Text: Matthew 5:1-12, 17-20, 48
Summary: Live in the presence of the most blessed Person who ever lived, Jesus Christ, and be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.
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 satisfied. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God. 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Father, you are perfect in every way and you tell us, you command us to be perfect. Our righteousness needs to exceed that of even the best religious person who is disciplined, diligent, dedicated and devoted. We need to far exceed the Pharisees in our own righteousness. We pray that you’ll give us understanding of who is the most blessed man who ever lived so that we may share in that blessing. Give us understanding today, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen
Last week, we covered James 4:6, which says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Then a verse that we read later on in that same chapter James 4:10 says “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.”
I realized after talking to Jackie afterward that I needed to flesh out a little bit more what it means to receive grace from God. Usually when we think of grace, we think of a sin that I committed and I need grace to cover over that sin. And that’s a true statement. But when it says that we’re under grace, not under the law, and God gives grace to the humble, is it merely just to cover over sin? So that we sin in the same way over and over again and we don’t make any progress, and at the end, we’re exactly in the same spot as when we started this journey?
Before we answer that, let’s read another verse.
2 Pet 1
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
What does it mean that God gives grace? The phrase “partakers of the divine nature” is related to God giving us grace. When we humble ourselves before the Lord and we ask for grace, grace for our speech, grace for our anger, grace over our judgmental attitude, grace for purity, when we’re asking for grace, what we’re really asking for is Jesus’ nature. We are asking to be a partaker in His nature and His perfection.
We know that Jesus is the humblest person who ever lived and because he was the humblest person who ever lived, guess how much grace He received? Because God gives grace to the humble and if Jesus is the humblest person who ever lived, how much Grace should He receive? Immeasurable. So much grace. He is full of grace and truth.
And so when we humble ourselves before Jesus and we ask for grace, Jesus gives us grace, and it’s not merely to cover over sin. It is a grace to overcome sin. It is a grace to share in the nature of Jesus, the divine nature of Christ. It’s like a branch connected to the vine. The life of the vine is pulsating into the branch so that you become inseparable from the vine. And you are looking more and more like the vine.
Because we were grafted in, initially we didn’t look very healthy. But as Jesus’s life, which resides in the vine, pulsates and flows into the branch, and when we as the branch are looking more and more like the vine, that means His nature is flowing in. When we ask for grace, we’re asking for grace to cover over sin, yes. But more importantly, we’re asking for grace to overcome.
That’s why it says in James 4:10 “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.” We don’t exalt ourselves. He exalts us. And what specifically does exalting us mean? There’s the fulfillment of it, which is that you are exalted in His presence after you’re finally saved. There’s that type of exaltation when we’re in His presence. I used to think, and this is still somewhat true, that God when He sees your humility, He may exalt you and give you an assignment or give you a platform, and you are preaching to thousands or millions. There’s that type of exaltation, even in this life.
That reminds me of Moses. Moses was exalted in this life. At age 80, he was given an assignment, and It was a tremendous assignment to lead two million Jews out of Egypt, and that is an incredible assignment. But what do we realize at the end? As somebody who is representative of the law and the old covenant, he forfeited entrance into the promised land because of his anger. That anger when he struck the rock, he was striking Christ. He was forbidden entrance into the promised land.
So if we were exalted in this life and we were given a huge assignment, such as a platform to minister to thousands or millions because we were exalted in that way, but we were angry, is that something that God would be pleased with? If you’re ambitious, but you said, I’m doing it for the Lord, but there was selfish ambition there, but you accomplished incredible works for the Lord, would God in the end be happy?
What does God really want for all of us? He wants Christ’s perfection, His nature, birthed in you. He wants the grace that not only covers sin, but He wants to give the grace to overcome sin. That’s why we ask for grace over our speech. Because Jesus has so much self control over His speech. He only taught what He heard and He only judged at those moments when God told him to judge, for example, the Pharisees. He had such control, such restraint over His speech. And we know that if you can control your speech, you can control everything else. He was a man, sinless yes, but as a man, He is showing us what is possible. What level of perfection is possible as someone who receives grace upon grace.
Going back to our main text. When we read Matt 5:3-12, if you decide that you’re going to try to be this kind of a person on your own strength, good luck. Good luck. You’re not going to get very far. You read, be poor in spirit and say, I have to be poor in spirit, and so you repent. And then you say, tomorrow I’m going to be poor in spirit. Tomorrow, I’m going to be merciful. I’m not going to judge with my lips tomorrow. I’m going to be pure in my heart. Good luck. If you try to do it on your own, you will not get very far.
So many times we approach verses like this in the old covenant mindset of here is a standard. Here’s a law. Let me strive to obey it. The best you can do if you are trying to live out these verses with an old covenant mindset is Ishmael. It’s related to the promise of God but it’s through your flesh. And then it talks in Matt 5:17 about Christ fulfilling the Law.
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
I want to be this kind of a teacher. If you are this kind of a teacher, you will not be popular. If you teach a very relaxed message where there is no standard and it’s just grace, the grace that I talked about initially which just covers your sin, but there’s no grace to overcome sin. If I just taught that, which is kindergarten Christianity and and there’s no progress toward perfection, I would be a popular teacher and I might be great in this life. But in the next life, I will be at the bottom.
I’d rather be a nobody here but famous and great in the Kingdom of Heaven, the greatest in the kingdom, because I I did what God is asking us to do in Matthew 5, 6, 7 and I taught it. If you do that, it is not a relaxed message. It is a message that is striving toward perfection, progressing toward perfection.
The nicest verse that Jesus ever spoke of the Pharisees is v20.
20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
The Pharisees get a bad rap, and we usually say, I want no part of the Pharisees. I don’t want to be anything like the Pharisees. But in terms of their diligence, in terms of their dedication, in terms of their doctrinal understanding, I mean they memorized Scripture. Have you memorized Scripture? If you haven’t, the Pharisees are better than you. Do you fast regularly? The Pharisees fasted regularly. In that area, they’re better than all of us. Do you tithe? The Pharisees even tithed their spices and herbs, to that level of diligence. These guys were serious. They were diligent.
There is a partial understanding of the gospel which is so relaxed. Pharisees, oh all that’s just legalism. I am just free. I’m just floating through life not changing, but I’m under grace. That is a very relaxing, very comforting message. Jesus says our righteousness should exceed the Pharisees. And If you want to be convinced of what Jesus is saying, He ends this chapter with v48.
48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
God would not be content with you if you reached out to multitudes of people like Moses did, but you still had anger in your heart. Because that means you haven’t reached perfection. And you could preach such eloquent messages, but if at home you’re harsh, God would not be pleased because you haven’t reached perfection. You could preach John 17 about the universal church and the unity of the universal body of Christ, but secretly, you harbor so many judgments on every other church, God would not be pleased.
So how do we reach perfection? It is not through our flesh. It is not through our striving. How do we reach perfection so that our righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees who are very serious about their religion? The secret is Matt 5:3-12. These verses are about Jesus. They are His autobiography. The first sermon that Jesus preached was about the blessed life. And who is the most blessed man who ever lived? Jesus. Not only is He the humblest man who ever lived, therefore he is the one filled with the most grace who ever lived, but He is also the most blessed man who ever lived.
And if you live before the blessed man, Jesus Christ, if you live in His presence and you ask for grace and His nature, His perfection is received, then we can be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. That is the only way to reach perfection. Jesus is poor in spirit, and that is an odd thing to say. If somebody who is the Son of God, you would think that Jesus as the Son of God, is so filled with the Spirit that He can just go out there and preach and teach, just however He feels in the moment and He can heal whoever He wants in the moment. But that’s not how Jesus lived as someone who was the Son of God.
Because He was a man, Jesus was poor in spirit. There are many people who are quote unquote “rich in spirit”, rich in knowledge, rich in spiritual gifts. And you look at them and there’s no meekness. They think they can win people to Christ. They think they can win every argument, or they can mobilize teams and plant churches, but there’s no poverty of spirit. They are rich in spirit because they have spiritual powers or insight or whatever.
That is not how Jesus lived. And that is not how God our Father wants us to live. If you want to be perfect, we look to the One who is poor in spirit. And we ask Jesus, I want that poverty of spirit in me. Can you give your poverty of spirit so that I will understand how to live my life, that I would never boast just because I have a healing gift or just because of a preaching gift? Or just because many people in this world think I’m great, that I would never be proud in that way?
I would never steal glory from you that you will keep me poor in spirit because Jesus, you were poor in spirit. I need that from you. And you’re asking for grace when you recognize that you don’t have this attitude, this posture of meekness, and you think you’re so filled with the spirit, filled with power, filled with gifting, filled with whatever and you don’t need to ask the Father for anything, you can just go and do life and do ministry and do church and be a pastor and lead people to Christ.
And you could just do it because you’re so gifted and you’re so talented. You see how Jesus did his life? He didn’t speak until he heard from the Father. He didn’t preach until he heard, He didn’t judge on His own. He first heard the judgment. Then he declared judgement. If Jesus displays this type of poverty of spirit, when you ask for grace, you’re saying, I want that in me. And when it says in James 4:10 to humble yourself before the Lord and He will exalt you, yes it could be assignments like the one Moses received.
But again, would God be pleased if I led two million people to Christ and I had that type of a large church, but I was still angry as a person of the new covenant? Jesus’ body was torn in two and access to the holy places was given to my soul and my spirit. Now God inscribes laws there. He’s giving me his nature. And that’s why if I stay angry as a new covenant believer, it doesn’t matter what type of ministry I had, God would not be pleased because I haven’t reached perfection.
So when it says a God will exalt you possibly in this life, is it primarily to receive an assignment or to have a big platform? Is that type of the exaltation God does? I believe it is God exalting you and me over sins. You used to be angry. But you humble yourself before the Lord and you ask for grace over your speech. And it wasn’t a byproduct of your flesh and trying real hard and repenting long enough. No, it was you humbling yourself before Jesus, the most blessed man who ever lived. And you became perfect in the area of your speech because, Jesus’ speech was birthed in you. You are partaking in His divine nature.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Jesus is the most blessed man. He’s the meekest person who ever lived. And if we want to be meek, we humble ourselves before the Lord Jesus. We ask for His meekness to flow in. That’s what it means to ask for grace. You’re asking for Jesus’ nature to be birthed in you, and that’s how we progress toward perfection.
To highlight this, think about Apostle John. I think out of all the apostles, He is the meekest. If there’s one Apostle I want to emulate myself and become like, it is Apostle John. John is so humble that he begins the Gospel of John with “In the beginning was the Word.” And then he used a similar phrase in 1 John, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and have touched with our hands concerning the Word of life.”
John was all about Jesus. He begins with Jesus. He never introduces himself first. He never says, I am John the Apostle, now listen to me. No, he starts with Jesus. He begins his gospel that way. He begins 1 John that way. Look for John’s name anywhere in Gospel of John or 1 John, you cannot find it. He never mentions his name. The only reference to himself is the disciple whom Jesus loved. His only reference to himself is in relation to Jesus. Jesus loved me. He was the meekest apostle.
Then in Revelation, he does finally mention his name. In Revelation 1:9
9 I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
The meekest apostle. He doesn’t even say I, John, the apostle. He says, I, John, your brother. He never elevated himself. But was John always like this? Let me read a few verses that capture John in his younger years.
49 John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” 50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”
John in the beginning had so much selfish ambition. He was not close to perfection. He was walking with Jesus in the flesh for those three and a half years. But you look at how he lived, how he spoke and his actions. Clearly he thought he was an elite. He looked down on everybody else who was doing ministry around him. He thought he was in a special class because he was one of the Twelve, saying, this one is not one of us, so Jesus, can we shut him down because only we can do this. This is John’s pride that is just so evident.
And then you read in Luke 9:51.
51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. 53 But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”
This is John in his earlier years. First he says, I am one of the elite, one of the Twelve, so shut down everybody else who is not one of us. Then he says in Luke 9, these people do not know us and do not receive us. Do they know who they’re speaking to? Do they know that we are VIP? They should be glad that we are coming to their town and asking for them to prepare a place for us. They should feel so privileged that we step foot in their little town. That is the attitude of John. And John says, do you want us to call down fire? He truly was a son of thunder.
And the most egregious example of pride is in Mark 10:35.
35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”
John says, shut down that person who is not elevated like us, the Twelve. Shut him down, Lord Jesus! And then he thinks, I am a VIP. You should actually call down fire to burn up these people who don’t receive us.
And then in private, James and John asked, Jesus, can I sit on your right hand and and your left in heaven? Do you see the ambition, the pride, the arrogance, the judgment, the anger in John?
How did he become the meekest apostle who doesn’t even mention his name? And he starts the Gospel of John and 1 John with Jesus. And He only mentions himself in relation to Jesus as a “disciple whom Jesus loved.” And when he finally mentions his name when he’s 85 or so years old when he’s in his last stage of life, finally, he mentions his name. While he is imprisoned on Patmos island, he says, I am your brother.
How did he become so meek when he was so proud, so arrogant, so angry, so judgmental in his earlier years? The only explanation that I have is that he lived in the presence of the most blessed man who ever lived, Jesus Christ.
And that gives all of us hope because we think John is on a special track because he lived with Jesus. Look at how John was during the 3.5 years that he was with Jesus. He is very much like us, not not many steps ahead in terms of perfection compared to most Christians. Somehow, after Jesus resurrected and ascended, in a spiritual sense, John lived before the most blessed man who ever lived, Jesus Christ.
And as he humbled himself before Jesus, he asked for grace. And Jesus, seeing the humility of a disciple like John, Jesus gave grace to John, not just to cover over sin, because if it’s just covering sin, then you just remain in kindergarten in terms of maturity for the rest of your life. No, John progressed. He graduated. He is now a grandfather of the faith. And he looks and acts and he speaks just like Jesus. So transformed. He progressed toward perfection.
And God must have been so pleased because at the end of his life, John looked just like Jesus. And He became a partaker of the divine nature. That is what it means to receive God’s grace. It is not just a covering for sin. Grace is a power to overcome sin.
And so, yes, Matthew 5:3-12 is Jesus’ autobiography. But these verses are also our destiny. This is our destiny. And Jesus promises, if you walk with me and you learn from me, it’s like that branch that initially was just grafted in, initially it wasn’t quite healthy, and it was still not really part of the Vine. But the longer you stay connected and you live before the most blessed man who ever lived, His life, His grace, His perfection, His divine nature flows in.
And that joint between the Vine and the branch, which wasn’t seamless in the beginning, becomes seamless. And when you look at the branch that has been fully grafted in, you can’t separate it from the Vine. The branch looks just like the vine when fully grafted in. You can’t distinguish where the Vine ends and where the branch begins. And that is our destiny.
If we live before the most blessed man, Jesus Christ, who ever lived and we see this list in Matthew 5:3-12, and we acknowledge that we are falling short. That I am not poor in spirit. I’m not mourning the way I should be mourning. I am not meek. I don’t hunger and thirst for righteousness. I am not merciful. I’m not pure heart. I am not a peacemaker. When people persecute me, I lash out. And we look at this list and acknowledge, Jesus, I am not like you. Then you ask for grace and Jesus will give it to you if you’re humble. And you will look more and more like Him.
And at the end of your journey with Jesus that spans years or decades, the promise is that these verses from Matthew 5:3-12 will also be reflected in us and we will be say, Father, I’ve reached perfection because I looked at your Son. Father, I can’t see you. But I see Jesus.
And when I see Jesus, actually, I am seeing you, Father. Jesus, you are perfection and I want to stare at you. I want to live before Him. I want to abide in Him. I want to stay near Him. And the promise is, if you do that, you will reach perfection. Your righteousness will exceed that of the Pharisees.
Jesus, You said in your word during your very first sermon on the Mount that our righteousness ought to exceed that of the Pharisees. And you exhorted us to progress towards perfection. And we know Lord Jesus that we cannot achieve this in our flesh. The best we can do in our flesh is Ishmael. The best thing that we can do is to lead two million people and yet still remain in our angry. That is the best that those under the Law and the Old Covenant can produce.
We are people of the New Covenant. And now we have seen perfection in Jesus Christ. Jesus, you are the most blessed man who ever lived because you were poorest in spirit, you were the meekest, you were the most merciful. We ask for grace over our tongue, over heart, over our eyes, over our limbs. Over every part of our bodies, we ask for grace. We want to be partakers in the divine nature as we seek to know you, Lord Jesus.
Our destiny is to become just like you. We don’t need grace merely to cover sin. We’re asking for grace to overcome sin. When you see our humility, you will exalt us over sin. Give us victory over sin, over our tongue, over our heart, over all the judgment, the anger, the lusts of the flesh, pride. We pray that you will give us victory over all of our sins. Our destiny is to be just like Jesus, perfect in every way, not sinless but close to sinless, as close as humanly possible. Perfect over our speech certainly.
Father, as we remember your death on the cross, your body that was torn, symbolized by the bread, and your blood that was shed, symbolized by the cup, and as we eat this, we are being nourished physically. But what we’re really after is spiritual nourishment. We want to partake in a spiritual sense and we ask that you nourish us spiritually. We pray that grace is transferred from you to us during the partaking of the Lord’s Supper. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen