What I Learned From the Beatitudes

“The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes”. Psalm 19:7-8 (NRS)

Each day as a precursor to my devotions, I read Psalm 19:7-14.  I even attempt to recite it without looking, wanting to etch David’s words on my heart.  Sometimes I remember it in its entirety, sometimes I forget.  I think my “forgetfulness” is a “God-thing” in that He never wants me to think I have mastered any portion of His Word.  He gently redirects my independence to reliance on the Holy Spirit for enlightenment.  Every time I read these verses, the Holy Spirit gifts me with new discovery in familiar passages.  The study of the Beatitudes has had a similar effect on me.  What have I learned?

First, I have learned that the teachings contained in the Beatitudes are relevant and desirable for 21st century believers.  The behaviors described in the Beatitudes represent what life “in Christ” looks like in relationship to God and with our fellowman.  Once unbelievers become new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17), they are expected to no longer live by the world’s dictates; instead they are to pursue a righteous life style like that which was demonstrated by Jesus Christ.  Time has no effect on this spiritual transaction.  All the workings of salvation—justification, regeneration, sanctification—are the same in 2016 as they were in 1 A.D. and will continue until Christ returns.  Although the behaviors outlined in the Beatitudes may not conform to the current “worldview”, they are none the less valid and profitable.  The Beatitudes are foundational truths for righteous living that transcend time.

Second, the behaviors chronicled in the Beatitudes are not developed in the flesh but are supernaturally enabled.  Before this study, I though the Beatitudes were behaviors that Christians should strive to achieve.  Instead I have learned, that no amount of striving can accomplish each of these controversial behaviors; they are only possible through the infilling of the Holy Spirit.  That’s the reason they make no sense to the unredeemed world.  It is this third person of the God-head that is responsible for the transforming work needed to live out the behaviors described in the Beatitudes (Phil. 2:13).  Kingdom living is “supernatural living” that flows from a life lived in obedience to and trust in God.  The believer’s behavior is reframed to see God and others with the eyes of Christ.

Lastly, the Beatitudes remind me that this world is not the believer’s final place of residency.   In the both the first and final Beatitude, the kingdom of heaven is the reward that Jesus refocuses the Disciples’ attention on.  In an age of instant gratification, rewards that come later are not usually sought after.  Knowing that we believers are “strangers and pilgrims” in this world, we must turn our attention to things that have eternal value (Col. 3:1-2).  Therefore, we live in this world with different expectations as to how life is to be lived.  Unfortunately, believers, like unbeliever invest much effort and worry focused on “life in this time” rather than “eternity with God”.

The Beatitudes are “rules of engagement” for followers of Christ. They are intimidating and antagonistic to accepted practices and beliefs of the world.  Jesus’ teachings through the Beatitudes can only be understood through the lens of those who have accepted the benevolent offer of God’s salvation and transforming power.  True satisfaction and peace is only possible through kingdom living found in Jesus Christ.  It is only through this type of living that “blessedness” can truly be experienced—both now and through eternity.  I realize that while I have learned much about the Beatitudes and Kingdom Living, the Holy Spirit has even more wisdom yet to impart to my simple soul.