Pastor Ron Swanson
Mar. 4, 2019
“For the next several weeks, I want to look at the Beatitudes. For those who may not be familiar with the Bible, the “Beatitudes” are the opening statements in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. They’re eight short statements which describe “the blessed Christian life”. (Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, blessed are the peacemakers, etc.”)
I was first introduced to the Beatitudes as a child in Sunday School. My teacher hung a picture of a bee on the flannelgraph board. She said, “Today, we’re going to look at the ‘Bee-attitudes’. These are the attitudes that should be present in our lives as Christians.” She went on to tell us that we should “bee” friendly, “bee” courteous, “bee” humble and “bee” kind.
When I was older, however, I realized that Jesus was discussing more than just our attitudes in this section of the Sermon on the Mount. He was really laying out a roadmap to spiritual maturity. He begins with someone who’s not even saved and leads them into full spiritual maturity.
There’s one more thing I should mention before we begin our study. (Just hold it in the back of your mind. I’ll mention it again in a few weeks.) In the Beatitudes, Jesus gives us a tremendous key to living the Christian life successfully.
When I was the dean of a Bible College, I used to tell the students, “The Christian life isn’t hard”. It’s really not! The Christian life isn’t “hard” … it’s impossible! You see, the Christian life is a supernatural life. You need a strength greater than your own, if you hope to carry out the Bible’s commands.
You can’t love as God asks you to love, or forgive like He asks you to forgive, unless God loves through you, and forgives through you. With that in mind, let’s begin our study. First, Jesus says:
1. Blessed are the Poor in Spirit
“Poor in spirit?” What does that mean? The word “poor” will give us a clue. This isn’t the usual Greek word for “poor”. It’s the word “ptochos” and it actually means “destitute”. It refers to absolute poverty; being so far in debt, that you could never hope to get out. What does that have to do with the Christian life? We’ll find out next week.
Pastor Ron Swanson
Mar. 11, 2019
Last week, we began looking at the Beatitudes – eight statements from Jesus which describe the blessed Christian life. He begins with someone who’s not even saved and leads them into full spiritual maturity.
1. Blessed are the Poor in Spirit
Last time we discovered that Jesus didn’t use the regular word for “poor” in this verse. He used the word “ptochos” which refers absolute bankruptcy. It speaks of being so deeply in debt, that you can never free yourself.
Interestingly though, Jesus wasn’t referring to “financial” debt in this verse. He was speaking of those who owe a “spiritual debt” to God. Those who, because of their sin, are “bankrupt in spirit”. (That was all of us.)
To illustrate the severity of our sin debt, Jesus told a parable about a king who was looking over his servants’ accounts. “When he began to settle accounts, one was brought to him, which owed him 10,000 talents” (Matthew 18:23).
Now, in our day, we don’t understand the word “talents”. The margin of the King James Bible says, “nine-and-a-quarter million dollars”. (That’s a staggering debt! But if we do a little digging, we can begin to see how far in debt this individual actually was.)
We were told that he owed 10,000 talents. One “talent” was equal to 6,000 denarii, and one denarius was what a common laborer could earn in one day. Therefore, in order to pay off the debt, he'd have work 60 million days, or just over 164,000 years. (That’s 2300 lifetimes!)
That’s an unpayable debt! But remember, Jesus isn’t talking about finances here. He’s referring to spiritual debt. He’s speaking of someone who owes an unpayable sin-debt to God. (Again, that was all of us, before we came to Christ.)
Through the years, I've met people who thought they could make it to Heaven based on their good works. But the truth is, that’s impossible! Their sin debt is too great! If they could do good works for 2300 lifetimes, they still couldn't pay off their debt! It takes the Blood of Jesus to wash away our sin!
Jesus said, “Blessed are the destitute in spirit” (unbelievers). Why are they blessed? Because Jesus made a way for them to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. On the cross, He paid the sin debt of the entire world. Anyone who will believe in Him (and receive Him as Lord) can have their sin debt wiped out. That’s the ultimate blessing!
Pastor Ron Swanson
Mar. 18, 2019
Last week, we looked at the first Beatitude, “Blessed are the poor (bankrupt) in spirit”. We found out that this referred to someone with an unpayable “sin debt” to God. (That was all of us!) But this person was “blessed” because, on the Cross, Jesus paid the penalty for their sin and made a way to Heaven. (If people will receive Christ, their sin debt will be cancelled.) That brings us to the second beatitude.
2. Blessed are Those That Mourn
The first beatitude referred to an unbeliever with an unpayable sin debt. By the time we come to the second Beatitude, they’ve received Christ and have become a Christian. But, becoming a Christian doesn’t guarantee a trouble-free life. What it does guarantee is that we have help in the midst of our trials.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those that mourn. They shall be comforted.” Who’s the Comforter? The Holy Spirit. So, in these verses, we find a progression. First, we recognized our lost condition and received Christ. At that moment, we received the Holy Spirit as our Comforter and Guide. That brings us to the third Beatitude:
3. Blessed Are the Meek
What is “meekness”? Some translations render it as “gentleness” or “humility”. But, according to Greek scholars, those are merely by-products of meekness, and not “meekness” itself.
According to one Greek scholar, “meekness refers to a willingness to hear or be taught”. Another writes, “Meekness refers to the spirit being made pliable, easily manageable, easily shaped, yielding, submissive or teachable”. (That definition makes perfect sense in the light of James 1:21 and Psalm 25:9.)
According to Jesus, one day, “the meek shall inherit the earth”. While the rebellious will be eternally lost, those that were teachable, submissive and repentant will reign with Christ for 1000 years (Psa. 37:10-11), and then spend eternity with Him.
So, the progression continues. We realized our lost condition and received Christ. The Holy Spirit entered our lives as our Comforter. Then, we approached the Word with a teachable, submissive attitude.
I don’t know if you noticed, but the first command to the new believer is not “witness”. Their first command is to get into the Word. Jesus said in Matt. 11:28, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (That’s salvation. Now look at the next verse.) “Take my yoke and learn of me.” That’s a new believer’s first commandment.
Pastor Ron Swanson
Mar. 25, 2019
So far, we’ve seen a progression in the Beatitudes. First, we recognized our sinful condition, and received salvation through Christ. Next, the Holy Spirit came into our lives as our Comforter and Guide. We responded by getting into the Word with a meek and teachable attitude. That brings us to the fourth Beatitude:
4. Blessed are They That Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness
Chuck Swindoll says this refers to “an insatiable hunger to know God intimately”. That can only happen through prayer.
Jesus said, “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness. They shall be filled”. The Greek actually says, “They shall be fulfilled”. Here’s a truth you need to understand: Fulfillment doesn’t come from things. Or accomplishments. Or human relationships. Fulfillment (at a heart level) can only come from your relationship with God.
I think it's interesting that He used the terms “hunger” and “thirst”, because those things can only be satisfied temporarily. (You can't live off last month’s breakfast. Your body needs nourishment every day. In the same way, you can't live off yesterday's fellowship with God. You've got to be current with Him. You've got to be in the Word today. You've got to be in His presence today! That’s when your heart starts to find fulfillment.)
So, the first half of the Beatitudes are complete. First, I got saved. Then, the Holy Spirit came into my life. Next, I became immersed in the Word with a soft, teachable attitude. Finally, I spent time in daily fellowship with God.
Now remember (a few weeks ago), I said I was going to give you a key to the Christian life? (I said, “The Christian life isn't hard … it's impossible. You can't live this way in your own strength.” Then, I said I was going to give you a key. Here's it is.)
Up to now, all of this has been an input. God gave you salvation. He filled you with His Spirit. He invested His Word into you and met you in your prayer times. In all those things, God was pouring into you.
The next four Beatitudes are going to require an output. But, here’s the secret. You can't do the “output” without first doing the “input”. If you ever let your Word level get low, or if you stop praying, you’ll not have the strength to live as God wants you to live. It’s the “input” that makes the “output” possible.
Pastor Ron Swanson
Apr. 1, 2019
For the past several weeks, we’ve been looking at the first four Beatitudes. In all of them, God has been pouring into us. (We got saved and filled with the Spirit. Then, we filled our hearts with God’s Word and spent time in His presence.) That “input” is what will make the “output” of the next four Beatitudes possible.
5. Blessed Are the Merciful
Did you know that mercy and grace are not the same thing? “Mercy” is not getting what we did deserve. (We deserved eternal punishment. But God had mercy on us, and we aren’t getting it.)
“Grace” is exactly the opposite. Grace is getting what we didn’t deserve. (We didn’t deserve to go to Heaven, but because of Jesus, that’s exactly where we’re going!)
So, this Beatitude is simply treating others as God has treated you. He showed you mercy and grace! Now you’re to treat others with that same mercy and grace.
6. Blessed Are the Pure in Heart
Being “pure in heart” doesn’t refer to getting saved. (You already got saved back in verse three.) This verse is referring to having pure motives as a believer. Now, look at the result.
He said, “Blessed are the pure in heart. They shall see God.” The Greek word that’s used here means to “perceive and understand”. When your heart and motives are pure, you’ll be able to understand God, through His Word, as never before.
So far, the output has been wonderful. You’re treating others as God has treated you. You’re able to keep a right heart, and God is revealing Himself to you. The final two Beatitudes have to do with witnessing.
7. Blessed Are the Peacemakers
I got saved in 1978, in the midst of the Camp David peace talks. I remember thinking how those politicians were blessed because they were working toward world peace. But this Beatitude wasn’t written to world leaders, it was written to Christians. In that context, a “peacemaker” is one who seeks to bring others into peace with God.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers. They shall be called the children (huios) of God.”
The word “huios” refers to a mature child of God. When God sees you getting your eyes off yourself and onto the Great Commission, He says, “Well done son (or daughter)! You’re growing up!” The final Beatitude speaks of an unwelcome by-product of witnessing.
Pastor Ron Swanson
Apr. 8, 2019
For the past several weeks, we’ve been studying the Beatitudes. We learned that the first four Beatitudes were an “intake”. The last four have to do with an “output”. As we let the Lord pour “into” us, we’re able to pour “out” His blessing into the world around us.
The final two Beatitudes have to do with witnessing for the Lord. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers”. (This refers to winning others to Jesus. As an ambassador of Christ, I take my place in the harvest field, and work to bring men and women into peace with God.)
8. Blessed Are They That Are Persecuted for Righteousness Sake
When you start to witness for the Lord, don’t expect the world around you to stand up and applaud. They might persecute you instead!
We’ve all seen the pictures of the Christians who are being persecuted in the Middle East. As I look at them, my heart goes out to my brothers and sisters who have had to pay such a high price for their witness for Christ.
In this country, we may never have to face such persecution. (I pray we don’t.) But, even in North America, we can still face a certain amount of hostility.
Matthew 5:11 says, “Blessed are you when people insult, mistreat you and say all manner of evil against you falsely.” The key word in this verse is “falsely”. If people are saying all manner of evil against you, and it's all true, then there's no benefit in that for you.
But when the accusations are false, He says, “rejoice and be extremely glad, for your reward is very great in heaven.” (Notice the words “extremely glad” and “very great”.)
When people talk behind your back, or treat you poorly because you’re a Christian, remember this verse! Jesus says there’s a reason to rejoice!
Whether the persecution is verbal or physical, what gives us the ability to stand strong and not feel sorry for ourselves? The answer is the same as it was in every other Beatitude. As we’re faithful with the “input”, we find the ability to do the “output”.
As long as the Word is going “in”, and the prayers are going “up”, the correct attitudes and actions can come “out”. That’s the secret to success in the Christian life.