Spiritual Characteristics of the Kingdom of God- Part 7
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God”
The history of mankind reflects that whatever ambitions a person may have, inner peace is one of the top priorities he strives to possess.
As members of the Kingdom of God, Christians are the only people who are able to give mankind the peace that everyone seeks. “The fruit of the Spirit (who lives within all who have been born again) is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23a).
A peacemaker does not seek peace at any price; rather, a peacemaker has a different view because he is being delivered from concern for self. His interest is focused on bringing true inner peace to mankind regardless of personal sacrifice. He sees a much bigger and more important purpose in life. Jesus was the supreme example of this. He sacrificed His rights and went to the cross to bring peace to the hearts of mankind.
The blessing promised to a peacemaker is a great tribute. Jesus said that “they will be called sons of God.” You know the saying “like father, like son”? When the characteristic of peacemaking becomes part of our nature, we will truly be acting like a son of God. This once again demonstrates how different the Kingdom of God is from the kingdom of the world.
Nothing else in Scripture so thoroughly condemns the humanistic way of bringing peace as does the Sermon on the Mount. In the world’s kingdom, mankind will always experience international tension, threats of war and discord among people.
Self-centeredness, greed and lust will always show themselves. They are inherent part of man’s sinful nature. Therefore, man’s way of bringing peace-by political, economic, and social means–does not work. The only way is to go to the heart. That is the theme of all of Jesus’ teachings. We must be made new from the inside out.
In conclusion to this blog Series on the “Spiritual Characteristics of the Kingdom of God”… here are some points to remember. The seven spiritual characteristics mark the unique differences between what is to govern our way of life under Christ, and that which marks the life of a non-Christian. They show us just how dependent we are on the power of the Holy Spirit within us, and how useless is the power of our flesh in living out the life of Christ. The degree to which these characteristics are developed in us is not the criteria for our salvation, they they directly impact how successful we will be in fulfilling God’s mission of being the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
We are in the world, but we are no longer members of its kingdom. Therefore, we are to separate ourselves from its standards. This is essential if we are to declare the wonderful deeds of him to called us out of darkness. You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
Spiritual Characteristics of the Kingdom of God- Part 6
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God”
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”
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”
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”
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!
Spiritual Characteristics of the Kingdom- Part 1
Jesus told us how to be truly blessed or happy. The world longs for happiness, but many people seek it through sinful pursuits. It is tragic the many ways people seek happiness by getting involved in activities that only bring it for a short time. In the long run, what they usually find is misery.
Developing the spiritual traits Jesus taught is like climbing a rugged mountain. As we ascent our spiritual mountain God is working in us by burning out our old nature and developing these first three characteristics that Jesus Lists-being poor in spirit, mourning and meekness-which makes us conscious of a deep need we have.
The development of these initial three characteristics causes us to hunger and thirst after righteousness. God promises to satisfy this hunger and thirst in that we “shall be filled.” The result of this filling develops the last three spiritual characteristics as we descend our spiritual mountain. We will become merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers. After that, Jesus warns, we may be “persecuted because of righteousness” as Satan hates and wares against the development of these godly characteristics.
God develops our Christian character in three steps: need, satisfaction and results. First, He makes us aware of our need; next, He fills that need as we hunger and thirst for righteousness; and finally, He satisfies our longing by developing in us the qualities of mercy, being pure in heart, and a peacemaker. He is the potter; we are the clay. We are dependent on Jesus to deliver us from who we are and to develop in us the characteristics of His kingdom.
We not only need Jesus for the salvation of our soul; we also need Him to deliver us from what we are. Jesus is everything and everything is in Jesus.
Spiritual Characteristic Number One
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3)
This heart characteristic is the keystone of all the other qualities. It deals with the process of emptying us of our old sinful nature so we can be filled with the power of God’s new nature. The extent to which we become poor in spirit affects how successfully we develop the subsequent traits, and each characteristic build on the previous ones.
The characteristic of being poor in spirit deals with a person’s attitude toward self. The kingdom of this world promotes self-reliance, self-confidence, self-expression, self-exaltation and self-satisfaction. The world emphasizes personality, talent, looks, heritage, intelligence, wealth, power, etc. But the gospel raises up higher standard that focuses on God-reliance, God-confidence, God-expression, God-exaltation and the desire to please God through obedience to His Word, His will and His way. It is a characteristic that is despised by the world.
Being poor in spirit does not mean suppressing one’s true personality, trying to appear humble, making great sacrifices, or fleeing from the difficulties of everyday life. That certainly was not the way of Jesus.
The scriptures define poor in spirit: “The sacrifices of God are not broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). “For this is what the high and lofty One says-he who lives forever, whose name is holy: I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15).
The characteristic poor in spirit means:
-We shall not rely on the fact that we belong to a given family.
-We shall not boast that we are certain nationality.
-We shall not brag about our position in life, or any powers that may have been given to us.
-We shall not put confidence in the wealth we may have.
-We shall not flaunt our education.
-We shall not rely primarily on our personality, intelligence or special abilities.
-We shall not point to our morality and good behavior.
-We shall not build upon natural temperament.
To be poor in spirit is to be delivered from all that which promotes self. It is to know that within the flesh we are nothing, we have nothing, and we must look to God in utter dependence upon His grace and mercy. Within the flesh we are empty and hopeless, but He is the all-sufficient one.
How does one become poor in spirit? We do not begin by trying to do things to ourselves like sacrificing the flesh or suffering hardships. These only make us more conscious of ourselves and thus less poor in spirit. No, we must look to God. Our responsibility is to study God’s word to learn what He expects from us, and then to set our face as a flint to live in obedience. As we look at Him we feel out absolute poverty and, like the apostles, we cry out, “Lord increase our faith.”
The development of all these inner characteristics will evolve in us by the power of the Holy Spirit as we grow spiritually. They are characteristics of the Kingdom of God. You will see none of them are apart of our natural make-up.
Stay tuned for our next blog, where will discuss the second spiritual characteristic of “blessed are those who mourn” based on Matthew 5:4.
Our Perfect Example
Salt describes our state of being, and light describes out state of doing. Jesus himself was our perfect example of these two words that describe our mission. He did not have the attributes most people would consider necessary to accomplish great things. We’ve all read about how He lived in poverty and was reared in obscurity. He never received a formal education, never possessed wealth and never traveled extensively. Yet in jut three and a half years of ministry the effects of his life on mandkind were greater than that of anyone else in history.
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You are the Light of the World
Jesus gave us the perfect mission statement in scripture when he said “you are the salt of the earth” and “you are the light of the world.” Let’s dig deeper into what it means to be the light.
Jesus then proclaimed that Christians are “the light of the world.” The world is in a state of darkness, even though its people are always talking about their enlightenment. There are many scriptures that confirm this truth. “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Colossians 1:13). “For you were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8). “But you are a chosen people…a people belonging to God…who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). Only Christians have been brought into the light; the people of the world remain in spiritual darkness.
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You are the Salt of the Earth
Today there are more than 350,000 Christian churches across our land. In fact, you can hear the Gospel preached every hour through every communication means available. Christian men and women from America have also taken the Gospel of Christ throughout the world and raised up numerous ministries to meet the various needs of people.
Even as God obviously had a hand in America’s past, He challenges His church today to be the salt and light in our present troubled society. In Matthew 5:13-14 Jesus makes two of the most penetrating statements about Christians found anywhere in Scripture: “You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world.”
Jesus gave us our perfect mission statement in these two short sentences. They require a lot of courage to live out and are quite demanding. Today, we will dive into the first portion of this mission, “You are the salt of the earth.” Our Lord is saying that Christians are the only people in this world who can preserve the good (our function as salt) and have the understanding to help in those areas that matter the most (our function as light). What a challenging and fulfilling adventure Christians are to have in this life on Earth.
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A Heightened Awareness of Holiness
How wonderful it is when a Christian finally realizes Jesus is, in fact, an unseen guest in their earthly home. His presence is far more precious than expensive furniture in the living room or a swimming pool in the backyard. This privilege is not just wishful thinking; it is an absolute truth that is central to the very definition of personal revival.
To understand personal revival, you must fully embrace the concept of living with Jesus as your constant companion. Doing so will make you aware of HIS closeness.
Personal revival can be identified by an ongoing sense of the presence of the Lord. Just as a church experiences the presence of Jesus during revival, so also, do individuals. What I am describing is a heightened awareness of holiness.
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Deception Breeds Compromise
Our Biblical text for today’s blog is found in Matthew 24:24 and Mark 13:22.
The worldly standards that have been promoted during this generation in “Christian America” have become SO strong and far-reaching that we cannot hope to avoid the effects of the warfare in which we are involved. The devil has never enjoyed so many opportunities to tempt people as effectively as he does today by utilizing our mass communication system.
At no other time in history have Christians faced attack on so many fronts, having to deal with such means and continuously tempted with the standards and ways of the world. Satan’s evil enticements are made conveniently available, and all too often, we find his offerings irresistible. And we have been encouraged to think his ways are harmless.
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America’s Relentless Pursuit
In Luke 17:26-30 Jesus warned us of one of the ways Satan would attack Christians in our time. He said: “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man (referring to the time of His return.) People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from Heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.”
Jesus makes a profound statement in this prophecy that immediately got my attention. Did you notice it? There is something missing in what He said about the days of Noah and Lot. He doesn’t mention the many gross sins that were taking place in the days of Noah and Lot. Not one thing that He does mention is within itself a sin. Likewise, he does not say anything about the many gross sins taking place in our day. He only lists the everyday normal affairs of life: eating, marrying, buying, selling, planting and building.
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What if Jesus attended your church?
The most outstanding characteristic of genuine revival throughout history is an overwhelming sense of the Lord’s presence. Revival, above all else, is a purposeful glorification of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a restoration of Him as a living personality to the center of life in the church. During every period of revival, you will find without expectation, there has always been a tremendous increase in the emphasis upon His actual personhood and the unique power of the blood he willingly shed on Calvary.
Just imagine what it might be like if Jesus began attending your church on a regular basis. Picture the difference it would make, and you will have a pretty good idea of what revival in your church would look like.
In my example, say Jesus attends your church in bodily form for a moth or even two. Now I know that every Sunday He is with us in Spirit, but what if he were physically present and your could see Him, not just through eyes of faith but with your own two eyes? What difference would that make? Following is a list of responses, seven in total, I think you might very well observe. By design, it does not cover every base because I have reserved a key one for another blog post 🙂 It does, however, give you a good feel for what would take place.
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We are God’s Soldiers~Creating a Circle of Love
Like it or not, we are God’s soldiers in a spiritual struggle for the very survival of Godliness in America.We must deal with the breakdown at hand, as we alone posses the solution to this problem. Dealing with it is our responsibility.
God’s word has given us a framework for national revival. In 2 Chronicles 7:14 he says: If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sins and will HEAL their land.” There are four “ifs” that must be satisfied by God’s people prior to his promise of a response. The first “if” requires them to humble themselves, the second is prayer, the third directs them to seek HIS face, and the fourth is to turn from their wicked ways.
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Waiting for Revival
God’s work has given us a framework for national revival. In 2nd Chronicles 7:14 he says: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked way, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sins and will heal their land.”
I think it is ironic the Lord spoke these words to Solomon during a time of great prosperity, much like America has experienced throughout the last generation. I think we should take particular notice of the fact that God sets specific conditions for revival by starting this discourse to Solomon with the word “if.” He then proceeds to list four “ifs” that must be satisfied by God’s people prior to his promise of a response. The first “if” requires them to humble themselves, the second is prayer, the third directs them to seek HIS face, and the fourth is to turn from their wicked ways.
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