Understanding the Sermon on the Mount

SermonOnTheMountI am currently teaching through the Sermon on the Mount.  The lessons are being uploaded weekly at the Bethel Grace Baptist Church website.   I am using Martyn Lloyd Jones’ book, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, if you would like to follow along.  Some of the topics we will be covering include…

Matt 5:1-4 – Introduction to the sermon on the Mount

Matt. 5:5-11 – Beatitudes

Matt. 5:13-16 – Salt and Light

Matt. 5:17-20 – Christ and the Law

Matt. 5:21-26 – Christ on Anger

Matt. 5:27-32 – Christ on Lust

Matt. 5:33-37 – Christ on Truthfulness

Matt. 5:38-42 – Turning the Other Cheek

Matt. 5:43-48 – Love Your Enemies

Matt. 6:1-4 and 6:16-18 – Not to be seen by Men

Matt. 6:5-15 – The Lord’s Prayer

Matt. 6:19-24 – Christ on Treasures

Matt. 6:25-34 – Trusting Him for All Our Needs

Matt. 7:1-11 – Do Not Judge / Ask and it Will Be Given

Matt. 7:12-20 – The Narrow Gate / Recognize them by Their Fruit

Matt. 7:21-29 – I Never Knew You / Build Upon the Rock

The class will run through April 2013.

God Bless,

Doug

Blessed Are They That Mourn – A.W. Pink


“Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

Mourning is hateful and irksome to poor human nature. From suffering and sadness our spirits instinctively shrink. By nature we seek the society of the cheerful and joyous. Our text presents an anomaly to the unregenerate, yet it is sweet music to the ears of God’s elect. If “blessed,” why do they “mourn”? If they “mourn,” how can they be “blessed”? Only the child of God has the key to this paradox. The more we ponder our text the more we are constrained to exclaim, “Never man spake like this Man!” “Blessed [happy] are they that mourn is an aphorism that is at complete variance with the world’s logic. Men have in all places and in all ages regarded the prosperous and gay as the happy ones, but Christ pronounces happy those who are poor in spirit and who mourn.

Now it is obvious that it is not every species of mourning that is here referred to. There is a “sorrow of the world [that] worketh death” ( Corinthians 7:10). The mourning for which Christ promises comfort must be restricted to that which is spiritual. The mourning that is blessed is the result of a realization of God’s holiness and goodness that issues in a sense of the depravity of our natures and the enormous guilt of our conduct. The mourning for which Christ promises Divine comfort is a sorrowing over our sins with a godly sorrow.

The eight Beatitudes are arranged in four pairs. Proof of this will be furnished as we proceed. The first of the series is the blessing that Christ pronounced upon those who are poor in spirit, which we took as a description of those who have been awakened to a sense of their own nothingness and emptiness. Now the transition from such poverty to mourning is easy to follow. In fact, mourning follows so closely that it is in reality poverty’s companion.  The mourning that is here referred to is manifestly more than that of bereavement, affliction, or loss. It is mourning for sin.

It is mourning over the felt destitution of our spiritual state, and over the iniquities that have separated us and God; mourning over the very morality in which we have boasted, and the self- righteousness in which we have trusted; sorrow for rebellion against God, and hostility to His will; and such mourning always goes side by side with conscious poverty of spirit (Dr. Pierson).

“A striking illustration and exemplification of the spirit upon which the Savior here pronounced His benediction is to be found in Luke 18:9-14. There a vivid contrast is presented to our view. First, we are shown a self-righteous Pharisee looking up toward God and saying, “God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. This may all have been true as he looked at it, yet this man went down to his house in a state of condemnation. His fine garments were rags, his white robes were filthy, though he knew it not. Then we are shown the publican, standing afar off, who, in the language of the Psalmist, was so troubled by his iniquities that he was not able to look up ( Psalm 40:12). He dared not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his breast. Conscious of the fountain of corruption within, he cried, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” That man went down to his house justified, because he was poor in spirit and mourned for sin.”

Here, then, are the first birthmarks of the children of God. He who has never come to be poor in spirit and has never known what it is to really mourn for sin, though he belong to a church or be an office-bearer in it, has neither seen nor entered the Kingdom of God.  How thankful the Christian reader ought to be that the great God condescends to dwell in the humble and contrite heart! This is the wonderful promise made by God even in the Old Testament (by Him in whose sight the heavens are not clean, who cannot find in any temple that man has ever built for Him, however magnificent, a proper dwelling place—see Isaiah 57:15 and 66:2)! “Blessed are they that mourn.” Though the primary reference is to that initial mourning commonly called conviction of sin, it is by no means to be limited to that. Mourning is ever a characteristic of the normal Christian state. There is much that the believer has to mourn over. The plague of his own heart makes him cry, “O wretched man that I am” ( Romans 7:24).

The unbelief that “doth so easily beset us” ( Hebrews 12:1) and sins that we commit, which are more in number than the hairs of our head, are a continual grief to us. The barrenness and unprofitableness of our lives make us sigh and cry. Our propensity to wander from Christ, our lack of communion with Him, and the shallowness of our love for Him cause us to hang our harps upon the willows. But there are many other causes for mourning that assail Christian hearts: on every hand hypocritical religion that has a form of godliness while denying the power thereof ( 2 Timothy 3:5); the awful dishonor done to the truth of God by the false doctrines taught in countless pulpits; the divisions among the Lord’s people; and strife between brethren. The combination of these provides occasion for continual sorrow of heart. The awful wickedness in the world, the despising of Christ, and untold human sufferings make us groan within ourselves. The closer the Christian lives to God, the more he will mourn over all that dishonors Him. This is the common experience of God’s true people (Psalm 119:53; Jeremiah 13:17; 14:17; Ezekiel 9:4). “They shall be comforted.” By these words Christ refers primarily to the removal of the guilt that burdens the conscience. This is accomplished by the Spirit’s application of the Gospel of God’s grace to one whom He has convicted of his dire need of a Savior. The result is a sense of free and full forgiveness through the merits of the atoning blood of Christ. This Divine comfort is “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” ( Philippians 4:7), filling the heart of the one who is now assured that he is “accepted in the Beloved” ( Ephesians 1:6). God wounds before healing, and abases before He exalts. First there is a revelation of His justice and holiness, then the making known of His mercy and grace.

The words “they shall be comforted” also receive a constant fulfillment in the experience of the Christian. Though he mourns his excuseless failures and confesses them to God, yet he is comforted by the assurance that the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses him from all sin ( 1 John 1:7). Though he groans over the dishonor done to God on every side, yet is he comforted by the knowledge that the day is rapidly approaching when Satan shall be cast into hell forever and when the saints shall reign with the Lord Jesus in “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” ( 2 Peter 3:13).

Though the chastening hand of the Lord is often laid upon him and though “no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous” ( Hebrews 12:11), nevertheless, he is consoled by the realization that this is all working out for him “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” ( 2 Corinthians 4:17).

Like the Apostle Paul, the believer who is in communion with his Lord can say, “As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing” ( 2 Corinthians 6:10). He may often be called upon to drink of the bitter waters of Marah, but God has planted nearby a tree to sweeten them. Yes, mourning Christians are comforted even now by the Divine Comforter: by the ministrations of His servants, by encouraging words from fellow Christians, and (when these are not to hand) by the precious promises of the Word being brought home in power by the Spirit to their hearts out of the storehouse of their memories. “They shall be comforted.” The best wine is reserved for the last. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” ( Psalm 30:5). During the long night of His absence, believers have been called to fellowship with Him who was the Man of Sorrows. But it is written, “If… we suffer with Him.., we [shall] be also glorified together” ( Romans 8:17).

What comfort and joy will be ours when shall dawn the morning without clouds! Then “sorrow and sighing shall flee away” ( Isaiah 35:10). Then shall be fulfilled the words of the great heavenly voice in Revelation 21:3,4: Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

-Arthur W. Pink-

Affliction and the Restraint of Arrogance – John Calvin

Our Lord had no need to undertake the bearing of the cross except to attest and prove his obedience to the Father. But as for us, there are many reasons why we must pass our lives under a continual cross… We readily esteem our virtue above its due measure. And we do not doubt, whatever happens, that against all difficulties it will remain unbroken and unconquered. Hence we are lifted up to stupid and empty confidence in the flesh; and relying on it, we are then insolently proud against God himself, as if our own powers were sufficient without his grace.

He can best restrain this arrogance when he proves to us by experience not only that great incapacity but also the frailty under which we labor. Therefore, he afflicts us either with disgrace or poverty, or bereavement, or disease, or other calamities. Utterly unequal to bearing these, in so far as they touch us, we soon succumb to them. Thus humbled, we learn to call upon His power, which alone makes us stand fast under the weight of afflictions.

-John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion

Doug Eaton

On Being Poor in Spirit

Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God. Matt. 5:3

What does it mean to be “poor in spirit”? In Matt. 13:44 Jesus tells this parable, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field.” To be poor in spirit is to realize that nothing we have is worth more than the kingdom of God. Knowing this, we become willing to part with anything we have if it hinders us from receiving the kingdom. This is why Jesus said, “No one of you can be my disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.” (Luke 14:33)

When we think of possessions, our minds automatically go to things like our homes, cars, big screen televisions, and the luxuries with which we live, and this is certainly part of it. But Jesus goes much further when He says, “If anyone loves even his mother and father more than me, he cannot be my disciple”. Jesus is also including our families in this equation. Do you love your children more than Him? What about your health? If he decided to test your faith with disease, would you still trust Him? When Jesus speaks of possessions, He means everything; our careers, our reputations, even if our aspirations are to be leaders in the Christian community, all of these are to be handed over if He asks. The idea of “possessions” is so complete that it includes everything we hold valuable. Nothing is to be more valuable to us than Christ.

Being poor in spirit is directly related to our faith. We know that, “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of those who seek Him.”(Heb 11:6). Without faith you could never come to Him, because believing that He is and that He will reward those who seek Him is an aspect of faith. If you don’t believe this, than you will not come to Him and thus you do not have faith. We also must realize that it is not the “coming” by which we are justified; it is the “faith”, but the “faith” produces the “coming.”

The same applies to being poor in spirit. The only way we can be “poor in spirit” is to truly believe that He is more valuable than anything we have, and believing that He is more valuable than our possesions is an aspect of our faith also. The entire chapter of Hebrews 11 is about faith, and it lists what some of God people we’re willing to sacrifice because of their faith in God. Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac (Heb. 11:17) Moses “chose rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin; considering the reproach of Christ greater riches, than the treasures of Egypt (Heb 11:25,26).

“Still others had trials of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented– of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth (Heb. 11:36-38).”

Why would these people be willing to give up so much? It was because, by faith, they became poor in spirit. Nothing in this life was worth sparing if it meant not inheriting the kingdom of God.

When the rich young ruler came to Jesus and said, “What must I do to be saved” Jesus told him to sell all he had and to give it to the poor. Jesus was not telling him, do these works and you will be saved, because works cannot save us. Instead, Jesus knew that His heart lacked faith, and was therefore not poor in spirit. He did not believe that following Jesus was more valuable than the things of this world.

Being poor in spirit is not taking vows of poverty, which can be acts of pretense, or despising the blessings God has given us. Instead it is a condition of the heart. As Matthew Henry said,

this poverty of spirit is a gracious disposition of soul, by which we are emptied of self, in order to our being filled with Jesus Christ.” He also said it was, “To be contentedly poor, willing to be emptied of worldly wealth, if God orders that to be our lot; to bring our mind to our condition, when it is a low condition. Many are poor in the world, but high in spirit, poor and proud, murmuring and complaining, and blaming their lot, but we must accommodate ourselves to our poverty, we must know how to be abased, Phil. 4:12”.

Today as we consider whether we are poor in spirit, may the Lord use this meditation to show us the true state of our hearts before Him? May He work in us a “spirit of poverty” regardless of our outward state. May we be humbly willing to serve our Lord wherever He may lead. May nothing be more valuable to us than our precious Savior. May we understand that we have nothing of value apart from Christ. Let us realize that we are the “unprofitable servants” (Luke 17:10), as we remember that the thief on the cross speaks of our condition when he said, “We deserve to die for our evil deeds, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Yet Christ responded to him “Today you will be with me in paradise”.

Hold nothing more valuable than this pearl of great price. Be willing to sell all you have to purchase it, if it is required of you. Such actions will not merit you anything toward salvation, but they prove that your faith is a living faith, by which you are justified, thus showing that you are poor in spirit and blessed because yours is the kingdom of God.

-Doug Eaton-