Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Matthew 5:1-12 Beatitudes are Beautiful Attitudes

KEY TEXT: Matthew 5:2-10 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 of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

KEY THOT: The word "blessed" (Gk: makarios) is explained by the Amplified Bible as "spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired". But who are the "blessed" people? Jesus gives us eight attributes that define the blessed persons. These eight attributes together are known as the Beatitudes. Billy Graham calls them "Beautiful Attitudes". The eight Beautiful Attitudes of the Blessed Person are:
  1. Humility ("poor in spirit"): Humility is an attitude of being in a state of spiritual need, looking and longing for God's spiritual riches to meet their deepest needs. They are never satisfied because they know there is more of God they have not fully apprehended. Such people will inherit God's kingdom: "for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." 
  2. Repentance ("mourn"): Repentance has to do with mourning over our personal or corporate sin. It is a godly sorrow induced by our grief over our personal or corporate spiritual state: "For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death" (2 Corinthians 7:10, NKJV). When Nehemiah was told about the broken walls of Jerusalem, he wept: "As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven" (Nehemiah 1:4). Only those who mourn will be comforted with joy when God restores the broken walls and brings spiritual revival among God's people again. This attitude is contrary to the spirit of levity that is often confused with God's joy in the church.
  3. Submission ("meek"): Meekness is an attitude of submission that bend our will totally to Christ's will. It's the foundational attribute of Christ that allows us to experience rest, not stress: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls" (Matthew 11:29, KJV). Until we are absolutely surrendered to the will of God, we will always be struggling in our walk with God. Even Jesus struggled with God's will, asking God to remove the cup of suffering from him. His struggle ended when he surrendered absolutely to God's will: "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will" (Matthew 26:39). Only the meek "shall inherit the earth" (i.e. promoted to positions of spiritual authority in this life and in the life to come).
  4. Righteousness ("hunger and thirst for righteousness"): If we want to be filled with God's Spirit of holiness, there must be a hunger and thirst for righteousness. The over-emphasis on grace that excuses sinful attitude and behaviour is the reason why believers are not "full of the Spirit" (though they are filled with the Spirit). It is the hunger and thirst for holiness that allows God to fill us with His righteousness: "for they shall be satisfied".
  5. Grace ("merciful"): Mercy is more than just forgiving others for their sins against us; it's more akin to grace--giving to those who are undeserving. It's a reflection of God's gracious character of raining on the righteous and unrighteous. It is the basic character of love that is giving rather than taking. Such people shall "receive mercy" from God himself: "Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you" (Luke 6:38). 
  6. Purity ("pure in heart"): To be pure is not to be sinless but to be cleansed. The Greek word for "pure" is katharos, which is pure as being cleansed. We are cleansed by the blood of Jesus every time we confess our sins. Confession keeps us pure by cleansing us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). To stay pure, we have to keep short accounts with God. To ignore our sins is to allow dirt to accumulate in our heart, leading to spiritual arteriosclerosis, the hardening of the heart, making us insensitive to the Holy Spirit. The blessing of purity of heart is that we shall "see God"--not only literally in heaven but also spiritually right now. Seeing God is not with physical but spiritual eyes: it means we can discern God's presence in and around us.
  7. Peace-making ("peace-makers"): Peace-makers bring harmony to God's world by reconciling man to God, man to man and man with his environment. It's God's shalom that leads to peace on earth "among those whom he is pleased" (Luke 2;14). The opposite of peace-makers are peace-breakers. That is, trouble-makers who sow seeds of discords and disharmony among God's people. Those who are peace-makers are recognized by the world as "sons of God."
  8. Suffering ("persecuted for righteousness' sake): Persecution is often seen as a curse, but it's part of God's blessing: "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life" (Mark 10:29-30). In fact, such people are doubly blessed because Jesus repeated this blessing again in the next verse: "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 5:11-12). Such people are doubly blessed: in this life and in the life to come, for "theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (v.10).
Father, make us beautiful people with beautiful attitudes. Amen.

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