“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 children 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. – Matthew 5:3-12.
“The Sermon on the Mount” – Matthew 5,6 & 7 – commonly called Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, contain a powerful yet practical revelation of the principles and standards by which God expects all Christians to live. Of course, living up to these standards is possible only through faith in Jesus, the Son of God, and through the power of the Holy Spirit. In this message, Jesus teaches a large group of potential followers what it really means to follow Him and be part of God’s kingdom. All who belong to the kingdom are to demonstrate godly character and have an intense hunger and thirst for righteousness (that is, to do what is right and maintain a right relationship with God).
For the next weeks we will be looking at what scripture tell us about our conduct. There are certain character requirements if we wish to receive the benefits of God’s kingdom; we must be guided by God’s purposes and values and not by the ways and values of the world.
1. BLESSED…POOR IN SPIRIT. The word “blessed” refers to the well-being and joy of those who, because of their relationship to Christ and His Word, find their place in God’s kingdom. The benefits of that “membership” include God’s constant love, care, presence and spiritual salvation. There are certain character requirements if we wish to receive the benefits of God’s kingdom; we must be guided by God’s purposes and values and not by the ways and values of the world. The first of these requirements is to be “poor in spirit” – not arrogant or self-reliant. We must humbly recognize that we are not spiritually self-sufficient. That means that we cannot earn a place in God’s kingdom; we need the Holy Spirit’s life, power and grace (undeserved favour, love, enablement) in order to receive the benefits of spiritual salvation.
2. THOSE WHO MOURN
To “mourn” is to recognize and feel sorrow over our own weakness in relation to God’s perfect standards and ultimate power. It also means grieving over the things that grieve God, such as the unfaithfulness, immorality and cruelty that are rampant in the world. Those who mourn over sin and its effect on people’s lives – and commit themselves to helping rescue people from evil – are comforted by receiving from God’s “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”.
3. THE MEEK
This does not simply suggest a modest attitude toward other people. The “meek” are those who are humble and submissive to God. They depend on nothing but Him for security in life and refuge from trouble. They commit themselves and the direction of their lives entirely to Him. They are more concerned about God’s work and God’s people than about what might happen to them personally. The meek, rather than those who aggressively pursue their own ways, ultimately will inherit God’s benefits and reign with Him in the end.
4. HUNGER AND THIRST FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS
This is one of the most important verses in the Sermon on the Mount. Without this intense desire for righteousness, a person will not pursue a deeper relationship with God or try to develop the rest of the character traits Jesus describes.
- The foundational requirement for all godly living is to “hunger and thirst for righteousness”. Such hunger is seen in Moses, the psalm writer and the great missionary, Paul. The spiritual condition of Christians all throughout their lives will depend on their hunger and thirst for: the presence of God, the Word of God, the interaction and friendship of Christ, the companionship, guidance and influence of the Holy Spirit; righteousness, God’s power and the return of the Christ.
- The Christian’s hunger for God and His purposes is hindered – and even destroyed – by the worries of life, deceitfulness of wealth, desire for temporal things, lust for life’s pleasures and failure to trust Christ and remain in a right relationship with Him. When a Christian loses his or her hunger for God and his standards, he or she will begin to die spiritually. For this reason, it is essential that we be sensitive and responsive to the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives and consciences, keeping us away from evil and drawing us closer to God.
5. THE MERCIFUL
The “merciful” are full of sympathy and compassion toward those who are suffering either from sin or sorrow. The merciful sincerely want to help ease and eliminate such suffering by influencing people to depend on God for help and to entrust their lives to Jesus Christ. Merciful people also get actively involved in meeting people’s need. By showing mercy to others, we “will be shown mercy”
6. THE PURE IN HEART
The “pure in heart” are those who have devoted themselves to God and have been freed from sin power by God’s grace (His undeserved favour, love, help and enablement). That grace now enables them to please God and bring honour to Him by the way they live. They seek to have the same attitude that God has – a love for what is true and right and hatred of evil. Their heart (which includes mind, will and emotions;). This means that their thoughts and desires are pure according to His standards of holiness (i.e., moral purity, spiritual integrity, separation from evil and dedication to God). God requires holiness in His followers because He is holy and because only the pure in heart “will see God”. To see God means to be His child and experience a close personal relationship with Him, both now and in His future eternal kingdom.
7. THE PEACEMAKERS
The “peacemakers” are those who have been reconciled to God (restored to a right relationship with Him). Peace with God is available to anyone who accepts the sacrifice Jesus made for their sins by His death on the cross. Those who truly have peace with God will make every effort to show that peace to others – including their enemies – and to bring others into a relationship of peace with God.
8. PERSECUTED BECAUSE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. People who follow Christ and live according to the principles of God’s Word will face opposition and rejection. Those who uphold God’s standards of truth, justice and purity, refusing to follow and walk in the ungodly lifestyles of society, will be unpopular. They will receive criticism and opposition from the world; and at times from those within the church. The Bible teaches that this is a time to rejoice because God reserves a special blessing for those who suffer for His sake. Christians must beware of the temptation to compromise their faithfulness to God’s purposes in order to avoid shame, embarrassment or loss. The principles of God’s kingdom never change: “…everyone who wants to live godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”. Yet those who suffer and endure persecution because of their devotion and commitment to God are promised a place of honour and reward in God’s heavenly kingdom.
To be continued!!
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