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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at Life BPC 8am & 11am service, 2017-07-23

Text: Matthew 5:7,8

 

 

There is one person in the Bible who stands out as an example of right conduct: Daniel. While other Old Testament saints have their faults and sins recorded, nothing bad is mentioned about Daniel at all. You may remember the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den, and how he ended up there precisely because no one could find any fault in him. You may also remember how Daniel and his three friends obeyed God’s Law and refused to eat the food from the King’s table, which had probably been offered to the Babylonian idols before it was served.

 

How was Daniel able to take such a stand? Verse 8 of that chapter tells us that he had purposed in his heart to obey God. One of the beatitudes we will be studying today has to do with the heart: “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Daniel stands out as one who was pure in heart, and he stood well for his convictions at least twice. But did Daniel ever see God? Yes! In the latter part of his life, Daniel had the privilege of seeing wonderful visions of God and of His coming Kingdom!

 

The other beatitude we will be looking at today is, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” And we can also see this in Daniel’s life. As a youth, Daniel was taken away from his home and family, and thus he lost the bright future he had as a prince of Judah. Who was the one who did this to him? It was the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel was forced to serve him and to provide advice and counsel whenever the king required it. For all this, Daniel could have allowed bitterness against the king to take root in his heart. But he evidently accepted his own circumstances as God’s will, and forgave the king. When God gave this proud king a message of horrible divine punishment. Daniel was so sad to hear it, that he could not speak for one whole hour. He wished that Nebuchadnezzar would be spared from this suffering and humiliation. He even tried his best to persuade him to turn to God and repent of his sins. How merciful and forgiving Daniel was! Daniel’s conduct in Babylon gives us an idea of what we will learn today from our two beatitudes. The beatitude in v.7 shows us:

I.  The Delightful Rewards of Being Merciful

a. The Pleasure of Helping Others

Verse 7 begins with the words: “Blessed are the merciful…” What is mercy? Sometimes we tend to think of mercy only as being kind to those who do not deserve kindness, such as when a judge decides to reduce a criminal’s sentence because he has shown great remorse. But that is not the only meaning of mercy. In this verse, the word “mercy” actually means showing compassion to those who are in need or in distress. This involves three things: First there must be a perception of a need – we must really see it. Second, we must have compassion for those in need – we must really feel it. And thirdly, there should be a reaction to meet the need – we must do something about it.

 

Mercy isn’t mercy until all three things are involved: Perception, Compassion and Reaction. One example of this is found in the parable of the Good Samaritan that Jesus told in Luke 10. A man who was on his way to the city of Jericho was attacked by robbers and left to die. Two people passed by but did not stop to help – they both perceived the need, but there was no compassion or reaction from them. But “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him [perception], he had compassion on him, And [then comes the reaction. He] went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.” (Luke10:33,34)

 

This is what showing mercy is all about. It is about helping those who are in need. As we go through life, there are bound to be people around us with needs. But will we perceive their needs, and have compassion on them, and then do something to help them, if we can? Or are we just too busy even to perceive their needs? Sometimes we forget that even those who are closest to us have needs. For instance there may be times when your spouse may be sick and still have to keep up with all the household chores. Or perhaps you have a child who has a test coming up soon, and he still does not understand his lessons. These are some of the simple needs at home that you can help to meet, if you only take the time to perceive them.

 

Perhaps there are people in your place of work or study with great needs. How will you show mercy to them? Perhaps your colleague has not been performing well in his work lately, and as you talk with him you learn that he is facing problems in his marriage or with difficult in-laws. How will you help him?

 

Or perhaps you have a classmate who keeps very much to herself all the time and has no friends. And then you find out that she comes from a broken home, and has a lot of pent-up anger and sadness inside her. How will you help her? Now, some needs may be too big and even impossible for you to meet, but even a small little gesture of care or expression of concern can go a long way to help them.

 

And there is one very great need that everyone has, and we can help them, if only we are willing to meet this need: It is the need of sinners to be reconciled with God. This need is actually the basic cause of many other needs, burdens and sorrows that they have. Sometimes we do not feel like showing care and concern to certain people we know, because of something they may have done against us, or have taken advantage of us, played malicious pranks on us, laughed at us or even spoken behind our backs. But then we must consider: What was it that caused them to do all these things? Is it not because of sin that dwells in their hearts? And if this is the real cause of all the unkind things they have done, then perhaps we should forgive them, and go on to help them obtain the deliverance they need from sin?

 

Let us look at Matthew 9:35-36 – “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.”

 

When we look at a crowd of people that is probably all we see: just a crowd of people. But when Jesus looked at a crowd of people, He saw much more than that. He saw what they really were: People with no real aim or direction in life. Why? It is because they do not know God; He saw people who are lost in sin and who are heading for eternal death, to an awful place of pain and torment called hell.

Our Lord Jesus was moved with compassion when He saw that. It was this deep compassion that made Him willing to bear the suffering for our sins on the cross. But people everywhere need Christians to have enough love and compassion to go out and tell them the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. Who then can help to meet this very great need? 

 

You can, if only you take the time to look at people the same way that Jesus saw those multitudes: As sheep having no shepherd. They need someone to bring them to the Good Shepherd, who is our Lord Jesus Himself. They may all look happy and well on the outside, but deep inside them, there is a big aching void that only Jesus can fill. And when He comes into their lives and fills that void, the joy that they have will be a permanent and lasting joy. So if you want to have the pleasure of being really helpful and merciful to others, please make an effort to tell them about Christ and His love. Be involved in making disciples for Christ!

b. The Assurance of Help Received from God

This is seen in the latter part of v.7 which says “…for they [that is, those who are merciful] shall obtain mercy.”  Now, here we must be careful about how we interpret this reward. This is not about the mercy we receive from other people in return for showing them mercy, but the mercy that God shows to us. This also does not mean that we can earn mercy from God, just by being merciful to others.

If this is the case, it would mean that the mercy we receive from God is the payment we deserve for showing mercy to others. That would clearly contradict verses like Titus 3:5, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Actually, God shows mercy to us only because He wants to show us mercy, and not because of any good works of mercy which we have done.

 

What then does our beatitude mean when it says that the merciful shall receive mercy? It means that by being merciful in our conduct, we are actually showing that we have already received mercy from God. To receive mercy from God means to be saved. And a person who is saved will have a changed life that begins to exhibit works of righteousness, forgiveness as well as mercy towards others. Therefore when we who are saved begin to show mercy to others through God’s work in us, this gives us good assurance that we have truly been saved. And now that we are objects of God’s mercy, we will also continue to benefit from His great mercy. As the end of 23rd Psalm says: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” – We can rest assured that God’s mercy to us will continue all the days of our life and right into eternity.

 

Now we shall go on to consider another virtue that will be evident in our conduct if we are truly saved, and that is moral purity or Holiness.

II. The Divine Fellowship Enjoyed by Being Holy

One of the most profound longings of the human heart is to be able to see God. Our Lord Jesus told His hearers that such a great privilege is granted only to those who are pure in heart. Verse 8 says: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”

 

The first thing we learn from this is, that the purity God requires from us is inward, and not just outward. Many people have tried to change their own lives from the outside. They make resolutions and bind themselves to keep very strict rules and regulations. But these things do not work, because they do not deal with the source of all conduct – the heart. Yourconduct can never be purified unless your heart is first cleansed of sinful thoughts and motives like greed, lust, and unbelief. Your conduct is the result of what is in your heart.

 

And much of what the Bible has to say about the human heart is actually not very nice to hear. For instance in Matthew 15:18,19, Jesus said: “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:”

 

According to Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” If this is the condition of the human heart, then purity of heart would become impossible for any person to have on his own. How can anyone then be pure in heart? The answer is found in Ezekiel 36:26 – “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” The only way in which a person can be pure in heart, is to have a heart transplant – in the spiritual sense, not physical. This refers to the inward change that takes place when a person is truly saved. Remember that according to 2 Corinthians 5:17,“…if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

 

Now that we have seen how it is possible for a person to have a pure heart, let us understand more precisely what the word “pure” here means. To be pure is to be spiritually clean and not polluted with sin. The biblical term for this is “holiness.”

 

According to 1 Peter 1:16, holiness is required of us by a Holy God– God has said to us, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” He wants us to hate the sins that He hates, as much as He does. An interesting observation that can be made here, is that of all God’s unique attributes, holiness is the only one that He allows us to have a share in! (God never said: “be thou all-powerful as I am all-powerful”, or “be thou all-knowing as I am all-knowing”).

 

Besides the fact that God requires holiness in us, there are two other reasons why we must be holy. Ephesians 1:4 tells us that God “hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him.” This is a strong reason: We were actually chosen from the foundation of world to be holy. It was God’s plan right from the start that we who are saved, should ultimately be holy, like Himself.

 

The third reason why we must be holy is found in Ephesians 4:24 which says, “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” This verse speaks about the image of God that Adam and Eve were created with – the image that was corrupted when they fell into sin. That original image was pure and holy. And now, through Jesus Christ, we are gradually being restored back to that original holy image of God.

 

This holiness which we should strive for, does not come automatically nor overnight. It is a gradual, lifelong process called “sanctification” and it requires effort on our part. On the day that we were saved from sin, we began to go through this gradual process toward holiness. We are to keep on progressing, sinning less and less, and becoming more and more holy in our thoughts, words and actions. In order for us to make progress, God has provided two very important means to produce holiness in us, and both of them are holy – the Holy Bible, and the Holy Spirit.

 

How do we know that the Holy Bible can produce holiness in us? Look at John 17:17 –where Jesus prayed: “Sanctify them [i.e. make them holy] through Thy truth: Thy word is truth.”) This means that the more we read and study the Bible, the holier we will become. And that is because the Bible is not an ordinary book. It was designed by God to change the lives of those who read and study it. According to 2 Timothy 3:16,17, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”

 

If you truly believe that God can make you holy through His Word, then the question you should consider is this: How much time are you giving now to reading and studying the Bible? Do you make it a habit to read it every day? Or do you neglect it? You can never become pure in heart or holy, if you neglect to read the Bible. The Bible can withstand anything that men have said or done against it. But there is one thing that it cannot stand: Neglect!

 

We also need the other means that God uses to produce holiness in us, and that is the Holy Spirit. How do we know this? It is given in 2 Corinthians 3:18 – “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” God sends His Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts when we are saved, so that the Holy Spirit will begin His work of changing our character and our conduct into His image. The more we allow Him to lead us and control us, the holier we become. The Holy Spirit takes what we have learned from the Bible, and gives us the willingness and the power to apply it.

 

If you are a Bible-reading Christian, you will probably agree fully with all its truths and commandments. You may even be all excited to go and apply it fully in your life. But then you soon find that it isn’t easy to apply it. Something in your life keeps hindering you. When you want to do what God’s Word says, you find yourself struggling against yourself to do it. And very often, when you want to keep yourself from doing something that is against God’s Word, you also have to struggle hard not to do it.

 

We all face varying degrees of this struggle. Some experience more of it, and some experience less of it. Some of us may really have to struggle hard with a certain sin, but to others, there is no struggle at all with that sin, and instead, their struggle is with another kind of sin. The Bible tells us that this struggle is due to the flesh, which is the little habits and tendencies to sin that are left over from our old sinful nature.

 

This is why we need the Holy Spirit to help us. When we allow the Holy Spirit to lead and control us, we can then overcome the flesh, and reduce the struggle that we face with it. Listen to what God’s Word says in Galatians 5:16, 22-25: “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

 

What all of this means is that besides reading the Word of God daily, you should make it a habit to walk in the Spirit. How do you this? It is simply by beginning each new day with a sincere prayer to God for help, “Lord, I need your help to live this day according to your Word. Please fill me afresh with the Holy Spirit. I submit myself to the Spirit’s control.” And then as you go through the day, you will notice a difference in your conduct. There might be times however, when in spite of having done this, you stop submitting yourself to the Spirit’s control. Then you fall into sin. When you become aware of this, you need to confess your sin and ask again for the Holy Spirit to fill you once more.

 

The pathway to holiness in our conduct is not a smooth and easy one, because of the occasional setbacks that we experience with sin. It is something like a child who is learning how to walk. Initially, he falls many times, but he gets up each time and gradually he falls less and less. Someone may then say, isn’t there an easier, faster and more effective way than this to become holy? Why can’t I deal once and for all with sin, and never have to fall into it again?

 

There is no simple answer to that question. We can only say that God knows best and that it is His will for us to go through this long process. Perhaps going through it makes us more dependent upon Him, and prepares us for life with Him in heaven. But the end result makes it worth going through the entire process of sanctification. What’s the end result? We shall see God! Right now we can only see God by faith. One day when we stand before Him as creatures that are perfectly holy, we shall have the joy of seeing Him face to face in all eternity. David looked forward to that day. Just listen to what he said in Psalm 17:15 – “As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness.”

 

Let me tell you that nothing can ever compare with this blessed experience of seeing God in all His full undiluted glory. It will be so much better than any visual experience we ever had. Right now we can only behold whatever our eyes can capture and interpret correctly into images inside our brain. But even having the most perfect eyesight is not enough, as we still need light in order to see. If there is no light, we cannot see anything at all. I believe that the ultimate vision of God will be one that takes place without needing any of these to see Him. It will be even better than High Definition. It will be a direct apprehension of the very essence of God by our souls, with nothing at all in between. And it will be absolutely satisfying to our souls just to be filled with this awesomely direct vision of God!

 

This hope now becomes the motivation that compels us to pursue holiness, as John the Apostle says, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3)

 

This hope of seeing God is the very same one that is promised to us in our beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Let this promised blessing motivate all of us now to keep pressing on to do our part in the process of sanctification. And let us also be motivated to be merciful to others by the blessing that is promised in the beatitude we had seen earlier, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.”

 
 
 
 

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11