Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Repeatable Blessing of the Beatitudinal Journey

          This Ping (Ping plus?) arose from an attempt to explain the Beatitudinal Journey in a footnote to another article, only to find that my explanation was growing so long that it deserved a post of its own! Don’t you just love it when that happens?! Whatever the case, here is a description of the Beatitudes.
          At the beginning of what we commonly refer to as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke these words to his disciples:

“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.[1]

          This passage describes what I now affectionately and thankfully call “the Beatitudinal Journey.” The blessings Jesus speaks of are often referred to as “the Beatitudes,” and they reveal the kind of changes God brings to our lives that make us those who are truly blessed.
          In their largest expression, the Beatitudes describe the lifetime journey of facing the poverty of spirit in our sinful condition, mourning what is wrong with us, meekly accepting that we cannot fix ourselves, and hungering and thirsting for the righteousness of God that is by faith in Jesus Christ. When God brings us to this place, we have both repented of our sin and believed in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Our lives have been changed in the greatest way possible, as dead people coming to life again in Jesus Christ our Lord.[2]
          Continuing on with the Beatitudes, this experience of satisfaction in the righteousness of Jesus Christ makes us the merciful who show the same mercy to others as we have received in Christ. We come to have pure hearts as we seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. This single-mindedness makes us into peacemakers who want nothing more than to see people experience peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ. And, this merciful, pure-hearted, determined peacemaker heart comes to know it is a blessing to be persecuted for this righteousness of faith that has overtaken our lives, given us new life, and made us ambassadors of the life that is by faith in Jesus Christ.
          Along with this life-time transformation expressed in the Beatitudes, the regular changes that God’s word describes as being transformed into the same image as our Lord Jesus Christ from one degree of glory to another,[3] also follow this Beatitudinal journey.
          For God to make us like Jesus in the way he is presently working, he first has to show us the poverty of that quality, or of that experience of knowing him. He works to bring us to mourn the thing that is wrong with us, or the thing we are lacking, or the problems in our lives because of this distinctive way we do not know him, or this particular way we are not like him. This leads us to once again feel that we are dealing with things in our lives we cannot fix, no matter how hard we try; and this humble acknowledgement that we are not the ones to fix ourselves turns us once again to hunger and thirst after the righteousness of being like Jesus by faith.
          As God satisfies that new longing with another “one degree of glory to another” kind of transformation, we find ourselves feeling mercy towards others in ways we had not yet known. We find that our hearts feel purer  as we are growing in our single-minded devotion to being like Jesus. We find that we want to bring others to have such peace with God as comes not only through salvation, but also by transformation. And we discover that we are beginning to have joy, or at least an immature peace, when we get in trouble for making everything about Jesus.
          So, when I speak of God taking me through another cycle of the Beatitudinal journey, that is what I am talking about. God shows us things that are wrong with us in order to awaken our hunger and thirst for him and his ways. He only does this because he eagerly waits to satisfy us with his presence and his work.
          It is because of what God does for the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the merciful, but pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who rejoice in persecution, that we can say that the children of God are the people most blessed.

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] Matthew 5:3-12
[2] God explains this life-changing transformation in many other places in his word. Ephesians 2:1-10 is very clear in the life-from-the-dead experience.
[3] II Corinthians 3:18

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