Richard Whitaker- Discipleship and Connections Pastor LHBC

Matthew 5:1-12
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.
  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
  “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
  “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
  “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  “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. (ESV) Matthew 5:1-12

When our family lived in the Puget Sound region of Washington State, we frequently visited the beautiful Mount Rainier National Park.  The way that waterfalls and glacial streams cascaded down the mountain, constantly shaping rocks and terrain, was and still is part of God’s created order that delights and amazes me.  The constant stream of rushing water made rocks smooth enough to slip on and at times powerfully raged to remove entire campgrounds from the earth.

It seems to me that humanity is presently learning how much we are shaped by our culture.  COVID-19 and the resulting counter measures massively changed or eliminated our ability to socialize, gather for worship, attend school, connect with extended family and receive routine medical treatment to name just a few.  In the absence of these cultural structures, the underlying character of humanity is coming into the light in various ways.  One of the most troubling is the increase in divorce filings.  

For example, divorce filings recorded by a large law firm in England have risen 40% during COVID compared to the same time last year. Similar increases are seen in U.S. cities hardest hit by the lockdown. As we all consider resilient ways of arranging our routines in the months ahead, now is a good time to learn a timeless teaching from King Jesus – lives shaped by Christ are consistently fruitful and hopeful regardless of the constant, damaging influences of a raging culture.

Please know that if you are dealing with powerful stresses, relational difficulties, anxiety, and fear that Jesus is aware and he cares.  I can say this with confidence because of how Jesus related to his disciples in such a caring way.  He focused on loving and equipping them which meant leaving the crowd of adoring fans for the hills around Capernaum for a private teaching on life in his kingdom. 

Like his disciples, Jesus is able to give us direct attention when we pray and seek him first.  When we take the time to sit at Jesus’ feet, he gives us a helpful picture of the spiritual qualities that mark the life of a disciple in the kingdom of heaven.  Resilient, eternal qualities that emerge in and through us by the grace Jesus provides.

Jesus speaks highly of those who are poor in spirit due to their station in this world, those who mourn in their poverty due to their allegiance to Christ, and those who are meek – people who trust the power of God to work through a righteous response instead of the controlling power of position.  These character qualities of a true disciple stand in radical contrast to what finds applause in our culture.  

Jesus is teaching that a disciple constantly assumes a posture of humility and second placeness.  We run a race in this life in which how we run truly is the measure of greatness in God’s eyes.  We must live with a new scorecard, one that decides how we finish the race in terms of our character instead of  material blessings, degrees, position, or any outward measure we might exchange for security in Christ.  True greatness is found in the hidden part of a yielded mind, body, and soul.

We grow as yielded people when we “hunger and thirst for righteousness.”  In the same way that an Olympic athlete has a singular focus on training to win a gold medal, the disciple of Jesus trains for the singular purpose of godliness.  We simply live to obey Jesus and for that we will be truly satisfied.  

Christ followers are known for being merciful because they are aware of the mercy that is ours in Christ. Jesus says that disciples who are pure in heart, or of single minded devotion, will see God.  What does it mean that we will see God?  Jesus is saying that people whose only goal is consecrated devotion to Jesus will routinely observe unmistakable evidence of God’s presence in everyday life.

It’s the kind of presence that inspires us to live as peacemakers in a world that is increasingly divided.  Peacemakers move into strife ridden conflict  with the assurance of God’s power and presence to bring about harmony.  Peacemakers are more concerned with God’s kingdom coming to earth in the form of meekness than establishing their own opinions.

Jesus concludes by explaining that his disciples will be persecuted and for that they will inherit his kingdom.  As we follow Christ, we will stand out from the crowd making us targets for accusations of narrow mindedness, lacking tolerance, hate, and the list could go on.

As we receive ridicule for the sake of Christ, we can rejoice and be glad as we store up heavenly treasure and join a long line of persecuted saints that went before us.  Remember, we’re living in eternity now.  Let us live like citizens of heaven here on earth by pursuing the spiritual qualities and character of Christ.  By God’s grace you can trust that God’s kingdom and rewards will be yours for all of eternity and that really matters to Jesus!

Dear Lord, you are my joy and hope.  Teach me Lord to find my satisfaction in your ways. Make me, in my inner character, into someone who lived and loved like you did.  Create in me a heart that is okay with not having the last word so that I can be most useful in helping people who think differently than me to find their way to you.  Help me to set my mind on your kingdom and your righteousness instead of my kingdom.  Thank you Jesus for being my leader and for teaching me everything that I need to know.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Hebrews 6:19
We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain.