We began this series from verse 1 of Matthew chapter 5 – ‘Sitting at the feet of Jesus…..’ allowing him to speak, that we may hear the very words of God. Here in these twelve verses lie a kernel of teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven; not so much on how to enter as much as who belongs in the Kingdom. As Jesus speaks, he is calling and inviting all who would hear. Eight blessings are announced. Eight ‘approvals’ as hearers and responders have come. Eight profound changes within the believer who has entered. Eight new directions brought into existence by the will and power of God and our own response and obedience to the call. One can never say, ‘I am a Christian’ (by the Bible’s definition) and not be led from the old person we were and not into the new. When belief in Christ is professed, along with repentance (a genuine plea for the forgiveness of sin), one enters the Kingdom of God; all by God’s grace with no merit we can claim. When sin entered the world God already had a rescue plan. Redemption through God becoming one with us and for us (Phil 2:6-11) giving his life on the cross, that our sin would be forgiven. The life given was also the life reclaimed through resurrection; all who would hear the call of Jesus to come to him would be forgiven of their sin and also raised to new life. The old crucified with Christ and the new raised with him. (Rom 6:1-14).
The Beatitudes as a collective is but one expression of what takes place within a believer and the changes evidenced in God’s new way of seeing, being and living within the world we live. The Beatitudes are like a ladder: the first makes way for the second and so forth. There are first things first. Also, we do not leave the lower rungs after we have left them but find ourselves continually as needed to go back and be reminded and respond as required. The Beatitudes may be like a ladder but they are also a collective that will remain with us on our Christian journey, this walk through the days of life we find ourselves, and on through all the days we are given. God’s plan of redemption and living this new life in Christ is never a thing we must struggle through on our own – for God Himself is with us and for us (John 14:5-31) “…..for He lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:17)
So the Beatitudes, a succinct collection of verses on Jesus speaking; and such a relatively easy segment to memorise and commit to memory that we may draw upon at any time- “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you….I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways….” (Psalm 119:11)
The Beatitudes begin: “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” The believer has an unmistakable (initiated by God’s Holy Spirit – John 16:7-11) sense of awareness of their poverty, their emptiness of any goodness or spiritual wellbeing before God our creator. The believer is laid bare before the Holy God with only a self-righteousness to show, and self-righteousness is not righteousness at all. So one begins to mourn such a state to be in, mourning leads on towards meekness with a teachable spirit; a brokenness that in humility allows God to heal, fix and begin to rebuild. One now finds themselves to be in a place to hunger and thirst after God’s righteousness, and the promise is, ‘…and they will be filled’.
Thus, it becomes, more of God and less of me so I am led forth in the quality of mercy. In so receiving God’s mercy I am becoming more merciful after God’s own heart. Purity of heart is leading me to purity of life and in turn, I am becoming a peacemaker after the manner of Christ- bringing unity and drawing others toward, and into, the Kingdom of God.
I have so become through belief and conviction that Christ is the Son of God. He is the one who saves and forgives all our sin, He is Lord of all. My life has so changed from the old and continues to be challenged towards the new. I have relapses, I have falls, I have times of losing my direction (the glitter of Vanity Fair….) but Christ still speaks and calls me back to the straight road (John Bunyan’s The Pilgrims Progress is an excellent read on this topic) –then I remember the words of Jesus… My poverty of spirit, to hunger and thirst again for God’s right ways… My life becomes changed to the point that old friends and acquaintances no longer recognise me. They notice changes in my language and behaviours as I come to a place where my light shines exposing dark places where Jesus does not inhabit and I hear insults, evil criticisms even slanderous things said about me from people I hardly know, even from friends and even from family. I may even be persecuted where others want to hurt me….all because of Jesus. I take heart for they also persecuted the Prophets long before me. Indeed, they nailed Jesus to a cross as the crowds cried out, ‘Crucify him’
But as in the first and so in the last of the Beatitudes, the promise stands firm….theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. And, rejoice and be glad for God had the first word in all creation and God will have the last! Take heart one and all in these times.
HYMN: Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me And that thou bidst me come to thee, O Lamb of God I come, I come. Just as I am though tossed about, with many a conflict many a doubt Fighting’s and fears within, without, O Lamb of God I come, I come. Just as I am thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve Because thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God I come, I come.
sung by Brian Doerksen – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZhAWErbbwU