If you would turn with me in your Bibles to Matthew's gospel, Matthew's gospel and chapter 5. We're beginning this Lord's day morning, a series within the word of God that I hope to continue almost to Christmas - so let that not put you off - but we hope to be blessed as we ponder some of the words of the Lord Jesus Christ within Matthew's Gospel. Within chapter 5, 6 and 7 of the first gospel record we have what is entitled the 'Sermon on the Mount'. We are not going to take time to deal with the whole of the sermon, but we intend to look these next few weeks at what is called the Beatitudes of the Lord Jesus Christ. So I want this morning to give just an introduction to this great and mighty subject, of these things that tell us how we can be blessed within the life that the Lord Jesus Christ gives us.
So let us read from verse 1 of chapter 5 of Matthew's Gospel: "And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven".
Let us ask the Lord's help as we come to His word this morning: Our dear God and Father, we thank Thee this morning for the great word of God. We thank Thee that we have before us the record of that blessed Man, that blessed Person, God incarnate: the Lord Jesus Christ - that we have before us, untampered, unharmed, undiluted, unadulterated the very words of that blessed Man. Lord, help us to treat them with reverence today, help us to treat them, as they are, with awesome holiness. And Lord the only way that we can do that this morning is to heed the word of God to our hearts, to not be like the Pharisees and the Scribes - to be hearers of the word, to be arguers of each little jot and tittle of the word, to feel, as we look into the mirror of God's word, to look into it and to walk away like that man in James and forget what we look like. But help us this morning, to be doers also of that word and Lord we will not be doers of that word unless the very Spirit of the word of God raises up that word, takes it and applies it, and puts it like a very bullet into our soul, that we may walk out of this place having the living word of God within our very soul and being. Lord bless us today, give us of Thy Spirit, as Thou hast promised that if we ask today Thou wilt give us. Lord we pray that Thou wilt take a dealing with us in this place, for we ask all these things in the blessed name of the Man who spoke these blessed words, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Matthew's gospel is the first gospel within the New Testament record. Matthew as we all know - Levi before he was converted - he was a collector of tolls, he was a publican, he went around collecting taxes. But when the Lord Jesus Christ came to Matthew and when he had an encounter with the living Son of God in flesh, we read that that man Matthew became a collector of souls. He followed Christ, he became a fisher of men and we have, in such detail within this Gospel, how Matthew followed, how the disciples followed, and the life recorded of the Lord Jesus Christ. In chapter 1, if you look at it, of Matthew's gospel we find there His birth - the birth of that blessed Saviour, the One who would be called Jesus, because He would save His people from their sin. Chapter 1, His nativity; chapter 2 we find His dignity, because we read there how the wise men came from the east and they brought those rich jewels and frankincense and gold and myrrh and they placed it at the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ, and they worshipped His majesty and His dignity because of who He was. In chapter 3 we read about His baptism, that He is declared there by God the Father and He says of His Son, 'This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased'. And there we see that the Holy Ghost of God descends and anoints the Lord Jesus Christ for the ministry that He would have as He healed the sick, as He made blind eyes to see, as He delivered the captives - even He needed an anointing from God the Holy Spirit to bring Him that power. Then in chapter 4 we find His temptation, where there the very devil himself, eyeball to eyeball, tries to divert the Son of God from His eternal purpose of going to the cross, of dying for a sinful world and of redeeming a people for Himself. And then in chapter 5, the chapter that we have read together this morning, we have His teaching, His preaching. His nativity in chapter 1, His dignity in chapter 2, Matthew outlines His baptism in chapter 3, His temptation in chapter 4 and as He sets out upon His earthly ministry here, we have in chapters 5, 6 and 7 His preaching.
The date is probably spring of the year 28 AD. We learn from Luke's Gospel chapter 6, that the Lord Jesus Christ spoke these great words after a night that He had spent alone with God in prayer. After that night of prayer He goes, the word of God tells us in Mark 3, He chooses twelve disciples to follow Him. Then we read that He goes about healing many of their sickness and their diseases and after all that, on the same day, He sits down upon this mountain, as we read in verse 1 of chapter 5, and He gives this great sermon - the Sermon on the Mount.
The Sermon on the Mount consists really of three sections. The first section we find in chapter 5 and verses 2 to 16, there the Lord Jesus Christ speaks to us of the citizens of the Kingdom of God. He speaks specifically of their character and their blessedness in the eyes of God. Then secondly in chapter 5 verse 17, to chapter 7 verse 12, He outlines for us not the citizens of the Kingdom, but the righteousness of the Kingdom. In other words the standards of life that are required, that are demanded by the King, of His subjects within the Kingdom. You'll remember reading those words, where the Lord Jesus Christ exhorts His followers and His disciples to love God and nothing else, to serve God alone with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. Then He tells them how to serve and the righteousness required, man-ward within the Kingdom - that they are to love their neighbour as themselves. And in order to sum all of that up, He gives them the golden rule which even other religions and cults today have adopted - pure truth that you cannot dilute, that cannot be misunderstood - listen to these awesome words this morning: 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you'. What an awesome sermon this is, what an awesome message this is from the very courts of God to men, through God incarnate - the Lord Jesus Christ.
One group in our world today says that the Beatitudes are a plan of salvation, that in order to get to Heaven you must follow these guidelines, you must obey these rules of the Lord Jesus. Another group in the world today say that it is a charter for world peace and they beg the nations of the world to heed it and then there will be world peace and tranquillity. There's another group that say that it's not for today, that it's for the future, even for believers, in a kingdom that is yet to come and there will be an earthly reign, a millennial kingdom upon this earth where the Lord Jesus Christ will be the King - and that is true - and there will be a consummation of this, where we will live in the beauty of holiness and across that temple, the Lord Jesus Christ and His people, here on earth, there will be holiness unto the Lord.
But what about this message to us today? I want to speak to you about two things this morning. In introduction to this great sermon and our exposition of it, I want us to think first of all of the preacher, and then secondly of His preaching. The Master and His message, the Preacher and His preaching, the Teacher and His teaching, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the One who stood before them, and the message that He delivered.
Thomas Watson, the puritan, says this, 'He, the Lord Jesus Christ, has a title that has been given to other preachers of our day and our century and our world, but He alone is the Prince of Preachers. He alone is the best of expositors'. It says in verses 1 and 2, if you'll look at it, that He went up. Thomas Watson says, 'The One in whom there was a combination of virtues, a constellation of beauties, the One in whose lips there was not only sweet as honeycomb, but His very words did drop as honeycomb. His words were an oracle, His works were a miracle, His life was a pattern, His death was a sacrifice, and it was He, that blessed Man, who went up into this mountain and sat down and spake unto His disciples'. This great Man, this great Preacher, the Son of God, God the Son, God incarnate, He was the greatest of all preachers and teachers and He was enabled and qualified to teach in the way He did.
There are three things quickly that I want us to meditate and ponder upon when we look at the Preacher. The first thing is this: when He preached He made sense; the second thing is: when He preached He had power; and the third thing is: when He preached He was successful. Let's look at the first for a moment: when He preached He made sense. In John chapter 3 and verse 34 we read this, that this Preacher, this Preacher sent as a missionary from the very realms of glory and Heaven, He came into this world and John says that this Man, as a Preacher of the word of God, He had the Spirit without measure. Think of that! My friends tonight, I dare to say that there has never been a preacher that has walked this soil that has ever had the Spirit without measure as our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. He was a Preacher that made sense! The great interpreter of the word of God, He is the only commentary that we can have on it. The Holy Spirit Himself who inspired the word of God, Jesus Christ had a monopoly of Him. How He could teach the word of God!
Do you remember the words of that woman at the well? That woman of Samaria, what did she say to her friend? She said, after listening to the preaching of the Lord Jesus Christ: 'Come see a Man which told me all things that ever I did'.
The word of God is a mirror isn't it? Why do we need a mirror? We need a mirror to see our likeness. And it's not a mirror that tarts us up or makes us look better than we are - although we may like that at times - but the best mirror that we can have is the mirror that gives us a true likeness of ourselves. My friends, this morning, when the Lord Jesus Christ preached He made sense. He didn't beat around the bush, He didn't use woolly words. He told it as it was, He preached the word of God in pureness, and He was the One we - and as I preach this morning, I can hardly even know some of your faces - but He was the Preacher that knew the very hearts of the ones He spoke to. Can you conceive that this morning? And just as He knew, as He was in the carpentry shop of His father, which tool He needed for which job He did there - the same as He stood and preached the word of God, He knew which truth that was needed for every single heart that was there. My friends, when He preached, He made sense.
But secondly: when He preached He had power. Matthew, the Gospel recorder says in chapter 7 and verse 29: 'He spake with authority'. The Bible says that as He spoke, He made naked the very conscience of every man and woman, boy and girl before Him - because He preached in power. He uncovered the secrets of men's hearts - things that no one could have known. So much so, that when He uncovered the very sins of that woman at the well of Sychar, about how many husbands she had had - and that the one who was with her at that moment was not her husband - she looked into His eyes and she said: 'I perceive that Thou art a prophet'. Oh, what power the Saviour had!
It was said of Luther, that one has said that it would be better said of Christ that He spake as if He had been within a man. My friend, with laser eyes the Saviour Himself - no matter who you are, saint or sinner today - He can see into your very breast, He can see into your inner thoughts, your conscience, your motives, your actions, your deeds, the things that are done in quiet places, He knows it all because He preached with power. And when He pierced sinners' consciences with the two-edged sword of His tongue, that Man, that blessed Man, men said of Him: 'Never, never ever in all of history, in all of time, never ever shall there be a man that spake like this Man'. A man that made sense and a man who had power.
But thirdly: when He preached - oh, how different He is than some today - when He preached He had success. This Man was wise to the winning of souls! He knew the art of converting souls, of every class, of every distinction, from every background and conceivable sin. John 10:42 said: 'Many believed in Him'. We read in John 12:42 that even among the chief rulers many believed in Him. Psalm 45 and verse 2 says prophetically of that blessed Person: 'Grace poured from His lips'. My friends this morning, it poured not just from His lips unto empty ground, but the Lord Jesus Christ had the power, He had ability, He had the success to pour that grace into the very hearts of men and women who stood before Him. He had the key of their soul, their conscience, their mind, their will. He had the key of it that, when He put it into their heart's door, He could open and enter at His will and no man at His appeal dare not surrender. What a preacher He was. Can you not see it? And as He sat - what was the sign of authority in the days of Palestine? That He sat as One who had sense, as One who had power, One who had spiritual success with men and with God - He sat in authority. And He spoke these wonderful words that we read this morning. Do you see His pulpit? Where was His pulpit? Was it in a fancy church? No. Was it in a cathedral? Was it at a Bible conference? Where was it? It says in verse 1 and 2 that 'He went up to a mountain' - the mountain was His pulpit! Why? Because a mountain was convenient for the people.
My friend never forget, the church of Jesus Christ is not to be an incubator of truth, we are not to close ourselves in from a dying, damned world and say, 'Well, we will conserve our truth'. My friends, He went to the people who needed Him and He told the word of God as it was - and because of that, in the pulpit that He was in, the Preacher that He was, there were those saved. And do you see His passion? I think this is beautiful. It says in verse 1 that seeing the multitudes, seeing the multitudes - He looked upon them and many thronged to hear Him because they knew that what He was saying was worthwhile, and the Christ that came from heaven to save souls, He could not, He would not leave them without giving them a message of hope, a message of the gospel. The One who had compassion on the weak, the broken, the bruised bodies, much more had compassion upon dead souls.
My friends, as we look at this passage and as we enter this exposition of God's word, I want you not to see the sermon before you see the awesome preacher - the Man who preached this message. And so I want us to look secondly this morning at His preaching. The preacher and His preaching. It is often said in a humorous way: 'Practice what you preach'. Isn't that right? But I think it's better turned around the other way, 'Preach what you practice'. Look at this sermon, look at the Beatitudes of the Lord Jesus Christ and if you look at it closely enough, and if you look in parallel at the blessed life of the holy Son of God, you will see that this sermon itself is an unconscious self-portrayal of the life of the Son of God. Here is a Man who, when He is exhorting others, He does not become disqualified, He does not become a vagabond. He is not like when Paul describes those who stand and give truth and walk away and they forget that truth, and they commit the sins themselves that they are warning against. But this very sermon from the lips of the blessed Son of God was a disclosure of the heart of the missionary Son. And when He describes His ideal, He describes Himself. Do you know what this is all about? It can be summed up in one word. All of these many words of the Beatitudes, even the many words of the Sermon on the Mount, summed up in one word: Christlikeness, Christlikeness. Look at these words, 'Blessed are they, blessed are they, blessed are they', and as you look at every single one of them, do you ask yourself: 'Well, do I have that in my life? Is that an intricate part of my daily walk of every hour of my day?' - because friend today, if you're walking in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God is like dynamite in your breast, it must be! It must be!
The key verse to understanding the Beatitudes, I believe, is found in verse 20. The Lord Jesus Christ, remember, is addressing within the backdrop and the background and the context of the Scribes and the Pharisees. And He says within verse 20: 'For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case', in no way, 'enter into the kingdom of heaven'. What did He mean? Well simply this: the Lord Jesus Christ in His ministry had entered into a situation where the religious leaders of His day, the Pharisees [and] Scribes, were basing their approach to God, were basing their acceptance with a holy righteous God, Jehovah, upon their external righteousness. Have you got that? External righteousness. So much so, that they had 600 plus little petty rules and regulations added to the word of God by which they could come closer to God Himself. What does the Lord Jesus say? He says this: 'Unless your righteousness, my disciples, unless your goodness, your good works, exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees and the Scribes you will in no way enter into the Kingdom of Heaven'.
What's He saying? Simply this, that unless your righteousness is internal you have no hope of heaven. It's not externality, it's not like the Pharisees: how long your beard is; how long the gown you wear is; the colour of it; what you do on the Sabbath day; whether you trail a chair across the ground and it constitutes ploughing; whether you lift wood; whether you speak; whether you do other things that were prohibited on the Sabbath day and certain parts of it. It is nothing to do with externalities the Lord Jesus Christ is saying, but He is saying it is something deep within your soul - it is something internal. You know, they always accused Him of destroying the law: 'He's not saying what the law said'. That's why in verse 17, if you look at it, He says: 'Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fill up'. 'I am not come to take the law away, but the law is lacking, the law is not the finish. I have come to finish it, to fill up that glass, to be the purpose of the law. I, myself as I stand before you, Jesus Christ the Son of God, am the fulfilment of it'.
What is a Christian? If you were asked that question today, what would you say? What is a Christian? What is an evangelical? How would you define it? R. Kent Hughes, who is an American expositor and preacher, has written a book. And his book has come in response to that question - that in a world in which we live today, where Roman Catholics can say now that they are evangelical, or this that and the other, if they use the same language, if they do the same things, sing the same songs and preach from the same book they are classed as evangelicals, born again Christians. And in response to that question and that dilemma, he has written a book entitled this: 'Are evangelicals born again?'. 'Are evangelicals born again?'. And what it is, is a commentary upon the Beatitudes, in other words what he is saying is this: that if you do not have in your life the prime substance, or even an indication of what we find in the Beatitudes, it is doubtful that you are born again. One quote that I read this week from Professor David Welles said this on the term evangelical he said, 'It is descriptively anaemic. Today in our world it means nothing'.
A recent gallop poll said that Christians within the United States of America, they had no understanding - some of them - had no understanding of what the word of God taught. Another poll taken said that one third of America claimed to be born again Christians. And this man, Kent Hughes, asked the question: if that is so and if one third of our population is born again - and I don't know the figures for here in Ulster, but I suspect that it is something similar - why is it that our influence upon our culture and our society is a non-event? Why is it? Can we say, verse 13, that we are the salt of Ulster? Can we say that? Can we say that we are the light of Ulster, we are the purifying influence within this society for God and for Christ and for His church? Could it be that many who class themselves as evangelical are not born again?
How could that be? There's a few reasons quickly, I'd love to spend more time in this, but there's a few reasons and I believe one of them is that the world has infiltrated us. And I'm not talking about your dress, get by that, that's Pharisaical! It's the heart, it's attitudes, it's perceptions, it's your conscience, and I believe that culturally, theologically, morally the world has infiltrated us. Look at this culture: we are in a technological revival. There is almost nothing that man can't do today with regards to technology and that attitude can infiltrate the church, that we in our world have a focus upon ourselves rather than a God focus, a God consciousness. When man has nothing, when man has no money, when man has no machines, when man has no status of himself, what does he usually do? He turns to God and looks for help. Culturally, politically, we can politicise the gospel, we can make it red, white and blue, we can make it green, white and gold and culturally we can have the very world itself - without realizing it - infiltrating us, so much so that we can't emanate those blessed blessednesses in the Beatitudes.
Theology, theologically, I'm not talking about liberalism, that's not what I'm talking about. But what I am talking about is ministering to felt needs, rather than ministering the word of God. 'I feel this way, so we need to minister to that need. There is this need, there is that need' - rather than taking God's word as to what the need really is within His word, and teach and preach systematically the word of God, so that He who knows the deepest need of our heart and soul - that we perhaps could be overlooking - He can minister even at times when we don't even know He's doing it. Morally, like the Pharisees we can have attitudes to sin, we can have attitudes to smoking, to drinking, but one survey - and I know you have to be careful about surveys - but this troubles me: one survey said that evangelical Christians, on the whole, there was no difference between them and the world in their ethical professions, about what was ethical and what was not. Now my friend this morning, if that is so in respect to becoming an evangelical today, it could be that it makes no difference to our life at all when we get saved.
Have we failed to infiltrate the world? They may have infiltrated us in our attitudes and the things that we say and think. But have we failed to infiltrate the world? Have we created a culture within our society, rather than creating conversion - where we say like the Pharisees, and this is what the Sermon on the Mount is all about, that if you display similar religious traits to me, you will be accepted? We can do it with our language, our vocabulary.
In the book of Judges we read about two nations, the Gileadites and the Ephraimites, they were both at war. They could not tell the difference between one another, except for one thing: the Gileadites could pronounce 'sh' and the Ephraimites couldn't. So they devised a password, 'Shibboleth' they called it, that was the word. And they knew that if the enemy was there they would ask: 'What is the password?' - and if he was a Gileadite, if he was one of them he would say: 'Shibboleth'. But if he was an Ephraimite he couldn't pronounce 'sh', so he said: 'Sibboleth' - and they knew by their vocabulary, and nothing more, what they were.
My friends this morning, in the light of the Sermon on the Mount, sometimes I wonder if we have the right language, if we use it in the right way, it will fool most of the people most of the time? It could be vocabulary, it could be social convention. If you go to the right places, you don't go to the wrong places, if you've certain likes, dislikes, your behaviour, what you do, what you don't do, it could be heritage - and I know that this is preached so often in the gospel that if our parents are Christians it's just natural, is it not natural at times that if your parent is a Christian for you to fall into the swing of things and place yourself beyond doubt?
Friends today, sometimes walking the Christian path - and I say the Christian path as opposed to being born again - it can be the easiest option in your life. Now I'm speaking to children of believers here this morning, that believe they are saved, and could it be that you're not? What I mean by that is this: could it be that you chose this road because it's the least path of resistance? In other words, if you chose to go into the world or do something else it would disrupt your family relationships - think of it - it would disrupt your social relationships, your friendships. Could it be that the road can be chosen because a Biblical life, a Christian life is a healthy life? It's a healthy, satisfying life for anyone in the world if you follow it. Or do we know, friends this morning, within the depths of our heart and soul that we are born again? That we have the life of God within our breast - is it like the Beatitudes because God lives in our heart? You might say, 'David I'm a Christian, I gave my life to Christ as a child. I believe, I made my decision, I walked down an aisle, I signed a card, I read a booklet, I prayed with a man'. Can I ask you this morning: nowhere in the Bible does proof of salvation be pointed to the past. What do I mean by that? I'm not talking about the cross, that is how we are saved, of course it is, and that is in the past. But what I am talking about is this: Paul says within the word of God, test yourselves to see if you are in the faith - and that word 'test', the word 'examine' is the present continuous tense which means this: test yourself now, continually test yourself every day whether you are saved or not. And Paul, and the word of God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the whole Bible - and sometimes I wonder have we forgotten it - it says that the way we can be assured of our salvation is the way we are living now.
That is the message of the Sermon on the Mount. It's not 'easy believism'. It's not 'put your hand up and God will give everything that Christ died for'. My friends this morning, the Beatitudes, the Beatitudes - you might say, 'But David, look at all these blesseds, these are impossible' - this is the whole point of it my friends, that as we look at these things, the Lord Jesus Christ meant these to be an atomic bomb to our self-righteousness. He meant it to do violence to our pride, our self-ability, our self-dependence and satisfaction. Christ meant it to destroy us! Why? Because if we think, for one moment, that we can get along [without] God's help, He'll let us go along and then we'll crash. And when we crash we need to look to Him and cry for mercy and if you're here this morning - and I'm finished - but if you're here this morning and as we look at the future weeks that we think of the Sermon on the Mount and you say, 'David, I can't begin to do these things'. You know what I say to you? You know what Jesus says to you? 'Blessed are ye, poor in spirit: for yours is the kingdom of heaven'.
And as we enter a new study of the word of God, and as I believe God will speak to our hearts about how we emulate the life of His Son, let's come before Him this morning - those that are believers - and say: 'Lord as I look to myself I am poor in spirit, I am weak, I can do nothing', and look for the life of God in Christ. And perhaps there's an unbeliever here this morning, or someone who thought they were a believer and as they've heard the word of God and as it's described through the Beatitudes what a believer is you find that you fall short. Why not come to Christ this morning? And be sure of the life of God in your very soul.
Our Father, we thank Thee for Thy word. Oh it is searing, it is searching, it is destroying, but we thank Thee that we have a Saviour who builds up, who releases from bondage and who gives eternal life to the broken soul. Lord, minister this morning we pray, and bless us now as we part, for Christ's sake. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the first tape in his Beatitudes series, titled "The Beatitudes" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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