Theme: The Way to Happiness, Continued
From this week’s lessons, we see that genuine happiness is found, not where the world assumes it to be, but in imitating the Lord Jesus Christ.
Scripture: Matthew 5:1-12
4. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” In my study I have a book by Walter Trobisch, a German missionary to West Africa, entitled, Living with Unfulfilled Desires. It is about adolescence and the postponed fulfillment of sexual desires that our western way of life imposes on the young. This title might well apply to western life in general. Only for most people these unfulfilled desires do not remain unfulfilled for long. Sexual desires are immediately gratified, or at least they are gratified whenever and wherever possible. Our culture tells us that we have a right to what we want and should seize it immediately. To use a biblical image, our culture encourages not a disciplined control of our desires but a hunger and thirst for everything. For everything but righteousness, that is! The world does not thirst for righteousness, since it is the one thing that is most perceived to stand in the way of the fulfillment of our other wants.
Yet Jesus says this is the way to happiness. The pathway of sin promises fulfillment; it promises to lead us through Elysian Fields of happiness. It actually dead-ends in the “slough of despond.” The path of righteousness seems hard, but it leads to true contentment. David knew that and wrote, “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Ps. 16:11).
5. “Blessed are the merciful.” Each of the Beatitudes describes the character of the person who is following Christ, but there is a progression. The first three characteristics—poverty of spirit, mourning for sin, and meekness before God—show how one must approach God in order to find true happiness. The fourth beatitude, the central and chief one, shows the fulfillment of the most important of all desires, the desire for righteousness, by Christ. At this point, the Beatitudes turn from the approach and fulfillment to the fruit, showing the transformed character of the one who has been touched by Christ’s Spirit and is now being transformed into His image. They speak of mercy, purity, and a working disposition for peace.
Mercy is the first characteristic. It may be defined as grace in action. It is love reaching out to those who actually deserve God’s judgment. This is a characteristic of God and it is most clearly seen at Christ’s cross. The promise to those who show mercy is that they will find mercy. Indeed, they have already found it and are blessed thereby.
6. “Blessed are the pure in heart.” There was a time in western culture when purity was valued, at least verbally. No longer! Today it is considered foolish, “puritanical,” or unsophisticated to be pure. Virginity is despised. Honesty is considered passé. Are we happier for this new, “liberated” morality? We may say so, but the anxiety, grief, and frustration of our contemporary society belies the profession. Jesus said that the way to happiness is by purity, and it is easy to see why. Sin produces turmoil. Isaiah wrote, “The wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked’’’ (Is. 57:20, 21). God gives peace to those who seek purity. The promise of this beatitude is that at the last they shall see Him.
7. “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Not only do the followers of Christ find peace within through the pursuit of purity; they seek to promote peace with and among others also. Why? Because they are at peace themselves and know the blessing of it. The followers of Christ had been at war with God, and because they had been at war with God they had also been at war with others and themselves. Breaking the vertical relationship breaks horizontal ties. Now these followers of Jesus have peace. They did not make it. God made peace with them through Christ’s cross. Paul wrote, “In Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:13, 14). Having found a true and permanent peace with God, they now seek to establish and maintain a similar peace with others.
What does it mean to “hunger and thirst for righteousness”? How does a Christian go about doing that?
Why does Dr. Boice refer to being merciful as the central and chief beatitude?
In what ways does contemporary culture attack the idea of purity in heart?
Application: Are there any situations in which you need to begin acting as a peacemaker?