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The Beatitudes - Part 3 (Mat. 5:8-12)

"Blessed are the pure in heart"

Have you noticed a progression in the order in which the Lord Jesus spoke the beatitudes? Starting with poverty of spirit, a sense of one's own unworthiness, He went on to pronounce a blessing on those who mourn over sin; and thirdly on the meek, those who have no confidence in self. A meek person recognizes self for what it is, that by his own effort he cannot please God. The first three beatitudes highlight our need and then follows the great statement of that need being met, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." Only God can meet the deep need of the human heart, and He meets it absolutely, satisfying us completely. And when the heart is satisfied - flowing out of the blessedness which Christ gives - we become merciful to others, pure in heart, and peace-makers.

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones makes the interesting point that the first three beatitudes correspond to the last three and he links them together in three couplets. The merciful are those who realize their own poverty of spirit, they acknowledge they are nothing in themselves, and that helps them to be merciful to others. And those who are pure in heart have first of all mourned over sin. And the peace-makers are those who are meek in spirit. A person who is not meek is not likely to be very successful in making peace in another person's life.

But think with me, please, about the sixth statement of the Lord Jesus, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." We're all going to see Him, of course, everyone of us who has believed. That is the great prospect the apostle John holds out to us in his first epistle. "Beloved, we are God's children now," he says, "it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (3:2). There's a wonderful future ahead of us, Christian. We're going to see our Lord Jesus and be like Him. His servants will do Him service and they will see His face (Rev. 22:3, 4).

And then John adds, "Everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure." If the prospect of being like Him then grips our hearts - if this hope is really working in us - we shall want to be like him now.

Like Him in all those lovely traits,

Which in His lowly, earthly days,

So beautiful we see.

That's what the Lord Jesus was speaking about. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." He himself was absolutely pure and undefiled, and as we keep company with Him we shall grow like Him. This is one of the great reasons why the Holy Spirit has come to indwell our hearts. He has come to make us like Christ. We're changed into His likeness, Paul says, from one degree of glory to another, for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

And as it takes place, God becomes more real to us, and His fellowship more precious. "Strive for... holiness" says Hebrews chapter 12, "without which no one will see the Lord" (v.14). That's seeing Him now. We don't have to wait until we get to heaven. Oh no, if we purify ourselves as He is pure, God will become very real to us now. We will live our lives in the light of His presence, and there is no joy to compare with that. If you turn to the first chapter of John's first epistle you will find that's the very thing he is emphasizing. "Our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that your joy may be complete" (RSVM). May the Lord lead us all into this completeness of joy. But let us remember it's only possible as we walk in the light. We must resolve we'll set our hearts on, and fill our minds with, whatever is true and honourable and just and pure and lovely and of good report, and then we shall prove His words true, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

"Blessed are the peacemakers"

We come now to the seventh of the blessings the Lord Jesus pronounced in His sermon on the mount, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."

We live in a world that is desperately seeking peace. But we hear more about war and unrest than we do about peace. Men have done their best to bring peace among the nations many of them honest and sincere men but still it eludes them. Tension grows and nations prepare for war. Why? Why are peace-loving men so unable to establish peace? Because the problem is not political or social, it is rooted deep in the human heart - the problem of sin, for men's hearts are full of lust and greed and selfishness. "There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked." God said that hundreds of years ago through His prophet Isaiah (57:21), and He said it twice over so that men would pay particular attention. And it is as true today as when Isaiah first spoke it. There can be no peace where there is sin.

But God is the great Peacemaker. He is the God of peace. That is one of His lovely titles. And to make peace He sent His Son. "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men" the angels said as they proclaimed His birth. But His birth alone could not bring peace, nor even His perfect life. Sin had to be dealt with before peace could come. So the Prince of peace went on His lonely way to Calvary, and there He made peace through the blood of His cross. "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him" (Isa. 53:5 RV). Oh, how we love Him! He made peace. And then He preached peace, to those who were far off, to the many of us who are Gentiles, and to those who were near, our Jewish friends, and through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.

And now He calls us to the same great work in which He and His Father have been engaged. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." What a contemplation! You and I can become like God, for that is what it means to be called sons of God as we're engaged in the same glorious work of bringing peace into other people's lives. Being justified by faith we have peace with God ourselves, and now we long that others should find the same peace, first with God and then with their fellows.

Christian, are you a peacemaker? Are you introducing others to the Saviour who died to make their peace with God? And then among your Christian friends are you looking for opportunities of making peace?

"Blessed are those who are persecuted"

We have noticed that the Lord's blessing is promised not on anything we do, but on what we are. It is Christian character that is highlighted in the beatitudes. And we have seen also that the things He values are just the opposite of what the world values. For instance, what time have men in the world got for those who are poor in spirit? "Believe in yourself; push yourself forward;" that's what people say today. But the Lord Jesus teaches us differently. When the Holy Spirit works in our hearts and produces these characteristics, He makes us like Christ. And that immediately makes us different from other people who don't know Him.

The Christian is different. We have to recognize that. And because we are different we may well meet with ridicule and opposition. I'm sure that's why the Lord Jesus added an eighth blessing, for He went on to say, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Notice, it is those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake. We might be persecuted for other reasons; because of our unwise behaviour, for instance, or even because we hold strong views on certain points. But the Lord Jesus said, "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account" or "for My sake." It is when we suffer for His sake he promises the blessing.

Many of our Christian brothers and sisters are suffering for His sake today. Many live in lands where they are denied the freedom to worship and serve the Lord as the Bible teaches. And they are suffering simply because they love the Lord Jesus and they are not afraid to say so. We remember the Lord Jesus said, "If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you... If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you" (John 15:18-20).

And we shall find that is true, in measure at any rate, in whatever land we live. "Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" wrote the apostle Paul to Timothy (2 Tim. 3:12). So take courage, Christian!