10 April 2016


Nine Attitudes to Live By

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We are currently having a look at chapters five, six and seven in gospel of Matthew — known as “The Sermon On The Mount.” A large crowd followed Jesus wherever he went, and this day he climbed partway up a hill so he could more easily speak to a large number of people. The amazing thing about this place, which you can still go and see today, is how well the sound carries.

For the Son of God, it was the perfect time and place to teach the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. Jesus taught in a way that had never taught before. He taught with authority. He spoke in plain language – yet he somehow explained deep spiritual truths. Listen again to the Beatitudes:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for 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 sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:3–12 (NKJV)

In these verses we discover nine attitudes which faithful followers of Jesus should display.

Firstly, we need an attitude of HUMILITY.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” 5:3

Jesus is saying that being “poor in spirit”, is the opposite of self-sufficiency. The “poor in spirit” are those who realise they are in total helplessness and lost apart from God. When we think we’re doing just fine because we are a “GOOD PERSON” we are depending on our own righteousness, and self righteousness will not make you happy.

Self righteousness is not a get into heaven card, because apart from God we are totally lost and helpless. It is only through God’s grace that we are saved. Everyone. Even me, and even you. This is a humbling thing. Coming here to church will not save you. Reading your Bible will not save you. Praying will not save you. Only a relationship with Jesus will save you. The Bible says in Luke chapter eighteen:

Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ’Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’ “Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, ’God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.’ “ Jesus commented, “This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” Luke 18:10–14 (MSG)

We discover a similar idea in the fifty first psalm: I learned To worship God when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.” Psalms 51:17 (MSGIt is a simple truth: to be truly blessed we need an attitude of humility.

Secondly, we need an attitude of REPENTANCE.

Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4 (NKJV)

Jesus is speaking about people honest enough to mourn over their sin, a Godly sorrow, that produces repentance and leads to salvation. If we shrug off our sin, turn a blind eye, ignore it, or excuse it away, we will never come close to the true sorrow of our soul – when we realise (with deep agony) how much we have done wrong and how much we deserve punishment. King David sinned. He had an affair with Bathsheba — wrong in the first place — but to cover it up he had Bathsheba’s husband killed. Eventually, David felt sorrow, remorse, guilt, and shame for what he had done? He mourned over his sin. In fact he wrote Psalm fifty to describe how he felt how he felt about his sin: (God) you’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen it all, seen the full extent of my evil. You have all the facts before you; whatever you decide about me is fair.” Psalms 51:4 (MSG)

When we sin, we should feel guilty. We should feel shame. We should mourn over our sin. Then what should we do? The disciple John said it well: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 (HCSB)

Thirdly, we need a TEACHABLE spirit.

“Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5 (NKJV). Meek is not weak, spineless, or lacking any backbone. The word for meek comes from describing the bridling of a horse or the taming of a wild animal.

Meek really means “power under control”, and with a teachable attitude, weakness, we become someone whose life has been brought under the influence of the Holy Spirit, someone who is allowing God to be in control. I think that meekness is having the freedom to drive my life, but allowing God to be my sat nav. It is being willing to allow the Lord to tell me how and where to drive, whilst that trusting He knows our destination.

Meek Christians are sensitive to God’s will, and they are not easily pulled in wrong directions. A powerful example of the meekness of Jesus was the morning he drove the money changers out of the Temple. He made a whip out of cords, and chased the money changers out. He scattered their coins and overturned their tables. “Get out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a shopping mall!”

Righteous anger, yes, but Jesus was in complete control of his actions, and he did nothing without the express permission of his Father in heaven. Meekness is supreme self control empowered by the HOLY SPIRIT.

Fourthly, we need an attitude of RIGHTEOUSNESS.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6 (NKJV). God is holy, righteous — and we must desire what He has. We must call it wicked if it is, sinful if it is. When something is pure and holy we must hold on to it with a burning desire to do whatever it takes have it too. We need to study it and live it. Our passion – our driving hunger – needs to be to want all that is pleasing to God. Moses wrote in Deuteronomy: “I will proclaim the Lord’s name. Declare the greatness of our God! The Rock — His work is perfect; all His ways are entirely just. A faithful God, without prejudice, He is righteous and true.” Deuteronomy 32:3–4 (HCSB)

God wants us to have desire so strong for Him, it is like a starvation hunger we will do anything to satiate.

Fifthly, we need an attitude of MERCY.

“Blessed are the merciful, because they will be shown mercy.” Matthew 5:7 (HCSB). Forgiveness and mercy is what God demonstrates to every undeserving sinner. Do you know any undeserving sinners? I am, you are, everyone is. A massive truth is taught here: the manner in which you forgive people is the manner in which you will be forgiven. We said it today when we prayed The Lord’s prayer: “And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.” Matthew 6:12 (NKJV)

How do you show mercy and forgiveness? John Wesley once visited the governor of the colony of Georgia, who casually mentioned an incident involving a man who had angered him. “I shall never forgive him!” said the governor. Wesley responded, “Then I hope sir, that you never sin!”

Sixth, we need an attitude of PURITY.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8 (NKJV). This word PURE is interesting. The Biblical word used here could mean dirty clothes now washed clean, or grain and flour now carefully sifted – cleansed of all impurities. It was used to describe milk or wine that had not been mixed with any other liquid — undiluted or watered down. Pure.

We could translate it, “Blessed is the man who is genuine in heart, who is authentic, who is not a phoney, because such a man will see God.” Purity and holiness are not the same as perfection. The desire to be pure before God is simply a desire to be clean. We take off the mask we wear, we drop the act, we stop pretending we are someone we are not, and we become more honest — to God, to ourselves, and to one another. That is why Paul wrote to Timothy and said: “Flee from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” 2 Timothy 2:22 (HCSB)

Number seven is that we need an attitude of PEACEMAKING.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9 (NKJV). Being a maker of the peace is simply to be a part of the solution rather than being a part of the problem. It’s not really rocket science.

Are you a thermostat or a thermometer? A thermometer reflects the climate of the room. If the room is cold, it’s cold. If the room is hot, it’s hot. But a thermostat can change the climate of the room. By its setting a thermostat can change a cold room into a warm one, or a hot room into a cooler one.

A peace-maker is a thermostat person. A peacemaker can change the climate of the room when he or she walks in. Have you ever seen this happen? Ever been in a room where everybody is being negative and complaining? Everything is going wrong — when a thermostat person enters the room and says something which causes people to say, “We never thought of it like that.” – and the whole climate changes.

God wants peacemakers in His church, in the workplace, out in the market place — people who choose to not dwell on the negative, but affirm the good things God is doing in His church, their lives, and in the world. Jesus could do this. There is a story in the Bible about a storm so strong the disciples thought they were going to die. What did Jesus do? “He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea. And there was a great calm.” Matthew 8:26 (HCSB) Jesus was a peacemaker. He changes things. He has called us to be peacemakers too.

Number eight, we are almost done, we need an attitude of ENDURANCE.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10 (NKJV). I’ve lived long enough to know I will be criticised. Even if I do nothing – I will be criticised and persecuted.

But, I’d rather be criticised for doing the right thing than for doing the wrong thing. I’d rather be called fool for following God – then to be called a wise man for following the devil, or worse, believing there is no God. Franklin Graham (son of the famous evangelist Billy Graham) tells the following story:

Sámi Dagher had been a maitre’d at the world famous Phoenicia Hotel in Beirut before Lebanon’s terrible civil war. Just before the war started he left the hotel to start a small church in a poor area of the city. When he approached the hotel manager to resign, the dialog went like this:

“God has called me to preach,” Sámi told the manager. “I’m leaving the hotel.” “Leaving? You’re a fool! You’re crazy! A man in your position making good money, and you quit?” “I leave for something more important than money. I’m going to preach the name of Jesus Christ.” “You’re going to give up this good position to preach for some god? You must be crazy. No! I’ll tell you the right thing to do. You stay here and make money, Sámi. I need you.” “No, I can’t stay any longer. I’ve prayed and this is what I must do.”

Then the hotel manager grew angry and shouted, “I curse you! One day, Sámi Dagher, you will come to the threshold of my door, and you will beg for a crust of bread, and I won’t give it to you. I will let you starve! Do you hear my words? Not a crust!”

Quite sometime later, during some of the heaviest fighting, Sámi heard a knock at his door. It was late, so Sámi told his wife and children to stay in bed. When he opened the door, the hotel manager stood before him.

“I couldn’t sleep,” the man said. “I wanted to see how you are doing and talk.” Sámi made coffee and they discussed the old days they enjoyed at the Phoenicia. Sámi sensed the man had come for another reason, but the man wouldn’t say. Finally Sámi said, “My friend, it is late. Why have you come to me?” “Oh, nothing, Sámi. I just wanted to talk of old times.”

The man walked to the door and opened it. As he stood in the doorway with his head hung low, he turned to Sámi and said, “I have no food. I have not eaten for two days. Do you have anything you could spare?”

He is no fool who follows God – even if he is criticised for it.

And finally, number nine — we need an attitude of FAITHFULNESS.

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:11–12 (NKJV)

It’s a well worn cliché, but “when the going gets tough – the tough keep going.” Committed people stay COMMITTED. Faithful people stay FAITHFUL. Jesus will judge us by our faithfulness. He told a story about three servants given a certain amount of money to look after as their master went off on a journey.

On his return there was a day of accountability. Two of the servants were faithful and the master said to each: ’Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ Matthew 25:23 (NKJV) The third servant had done nothing useful with the money, was called, “wicked and lazy” — because his lack of faithfulness displayed his CHARACTER.

The disciple called Luke wrote in his gospel — “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with a lot. Whoever is dishonest with very little is dishonest with a lot.” I’m glad Jesus was faithful to the Father. The Garden of Gethsemane was about Jesus’ faithfulness. The night of his arrest, Jesus asked the Father if there might be any other way, than the coming Cross, but still he conceded that if it was the only way, he would do his Father’s will, not his own. “Will I follow the will of the Father or will I try to have my own way? Father, take this task from me. If there is any other way Father – if there is an alternate route – I ask it be taken. Take this cup of crucifixion – take this cup of suffering – take this cup of pain – BUT not my will, but Yours be done.” Jesus was found faithful. How about you? Are you committed to Christ? Are you faithful?

Nine attitudes to live by. May the Lord help us with each one. Amen.