DUNCAN/The Citizens of the kingdom, Part III
Please turn in your Bible to Matthew 5:8-10. Over the past two weeks, we have surveyed various “character qualities” that Jesus pronounces as “blessed” in the first part of the Sermon on the Mount. This week we come to the last three beatitudes in Jesus’s sermon. Two of these beatitudes are blessings on further Christian character qualities and one of them is a blessing on circumstances. Thus, we learn three things in this passage. First, we learn that Christians are uncompromisingly dedicated to Christ. Secondly, we learn that Christians are peacemakers. Thirdly and finally, we learn that Christians are mistreated because of their love of righteousness.
I. Christians Are Uncompromisingly Dedicated to Christ.
In verse 8, Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Before us in this beatitude is specifically the idea of being a person of integrity, a person of sincerity, a person of focused heart, and a person whose heart is focused on one priority. That priority is fellowship with God, obedience to Him, and walking with Him through our Lord Jesus Christ. That is the man who is pure in heart. The one who is singularly focused, the one who is honest, the one who is sincere, and the one whose words go along with the state of one’s heart. Jesus is speaking of a blessing on those who worship the true God with a sincere focus of heart. This sincerity of heart doesn’t just mean being sincere. It means being sincere in the truth, worshiping the true God in sincerity. Its opposite is double-mindedness. The double-minded man is the one who wants one foot in the Kingdom and the other foot in the world. Notice how comprehensive this beatitude is. It pulls together our happiness, our blessedness, and our holiness as we are single-mindedly focused on God and as we are single-mindedly yielding ourselves to God. In that pursuit of holiness, we find satisfaction.
What is the blessing that Jesus pronounces on those who are pure in heart? He says that they will see God. They will see Him as their own God. They will see Him to enjoy Him. They will see Him as He is, for they will be like Him, and they will see Him forever. The single-minded person who has pursued the one true God in sincerity will find as the blessing and reward at the end of that journey the fulfillment of all the desires of the heart for fellowship and communion with God. My friends, ask yourselves, “Is God your focus?” Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart.” Blessed are those who are single-mindedly focused on God.
II. Christians Are Peacemakers.
In verse 9, Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Christians are purveyors of the peace that comes through our Lord Jesus Christ. Christians are peacemakers because the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts because we have found peace with God. And believers desire all men and all women to share in that peace with God. This is not because of our deserving it, not because of our own works, but because we have embraced Jesus Christ and have found in Him peace with God. We are purveyors of the gospel of peace.
Those who have peace with God themselves cannot be silent about it. However, it is important to note that this is a peace that divides. It brings a division between those who embrace Christ and those who reject Him. But the only true peace that can be found in this world is the true peace with God through Jesus, and when we share that message, we are peacemakers, and so we are called the sons of God. Why? Because as our hearts are turned and we no longer have hatred towards men because of the love of God, which is shed in our heart, we desire them to experience the bounty of God. As our hateful hearts are turned to loving hearts in accord with the gospel of peace, we become peacemakers and so we bear His image. Has the love of God impacted you in such a way that it is your desire to see the knowledge of the Lord covering the earth as the waters cover the sea? Are you genuinely concerned for those believers who are different from you in so many ways? Do you find your bond with them in Christ to be greater than the differences that separate you? Blessed are those who are peacemakers because they know the peace of God in Christ and they want others to share in that peace.
III. Christians Are Mistreated Because of Their Love of Righteousness.
In verse 10, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” All of the other seven beatitudes speak of the character qualities that Jesus finds in all the citizens of His Kingdom and on which He pronounces a blessing. However, this beatitude speaks of a circumstance, not of character. It is also important to notice that this blessing of the Lord Jesus on those who are persecuted prevents us from developing an attitude of victimization regarding the hardships that we face in the world. Furthermore, it prevents paranoia. Have you ever run into the person who thinks that everybody in the world is persecuting them? The Lord tells us here, “Expect the world to persecute you.” In other words, Christians must expect opposition and unpopularity and persecution. If we have really read this beatitude as we ought, would we fall for the “health and wealth” gospel that says once you have become a Christian you have no problems and make more money. But who could believe that and also believe what the Lord Jesus has said in His beatitude? Jesus says that the Christian is to expect opposition in the world.
What is the blessing that Jesus pronounces on those who are persecuted? He says that the Kingdom of heaven is theirs. In their persecution they have entered into the Kingdom of God. In their persecution they have become like the prophets before them. They have become like the Lord, so the blessings of God belong to them. For believers, as we look at our own hearts, we see that there exists a spiritual warfare between our spiritual desires and then those remnants of the flesh which bring us mixed desires and cause us to go after things which are unfaithful to the Lord. My friends, only the grace of Christ can slay those desires in us. The only reason that there are godly desires in us at all is because of the gracious work of the Lord Jesus Christ in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. By God’s grace, may you embrace Jesus today as Lord and Savior as He is offered in the gospel.
The Rev. Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III is Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary. Dr. Duncan pastored The First Presbyterian Church of Jackson for 18 years from 1996 to 2014. He can be reached at 601-923-1600 or by email.