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Dallas Willard believes that there are four essential questions that every person should seriously think about. They are:
(1) What is real?
(2) What is the good life?
(3) Who is a good person?
(4) How does one become a good person?
With these questions in mind, let’s consider four verses of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
Matthew 5.5-8 – “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
Who are the meek?
It is unfortunate that our modern usage of “meek” implies someone who is soft or weak. Some translations use the word, “gentle,” as a substitute. According to Strong’s Dictionary, “Biblical meekness is not weakness but rather refers to exercising God’s strength under His control – that is, demonstrating power without undue harshness.”
Question: Who is a good person?
Answer: A good person is someone who has their strength under the control of the Holy Spirit. They show the fruit of a relationship with the Holy Spirit by being gentle and in self-control (Galatians 5.22-23).
Question: What kind of good life does a meek or a gentle person experience?,
Answer: The meek may not inherit a literal portion of land, as was described in Psalm 37.11.
Instead they inherit a character like Jesus. Jesus, who is “meek” in the full sense of definition we just read says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am GENTLE (or MEEK) and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11.28-29).
What better inheritance can we have than to be taught by Jesus and live a life like his?
Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness
Question: What is real?
Question: Whose idea of what is real am I going follow? Am I going to listen to Satan, who is the father of lies (John 8.44), who also desires to steal, kill and destroy my life (John 10.10)? Or, am I going to listen to Jesus?
When the devil tempted Jesus and suggested that Jesus turn stones into bread, Jesus replied, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4.4).
Answer: Jesus, our authority on what is real, made it clear. Doing God’s will is more important than eating and drinking when we are hungry. Doing God’s will is the most “real” thing a person can do.
We live in an upside-down world where people who take seriously what God wants in life are not taken seriously. We are told, “You only go around once in life, so you have to grab all of the gusto you can.” The song, “I did it my way,” captures reality for many today.
However, Jesus puts his stamp of blessing on those who choose to believe that knowing and doing God’s will is the most important reality of all. They will be satisfied. Because they do his will they will experience God in a real and personal way.
If you haven’t experienced God by knowing and doing his will, give it a try and see how it turns out.
What does it mean to be merciful?
“Mercy is a generous attitude which is willing to see things from the other’s point of view and is not quick to take offense or to gloat over another’s shortcomings. Mercy sets aside society’s assumption that it is honorable to demand revenge” (R. T. France in his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew).
Question: Who is a good person?
Answer: A good person is someone who has the kind of mercy that R. T. France pictures above.
Imagine this scene. You are an African American male who is walking down 24 Highway in Independence. You have nothing but the clothes on your back. You can feel the heat from the asphalt working its through the worn-out flip flops on your feet.
You see a black pickup cross the highway and pull up right in front of you. A big white man with close cropped hair, covered in tattoos gets out. You think, “My bad day just got a whole lot worse,” as he starts walking toward you.
Now, comes the surprise of your day, possibly your entire life. The man takes off a pair of high value athletic shoes, gives them to you, and tells you to have a good day. Then he gets back in his truck and drives off.
The man who gave away his shoes was Josh Monk. He had received ample mercy from God and naturally felt free to give mercy to others. He knew first hand what it was like to walk down the street with nothing. Paul’s words to the Ephesians fit Josh perfectly, “But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2.4-5).
The circle of mercy began with God showing mercy to Josh. Josh carried it on and gave it to a man on 24 Highway. In turn, God had more mercy for Josh, who extended mercy to people in his world, which opened the door for more mercy from God. An on and on the circle of mercy flowed.
The Pure in Heart
Question: Who is a good person?
Answer: The pure in heart are good people.
Question: What does it mean to be pure in heart?
Answer: Psalm 24 is a good picture of a person who is pure in heart.
“Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
and do not swear deceitfully.
They will receive blessing from the Lord,
and vindication from the God of their salvation.
Such is the company of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob.” (Psalm 24.3-6).
If we understand this Psalm, we will better understand the words of Jesus, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
(1) People ascend the hill of the Lord for the purpose of meeting with God and entering into a personal relationship with him.
(2) What kind of people can enter into God’s presence? People with clean hands and pure hearts. Jesus came to earth to give us pure hearts. Paul wrote, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5.21).
As we walk with Jesus, friendship with him will transform us both inside and out.
(3) These pure-in-heart people will be seen as good people, because they are genuine and honest.
(4) Pure-in-heart people will value a relationship with God and seek a close relationship with him. Please know, Jesus initiates this activity in our lives, but we must be open to what he is doing.
As we study more of the Sermon on the Mount, we will sit as students before Jesus, who desires us to have the very best life possible.
Dear Jesus, thank you for your Sermon on the Mount message. Thank you that you are at work in our lives, helping us to live the values you presented to us today. We receive your help and we hunger and thirst to do things your way.