Thursday, January 9, 2014

Mt 5:1-16 Beautiful Attitudes for Blessed Life

Matt 5:1-16 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek,for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 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. You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

In Matthew 5-7, we come to the heart of Jesus' new covenant "law" for the Church. That his teaching (called the Sermon on the Mount) is meant for believers is evidenced by his statement in verse 16: "In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." So, Jesus is implying that the church as children of the Father already possessed the light, but the light can become hidden if the right attitudinal conditions are not met. So, the 8 Blessed's (also known as the "Beatitudes") are "beautiful attitudes" that will secure divine blessings. But we must remember that implied in these beautiful attitudes is the assumption that we have already possessed them as a result of God's grace bestowed upon us in Christ. Without Christ within us, these would be impossible attitudes to acquire.

What are these Beautiful Attitudes that will help us enjoy the Blessed Life?
  1. Humility ("Blessed are the poor in spirit"): Not all Christians are humble because humility is both a possession and a choice. That is why, both Apostle Peter and James exhort believers to "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time" (1 Peter 5:6; James 4:10). To arrive at our future destiny of the kingdom of heaven, believers will need to choose daily to walk by the Spirit (marked by humility) rather than by the flesh (marked by pride). Believers' future inheritance of the Kingdom of heaven will depend on their daily choice to remain "poor in spirit", so that  "theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (v.3). Humility is the starting point of the Blessed Life. 
  2. Broken Spirit ("Blessed are those who mourn"): Once we have chosen the path of humility rather than pride, we will begin to see our true self-centred attitudes and motivations lurking within our heart. Humility allows the Spirit to convict us of our selfishness which will lead to godly sorrow (mourning). And the Apostle Paul says that godly sorrow is good: "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret...See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done" (1 Cor. 7:10-11). Jesus says that those who mourn "will be comforted" (v.4). The Greek root word for "comforted" (parakaleo) also suggests being encouraged and strengthened. But it begins with a broken spirit caused by awareness of one's sinfulness convicted by the Holy Spirit.
  3. Meekness ("Blessed are the meek"): Meekness as it is often said is not the same as weakness. Meekness is an attitude of complete submission to God's dealings--whether it brings prosperity or adversity. It's the attitude expressed by Jesus when He cried out at the Garden of Gethsemane: "Nevetheless, not my will but Yours be done!" If we are completely submitted to God--manifested by an uncomplaining attitude of contentment--then we will "inherit the earth." The reference to "earth" rather than "heaven" suggests that the blessing will take place in this life. Those who are meek (totally submitted to fulfill God's agenda) will be promoted to positions of authority and power, because only the meek can handle authority and power without corruption.
  4. Spiritual Hunger & Thirst ("Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness"): When we have adopted the attitude of meekness (absolute surrender to God's agenda), there will grow a spiritual desire for God's righteousness. In some churches that I preach, I see the spiritual hunger in the eyes of the congregation. In other churches, there is a blank look of indifference. These lack of spiritual desire is a symptom of the absence of earlier attitudes of humility, brokenness and submission to God. The Beatitudes are progressive--we can only have the one after when we have the one before it. So, spiritual desire for righteousness (to do what is right) is a consequence of the first three attitudes. When believers have this hunger and thirst for righteousness, they will be filled. Here, the word "filled" suggests the infilling of the Spirit, for righteousness is a fruit of the Spirit: "The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17).
  5. Mercy ("Blessed are the merciful"): While the first four Beatitudes have to do with our attitudes towards God, the next four have to do with our attitudes towards others. However, the last four attitudes towards others flow out of the first four attitudes towards God. The first of these attitudes is mercy, which is God's grace expressing in compassion for the marginalized people, viz., the poor, the sick, the prisoners and the rejected and dejected. Jesus only had harsh words to the self-assured and self-righteous Pharisees, but compassion for the common people who were "harassed and helpless, like sheep without shepherds" (Mt 9:36). If we are genuinely filled with the Spirit, we cannot but find expression for our compassion through deeds that touch the marginalized people. And the blessing of such attitude is that we ourselves become recipients of others' mercy and compassion: "for they will be shown mercy". The biblical principle is this: We receive what we give not give what we receive,
  6. Purity ("Blessed are the pure in heart"): While mercy has to do with outward actions, purity has to do with inward motivations. The purest heart is one motivated by love for God and love of God. When we are filled with God's love through the Holy Spirit, our thoughts and motivations is always to bless, never to hurt. It's not just about having clean thoughts, but loving thoughts about others. The impure in heart is focused on how to make use of others; the pure in heart is focused on how to serve others. The pure in heart "shall see God"--not necessarily face to face but see God and good in every thing and every person. In other words, when our hearts are pure, we can see God in His creation, in nature and in the animals and humans: "To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure" (Titus 1:15).
  7. Peacemakers ("Blessed are the peacemakers"): The opposite of peacemakers are trouble-makers. Are we problem-givers or problem-solvers? There are some people who can only raise problems but not give solutions. God wants His children to be peacemakers, able to bring harmony to places of conflicts. This can be in the homes and also in the offices--even unfortunately in the churches. Where there are people, there are problems. Not that people are problems but that relationships are often strained by bad attitudes and insensitive words. So, Christians in the homes and marketplace should not be the ones who add to the problems (trouble-makers) but find solutions (peace-makers). Peace-making is the mission of God as He sent His Son to die on the cross in order to make peace with sinful humanity. So, we are most like "sons of God" when we are engaged in peace-making, helping people to be reconciled with one another and with God. The opposite (trouble-makers) are like sons of the Devil.
  8. Persecution ("Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness"): Peace-making is not always peaceful--sometime peace-makers can be persecuted when they pursue the righteous path because wicked people hate them for exposing their unrighteous deeds. Indeed, persecution is a type of blessing. Jesus includes it with family, houses and fields: "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields — and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life" (Mark 10:29-30). The Blessed Life is not a Trouble-Free life--it includes persecution. 
Jesus reinforces the last point by saying again, "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." (Matt 5:11-12). So, when we have all these 8 beautiful attitudes, we shall then be true salt that can preserve moral and spiritual corruption in our homes, marketplaces and social institutions and also shine God's light into dark places to eradicate evil from among us. That is our mission and the conditions that make such mission possible is within us--our attitudes.

Lord, thank You for teaching us that it all starts with heart-attitudes. The blessed life begins where it matter--in a heart indwelt and filled with Your Spirit. Amen.

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