Learning To Lead
"And seeing the multitudes, he went up a mountain; and his disciples came unto him" (Matthew 5:1).
Only disciples are willing to climb mountains. So when Christ wanted to separate those who were genuine about following him, from the lukewarm crowds, he would simply climb a mountain, or impose some other discipline. In the modern church, however, everything is measured in numbers. Masses have become the opiate of religion! Multitude mania grips the church, while the disciplines of Christ are set aside as too unpopular.
"And he opened his mouth, and taught them saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (5:2-3).
"Blessed are you poor people, but woe to you rich people" (Luke 6:20-24). The poor of this world will inherit the kingdom of heaven because they are rich in faith; but rich men blaspheme Christ by condemning the poor (James 2:5-7). Who dares to preach this today? The prosperity gospel of the Western church preaches exactly the opposite. It praises capitalism (the love of capital) while the Bible calls covetousness (the love of money) idolatry (Col. 3:5), or the ultimate abomination. Christ's first requirement for a would-be Christian is to "give up all your possessions" (Luke 14:33). If you can't do this, he says you should not begin to call yourself a Christian (Luke 14:29).
"Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted" (5:4).
First we give our wealth to God; then we give our families to him. It is better to mourn the loss of our families for God, and to have the comfort of Christ, than to try to keep something we will lose one day anyway. A missionary who was killed by Indians in Ecuador said, "It is wise to give what you cannot keep to gain what you cannot lose." Jesus promised to divide families (Matthew 10:35-37), and he rejected his own family when they refused to accept God's will (Luke 8:20-21, John 7:5). He knew that God's family must be first.
"Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth (5:5)."
When you pass the material and emotional tests, the next test is physical. After Satan failed to destroy Job's faith by taking his wealth and family, he attacked his "skin" (Job 2:4-5). The word "meek" comes from a word for a horse that has been broken, so that he will work obediently for his master. We too need to be broken, so that we will not give in to the laziness of our flesh, or the fear of pain that comes when Christ tells us to turn the other cheek, or to lay down our lives for one another (I John 3:16). Meekness may mean suffering, torture or death, or it may mean giving our time to others. In both cases, we are giving our lives.
"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled" (5:6).
When your wealth and family are gone, and your flesh is broken, there is not much you can do except hunger and thirst for something better. You have nothing left to keep. "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (I Cor. 15:26). When we want God more than life itself, we begin to fight the "last enemy."
Until we find something worth dying for, we do not have anything worth living for (Lk 17:33). Despair is more than a willingness to die; it is almost a desire to die. It is the last step down before the big climb up.
Big spiritual battles can only be won by prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29). Most of us never get around to fasting because we're not really desperate. When we do get desperate, God will come to fill us with his righteousness.
"Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy" (5:7).
God's righteousness comes first through forgiveness. And this is always more readily available to those who know what it is to forgive others.
Being merciful does not buy forgiveness; but it is a quality in those people whom God chooses to give mercy to. "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy," says God.
Some people could almost be called Christian before they ever heard of Christ. Though lost, they are already "sheep" - like the Good Samaritan. These are the poor, the mourners, the meek, and those who hunger for righteousness. They could come from any country or any religion; their theology is not as important as their sincere desire for truth. Saving them is as easy as telling them that they have already been forgiven through Christ's sacrificial death.
"Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" (5:8).
Forgiveness leads to holiness. Holy means "set apart." Jews set apart one day each week for God. On this day they rested from their labours. It was called the Sabbath (or rest) day. But Jesus taught seven-days-a-week rest, and seven-days-a-week holiness (Lk 16:13; Mt 11:28; Jn 6:27). He gives us a new job, working for him, and we are to "labour to enter into that rest" (Hebrews 4:11).
Because the early Christians lived only by faith, it set them apart from the rest of the world. "We know that when Jesus shall appear, we shall see him as he is. Every man who has this hope purifies himself, even as He is pure" (I Jn 3:1-3). Seek holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). But you cannot be pure in heart if you are trying to serve two masters (James 1:8).
"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God" (5:9).
Peace does not just happen. It must be made. To be a true peacemaker we must share the peace Christ offers (II Cor 5:18). "Follow peace with all men" (Hebrews 12:14). "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mk 16:15).
The parable of the Sower is about evangelism. In it, one group of people accept all that the Sower offers, but do not share it with others. "When they have heard, they go forth and are choked with cares and pleasures" (Lk 8:14). Jobs, building funds, and church socials keep the church from giving God's peace to this war-torn world. Jesus might say that many churchgoers are of their father, the devil! (Jn 8:44). For God's children are peacemakers. They do not have time for other occupations; for they walk worthy of the vocation to which they have been called. (Eph 4:1).
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven".
"Blessed are you, when men insult you, and persecute you and say all manner of evil lies against you, for my sake. Rejoice, and be glad: for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you" (5:10-12).
Forgiveness leads to holiness; holiness leads to evangelism; and evangelism leads to persecution. We cannot alter this pattern. It is programmed into the first seeds of the gospel that we preach. If we are not persecuted, we are not following Christ... for "All who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (II Timothy 3:12). If there is more religious persecution in Russia than in Australia, it is only because there is more Christianity there. Many churchgoers make heroes of earlier prophets while attacking present-day critics of the church (Mt 23:29-38). Everyone wants an easy way to witness, so they won't be criticised or persecuted; but when we can accept that persecution is inevitable, and even rejoice about it, we will get on with the job.
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt has lost its saltiness, there is no way to make it salty again. It is good for nothing but to be thrown out, and to be trodden under foot".
"You are the light of the world. A city that is on a hill cannot be hidden.
"Neither does one light a candle, and put it under a bowl, but on a candlestick; and it gives light for everyone in the house".
"Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and praise your Father in heaven" (Mt 5:13-16).
The salt has lost its saltiness. Paul says, "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt" (Col 4:6). But where is the salt in today's bland diet of religious fellowship and respectability? If you take the teachings of Christ out of Christianity (which is just what the organised churches have done) you have a false Christ, and false gospel. "If the salt loses its sting, it's not fit for shi... cah-cah!" (Lk 14:34-35).
Paul was very religious before he accepted what Christ taught. But after his conversion, he said his old religious pride was just a heap of shi... poo-poo! (Philippians 3:4-8) The church today is more upset by the language Jesus used, than by its own lukewarmness. But Christ says, "Look at you! I want to spue!" (Revelation 3:6)
The light of the gospel has been hidden under a bushel of respectability for too long. If we are ashamed of Christ's words, then he promises to be ashamed of us (Mk 8:38).
It is essential that the light is put back up where it belongs. "Don't you know that everyone runs in a race, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it!" (I Cor 9:24). Don't wait for someone else to set the pace. Now more than before, the world needs leaders. We can be that, by living our lives as though only one person will be found faithful to Christ's teachings and we want to be that person. "When the son of man comes will he find faith on the earth?" (Lk 18:8). The reply is up to us. We can be salt and light for the world or we can become part of the world's dung heap.