Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Blessed Are the Meek

Part 4 of Kingdom Life

Text: Matthew 5:5

You can listen to this sermon here.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). 

It's Not Easy to Be Meek 

How would you respond if you found yourself in the following situations? A co-worker spreads a false rumour about you. You invite a friend to a party at your house. She says he’ll attend, but she never shows up. You see your neighbour back his car into your car, denting your car’s bumper. He drives away without telling you what they did.

When we face these type of situations, the natural response is to defend ourselves or demand our rights or plot our revenge. [2] But Jesus expects his followers to be meek. And meekness is “the power to absorb adversity and criticism without lashing back.” [1] It’s not easy to be meek.

Meekness in the Midst of Adversity

The Greek word for “meek” (praus) is found four times in the NT (Matt. 5:5; 11:29; 21:5; 1 Peter 3:4). The ESV translates the word as “meek,” “humble,” and “gentle.” Psalm 37 helps us understand what it means to be meek. [3] The psalm makes two key statements: (1) don’t let evildoers cause you to fret; (2) trust in God to make things right. [4] According to Sinclair Ferguson, meekness is “the humble strength that belongs to the man who has learned to submit to difficulties (difficult experiences and difficult people), knowing that in everything God is working for his good.” [5]

The citizens of God’s kingdom are more concerned with glorifying God than defending themselves.

Moses is an example of a meek person. In Numbers 12, he relied on divine vindication instead of defending himself (see Num. 12:1-3). To be meek requires self-control. Sometimes we do need to defend our beliefs or actions, but we should always do so in meekness. For example, the apostle Peter writes, “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness [6] and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

God Is for Us

“Biblical meekness is rooted in the deep confidence that God is for you and not against you.” [7] In Romans 8, the apostle Paul writes, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (v. 31). Why was Paul confident that God is “for us”? Because God “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (v. 32). Paul asks, “How will [God] not also with [his Son] graciously give us all things?” (v. 32). 

When we know that God is for us—that he loves us and sent his Son to die for us and has giving us many amazing promises—we can be meek (i.e., we can stop fretting about evildoers and trust God to make things right).

Glorifying God Through Meekness

Why should we want to be meek? Many people equate meekness with weakness. So meekness is often considered to be an unappealing attribute.

Since very few people aspire to be meek, those who are meek are unique. And remember that the main point of the Sermon on the Mount is that the followers of Jesus are to be different. And when we are different, we bring glory to God. As Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). We should want to be meek so that we bring glory to God—the God who is for us.

The Meekness of Jesus 

The greatest example of meekness is Jesus. He said, “I am gentle [8] and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29; cf. 21:5). Sometimes Jesus was bold and confrontational (e.g., the cleansing of the temple), but he was slow to defend himself (e.g., his silence before Pilate).

“When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). Jesus knew that his mistreatment and suffering wasn’t the end of the story (see Phil. 2:3-11).

This Life Is Not the End of the Story 

How can we learn to be meek? We will increase in meekness if we have an eternal perspective (like Jesus and the author of Psalm 37).

Since this life is not the end of the story, we can live meek lives. 

The world thinks the meek person will never succeed. But Jesus says that the meek “shall inherit the earth.” The promise of inheriting the earth will be fulfilled when God makes the new heavens and the near earth.

Paul stated that he “[had] nothing, yet [possessed] everything” (2 Cor. 6:10). We are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). Jesus said the following to his disciples:
“Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundred fold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Matt. 19:28-29). 

It Helps to Know the Ending 

I'm a fan of the New England Patriots. When I was watching this year's Super Bowl, it looked like they weren't going to win...and I was not happy. Of course, the Patriots made an incredible interception in the final seconds of the game, and they were victorious. Since then, I have watched a recording of the game. My reactions to the Patriots' misplays are different when I watch the recording. I don't get upset because I know how the game ends.

If I know the ending—if I’m going to inherit the earth—I shouldn’t be too upset if someone puts a dent in my vehicle.

[1] I’m not saying we should never correct a false rumour, but we need to be careful that our responses are not self-centered, rather than God-centered.
[2] In the ESV, Psalm 37:11 reads, “But the meek shall inherit the land.”
[3] John Piper, “Blessed Are the Meek.”
[4] Psalm 37 says, “Trust in the LORD,” (v. 3), “Commit your way to the LORD,” (v. 5), “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him” (v. 7).
[5] Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, 21.
[6] The Greek word translated as “gentleness” (prautes) is often translated as “meekness.”
[7] Piper, “Blessed Are the Meek.”
[8] The Greek word translated as “gentle” (praus) in Matthew 11:29 is the same word translated as “meek” in Matthew 5:5.

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