Keys to God’s’ Favor: Part 2
Topic: Expository Passage: Matthew 5:6-10
(read vv. 3–10) One of the fascinating aspects of building deep relationships is coming to understand what really makes someone excited and what makes them angry. We all have ways to our hearts and sore spots that are very tender. And there are other matters, where we couldn’t care less.
For example, I love food, and I love to eat. Therefore, I’ve never understood people who just eat out of necessity, and don’t really enjoy it. I get excited about sports and theology. I love to get outside and tackle a project. But there are things that don’t move the needle for me. For example, I’m too impatient to hunt or fish.
I’m sure that you could come up with similar lists. And hopefully you have some sense of what your spouse’s lists would look like or that of your parents, children, and close friends. Understanding other people’s passions as well as their apathies is essential to knowing how to best express love for that person.
Last week, we began studying the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3–10, and we saw that these 8 sayings are an important expression of God’s passions. They tell us what God loves, what is near to his heart.
I say this, because each Beatitude begins with the divine pronouncement, “Blessed.” In other words, these 8 qualities win God’s favor or approval. God loves the “poor in spirit,” “those who mourn,” etc. So, if you want to receive God’s blessing, developing these qualities is a great place to start.
Last week, we looked at the first three. God’s favor rests on the “poor in spirit,” “those who mourn,” and “the meek.” This morning, we will consider the remaining 5. So, v. 6 teaches that God is pleased with those who…
I. Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness (v. 6)
Quality: A Passion for Practical Righteousness: To begin with, some people have wondered if Jesus is talking about what we often call imputed righteousness. This is the righteousness of Christ that God credits to us when we are justified. If this were what Jesus has in mind, v. 6 would essentially be a promise that Christ will justify all who seek salvation.
But that’s almost assuredly not what Jesus means. Righteousness is never used elsewhere in Matthew to speak of imputed righteousness, and Jesus doesn’t really speak in those terms either. No, the most natural meaning is that Jesus is describing practical righteousness. He is describing a life of obedience to God’s commands that reflects God’s character.
And notice how the blessed man pursues this practical righteousness. Jesus says that he “hungers and thirsts for righteousness.” Therefore, Jesus is picturing someone who is never content with where he is at. He’s not on spiritual cruise control, just casually strolling through the Christian life. Instead, he is always hungry, thirsty for more and more righteousness.
He’s always evaluating where he is doing well and where he needs to grow. He’s praying for grace to change, and he’s strategizing, disciplining himself, and straining to reach greater godliness.
And Jesus says God loves this man. He is blessed by God. I love that, because striving for righteousness is not a high priority of American Christianity. It’s all about what sinners want and about creating a feeling.
But Jesus loves the person who strives, not after a self-righteous religion that is about the praise of men (Jesus will condemn that later in the Sermon), but after genuine righteousness. He wants to be like the Savior and honor him in all of life. So, righteousness is a high priority of genuine godliness.
How about you? Do you “hunger and thirst for righteousness”? Are you striving with all your might to become like the Savior?
Admittedly, you may still have a long way to go. You may not feel very righteous. That’s okay. Notice that Jesus does not say, “Blessed are the righteous.” That’s because he knows that we all have our own race to run based on our unique strengths and weaknesses, and we are at different stages of our race.
So, don’t worry about someone else’s race. Focus on your race. And then run hard to please the Lord. Hunger and thirst for righteousness.
And then know that even if you have a long way to go, as long as you are running your race well, you are blessed of the Lord, he is pleased with you. Praise the Lord! And notice the promise that awaits you…
God’s Promise: Satisfied with Righteousness: I mentioned last week that each of the promises in the Beatitudes ultimately anticipate eternity. We know this, because the first promise in v. 3 and the last promise in v. 10 is the kingdom of heaven. And the other 6 promises all relate to the kingdom.
Therefore, when Jesus promises that those who hunger for righteousness will be filled, he is ultimately looking forward to our glorification, to the day when we will be made perfectly righteous in every way.
If you thirst for righteousness, this promise is such a relief. So often, we are frustrated by our sin and our lack of progress. We want to change, but it doesn’t happen nearly as fast as we would like. But Jesus says, “Keep going, because someday I will satisfy your thirst. I will make you perfectly righteous.” What a glorious day that will be! So, keep going.
But I also believe that Jesus promises at least some satisfaction today. I won’t ever reach perfect righteousness in this life, but the NT consistently promises that by God’s grace, I can make progress in righteousness. Just a few weeks ago we saw that we can “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Again, it may not happen as fast as you would like, but God is changing you. So, in a right sense be satisfied, be thankful for what God has done. And then keep going in the pursuit of righteousness.
This is a great verse. It challenges us to pursue righteousness with all of our strength, and it also gives tremendous encouragement for those who are working hard. God sees your effort even if no one else does, and he approves. And someday, he will satisfy your thirst with perfect righteousness. It will be a wonderful day. 5th, God’s blessing rests on…
II. The Merciful (v. 7)
Quality: Compassionate Heart for the Weak and Afflicted: Grace and mercy are closely related. They both assume that we are all sinners who deserve judgment, not blessing. If there is any difference in meaning, it is that mercy especially focuses on weakness, affliction, and oftentimes, condemnation. Those who need mercy are those who are in a desperate plight whether practically or spiritually.
Incredibly, despite the fact that God is holy, just, and transcendent, he is also defined by mercy. A beautiful example of this is found in Exodus 34:6–7. God reveals his glory to Moses, and notice how he describes himself, “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.”
We should all be thankful, not just that God shows mercy, but that his nature is merciful. Otherwise, we would be hopelessly lost. And Jesus says that God wants us to develop the same merciful heart. It’s not enough that we do some kind deeds to satisfy our conscience—drop a few bucks in the Salvation Army bucket or give a sandwich to a homeless man.
No, God wants you to be merciful. “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). Are you a “lover of mercy”?
When you meet someone who is enduring extreme poverty or disability, do you immediately wonder what foolish choices they made to put themselves in that position? Do you see them as an annoyance? Or do you look at them with compassion, grieving over the effects of sin and longing to help?
Of course, the primary application of this Beatitude has to do with how we respond to sin. When people sin against you, are you quick to judge harshly, look down your nose, and turn your back in bitterness and resentment? Or do you lovingly grieve with them over their sins? Are you eager to forgive, and do you long for restoration?
For true Christians, this mercy should flow from a deep appreciation for the mercy we received in the gospel. When you consider the debt that God has forgiven us, there’s no room left to look down our noses and refuse mercy and forgiveness. It’s vital that we continually see our own sin so that we look humbly on other people’s sins and respond with mercy.
And what a blessing it is to know that when we develop this merciful heart, God approves. He loves a merciful heart. And notice the promise Jesus gives.
God’s Promise: God’s Mercy: This qualifier, “God’s mercy” is important, because you won’t necessarily receive mercy from other people. Jesus was the definition of mercy, but the world rejected him and crucified him. Maybe you’ve been there. You show mercy upon mercy to a loved one, and all you get in return is harsh criticism and pain. It’s hard.
But even if sinners are unmerciful, you will receive mercy from Jesus. Now, I must clarify that Jesus is not saying that we earn God’s mercy by being merciful. We might think this is what Jesus means here and in 6:14–15. The problem with seeing mercy as earning mercy is that it defies the very nature of mercy. You don’t earn mercy; you receive it.
As well, when you compare v. 7 with the Lord’s Prayer in chapter 6, it’s pretty clear that the mercy Jesus has in mind is not the mercy we receive at conversion. Instead, it is the ongoing forgiveness that believers need when we sin in order to maintain intimate fellowship with God. This is the focus of 6:12. It’s also the focus of 6:14–15.
God gives ongoing forgiveness as we forgive others. So, 5:7 is saying to Christians that as we show mercy to others, we can be sure that God will be merciful to us. He will forgive us and restore us to fellowship.
This is a precious hope, because we sin all the time, but it is a blessing to know that God is merciful and forgiving. Even though I fail him often, he is faithful to forgive and to welcome me into fellowship. And someday, he will mercifully welcome me into his holy presence for all eternity. 6th…
III. Pure in Heart (v. 8)
Quality: Godly Sincerity: I define it this way, because throughout Scripture the heart describes the center of who I am. So, to be pure in heart means that I am clean or sincere at the core of my being. Specifically, it means that my driving desires and motivations are pure and holy, not divided between the Lord and my fleshly passions.
The remainder of the Sermon bears this out, because Jesus repeatedly challenges the motives and desires of our hearts. It’s not enough that I don’t murder; I must resist anger. It’s not enough that I avoid adultery; I must resist lust. I must pray and fast and give for the Lord’s sake, not to receive praise from men. So, a pure heart is an undivided heart that is wholly committed to the Lord.
Now, the fact is that I will never achieve absolute purity in this life. As long as I have a sin nature, my motives and desires will always be polluted with selfishness and pride. And Jesus knows this. So, he doesn’t want you to react to this verse with despair.
But he does expect you to continually examine your heart. Then you must work to eradicate wicked motives and to replace them with godly ones. I must overwhelm my pride and sinful passions with sincere love for God and love for others.
BTW, that’s how you make progress. You don’t squash pride by staring at your pride; you kill pride by overwhelming it with a grand vision of God’s glory. So, Christian pursue a pure heart of sincere love for God. As song says, pray to the Lord, “Let no vise or sin remain that resists your holy war.”
And do so with the assurance that God sees your progress even if no one else does. There are few things more frustrating than when people misinterpret our motives. But God never misjudges. He cares about the heart, and he always sees it perfectly.
“For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). And when God sees a pure heart, Jesus says that he is pleased. God’s blessing rests on a pure heart. As a result,…
God’s Promise: Divine Acceptance and Intimacy: Jesus promises the pure in heart, “They shall see God.” Of course, no sinner is able to physically see God in his full glory. We don’t get to see God with our eyes today. But 1 Corinthians 13:12 looks forward to eternity and states, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.”
There is no greater privilege God’s image bearers can enjoy than to be near to him. Seeing him and experiencing his glory, will be an incredible blessing.
Of course, the foundation of this privilege will be God’s acceptance or approval. The only way a sinner can see God and not be terrified or destroyed is if we are accepted. And Jesus assures the pure in heart that this is so. We will see God, because we are accepted by God.
But while the ultimate fulfillment of this promise will come in eternity, I do believe there is a sense in which Jesus gives us a taste of this promise today. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:7). God promises that I can “draw near to God” today as I purify my heart.
This is a great gift. So often we love our sin more than we do a pure heart. But God’s nearness is so much more precious than any passing pleasure of sin. So, pursue purity, enjoy the nearness of God today, and anticipate the joy of seeing God perfectly in glory. “Blessed are the pure in heart.” 7th…
IV. Peacemakers (v. 9)
Quality: Pursues Genuine Reconciliation: All those words are very important. Ken Sande talks in his book, The Peacemaker, about the difference between a peacemaker and a “peace-faker.” There are many of us, who hate conflict, and our natural tendency is to turn a blind eye to problems and to pretend like everything is okay even when it is not.
But that’s not what Jesus has in mind. The only other time this word appears in the NT is in Colossians 1:20, which states, “And by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” Jesus didn’t fake peace between God and sinners. No, he shed his blood in order to truly reconcile sinners with a holy God.
So, Jesus is saying in our text that God loves someone who doesn’t merely view relationships in terms of his own comfort. Rather, he loves people, and he loves genuine unity. Therefore, he watches his own words and actions so as to avoid unnecessary conflict. But when conflicts do arise, whether between himself and others, or even between friends, he works to resolve the conflict and to bring about true reconciliation.
It’s worth emphasizing that true reconciliation is always rooted in righteousness. “The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits” (James 3:17). Purity takes priority over peace and ultimately creates true peace. You can’t build genuine unity upon an impure foundation.
This means that a key feature of effective peacemaking is true repentance. The classic example of this is found in 2 Corinthians 7. The Corinthians had sinned against Paul, but now he rejoices at how they had been reconciled. It didn’t happen, because everyone swept the sin under the rug.
Rather, Paul states, “For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter” (2 Cor 7:11). The Corinthians faced their sin and dealt with it.
Therefore, when you sin against someone, don’t dismiss it or pretend like it didn’t happen. Deal with it. And if someone else is stuck in a pattern of sin or has committed a serious offense, pursue repentance, because there will be no true reconciliation until it comes.
Now, I recognize that this stuff gets sticky really fast. But people and relationships are worth it. The Sermon is going to talk a lot about peacemaking, because true godliness loves people and pursues unity.
And true unity in your home, the church, and everywhere else is a precious gift. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard…It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion;
for there the Lord commanded the blessing—life forevermore” (Ps 133). And being a peacemaker brings the blessing of God. Jesus promises…
Blessing: True Reflection of the Father and Acceptance by Him: In Jewish thought the idea of “sonship” doesn’t so much emphasize relationship as it does reflection. It means to reflect the character of the father.
So, to be “called the sons of God” primarily means that a peacemaker reflects the nature of God; as a result, he is known by all but especially by God the Father as a “son of God.” I find it interesting that Jesus chooses peacemaking as a unique reflection of God. But the Sermon will bear this out. True unity and love are vital aspects of godliness, probably more than we individualistic Americans like to admit.
But God loves it. He accepts the peacemaker, and the peacemaker is seen by all as a unique reflection of God.
So, be a peacemaker. Don’t sit back with your arms crossed waiting for that friend to see how much he hurt you. Go after him with love. And if you have damaged a relationship with your own sin, don’t excuse it or minimize it; own it and repent. And if people you love are at odds, don’t be afraid to get dirty. Step in and be a peacemaker.
Love is at the heart of godliness and strong relationships are essential to spiritual growth and the mission of the church. Let’s value them and purse the things that make for peace.
Next week, we’ll cover v. 10 along with vv. 11–12. So, as we close, my summary of the Beatitudes is, God blesses those marked by humble sincerity before God and man. So, be that person. Don’t chase the world’s definition of greatness and godliness. No, chase the qualities that are near to the heart of the Savior so that his blessing rests on you.