Friday, December 21, 2018

Devotional: Attitudes for Kingdom Living, Matthew 5:1-12

Outline of Matthew 5.1-12

In Chapters 5-7 Matthew presents Jesus as a “greater than Moses” revealing a fulfillment of the Torah under the new covenant.  This section is probably a summary of Jesus’ teaching and the content here was likely spoken by Jesus many times in many venues. He emphasizes the shocking nature of the teaching's requirements to be a kingdom disciple, but also emphasizes that the entire section must be understood in a context of grace. The point is that Jesus fulfills the purpose of the Torah by completely embodying the character of YHWH that it pointed to. So, the disciple of Jesus must live the kind of self-giving lifestyle that Jesus lived. We cannot live for ourselves or for our own personal agendas, but instead be focused on God's will and kingdom, even if that brings persecution and death. Jesus knew that kind of righteousness, that brings God’s blessing, is planted in our hearts by God as we trust him. It comes out from within and produces Jesus’ character and actions in us.

Matthew, in 5:1-12, emphasizes that true righteousness comes from the inside (attitudes) and then works itself out in our actions. It is not imposed from the outside by rules and laws. It begins in our hearts and is received by faith. It then produces Christlike lifestyle, conduct and relationships as we cooperate with God’s grace. So in verses 3-11 Jesus details the attitudes we should cultivate in our lives as Christians to cooperate with God as He works righteousness and its blessings into our lives.

Jesus begins with the right perspective about ourselves in verse 3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Being right before God begins with a humility that recognizes my dependence on God. I am neither self-sufficient nor am I in control. I trust Christ and Christ alone for all my needs and submit my plans, ideas, and goals to Him. Jesus promises an experience of a little heaven now when we do this.

Verses 4-6 emphasize a right attitude before God. First, we sorrow over sin and its effects. This means we are brutally honest within ourselves as we confess our own sins to God so that we can experience his forgiveness and comfort. We then can mourn over what sin does to others and pass on the forgiveness we experience to them. Second, God calls us to “meekness,” a submission to God evidenced by a life of service to God and others as he has gifted. God entrusts his authority to those submitted to him. Finally, true righteousness is seen in a passion to know God and his ways. When we have that passion God promises to satisfy it.

Verses 7-9 emphasize attitudes of right service to God. Jesus is seen as we are merciful. Mercy comes out as forgiveness for the guilty and compassion for the needy. It is only when we are merciful that we truly experience God’s mercy. The second attitude is “purity of heart,.” single-minded devotion to God that allows nothing (good or bad) to get in the way of what God wants for us. This results in a daily experience of God. Finally, righteous people are “peacemakers.” Peacemakers seek reconciliation in relationships and seek to repair what sin has broken. This is how others recognize the image of God in us. 

Finally, verses 10-12 emphasize our attitude toward the hostile world. The real Christian responds to persecution with love and joy rather than in kind. This joy comes from an eternal perspective that realizes suffering and opposition are all for our ultimate good and will result in a greater experience of Jesus and reward in eternity. An added bonus is that our enemies may be defeated, not by being destroyed, but by becoming “friends of God” and his people.

These attitudes are completely counter-intuitive and make no sense without the promise contained in the repeated word “Blessed.” To be blessed mean to have God’s approval. God approves of your growing character as you seek Christ.and enters into your inadequate actions and completes them. Blessing means a satisfaction that does not depend on circumstances, that comes from knowing nothing can deter God’s plan and a peace that knows that “nothing can separate you from the love of God.” Blessing means a complete sufficiency for every situation and confidence that whatever God calls you to do he empowers you to do.

God offers you His righteousness. This leaves you with a choice. You can go with your own righteousness which says, “God, I’ll let you be part of my life. I’ll give you so much of my money, my time, my effort, my heart, but after that the rest is mine, keep your hands off. Or you can receive His righteousness which is experienced as we display these attitudes of humility, sorrow for sin, submission to God, passion for God, focus on God, and a desire to display his compassion and reconciliation to a sometimes hostile world. That kind of righteousness requires everything we have and everything we are, but it brings into our life everything Jesus’ is. That is what God made you for. That is what will fill the deepest needs of your heart. The other kind of righteousness doesn’t make it. Choose real righteousness. Choose real life. Be like Jesus.

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