The Two Spiritual Kingdoms (Part 3)
Nowhere else in the Bible is the new lifestyle of a Christian more clearly outlined than the Sermon on the Mount. The teachings in this sermon lay out the qualities of the characteristics that governed the life of Jesus. In other words, it tells us what it means to be Christ-like. As the Apostle Paul said, Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:14).
As we focus on the first part of this Sermon, called the Beatitudes, you will quickly see that it would crush us if we had to live this way through our own strength. How utterly helpless we are without the gracious operation of the Holy Spirit.
The word “blessed” before each of these characteristics that Jesus gives us of the Kingdom of God means happy. “Blessed [happy] are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed [happy] are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed [happy] are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed [happy] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed [happy] are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed [happy] are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed [happy] are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:3-9).
The poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, anyone hungry and thirsty for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart and peacemakers— these are the ones who are blessed. In future Blogs I will explain the meaning of each of these. For now, note that Jesus lists these qualities just a few verses before He makes His declaration that we are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. I believe He is telling us that developing these spiritual characteristics is a prerequisite for fulfilling the call to be salt and light.
It is also important to know that Satan’s warfare against Christians is designed to prevent the development of these special characteristics in our lives. He is going to do everything he can, using the things of the world or society, to keep these characteristics at a minimum in their development in Christians. Our knowing this is another key to help us understand the spiritual warfare now taking place in America.
Another obvious reason why it is good to review these Beatitudes is that the more we live them, along with the rest of the Sermon’s teachings, the more we will experience God’s blessings and be happy. We don’t have to seek some other method. Other options don’t work anyway!
Finally, we should study this sermon because as we live it out, our lives will become a powerful witness. If all Christians lived as Jesus taught in this Sermon, we would see men and women crowding into our church buildings.
The Sermon on the Mount has two subdivisions. First is the general part, in Matt. 5:3-16. Here Jesus makes statements regarding the Christian character. In the rest of the sermon He gives examples of how these are lived out.
An Overview of the Spiritual Characteristics That Rule God’s Kingdom
The following are a few general comments about each of these Beatitudes.
One: These characteristics apply to all Christians. We have a tendency to divide believers into two separate groups when it comes to character: the church leaders, or pastors, and the laity, or the ordinary folk who are involved in secular affairs. That thinking is unscriptural. There is distinction in offices—apostles, prophets, teachers, pastors and so on. But the Beatitudes are a description of spiritual character. They do not apply just to the Hudson Taylors, George Müllers, John Wesleys, Charles Finneys, D. L. Moodys or Billy Grahams. These are the spiritual characteristics that are to mark every Christian.
Two: Every one of these characteristics is to be manifested in every Christian. For example, some Christians are not meant to manifest 3 or 4 of these spiritual characteristics, while others demonstrate a different 3 or 4. These Beatitudes describe a completeness of character, and you really can’t divide them up.
Three: Very important. These characteristics do not refer to what we might call natural ability. Each depends upon grace alone and the work of the Holy Spirit. No one can conform to the description of any of these spiritual characteristics, let alone all of them, by the natural power of the flesh. There are people who may appear to possess one or more of these characteristics who may not be a Christian. But just as people differ in their physical appearance, they differ in their natural temperament. That is not what Jesus is describing. These characteristics are spiritual, developed by the Holy Spirit and have nothing to do with our natural biological temperament.
Four: These spiritual characteristics indicate the essential difference between the non-Christian and the Christian—the difference between those in the kingdom of the world and those in the Kingdom of God. Today this distinction has become blurred; the world has come into the Church, and as a result the Church has become worldly. There are those today who believe you have to make the church more worldly in order to attract people from the outside. When we do this, we just end up with worldly Christians!
WATCH FOR MY NEXT BLOG “The Two Spiritual Kingdoms (Part 4)” on May 10th, 2010.
Tags: Blessed, character, Christ-like, Holy Spirit, Kingdom of God, kingdom of the world, light of the world, salt & light, salt of the earth, Sermon on the Mount, spiritual character, spiritual warfare, The Beatitudes