DUNCAN/The citizens of the kingdom, Part I
Please turn in your Bible to Matthew 5:1-5. As we continue our study in the Gospel of Matthew, we now come to the Sermon on the Mount where our Lord gives us a picture of the life of those who are members of His kingdom. And in the part of the sermon called “The Beatitudes,” which we will begin studying today, Jesus discusses the character of those who are citizens of His kingdom. In each beatitude, there is a description of the character quality of the blessed person. These are not character qualities that are found in some Christians and not others, these are qualities that are found in all who are citizens of the kingdom of God. Therefore, we will look at three things that Jesus teaches us about those who belong to His kingdom in the first three beatitudes. First, we learn that Christians are humble and are called to a life of humility. Secondly, we learn that Christians are grieved over their sin and are called to a life of repentance. Thirdly and finally, we learn that Christians are considerate and are called to a life of kindness.
I. Christians Are Humble and Are Called to a Life of Humility.
In verse 3, Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Christ is describing those who are part of His kingdom. And the character quality that He says which first characterizes His people is poverty of spirit which includes a spiritual humility. It includes a sense of our sin, a sense of our needs, and a sense of our helplessness. When God leads us to see that this is our real spiritual condition, then poverty of spirit is born in our hearts. Our Lord, of course, is the great example of humility, but I want to turn your thoughts to another example from Scripture. In Matthew 15:21-28, we hear about the faith of a Canaanite woman. In this story, Jesus is setting up a scenario in which He can show the work of grace that He has done in her heart and call His own disciples to emulate the faith that this woman shows. As you may recall, this woman comes to the Lord Jesus with a demon-possessed daughter, and the Lord Jesus responds to her by saying, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Now this response seems cruel at first, doesn’t it? Despite Jesus’ answer, the woman persists to the point that the disciples begin to be a bit uncomfortable with her bantering. She continues to ask, and the Lord answers her. He uses a slang phrase that was actually a derogatory phrase in his day. Specifically, Jesus says to her, “It is not proper to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” And this dear woman does not flinch. In her Christ-wrought humility, she says, “You’re right Lord, I deserve nothing from you, but even dogs eat the crumbs from their master’s table.” Then Jesus says, “O woman, great is your faith. Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. This Canaanite woman had learned the lesson of poverty of spirit. By God’s grace, she had learned to say, “Nothing in my hand I bring. Simply to Your cross I cling.”
My friends, this story should cause us to ask ourselves, “Do we have that kind of poverty of spirit?” Isn’t it amazing, that it is right when we pronounce that we are bereft of any claim upon God, that the blessing of the kingdom comes? Did you notice the word of the blessing? Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The minute we acknowledge that we do not deserve the kingdom, we are told the kingdom belongs to us. I tell you, that if you have that poverty of spirit, then you today can testify of the extravagant grace that Christ lavishes on those who are poor in spirit.
II. Christians Are Grieved Over Their Sin and Are Called to a Life of Repentance.
In verse 4, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Jesus is not speaking about bereavement over death. He is speaking about people who are grief-stricken over sin. He is talking about people who recognize their spiritual bankruptcy. The grief Jesus describes here is mourning over our own sinfulness. The sight of God causes a sinner with sight to mourn his sin. And the sight of God causes the sinner who has mourned his sin to be comforted. Isn’t it ironic that the same sight of the same God produces grief over sin and comfort in that grief because this grief is a work of grace? It is that work of grace that produces the godly sorrow that leads to repentance, which leads to restoration of our relationship with the heavenly Father. Thus, Jesus says, “They shall be comforted.” These people will experience the comfort of God. They will receive His pardon, His deliverance, His strengthening, and His reassurance. It belongs to them as they mourn for their sin. And it is precisely then, that they are comforted by God Himself, and told, “You have fellowship with Me.”
III. Christians Are Considerate and Are Called to a Life of Kindness.
In verse 5, Jesus says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” We see in verse 5 that Christians are called to a life of kindness and to a life of looking out for the interests of others. Meekness is related to poorness in spirit. When we come to know God, we come to know our sinfulness. And when we come to know our sinfulness, we cast ourselves on the mercy of the Lord. Meekness results when a man enters into the presence of God and knows that he ought to be judged, and yet he has found the grace of God instead. Meekness is the result of God’s grace in our hearts, where we know that we have not gotten what we deserve, and therefore, we show that same kind of consideration to others. It is the person who says, “I will not stand on my rights. I will not demand to have my way. I will be concerned about the interests of others, and about the cause of God, and I will let God care for me.” My friends, Christ is not giving you a list of things to do. The Lord is saying, “This is what my children are like. They are poor in spirit, and in that poverty I give them the kingdom of heaven. They mourn over their sin, and in that mourning they are comforted. They are meek. And in that meekness, I give them the world.” May God enable us to embrace this truth, to walk in His ways, and to be a witness to the glory of Christ.