Sermon on the Mount
By Samuel Clough
Jesus gives the beatitudes as His introduction to the Sermon on the Mount. These heart values overshadow the entire sermon and they are the foundation on which the rest of His teaching is built.
Tragically, many have considered the Sermon on the Mount to represent some type of perfection that is unobtainable but that was not Jesus’ intent in giving us the sermon and the beatitudes. Others have sought a “deeper meaning” rather than simply taking the text as it is written. In reality, the beatitudes are quite clear and plain and therefore it is important that we read them with a simple, literal hermeneutic. They are not difficult to understand; they are difficult to live.
The Beatitudes serve as a measuring stick or “litmus test” for our hearts by revealing the character of God that should be formed in our own hearts. Not only is it a measuring stick for our own hearts, but it is an evaluation tool for our ministry as well. Our ministry should produce the fruit of the Sermon on the Mount in those we minister to.
Jesus was intentional in the Sermon on the Mount to directly correlate a reward with each of the beatitudes. Therefore, each of the beatitudes not only produce fruit in our own heart, but they have significant rewards attached to them. It is critical to understand that the beatitudes have a direct correlation to your future because of the significance of the rewards Jesus offers in association with each of the beatitudes. If we take Jesus’ offer of reward seriously, we will take the beatitudes seriously.
It is my personal conviction that the Beatitudes, together with the letters to the church in Revelation 2-3 were both given by Jesus to clearly and directly prepare us for the Judgment Seat. The Judgment Seat can be a terrifying reality, but Matthew 5, Revelation 2-3, and all of Scripture were given so that we could prepare ourselves to receive great reward when Jesus evaluates our life. We do not have to approach the Judgment Seat passively. We can aggressively prepare because Jesus has already given us insight into how He will evaluate our hearts on that day.
As we approach the Beatitudes as preparation for the Judgment Seat, there are several conclusions we can draw from Jesus’ offer of specific rewards in Matthew 5:
- Often we don’t take the beatitudes seriously because we don’t take Jesus’ promise of rewards seriously and because we fail to interpret His rewards literally which is the way He intended us to interpret them.
- Jesus correlated each beatitude with a significant reward in order to give us the requirements for that specific reward in the age to come. The Beatitudes are a list of “job requirements” for the age to come.
- Jesus plainly offers us rewards for each of the beatitudes because He desires to motivate us to pursue each of the beatitudes. He knows that the beatitudes are in opposition to the spirit of this age and so He offers significant reward to us to help motivate us to go against the spirit of the age and pursue the culture of His kingdom.
- Because Jesus rewards the beatitudes so significantly in His kingdom, we should likewise rewards these beatitudes in our own ministries. Jesus is giving us the values that we should value in ministry. When you build ministry teams and set a leadership culture, you would be wise to value the same things that Jesus does. He is going to invest significant authority in the age to come for those who cultivate the beatitudes in their own heart. In light of that, we should also develop ministry cultures that value those who embrace and demonstrate the beatitudes over and above those who have gifts or talents.
- Jesus desires to rewards us for these heart values. Therefore, we must see the beatitudes are being actually obtainable. Many approach the beatitudes as if they were ideals that are impossible to actually live out. Jesus intends us to pursue the beatitudes are realistic goals for our life. He longs to release strength to us through the power of the Holy Spirit to empower our weakness to actually live the Sermon on the Mount. Many completely miss out on the rewards Jesus desires to give them because they do not believe the beatitudes are realistic. All the while Jesus longs to release strength to our hearts to live them out.
- To neglect the Beatitudes is to position ourselves to suffer great loss at the Judgment Seat. The positive side of that is that embracing the Beatitudes will position our hearts for great reward on that day.
The downloadable teaching notes associated with this post look at each of the Beatitudes in light of the rewards offered to them. I would encourage you to look over these notes and pray through them. Jesus offers massive rewards for the Beatitudes and we are wise to examine each of them so that we may position our hearts to receive the rewards that Jesus wants us to received. Let’s prepare actively for the Judgment Seat by receiving the character of God in this age and positioning our heart to receive His rewards in the age to come.
This is a companion to the post “Preparing to Overcome” that examines preparing for the Judgment Seat through the messages to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3. You can read that post here.
By Samuel Clough
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. – Matthew 5:4 (ESV)
The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. – Genesis 6:5-6 (ESV)
The Call to Grief
Is not the call into the place of mourning, the call to share God’s own heart? We often feel like we know God in His love and, we sometimes see His anger or other parts of His personality recorded in the Scriptures, but who has known the grief of God? Who among us has asked the share the pain in God’s heart? True we have asked to share in His joys, and this is correct as He invites us into His joys, but there is another level of relationship and that is to be be found in sharing in His grief.
God made man for relationship and valid relationship contains the experiences of both joy and pain. The angels are His servants, and no doubt companions of a sort, but they are not made in His image and likeness. They do not have the same capacity we do to feel the way His heart feels. No doubt they have some level of emotion, but God made our heart after the pattern of His own, so we are be the ones that have the capacity to share His emotions more than any other creature and therefore we should be the ones to carry grief with Him.
The word Jesus used here for mourning can often be used in the sense of mourning or grieving for the dead. It can include the idea of lamentation. While Jesus’ context is not specifically the dead, we must ask who mourns for the death that pervades creation? True we have felt a measure of the pain of the effects of our sin and the glad release of our forgiveness in God, but there should be a mourning as we continue to consider the effects of sin that remain on our body and the weight of sin that remains on the earth.
God’s Grief Over Creation
We were made to be the express image of God and yet we continue to destroy creation with our own sinfulness. Our sin destroys the earth even as we see our own bodies deteriorate because of sin. Do we really consider that man is actively destroying creation with His sin? To make it personal, have you considered that your own sin destroys God’s creation? Furthermore, beyond the issue of death, who mourns for their own sin?
Romans 8 tells us that all of creation is crying out under a burden for its own release. If all of creation is mourning for release to come, how can we not be as well? You see not only does sin destroy you, which is no small thing because you were created for God and in destroying yourself you are destroying the thing that God made for Himself and robbing Him of His creation, but you must realize that nothing is done in isolation.
Every act, whether we perceive it our not, reverberates throughout creation and our sin, no matter how minor in our eyes, does not end with us, but rather effects all of creation. Every secret sin reverberates throughout creation adding to the weight of bondage the creation is already under. We do not have time to fully develop this issue here, but remember that just one sin in the garden so marred creation that it fell to its current state. Our sin destroys God’s creation which is why in Revelation God’s judgment against the wicked is celebrated with the song, “The nations raged, but your wrath came…for destroying the destroyers of the earth.” (Revelation 11:18)
Why We Do Not Mourn
Our lack of mourning is rooted in a lack of perspective. We do not mourn because we lack perspective. We are content with an earth and an age that is so marred by sin it barely demonstrates the glory of the original creation. If we understood the original glory of creation and if we understood the honor that Jesus is to have on the earth, and what will happen to the earth when He begins ruling from Jerusalem, our hearts would be filled with mourning in this age, longing for the glory of the age to come. It is our own lack of expectation, understanding, and desire for what is to come that causes our hearts to be content rather than to mourn at what man has done to God’s creation.
If we even barely understood the sacrifice of Jesus, we would be in mourning for His global exaltation. How can we not feel the weight of the Father’s sorrow at the earth’s rejection of His act of redemption? God gave everything He had, eternally marring His own being in the man Jesus and the earth He came to redeem rejected Him unto death. Who cannot mourn? Whose Son has been so abused? Whose Son is so worthy of honor? Who cannot feel the pain of the Father over the issue of the Son and His global exaltation?
Do we consider that Jesus, right now, is highly exalted in the place of rulership over the heavens and the earth and yet, on earth, a cloud of deception persists leaving most men totally ignorant of His rulership? Can we mourn with the Father that most of mankind, His most glorious creation, will ultimately be destroyed because they have persisted in darkness and rejecting the very One that was sacrificed so that they might have life? Can we mourn over how few will receive the advantage of His costly sacrifice?
Who reads the prophets and the book of the Revelation and mourns over the judgments to come? Who has fully considered the events that are going to hit the earth as man’s wickedness are put on full display and Jesus finally breaks in releasing the judgments of God to purge the earth. Anyone who considers these events should come away shaking inside, unable to fully consider what is coming. The shaking coming to the planet is beyond all we can conceive. Can we not mourn with God over what is coming? Can we not share God’s grief over the birth-pains that are to come? The birth-pains coming are the most violent, destructive things coming and God’s heart no doubt is mourning over what the earth must endure in the transition to Jesus’ rule from Zion.
Does anyone grieve with the Father over the trials that are coming to Israel? Does anyone weep over the holocaust to come? To give just one example, Zechariah records two thirds of the nation perishing (Zechariah 13:8-9), but do we weep over it? The Father weeps that His very chosen people are under a cloak of blindness, rejecting the One that can give them live. He is in grief over the events that will fall on His chosen people at the end of the age. We analyze and evaluate the events of the end, but do we mourn with the Father over the things that must come and the real implications of those events?
Many of us are content for the earth to be destroyed, but God is not. The way we would mourn over a son lost in sin, longing to see him restored rather than destroyed, so God longs to see His creation restored rather than destroyed. We must ask for the revelation of God’s love over all creation that we may feel His present grief over the condition of it. His grief is deeper than any parent’s grief over a prodigal son. His handiwork is constantly destroyed as the ones He gave stewardship to continue to defile it.
We need a vision of God’s brokenheartedness over a world that rests under a weight of constant sin rejecting the very One that gives life. We need an understanding of the liberation of creation to come. God is not coming to the planet to destroy it, but to liberate it from sin gloriously. We are offered this moment in time to share in God’s grief. There will be a time when our own bodies, and all creation, will be liberated from sin in the ultimate act of comfort and we will share then in God’s joy over the restoration of creation. In this age, though, it is the time of mourning. We mourn over the damage of sin in own hearts first and then the damage of sin in the entire cosmos. It is a unique invitation to mourn, because it will not always be available.
Those that mourn now will have shared God’s grief with Him. When we step into the age to come those who have shared His grief will have an unusual friendship with God. We cannot mourn unless we share His heart. To enter into the place of mourning, we must have revelation from God to our hearts about what He really feels about creation.
We must know what is in God’s heart as His Son is mocked and disparaged day after day. We have to feel what is in God’s heart as He watches man destroy man with brutality. We need to feel God’s heart as the innocent girl is seduced and the love she was created for destroyed by a man’s sexual drive. We need to consider the longing in God’s heart to restore creation and install His Son in His rightful place as king over the earth. We need revelation to enter into this place of mourning.
Sadly, we are often too content with this age to share God’s grief over it. We wait for some sort of release, which we call heaven, from our present trials but the reality is what we’re really wanting is to just be free of some difficulties. We fail to perceive the real weight of sin that rests on the entire creation, even in it’s joys.
We fail to feel the oppression that is constant so long as sin is not banished completely. We are escapist looking to fly away to heaven when God is set on redeeming the earth. We fail to love what God loves. God loves the earth and intends to gloriously renovate it and restore it. God has bound Himself to earth, both in promises, and in taking on the very dirt of the earth in His own incarnation.
The Precious Opportunity for Eternal Intimacy with God in Present Mourning
Intimate relationships are not just forged in joys, they are forged in sorrows. When you consider those who are closest friends, it is those who shared your grief with you. You may be separated from those friends by distance and life changes, but you always feel a connection to those who shared your griefs with you. Anyway can laugh with you, but it is only a select few who can cry with you.
Innately we often hide our pain from one another because we know that if we lay out the burden of our hearts on an acquaintance it is uncomfortable for them. Likewise, if another unloads their sorrows on us our first response is typically discomfort unless we are closely related to the person. While joys may be shared freely, sharing grief with others is uncomfortable and awkward without intimacy . We know that in life there are only a handful of friends that will share our sorrows. The sharing of sorrows requires intimacy.
God too shares His sorrows with His friends. In the age to come those that shared God’s grief with Him now in this age will have a special place in God’s heart. Many desire to share the joys of His heart and the blessings of His nearness, but few turn aside and ask Him to also share His grief.
While we come, time and time again, asking Him to minister to our hearts, and rightfully so, let us turn aside and ask Him how we can minister to His heart. Let us, like the friends of Job, come sit with God just to share His grief. Let us come just to minister to Him as man was made to do. Real relationship is forged as we walk with God through the sorrows of this age and not just the joys.
In His grief preparing for the cross, Jesus asked the disciples to pray and watch with them, but they could only sleep. They were weary and ignorant of the depths of pain that was in Jesus’ heart. He longed for some companions and yet He was forced to grieve alone. Obviously they could not have born the depth of His own grief over what was coming, but they could have comforted His heart in some measure. God was looking for men to share grief with Him, even if they did not understand it, and they were unable to comfort the Lord’s heart.
Are we able to comfort our God’s heart? The earth is racing towards a final judgment. The earth is under a weight of sin that causes a pain in God’s heart that we cannot understand. Moment by moment men die eternally lost and God grieves. Those He made for Himself choose destruction. We cannot bear the weight of pain in the earth, but do we mourn? Do we even make ourselves available to share His heart in grief or are we, like the disciples, too ignorant tired or distracted to share our God’s grief?
In the age to come, as the reign of Jesus on the earth restores creation, these sorrows will be destroyed. They will be a memory in God’s heart and in our own. However, those that shared those sorrows with God will have created a depth in their relationship with God that will last forever. Today, let us set our hearts to minister to the living God in sharing His sorrow. Let us examine our hearts rightly and mourn before our God for everything in our hearts, and even our bodies, that bears the marks of sin. Let us fix our eyes on God’s dream, the liberation of redeemed man and all of creation through the rule of His Son.
By Samuel Clough
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:3 (ESV)
One of the core issues of embracing poverty is the issue of self-existence. What makes God unique in all the universe is that He is self-sustaining. Only He can sustain Himself by Himself. All the rest of the creation is dependent on God both for its very existence and for its continued sustenance. When Moses pressed God for a name in Exodus, God declared Himself to be the self-sustaining One that exists with no dependencies on anyone or anything. He is the One that exists irrespective of the existence of any other.
Man, on the other hand, as a created being requires the sustenance from God that He might live and this is at the root of the issue in the garden. The enemy was attempting to divorce man from His reliance on God. He presented this as a deception so that man would imagine that becoming self sustaining, choosing for himself what things are good and evil, would allow Him to ascend to a place like God when in reality it would bring him into a place of death and decay. The glorious life that man was given required the sustenance of the Creator. Man is not self-existent, but lucifer was determined to deceive man because of the tragedy of his own revolt.
As the most beautiful being yet created, lucifer challenged God because his heart was so full of pride that he imagined he could sustain his own beauty. When he staged a rebellion based on the confidence that he could sustain himself without the Creator, to his own horror he became the most horrific and corrupt creature in all of creation. No longer exalted and beautiful, a death of a sorts came in when he attempted independence from the sustainer and it destroyed the beauty in him corrupting all that was beautiful into something horrific and hideous. Lucifer now became satan.
Satan, filled with pride and now finding himself in this horrible place where he was still in subjection to God but now as a hideous, evil being rather than one of beauty, expressed his anger towards God by taking aim to corrupt God’s prize creation. He immediately went to man in the garden and offered man the same decision that he himself had made without telling man of the horrific consequences. Man fell to the same temptation that had seized satan’s heart, that of being self-sustaining or independent of God’s wisdom and sustaining power, and immediately man’s being fell from a place of glory to a place of death. The most beautiful of God’s creatures in the heavens, lucifer, had fallen and become infected with death. Now, the very height of God’s creation, man, had also fallen for the same ruse and now death infected man in that same way that evil had destroyed lucifer’s beauty.
We find this same foundational issue in the next great temptation in human history when satan comes to Jesus in the desert again trying to thwart God’s plan by taking advantage of Jesus’ humanity in the same way that he destroyed the man in the garden. The scene is no longer a plush garden, but this time it is a barren wilderness. When satan first tempted man, he had to convince man there was something better than the beauty and provision of the garden. This time, Jesus was in a barren wasteland. He was surrounded by a hard place and desperately hungry. Surely satan imagined he had the advantage. In the garden, he had to be deceive a man that was completely provided for, living in bliss and in communion with God. This time he only needed to offer a deception of relief to a man exhausted in a dry and barren place that so illustrated man’s fallen condition. Surely he could get Jesus to escape this place. Surely Jesus would long for the place of comfort and sustenance.
With this in my mind, satan went straight to the primary issue and attacked Jesus with the temptation of self sustenance. Satan came and immediately challenged Him to use His divine power to self-sustain Himself as a man in turning bread to stone. Jesus clearly understood what was at state and quickly replied, from the Scripture, that man should not live by bread alone but by every word proceeding from the mouth of God. In other words, man must rely on something proceeding from God to live. Even if He could turn the stones to bread, the issue was that He, as a man, would be sustained by God and not by Himself. Jesus refused self sufficiency as a man, even when it could be obtained using His own divine power, rebuking the enemy by declaring that man, as a creature, was designed to live dependent on God. Satan had begun with the temptation that caused his own fall and that he used to effect the fall of man, but this time Jesus immediately resisted.
In order to make the issue even more clear, God has also given us a parable in our own bodies. Scientists tells us how our bodies are self-sustaining with the cells constantly replenishing themselves until the aging process shuts down cell replacement and we slowly die. From this we can see that the human body was made to sustain itself and live immortally as the Bible teaches. However, no matter how marvelous the human body’s capacity may be, it requires food. Though the body can sustain itself once it obtains fuel, we are still dependent on an external source of nutrients to supply our bodies with the fuel necessary to sustain life. Though our bodies were designed to live forever, they were designed so that they cannot live without any external nutrients. We are dependent on external food sources to fuel the life that is in our bodies.
So too our spirits are designed to live forever and yet are dependent on a fuel which we receive from the only One that is ultimately self-sustaining. We can live in a delusion that we have enough to supply ourselves because we may be popular or talented in ministry, but the reality is that our spirits starve and die if we are not constantly being fueled from the One who is the sustainer of all things. It is those who, like Jesus, live in that place of dependence on the eternal One for daily fuel for their spirits that will be fit to participate in the heavenly government. The poor and the hungry eat everything that is offered to them. It is only those that imagine themselves to be full that push away the gift of food from another. When we truly know our inner poverty, it will cause us to lay hold of the One that can supply and sustain us. Living in that manner will fit us to stand before the One who alone is self-sustaining as we understand, acknowledge, and even celebrate our great need of His abundance.
Really the root issue is dependence. Creation is made to be dependent on God for its supply. Not because God is some sort of ego, but rather because He simply is the only self-sustaining One that exists and He sustains His creation with love and tender care. However, when creation refuses this dependence, death enters the equation because once you cut yourself off from the One that is eternal life the only option is death. If you get the root of the issue with those in the western world that mock the gospel and are the most vocal opponents of the gospel it will come down to the issue of dependence. The mockers of the gospel refuse to be in the place of dependence. They do not want to depend on Him for their life and they refuse to depend upon Him for the definition of morality. Man desires to do what he wants, the way he wants, even when it ends in death. This is the corruption whose only remedy is poverty of spirit.
This is why in John 17 Jesus defined eternal life as the intimate knowledge of God (John 17:3). Apart from intimate communion with Him from a heart posture of poverty, there is no life. I fear that we are too full in our spirits and unaware of how much fuel we really need from the One upon the throne that our spirits may have the fuel that is necessary. Let us go to Him daily in poverty of spirit that He might fuel us with Himself.
By Samuel Clough
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:3 (ESV)
Jesus promises a governmental position in the government, or rule, of the heavens to all those that are poor in spirit. Remembering that the heavens, being the location of God’s governmental throne, are clearly above the earth, we can see that Jesus is promising a place of authority in His own personal government that is ruling over all that exists both on the earth and above it. What is clearly implicated here is that poverty of spirit is a necessary requirement for ruling in God’s government. Lucifer was cast down because he lost poverty of spirit and chose to embrace the power and strength of his own spirit. This led to him becoming so deluded that he challenged God in his own might, resulting in a flash when God cast him down from his privileged, governmental position.
When lucifer embraced personal power in his own spirit, he changed from being one of the most beautiful of all creatures to being the most dark and terrible of all beings. He was transformed from one filled with light to one filled with oppressive darkness. His rejection of poverty of spirit transformed his being into a selfish, dark, and evil being with a capacity to destroy that has brought destruction not just to his own nature, but has also brought manifold destruction to others in his corruption of one third of the angels and his subsquent acts in corrupting all the earth. Lucifer so successfully transmitted this disease to humanity, that we too embraced strength in our own spirit, with the end result being that our inner man became corrupt and depraved as well and human history has became the tale of the dark deeds of humanity. Do we consider the disastrous consequences of embracing the strengh of our own spirit, rather than the poverty of it as Jesus exhorts us to do? Do we consider that strength of spirit may be cloked in religious language and religious ambition so that we may end up pursuinig the very thing Jesus desires us to reject within a religious framework?
Jesus, on the other hand, calls us to poverty of spirit. He calls us to return to the primary issue of the garden and re-embrace the leadership of God in refusing the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Rather than embracing the promise of its fruit, we are to bring our spirit in poverty before God desiring to once again know the thrill of being filled with His spirit rather than dominating others with our own. His Spirit alone is capable of ruling over others while keeping the well being of others as His first priority. Our spirits are not equipped to rule as His is and so any time we attempt to live out of our own spirits, the inevitable result is selfishness, pain, and suffering. Only God’s Spirit has the capacity to rule others in a way that is ultimately selfless. We do not have that capacity in our own spirits and to thing otherwise is delusional, though it be couched in religious language.
For this reason, only those that embrace poverty of spirit will be equipped to rule in the government of God. This is truly a high call because Jesus is offering us access, not just to the government of the earth, but to the government of the heavens. As we noted at the start, the government of the heavens sits over all creation and is the location of God’s very own throne. How high an exaltation Jesus offers us! Yet, at the same time, the qualifications for that exaltation are paradoxical. To ascend to the high place, our spirits must embrace a low place. We sit enthroned in government with God only when we acknowledge our total lack and poverty, not when we stand on our own accomplishments and power. Who can embrace such a thing? Who will empty themselves that they might be exalted by God? Who can lay aside from our natural methods of improving ourselves? Who can reject our human ideals of embracing power, ability, and stature thinking that our strength offers something to God that is necessary to His government? Do we desire what Jesus offers or do we have the secret desire that we may rule over our brethren in the age to come?
Only the poor in spirit can stand in the place God desires us to stand. Only the poor in spirit will endure in that place. Anyone else, no matter how talented, gifted, or accomplished, when raised to the right hand of God will fall in corruption just as lucifer did, corrupting both himself and others. Nothing exists in isolation. Everything any creature in creation does reverberates throughout creation impacting others. For that reason, God cannot allow an individual to be open to the place of corruption because an individual’s corruption never remains isolated. When you and I fall, others fall as well. Our corruption touches all those that we make contact with and so our corruption is not just an issue of our own personal nature, but it is an issue of our effect upon others. For this reason, a ruler in God’s government must lay aside his own strength, which will enslave and corrupt others, that he might be filled with the strength and Spirit of God which alone is fit to rule over others in a benevolent way.
Poverty in spirit is not just a phrase, it is a critical reality that you and I are called to embrace. To neglect this offer is to suffer great loss for Jesus is offering us an incredible place of privilege if we are willing to embrace His requirement. The offer is great, but the cost of that position is high as well. Forget your own achievements, ministerial or otherwise. In Matthew 5:3 Jesus gives you what He wants to see on your resume if you desire a place in His government, and it’s a poverty in your own spirit, not the massive strength that sadly we spend so much time pursuing. Let us embrace His paradigm so that on that great day, He can invite us with joy in His voice to sit on His very own throne with Him participating in His brilliant rule.
In short, the answer is clear. Embrace lack that you might prosper. Ask for emptiness that you may be filled. Beware the temptation of your own spiritual fullness though and in your filling, stay in the place of poverty.