************ Sermon on Matthew 5:7 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 8, 1999
"Blessed Are The Merciful"
I Mercy: What Everyone Is, Not Does
A "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." What does this mean? What is Jesus telling us this morning?
Topic: KindnessI doubt if she realized it, but Anne's mom gives us a capsule definition of "mercy" when she talks of taking care of people and being nice to everybody.
Subtopic: Examples of
Little Anne Freezner of McCook, Nebraska went with her mother to the polling place and when mother, Char Freezner, said that tiny Anne must wait outside while mommy went into the voting booth, the little girl wanted to know what was she going to do in there. And mother said that she was going to vote for somebody. She said she was going to vote for somebody who would look after things and take care of people and be nice to everybody. While she was in the booth little Anne, age 5, explained to one of the election clerks, that mommy was in that little room voting for grandma.
-- Associated Press 11-7-90
Jesus tells us this morning that not only grandmas but all of God's people should show mercy. Everyone of us is to be merciful. When the Lord looks at anyone of us, He should be able to see a man, a woman, a child who is merciful.
The Lord is searching, testing, and probing each and everyone of us this morning to see if we match His vision of the Christian character. So let me ask you, how do you measure up? How close do you fit His pattern for the Christian? Are you one of the happy, blessed people to be congratulated because your life is marked with mercy?
B "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." Jesus not only tells us that this applies to every believer. He also tells us that this is first something we are rather than something we do. And that's been true for all the beatitudes we have studied so far. To be poor in spirit, to mourn, to be meek, to hunger and thirst for righteousness, and to be merciful all have more to do with an attitude than an action. A Christian, you see, is something before he or she can do something; we have to be Christian before we can act as Christians.
Many people make the mistake of trying to be Christian in life's different areas. They try to be Christian in theatre and arts, in banking, in agriculture, in law, in business. But that's the wrong approach. We are Christians and our actions are to be the outcome of that.
Going a step further, we can say we are not meant to control our Christianity; rather, our Christianity is meant to control us. The Christian faith is not something surface, skin-deep. No, it is something we are, something at the center of our being, something that defines our very existence as new creatures in Christ.
As new creatures in Christ, what are we? We are poor in spirit, we are in mourning, we are meek, we are hungering and thirsting for righteousness, we are merciful. Because this is what we ARE, we live in a certain way, and do certain things.
II Mercy: Not a Tolerance of Evil
A "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." Before we look more closely at what we are, let's first look at what we are not.
Today in our society, sin is not sin anymore. This is true not only for the unbeliever but among believers and their children too. For instance, alcoholism and drug-abuse are diseases that need treatment, not sins that need forgiveness. Homosexuality is a genetic predisposition, not an evil to repent of. Abortion is a woman's right to control her own body, not the murder of an unborn child. Pre-marital or extra-marital sex is the fulfillment of a need, not the degradation of the Lord's temple. Lotteries, bingos, trips to Las Vegas, and dog-tracks are not a form of gambling but a form of entertainment, a way to have fun. To take advantage of a customer, to overcharge for goods and services, is not theft but good business. And to take advantage of a business, to underpay for goods and services, that too is not theft but merely good business.
What is to be the church's response to this? Many say the church's calling here is to be merciful. And by mercy they mean toleration; by mercy they mean an easy-going, laissez-faire attitude toward sin. The merciful person, according to this viewpoint, overlooks sin, smiles upon transgression, and condones evil. But to be merciful does NOT mean a toleration of sin and evil.
B There is a very strong reason for saying that what is meant by "merciful" is not toleration of sin and evil. For when we talk of "mercy" we must remember that it is an adjective that is applied specially and specifically to God Himself. And God, we know, is never easy-going or tolerant of sin. Yes, God is merciful; but He is also righteous, just, and holy.
III Mercy: Kindness, Forgiveness, and Concern for Souls
A "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." What does it mean to be merciful? What does our Lord say here about who we are? That word "mercy" points to three things.
First, mercy is an inward and outward sympathy for the sorrows and sufferings of others. One of the best illustrations is to be found in the parable of the Good Samaritan. On his journey from Jerusalem to Jericho the Samaritan stops when he sees, on the side of the road, a poor man who has been beaten and robbed. A priest and a Levite also see the victim but they pass by on the other side. They may have felt compassion and pity yet they did not do anything about it. The Samaritan, on the other hand, is merciful (Lk 10:37); he takes pity on the victim, goes across the road, dresses the wounds, takes the man with him, and makes provision for him (Luke 10:25-37). Or consider this illustration:
Topic: KindnessThe point: those who are merciful not only are filled with pity but also show pity to those who need help.
Subtopic: Examples of
A man in a small village suffered the loss of his young son. After the funeral he visited the local undertaker and said, "I've come to square my account."
"You don't owe me a penny. You've paid your bill on the nail," the undertaker replied.
"But, I've had no bill for the funeral of my son."
The old undertaker answered, "If you had to bear the sorrow, surely I can bear the expense."
-- Moody, 6-12-91
B "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." Second, to be merciful means to be forgiving. In His parable of the Unmerciful Servant Jesus equates mercy with forgiveness. You know the story. A man who owes millions of dollars is forgiven his debt and set free. He, in turn, sends to prison a man who owes him a few dollars. So the master calls him in and says, "Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?" (Mt 18:21-35).
We would have to say that Joseph was merciful. His brothers sold him as a slave into Egypt. He was torn away from his family. He was falsely accused and imprisoned. After father Jacob died Joseph's brothers were afraid for their life because of what they did to Joseph. Joseph went out of his way to set their fears to rest:
(Gen 50:21) ... don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children." And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. Joseph forgave his brothers. He was merciful.
This kind of mercy has to begin at home. Many are the homes in which husband or wife harbor grudges and hold errors over the head of their spouse. Many parents and children and brothers and sisters are at odds with each other for the same reason. But Jesus says, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." Instead of being bitter and angry towards spouse, children, parents, brothers and sisters, neighbors, or fellow church members, we are to be merciful, we are to be forgiving.
Topic: ForgivenessMaskepetoon forgave his enemy. We would have to say that he was merciful.
Subtopic: Examples of Human
When the first missionaries came to the province of Alberta, Canada, they were savagely opposed by a young chief of the Cree Indians named Maskepetoon. Eventually he responded to the gospel and accepted Christ. Shortly afterward, a member of the Blackfoot tribe who hated him killed his father. Maskepetoon rode into the village where the murderer lived and demanded that he be brought before him. Confronting the guilty man, he said, "You have killed my father, so now YOU must be my father. You shall ride my best horse and wear my best clothes."
C "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." Third, to be merciful means to be concerned for the eternal welfare of others. Jude speaks to this:
(Jude 1:22-23) Be merciful to those who doubt; (23) snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy ...Whether we are ready or not, millions of American are conversions waiting to happen. One of the saddest statistics of our day is that 95% of all church members have never let themselves be used of God to lead anyone to Christ. So most of those millions will end up in hell without hearing the Gospel. I came across a poem this past week that speaks to this:
A Voice from EternityIf we are merciful, then we are concerned about the souls of people lost in sin. If we are merciful then we present the claims of the Gospel.
You lived next door to me for years
We shared our dreams, our joys, our tears,
A friend to me you were indeed --
A friend who helped me when in need.
My faith in you was strong and sure
We had such trust as should endure,
No spats between us ever rose
Our friends were alike, also our foes.
What sadness, then, my friend, to find
That after all, you weren't so kind.
The day my life on earth did end
I found you weren't a faithful friend...
For all those years we spent on earth,
You never talked of Second Birth,
You never spoke of my lost soul
And of the Christ Who'd make me whole.
I plead today from hell's cruel fire
And tell you now my last desire,
You cannot do a thing for me,
No words today my bonds will free.
But do not err, my friend, again,
Do all you can for souls of men,
Plead with them now quite earnestly
Lest they be cast in hell with me.
D "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." The supreme example of mercy is God and His Christ. It is God and Christ Who perfectly display the kindness, forgiveness, and concern for souls all of us are called to display.
First, more than once we are told that Christ was filled with compassion for the crowds (Mt 9:36; 14:14; 15:32). On account of His compassion,
(Lk 7:21) ... Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind.And, on account of His compassion,
(Lk 7:22) The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised ...
Second, Jesus forgave those who sinned against Him. Look at Jesus on Golgotha Hill: He never sinned, He never harmed anyone, yet there He suffered the terrible agony of the cross. Remember what He said as He looked at the people responsible for His sufferings? He said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Lk 23:34).
Third, Jesus showed His concern for souls, for the eternal well-being of the lost. Think of Jesus coming into Jericho. He purposely stops in front of Zacchaeus "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost" (Lk 19:10).
This morning you and I are being called upon to be like God, to imitate the mercy of Christ.
IV Are You Merciful?
A "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." Now the question: Are you merciful? Are you one of the blessed, happy, to be congratulated ones, who are filled with kindness, forgiveness, and a concern for the lost? Do you imitate God and His Christ?
This requirement for mercy is in sharp contrast to the teachings and life-style of the scribes and Pharisees. The Jewish leaders were very strict in keeping many of the silly stipulations of their law, like tithing mint and dill and cumin, but in the meantime they neglected justice and were merciless, devouring widows' houses (Mt 23:23).
Today, too, there are many within the church who have their rules and silly traditions. Like the Pharisees they are scrupulous in their observation of them, but in the meantime they also neglect justice and mercy. Compassion, pity, and kindness for the poor, hungry, and downtrodden are beyond them. They hold grudges and can't forgive. They never once witness to their neighbors about the Lord.
So I ask you again: Are you merciful? Are you one of the blessed, happy, to be congratulated ones, who are filled with kindness, forgiveness, and a concern for the lost? Do you imitate God and His Christ?
B Why is it so important for us to be merciful? This is where the second part of our text comes in. Jesus says, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." The merciful are shown mercy.
Let's make sure we properly understand this. Jesus is not saying that we receive mercy because we are merciful. If that were the case, we deny the doctrine of salvation by grace and through faith. And, if that were the case, not one of us would be forgiven, not one of us would ever see heaven – because none of us are capable of showing the perfect mercy of God and Christ. Rather, Jesus tells us that showing mercy is a sign that we ourselves have been given mercy by God.
Mercy-showing is a test of our religiosity. Kindness, forgiveness, and a concern for lost souls is a true gauge of where we are in Christ. You can't judge the spirituality of a Christian on the basis of his prayers, since praying is often done for its effect on the listeners. Nor can you measure a person's spiritual status by the loudness of his "amens" and "hallelujahs." The generosity of one's giving is not an infallible test for it may be done for personal recognition or to ease one's conscience. Faithful attendance at worship, support for Christian education, and observance of Sunday are not reliable either for they may all be done because of family, community, or peer pressures. A sure test of the depth of our relationship with God is found in our willingness to show compassion, to forgive those who hurt us, and to share the Gospel with the lost.
"Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." Are you merciful? Do you show compassion? Do you forgive? Do you have a concern for lost souls? That is the test. How do you measure up? Are you merciful?
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