The Good Life for Bad People

THE KINGDOM COME  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  41:32
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When I was in sales at ROOT SPORTS, I had a coworker named Jon. That’s his real name I’m not hiding his identity.
Multiple times a week I’d see Jon because back in the day you went to work and saw people it was crazy...
And I’d say, “How’s it going, Jon?”
And he’d say, “Living the dream.”
His words said, “I’m living the good life!”
His tone, and his face said, “Help me.”
It was dripping with irony because in some sense he really was living the dream!
His day job was thinking about TV and producing sports on TV.
Do you think if someone said, “Hey this week I’m going to pay you to think about TV and talk about sports.” Many of you might say, yeah I think I can do that.
So if I ask you, “How’re you doing?” And you say, “Livin’ the dream!” I’ll assume you’re lying.
What is living the dream?
What is the good life?
When are you ‘living your best life’?
We all want it! No one wants a bad life.
But you’re in church, so you know the answer is always Jesus,
So maybe some of you go, “Oh yeah, the good life is Jesus so I forgot I was going to pray more, read my Bible more, probably shouldn’t watch that show anymore...”
And the picture of the good Christian life pops into your head.
Who would Jesus say is living the dream?
Who is living the good life, according to Jesus?
In Jesus’ day, there was a clear picture of who was fortunate, well-off, living the dream. It was adult, Jewish men. And if you were a child, if you were a Gentile, if you were a woman…you’re just not that.
Our Scripture this morning is Matthew 5:1-10.
What’s known as the Beatitudes, part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
In Matthew 5:1-10, Jesus is giving us a picture of the good life.
And this morning I want to walk you through where I’m at with this because it’s been really impactful for me this week.
We’re going to do some background on the SOTM, then I want to give you four things I think the Beatitudes are not, and then I want to argue Jesus shows how the good life is not just for good people. It’s not just for good people.
So we’re in Matthew 5...
We’re reading through Matthew in 2023, and we’ve said Matthew’s goal is to convince us that Jesus is the King of the World, he’s the most amazing person who ever lived and we’re invited to be amazed by him as we read together.
And we’re not going to go through every verse of Matthew this year but we have so far...
Matthew overview slide...
Last Sunday I was so blessed by Dave I hope you were too as we thought about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
Then we get to Matthew 5...
Matthew 5:1–2 NASB95
1 When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,
And what follows in Matthew 5 thru 7 is known as The Sermon on the Mount.
What is the Sermon on the Mount?
It’s one of the most famous passages in the Bible along with Psalm 23, Romans 8, etc.
It’s one of five speeches or discourses of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel. He’s got this one, Matthew 10, 13, 18, and 24-25.
Some say the SOTM is about a life so unattainably perfect that it must about the future millenium reign of Christ,
Some interpreters say Jesus is describing a life so righteous that it should drive us to despair of our own goodness so we rely on the goodness of Christ.
It says in Matthew 4:17...
Matthew 4:17 NASB95
17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
So whatever the SOTM is about, it has to be about that…which we said a couple weeks ago is Jesus saying, “Reconsider…turn…for God is near.”
NOT, good news, one day in the future you can go to heaven and experience the good life!
Not, good news! You’re terrible and you’ll never live a life pleasing to God.
I think he’s pointing to a present invitation for all people as we’ll see.
So the SOTM starts with the Beatitudes, he ends by saying...
Matthew 7:24–27 NASB95
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”
At Gateway we say we want to hear, love, and obey Jesus.
We don’t know if this is one speech of Jesus or an accumulation of teachings, but Matthew presents it as a unified whole.
Luke has a version of this in Luke 6…there are differences between the accounts. And I think that’s because Jesus was a prolific speaker who traveled around and said the same things over and over and over and likely tailored them to the people he spoke to because Jesus was brilliant.
Jesus is brilliant, and he was a Jew from the first century AD, so this isn’t easy to read.
It’s not a TED talk. He says some intense stuff like
Matthew 5:29 NASB95
29 “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
Matthew 7:21–23 NASB95
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
So how did it become so famous?
Because it is the definitive explanation on the way the world really is, spoken by the most brilliant man who ever lived.
If you’re a reader of Christian non-fiction, I highly recommend The Divine Conspiracy, as you’ll see this morning it is affecting how I think about Jesus and Matthew and the SOTM...
Dallas Willard posits the SOTM is about two things:
What is the good life? Who is a good person?
Everyone wants a good life. Everyone wants to be a good person.
You know what, I bet the person who has been trying to scam us and send many of you emails, the phishing scam person, even they want to be a good person! They want the good life, they just think it’s through getting a few more bucks off people.
I bet the person who stole your catalytic converter wants to be a good person and live a good life.
And every single one of us has that question, “How do I live a good life? How do I be a better person?”
And Jesus sees this crowd of people, all with the same question, and those who want to hear, love, and obey him his disciples - say, “Teach me!” And he opens his mouth and the very words of life flow.
Let’s read it together.
Matthew 5:3–10 NASB95
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 gentle, 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 have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus is surrounded by hoards of people who have come from all over - like from Everett down to Vancouver - they’ve come to him because Jesus has gone viral - everyone knows who Jesus is and they’re coming to be healed by him, to learn from him, to maybe be his disciple, and he begins to teach them.
These are some of the most famous words ever spoken.
Jesus and Matthew are very Jewish. They love their Old Testament. In particular Jesus loves the Psalms, he quotes it more than any other Old Testament book.
How do the Psalms start?
Psalm 1:1 NASB95
1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
or Psalm 32:1-2
Psalm 32:1–2 NASB95
1 How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! 2 How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit!
This is a very Jewish way to start a sermon.
And we see here Jesus begins by giving a list of people who are experiencing the good life.
They are blessed.
Blessing is a term of favor. God smiles at this person. A fortunate person.
We can relate to Jesus’ audience in that we have some preconceived notions of what it is to live the good life.
If I say, “Oh she’s really doing well for herself.” What things come to mind?
What does she look like?
How much money does she have?
What does she do at church? What does she sound like? Where does she live?
For Jesus’ audience, the good life was largely for adult Jewish men.
God thank you I’m not like this tax collector!
Because surely they cannot be blessed by God!
And then Jesus blows their minds with the Beatitudes.
So here are four things that as I stand here on Feb 26th 2023 I think the Beatitudes are not...
Four things

The good life is not merely about feeling good about your life.

What word appears more than any other in this list? Blessed.
#blessed as the kids say
Some translations will say, “Happy are the poor in spirit...” or “Happy are those who mourn...”
We’ll talk more about poor in spirit, I think Jesus is not talking about humility but as Dallas Willard puts it, spiritual zeroes. People like those in the crowd around Jesus.
Happy are those who mourn…when’s the last time you ugly cried? Were you happy?
When Jesus describes the good life and uses the word ‘blessed’ he is not talking about feelings, but a state of being favored by God.

The good life is more than the life to come.

The good life is not merely going to heaven when you die.
Six of the 8 “BLESSED” are future tense.
Jesus gives hope for the future (see his speech in Matthew 24-25), but he’s talking about a present reality to his audience.
Notice verse 3 and verse 10...
Matthew 5:3 NASB95
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:10 NASB95
10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The good life was available to the very people within earshot of Jesus.
Even the one who had a demon just hours before.
Even the man who couldn’t walk.
Even the child suffering from seizures.
Even the diseased, even the Women!!
These people can experience the presence and work of God NOW.
Feelings, future, third...

The good life is not guaranteed.

Jesus is not saying that if you are poor in spirit, if you mourn, if you are gentle, then you are guaranteed to be blessed by God.
Have you ever seen those comments on the bottom of a webpage where people post things and often someone will say, “I started working for this online company and I immediately starting making $200/hour, click here to find out how!”
This person gives you a cheat code to the good life! $200/hour working for yourself! I’m so glad I read this article about snow in Portland and found my way to a better life!
Jesus is not giving us the cheat code to the good life as if we could just hack the network and do certain things, pray a certain pray, have a certain attitude and someone infiltrate the system.
Jesus does not say, “Blessed are the poor in spirit because they will always get the kingdom of heaven.” “Blessed are those who mourn because they will always be comforted.”
Has every person who has ever grieved been favored by God? Has every gentle person who’s ever lived been aware of God’s blessing on them?

The good life is not just for good people.

I’ve always read the Beatitudes as essentially, this is a list of good people God blesses because they’re good.
Poor in spirit - someone who is humble, recognizes their need for God.
Mourning - you are aware of the brokenness of the world, so you need God, be like that person.
Gentleness - be like a cuddly lamb
Hunger and thirst for righteousness - desiring God kind of thing...
Merciful - that’s good
Pure in Heart - they don’t watch Netflix
Peacemakers - always a good thing
Persecuted - tell their friends about Jesus
But if Jesus is saying, “Blessed are these nice people” then isn’t he preaching a similar salvation by works that the Pharisees are teaching?
I would love to hear your interpretations of each of the Beatitudes but my thinking has really changed on this a lot this past week. So let me just explain myself a bit...
First, poor in spirit is more akin to spiritual zeroes than it is a humble person dependent on God.
Christian culture today - because of the transforming work of Christ - can lead us to think that having money is a sin. So to be poor is actually a GOOD thing. But in the Bible, being poor is not a good thing.
It’s used a lot...
The same word for poor is used later in Gal 3:9
Galatians 4:9 NASB95
9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?
“Jesus did not say, “Blessed are the poor in spirit because they are poor in spirit.” He did not think, “What a fine thing it is to be destitute of every spiritual attainment or quality. It makes people worthy of the kingdom.” And we steal away the much more profound meaning of his teaching about the availability of the kingdom by replacing the state of spiritual impoverishment - in no way good in itself - with some supposed praiseworthy state of mind or attitude that “qualifies” us for the kingdom.” - The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard, 102.
Second, Jesus is not giving a list of good people who his audience would readily accept as good people.
They had an idea about what the good life was like and who could get in, and this was not it. I think it was so upsetting that Jesus had to say this in verse 17...
Matthew 5:17 NASB95
17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.
Third, who are the first two people Jesus heals after the Sermon on the Mount?
In Matthew 8 it’s a leper and a Gentile. In Jesus’ day it didn’t get any more bad than that. It’d be like if he went and healed a gay man with AIDS and a suicide bomber.
Give meanings of the verses...
The Beatitudes is not a list of people who feel a certain way, it’s not a list of people who will be blessed in heaven when they die, and it’s not a list of to do’s or people who should be emulated.
So what is it?

The Beatitudes show us the good life is not just for “good” people (however we describe that), but “bad” people, poor people, incompetent people, unhealthy people, all races of people, men and women, ugly people, smart people, dumb people, immoral people...the only prerequisite is they are someone whom Jesus chooses to bless.

“It is a list of people humanly regarded as lost causes, but who yet, at the hand of Jesus, come to know the blessing of the kingdom of the heavens.” - The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard, 120
Blessed are the lepers. The soldiers in an oppressive government.
I’ve been thinking this week…who is on my list of unblessable people?
Does God say cat people are well-off? Really? People who don’t like coffee? People who don’t use planners like I do?
What about people who would never be called sexy? They can live the good life?
But it gets more serious right…is the good life available to the person who is running the phishing scam against us? Can God say ‘you are blessed’ to the car thieves stealing Kia’s and Hyundai’s like crazy?
There are six sex offenders in Sumner, I checked online…what about them?
It’s so strange to think that our world says God is intolerant and we need him out of our society, but the two sides of thinking in our context are way more intolerant on who’s allowed in the good life:
Two sides - Tax paying citizens who contribute to the economy
Another side says the person who is tolerant, and accepting of all lifestyles
God is not condoning sin, but when we say “God’s love is unconditional” do I really believe that?
Romans 5:6 NASB95
6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
Do I really believe that God would help those who can’t help themselves?
I’ve just been thinking so much this week that God is amazing.
And I don’t know where you’re at with this, but as we read Matthew we’re reading stories and sermons from Jesus that we’ve heard a million times and I think we need to be aware of how much he was turning the world upside down.
Who might be on your list of unblessable people? Who is a lost cause in your book?
Blessed are these people because I’m going to bless them and show the world how good I am.
And so in Matthew we see Jesus, King of the world - redefining the good life, redefining who is a good person, and through his life and death and resurrection he throws the door to God wide open and says, “I don’t care who you are, God loves you!”
To be living the dream is to know the favor of God. And we have the opportunity to receive that good news today by trusting Jesus and helping others do the same.
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