From ancient times right up to the present, some of the greatest thinkers in the world have dedicated their mental powers to the pursuit of happiness. This is the big question, and it’s what we all want. How can we experience true, lasting happiness? When it comes to human flourishing, all these thinkers, from the most sincere to the deeply cynical, have simply offered variations on a theme. No one ever said anything like Jesus in his famous Sermon on the Mount.

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    From ancient times right up to the present, some of the greatest thinkers in the world have dedicated their mental powers to the pursuit of happiness. This is the big question. This is what we all want. How can we experience true lasting happiness? Confucius, Buddha, Socrates, Aristotle all wrote about it. Aristotle said "Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life. It is the whole aim and end of human existence." 

    "Freud and his followers said that the cornerstones of happiness are work and love. Then the positive psychologists came around in the 90s, saying that psychology had become too negative. They basically tell you to try to pinpoint what's wrong in your life and fix it, but rather than focusing on the negative, you should focus on the positive. Take a look and observe people who seem to be happy and are doing well and then replicate whatever they're doing. 

    A whole cottage industry has sprung up now with people telling you what you need to do in order to be happy. You need to change your mindset, change your routine, change your diet, change your desires, change your way of being. As a result, I think that more than a few people have become a little cynical about all the self help and the pop psychology. Maybe you're one of them. You might find yourself saying, “All this talk about happiness is making me miserable.” Those folks say, “We should just stop trying to be happy and get used to disappointment.” 

    There's one author of a book who included a whole chapter entitled Happiness is a Problem. How about a little humor on this Sunday morning? Here's what he had to say. 

    “If I could invent a superhero, I would invent one called Disappointment Panda. He’d wear a cheesy eye mask and a shirt (with a giant ‘T’ on it) that was way too small for his big panda belly, and his superpower would be to tell people harsh truths about themselves that they needed to hear but didn’t want to accept.

    He would go door-to-door like a Bible salesman and ring doorbells and say things like, ‘Sure, making a lot of money makes you feel good, but it won’t make your kids love you,’ or ‘If you have to ask yourself if you trust your wife, then you probably don’t,’ or ‘What you consider ‘friendship’ is really just your constant attempts to impress people.’ Then he’d tell the homeowner to have a nice day and saunter on down to the next house.

    It would be awesome. And sick. And sad. And uplifting. And necessary. After all, the greatest truths in life are usually the most unpleasant to hear.”

    That may be a healthy corrective to a lot of the self-help strategies that are out there, but, in fact, it's actually a little too pessimistic. We have more reason to experience real, true lasting happiness than many of these authors might suggest. 

    I would suggest that when it comes to happiness, all the great thinkers—from the ancient to the modern, from the most positive to the most deeply cynical—are really all offering merely variations on a theme. But no one, and I really mean no one, not Confucius, not Socrates, not Freud, no one said anything like Jesus. Everybody else is basically offering advice about how you can find happiness based on what this world alone can offer. But what if there's another world? What if God's world is breaking into this one? Then that changes everything. That changes the rules of the game. That changes what is possible. I would suggest that is what the Sermon on the Mount is all about. This is Jesus' vision for the good life. This is the key to human flourishing. It all starts right here with some of the most famous words that Jesus ever spoke: The Beatitudes. 

    1Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

    2And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

    3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

    5“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

    6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

    7“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

    8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

    9“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

    10“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    11“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

    The Sermon on the Mount is the greatest sermon ever told by anyone in the entire history of the world, and it is the most important sermon that you will ever hear. The only problem is that if you have heard of it at all, you've probably heard it all wrong. That's especially true when it comes to the opening section in which Jesus issues these famous words of blessing, the Beatitudes. The British comedy group, Monty Python, believe it or not, actually understood the problem of hearing the Beatitudes rightly and they made a spoof about it in their 1979 film Life of Brian. There is a scene in which you see Jesus beginning to deliver the Sermon on the Mount. As the camera pans, you see more and more of the crowd that has come to listen to him, but the people who are standing farther away from Jesus are having a hard time understanding what he's saying. One person asked, “What was that?” Another responds by saying, “I think he said blessed are the cheesemakers.” A woman asks, “Huh? What's so special about the cheesemakers?” Then the best part is her husband turns to her in this sort of pompous, arrogant sort of way and says, “Obviously, it isn't meant to be taken literally. He is referring to all manufacturers of dairy products.” Monty Python is right. The Beatitudes are not always obvious. Chances are we're going to hear them wrong. Why is that? Let me remind you of what I shared last week. When it comes to the Sermon on the Mount in general and the Beatitudes in particular, we're very likely going to make one of two mistakes. 

    The first mistake is to read the Sermon on the Mount in a rigid, moralistic way. By that I mean that we assume that Jesus is listing a number of spiritual virtues that are supposed to cultivate. If you mourn enough, or if you are meek enough, or if you try hard to be merciful or to make peace then God will bless you. That fundamentally misunderstands what Jesus is saying and would transform this blessing into a spiritual attainment that we're supposed to achieve by our own efforts. 

    A lot of people make the opposite mistake in overreaction to that rigid, moralistic reading of the Beatitudes. They read it in a lax-permissive way. They say that Jesus is not blessing the virtuous. No, he's blessing the victims. Those who have been beaten down and crushed by life are blessed, simply because of what they have suffered in life, regardless of whether or not God ever enters into the picture at all. But that can't possibly be what Jesus is talking about. Jesus never says that there is something inherently good about poverty or that there's something inherently good about mourning. Imagine if you turned to a woman who lost her husband because he died of an aneurysm and you said, “Blessed are those who mourn.” That would be cruel, as well as trite. That can't be what Jesus is talking about. 

    How should you read the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount? The right way is to realize that the central theme of the Sermon on the Mount is the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God. That was Jesus' primary message. He came announcing that the loving healing reign of God is here. It has not yet come in its full and final form, but it has arrived. The administration of God, the kingship of God is here, which means that the presence, the power of God are now accessible to us because they are present in the person of the king and his name is Jesus. 

    This is the most important point. If you don't remember anything else, remember this. When Jesus lays out the Beatitudes, when he utters these words of blessing, he is not telling you what you need to do in order to enter into the kingdom. Rather, he is telling you who you become, when the presence and the power of God come into your life. Who do you become? You become different. When Jesus comes into your life, that changes everything. You become a whole new person because Jesus is introducing a whole new way of being human. He sums it all up for us in this Sermon on the Mount. The Beatitudes are not these prerequisite qualifications that you need to keep in order to enter the kingdom. But rather, these are the defining characteristics of those who already have entered it. It's not the prerequisite qualifications for entrance, but rather these are the defining characteristics of those who already have entered into God's kingdom. 

    During our time together, I'd like to briefly show you three things: 1) the paradox of the Beatitudes, 2) the progression of the Beatitudes, and 3) the power of the Beatitudes

    The Paradox Of The Beatitudes

    First, the paradox. If you're looking for a good book that you could read about the Sermon on the Mount as we make our way through this sermon series over the next few months, there's no better book than Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by David Martyn Lloyd-Jones. He was a pastor in London in the mid-20th century. This book is a spiritual classic. Towards the beginning of the book, he has a chapter that provides a little bit of an overview of the Beatitudes. I'm going to sum up some of the main points that he makes there. Under the heading of the paradox of the Beatitudes, I'm going to share five sub points for those of you who are keeping score at home. I'm going to work through them rather quickly, so try to keep up with me. Jesus here is not speaking in generalities. He is not issuing these timeless truths that apply to everyone regardless of who they are. He's talking about Christians. He's talking about those who have received the power and presence of God in and through the person of Jesus.

    1) Every Christian is meant to be like this. In other words, the Beatitudes are not reserved for the religious professionals like me. Jesus is not just describing the pastors, the priests, the missionaries, the people who work in "full-time Christian ministry." He is also not just describing the super-committed. Do you know who I mean by the super committed? Children's Ministry volunteers! Community Group leaders! Sunday Service Team volunteers! No, he's not just talking about the religious professional, or the super-committed. He's talking about everyone. Everyone who calls himself a Christian is meant to be like this. There's nothing more damaging to the church. There's nothing more damaging to the church than when people call themselves Christians, but say, “These words, the Beatitudes, they don't apply to me.” What is the most common complaint that people have about Christianity today? Hypocrisy! People say, “I don't have a problem with Christ. I like Christ. I don't have a problem with Christ. I've got a problem with Christians. My problem with Christians is that they are so unlike Christ.” The most common complaint is hypocrisy. The first thing we need to see is that every Christian is meant to be like this. 

    2) Every Christian is meant to exhibit every characteristic that Jesus describes. In other words, we can't just pick and choose our favorite ones. You can’t say, “I'd love to be a peacemaker, but I don't really want to be pure in heart. Or I don't mind being merciful, but I sure don't want to be persecuted.” Or we might say, “Look, I'm already mourning over the sorry state of my life, but don't you dare ask me to be meek? Oh, no, I'm going to fight for what's mine.” We can't do that. It doesn't work that way. All of us are meant to display all of these characteristics all the time. Let's be real. We obviously don't, but we're supposed to. Some of us may manifest some of these Beatitudes more than others, but that is the result of our weakness. That is not God's intent. All of us are meant to display all these characteristics all the time. Thankfully, one day God will finish the work that he has started in us, and then that will be true of all of us. That is the goal, and that is the intention even now in this life. 

    3) The important thing to see is that none of these Beatitudes refer to what might be a natural tendency in any of us. None of these Beatitudes describe what is natural to us. We've all met people who might be naturally giving or generous or people who are good at bridge-building and bringing people together? But that's not what Jesus is talking about. When he lays out the Beatitudes, he's not talking about your Enneagram. He's not talking about your personality profile—“Which combination of the Beatitudes are you?”—because none of these refer to a natural tendency in any of us. Therefore we can't take credit for any of them. This is the kind of life that God produces in us by his grace. The Spirit of God comes into your life and enables you to be and to do what you would never be or be able to do on your own. That's the glory of the gospel because the gospel can take the person who is most proud and make them poor in spirit. There is no limit to what God can do in and through any of us. 

    4) That is why the Beatitudes illustrate the essential, utter difference between a person who is a Christian and a person who is not yet a Christian. Those are David Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ words. The Beatitudes reveal the essential utter difference between the Christian and the person who is not yet a Christian. You might say, “Hold on a second. That can't possibly be true because I know someone who doesn't claim to be a Christian. They don't read the Bible. They don't ever pray. They're not interested in church. They would never want to talk about any of these things. And yet, they display these characteristics more than any Christian I know in my life.” Remember, we're not talking about natural tendencies. We're not talking about what comes to us naturally. But if that is true, if a person who is not yet a Christian displays more generosity of spirit than a Christian, then that illustrates the problem, does it not? Because as Christians, we're supposed to stand out from the world around us. We're supposed to be utterly different, and yet, we're not. Jesus is not telling us what we need to do in order to become a Christian, but rather he's trying to show us the new kind of life that is now possible if we are a Christian. A whole new world of possibility has opened up to us if the presence and power of God has come into our life from the outside, and that is the key to the blessed life. That is the essence of what it means to truly flourish as a human being. 

    5) That's why it's so strange that the Beatitudes are so deeply paradoxical. The Beatitudes are deeply paradoxical, but that is the hidden secret to true lasting happiness. What do I mean by that? The Beatitudes are paradoxical, but how? We all love little witty, paradoxical phrases don't we? “The way up is down," or "the way in is out.” We love those witty little paradoxes. But when Jesus talks about the kingdom of God, he's not referring to some simple play on words. Rather what he's saying is that true human flourishing is found in the exact opposite place that we would expect. True human flourishing is found in the exact opposite place that we would expect and that reveals a profound spiritual truth, which is this: The people who are just trying to be happy, will never find it. If your goal is simply to try to be happy, you're never going to find it because true happiness is found in the exact opposite place that you might expect. 

    Writing 500 years ago, the pastor and theologian John Calvin said that most people cling to the erroneous belief that the happy person is free from all annoyances, attains all of his or her wishes, and lives a joyful and easy life. Isn't that what we think? We think that's the way to the happy life. The happy person is the one who is free of all annoyances, who attains everything that they desire, and who lives a joyful and easy life. But if that were true, that would wipe out all of us as candidates for happiness because who of us can say that we don't have to deal with annoyances in life? Who of us can say that we've attained everything that we desire, or that life is easy and joyful all the time. 

    But you see, Jesus paradoxically suggests that true blessedness can be found, even in the circumstances, especially in the circumstances, that appear to be completely shrouded in darkness. That's the paradox of the Beatitudes. He's saying that true blessedness is found in those circumstances that to us appear to be completely shrouded in darkness. But how could that be? How could he possibly tell us that we can flourish in the states that we try so desperately hard to avoid? We try to avoid mourning. We try to avoid being in a position where we're hungry or we're thirsty, and we certainly don't want to suffer. And yet Jesus says that is where the true blessing is found. That's how we actually flourish. 

    How could that be? Here it is. If we place our ultimate happiness in Christ, rather than in anything that this world has to offer, then we have a source of joy, contentment, fulfillment and happiness, that nothing in this world can ever touch, nothing in this world could ever take away. If you are in Christ, and if his kingdom is yours, then rather than pulling you down, morning, hungering, thirsting, and even suffering, lift you up because those very experiences are the sign that you belong to him. You wouldn’t even experience the things that he's going to go on to describe—you wouldn't even experience them—if you didn't belong to him. And so even these negative experiences lift you up, because they're the sign that you're his. And nothing can ever snatch you out of his hand. 

    Remember what I said last week, when Jesus uses this word of ‘blessing,’ he's taking two ideas, and he's tying them together. To be blessed means 1) favor and 2) flourishing. Favor means to be accepted, approved, welcomed into the heart of things. That's what we long for. We want the favor of another. When you go in for that job interview, when you apply to a school, when you ask someone out on a date, or even more, if you ask someone to marry you, what do you want? You want favor, acceptance, approval. But the point is that to find favor with God leads to our ultimate flourishing in life. There is no true flourishing apart from God. If you're not right with God, nothing else in life is going to go right. But if you are right with him, that's when true blessing begins to flow. 

    The Progression Of The Beatitudes

    In order to show you why that's the case, I have to turn from the paradox of the Beatitudes to the progression. There's a definite order and progression to the Beatitudes. Each one necessarily implies the other. Jesus is not issuing these statements of blessing in a random or haphazard way. No, each one builds on the other. The first and the last, reveal that central theme. The first Beatitude and the last both end with the same promise, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” which shows us that this is what the Beatitudes are all about. They're providing us with a portrait of those who belong to the kingdom, a portrait of an authentic, real true Christian. 

    If you wanted to get a handle on how to think of the Beatitudes as a whole, you could divide them in half and say that the first four show us who we are in relationship to God, and the second set of four shows how we're supposed to live our lives in response. The first of course, is the key to all the rest because there is no one in the kingdom of heaven who is not poor in spirit. The only way into the kingdom is to acknowledge your spiritual bankruptcy. You have to acknowledge that when it comes to God, you have nothing in the bank. You have no currency. You have no leverage over God. You can never put God in your debt. God owes us nothing. You can never turn to God and say, “I deserve better.” We have nothing to stand on, nothing to offer, nothing to give. But the moment that you acknowledge your spiritual poverty, the moment that you acknowledge that you are empty, that's when he can fill you. 

    There's a great line from a hymn that says, “All the fitness he requires is that you feel your need of him.” I love that. All you need is need. The moment that you see your need, the kingdom of heaven is yours—by sheer grace. Remember, grace is not merely unmerited favor. It's not just an undeserved gift. But rather his grace is de-merited favor. Look at who we are. We've disqualified ourselves from his kingdom. But the love that he shows us is the exact opposite of what we deserve. If that's true, then that means that the only thing that's standing in the way, the only thing that's standing between you and Jesus, is your own pride. That's why the only way into the kingdom is to acknowledge your spiritual poverty. 

    Then, secondly, the true Christian mourns. Usually, when we read that word ‘mourning,’ we think of someone lamenting the loss of a loved one. But in context, that's not what Jesus is talking about. He's not talking about mourning death, or loss, but rather he's talking about mourning over your own personal sin and shortcomings, as well as the sorrowful state of our world which is being ripped apart by societal evil and political injustice. But he says those who mourn will be comforted. Why? Because Jesus has promised one day he's going to usher in a new heavens and a new earth, and he will personally wipe away the tears from our eyes. 

    Third, a true Christian is meek. When we hear the word ‘meek,’ we usually think weak, but meekness is not weakness. No, meekness requires strength. You could think of meekness as humble strength. I previously recommended this book by David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and let me show you why. Let me give you a little taste of what he has to say. His definition of meekness is unmatched. He writes.

    “Meekness is essentially a true view of oneself, expressing itself in attitude [to one's self] and conduct with respect to others.

    The meek man likewise does not demand anything for himself. He does not take all his rights as claims. He does not make demands for his position, his privileges, his possessions, his status in life.

    Let me go further; [I think we need to hear this as 21st century people. We’re so sensitive] the man who is meek is not even sensitive about himself. He is not always watching himself and his own interests. He is not always on the defensive. We all know about this, do we not? Is it not one of the greatest curses in life as a result of the fall–this sensitivity about self? We spend the whole of our lives watching ourselves. But when a man becomes meek he has finished with all that; he no longer worries about himself and what other people say…So we are not on the defensive; all that is gone. The man who is truly meek never pities himself, he is never sorry for himself. He never talks to himself and says, ‘You are having a hard time, how unkind those people are not to understand you.’ He never thinks: ‘How wonderful I really am, if only other people gave me a chance.’ Self-pity! What hours and years we waste in this! But the man who has become meek has finished with all that. To be meek, in other words, means that you have finished with yourself altogether…When a man truly sees himself, he knows nobody can say anything about him that is too bad. You need not worry about what men may say or do; you know you deserve it all and more. Once again, therefore, I would define meekness like this. The man who is truly meek is the one who is amazed that God and man can think of him as well as they do and treat him as well as they do. That, it seems to me, is its essential quality.”

    That's pretty good, isn't it? You see the meek refuse to insist on their own rights, to defend themselves, to get what's theirs, or to let other people really have it because they've learned to trust that God is always at work together for their good and his glory. And therefore they don't have to worry. And they're right. When Jesus descends, to renew the face of the earth, who will the earth belong to? It will belong to Jesus’ little flock. The violent try to seize it and bear it away, but it's the meek who will inherit the new earth. 

    In the meantime, the true Christian also hungers and thirst for righteousness, not only personal righteousness, but also justice in the world. This is vitally important because notice that Jesus doesn't say, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for blessedness.” He doesn't say, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst to be happy” because those who are simply interested in being happy, are never going to find it. You have to yearn for something more. This brings us to the very heart of the gospel. The word ‘righteousness’ means ‘rightness,’ to be in right relationship with God or with others, to find favor, to be accepted, to be approved, to be welcomed into the heart of things. If we have the favor of God, then that leads to flourishing in every other area of life. 

    The Christian recognizes not only are they spiritually bankrupt, but the Christian acknowledges that when it comes to righteousness, they are utterly deprived. We have no righteousness of our own, and that's why a Christian will repent for not only the bad things that they do—everybody repents for the bad things that they do—but a Christian repents for not only the bad things that they do, but even the good things that they do. They realize that underneath it all, many of the times when they're doing something good, it was just a way to try to control and manipulate God—to try to put God in one debt to try to be able to say, “God, now you owe me a happy life. Now you have to bless me because of what I've done.” A true Christian acknowledges not only their spiritual bankruptcy, but their utter lack—their utter deprivation—when it comes to righteousness. And therefore they hunger and thirst for righteousness that is not their own, a righteousness that comes to them from the outside, an alien righteousness. And Jesus promises that they will be satisfied. If you hunger and thirst for a righteousness that comes to you from outside yourself, you will be satisfied because God has promised to accept us not because of who we are or what we've done, but on the basis of who Jesus is and what he has done for us. When that clicks, that's when you really, truly become alive. 

    That first set of four Beatitudes show us who we are in relationship to God, but the final four, very quickly, show how we live in response. When God blesses you, he doesn't just shower his favor upon you, he transforms you. He changes you to become like himself, so we become merciful. The extent to which you receive God's mercy, you extend it to others. That's the sign. The more you receive it, the more you're willing to extend it freely to others. You become merciful. Secondly, you become pure in heart. When Jesus talks about purity of heart, he's not talking about outward purity or even purity of our intentions. In the Psalms, you'll see that to be pure in heart means to be undivided in your allegiance. The pure in heart is not a person who's obsessed with their own purity, but rather the pure in heart is someone who is single minded in their devotion to God. Jesus promises that the person who is wholly absorbed in the contemplation of God will get just what they longed for that person will see God! That person will see God for who he truly is. We also become peacemakers. To the extent that you realize the extraordinary lengths that God has gone to reconcile you in relationship to himself, the more you also become a peacemaker. Like father, like son. 

    Then finally, there's a good chance that we will be counted among the persecuted. As for Jesus, so for us. As we extend the mercy, the peacemaking activity of God to others, some may not like the peace that we extend. They might resist that peace that we offer, and so we may very well be persecuted for the faith that we profess. But rather than cause for despair, Jesus says that this is reason for rejoicing because it's the sign that you belong to him and therefore the kingdom of heaven really is yours. 

    The Power Of The Beatitudes

    I don't know. Those are the Beatitudes. Take a look at that list and tell me: Does this list describe you? Does this list describe me? Honestly, let's be real. I don't know about you, but this is not me. My guess is it's probably not you. But the question is, do you want it to be you? Do you want it to describe you? The real question is where do we get the power to become the people that the Beatitudes describe? 

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and theologian who was executed in 1945 because of his faith, because he resisted Hitler and the Nazis. He wrote a famous book called The Cost of Discipleship, and in it he included a chapter on the Beatitudes. Towards the end of that chapter, he says, “Is there any place on Earth, really, where we can honestly find a community of people like this?” It's a good question, isn't it? He writes,

    “Having reached the end of the beatitudes, we naturally ask if there is any place on this earth for the community which they describe. Clearly, there is one place, and only one, and that is where the poorest, meekest, and most sorely tried of all men is to be found-on the cross at Golgotha. The fellowship of the beatitudes is the fellowship of the Crucified. With him it has lost all, and with him it has found all. From the cross there comes the call ‘blessed, blessed.’”

    What is Bonhoeffer saying? There's only one place on earth where you can find the people, the community of people, that the Beatitudes describe, and that one place is the cross of Jesus. The Beatitudes, at the end of the day, are really not describing you or me. They're describing Jesus. You and I, we are not the heroes of the story. Jesus is the hero of the story. The Beatitudes describe him, and who he wants to make us into when he finishes his work with us. How can he do it? How can we become rich? How can we receive the riches of the kingdom? Only because he became poor, poor in spirit. How will we be comforted? Only because he is the one who mourned in the darkness. He's the one who laments over the city of Jerusalem, who weeps outside the tomb of his friend Lazarus. He's the one who cries out from the cross, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” How can we inherit the earth? Only because he is the truly meek one who didn't insist on his own rights, who didn't demand that he gets justice. He didn't defend himself in front of Pilate. But like a sheep, who was silent before it shearers, he opened not his mouth. How can we be satisfied with a righteousness that is not our own? Only because on the cross, He said, “I thirst.” How can we become people of mercy? Only because he extends mercy to us day in and day out. How can we become pure in heart? Only because Jesus was single-minded in his devotion to God and said, “I've come not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.” How can we become God's children after all that we've done? Because he is our peacemaker. And yes, he was persecuted. Do you know why? Do you know why he was persecuted for righteousness' sake? Jesus died so that you and I might live the Sermon on the Mount. That's the only place where you'll find people like this. It's at the cross of Jesus. 

    It’s as precisely as we try to live the Sermon on the Mount that we realize that we simply cannot do it without his enabling grace. As you make your way through life, as we make our way together through the Sermon on the Mount, it's always going to have to point us right back here to where we all started—at the Beatitudes, and with the very first one acknowledging our spiritual poverty because we've got nothing. We’re spiritual zeros. But in him we have everything we need because he opens up for us a whole new life. A whole new life is now possible in and through him. 

    Acknowledge your spiritual poverty, mourn over your sin and the brokenness of this world, meekly refuse to insist on getting what's yours, and hunger and thirst for a righteousness not your own, and he will give you the blessing that he won for you on his cross. As you receive his mercy, you'll become merciful. You will become pure in heart. You will become a peacemaker. And yes, you might have to suffer a little bit for his sake, but rejoice because it's the sign that you belong to him and the kingdom of God really is yours. 

    When all that comes true, when all of that strikes your heart, then you will truly begin to flourish because true lasting happiness is found in the last place that we would expect. It is found in a place that is shrouded in darkness. The only way to truly be happy, the only way to truly flourish is to be among those who stand under the shadow of the cross because the cross is a doorway to another world, God's world, which is already breaking in. If you want to be happy, if you want to be fulfilled, if you want to flourish, it can only be found at the cross. 

    Let me pray for us. 

    Father, we acknowledge that this is the burning question: How can we experience true lasting happiness? No one ever said anything like Jesus. Everyone who went before him merely offered advice about how to be happy based on what this world alone has to offer, but we thank you that Jesus has brought your kingdom to bear on this world. Therefore the presence and the power of God are now available to us in and through him. Father, we pray that your presence and power would come into our lives. Jesus, come into our lives, to enable us to be and to do what we could never be or do on our own, so that we might truly live the blessed life. We pray in the strong and powerful name of Jesus. Amen.