Category Archives: Sermon on the Mount

“Poverty of spirit” by D.A. Carson

“Poverty of spirit is the personal acknowledgment of spiritual bankruptcy. It is the conscious confession of unworth before God. As such, it is the deepest form of repentance.

It is exemplified by the guilty publican in the corner of the Temple: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” It is not a man’s confession that he is ontologically insignificant, or personally without value, for such would be untrue; it is, rather, a confession that he is sinful and rebellious and utterly without moral virtues adequate to commend him to God.

I suspect that there is no pride more deadly than that which finds its roots in great learning, great external piety, or a showy defense of orthodoxy. My suspicion does not call into question the value of learning, piety, or orthodoxy; rather, it exposes professing believers to the full glare of this beatitude.

Pride based on genuine virtues has the greatest potential for self-deception; but our Lord will allow none of it. Poverty of spirit he insists on—a full, honest, factual, conscious, and conscientious recognition before God of personal moral unworth. It is, as I have said, the deepest form of repentance.

It is not surprising, then, that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit. At the very outset of the Sermon on the Mount, we learn that we do not have the spiritual resources to put any of the Sermon’s precepts into practice.

We cannot fulfill God’s standards ourselves. We must come to him and acknowledge our spiritual bankruptcy, emptying ourselves of our self-righteousness, moral self-esteem, and personal vainglory. Emptied of these things we are ready for him to fill us.

Much of the rest of the Sermon on the Mount is designed to remove these self-delusions from us, and foster within us a genuine poverty of spirit. The genuineness and depth of this repentance is a prime requirement for entering into life.”

–D.A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World: An Exposition of Matthew 5–10 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1999/2018), 18–19.

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“When Jesus confronts the world” by D.A. Carson

“When Jesus confronts the world some kind of explosion can be expected; for Jesus and the world are very different, frankly opposite in their purpose, character, values, and aims.

The world is essentially self-centered; Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28). The world is in active rebellion against God; Jesus always pleases His Father (John 8:29).

The world is time-bound and temporary (cf. 1 John 2:15-17); not so Jesus or His kingdom or the person who does His will. The world needs saving, and Jesus comes to save His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21).

The world needs judging, and Jesus is the Son of man who comes when least expected and passes the entire world under review (Matt. 24:36-25:46). Jesus and the world are bound to clash with each other.”

–D.A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978/1987), 153.

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“The Sermon on the Mount sears and burns” by D.A. Carson

“The more I read these three chapters– Matthew 5,6, and 7– the more I am both drawn to them and shamed by them. Their brilliant light draws me like a moth to a spotlight; but the light is so bright it sears and burns. No room is left for forms of piety which are nothing more than veneer and sham. Perfection is demanded. Jesus says, ‘Be perfect…as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (5:48).”

–D.A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World: An exposition of Matthew 5-10 (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1987), 11.

[HT: Pritesh Garach]

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“We ought to mix water with our wine” by John Calvin

“We should regard material possessions simply as props to help us, until we see the Father face to face. He is our bliss and happiness. By all means let us laugh, but in the manner of those who are ready to weep should that be God’s will. Our joy should be joined with sadness, and with compassion for those who suffer. No one should live apart from others, and all should rejoice whenever God’s name is honoured. Yes, rejoice, even when we have reason to feel sad and gloomy.

Conversely, it may be that we are fine, in the best of spirits. But supposing there is some dire trouble in the church or God’s name is blasphemed, held up to shame or ridicule — that should give us cause or grief grief deeper even than the joy we felt. At such a time we ought to moderate the happiness which earthly blessings bring. We ought, as the proverb says, to mix water with our wine.”

–John Calvin, Sermons on the Beatitudes, trans. by Robert White (Carlisle, PA.: Banner of Truth, 1562/2006), p. 80.

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“Mere fiddlers” by John Calvin

“Was there ever a more detestable conspiracy? Prophets and teachers of the church whose task is to instruct –mere fiddlers, playing sweet songs which tickle the ears of their audience but which achieve nothing! Meantime the flatterers are lavish in their praise: ‘Ah! An outstanding teacher! An excellent man! What more could we ask for?’ So while some crave compliments and others tell them what they want to hear, our Lord Jesus Christ gives the lie to all such notions: Woe to you when men speak well of you.”

–John Calvin, Sermons on the Beatitudes, trans. by Robert White (Carlisle, PA.: Banner of Truth, 1562/2006), p. 81.

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“The happiness we are to seek is from above” by John Calvin

“The happiness we are to seek is from above. While we are on earth, we must prepare to do battle. But there is also the promise of rest which will be ours, of victory and the glory which goes with it. That promise calls us to look away from the world and to lift our minds to the realm above.”

–John Calvin, Sermons on the Beatitudes, trans. by Robert White (Carlisle, PA.: Banner of Truth, 1562/2006), p. 66.

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“When only the Father sees me” by Sinclair Ferguson

“It is in secret, not in public, that what we really are as Christians becomes clear. It is not my visible service so much as my hidden life of devotion that is the index of my spirituality. That is not to despise my public life, but to anchor its reality to the ocean bed of personal fellowship with God.

I may speak or pray with zeal and eloquence in public. I may appear to others to be master of myself when in company. But what happens when I close the door behind myself and only the Father sees me?”

–Sinclair Ferguson, In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life (Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2007), 159.

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