My mind’s journey with the Lord brought me to a mountain where He sat down to teach those who were following Him, but in particular, those who were genuine learners. They weren’t there just out of curiosity. There were ten distinct parts to His teaching on that mountain. The “beatitudes” or “blessings” are more that just eight ways to be happy. They are not just promises of ways to find pleasure and prosperity, but rather the means to experience hope and joy independent of the circumstances of life. In the kingdom of God the attitudes of humility and sacrifice are very different from those of worldly kingdoms. The contents are real and identifiable. Instead of pride and independence, there is an intelligent mind-set of knowing one’s self and the humility that comes with a right evaluation of myself.
Our emotions also are affected when we are in the kingdom because we do not insist on having personal happiness at any cost. To mourn over our own personal sins and those of our assembly, and of the nation, reminds us that when sin is forsaken or whatever the cause of the mourning and sorrow is – in the kingdom, God gives restoration and comfort. There is a real source of wisdom in meekness. This is a right understanding of God that produces a consistent humility before Him that never deteriorates into a casual relationship that no longer inspires awe. God in grace, accepts us and gives needed power and grace for living, but that power is always to be under control. People of meekness who know themselves and have the wisdom to discern what is needed around them, are those needed to lead and guide others in the kingdom principles here on earth and in the future.
Godliness is the result that accompanies the hunger and thirst for righteousness. This desire will be for personal righteousness and justice. A real desire for righteousness in others and in all of society is characteristic of the godliness that does not have too long to wait to bring the hope and deep inner joy that does not depend on circumstances. Demands for justice to be done should be tempered with mercy. A proper evaluation of an event or attitude can reveal much that was hidden to a person who is merciful. To withhold what was legally deserved may at times be what is needed for effective recovery to kingdom living. Laws are needed to establish standards. The point of laws is to bring appropriate behavior and recovery to those who are under those laws.
The center of our personality, what we call our “being,” in the Bible is often referred to as the “heart.” That really includes the mind, intellect and the will by which we make our decisions. That, and our emotions reflect our personality. The well-being and spiritual joy that is in one who is pure in heart, is greatly contrasted by those who do not know God nor come to know Him because they think deception is acceptable. The pure in heart will not only know God, but they will see Him. There is a sense in which that is possible by faith now. It will be one of the many blessings in the future when we will see Him as He is. Those who promote peace reflect the character of God. Their peace is not just for themselves, but they promote that in others. That is a Christ-like, godly characteristic of one who is in God’s family.
Persecution gives believers opportunity to display features that are in those who are part of God’s kingdom. To live righteously even when under attack may be offensive to some who have weak commitments to what is right and true. There is a price to pay for righteousness. In all of these attributes and attitudes the character of the Lord Jesus Christ is displayed and hopefully, imparted to His disciples both then and now. The spiritual flavor and preservation of those who make these reasons for well-being their own, will affect others who are living around us. It establishes the proof that there is a standard of righteous living that is essential to those who are followers and learners of the Lord Jesus Christ. The light displayed by those who conduct themselves in the kingdom in this manner is such that people can see the reality of true faith being lived out in their midst. When we are quiet but should speak; when we go along with what is going on around us; when we deny the light we have or let it go dim and hide it for business or personal reasons; when we ignore the needs of others who need to know the truth we know – we do a great disservice to others, ourselves and our Lord. When we follow these kingdom principles, we are able to glorify our Father who established them in the first place.
As I listened and paid heed to the teaching of the Lord Jesus, it was plain to see He in no way negated the law by anything He said. What He did do as He spoke, was give the full meaning of the law. He focused the attention of the people on the deep underlying foundation principles of the law. He pointed out the need for total commitment to those principles rather than mere outward acknowledgement and obedience to them. The original purpose of the law was, and still is as a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. We are not bound by the ceremonial laws. The point of them was that people would worship and love a holy God. Today we still must worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The principles of the civil law were to guide the conduct of the Lord’s people. The instructions contained in them are timeless and apply in every culture. The moral law reveals the nature of God and the spirit of that law goes way beyond keeping them externally (which no one does) but produces a righteousness that only comes by faith in Christ and His work. He fulfilled that completely and because we are in Him, His righteousness is imputed to us. The Pharisees were very righteous people who were content with the outward evidences without the inward reality. The hearts and deeds are both needed to fulfill the intentions of the law. The quality of our goodness is more important than the quantity and superficial allegiance to the truth of God. The righteousness of those in God’s kingdom comes from what God does in us, not what we do. It is God-centered, not self-centered, and there is a reverence for God in carrying out those principles rather than an attempt to get approval from people. Those fundamental principles were in place long before the law was written.
Therefore, we must avoid the anger and hatred that are behind murder. It is not just that we do not kill someone. In giving offerings and other gifts, a right relationship with God and other people is needed for that gift to even be acceptable. Avoiding adultery does not fulfill what is behind the law. We are to keep our hearts from being full of lust and commit ourselves to being faithful. In dealing with sin, we need to take whatever action is necessary to avoid the act that follows the temptation. Divorce was never to be intended when it came to forming marriage bonds. It was not to be an option for solving problems or getting out of a relationship that seemed to be dead. The marriage contract was never to be abused. Rather than looking for excuses to leave a marriage, effort must be made to find what is needed to resolve the relationship.
In the kingdom the Lord intends that one’s word should be enough assurance of what one says to be true, rather than making an oath. He expects us to always tell the truth. When that is what we do, we do not need to back up our words with an oath or vow. When insults are made against us, the expectation of the Lord is that we be prepared to take the injury or insults without demanding retaliation by legal or any other form of action. Personal revenge for a person’s own satisfaction was to be substituted by doing good to those who wrong us. This is not a natural reaction but it does help a person of faith to reflect well the attitude of the Savior. By loving and praying for our enemies, we can overcome evil with good. To willingly give up one’s rights in the face of injustice was, and still is, a radically opposite response to what most would expect. The moral standards we are to live by, rise way above and beyond the standards that are set by the law. There is a moral perfection that we aspire to in this life that is based on the character of the Lord Jesus Christ. The holiness of life that follows is not a mere superficial outward form, but involves a desire to love like Christ and demonstrates His mercy to the world. Christ-like character and holy living take time to develop and mature. There is a wholeness and maturity that is seen in both attitude and behavior. When that is growing in us there is a demonstration of love for others that will have a tendency to make us like Christ. We rise above mediocrity in all areas of our lives and there is a move toward the maturity that God is working in us.