Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pastoral Pings (Plus) ~ The Beatitudinal Journey to Joy

          This morning, as I began meditating on the theme of my Christmas message for Sunday, “Good News of Great Joy”, I found myself processing the present work of God in my life through the Beatitudes.[1] It suddenly occurred to me that the Beatitudes begin with a blessing on the poor in spirit, and end with a call for the persecuted to rejoice and be glad”[2] whenever “others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account”.[3]

          What stood out to me was that the rejoicing at the end of the Beatitudes was the result of the transformation that comes through the eight expressions of blessing Jesus had already presented. While each of the Beatitudes is a stand-alone expression of the blessing of God’s grace, the sequence of the blessings leaves me wondering about the way God brings his children to joy.

          Let me clarify that I do not believe the Beatitudes are something we do, as though they are the Eight Commandments of the new covenant. Rather, I see them as Jesus’ description of the qualities we will see in his brothers,[4] in those who receive the adoption as sons that comes through the grace of the gospel.[5] Another way of putting this is that those who are blessed by God with the gift of grace can expect to experience all eight of the transforming qualities Jesus mentions in his blessing, resulting in the joy that characterizes God’s beloved children.[6]

          I see that this journey to joy looks something like this: the journey begins by God’s grace blessing sinners with the consciousness of their spiritual poverty.[7] This consciousness of sin causes them to mourn[8] their spiritually bankrupt condition. Mourning the extent of their sin brings them into the meekness[9] that acknowledges they are not able to fix what is wrong with them no matter how many laws they try to keep. And, this meek coming to the end of themselves stirs up the blessing of hungering and thirsting after the righteousness of God[10] as they see it graciously revealed in Jesus Christ through the gospel.

          As God brings these sinners into the righteousness of faith they long for in Jesus Christ,[11] they are transformed into the merciful people[12]  who express the mercy that they themselves have experienced from God. Their experience of the grace of God as their sole means of salvation causes them to have pure hearts[13] that now beat for God, with no more dependence on self-effort. This pure-hearted experience of Jesus Christ overwhelms them so that they can think of nothing else except bringing people to have the peace with God they themselves have experienced, and so they go into the world as peacemakers[14] who will not stop speaking of their Lord and Savior no matter what they face in life. Because these merciful people express their pure-hearted devotion to Christ by proclaiming the Prince of Peace as the only means of experiencing peace with God, they find themselves facing persecution for righteousness' sake[15] because they are now hated by the world that is still under the domain of the evil one.[16]

          However, and this is where the joy comes in, they are so pure-heartedly devoted to Jesus Christ that they begin to feel the joy of being like their Savior,[17] of knowing that they are sharing in the sufferings of Christ,[18] and feeling the rejoicing that comes when other sinners feel the poverty of their spirits, mourn their sin in repentance, meekly acknowledge their inability to save themselves and so hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God that is through faith in Jesus Christ.[19]

          In other words, as we are transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ, we come to experience joy in our trials.[20] In fact, James  tells us to Count it all joy” when we “meet trials of various kinds,”[21] because of the way these trials make us perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.[22]

          That is actually the message of the Beatitudes, that God blesses us with everything we need to repent and have faith in Jesus Christ, so that we can experience his work of making us just like his Son. Which, incidentally, was his plan from before the beginning of time.[23]

          From my heart,


© 2013 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] As listed in Matthew 5:1-12
[2] Matthew 5:12
[3] Vs 11
[4] For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)
[5] “he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will…” (Ephesians 1:5)
[6] For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)
[7] Vs 3
[8] Vs 4
[9] Vs 5
[10] Vs 6
[11] Through repentance and faith.
[12] Vs 7
[13]Vs 8
[14] Vs 9
[15] Vs 10
[16] Cf Ephesians 2:1-3
[17] And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (II Corinthians 3:18)
[18] Philippians 3:10
[19] I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7); “I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10); “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:32).
[20] Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5)
[21] James 2:1
[22] James 1:4
[23] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. (Ephesians 1)

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