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Monday, 23 July 2012

The Beatitudes


What are the Beatitudes?  Matthew 5:3-11
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down.                                    His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. Matthew 5:1-2

There are at least 

FOUR WAYS

to understand the Beatitudes:

  1. They are a code of ethics for the disciples and a standard of conduct for all believers. 
  2. They contrast kingdom values (what is eternal) with worldly values (what is temporary).
  3. They contrast the superficial "faith" of the Pharisees with the real faith Christ wants. 
  4. They show how the Old Testament expectations will be fulfilled in the new kingdom. 

These beatitudes are not multiple choice--pick what you like and leave the rest. They must be taken as a whole. They describe what we should be like as Christ's followers.

Each beatitude tells how to be blessed. "Blessed" means more than happiness. It implies the fortunate or enviable state of those who are in God's kingdom. The Beatitudes don't promise laughter, pleasure, or earthly prosperity. To Jesus, "blessed" means the experience of hope and joy, independent of outward circumstances. To find hope and joy, the deepest form of happiness, follow Jesus no matter what the cost.

 



 

"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is 

the kingdom of heaven"

Nothing happens until we come to the realization that we are so bankrupt in our own spirituality that we must depend on an outside/external source—our Heavenly Father. John Wesley said, “It is a recognition of personal, moral, and spiritual unworthiness. Spiritually, morally, personally, socially, in every single realm that you can think of in the human life, that you’re showing you are in need of God.” Our good works won’t get us to heaven. We have nothing within ourselves that is worthy of presenting to God. We need God to bless us, to save us, to make us worthy of being in His presence.



"Blessed are 
those who mourn 
they shall be comforted"
Once we realize that we are morally and spiritually empty without the Holy Spirit in our hearts, and that we are sinners by nature, the natural emotional response is to mourn over our bankrupt souls. This doesn’t mean that we should be sad sacks, constantly depressed, morose, or brooding. We are not commanded to sink into a never-ending depression because of the fact that we have a sinful nature. When Jesus tells us to be sad, or mournful, He is simply referring to spiritual sorrow. We are to recognize our sinfulness for what it is and we are to refrain from rationalizing it. We are to humbly beg God to wash our sins away because we are powerless to defeat sin alone.




"Blessed are the meek: for they shall 
inherit the earth"
There is a lesson there for Christians. When Jesus says we need to be meek, He means that we should be gentle and humble in our words and actions, not brash or self-promoting. Jesus wants us to be strong and outspoken about our faith (read about Peter in Acts 4) but also wants us to adopt a servant attitude (read John 13:1-20) so that we will be willing to serve God in any way that brings Him glory. He wants us to see ourselves as God sees us—sinful and in need of salvation. How could we possibly be boastful or prideful if we recognize our own sinfulness? Jesus wants us to apply His Holy Word to our lives because we know we’ll die without it. He certainly doesn’t want us to beat people over the head with the Bible in a haughty, self-righteous manner. He does, however, want us to humbly share His Good News with others. Above all else, Jesus wants us to love and worship God so completely that we will humbly follow His will for our lives, wherever that may lead.




 
"Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty 
for what is right 
they shall be satisfied"
Do you see how the Beatitudes offer us a step-by-step progression? If we recognize that we are indeed poor in spirit, and we mourn over the depth of our sinfulness, and we meekly put our lives in God’s hands and follow His will because we are all too aware of our own impotence, we must take the next step and beg God to wash those sins away. We are commanded to hunger and thirst for the Holy Spirit to transform us (and others) just as a starving man would hunger and thirst for bread and water. We must yearn for God’s goodness and righteousness, both in ourselves and in the world. We have to know that this world is so very temporary and that God has a permanent home reserved for us in heaven where righteousness will reign forever. We must strive daily and hourly and minute-by-minute to live as God has commanded with our eyes on that eternal prize. If we yearn for worldly possessions, material wealth, or earthly, vulgar excitement, we become of the world and there is no room in our hearts for righteousness.


 
"Blessed are the merciful, they shall obtain mercy"
Because of the great mercy that God has shown us, God expects us to be merciful to others. We are to clothe the poor, feed the hungry, minister to the sick and dying, and proclaim the Gospel to a dying world. We are to work to relieve suffering wherever we find it. We are to show active, working compassion that makes a difference. This is what churches are talking about when they use the word “mission”. 

As Christians, our mission is to be Christ in this world, 
and we do that by being merciful.
The message is clear—
we serve Christ 
when we are mercifully serving others.


  
"Blessed be 
the pure in heart for they shall see God "


The Holy Spirit will give us a new heart that is responsive to God, if we are open to the transformation. Ezekiel 11:19-20 says “…I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.” Psalm 51:10-12 says, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”






"Blessed are the 
peace-makers 
for they shall be called 
children of God"
We become peace-makers by loving God with our entire being. We become peace-makers by loving our neighbor as much as we love ourselves and by being God’s hands and feet in this world. We become peacemakers by being poor in spirit, by mourning over our sinfulness, by being meek, gentle and humble, by thirsting after righteousness, by being pure in heart through the Holy Spirit, and by being merciful towards others.




 "Blessed are those 
who are persecuted 
for righteousness sake 
for theirs is 
the kingdom of heaven"
 John 15:18-27 says, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you…  John 15:18-27
If you faithfully follow Jesus in all that you do, the world will hate you. Period. The good news, though, is that Jesus says that if we follow Him, and love His Father with our entire beings, we will be blessed with an inner joy and peace that is impossible for non-believers to comprehend. This joy comes from the knowledge that Jesus has overcome death, He has cleansed us of our sins, and, no matter what happens to us in this life, our faith will be rewarded when we are made perfect in His Heavenly Kingdom. Read Hebrews 11 to see how our faith, even in the face of persecution, will be rewarded.