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Blessed in the Kingdom

September 25, 2016 Pastor: Don Green Series: The Beatitudes

Topic: Sunday Sermons Scripture: Matthew 5:3-10

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If someone that was not a Christian asked you a very fundamental question, how would you answer it, and the question would be this: what is it like to be a Christian? What is it like? What is your experience? What is the position of being a Christian like? How would you answer that question? I suppose depending on your station in life, you might answer it in different ways based on your present experience but your fundamental response to that question, your fundamental thought about the essence of being a Christian is this: that I am profoundly blessed to be in the kingdom of Christ; that it is a great blessing for me to be a Christian. No matter what else is happening, no matter what my experience might be, no matter what else anyone else might think, I realize and am fundamentally convinced that I am blessed to be in the kingdom of Christ. To have Christ as my King is a great and profound blessing of which I am not worthy and yet which I enjoy and which I look forward to further blessing in the future. That should be your fundamental perspective on what it means to be a Christian. In terms of what it is like and the sense of perspective that you would have on it, is that for me to be under the gracious rule of Christ the King is a great blessing, it is a great position of favor from God that has been bestowed upon me. That should be essential to your thinking about your position in Christ.

With that little bit in mind, turn to the Gospel of Matthew 5 as we continue our study on the Sermon on the Mount. We're going to see that what we just said was exactly what Jesus described to be the essence of being under his Lordship, under his Kingship. He describes it as a place of blessing.

Now, we have said that in the Sermon on the Mount most fundamentally, our Lord Jesus is explaining what the life of repentance looks like. Stated differently: what does it look like, what is the life of someone who is under the Lordship, the Kingship of Christ? What does that life look like? And we've said over our last two messages that in this life Jesus calls us, first of all, to righteousness. He calls us to be separated from the world, separated from our own prior sinful lives, and to be dedicated to a pursuit and a hunger and a thirst of holiness and godliness; that we would be seeking a life that is somewhat reflective of the very nature of the character of Christ himself. That's one aspect of the repentant life, it's a call to righteousness.

Secondly, it is also a call to blessing. It is a call to a place of favor, is the Sermon on the Mount. What Jesus is saying is he's calling us to experience the favor of God on our lives. Now, why would someone not want that? Why would someone not want the full favor of God to be manifested and overflowing on every aspect of their life? That is the invitation that Jesus gives in the Sermon on the Mount. There is no justification for someone saying, "I don't want that." That could only be the expression of a sinful wicked heart to say it and to resist and to buck against the rule of Christ when he simply calls us to righteousness and to blessing. We pointed to Matthew 6:33 where Jesus said, "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness," that's the call to righteousness, "and all these things will be added to you," that's the call to blessing. You see in a single verse that Christ calls you to be righteous, calls you to a place of godliness, and he calls you there so that he would bless you in life. What is there to resist, anyone would ask?

So the primary overarching aspect is that Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount is explaining what repentance looks like. We break that down a little bit and we see that it's a call to righteousness and to blessing, and he goes on and what we saw last week in a big picture kind of a satellite view of the Sermon on the Mount, he goes on and he describes what that righteousness looks like. It changes your character. It changes who you are deep in your heart. It brings you into a new position, a new relationship with the world and with God the Father. It changes your response to the word of God. You're no longer content to live in an external way that just goes through the motions; that just fundamentally is content to live as a hypocrite as long as no one finds you out. Well, the true person under the Lordship of Christ finds that to be an utterly abhorrent idea; that there is no value, there is no merit, there is nothing good about a hypocritical life and although we all have portions of life that are yet to be completely sanctified, we don't embrace that as a style of life as that which is what we would want to define our existence. No. No, the Sermon on the Mount calls you to a true reality that is where the inner man is conformed with what you want the outer man to be as well, and in this life, it prepares you for judgment. A Christian is someone who realizes that there is a final judgment coming and he gladly embraces and understands and lets that factor into his whole perspective on life, that life is not about getting the most out of every moment now, the whole purpose of life, the goal of life, the priority of life for you should be, if it's not, your priority in life should be to be positioned in such a way that your unavoidable appointment with God, your destiny of standing before God in judgment goes well for you in the end. That's the only thing that matters. When you stand before God, your earthly prosperity, your earthly achievements, your earthly activities are going to mean nothing. They're going to be less than useless. The only thing that matters in your life because this is the doorway into eternity, is how does your appointment with a holy God go. What does Christ say when he reviews your life. That's the only thing that matters. Nothing else is important. You understand that, right? That by comparison, Jesus said this, Jesus said, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and to lose his soul?" So the truth of the matter is that most of us need to fundamentally rethink the way that we approach life and the Sermon on the Mount helps us to do that.

Well, what we're about to do now with that little bit of review of the past two weeks, is to enter into one of my favorite passages of Scripture and the things that we're going to see today are just so very exhilarating, they're exciting, they're fascinating, they're profound, they're great, they're awesome. I can't exhaust adjectives to adequately describe what we are about to see from the word of God here today and you need to have your Bible open to Matthew 5 so that you can follow along and see what Jesus is saying as we enter into the Beatitudes which are the passage Matthew 5:3-10. We're going to look at them in an overview passage way today and then go through them individually in the weeks to come.

Let's read them together. Matthew 5:3-10. Jesus said, in verse 2 it says, "He opened his mouth and began to teach them, saying," verse 3,

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 gentle, 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 have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Now, that word "blessed," we'll look at it a little more closely next wee, that word "blessed" has the idea of the position that a person enjoys. Jesus is describing a blessing that exists for people that are in his kingdom. In other words, what he is saying is that the person that is in his kingdom is in a position of great divine favor. They are blessed not in the sense, as it sometimes said, that they're happy and that they experience transitory feelings of happiness because of this; that's very secondary to what Jesus is saying here. The point is that the position of life for one who has Christ as his King, is one of great exalted divine favor. That's what you must understand. And he says this over and over and over again. If you are a Christian, if you know Christ as your King, you should have a fundamental perspective on life. Your fundamental view, whatever else your circumstances might be, if Christ is your King, if you belong to Christ, if you have been born again, if the Holy Spirit indwells you, your fundamental position and perspective on life should be: God has shown outstanding favor to me and I live in a position of privilege. That should be your fundamental view on being a Christian. If you have any contrary view, if you have any other contrary feelings about it that would dilute that or contradict that, you should repent of those unworthy thoughts of what your value, the value of your position in Christ is.

Now, there is something very important to understand in this section just as we begin here: Jesus starts the Sermon on the Mount with an analysis, with a statement about what the character of someone who belongs to his kingdom is like. He starts at the inner man before he gets to matters of anxiety or prayer or giving, as he does later on as he gets into a more particular application of the word of God to circumstances in life. Before he gets to any of that, he starts with the position of character. The Beatitudes are an examination of godly character and what you must understand as you look at the Sermon on the Mount, as you go through it in the rest of life because, we'll talk about this maybe at some point in the future, there are those – I need to slow down, don't I? Too excited this morning. Too excited and I don't want to leave you behind. This is just too fundamental so let's slow down a bit.

There are those who think that the Sermon on the Mount is an exalted ethic that should be given to all of men and that this is the way that all men saved or unsaved should live. Well, that's not true. I mean, this is, in one sense, the standard that all men are going to be judged by, but as you get into the later parts of the Sermon on the Mount where it talks about loving your enemies and the places where liberals love to go and pound us with law and say you should love your enemies and all of this, and if only everyone loved their enemies, life would be better. Well, look, you cannot go to subsequent sections in the Sermon on the Mount and try to apply them to all men generally. That is not the point of the Sermon on the Mount at all. Jesus starts with the character that we see described in Matthew 5:3-10, he starts there and – watch this – he assumes and builds on that throughout the rest of the sermon. Throughout the rest of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is basing his application of his sermon based on these fundamental things that we find in the Beatitudes. This is the starting point. Here he lays the foundation upon which the entire infrastructure of the rest of the sermon is built and we'll see that as we go along. He assumes this character and so the Sermon on the Mount is not at all a call to a social Gospel approach. That has nothing to do with what is in Jesus' mind here. He is speaking to his disciples. He is describing the life of repentance. He is describing life under his sovereign Kingship and what that looks like rather than speaking to men who are alienated from God and hostile to him in heart, soul and mind. He is speaking to people who are already sympathetic to his life and character.

Now, beloved, I love what's ahead in this message. I love what this passage is about and what it is built on. The structure, just the grammatical, syntatical structure of this passage, is essential to understanding what Jesus is teaching. When you see the structure of the overall Sermon on the Mount, you are going to see even more fully, far more profoundly the splendor of what Jesus is speaking about here in the Beatitudes. Jesus is a genius in thought and he is generous in his goodness, and the very way that this is structured just in basic human language communicates so powerfully what Jesus is talking about here and you're going to see before we finish today, you're going to see how he speaks about the exclusivity of the kingdom, the generosity of God's grace in the life of those that he calls, and the fullness of godliness that is life under the Kingship of Christ. I just outlined the passage but I did it in reverse order so we'll try to correct that as we go forward.

Beloved, life under the Lordship of Christ, being a true Christian, I'm saying the same thing in different ways, being born again, being a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, is a place where you are enjoying the fullness of the highest blessing of God and you must appreciate that. You must understand it in order to appreciate it, and once you understand and appreciate it, your heart should be overflowing with gratitude to Christ that he brought you into such a privileged position of favor like this and as you understand it, you start to see, "Ah, this is the life that I pursue." More and more the values of the world, the entertainment of the world, the attainments of the world, recede in the background; they fade away in importance to you; they diminish in significance; they become something which is no longer even in your peripheral vision as that which your heart is after when you understand the life that Christ has called you to, that he has given to you which he intends to carry out until you stand before God face-to-face. It's incredible in these brief short words that you could read in 90 seconds and to realize that what's laid out here is the fullness of eternal blessing in Christ before you.

Let's take a closer look at it. What is it like to be blessed in the kingdom? First of all, Jesus calls you to a fullness of godliness. That's our first point for those of you that are taking notes on the back of the bulletin. There is lots of room for sermon notes, not nearly enough but, you know, what can you do on a half sheet of paper. The fullness of godliness, point 1 here, and what you're going to see here is that there is a unity to the Beatitudes that perhaps you've never seen before and this unity of character is what Christ is calling you to. It's very very very important to understand how the Beatitudes are tied together.

Look at Matthew 5:3. Jesus says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Very good. Verse 10, "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness." This is weird, not really weird but, "theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Do you see that verse 3, the beginning of the Beatitudes, opens with the statement "theirs is the kingdom of heaven"? Do you see as you look at your Bible and look at verse 10, that verse 10 ends with that exact same phrase "theirs is the kingdom of heaven"? That is very very significant. That is of great interpretive value. That phrase functions like an envelope, or you could say this, that phrase, "theirs is the kingdom of heaven," is a bow that ties the whole beautiful package together and contains it in one particular spot. If you want a different analogy, it is like bookends where the books all speak to the same subject and they are bracketed by this phrase "theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Here's what that means. This is so essential to understand that the Beatitudes are bound together as a single unit. They are one. The Beatitudes are a single unit of character.

Here's what I mean by that. You notice that there are eight different verses there: blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are gentle, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, and on it goes. Understand this, beloved: the eight Beatitudes here are not unrelated classes so that there are those who are poor in spirit and over here, separate, unrelated with a different character trait are those who mourn, who are separate and distinct from those who are peacemakers, as if Jesus were just talking about eight different classes of people here and he's speaking to different individuals; he moves from one to another and isn't talking to the same people at the same time. Beloved, what you have to understand is that the structure of the passage means that that's not the case. The people who are under the reign of Christ as King are poor in spirit and they mourn and they are gentle and they hunger and thirst for righteousness and they are merciful and they are pure in heart and they are peacemakers and they are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. This is all wrapped up together.

Here's what that means. Here's the sense that it has for you as you think about the Christian life. Oh, is this ever so important. The Beatitudes are different aspects of the same people. Stated differently: the attitudes and character traits that are shown in the Beatitudes are meant to be and are aspects of everyone who is in the kingdom of Christ. Every true Christian manifests something of each of these attitudes. It's not that you can say, "Well, I'm poor in spirit but I don't hunger and thirst for righteousness." It's not that you can say, "Well, I'm merciful but I don't want to be persecuted for the sake of righteousness and I reject that aspect of it." No. What Christ does here in the Beatitudes is he comes with a full menu of what the character of someone who is in the kingdom of God looks like and he says it's like this for everyone; every aspect of it is a mark of those who are in the kingdom.

Think about it this way, beloved: the Beatitudes are like a rainbow. You look out and you see a rainbow and there is one rainbow in the sky, let's say. It's not a day for a double rainbow here. There is just one rainbow and you look and you say, "Oh, a rainbow." Well, don't you know by common observation and experience that that one rainbow has seven distinct colors in it? That one rainbow has different aspects to it that lend to its beauty and those colors merge together to give one glorious display of the creature power of God? You understand that. One rainbow and yet you look closer and you think again and you say, "But there are seven colors in it." Well, you see, being a true Christian, being truly converted, truly being under the Kingship of Christ is like that. There are different aspects to the truly redeemed character. There is a recognition that, "I have no merit before God." There is a measure of sorrow, of falling short of the character of God. There is a certain gentleness that comes out of that recognition that says, "How can I be harsh toward others when I have been graciously forgiven by God?" And wound up in that is a desire, "Oh, I want to be more like Christ. I hunger and thirst for righteousness. And knowing that Christ has delivered me from my sin, I desire to show mercy to others. I've received mercy. I want mercy to come out of my life toward others." And on it goes.

You see, there is this multifaceted, multi-colored, there is this variegated character that marks every true Christian. Every true believe in Christ is somehow marked by elements of all of these attributes that are found together. In part we know that because of the way that Jesus structured the teaching. There is the kingdom of heaven. There is the kingdom of heaven and everything in between is interlocked together like a chain; linked together, connecting the first statement, "theirs is the kingdom of heaven," chain link, chain link, chain link, chain link, chain link, linking it to, "theirs is the kingdom of heaven." An unbroken, unbreakable chain that marks the character of those who are in the kingdom of God.

You see this in a different part of Scripture, you see this aspect of the single mark, the single character with various aspects over in the book of Galatians. Look at Galatians with me. I just want you to see this single unit with multiple aspects to it in Galatians 5, and it falls in the same area of Christian character, of godliness. What does God produce in the hearts of those that he saves, that he brings into his kingdom? Galatians 5:22, look at this. There is a singularity and there is a plurality in this at the same time. Galatians 5:22, "But the fruit of the Spirit," singular, one fruit, what the Spirit produces in a life is this. And then it goes on and there is plurality, it is multifaceted, it echoes similar themes from the Beatitudes in Matthew 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. It is as though Paul is speaking of a single bunch of grapes, one bunch of grapes with multiple grapes attached to the vine. Well, in like manner, when Christ brings someone into his kingdom, there is a single principle of new life that he gives when you are born again. When you are born into his kingdom there is a single principle of life and flowing out of that vine is multiple manifestations of what that looks like: a rejection of self-righteousness, a hunger for Christ, a desire for mercy, a willingness to endure persecution. All of those things in one manner or another are present in seed form the moment a man is born again and then in life that fruit just starts to multiply and show itself as God causes that person to grow.

So, beloved, we're talking about understanding what it means for you to be a Christian; to know what to expect; to know how this operates; to know what Christ does when he transfers someone from the kingdom and the domain of darkness and places him in his own kingdom. What does he do? Well, one of the things that he does is he produces a person with various character traits that are inter-related, interlocked and that manifest themselves.

So, my friend, my brother and sister in Christ, here's the reality for you if you are a Christian. I say that conditional statement clearly to make this plain. If you are a Christian, here's what Christ has done: Christ has come and asserted his Kingship over your soul. He has established himself as Lord over your inner man, over the entirety of your life. And when he saved you, what did he do? He placed in you a new principle of life, a new principle of spiritual life that manifests itself in many different ways all related to a common source. It's like a river that splits into multiple streams. The river of the grace of God, the river of new life that comes when a man is born again, spreads and it floods out and it saturates different aspects of your character and this is true for everyone, all of this is true for everyone who is born again in one way or another.

What Christ does when he saves a man is that he so thoroughly transforms that man's character over time that it shows itself in multiple ways so that when you see this and understand it, you know, Galatians, fruit of the Spirit, if the Spirit indwells you this is what comes out, when Christ becomes King, the Beatitudes, this is what comes out. Well, for those of you that are not Christians that are here with us today, let me tell you and help you understand that the absence of these characteristics in your life are testifying to your conscience that you do not belong to Christ. The fact that you are not poor in spirit, that you do not mourn over sin, that you are indifferent to righteousness, shows that you do not belong to Christ because this is what he produces in those that he brings into his kingdom. It's the whole purpose of saving a man is that he would manifest this character. So you say to yourself, "Ah, I understand. The absence of these character traits in my life testify to the absence of the principle of new life which generates them." When you see, go to a funeral home, go to a viewing and you see a corpse there, you look and say the principle of life is not in that man. That's why he's motionless. When you see a man who is utterly indifferent to God's word, utterly indifferent to godliness, content to live in sin and cultivate that and boast in it, no matter what he says, "I'm a Christian but this is my life," you look at that and say, "No, your life is a corpse. Your life is a contradiction in terms." There could not possibly be the principle of new life in you when that is your character because when Christ comes as King, he brings a fullness of godliness that starts to manifest itself progressively over time. This is life in the kingdom.

Now, that's one aspect of what the Beatitudes are teaching us and we'll look at them each individually in the weeks to come. This is still overview. You know, I've said we had the space shuttle view and then the jet view overview and now we're kind of circling the airfield getting ready to come in for a landing. I don't know what the deal is with all these aviation illustrations but that's what you're left with when you come here right now.

Now, the fullness of godliness by which we mean that there is a multifaceted godliness that manifests itself in someone who is truly saved. Secondly, what do you find? You find the fullness of grace. The fullness of grace that is manifested in these Beatitudes, and this is just absolutely wonderful and what it means and what it points us to about the nature of being a Christian is so rich and luxuriant and marvelous that you could never get tired of it. Honestly, if it wouldn't empty a church, you could spend years preaching out of the Beatitudes for all that they say.

Here's a question for you. As you've read the Beatitudes in the past, as you've read the Gospel of Matthew, some of you perhaps many many times, simple observations. It always astonishes me how much simple observations about the biblical text, how much truth they can communicate to you. Simplest things that a third grader could notice. Have you ever noticed as you read the Beatitudes the verb tenses? Have you ever paid attention, have you ever noted the verb tenses that are present in what Jesus says here? This is incredible. Look at Matthew 5:3. Jesus says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Present tense. Present tense. Look at verse 10 again, "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Present tense. I am. You are. He is. Present tense.

Now, in between, this is another way if you want another illustration of the inclusio thing, it's like a sandwich. You've got two pieces of present tense bread on either side and then you've got all of this meat and other ingredients in between. In between those two verses, verse 3 and verse 10, the present tenses, in between they're all future tenses. Look at verse 4, "they shall be comforted." Verse 5, "they shall inherit the earth. They shall be satisfied," verse 6. "They shall receive mercy," verse 7. "They shall see God," verse 8. "They shall be called sons of God," verse 9. The simplicity of those verb tenses is teaching you something really profound and wonderful about the blessing that it is for you to be a Christian.

I'll tell you what it is if you want. I'm going to tell you whether you want me to or not so you might as well just want it because that's what's going to happen. The present tenses, what does it mean to be a Christian? What is it like to be under the favor of God? What does it mean to be blessed in the kingdom? Oh, it's so awesome. The present tenses in the Beatitudes tell you that there is a present experience of those blessings here and now on earth being under the Kingship of Christ as a believer in him as you walk through life now. There is a present blessing to being a Christian. As a believer in Jesus Christ, you taste the blessings of God now, don't you? You taste something of the measure of a knowledge of his love. You see something of a measure of the exercise of his power and his life through his providence over your circumstances. You know something of the release and the peace of forgiveness of sins and that the darkest things of your life God has wiped away by the blood of Christ and he'll never hold them against you anymore. You know something of the blessing of the fellowship of saints, that when you gather together there is a sweetness to the fellowship of being with other believers. You know, if you're a true Christian, something about the immense majesty of God's word and reading it and having it feed your soul and saying, "This is what really matters in life." You know something of the wonder of discernment and being able to understand spiritual truth that was previously locked away from you and you couldn't understand it.

You get that, don't you? As a Christian you've tasted those things and as you grow in Christ, you start to realize that those are the most precious things in the world to you. You say, "This is wonderful." What you're seeing is the present tense nature of the Beatitudes. You're saying, "I get this now. This is a blessing. This is joy. This is privilege. This is favor in my life right now. I love this!" you say to yourself. You belong to his kingdom now. Christ is changing you now. He comforts you now. Isn't that wonderful? Isn't that the most wonderful thing to know is true and that as riots and other things take place in our world around us and crazy shootings take place, that here you are in a position of safe refuge in Christ where in the midst of a wicked world that is spinning out of control, you say, "I have a place of stability, security and love here under Christ and I am blessed even in this. Praise be to my Lord and King!" as you love him. You get that, right?

Now, pivot point here. This is so incredibly wonderful. We're talking about how good is God to his people. How gracious is Christ the King to those that he brings into his kingdom. It's unfathomable. It's beyond human imagination and takes you into the realm of the greatness of the goodness of God to his people that you could never have guessed otherwise. As you read the Beatitudes, the fact that the majority of the verb tenses that we saw in verses 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9, the majority of the verb tenses are future. Do you know what that means? That means that the majority, the vastness, the fullness of the blessing of being in Christ's kingdom is still future. In other words, you say, "It is great to be a Christian now and I like being in Christ and I love my Lord and I love being with his people and I love being in his word. Those are the most precious things in life to me," you say to yourself. But then these future tenses come along and say to you, "Beloved citizen in God's kingdom, one who is beloved by Christ, let me tell you there is far more and far better blessing still ahead for you. You are just tasting the banquet. You're just sampling a few appetizers right now in your Christian life. The fullness of what God has for his people, still ahead."

Look at it with me. There is still more. They will be comforted. Well, we're comforted now. Yeah, but do you know what comfort is going to be like when you're in the presence of Christ face-to-face? That will be unspeakably exponentially better. That's going to be awesome.

Verse 5, they'll inherit the earth. We're going to be under the Lordship of Christ when he reigns on the earth and we'll be a part of his manifested reign still future. It's going to be even better.

Verse 6, that hunger and thirst for righteousness, that ongoing sense of, "Oh, I fall short. I want more of the righteousness of Christ. I want to manifest that. I want to know him and his righteousness more deeply, one day fully satisfied in heaven." That sense of hunger and lack will be gone because we'll be with him. Fullness, and it will be satisfied.

Skip down to verse 8, you'll see God. The people that are presently in the kingdom of Christ and living life now on earth, do you know what's ahead for us? We can't even begin to imagine how wonderfully great this is. We are going to see God. We are going to see him. We will see Christ face-to-face. We will see the wounds which purchased our salvation in his glorified body. We are going to be in the presence of undiminished Shekinah glory, the kind of glory that Isaiah melted before and said, "Woe is me!" We'll see that glory but it won't be a place of woe, it'll be a place when we're perfected in Christ, it'll be a place of undiminished, unrestrained praise and bliss and glory and unspeakable gladness.

That's still ahead for you and do you realize that once you're there, that no one is going to take it away from you? There is no threat of loss? We don't have that yet. That's still future to us and yet that's the best part. Can you imagine going to an elaborate banquet knowing that there is whatever your favorite entrees are, prime rib, filet, whatever it is that you really like and you're just kind of sampling this finger food appetizers, you know, the little things that are pinky sandwiches that don't fill up anything. This isn't a meal. What are you doing? Can you imagine being at a banquet like that and saying, "Oh, these appetizers are, oh, this is everything. This is all I could have hoped for." No one thinks that way because they understand that the tokens of the appetizers are merely a prelude to better things to come. Beloved, if you are in Christ now, no matter what your life is like, no matter how much you enjoy being a Christian right now, it is a token, it is a small down payment of the greater things that Christ still has in store for you. That's what lies ahead for those who are Christians. It's still future. The best is yet to come.

So your perspective, what's it like to be blessed in the kingdom of Christ should be this: Christ has given grace to me now and thanks be to his holy name. But do you know what? He has so much more future grace for me. There is so much more yet to come that I'm like a beggar now compared to how great the grace is that is still to come. And you are immeasurably blessed now but by comparison, what is ahead in the future is so much infinitely better, exceeding, abundantly beyond all you could ask or think. That's the blessing, that's the fullness of grace.

So here's the thing: as a Christian, you should be cultivating, developing, rehearsing this in your mind that as good as Christ is to me now, there is this growing developing sense of anticipation that has you looking forward to the completion of your salvation. You should not be thinking about your salvation only in the here-and-now and what it means for how you get through this day or this or that problem. You should not be thinking that way, beloved. That is the wrong way to think about being a Christian. You should be thinking and realizing that you start to stand on your tiptoes and say, "I am looking forward, I am anticipating, I can't wait for the better things that are still to come." And you live as a Christian with that sense of future anticipation even as you're grateful for the blessings that God gives now.

Look, God has given me a good life. I love being with you. I love being with my family. I love every aspect of what God has given me in life but do you know what? It is nothing compared to what is still ahead and so these future tenses teach you to let go a little bit, not to treasure the things on earth so much because you understand that you are laying up treasures in heaven, Matthew 6, and that that's where the fullest, deepest fulfillment of your greatest most profound desires, it's still future for you. And for those of you that are suffering in life and going through difficult situations, God bless you. We pray for you about those things. Let this be your hope that the difficulties of today are not what defines all of your future. What defines your future is the future of the blessings that Jesus describes in the Beatitudes with these future tense verbs, and all of a sudden you've got something that can give you hope going forward.

Let me show you another parallel passage, not a parallel passage really depending on how you define that, but just another passage that talks about the present blessing and yet more to come. 1 John 3, turn back to 1 John 3. I want you to see this. 1 John 3, after Hebrews and after Peter. 1 John 3:1, "See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him." Stop there. What is he saying? He's saying we have a present blessing. We are rightly called children of God. We have God as our Father. Christ is our brother. We belong to the true family of God. Do you realize what great love it is that has put us in that present position? That's awesome. Praise be to God for love like that on a previously sinful condemned soul like yours and mine.

Verse 2, he doesn't stop there. You see the biblical pattern is you rejoice in the present blessing and yet you look forward with anticipation to still more. Verse 2, "Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what," future tense, "we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be," future tense, "like Him, because we will," future tense, "see Him just as He is." What's ahead for you as a Christian? Being like Christ is what's ahead for you as a Christian. Leaving behind this present diminished state and going into receiving something of being in the fullness of the likeness of Christ; not to become God like he is God, you will not become God, but somehow you will be like Christ in a perfected state that is going to far surpass your present existence. And whatever that's like, beloved, I promise you based on the higher and better promises of God, it's going to be far better than you could imagine. That's what's ahead for you. Isn't that awesome? Isn't that wonderful? Wouldn't you say then that you are blessed to be in the kingdom of Christ? Isn't that a position of great divine favor? I have blessings now and I have better ones still ahead. Let me at them. Let's get on with it! Paul said, "I have a desire to depart and be with Christ for that is very much better." You see, beloved, as you are growing in Christ, there is going to be an increasing sense in your heart that what lies ahead is far more precious than what you have now, and what you have now that you tend to grasp so tightly and cling to so desperately, you start to realize in the presence of what is yet to come, "I can let that go. That doesn't have to hold my affections in the same way because what holds my affections is future grace still to come, never to be taken away, certain to be given to me."

Look over at, is it 2 Peter or 1 Peter? 1 Peter, I believe, 1 Peter 1. Again, this future aspect of it. You've got to see this if you're going to become a mature Christian. You've got to see this if you're going to live rightly for Christ. 1 Peter 1, we are blessed and we ascribe blessing and praise to God. 1 Peter 1:3, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again." We are in a position of great mercy, he says. We have been born again to what? "A living hope," something yet to come, "through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away," and where is that? "It is reserved in heaven for you." It is still to come. Reserved. Can't be taken away. Your name engraved on golden plates, as it were, I'm speaking metaphorically here, engraved on golden plates at the banquet of God. Your place reserved waiting for you to come and fill it. That's what's ahead for you. This is the fullness of grace.

Now, beloved, let's step back from it. I want to ask you a question. I want to ask you a question in light of these things. Blessed now, future blessing even greater still ahead. Children of God now, we're going to see him and be like him in the future still ahead. Beloved, a simple question: isn't that good? Isn't that wonderful? I don't need to impress upon you because I know that you feel it as a believer in Christ you say, "I don't deserve that. Where did this come from?" Don't you see that what this says about your Christ, that if he has given so much goodness to you now with even greater things still to come on you who were dead in sin and doomed to suffer the wrath of God, don't you see what this says about Christ? Don't you see that this tells you that your Christ is good? That your Christ is a benevolent King? That his goodness knows no bounds? The grace and favor that he shows to his people cannot be measured. The sky is not high enough, the ocean is not deep enough to contain the goodness of Christ just to you, is it?

So you say, "What's it like to be a Christian?" Wow, he blesses us. In fact, going further and sending an invitation to those of you who don't know Christ today, he'll give you this very same blessing if you'll come to him in faith. He gives it without strings attached. This is the mercy he bestows on everyone that comes to him. He is so good. Man, is he good. I mean, I don't mean just good like that was a good sandwich, I mean he is good, isn't he, to give godliness and grace like that to redeem us out of our sin, to separate us from Satan and the world and take upon himself the protection of our souls, to deliver us safely into that heavenly blessing that Scripture says is reserved for you and no one can take that reservation away. You won't end up at the gates of heaven and somebody type in there and say, "Was your reservation under another name because I don't see it here?" No, it's not going to be like that. You're going to be ushered into that blessing and do you know what? One of the most blessed things? All we can do is say this, we can't possibly describe what it's going to be like but, look: God elected you, saved you, appointed you for that blessing so that being in heaven with Christ is the ultimate purpose of your existence. Do you know what that means? It means that when you get there, when you get to heaven, when you are in the immediate presence of Christ, you're going to be at home. For the true Christian, you're not going to feel out of place. And for the person who is not a Christian, you're not going to be there so that's a different issue for you. When we get to heaven, when we are in the presence of Christ in a way that nothing here on earth has ever seemed like, you're going to say, "Oh, this is home. This is why I was created. This is why I was redeemed. I belong here. I belong to this Christ and somehow he belongs to me." And the fullness of the blessing of being in the kingdom of God is going to be manifest and it's going to be real and it is never going to change. If it changes, it's only going to be in the unfolding understanding that this is better than I realized when I first got here, and you run out of words to describe it because you talk about eternity in the realm of unfolding time. So if you're a Christian today, when you walk out that door, you should be thinking, it should be prevalent in your mind, "I am blessed to be under the Lordship of Christ my King." There is no reason for you to think anything else after seeing what God's word says to you today and letting that flavor your attitude, flavor your gratitude, let it just flavor your praise.

Now, one final thing here, thirdly and finally. We've seen the fullness of godliness, the fullness of grace, thirdly, we see the fullness of privilege. Go back to the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5. Notice one final thing, a common feature to each of these Beatitudes. Notice how Jesus says "they" or "theirs" in every Beatitude.

Let me just call a brief time out here, a 30 second time out, if you will, for what I want to say here. What I want you to see, beloved, is that in nothing that I have told you here have I given you any dreams or visions that God gave to me, God forbid. What an awful way to preach. What a false way to preach, first of all. But what I want you to see is that the things that we are seeing here and the things that you are seeing from Scripture today are things that are completely within your grasp to see and understand. I have not given you any hidden knowledge or any hidden information or given you any long technical explanations about anything. We have spoken in plain English to show how readily accessible these things are to all. This hasn't been complicated. And in the same way, what you're going to see in this fullness of privilege, look at verse 3 and notice how Jesus says "they" or "theirs," common pronouns, in every Beatitude.

Verse 3, he says, "theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Verse 4, "they shall be comforted." Verse 5, "they shall inherit the earth." Verse 6, "they shall be satisfied." Verse 7, "they shall receive mercy." Verse 8, "they shall see God. They shall be called sons of God." Verse 10, "theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Do you see what he's doing here? He's saying that these blessings belong to them. If you looked, if you did peel back a little further and looked at the original language, you would see that these are emphatic pronouns and that the way that Jesus teaches this shows a clear emphasis. It has this sense: that they and they alone are the recipients of these blessings. And you can see that evening in English without that little allusion to the Greek text. "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Well, what's the implication of that even in English? Well, someone who is not poor in spirit does not have the kingdom of heaven. He is not in the kingdom of heaven. Someone who does not hunger and thirst for righteousness will not be satisfied. Someone who is not a peacemaker will not be called the sons of God.

Why is that important and what does it have to do with your perspective on what it means to be a Christian here today? Why is that important to you? Why does this affect anything? Here in the Beatitudes Jesus is making a very strong contrast. He is dividing the sheep from the goats, you might say. He is separating black from white so that there is no gray in between. Jesus is contrasting those who are in the kingdom with those who are not. "This blessing, these blessings, this manifold wonder of being under my Lordship, all of the blessings now and the promises for the future, it belongs to them, not to them." There is a clear separation. The Beatitudes shout this emphasis and says, "We who know Christ, we are undeservedly blessed." If you're in Christ, he has given this to you and others are not on the same end. They are not receiving it. And in one sense, you look at that and say, "Oh, that's sad. There is a whole mass of people who don't enjoy this blessing. They are slaves to false religion. They are slaves to sin. They are dead and they don't know this and yet here I am and I have it all. I have these blessings. I have these promises." And you say, "Who am I to have this when so many don't?"

And what I want you to see is that that dividing line in Jesus' teaching, I pointed this out to you in the prior two messages, I don't mind pointing it out to you again because you really need to see it. Look at Matthew 7. Here is further proof that this sermon could not possibly be directed to all men indiscriminately. It's obviously and clearly not by the very terms in which Jesus speaks. Matthew 7:13, "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." Jesus says, "Comparatively, many go down the broad gate, down the broad path to destruction." He says there are comparatively few that find the narrow gate that enters into life.

Here you are, think about this, beloved, think about this, please think about this: here you are and you know that you know Christ and that you have found the narrow gate which is found only through faith and repentance in Christ and here you are in that comparatively small group that Jesus describes and you look out and you say, "Oh, there is that mass of destruction, yet I'm over here in blessing." What does that mean except that you have been greatly privileged? That God has given you a benefit that many don't receive. That God has graciously bestowed favor on you that others won't taste. And here you are today enjoying this blessing and being secure in Christ and what should you say, how should you respond to that except, "O God, you have given me privilege that I can't express. There are no words for this. I used to belong to that other realm and you plucked me out and you saved me. O God, I'm overwhelmed with a sense of joy and unworthiness simultaneously. You have done this for me." Jesus says these blessings are reserved for those that are in the kingdom. They and they alone, theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Not the others.

Look at verse 24 of Matthew 7. You've just got to see this so that...and this should cultivate in you not a sense of superiority to those who are outside of Christ, but a sense of gratitude for undeserved favor and privilege that has been shown on you, and with an intense desire that others outside of that realm now would enter into the same blessing that you have. Verse 24, Jesus says, "everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, founded on the rock." Exclusivity. Privilege of being there as compared to what follows in verse 26, "Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew - and great was its fall."

Beloved, in one place Jesus speaks of a stable unconquerable blessing for those who belong to him and in another he speaks of unspeakable doom, and you say, "But I know Christ. That doom will never fall on me. My house is on the Rock." Exactly, and what is your response to that? "Wow, am I ever greatly privileged by God to be in a place like this." Again, Scripture points us in other places that Jesus speaks this way. What did he say in John 14:6? "No one comes to the Father except through Me." Exclusive. Jesus is a Rock of rejection of the postmodern spirit of our age. "All truth leads to God and what you believe is fine as long as it is good for you." No. That's not true. If you don't believe this, if you don't believe in Christ, there is unspeakable doom ahead for you and that's not okay so you might as well wake up to the truth, we would say to our unbelieving world.

But for those of you on the live stream, for those of you in the room, a couple of simple questions as we close. Beloved, are you in this kingdom or outside of it? If you are in this kingdom, then you are immeasurably blessed. You can't count the blessings of being in Christ. You should rejoice and be full of hope. Are you not in the kingdom? Have you spurned Christ as King? Have you rejected him? Have you mocked him? Are you without him? We've spoken kind of using this section of the platform as this being the realm of blessing and there are all the people of God gathered together there, people that you love and yet here you are over in this place of isolation, alone with a platform that is just ready to open up and you drop into doom and destruction. Are you without Christ today and that's where you're standing? My friend, what can I say to you? "Oh my! Oh my! Really! That your existence? Really, that's where you're at? Let me invite you to come to Christ. He won't cast you out. Come to Christ. He will receive you. Come to Christ. He will give you eternal life. He will gladly remove you from there and place you in this realm of certain privilege and blessing." I say it so many times, I ask it so often: why would you refuse? Why would you refuse Christ when he offers you himself freely and without condition to come to him for salvation? Come to Christ because he will raise you up on that last day.

Let's pray together as we close.

Our Lord, we acknowledge that you are a gracious King. You have blessed us and will bless us still. Show your favor to those who are presently outside your kingdom. Grant them grace that they might come to thee. For the sake of your name we pray. Amen.

More in The Beatitudes

December 4, 2016

When You're Rejected Because of Christ

November 27, 2016

The Glory of Persecution

November 20, 2016

Privileged to Suffer