Lesson 3 -- fourth quarter 2008
September 21, 2008
© Copyright 2008
Certain character traits distinguish the Christian. These beatitudes, which are also gifts from God, differ from spiritual gifts in a significant way. Unlike spiritual gifts, each of these traits should characterize every follower of Jesus. God does not give all the spiritual gifts to every Christian but He does implant each of these character traits into every Christian. For example, while God gives the gift of prophecy to one person and not to another, both of them receive humility from Him. God expects us to work with Him and yield to Him in the development and exercise of each of these traits.
If salt loses its essential properties, it is junk. After identifying some essential properties of His followers, Jesus hammers home just how essential these are by saying, "Ye are the salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13). Just as salt devoid of its essential properties is useless as salt, so the believer who has lost the Christian's essential properties is useless as a disciple of Jesus. But hope is not extinguished even then. In the midst of this comparison, Jesus asked, " If the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted?" The answer? The Creator would have to restore its essential properties. The same holds true for the disciple who has lost some or all of these essential traits.
The world needs our light. Jesus places His followers as a city on a hill -- impossible to hide, difficult to miss. He also sets them as a candle on a candlestick -- driving away darkness for all in the vicinity. The Christian's essential character traits produce benefits for more than just himself. The world benefits from his character and message. The Father receives glory because of the beneficial life of His children.
The word used here for poor identifies one in such dire straits financially and physically that he must beg for what he needs. He has no recourse left within himself -- he utterly lacks self-sufficiency. That must describe the condition of our spirit in the sense that we recognize we have nothing and are nothing of ourselves. We become that way by becoming better acquainted with God, the only Self-Sufficient One. "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:5,6).
Ask God to graft that character trait into your life. Ask Him to help you take off your own shoes in favor of wearing those of another. Ask Him to show you the other's need.
Mercy deals with people on the basis of their need. The merciful individual responds to other people in their failures and shortcomings as he responds to himself -- gently, considerately, redemptively. Mercy forgives, helps, and sacrifices.
When a "rival" goofs or flounders, mercy grieves and aids. When an antagonist suddenly finds himself at the mercy of the merciful, the merciful shows mercy! When someone is rude or worse, mercy prays about potential trauma, problems, grief, or other needs in the life of the offender.
Conflict in the brotherhood? Mistrust? Envy? Jealousy? Bitterness? Anger? Malice? Politicking? Suspicion? The church needs peacemakers! Not busybodies, not wagging tongues, not sympathetic ears, not partisan hearts. We suffer from a chronic shortage of individuals committed to rebuilding brotherhood relationships. Why? Jesus is the Prince of Peace and we are to be bearers of the glad tidings of peace!
The Son of God "is our peace" "having made peace through the blood of His cross" because He wanted "to guide our feet into the way of peace" (Ephesians 2:14; Colossians 1:20; Luke 1:79). This helps us understand a little better the relationship He drew between being peacemakers and being the children of God. The begotten of the Father are natural peacemakers! They pursue peace because they serve the Prince of Peace. They strive and suffer for peace because they wish to bless the warring ones, not because they hope for appreciation or recognition for themselves.
Ponder Matthew 5:9 again -- "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." Did you ever wonder whether we might be too glib and presumptuous in claiming to be children of God?
Have you discovered the blessing of Godly living? Then "sell the product" to your class!
Whose life have you "flavored" (ie "salted") recently?
Matthew 5:1 and 8:1 seem to indicate that Jesus had taken His disciples apart from the multitudes. But even if the multitude surrounded Jesus and His disciples, this teaching is directed specifically to His disciples. In this teaching session so early in His ministry, Jesus clearly set forth many essential characteristics of His kingdom and those who belong to it. Can you accept that Jesus had you and your class in mind when He presented this? Then apply it and teach it that way.
Oh, one other thing -- a little piece of verse one: "His disciples came unto him." It's what disciples do! Don't they? Do they? Did you? Until He has discipled you, you cannot teach your class as He would have you to. Your assignment as teacher is far more than merely presenting facts and making points and reviewing history. You must touch the hearts of your listeners with living, liveable truth. So ask God to touch your heart with this lesson. Then ask Him to use you to touch their hearts for Him.
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