“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)
“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)
“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)
“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.
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.