It’s time for New Year’s resolutions, which I don’t really make by the way. To be honest, I’ve always thought it was silly to wait till the first day of a new year to improve something. However, as one friend said on Facebook, anytime someone makes a positive change in their lives we should cheer them on. I agree. So, with that thought in mind, I wanted to write a few blogs about resolutions that we might make this year. I guess there’s no better starting point than what I consider to be the foundation of it all. Faith.
I was reading Matthew 5-6 this morning when it suddenly struck me.
The Sermon on the Mount is all about love.
I’ve always recognized that Christ calls us to have our hearts changed and not simply to obey a set of rules, but today there was a subtle shift in how I saw that as being accomplished. Of course, He contrasts the very nature of faith from one that focuses on obeying laws and doing the “right thing” to one that focuses on internalizing the laws and being “righteous”. Not simply looking righteous. The subtlety comes in how we become that person. It isn’t from a deeper mental grit or desire to be obedient out of devotion instead of obligation. We become this person when we live our lives out of love for others. When love defines us. When we become less and He becomes more.
The entire teaching draws me to the truth that Christ’s kingdom rests on love and on a counter-cultural lack of self-awareness. Our culture is a self-absorbed and self-obsessed culture. We often measure success by how many people read our blogs, how many view our YouTube videos or how many people like our Instagram photos. Being famous is the goal because it’s all about numero Uno. Being seen. Being known. Being the center of the universe…
Yeah, Jesus kinda blasts that thought to pieces, doesn’t he?
If we are followers of Christ, he is our standard. Not the best Christian we know. Not the Pope. Not even our mother. But Christ, our savior. And what did he do?
He loved his Father so much that he obeyed him. He loved us so much that he sacrificed and saved us. His life was lived in humility, love and service, and he calls us to the same.
That’s quite a goal for this next year when I think about how inundated my soul is with the preoccupation of myself and my desires. But, I honestly believe it’s also the secret to happiness.
The word used in Matthew 5:1-12 for “blessed” can be better translated to mean “happy”. Some would scoff at that word as if it’s not spiritual. I disagree and believe that Christ wants his followers to be happy. Not a “happy” that’s based on worldly things but a “happy” that’s soul deep and life sustaining. A “happy” that’s attractive to people. Too many people call themselves Christians and live with sour and angry attitudes, but that’s not the picture of Christ that we see in Scripture. It makes sense that if Christ himself is telling us how to be happy, we might want to pay attention. So, here’s my prayer for this New Year both for myself and those I love.
To live with love and humility as the foundation of our lives and to experience real happiness by becoming more like the person described in Matthew 5:1-12.
That’s a goal that will take a lifetime to accomplish but one of the few goals worth shooting for.
It won’t be easy when we attempt to live it out in the face of a culture that does not and will not understand it. Let’s just look at the first few characteristics of a happy Christian and see exactly how different the biblical idea of happiness is from that of our culture.
Blessed are the poor in spirit
The Benson commentary gives the following description and reminds me of Revelations 3:17-18.
“…the truly humble are intended to be those who are sensible of their spiritual poverty, of their ignorance and sinfulness, their guilt, depravity, and weakness, their frailty and mortality; and who, therefore, whatever their outward situation in life may be, however affluent and exalted, think meanly of themselves, and neither desire the praise of men, nor covet high things in the world, but are content with the lot God assigns them, however low and poor. These are happy, because their humility renders them teachable, submissive, resigned, patient, contented, and cheerful in all estates; and it enables them to receive prosperity or adversity, health or sickness, ease or pain, life or death, with an equal mind. Whatever is allotted them short of those everlasting burnings which they see they have merited, they consider as a grace or favor. They are happy, because theirs is the kingdom of heaven — the present, inward kingdom, righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, as well as the eternal kingdom, if they endure to the end. The knowledge which they have of themselves, and their humiliation of soul before God, prepare them for the reception of Christ, to dwell and reign in their hearts, and all the other blessings of the gospel; the blessings both of grace and glory.”
And this is why the early Christians were described as those who “turned the world upside down.”
I love how Matthew Henry’s commentary describes the next 2 characteristics listed in verses 4-5.
Blessed are those who mourn
“2. Those that mourn are happy. That godly sorrow which worketh true repentance, watchfulness, a humble mind, and continual dependence for acceptance on the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, with constant seeking the Holy Spirit, to cleanse away the remaining evil, seems here to be intended. Heaven is the joy of our Lord; a mountain of joy, to which our way is through a vale of tears. Such mourners shall be comforted by their God. “
Blessed are the meek
“3. The meek are happy. The meek are those who quietly submit to God; who can bear insult; are silent, or return a soft answer; who, in their patience, keep possession of their own souls, when they can scarcely keep possession of anything else. These meek ones are happy, even in this world. Meekness promotes wealth, comfort, and safety, even in this world. “
The word for meek would be better translated as humble or gentle in our modern understanding of the word. I heard a definition once that stuck with me as “strength under control.” This is a huge change in understanding for me because it changes the connotation from being a person that’s weak to a person who possesses the strength and power of the risen Savior but chooses to be gentle, kind and humble. Again, not so easy in a world that encourages us to fight for our rights and to take what we want in order to be happy.
I won’t continue through the whole passage but I hope you’ll spend some time with it yourself. There’s so much depth in these words and in the transformation that they can bring to our lives. Just as they brought transformation to the lives of twelve men who were sitting among the multitude on that mountain 2000 years ago. Twelve men who were ordinary blue collar types. Twelve men that changed the world.
My New Year’s resolution is that we will do the same.
Here’s to a happy and blessed New Year to you and yours.
Commentaries found at http://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/5-3.htm