The Heart of a Believer
Mercy, Humility, Peacemaking, beatitudes, sermon on the mount
This morning we continue our study of the Sermon on the Mount by looking at the last part of the Beatitudes that shows us what happens when a person comes into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
A true believer is not simply a person who walks an aisle, says a prayer and then checks off the box that says, “Going to Heaven” and then heads on their merry way. Such a person has not come into a relationship with Christ, they have either responded to a stimulus or they were making a “business” decision (to make sure they were going to Heaven; they have “fire insurance”).
If you have recognized your poor spirit, repented of your sin, humbly come before God seeking His mercy, and received Christ hungering and thirsting for a right standing before God and right living for Him . . . your life will change.
Once again I remind you that these beatitudes are all connected. They do not describe eight different kinds of people, they describe a true believer. They do not give us different benefits to yearn for . . . they describe various dimensions of what it means to be a follower of Christ.
The last beatitudes directly parallel the first beatitudes. In other words if you truly are:
- Poor in spirit it will result in you being merciful to others
- If you truly hate and mourn over the sin in your life the result will be a person who is pure in heart.
- It you truly have humility as you seek the Lord, you will be a peacemaker.
Let’s examine these more closely.
7 God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
If we are truly poor in spirit it means we recognize that we are deeply sinful human beings and in great need of God’s grace. If we really understand this, we will be much more merciful with others who also stumble. Because we know we are lost, we gravitate to other sinful people rather than being repelled by them because we feel superior to them. We live by and depend on mercy for every breath so we will become people who are more merciful.
This is actually a good test for us. Do we merely SAY we are sinful people who have no hope of salvation based on our own works? We can say the words and still feel that we are “better than most people and have much better odds of gaining salvation than other folks.
Or, do we really believe the words and therefore see ourselves and others as those who will perish apart from God’s mercy and grace? Knowing that we are broken people, we resonate with, sympathize and have compassion on other broken people.
Being merciful doesn’t mean we don’t care what other people are doing. It is not a matter of “to each their own”. It means we understand that the basic problem is sin; something all of us struggle with and we have to help each other overcome. It’s all about attitude, not compromise!
Mercy also involves action. We “vibrate with the pain of another” and that moves us to do something to alleviate their pain. Mercy moves us to action. It is,
- Getting involved to help someone with a physical or financial need
- Talking to someone and sharing with them the message of God’s grace and forgiveness.
- Standing with another in a time of heartache or joy (we weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice)
- Talking to or visiting someone who is all alone.
James reflects on this element of mercy when he says,
14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?
17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. (James 2:14-17)
Christians should be people who are “on the ground” serving others.
Tim Keller asks,
What if 50 percent of the people in this church forgave everybody, never paid anybody back (for a wrong done), never revenged themselves, but only repaid evil with good, and who also were quite willing to go to the mat for people and to meet people’s needs, whether they were social, or psychological, or spiritual, or economic, with extravagant efforts to alleviate those needs? What if we were a community like that? Do you know what we’d be? We’d be a church, because that’s all the church is.
This is the most powerful weapon we have against a world gone crazy . . . we can show the love of Christ by acting with mercy toward lost and hurting people. It is the attitude and grace of Jesus that will change the world. NOT our anger!
8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.
Older versions say,
“Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God”
This is the counterpart to mourning over our sin and the effect of that sin on ourselves and others. If we truly see our sin for what it is; if we understand the strain it places on our lives and our relationships we, as believers will long to be pure in heart.
It will be a process, but we will be looking to weed out every sin in our lives . . . not to earn salvation . . . but because we see how destructive sin is. The Christian life is about transformation. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away the new has come.”
Before we walked with Jesus all we were concerned about was satisfying our pleasures; now we more and more are concerned with honoring our Lord. We honor the Lord not simply by trying to do good deeds (you can do good deeds and still have a sinful heart). We seek to do the right things for the right reasons (to honor the Lord).
The word for purity means to have a single-minded devotion to Christ. That means we no longer compartmentalize the church and faith away from everything else. Instead we bring Jesus into every area of our lives.
In the Old Testament every text that talks about purity of heart is talking about being purified from idols. An idol is a good thing in your life that has become an ultimate thing. It is something that draws your heart away from full devotion to the Lord. You can be an idol worshipper and be an active church member. You are in the church but you are really serving something or someone else.
The person with a pure heart is one who is getting rid of the idols in their lives. They are increasingly moving God to the center of their lives.
Practically, being pure in heart means
- We resist the idol of secularism and draw our truth from the Bible
- We resist the idols of sports, recreation and other amusements and refuse to let these things replace our devotion to the Lord.
- We resist the idol of materialism by refusing to become indebted and using our money in a way that honors the Lord.
- We resist the idol of power by choosing to deal with each other with humility rather than force
- We resist the idol or works by continually reminding ourselves that we are made new by the power of Christ and we rest in Him.
A person who is serious about getting free of sin (one who mourns) is one who is passionately pursuing what is pure. They pursue a single-minded devotion that is constantly weeding out idols from our lives.
Let’s look at one more this morning.
9 God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.
Once again we see a parallel: If we are truly humble before God we will start to be humble toward each other. We will stop focusing on winning battles and instead we will be motivated by our concern for people, the church, and the Kingdom of God. Most of the problems we face today are due to our own selfishness. We want what we want whether it is right or good for those around us.
Why do politicians have the reputation of telling people what they want to hear? It is because they know that people generally do not vote on a person’s ability or competence to lead. They vote for the person they think will get them more of what they want. We vote selfishly.
A peacemaker is not the same as a peacekeeper. A peacekeeper keeps warring parties apart. A peacemaker brings them together to resolve conflicts. This is not just “reaching a compromise”. Christians are called to keep the peace while not compromising the truth of God’s Word or violating our own integrity. In other words it is working to help people find what is right or best.
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones gave some practical and still relevant advice to wannabe peacemakers
- Learn not to speak. We would keep the peace often simply by not saying something. We need to learn not to repeat things that when repeated to someone will create conflict.
- View every situation in light of the gospel. As long as we take everything personally there will always be war. We have to see the bigger picture of the Kingdom.
- We should be peace-seekers. In other words we need to go out of our way to look for means and methods of making the peace.
- We should have an attitude that promotes peace. We do this by being “selfless, by being lovable, by being approachable and by not standing on our dignity. (D. Martyn Lloyd –Jones The Sermon on the Mount 124-125)
We live in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to Christians. Our response has often been to be hostile back. We try to “out-hostile” those who are hostile to us. And I suspect you see how ineffective that has been in the world. All that has done is alienate people further.
What is needed instead is careful explanations of the good news of the love of God and the gospel of forgiveness and new life. We err when we try to get non-believers to act like believers (did we act like believers before we met Jesus?). The first step in peacemaking is to help people find the peace of God. It is humbling explaining how your life was changed and then pointing people to Jesus.
Look at the way Jesus related to most people. He looked for ways to build a bridge to them. He looked for their pain and then sought to help at the point where they were hurting. He talked to them about their hunger, their thirst, and their brokenness. He told them about God’s love and His incredible mercy and forgiveness. Peacemakers find a way to communicate these truths. They don’t water down the gospel to make it “more acceptable”, they explain the gospel in a way that shows that the true gospel is what will meet their very real needs.
Before we can bring people opposed to the gospel to the “bargaining table” we have to first show them the gospel. We do this by being kind, gracious, and loving. That is not a weakness, it is the power of God being expressed in acts of love.
And there is one more thing needed for peacemaking: forgiveness. Many people cringe when they hear the word forgiveness. Immediately we know one or more people who we don’t ever intend to forgive!
However, without forgiveness there cannot be peace. We must be willing to let go of our own claims for reparations before we can hope to bring people together. As long as we are looking to punish or exact revenge, we will never know peace.
Forgiveness is a choice to either overlook the hurt (if it is small) or put it in the hands of the Lord as the only true and righteous Judge. Both have a cost: absorbing some pain and seeking to rebuild. (After all, isn’t that what Jesus did for us?)
Forgiveness does not mean that we keep letting people hurt us. We build a new relationship. It means we stop giving the people who hurt us power over us. When we fail to forgive the people who hurt us continue to hurt us because we won’t let go of the pain! Forgiveness does not just set the other person free . . . . it sets YOU free.
We have read startling stories of forgiveness recently
- The people in Charleston who saw nine of their family and friends killed in a prayer meeting, forgave the white supremacist who killed the people. Pastor Michael Forney said, “the power of forgiveness is liberating to the forgiver. As he forgives, the reflection is on his God, who inclined forgiveness unto him or her through Christ Jesus, and so forgiveness becomes the lifeline of the believer’s existence,”
- In 2006 in Lancaster County PA a man walked into an Amish school and shot 10 Amish girls in their school, killing five of them. That night the parents of two of the girls who were killed went to the home of the parents of the shooter. They came to care for those parents and to love them because they faced a loss also. It was a stunning act of love and forgiveness.
- Louis Zamperini (from the book Unbroken) was held and abused in a Japanese POW camp during WWII. When he was released after the war he met Christ. Then he actually went back to Japan to meet and forgive those who abused him. His intention was to show them the love of Christ.
We could list many more examples. The point is: if these people can forgive then we should be able to forgive the offenses against us. And even when we cannot yet forgive we labor in prayer asking God to fill us with His grace so we might be able to entrust Him with our pain and forgive those who hurt us.
Forgiveness is the act of a peacemaker. And a peacemaker is someone who has humbly received grace, mercy, and peace from God through Christ.
The Gospel changes people. When we understand our sinfulness and our lostness, when we come to God humbly and find the new life that is offered through Jesus, it changes us. We learn compassion and mercy for others. It gets us off our chairs and involves us in alleviating pain and suffering. The gospel gives us a hunger for purity that leads us to diligently pursue a single-minded pursuit of the Lord in our lives. And the gospel makes us into peacemakers. As we have been reconciled to God through Christ, so we seek to help others be reconciled; both to Christ, and to each other.
At the core of all people who follow Jesus is the same thing: a life-changing encounter with God’s grace and mercy. That change impacts every area of their life. And because it does, it can truly be said that such people are blessed in ways most of the world is unable to understand.
 Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).