Tag Archives: happiness

Gratitude Power

No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thess. 5:18 (NLT)

In the New Testament, gratitude and appreciation expressed in thanksgiving, has three primary associations.  The first, thanks is given at the communion service (Eucharist) for the broken body and blood of Jesus (Matt. 26; Lk 22; 1 Cor. 11); the second time, thanks is given for the blessings that come through Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 2:14; 9:15) and finally, thanks is given for those who come to know Christ and who bring joy to the Apostle Paul (Col. 1:3; Eph. 1:16).

In his letters to the early church and ministry, the Apostle Paul lavishly expressed gratitude to those he wrote to for their role in both receiving the Gospel and in extending God’s “hope of salvation” to others within their immediate sphere of influence.  Paul was well acquainted with the power of gratitude (Ep. 1:15-19; Phil. 1:3-4).

Because gratitude is critical to not only individuals but also to the health of society in general, new focus is being placed on how to increase its occurrence.  Recent studies in the area of psychology confirm that we can intentionally cultivate gratitude with the consequence being increased well-being, joy and happiness.

In addition, gratefulness, especially expression of it to others, is associated with increased energy, optimism, and empathy.  The positive psychology movement has embraced these studies and in an effort to increase overall well-being, has begun to make an effort to incorporate exercises to increase gratitude into the movement.[1]

It is God’s will that in everything, we give thanks.  It is not God’s will that we express gratitude for “gratitude’s sake only” but because with the giving of thanks, His power can be released into our life in ways never before seen.  This includes the formation of incredible joy, unshakeable hope, and unbroken peace (1 Pet. 1:2-4).  The outward expression of appreciation to God and others, works to bring new power and access that, under other circumstances, would be unattainable.

As we examine our walk of faith, we must ask ourselves, “Am I harnessing the full power of gratitude?”  “Am I receiving the benefits of gratitude that are now available to me?”  According to the Greek writer and philosopher, Cicero, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues but the parent of all others.” Maybe it’s time for you to begin engaging in gratitude power.

[1] Wikipedia, “Gratitude”.

The Language of Gratitude

Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they?  Luke 17:17 (NRS)

How is “grateful” language developed?   Gratitude, as we defined it is an expression of thankfulness for benefits or goodness.  God is our Eternal Benefactor providing us both good and perfect gifts (Ps. 103:1-6).  While it is understandable that believers should desire to express our gratitude to Him for all His many benefits, we must exercise greater intentionality in displaying our gratitude to the world.  We must develop the language of gratitude.

Interestingly, the concept of thankfulness is noticeably absent in the early writings of the Old Testament.  Instead language that was ordinarily translated as “praise”, such as yadah and todah, was used to convey the concept of thankfulness for God’s works and character (Ps. 118).  It would be later in the wisdom literature that God’s people would be encouraged to express purposeful gratitude for God’s provision and protection (Ps. 107:21-22; Eccl. 5:8-6:9).

In the New Testament the vocabulary for thanksgiving and gratitude expanded with the use of “thanks” (eucharisteo) and other terms such as “grace” (charis).   Jesus thanked God for hearing His prayers (Matt. 11:25) and for raising Lazarus (John 11:41).   The Gospels and the Epistles later developed the concept that gratitude for God’s deliverance in Christ characterizes the language of gratitude (Col. 1:12-14).   As God revealed Himself through His various dispensations, thankfulness and gratitude became a key response by creature man.  This was true in the case of the one leper healed by Jesus in today’s text.

As Jesus passed through the region between Samaria and Galilee, ten lepers entreated Him to have “mercy on them”.  They recognized the possibility of receiving beneficence from Jesus—He would help them in their affliction.  Jesus “saw them”—He recognized their need in this dire circumstance—and then “sent them” to the priest to verify their healing.  As they went, they were made clean.  But one of them saw that he was healed and turned back to Jesus, praising (doxazo) God.  He prostrated himself at Jesus feet and thanked (eucharisteo) Him.   The one leper showed the proper response to Jesus’ act of grace (charis) but what about the other nine?  Were they not grateful?  Why were they not also praising God and thanking Jesus for their healing?

As you read the narrative of the Ten Lepers (Luke 17:11-19), who do you most identify with—the one leper who returned to thank Jesus or the other nine lepers?  What stands in the way of your expressing gratitude to God?  Do you attribute your accomplishments to your efforts and yours alone (pride)?  Do you compare your current life circumstances with that of others and feel “cheated” of your rightful blessings (envy/covertness)?   Are you dissatisfied and discontented with life desiring more than is currently yours (greed/thankless)?  Let your expressions of gratitude mirror those of the one leper who could do nothing less than praise, worship, and thank God for all His goodness.  Begin today practicing the language of gratitude so that when you enter heaven, your gratefulness will explode into joyful praise (yadah and todah) as you stand before our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the One who made eternity possible for you (Rev. 19:1-6).

Gratitude

“In everything give thanks.” 1 Thess. 5:18

What is gratitude?  It is an emotion expressing appreciation and thankfulness for what one has.  Regrettably, believers often miss the mark in articulating their gratitude.  We more than any need to be more intentional and thoughtful in our expressions of gratitude to God.

“Gratitude is also getting a great deal of attention as a facet of positive psychology: Studies show that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude by counting our blessings and writing letters of thanks, for example. This proactive acknowledgement can increase our well-being, health, and happiness. Being grateful—and especially the expression of it—is also associated with increased energy, optimism, and empathy.”[1]

Gratitude can be practiced by both believers and nonbelievers. People, in general, are slow in offering gratitude.  They will sometimes express gratitude when prayers are answered or catastrophes are avoided.  However, even in those special circumstances, individuals are more likely to attribute their good fortune to luck than to God’s benevolence.   Gratitude is the “proper response” beneficence or to the generosity and kindness from a benefactor.

In the busyness of living, people take for granted those things God provides through His grace to all mankind:  the sun and the moon (Deut. 33:14), the regularity with which the seasons change (Gen. 8:22), and the marvels of created life (Rom. 1:20).  They fail to recognize their blessings and therefore fail to express gratitude.  However, those who are in Christ are obligated to express gratitude to God for all things especially His work of salvation.

With salvation, believers experience a multitude of blessings, both now and in the future.  First and foremost is our deliverance from the power and penalty of sin (Rom. 6:9).  This release from our sin nature provides instant access to God the Father (Rom. 5:2).   We are given a new identity in Christ, both as children of God and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:16-17).  As new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), we are gifted with the presence of the Holy Spirit who empowering us with the same dunamis power that raised Christ from the dead (Eph. 1:19).

Eternal life is God’s special gift to believers.  It is a gift that cannot be acquired through works or any other path yet is readily available through belief in Jesus the Christ (John 3:16).  At that moment, the believer can experience eternal life through God’s presence, peace, and provision.  As heirs of God, believers await their final inheritance reserved for them in heaven, when they return to their true home (1 Pet. 1:3-4).

How is gratitude reflected in your daily faith walk?  Do you practice “gratitude” as a spiritual discipline or do you think of it only as Thanksgiving approaches?   As believers, gratitude should be engrafted in our spiritual DNA as we daily experience the blessings and promises of God.  As we express our gratitude, we share with others our appreciation for what God has done, is doing, and will do in our lives.    That’s why in everything, we give thanks.

                [1]   Psychology Today, “The Benefits of Gratitude”.

Desperately Seeking Happiness

“Then He (Jesus) began to speak, and taught them.” Matthew 5:2 (NRS)

At the top of the list of things people desperately seek is happiness.  Kirk Franklin, gospel extraordinaire, several years ago shared this need in a song that expresses the frustration people feel in their attempt to find happiness.  Exasperated with their situation, they sadly cry out, “I just wanna be happy.”

Happiness is defined as a state of well-being and contentment.  Happiness is truly a function of one’s personal perception, circumstance, and desire.  For the person who is lonely, happiness may be experiencing true friendship and community.  For the individual who feels powerless, happiness may be wealth and influence.  Regardless of the need behind the pursuit of happiness, the quest to find it has been and continues to be man’s greatest quest.

During the mid-20th century, the pursuit of happiness was found in the discovery of self.  “Self” became the surrogate for happiness—self-gratification, self-satisfaction, self-actualization.  With the dawn of the 21st century, man has now “turned his ear” (2 Tim. 4:4) to the sciences to help him find happiness.   Positive psychology is the study of how ordinary people can become happier and more fulfilled.  In examining the different paths to happiness, there is one obvious way that is missing. That way is Jesus Christ—He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).

In Psalm 18:2, David describes his source of well-being during his deliverance from King Saul and his enemies:  “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”  David looked to God to insure his well-being and in exchange received security, safety, and health.

The Apostle Paul exchanged his earthly power and position for the contentment that only Jesus Christ could provide.  He proudly boasted in Phil. 4:11-13 (NRS):  “I have learned to be content with whatever I have.  I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”  Paul’s secret to contentment was not tied to his circumstances but to his God.

Like these and other biblical witnesses set your sights on that which transcends the promises of happiness that is tethered to this world.  Seek the intangibles that provide true well-being and contentment.  The only one that can provide what “transcends” is our Transcendent God.  He alone knows our needs and how to satisfy them.  It is our responsibility to trust God for our happiness.

Life Lived Desperately Seeking

What’s there to show for a lifetime of work, a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone?

Ecclesiastes 1:3 (The Message)

I recently read an article entitled The Top 10 Things People Want in Life but Can’t Seem to Get.  I was amazed in reading the responses to this informal survey that probed a number of “critical life and career questions.”  This further piqued my curiosity leading me to find other “lists” of how individuals might feel about their current lives.

As I read the various articles, the words “desperately seeking” came to mind.  Therein was the birthing of this new series entitled, Desperately Seeking.  During this series, I’ll be using three (3) lenses to examine the real issues behind our desperate search for the things we feel will make our lives better.  They include:  (1) the current situation, (2) the worldview, and (3) God’s view.  As you follow with me, it is my hope that you will better understand God’s plan for your life and be able to quickly extinguish any desperation you might currently be experiencing.  Let me begin by sharing the current situation.

Desperation is defined as a state of despair or distress, typically one that results in rash or extreme behavior—even reckless or dangerous. Desperation is sometimes described as hopelessness.  How would you describe the world today?  You need only look at your phone, notebook, or other source of information to experience the alarming state of our world.

As we view the larger global issues of this nation and world, it is evident that the current political, social, and financial climate cannot be resolved through traditional methods or approaches.  Our hope that technology would offer the panacea to all our problems is daily being dashed as it presents its own set of “new problems” in the form of ethical dilemmas, moral failures, and social shortfalls.  Tricia McCary Rhodes in her book, The Wired Soul, captures this feeling of distress.

I am not personally prone to panic attacks, but these days there are moments when I find myself out of sorts, almost as if I can’t quite catch my breath. I don’t think I’m alone in this. People of all ages seem terminally distracted, perpetually hurried, and often harried.  It is rare for an answer to the question “how are you?” not to include the word busy and elicit some degree of angst. Collectively it feels as if we are losing something important in the name of progress, as if life itself is slipping through our fingers.

But the real challenge of desperation comes, not only globally, but “up close and personal”.   It comes as individuals look in the mirror and ask, “What about those things that I want in life but can’t seem to get?”  From my reading, I compiled (in their order of importance) the top five (5) areas people are feeling desperate about:  happiness, money, freedom, peace, and joy.   I’ve included a sixth, since it seems the focus of many Millennials and Gen xers—balance.

Examination of this list resulted in the following observations.  What’s surprising are the things missing from the list.

1)  The list contains more intangibles that tangibles (money).  Why?

2)  The list is more subjective (what I can feel) than objective.  Why?

3)  The list focuses on “internal” versus “external”.  Why?

What can be said about a “life lived desperately seeking”?  Why are we desperate?  What’s missing in our lives and why can’t we get it?  Join us as we “desperately seek” answers to these and other questions.  Please share this devotional with your friends who might be feeling desperate.  Feel free to share your thoughts on this new series  in the “Comments Box” at the bottom of this page.

For Christ’s Sake, Part 2

“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:12 (NRS)

Disciples of Jesus Christ are to “rejoice and be glad” when they are persecuted.  This doesn’t appear to be a “realistic response”, whether living in the first or the twenty-first century, especially for those who live under the influence of Satan and the world (Ep. 6:12).  It is, however, both realistic and reasonable, for those who are in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:12).  Kingdom living does not look like the world—it is radically different!  Believers are to adhere to the truth of God’s Word, living holy and righteous lives, with no expectation of acceptance or support by this fallen world.  It is God who is the rewarder and sustainer of those who are called to His purpose and who find their meaning in Him (Ep. 2:10; Acts 17:28).

The Disciples were to “rejoice and be glad” during persecution because their focus was to be on the future—the kingdom of heaven yet to come.  The Apostle Paul described the trials and persecutions that the Disciples would experience as “light afflictions lasting only for a moment in comparison with eternity.”  And what would be the reward for such suffering?  An exceeding and eternal weight of glory!    J.B. Phillips’ paraphrase expresses Paul’s thought more succinctly:

These little troubles (which are really so transitory) are winning for us a permanent, glorious and solid reward out of all proportion to our pain, For we are looking all the time not at the visible things but at the invisible. The visible things are transitory: it is the invisible things that are really permanent.   2 Cor. 4:17-18

Rather than looking at their external circumstances, the Disciples were re-directed by Jesus to focus on what couldn’t be seen with the “physical eye”—the spiritual reward awaiting them in heaven.

This final beatitude offered comfort to the Disciples by comparing them with another group of highly esteemed, holy men who experienced persecution for righteous living—the Old Testament prophets.  The prophets were commissioned to present “thus says the Lord”; calling for repentance and return to God (Is. 30:15).  The Disciples were called to continue the ministry that Jesus began.  They were to present the gospel of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-19) and through the Holy Spirit, men would be drawn to repentance and to the knowledge of Jesus the Christ (2 Pet.3:9).  Both groups faced persecution on earth for “righteousness’ sake” yet they looked forward to their promised reward from God (Dan. 7:18, 22, 27; Matt. 5:12).

Like the Disciples, believers today are to “rejoice and be glad” when faced with persecution.  We are to keep our “eye on the prize”—eternal reward in heaven versus the momentary enticement of this world.   This is a difficult concept for 21st century man to embrace; it is contradictory to a world that demands “instant gratification” and trusts only in what it can see.  To persevere during persecution, believers must continually remind themselves who they are (Rom. 8:17; Col. 3:12), why they are here (Ep. 2:10; Matt. 28:19-20) and where they are ultimately going (1 Pet. 2:11; 2 Cor. 5:1).

As believers, we must accept the reality that if we truly live for Christ, we will suffer persecution. However, we are confident and find comfort in knowing that God is sovereign and has already obtained victory over Satan and the world (Matt. 28:18; Col. 2:15).  God will sustain and deliver us, just as He did for the Prophets and for the Disciples who preceded us (Ps. 27:1).  We rejoice and are glad, for our reward is in heaven.

“Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life,

and may enter in through the gates into the city.”  Revelation 22:14

Good to the Last Byte…

Although the Prophets never witnessed the fulfillment of the Messiah in their life time, they anticipated “future glory” as reward for their faithfulness to God (Is. 35:2).

For Christ’s Sake, Part 1

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my (Jesus) account.”  Matthew 5:11 (NRS)

Righteous living detailed in the Beatitudes to this point represented “internal changes” followers of Christ should exhibit as a result of their “new nature” (2 Cor. 5:17). Jesus would end His teaching by sharing the “external response” righteous living would evoke for allegiance to Him. It would be for Christ’s sake, that persecution would follow.

This final Beatitude continues the theme of persecution that began in Matt. 5:10. In this eleventh verse, however, there is a dramatic shift in Jesus’ teaching pattern. Up to this point, Jesus has spoken of the Beatitudes in the third person “they”; the object of persecution now shifts to “you” (second person). For the Disciples, who were the immediate recipients of Jesus’ teachings, this shift would require them to deal with the reality that they too would now be the objects of abuse and suffering. Why? For Christ’s sake. If they exhibited the righteous behaviors Jesus outlined to this point, they, like Jesus Christ, would be viewed as a threat to the status quo–with its injustice, inequities, and sin.

It was not Jesus’ “goodness” that the world hated (and still hates)–unbelievers are good, but it was the impact His righteous and holy living had (and still has) on a sinful world. Darkness was exposed and those who practiced it felt uncomfortable and threatened by the light of Christ (John 3:19-21). It was not Jesus’ “kindness” that they feared–unbelievers can be kind, but what they feared was the reality that all who choose this fallen world and sinful living over Christ and eternal life relinquished the possibility of participating in the kingdom of heaven–today or in the future (1 John 3:2).

Kingdom living, living for Christ’s sake, ushered in a new way of thinking and behaving (life style) that would transform the heart. Change would not begin outside but from within (Ezek. 36:26-27). One can simply look to the Bible and see those whom Jesus transformed from “dishonorable vessels” to “vessels of honor” (2 Tim. 2:20-21).  The Apostles Paul and Peter are examples of changed lives who would later be persecuted for Christ’s sake.  This kind of transformation was unheard of  in the 1st century life. It is no surprise that the Jesus’ teachings would later be blamed for “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).

Jesus shared “the cost” for living for His sake. He characterized persecution in three distinct ways: first, in word (reviled), secondly, in act (persecuted) and thirdly in accusations of evil (all kinds of evil spoken falsely). Jesus’ description of persecution also indicated the response the Church would face as it sat in the midst of a fallen world. The first church, like the Disciples, could expect to be in perpetual collision with the world. They were antagonists to the evil they challenged. Persecution, for Christ’s sake still exists in the 21st century. It is not unique to distant countries on a map but is alive and active in our glorious nation. Satan hates the things that Christ stands for and daily orchestrates personal persecution of believers who choose to live for Christ.

Living for Christ’s sake is radical living anchored in the reality of Jesus Christ and the new life His followers now enjoy–a life of freedom, peace, and blessedness. This life style is reflected in how we think and act. We are poor in spirit–dependent on the saving grace of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. We are meek and we mourn–under girded by the tender mercies and comfort of the Holy Spirit within us. We hunger and thirst for righteousness–“as the deer pants after the brook”, so we passionately pursue intimacy with God. We are both agents and recipients of God’s mercy and peace. Through confession and repentance, we strive for purity of heart so that we may see God–His will and His way.

As we experience persecution for righteousness’ sake, let us emulate the spirit of Peter and the other Apostles as they demonstrated their boldness in living for Christ’s sake.

Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than any human authority.’

As they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name (Acts 5:29, 41).

 

To Thee, my God, I flee,

to hide from the rebuke and hate of man,

who daily pursues, oppresses, and wrests my words;

hide me in the secret of Thy pavilion,

I entreat Thee, from the strife of tongues.

F. B. Meyer

Blessed Are Ye

Persecution for Righteousness’ Sake

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10 (NKJ)

It’s been said that this beatitude is the most searching of all the Beatitudes.  This is because it forces believers to evaluate their “spiritual impact” on the world around them.  Persecution by definition is not desirous in that it includes harassing or oppressive treatment because of what one believes and/or how one lives.  Are you experiencing persecution for being a follower of Christ and His teachings?  If not, perhaps this beatitude will help you “let your little light shine more brightly” (Matt. 5:14-16).

What did Jesus mean when He spoke of persecution “for righteousness’ sake”?   As discussed earlier in this study, righteousness (dikaiosune) (dik-ah-yos-oo’-nay) means “to be in right standing and acceptable to God”.  This is reflected in godly thinking, feeling and acting.  To live righteously requires a “new nature” that God provided for us (2 Cor. 5:17)—a nature that is being conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). To be persecuted for righteousness’ sake infers that we are oppressed or suffer for being like Christ.

Righteousness is when we are “like Christ”.   Jesus was the supreme example of righteousness.  While we may desire to be righteous like Christ, we would prefer not to experience the persecution part of this beatitude.   But persecution was a frequent topic of Jesus as He prepared His disciples for what lie ahead. (John 15:18-20).

If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you.  If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world — therefore the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’  If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also.

Kingdom living is righteous living.   The Beatitudes, as with all of Jesus’ teachings, turned the world upside down and challenged the status quo with all its sin and injustices. Jesus would reward the poor in spirit and those persecuted for righteousness’ sake with the kingdom of heaven.  For those who recognized their brokenness and sinful natures—those who mourned, were meek and hungered and thirst after righteousness, God offered through Jesus Christ an eternal inheritance, spiritual comfort and complete satisfaction.  Their new nature in Christ would cause them to be “Christ-like”—pure in heart, merciful, and peacemakers in an aggressive and unfriendly world.  Kingdom living, as outline in the Beatitudes, would result in persecution by the world.          

Those who choose to live godly in Christ Jesus can expect to suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12).   Jesus’ teachings were not only controversial in the context of the 1st century but they continue to create major discomfort for those living by the world standards (which are no standards) in the 21st century.  The principles of kingdom living outlined in the Beatitudes represent a way of living that is counter culture. They call to question the way the world deals with life and with those who exist within its boundaries.  The Beatitudes evoke anger and hostility from those who choose to remain in sin (John 8:21)  The Apostle Paul can attest to the true cost of righteous living as he personally suffered imprisonment, beatings, and danger from his own countrymen all because He preached the gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 11:23-27).

Even in the technological age of the 21st century, Jesus’ teachings are relevant and pertinent for living.     The topics of our daily news never change—murder, corruption, and sufferings perpetrated by mankind upon mankind.  These signs of the time reflect the need for Jesus Christ.  The believer’s life, kingdom living, is an opportunity to share what righteousness looks like.  As believers do this, they can anticipate the same treatment Christ received from a hostile and sinful world.  The possibility of persecution should not silence righteous living.   Beware of teachings that steer you away from the reality of suffering and persecution.  Such teaching lends itself to “silencing” the true Gospel and “undermines” the glory that is to be realized in suffering with Christ (2 Thess. 2:14).

Good to the Last Byte…

In these last days before the return of Christ, the Church and Christians must learn to expect and embrace persecution for righteousness’ sake.  Persecution for righteousness’ sake has its outworking throughout the Bible with examples including Abel, Moses, David, Daniel, Elijah and Jeremiah, just to name a few.  Their righteous living caused others to hate and mistreat them.  Don’t feel bad when you are persecuted for righteous living—you are in good company.

The Practice of Peacemaking

 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”  Matt. 5:9 (NRS)

What adjective do people use to describe you?  Do they portray you as a bridge builder or a wrecking ball?   Do they see you as one who encourages others or as a dream crusher?  As silly as this exercise may seem, it is important that believers daily exhibit behavior that reflects God’s nature, especially behavior that demonstrates kingdom living.  Today’s beatitude examines God’s peace as it is revealed by those called by His name.

In the beginning man enjoyed a special relationship with God in the Garden of Eden.  But with the introduction of sin, man became estranged from God.  The fellowship and peace once enjoyed by the Creator and His beloved creature was broken.  But because of His great love God reconciled Himself to man through Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:18-19) thereby once again making peace possible between Himself and man.  Through the act of reconciliation, God has also created the opportunity for man to share with his fellow man God’s ministry of peace (2 Cor. 5:20).  Peacemaking found its genesis in the heart of God.

Peacemakers (eirenopoios which means “make peace”) are intentional in creating opportunities that mirror God’s heart of peace in the world. Those who are peacemakers are first and foremost people who understand and embrace God’s provision of peace.  They understand that peace is not the result of external factors or human effort but is the internal “heart work” of the Holy Spirit, who is daily conforming believers to the image of Christ, the Ultimate Peacemaker (Rom. 8:29).   Peacemakers strive to promote the kingdom of God.  They look for opportunities to both prevent potential conflicts and encourage peaceful relationships even if it means personal sacrifice and self-deference (1 Cor. 9:22).  As Christ demonstrated God’s peace in His ministry, believers become peacemakers in this present age (Phil. 4:7).

Who are children of God?

(1) Those who by faith in Jesus Christ have accepted God’s offer of salvation (Gal. 3:26).  The peace that Jesus speaks to in this beatitude is not a “natural” habit or disposition of man; nor is it something one can strive to achieve.  This peace is part of the new nature imparted to man during the process of salvation (2 Cor. 5:17).  This new nature changes the perspective of how man views himself, others, and the world.  He no longer lives for himself but for the glory of God (2 Cor. 5:15).  To practice peacemaking is not easy (in the natural)—that’s why a new nature is required.

(2) Those who are led by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:14).  In contract, those who are not led by the Holy Spirit are directed by the mind and the flesh which are at enmity with the things of God (Rom. 8:6-8). Those who choose not to accept the offer of salvation, live as children of disobedience, guided by their fleshly nature, instructed by the ways of the world, and servant to the god of the air (1 John 3:10). How can there be peace on earth when mankind is consumed by greed, lust, pride, and hatred.  These are the root of peacelessness.

(3) Those who love God and obey His commandments (1 John 5:2).  I was once told by a fellow believer that in life they simply follow the “10/2” rule—the Ten Commandments (Deut. 5:6-21) and the Greatest Law (Mark 12:28-34). Evidence of being a child of God is seen in how one lives.  Giving little attention to self, the child of God focuses on the things that glorify God and serve others.

What an honor it is to be identified as part of such a holy and righteous linage.  No longer sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2), we now are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17).   We thank God for life and the name change—from children of darkness to children of God.

A Heart to See God

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8 (NKJ)

 

As a little girl, the second memory verse I learned (after “Jesus wept”) was the beatitude that we will examine today. I learned it quickly and adopted it as my favorite verse to recite at family dinner gatherings.  I can’t explain how the choice of this verse came to be; perhaps my mother felt it would help in calming my mischievous spirit.  Little did I realize that my mother’s teaching would lead to a fuller vision of God and His Kingdom.

Jesus was intentional in His teachings.  His purposefulness is seen in His presentation of each of the beatitudes especially with the placement of this sixth beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart.” Jesus has to this point shared with His disciples key behaviors of those who enjoy the “happiness and satisfaction” of living by kingdom rules.  The Beatitudes in unity and individually, radically flew in the face of how the world defined happiness, satisfaction, and success—poor in spirit, mourners, meek, merciful, hungry and thirsty.  Today’s beatitude is no exception to this teaching pattern as it redefines purity and the resulting blessedness of “seeing God.”

In reading this beatitude today, one might comment on its simplicity in meaning and presentation.  However, in the context of the 1st century, Jesus’ statement was revolutionary, for he presented it to a nation literally obsessed with purification laws and procedures (Lev. 11-15).   Imagine the shock of hearing Jesus say, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  “What does He mean by, “See God?’  No one, not even Moses, has ever seen Jehovah God!”   The listeners’ minds must have raced to understand this new teaching, “Purity of heart and nothing else?  No Jewish legal system or codes?”   This alone was sufficient reason for the scribes and the Pharisees (who benefited from the current religious system) to desire Jesus’ death.

The importance of the heart in sustaining a relationship with God was not a new concept.  In the Old Testament, the Lord described the heart, the seat of man’s affection, as “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9).  David understood the importance of purity of heart as he pleaded with God to create a clean heart and renew a right spirit within him (Ps. 51:10).    Who are the “pure in heart”?  They are those who mourn the impurity of their hearts to the extent that they do what is needed to cleanse and purify it (Matt. 4:17; 1 John 1:9).  When standing in the presence of Holy God, they understand their personal depravity and the need for forgiveness (Rom. 3:23); confession followed by repentance is the proper response in order to receive the blessedness of God’s kingdom.  Purity of heart is only possible through a “contrite and meek” heart (Ps. 51:17; Is. 57:15).

Jesus’ stipulation of a “pure heart” as the requirement for “seeing God” was a challenge for a religious system that was founded on its outward practices.  “Seeing God” in this beatitude is, to be sure, a reference to what will be achieved in future eternity when the saints, the pure in heart, are able to perceive the holy, righteous One enthroned in heaven (Rev. 5:11-14).    However, like Moses who desired to see God’s face (Ex. 33:17-23), the pure in heart begin to have a glimpse of God even in this life.  God is seen in His sovereign acts of mercy and grace in the life of both believers and nonbelievers (Matt. 5:45).  God’s hand is seen in His providential work within the physical world—in its creation and its sustenance (Acts 17:28).  God is seen in His transforming work in the hearts of sinners as God restores them to newness of life (Rom. 6:6-9).

Seeing God is a challenge for people living in the 21st century—both nonbelievers and believers.  For nonbelievers, this is not surprising.  Satan has blinded them from seeing the possibilities that Christ offers (John 3:3; 2 Cor. 4:4).    Kingdom living is at enmity with a world that neither recognizes nor accepts the authority of God, the lordship of Christ, or the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Unfortunately, believers aren’t always the best witnesses for kingdom living. For some believers the ability to achieve purity of heart seems impossible and unattainable.  This thought is fueled by the incorrect belief that God is seeking external perfection and flawless behavior from believers.  This is a trick of Satan to frustrate and discourage the believer’s efforts to live holy. For other believers, they simply choose to stay in their sin, unrepentant and spiritually impotent.

As children of God, we have everything we need to live pure and holy lives (2 Pet. 1:3; 1 John 3:2-3).  The vision of God is clearly in our view (1 John 3:2-3).  As we daily renew our minds through study of God’s Word, faithfully pray, and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, our pursuit of purity becomes “second nature” and part of life lived in the kingdom of God.  To those who pursue purity of the heart belongs the unclouded vision of God right now which will reach consummation when Christ returns (1 Cor. 13:12, 1 John 3:2).  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

Prayer:  Father God, we thank You for the simplicity of salvation and that we, through confession and faith, may see You in all your glory and majesty.  Give us clean hearts that we might see You and witness to Your love, Your grace, and Your mercy.