Sunday, January 5, 2014

Your Best Life

One Year Bible
New Testament passage for Sunday, December 5, 2013:  Matthew 5:1-26

Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  Matthew 5:2-4 (NKJV)

Jesus is uniformly recognized as one of the greatest teachers of history.  This crosses all religious and non-religious lines.  Christians believe He is far more than a teacher.  He is God in human flesh.  But even those who deny His deity still affirm the excellence of His teaching.

That teaching finds its fullest expression in the 3 chapters of Matthew we call "The Sermon on the Mount".  Matthew chapter 5-7 carry us through a dazzling description of what Jesus calls DISCIPLESHIP.  He touches nearly everything we face.  Faith and fear.  Anger, attitude, money, marriage, lust, lying.  There are high words like "prayer", "purity", and even "perfection."  There are low words like "persecution", "prison", and "eternal punishment."

If God dropped a leaflet for heaven on how to live "the good life", it would be "The Sermon on the Mount."  In fact, the beginning of the sermon is an 8-part list we call "The Beatitudes" (5:3-10).  Eight couplets each begin with the word "BLESSED".  That means "happy, fortunate, blissful."  The original meaning of "blessed" actually entailed something like spinning like a top.  I do not know anyone who doesn't want to be "blessed."  Jesus tells us how!!!!

Now for the twist.  The brilliance of Jesus' teaching (and of the truth) is that it doesn't make natural sense.  It seems CONTRADICTORY. 

Example:  the poor receive the Kingdom, the hungry are filled, the mourners are full of comfort.  Persecuted people are the happiest of all!  I am reminded of Isaiah 55:8, "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' says the Lord."  You gain your life by giving it away.  When you are weak, you are strongest.  When you become a servant, you become the leader.

In a world that teaches us to grab for the gold, Jesus tells us learn how to yield.  In a world that says look out for Number One, Jesus teaches us to let God take care of us.

This is not irresponsibility.  It is true trust.  It is not fatalism.  It is faith.  The just shall live -- really live -- by faith.  It is the invitation of Jesus.  

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