IIT UBF - University Bible Fellowship at IIT

On Receiving Blessings

Date: Feb. 5, 2009

Author: Michael Mark


"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."  -Matt 5:3
  I always wondered what it meant to be blessed.  I always thought that I was blessed because I feel quite sociable, I have a pretty good job and am fairly confident and self reliant, so what I learned from The Beatitudes really shocked me.  
First, a little background.  The word Beatitudes comes from the Latin word for blessing, beatus.  They are a series of statements Jesus spoke to show the values that he cares about.  It is a guide for living a life which is pleasing and right to God.  It is the roadmap to the kingdom of heaven.  It is path to peace and happiness, but the source of those blessings comes from places we would never expect, which is what makes it so shocking.
Blessed are the poor in spirit.  Only the poor in spirit can submit to God.  This does not mean that we are supposed to be depressing all the time, or angry or unjoyful - and in fact these things hinder us as much as pride or arrogance.  To be poor in spirit means to realize what we are in relation to God - nothing.  It's one of the hardest things to accept.  We may not directly say we don't need God, but when we grumble, when we complain about our situations, or when we try to "take matters into our own hands," we are indirectly saying we don't need God, or that God can't help us out of this one.  Hopelessness is the wrong kind of poor in spirit.  Instead, the poor in spirit as described here is the realization that God is our Lord, our Master, our Creator, our Father and we are nothing apart from Him.  Sometimes my so-called blessings fill my head - a good job, an optimistic outlook and a hope and a promise - which leads to self praise and selfish ambitions.  These blessings, then, actually turn out to be a hindrance.  The true blessing is being poor in spirit.
Blessed are those who mourn.  To take this to a worldly perspective is again missing the mark.  It's not about mourning because of a lost loved one, lost money or rejection, though we can learn from such things.  When a loved one is hurt, we are hurt too.  This mourning is from knowing that our sins not only hurt ourselves, but they hurt God as well.  We mourn because we realize what kind of sinners we are, but we can be comforted in knowing that God is a loving and forgiving God.  Our mourning, when experienced, leads to repentances, which leads us back to God, and into joy.
Blessed are the meek.  This one I had the hardest time with.  I could not understand meek for all it was worth, but I read somewhere that the greek word for meek, praus, was used to refer to domesticated animals.  Not wild and unruly animals, but strong, trained disciplined animals like a horse who can do great things when commanded.  Most people mistake the meek for pushovers, weak-willed people who have no spine.  That is not what meek means here.  Meek means submissive to God, so sometimes that means we must submit to others also, but by no means is a meek man weak.  He is a trained and disciplined soldier who obeys God.  Now meek makes more sense.
Blessed are the pure in heart.  This one is also trouble.  Many people, including myself, go through great lengths in order to be pure.  The fact is, we can't become pure on our own.  People will separate from society and live a solitary life, others go through even more extreme measure such as castrating themselves.  Sometimes I thought about selling everything I have, quitting my job and trying to live a simpler life, but again, it's me trying to make myself right.  God alone can clean us, and he alone purifies us.  Just as in the Beatitude about the poor in spirit, we come to a place where only God can help us.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness.   Jesus spends the most time talking about suffering and persecution - the last 3 verses in the Beatitudes are about these matters.  A common misconception I have made is that suffering and persecution (because of righteouseness) only come from fanatics who want to throw you in jail or hardcore haters.  I thought it was more common, especially in America, not to be persecuted than to be persecuted - but I learned that the exact opposite is true.  It does not matter where you are, but for a Christian it must be more common to be persecuted than not to be.  Why?  Because of the sin in this world.  Just as Christ uncomfortably exposed our sins as we came to him, the more we reflect the light of Christ, the more uncomfortable the sin in others around us becomes.  The avoidance to this exposure and the feeling of being bad is what causes people to persecute.  
My painful realization at this point is that I have been praised by many more people than persecuted, because I am more a friend to the world than I am to Jesus.  I don't rebuke a friend who is out looking for sex before marriage even though it is exactly the opposite of what I believe in.  In fact sometimes I encourage it, because the person is a friend of mine.  I join in on the revelries of drinking and carousing (bar-hopping) when with another group of friends.  Can I honestly say God is pleased with this?  I have been absorbed into the world.
May God help me out.  The ultimate realization in the Beatitudes is that I realize that I am nothing, and can do nothing, but only God by his grace and power can purify me, make me right and correct my ways.  The Beatitudes leads me to a repentance of my self sufficiency into a dependence on God.  The point of my life changes for living for myself to living for God.  My only requirement is to constantly and continually keep my focus on Jesus Christ.  I thought I was blessed because I had a good job, a nice car, a nice home and heating and air conditioning.  I thought I was blessed to live in America, land of opportunity.  All these things, however are garbage compared to the blessing of virtue, the blessing of character, the blessing of being loved and forgiven - the blessing of citizenship in the kingdom of God, the right to be called a child of God, and the inheritance of life eternal.
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Daily Bread

Produce Good Fruit with Repentance

Luke 3:1-20

Key Verse: 3:8a

Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.

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