March 11, 2019- The Beatitudes, For Us- Matthew 5:1-12

holy spirit2

Seeing the crowds, he (Jesus) went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons (children) of God.

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

 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.  Matthew 5:1-12 (ESV)

The Beatitudes are difficult in the way that the Ten Commandments are difficult. They are beautiful. They are good. And there is no way that any of us can live by them perfectly.

We teach our children to be independent almost from day one. Independence and autonomy are ingrained into Western culture, but in God’s economy, we are blessed by our trust and dependence upon Him.

We can’t even believe in God and trust Jesus on our own. Faith itself is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

When we come to a place where we have no tangible reason to believe- when we are abandoned, ill or destitute, Jesus sustains us with the reality that He is with us, and that we are already citizens of the kingdom of God.

In Jesus’ resurrection we have hope that death is not the end. We will be reunited with the vast cloud of witnesses who have gone before us, and all tears will be washed away, when Jesus returns to remake heaven and earth.

When we are at the end of our strength and powerless, we are reminded that powers and principalities and governments are temporary, and that corruption in governance will eventually be overturned.

In the new heaven and earth there will be no more evil. We will have incorruptible bodies free from the curse of sin.  We will no longer endure injustice, unfairness, and mistreatment.  There will be no illness, violence, or suffering.

As Jesus has forgiven us, so we are able to be forgiven and to forgive others. We will no longer have to carry the burden of past injuries and grudges- nor will those things be held against us where others have failed to forgive us.

The veil will be removed from our eyes, so that we can love God with a purity that is not marred by our fear or desire for self-preservation.

In Christ we will have peace, not as the world gives but as only He can give. As the apostle Paul encourages us: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV)

Even as Christians are persecuted and ridiculed for our faith more and more, we are in good company. No one can take away the promise and the hope that we have in Christ.  It’s not always easy or popular to do the right things (and we are by no means perfect at this) but by the power of the Holy Spirit we are blessed to stand and we are given the courage and the confidence to stand.

As we examine the Beatitudes, it is not a “to do” list for us, but a “God does through” us list. We are not the engine behind our transformation, and we cannot make ourselves holy through our own efforts.  It is only by the grace of God that He gives us the faith to believe and trust Him.  Christ alone redeems and transforms us.

This is good news.

June 19, 2017 -Matthew 5:1-12 -The Beautiful Attitudes

jesus compassion

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us the Beatitudes, or the “Beautiful Attitudes.” In the Bible paraphrase, The Message, we get more of a “rubber to the road” explanation of what Jesus was teaching here:

When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

 “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

 “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.  Matthew 5:1-12 (MSG)

There is an old expression that, “your altitude is determined by your attitude.”  In many ways this is very true.  If we spend years of our lives being angry or resentful over what we may not have had, we lose sight of the blessings we have been given.  If we spend years of our lives hoarding everything for ourselves when we could have been giving to and serving others, what blessings have we inadvertently passed over?   How can we expect God to give freely to us when we come to Him and others with clenched fists and closed hearts rather than having a soft heart, open hands, and extended arms? How can we fly if we are afraid to leave the house?

Jesus’ brand of meekness is not being a recluse or a milquetoast or a wimp. Jesus’ meekness is one of strength- the strength of knowing that our power is in God.  There is power in holding His beautiful attitudes of giving, of mercy, of patience in adversity and suffering, rather than shutting down, closing off, or seeking power in controlling others or controlling things.

C.S Lewis, who most of us know as the author of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, was also a man who struggled with organized religion, but came to faith in Jesus late in life. He wrote two wonderful books on Christian faith.  One is Mere Christianity, which is sort of a non-churchy introduction to a relationship with Jesus.  The other is The Screwtape Letters, which is a fictional tale of a devil’s apprentice charged with attempting to keep a person from becoming a Christian.

Lewis spoke of the point in which we realize, “it’s Christ or nothing,” when we see ourselves as God sees us. It’s the point when we realize we don’t control the world, and we finally get it that God is in charge.  God named and claimed us in our baptism- and He has always had a purpose for us even if we never really understand what that purpose is.  The adventure is in taking the challenge to go along with God and discover His purpose for us for us day by day.

It does take a hero to live up to God’s beautiful attitudes. Apart from God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, we are absolutely not capable of doing that.  Yet we need to keep our minds and hearts fixed upon the heart of God and on His beautiful attitudes.  Sometimes attitude can be everything!