Week 3: The Beatitudes Part 2

(Matthew 5:10-12)

The final Beatitude that Jesus presents to his disciples is challenging to grasp.   Jesus is basically telling them that they will be persecuted because they follow him.  There will be difficult times and suffering as a result of following Christ, yet he says to rejoice in these times!  Jesus was mocked, beaten, persecuted, and even crucified, and we are to follow after him?  This seems insane, but it is what he calls us to do.  This is all part of being a genuine follower of Christ.  We must find our identity in Christ Jesus and not in the world.

What does this look like today?  What sacrifices must we make?  How can we better focus on Christ every day?  What changes must you make in your life so as to better follow after Christ, and to live as he lived?

I would challenge you to look at the life of Paul this week.  Paul suffered many hardships yet we find him rejoicing in the Lord.  Look through Philippians.  Paul wrote this while in prison and one of the main themes is joy.

I know that this aspect of walking with Christ isn’t the most appealing.  It would be nice if we didn’t have to face trials and tribulations, but without these things we would never grow, and we would not rely on God’s grace.  Challenge yourself this week to do something difficult.  Develop a relationship with someone that would stretch you.  Serve somewhere new, allowing you to grow and be transformed by the Spirit.

I haven’t really experienced anything quite like Paul, but I have faced challenges in my life.  There have been many times when I have had a decision to make, either taking the easy road or the more difficult road.  I must admit that many times I have decided to go the easy way, which in turn means I missed out on a great opportunity to grow.  There have been times when I did go the more challenging way, and during these times I had some of the most incredible experiences of my life.

It all started my second year at Bethel College when I first decided to confess some things that I had been dealing with to a friend.  This led to getting a mentor, which then led to applying spiritual disciplines to my life.  Following this I decided to live in the freshman dorm again with a Resident Assistant (RA), which was definitely stretching me beyond where I was comfortable.  I’m so glad I did this, however, because I developed friendships that have transformed my life and still live on today.  From here I decided to become an RA, which was another challenge in my life, but necessary for my spiritual journey.  This led me to going on a missions trip to the Caribbean and then later to Africa, and also to where I am today, working with the kids in Elkhart.  None of these decisions were easy, but every one of them was valuable in helping me to grow in my faith.  It is so important to look for opportunities to grow, stepping out of your comfort zone and striving to live like Christ.  It’s all a matter of giving up your life to Christ every morning when you arise, letting God be God.  And this is a tough thing to do.

Finally, read through Luke 9:23-27.  How would your life look differently if you began each day surrendering everything to Christ?

*Here are some other passages/verses to check out concerning suffering for Christ: Romans 5:3-5, Romans 8:18, 2 Timothy 3:12, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 4:13

Week 2: The Beatitudes Part 1

(Matthew 5:1-9)

The Beatitudes are a list of supreme blessings that Jesus presents to his disciples at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount.  Each one has great significance and meaning, so much so that we could probably spend a week on each one.  For this week we are going to focus on the first 7, and next week we will discuss the last portion of this section, which may be one of the most difficult to live out.

Read Matthew 5:1-9.  Look over these blessings slowly and try to figure out what each one means to you.  I would challenge you to focus on one of these each week.  Here is a brief description that I have put together, with the help of Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, about each of the Beatitudes, excluding the last one, which will be discussed next week.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven– To be poor in spirit means to humble yourself, to recognize that you are in need of God’s grace.  Once you can truly be humble and see your need for grace, then you will be able to deepen your relationship with God.  If you don’t recognize this spiritual poverty, if you are proud, you may start lost sight of who God truly is, allowing yourself to take his place.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted-Once we humble ourselves and allow God’s grace to enter in, it is then that we begin to mourn the sin in our lives.  The more light comes in the more darkness is revealed.  When we mourn these things we desire even more to live in the presence of God.  It is here that we receive comfort from God.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth-Meekness follows humility.  Once you humble yourself then you are on the path to becoming a meek person.  Meekness does not equal weakness.  It is the meek people who will bring change to the world.  Those who rule with greed and selfish power will always fall.

Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled-Disciples of Christ will always hunger and thirst for righteousness, or justice, on this earth.  They will not find satisfaction anywhere in the world, but only through Christ.  The promise of Christ, the ultimate gift, will one day completely satisfy our desire, our hunger, for justice.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy-If you show mercy to another you will receive God’s mercy.  Look at Matthew 25:31-46 for a better understanding of this statement.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God-If you are pure in heart, meaning you are living not for yourself, but for God’s glory, then you will begin to see God.  You will begin to recognize his presence in this world.  You will see that he is in fact moving among us, using people and experiences to shape us.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God-By brining peace to the world, which means loving your enemies and imitating God’s love, you will be a child of God.  Once you start living like this the image of God will be seen in you.  This is ultimately what we want as disciples of Christ.

There is a lot to reflect on in these first few verses of the Sermon on the Mount.  Over this next week try to daily study one of the Beatitudes, and try to apply it to your life.  It would be good to memorize these and consistently ask yourself if you are living in this way or not.  It will not be easy, but it will transform you in incredible ways.