Radical Reconstruction

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For the summer we are studying the Sermon on the Mount. I came across Max Lucado’s summary of the Beatitudes from his book, The Applause of Heaven. He gets things said beautifully:

In the Sermon on the mount,…what Jesus promises is not a gimmick to give you goose bumps nor a mental attitude that has to be pumped up at pep rallies. No, Matthew 5 describes God’s radical reconstruction of the heart.

Observe the sequence.

First, we recognize we are in need (we’re poor in spirit).

Next, we repent of our self-sufficiency (we mourn).

We quit calling the shots and surrender control to God (we’re meek).

So grateful are we for His presence that we yearn for more of Him (we hunger and thirst).

As we grow closer to Him, we become more like Him. We forgive others (we’re merciful).

We change our outlook (we’re pure in heart).

We love others (we’re peacemakers).

We endure injustice (we’re persecuted).

It’s no casual shift of attitude. It is a demolition of the old structure and a creation of the new. The more radical the change, the greater the joy. And it’s worth every effort, for this is the joy of God.

Rejoice and be glad, because you have a great reward waiting for you in heaven. ~Matt. 5:12

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31 responses »

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  2. i was thinking while reading this that my biggest struggle is being meek. then i realized that my biggest struggle is actually the first “being poor in spirit”. if i truly were that then i would not struggle with meekness. then i started looking closer…and. well. i needed a break :shock:

  3. Yeah. Thanks, Michelle. A lot of people found that Essay kind of…tough to swallow–especially the part about the…Well, just read it. You’ll know it when you see it.

    But every time I get that whole tough-to-swallow reaction, I wonder, “What have you been taught all this time? Don’t you know that Christ died for the sins of the world.”

    So far, I have a grand total of about 40-something posts on my blog, but I still think this is the best one I have ever written.

    I mean it. I really do. It’s best one I’ve ever written.

  4. Love the beatitudes…Beth Moore has a very good study on it..called Living Beyond yourself (also the fruit of the spirit)…and Angela Thomas also has one “beautiful Sacrifice” both equally as good, and both from different angles..They truly are very convicting, but also a motivator to continue to press on, and accept the changes as God is making them…not saying any of it is easy..just purposeful. :)

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  6. What a great post [as usual]!

    I praise God for His strength and victory in many of these areas. Without Him, it would be impossible to recognize any of our weaknesses which are made strong in Him.

    I am recognizing more and more that I am poor in spirit and there is a need for me to be more merciful not just towards others but especially towards myself.

  7. Darla and Gchyayles – The Beatitudes give me a way to test myself – you know the verses about examining yourself to see if you are in the faith – good checkpoints, I think…

    Nor - You share yourself openly in your essays. Some can handle it and others can’t…I like getting to know the real you.

    Hi, Mandy! You’re looking “bluesy” today!! (is that a word?) ;)

  8. And lol, your “Default” face that came up as my avatar with my comment is hilarious. I promise I am not snarling at y’all IRL! ;)

  9. Amen, Cathi! Me too.

    LOL Faith, I didn’t think you were snarling. I love the default faces. Hope you’re feeling well… :D

  10. Thanks Michelle. The beatitudes are like the commandments for me… If I could only just get the first one or two… you know, get them ALL the time.

  11. Is this Max Lucado’s sequence for real? It’s an interesting read to say the least – but I am not sure that the beatitudes stand for what Lucado is pointing out (not that what he is saying is bad – it’s actually pretty good). However the interpretation of the beatitudes from Lucado’s stance is a bunch of added teachings into the text – to almost support an already existing Christian paradigm.

    “First, we recognize we are in need (we’re poor in spirit)”

    This is a tricky passage – but poverty is being explored here. Our need to recognize our humility and equality with the poor – is the blessing – and the actions that will produce in us (we will come to understand the kingdom of heaven). It’s actually not only about seeing our need (which is also very possible) – but about seeing the need of other also.

    “Next, we repent of our self-sufficiency (we mourn).”

    I agree with him here – when we suffer/mourn – comfort will come from God. I am not sure this is about our self-sufficency per se – but more about our need in a time of suffering – we mourn and we will not be left alone. The passage actually says nothing about ‘repentance’.

    “We quit calling the shots and surrender control to God (we’re meek).”

    I agree with him here – this is an act of humility and correct posturing with our role in humanity and before God. However, meekness can also be interpreted as ‘gentle’ – which could take this passage in new directions – and how we ‘inherit the earth’ – which adds the ‘here and now’ meaning to the passage.

    “So grateful are we for His presence that we yearn for more of Him (we hunger and thirst).”

    Righteousness is the key here – that’s the thirst and quest. Righteousness can also be seen a ‘just’…looking for our lives to line up correctly with the teachings of God and seeking that out earnestly. Apparently, if we do this – we will be satisified.

    “As we grow closer to Him, we become more like Him. We forgive others (we’re merciful).”

    This is the idea ‘treat others how you want to be treated’ in a nutshell. If we show mercy (in our judgments) – we will also recieve said mercy back when we make mistakes. I would contend this is a teaching about God’s character – so in that sense – Lucado is spot on.

    “We change our outlook (we’re pure in heart).”

    I agree with him here – if anything this is the passage about changing our perspectives from us to God – so that we see him. Pureness comes from our following of the teachings – and as we go along – we start to see more about God than prior.

    “We love others (we’re peacemakers).”

    Actually, the blessing about being someone peaceful is interesting – we shall be called ‘sons of God’. It both reveals God’s character – He is peaceful – and that as we follow the idea of peace – we become ‘godly’. Peace does have at the heart of it ‘love’ – John’s main characteristic concerning God.

    “We endure injustice (we’re persecuted).”

    I think it’s more about integrity than endurance in my opinion. We don’t become like the people making the accusations or those who ‘hate us’ – we mean more than that to sink to that level. Also the persecution is concerning being someone that is ‘just’ in God’s sight – what we are seeking for – and to do that we need to be merciful, peaceful, meek, and identify with the poor (or even our perps) – that’s about maintaining your faith in true integrity.

    I like Max’s views but some of it reading in a paradigm over one that already exists for the passage.

  12. Yes, Love, it’s a beautiful process, I agree. ;)

    Hey, Ric! I think the tenses of when we shall inherit these blessings are important – only two appear to happen now. What do you think? :???:

  13. Hi, Society! That’s quite a comment there…I’ve been used to short and sweet recently…but I do love the thought provoking ones best! Yes, this is from Lucado’s book, The Applause of Heaven. I think he’s usually right on… :D

    As I said to Ric, I think the tenses make a big difference. Jesus was talking about the kingdom being established and it seems He meant it for a now/later fulfillment.

    I don’t think we will be completely comforted, receive our inheritance, be satisfied, receive mercy, see God, or be called sons of God yet…

    I do believe we can have the kingdom of heaven now, in our hearts, when we understand our poverty of spirit, when we cry out, “What a wretched sinner I am!” I believe the ones who have relied upon Christ for salvation, will be transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the heavenly kingdom, in the spiritual realm.

    I also think we will be be persecuted until the earthly kingdom becomes the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.

    Those are the only two I see as an immediate fulfillment – what we can obtain in this life. I think the rest will come later.

    Just some thoughts…

  14. Hi Michelle, I like the idea of a ‘now/later’ type ideology concerning the teachings but they make no sense if not for the now – since they were given by Jesus to us on earth to function through. It makes no sense to give the teachings at all if they cannot be followed and seen in the now. I think it kind of betrays the teachings to think they are for the later – maybe that’s when we see the benefits of said teachings in fulness – but we can see the benefits now also.

    Being ‘poor in spirit’ is something ‘we do’ – and the same goes for all the teachings in the beatitudes. The only real spiritual thing about them is they are from God to be lived in our lives – I think we adopt the teachings it has also the connotation He adopts us.

    I am not sure why most of this cannot be fulfilled in our living of them – which seems to be the reason for the teachings (to be lived and we are blessed by them). The teachings do not start ‘Blessed you will be when…’ but rather ‘Blessed are you when…’ – that’s a now thing that can be seen in our living of them.

    None of the beatitudes seem to be aiming at some other time frame but in the now. We all mourn – like in the passing of a loved one – and comfort does come from those around who love us (cause we also loved them). There is a form of comfort that is needed here and now that cannot wait (lest we lose hope). I would say the exact same about peace – which is a concept we need to enact in our dealings on this planet – what need has heaven for a peace they already know? That kind of stuff I think the beatitudes is addressing towards us (our actions in our daily living).

    As for the poverty of spirit idea – I don’t think it is addressing some spirtual view of poverty – but literal poverty (having nothing). I think the idea has so many views to it that the teaching, for being about poverty, – is very rich. I tend to view it as identifying with poor (but in spirit obviously) and the quality of humility and charity we are supposed to live out. It both makes the helper of the needy both equals – but also gathers in the concept of sharing ‘all things’. Maybe poverty is not a good thing and we can help alleviate that for others by ‘sharing’.

  15. I think it kind of betrays the teachings to think they are for the later – maybe that’s when we see the benefits of said teachings in fulness – but we can see the benefits now also.

    I agree, we can benefit in part. Now. But complete, literal fulfillment I don’t see happening until Christ sets up the kingdom on earth (which I’m hoping He will be told to do SOON!), just as the Jews are waiting for Him to do (well, the Messiah to do, but we know that’s Jesus).

    Yes, I am comforted when I mourn. Now…in part. But then, I will see Him and there won’t be anymore tears.

    No. I don’t see any fulfillment to the gentle/meek inheriting the earth at this point in time – the world system seems to reward the powerfully corrupt. The most meek man that ever existed was crucified. If this were the system now, He should have received the earth then…

    Yes, I am filled with the Holy Spirit. Jehovah-Tsidkenu has exchanged my filthiness with His righteousness; however, I don’t see this world filled with righteousness. But there will be a Day when Jesus will rule in Righteousness. Then we will be completely filled/satisfied – now our earthly tents groan…

    When we stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ we will better understand the mercy we have received through His sacrifice – we won’t be able to boast in our works, but in His alone. Then we will completely understand what we have been saved from, and the mercy we have been granted.

    None of us can see God and live, at this point in time, but someday…WOW!

    I wonder if in the millenial kingdom we will be known as sons of God? I mean, we will help Him to rule and reign. We will be the saints dressed in white robes, coming with Him in the clouds. Will we be known as sons of God to those still living in their mortal flesh on the earth – those who survived the Great Tribulation??? Speculating…

    My point about the tenses…”they will” vs. “they shall”…Who will receive the kingdom of heaven? The poor in spirit and the persecuted. I know it has been interpretted as the poor (in material wealth), but I don’t see how that’s proper, given the text.

    Remember the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector? I think it’s like that: The Pharisee stands boldly in his self-righteousness and says he’s so glad he’s not like “him”. The Tax Collector beats his chest, mourns his wicked state, and is afraid to draw near. But who received the kingdom? The one who was miserable about his spiritual state = the poor in spirit.

    So, yeah, I see a partial fulfillment, now. But I don’t see the Beatitudes as prescriptive of what we are to DO to set up Christ’s kingdom on earth. He said we are to preach the good news of the Kingdom until He comes…the gospel.

    Am I making any sense? :???:

  16. Mandy, Did you “die” to the flesh? Or did you mean boring?! I wonder what he would say to your critique? ;)

  17. “If this were the system now, He should have received the earth then…” (Michelle)

    We shouldn’t be quick to forget – how many Christians are there on this planet now? In a sense of the word, he did inherit the earth. I could also say the same for Gandhi – who helped India gain independence from Britain – how – by being a meek/humble fellow with a plan.

    This one, in specific, has a promise that is about ‘now’ (earth). It’s funny – but the whole piece is set up antitheically (terms in opposition to one another) – the ‘meek; inherit the ‘earth’ – we know this is not he case. But the teaching would lose it’s emphasis without that piece of shock to the reader – the meek? Jesus is pointing to an idea that actually has at it’s core a lot of truth. The more meek/humble a person is – the more sway they hold with others – anf the more trust/responsibilities they are granted. They can literally travel anywhere in freedom (not having enemies and all) – they inherit the earth as a reward.

    “I don’t see this world filled with righteousness” (Michelle)

    It doesn’t have to be for the passage ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied’ to be true. We just have to want to find it – and we will…it says nothing about being satisfied in the ‘hereafter’ but as a reward – in the now.

    “When we stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ we will better understand the mercy we have received through His sacrifice” (Michelle)

    But that is not what that passage is asking – it’s not about the mercy we receive from God but how merciful we are to others. God is merciful – granted – but that passage is asking how merciful can we be?

    “None of us can see God and live, at this point in time” (Michelle)

    That’s a lie actually, most Christians claim Jesus was God. People saw him and lived – Paul even claims 500+.

    “I know it has been interpretted as the poor (in material wealth), but I don’t see how that’s proper, given the text.” (Michelle)

    If one see’s the beatitudes as an index of teachings to come – then it being seen as ‘poor’ is dead accurate – even Luke has it that way (Luke 6:20). Reason being – many of Jesus teachings in Matthew do deal with money – from mammon and God comparisons to a rich young ruler asked to give ‘all his away to the poor’.

    “Remember the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector?” (Michelle)

    I think the parable and the tax collector has to deal with humility – or meekness – another teaching in the beatitudes. If it has anything to do with poor in spirit – it has to do with the idea of equality of all – from the poor to the more respected in society. I personally think poor in spirit is misinterpreted by church groups all over the place. Reason being because of the way spirit is used in the texts. When we talk about someone spirit – we talk about it like God’s spirit – or the spirit of God. Now transfer that to the beatitude and we see the poor’s spirit or the spirit of the poor – and we are asked to be poor (in spirit) – which is the same translation as the ‘spirit of the poor’.

    “He said we are to preach the good news of the Kingdom until He comes…the gospel.“ (Michelle)

    Actually, the beatitudes have nothing to do with preaching as much as they have to do with living them out and receiving their reward/blessing. Preaching these will not actually do a single thing to make them ‘true or real’ – only living them will do that. Some would call it ‘faith in action’ but only because they do not understand the meaning of what ‘belief’ meant in biblical times – I would just call it faith (one who lives their faith is said to have faith).

    I think the thing is – concerning the promises made in these pieces – they exist for the now – since Jesus gave them for the ‘now’ (we have them in written format)…I mean what’s the actual use of having some teachings from Jesus that refer to some other day and other place and some reward other-worldly – that like saying to someone I made the greatest meal ever – but you won’t get to see until you die.

  18. We certainly have a very different take on the meaning – perhaps that is the beauty of Jesus’ words. In the ways it has been interpreted, we have many understandings of the church and its mission today.

    My approach to scripture is to understand the text in its original language, looking into the cultural aspects at the time of writing. It appears the Sermon on the Mount was either a sermon given at one point in time and/or a conclusion of Jesus’ teachings from throughout his ministry. Taken as the culmination of His teachings, we can surmise it is His authoritative word of what the Kingdom will be like.

    At this point, our eschatological views will certainly influence the interpretation we choose. If the Kingdom of God came with the Holy Spirit then we have a partial fulfillment now…if the Kingdom of God has not come and is meant to be literal, we still have much to see.

    I believe we will see a literal Kingdom on earth. We have the Holy Spirit as a pledge of our inheritance to come. In part we have received the Kingdom…but there’s still more to behold. A complete/literal fulfillment of each of these promises hasn’t happened yet, I think it will.

    I’m hearing you say we have these promises in the here and now, if we will understand them as only a “spiritual” fulfillment. I see both, spiritual AND literal.

    Unfortunately, I think we’ll have to agree to disagree once again… *sigh* ;)

  19. One might term the Beatitudes a “Tale of Two Kingdoms”. If we define the Kingdom as wherever Christ rules, His ruling in our hearts through the Holy Spirit is ‘Kingdom’, and so is His future literal rule on earth during the Millenium.

  20. Of course you can. The Kingdom of His rule in our lives and the Kingdom of His millenial reign would not apply to Amillenialists, however. I didn’t mention that. Then there might be a third Kingdom of His rule – when there is a New Heaven and New Earth.

  21. Well, I’m not an amillenialist…I think the millenial reign will be the most exciting era in the world’s history (once it’s become history, that is). The New Heaven and New Earth – completely, totally His, from start to it’s never-ending finish! ;)

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