Summary: The Beatitudes: Building Blocks to Be Like Jesus #1
In Matthew 5 Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount with what we have called the beatitudes . What are the beatitudes and how do they apply to the Christian life? Over the next several weeks we’re going to take a closer look at these paradoxical statements of joy.
Why would I call the beatitudes paradoxical statements of joy? Jesus repeatedly says blessed, but Jesus does not bless what we might expect. “Blessed are the poor in spirit. . . blessed are those who mourn. . . blessed are the meek and gentle. . . blessed are those who are persecuted.” These are definitely not the American idea of blessings!
Why do we call Jesus’ statements “the beatitudes?” A beatitude is a condition of supreme well-being, joy happiness and cheer. Jesus begins each of the beatitudes saying, “blessed.” Blessed means fortunate, well off, or happy. However, Jesus is not talking about a superficial blessing; the beatitudes are not a promise of laughter, pleasure or earthy prosperity.
Jesus offers a blessing which is independent of outward circumstances. Christ’s blessing brings a hope and joy which cannot be taken away by this world because His blessing brings God’s favor and grace into our lives. “With God on our side like this, HOW CAN WE LOSE?” (Romans 8:31 MsgB)
I sometimes refer to the beatitudes as “BE ATTITUDES;” these are the attitudes, characteristics or qualities which should be a part of the Christian life. The “Be Attitudes” are the building blocks of a Christ-like lifestyle. Put simply the beatitudes show us how to BE LIKE JESUS.
When we live our lives like Jesus we live a blessed life–a life full of joy, so the beatitudes are also essential qualities for joy. Jesus lived a joyful life! (Why should we want to be like Jesus if He were always depressed?) Living like Jesus gives us joy this world can’t give, AND CAN’T TAKE AWAY!
+ Hebrews 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross. (NIV)
My greatest desire for us as a church is for us to be like Jesus, to experience His joy in everything we do. If we are living our lives like Jesus, then we will be His hands, His feet, and His voice; we will walk where Jesus walks, do what Jesus does and say what Jesus says. Furthermore, if we as a church live like Jesus, then we will be a joyful church which other people will want to be a part of.
How much are we living our lives like Jesus? Are our lives different from our non-Christian family and friends? We may live in the same homes, drive the same cars, and work the same jobs, but are the guiding principles we live by different?
Far too often we don’t look much different from people who are still in the world. As Christians we live in the world, but are not to be of the world; our minds should not be squeezed into the mold of the world, but be transformed (see: John 17:16; Romans 12:2). Living like Jesus means we should be different!
The beatitudes: building blocks to be like Jesus.
+ Matthew 5:3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (NIV)
Jesus opens the sermon on the mount with this paradox, “Happy are the poor in spirit.” What appears on the surface to be a contradiction is due to our misunderstanding of what Jesus is saying. The first step to understanding what Jesus is saying is to know what He is not saying.
1. Poor in spirit does not mean financial poverty. In fact spiritual poverty has nothing to do with money. Your personal wealth or lack of wealth is not what Jesus is referring to. Yet some teach that to be truly blessed by God you must surrender your financial wealth. Didn’t Jesus tell the rich young ruler to go and sell everything and then come to follow Him? Yes, He did. Aren’t riches among the thorns which choke the word of God keeping it from being fruitful in a person’s life? True again. However, money is not the problem; the real issue is the condition of the heart. You and I could be financially poor having nothing which is valuable in the eyes of the world, yet we may not be poor in spirit. As we’ll see the heart of the pauper may still be rich or full of self.
2. Poor in spirit also does not mean being biblically illiterate. Some say we need to be spiritually rich; we need a wealth of biblical knowledge to make us mature in our faith. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, maturity is not dependent upon your biblical knowledge, but upon your obedience to the word. Genuine maturity is proved by our love for one another and not by how much of the bible we can quote or time spent in prayer. The spiritual poverty which Jesus said is blessed will transform the way we live our lives.