A Dangerous Idea of Blessedness

Matthew 5.1-16

Some friends of mine and I started working our way through the Sermon on the Mount, wanting to see what Jesus had to say about living life in the kingdom. As I reflected on this passage, I was struck by Jesus’ list of kingdom characteristics of those who are citizens of the kingdom, of those who are blessed. It’s probably not the things we would have picked. They are certainly not characteristics that the world values. Those possessing these characteristics would not seem like “winners” from an earthy perspective, or to the spiritually elite, the I’ve-got-it-all-together crowd, the my-universe-is-running-just-fine-thank-you crew. But the kingdom belongs to those who recognize their desperate need for God and long for the reconciliation of heaven and earth.

As I shared on Sunday, the beatitudes are not a “how-to” list of instructions for entrance into the kingdom. They don’t tell you how to get to heaven. But much like the fruits of the Spirit, these are characteristics of folks who are already in the kingdom. They are produced by our connection to the King. And also like the fruit of the Spirit, these characteristics are produced in us and not by us…God produces the fruit as we submit to the process.

I shared a tweet this week, “Jesus has a dangerous idea of blessedness.” Following the unfolding of the beatitudes, there seems to be a progression…poor in spirit, mourning for sin, gentle, hunger and thirst for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemaker…that leads inexorably to persecution. Alignment with the King is a dangerous proposition. It could even cost us our life. And why does the persecution come hot and heavy? Because of the undeniability of those who embody kingdom characteristics. The difference in us is going to be obvious to the whole world. Instead of being tasteless salt on some “french fries”, as a friend of mine described it, or a light under a basket, we will be noticeable. We will be a light on a hill. By doing that, by embodying those qualities and living that way, we are bearing the image of God brightly. Pointing people to Him and bringing Him glory. Said another way, if we embody the beatitudes, we will force a response from those around us. Some will persecute us and others with give glory to the Father. Both are good things!

As I thought about my own life, I’ve wrestled with my own saltiness at times and the times where it’s been easier to hide the light than face the consequences of following Jesus openly. As a recent college graduate, I often found it easier to blend in with my co-workers and not to be one of those “Jesus freaks”. But my life was miserable because although I had trusted in Jesus and so was a kingdom citizen, I was not living life in the kingdom. Finally when I had had enough, it was amazing the changes that God wrought in my life…I’m far from perfect, but I started enjoying the benefits of the present kingdom, persecution and all. And it has been worth it.

But what about you? What do you do with this? Some of you are not yet kingdom citizens, you don’t know what it means to be a son or daughter of the King. The beatitudes are not a how to manual for kingdom membership. They reflect the internal qualities that characterize those in the kingdom. It starts with the recognition of your need for Jesus. I would love to talk to you.

For the rest of us, we are in process of realizing more of the kingdom in our lives – all aspects of it. Last week I talked about the boxes we create that neatly divide our lives and keep us from experiencing the kingdom life that Jesus has for us. It is only as we blow up the boxes and allow the character of the kingdom to permeate all aspects of our lives that we truly begin to experience the abundant life…and yes, complete with persecution.

This story challenges us toward a change of perspective. Jesus definition of blessedness is dangerous…but it is true blessedness. It’ living life in the kingdom now. It’s being image-bearers of the King.

My prayer for us this week is that we live in the kingdom…learning more and more what it means to be sons and daughters of the King, and may we see His kingdom expanded.

Until next time…stay salty.

To hear this week’s sermon, visit us at: http://www.centralchristian.org. You can also follow me on twitter or facebook at: mattdumas1969.

Grass is greener?!?

I had it all. Wealth. Power. Influence. A beautiful wife and two loving daughters. Status in the community. What happened? How did I get here. It’s all gone. Everything destroyed in a few heartbeats. Now I’m destitute. Living in a cave with my two daughters. I can’t even bear to look at them since I found out that they are both carrying my sons?!? How did that happen? I’m so confused. Maybe we should back up.

I have always had a close relationship with my uncle. He’s really been more of a dad to me, especially since my father died. When he announced that he was moving away because of a vision he had received, it didn’t take me long to sign up. It sounded like a great adventure…going, we knew not where, to follow God. And He promised Uncle Abe some amazing things…lots of real estate, lots of kids, something about blessing. And I was going to be a part of it. Really cool stuff.

When we finally arrived in the land that would one day be ours, there was a famine, so we decided to head down to Egypt. Very questionable move. When we left, our pockets were a lot fatter, and we had an abundance of livestock and slaves who came with us; but Uncle Abe and Aunt Sarai weren’t talking. Not sure what happened, but I know they were split up for a time while we were there. Anyway, when we returned to the land, there wasn’t room for Uncle Abe and I to keep our possessions together. He gave me the option of choosing the region that I wanted. What an uncle! There really wasn’t much of a decision to make from a shepherding perspective…the valley of Sodom was so much more lush and well-watered than the remainder of the land. I hesitated only because I didn’t know if I should leave Uncle Abe with the leftovers, but I did. And things went down hill from there.

Sodom was a booming town, and I was making a killing off of selling livestock. It didn’t take long until I moved the headquarters of the operation into the city. Not long afterwards, I got caught up in the civil war that had ravaged the area and found myself in captivity. But Uncle Abe came to the rescue. What an uncle! You would have thought I would have learned my lesson and moved back with him, but I settled back into Sodom. Elections were coming, and I had a good chance (especially after Abe’s rescue) of being elected to city council. Think of the doors that would open. And it did.

The beginning of the end. Two men came to town. They wanted to stay in the city square, but I heard rumors about what happens to visitors who stay out in the open. I couldn’t let that happen on my watch. I invited the guys in and literally all hell broke loose. They began talking about judgment and fire coming down and the end of life as we knew it. I was to uproot my family and convince my daughters’ fiancées to escape with us. It all happened so fast. And then we were running for our lives. The smell of burning sulfur was in the air. The anguished cries of the dying. And then my wife stopped running, and slowly turned around. And then she was gone…turned into a pillar of salt. I was in shock when my daughters and I finally made it to the cave in the mountains which has now become our home. When my eldest daughter suggested that I have some wine, I readily agreed. Oddly enough, the next night my younger daughter suggested the same thing. Apparently they had conspired together in an attempt to preserve our family line…

Now it feels like my life is over. I can’t help but think about what could have been. I would trade it all to go back. The wealth. The power. The status. I thought there would be more time. More time to impact my community for the LORD. More time to spend with my wife. Time to see my grandkids grow up. And now that time is gone.

What about you? How are you spending your time? Don’t waste your life like I did.

Your friend, Lot. Until next time…stay salty.