True or false

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus described several ways of differentiating between true and false believers. Because there were so many hypocrites among the Jews that worshipped in God’s temple, Jesus wanted his followers to understand that God did not accept false or insincere worship. He told them plainly, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). In particular, the scribes and Pharisees were known for their pious acts of worship and having a condemning attitude toward those that didn’t follow the traditions of their elders. Therefore, Jesus told his disciples, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:1-2).

For the most part, Jesus’ followers were aware that life as a Christian was not meant to easy, but there was still probably a lot of confusion about what was expected of someone that was a true believer in Christ. Jesus emphasized the importance of prayer and assured his disciples that God’s children could expect to receive good things from their heavenly Father. He told them, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth: and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8). The point Jesus was trying to make was that the attitude of a person’s heart was critical to their success when it came to the petitions they made of God.

Perhaps, the two most essential components of Jesus’ instructions to his followers was the need for perseverance and a requirement for an intentional effort to be made to please God in the believer’s pursuit of happiness. Jesus said, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). The contrast between a strait, or narrow gate, and a broad gate was intended to show Jesus’ disciples that the choice to follow him was not an easy choice to make. In order to be true disciples of Christ, there had to be a realization that the only way they could have a meaningful spiritual life was to give up the pursuit of physical satisfaction.

Blessedness

Blessedness, the state of being blessed with divine favor, was the original state of the world when Adam and Eve lived in the garden of Eden (Genesis 1:22). After Adam and Eve disobeyed God, the land was cursed (Genesis 3:17), but it wasn’t until Cain killed his brother Abel that a person was cursed by God (Genesis 4:11). When Abraham was called by God to leave his country and his family behind and go to a land that God would show him (Genesis 12:1), God told Abraham, “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3). For 2000 years, the world revolved around Abraham and his descendants, also known as the Israelites or Jews, but when Jesus entered the world, he turned that world upside down. One of the most important messages Jesus delivered to his disciples is referred to as the “Sermon on the Mount” (note on Matthew 5:1-7:29). Jesus began his teaching with something called the “Beautitudes” or be attitudes. These declarations of blessedness were intended to show Jesus’ disciples that happiness was more than an emotion that was dependent on their outward circumstances. Jesus’ used a Greek word, makarios to refer “to the ultimate well-being and distinctive spiritual joy of those who share in the salvation of the kingdom of God” (note on Matthew 5:3).

Jesus used the word markarios nine times in his opening statement to a crowd described as “the multitudes” (Matthew 5:1). It is likely there were more than 5,000 people, perhaps as many as 25,000 people, listening in when Jesus preached his sermon on the mount. Jesus’ startling statements were received with amazement, or as we might say today, the people were completely blown away by what he said. Jesus began with this declaration, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Jesus contrasted the person that lived a life focused on spiritual things in this world as a beggar, or someone that was poverty stricken, and royalty in heaven. His intention was most likely to illustrate that the two realms in which we exist, the physical and spiritual, are opposites of each other. What we think makes sense for us to do to take care of our needs in the physical realm might actually lead to spiritual poverty and vice versa. Unlike the free pass that the Israelites received, Jesus taught that entering into God’s kingdom meant that you must live a completely different kind of life than what made sense in the physical realm. Jesus stated, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). The Greek word translated persecuted, dioko means to flee or to drive away (1377). In other words, Jesus was saying that his followers should expect to be outcasts of society.

Happiness

Before I retired, I worked for a large manufacturing company. I had no interest in working in a factory, but I felt very strongly that it was the Lord’s will for me to take the job. During the first few weeks, I cried everyday on my way to work. It felt like I had been thrown into the lion’s den and was going to be devoured by the cruelty of the people around me. Whenever I smiled at someone as I walked through the hallways, I got a blank stare in response. It was as if I was an alien creature and was invading their workplace.

It says in Proverbs 15:3, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.” The word translated place, mâqûwm (maw – kome´) is derived from the word quwm (koom) which means to rise. “Sometimes quwm is used in an intensive mood to signify empowering or strengthening…It is also used to denote the inevitable occurrence of something predicted or prearranged” (6965). The word translated beholding, tsâphâh (tsaw – faw´) means “to lean forward, i.e. to peer into the distance, by implication to observe, wait…to watch with a purpose” (6822).

It’s difficult to explain how getting out of the will of God can actually result in getting into the will of God, but when you are a Christian, it seems like every corner you turn, God is there waiting for you. It is impossible to get away from him. I believe God led me to work at a place that seemed to be void of Christians so that I could see what my life would be like without him. In the midst of my misery, I drew closer to him and realized that God was my only hope for real happiness in life.