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Sunday, December 29, 2013

18 - How to be Happy - Part 1 [B]

Matthew 5:1-5 by Robert Dean
Be happy even when you don't feel well, your spouse is being unreasonable, and your house is about to be foreclosed? That's crazy! You've got to be kidding! Listen to the message Jesus Christ gave His disciples in the Sermon on the Mount that tells us how to live above the ebb and flow of what's going on in our lives. Understand the eternal, unchanging foundation for our happiness. Choose to look forward to the remarkable future available to all believers. Learn to walk by the Spirit so our character is transformed and we receive fantastic eternal rewards.
Series:Matthew (2013)
Duration:52 mins 10 secs

How to be Happy - Part 1
Matthew 5:1-5
Matthew Lesson #018
December 29, 2013

I have entitled this, based on the opening words of what has been referred to and described as the beatitudes, How to be happy—really happy, eternally happy, happy in the soul regardless of what the external circumstances might be. So many of us face difficulties in life. We face a variety of adversities, challenges, problems related to finances, health, work, careers, etc.; challenges of just living in the world where Satan rules and where we live in the midst of a culture that is increasingly hostile to biblical Christianity.

If we want to be happy we can't base our happiness on people, on circumstances or even about how we feel about things. We have to base our happiness on something that has eternal, immutable foundations. For only when we base our happiness on that which is eternal and immutable can we always have happiness. Happiness is not the emotional uplift that we often associate with happiness; it is more profound than that. It is a happiness that relates to the inner tranquillity and contentment of our soul. And even at a surface level when we are disturbed and upset about circumstances we can also maintain an inner happiness contentment that is not subject to those ever-fluctuating circumstances around us. That is what the focal point is around this opening introduction to what is known as the Sermon on the Mount.

The first two verses give us the setting. The second division gives us the character of those who inherit the kingdom. This serves as the introduction to the rest of the message. It was a discourse. It is not quite a sermon because of the way in which it is handled. It is more accurately called the teaching, the discourse and more accurately identified as instruction by Jesus to His disciples. But the opening section here does, indeed, give us prologue or introduction, and ideas are mentioned here that are developed more fully through the course of the discourse. So 5:3-16 gives us that introduction; in 5:17-7-12 we see the heart of the teaching. This is an explanation and a description of experiential righteousness.

We make a distinction between experiential righteousness and imputed righteousness. Imputed is a time-honored theological concept, and that translation of imputation or imputed is used in many of the older translations of the Scripture. But we live in a world today that due to a failure of the public education system modern translations dumb their vocabulary down and so when we look at some of these translations some of these time-honored, rich theological words developed and utilized in English over the centuries—such as imputation, righteousness, propitiation, reconciliation, justification—these words are not found because they are deemed to be a little too difficult and over the head of the average reader.

Imputation is a term that describes the crediting of Christ's righteousness to the believer at the instant he trusts in Christ. It is a banking term. We have an abysmal righteousness number. Nothing that we can ever do can ever even bring that up to the level of zero. So it is not a factor of our own individual morality; it is the character of Christ, His righteousness, that is assigned to us at the instant of salvation so that God the Father looks at His righteousness and declares us to be justified for salvation. It is a free gift, not something we have earned or deserved. It doesn't change our morality; it doesn't give us righteousness in the sense of infusing that to our nature so that we are not as unrighteous as we were before. We are given a gift of someone else's righteousness, and so it is on the basis of their righteousness that we are declared righteous. That is imputed righteousness.

Experiential righteousness is the quality of righteous living that a believe exhibits at salvation, based on his moment-by-moment, day-by-day walk with the Lord Jesus Christ, walk by the Holy Spirit, abiding in Christ—all of these different terms are used in Scripture. This is the focal point in the Sermon on the Mount. It is describing this kind of experiential righteousness—the application of the Word of God in the life of the believer—that should characterize his life in preparation for his future destiny in the millennial or messianic kingdom.

In 5:17-48 we have the principle of righteousness in the Law. In 6:1-18 there is the practice of righteous living. And, incidentally, in those verses there is an emphasis on rewards. We earn rewards but salvation is a free gift. This is another indication that this is not talking about how to become saved, it is talking to already-saved people about how they should live in preparation for their future destiny in the millennial kingdom and in heaven. The perspectives of righteousness are then described in 6:19-7:12. And there is a conclusion with several warnings from the King in 7:13-27.

Matthew is not an easy Gospel to understand. A lot of that is because we bring a lot of preconceived notions about the Gospels, about Jesus and about some of the terminology that is used to the reading of Matthew. And it just seems to contradict itself or not quite make sense to us. That is because we take in some misunderstandings and apply that to a reading of this text. Some things we will hopefully correct as we go through Matthew. It is difficult but it just requires a lot of reflection and study to get to the heart of what Jesus is saying.

The kingdom is a very significant part of understanding what Jesus is teaching here. In verse 3 of the introductory section we are told: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." So this concept of the kingdom is mentioned there, it is mentioned again in verse 5. In verse 10: "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." In verse 12 we are told: "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven [the kingdom of] is great." Beyond these first twelve verses in this introduction there are six more references to the kingdom of God in the Sermon on the Mount, and there is an extended section in 6:1-21 talking about rewards. Remember that rewards are something earned and given on the basis of works, but Scripture says that we are saved not by works but through faith. That means that we are not talking here about how to get into haven or how to have eternal life or how to become saved or justified; we are talking about how the justified person should live in order to please God with their life and to be prepared for the future kingdom, and the way in which we will serve the Lord in the millennial kingdom as those who rule and reign with Him.

What we learn from this in terms of the introduction is that Jesus is addressing His disciples, those who are already saved/justified. He is addressing them and teaching them how they should live in light of that future destiny in the millennial kingdom.

The setting is given in Matthew 5:1, 2 NASB "When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him." The verb "saw" is oida, a word that means to know. It is a verb of perception. It usually relates to an intuitive type of knowledge as opposed to ginosko which is an acquired learning, and it would indicate that Jesus is not just looking at the multitude but He understands their nature, their condition, who they are. He sees the reality of the nature of the multitudes. And there is a contrast here between the term multitudes or the crowd and the disciples. He looks at the multitudes and then He went up on a hillside, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. So He begins to teach His disciples.

There is a little bit of difference between Luke's account and Matthew's account, but I think they can be reconciled in the sense that if they are talking about the same event then Jesus looks at His disciples in Luke 6, which indicates that they are His primary audience. The Matthew situation describes the crowds that find Him and circle around Him to listen in on what He saying to the disciples, but we recognize that He is primarily addressing His disciples. His purpose for addressing them is to instruct them on the difference between His kingdom, the kingdom that He is announcing, and the kind of righteousness that is taught by the religious leaders of their time. This is important and it is critical for understanding some of the more difficult passages in the sermon.

There are many who will teach the sermon saying it is not really a way of salvation, but by the time you get into especially the latter part of the seventh chapter Jesus is looking at the multitudes and is including statements that are related to salvation because there are some among the multitudes who are not saved. I would not agree with that. Throughout this section His primary audience are those to whom He is speaking as believers. So He addresses His disciples, as we see in 5:1, 2, not the listening crowd.

Second, Jesus did not ever address the question of how to get saved in the sermon. It is how to live as someone who is already saved. 

Third, Jesus tells His audience that they will be rewarded in heaven. You are not going to be rewarded in heaven if you are not going top be there, if you are not saved. He tells them they are the salt of the earth, the light of the world. That indicates they are already believers. He gives them instructions on prayer, rewards, giving and fasting. These are spiritual life issues, not how to have a spiritual life. The audience also asks to be taught to pray, and that is a question coming from believers who want to actively pray. In all of this we see Jesus is addressing a believing audience.

Matthew 5:1 NASB "When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him."

We are told that Jesus came up on the mountain in the latter part of verse 1, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. At this particular time in Judaism when a rabbi stood to teach he wasn't to be taken quite as seriously as if he was seated. The act of sitting down in order to teach or to give instruction indicated that you really needed to pay attention to what was being said. When Jesus sat down that was the signal to His disciples that they needed to gather around and to pay attention.

He began to teach, initially related to eight different characteristics related to those who would be in the kingdom—the kind of righteousness that their lives would demonstrate that would be in contrast to the scribes and Pharisees. So He is not presenting the characteristics of how to get into the kingdom in terms of being saved or getting eternal life because that would be basing it on works, but He is presenting how the saved believer should live.  

Matthew 5:2 NASB "He opened His mouth and {began} to teach them, saying,

The phrase "opened His mouth" indicates a solemn or revelatory event. Jesus is now going to reveal the nature of His kingdom. He has simply been announcing it up to this point; now He is going to begin to give new information about the kingdom and the kind of character expected from those who will lives as future citizens and rulers of that kingdom. 

Matthew 5:3 NASB "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

As we will see as we go through these beatitudes—there has been a lot of misinformation and misinterpretation because often these verses are taken in isolation—we will discover that many of them have a rich background in both the Old Testament and the concepts are repeated in other places in the New Testament. The word "blessed" is the Greek word makarios, and He uses it nine times in these verses. The last two, mentioned in verses ten and eleven, is making a synonymous statement, so those two verses should be taken together. So nine times He uses the word blessed and the last two times they refer to the same character quality related to those enduring persecution.

They are called beatitudes from the Latin word beatituda which simply meant blessing or happiness. The word that is used in the Greek, makarios, is different from the word eulogetos, which is brought over into English as eulogy, but makarios has more of the idea of spiritual happiness, of blessing related to one's spiritual relationship to God. It is a state of happiness that is not based on physical, material or emotional circumstances; it is based on a person's individual walk with the Lord.

A New Testament passage that relates to this is found in Philippians 4:11-13 NASB "Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." In context what Paul is saying is that no matter what my external circumstances are I can be happy, I can handle anything because my happiness, my sense of stability and tranquility, is not based on the ebb and flow of my physical circumstances, it is based on my relationship with Jesus Christ and He is the one who truly strengthens me. 

The Arndt and Gingrich lexicon says that this word makarios is a word that indicates a privileged recipient of divine favor. So it is more than just having a state of euphoria in the sense of happiness, it has to do with a deep abiding profound sense of tranquility, contentment and stability based upon that relationship with God so that whatever happens in our lives we can have that sense of stability.

Throughout the beatitudes Jesus uses this formula where it states the fact of being blessed and then He relates that to a character quality. He refers to the poor in spirit in verse 3, to those who mourn in verse 4, to the meek in verse 5, to those hunger and thirst for righteousness in verse 6, to the merciful in verse 7, the pure in heart in verse 8, the peacemakers in verse 9, those who are persecuted for righteousness in verse 10. These are these character qualities. So He says, "Happy are those". And usually we think of these as not the most pleasant of situations. And then He gives an explanation of why they are happy or stable. It is indicated in the NKJV by the word "for". In the Greek this is a particle, a conjunction hoti, which usually indicates the cause or reason for something. So we could translate it, "Blessed are the poor because …"

The other thing to note here is that throughout this section He uses a present tense verb, but it is not used in the sense of what is going on in the present. The present tense is often used in what grammarians will call a proleptic sense. Proleptic means in light of something that will happen in the future. It is also referred to as a future use of the present tense. Something is so certain in the future that it is spoken of as a present reality. It is not talking about something in terms of there being the kingdom of heaven now, but if they are living and demonstrating these character qualities today then this will be the consequence in the future kingdom of heaven.        

Matthew 5:3 NASB "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." There is a difference between this verse and its parallel in the Gospel of Luke. Luke leaves out the phrase "in spirit". But I think the Matthew passage tells us what the implication is, even in Luke. It is not a reference to physical poverty. Jesus is not giving an economic comment here that those who are physically, materially and economically poor are somehow spiritually better off than those who are rich. If Jesus was teaching that He would be contradicting Himself for there are numerous places in the Scripture where there are wealthy believers who are not condemned for the possession of wealth. The word "poor" is the Greek word ptochos and it has the idea of being extremely destitute financially. It is not just being poor, having a difficult time making ends meet; it has to do with being worse off than even a homeless person seeking a handout. The word that is commonly used for ordinary poverty was the Greek word penichros, which had the idea of just being poor. This word ptochos indicates something much more extreme. It comes from a verb that has a basic meaning of to shrink, to cower or to cringe. In classical Greek the word was used of a person who had been reduced to total destitution. It is used of the beggar Lazarus in Luke 16:20. But it is not the word used to describe the poverty of the widow who gave two small coins, as described in Luke 21:2. She is poor but hasn't been reduced to the status of a beggar.

When we look at some other ways in which the word is used, it is applied spiritually to certain conditions. For example, in Revelation 3:17 Jesus is confronting the church at Laodicea: NASB "Because you say, 'I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,' and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked." So it is not a word that is used necessarily to refer to physical, economic circumstances but it can describe spiritual circumstances. It is used that way in James 2:5 NASB "Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world {to be} rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?" There James is using it to refer to a spiritual condition of humility in contrast to those who are arrogantly proud of their self-righteous works and the kind of mentality which characterized the scribes and the Pharisees. So to be poor in spirit is to recognize your own spiritual poverty, that you are hopeless, helpless and lost in terms of being able to produce anything in your life that has any value for God and for eternity. It is a state of mind, a state of humility, recognizing that I don't bring anything to the table. Jesus Christ provided everything for me, and to continue living my spiritual life I have to recognize that it is not based on me, on who I am; it is based on the spiritual work of Christ upon the cross. He is the one who also provides me with all of my resources in order to live my spiritual life. It is not based on who I am but on who Jesus Christ is and what He did at the cross.

In Luke 18:9-14 we have an episode related to a beggar, a tax collector and a Pharisee. The Pharisee comes and looks at the tax collector and says, "Thank God I am not like him". But the tax collector comes and says, "I have nothing to bring to God, just forgive me as I am." That is the picture of the difference between the self-righteousness of the Pharisees and genuine humility as exhibited by those who are truly poor in spirit.     

The result of this we are told in the second part of the verse is "theirs in the kingdom of heaven". The kingdom of heaven is a reference to the future literal millennial or messianic reign of Christ upon the earth. In Matthew, especially in this section, these phrases related to inheriting the kingdom, entering the kingdom, and obtaining or owning the kingdom are all somewhat synonymous. They are not related to getting saved, they are related to our possession of responsibility and reward and our future ruling and reigning with Christ in the kingdom. If this had to do with getting into heaven when we die it would be based on works, and there are those who try to jump through various hoops to make that case. You could make that case if you took verse 3 out of context and tried to interpret it, that until you recognize you can't bring anything to salvation you won't get saved. Salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone, it is not based on works. All of that is true but that doesn't fit this verse in the context of Matthew 5-7 or the context of the opening of the Sermon on the Mount. He is talking to those who are already believers. Why would He be giving them a condition for getting saved? He is talking about something different. He is talking about their future destiny in the kingdom.

Matthew 5:4 NASB "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

The word for mourning here is the Greek word pentheo, which has to being sad, with grieving or mourning. Somehow that doesn't fit with the concept of being blessed, with being happy. Why is it that there is this emphasis on mourning? Is this talking about physically mourning over the loss of someone or is there something more significant? What we see here is that Jesus is talking about a spiritual grief over one's condition, not like the Pharisees who were focusing on the fact that God was going to be well pleased with them because of their righteous acts and they were looking forward to rewards because of all the things they did. This is a grief based on honesty with one's self about our failures and our sins, as well as that of the world around us. It is a profound realization of the depravity of man and the perversity of the world around us. If this is taken and interpreted within the context of the message to repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand and the condemnation of the Jewish religious system of His day, then this would be indicating that a person would be blessed if they were honest about the depravity of Israel, both in terms of personal sin and in terms of corporate sin. So they couldn't just look out and be satisfied with where they are but it is a recognition of a dissatisfaction because of their sin individually and corporately that was being dealt with. So by application it indicates those who recognize that not only do we have nothing to bring to God but that we are still sinners, and we are absolutely and totally dependent upon Him and we recognize how serious sin is in our own lives.

This is exemplified in passages in the Old Testament. Psalm 119:136 NASB "My eyes shed streams of water, Because they do not keep Your law." This is an expression of grief that looks out over the culture and sees its rebellion against God, its perversity and its depravity. We are not desensitized to the central depraved elements of the culture around us.

In Ezekiel 9:4 the Lord speaks to Ezekiel and says, NASB "… Go through the midst of the city, {even} through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst." Again, a recognition that we are to grieve. There is a sense of loss, a sense of mourning and sadness over the culture around us, both corporately and individually.

In the second part of the verse it says that those who mourn shall be comforted. The word for comforted is a future passive of the verb parakaleo. The noun is applied to both Jesus and to the Holy Spirit. So we are comforted by the presence of Christ and also the Holy Spirit. 1 John 2:1 NASB "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." The word Advocate there is a translation of paraklesis. So Jesus is our comforter.

John 14:26 NASB "But the Helper [Comforter], the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you."   

So those who are cognizant of sin and depravity in their lives are comforted by the fact that we have an Advocate a Comforter, the Lord Jesus Christ, who stands as our Advocate at the throne of God and we also have the God Holy Spirit indwelling in every one of us.

Matthew 5:5 NASB "Blessed are the gentle [meek], for they shall inherit the earth."

In English the word "meek" often indicates one who is weak, somebody who is indecisive, somebody who is just won over by other people, is non-assertive and is taken advantage of by others. That is not the biblical concept of meek. The Greek word is praus, which indicates humility, someone who is gentle, nevertheless strong. In fact what we learn in the Bible is that the most meek man in the Bible is Moses—aside from the Lord Jesus Christ. Numbers 12:3 NASB "(Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.)" Meekness is not somebody who is just run over by people, it means somebody who is submissive to the authority of God. If we examine the context of Numbers 12:3 we see that it is in the context of those who have rebelled against Moses and against God's authority. To be meek means to be properly oriented to the authority of God and living one's life in the midst of that strength. Moses led three million rebellious Jews across the wilderness for forty years. That took a tremendous amount of courage and strength.

Jesus Christ was also considered to be meek and humble, and He is the same Jesus who went into the temple on two occasions and physically threw the money-changers out of the temple. He is the one who stood up to the arrogance and self-righteousness of the Pharisees and the Sadducees to the point of sacrificing His life at the cross. This is not the sign of somebody who is weak and run over by everybody. Meekness is Scripture is a sign of strength. It comes from being in right relationship to God, dependent upon His strength, His power, and being submissive to His authority.

The verse also builds off of Psalm 37:11, indicating a future inheritance in the land. NASB "But the humble will inherit the land And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity." Inheriting the land is based on the land promise of God that He would give the kingdom to Israel and the land that He had promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is a kingdom-oriented promise. Those who are properly related to God will have ownership rights in the coming kingdom. We will rule and reign with the Lord Jesus Christ.

So we have been looking at the first three beatitudes. We have focused on the fact that they are addressing Christians and not non-Christians, and the focal point is not how to get saved or have eternal life but how that eternal life in terms of its qualitative aspects today should be developed in the life of the believer. So as we learn to walk by the Spirit, as we learn to live in obedience to God's Word, God the Holy Spirit produces a character transformation in us. And it is on the basis of the strength of that character transformation that we will be rewarded at the judgment seat of Christ, and we will be given various roles, responsibilities and rewards in the coming kingdom when Jesus returns and establishes that at the end of the Tribulation period. Salvation, i.e. having eternal life, being assured of our future destiny in heaven rather than the lake of fire is not based on works or character change, it is based on the work of Christ on the cross. By simply believing and trusting in Him alone we have eternal life.