10-08-17 The Beatitudes.jpg


Kingdom Living

Self-Effacement – Poor in Spirit and Those Who Mourn

Matthew 5:1-4

October 8, 2017


I would like to spend six Sundays looking at what we call “The Beatitudes” in Matthew 5.  The word “beatitude” means “supreme blessedness, supreme happiness, supreme bliss.”  The reason we use the word “beatitude” to describe what is said in these verses is because the word “blessed” is used 9 times to describe certain dispositions in life.  The word “blessed” is translated from the Greek word μακάριος, and it means “people who are characterized by transcendent happiness or divine joy.”  In other words, joy that comes from God.

There are eight attitudes or dispositions of the human heart that are described in these verses as being “blessed.”  Thus, the beatitudes describe the way people experience supreme happiness, supreme bliss.  This is the blessedness of Kingdom living; eight ways of living and responding to the things of life that characterize Kingdom living.  Now that brings us something more I need to address before we begin our study of these verses in Matthew 5.  What do we mean when we say Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven?  Kingdom living?

The Kingdom of God or Heaven

Often, when we read or hear something about the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, we think of the attitudes of people in the future, in a heavenly kingdom.  We don’t think about living life with a kingdom focus today.  Since the kingdom of heaven is mentioned in the Beatitudes, does that mean that what we are talking about is just a future disposition of people?  The simple answer to that question is, “No!”

The Kingdom certainly does have a future, not yet experienced, understanding about it.  However, we need to keep in mind that, according to Jesus, the Kingdom of God was present and powerful in its work in the hearts of mankind even during His time.  He used the terms “Kingdom of God” and “Kingdom of Heaven” interchangeably (Matthew 19).  As Jesus speaks to the rich young ruler Jesus refers to salvation as entering the Kingdom of Heaven.

Though there is a future kingdom when Christ will rule with a rod of iron and justice will be a common experience, there is a kingdom right here and right now that is present in the heart and life of every believer.  As we submit our hearts to the King of heaven, we are a part of His kingdom.  So, we could say that where ever the reign of Christ is being manifest, the kingdom of God is there.

Ray Vander Laan expresses it this way.  The kingdom takes place “where ever God is kinging” or wherever He is reigning.  As people submit to God as their King, the King of their lives, God’s kingdom is established and experienced there in that person’s life.  Thus, as we look at these beatitudes over the next few weeks, we are talking about what it looks like in our lives when we allow Christ to be the King in our lives.  And that is truly where genuine joy and happiness is experienced.  The fulfillment of joy is experienced in this relationship with God.

You might say, the beatitudes are evidences that you are saved and serving God.  When others see our lives, it should be evident to them that God’s kingdom is taking place in our hearts and they should be drawn to that.  So, in a way, the beatitudes are a description of what the kingdom looks like in the heart of a believer today.

Reading Matthew 5:1-16

Let’s begin by reading the entire passage.

Matthew 5:1-16 ESV

1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5 "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

 2 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

13 "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.

14 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.

15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.

16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Jesus the Teacher (vv. 1-2)

I love the descriptions of Jesus’ ministry.  Often we a snapshot of the setting in which Jesus is teaching.  Here in chapter 5, we find a hillside description of where Jesus was teaching a crowd of people.  Keep in mind that His popularity among the people had grown exponentially as He performed miracles and taught people about how to have sins forgiven and how to know God in a personal way.  Jesus often withdrew from the city setting, sometimes just to be by Himself and at other times it seems that He is trying to find a suitable place for His teachings.  Here we find Jesus teaching a crowd on a hillside.

The traditional site of this teaching (though Matthew does not pinpoint the location) is above Tabgha, near Capernaum, on a ridge of hills northwest of the town, with a magnificent view of the Sea of Galilee (ESV Study Bible).

Verse 1 tells us that Jesus sat down on that hillside.  Teachers in Judaism typically taught while sitting (cf. 23:2), a position Jesus takes regularly throughout Scripture (cf. 13:1-2; 15:29; 24:3-4; 26:55) (ESV Study Bible).  So, Jesus taught them it says in verse 2.  Though it is not perfectly clear in the text, it seems that Jesus’ 12 disciples were close to Him with the crowds of people all over the hillside and it seems the crowd grew as Jesus preaches from chapter 5 through chapter 7.  This is what we traditionally call the Sermon on the Mount.

So why did Jesus teach this to His disciples and ultimately to you and me as followers of Jesus?  Could it be as simple as helping His disciples, and us, to conform to His image?  Maybe it has to do with our understanding of true happiness and blessing?  Are the Beatitudes simply the disposition of exceptional Christians?

When Jesus, the Teacher, gave these eight characteristics, I believe He was teaching general lessons about what all Christians should be like.  All His followers should manifest these characteristics at some level in their lives.  These are not natural tendencies for anyone, but by the grace of God and the power of His Spirit in our lives, there will be a growing manifestation of these dispositions as we grow in our journey of faith in Him.

But then, that is what it is all about isn’t it?

2 Corinthians 5:17

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

“Passed away” in this verse is aorist active and perfective in tense.  In other words, the old began passing away in the past at the time of salvation and it continues to do so until the point of finality when we become like Jesus.  Then our verse says that the “new has come” which is a perfect indicative active, which indicates a continuing state of activity (Linguistic Key).  So, what are we saying by this?

Simply this, though these eight dispositions of the Beatitudes are an evidence of our relationship with Jesus Christ, evidence of our salvation, we must keep in mind that they are continually growing in our lives.  The old ways are continually passing away and the new is continually coming to take their place in our lives.

So, these characteristics Jesus teaches us here are not natural tendencies, they are a part of the continual work of God in our lives.  They are a result of grace and the product of the Holy Spirit.  The extent to which these dispositions are manifest in our lives depends on our willingness to let the Spirit of God fill us and change us.  Jesus, the Teacher, is teaching us what Kingdom Living should look like in our lives as we let His Spirit take control in our lives.

Let’s take a look at the first two Beatitudes this morning.  The First one is:

Poor in Spirit – Emptied of Self (v. 3)

3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

It is interesting that Jesus would make this the first of the Beatitudes.  We already talked about the word “blessed.”  It is referring to people who have transcendent joy and they are poor in spirit.  So, what does it mean to be “poor in spirit.”  “Poor” is translated from the Greek word πτωχός {pto-khos'} meaning one who is reduced to beggary or one who obtains his living from begging.  So, Jesus is basically saying that the truly happy person is characterized by a disposition poverty when it comes to how we see ourselves.

I can almost image the look on the face of Jesus’ listeners and yet if we are honest, we probably wince a bit when it comes to understanding that this means being emptied of self.  Generally speaking, we are a people who are proud, strong willed, and determined to get our way, to do what we want, and to find pleasure in the things we want to do.  We are full of self.

We live in a culture of me first and I am who I am because I made myself that way.  But Jesus is telling us that we need to be emptied of that.  We need to come to an understanding that without Him, we are nothing.  This is the fundamental characteristic of the Christian.  In fact, there is a sense in which all the other Beatitudes are a result of this one.

The reason I say that is because this is the only way we can come to Jesus in salvation.  It is only when we realize that we are sinners doomed to an eternity separated from God in a place called Hell, that we are utterly helpless to do anything about it, that there are no deeds or actions that we can do to help our situation, and realize that we are completely destitute without the grace of God, it is only then that we can receive the most wondrous gift of all, salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

It may be that you are here today and you have the idea that somehow you can be accepted by God by doing certain things, by being good enough.  You may be saying, “I’m not such a bad person, I do many good things for other people, I am nice, I don’t grumble or groan, surely God will accept me.”

But Romans 3:10 tells us that no one is righteous, no one seeks God.  We cannot do enough good things to be accepted into Heaven.  Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that the only way we can be saved is by God’s grace through our faith.  That way no one can boast and say look at what I did to get into heaven.  Being poor in spirit is how we begin our Christian journey at salvation.

We cannot be filled until we are empty, emptied of self.  Ultimately, we are talking about our attitude toward ourselves.  Now I hope that no one takes this to mean that we are to suppress who we are or that we are worthless human beings.  No!  We are talking about removing pride and seeing ourselves as destitute without Christ.  Begging for Him.  Why?  So that God can fill us.

John Piper has said this about being “poor in spirit."

  • It is a sense of powerlessness in ourselves.
  • It is a sense of spiritual bankruptcy and helplessness before God.
  • It is a sense of moral uncleanness before God.
  •  It is a sense of personal unworthiness before God.
  • It is a sense that if there is to be any life or joy or usefulness, it will have to be all of God and all of grace.

I agree, this is how we must come before God, “poor in spirit.”  Here are some examples for us:

  • When Abraham came to speak to God about Sodom and Gomorrah, he said, I am “but dust and ashes” before God (Genesis 18:27).
  • When Jacob wrestled with God, he said, “I am not worthy” of God’s love and faithfulness (Genesis 22:10).
  • Moses said, “who am I” to do this great task, when God called him to lead Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 3:11).

What is our attitude toward ourselves?  Have we begun to realize in our spiritual journey how much we need God to fill us?  Without Him, we can do nothing of eternal value (John 15:15).  With Him we can do all things (Philippians 4:13).  Are we “poor in spirit?”

Our verse says that those who are poor in spirit, “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  As I said earlier, I believe this is understood as a present reality which also has a future fulfillment.  When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we enter the kingdom and we begin to live for Jesus as our King.  You begin living in the sphere or realm in which Christ reigns in your life.

The next Beatitude is found in verse 4.

Mourning – Repentance (v.4)

4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Here is another characteristic of Kingdom living that must have caught the attention of every person on the hillside that day as Jesus expounded this message to them.  He says, happiness is found with those who mourn?

The word mourn is πενθέω {pentheo}.  It means to have grief, sorrow, sadness, or to lament something.  The idea is that there is something which has caused great sorrow in a person’s life.  This mourning or sorrow is not because of the loss of someone when a loved one dies, rather this is great sorrow over the spiritual condition that a person finds himself in.  

If being “poor in spirit” is the understanding of our utter dependence on God to save us from our spiritual condition, the “mourning” is our brokenness over sin.  This would be true at salvation, but I believe this is referring to a continual attitude a Christian has toward sin in their lives.  As believers, we should have great sorrow or mourning over sin that we struggle with.

When a person has great sorrow over something in their life, they should turn to someone for help during that time.  Someone to encourage them, help them, strengthen them.

The same is true in our lives as believers.  When we commit sin, and have great sorrow over the sin, we should turn to our Lord to help us, strengthen us, and encourage us.  We turn away from the sin and turn toward God.  That is the definition of repentance.  A sincere grief or regret for sin that results in a turning away from the sin and turning toward God for help.

If you are a believer here this morning, and you have put your faith and trust in the saving work of Christ on the cross of Calvary, then you have been forgiven of your sin.  But that does not mean you no longer sin, we still struggle with sin and its impact in our lives.  But when we do sin, there should be such grief and sorrow over the sin that we repent.  We choose to turn away from the sin and toward God for help.  Help to resist the temptation to not do it again, help to find strength to resist, and most of all to restore that broken relationship with God.

When repentance is our reaction to sin, then verse four tells us that we are “comforted.”  How does God help us when we turn to Him?  He uses the Holy Spirit, the one who is our helper, called alongside, and living within to be our Comforter, Helper, Strength, and aid in all that we do.

You see, there is genuine happiness for those who mourn over sin their lives.  Why, because when they turn in repentance to God, they will find God’s comfort through His Spirit.


This is what Kingdom living looks like.  This is evidence of your salvation.  You are “poor in spirit.”  You realize that without the love and grace of God you can do nothing.  That we are unable to do anything in ourselves to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Another evidence of your salvation is your conviction and sorrow over sin.  That you turn to God in repentance and find His comfort.