe that righteousness in a lot of the Sermon on the Mount; it’s the bulk of the Sermon on the Mount. I will just say this, that whether you are 18 years old or 80 years old, you should be hungering. This is something that is an ongoing process. You should be still, until your dying day, be thinking, “What new heights do I need to stretch for?” We have never arrived. You need to always be pushing, hungering, thirsting, reaching.

The fifth Beatitude is “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.”

Now, the word “mercy” in English, we often think about that as withholding punishment. But the Greek is very different than that; it’s a much bigger word. It’s the word that Jesus uses when He describes the Good Samaritan. So the Good Samaritan didn’t just withhold punishment; he actively loved this individual who was robbed and beaten up. The concept of compassion and kindness are very closely bound up with the Biblical notion of mercy.

This is a great test. I can tell you right now, certain people are really good at loving people and showing compassion and kindness, and a lot of people are just not. They don’t look people in the eyes, they haven’t really studied how to love people well, how to serve people well, how to care for people; it is a rare skill. Study people who care for people well. Without naming a name, I’m always so blessed – every time before I come up here, there’s one brother here who always walks up to me and prays for me before I come up and speak. And it just touches me because I think, “Wow, he’s thinking of me. He’s concerned for me.” That is a great skill. Ask three or four people who know you well, “How good am I at loving people well?”

The sixth Beatitude is “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”

Now, a lot of people when they hear “pure in heart,” they think of sexual purity. That’s not what’s meant here. Purity, in this sense, (I have a lot of online messages, by the way, that go through the Beatitudes very slowly, almost an hour per line. If you want to go there, I unpack this there.) But just to give you the conclusion, purity here refers to being unmixed, or really, the opposite is double-minded. James is Jesus’ half-brother. He kind of gives a commentary on the Sermon on the Mount. In James 4:8, he says,

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

So “pure” is the opposite of double-minded. There’s a writer Soren Kierkegaard. (I love the way he expresses it.) He says, “Purity of heart is to will one thing.” It’s people who are just totally determined. They have this laser-like focus in their lives. We all know people like that, right? People who are driven, who are determined, who are relentless. Other people are more floating around and don’t seem to have that drive inside of them. One author says, “A great book begins with an idea; a great life with a determination.” Paul expresses this well in Philippians 3:13-14 He says,

“I do not count myself to have apprehended, but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Paul was a man who was driven. He was pure in heart. He had a singular passion to see the Gospel advanced to all nations.

Some people struggle with being indecisive, “Oh, should I do this or this? This way or that way?” If you are indecisive, you are not pure in heart. People who are indecisive will struggle with all kinds of doubt. All kinds of issues will plague you.

Number 7, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

There are two dimensions of peacemaking. One way to understand peacemaking is conflict resolution, helping people to not fight. So there are people who go into conflict-ridden areas and mediate there. That’s great. The second dimension of peacemaking is having people make peace with God. There’s peace with one another and there’s peace with God. The other name for that is evangelism. Both of those are built into peacemaking.

There are two common mistakes with peacemaking, evangelism in particular. And I’ll grossly oversimplify here and say that generally speaking, older (when I say older, I mean greater than 40) tend to struggle with apathy, and they’ve really lost the ability to dream that they will evangelize, that they will be effective; they’ve sort of given up. The other error is to be so excited and zealous but not necessarily having the right heart qualities or preparations. So some people are like “Evangelism! Evangelism! Evangelism! We’ve got to evangelize the world!” But they haven’t actually done so well at their own hearts and their own personal discipleship. If you don’t have poverty of spirit which is the first level, your evangelism is going to be like the Pharisees. Remember what Jesus told the Pharisees? The Pharisees were very evangelistic, by the way. He said, you travel over land and sea to make a single convert, and then make that person twice a child of hell as you already are. So they were evangelistic, but they themselves were not in the right place to be effective in their evangelism.

You have to be someone who mourns, that second rung of the ladder. One person says it well, “Winners of souls must be weepers for souls.” If you’re an evangelist, and you’re not a team player, you’re not someone who’s meek (the third rung), you’re going to be setting up your converts for failure because they’re not going to be integrated into the body. They are going to be a solo person out there.

By the way, I’m going to say one more thing on the peacemaking one. So, this is a huge generalization, and I don’t mean this to be taken as a hard and fast rule. But I will say this, having seen this many times with many individuals in many settings – Normally speaking, if someone is committed to God, if they’re on fire, if they’ve got those first six rungs of the ladder intact, they will normally be leading about one person to the Lord per year. I think that’s common; that’s what I’ve noticed in my observations, and historically, people have noticed that as well. If you look around whatever congregation you’re from and you see a bunch of blanks, it’s time to really be honest. Humble yourself, and say, “We’ve got to go back to the basics here, maybe even back to Rung One.” Now, that’s not a hard rule, but it’s a good rule of thumb.

The final Beatitude is the eighth one which says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Now the structure of the Beatitudes is seven “character blessings” plus one “consequence blessing.” (And I’ve given you tests here.)

Notice, he does not say, “Blessed are you if your ancestors were persecuted 400 years ago.” This is something that has to be reclaimed every single generation. If you are the successor to the men and women of God, if you are the heir to the claim of Hebrews 11, that great chapter of faith, this is something that you have to reclaim and own for yourself. Suffering and persecution are the badge of faith. You know, even in Acts, when they get beat up for preaching Jesus, they go back rejoicing, they’re like, “Yeah! Great! We’re experiencing what we’re supposed to experience.” If you’re not experiencing that, it’s time to look deep within and have some heart-searching conversations about the structure of your life. There’s one myth that’s out there, which is that persecution doesn’t happen in America; it’s only for Muslim countries and places like that.

Yesterday I went over to David Bercot’s house (I’m not sure if he’s here). I was at David Bercot’s house for breakfast, and we were talking about this topic and I was telling him about my Friday night message where I mentioned that verse that I find very convicting in Romans 8:36 where it says, “For your sake we are killed all day long.” And I said, “Wow, we’re going to quote this. We got to do some real heart-searching here, because that doesn’t necessarily feel so true to the experience that we’re having. And he said something that really struck me. He said, “When I was a Jehovah’s Witness, those were some of our favorite verses. We camped out on those verses, because that was our experience. We would go out, and we would evangelize. We would go out and really push, and we would read those passages and find comfort because we could see our connection to the early Church.” And this is in America; he did not live in some foreign country.

I have friends from other groups, not JW’s, that experience these things in America, and what I consistently noted, consistently noted, that the groups that are actually experiencing persecution are ones that are active, intentional, and organized about evangelism. If you’re not, you probably won’t. If you are, you will. In a disciplined manner. In America, by the way! And I could tell you stories there, but for the time issue, I won’t.

There we have it. Jesus’ seven plus one Beatitude that should be the roadmap of your discipleship. Where are you? Now I want you to just, again, think carefully with me, and be brutally honest. You know, we get no points here for faking each other out. Where are you on this ladder? I’ve given multiple tests here for this “ladder of light,” and if you have any confusion or uncertainty, speak to other people; have them speak into your life. It’s a very powerful way to gain a sense of where you are. You can and should spend enormous amounts of effort on every one of those steps – reading, studying, learning from others, practicing, getting feedback.

As I wrap up, I’m going to read the last four verses after the Beatitudes.

So you can look at verse 13 here with me, and I’ll read verses 13-16.

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

So Jesus moves from the Beatitudes directly into a section which is about the relationship of His disciples to the world.
And he calls His disciples “salt.” Salt, of course, in the ancient world was used for many purposes. Seasoning, some, but even more so as a preservative. They didn’t have refrigerators back then, so if you had a hunk of meat, the only chance you had to keep that preserved was to dump a lot of salt on, desiccate it, and store it.

This is another one of my pet peeves, so I’ll say it here. A lot of times you hear people just get up on pulpits and just really decry the world. They’ll say, “Look how downhill the world is going with sexuality and violence and greed.” And you can score some points; you can get some people to “Amen” that, right? You can slam the world about all kinds of things. But do you know that every single one of those declines is actually a failure of the Church? Jesus says here, “salt.” The Church was supposed to be what retained goodness. And then in the second stage, winning people over as a function of the light that it exhibits. It really, really irks me when I hear that, because the Church has failed to be salt. That would have halted the rotting. We should constantly be asking the question, “How have we failed?”

Notice what Jesus says, too. He says if the salt does not do its job, what will happen to that salt? It’s going to be “cast out!” That’s serious language there. It’s going to be cast out; it’s going to be trampled. If you’re not pushing higher up on this ladder, if you’re not moving higher on this, we have to be sober here. We have to be sober about the day that we stand before God one day.

One of my life verses (I often quote this at KFW) is 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 where Paul is writing to the Thessalonian Church, and he says, “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting? Is it not indeed you before our Lord Jesus at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.” He’s basically saying there, “What’s my hope? What’s my joy? What’s my boasting? How do I know that when Jesus comes one day, that I’m going to have a ground to stand on?” He says, “It’s you Thessalonians, my disciples. That’s my hope, my joy, my crown of boasting.”

If you’ve got a bunch of blanks in your life, what is your hope? What is your joy? What is your crown of boasting? I say these things not to terrorize, or to provoke needless fear, but to ask us to search our hearts. This has historically been a weakness in our communities.

Spurgeon says it well again. He says, “The Bible is not the light of the world; it is the light of the Church. The world does not read the Bible; the world reads Christians. You are the light of the world.” Very true. I often say, (I deeply believe this with all my heart) that the Sermon on the Mount is the answer to all the major problems of the world. And yes, I mean ALL. The Sermon on the Mount (we didn’t read it all) is the answer to all the world’s major problems. Think about it: war, divorce, broken families, poverty, sex trafficking – it’s all right there. It’s all right there. We could fix it all if the Church were to simply live it out.

I’m going to close by reading a story. I read this story to myself and to others about half a dozen times a year. Some of you may have heard me read it. Even if you have, it’s good to have us meditate on this. It’s a true story about a nine-year-old girl who lives in northern Nepal. Her name is Maliha.

A charming slave trader deceived Maliha’s poverty-stricken single mother when he promised to help provide for their family by helping Maliha get a well-paying job in the city at the bottom of the Himalayan mountains. He promised to send the money she earned back to the mother and to bring Maliha back to visit her family at least once a year. The mother reluctantly agreed.

But the man did not keep his word. Maliha’s new job was to sit outside a restaurant in the city where customers would see this beautiful girl. A man would grab her by the hand, and she would quietly follow him to one of the booths. There he would eat and drink and then either take Maliha upstairs to her room or stay there right there in the booth and force her to do whatever he told her to do. After he was finished, she would go out and wait for another man, and then another man, and then another man. Sometimes on a busy night, fifteen or twenty different customers would have their way with Maliha, however they desired.

This was Maliha’s life and there was no way out. The man who first smiled at her in her village months before had gone back to find other girls and Maliha now worked for other men. They told her that if she tried to stop working at the restaurant, they would go back to the village and bring her sister, her little sister there to take her place. They assured her that her work was providing for her family back home. Little did she know that her mom never received another rupee.

Meanwhile, for all her mom, little brother, and little sister knew, Maliha had completely forgotten about them when she got to the big city. Even if Maliha could have escaped, where would she go? She had no clue where she was and no idea how to get home. She knew no one but the men who owned her. She had nothing to her name. The only thing that she had was her shame.

True story. I have a nine-year old daughter, so it’s especially emotional for me here. But this is an example of the Church’s failure. Why is Maliha in this predicament? Because of us. That’s the answer. I plead with you all. Consider deeply the words of the Beatitudes. Consider deeply this notion of what it is to be a true follower of Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount has the answer to ALL of the world’s major problems. The only question is if we will rise to the occasion and practice Biblical discipleship.

Let’s close by again singing the song, “Lord Prepare Me to Be a Sanctuary.” [All singing]

Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary,
Pure and holy, tried and true.
With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living
Sanctuary, for You.