“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – Jesus (John 10:10)
Last week I started to share with you what the “Beatitudes” say about finding true happiness. The word “Happiness” may be misleading, however, because these days what the world sees as “happiness” can be obtained through a new car, a slimmer body and younger-looking face, a good romantic relationship, or “enough” money, … whatever that means. People chase after these things and more in pursuit of the elusive thing called “happiness.”
I would submit to you that happiness is not a goal but a by-product. If our goal is worthwhile, attaining it gives us that sense of contentment that we long for. For the Christian, that goal is God – knowing Him, being in His will, doing what we were created for, and knowing that He is being glorified in our lives. The more we love Him, the more “happiness” (joy) we have in serving Him.
Last week, we saw how the first four Beatitudes direct the lost person to the point of salvation – being “found”:
1.) “Blessed are the poor in spirit … ” (Matthew 5:3) First we must realize our state of spiritual bankruptcy.
2.) “Blessed are those who mourn …” (vs. 4) We must acknowledge that spiritual bankruptcy is bad.
3.) “Blessed are the meek…” (vs. 5) We must admit responsibility for where we are.
4.) “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness …” (vs. 6) We must desire something better.
And as we continue to reach for God, it does get better!
5.) “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (vs 7)
Face it, we all need mercy! “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) God is merciful and wants to forgive us. But as we come to Him for mercy, we can’t at the same time refuse to forgive others. (“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Matthew 6:12) Letting go of any grudges is the way we show that we realize the depth of our own sin. The attitude that says, “Their sin is worse than mine!” will only send us back to Square One. Whatever anyone else has done,”Let it go!”
WRONG ATTITUDE: “Forgive me, God, but punish THEM.”
RIGHT ATTITUDE: “God, I am no better than anyone else. Please forgive me, and help me to forgive, too.”
P.S. Forgiveness isn’t a feeling, it’s an act of the will. Even if you still feel angry, you can consciously choose to give the matter to God. He will honor your sacrifice, even if you don’t feel “sincere.” Oddly, once we do make that choice, with God’s help the healing starts, and eventually the feelings won’t torment us so much – they may even go away entirely. (I speak from experience.)
6.) “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (vs 8)
The result of forgiveness is a clean heart! Without all the dirt of sin and corruption we can see God more clearly. However, now that we are made clean, our adversary (Satan) wants all the more to get us muddy again and make it look as though we were never saved in the first place. We should not be ignorant of his schemes! While we should not accept sin in our lives with an “oh well” attitude any more, God doesn’t expect us to be perfect now, and neither should we. Repentance should be a daily prayer. The good news is that God hears that prayer, and every day we can start again with a clean heart.
WRONG ATTITUDE: “Yeah, I still mess up, but oh well, nobody’s perfect.“
RIGHT ATTITUDE: “Lord, purify my heart today. Help me to live a life that is pleasing to You.“
7.) “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (vs 9)
Being forgiven means we have peace with God! But what about the people around us? Jesus told His followers, ” ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.’ “ (Mark 16:15) Jesus wants everyone to know and experience the peace with Him that we now enjoy – the peace He died for! – and we should want that, too. As we grow in our faith, it’s time to share that faith with others.
WRONG ATTITUDE: “Praise God I’m saved! Too bad for those other guys.“
RIGHT ATTITUDE: “Salvation is too good to keep to myself!”
8.) “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven … Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven” (vs 10 & 12)
Here is the sign of the highest level of maturity as believers – rejoicing to be counted worthy to suffer for Jesus. In many parts of the world suffering for the gospel is the normal sign of a Christian. But in America Christians have very little of what could be remotely considered “persecution.”
I admit I have not reached this level of maturity yet. Unbelievers around me either like me, tolerate me, or ignore me. If they are lying about me or accusing me, they’re usually doing it behind my back. I have not yet experienced true persecution. Will I someday be able to rejoice when I am persecuted that I am considered worthy to suffer for Jesus? Only time will tell, but I am confident that whatever my shortcomings, God can give me the strength I need when the time comes, as long as I “abide in Him.”
WRONG ATTITUDE: “I’m happy to serve the Lord, until it gets uncomfortable or inconvenient. Then forget it.”
RIGHT ATTITUDE: “Following Jesus is worth whatever I suffer in this life. Suffering is temporary, but His rewards are forever.“
Wherever we are on the journey of faith, we should all be striving to become more mature and Christ-like. Think about it: if we are suffering for the Lord and rejoicing, what is left to bring us down? “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for coming to earth to live as one of us. Thank You for understanding our weaknesses and being willing to die to give us new life. As we look to You as our only hope, draw us to Yourself, and make us more like You, in Your name, Amen.