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Promised Persecution

“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.” Matt. 5:10-12

persecution

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Persecution requires others

You cannot do this Beatitude; it is done to you. You can recognize your spiritual poverty, mourn over sin, hunger for God, but persecution comes from others and is not of your choosing.

A double emphasis

Jesus emphasizes the topic by re-stating it: “Blessed are those who are persecuted … Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you.”

Choosing the Kingdom

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matt. 13:45-46)

Gaining access to the Kingdom involves being sold out for Jesus.

The cost of Kingdom living

Persecution is a price for living the Kingdom way. Jesus declares,

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18).

Your reaction matters

Reacting to persecution by turning the other cheek reveals Kingdom truths in real terms. Believers are blessed as they maintain a spirit of joy in the midst of personal persecution.

Persecuted for peacemaking

The Beatitude is coupled with peacemaking. Persecution sometimes comes when trying to encourage others to love God and their neighbor.

A coming persecution

“Blessed are those who are persecuted” is written in the future tense.

Persecution may not presently be occurring but can come at anytime.

Being a martyr

The New Testament word translated “witness” is rooted in martyrdom, suggesting total commitment. Many today are experiencing persecution, some giving the ultimate sacrifice.

The challenge

Be joyful in persecution. Persecution connects you with Jesus and the heroes of faith recorded in Scripture. (Hebrews 11) Rejoice, you have great reward!

How has persecution impacted your faith in Jesus?  Share your comments below.

Joyful Conflict

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matt. 5:9

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Living in conflict

People naturally want to live peacefully, in calm serenity. Jesus is not saying blessed are those living in peace, but blessed are peacemakers.

Peacemakers actually live in the midst of conflict. In other words, blessed are those living in conflict and bringing peace. Godly joy is readily found in the worst conflicts.

Responding to the poor

C.T. Studd grew up the son of a wealthy Englishman, felt compelled to fulfill Matthew 19:21, sold what he had and gave to the poor. He spent his life in China, India, and Africa. In a poem he wrote is the line,

Some wish to live within the sound of chapel bell; I wish to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell.”

Studd discovered a joy in the midst of conflict.

Ideas on peace

Jesus lived at a time described as the “Pax Romana,” or Roman peace. Rome established and maintained peace through military might. Jesus, however, is referring to a peace (shalom) that makes a person whole, not the absence of war.

Peace is described as a state of mind, inward soundness, and well-being.

Peace in relationships

Peace involves connecting with God, man, the environment, and yourself. The Fall of Man changed all these relationships, yet finding divine peace heals them.

The greatest peace

The greatest kind of peacemaking is leading someone to make peace with God.

When a person finds peace with God and themselves, they move toward reconciliation with others, giving people the ability to genuinely love everybody.

A peacemaking God

The God of peace sent His Son, Jesus, to die on a cross and restore right relationships. Jesus’ death ripped the veil and tore down the separation between God and man. Paul describes Jesus as our peace, restoring relationships and bringing unity.

For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility…and he came and preached peace to you who were far off (Gentile) and peace to those who were near (Jew).” (Ephesians 2)

The coming of Jesus brings the possibility of peace with God and your fellow man.

Sons and daughters of God

Peacemakers have an element of godliness about them, lovingly restoring right relationships. God considers peacemakers as one of His own, like a proud dad making the claim, “That’s my boy!”

The challenge

Be a peacemaker! Establish peace with God and others. Find a special joy in the midst of conflict.

What are some practical ways you can become a peacemaker to those around you? Share your comments below.

Good Intentions

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matt. 5:8

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Defining pure

Jesus is referring to internal purity, not external.

Our Muslim and Jewish neighbors do not eat pork. When they go to a butcher for hamburger they expect “pure” hamburger. Meat is considered unclean if 99.99% hamburger and 0.01% pork. Purity requires 100%.

The heart of the matter

The heart has to do with motive or intent. David intended to construct a temple for God. Although not allowed to do the construction, the Lord recognized his heart for wanting to build.

But the Lord told him, ‘You wanted to build the Temple to honor my name. Your intention is good’” (1 Kings 8:18)

His intentions were good.

Good intentions

My son Nate has lately been picking flowers for teachers while going to school. Some get a complete rose and some get petals he finds on the ground. Whether teachers receive a complete flower or varied pieces, they appreciate the gesture. His intentions are good.

The road to heaven

A phrase commonly used is, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”

According to this Beatitude the road to Heaven is paved with good intentions and is divinely blessed.

Success and faithfulness

God measures the goodness and faithfulness of a person more than success. Citizens of the Kingdom want to hear one day, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

You may not accomplish everything you set out to do but are your intentions good? Are you faithful?

The Arena

In the speech “Citizenship in a Republic” Theodore Roosevelt said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasm, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Seeing God

By wanting to please Jesus heaven is experienced on earth, with a promise of seeing God.

In the days of castles and palaces, travelers would visit with hopes of seeing the king. Only those considered “friends of the king’s presence” were given an opportunity.

Those with good intentions are considered close companions of God, friends of His presence.

Seeking God

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face…” 2 Chronicles 7:14 (emphasis added)

The challenge

Be pure in heart. Live life in the arena advancing the kingdom of God. Ask Jesus to give you strength to be faithful in every endeavor and demonstrate that you are a friend of the King’s presence.

What have you done in the name of good intentions? Share your comments below.

Steadfast Love

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Matt. 5:7

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Jesus the poet

The original audience would have recognized the Beatitudes as a form of Hebrew poetry. They form couplets, grouped together in pairs.

  • The poor in spirit, mourning over their sin
  • The meek who hunger and thirst for righteousness
  • The merciful who are pure in heart
  • The peacemakers who are persecuted for righteousness sake

A chiasmus

The first section of the Sermon on the Mount is a chiasmus, making a point larger through a reversal of two or more related clauses.

  • Blessed are the poor and spirit and those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are those who mourn sin and are peacemakers, for they shall inherit the Holy Spirit and resemble God.
  • Blessed are the meek and pure in heart, for they shall know God and experience His promises.
  • Blessed are those who hunger for righteousness and are merciful, for they shall find satisfaction.

A Hebrew perspective

Although the New Testament is written in common Greek, Jesus may have been speaking Aramaic or Hebrew when delivering the sermon. The Hebrew word used for merciful is Hesed, meaning a strong and steadfast love.

Blessed are those who have a strong, steadfast love for God and man.

A declaration worth dying for

When George Washington heard the Declaration of Independence was signed he requested it read aloud to his soldiers so they would know what many would be dying for.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

A Kingdom worthy of life

When Jesus declares the meaning of life in the Kingdom He uses the words poor, mourning, meek, and merciful. He is not painting a pleasant picture of Kingdom living. At the beginning of His ministry He tells the crowd,

Look, you want to join me, this is what it looks like.”

People were expecting a military deliverer but Jesus dashes their hopes. Blessed are the merciful. Israel did not want a merciful leader but a conquering leader.

Blessed are those with strong, steadfast love, for they shall receive mercy.

The challenge

Recognize your need for mercy and ask God to give you a strong, steadfast love. Display mercy to others!

How is strong, steadfast love being displayed in you? Share your comments below.

Hungry for More

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matt. 5:6

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Finding satisfaction

The issue in this beatitude is satisfaction. Blessed are the hungry. Are you satisfied in only praying the sinner’s prayer or starving for more out of your relationship with God?

Real hunger is not satisfied with a mere piece of bread but demands the whole loaf.

Defining righteousness

Righteousness means giving both God and man their due. In Jewish Law the righteous person met both of these obligations by fulfilling the two greatest commandments, love God and love your neighbor.

Blessed are those with an insatiable desire to do what is right toward God and others.

Defining starvation

Hungering for righteousness addresses necessity and desire. Kingdom people are desperately determined to make righteous living a priority and making the pursuit of righteousness a matter of life or death.

Getting what you want

When hungering and thirsting for the right thing, you experience deep-seated satisfaction. Jesus promises in Matthew 6:33,

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Pursuing godly desires

What kind of Jesus follower do you want to be? Are you satisfied by being a “C” Christian? What brings satisfaction, what is your deepest desire, what makes you fulfilled?

Living in the Kingdom includes being driven toward righteousness.

The challenge

Do not be satisfied with just a little bit of righteousness. Hunger for it and ask yourself how righteous you want to be when you stand before God and then realize, you already are…

Where do you find your greatest satisfaction? Share your comments below.

Powerful Control

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

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The blessed meek

Instead of the powerful, influential, and wealthy, Jesus says the meek are blessed. This goes against modern-day thinking that measures blessing by popularity and influence.

Defining a meek person

The Old Testament meek person was fully submitted to God. When things went well the person blessed God, and if things were going poorly they still blessed God.

Aristotle said meekness lays somewhere between excessive anger and angerlessness.

Plato considered someone meek if they attempted to right wrong and challenge injustice. He saw a wrongdoer as sick, in need of healing.

The New Testament translates meek as gentle, modest, unselfish, teachable, and cooperative.

Being truly meek

Four things define someone who is meek: power, control, willfulness, and purpose. Meekness is power under willful submission, being genuinely strong without needing to express it. Someone meek uses power correctly.

Meekness is the quality Jesus modeled by humbly becoming a man. He clearly displayed this attitude when washing the disciple’s feet. Out of meekness His life is a portrait of carrying a shepherds rod, a king’s scepter, wearing a prophets mantel, and yet He used a towel serving others.

The Helper

One expression of Holy Spirit fruit is gentleness, an outward form of meekness. This display of spiritual formation is not something personally produced, the Holy Spirit produces this quality.

Inheriting the earth

Jesus declared the meek inherit the land; land serving as a symbol of all God’s promises fulfilled. The meek, therefore, inherit the promises of God.

God desires to grant the full right of citizenship in His Kingdom to those under His rule. When He rules, the meek are God-controlled and live a more disciplined life. God can then give what He promised.

The Serenity Prayer

Reinhold Niebuhr wrote the Serenity Prayer, displaying meekness:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, Courage to change the things which should be changed, and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”

People are to live one day at a time, enjoy one moment at a time, and accept hardship as a pathway to peace. Take, as Jesus did, the world as it is, not as you would have it. Trust that He will make all things right, if you surrender to His will. In so doing, you can be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy in the next.

The challenge

Ask the Holy Spirit to develop greater gentleness in your life. Have courage to change the things which can be changed, and willingly surrender to His will when change is impossible. Make Him ruler of your life and experience full citizenship in the Kingdom.

How have you seen powerful control displayed in others? Share your comments below.

Joyous Mourning

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matt. 5:4

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Seeing sin through God’s eyes

There is a blessing for those who mourn over sin and feel toward sin as God does – a heart-breaking sorrow, an unhidden sadness.

The cross

Sin, a product of waywardness and rebellion, came with dire consequences; namely, eternal separation from God and the Son of God dying a sacrificial death. The cross reveals the gravity of sin.

Responses to sin

Citizens of the Kingdom of God mourn over sin. Non-citizens respond to sin in multiple ways:

  • deny it
  • justify it
  • laugh at it
  • hide it
  • are apathetic toward it
  • are angry only if stopped
  • are sorry only if caught

Godly repentance and mourning over sin are reflected in Kingdom people.

Hating sin

Misers spend money. Like everyone else, they need food, clothing, and shelter. Misers, however, hate to spend money.
Similarly, believers are miserly about sin. Paul wrote,

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23).

Believers occasionally act waywardly, transgress, makes mistakes, stumble, willfully rebel. What is your response when this occurs in your life? Do you mourn? Do you hate sinning?

Citizens of the Kingdom of God recognize personal sin is offensive to Him.

Finding joy

Followers of Jesus possess a joy because of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised, “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7)

The word “Helper” is from the Greek word “parakletos,” signifying one who consoles or comforts, encourages or uplifts. The Holy Spirit helps citizens of the Kingdom wholesomely address their sin.

Joy in the morning

Mourning over sin is not joyful but opens the doorway to joy.

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

The greater the grief, the greater the joy and the greater the blessing.

Defining Joy

Joy is peace, contentment, and satisfaction, no matter life’s circumstance. Happiness is conditional on events, whereas joy is a fuller expression of inward happiness based on Jesus.

The mourning of Jesus

He wept over Jerusalem, “And when he (Jesus) drew near and saw the city, he wept over it.” (Luke 19:41) When crucified He cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

People were blind to His identity, the long-awaited Deliverer that was revealing the Kingdom. He mourned, ascended to the right hand of God and was comforted (Acts 2:33).

His mourning is a model you can follow.

The challenge

Mourn over sin. Feel the gravity and sorrow demonstrated by Jesus, then experience unspeakable joy by obediently following Him.

How have you experienced joy by living rightly? Share your comments below.

Spiritually Bankrupt

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3

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Blessings and Woes

When Jesus was talking about blessing, the crowd understood there were also woes. Luke records several contradictory statements, one  being: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20) and “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” (Luke 6:24)

Being destitute before God

Two words are translated “poor”, one meaning poor and the other destitute. Matthew uses the word known as destitute. Someone poor may be able to work themselves out of poverty, but a destitute person is hopelessly in need, they cannot get themselves out of their condition. They end up begging for an existence.

Poor in Spirit

When Jesus talks about the poor in spirit, he is referring to being spiritually bankrupt. The person recognizes their need and correctly responds. They evaluate their condition accurately.

Living in the Kingdom

You enter the Kingdom and live in the Kingdom by continually recognizing your absolute poverty. You have nothing to give and are unable to work yourself out of your predicament. You are a destitute beggar before God.

Seeking to be taught

Begging before God requires being teachable and correctable.  Mature followers of Jesus are not only teachable, but seek out opportunities to be corrected.

Where is the Kingdom?

When living in the Kingdom on earth God’s will is done like it is in heaven. He rules! As people recognize spiritual poverty and remain teachable, they experience Kingdom living.

Allowing God to rule

The more you earnestly plead your condition before God, the more He rules your life. The less you recognize your need and fail to pray, the less He rules.

Needing others

You cannot get into the Kingdom by yourself. By joining arms with the church, you experience the Kingdom. Join ranks with others who recognize their spiritual bankruptcy and live in the Kingdom.

Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom is heaven on earth and is for those:

  • recognizing and acknowledging their spiritual bankruptcy
  • seeing themselves as dependent upon God and pleading for His help
  • evaluating themselves accurately, remaining teachable before God and the church

The challenge

Accurately recognize your spiritual condition and examine yourself. Be teachable, asking God to constantly and faithfully rule your life. By grace you can experience heaven on earth.

What are some practical ways you strive to remain poor in spirit? Share your comments below.

Following Jesus

“I wish I would have talked about Jesus more,” a colleague who has given 30 years to living and working overseas shared. He went on to explain what it means to follow Jesus. I will be taking the next couple of months to share his thoughts. I pray you will have a greater understanding of living in the Kingdom of God.

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View of Galilee from Mt of Beatitudes

Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.” Romans 13:14 (NLT)

Playing the part of Jesus

Scripture instructs the church to be “clothed” with the presence of Jesus. Following Christ means consciously embracing Him in such a way that His character is manifested in all you do and say.

The spoken words of God

Some Bibles print the words of Jesus in red, giving them special emphasis. Most people do not hear the audible voice of God. By reading the words spoken by Jesus is a person reading the audible voice of God? Regardless, His recorded words are very special.

The most important words

Recognizing the words of Jesus being of great value, is there a ranking order in which some of His words are more important?

The Sermon on the Mount

After asking twelve disciples to follow Him, Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. This was His inaugural address, His opening speech in ministry.

How do we know it’s important?

Jesus sat when He gave the sermon. It was an ancient tradition to be seated when saying something of great importance. “Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.” Matthew 5:1

Matthew also states, “He opened His mouth and began to teach them” (v. 2). The phrase, “he opened his mouth” means Jesus was speaking from His heart, the words carried great significance. The original word translated “began” teaching meant this was an ongoing message, something repeated at other locations. The sermon was the base of his message and ministry.

The message theme

The theme of the message is righteousness:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33).

Defining righteousness

Righteousness is giving both to God and man their due. When man is giving God His due, the Bible translates the word as righteousness. When God is giving man his due, the Bible translates the word as justice. The link between righteousness and justice is loving God and man.

What foundation are you building on?

At the end of Jesus’ message, He refers to two foundations. One house is built on a rock and another on sand. Life is like building a house and storms must be considered. Knowing storms will come, on what foundation are you building your life? Is your life able to weather storms? Are you building on principles defined by Jesus or upon worldly desires? The foundation determines what happens when a storm comes.

The challenge

Clothe yourself in the righteousness of Christ and build your life on His solid foundation. Live loving God and loving others.

What kind of foundation are you building your life on? How can you display love for God and love for your neighbor? Share your comments below.