The Beatitudes from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount presents the best blueprint ever for an abundant, fulfilled life according to God's perfect plan. Perhaps we can say that the Beatitudes was part of the first sermon that Jesus preached to man, when He stepped up to the podium on the side of the mount, after hearing of John the Baptist's arrest and subsequent death. For it has been said that, "Two stars can't shine at once." So, as John the Baptist's star dimmed, Jesus' star grew brighter.
Jesus began His first sermon with a few simple rules that the people should begin to live by. The people, and especially the Jews, had longed for the fulfilling of the Old Testament prophecies that the Messiah was coming. Imagine their disappointment when He began His sermon by telling them that they had not been living according to God's perfect plan. If they wished to be part of the New Kingdom that Jesus would establish, they would have to make some drastic changes in their way of living.
Even though John the Baptist had introduced Jesus to the People, many were in shock, especially the Jewish leaders, when the New Age information pierced their hearing. Though this new information didn't set very well with many of the Jews, you and I should have no problems accepting this new doctrine, because we know that Jesus is the Son of God, a member of the Trinity, and has paid the price for our salvation through His sacrificial shed blood, death and resurrection.
The eight principles that make up the Beatitudes are the best possible prescriptions for mental and spiritual health. We hold in our hands the blueprint for healthy and abundant living. I will not cover all of the principles today. I intend today's message to be the first in a series of lessons on the Beatitudes that I hope to present.
Keep in mind that the Beatitudes are BE-attitudes, not DO-attitudes. The doing comes out of the being. Our attitudes have a tremendous and powerful influence upon every part of our being. Our attitudes have the biggest say in our personal well-being.
Jesus, after having selected His disciples, is now ready to teach them and those who have eagerly gathered to learn from our heaven sent leader. With every ounce of their hearing, they now hear their leader say, "Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven," (Matt. 5:3) or stated another way in the NLT, "God blesses those who realize their need for Him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them," or "Happy are the poor in Spirit," or "Congratulations to the poor in Spirit." Keep in mind that the word "Happy," (A syn for blessed), carries a far richer tone than we commonly attach to the word. It suggests a deep, abiding happiness, not just a temporary, emotional lift. Blessed is enjoying happiness. Beatitude is supreme bliss or enjoying happiness.
In His opening statement in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus puts His finger on one of life's most vital issues, individual and personal happiness. The longing for lasting happiness is a deep-rooted instinct that has been given unto us by the creator Himself. He wants us to be happy. Consider this, He made the sunset, painted the rose, put the smile on a baby's face, and put laughter in our souls. These and many more things are put here for our happiness. We must realize that it is only God who can make us happy. Apart from Him and His redemptive love as expressed through the cross and the resurrection, we would be "Most miserable." (I Corint. 15:19) As someone once confessed, "Now that I know Christ, I'm happier when I'm sad than before when I was glad." Keep in mind that happiness is not something you make but something you receive. You cannot make happiness any more than you can make love. You can express love but you cannot make love.
The Bible tells us in Mark 6:48 that the disciples were toiling, rowing in the dark and getting nowhere. The wind and the waves were against them and the whole venture was ending in futility. Then Jesus came. In John's account of the same event, we are told that they took Him into their boat and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. (John 6:21) This is the way it is with happiness. We strive to achieve it, but we "toil in rowing, getting nowhere", then we let Christ come in and Lo, we reach the shore where we are going.
How do we go about receiving happiness? Again, listen to the first principle: "Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." What does it mean to be poor in Spirit? Or should it read as suggested by Luke 6:20, "Blessed/Happy are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God." Our Lord, however, is not thinking here of material poverty, but spiritual poverty. "Blessed/Happy are the poor in Spirit." In the Greek, the word "poor" refers to chosen poverty. It implies a voluntary emptying of the inner being and is used of those who by choice are so poor that they become poor enough to receive. One translation puts it: "Blessed are those who are receptive in Spirit." Those who are willing to empty their hands of their own possessions and have them filled with the riches of God.
Jesus' first prescription for happiness is a voluntary act of self-renunciation. It is the decision we must make to reach out and receive Christ with empty hands. Christ cannot give Himself to an unreceptive person because that person does not give himself to Christ. John 1:12 says, "As many as receive Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God." At the very entrance of Christ's kingdom, then, we are met with the demand for self-emptying and receptivity. You must empty self and receive Christ, then everything else will follow. Mark 10:50 says, "And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus." This scripture refers to the healing of blind Bartimaeus. Our spiritual environments is the Kingdom of God. When we respond to it, receive our very life from it, then we live happily and abundantly.
From Luke 8:44, we are told, "She came up behind Him and touched the edge of His cloak." A woman in deep need came timidly through the crowd and touched His garments. "Who touched me"? asked Jesus, as He felt power go forth from Him. The disciples replied, "Master, the multitudes throng you, so why do you say, who touched me"? "Somebody touched me," said Jesus. He knew that there was a great difference between thronging Him and touching Him. Those who throng Jesus get little, those who touch Him get everything.
If you have not already reached out and touched Jesus, then do so today. Touch Him for forgiveness, for cleansing, for power over temptation, over fears, over anxieties, over everything that stands in the way of your personal happiness. As Christ gave Himself to those who needed Him when He was here on earth, so He does today. Cease thronging Him and touch Him.
Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. You cannot be filled until you are first empty. Salvation is not something earned, but something received. "It is by grace we are saved, through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God." (Eph. 2:8)
Father, thank you for helping me understand that to be "Poor in Spirit" is to recognize my utter helplessness in trying to save myself. I have nothing to give, but everything to receive. Humbly I submit and receive you now. Amen
This message was presented by Lillian H. Bell, during the mission hour on January 28, 2007. In addition to using the King James Holy Bible, The New Living Bible and other Bible translations, some material was taken from Every Day Light: Daily Inspirations, by Selwyn Hughes and Thomas Kindake, 1997.
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