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Spiritual Characteristics of the Kingdom of God- Part 6

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God”

Matthew 5:8

Christian doctrine emphasizes the heart! Jesus baffled the scholars of His day because He bypassed the intellectual mechanics of the Scriptures and zeroed in on their effect on the heart. The Pharisees were interested in the outside more than the inside. They made the way of life and righteousness a mere matter of conduct and ethics.

“Heart” refers to the core of our being. It includes our mind, will and emotions. It is also the seat of all our problems. Jesus put it this way: “For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thought, sexual immorality, theft, murder, and adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All of these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean'” (Mark 7:20-23).

Even if we had a perfect environment, it would not solve man’s problems. It was in paradise, the Garden of Eden, that man fell. Problems in life always come from an unworthy desire in the heart. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). To be pure is to be without hypocrisy, which is the worst of all heart problems. It is a lie that has an attractive cover to hide the truth. It causes us to be dishonest, insincere and self-deceiving. The hypocrite may even claim a share in Christ righteousness. He might be involved in religious activity and appear to outdo the committed Christian. But God looks at the heart; He knows better. Judas confidently sat down with the apostles at Passover as if he were the holiest guest of all. Yet his heart was evil, and he went out and betrayed Christ.

A divided heart has always been a problem. One part of our being wants to know, worship, obey and please God. But because of our sinful nature another part¬† wants to do its own thing. A pure heart in a person is shown by the degree to which the heart is less and less divided. Psalm 86:11 defines a pure heart: “Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.”

The more pure our heart is, the more it will merge with God’s will. Even when our best effort fails, the willing spirit of a pure heart means success to God.

In our next blog post we will discuss the next spiritual characteristic “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

Spiritual Characteristics of the Kingdom of God- Part 5

“Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy”

Matthew 5:7

As these characteristics on the other side of the mountain become a natural part of our being, we start to express the true character of God. Mercy is a sense of pity plus an effort to relieve suffering. It is not pity alone; it includes action. Consider the parable of the Good Samaritan. Others may have pitied the injured man, but they did nothing. They were not demonstrating mercy. Mercy allowed Jesus to see the miserable consequences of sin. It is also what drove him to relieve the suffering sin causes both in this life and the life after death.

The characteristic of mercy develops a sacrificial love that inspires a person to do all he or she can to save another from the fiery pits of Hell. We can be thankful we have a merciful God. He knows the consequences of sin. “For God so loved the world (mankind) that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him (accepts Him as Savior) shall not perish (spend eternity in Hell) but have eternal life (spend eternity in Heaven). For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17).

Mercy differentiates between the sinner and sin. God hates sin, but loves the sinner. Mercy causes us to see people as creatures to be pitied-slaves to sinful nature- who are trapped in Satan’s world system and suffering the awful consequences of sin. Even while He was on the cross, mercy moved Jesus to pray for His oppressors, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Stay tuned for our next blog post on spiritual characteristic number seven, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

Spiritual Characteristics of the Kingdom of God- Part 4

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled”

(Matthew 5:6)

As we grow spiritually in the Lord, He must do away with our old nature as He develops in us a new one with these Christ-like characteristics. As the first three are formed in us, we are gradually emptied of our old sinful nature. Only then will we desire to be filled with God’s righteousness, and the Lord will develop that desire into a hunger and thirst.

Righteousness is simply right living before God. The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold…In keep them there is much reward” (Psalm 19:7-11).

Note that Jesus did not say to hunger and thirst after happiness or blessings. These come as a result of seeking righteousness. To hunger and thirst is to have the consciousness of a deep and desperate need, to the point that we experience pain in our soul. This brings suffering and agony, because it is an all-out drive to achieve the desired goal. It is somewhat like being away from home and homesick, or the inner drive people have to be a sports champion.

Hungering and thirsting for righteousness is the defining spiritual trait of our Christianity. If we truly desire righteousness, God’s Spirit will transform us into His image. We cannot obtain it by our own efforts. Attempting to do so will only lead to pride, which has been the downfall of many throughout the history of Christianity.

Jesus promised that if we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we will be filled. This comes through the anointing power of the Holy Spirit. If one is emptied of a self-seeking nature and filled with God’s nature, the next three characteristics given by Jesus-merciful, pure in heart and peacemaker— will flow naturally as we come down the mountain to minister for His Kingdom rather than for selfish reasons.

Stay connected to the blog for our upcoming post on spiritual characteristic number five, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)

Spiritual Characteristics of the Kingdom of God- Part 3

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth”

(Matthew 5:5)

Meekness is often regarded as similar to being poor in spirit; however, it is quite different. Meekness is more difficult and more humbling than the previous characteristics mentioned in the last 2 blog posts. It is also more searching, because it takes us from within ourselves to our relationship with others. I can evaluate, even condemn, myself, but when others do it, I tend to be resentful. Meekness is measured by how we respond when others put the spotlight on us.

Jesus took on the form of a servant and submitted to the will of His Father. He did not try to use the political systems of His day to accomplish God’s mission. Instead He sacrificed Himself, giving His all in meekness to His Father’s will. That is how meekness works.

One of the greatest leaders of all time was Moses. In Numbers 12:3 he is described as a meek man. He had been groomed and trained to be a leader in Egypt. Yet God chose to strip Moses of his self-power, position and abilities. His mission could only be accomplished through the character and power of God.

In his relationship with King Saul, David did not assert himself, though he could have on several occasions. As this Christian characteristic of meekness develops it causes us not to demand anything for ourselves in our rleatioships with others. When people scorn us or lie about us, we don’t have to flight back and defend ourselves. It is not important that we assert our rights, position in life or privileges in relationship to others. No longer do we have to go on the defensive for the purpose of needing to be right. Out self-life has been crucified. It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me (see Galatians 2:20).

This does not mean that we are to be flabby, lacking in firmness, vigor, weak in personality, always exhibiting in compromising spirit. That is not how Jesus or Paul lived. They knew their mission and set their face as a flint to accomplish it; not in their own strength but through the power of God.

Please continue this journey on the blog, as our next post will cover spiritual characteristic number four, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Spiritual Characteristics of the Kingdom- Part 2

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4)

This second characteristic develops in us the honestly to see sin in ourselves and in the world as it really is. Christians are to be unlike the people of the world who try to shun mourning. Think of all the energy and money spent by the world system to blind people from this spiritual quality. As mourning becomes a part of our being, it causes us to see not only what sin does to people, but how it must stab God in the heart. I have heard it said that just sin of using God’s name in vain takes place more than one billion times every day in our country.

There has been a defection in the church from teaching on the doctrine of sin. This shows how much the world has influenced us. In most any other aspect of life, we concentrate on those areas where we are weakest. If we have a health problem, we try to resolve it. If we play sports, we focus on those areas where our performance is poor. The same is true in business.

Spiritually, mankind’s weakness is sin! Why do we get so uptight talking about it? It doesn’t’ have to be in a negative condemning way, but for positive solutions. We have a spiritual problem because we are born with a sinful nature. That is who we are! We need to face this truth and talk about it! Otherwise we will not let God deal with those areas where we are weak.

Paul mourned over the sinful condition of his flesh and looked forward to that day when it would be redeemed. “But we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23).

Mourning applies not only to our own sins, but also to the sins of others and the state of society and the world. When this characteristic is developed, we will mourn over the immorality, the suffering and the evil deeds of mankind. True happiness and joy can only come after mourning. That is one of the paradoxes of the Christian Life.

Stay tuned to the Blog as we focus our next post on characteristic number three: Blessed are the Meek!