Saturday, October 19, 2019

“He’s got the whole wide world in His hands”

Text Size



Beatitudes  Matthew 5:3-12
Sermon by Duurt Sikkens
 
 
 
Good day brothers and sisters.
I saw a programme on the television recently about a boy who had been taken into a christian family. One day he said “I don’t believe in God”. “Don’t you believe in God?!”  the two girls asked astonished. Really? Well,” they said laughing, “then you’ll go to hell”.
 
You hear this sort of thing in our groups too. People say: “if you don’t make a decision to follow Jesus then you will be lost for eternity”.
But do you know what Jesus says? He says  “I have come to search for those who are lost”.
 
That’s a completely different attitude. And the question I want to ask you today is: “What is your  attitude to people who are not converted Christians? How broad minded are you, when it comes to forming an opinion on the fate of others? And I want to base this question on a passage from the gospel of Matthew that you have probably heard hundreds of times before: the beatitudes.
 
The word beatitude means ‘blessing’, a supreme and glorious happiness. It is also akin to holiness and saintliness. It is also used to describe God, the only holy God’. The Greek word is makarios.
 
I am not going to read the whole passage. You probably all know it by heart anyway. The key word in this whole passage is the word you in verse eleven. Because what we want to know, is who  it is, who is going to receive all these blessings. Well the blessings are given to people. But which people?
 
And now I want you to listen really carefully. In the first beatitude in verse two it says: “theirs in the kingdom of heaven”. Do you see it? And in the last  beatitude, verse ten, it says again “theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.
So, I thought, that’s just like two book ends, with the rest in between. The kingdom of God to theright, and the kingdom of God to the left. As if they were the two hands of God, holding all the books together. And I want to take a look at these books, because, dear people, the kingdom of heaven is already mine. It is isn’t it? I no longer thirst. Really I don’t. I am no longer hungry. I am already pure of heart. Thanks to the gospel, I am already a peacemaker. Thanks to the gospel, I AM already a child of God. So who are these blessings meant for?
Try to picture Jesus sitting on a rock, looking down at the crowds, and talking about these things with his disciples. It is as if he is looking out over the whole world, from the hill where he is sitting.
He often says it: “I have come into the world”. The Greek word used here is ‘cosmos’, meaning the universe, and that’s immense. The whole cosmos, THAT’s who Jesus came for!!! The blessings are intended for the entire universe!
 
 
So let’s see what these beatitudes have to say.
 
Verse one: The poor of spirit. You could also say the poor IN spirit. Who are they?  People used to say, ‘him?’  He’s not quite all there. Mentally retarded. Do you know any people like that?
If you are poor then you lack something. You are in need of something. It is a term used in the Bible to refer to beggars. They are always dependent on other people.
 
If you see someone begging for attention, does it irritate you, or do you give them the attention they yearn? That’s just one little example. These people haven’t been able to develop mentally and spiritually. And there are lots of people like that! Hundreds of thousands! Because at the moment we live under the dictatorship of Satan, and many people are spiritually poor and needy.
 
Take for example all the young children who have died. They have never had the chance to develop. And the mentally ill. Or psychiatric patients. They have no will power of their own, no mind of their own. Think of the victims of dictators over the ages. They were never allowed to think for themselves. THAT’s poor in spirit. They are people who need help. They are needy, and they need help because they can’t cope on their own.
 
Youcan help them. You can free them from evil spirits. You can. You can give them a new life. The kingdom of heaven that is within YOU, is also for THEM. THAT is what you can offer the poor of spirit.
 
And loneliness. Think about loneliness. Real loneliness. There’s a good word for that. Mind-numbing. THAT is being poor of spirit. That is awful. People who are so withdrawn in themselves that their mind, their spirit becomes numb. How can I draw them out?
 
And then there’s that loving face of Jesus. That always moves me. Because do you know what He says: “For THESE people” He says, “for THEM is the kingdom of heaven”. They don’t believe anything. They are just people. They don’t need to be told they need to make a decision to follow Jesus. No, they need care, and attention.
 
So GIVE them something. Your attention is enough. That’s what Jesus did. He was always amongst people, especially people like this. Because it says clearly in Isaiah chapter fifty seven verse fifteen: “He is with those who are disheartened”. ‘Beaten and crushed’, the original Hebrew text says. Beaten and crushed in their spirit. People whose lives have been smashed and dreams shattered. They are the ones God goes to. The rich people of this earth He has nothing to give.
 
And where does God dwell?  “He dwells in heaven”, Isaiah says, “but  also with those whose spirit has been crushed”. So where did Jesus have to go? As a representative of His Father? To the broken-hearted, the bruised, the less fortunate, and to those who had been judged and found wanting by the people around them. The tax collectors, the collaborators, the prostitutes, these are the people He spoke with.
 
And He took no notice of what all the other people thought about this. “I am searching for the broken hearted”, He said, “those crushed in spirit, those who have been bitterly disappointed”. There are so many stories. So many people, all with their own story to tell. All books.
 
Verse 4: Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
How many millions of people are there who mourn? Who grieve and utter cries of despair?
Not the spoilt people who complain and grumble when they don’t get their own way. No, those who truly grieve from utter despair.
If you want a modern word to describe them, it would be the word ‘depressed’. Pushed down, that means. There is a power above them that is pushing down on them.
 
Literally the word mourn means grieve. Lament. And that can go very deep. In that situation you can’t just sing a hymn to make you feel better. It takes time …. time to learn to cope, and adjust. This is not about people who complain and grumble. Grief and mourning is always to do with loss. So could God be in mourning? Does God know what grief and sorrow is? Jesus wept. Do you think the Father ever wept?
 
I have been thinking about this a lot, and I think I’m going to prepare a sermon on the grief and sorrow of God. You can read about it in Psalm 95 verse 10. It says that God had 40 years of sorrow about the nation Israel in the wilderness. And in Genesis 6 verses 5 and 6 it even says ”that He was disappointed in man, and it grieved Him to his heart”. The grief of God.
 
But here it is about people who grieve. Who are in mourning for something or someone they have lost. I think one of the worst things you can lose is a loved one. Whether it is a child, or husband or wife. That’s why death is such a terrible enemy. And that is why death has been conquered. But oh, the grief of losing a loved one!
 
Losing your home is also terrible, not having a safe place to live in.
 
I also come across people who have lost themselves, lost their identity. I don’t know who I am any more, they say. That’s terrible too. And so they try to become someone else. And they think ”if I do this or that, and try to be like so and so, then people will accept me again”. But your identity is so precious, the real you. People lose their self respect. They think they are worthless. You come across  this a lot in the young people.
 
We have a new word these days: stolen identity. Are you familiar with it. Well, that’s exactly what the devil does with your spiritual identity. He doesn’t want you to be who you are! Because that is exactly the description of God. ‘I am who I am’ God says. And
Godwants to create people in His likeness, people who are also who they are.
 
And then think about all the victims of dictators. Human trafficking. Natural disasters. People who have been abused and taken advantage of, in our country too. Think of the holocaust. And what does history tell us? What about the history of the church, the crusades, what a terrible story. The inquisition, persecution, heretics who were burned to death. And fear of hell. How many people have become depressed because of that?
 
The whole of history is full of grieving and depressed people. So many. But, the bible says that they can be comforted. And there we see that word, that same word that we use for the Holy spirit.
And the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, is at work in us. So we are called to help these people.
 
Read Psalm 56 verse 9: It is about people who are depressed, and one of them, without a home, or a roof over his head, says to God: “You have kept count of my wanderings”. Isn’t that great? God writes down that YOU have been straying, wandering off. That’s what the books are, in between the book ends, they are biographies. Life stories. Isn’t that merciful of God?  He is full of compassion and takes note of what has happened to you. And then this homeless person says: “put my tears in your bottle”. In other words, will you keep them for me? And He does that. How many of these bottles will there be, as it were, in God’s house? All those victims.
Millions of bottles. That is a comfort for all these people. Because there will be a payback time. Because they are stored, these tears. They will be stored until the bottles are emptied and then the settlement will follow. Then there will be justice at last.
 
And then there’s that awful injustice of the strongest. I think the strongest has a duty to stand up for the weaker. So if you say I am strong in the Lord, then you should show that by giving support to those who are weak. It can also be on a smaller scale. Abuse of your position as the strongest in families, in situations on the work floor. Manipulation. Think of the sects where one person is in control. That’s awful too. And all that violence where people suffer, just as in the days before the great flood. Thoroughly perverse, and focussing only on violence and outward appearances.
 
So you are called in, to help these people, to cheer them up. And seeing as you have lots of clothes, you clothe them with the garments of the love of God. Put them around them. Then you’ll see what happens to these people, how they change, when they experience words of comfort, and encouragement for the future.
 
 
Verse 5. Blessed are the meek. You are already meek. Thanks to the kingdom of God you have become meek. Kind-hearted that means. People remark on how friendly and kind you are. “Learn from me” Jesus says, ‘be kind-hearted like me’.
But there are a lot of people on this earth who are kind-hearted.
You see them all around you. Friendly people. Truly kind hearted. They are inconspicuous. You see WE are heirs of a heavenly kingdom, and for the kind-hearted it says: they will inherit the earth. I can’t imagine better kings and presidents than the kind hearted. Just imagine – you write your resumé for your job interview, and put in it all the courses you have followed, all the certificates that you have, and then you conclude with, and I am gentle and lowly of heart. I am kind-hearted. Do the two go together, if you are ambitious? Because ambitious often means elbowing your way ahead. Trampling on the kind hearted as if they don’t matter. Luke 16 verse 15 says: “For what is exalted among men is an abomination to God”.
So what is lowly among men that’s where God can be found.
And this is all just about ordinary people. And they don’t even go to the church!. What did the good Samaritan believe? What church did he go to. That’s a good question. They are not rulers, these kind-hearted people, they are caretakers. And in the future they will be appointed to take care of the earth. They will inherit the earth. And it couldn’t be in better hands.
 
Verse 6: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. How many people are there who hunger and thirst after righteousness? Lots and lots. Violence is increasing everywhere in the world, and people start asking: where is righteousness. Where is justice. Its all deceit and lies.
 
What about the people who strive for human rights. They are killed. People just shoot them. That’s what happens to people who strive for justice. They are abused. It’s awful what happens. These people have a right to an peaceful life, because that’s what life is all about.
 
And I already walk in righteousness, finally, finally, since I have discovered the way of thinking of the Father. Its wonderful. You see Jesus says, if someone steals your trousers, then give them a shirt to go with it. It doesn’t bother you any more. Haven’t you ever read that? That Jesus says things like that? Injustice has no effect on you any more, because the righteousness is inside you. Jesus had that too. They had taken everything from him, including his clothes. Haven’t you ever wondered why Jesus didn’t have traumas from all the suffering he had to go through? It’s worth thinking about that. Because He didn’t.
 
But these people will be satisfied, Jesus says. Through us. WE will give them the righteousness of God.
And where they meet with opposition, and injustice, well, that will work out alright in the end too.
 
Think of the prophets and all the injustice THEY had to endure.
And now I put it differently. What a lot of injustice they were ABLE to endure . How did they manage? They must have had a secret within them that enabled them to bear it all.
Jesus too, innocent but still killed. Think of John. It seems he was boiled in oil at one time, but although he miraculously survived he was still put to work in the mines on Patmos. Peter was crucified upside down. Paul was killed, and what abut all the prophets in the Old Testament. Awful things happened to them. And yet…..there was something in them that kept them going.
 
Why did Jesus die? Because of the law. Did you know that? John chapter 19 verse 7: we have a law, and by that law he ought to die”.
 
So there was something that kept them going. Even after they died. Because after they died, where did they all go then?  Into the kingdom of death. Did they get justice there? Are they comforted there? No, not at all. But there will come a time when their longing for justice and righteousness will be satisfied.
I sometimes say to them in my thoughts: “Hang on there people. We are on our way”.
The whole of creation groans and moans, but it is waiting. And do you know why it groans so much? Because of the labour pains. Contractions before birth, the birth of people who have the kingdom of God in them. People who can comfort, who can give justice and righteousness to those who long for it.
 
Verse 7:  The merciful. There are a lot of merciful people you know. They fight on behalf of the less fortunate. Really good people. We know some people in our village. They are not believers, not religious in any way, but they are merciful, and so compassionate and helpful. They care about their fellow people. And so they will receive mercy. Do they need that? Of course. Eventually they do. There are so many merciful people, and they do so much good.
 
I once saw a documentary about a Lady, and it was all about titles, Lords, Ladies, barons and goodness knows what else, and this Lady was so down to earth. She said, “these titles mean nothing to me. Nothing at all. They are just inherited, passed down from one generation to another. It doesn’t say anything about the person who has the title. The only title I would like to have is”, she said, “that when I die they put the letters g.p. after my name in the obituary” g.p.= good person. Don’t you think that’s wonderful? I do. I enjoy hearing things like that.  And I think to myself, SHE understood what it’s all about.
She is a fellow human being, what the Bible calls a ‘neighbour’. And people like that, they will receive mercy. Do you know how Jesus describes them? My sheep. They are everywhere. Not just any sheep, no, MY sheep, but they have been scattered. And if they die? And they didn’t know about the gospel? If they hadn’t experienced a conversion? Well, then, Jesus says, they will receive mercy, because we will eventually say: welcome, kind and merciful people, because for you is the kingdom of Heaven. 
 
Verse 8 : Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Wecan already see God, but they can’t. Not yet. So it is referring here to the pure in heart on earth. They are the people who want to live a pure and honest life. They lead a conscientious life. There are a lot of Christians who could take an example from them. True you know. The pure in heart. Don’t you think that’s wonderful? That people can be so pure and honest.
 
That was one of my most important ground rules when I was a teacher, before I knew the Lord. I wanted to be completely fair and honest toward the students. If I make a mistake then they can tell me, and I will correct it. No excuses. Honesty. The ground rule!
And later on I had a new colleague, who had exactly the same attitude. And he didn’t believe at all. He was an atheist. But I said to him, well this is one thing we do have in common.
And while I was reading this verse, he came into my thoughts again. And I thought to myself, just you wait, my friend, there is something wonderful waiting for you. One day you will see your Heavenly Father. What a lot we have to offer to these wonderful people, who are honest and pure in mind. These are sincere people, just like Adam and Eve. They were pure too. They will see God. What wonderful words Jesus spoke. I can imagine He had tears in His eyes when he said that. Such beautiful people, and they will see God, he says to his disciples.
 
And what about the peace makers? Verse 9.
Well, there are endless stories to be told about them, in all sorts of political situations, but I’m going to skip those stories.
So peacemakers.
I once heard a psychiatrist say : if I have no love for people then my therapy is worthless.
Ilove people, you know. Love being with them.
So, making peace. Let’s make it personal. Areyou at peace with yourself? Are you satisfied with yourself? Really and truly? Am I as happy with myself as God is with me?
Peacemakers are people who accept you as you are. So that you too can be at peace with yourself, content with who you are. And Jesus says, ‘They will be called children of God’.
But I am already a child of God. So who is he is calling children of God? They are good people, you know, those who reassure you, they are just happy with you. They may not be religious, or maybe they just have no faith left in the church, but they give you reassurance and help build your confidence in your life.
Peace is also reconciliation.  Are you reconciled with yourself? Have you accepted yourself as you are? That is the beginning of peace.
 
Reconciliation is also bringing together. Bringing together all the pieces of your life, but that’s a whole different story. Someone once said to me: ‘I am made up of lots of pieces of doubt, but am kept together by my wife.’ That’s charming, isn’t it? But if you are all bits and pieces, that’s miserable, but those bits and pieces belong together. Divided in heart, it says somewhere in the bible. Broken, and then if someone puts it together, it becomes whole again. And that’s when you get peace. Being whole.
 
Verse 10. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
And many people are persecuted for righteousness sake these days. If you fight for human rights, I said it before, then you could be persecuted. You go into enemy territory and operate on friend and enemy as a doctor with the humanitarian foundation Doctors without Borders and you get a bullet in your head. Or you are kidnapped.
The good people are kidnapped and sometimes killed. So do you still believe that the devil doesn’t exist?
For these people is the kingdom of Heaven. They are fighting for a really good cause. And many of them have given their life. And they are also candidates for the kingdom of Heaven. There they are. That’s how broad minded God is. His kindness is unending. I can’t begin to imagine how far God’s mercy reaches.
 
So, to summarize the verses 3 to 10: All these comforting words are said about people of the earth, of this world. And when the books are eventually opened, (we are going to do that the bible says in Revelation 20) we will see that they are all stories about the lives of people.
 
And next there is a remarkable verse. Jesus has looked around and spoken these wonderful promises of God’s mercy, and then He looks at His own people, his disciples. And then He says: blessed are you, when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
“I bless, I sanctify all the others”, Jesus says, “but YOU, you are happy and blessed for a completely different reason. Because persecution, lies, libel all overcame these other people. But when it happens to YOU,” Jesus says, “then you are blessed”. Be happy if people lie abut you.
Look, if I do wrong and have to suffer for it, that’s my own fault.
But don’t let any of you have to suffer because you are a thief Peter says, because that is not suffering for Christ. You did something stupid and have to pay the penalty. But if you are accused of doing something that is not true. Have you had that happen? Well, Jesus says: “be happy about it. “. And I wonder can you do that? If someone tells lies about you, things that are not true, what do you do then? If you are falsely accused, do you jump up and defend yourself? What should you do? What would Jesus say if it happened to Him? And the apostles. Always being falsely accused! False witness borne against them. Do you get angry? That is the crucial question. Is your reaction good or bad?
 
It’s just a question. It all happened to Jesus too. People laughed and scorned at him so often. “Do you know the fellow from Nazareth who thinks that He is the Messiah?” they would say. That sort of thing.  And mockery. Nearly every satire programme involves jokes about God and Jesus. Falsely accused. So the question is: how do you react? That is the question.
 
If you always mean well, whether it concerns the gospel or not, and your conscience is good, and people go and say things about you that aren’t at all true, then your sincerity and honesty is still intact. They can’t take that from you. And that keeps you going.
We sing: God knows me, who I am, but it is easy to sing. It is YOUR integrity we are talking about. You are being judged. All the time. By all the people around you too.
 
What are you like as a neighbour, as an employer, employee. What are you like? So not, ‘did I make a good impression’ or ‘what face do I put on for other people’, but what am I really like. Otherwise you are just trying to do your best, to put on a front, to keep on good terms with others. Waste of energy.
 
There is a word in the Bible, In the Acts of the Apostles, and it only appears once in the whole Bible. The word: apokatastasis”.
 
I learned it by heart. Do you know what it means? It is translated with the words: the restoration of all things. Acts 3 verse 21 “until the times of restoration of all things, which God spoke long ago by the mouth of his holy prophets”. ALL? That’s a lot. All things will be restored. And these things begin with people. They are the most precious. All people will be restored. Everything that is lost will be searched for. Everything that you have been disappointed in, and  mourned about, everything that has caused you sorrow, everything that has been stolen from you. It will all be searched for and found. And restored. Isn’t that wonderful! Everything! That ‘s a whole new view on things. That’s wonderful!
And I looked up the word in the dictionary too, and it says there: ‘return to the original state’. That moves me. God, that’s wonderful, I say to Him. Back to the original state. God is not only the creator but also the Restorer.
 
In John chapter 5 verse 28 it says: “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming (the moment that means) when all who are in tombs (and the tombs are the cells in the kingdom of death and not the graves in the cemeteries all over the world. When the Bible talks about graves being opened then that means in the spiritual world, the graves in the kingdom of death.) -  so all who are in tombs will hear his voice (Jesus’ voice that is, but it comes from OUR mouth), because at the end of the millennium when we have the keys of death and of the kingdom of death, then all people will rise from the dead, and that’s lots. Millions and millions. I don’t quite know how it will happen, we will have to wait and see. But they will all come forth. We can’t begin to imagine what it will be like, but they will all hear His voice and come forth, it says, the good and the bad.
 
Everyone, will rise from the dead, because we have thekeys to the prison, to the kingdom of death, and we have opened the doors, and freed everyone. Come on out, we’ll say, your time of suffering is at an end. It is over. All your wounds, which have never been cared for, will be treated. You will be comforted.
We can comfort you, because we have the Comforter in us: come, come into the kingdom of our Father. All sorts of people. Hundreds of thousands of people will come pouring out into the Kingdom of God.
 
What a wonderful day that will be. When everyone rises from the dead. And there they all are then. And the books will be opened. So what do you think about that: You see WE are in the Book of life.
Wewill not be judged. “We will be the judges. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6 verse 2: “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” In other words this is the last judgment.
 
There are so many sinister paintings and stories about the last judgment. About purgatory and the fires of hell. It is awful. Absolutely no mercy. And there they all are. And it just says quite simply, “they will come forth”. What a relief that will be. To get out, at last, after centuries of imprisonment. “those who have done good to the resurrection of life”. They will all be blessed, beatified, declared holy. Come in. Come in. “What us, what did we do to deserve this?” Does it matter exactly what? You are a genuinely good person, come in. And you, who have suffered so much, come in. And you, you only got to live one day on earth, you never had a chance at life, come in.
Everything that is wounded and hurt and depressed, they all pour out of the kingdom of death into the resurrection of life. Off you go. Go and live .
 
But there are also bad people amongst them. And those who have done evil, Paul says, they come forth to the resurrection of judgment.” And all the books, all the biographies are opened. And you will read them, and you will probably say: “oh did you go through all that in your life. How awful, come in too”. Or, ”you didn’t have a good life on earth, you didn’t have a chance, come in as well”. Won’t it be wonderful? Don’t you long for that day too? Then you will be more concerned with your fellow human beings, and less with yourself.
 
I hope this will encourage you to think about all these things, because otherwise you will always be wondering. Otherwise you will just be saying, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens when I’m dead. What a waste.
 
Because it is said of Jesus that he is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  Well all you who are listening today, you are the kings and the lords and ladies. But you could also call Jesus the Judge of judges, and you are the judge. We are going to judge.
 
I am really looking forward to that, to blessing all these people and being able to tell them that they are holy, and welcome in the Kingdom of God. To make them happy.
To comfort them and support them. To take the bottle, and ask them where their sorrow lies, and then to wipe their tears and put them away in the bottle for ever. You can do that. Everyone has their own story to tell. In other words, God’s mercy is infinite.
 
And the whole of creation, visible and invisible, is waiting with eager longing for this day, when the glory of God will be revealed in us.
 
Before this day comes, there will be suffering, because we have a terrible enemy. And before the fulfilment of any promise, there are labour pains. They will be felt before the birth and revelation of the Christ in us. So stay passionate in your faith, and patient in oppression, because God has put his hope in people.
 
Amen
 
 
 
Let us pray:
Father, teach us to be like you. Merciful and compassionate, so that Your will be done and Your kingdom come.
 
Amen.