Summary: In the most famous sermon ever preached, Jesus sets forth eight statements that provide the best definition of a disciple ever delineated
Developing a Disciple’s Attitude
In a classic comic, Calvin and Hobbes are talking about the New Year when Calvin says, “I’m getting disillusioned with these new years. They don’t seem very new at all. Each New Year is just like the old year. Here another year has gone by and everything’s still the same. There’s still pollution and war and stupidity and greed…I thought things were supposed to improve. I thought the future was supposed to be better.” After listening to this skeptical soliloquy, Hobbes replies, “The problem with the future is that it keeps turning into the present.”
Do you ever feel that way? While it’s difficult to put the past behind us, it’s even more challenging to be proactive in the present so that we’re transformed tomorrow. And some of us make resolutions in the New Year in the hopes that the future won’t turn into the present. I came across a website this week that listed the “Top Ten New Year’s Resolutions” (http://rats2u.com/christmas/newyear). Not surprisingly, the top four are health-related but two of the ten deal with the health of the soul:
Become a better person
Become more spiritual
We want things to be different in a new year but we quickly find out how elusive real change can be. We wish each other “Happy New Year” without really thinking through what that means. Is there a way to be happy, or is there more to life than the pursuit of happiness? How can we become better people? I’d like to suggest that we must develop a disciple’s attitude in order to have a happy New Year and to live a holy life.
In the most famous sermon ever preached, Jesus sets forth eight statements that provide the best definition of a disciple ever delineated. Please follow along as I read from Matthew 5:1-12. These opening words from the premier preacher of all time are known as “The Beatitudes” and we’ll be taking a look at each one in the next two months. As we go through these life-changing words, could I encourage you to memorize these verses? As we allow the Scripture to sink down into our souls, its power to transform us will be unleashed:
“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.’”
Let me make some preliminary comments that will help us interpret, understand, and apply this sermon to our lives.
1. These eight qualities can only be lived out by Christians. These spiritual standards come about only through surrender to the Savior. Jesus is not saying, “Live like this in order to be saved.” He’s saying, “Live like this because you are saved.” Conduct must flow out of character. A Christian is one who embraces and embodies the Beatitudes. Another way to say it is that if you want to spot a Christ-follower in a crowd, look for these eight character qualities.
2. The Beatitudes are a package deal, not something to pick and choose from. Along with the Fruit of the Spirit that is to ripen in every believer, a Christian should, and must, display each of these character traits. They are not just for the “spiritual elite,” but are for every believer. In addition, these are not eight separate groups of disciples, some who are meek and others who hunger for God. It’s easy to make the mistake of saying, “I’m just not merciful” or “I’m just not a peacemaker.” Oswald Chambers refers to these words as lovely and poetic, yet their impact is that of “spiritual torpedoes.”
We can’t pick the easy ones and ignore the difficult ones like being pure and being prepared for persecution. Incidentally, many of the Beatitudes are the exact opposite of what we want to do. While easy to appreciate, they are difficult to apply. John Stott writes: “The Sermon on the Mount is probably the best-known part of the teaching of Jesus, though arguably it is the least understood, and certainly the least obeyed” (“The Message of the Sermon on the Mount,” Page 15).