Share This Episode
Growing in Grace Doug Agnew Logo

Righteous Fruit

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew
The Truth Network Radio
March 3, 2024 6:00 pm

Righteous Fruit

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 453 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.

March 3, 2024 6:00 pm

Join us as we worship our Triune God- For more information about Grace Church, please visit


We've been climbing this mountain called the Beatitudes for several weeks now, and in our last look, we saw the three wonderful, probably we've seen four Beatitudes so far, and we've sort of reached the summit of this mountain. The fourth Beatitude which says, a random list of blessings mentioned, but I want you to see the progression of the whole. The first three Beatitudes were concerned with our need before the Lord, with our poverty of spirit before God, and we mourn over that condition, and we become meek as a result of truly understanding the wretchedness of our character.

These are all characteristics of the disciple who sees himself as he really is. Broken, empty, helpless, kind of like a stray dog who shows up at God's back door. Hungry and needy, with nothing to offer but its own desperation. But then comes that great statement that we looked at last week of the satisfaction of that need. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.

They shall be satisfied. So God fully satisfies the poor in spirit, the mourner, the meek, with his righteousness. What follows then are the results of that filling, and these results all reflect the character and the conduct of the true disciple as he relates to the world around him. So what I want us to do today is to bite off the first three of these remaining Beatitudes because they belong together. They go together in that they each describe the Christian's response to the world around him. But then I want to save the last Beatitude or two for another sermon because they're unique in that they describe the world's response to the Christian. So we've reached the peak.

We're beginning the descent. I will attempt to cover verses 7 through 9 this morning and the next time we'll reach the end of this wonderful list of Beatitudes by looking at verses 10 through 12. If you would stand with me in honor of God's Word and let's read Matthew 5 verses 7 through 9. For they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. This is the Word of the Lord.

Let's go to him in prayer. Lord Jesus, you have spoken these words for our benefit. Help us to make full use of them, to be sanctified by these words, to be made ready for heaven and by the truth of this passage before us. May our conduct in this life be a reflection of your character in us. Thank you for the blessings, the many promises that you extend to us through these Beatitudes. So now, Lord, help us to desire these blessings. Help us to run after them with all our might. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

You can be seated. What you believe affects your conduct. What you believe affects your conduct.

Your behavior is, generally speaking, a very accurate barometer of what you believe. If we truly believe what has been said in the first four Beatitudes, then our lives will be characterized by the verses that we've just read. On the other hand, if our lives are not characterized by things like mercy, purity of heart, peacemaking, then it's an indication that we don't really believe what Matthew 5 through 6 says about us.

In light of this, we can view the passage we've just read as a series of tests, tests of Christian character. Jesus says, blessed are the merciful. Am I merciful? Because if I've come to grips with the fact that I'm just a spiritual pauper who comes to God with nothing but utter dependence and need, and God has responded to that need and mercy, it's not going to be difficult for me to show mercy to my fellow spiritual paupers. Jesus says, blessed are the pure in heart.

Am I pure in heart? Because if I have been so devastated by my spiritual poverty that I've mourned over the blackness of my own heart and have come to detest and abhor my lack of purity, I will be driven to pursue purity. Jesus says, blessed are the peacemakers. Am I a peacemaker? Because if I have come to terms with my own wretchedness to the point that nothing and no one can offend me, that is that I've become genuinely meek, then pursuing peace with others will not be a threat to my ego.

It will be my delight to show peace, to pursue peace. If we have truly been filled with the righteousness of God, then we will be people who show mercy, who pursue peace, who pursue purity, and who make peace. So as we go through these three Beatitudes and try to understand them more fully this morning, I want you to begin asking yourself, are these true of me?

Am I characterized by these virtues? And if you're not, you need to go back to the other side of the mountain and ask God to show you where you've taken the shortcut. Have you bypassed spiritual poverty? Have you bypassed sincere mourning over your sin?

Have you circumvented weakness? Because if you skipped over any of these things, then you've not hungered for righteousness as you should, which means you've not been filled with God's righteousness. And consequently, these characteristics that ought to be true of every disciple will not be evident in your life. These are tests of true discipleship.

So let's look at each one, beginning with verse seven. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. The first question we need to answer is what is meant by mercy? I think when we think of mercy, probably most of us think of God's mercy to us, and perhaps we limit that to God forgiving us for our sin.

Certainly God's forgiveness to sinners is an act of mercy, but the word conveys more than just forgiveness. We could define the word mercy as it's used here as compassion in action. Compassion in action. It's the pity I have for suffering sinners and the actions that I take to try to alleviate that suffering. So it includes both compassion, or pity, and action.

Love and deed. That's what mercy entails. There are numerous examples of this in Scripture. Abraham showed mercy to Lot when he risked his own life to go after him and deliver him from the kings of the land, even after Lot had wronged him. Joseph showed mercy to his brothers after they had grossly mistreated them, and he forgave them and he fed them.

Moses showed mercy to Miriam by crying out to God on her behalf, even after she had rebelled against him and been stricken with leprosy. David had mercy on Saul when he could have killed his arch enemy. He had mercy on him.

He spared his life. In each of these cases, an offense had been done that would have justified retaliation, and yet the ones who were wronged took pity, had compassion on their persecutors, and took action to alleviate that suffering. That's mercy. Mercy is coming to the point where you view other people differently in light of your own spiritual poverty. You've come to see yourself as someone in need of mercy, and so when you see someone else in that same condition, you don't mock and ridicule them.

You don't get angry and upset at them. You have pity on them because you see that they are slaves to sin, like you once were. You see them as the devil's dupes. You see them as pilgrims on their way to hell, just like you once were, and you have compassion on them. This doesn't mean you condone their sin.

It doesn't mean you approve of their condition. It means that you so identify with their predicament, with the predicament of sinners, that you mourn for them and do all that you can to free them from the bondage. If you've read Tolkien's trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, you're familiar with a beautiful picture of this kind of mercy that Jesus is talking about here. There's a creature in the story named Gollum that has been enslaved to evil and wickedness for so long that he's lost all dignity and beauty.

He's become this disgusting creature that doesn't even remotely resemble the person he once was. Everyone despises Gollum and wants to destroy him, except one person. A character named Frodo has been exposed to the same evil and wickedness that has so twisted Gollum, and Frodo understands its enslaving power and effect. So when others want to destroy Gollum, Frodo takes pity on him. He extends compassion to him.

He seeks to save his life. That is mercy. Mercy is a character quality that enables me to see the Gollums of the world, fellow sinners, and even my enemies, not as people to be disliked and avoided, but as people to be pitied and rescued. And so with Stephen, we can say to the very ones who have wronged us the most, Lord, don't hold this sin against them.

They don't know what they're doing. Sin has blinded them. This is what it means to be merciful. There's a poignant example in the New Testament of one who failed to show mercy. It's the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18, and you probably remember the story how the servant owed the king 10,000 talents, and so the king decided to throw his servant and his family into prison, but the servant begged for mercy, and the king had pity on him and forgave him the debt. That's a picture of God showing mercy to us for giving our sin, but then the servant went out and found someone who owed him some pocket change, and scripture says that he seized him and began to choke him and said, pay what you owe. You see, the servant had the opportunity to do for someone else what had been done for him. He should have shown mercy, but he didn't. His actions exposed the fact that he had not recognized the magnitude of mercy that he had been shown by the king. We are like that servant in that we have offended God by breaking his law and spitting in his face, and yet he's shown us mercy, so how then can we go to another human being who has sinned against us and demand vindication?

Martin Lloyd-Jones puts it like this. He says very bluntly, what makes me merciful is the grace of God. If I'm not merciful, there's only one explanation. I've never understood the grace and mercy of God. I am outside of Christ. I am yet in my sins.

I am unforgiven. Well, that's what mercy is. We come now to the blessing that accompanies it. Jesus says, bless her, the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. If you show mercy, you will be shown mercy. Now, this beatitude has perhaps more than any of the others been misunderstood. I think it's often falsely interpreted to say that God's forgiveness to me is contingent upon, dependent upon my forgiving others. In other words, that my showing mercy to others earns me mercy points with God. Hopefully, we see the theological problem that that creates. First of all, if that's what's being said, then in all honesty, forgiveness is an impossibility, because who has perfectly and consistently forgiven every other person who has ever wronged them?

None of us have. If that's what's being said, then the entire doctrine of grace is turned on its head. What then do we do with passages like Romans 5, that tells us God shows us his love for us, and that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

While we were even enemies of God, we were reconciled to God by the death of his son. Grace is not grace if it's only given to those who have earned it. Yet, scripture seems to make God's mercy to me contingent upon my showing mercy to others, not just here in the Beatitudes, but in other places, like the parable of the unforgiving servant that we just talked about, or the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6, in which we're told, if we forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. How are we to understand these things? How is this consistent with our understanding of grace? Well, we're not to understand them as descriptions of earning merit with God in any way. This Beatitude and its location in the sequence of the Beatitudes, I think, makes the point very well. It means that our showing mercy and forgiveness to others is first a proof that we've already received mercy from God, and secondly, that we will one day in the future receive more mercy from God. Now, Jesus speaks here only of that mercy in the future sense, and it seems best to understand that as pointing to the day of judgment when every believer will need mercy.

We will receive mercy because we'll need mercy on that day. But in light of the rest of scripture, and in order to preserve the doctrine of salvation by grace, we have to acknowledge that any ability I have to show mercy is both an evidence that I have already received God's gracious mercy, and a promise that more of that gracious mercy will be given to me by God in the future. It's not saying that God's mercy to me, past, present, or future, is grounded in or caused by the mercy that I show to others. It's simply saying that the recipients of God's mercy are themselves mercy givers. Those who show mercy to others through their conduct prove, not cause, the mercy of God. Church, I am totally incapable of showing mercy apart from God having already extended mercy to me. But if God has shown mercy to me, I will naturally show mercy to others, and God's mercy, in turn, will continue to be shown to me through the rest of eternity. Blessed are the merciful, for they have already received saving mercy, and shall, in fact, receive even more of that gracious, divine mercy.

Well, let's look at the next beatitude. Verse 8 says, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Again, this is another test or mark of true discipleship. Am I pure in heart? First of all, we need to understand what the heart is. The heart is the center of man's personality. It includes his mind, his will, his emotions.

It's who he is on the inside. Secondly, we need to understand what purity is. Purity includes the idea of sincerity. It's genuine. It's not double-minded.

It's single. It's without hypocrisy. So the word purity conveys a sense of absolute sincerity. But sincerity alone is insufficient.

People could be sincerely wrong, can't they? And so we wouldn't say their heart is pure, or at least God wouldn't say their hearts are pure. I think of Abimelech in the Old Testament. He was a man who, in the integrity of his heart, Scripture says, had taken Sarah to be his wife, not knowing that she was already married to Abraham. And the Lord spoke to Abimelech in a dream and said, You're a dead man because of the woman you've taken, for she's a man's wife.

Abimelech was sincere, but he was sincerely wrong. I think also of Uzzah in 2 Samuel 6. You remember David was transporting the Ark of the Covenant on a cart, and the oxen stumbled. So Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark, and as soon as he touched it, Scripture says that his anger was kindled against him.

God struck him down there because of his error. Again, Uzzah was sincere. His motives were pure, but he was sincerely wrong because he violated the law of God. If we are to be pure, we must be right. It must be a righteous purity. Paul in 1 Timothy 1, 5, and 10 is speaking of the importance of heart purity, and he says that the pure in heart are, among other things, those who adhere to sound doctrine. We divorce purity of heart, or motive, from doctrine, from truth. So the heart that is pure must be sincere, but it also must be conformed to God's standard of righteousness. Purity of heart includes both sincerity and righteousness. Well, how can our hearts be purified? Our world has all kinds of false notions about this. For example, the world often asserts that if a man's heart is impure, it's the result of what his culture or his relationships or his life experiences have done to him. In other words, man is merely the product of his environment, so to fix his heart, all you have to do is fix the environment around him. So the world says things like eradicate poverty, and you'll fix the sin that accompanies poverty, or increase education, and you'll fix the sins that accompany ignorance.

But think about this with me. What happens when we educate sinners? We've not fixed a sin problem. We've just made smart sinners, right? What happens when you rescue sinners from poverty? Again, you haven't fixed the sin problem. You've just created wealthy sinners.

I'm not saying that we should abandon education and ignore the poor. That's contrary to Christian ethics. My point is that changing the environment doesn't fix the heart. Contrary to the world's notion of morality, sin is not a byproduct of our environment. Our environment is a byproduct of sin. Jesus said, out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness.

These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone. In other words, sin comes from inside a person, not from the outside. So purity of heart isn't produced or achieved by cleaning up a sinner's environment. The world also likes to suggest that man can purify his own heart by following his heart, and this is exceptionally ludicrous.

You hear it in movies all the time. Someone is faced with a difficult decision, a moral ambiguity, a dilemma, and the character in the movie that represents the wise, experienced counselor says to the person, what does your heart tell you? As if the heart is a reliable source for directing morality and ambition and one's future. Folks, the Bible says that the heart is deceitful above all things. Desperately sick, who can understand it? I cannot make my own heart pure.

I can't even understand the blackness of my own heart. God must do it if it's to be done at all. Two years ago, we were getting my father-in-law's house ready to put on the market, and I was given the task of sweeping out the attic. There was quite literally half a century's worth of dust that had accumulated in the attic, and I swept and I swept and I swept and I got the shop vac out, and no matter how hard I worked, it seemed that all I was doing was just stirring up the dust.

I got some of the dirt out, but short of a complete overhaul, the attic will never be entirely clean. People, our hearts are the same way. We can try our best to clean it up.

We can set resolutions. We can fill our lives with good examples of godliness. We can memorize the entire New Testament, but until God gives our heart a complete overhaul, we will not be pure. So we cry out with David in Psalm 51, and say to me, A clean heart, O God, renew a right spirit within me. How does God do this? How does he purify our hearts? Well, first, he does it in a judicial sense at the moment of our conversion through the act of regeneration. God gives your heart a capacity for purity that it did not previously have. Secondly, he does it in a practical sense through the process of sanctification. We yield to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and walk in step with God's Spirit. We're being conformed both inwardly and outwardly to the image of Jesus Christ, sanctification.

And thirdly, God will finally and completely purify our hearts at the moment of our death when we will outrun sin's reach once and for all. Let's think then about the reward that's extended to the pure in heart. Jesus says, For they shall see God. They shall see God.

Now, what kind of a reward is this? Well, it's a reward that's geared towards that which the pure in heart delight in the most. If you're truly pure in heart, you can think of nothing better than being able to see God. One pastor pointed out that we look like what we delight in. We look like what we delight in. Now, this should be obvious to us every time we walk through the mall.

You can walk through the mall and observe people and make some pretty accurate deductions. Oh, that person loves rap music. I can tell. That person is a computer geek.

That person is into sports. We can tell through observation because we look like what we delight in. We all wear our delights like clothing.

We dress and behave and think and feel according to what we worship. But if we're worshiping God and delighting in God, we will bear the mark of purity in our hearts. So the reward for this purity makes sense, doesn't it? If we're pure in heart, that is, we delight in God and want to look like him, we will see God. What kind of reward is it to see God if you don't delight in God? This prize is reserved for the pure in heart because it's only the pure in heart that are delighting in God. You see, I think this idea of seeing God is just another way of saying enjoying God. If you delight in your wife, you're gonna show her that you cherish her.

If you delight in your husband, you're gonna show him that you respect him and admire him. If you delight in God, you're going to pursue purity of heart, and your reward will be God. The last beatitude then we'll look at today is in verse 9. It says, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. The presence of peacemakers implies that there is a lack of peace.

Surely this is obvious to everyone. The world is not characterized by peace. It's characterized by turmoil and war and pain and death and killing and selfishness and envy and ingratitude. Earth is not a peaceful place to live. And there are frequent attempts by man to make peace, a man-made sort of peace. Organizations are created. Treaties are made.

Laws are established. But ultimately our lack of peace is not a social problem with a political solution. It's not an economic problem with a financial solution. Our problem is sin. Any lack of peace between men, between nations, between God and humanity is either a direct or indirect result of sin. And so when Jesus calls us to the makers of peace, he's talking about the kind of peace that can only come about as man deals with his root problem, which is sin. The reality is that when this kind of peace is pursued, it sometimes results in a loss of peace within relationships and society here on earth. That's why the same Jesus who said, blessed are the peacemakers, can also say, do not think that I've come to bring peace on earth. I've not come to bring peace, but a sword. As we engage in biblical peacemaking, the temporal result will often be anything but peaceful. Recognizing this I think will help us not fall into the trap of thinking that peacemaking is some kind of conflict avoidance.

Being a sentimental compromiser, that's not what's being described here. This beatitude must flow out of the previous one. It must come from a heart that's pure.

James 3.17 describes that sequence. The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable. It's a pure peacemaking. We are to make peace, but never at the expense of purity. So what is involved in becoming a peacemaker?

Well, I think it involves three things. Peacemaking requires a new view of self, a new view of others, and a new view of the world. First of all, you have to have a new view of self. You cannot be a peacemaker until you are done with self.

Self-interest, self-concern, self-ambition. Only when you've come to see yourself as a wretched sinner who deserves nothing can you become a peacemaker. As long as you're primarily concerned with shielding yourself and preserving yourself, you're not going to be seeking peace.

Secondly, it requires a new view of others. The peacemaker doesn't walk around getting offended at other people. He doesn't live life with hurt feelings because when he's wronged by others, he doesn't say, how could they do that to me?

Why are they like that? He knows they're like that because they're governed by the God of this world. They're enslaved to sin. He sees others as hellbound victims of sin and Satan, and he has mercy and pity on them. It's a different view of others.

But thirdly, a peacemaker must have a new view of the world. He has only one concern, and that is that God be glorified among men. He sees turmoil and contention, and his response is a burning desire to see God glorified in the world through the process of reconciliation. Jesus' reward for peacemaking is fitting. He says, for they shall be called sons of God. Children resemble their parents.

That's evidence of their relationship. God is a God of all peace. So it makes sense that his children will be peacemakers. When we function as peacemakers, we're demonstrating that we belong to God, that we are his children.

It's his mark of ownership on us. Let me just pause and pray that God would make us peacemakers. Father, we as a church right now are embroiled in some measure of turmoil and upheaval.

Lord, it strikes me this morning that this verse is very poignantly applicable to our body. How do you say that if we bear your name, we'll bear a resemblance to you and you're a God of peace? You're able to bridge the gap between creature and creator. You bridge the gap between sinner and holy God.

What if you've bridged that gap to reach us? How can we not seek peace with our brother and sister? How can we not seek peace with your elect in the world who still are blind and walking in darkness? Teach us to be peacemakers. Teach us to bear your name well and be ministers of reconciliation for your glory and honor. We pray this in Jesus' name.

Amen. So how do we go about making this peace? We make this peace in the same way that our Lord has made peace. We give people the gospel.

We intercede for them, and we lay our lives down for their sakes. If the cause of men's lack of peace is sin, then only the gospel will solve that problem. So the peacemaker is busy about the work of evangelism. He's also busy about the work of intercessory prayer. Jesus ever lives to make intercession for us, so a big part of our ministry of reconciliation is going to be prayer, because true peace will only come about as God pours out grace on sinners in response to the prayers of his people. But Jesus, the Prince of Peace, didn't merely share the gospel, share the truth with people, and intercede for people. He also laid down his life for sinners, and if we were to imitate him, we were to do the same.

If we were to be peacemakers, we were going to involve some measure of sacrifice. Now, our self-sacrifice certainly does not make atonement for the sins of anyone. We are sinners ourselves. We cannot pay for someone else's sin, as was the case in Christ's death. But nevertheless, this self-sacrifice is an expression of love to others, and it's often through the suffering of God's children that God brings others to himself.

In fact, we'll see next time that this is exactly where the Beatitudes end up. They culminate in the suffering of the disciple. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. So being a peacemaker is nothing less than being a reflector, a reproducer of the Prince of Peace. Paul, in describing Christ's ministry of reconciliation, said this in Ephesians 2. He said, but now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ, for he himself is our peace, who has made us both one, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.

To be a peacemaker, then, is to be engaged with Christ in the ministry of reconciliation. Well, this morning, we've looked at three tests of Christian discipleship, three fruits of righteousness that are to be present in every believer's life. We need to remind ourselves that these Beatitudes are not describing some super-Christian. These are normative. These characteristics are to be the norm for every believer.

And so I think the primary application for us needs to be self-examination. Am I exhibiting the things that Christ said would be characteristic of his disciples? Am I merciful? Do I retaliate and resent those who have wronged me, or do I see them as helpless slaves of sin who desperately need compassion? Am I pure in heart, sincere and without hypocrisy, righteous in my motives and actions, or do I act like I'm further down the road than God knows me to be?

Do I tolerate sin and impurity in my life? I may be justifying or overlooking things that I know to be contrary to God's righteousness. Am I a peacemaker?

God's children resemble their father. Our father is a God of all peace. Am I busy making peace by sharing the Gospel through evangelism, by praying for others, by laying down my life for the sake of sinners? If these things are true of you, Jesus says you are blessed. You are happy because in doing these things, you prove that the kingdom of God and his character and his name all belong to you.

That is a blessed, happy state. Let's pray. Father, please grow and nurture these fruits in our lives. Plow up the fallow ground of our hearts prune off the dead branches in us that dishonor you.

That detract from our usefulness to you. May we be clear reflections of our Redeemer, Lord Jesus Christ, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross. Lord, help us to attain the joy that you've promised to us when we endure the many crosses that we must bear as your disciple. Lord, we count it a privilege to be called your children. So help us now to walk worthy of that calling. I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-03 14:11:26 / 2024-03-03 14:24:20 / 13

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime