by Mike Ratliff
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:3-13 ESV)
Several years ago, about 18 months after I was saved, I heard a wonderful lesson at a men’s retreat on Matthew 5:1-12. My Bible knowledge at that time was spotty. I had heard of The Beatitudes, but really hadn’t studied them. I had actually heard others teach that these statements are not possible for Christians until Jesus comes in His glory. I also heard that this is what Christians will be like during the Millennium. Both of these teachings came out of another teaching that said that there were two types of Christians, Disciples and Carnal Christians. At that time, being such a new believer, I thought that was Biblical. I look back on that period of time now and can see clearly why God moved me away from that church and denomination.
Jesus said something very different about who were His and who weren’t.
Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Luke 14:25-35 ESV)
Who is Jesus’ disciple? Can anyone be His disciple who refuses to do battle with sin? Can anyone be His disciple who loves the world more than Him? How about those who focus all of their religiosity on self? Jesus’ statement is clear. His disciples die to self and follow Him on the way of the cross. Early in His ministry, Jesus preached an incredible sermon we call the Sermon on the Mount. The first part of that sermon is The Beatitudes.
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:1-3 ESV)
If we backup a few verses to Matthew 4:23-25 we read: And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. (Matthew 4:23-25 ESV)
The crowds were huge. Why? He was teaching everywhere He went. He proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom. He healed everyone who was sick who came to Him. He became famous. This was not just a Jewish crowd. There were Jews from Galilee, Jerusalem and Judea making up the crowd, but there were also a multitude from Decapolis. This was a group of Greco-Roman cities east of the Jordan. These were primarily gentiles. Let us say then that the crowd that Jesus saw as he started the Sermon on the Mount was diverse and large. When He saw them He sat down and His disciples came to Him. That is missed in most teachings on this passage. Who did Jesus teach this to? Jesus taught this to His disciples. Surely, some of the multitude heard it, but the teaching was to those who followed Him as His disciples. How does this apply to us? Who are Jesus’ disciples today? Are you one? In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus gives the Great Commission to go and make “disciples” from all nations.” The Church, the body of Christ should be made up of His disciples. Of course, within the visible Church there are two groups, Jesus Disciples and those who are not Christians, but appear to be.
The Beatitudes are nine statements from Jesus giving the attributes of His genuine disciples. Those who are truly His will have these attributes growing and deepening within their hearts. We have already seen the first statement, but here it is again.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3 ESV)
The Greek word translated as “blessed” in these nine statements means to be “fully satisfied.” In Classical Greek, it referred to a state of blessedness in the hereafter. In the New Testament, however, the term is used of the joy that comes from salvation. This satisfaction is not the result of favorable circumstances in life. It comes only from being indwelt by Christ. Therefore, it would be wrong to translate this word as “happy.” This blessedness is not static, but progressive. In Jesus nine statements we see each condition building on the one before. Therefore, the base condition that all the rest grow from is this first one–”poor in spirit.”
Poor in Spirit is the Greek word that describes someone who is poor and helpless. The first step in blessedness, then, is a realization of one’s own spiritual helplessness. I like to think of my own spiritual condition outside of God’s grace as utter bankruptcy. Jesus said in John 15 that without Him we can do nothing. I take that to mean that no one can attain spiritual blessedness in and of themselves. We are all helpless. I have been a Christian a long time. I have seen professing believers who were convinced that their religiosity was all they needed. Outside of the hour or so on Sunday mornings at church they were their own person doing whatever they desired. There was no condemnation coming from their consciences either. On the other hand, I have also seen those who lived their Christian walks in various degrees of brokenness with penitent attitudes. They are always striving to be clean and humble before their Lord all by His grace. Which group is “poor in spirit?”
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”(Matthew 5:4 ESV)
The Greek word translated “mourn” is used to describe mourning the death of someone close. This is sorrow. This is sorrow over one’s own sin and sin of others. Why sorrow? Why should Christians mourn over their sin? Jesus Christ went to the cross and died to pay the price for the sin of His people. His incarnation cost Him His place in Heaven with the Father. He became a man. His life and death were both directed at creating the solution of the sin of God’s people which separates them from Him. Only a perfect sacrifice could satisfy God’s wrath against their sin. Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice in their place was costly beyond anything we can conceive. Our sin is an affront to God. It is evil. It is the mark of flesh and death. So, those who know the gospel should see sin like God does. When we sin, it should break our hearts. We must mourn as we seek deliverance from the power of sin in our wicked hearts.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5 ESV)
Modern English gives us the idea of meek as being someone who is a pushover or a person who is too timid to speak or do. However, the Greek word translated as meek here gives us the idea of one who is willing to see themselves from God’s perspective instead of their own. From this conceptualization, they act accordingly by submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the Word of God. They also treat others as the Lord would. The meek are those believers who are selfless as a result of the Lord’s character flowing through them to others. Notice that these are promised an inheritance. Also, remember, these beatitudes build progressively starting with “poor in spirit.” This is describing the inheritance awaiting Christ’s disciples. Also, are those who profess to be Christians, but are not Christ’s disciples, included here? I think not.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6 ESV)
The Greek rendered here as “those who hunger and thirst” could better be stated as “the hungering ones.” This is describing people who are always being satisfied with God’s righteousness. At each filling from feasting on God while fasting from the world, these disciples of Christ hunger anew for God’s righteousness. This satisfying is an action of feeding or feasting at the Lord’s table so fulfilling it becomes a constant activitiy. Again, only Jesus Disciples do this.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7 ESV)
The merciful are those who care for those in misery. They take their hurts and make them their own. They display a legitimate caring attitude towards the hurting. Again, this is not something a disciple does in order to find mercy, but are merciful because of the character of Christ being formed within their hearts. The promise for them is that they will receive mercy. Our salvation is merciful, but this is also speaking of finding grace at the hands of other disciples when in pain.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8 ESV)
Christlikeness is developed in Christ’s disciples as they grow in each developmental stage of these beatitudes. The purity of heart comes from the cleansing resulting from being poor in spirit, mournful over sin, meek, feeding constantly at the table of the Lord and from being merciful. A pure heart speaks of an undefiled conscience. What is the promise? They will see God. I find this very interesting that the very thing that makes our consciences pure and undefiled is the visitation of God’s Holiness there. When we are pure in heart we walk our walk by faith all with God’s Holiness apparent to our consciences. We may not see God face to face at this time, but we will see His character being built in our hearts. Of course, the promise of eternity with our Lord awaits.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9 ESV)
The disciple who is growing in Christlikeness as we have shown here, will also be acutely aware of the peace they have with God. As a result they attempt to bring this same peace to all around them. They share the gospel. They bring people to meet Jesus. The promise is a fulfillment of Romans 8:29. All of those God saves are adopted into His family. What a promise!
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10 ESV)
God’s ways are not Man’s ways. In Man’s economy, persecution results in misery. In God’s economy, being persecuted for His sake brings the highest level of blessedness or joy. Jesus follows this incredible statement with an even deeper description.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12 ESV)
I believe this will happen to anyone who stands the way Christ tells us to stand. If we follow Him and live righteously, then we will be persecuted. However, the result is that we rejoice and be glad because our treasure is in Heaven, not on Earth. We know we are nothing outside of Christ. All we are is wrapped up in Him.
Christ’s disciples are not the high end of the Church while the low end is made up of the carnal Christians. No, the Church is made up of Christ’s disciples. Yes, the visible Church has both, but those who are not His disciples are not part of the genuine invisible Church. Our job is not to separate one from another. That will be done by Angels at the judgment. What we must do is get very serious about our walks. We must seek the Lord’s face and obey Him in all things. We must not allow our flesh to have even a small foothold in our hearts. Also, we must be in constant expectation that the Lord will return at any time. Even so, come soon Lord Jesus!
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