November 22, 2017

Jesus Pronounces God’s Blessings

Sermon on the Mount, Annigoni

By Chaplain Mike

– Today’s Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12

so many people here to hear him
from everywhere, of every kind
no religious crowd this one!

check out that bloke over there
loser if i’ve ever seen one
not an ounce of righteousness in him
wouldn’t know a tithe from a toothbrush
couldn’t find genesis if you handed him a bible
a rough time of it, he’s had
surely the teacher won’t waste any time on him

and look over there, what a pitiful wretch
if it weren’t for bad luck, she’d have no luck
grim reaper took her husband
then came after her child
it got so nobody knew what to say to her
couldn’t take hearin’ another bit o’ bad news
you rarely see her out and about any more

and have you seen all the yokels?
brought ’em out of their shacks, he did
i’ll wager they’re lookin’ for a free show —
funny talk, a miracle or two —
keep ’em happy for a year!
sure thing they don’t have much more
i’m surprised their masters gave ’em an afternoon

hey, there’s the widow lady from town
she sure got a bad shake didn’t she?
thought her husband had set things up for her
then some shyster tricked her out of it
got her to sign some paper
thinkin’ she was makin’ her money secure
secure in his pocket, all right!

and there’s a bunch of people here
been tryin’ to help these folks
takin’ pity on ’em
tryin’ to make ’em religious
tryin’ to get ’em to quit their fightin’
carin’ even when the door gets slammed in their faces
spinnin’ their wheels, gettin’ nowhere

seems like what we have here
is a big ol’ loser’s convention
not your ideal crowd, i’d say

then jesus stood up
looked around, and said to the lot of them
“you, above all, are blessed”

Comments

  1. Jesus pronounces a blessing in the Beatitudes. However, every blessing has a condition attached to it.

    • And I would take Jesus’ condition as this: “Did you believe that I loved you?”
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQi_IDV2bgM

      • Thanks for that link, DougC. I read two of Manning’s books, but had never heard him speak.

      • Yes, thank you, Doug for that clip. What a great mini-devotional with a big message. How refreshing.
        For this wanderer, this rest-stop was in the right place on the highway.

      • Thanks for posting that. Less than 4 minutes and one of the best sermons we’ll ever hear.

    • Are you a happy person, Mark?

      • Happy is such a flippant modernist term. I prefer joyful. I am joyful that Christ died on the cross for my sins and that he is also delivering me from the power of sin.

        • I think you’re joyful for a little more than Christ’s death on the cross. I think you get off on being the fundamentalist Bible police. And if you really want Jesus’ deliverance from the power of sin, maybe you should ask him to help you out with your apparently intense desire to correct everyone who disagrees with your interpretation of the Bible. If you disagree with virtually everything on this blog, why do you continue to read it?

          Honestly, Mark, I used to be exactly like you. I thought the same way you did. Awhile back, we could have made a great team. Years ago, I remember finding a blog on an emergent church’s website. I knew I’d disagree with everything the pastor of the church and the congregation said. I would get on that blog in my spare time and argue with everyone. I felt like I was doing God’s work. I was making sure everyone knew what God’s truth is, as it is revealed in the Bible. People on that blog would say to me things that are eerily similar to what people on this blog have been saying to you. I never changed anyone’s mind. All I did was get a bunch of people to dislike me.

          Somewhere along the way, God changed my heart. And I can’t help but laugh to myself now that the tables are turned. It’s a sort of poetic justice, I guess. Now I know how I made other people feel: annoyed. I didn’t help or challenge or love anyone on that blog. I just annoyed them. I didn’t listen to anyone or try to understand their perspectives. I never attempted to be sympathetic to the struggles they were going through. I just thoroughly annoyed and frustrated them. And without God’s grace I would still be doing that. I don’t remember how exactly God changed my heart, but I do know it was a long, long process.

          Mark, I think JoanieD is right: God loves us too much to leave us as we are. Be open to that.

          • loved your story 🙂

          • Thanks for the story Grant. I’m curious what caused the change in you to be more open-minded.

            Having said that, I have no regrets if someone who believes in an Arian Christology hates me because I tell him or her that people who reject the deity of Christ are going to hell.

            I’d rather have God’s approval than the approval men.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            I’d rather have God’s approval than the approval men. — Mark

            And so the wall in the mind slams down, after which there is only “It Is Written!” and “Are They God’s Chosen?”

    • “God bless us. Every one.”

    • Mark, I would heartily disagree with your assertion. There are no conditions. Read the text! Only a blessing, a description of the person who receives the blessing, and what the blessing is.

      Why do we have such a hard time with pure grace?

      • Chaplain Mike, I think some people are afraid that pure grace means, “Do whatever you want because God loves you anyway” and then they envision these people doing horrendous things. But we know that is not what it means. The apostle Paul told us that grace does not mean we then choose to merrily go on sinning. We WILL sin, but not merrily and we will continue in prayer to receive grace in order to be the people God made us to be. He loves us as we are and loves us too much to leave us as we are. Someone else said that, but I like it.

      • I see all the blessings in the Beatitudes as soteriological (not existential).

        Having said that, when I said “conditions” I don’t mean it like the way cult groups say it: you must do X in order to earn Y. What I mean by conditions is that those who are blessed by these things ARE characterized by certain things (being poor in spirit, thirsting for righteousness, etc.).

        Those who lack those qualities that Jesus mentions in each of the Beatitudes do not have the blessing also. Would it be pastorally wise to tell someone in church who is involved in the gang lifestyle promoting drugs and violence (even if he professes to be bought by the blood of the Lamb) that he or she is a “child of God” and on the way to the Kingdom when the reality is actually the opposite? (I know that is an extreme example, but I think you get my drift.)

        • Mark you are totally missing the point of my interpretation. Jesus begins his ministry by announcing that the eschatological blessings promised by God have arrived. The blessings of the age to come have come to us in Jesus, and they will transform the world and people’s lives.

          The Beatitudes are parallel statements to the announcements of Luke 4—

          The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
          because he has anointed me
          to proclaim good news to the poor.
          He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
          and recovering of sight to the blind,
          to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
          to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

          You don’t teach Luke 4 to say people should be poor, prisoners, blind, and oppressed do you?

          Similarly, in Luke 6, when Jesus speaks another form of the Beatitudes, he says—

          Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
          Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
          Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
          Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!
          Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
          But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
          Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.
          Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
          Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

          Once again, you see that what Jesus is announcing is the reversal of fortunes that will come about in the eshaton, God’s kingdom that has now arrived in Jesus. Blessings for those we least expect to have them. Woes for those we assume will have God’s blessings.

          The first four Beatitudes in Matthew, in particular, cannot in any way be read as “qualities.” They are conditions of life. People who are spiritually bankrupt, in grief, without power, and anxious for God to make the world right.

          You needn’t fear that any of this leads to antinomianism. All these blessings which Jesus announces are found only in him, and it is only by coming to him in faith that we receive them. His point is that they are available to all, even the least likely. The ones we assume would be in the back of the line are invited to the front of the line to receive these blessings first.

      • I wonder if I have such a hard time with pure grace is because I often don’t know how to receive it. Whether it’s still trying to run it through an earning or justifying grid, or, it just seems too impossible to be true. It is impossible for me to respond to pure grace gratefully – gratefully and without any modifiers or conditions. I might receive it and think I am responding with gratitude by wanting to serve the Lord, love him or others more, etc, but I find that this is a modified “grace” response. I think I’m wanting to “pay him back” or prove worthy of such grace or justify myself in some way. I’m wanting to find some sliver of reason why Jesus would be so generous to me. I keep looking for the conditions clause.

        I think I need grace as much to respond appropriately to grace as to accept it. To accept it with a grace-given respons-ability on my part to the Giver. For without Grace working in me to receive it rightly, I’d make it into one of the things above. Or even more likely, “take the money and run”. I don’t know if this correlates to others but I was in a large confectioners store yesterday and they had free samples galore. Obviously, their hope is people would try it and buy it. I had no intention of paying $19.00 per pound for this stuff no matter how good it was. I just moved around the store, sampling away and then felt I “stole” out of the store. I didn’t break any laws. I didn’t break the rules of the house, most people did exactly what I did. I often feel like I do this in my relationship with the Lord. And yet he is wanting something in return. Not as payment, although it is hard not to see it that way. He wants us to enter into felowship with him. For us to give us everything in return, not for his gifts but for himself.

    • I agree with the poster said the only condition on receiving the blessings from God is that we let ourselves receive them. So many people are so burdened by shame and guilt (often piled on them by religious people, I might add) that they simply feel they don’t deserved to be loved. I’m glad DougC linked to Manning above here. Reading his was one of the few times I’ve actually broken down in tears from reading a book. The fact of the matter is that none of us are any better than yokels, fishermen, whores, or mass of humanity in Jesus’ audience that day. None of us are more “elect” than the other. We are all broken, and we all desperately need a word of blessing from Christ.

    • As I understand it, there are blessings in the Bible which are conditional, i.e “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” To me this implies that IF they don’t call on His name or humble themselves or turn from their wicked ways, then He won’t hear, forgive or heal.

      In the Beatitudes, however, there is no IF! It doesn’t say Blessed are you IF you are poor in spirit, then yours is the kingdom of heaven, or Blessed are you IF you mourn, for then you will be comforted. Here Jesus simply states the condition of the one who is being blessed by Him. What an awesome gift of grace – totally undeserved, unmerited favor! I am blessed!

      • He does state that those who are blessed ARE characterized by those qualities.

        Sorry to break this news to you, but there is no such thing as a justified person who does not undergo to some degree a transformation of his or her soul.

    • Right on, Mark. Lots of conditions.

      I find it puzzling how folks can actually believe that they “are pure in heart”. You are blessed if you are that.

      And meek, and peacemakers, and I cam’t remember the last time I ran across anyone who “thirsted for righteousness”.

      Do people actually believe they have these qualities? Has the law been so watered down by the preachers in the pulpits of their churches?

      • Steve,

        I think nobody in their right minds would think that they are pure in heart in a perfect 100% sense. Even our best deeds are tainted by the corruption of the flesh.

        However, that does not mean that redeemed people do not undergo significant transformation of their hearts by the Spirit that make them quite distinguishable from the unredeemed.

        The law does have a condemning function: it show sinners that they drastically fall short of God’s perfect standard. On the other hand, true believers are under the law of Christ and loving God and neighbor is evidence that one truly has Christ as Savior.

      • Sorry, Steve. No conditions. Jesus announces that God’s eschatological blessings have arrived, and they are available to those we least expect to receive them.

        We agree to disagree on this one.

    • What’s the condition to “Blessed are the merciful; they shall obtain mercy”? “You have to show mercy before you get it”?

      Well, um, yeah – “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us”. And the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.

      On the other hand, no – “They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick”.

      When we realise we are in desperate need of the mercy of God, He forgives us without strings attached – but afterwards (not before), when we go out amongst our fellow-servants, we must be merciful also.

  2. did chaplain mike write this?

  3. This is great. It reminds me of the Rich Mullins’ song, Surely God is With Us”. The first verse goes:

    Well, who’s that man who thinks He’s a prophet?
    Well, I wonder if He’s got something up His sleeve
    Where’s He from?
    Who is His daddy?
    There’s rumors He even thinks Himself a king
    Of a kingdom of paupers
    Simpletons and rogues
    The whores all seem to love Him
    And the drunks propose a toast
    And they say, “Surely God is with us.
    Well, surely God is with us.”
    They say, “Surely God is with us today!”

  4. Perhaps I should have elaborated on what I mean by “conditions.”

    When I said “conditions” in my original post I did not mean doing certain things to merit a place in the Kingdom.

    What I meant to say is that those who are truly blessed in a soteriological way are those who are characterized by certain things: being poor in spirit, being mournful (over their sinfulness), being meek, being hungry and thirsty for righteousness (not imputed, but practical), being merciful, being pure in heart, and being a peacemaker.

    Those who truly belong to God’s Kingdom, through the death of Christ, are characterized by these qualities. On the other hand, those who are characterized as lacking these qualities are really unsaved and do not belong to God’s Kingdom, no matter what they profess with their lips. This is not to imply perfection or sinlessness on the part of those who are truly redeemed, but it does entail that true salvation, by necessity, brings about a substantial transformation in the lives and attitudes of people.

    I suggest people read John MacArthur’s “The Gospel According to Jesus.” I know some of you won’t like it, but it may open your eyes. Of course, people have accused MacArthur of the heresy of legalism when all he is doing is following the views of the Reformers to its consistent end.

    • ” suggest people read John MacArthur’s “The Gospel According to Jesus.” I know some of you won’t like it, but it may open your eyes.”

      Mark, you do make me laugh with your assumption that none of us have been exposed to your ideas. I think if you pay attention to people’s responses to you, you’ll realize that many of us have come from where you are. We are not ignorant of what you say, we just no longer want to be a part of it.

      I for one grew up listening to John MacArthur; his ideas are not new to me. I’ve spent years in fundamentalist circles, and my entire extended family is still entrenched in this mindset. Five years ago, if we would have met, you likely would have been very impressed by my expressed beliefs and committment to sanctification. You probably would have considered me a partner on your mission.

      But I’m done. I want nothing to do with that life anymore. And it has nothing to do with a lack of understanding or knowledge. I’m just tired, and I’ve seen that that road leads to nothing but death.

      • Marie,

        Is it because you’re tired that you left that theological tradition or because you disagree with it on an exegetical level?

        • Both. Although part of leaving that tradition means that we likely disagree on what good exegesis looks like.

  5. Another question I would like to ask Chaplain Mike and other is this: Why is giving comfort and assurance to people who profess to be broken up so important in ministry? Why is healing those who are wreaked by psychological traumas caused by the church so much more important than preaching the truth that God demands unwavering obedience from his people? Is it THAT important that people be assured of heaven when they really don’t have any warrant for going there? I have noticed that this seems to be the common thread in all of posts when topics of salvation come up here.

    • Can’t speak for Chaplain Mike, but I’ll take a crack at an answer:

      Why is giving comfort and assurance to people who profess to be broken up so important in ministry?

      Because it was important to Jesus. Because of what I Cor. 13 says about the foundational status of unconditional love. Because those who profess to be broken are often open to the gospel in ways that those who pretend to be whole just aren’t. There’s no dichotomy here: healing those who are wrecked is part of preaching God’s truth.

      the truth that God demands unwavering obedience from his people

      In my experience most of the people I’ve dealt with already know this at some level. What they need is the good news that Jesus Christ both saves us from our complete inability to meet this standard and transforms us into people who want to meet it because we love Him and He first loved us.

      Also, maybe because these are the people the church often ignores. I fellowshipped with and taught a group of losers and outcasts at a mid-sized church for several years. No one called them that out loud, of course, but that’s who we were. Divorce, druggie kids, crazy exes, recovering addicts, bankruptcies, infidelity — it was all there. And so was a hunger for God. No support from the church leadership, though. Pastor’s wife’s only comment that I heard of was “But they’re so needy!” Yup, that’s kinda the point. Gimme the losers and outcasts any day, and count me among them, because Jesus is there. Peace.

    • Isaiah 40: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.”

      Mark, you are obviously not as harsh as you come across as being at first; your explanation of what you meant was very good. I have a certain amount of sympathy for your position, as I myself am very big on “But they’re not following the rules!” when it comes to the rag-tag and draggletail in church.

      And then I have to very sternly remind myself that I am not God 🙂

      • Marth, when I write these posts I am not writing as if I am divine with perfect knowledge of the condition of every person’s soul. What I am merely doing is reminding people of what Scripture says about the nature of faith, salvation, and what a genuine Christian life looks like. I am not trying to bust down people’s sensitive consciences or damper their moods. I am trying to be honest with the biblical texts on these matters.

        I’d rather be honest then water-down what Scripture says with half-truths and semi-lies. The things that I say regarding biblical matters will be judged (just as all our words will be judged by the Lord of lords at the eschaton). One of the fearful things we should keep in mind is that if we have led astray people by telling them half-truths and lies we will be accountable to the Lord. Paul tells us that ministers who destroy God’s temple (the corporate body of fellow believers) will be destroyed by God himself at the end (1 Cor 3:17). That is why I take this theology thing seriously because people’s souls are at stake and if I have led a soul down to hell because of my cowardice then I will have to face judge with no comfort in view.

        • Yes, but the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee may be applicable here: in the crowd milling around at the Sermon on the Mount, how many were ‘public sinners’ who were closer to God in their recognition that they needed His grace (genuinely poor in spirit) than those who were careful to keep the Law and tithe mint and cumin?

          Not that the moral of the story is “You’re fine as you are, and indeed, if you’re the kind to give church-going folks a fit of the vapours, all the better!” since as you say, our last end is a very serious thing to contemplate and the Gospel is not ‘keep on as you are and all religiosity is just hypocrisy’, but that even the outward life which may not be as blessed as one could desire to see is not the ultimate measure.

          I’m thinking that, for a lot of people there when Jesus was speaking – not to mention our own times – the idea was that worldly success/wealth was a sign of God’s favour. If you were poor, wretched, sick, or otherwise misfortuante, well – it was your own fault. Stop sinning. Or your parents committed some sin so you were born blind. Or if you’d just pray harder and keep all the commandments of the Law, then you’d improve.

          But here is the Lord saying “You are mourning? You are blessed!”

    • Mark, I’m sorry but your question is absurd.

      • Thanks Mike. Perhaps you can elaborate why my question is absurd.

        • Because you once again make a false distinction between things that belong together—comforting the hurting and offering people salvation in Christ. Because you are once again hijacking a post about something completely different into a question that is on your agenda, not ours. Because there is only ONE “warrant for anyone going to heaven,” and that is by grace through faith in Christ alone. Period.

          Why don’t you start your own blog? Speaking for myself, I do not hold your position and emphasis on sanctification. You are not going to persuade me and yet you keep coming here saying the same things over and over again. Why?

          Why not write about these things on your own blog, invite people to read, and see what they say? Why do you continually miss the point of what we are trying to say and instead try to turn every discussion into a broadside for the necessity of progressive sanctification?

          • I thought to be sanctified you had to be justified? Mark, do you think that one can’t just sit back and enjoy for at least one second that for no merit of their own Jesus died for them? I mean won’t sanctification become a natural thing overflowing from the rest Christ gives?

          • RD,

            What I am trying to say here is that justification can never be separated from sanctification. Yes, sanctification is the natural overflowing of being united to Christ by faith. What happens when someone has been a professing Christian for a couple of decades with practically no fruit in their lives as believers? What must we conclude?

            • Mark: “What happens when someone has been a professing Christian for a couple of decades with practically no fruit in their lives as believers? What must we conclude?”

              Correct answer: That we don’t necessarily know how to judge “fruit.”

    • I didn’t know any of us had a warrant there…

      • Mark,
        I have never implied/thought that someone can carry on doing whatever and still be a Christian. I am certain that once the grace of God in Christ has gripped you, you are going to be changed. I know that some on this post may not think that but, many do and you sometimes act as if everyone here is some raving universalist. I think that you are right but, you assume that everyone automatically disagrees with you. If you would just listen/read and not so quickly jump to conclusions and attack us, you might find that maybe some things could be misunderstandings. Just stop for a second and don’t assume that everyone who speaks of God’s grace isn’t meaning that they don’t believe in a changed life. I am not trying to attack you and I know that you will come back at me in quite a harsh way but, I just want you to know that I am NOT suggesting that I can just continue on in my life doing whatever I please. Know that you are speaking to someone who has recently discovered God’s grace in Christ. Please stop attacking me. I am learning about sanctification right now but, first I had to be justified.

        • RD,

          Perhaps I have misunderstood you then. Because what you have said above I do not disagree with. Also, I never attacked you. My short response to you above did not sound like an attack. I was just clarifying something. Now, if I told you that you’re an idiot who has no idea of what you’re saying then that is an attack. If you read again my response to you I never said that nor implied anything of that sort towards you.

          I am glad that you have discovered God’s grace in Christ. That is always a cause for joy and celebration. Whenever a person is forgiven and justified by God’s grace in Christ every angel in heaven has a party. This is much more reason to celebrate than someone getting a new job, getting married, being healed of cancer, or winning a boat load of cash.

          I never implied that every person who posts here on a regular basis is a universalist. Some are, most are not. My contention with some people here is that they believe that being a Christian entails no sanctification or perseverance on their part. That a Christian can be justified forever without no transformation of soul. I also disagree with the methodological foundations of some people here. That Scripture is not the supreme and only authority given by God to men. I have a serious problem with any notion of Scripture that does not hold to its utter authority and inspiration. If we cannot look to Scripture as our final source of authority (and as 100% trustworthy one at that) then we have no basis to do Christian theology.

          • It just seems that anytime any writes anything you come back with some snarky reply. Did you and Michael Spencer quibble as well or are you new to the site as I am.

            Also, what are some of the works that you do? I was just wondering because maybe some could learn from you about what someone walking in the Christian faith and is persevering does.

            I am not going to say anything more because every time I do you will take what i say and mysteriously turn it into how I am not concerned about works.

    • Mark asks: “Why is giving comfort and assurance to people who profess to be broken up so important in ministry? Why is healing those who are wreaked by psychological traumas caused by the church so much more important than preaching the truth that God demands unwavering obedience from his people? Is it THAT important that people be assured of heaven when they really don’t have any warrant for going there?”

      And since Headless Unicorn Guy isn’t back yet from the weekend, I’ll say it:

      ALLAHU AKBAR!!!!!!!

      There. Got that out of my system.

      Several things here, Mark:

      1. Chaplain Mike’s response is valid: Your question is absurd.

      2. You keep insisting on an either / or scenario. But why can’t God allow more than one ministry? (Read 1Corinthians12 about various gifts and ministries)

      3. I’ll repeat what Michael Spencer often said about works-righteousness (and yes, I’m painting you with that brush because you’ve earned it): “How much is enough? And who gets to make the call?”

      4. It’s as if you want to deprive believers of assurance of salvation. And yet you talk about joy? “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1John5:13) That you may KNOW that you have eternal life—not that you may worry yourself sick in case you don’t qualify. That’s a Muslim approach.

      5. God shows us mercy and compassion, particularly in Jesus. “Comfort, comfort my people…” as Martha quoted from Isaiah40. Your approach steals comfort, steals joy. How on earth can you declare it NOT important that people “be assured of heaven when they really don’t have any warrant for going there?” How can you possibly know if they don’t warrant heaven? That arrogance, that lack of humility and lack of compassion is itself anti-christian.

      • “4. It’s as if you want to deprive believers of assurance of salvation. And yet you talk about joy? “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1John5:13) That you may KNOW that you have eternal life—not that you may worry yourself sick in case you don’t qualify. That’s a Muslim approach.”

        Ted, I find it interesting that you quote from 1 John 5:13 to defend your point since the whole epistle gives “tests” to see if one truly has eternal life in them or not.

        • Yes. Chapter 4 says to test the spirits to see if they come from God, and that many false prophets have gone out into the world.

        • Mark, again you tell only part of the truth. 1John gives tests, as Ted rightly noted, about whether or not one is a Christian or a gnostic apostate.

    • And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is LOVE.

      If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

      Mark,

      As others have already said you remind me so much of myself several years ago.

      Dude, read the verses above, and I mean really, really read them. Forget everything you think you know and all that you have come to hold so dearly and just let these words wash over you. After all, God is in the business of asking us to forget everything we think we might know about Him! They are a glimpse into God’s own heart. They are a glimpse into reality and into Him. Love is greater than faith. If we are perfect in our understandings and perfect in our faith and perfect in our obedience and perfect in ________, but if we don’t have love, we are nothing. It is meaningless. It is all so much noise.

      That love is greater than faith is not a message that we hear too often nowadays. It’s all faith, faith and faith!! Building your faith up, perfecting your faith, perfecting your mission, your outreach, your _________, ad nauseam. It’s all too much and it’s all so tragic. We are called to love. Period. And that we will love imperfectly is no surprise to God.

      Peace.

  6. The law needs to do it’s work on us.

    Thinking that we are ‘up to it’, is a sure fire sign that something is amiss.

    Meek, peacemakers, pure in heart, thirsting for righteousness, does not describe the human condition. Seeking the advantage, getting even, and one-up-manship are more our style.

    The Sermon on the Mount is the pure proclamation of law. If anyone believes they fit into these categories of goodness, then they are deluded and the law has not yet done it’s work.

    • Steve,

      I don’t believe the traditional Lutheran understanding of the Sermon on the Mount has any exegetical merit. I believe the whole Sermon is about what characterizes those who are already in God’s Kingdom. In other words, a person who is truly born again, justified, and saved are characterized by going beyond the mere letter of the law (Matt 5:20).

      This does not mean that saved people are perfect. It does mean that they go beyond the standard notions of morality. For example, it is not enough for them to avoid physically murdering someone. They actually must practice an attitude of non-violence in their hearts towards their neighbor (Matt 5:21-22). The Pharisees thought they were “right with God” because they merely observed the outward forms of the law when they were actually law-breakers because they did not practice the heart of it (which God values infinitely more).

      Thus, Jesus is telling the people in the Sermon on the Mount what characterizes those people who are truly saved. This is also stated by Paul and the other Apostles in their respective letters to the churches.

    • Steve:

      If “meek” means the powerless who are under the thumb of the wicked in power (as in Psalm 37 from which Jesus’ words come), then yes it does describe the human condition.

      If “hungering and thirsting for righteousness” means having a burning desire that things be put right because one continually gets treated with injustice, then yes it does describe the human condition.

      The second group of Beatitudes (merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, persecuted) DOES describe people who are trying to do things to make the world right. But they are going about it in ways the world despises. Jesus is not promising them salvation for their works. He is saying that God’s standard is different than the world’s, and he will reward what the world rejects, scorns, and even persecutes. In the eschaton, what the world despises, God honors.

      • Nobody said anything about Jesus promising them salvation for their works. You got things mixed up, Chaplain Mike. Jesus is stating a fact: that those who have salvation will be peacemakers, pure in heart, merciful, etc.

  7. How does D. Bonhoeffer’s. “Cost of Discipleship” fit in with this? I believe he says if we don’t follow the law, we really don’t have grace. We are only justified because Jesus stands between us and God, True?

    • That is right. Bonhoeffer made it clear that if we do not walk as disciples of Christ then that means we truly have not received saving grace. He was basically reiterating the point of the Reformers: justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.

      I don’t know why this is so hard to grasp. Our Lord made it clear that fruitless branches will be cut off and cast into the fire at the eschaton (John 15:6).

    • This post is not about Law and Grace. Those theological structures have been imported into this text by commenters. The Beatitudes are about Jesus announcing that God’s day of blessing has dawned, and all may enter, even those we least expect.

      • Chaplain Mike, no one is disagreeing with your assertion that the Beatitudes speak of the invitation for all to enter the blessings of God. I just think that the Beatitudes also describe what NECESSARILY must be found in those who do enjoy the blessings of God.

        • No. No. No. ad infinitum.

          You surely don’t mean that, Mark. It might conceivably be possible to interpret a few of them in those terms. But, “poor in spirit”? That is not a good thing! It is not a synonym for “humble” or “dependent” or anything like that. It means “spiritually bankrupt.” So what you are saying is that people who receive God’s blessings are necessarily spiritually bankrupt as a quality of their lives?

          Or they have to be grief-stricken?

          Or they have to be under the thumb of the powerful in the world (the meaning of “meek” from Ps 37?)

          Makes no sense, man.

          • Yes, true believers know that they are spiritually bankrupt and need to look at the Savior for salvation.

        • The Beatitudes are descriptive, not prescriptive. Jesus is describing life in the Kingdom, not defining how one enters into it. Jesus is basically continuing to announce with this sermon that the Kingdom is at hand. That is what makes the sermon so amazing. I’m sure there were many in his audience who thought He was crazy – “I’m poor but I’m blessed? I’m broken but God is with me? My righteousness will surpass that the Pharisees? That’s crazy!”

          To try to turn the Sermon as Jesus “tightening the screws” or showing that God is demanding more from people is simply ridiculous. Jesus didn’t come demanding things from humanity – He came a servant and as a sacrifice. Some of us, apparently, still want Him to come in the way an earthly king would – demanding submission of us and rolling over His enemies.

          Of the 41 replies on the post, 13 of them of are from you, Mark. Why does this little blog post seem to threaten you so much? Is it because you feel your worldview being challenged? Is grace still to scandalous for you? If you are as right as you believe you are, don’t you think it is enough to let the Lord prove you right? I don’t understand the fear.

          • Phil, I don’t feel threatened by anything. I’m trying to be faithful to the biblical texts. One of the most disgusting theological views out there is antinomianism (sanctification is optional).

          • I find worries about antinomianism to be largely a red herring. What happens in churches that really emphasize a certain type of sanctification most often becomes a type of phariseeism. If we start thinking that what we do or don’t do has the ability to make us lose our salvation, it’s not a far leap to start thinking we are responsible for saving ourselves. Now, I actually do believe that apostasy is a possibility, but I believe has to do more with a purposeful breaking off of a relationship than it does with sin.

            It’s interesting that Paul uses the language of fruits when referring to our works. A tree can’t make itself bear fruit. An apple simply can’t will itself to produce more apples. That can only be done by the care and nurturing of a skilled gardener. So, while we aren’t exactly as passive as trees – we can choose to walk away from the pruning we need – I also don’t think it’s necessarily our place to continually worry about our fruit. When we walk with God, He will bring things to bear in their time.

            I grew up in an environment where I was constantly worried about committing the sin that would anger God. I would go to bed worried about unconfessed sin. That type of life is simply not what God wants for us. God wants us to live in shalom. Constant fretting about whether I’m in or out isn’t peace or anything like it. It took me a long time to simply be comfortable with the fact that God loves me and there’s nothing I can do to change that fact. It’s very freeing.

  8. Yes, I got off track by the comments.. The beatitudes are all inclusive.. We are all sinners.The jews knew they were chosen by God and by keeping the law they were better than gentiles, prostitutes, tax collectors, etc. Jesus said all are blessed who accept me. Is there any difference between a thief and a proud church member in God’s eyes?

  9. Jesus is describing those who are of the Kingdom of God.

    Right.

    Do you qualify under those descriptions.

    Be careful how you answer…you might reveal much more about yourself than you had bargained for.

    This is a law sermon. No one is of pure heart. Are you folks reading the same Bible that I am?

    But, not to worry, Jesus hands over the gospel right after He comes down from the mountain.

    If you still have trouble with this, listen to St. Paul as he tells us that “Christ dies for the ungodly”. If you are ungodly, then you qualify.

    If you meet those descriptions that Jesus wa giving on the SoM, then you are doing quite nicely on your own and really don’t need a Savior.

    • I do believe Jesus is describing those that are in the Kingdom. I don’t believe the Law really has anything to do with the sermon apart from the fact that Jesus points out the Law was powerless to actually change people’s hearts, whereas in the Kingdom will be full of people exhibiting these traits because their hearts have been changed.

      I also think there’s very a “now but not yet” element at play here as well. When Jesus announced the Kingdom , He said it was at hand, which of course, leads to the conclusion that it’s here now in some way. But, on the other hand, there are other things that Jesus said that make it clear the Kingdom has not arrived in fullness. So we are living in this tension – we have one foot in the old age and one in the age to come. We are being transformed, as it were, so that the lives we live now are preparing for the lives we will live in the age to come.

      • Phil says, “Jesus points out the Law was powerless to actually change people’s hearts.”

        I agree, Phil.

        “the lives we live now are preparing for the lives we will live in the age to come.”

        That, too.

    • Steve, if this is a sermon of Law, then we are all justified, because every single one of us can say “Yes, Lord, I mourn!” Ergo, every single one of us has already fulfilled the condition necessary for being comforted, and the transaction is complete with no need for grace.

      Show me one single human being who has never suffered any loss or pain in his or her life.

      That’s an absurd reading right there, and I’m loudly disagreeing.

  10. To Mark and Steve and the others I disagee with. I would never try to silence you or disparage your motives. These are tricks of the P>C> crowd. Healthy dialog is at times contentious, that’s what makes it veery interesting. Keep it up!

  11. Thanks, Vern!

    The law is not just the 10 Commandments. The law is any demand that our existence places upon us to fulfill our humanity, perfectly, as Jesus fulfilled his.

    So, when Jesus describes these attributes of the perfect human being (himself), he is describing what qualifies someone to enter God’s Kingdom.

    And we don’t measure up. Not in all cases, all of the time. That’s what is required. Not just being mournful once in a while, or trying to make peace now and then. These attributes need to be fullfilled perfectly, all of the time.

    Again, we don’t measure up. Not even close.

    Now the good news! 😀

    He did measure up! And He gives you that perfection and righteousness…absolutely free of charge. He declares you righteous for His sake! You can’t beat that, now can you?

  12. By the way, did anyone have a comment on the POEM?

    Did anyone notice how the stanzas were supposed to portray the Beatitudes?

    Or does everyone have their nose stuck in their theology textbooks?

    • The poem? didn’t make much of an impression on me.

    • I loved the poem, Chaplain Mike. I liked how down-to-earth it was.

    • I like your poem, Chaplain Mike.

      “seems like what we have here
      is a big ol’ loser’s convention
      not your ideal crowd, i’d say”

      That pretty much describes our situation. If I started listing all the things that make me a “loser,” one would think I was begging for sympathy. Suffice it to say that I am happy to know that Jesus loves me, just as I am. If I had to earn his love, I would be in big trouble. If he loves me just as I am, then I can love others just as they are. They don’t need to get it all figured out and straightened out first. But Jesus is much better at loving those who seem “unlovable” than I am. Pray that we would all submit to the loving presence of the Holy Spirit of God within us so that we see all people as Jesus saw them and sees them.

    • I loved the poem. I thought it created a great word picture of, well, of ourselves, and what it means that Jesus was among us and declaring the kingdom. That should turn our usual expectations on their head, but sometimes the theological debate looks a lot like us trying to keep things from getting quite so out of hand instead of just surrendering and joining the party. 🙂

    • There was a poem? 🙂

      But seriously… I just went back and read it through another couple of times. Nice work and true to the spirit of the text.

  13. “seems like what we have here
    is a big ol’ loser’s convention
    not your ideal crowd, i’d say”

    Well….that does not sound at all like most of the evangelical churches today. The churches today are the “elite” the “real” Christians… They would never assemble with that kind of riff raff. Right? Hmmmm……sounds just like the Pharisees in Jesus day. Didn’t you know they had it all figured out and it didn’t include this big ol’ losers convention? HA!
    My prayer is for Jesus to humble those who need it and to keep me humble as well. Because we ALL have a tendency to be the Pharisee.

  14. Another good take on differentiating law and gospel in the Sermon on the Mount:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5AQX4MchJ14