High Altitude Attitudes – the Beatitudes

A preacher was walking to his office one sunny day when he noticed a very little boy on a porch across the street.  The boy was jumping, trying to reach the doorbell of the house to ring it, but it was situated high enough to be out of his reach, even when jumping with all his might.

The preacher stopped to watch the boy’s efforts for a bit and then decided to offer his help.  He crossed the street and got the little fellow’s attention.  “I notice you can’t quite reach that doorbell, son.  Can I help you?”

“Sure,” he replied.

The preacher rant the doorbell then stooped over to get on the boy’s level.  “And now little man,” he said with a smile, “What happens now?”

The boy giggled and replied, “Now we RUN!”

There are an unlimited number of ways we can bless one another, isn’t there?  But moments like that one can discourage us from trying.

We must not neglect the power of blessing.  God entrusts us with an unending supply so we can exert the power of blessing in our homes and community.

The power of blessing is beautifully expressed in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  There our Lord described nine examples of how we can exercise a ministry of blessing.

Today we’re going to start a series of messages on the Beatitudes.  In each case, we will compare:

Our Attitude: what is typical to human nature and often expressed in human cultures as desirable or valuable.

Jesus’ Beatitude: virtues that are expressed in the character of Jesus.  They become real in us through the Holy Spirit.

The Adjustment: the means the Spirit uses to change us from attitude to beatitude.

The Reward: God authorized motivation by means of desire for reward by offering a reward for each of these changes.

High Altitude Attitude Adjustment – Spiritual Poverty (3).

            Our attitude is pride, which should be understood as every manifestation of self-sufficiency, every act of trust in something other than God.  For example, Pride is trusting in any worldly riches.  In Matthew 19:23-24, Jesus observed how hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Jesus beatitude is humility.   This is NOT humiliation or self-abasement.  Those are still acts of self-sufficiency, exercising our will.  Instead, humility is possessing an accurate self-understanding; seeing ourselves as God sees us:

– In need of His salvation by grace.

– Individuals w/ strengths and weaknesses.

– Its inward truth, not outward appearance

The adjustment is the experience of being POOR IN SPIRIT.  True holiness requires ruthless honesty.  To be honest is to admit one’s sin and complete dependence on God for salvation.  It’s no shame to admit to poverty when one is poor.  And spiritually speaking, we are all poor.   Our very best behavior falls short of God’s standard (see Isaiah 64:6). We have no hope apart from God’s grace. Changing our attitudes is something we can’t do on our own – we depend on God. The Bible honors those who are poor in terms of what this world offers, but are faithful to trust and obey God (see Psalms 149:4 and Isaiah 49:13; 61:1-2; 66:2).

The reward is experiencing the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN now and in the future.  In order to enter the Kingdom, we must submit to the authority of the King and accept His work of salvation. The POOR IN SPIRIT experience the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN in two ways.

– In the PRESENT, we experience the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN by the work of the Holy Spirit (prayer, worship, fellowship, etc.).   (See MTW 11:11-12; 12:28.)

– In the FUTURE we will experience the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN by being in heaven; living eternally in the presence of God and with His people.  (See Matthew 7:21; 8:11; 19:23-24; 26:29).  This is the most fundamental change, so it comes with the greatest reward.

High Altitude Attitude Adjustment – Mourning (4).

            Our attitude is frivolity.  (I struggled with this choice of words.  If you can think of a better one after reading how I define it, I’d happily receive a suggestion.) Human nature wants to avoid sorrow. Two mistakes we make under this attitude I’m calling “frivolity:”

– We busy ourselves in activity, working and playing hard, attempting to avoid dealing with sorrow.

– Or we bury ourselves in alcohol or drugs or other addictions in the same doomed quest for avoidance.

The Jesus beatitude is ­­sobriety.  We tend to think of “sobriety” only in terms of not being drunk or high.  Actually, “sobriety” is the virtue of being serious when mature, balanced behavior is needed. It avoids t extremes of goofy immaturity one hand & taking things only or overly serious on the other.  It is the virtue of appropriate behavior based on sensitivity to one’s context.

Jesus calls us to neither seek nor shirk suffering; but instead to use it, when it comes, to become more mature ourselves or helping others to find more maturity.  It is worldly to seek to be entertained every waking moment.  The believer seeks God’s Kingdom first, finding the true joy of service. It is a vice to treat sin lightly; believers sorrow over sin and ignorance of God. It’s a mistake to make happiness our goal.  Those who love Jesus seek holiness before happiness.

The adjustment is the experience of mourning.  What causes us to mourn?  The most obvious example is death, but there are a lot of other things that cause us to suffer, experience sorrow, or feel a sense of loss.

The word MOURN meant “to bear sorrows.”  Sorrows are a result of God’s choices, our choices, the choices of others or more likely a combination.  There are real and imagined sorrows.

The reward is being comforted by God.  This isn’t simply a matter of going around with a long face, unsmiling, unhappy, or in tears.  If it were just those behaviors, we’d be earning our salvation, right?  Again, it’s a matter of trusting God, not self.

The word “comfort” means to be fortified.  It describes an outcome of faith that finds security in knowing that God is in control and He’s working for our good.  Part of God’s purpose in mourning is to make us stronger in our faith, more spiritually mature. Another purpose is to make us more sensitive so we can help those who MOURN as we have. A third purpose is to strengthen our faith in the best way possible – by surviving and overcoming.  (Two examples: Paul in Romans 5:3; 8:37-39 or John in Revelation 21:4.)

High Altitude Attitude Adjustment – Meekness (5).

            Our attitude is self-centeredness.  The more we dwell within ourselves and ignore others, the more we are prone to hurt them. It can be in our nature to be competitive, stubborn, and vengeful, all of which are attitudes that reduce the value of other people, making them objects to be used or enemies to be violated and defeated. The world values success and excess; it sees self-reliance as a virtue, even when taken to ridiculous extremes.

The Jesus beatitude is gentleness.  To be gentle does NOT mean to be a door mat.  Two of the greatest achievers in history were called “gentle:” Moses in Numbers 12:3 and Jesus in Matthew 11:29.

To be gentle is to do the right thing without doing harm.  This takes great intelligence, courage, and patience; all of which the Holy Spirit provides.  A gentle person never insists that the ends justify the means or that principles have greater priority than people.

The adjustment is meekness.  Meekness starts by placing God’s will and the good of others ahead of self-interest.  Putting God first helps us do t right thing.  Putting the good of others ahead of self helps us do the right thing in the right way at the right time.  Meekness is a virtue because it was part of the character of Jesus.  When He was being tried by the authorities Jesus suffered their accusations in silence.

The reward is inheriting the earth.  In biblical language, to INHERIT something was to

receive it as a gift from God.  (See Psalms 37:11, 22, 34.)  THE EARTH refers to all creation.  In both testaments, God promises His people that they will reign with Him as “kings and priests.” The irony is that those who reject worldly standards of power shall be given power.

Because we who believe know the end of the story, because we trust God to keep His promises, we can relax.  We can afford to be generous and gentle w/ others. Logically, we don’t have to be greedy in this moment because we know eventually we will inherit all of it!

“According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statics, the average [American household spent] $50,486.”  Of that amount, $2,827 or 5.6% was spent on “entertainment.”  “Entertainment costs included audio and visual equipment and services; pets, toys, hobbies and playground equipment; fees and admissions; and other entertainment spending.”

<Retrieved from http://visualeconomics.creditloan.com/average-american-spends-on-entertainment/#ixzz3OLpfG8lh  on 1/9/15.>

            Even under that very narrow definition, we spend a lot of time and resources on doing nothing more than being entertained.  We are a people who prize happiness, sometimes to the point of misidentifying it as a virtue.  This is the frivolous lifestyle to which I referred earlier.

            Let me give you a quick example as we close.  The song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.  I love this song.  It is catchy and hearing it makes you smile.  But it’s as weighty as styrofoam and about as useful in mass quantities.        The song was written for the animated movie, Despicable Me 2, but was much more popular than the movie, becoming a world-wide pop culture phenomenon.

Williams, the song’s writer and performer, made these comments about Happy: “The creation of the song was fun, but it was the tenth song after nine songs didn’t work for what the movie company described as a pivotal moment in the film.  It’s just been wonderful to see how the universe has rewarded us, my whole entire team. I’m surrounded by greatness.  It’s essentially changed my life and changed the tune of how I look at things, my perspective,” he says. “Me and my wife, we were just jumping around because I got that song in that film. We didn’t think it was going to turn into this.”

<Retrieved from http://radio.com/2015/01/05/grammys-behind-the-song-pharrell-williams-happy/ on 1/9/15.>

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