Sunday I gave an outline in the message for a way to interpret and understand the Beatitudes from the Gospel of Matthew. The outline is from Life’s Healing Choices that will be used by our Celebrate Recovery ministry when it begins at the Cove in January. The reality is there are eight “bases” we all need to touch as we run through life. Make sure you don’t miss any!
Realize that you are not God.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit….”
Earnestly believe that God exists and that He cares for you.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Consciously choose to commit your life to Christ’s control.
“Blessed are the meek….”
Openly examine and confess your sins and faults.
“Blessed are the pure in heart….”
Voluntarily submit to God-driven change.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…”
Evaluate all of your relationships.
“Blessed are the merciful….”
Reflect daily on your relationship with God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”
Yield yourself to God to become an instrument of sharing the Good News.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake…”
While this is an outline used to help us in recovery, there is another eight-letter word that we also see at work here. It is the word “disciple.” This is a path to healing… but also a path to discipleship. Where ever we find ourselves, there is something here to help us in drawing near to God!
For more information or to view the message, visit our website at fruitcove.com/sermons
Though we don’t know exactly what it was, the Apostle Paul struggled with what he called his “thorn in the flesh.” It was a persistent, nagging, unrelenting pain. We are never told what it was, so all we can do is speculate.
Whatever it was, he referred to it as “the messenger of Satan sent to buffet me….” While the devil was the source, God’s will for Paul permitted this pain to visit his life, and caused him to cry out to God for it to cease.
But God did not give Paul his request. Instead, He gave Paul an unusual measure of His grace to sustain him. “My grace is sufficient for you…” God said to the great apostle.
Pain is not random in the child of God’s life. Clearly, God had a plan and a reason for this pain to remain with Paul. Paul’s interpretation of it was that it had come to bring him humility.
Some of us today are struggling with a “thorn:” a persistent, painful circumstance in our mind, body, family or circumstance. And the fact that God will not remove it is not an admission that God is weak or our prayers ineffective.
God heard Paul the three times (sometimes I’m confident there were more) that he cried out for mercy. And he received mercy, though not in the way he had asked. Instead of relief, he got strength to endure. Instead of a painless life, he received one that was grace-filled to overflowing.
Instead of the pride that comes with physical wholeness and health, he received humility that made him more like Jesus.
“My strength is made perfect in your weakness…” God told Paul, and He tells us. And with His strength, we can always be content.
Last week, we discussed in this column that the call to care like Jesus involved the sacrifice of our time. You cannot truly love someone to whom you aren’t willing to “give” your time.
But caring like Jesus also means being willing to get our hands “dirty” with the hard work of serving others. Loving like Jesus means, as He did, we must be willing to walk with people in hard places: hospitals, convalescent homes, courtrooms, jail cells, and other places where human need is crying out for attention.
It also means we are willing to walk with… and let me be clear that this means IDENTIFYING with… others in their distress. I remember the first time I sat with a family in a courthouse hallway awaiting a sentencing hearing for their errant son who broke the law and got caught.
In those places, the people waiting outside in the hallway are all lumped into one to the people who walk by. I felt the disgust, the “shame on you,” the judgement, and the disdain of the “nice” people who traveled up and down the courthouse environment. The family I was with was not well dressed (and for one, not well bathed). Their hair was not beautifully coiffed, and their clothing was older and not stylish. And I realized, “They think I’m part of the people … of this family… that I’m sitting with.”
I wasn’t… really. But it was in that moment that I realized, as a person seeking to care like Jesus… that I was identified as if I myself were waiting for a hearing before the judge. And it was uncomfortable. And it was an education.
If we are going to care like Jesus, our hands will not stay clean, nor our clothes spotless. We will find ourselves being identified with people mired in sin, and sometimes that mire splashes onto us.
Squeamish people cannot care like Jesus. We cannot follow One Who became “at all points like as we are, yet without sin” without being identified with the hurting for whom we are caring.
The world will not be won to faith in Christ by people determined to “keep their distance” and never walk with people into the raw pain of their world. We must “keep ourselves unspotted from the world” of course. But that doesn’t mean we keep ourselves apart from a sinful world.
We must bring the presence of Jesus, living within us, into that brokenness. And sometimes that’s hard, and distasteful, and dirty. But if that’s what it means to care like Jesus, then that is what we must do.
I thought about the verse that says, “He was numbered among the transgressors” as I sat in the Jefferson County, Kentucky courthouse that day long ago.
And I knew that it was a price I was willing to pay to follow My Lord.
“Jesus loves me, this I know.” Well, how exactly do we “know” that Jesus loves us? If you are familiar with the Bible and the Christian faith, you will answer, “by what He did.” And you would be correct.
Christian love is about more than “feeling” in love. We are called to love people all the time for whom we have no particularly “loving” feelings. So Christian love may or may not involve the engagement of loving emotion.
Yet, we are also called to love…and care…for people as Jesus did. It must be true of us as well that our feelings must be laid aside in favor of our actions toward others. And if we sit and wait for our feelings to give us direction, we will never get around to the hard work of “doing” love.
One of the most difficult and yet most important ways our love flows out is in the sacrifice of “our time.” We must remind ourselves that, when we came to Christ, everything about us became His property. We willingly signed it over with all the “bad” stuff in our lives. He owns it all. “You are not your own, you have been bought with a price.”
Therefore one of the highest prices we will pay
for Christian discipleship and learning to care like Jesus is the willing sacrifice of time. It takes time to invest in others in discipleship, and it takes time to step into the pain of other people and it takes time to stop and pray with a hurting person. Jesus didn’t just give His life when He came, He gave His time.
And if we are going to learn to care like Jesus, the first sacrifice we will make is the right to claim time as “ours.” Give it to Him. He knows how to make better use of “our” time than we do!