Tuesday, June 22, 2004

More on the Beatitudes

My first message on the Beatitudes was an interesting study for me. As I studied to prepare an introduction to understanding and living the Beatitudes of Matt 5:1-10, I recognized a few important principles about Christ's teaching that reach into his whole sermon on the mount, and the Gospel itself. Let's look at the STANDARD and the MISSION Christ gives us in his sermon today, and we'll explore the other principles later.

First, we are given an impossible standard.

Consider the beatitudes for a second. Upon first reading, if you take inventory of the past few hours, days, and weeks you will find that your righteousness falls woefully short. Jesus echoes the Law when he establishes the God's requirements for holy living: Matthew 5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Consider this standard that Jesus establishes for his hearers:
Matthew 5:20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."
Now, when one discovers this holy standard he is faced with his sin, with his wretchedness in the face of Christ's purity and the awesome requirements of God's justice. At this discovery we then meet with the first beatitude, 'Blessed are the poor in spirit.' We are in desperate need of God's grace, the work of Christ, and the power of the Spirit to find any footing in God's kingdom. This is the heart of the gospel, which is a gospel not of human righteousness but of grace: Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Romans 4:5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.

Second, we are given a radical mission.

What is the purpose of the sermon on the mount. Is it the key to better living? Is it a paradigm for leadership? Is it to give us the keys to getting along better with friends and family?
You can anticipate my response.
The purpose of the beatitudes is the same as the purpose of Christ's teaching throughout the Gospels: to equip God's elect with a radical mission to glorify their heavenly Father in everything they say and do. And nothing glorifies God more than the spreading of the good news that Christ came to save sinners. Spreading the news of Christ's work on the cross to bring salvation to God's chosen people. And so Jesus' commission to his disciples is simple: Matthew 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

And what sort of life are we to live as believers in Christ with a radical mission? Well, we are to live as those engaged in a life and death struggle. A battle for the hearts and minds of our families, neighbors, friends, enemies, coworkers, bosses (everybody!). And here is the approach Christ gives us to our mission: Matthew 16:24-27 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.”

There you have it. Theres your mission and your mindset. If you are a follower of Christ, then you have reckoned with his words and I hope you have adjusted your life accordingly!

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Friday, June 04, 2004

A thought from George Herbert

George Herbert, one of the English 'metaphysical poets' (along with Donne) of the 17th century is probably my favorite. This is most likely due to the fact that he was a pastor (Anglican priest) and poet. Not that I am much of a poet, but all good pastors should have a bit of the poet's blood a-runnin' thru their veins.
Consider this stanza from my favorite Herbert work, 'The Sacrifice':

O all ye who passe by, behold and see;
Man stole the fruit, but I must climb the tree;
The tree of life to all, but only me:
Was ever grief like mine?

The poem is written from Christ's perspective upon the cross. Here, the Lord is calling us to consider his substitionary sacrifice for sinful man. "For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive" 1 Corinthians 15:22

We sin in Adam, who ate of the forbidden fruit and so rebelled against His Creator. By faith in Christ the tree of life is restored to us as Christ climbs upon the cross, the cursed tree, we are given entrance back into paradise, into a relationship with God the Father.