The Christian is not the old man trying to live out the new life. He is the new man, who, at his core, has the Spirit of God guiding and shaping a new nature.
And so, the Beatitudes are not so much about doing as they are about being. They reflect the new man or woman that is being recreated in the image of Jesus through the Spirit.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. (Matthew 5:7)
Grace washes away our sin while mercy deals with us in our misery and the miserable consequences of sin. It is an attitude of pity toward the one enslaved by the hardship and burden of sin.
Picture a slave in chains. Mercy is the kindness we extend to those who transgress against us.
How do you respond to those who transgress against you? They’re in your power. How do you treat them? Do you exert your rights or do you extend mercy?
Of course, mercy can be repealed. The sentence against us is not always executed straight away. We have an example of that in the case of the unforgiving steward in Matthew 18:21-35. He was initially shown mercy, but, since he refused to then extend it to those in his debt, that mercy was later repealed.
The question of mercy is simply this: Are you merciful? Are you merciful toward sinners, even when their sin offends you?
Jesus goes on to say,
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)
Not those who have their doctrines down to the fourth decimal or those with astonishing intellectual prowess, but; blessed are those who are pure in heart.
Kingdom living is a matter of the heart. For out of the heart flow the issues of life. This means we are dealing with the roots.
You can tell the purity of the roots by what’s growing out on the skinny branches. To be pure is to be, “without folds or creases.” That is, without hypocrisy or a double standard.
It is a life that is unmixed. It’s singular (Psalm 86:11).
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9)
Not those who keep the status quo. Not the appeaser. The peacemaker is one who longs to see his neighbour reconciled to God for he knows that until man is reconciled to God he cannot have lasting peace with his neighbour.
The peacemaker first has peace within himself and therefore encourages peace between others. This is not a peace that comes through compromise or even tolerance, but a peace borne out of confession, repentance, submission and meek obedience to Christ in the Gospel.
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Practically, the peacemaker is one who has learned to love and feed his enemy. And yet, perhaps strangely, he finds himself subjected to persecution.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)
The Beatitudes start and finish with the kingdom.
Here, for “righteousness sake”, is the key. The peacemakers, the meek, the poor in spirit: These will be persecuted. Why? Because they are living and behaving like Jesus.
Because they showed mercy. Because they love righteousness and are willing to turn over a few pews in their longing to free people from the hypocrisy that binds them.
However, it will not be said that we are being persecuted because we love Jesus and want to be like Him. That will be true, but that will not be the accusation you hear. Instead, you will hear accusations of intolerance and hate speech. You will be slandered and labelled a scoundrel, a Nazi, and a hater of humanity.
The church is going to suffer terribly. They will come after us and they will come after our children. For many, this is true already. While we were busy rearranging the flowers and organising our puppet shows, they have quietly been closing the net around us.
Such persecution comes by stealth, gradually. It starts little by little and as it speeds up it will go unnoticed by many in the church because our compromise is already so great.
Nevertheless, Jesus tells us to rejoice (Matthew 5:11-12). And the reason we can rejoice at the persecution is that we know the word of God and we know the history. We know that this persecution, when it comes, is the pre-emptive strike of God to purify, multiply and bring victory to the body of Christ for the glory of Christ and for our salvation.