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Thriving in the Kingdom: The Beatitudes


January 29, 2023 |Thriving in the Kingdom|Matthew 5:1-12

JD Cutler



This week we start a three week look at chapter 5 of Matthew, which as many of you know from our Wednesday night studies is the first chapter of Matthew’s record of what we call the sermon on the mount. This is the first of five teaching blocks recorded in Matthew, arguably the most well known.


It extends from chapter 5 to chapter 7 and covers a variety of topics with the central focus being righteousness. Jesus sets this up at the beginning of his sermon and it is a theme carried throughout.


Righteousness in the bible is treated both as a state of being right with God as well as descriptive of the life of one who is right with God.

It is important to note that what we find here is not a list of things to make us righteous as it has sometimes been treated. It is not how to be saved, that would be a work based righteousness. It is also not a list of things we do in order to get something from God. As in if you do this, God will do this. That would be manipulative.


There is only one way for us to be made righteous in regards to our state before God. This is Paul’s argument in Romans 3.


Romans 3:9-12 (ESV) 9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

Romans 3:20-22 (ESV) 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.


However, having been declared righteous and covered in the righteousness of Christ, which is what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God., we then strive to live in accordance with that state in his power. This is what we mean when we say righteousness is a description of the life of one who is right with God. It is why Paul, who so clearly argues in Romans that righteousness apart from Christ is impossible and that it is through faith and not works, can then say to Timothy, his protege and disciple, flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness. Not that Timothy was pursuing through his power becoming right with God, but pursuing a life that was consistent with someone who has been made right with God.


Paul encouraged Timothy and us to pursue becoming that which we have been made in Christ. This is at the heart of sanctification, becoming more and more in our walk what we have already been declared in Jesus. The reason we start here today is that if we acknowledge this fundamental truth we will not miss the heart of Jesus’ statements in Matthew 5:1-12.

...pursue becoming that which we have been made in Christ. This is at the heart of sanctification...

This section in verse 1-12, that we are looking at today, is often referred to as the Beatitudes. That word is a transliteration of a latin word that is a translation of the word often translated as blessed in our English bibles.


Which should be easy enough, except the English word blessed is not a straightforward, one to one, word that fully captures what the original Greek of the Bible says here.

It can actually cause us to misunderstand what Jesus is teaching here.


-Not blessed in the sense of blessing/cursing (too blessed to be stressed, # blessed)

-The word is sometimes translated as happy, which is closer, but still falls short

-The word that arguably best captures the thought behind the Greek word here is ‘flourishing’, that is these statements illustrate the way we are to be in order to experience the flourishing that God desires for his people.


This sermon and specifically these beatitudes have been referred to as the Kingdom Manifesto, or what it looks like to be a citizen of God’s kingdom. These attributes describe one who has been made righteous and is pursuing righteousness in their life, or to say it another way, these are the attributes of a kingdom minded disciple.

So all of a sudden, it doesn’t become a check-list or a to-do list, but a mirror to ask ourselves how well our lives are matching up to what Jesus says a disciple should look like.


In light of that understanding, I want to give you three statements about true human flourishing as revealed by Jesus here at the beginning of the sermon on the mount. That is, these attributes will be descriptive of us when we are truly flourishing in the way God intended.

True human flourishing is found in right relationship with God

Flourishing is not a word we use much, is it, but we understand the concept.

Our kids have been in a new environment since August of last year. As many of you know they started their first year at White Oak ISD, previously having been to a Christian private school and homeschooled. People have asked me how they are doing, and I often find myself saying that they are thriving. This is the concept of flourishing.

It is more than happy, they were happy at their old school.

It is more than being successful and getting good grades, they were doing that at their old school.

It is watching them mature and develop into who God designed them to be, it is watching them be in an environment where previously unknown talents are coming to light, where growth is happening both academically and spiritually. The environment they are in is conducive to and beneficial to them becoming well adjusted followers of Christ. This is a picture of flourishing. Is everything perfect, of course not. Are there struggles, of course there are. But things have seemed to come together for them this year where they are thriving.


It is not hard to imagine that this is what every parent desires for their children, right?

It is what we desire, it is what we want, and a large part of parenting is trying to get them in an environment where they can flourish.

But I would argue, this is also what God desires for his children, that human flourishing has always been his plan for humanity.


Think back to the very beginning. The language is rich with the idea of flourishing.

Genesis 1:11-12 (ESV) 11 And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

Genesis 1:20-22 (ESV) 20 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” 21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”

Genesis 1:26-28 (ESV) 26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”


He then placed man in an environment that would lead to his flourishing as long as he was in right relation with God. We all know what happened, man rebelled and sin broke that relationship and where man was once meant to flourish, in the curse he would have to make his living by the sweat of his brow and the mankind itself would flourish, but now through the pain of childbirth.


Fast forward the the giving of the law to Moses and the Israelites as God called to himself a people.

Listen to the promises of God.

Exodus 23:25-26 (ESV) 5 You shall serve the LORD your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you. 26 None shall miscarry or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days.

The very land they were coming in to was described as flowing with milk and honey, that is, it was a place for the people of God to flourish as long as they were in right relationship with him. This is why he gave the law, so people he could once again dwell among his people.

We know that they rebelled over and over again so God sent Judges and Prophets to call his people back into right relationship with himself.


The wisdom literature of scripture, psalms and proverbs specifically deal with this idea. Proverbs is wisdom on how to live so as to experience human flourishing in right relationship with God.


It should not surprise us then, that the very first sermon Jesus preaches is a sermon on human flourishing in right relationship with God.

Let’s read it together now.

Matthew 5:1-12 everytime you hear the word blessed, think flourishing.

Matthew 5:1-12 (ESV) 1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

2 And 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. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


Jesus goes up on the mountain, similarly to Moses, and rather than bring back tablets of stone concerning the behavior of man, he teaches with his authority as the son of God concerning the heart of man. He is the greater moses and the bringer of the greater covenant.


True human flourishing is described in the Beatitudes

Let’s look at the beatitudes themselves as statements on the flourishing of one in right relation with God.

How many beatitudes there are and how they should be divided is a topic of debate among scholars, but for our sake this morning, we are going to treat them as two sets of four, with an additional transition beatitude at the conclusion.

First four deal with our posture before God- Three are descriptive and the fourth is resultive.

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

We know that someone who is in right relationship with God has recognized their spiritual bankruptcy before God and cried out for God to save them. But what I think is represented here is an ongoing understanding that apart from the goodness and grace of God there is nothing in us spiritually that merits us anything.

Too many Christians act like after they are saved that there is some inherent good in them or that God is pleased with them, or that he is proud of their work. That because they acknowledged their brokenness before God one time they can now go back to thinking they are okay. True flourishing only comes when we understand that we are spiritually bankrupt apart from God and his work in our life.

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

The second stems from the first, those who recognize their spiritual poverty and ongoing desperate need for God will mourn. They will be broken over their sin, over the sin of their brothers and sisters in the family of God, and the sin of the world.

As a follower of Christ, sin in our life ought to grieve us. We will never flourish if we have a nonchalant attitude towards sin in our lives. There is no comfort for the unrepentant sinner. Yes Christ covers our sin, but we are assured over and over again in scripture that sin has devastating consequences, that it disrupts our relationship with God and with each other, and that ultimately we will have to answer for it.

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

The third stems from the first two. As we realize our brokenness before God, as we mourn our sin, we find that we can be nothing but meek.

Meekness has nothing to do with weakness. It is a disposition in which we accept God’s dealings with us as good, we accept what he has given us and do not demand that which he has not. The opposite of meekness is demanding. Our own way, our own good. It is asserting that we deserve something and we should have it. Meekness then is an understanding that we deserve nothing from God and that everything we have is a good gift from the father, even in our lack and suffering, knowing that he is God and we are not.

Meekness then is an understanding that we deserve nothing from God and that everything we have is a good gift from the father,

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

This is the result of the first three. Having come to the place of meekness and realizing that we deserve nothing, we find our desire becomes increasingly to have more of God. We seek him over his comforts, his presence over his presents.

It is described here as a longing in the same way we long for nourishment.

Not many of us in America have experienced real hungering and thirsting. Within walking distance of us right now there are at least 9 places to get food and hundreds of places to get water.

But imagine yourself at the hungriest you have ever been. What was your one thought? Getting what you needed. Everything else fades away. This is how Jesus describes someone who is in right relationship with God and is flourishing in the way God intended, their focus is on experiencing more and more of God’s righteousness. It is having tasted the imputed righteousness of Christ and desiring for it to be true of our lives, of the lives of those around us, and of the world around us.

It is praying your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.


Having dealt briefly with the first four, let us look at the second set of four, that deal with our posture before others- Again, three are descriptive and the fourth is resultive.

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

Compassion is a good word here. Flourishing are the compassionate, those that extend compassion to others, those that show mercy to those around them. There is a connection between this beatitude and the first. Having realized our spiritual poverty before God and having received his mercy, how could we then look at others and withhold compassion?

We have often pointed out this truth, so we won’t dig into it this morning but the Bible ties our extension of mercy to our reception of mercy, our forgiveness of others to our own forgiveness. They are intertwined, and again we see this to be the case. To say it in the positive, those that have received mercy will be merciful.

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

At first glance, we may not see the connection between this beatitude and others, but it is there nonetheless. This deals with our motives in dealing with others and like the last one corresponds to a previous beatitude. Mourning over our sin, being broken over our sin, should lead us to desire righteousness in our lives and as we pursue righteousness our motives become purer and purer. We identify the sinful desires that cloud our heart and affect our actions and we lay them before Jesus so that he can deal with them. Pursuing righteousness affects our relationships with others as our interactions become more and more marked by purity.

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

Maker of peace. You can see how this one ties into its corresponding beatitude of meekness. As we demand our way less and less, as we demand that we get ours less and less, we are able to live at peace with others and actively pursue it ourselves.

You would think that if we stop there and recap, that we as people who see their spiritual poverty, who are broken over their sin, who are meek before God, desiring more and more of his rule and reign in our lives, people who show mercy, have pure motives, and that pursue peace, we would flourish in the sense that everything would be okay and everyone would love us. We would be wrong.

Jesus gives the eighth beatitude in this second set of four as a possible result of having the first seven be true of us.

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

As we become more and more like Jesus, as our lives become more and more righteous, as our lives become increasingly evident of God’s work in and through them, a very real possibility is that we will experience persecution.

And yet, Jesus uses the same word here, flourishing. Persecution for Jesus' sake isn’t viewed here as a negative but as something that benefits us.

This is probably the hardest to swallow, isn't it?

Notice Jesus doesn’t say that it won’t hurt, or that it is fair, he simply says that it is not an indication that we are outside of God’s will but rather we can be sure we are smack dab in the middle of it, becoming who he designed us to be.

Maybe it is because of the shocking nature of this one that he adds the last beatitude in verse 11 that picks up the language of verse 10 and makes it personal.

Notice that so far the language has been blessed are those and now he says blessed are you…

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

He adds that we can rejoice, knowing two things. One that it does not go unnoticed by God or for that matter unrewarded, and two, this is how the world treats people who represent God.


It is tied to the eighth beatitude but adds to it and changes forms to tie into Jesus’ next statement we will look at next week where Jesus gives us pictures of what the results of our flourishing will be on the world. When he says you are salt and you are light.


True human flourishing is found in the kingdom of Heaven.

It looks different than the world’s definition of flourishing-

The UnBeatitudes by Ray Ortlund (adapted to include flourishing instead of congratulations)

Flourishing to the entitled, for they grab what they want.

Flourishing to the carefree, for they shall be comfortable.

Flourishing to the pushy, for they shall win.

Flourishing to the greedy, for they shall climb the food chain.

Flourishing to the vengeful, for they shall be feared.

Flourishing to those who don’t get caught, for they shall look good.

Flourishing to the argumentative, for they shall get in the last word.

Flourishing to the popular, for this world lies at their feet.


To understand flourishing in the sense that we are talking about we have to understand that it is different from what the world says it means to flourish or thrive because we belong to a different kingdom. When Jesus sits down to teach his disciples about life in the kingdom, it is radically different from the kingdoms and systems of the world. To follow Jesus is to measure our flourishing not in things, power, successes, or accomplishments, but to measure them in God’s comfort in our lives, our satisfaction in Him, his mercy evidenced, his presence experienced, and the joy of carrying his name as ambassadors to the world.

In short, we belong to a different kingdom, one that is both now and later.

To follow Jesus is to measure our flourishing not in things, power, successes, or accomplishments, but to measure them in God’s comfort in our lives, our satisfaction in Him, his mercy evidenced, his presence experienced, and the joy of carrying his name as ambassadors to the world.

There is a sense where the kingdom is ours now, there is a sense where comfort, blessing, satisfaction, mercy, seeing God, being called sons and daughters of God is true of us now, but the ultimate fulfillment is future. In Christ, we are no longer made for this world, but for one to come.


Listen to how this all ends for the Christian, listen for the ways in which we will flourish and thrive in what is to come.

Revelation 21:1-4 (ESV) 1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Revelation 22:1-5 (ESV) 1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.


This picture has often been described as paradise restored. Men and women will once again be in the perfect place that God designed for them to be. This is our future hope, but until that day, to the extent we experience God’s kingdom here we will flourish, being conformed and prepared for that day when we meet him face to face.


Here is the main question for you today as we close.


Are you flourishing?

Is your life more consistent with the Beatitudes in Matthew or the UnBeatitudes of Mr. Ortlund?

To answer that question, all we have to do is walk back through these attributes.


Do you understand your spiritual bankruptcy before God?

Are you broken over your sin?

Have you come to the place where you know you don’t deserve anything from God?

Do you desire God and his presence more than what he can give you?

Are you merciful to others?

Are your motives and actions towards others pure?

Are you a maker of peace in your home, your job, your church, your school, the world?

Are you so much like Jesus that you experience persecution, reviling, and hatred from the world for it?


My prayer for all of us this morning is that the Beatitudes would serve as a mirror to show us where we are in our walk with Christ.



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