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Blessed when…

January 1, 2014

Hello,
1 January 2014

Happiness is.

Prepare

How are you feeling about the people in your life, and your circumstances? Ask God for his grace in the face of any difficulties, so that you may give yourself in love and service today.

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Bible passage: Matthew 5:1-12

Matthew 5

You’re Blessed

1-2 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

3 “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

4 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

5 “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are-no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

6 “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

7 “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

8 “You’re blessed when you get your inside world-your mind and heart-put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

9 “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

11-12 “Not only that-count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens-give a cheer, even!-for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

Explore the Bible

Secret of happiness

The word ‘blessed’ (‘happy’) wins our attention, because we all hope for happiness in this life. Tap ‘secret of happiness’ into the search engine of a computer and you will be offered nearly 100 million entries! But the happiness Jesus describes here is the very opposite of what we might expect.

While many people imagine that happiness comes from fame and fortune, Jesus lists the qualities of the world’s losers. He teaches his followers that they will appear, in the eyes of the world, to lack self-esteem and to be sad and weak (vs 3–5).

God’s kingdom

In a world where egotism and self-promotion are admired, those who live like Jesus will be regarded as a push-over, lacking in ambition, and far too quick to apologise (vs 6–9). His followers will even be frustrated with themselves, because they long to live a godly life, but find it almost impossible to do so (v 10).

Jesus’ description of us, his followers, as ‘happy’ only makes sense because we are living by the values and joys of God’s kingdom – which is ‘not of this world’ (John 18:36). Jesus assures us we are absolutely on the right track when we find ourselves sharing his self-emptying humility (Philippians 2:5–8) and his sufferings (John 15:20).

Respond

‘Lord, share with me your kind of happiness today: the joy and pain of living for heaven on earth.’

Andrew Knowles

Introduction to Matthew 5-7

Come and let Jesus teach you for the next two weeks! The familiar words of these chapters have lost none of their ability to transform us after 2,000 years. They have the same power, even if we have heard them over and over again.

The course will not be an advanced class in theology. There is not much that is hard to understand. The Sermon on the Mount is about lifestyle issues that confront us every day: the standards that we set ourselves in ordinary living (integrity, or anger, or relations with the opposite sex) or how we pray and whether we worry. Jesus challenges our quickness to judge others and our lack of discernment when someone offers a less costly way of life.

No, the hard part is doing it. We make excuses. ‘I’m no worse than anyone else.’ ‘It’s someone else’s fault.’ ‘God will forgive.’ ‘God doesn’t expect me to be perfect!’ Well, yes he does. As you read these chapters your life is under his gaze, and you have nowhere to hide.

It is of utmost importance that, like the original listeners, you are already a disciple. The Sermon on the Mount only makes sense if you have experienced – and continue to experience – the depth of Jesus’ love and have surrendered to him without reservation and know the reality of the Holy Spirit alive in you. If you’re trying to live this way on your own you will either make excuses for yourself or give up. It’s that hard. But once we know Jesus as Lord and Saviour there is no joy to compare with that of living with him through these chapters.

Deeper Bible study

Familiar words! How do you picture the scene? We are told that Jesus got away from the crowds and was teaching his disciples. These are not necessarily just the twelve, since Jesus may not have picked them yet, but they are people who were committed to following him. How many, we don’t know. Someone has suggested that the occasion was rather like a weekend retreat. It’s probable that the words of the whole sermon that we have in Matthew’s Gospel are a summary and not Jesus’ actual words, which would have been in Aramaic, not Greek, and which would have taken only ten minutes to deliver if this is exactly what he said.

Verses 3–11 are in a form known as ‘macarisms’ (the Greek word for ‘blessings’), expressions of praise. This form occurs frequently in Psalms and Proverbs, but in our Bible only Jesus strung them together like this. They are short and memorable, and lend themselves to much reflection.

They have to be taken together, as a composite portrait of the Christian disciple. 1 The portrait that emerges is not what the world around us admires or considers successful. To live by Jesus’ values is to set one’s whole way of life on a different course from the rest of the world. Thank God for people you know, both personally and in history, who encourage you by their example and whose lives demonstrate the power of what the world calls weakness. Above all, reflect on how Jesus himself embodied everything he taught here. While some people today make resolutions to lose weight or break a bad habit, let us as Christians seek the power of the Spirit to live this counter-cultural lifestyle in 2014.

1 John Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, BST; IVP, 1985, p54

Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year.

Today’s readings are:

Genesis 1,2

Matthew 1

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