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Friday, May 6, 2016

The Beatitudes (Blessings)

The Beatitudes (Blessings)

The Beatitudes are blessings that Jesus gave us when He preached his Sermon on the Mount.  (Matthew 5:3-12) Christ began his sermon with these blessings, because He came into the world to bless us.  (Acts 3:26)

The worldly opinion is that people are blessed if they are rich or famous or good looking. Folk who spend their years in pleasure, playing games, eating good food and not having big problems.  These proud ones are considered blessed by worldly standards.  He who dies with the most toys wins!  But here Jesus comes to give us quite a different and spiritual view of what real blessedness is.  

We Christians must take our measure of blessedness from different standards than the world’s standards.  We must break with the world. And live our lives accordingly.  The standards for blessedness that Jesus gives in His sermon remove the discouragements of the weak and poor who receive the gospel.  Christ’s standards bring freedom and joy and peace and love. 

The Beatitudes of Jesus let us know what God expects from us, and what we may then expect from Him. Jesus gives us eight characteristics of blessed people.  Eight graces of a Christian that God will bless.  On each of these eight characteristics a blessing is pronounced along with a future blessing too!

 Jesus begins with the 1st blessing.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3) This being “poor in spirit” I believe means to be humble, to be contentedly poor, or willing to be empty of worldly wealth if God orders that to be our lot.  It is to sit loose to all worldly wealth and not set our hearts upon it.

  If we are blessed with worldly goods we share with the needy.  To be poor in spirit is to be willing to make ourselves cheap and little if we have to in order to do good.  Paul says he knows “how to be abased,” (Philippians 4:12) These ones who are “poor in spirit” inherit the kingdom of grace and glory – the kingdom of heaven.   

The 2nd Beatitude or blessing is to those who mourn.  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  (Matthew 5:4) This is another strange blessing.  It is a godly sorrow to live a life of repentance and mourning for our own sins, and the sins of others.  There is the sympathetic mourning for the suffering of others and also for the sins of others.  The mourning of a parent for a wayward child. 

But the promise for the mourner is that “they shall be comforted”.  Their prayers will be answered!   Light is shown for them!  The joy of heaven is that sorrows will be turned to joy and the “wiping away of all tears from their eyes.”  (Revelations 21:4)

The 3rd Beatitude or blessing is for the meek.  “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”  (Matthew 5:5) The meek are those who quietly submit themselves to God.  They are gentle towards others, not easily angered, patient, forgiving and unassuming.  Christ was meek and we are to follow His example.  Meekness perhaps has a tendency to promote health, comfort, safety and wealth in this world.   We don’t know all that this blessing encompasses. 

Jesus’ 4th blessing is given to those who long for righteousness and perhaps work for justice.   “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”  (Matthew 5:6) Those who bear oppression and refer themselves to God shall in due time be satisfied.  We as believers are covered with the righteousness of Christ.  We become a “new person” and we bear the image of Christ and we have an interest in Christ and His promises. When we truly desire more of Christ and His righteousness and our appetites are spiritual, God will grant us our desires and we shall be filled. 

The 5th of Christ’s blessings is given to the merciful.  “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”  (Matthew 5:7)   We must not only bear our own troubles patiently, but the Lord asks us to sympathize and share the sufferings of our brothers and sisters.  We are to “put on mercy, compassion, kindness, humility, patience and gentleness.  Bear with one another and forgive one another as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:12) In this Beatitude Christ promises God’s mercy to those who show mercy to one another.

Jesus’ 6th blessing is to those who have a pure heart.  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  (Matthew 5:8) True Christianity lies in the heart, in the purity of the heart.  Our hearts must be washed from wickedness. (Jeremiah 4:14) (1 John 1:9) Only the Lord can purify our hearts.  Only He will wash us if we allow Him.   Jesus told his disciples that if they didn’t allow Him to wash them then they would have no part of Him. (John 13:8) We must clothe ourselves in Jesus Christ because He is our righteousness. We cannot clean up our own hearts.  But when we reach out to Christ in faith He will wash us and create in us a clean heart.  Making our hearts pure is a process called sanctification. If we allow Him, the Holy Spirit sanctifies us. And when we allow Christ to give us His righteousness we are given the blessing of seeing God.    

The 7th Beatitude is a blessing for peace-makers.  “Blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9) We are working with Christ when we do our best to make and keep the peace.  Christ came into the world to proclaim peace on earth.  Are the peace-makers given a blessing that the peace-breakers miss out on? 

And the 8th and last Beatitude or blessing is for those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.  Jesus says these folk who are treated badly will receive a wonderful reward in heaven.  “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you falsely because of Me (Jesus).  Rejoice and be very glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  (Matthew 5:11-12)

You notice that Scripture says these insults and bad reports about the person being persecuted are false.  If you are treated badly for something bad that you did, this blessing doesn’t apply.  But Jesus was persecuted and crucified because He didn’t fit into the sinful world.  And we won’t always fit into our world either if we are following Him.  We are called to take up our cross and follow Him. There is a long list of Christians martyrs who have died for their faith.

Down through the ages the Beatitudes have been a favorite part of Scripture for Christians.  Jesus gives all Christians his joy and his peace.  But then He gives even more.  In the Beatitudes Christ gives special blessings for special situations. Eight blessings for eight characteristics or graces of blessed people.  Graces that we can try to cultivate in our lives.  Do we want or have these characteristics? Are we humble?  Do we make peace with those who hate us?  Are we kind and merciful to others in need?  Do we allow Christ to make our hearts pure?  Do we long for righteousness and justice?  I don’t know about you, but I have more work to do. Christ is waiting to pour more blessings out over us.      

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