Friday, January 14, 2011

The Sermon on the Mount

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Matt.11:28-30 - Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (ASV)

Again we see in Jesus the spiritual quality that believers are exhorted to manifest. That equation remains consistent in discipleship and Jesus is our pattern in every area of our lives. The word “meek” in the Sermon on the Mount is the same Greek word in Matthew 11 where Jesus describes Himself. Here we see the glorious paradox inherent in the Godhead. The omnipotent Creator named Jesus is also the loving Redeemer. The judge is also the advocate. The Lion of the Tribe of Judah is also the Lamb of God.
And here we find the One who created everything with just a word describing Himself as “meek”. Now in a misguided attempt to protect the character of Jesus many preachers have bent over backwards to diminish the definition and the essence of the word “meek”. They insist that it does not mean Jesus was a doormat or subservient in His life, and in so doing they malign what is a glorious, albeit mysterious, manifestation of God the Son. They even describe Jesus as a “man’s man”, which again brings Him into a human caricature and makes an inapplicable comparison. Many would be offended if Jesus had chosen to be an effeminate man (not gay) because that would undermine their own caricature. In truth, the physicality of the Lord Jesus begins and ends with “in the likeness of sinful flesh”. All other specifics are completely irrelevant.
Meek He was in the broadest sense. He allowed Himself to be spat upon. He presented His back for deep lashing. He road upon a donkey. He was born in some barn. He had no place to live. He forgave those who mocked Him. The word meek seems very shallow and incomplete when used to describe the Incarnate Son. And we are called to cultivate that same meekness within our hearts so deeply enough that the outward fruit of such an inward change is recognizable and without question. Oh how we have lost the desire and power necessary to manifest a life that overflows with the paradoxical power of meekness.
The phrase “inherit the earth” was somewhat of a Hebrewism or a saying which indicated ownership of something of great value such as land. Of course there is also a hidden reference to the coming kingdom here on earth. The first shall be last and the last shall be first is another spiritual principle embedded in that promise. It is very curious that believers applaud the incarnation because God stooped down and became a man in the likeness of sinful flesh, but when it comes to us becoming meek and being clothed with humility and meekness, we all too quickly choose to ignore that particular practice.
Our flesh desires the now reward as opposed to the later inheritance. The “inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” requires far too much faith and patience when the convenience of a temporal and corruptible victory is readily available today. As the years have passed the notion of heaven and an eternal kingdom has lost its luster and now find their place more deeply embedded in theological teachings rather than unmistakable expressions in the lives of professing believers. And if it demands meekness to inherit such a place, then the price is way too high.

Eph.4:1-3 - I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

In this passage the Spirit adds the word “lowliness” along with meekness. What strange words in this modern age of rugged individualism, goal setting, and financial achievement. He who exhibit’s the greatest braggadocio draws the greatest following. And as we watch so many television preachers strut and prance their way throughout a message that always draws applause and excitement, we must wonder what Scriptures they have been reading…if any.
But even in the face of such modern, self elevating practices we still must bow to God’s Word regardless of who behaves and teaches otherwise. Meekness elevates the Risen Christ and those who strive to be meek reject the spotlight and point with their lives to the Christ they serve. Meekness in the life of a believing follower of the Lord Jesus lights the world and salts the earth. And this kind of selfless meekness is not the easy road. It requires sacrifice and a disciple’s path filled with voices of reason, self righteousness, injustice, and unfairness.

Ti.3:1-2 - Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.

When you find yourselves speaking, and even thinking, evil about others you can be assured that you are in the flesh. Even in correction we must implore the Spirit to keep us humble and meek. The sad spectacle of believers castigating others publicly, including the lost, is indeed at odds with the gospel message and spirit. When we meet someone who is observably meek, they seem to make a mark in our minds and hearts since it is so rare. But the church should be filled with meek people who hold their beliefs strongly, and who are fiercely following their Savior, but whose life and spirit reflect the thrust of these words as well:

Acts 20:24 - But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

So instead of demanding his “rights”, Paul emphatically relinquishes everything, including his own life, and sets his eyes upon finishing the course set before him which magnifies God’s unspeakable grace. Paul describes himself as the “chief of all sinners”, and he admits that his he has no real power except in Christ. Paul has been

II Cor.4:7-10 - But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.

II Cor.6:4-10 - But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; By pureness, by knowledge, by long suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

II Cor.11:21-30 - I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also.
Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?
If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities

Rehearse all the trials and tribulation that were Paul’s to endure. Read the list and imagine a hundred others. He almost lost his life many times. And when you imagine what Paul was put through, then notice he says, “Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.” So during the persecutions from the world, Paul also was buffeted by the many squabbles and attacks from within the church as well. And in the spirit of meekness, Paul sums it all up:

II Cor.4:14-18 - Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.
For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal

Where is the bitterness? Where is the questioning of God? Where is the self pity? Oh dear Lord in heaven, what a specimen of meekness and surrendered servant hood. Throughout it all this disciple, this apostle, has cultivated and maintained a spirit of selfless humility and Christ honoring meekness, all to the glory of God. And just how can a believer walk in such broken boldness? Again, the Spirit speaks through Paul:

II Cor.3:4-5
Not that we are sufficient of ourselves
to think any thing as of ourselves;
but our sufficiency is of God;

Read it again:
Not that we are sufficient of ourselves
to think any thing as of ourselves;
but our sufficiency is of God;

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves
to think any thing as of ourselves;
but our sufficiency is of God;



Anonymous said...

"The sad spectacle of believers castigating others publicly, including the lost, is indeed at odds with the gospel message and spirit."
How this cuts thru to my heart.
When we engage in this - we become the pharisee who goes to the front of the temple and proudly reminds God of how wonderful and faithful he is - not like that...rotten tax collector back there.
And the tax collector won't even lift his eyes as he says, "Please, God, forgive me...I'm just a poor sinner."
And who went away justified?
Thank you,

Steve said...

"The sad spectacle of believers castigating others publicly, including the lost, is indeed at odds with the gospel message and spirit."

That sentence resonates with me too. And the example Lisa cites is exactly the one God called to my mind.

Note too the introductory sentence
for that parable (Luke 19:8):
"And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt."

It's the mindset underlying the bitter partisanship (Galatians 5:20) of our time which presents itself as "Christian."

Bless you both for your words from our Father !!

In Jesus, Steve

Rick Frueh said...

Both comments are geat observations. Thank you both.