One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around him, and he began to teach them. “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth. God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied. God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God. God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way." (Matthew 5:1-12, NLT)
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I’ve loved roller coasters for a long time. My wife and I have enjoyed many trips on some of the more thrilling coasters (at least in their day) at various times. Apparently, genetics do not always pass on this trait. Our two daughters are split on the subject. My oldest isn’t all that fond of the big thrill rides, tending more toward the tamer stuff (my wife has taken that turn as well over the years). My youngest daughter, however, still shares my love for the big hills and the “scream-till-you-nearly-pass-out” drops.
A love of such amusements comes with a price, or more accurately, a set of qualifications to ride. You’ve seen the signs at the amusement parks: “Don’t ride if you have heart trouble, are pregnant, are planning to have heart trouble or get pregnant, have a bad back, know somebody who has a bad back, or any other condition real or imagined for which you might attempt to sue us if we didn’t explicitly list it on this notice.” Oh, and all riders must be at least 48 inches tall.
That last condition is one which my youngest daughter eagerly anticipated making. She was even turned back on a roller coaster years ago, having missed the qualification by less than an inch. To say she was disappointed would be an understatement. She was completely bummed. Of all the little things to keep her off the ride, a mere inch seemed pretty small indeed.
When Jesus sat down to teach His disciples and the rest of the crowd about this magnificent God who had made provision for all to come freely to Him, He began with the list of qualifications for admission. Do you want to put yourself in the position of having a secure place in Heaven? Then you need to realize that you bring nothing to the table and are completely incapable of helping yourself. Is your soul longing for answers to the questions of a seemingly unfair life? Then develop a thirst and taste for the kind of justice only God can give and you will find more than enough to satisfy your needs. Do you find yourself being mocked and rebuked at every turn and in everything you say or do? Great! You are in a unique position to receive the kind of blessed life that only comes from personally knowing a great Savior.
In my last installment, I wrote about how simplistic God’s requirements are for us to follow. Jesus amplifies these thoughts in this section most commonly called The Beatitudes. And the amazing truth is that He has set the standard, from our perspective, astoundingly low! He paid the impossibly high standard of God’s holiness in His perfect, sinless life and substitutionary death. What is left for us is to recognize our need, accept His gift, and follow Him. His message in Matthew was that anybody could come, a completely refreshing note to a people on whom had been piled rule after rule after rule.
As I continue my daily walk along the Crooked Path, I can take comfort and encouragement in knowing that the qualifications for admission are simple. While my own ego and conceit often get in the way, if I can give them over and recognize just how “poor in spirit” I truly am, God is ready to pour out blessings untold upon me. And I can know for certain that my last step will take me into the arms of that Savior.
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- Do you feel blessed in the way Jesus lays out in Matthew 5? If not, are you struggling to see just how poor in spirit or unworthy you are outside of His provision of salvation?
- Are you having problems enduring the pain and suffering this world offers because you just can’t see an end to it? When was the last time you read this passage and really looked at your own life?
- Do you feel at times that God requires too much or that the Christian life is just too hard? Have you, perhaps, lost sight of the beautiful simplicity offered in God’s radical gift of Jesus?
NLT – Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.