Saturday, May 14, 2011

Happy to be persecuted?

I really love the Beatitudes.

In Latin, the word "Beatitude" means
beatus, which is translated as "happy".
Who doesn't like "happy"?

Found in the fifth chapter of the book of Matthew, Jesus taught the way to walk the talk.

The happy walk of a follower.
His follower.
His Way.

The only way.

With compelling wisdom and authority, the multitudes gathered around the seated Lord as He spoke of eight distinctions that mark a true disciple.

                                                          photo credit                                                                                                                                                             

On the surface His words seem simplistic.

Blessed are...

          ...the poor in spirit...
...those who mourn...
...the gentle...
...those who hunger and thirst for righteousness....
...the merciful...
...the pure in heart...
...the peacemakers...
...those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness... when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you
    because of Me.

With all hopeful commendation, Jesus encourages the people onto wild promises.

The kingdom of heaven.
The earth.
Eyes to see God.
A great reward in heaven.

These divine benefits obviously lead me to pursue His way, to follow after poverty, mourning, gentleness, hunger and thirst, mercy, purity and peace. Even persecution seems to be an appealing investment to purpose in my heart.

Yet, I question my motive to cultivate these spiritual qualities and I wonder whether my initial perception might very well be ignorant, loosely desiring grace gifts from poverty to persecution, or just plain clueless to what Jesus is talking about.

Let's be honest.

Who really wants to be poor and brokenhearted? Or hungry and thirsty? Let alone persecuted. From a distance, it seems far more comfortable to seek after meekness and mercy, purity and peace. These "appear to be" more attractive and non-threatening.

I realize that Jesus was teaching on things far more profound than His simple words conveyed.  He spoke simply, but His words were anything but simple. So, deeper I dig because I want to understand what it is to be poor "in spirit" and so on.

I find His necessary applications to be a holy recipe of divine sanctification.

I've also discovered that the Beatitudes are broken into four defining attitudes.

Attitude toward self, sin, God, and world.

So I contemplate these questions:

"How do I see myself?"
Do I have the correct estimate of my own spiritual poverty; do I see myself as absolutely destitute? Do I realize I am and have and can do nothing apart from Jesus?

"How do I see my sin?"
Do I mourn over the sin in my life? Do I despise it? Do I have eyes to see sin the way God sees it? Or, am I comfortable in the "little" sins? Am I willing to gently hand over my unsatisfied fleshly cravings into the holy hand of Christ, with humility and gratitude, in exchange for a righteous hunger and thirst?

"How do I see my God?"
Do I truly understand what it means to be forgiven? Do I trust it? Have I really tasted grace; the mercy cup poured out on me, blood covered, washed white, His sacrifice for my purity, my daily cleansing to walk close to Him where I find God peace? Do I recognize that to truly know these is to give them?

"What is my attitude toward this world?"
Do I desire more, the friendship of my society or fellowship with my Master? Do I really understand and accept the conflict between this world and me? As difficult as it may be at times, am I willing to accept that the world hates me?

"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matthew 5:10-12

This passage had encouraged me to persevere in boldly walking in my faith, but it hasn't always necessarily made me feel blessed. Or glad.

On the radio, a pastor gave a profound address to persecution in his message.  In a nut shell, he encouraged believers to not fear or "avoid at all costs" this casting, but to see it for what it is: a powerful tool God uses not only to prove the true believer verses the false (the wheat from the chaff; Matthew 3:12), but also to grow the faith of the true disciple.

I ask myself another question. A revealing question.

"Am I more concerned with my own comfort and keeping peace in the here and now over the Truth Jesus came to testify to?"

I am learning that if I am to walk my talk (His talk, His walk), I must be willing to get burned, even die for the sake of true "happiness".

"The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." John 12:25

The multitudes still come to Jesus wanting His blessings, the wild promises He offers, but few are interested in the fire, the heart transplant of the Holy Spirit.

Where is your interest?

Is it in the things Jesus offers in following Him, or is it in the blessedness of Him alone?

"He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will clear his threshing floor and gather His wheat into the barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire." Matthew 3:9-12

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