THE BEATITUDES: THE CHRISTIAN’S CHARACTER

“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.” – Matt. 5:3-12 (NIV)

Introduction
Everybody who has heard of the Lord Jesus Christ and knows a bit about His teachings must surely be familiar with the Beatitudes with which the Sermon on the Mount begins.

Their simplicity and yet profoundity have attracted fresh generations of Christians as well as non-Christians. Jesus began His very long Sermon on the Mount by describing the character traits He is looking for in His followers.

He calls those who live these traits blessed because God has something special in store for them. Each beatitude (Be Attitude) is a direct contradiction of society’s typical way of life and in the last beatitude, Jesus even points out that a serious effort to develop these traits is bound to create opposition.

We find the best example of each trait in Jesus Christ Himself and our goal in studying the Beatitudes must be to become like Him. Let us therefore make all the beatitudes challenge the way we live each day.

The Beatitudes can be understood in at least more than four ways:
They are a code of ethics for the disciples and a standard of conduct for all believers.

They contrast Kingdom values (what is eternal) with worldly values (what is temporary). They contrast the superficial “faith” of the Pharisees with the real faith that Christ demands.

They show how the Old Testament expectations will be fulfilled in the new Kingdom.

These Beatitudes are not multiple choice – pick what you like and leave the rest. They must be taken as a whole. They describe what we should be like as Christ’s followers.

Each Beatitude tells how to be blessed by God. Blessed means more than happiness. It implies the fortunate or enviable state of those who are in God’s Kingdom.

The Beatitudes don’t promise laughter, pleasure or earthly prosperity. Being “blessed” by God means the experience of hope and joy, independent of outward circumstances.

To find hope and joy, the deepest form of happiness, follow Jesus no matter what the cost. With Jesus’ announcement that the Kingdom was near, people were naturally asking, “How do I qualify to be in God’s Kingdom?”

Jesus said God’s kingdom is organized differently from worldly kingdoms. In the Kingdom of Heaven, wealth and power and authority are unimportant.

Kingdom people seek differnt The life and history of God’s people are affected by blessings and curses, depending on the choices we make to obey or disobey God – Deut. 11:26ff. 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 are the Poor in Spirit: 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. This means we cannot earn a place in God’s kingdom by ourselves. We need the Holy Spirit’s life, power and grace in order to receive the benefits of spiritual salvation.

In our world today, this beatitude will mean “O the bliss of the man who has realized his own utter helplessness, and who has put his whole trust in God, for thus alone he can render to God that perfect obedience which will make him a citizen of the kingdom of heaven!”

2. Blessed are 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 our 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” – Rom. 14:17

The real meaning of the second beatitude today is “O the bliss of the man whose heart is broken for the world’s suffering and for his own sin, for out of his sorrow he will find the joy of God!”

3. Blessed are the Meek: The “meek” are those who are humble and submissive to God. They depend on nothing but on the Lord 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 – Psalm 37:11. The meek, rather than those who aggressively pursue their own ways, ultimately will inherit God’s benefits and reign with Him in the end.

The third beatitude today will mean “O the bliss of the man who is always angry at the right time and never angry at the wrong time, who has every instinct, and impulse, and passion under control because he himself is God-controlled, who has the humility to realize his own ignorance and his own weakness, for such a man is a king among men!”

4. Blessed are those who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness: Without the intense desire for righteousness, we 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.” Our spiritual condition depends on our hunger and thirst for:

The presence of God – Deut. 4:29
The Word of God – Psalm 119
The interaction and friendship of Christ – Phil. 3:8-10
The companionship, guidance and influence of the Holy Spirit – John 7:37-39

Righteousness – Matt. 5:6
God’s power – Matt. 6:33
The return of Jesus Christ – 2 Tim. 4:8

Our hunger for God and His purposes is hindered and even destroyed by the worries of life, deceitfulness of wealth – Matt. 13:22, desires for temporal things – Mark 4:19, lust for life’s pleasures – Luke 8:14 and failure to trust Christ and remain in a right relationship with Him.

When we lose our hunger for God and His standards, we 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 – John 16:8-13; Rom.8:5-16.

The fourth beatitude will today also mean “O the bliss of the man who longs for total righteousness as a starting man longs for food, and a man perishing of thirst longs for water, for that man will be truly satisfied.

To be continued!

Stay blessed!
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