People continue to give excuses for their behavior. “Well, that is my personality...I cannot help it.” Or...”Everybody is different...we should just accept them as they are.” But, what does Jesus say about one’s personality? Jesus answered this very question of one’s personality in His message which we have called “The Beatitudes” from Matthew 5:1-12. The atheist, rebel, or novice Christian have tried to explain that Jesus’ teachings on the Mount were and are unattainable. Or, that they are eight separate and distinct groups of disciples in which some are meek, while others are merciful. Yet, others are called upon to endure persecution.

Jesus and the Scriptures, though, tell us the Beatitudes are Christ’s own definition of what every Christian should be. Jesus says that the Beatitudes are eight qualities which every Christian should possess for himself. Every Christian should be meek and merciful, poor in spirit and pure in heart, mourning and hungry, a peacemaker and persecuted.

All of these qualities are to characterize or be the personality of all Jesus’ followers who are today called Christians. This is what the “new creation” work or being “born again” is all about (2 Peter 1:4 and Hebrews 12:10). We are to submit ourselves and our will daily, by faith through obedience to the Scriptures. Daily we judge ourselves and change continually from glory to glory. Just as the nine-fold fruit of the spirit which Paul lists in Galatians, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance...are to ripen in every Christian character, so the eight Beatitudes which Christ teaches we are to covet and seek with all diligence should develop in each believer.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

The poor in spirit is not speaking of physical poorness. It does not condone the poverty of the masses, or the voluntary poverty of monks and others who have taken a vow to renounce possessions. Many times this type of physical poverty is brought on by sin or deception, the sins of people themselves so God does not bless them, or the sins of others who make them poor by their selfishness and corruption. Jesus condemns this type of physical poverty. Jesus also condemns the deception of religion where monks who reject Jesus as God take a vow of poverty because of their self-righteousness. Both types of poverty are brought on by people rejecting the Scriptures.

To be poor in spirit is to acknowledge our spiritual poverty...indeed, our spiritual bankruptcy, before God. For we are sinners, under the holy wrath of God, and deserving nothing but the judgment of God. We have nothing to offer, nothing to plead, nothing with which to buy the favor of heaven. Our attitude needs to continually be “God, be merciful to me a sinner!”

Many people today, instead of being poor in spirit, are like the church in Laodicea in Revelation who said and thought that they were rich and were prospering, in need of nothing, not knowing that in reality they were wretched, miserable, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. (Revelation 3:17)

These professing Christians were self-satisfied and hypocritical. Their attitude was one of self-righteousness. They were rich in spirit, not poor in spirit. In order to see the kingdom of God we must continually remain in an attitude of “but for the grace of God go I”, reduced to nothing in ourselves and relying on the mercy of God daily.

We must judge others more highly than ourselves lest we become negative and destructive to others, eagerly seeking out their faults in a haughty rich spirit. The poor in spirit is one who knows he is nothing and graciously exhibits that attitude daily.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

In order to draw attention to the truth of this beatitude, we could say, “happy are the unhappy”. What kind of sorrow can it be that brings the joy of Christ’s blessing to those who feel it? It is plain here in the context of Jesus’ sermon that those who are promised comfort are not primarily those who mourn the loss of a loved one...but, the sorrow of repentance. It is one thing to be spiritually poor and acknowledge it; it is another to grieve and to mourn over it. This is the mourning of loss of innocence, righteousness, of self-respect. This is the second stage of spiritual blessing. The Christian life, according to Jesus, is not all joy and laughter. In Luke’s version of the Sermon, (Luke 6:25), Jesus added a solemn word, “Woe to you that laugh now.” The truth is that there are such things as Christian tears. Too few of us ever weep them. Jesus wept over the sins of others...over the bitter consequences of judgment and death...and over the impenitent city which would not receive him. We, too, should weep more over the evil in the world, as did the godly men in Biblical times. “My eyes shed streams of tears, because men do not keep thy law.” Psalms 119:136.

Ezekiel heard God’s faithful people described as those “who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in Jerusalem..” Ezekiel 9:4. Ezra prayed and made confession, “Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept very sore. And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing.” Ezra 10:1-2.

Paul mourned over the false teachers troubling the churches of his day: “(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)” Philippians 3:18-19 It is not only the sins of others which should cause us tears, for we have our own sins to weep over, as well. Have they never caused us any grief?

Paul groaned, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Romans 7:24. And he wrote to the sinful church of Corinth, “...ought you not rather to mourn...” (I Corinthians 5:2; II Corinthians 12:20-21). I think many evangelicals and Pentecostal Christians take grace out of context and do not take sin seriously. There is not enough sorrow for sin among us. When Christians truly mourn and bewail their own sinfulness, then the Comforter, the Holy Spirit really abides within them and the free forgiveness of God will relieve their distress. We will now truly be comforted. Jesus will bind up the brokenhearted”. Isaiah 60:1-2; 40:1-2.

Jesus warns us to judge (mourn) ourselves first: “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5). And, if we judged (mourned) our sins, He would not judge us: “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.” (I Corinthians 11:31). He said to pray for ourselves that we would not sin: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41).

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

The Greek adjective praus means gentle, humble, considerate, courteous, and therefore exercising the self-control (fruit of the Holy Spirit), without which these qualities would be impossible. Jesus described himself as gentle (praus) and lowly in heart: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11:29). And Paul referred to Jesus’ meekness and gentleness: “Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you.” (II Corinthians 10:1) Again, Zechariah prophecies regarding Jesus: “...he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass...” (Zechariah 9:9).

The meek are those with a gentle spirit. In this sermon by Jesus “the meek” come between those who mourn over sin and those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. So, meekness, or a gentle spirit, taken in the context of the sermon, is the result of a true estimate of us. Do people say that we are gentle and meek...a gentle spirit? What do they say about us? Do we have a humble and gentle attitude to others, especially when we are correcting them?

We may be able to be honest with ourselves, and sometimes before God, but do we allow others to point out what they think is sin in our lives? Meekness, according to Dr. Lloyd-Jones is essentially a true view of oneself, expressing itself in our attitude and conduct with respect to others. The man who is truly meek is the one who is truly amazed that God and man can think of him as well as they do and treat him as well as they do. The condition upon which we enter our spiritual inheritance in Christ is not by demanding what we think we  deserve...but by true meekness which results in a gentle, beautiful spirit, always thankful for whatever blessing we receive, knowing who we are in Christ Jesus, “a sinner saved by grace” and knowing that in Christ we shall inherit the earth, both now with all our needs provided if we truly keep a pure heart, and in the future.

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

The hungry and thirsty whom God satisfies are those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness”. Spiritual hunger is a characteristic of all God’s people. Christians are not like pagans, engrossed in the pursuit of material possessions. What Christians seek first is God’s kingdom and righteousness. (Matthew 6:33). Righteousness in the Bible has at least three parts: legal, moral and social.

1) Legal righteousness or justification is a right relationship with God. Many Jews and Gentiles fail because they try to establish their own righteousness and will not submit to God’s righteousness established within the heart when one truly continually submits one’s life to Jesus (Romans 9:30-10:4).

2) Moral righteousness is an inner righteousness of heart, mind and motive; a righteousness of character and conduct which pleases God. This we should hunger and thirst for! Many religions fail to please God because their righteousness is external; where Christ not only demands external behavior, but also our thoughts and wishes (heart, mind and soul). No hypocrisy; but genuine devotion.

3) Social righteousness, as we have learned from the law and the prophets, is concerned with man’s liberation from oppression, promotion of civil rights, justice in the law courts, honesty in business dealings and honor in the home and family affairs.

Thus, Christians are committed to hunger for righteousness in the whole human community as something pleasing to a righteous God. It is not enough to mourn over past sin; we must also hunger and thirst for future righteousness.

Jesus said in John 4:13-14: “...Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst...” And in John 7:37 He says: “...If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” This is true only when we keep on drinking. In Luke 4:4 Jesus says: “ shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” Again, in John 6:35, 47, 58, 51, He says: “...he that believeth on me shall never thirst...He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life...I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever...” Righteousness is doing God’s will; whereas, selfishness is man’s will.

All of the points in Jesus’ sermon...poverty of spirit, meekness, mourning over sins and hunger and thirst after righteousness are to be perpetual (continually sought after).

So far in the first four Beatitudes we see a spiritual progress of relentless logic.

To begin with, we are to be “poor in spirit”, acknowledging our complete and utter spiritual bankruptcy before God.

Next, we are to “mourn” over the cause of it...our sins...the corruption of our fallen nature and the reign of sin and death in the world.

Thirdly, we are to be “meek”, humble and gentle toward others, allowing our spiritual poverty (admitted and bewailed) to condition our behavior to them, as well as to God. This prevents us from judging our brethren harshly and becoming ungenerous towards their mistakes.

Finally, we are to “hunger and thirst for righteousness”. For what is the use of confessing and lamenting our sin, acknowledging the truth about ourselves to both God and men, if we do not desire total righteousness and justice on earth as it is in heaven.



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