The beginnings of the “Fruits Of The Beatitudes” all started with a “Life’s Deep Thoughts” post in January 2016, that discussed “The ‘Blessed’ Life.” It is a blog that “contemplates the spiritual nature of life’s circumstances.”
This post discussed what people call living the “good life” and how to be “happy.” The post then ‘transitions’ to presenting what the Bible has to say about the ‘good life’ and being “happy.”
What is considered to be the “most important” ‘sermon’ Jesus ever preached, the “Sermon On The Mount,” starts with what is considered to be the most important ‘attitudes’ that we need to have, “The Beatitudes” [ Matthew 5:3-12 ]. Jesus pronounces how to be a ‘fortunate’ and authentic Christian with nine “Blessed” statements. (The original Greek word,”makarios” can also be translated as “happy”).
Many people say they want the “good life.” But want does that mean? Well, it’s a philosophical term, “eudaimonia,” originated by Aristotle.
He defined it as the activity of the soul in accordance with virtues comprised of theoretical wisdom, practical wisdom and understanding, and the importance of external goods such as health, wealth, and beauty.
Another philosopher, Plato (Aristotle’s ‘mentor’), also argued that the just person is someone whose soul is ordered and harmonious, with all its parts functioning properly to the person’s benefit.
Socrates (Plato’s ‘mentor’) was a bit more ‘detailed’ in that he was convinced that virtues such as self-control, courage, justice, piety, wisdom and related qualities of mind and soul are absolutely crucial if a person is to lead a “happy” life.
But, Aristotle also held that even if one could be viewed as leading the “good life,” should one experience any adverse circumstances such as illness, bereavement, or isolation, then one could no longer be considered to be leading the good life!
Living the “good life” means something different for everyone. However, there is still a general understanding that it is the ‘state’ of never ending satisfaction that only grows more ‘powerful’ as time goes on.
So then, TODAY, what do most think about when one hears, “Ah, the good life!” I’m thinking most would probably think of Beverly Hills, Palm Springs (or some other such place) where the rich and famous are lounging around in their mansions, cruising around in their Rolls Royce, or shopping at “Gucci’s” (or other such place).
To give you a ‘taste’ of the current culture’s views on this, here’s some of the lyrics from a very popular Miley Cyrus song titled “The Good Life”:
“This is the good life
Take a good look
Have anything you want
This is the good life
Dining with your friends
At a fancy restaurant
Living the good life
We have such a good time
Grab a little gucci bag
And some prada shoes
Take my credit card
They’re all here to wait on you…”
The thing is, it’s been shown that the people in Beverly Hills or Palm Springs aren’t any happier, on average, than people in any other city in America. In fact, some of the most ‘miserable’ people in the world are those who ‘live for’ the things that money can buy.
If there was one person in this century who sort of personified the pursuit of the “good life,” it was probably Ernest Hemingway. He pursued it with a vengeance—through drinking, parties, fighting in revolutions, and ‘having’ women all over the world—living exactly the way he wanted to live. He had power, fame, and prestige. He traveled the globe, sold millions of books, and pursued pleasure incessantly.
But, in the end, did he love life? Did he experience the “good life”? Well, evidently not—he committed suicide.
While it’s very tempting to associate the “good life” with something physical—living in a certain location, getting that ‘dream’ job, earning a certain amount of money, experiencing a certain level of physical health, or having a special relationship with that special person—it’s even better to have come to a ‘place’ where you no longer need those things to feel good about yourself or your life.
The thing is, the surveys show that not too many people are living the “good life.” Few people are content, happy, fulfilled, or at peace. But, does it have to be like that?
Well, the Bible has a lot to say about the “good life,” and it’s not based on a situation, possession, position, or a human relationship. The ‘good’ that God promises is Himself and the “Kingdom of Heaven.”
But some say that God’s ‘commands’ often are in stark contrast to pursuing pleasure, and that He seems to be king of a ‘cosmic killjoy’ who wants to hinder your pursuit of the good life.
However, by ‘suggesting’ you to follow His commands, God isn’t trying to prevent you from living the good life—He’s trying to prevent you from falling victim to the ‘dangers’ He knows can harm you. As a loving ‘Father’, God wants what’s best for you—the ultimate “good life”—and that’s only possible when you recognize the love behind His commands, and you integrating them into your life.
Jesus tells us, in one of His most ‘famous’ teachings, the “Beatitudes” (the beginning of the “Sermon On The Mount”), how to live the “good life” (or how to be “blessed”) [ Matthew 5:3-12 ]. They echo the highest ideals of the teachings of Jesus on humility, sorrow, tenderheartedness, righteousness, mercy, integrity, peace, and on how to be “comforted.”
The Beatitudes are eight ‘blessings’ each being a proverb-like proclamation. They speak of a blessing or “divine favor” bestowed upon a person resulting from the possession of a certain character quality, living a life-style that produces true happiness, and how to gain the ‘favor’ of God. Each pronouncement also promises a future reward and a ‘foretaste’ of Heaven.
The Greek word used is “makarios” which can be translated as “blessed,” “happy,” or “blissful.” The word comes from the root “makar” which speaks of being happy in a way not dependent upon circumstances.
The Beatitudes describe the ideal ‘disciple’ and their rewards, both in the present and in the future. I like to call them the “Be-Attitudes”—the way Jesus want Christians to “BE” like.
The Beatitudes can seem paradoxical because Jesus presented a Kingdom that doesn’t reflect the world’s ideas of what happiness is. He said that those who are poor in spirit, mournful, meek, hungry and thirsty for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peaceable, and persecuted are happy. Most people would say, ”Wait a minute! I’m not sure I want that kind of happiness! That sounds more like misery to me!” The worldly say, “exert yourself, demand your rights, be a big shot, push yourself to the ‘front’, and hold on to your pride.” They think that happiness is getting your own way—grabbing for all the ‘gusto’ one can get. Jesus’ message about ‘true’ happiness doesn’t ‘jibe’ with that at all. The most exalted people in Christ’s Kingdom will be those the world values as least important.
Solomon was the most magnificent king who ever lived, and by the world’s standards, he should have been a very happy man. Yet, his response to all he had was, “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). However, Jesus said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” [ Luke 12:15 ].
The first four Beatitudes are ‘inner’ attitudes, and the last four are the things that the attitudes manifest. They begin with an assurance, “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” and end with the same assurance, “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven”—with six promises sandwiched in between. The other implication of this ‘pattern’ comes from the fact that the first and last assurances are present tense, and the six in the middle are future tense.
The first four Beatitudes may be grouped together as setting forth the negative graces of their hearts. In the next three Beatitudes, Jesus names their positive graces.
Every one of these Beatitudes is ‘critical’—you can’t remove any one of them. They ‘flow’ in a magnificent sequence—in perfect order.
The first three lead up to the fourth—to hunger and thirst for righteousness—which seems to be a kind of ‘apex’. You begin with a beggarly spirit, and out of that comes a mourning over sin. When you see yourself as a total sinner, you become humble and meek before God. At that point, you cry out for righteousness. Then God acts and you find His mercy, purity of heart, and the gift of peacemaking. So, the last three Beatitudes flow out of the fourth, after the three lead up to it.
The first seven are a free will choices to follow. The eighth is what is done to us as a ‘consequence’ of doing the first seven.
While the Beatitudes provide a way of life that promises salvation and a future in Heaven, they also provide peace in the midst of our trials and tribulations here on this earth.
Although volumes have been written that discuss the ‘intricate’ details of the Beatitudes (with a few selected ones mentioned in the “Resources” section below), I will do my best to ‘distill’ the essence of each.
“Blessed are the POOR IN SPIRIT, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
“Poor in spirit” means to be humble, and devoid of pride. Humility is the realization that all your gifts and blessings come from the grace of God, bringing one an inner peace that allows one to do the will of God. These people keenly feel their inadequacies. unworthiness, and helplessness without God’s grace. They don’t try to hide these things under a ‘cloak’ of self-sufficiency, but are honest and grieved about them—driving them into the ‘arms’ of God.
This does not refer to physical poverty. Sometimes riches do often ‘trip up’ people. The self-sufficiency of the rich causes them to be complacent about searching for God, but a poor person’s circumstances give them a ‘running start’ in the spiritual realm, since their desperate circumstances will often led him to seek God fervently.
However, “poor in spirit” does refer to spiritual poverty, and they realize that they have no resources that will get them into Heaven. They are spiritually ‘destitute’ and therefore are totally dependent on God’s grace (In sharp contrast to what the world says, “Happy are the rich, famous, self-sufficient, and proud”). God identifies with people who are spiritual ‘beggars’, not with those who are arrogant and self-sufficient—and ‘receives’ those who cry out for His mercy (Luke 18:10-13). There must be a deep ‘submission’ and an ‘emptying’ of self before you can be ‘filled’ by God.
Admitting your weaknesses is the beginning of happiness—and one of the hardest things you will ever do. To know true happiness you must first be poor in spirit and acknowledge you can do nothing on your own.
When you are poor in spirit, you will praise and thank God for His grace in the knowledge that everything you have is a gift from Him. There is no arrogance in them, no self-righteousness, no self-sufficiency—free from their own pretensions.
They realize that they bring nothing of their own power, possession, or merit that would contribute to receiving the Kingdom of Heaven. So, they depend totally on God’s wisdom, and not their own (Proverbs 14:12), and depend on God’s ‘strength’ (Psalm 94:22).
The paradox of depending on God is that the more weak one is, the more one should depend on God; and the more one depends on God, the stronger one gets! The prophet Isaiah put it this way: “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint” [ Isaiah 40:31 ].
A person that is “poor in spirit” also depends on God’s ‘timing’—knowing that while they are ‘waiting’, God is ‘working’ (in the ‘background’), and that a delay is not necessarily a denial. They trust that God will provide at the proper time. Again, the prophet Isaiah states: “At the right time, I, the Lord, will make it happen” [ Isaiah 60:22 ]. God always gives His best to those who wait! Just beware, Satan will try to make you settle for ‘second best’, and if you get in a hurry and try to ‘answer’ your own prayer, you will probably make a terrible mistake.
A person “poor in spirit” will also depend on God to ‘defend’ them—so they don’t ‘respond’ to unfair attacks or unjust criticism. (“God blesses and protects all those who run to Him” [ Psalm 2:12 ]).
This person also depends on God to supply all their needs. Their job is a ‘channel’, but God is their ‘source’ of their supply. (“And my God will supply all my needs from His abundant wealth, because of what Christ Jesus has done for me” [ Philippians 4:19 ]).
If you want to know true happiness you must be poor in spirit. That means you must understand your spiritual helplessness. If you recognize your spiritual poverty, you will possess the kingdom of heaven now. Augustus Toplady summed all that up in the hymn “Rock of Ages”: “Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling.”
When a person understands who they are in light of who God is, only humility toward God can result.
Does ‘humility of spirit’ mark your life right now?
“Blessed are they who MOURN, for they shall be comforted.”
It is appropriate to take the first and second beatitudes together since “Blessed are those who mourn” clarifies the ‘subjective’ side of being “poor in spirit.”
The proper reaction upon realizing one’s spiritual bankruptcy is to depend on God’s mercy and grace. God demands that sin be recognized, mourned, and repented of.
If we are humble and appreciate that all of our gifts and blessings come from God, we grow in love and gratitude, and produce mourning and regret over our own sins.
The apostle Paul was ‘frustrated’ with himself about this: “And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it” [ Romans 7:15-20 ]. Paul added later, “Oh, wretched man that I am!”
Mourning in this context is called a blessing, because mourning our fallen nature creates in us a desire to improve ourselves and to do what is right!
The comfort mentioned doesn’t come from your sorrow, but from God’s response to your sorrow. Bottled up sin ruins a life, but confession results in the freedom and joy of forgiveness. Those Christians who truly mourn over their sin also receive comfort in the here and now.
The promise of “comfort” is provided by God in two ways: He sends the Holy Spirit to ‘live inside’ the believer, Who will aid and comfort them through trails; and they are promised that they will be in the “Kingdom of Heaven,” where God wipes away all tears, and death will be no more, nor grief or tribulation (Revelation 21:4).
When we realize how good God has been to us, we then can better appreciate and be compassionate of the suffering of others.
One who mourns have the capacity to be ‘moved’ with compassion by someone else’s situation and circumstance—and then try to do something about it! Who can better help someone than a person that has gone through something similar before. “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” [ 2 Corinthians 1:4 ].
God doesn’t expect you to be happy all the time. Solomon wrote that there’s “a time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance” [ Ecclesiastes 3:4 ]. When you go through a ‘tough’ time and you heart is ‘breaking’, God doesn’t want you to repress or suppress it, He want you to ‘express’ it (to friends) ‘confess’ it to Him. There is no growth in your life without change; there is no change without loss; there is no loss without pain; and there is no pain without grief. (“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed” [Psalms 34:18 ]).
The thing is, grief is actually essential to one’s physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional health. I’m sure you’ve heard it said that “It’s not what you eat but what eats you that makes you sick”—and if one doesn’t let it out (in healthy ways), then they will act it out (in unhealthy ways). In grieving, you don’t “get over it,” you get “through it.”
Crying is actually ‘healthy’ for one to do! If you hold in pain and anxiety, it will ‘poison’ your entire emotional system. Crying is like releasing an emotional ‘pressure valve’. It releases the burden of pain and stimulates the healing process.
In addition, God never intended for us to ‘handle’ grief by ourselves—that’s what the church ‘family’ is for—to support one through the grief. Healing comes in community. It’s been said that, “When one shares a joy it’s doubled, and when one shares a sorrow it’s halved.”
God also uses grief to sometimes to get our ‘attention’. Pain can be God’s ‘megaphone’. We rarely change when we see the ‘light’, but we change when we feel the ‘heat’. (“Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways.” [Proverbs 20:30 ]).
The most important thing though is that it helps us ‘grow’ in ‘Christ-likeness’, and prepares us for eternity. “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” [ 2 Corinthians 4:17 ].
Most people can handle an enormous amount of pain when they realize there’s a good purpose in it (i.e. labor and having a baby).
The thing is, God is more interested in your character development than your comfort (because we will be ‘comfortable’ for eternity, and you’re only taking your ‘character’ to Heaven).
So, not tolerating the sin that once was such a delight to you is the kind of sorrow God is looking for. Divine forgiveness and comfort comes only to those who mourn over their sin.
Are you ‘mourning’ over your sins?
“Blessed are the MEEK, for they shall inherit the earth.”
A meek person is one with an inner temperament that is gracious, strong, balanced, and under control. They are not quick to take ‘offense’ at others, being very patient with them—since they realize God has been very patient with them! (“Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” [ Philippians 4:32 ]). They understand that God has forgiven them more than they will ever have to forgive anyone else!
Although the meek are in control of their emotions, meekness does not mean ‘suppression’ of anger. Anger that is governed by reason and is a response to real injustice is not wrong, but virtuous! The deliberate decision to keep anger ‘alive’ with a spirit of unforgiveness, however, is wrong. The meek person can be tender without ‘surrender’—they don’t ‘cave in’ on their convictions.
Meekness is a by-product of humbling one’s self before God. True meekness is strength under control. We can see that in light of the different ways the Greek word “praos” was used. Medicine taken in the proper dosage can be helpful, but an overdose may kill; and a gentle breeze cools and soothes, but a hurricane kills; a domesticated horse is useful but an undomesticated one is destructive.
The thing is, one cannot ‘manufacture’ gentleness—it has to be an ‘inside’ job. God has to produce it in you. (“When the Holy Spirit controls our lives he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” [ Galatians 5:22-23 ]).
Biblical meekness is rooted in the deep confidence that God is for you and not against you. Meek people have discovered that God is trustworthy—with their business, their problems, their relationships, their health, their fears, and their frustrations—and they release all these into God’s capable ‘hands’. They admit that they are insufficient to cope with the complexities, pressures, and obstacles of life, and they trust that God is able and willing to sustain them, guide them, and protect them—and wait patiently for Him. They trust His timing, His power, and His grace to work things out in the best way for His glory and for their good.
They have a kind of steady calm that comes from knowing that God is omnipotent, that He has their affairs under his control, and that He is gracious and will work things out for the best—even in the midst of upheaval, opposition, and set backs.
This person is slow to speak, and quick to listen. This person recognizes the limitations of his knowledge, and the fallibility of his thinking, so they are eager to listen and learn anything valuable that they can.
They count the ‘blows’ of a friend as precious—and when they must say a critical word to a person caught in sin or error, they speak from the deep conviction of their own fallibility and susceptibility to sin, and are utterly dependent on the grace of God.
The meek are those who have a spirit of gentleness. They are free from malice and a condescending spirit. They do not exploit or oppress others, nor are they given to vengeance, or vendettas. They are not violent, and do not try to seize power for their own ends. They do ‘champion’ the needs of the weak and the oppressed. They have a tender ‘heart’ and a tough ‘skin’.
They know how to defuses conflict, and de-escalate anger (“Gentle speech can break down rigid defenses” [ Proverbs 25:15 ].). They also know that gentleness can be ‘persuasive’ (“The wise are known for their understanding, and pleasant words are persuasive” [ Proverbs 16:21 ]). They also know that gentleness earns them respect, and the right to ‘speak into’ people’s lives. (“A gracious woman gains respect, but ruthless men gain only wealth” [ Proverbs 11:16 ]).
A meek person doesn’t worry about personal emotional ‘injury’, and they bear no grudges. They are not concerned about defending themselves because they know they doesn’t deserve anything. They don’t run around trying to get their ‘due’. They believe God will ‘handle’ it! (Jesus never defended Himself). When we understand we are nothing more than sinners, we will “give preference to one another in honor” (Romans 12:10). God works only with those who are subject to Him, not with those who do their own thing.
Are you trying to be a ‘meek’ (gentle) person?
“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for RIGHTEOUSNESS, for they shall be satisfied.”
Just as food and water are physical necessities, righteousness is a spiritual necessity.
Both hunger and thirst are intense desires. The concept Jesus spoke of in Matthew 5:6 was a more powerful concept in His culture than it is in ours. For the most part we don’t know what it really means to hunger or thirst. Most of us have never experienced a ‘drought’. We think of hunger as an empty feeling we get when it’s 1:00 p.m. and we are used to eating at 12:15 p.m.
The righteous have a strong desire to please God, to do His will, and be ‘right’ with Him—because they know that “Righteousness is the road to life and the path to immortality” [ Proverbs 12:28 ]. So, to them, it’s the only way to live, and it’s the only way to Heaven.
Biblically, righteousness means “to be made right with God.” That righteousness is given when a person believes in Jesus. At that point he will understand he is a sinner separated from God. He becomes broken in spirit, mournful, and meek. He wants to be restored to a right relationship to God and be forgiven, desiring to be freed from self and sin’s power.
They believe that life is not about the acquisition of things or the achievement of goals, but is about getting to know God—the God that loves them and made them for a purpose.
They know that they fall ‘far short’—not measuring up to their own standards, much less God’s—and that they can’t ‘make’ themselves righteous, since God is the only One that can do that.
Every other religion can be summed up in one word: “Do.” You have to “do” things to get to go to ‘heaven’. But, Christianity is different. It can be summed up in the word, “Done.” Jesus died on the cross to ‘pay’ for your sins past, present, and future—so we can be righteous. So, it’s “done”!
They maintain their spiritual ‘hunger’ for God by reminding themselves how much God loves them, and that if they are not ‘hungering’ for God, it is because they’re ‘full’ of themselves! (“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God” [ Ephesians 3:18-19 ]).
They make knowing God their number one goal of life, since possessions, position, power, prestige, or anything other than God will not ‘fulfill’ them. (“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need” [ Matthew 6:33 ]). When you hunger and thirst for righteousness you will reach out to God. Then He will give what only He can give—true satisfaction. Happiness is a ‘by product’ of knowing God.
They ‘connect’ with God daily by reading the Bible—which is their ‘instruction’ manual for life. (“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work” [ 2 Timothy 3:16 ]).
That’s what Kingdom ‘citizens’ are like: they can never get enough of God’s righteousness. King David was “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14). “O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water” [ Psalm 63:1 ]. David’s hunger and thirst for God never diminished—and it shouldn’t for the Christian either.
Only God can satisfy that kind of desperation. Not until people hunger and thirst after righteousness do they attain the fulfillment God can give. God strips away our external self-righteousness and forces us to look at who we are ‘inside’. Jesus said,“I am the bread of life; he that cometh to me shall never hunger” [ John 6:35 ].
A person who truly hungers and thirsts for righteousness realizes he is dealing with a life-or-death issue–not just an ‘activity’ to be checked off ones ‘to do’ list. Have you ‘armed’ yourself with righteousness to diligently avoid sin?
Do you hunger and thirst for the ‘righteousness’ of God?
“Blessed are the MERCIFUL, for they shall obtain mercy.”
Many try to define mercifulness in a humanistic way. They speak of mercy as a virtue and say that if you are good to everyone, they will be good to you.
Well, mercy given isn’t necessarily mercy returned. Jesus was the most merciful person who ever lived, yet He was crucified. If mercy carried its own reward, Jesus wouldn’t have been nailed to a cross, spat upon, and cursed. Jesus received no mercy from those He gave mercy to. Mercy is not a human virtue that brings its own reward. Jesus’ emphasis was that if a person is merciful to others, God will be merciful to them!
Mercy comes from a heart that has first felt its spiritual bankruptcy, has come to grief over its sin, has learned to wait meekly for the timing of the Lord, and hungered for the work of God’s mercy to satisfy them with the righteousness they need.
The key to becoming a merciful person is to become a ‘broken’ person. You get the power to show mercy from the real feeling in your heart that our mercy to each other comes from God’s mercy to us.
Therefore, if you want to become a merciful person, it is imperative that you cultivate a view of God and yourself that helps you to say with all your heart that every joy and virtue and even distress of your life is owing to the free and undeserved mercy of God.
Mercy and its derivatives always deal with pain and distress, which are the results of sin. However, grace deals with sin itself. Mercy deals with the symptoms of the disease, while grace deals with the disease itself. Mercy offers relief from punishment, while grace offers pardon for the crime. Mercy eliminates the punishment due for sin, while grace removes a person’s sin.
Mercy speaks of compassion in action. It goes beyond merely feeling compassion or sympathy. It is doing something good to anyone who has a need. True mercy is genuine compassion with a pure and unselfish motive that reaches out to help those in need. They don’t set themselves above anyone—they stoop to help others.
In Luke 10:30-35 Jesus tells of a Jewish man who was robbed and beaten. He was left lying on the side of the road. A priest went by but didn’t want to help so he kept on walking. A Levite went by and did the same. Then a Samaritan saw the maimed man and stopped to care for him. He bound up the man’s wounds and poured oil on them–that was mercy. He rented a room for him at an inn so he would have a place to stay—that was grace. By mercy the Samaritan dealt with the beaten man’s wounds. By grace he provided him with a better condition. God’s mercy deals with the negatives of our sin and His grace does something positive for us. His mercy says, “No hell.” His grace says, “Heaven.” His mercy pities; His grace pardons. Mercy and grace are two sides of the same coin offered in salvation through Christ. (Mercy is not getting something bad that you do deserve. Grace is getting something good that you don’t deserve).
Mercy is the loving disposition towards those who suffer distress. As we are merciful to others, so our Heavenly Father will be merciful with us! Jesus reminds us that whatever “you did to the least of my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:35-40). The following are ways this area of Scripture cites on how Jesus says one is to be merciful to their ‘neighbor’:
– Feed the hungry
– Give drink to the thirsty
– Shelter the homeless
– Clothe the naked
– Visit the sick
– Comfort the imprisoned
[ My church, Faith Covenant, just completed an ‘initiative’ called, “Advent Lights,” which used this area of Scripture to help those in their surrounding community with their gifts of time, talent, and treasure. For more info, visit their web page: http://www.4fcc.org/adventlights/ ].
The merciful become a ‘channel’ of God’s mercy showing kindness to those who need it, and help those who need their ‘wounds’ healed—especially since God has shown them mercy, and that they know that they will need more mercy in the future (“Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?” [ Matthew 18:33 ]; “There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you” [ James 2:13 ]). They also know that they cannot receive what they are unwilling to give.
Jesus said that those who show mercy when there is no earthly reward or recognition, or when it is ‘costly’ or dangerous to show mercy, will experience the “overwhelming” mercy of God.
Merciful people know that showing mercy brings happiness (“Your own soul is nourished when you are kind; it is destroyed when you are cruel” [ Proverbs 11:17 ]). They show it in a few ‘practical’ ways:
– They are ‘patient’ with other people’s ‘idiosyncrasies’ (“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love” [ Ephesians 4:2 ]).
– They help anyone that needs help—even if it is ‘costly’ to them [ The “Good Samaritan” ]. (“Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to help them” [ Proverbs 3:27 ]).
– They are kind to even those people who ‘offend’ them: “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate” [ Luke 6:35-36 ].
Some people think mercy overrides demands of justice and means that people don’t need to pay for wrongdoing. Well, God never violates His justice and holiness in being merciful. He extends His mercy only because His justice has been satisfied.
The supreme act of God’s mercy was what He did for us on the ‘cross’. Because of what Christ did there, He became our merciful High Priest (Hebrews 2:17). Donald Grey Barnhouse said,“When Jesus Christ died on the cross, all of the work of God for man’s salvation passed out of the realm of prophecy and became historical fact.”
There is a merciless judgment awaiting those who do not accept the sacrifice of Christ. God won’t show sentimental mercy to those who never acknowledged His Son. If we want God to be merciful to us we must confess our sins and ‘turn’ from them.
The merciful don’t tolerate sin–they recognize that sin will be punished. But they do bear the insults of evil men and women with hearts full of compassion. Those who are merciful are sympathetic, forgiving, gracious, and loving.
A merciful person reaches out to forgive, care for, and help others. He doesn’t ‘step on other people’s necks’ or think of himself as superior. God is not only ‘watching’ if you do mercy, but also your attitude while you are giving mercy!
If you are a merciful person God will continually pour out His mercy on you. He will forgive your sins and meet your needs.
Is your life characterized by a ‘merciful’ heart?
“Blessed are the PURE OF HEART, for they shall see God.”
Purity of heart is a theme that runs from the beginning of the Bible to the end. It is one of the greatest utterances in the Bible. It stretches over everything else revealed in Scripture.
Of all the Beatitudes, this one is the clearest statement on how to enter the Kingdom. Only the pure in heart will ‘see’ God in His Kingdom. Those depending on a ‘religion’ based or human achievement won’t make it into the Kingdom.
Purity of heart comes after you’ve hungered and thirsted for righteousness and after God has dispensed His mercy upon you. It is His mercy that cleanses your evil heart. Purity is not something that you earn–it comes from God’s mercy.
The term “heart,” when used in the Bible, relates to ones ‘will’—the seat of a man’s personality. Predominantly it refers to the thinking processes—not the emotions, but our choices. So, a “pure heart” means that the decisions one makes, the desires one has, the thoughts and intensions of the will, are untarnished by sin, and that the will is determined to be pleasing to God. From a pure heart comes only good things—acts of love, mercy, grace, and desires for righteousness, justice, and peace—decisions that please God.
To be pure of heart means to be free of all selfish intentions and self-seeking desires. What a beautiful goal! How many times have any of us performed an act perfectly free of any personal gain? Such is an act of ‘pure’ love. An act of pure and selfless giving brings happiness to all.
The ‘essence’ of what God wants of each one of us is: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
This is to be done not with ‘part’ of your heart, or a double or ‘divided’ heart—that would be ‘impurity’. Purity of heart has no deception, no double-mindedness, no divided allegiance. God wants us to seek Him like King David (“a man after God’s own heart”) did: “Create in me a clean heart, O God” [ Psalm 51:10 ].
God doesn’t care about your appearance, your achievements, your accomplishments, or your acquisitions. God isn’t interested in how educated you are, or how wealthy you are. God doesn’t care how popular or how famous you are. God just cares about your ‘heart’—the ‘real’ you, what’s ‘inside’. (“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” [ 1 Samuel 16:7 ]).
God is more interested in the ‘direction’ of your heart, than He is in the sins you commit—more interested in your ‘attitude’ than your actions, and ‘why’ you do what you do, than actually what you do.
A person with a ‘pure heart’ will experience the pardon and ‘presence’ of God, the ‘power’ of God, a ‘closeness’ with God, the peace of God, and the purpose God has for their lives.
Man tends to measure himself by his fellow man. His standard is always someone ‘lower’ than himself.
For those who set their standards lower than themselves, the ultimate human ‘standard’ ends up being the most ‘rotten’ person alive. That’s because when everyone bases his personal evaluation of himself on a person lower than himself, the standard spirals down from person to person until it can go no lower—the ‘dregs’ of humanity.
However, God’s standard for acceptable character is that we are 100% pure! Though mankind sets the standard of “goodness” as the worst human being alive, God’s standard is Himself—absolute holiness and righteousness.
The word for “pure in heart” today is integrity.
Integrity is what you are when nobody else is looking—what you are in the ‘dark’. What you really think, act, and do when nobody else will ever find out. The ‘world’ is interested in your reputation, God is interested in your character. Reputation is what you are in public, character is what you are in private (by yourself).
Integrity is ‘tested’ in the “small things.” It’s relatively easy to have integrity in the ‘large’ things, since you know everyone is looking—but God cares more about how you act when no one is looking.
It doesn’t matter if anyone else will see what you are doing—God does! This is a real test of integrity.
There are some ‘benefits’ of integrity:
– When you live with integrity, God will ‘show’ His plan and purpose for you—what to do next. (“A righteous person lives on the basis of his integrity. Blessed are his children after he is gone” [ Proverbs 20:7 ]).
– There will be rewards in ‘eternity’. God will say, “Well done! You are a good and trusted servant! Because you were faithful with small things, I’ll now put you in charge of much greater things. Come and share your Master’s happiness!” [ Matthew 25:21 ].
Here’s a few ways one can develop integrity:
– Keeping your promises (verbal)
– Paying your bills (financial)
– Refusing to gossip (relational)
– Faithfully ‘tithing’ (spiritual)
– Doing your best at work (vocational)
Jesus said wherever your ‘treasure’ is, that’s where your heart is. So, these days, where you put your money first, is what’s most important to you! (If you ‘dare’, take a look at your checkbook for your ‘discretionary’ spending).
The other thing you can do is just be ‘real’ with others—don’t pretend and wear ‘masks’—always be the same. Don’t be a ‘phony’—be an ‘open book’. To do this, you’ve got to care more about God’s approval than the approval of people. (“But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do” [ Acts 13:22 ]).
So, if you are serious about wanting to be a person of integrity, you first have to admit that you aren’t—then God can help you develop it.
Sometimes the greatest integrity you show is during times when it doesn’t seem like there’s any blessings.
Your greatest ‘legacy’ in your life is your integrity—it’s the only thing that will outlast you from generation to generation. Everything else we do will be ‘lost’: the money you have at the end of your life will get divided up and spent; the work that you do will be given to someone else to do and what you did will be forgotten; and all the ‘awards’ you have earned will be thrown away. Encouraging? But, the character you have is going to be ‘translated’ into the people who are around you, and transferred into the lives of the next generation—a lasting legacy!
So, the aim of Jesus is not to reform the ‘manners’ of society, but to change the ‘hearts’ of sinners—someone with a ‘heart’ for Him.
A ‘pure heart’ declares itself by its constant struggle against sin and temptation. Is that the state of your heart?
Purity of heart cleanses the ‘eyes’ of the soul, making God ‘visible’. Can you ‘see’ Him?
“Blessed are the PEACEMAKERS, for they shall be called children of God.”
Some people think peace is the absence of conflict. But peace is more than that—there is no ‘strife’ in a cemetery, but that’s not a model of peace. God sees peace not as the absence of conflict, but the presence of righteousness. Righteousness will bring about right relationships. Peace is not just stopping a war. It’s the impartation of righteousness that brings two parties together in love. God’s peacemakers don’t just stop wars—they replace what causes the war with the righteousness of God. True peace is when conflict is resolved and the parties become friends.
God’s wisdom attains peace through purity. Peace is never established at the expense of righteousness. Peace and righteousness are inextricably interlinked—they can’t be divorced from each other. Psalm 85:10 says, “Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” True peace is always accompanied by righteousness and purity.
Many people talk about wanting peace for their lives, but will never experience it because they ignore their sin. Man will never produce peace on his own because it is a result of holiness, righteousness, and purity. That’s why James said, “The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by them that make peace” [ James 3:18 ]. A person can’t have real peace until he bears righteous fruit.
God’s whole ‘plan’ of redemption is to provide peace WITH Himself for those who were formerly ‘alienated’ from Him—ultimately bringing peace to the whole world (Isaiah 9:6-7 – Jesus, the ”Prince of Peace”). It was Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross that made peace between God and man.
Peacemakers ‘draw’ their peace from God, and those who abide in Him have His peace. Then, as they continually ‘commune’ with God, He sends them out as His ‘ambassadors’ to dispense His peace to others. The greatest privilege a peacemaker has is helping someone ‘at war’ with God to make peace with Him—to be ‘reconciled’—which lasts forever!
Peacemakers strive to establish peace that embraces God’s provision of peace, so that people will be in harmony with one another—reconciling adversaries, quenching hatred, uniting those who are divided, promoting true understanding, and showing God’s love. When one acts like this, God refers to them as His “children”—having the character of their ‘Father’.
Peacemaking is not avoiding, appeasing, or always ‘giving in’ to everyone. If you ‘run’ from conflict, you will be miserable. Unresolved conflict will ‘mess up’ your life—because it blocks your ‘fellowship’ with God, and He will not ‘hear’ your prayers—it will block your happiness! (“Those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness” [ James 3:18 ]). There is no ‘requirement’ that one become a pacifist—rather, they are one that is willing to ‘fight’ for peace. Jesus was the greatest peacemaker of all and He didn’t avoid conflict. (Jesus “overturned the tables in the temple” – Matthew 21:12).
Biblical peacemakers are not quiet, easygoing people who want to make no waves and have no sense of righteousness. Some who appear to be peacemakers are that way because they have no convictions. A Biblical peacemaker will not preserve the status quo at the expense of truth. He will not accept something that is wrong so that things can be “peaceful.” Biblical peacemakers seek to resolve a problem with the truth by bringing to bear the righteousness of God.
A peacemaker must not abandon Biblical principles. He knows it’s better to offend people with the truth so they can eventually experience real peace. Christians aren’t ‘peacekeepers’ in the sense that they never cause strife. They are ‘peacemakers’ in that they offer true peace to those whom they confront.
Peacemakers know that they need to listen for the hurt ‘behind’ the words, since though we think we argue over ideas, we really argue over feelings and emotions. A Chinese proverb says this well: “Seek to understand before seeking to be understood.”
If you only look at someone’s behavior, you can be quite judgmental. But if you look at the ‘fear’ behind the behavior, you will be a whole lot more understanding, and be more patient with them.
We tend to thing that our doubts and fears are perfectly rational and entirely normal, but someone else’s are irrational and unreasonable. [ F.E.A.R. = False Evidence Appearing Real ]. We tend to judge how far people have to ‘go’. Instead, we should focus on how far they have ‘come’.
Peacemakers also know that one is never persuasive when one is abrasive—and that people change faster and easier when the truth is ‘wrapped’ in love–so, they strive to be ‘tactful’ in their communications. Truth without love is resisted. Truth with love is received. (“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” [ Proverbs 12:18 ]).
Peacemakers also try to focus on fixing the problem, and not the blame—‘attacking’ the issue not the person. They also focus on ‘reconciliation’, since, often times, when the relationship is restored, the issue becomes insignificant. You can have unity without uniformity. You can ‘walk’ hand-in-hand without seeing eye-to-eye.
The theme of peace dominates the Bible. It begins with peace in the Garden of Eden and it ends with peace in eternity. Today there can be peace in the
hearts of those who know Jesus. You can’t be a peacemaker until the first six Beatitudes characterize your life.
Are you at peace ‘WITH’ God? Do you have the peace ‘OF’ God?
[ Note: If you are interested in a more in-depth discussion about being a PEACEMAKER, see the December 2015 ‘post’ of “Life’s Deep Thoughts”:
“Blessed are they who are PERSECUTED for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
The characteristics described in the Beatitudes flagrantly counter the world system. The more a person lives for Jesus, the more likely the world will react negatively. To whatever degree a person fulfills the first seven Beatitudes, he is likely to ‘experience’ the eighth. The apostle Paul lived a godly life and as a result he suffered greatly (though God ‘strengthened’ him).
“All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” [ 2 Timothy 3:12 ]. How could the apostle Paul make such a sweeping statement? Well, he makes it on the basis of a deep conviction about the nature of Christianity and the nature of the sinfulness of man. He was convinced that there is such a tension between Jesus’ message and way of life of Christians on the one hand, and the mindset and way of life of the world on the other. That conflict is inevitable.
The Christian, by trying to make peace, stirs up strife—and that is what causes him to be persecuted. Godliness generates antagonism. That doesn’t mean we should strive to make enemies, but we shouldn’t be surprised when we do. A godless, angry, sinful world will react when confronted righteousness. By acting like ‘salt’ in the world wounded by sin (Matthew 5:13) we will get a ‘reaction’—salt in a wound stings!
Know that persecution won’t be incessant (and probably not a ‘intense’ as what the apostle Paul experienced). But when it does occur, God brings His blessedness to the willing soul. He always makes suffering for His sake bearable. We aren’t to seek persecution, yet we’re also not to run from it—and when in the midst of it, we are not to compromise!
If you live in direct opposition to Satan and his ‘system’ you will experience antagonism from people who don’t agree with Jesus’ message. Righteousness carries with it the ‘price’ of persecution.
But, there’s a way to escape persecution. All you need to do is approve of the world’s standards, morals, and ethics. Instead of ‘separating’ yourself from the world you must go along with it—laugh at its jokes, enjoy its entertainment, smile when it mocks God, and let people take the Lord’s name in vain. If you never take a stand for Jesus, you will never be persecuted for His sake.
However, if you are a Christian and if that’s true of you, you need to examine yourself to see if you are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Those who live that way need to remember Jesus’ warning: “Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed” [ Luke 9:26 ].
There is a ‘price to pay’ for living in God’s Kingdom. You will be living contrary to the world’s system—it separates the “wheat from the chaff.” As you allow Jesus to live in and through you, you hold up a standard unbelievers cannot attain. People who love their sin and recognize they can’t live up to that standard will want to remove it so they can remain content their in sinfulness. Christians are indeed persecuted for righteousness’ sake that may hit close to ‘home’. Things like losing your job, losing close relationships, or other things that prick the ‘sensibilities’ of people.
Many of us are not willing to be persecuted (I struggle with that myself). Sometimes we are not willing to be ‘bold’ and say what needs to be said. We accommodate ourselves to the world so it will ‘like’ us. We may justify our behavior, saying, “If I’m popular with people then eventually I’ll be able to sneak in something about the gospel.” But God doesn’t need ‘sneaky’ people. He needs people who are willing to ‘confront’ the world.
Jesus told His disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you” [ John 15:18-19 ].
Jesus wants us to have our hearts primarily focused on Heaven. There is no other way that you can rejoice and be glad at the loss of your earthly joys. How shall we rejoice and be glad when these things are taken from us if we don’t love Heaven more? The Christian martyr, Jim Elliot, said: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” (American missionary to the Auca Indians in Ecuador – “Beyond the Gates of Splendor” and “End of the Spear” are movies about him and his four missionary friends).
The apostle Peter—who was persecuted tremendously after Jesus ascended into Heaven, and was martyred on a cross (hanging upside down)—tells us not to be ‘surprised’. “Dear friends, don’t be surprised or shocked when you go through painful trials that are like walking through fire, as though something unusual is happening to you” [ 1 Peter 4:12 ]. He also said not to be ‘afraid’ when it comes—God will be ‘with’ you: “If you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it, so don’t be afraid and don’t worry! Instead, worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it” [ 1 Peter 3:14-15 ]. The more you are persecuted, the more you should focus on God’s love for you, since His “Perfect love casts out all fear.” No matter what you do in life, somebody is not going to like it. So, you may as well do the things God likes—because only His ‘opinion’ matters for eternity!
All this is because Satan hates God, and wants to ‘hurt’ God, but he can’t. So, he is going to ‘hurt’ Him by hurting you, God’s “children.” There will be ‘pressures’ on you from Satan to make you ‘cave in’ and keep you from doing the right thing. (“For the accuser [Satan] of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth—the one who accuses them before our God day and night” [ Revelation 12:10 ]).
Satan will also use other people—even your friends or spouse—to get you to ‘curse’ God. In the story of Job, his wife said: “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.” But Job replied, “You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” [ Job 2:9-10 ].
Just like Job’s sufferings, God does not promise that a Christian will never get sick, be poor financially, or never have any big problems—because He is more interested in developing your character like Jesus’ (who suffered greatly), deepen your faith, and bring you into a closer relationship with Him.
So, when people criticize you for believing in Jesus—call you names, insult you, ridicule you, and lie about you—trying to dishonor you—don’t take the ‘bait’. Refuse to retaliate, and entrust yourself to God—who judges justly. (“Never pay back evil with more evil…If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. And never avenge yourself. Leave that to God, who has said, ‘I’ll be the judge and I’ll take care of it.’” [ Romans 12:17-19 ]). You don’t make the world ‘brighter’ by blowing out everyone else’s candle!
Any fool can fight back and retaliate, but God says that He will ‘bless’ you when you respond with love. The greatest persecutor of the Church in Jesus’ day, Saul, became the greatest ‘apostle’, Paul, (after he ‘met’ Jesus), and is responsible for over one-third of the New Testament—more than any other author!
So, we all have to decide what’s more important to us—the ‘praise’ of others, or the ‘smile’ of God. Popularity on earth is not part of the ‘guarantee’ of being a Christian, but ‘rewards’ in Heaven are guaranteed!
“God blesses those who are persecuted because they live for God: the Kingdom of Heaven will be theirs! You will be blessed when people insult you, and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” [ Matthew 5:10-12 ].
God has seen fit to reveal His purpose not only to reward with exceeding joy the afflictions of His people, but to make those afflictions the means of working out that joy.
In other words, rejoice and be glad in the midst of suffering for righteousness and for Jesus, because that very suffering will receive a very great compensation and a very great reward.—and the greater the suffering your faith endures, the greater the reward you will receive in Heaven. God is looking for brave people of courage, who will ‘stand’ for Jesus—no matter what.
It so happens that the final sentence of the Beatitudes says: “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” [ Matthew 5:12 ]. God has promised that He will ‘make it up’ to them–and more—a “hundredfold” compensation for every pain!
God is sometimes most ‘glorified’ when a watching world looks at a sick or persecuted believer and they remain ‘faithful’ to Jesus and tell others about His love—they are amazed by that. Then, more times than not, they ask the believer “why,” and the believer then has a ‘softened’ heart that may fully consider Jesus for their Savior!
There is a ‘price’ to pay when you live the kingdom life. But the fruit of living such a life is eternal (Matthew 5:10). Even though men may take away everything you possess in this world, they can’t touch what God will give you in the next!
Some believe affliction, suffering, and persecution should be expected only of those called to a deeper Christian walk—what they sometimes mistakenly label discipleship. But that fails to account for the good affliction works in the life of every believer—all of whom are disciples. Do not dread persecution. Rejoice that God uses it to ‘fashion’ you into a fit inhabitant of His Kingdom! (James 1:2-4).
To follow Christ will cost many dearly, but will result in eternal blessing. Are you ‘allowing’ yourself to be ‘persecuted’ for Jesus’ sake? Are you willing to pay the cost?
[ *** NOTE: Many believe that there are NINE Beatitudes, since there are nine “Blessed” sentences in Jesus’ discourse. The ‘ninth’ reads: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in Heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).
They both mention “persecute,” which makes them seem very similar, but they do seem to have a slightly different meanings. Yes, persecution is the ‘gist’ of them, but the eighth focuses on “righteousness,” whereas the ‘ninth’ on “being reviled” for your faith. So they are different.
I talked about the ‘details’ of the ninth Beatitude within the eighth’s discussion above—starting at the three ‘stars’ (“***”) ].
The Beatitudes are the ‘manifesto’ of God’s Kingdom. In them, Jesus proclaimed a twofold message: how to ‘enter’ the Kingdom, and how to live while in it. Only those who are broken in spirit, mournful, meek, and hungering after righteousness can enter. Once they have entered they will continue to have these attitudes.
The Beatitudes confront people with what really matters most: being broken in spirit, mournful, meek, hungry for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, and peaceable. Those are all internal qualities.
Jesus emphasized that it’s what’s inside a person that counts. Now that doesn’t mean He wasn’t concerned about how we behave. Jesus’ emphasis was that those things inside us are what produce our behavior: righteousness on the inside is what produces right behavior. A person can try to act correctly without being right internally, but that is only legalism.
Jesus wants right actions based on right attitudes. A relationship with Jesus transforms the center of our being, and from there manifests itself in our actions.
All who belong to Christ’s kingdom will demonstrate the attitudes mentioned in the Beatitudes, and only they are truly happy. At first you may demonstrate them only minimally, but they are all there. As time passes they should increasingly characterize your life.
We have seen that Jesus wants His followers to be happy. The Beatitudes show that true happiness and holiness are inextricably connected. In his book “No Holiness, No Heaven!,” Dr. Richard Alderson said, “God calls us, not to happiness, but to holiness. Of course, to be holy is of necessity also to be happy, but we are to seek after holiness…If we seek happiness we shall get neither that nor holiness” ([Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1986], p. 74). Are you seeking happiness with the thought that holiness will come later, or are you striving to be holy in the light of Jesus’ assurance that true and lasting happiness will be yours through holiness? Only the later will produce true happiness.
If you apply the principles of the Beatitudes you will be a different person. Many Christians in our day have lost their distinctiveness because they’ve allowed themselves to be molded by the world’s approach to music, sex, marriage, divorce, materialism, food, alcoholic beverages, dance, entertainment, sports, and other things. God wants us to live as a people distinct from the value systems of the world. It grieves God to see ‘corruption’ among His people.
Although Jesus’ focus was on our attitudes and thinking patterns, that doesn’t mean we neglect our external behavior. When we are right internally, we will also be right externally. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17). Believers are “created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Ephesians 2:10). What a person is on the outside depends on what they are on the inside.
The Beatitudes can seem to be sacred paradoxes. Their value system is in contrast to everything the world values. Note the progression of thought: Matthew 5:3 speaks of “the poor in spirit.” A person who is poor in spirit has the right attitude about sin, which leads to mourning (v. 4). When someone recognizes his sinfulness and mourns over it he develops meekness (v. 5). That leads him to hunger and thirst for righteousness (v. 6). Such a hunger manifests itself in mercy (v. 7), purity of heart (v. 8), and a peaceable spirit (v. 9). A person who displays those attitudes can expect to be reviled, persecuted, and falsely accused (vv. 10-11). That’s because that kind of life-style is an irritant to worldly people. But in the end believers will be able to “rejoice, and be exceedingly glad; for great is [their] reward in heaven” (v. 12). He who lives in accordance with the Beatitudes will be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (vv. 13-14).
The Beatitudes are a new standard of living. Jesus didn’t tell people how to live step by step but about the kinds of attitudes that would bring about proper behavior. He showed that a person’s inner life is the key to true happiness.
The first Beatitude says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). He who is poor in spirit recognizes he is devoid of righteousness. In God’s eyes what seem to be human advantages are in fact nothing. Apart for Christ every man and woman is hopeless and sinful. Matthew 5:4 says, “Blessed are they that mourn.” He who is poor in spirit sorrows over his moral bankruptcy. Jesus then said, “Blessed are the meek” (v. 5). He who understands his sinful nature and mourns over it is meek before God. In comparison to God, sinful man recognizes he is nothing. That meekness recognizes that man’s internal spiritual hunger can be satisfied only from God’s table.
The progression of the Beatitudes is simple. Commentator Martyn Lloyd-Jones said of Matthew 5:6, “This Beatitude again follows logically from the previous ones; it is a statement to which all the others lead. It is the logical conclusion to which they come, and it is something for which we should all be profoundly thankful and grateful to God. I do not know of a better test that anyone can apply to himself or herself in this whole matter of the Christian profession than a verse like this. If this verse is to you one of the most blessed statements of the whole of Scripture you can be quite certain you are a Christian; if it is not, then you had better examine the foundations again” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, vol. 1 [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977], pp. 73- 74).
The first four Beatitudes deal with inner attitudes—how a person sees himself before God. The fifth Beatitude begins Christ’s teaching about the manifestations of the first four. If we are broken in spirit, mournful, meek, and hungry for righteousness, we will be merciful towards others. It is rightly said that those who in poverty of spirit acknowledge their need of mercy begin to show mercy to others; those who mourn their sin begin while they mourn to wash their hearts clean with the tears of penitence; the meek spontaneously make peace; and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are willing to be persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Each of the first four Beatitudes corresponds to one of the last four.
Every single Beatitude is critical. Each forms a part of a magnificent sequence. They are in perfect order according to the mind of God and each forms a part of one great reality. So any one Beatitude can’t be isolated from the whole.
The Beatitudes form a ‘sequential’ pattern. You can’t pick and choose which Beatitudes you want to apply. Kingdom citizens fulfill all the Beatitudes. When you become poor in spirit the rest of the Beatitudes will show themselves in your life as a wonderful outworking of the Spirit of God. You will understand yourself spiritually as a cowering beggar, totally without power to earn anything spiritually, and you will reach out to God with a tremendous sense of inadequacy. Then you will mourn over the sin that has put you where you are and become meek before the absolute holiness of God. In your humility you will hunger and thirst for the righteousness you know you can’t attain on your own. As a result you will cry out to God to be filled and He will hear you and give you His mercy, thus making you a merciful person. That results in purity of heart and a desire to make peace. As a result you will be persecuted and slandered by the world. Yet though you fulfill the Beatitudes and are persecuted, Matthew 5:12 holds out the promise of joy because God will reward you.
The Beatitudes form a ‘flowing’ pattern. The first seven Beatitudes fit together in a pattern. The first three lead up to the fourth, and then the next three flow out from that one. A person with a beggarly spirit mourns over sin. That makes him meek before God and leads him to cry out for righteousness. God responds by showing him mercy, purifying his heart, and giving him the ability to make peace. The first three lead up to hungering and thirsting for righteousness and the next three flow out of that desire for righteousness.
Notice something even a bit more ‘intricate’. The first and the fifth, the second and the sixth, and the third and the seventh seem to ‘fit together’. It is the poor in spirit (first), who realize that they are nothing but beggars, who are going to reach out in mercy to others (fifth). Those who mourn over their sin (second), are going to know the purity of heart (sixth). Finally, there are the meek (third), who are the peacemakers (seventh). You can’t be a peacemaker unless you are humble (Phil. 2:1-4).
The beautiful ‘weaving together’ of the Beatitudes show how the mind of God works.
The Kingdom is the ‘gift’ of the Beatitudes. The first Beatitude begins with the promise, “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The last ends with the same promise. Thus the promise of the Beatitudes is that Christians are Kingdom citizens now and forever. The features in between the first and last Beatitudes are ‘elements’ of kingdom life. No matter what the world does, it can never affect a Christian’s possession of Christ’s Kingdom.
I think the key to receiving God’s promises is “meekness.” Those who are meek are broken over their sin and seek what God has promised. In every example of meekness in the Bible the underlying motive was that the person knew God’s promises.
So, according to Jesus, the Beatitudes are a new ‘standard’ for living—a new ‘criteria’ by which one evaluates whether or not one is a “citizen of the Kingdom.” The ‘key’ to it all is one word: “righteousness”—which simply means living by God’s ‘standards’ (by His definition). Taken together, the Beatitudes give a ‘picture’ of the perfect disciple of Jesus.
The Beatitudes also contain an implicit invitation to become this kind of person. The disciples sit at Jesus’ feet and hear His words as congratulations. “Rejoice! Rejoice and give thanks, My beloved disciples, that you are this kind of person, for it is not your own doing! It is the reign of God in your life.”
Being confident of the goodness of the Lord shouldn’t be confused with an assumption that because God is good, He’ll give me the things that I’ve set my heart on. In His grace, God is freeing you from the small ‘confines’ of your little definition of what’s good, so that you can experience the huge and satisfying good that He’s planned for you. Grace welcomes me to experience what is eternally right, true and good. Grace invites me to good that I could never have imagined, deserved, or earned.
Unbelievers can’t understand the Beatitudes. Poverty of spirit is the opposite of the pride of an unbelieving heart. A world indifferent to sin can’t appreciate the contrite person who mourns over his sin. The proud and resentful spirit of the world regards as contemptible the meek person who accepts wrong and doesn’t strike back. A hunger for righteousness is a rebuke to the lust of the flesh, just as a merciful spirit rebukes the hardness of our world. Purity of heart contrasts sharply with hypocrisy and corruption—and our antagonistic society has little room for biblical peacemakers. No wonder persecution is inevitable for the true Christian.
Jesus says that the people who will be satisfied in the end are not people who have gone off into the woods to find solitary communion with God. Rather they are the people whose hunger and thirst has been for righteousness, people who have craved for the grace to be merciful, people who have yearned for radical purity of thoughts and feelings, people who have passionately desired to make peace.
The aim of the Beatitudes are to produce a certain kind of character in a person, not provide and exhaustive list of rules for every situation.
The Beatitudes teach that happiness is more than favorable circumstances or pleasant emotions, as ones life manifests the virtues of humility, repentance, gentleness, righteousness, mercy, purity of heart, and peace, you will experience ‘happiness’ and a joy that even severe persecution cannot destroy.
To achieve “the good life,” many people look to satisfying themselves. But, to have a “blessed life,” the Bible tells us to love God and love others (as we love ourselves), and to serve people with the ‘gifts’ God gave us. Those who enter into these attitudes find lasting happiness.
This life is only the ‘warm-up’ act. The amount of time you will be on earth is a ‘blink of the eye’ compared to eternity.
This was the worthy eulogy given to John Knox, the sixteenth-century Scottish reformer: “Here lieth a man who never feared the face of man” (“John Knox: The Reformer” by Isaac Crook).
What about you? What are your priorities? What rings true about you in your mind and heart? Are the Beatitudes a reality in your life? If not, why not?
The Beatitudes give us a ‘framework’ to achieve true happiness—here on earth and in God’s ‘Kingdom’ in the future. Are you ‘up’ for allowing the Holy Spirit to ‘work’ on you to make these “BE-attitudes” become who you are deep down ‘inside’?
Well, I’m going to allow Him to do so in me!