March 29, 2023

March 29, 2023

Author: Pastor Gordon Cook
March 29, 2023

“Seeing the crowds he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you, and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Matthew 5:1-12

If I asked you what makes Christianity so different or so unique or so far different from the world's religions in our world today, what would you say? What makes Christianity so unique?

We could say a lot of different things. I think the first word that I would use if someone asked me that question would be the word grace. Most religions in the world, 99.9% of them are a religion of works. Christianity is a religion of grace, not of works, and that is emphasized in the book of Romans, also the book of Galatians. So that's one thing you could say. What makes Christianity so unique, so different from every other religion, it's a religion of grace.

Another thing that I think we could say, and I think would be a good answer is that the Christian religion is a religion suffused with joy and thanksgiving. That's right. It might surprise people when you say that, but the concept of joy and happiness pervades our Bibles. I think there's over 4,000 times that concept of joy and happiness comes to the fore.

Notice the very first word in the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus used is the word blessed. And that could be translated happy. The number of English translations actually use it, not in the way that most people use that word happy, but in a much fuller sense of that word. But that is a word that again helps define Christianity. Happy are the poor in spirit. Happy are they that mourn.

So what makes Christianity different? Grace, thanksgiving, joy, happiness. But there's something else that should distinguish the Christian. Again using the Beatitudes, and that should be our response or our attitude towards sin. We were reminded last Sunday morning that sin is our biggest problem. Sin plagues us every day, every hour of every day, it plagues everybody in profound ways; relationally, vocationally, physically, spiritually, personally. And what should be our response to sin? Well, you could say several things, but certainly we would say this, a Christian faces their sin honestly and realistically. They admit sin. The world typically doesn't acknowledge their sin. It's interesting when Jesus tells that parable of the publican, or the tax collector and the Pharisee, he tells us of the typical religious person and how he responds. He goes into God's presence, very proud, arrogant. But the tax collector, soon to be justified, he comes before God and acknowledges his sin and that should be true of all of us. The Christian admits he's a sinner, “Be merciful to me the sinner.” Jesus later on will remind us that we need to go to God and confess our sin regularly.

But even here in the Beatitudes, he brings that out when he says the Christian mourns. What is he mourning over? Well, we mourn over our sin. We recognize our sin, but we also grieve over our sin. And he uses a very, very strong word there, it's a funeral term, it's the word that would be used when someone goes to a funeral and is grieving over the loss of a loved one. Jesus says we are to mourn over our sin. Not only our own personal sin, but think of sins that we see in other people. We see what sin does to other people, maybe our children, maybe you have an alcoholic in the family, someone who's suffering from drug addiction, someone who is living a life of bitterness and resentment or even murder.

I hope that when you heard what transpired in Nashville, Tennessee, this past week, that there was a mourning, a grieving over what took place. Think of all the people whose lives have been radically altered because of that incident. They lost loved ones.

There's something else we need to remember when we think of sin and why we are so different from the world. We admit it, we take responsibility for it, we grieve over it. Jesus later on, in the Sermon on the Mount will tell us that we fight it, we mortify it. Remember the illustration he uses, the language of dismemberment, plucking out the right eye and cutting off the right hand. Again, shocking language, but he wants to underscore that the Christian will deal with his sin, he'll deal ruthlessly with his sin, doesn't play with it, he treats it in a ruthless way, he mortifies it, puts it to death. Paul says something very similar in Roman 8.

But one more thing I would say here going back to the Beatitudes, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” The world hates to admit sin. The world we live in doesn't fight sin. They don't have answers or remedies with regard to sin, they despair, but not the child of God. And here's why, we have a gospel and the gospel is a gospel of forgiveness. So we could be comforted by the fact that our sins are forgiven. They are washed and they are cleansed. So there's just a good thing to keep in mind, Brethren, when we come to pray, we should acknowledge our sin not just personally, but even corporately. There's always a place to go before the Lord and plead for forgiveness, not only for our own personal sins, but even for our national sins. We should grieve over sin, and we should always be seeking forgiveness.