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.”
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.
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.
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.