The Good Life
This week at Cross of Christ Fellowship we look at Matt 5:1-12, which are the Beatitudes. Jesus begins the ‘sermon on the mount’ with these 8 statements (the 8th is followed with an elaboration, which is the 9th statement). Each of the “beatitudes” are made up of 3 parts: 1 Category; 2 Description of partaker of the category; 3 Promise given to partaker.
See the visual representation here:
PART 1: CATEGORY “Blessed are the”
PART 2: DESCRIPTION OF PARTAKER “poor in spirit”
PART 3: PROMISE TO PARTAKER “for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
The beatitudes are given to Jesus’ disciples. As his disciples today these words train us to think and feel differently as we consider our lives under the reign of King Jesus. Jesus teaches us what the GOOD LIFE (perhaps the best modern English equivalent for “blessed” which is a translation of the Greek “makarios”) is. As followers of Christ we are assured and taught, by the one who spoke with unparalleled authority (Matt 7:28-29), that being a disciple of Jesus really is the good life.
I find it fascinating that Jesus gives a NINEfold repetition of the declaration of the “blessed” life in this passage. Surely, such a repetition functions (along with connecting his points) to drive his point home home that this REALLY is the good life. Telling us NINE times that ‘Blessed is the one who…’ gives assurance to his disciples–assurance desperately needed as trials are encountered and the cost of following Jesus (even in the midst of cultural pressures and temptations) is counted. Jesus’ disciples need an authoritative word from the one who has all authority in heaven and earth (Matt 28:18-20) to tell them what the good life is. And that is exactly what we have!
I pray that this reality–the reality of what the good life is and looks like–sinks deeper into my own heart and the heart of those in our congregation. Following Jesus is not easy, being his disciple–even in the cozy, comfortable West–is COSTLY and difficult. But this path is the way of EVERLASTING life and joy–a joy tasted now and which is a foretaste of a future joy when Christ returns.
To lead our hearts into this joy, Jesus explains why those who follow Christ are experiencing the blessed life. He does this by piling up a surfeit of alluring, rooted in objective reality, promises: his believers will receive the Kingdom of heaven, comfort as we grieve over our sin and brokenness, the Earth itself, mercy, righteousness, beholding God, and rewards in heaven. Such blessings blow anything else we could experience on this earth! But as C.S. Lewis once said, our problem is not that our desires are too great but they are too little! We are like foolish children content with playing in the mud when we are offered a vacation on at the sea.
I wonder if we let these facts sink deeper into our hearts and imagination if it might not influence how we share the gospel with others. Might we not see that inviting others to follow Jesus not only will cost them everything but also allow them to gain everything? I think that as a Reformed Evangelical who wants to avoid the errors of the ‘Seeker-Sensitive Movement’ (giving Jesus as merely a means to have felt-needs and social needs met) and the errors of ‘Cheap Grace’ or ‘Easy-Believism’ (saying you can follow Jesus but it won’t cost you anything), sometimes I forget that we are actually inviting others to experience something more joyful and wonderful than anything they could ever experience and that this is a FREE gift to all who receive it.
I believe that we can call others to repent of sin and believe the gospel AND tell them that they are being invited into something more precious and thrilling than anything the world can ever offer–a relationship with and personal knowledge of the Living God who made them and loves them–and that this gospel offer is FREE. How astonishing an offer it is! May we invite many into this joy and to experience the good life.