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The Citizens of the Kingdom III

Series: Matthew

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on Apr 13, 1997

Matthew 5:8-10

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Pleaseturn with me in your Bibles to Matthew, chapter 5. We continue our study in The Beatitudes, the first portion of the Sermon on the Mount. We have said so far in our study of the first five beatitudes that these blessings are blessings upon certain aspects of Christian character. Jesus describes for us, incidentally as He gives these blessings, what a Christian looks like. And this, simultaneously, is an encouragement to us as we see what the Holy Spirit makes us to be and, at the same time, it is a challenge to us because we know in our own hearts how long we have to go but that, in and of itself, presses us right back into the arms of our Savior which is right where we need to be. And so we hear the Word of the living God beginning in Matthew 5 beginning with verse 1-10.

Our Lord and our God, we bless Your name for Your Holy Word and we ask that by the Spirit You would illumine our minds and that You would apply the truth of this divine, objective revelation to our hearts in our own condition, in our own circumstances, in our own experience. We pray heavenly Father, that the truth would be both comforting and afflicting. If we come complacently, we pray that the truth would afflict us that we might flee to Christ. If we come distressed and downcast, we pray that the truth would draw us to Him, strengthen and equip us for service. But we ask above all, O Lord, that as You edify us by Your word that Jesus Christ would be honored in our lives and in the world. For we ask these things in His name, Amen.

We have surveyed the last two weeks various "character qualities" that Jesus pronounces "blessed" in these beatitudes, these blessings with which He opens His Sermon on the Mount. Today we look at the last three beatitudes. Two of them are blessings on further Christian character qualities - one of them unique in all the beatitudes is a blessing on circumstances. Seven of the beatitudes call on us to realize the blessing which comes to those who are in Christ and who have the character qualities therein described which are worked in us by the Holy Spirit. But the eighth beatitude speaks of a condition in which the Lord Jesus says we are blessed. And again, in each of these final three beatitudes, we have the ironies of those being called blessed by the Lord Jesus who would be the very last people thought of as blessed in the eyes of the world. So, let’s look at three great truths that we learn in these final three beatitudes in Matthew 5: v. 8 and following.

I. Christians are uncompromisingly dedicated to Christ.
    The first one you find in verse 8, and it is this truth. Christians are uncompromisingly dedicated to Christ. They are so described in verse 8: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." You notice again the irony of this blessing. The world does not think of those who are men and women of integrity as being intrinsically blessed. In fact, you look around in the world and, oftentimes it is precisely those who are duplicitous who are most prosperous. They say one thing, and they think another. They tell their business partners one thing and they do another. They relate to some people in one way and to others in a very different way. Their exterior actions are not in accord with their heart; they are duplicitous. They are double-minded. They are compromisers. They are schemers. And they are very often blessed in the things that are able to achieve through their scheming. And yet, the Lord Jesus says it is not those who scheme and act in a double-minded way who are blessed. It is those who are people of integrity who are blessed. By the way, the term "pure in heart" might seem to imply the idea of being clean and, of course, the idea of cleanliness is a part of purity in the Scripture.

But before us in this beatitude is specifically the idea of being a person of integrity, a person of sincerity, a person of focused heart, a person whose heart is focused on one priority and that priority is fellowship with God, obedience to Him, and walking with Him through our Lord Jesus Christ. So, it is the idea of single-mindedness that is brought to mind here. We read it in the Old Testament reading today in Psalm 24, the idea of a man who has a clean heart, that is, he has not lifted up his heart to vanity. He’s not lifting up his heart to the Lord God of Israel and also lifting up his heart to vanity. He’s just lifting his heart up to the Lord God of Israel. That is the man who is pure in heart. The one who is singularly focused, the one who is honest, the one who is sincere, the one whose words go along with the state of one’s heart.

By the way, this is not merely sincerity of every sort. You can be sincerely wrong, and the Lord Jesus is not saying, "Blessed are those who are sincere, even if they are sincerely wrong." Jesus is speaking of a blessing on those who worship the true God with a sincere focus of heart. It is possible to bring upon yourself destruction and cursing through sincerity if you are sincerely wrong. There was a group of believers in the last two weeks - cult believers - who brought upon themselves destruction, a suicide pact, and ultimately oblivion; because they had committed themselves in total sincerity to untruth. They did not receive the truth and ultimately they paid the penalty in this life, and now they await the judgment to come because they had committed themselves honestly to what was wrong. Jesus Christ is not blessing a ubiquitous universal blessing on every kind of sincerity. No. He is saying that those who sincerely pursue the one true God with pure hearts are the ones who are blessed. So, this sincerity of heart doesn’t just mean being sincere. It means being sincere in the truth; worshiping the true God in sincerity.

It’s opposite is double-mindedness. The Old Testament frequently describes the double-minded man, as does James. The double-minded man is the one who wants one foot in the Kingdom and the other foot in the world. He wants to split his bet. He wants to have a little bit of religion, and then he also wants to have space in his heart to have other desires which crowd out God. Thus, he breaks the first commandment that says that the Lord will brook no rivals. He must reign supreme in our hearts, and the purity of heart about which Jesus speaks here is the purity of heart that a man has said, "The Lord Jesus is my Lord, and He is Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all." And so, there is a single-minded focus and dedication to God through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Notice how comprehensive that beatitude is. It pulls together our happiness, our blessedness, and our holiness as we are single-mindedly focused on God — as we are single-mindedly yielding ourselves to God. In that pursuit of holiness, we find satisfaction. Happiness, blessedness, true deep satisfaction. They are found together; both happiness and holiness.

What is the blessing that Jesus pronounces on those who are pure in heart? They will see the kingdom of God. They will see Him as He is. They will see Him as their own God. They will see Him to enjoy Him. They will see Him as He is, for they will be like Him, and they will see Him forever. The single-minded person, the single-hearted person who has pursued the true God in sincerity, will find as the blessing and reward at the end of that journey the fulfillment of all the desires of the heart for fellowship and communion with God - to see God as He is.

Now every Christian who hears those words this morning has to ask some questions of himself or herself in self-examination because we all know that struggle in our own hearts. That struggle where there are other priorities and agendas that rival our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s why there’s this table to remind us that we must always avail ourselves afresh of the grace of God that is in the Lord Jesus Christ. To remind us of what He has done for us, so that our affections are stoked, so that we are drawn to Him in what He has done for us. We sang the words, "All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name," and "Crown Him with Many Crowns." We sang the words, "For Me He Died." The Christian realizes the glorious truth of those words in all their implications and, when we see that battle for doublemindedness, that battle for priority of heart, we flee to Him, we run to Him, and we seek grace of Him.

Perhaps, however, you don’t know that battle of heart. You don’t know that battle of Paul in Romans 7, the one part that says, "Lord, I want to be pure of heart," and the other that says," Lord, I’m not pure in heart." Perhaps you don’t know that battle at all. Perhaps you are quite happy being doubleminded. If you are, then the Lord Jesus’ blessing is not for you, but it can be if you will but embrace Him. He is ready to pronounce all those as blessed who will cast their cares upon Him and follow after Him. Is God your focus? Are you single-mindedly pursuing Him? Do you live under the awareness of His glory, or is your heart ultimately divided? Blessed are the pure in heart. Those who are single-mindedly focused on God.

II. Christians are peacemongers - purveyors of the peace of God, in Christ.
   
The second truth we learn in this passage we see in verse 9. Christians are peacemongers. Christians are purveyors of the peace that comes through our Lord Jesus Christ. We speak of those who want to tempt nations into war as warmongers. They sell war. They want war, but Christians are peace-mongers. Christians, because the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts, because we have found peace with God are peace mongers. Not because of our deserving it, not because of our own works, but because we have embraced Jesus Christ and have found in Him peace with God, we desire all men and all women to share in that peace with God. We are purveyors of the gospel of peace. Those who have peace with God themselves cannot be silent about it. It is the greatest thing in the world to realize in our guilty souls that though we are guilty, we are not condemned. We are embraced, and like the Prodigal, we have a father to receive us. It is the greatest thing in the world to know that peace with God. And those who have that peace strive by word and by deed to spread that peace.

By the way, this is not peace at any price. This is not peace with truth. This is not the peace that says, "Whatever you believe is all right as long as we can get along together." This is a peace that divides. Isn’t it interesting that the world doesn’t think of Christians as peacebrokers, as peacemakers. In fact, more often than not, the world says to us, "You Christians are divisive. We’re all trying to get along here. Everything was fine until you come along making the claim that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation, and that the Lord and God that you worship is the one true God. You’re divisive. You’re bringing about trouble in our society." And the Lord Jesus says that precisely when the world is saying that of you, blessed are you because the only way of peace is in the acknowledgment that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only name under heaven by which men can be saved. And with that message we bring peace. Yes, it brings division. It brings a division between those who embrace Christ and those who reject Him. But the only true peace that can be found in this world is the true peace with God through Him, and when we share that message, we are peacebearers, we are peacemakers, and so, we are called the sons of God. Why? Because as our hearts are turned and we no longer have hatred towards men because of the love of God which is shed in our heart, we desire them to experience the bounty of God. As our hateful hearts are turned to loving hearts in accord with the gospel of peace, we become peacemakers and so we bear His image. Is it not interesting that the Lord Himself tells us in the book of Ezekiel, by the mouth of the prophet Ezekiel, that the Lord does not delight in the destruction of the wicked, but He delights when sinners are turned and converted to Him.

Is that your heart? Can you say, with Paul, I could wish myself accursed if only my own people would come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ? Is that your attitude toward the unbelieving world or do you hate that unbelieving world and not care if that unbelieving world goes to hell and doesn’t care about the fact that they are apart from Christ, and apart from hope, and apart from the promises? Has the love of God impacted you in such a way that it is your desire to see the knowledge of the Lord covering the earth as the waters cover the sea? Blessed are those who are peacemakers. They know the peace of God in Christ and they want others to share in that peace.

Have you sought to spread that peace amongst your brethren? Perhaps you have, but have you sought to see that peace spread in all its implications even amongst brethren who are already believers? Have you sought to overcome the obstacles to fellowship that still exists amongst believers? Are you genuinely concerned for those believers who are different from you in so many ways? Perhaps they come from radically different social backgrounds. Do you find your commonality, your bond with them in Christ, to be greater than the differences that separate you - transient differences, temporal differences? Differences that will be wiped away in the glory of eternity. Do you find fellowship with those believers who are from a different ethnic background than you? Do you find your solidarity with them something that transcends things that separate the world? Do you find a solidarity with those believers who have hurt you? Those believers who have wronged you? Do you find your desire for the implications of the gospel of peace in the unity of the brethren to overcome wrongs that have been done to you? Do we care about the unity that is brought about by the peace of God dwelling in us? Is that where our hearts are? If it is, then we are peacemakers, and that is a fruit of the spirit within us, and God pronounces us as "blessed.

III. Christians are mistreated because of their love of righteousness.
   
And then there is this third thing, my friend. Christians, our Lord Jesus says, are mistreated because of their love for righteousness. This is the only beatitude that speaks of a circumstance, not of a character. All of the other seven beatitudes speak of our character and the character qualities that Jesus finds in all the citizens of His kingdom and on which He pronounces a blessing. This beatitude speaks of a circumstance, and it’s the most surprising thing in the world when the Lord Jesus says, "Persecution. Those of you who have endured persecution are blessed. Persecution is a blessing." What an irony. Notice, by the way, that this very blessing of the Lord Jesus on those who are persecuted prevents us from developing an attitude of victimization that’s always whining about the hardships that we face in the world. The Lord Jesus says, in every one of those hardships, if the world hates you because of Me, you are blessed. Don’t whine about it. "Rejoice," He says in verse 12. It also prevents paranoia. Have you ever run into the person who thinks that everybody in the world is persecuting them? The Lord tells you here, "Expect the world to persecute you." That is not out of the ordinary. That is not to be unsuspected, and so you see He says, "Be prepared for it. For blessed are you when, for My sake, you experience that persecution."

Christians must expect this opposition and unpopularity and persecution. Friends, if we had really read this beatitude as we ought, would we have fallen for the ‘health and wealth’ gospel that says once you’ve become a Christian everything is fine. Everything is well. You make more money. Everything goes right. You have no problems. Who could believe that and also believe what the Lord Jesus has said in His beatitude? The Christian is to expect this type of opposition in the world. Our friend Sinclair Ferguson has said, "We follow a crucified Savior. We should not think it strange, therefore, if we ourselves encounter fiery trials. We are called to be made in His image. We are called to follow in His way, and so we will follow in the way of opposition."

The Lord Jesus speaks of various types of persecution: insults, falsehoods, deeds of abuse, torture, death, legal reprisals, all manner of persecutions will be brought against believers, but why should we be surprised at that when our Lord Himself is called a Samaritan, a mixed breed and a demoniac by His own people? Why should we be surprised by that when His own people came with trumped-up charges accusing Him of attempting to overthrow the government for the sake of seeing Him crucified? How can we be surprised when the world so treats us? We are but His disciples. Notice again that this blessing on persecution is not just on persecution in general. The Lord is not saying, "Blessed are all those who are persecuted." He’s saying, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for My sake. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. They are the ones who find blessing."

What is their blessing? The Kingdom is theirs. In their persecution they have entered into the kingdom, because for righteousness sake they have been willing even to go to the stake. In their persecution they have become like the prophets before them. They have become like the Lord, so the blessings of God belong to them.

Do you know those blessings? Do you know what it is to meet opposition for the sake of Christ? Perhaps the reason that we find so little of this in our own experience is that we are not enough for righteousness the world can tell a difference between us and itself.

And so as we come to these beatitudes today, my friends, two things I leave with you. For those believers here, knowing, that as we look at our own hearts that there exists this warfare. A warfare between our spiritual desires, and then those remnants of the flesh which bring us mixed desires, which cause us to go after things which are unfaithful to the Lord and which give us an impurity of heart.

As we come to the table today, be reminded that only the grace of Christ can slay those desires in us and the only reason that there are godly desires at all in us is because of the gracious work of the Lord Jesus Christ in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. And if you come this day, and you have not tasted of Christ, then you don’t know the battle that I’m speaking of. But you will face a far more terrible battle if you do not embrace Him who is set forth in this table, for this table reminds us of one who died to make us like that. That’s what He wants you to be. He wants to stand you before the Father and He says, "Father, look at those characteristics that I’ve worked into My people." That’s how He wants to stand you before the Father. Will you embrace Him today and find that He can deliver on everything that He has promised, to His praise and His glory? May the Lord bless His Word. May we look to Him in prayer.

© First Presbyterian Church.

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