Week 25 (June)
I remember a visit some years ago with Piera, a former Italian Christian. She said to me, with a sophisticated air, "When I was young I was really active in the church youth group at Florence. But I'm beyond all that now."
Obviously, Piera had not left the Kingdom to catch up with the world, but had rather slid back into its traps.
Of, course the world does often view us as "backward." And once in a while we have warned each other about the dangers of "trying to keep up with the world."
But the truth is, the world has not caught up with the ideals and requirements of the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount.
In Matthew 5, Jesus reminds us that God's values are often the reverse of those held by the world. The verses call forth so clearly the kind of life-style Jesus expects of His followers. Reward abound to those who exhibit Beatitude characteristics.
Matthew 5 has been called "the Constitution of Christ's Kingdom."
Here we are shown how we can have the privilege not only of being in Christ's kingdom but also of reigning with Him -- a privilege human beings lost through disobedience. We are, of course, created to reign with Christ. But Adam, sought to rule in how own way and thus became a slave. There in the Garden of Eden, the human race did indeed fall, not rise, as Piera would have us believe.
What direct application does this Bible passage have to my life today? First it reminds me of some attitudes and actions that are just as important as the principles found in the Ten Commandments.
How does my life measure up to the Kingdom standards of meekness, humility, mercy, peacemaking, and the longing to be filled with righteousness? Is my life-style truly a "beatitude life-style"?
Occasionally, we have facetiously heard that the third work of grace is being "petrified." That is just not so. We can be saved and sanctified and still have lots of room to grow in the measure of Beatitudes.
One of the joys of discipling new Christians is watching them take giant forward leaps in spiritual maturity. That kind of progress is less visible -- and, unfortunately, even sometimes non-existent -- in the lives of Christians who have been in the faith awhile.
We are challenged to fear "spiritual petrification" almost as must as outright sin itself. We are committed to let the Holy Spirit use Matthew 5 to help us formulate and, with His power, carry out some self-improvement plans designed to make us better citizens of Christ's Kingdom.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matthew 5:6).
I wrote these devotional thoughts while we were missionaries in Italy. They originally appeared in the June 22, 1980 edition of Standard, a take-home piece for adult Sunday school classes.
Howard Culbertson, 5901 NW 81st, Oklahoma City, OK 73132
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