So, we have finally come to the end of our series on the Beatitudes. Having spent so many posts studying these beautiful promises of blessing — of true and deep and lasting happiness — and realizing that they are the characteristics of the man or woman in God’s kingdom, isn’t it easy to feel a little inadequate?
This kind of person who is poor in spirit, mourning over sin, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemaking, and rejoicing under persecution seems almost too good to be normal. It’s almost like we’re looking at a portrait in a stained-glass window or a plaster statue of some idealized saint. It seems almost disconnected from the reality of day-to-day living.
But God doesn’t deal with plaster saints, and He doesn’t deal with unrealities. In the Beatitudes, Jesus is presenting the portrait of a believer, and to one extent or another, this portrait is true of all of us. There are times in our lives when it can be hard to see ourselves represented in the Beatitudes. But in fact, we are.
We are the poor in spirit; that is, we are the ones who know we are spiritually bankrupt. And if we are to enter into the kingdom of God, we must bring nothing except our need and cry out to God in our poverty for a salvation that only He can give.
We are those who mourn — mourning over our plight, mourning over our sin, mourning over judgment, and mourning over the separation from God that characterizes us. We are therefore the meek. We come, not proud and self-confident but humble and broken, seeking salvation from a merciful God. We are those who recognize we don’t have righteousness, but we hunger and thirst for it. We are those who, having received mercy, can show it to others. We are those whose hearts have been cleansed and made pure.
We are those who, rather than being at war with God and everybody else, have become peacemakers because we’ve made our peace with Him. And, consequently, we are those who will, to one extent or another, suffer persecution from a God-hating, Christ-rejecting, Satan-controlled society.
The portrait in the Beatitudes is not some far-off identity to be attained by a select few. This is simply a genuine description of those who are God’s children. Every one of us who is genuinely saved came with these attitudes, came through this process, and we have all been transformed into Beatitude-type people.
We don’t always manifest the same degree of poverty or sorrow or meekness or mercy or purity. We don’t always manifest that intense hunger and thirst for righteousness we should have. We’re not always the peacemakers we ought to be. But these things are fundamental characteristics of our life. These are the things that mark us as God’s children:
God’s saving work has granted all of these characteristics to us, producing a new nature that is deeply, profoundly, incorruptibly — both now and forever — happy.
This blog post is based on Dr. MacArthur’s sermon “The Only Way to Happiness: Endure Persecution, Pt. 2,” originally preached in 1998.
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