Our Lord began His discourse by saying, “Blessed are . . . ,” and His hearers must have been staggered by what followed. According to Jesus Christ, they were to be blessed in every condition which they had been taught—from earliest childhood—to regard as a curse. Our Lord was speaking to Jews, and they believed that the sign of God’s blessing was material prosperity in every shape and form. Yet Jesus said people are blessed for exactly the opposite: “Blessed are the poor in spirit. . . . Blessed are those who mourn,” and so on.
The “Mines” of God • matthew 5:1–10; compare to luke 6:20–26
The first time we read the Beatitudes, they appear to be simple and beautiful statements, not at all startling; they go unobserved into the subconscious mind. We are so used to the sayings of Jesus that they slip past us; they sound sweet and pious and wonderfully simple, but they are in reality like spiritual torpedoes that burst and explode in the subconscious mind. When the Holy Spirit brings them back to our conscious minds, we realize what startling statements they are.
For instance, the Beatitudes seem to be merely mild and beautiful principles for otherworldly people, of very little use for the stern world in which we live. We soon find, however, that they contain the dynamite of the Holy Spirit. They explode like “spiritual mines” when our circumstances require them to do so. They rip and tear and revolutionize all our ideas of life.
We are not called to apply the Beatitudes literally, but to allow the life of God to invade us by regeneration, and then to soak our minds in the teaching of Jesus Christ. This teaching will slip down into the subconscious mind, and at some point, circumstances will arise in which one of Jesus Christ’s statements emerges.
To begin with, the teaching of Jesus Christ comes with astonishing discomfort, because it is out of all proportion to our natural way of looking at things. But Jesus puts in a new sense of proportion, and slowly we form our way of life on the line of His precepts.
The Motive of Godliness • matthew 5:11–12
The motive that underlies the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount is love of God. Read the Beatitudes with your mind fixed on God, and you will realize their neglected side. Their meaning in relationship to people is so obvious that it scarcely needs stating, but the aspect toward God is not so obvious.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit”—toward God. Am I a pauper toward God? Do I know that I cannot prevail in prayer, I cannot blot out the sins of the past, I cannot alter my disposition, I cannot lift myself nearer to God? Then I am in the one place where I am able to receive the Holy Spirit. People cannot receive the Holy Spirit until they are convinced of their own spiritual poverty.
“Blessed are the meek”—toward God’s commands and promises.
“Blessed are the merciful”—to God’s reputation. When I am in trouble, do I awaken sympathy for myself? Then I slander God, because the reflexive thought in people’s minds is, “How hard God is with that person!” It is easy to slander God’s character because He never attempts to vindicate himself.
“Blessed are the pure in heart”—that is obviously Godward.
“Blessed are the peacemakers”—making peace between God and man, the note that was struck at the birth of Jesus.
Is it possible to live out the Beatitudes? Never—unless God can do what Jesus Christ says He can; unless He can give us the Holy Spirit, who will remake us and bear us into a new realm. The essential element in the saint’s life is simplicity, and Jesus Christ makes the motive of godliness gloriously simple—that is, be carefully careless about everything except your relationship to Him.
The motive of a disciple is to be pleasing to God. The true happiness of the saint is found in purposefully making and keeping God first. Here is the great difference between Jesus Christ’s principles and all other moral teaching: Jesus bases everything on God-realization, while others focus on self-realization.
There is a difference between devotion to principles and devotion to a person. Jesus Christ never proclaimed a cause, He proclaimed personal devotion to himself: “for My sake.”
Discipleship is not based on devotion to abstract ideals, but on devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ, so the whole of the Christian life is stamped by originality.
Whenever the Holy Spirit sees a chance to glorify Jesus Christ, He will take your whole personality and make it blaze and glow with a passionate devotion to the Lord Jesus. You are no longer the devotee of a cause or principle—you are the committed, loving slave of the Lord Jesus. No person on earth has that love unless the Holy Spirit has imparted it. People may admire Jesus, and respect Him, and reverence Him—but we cannot love God until the Holy Spirit has “poured out” that love in our hearts (romans 5:5). The only true lover of the Lord Jesus Christ is the Holy Spirit.
“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.”
Jesus Christ says that blessedness—high goodness and rare happiness—comes from suffering “for My sake.” It is not suffering for conscience’ sake or for conviction’s sake or because of the ordinary troubles of life, but something beyond all that: “for My sake.”
“Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake” (luke 6:22).
Jesus did not say, “Rejoice when men separate you from their company because of your own crotchety notions,” but when they criticize you, “for My sake.” When you begin to conduct yourself among others as a saint, you will stand absolutely alone—you will be reviled and persecuted. No one can stand that unless he or she is in love with Jesus Christ. You cannot stand that treatment for a conviction or creed, but you can do it for a Being you love. Devotion to a Person is the only thing that tells—devotion to the death to a Person, not to a creed or doctrine.