“And seeing the multitudes, [Jesus] went up on a mountain, and when He was seated, His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying…” (Mathew 5:1,2).
The Sermon on the Mount, as it is commonly known, begins with what some people refer to as The Beatitudes: “Blessed are…”. What follows is a kind of Kingdom Manifesto, some foundational truths that will help us to better understand what life is like in this Kingdom of God.
The Scriptures clearly teach that the saints will rule and reign with Christ, yet nowhere in the Bible do we find instructions on how to rule the nations or how to conquer the world. We find out instead how a disciple is to rule his own heart and conquer his own natural instinct by denying Self and taking up the Cross daily to follow Him. Only then will it be possible to sit with Christ in His throne and rule the nations (cf. Revelation 3:21).
Although it will cover the earth, this Kingdom does not begin with global domination. It begins inwardly, invisibly, and secretly within the hearts and minds of individual disciples. Jesus will not move at once to seize the world. Instead, He will train men and women to function is His Kingdom as kings and priests. He is involving them in the process, preparing them, taking them out of the world one by one, and transforming them into His likeness over the process of time.
Where does it all begin? It begins with the heart-attitude of a king-in-training, the mindset of an apprenticed disciple. It is a training program designed to produce a different sort of king and priest, quite a contrast to the “kings of this world”, and like all Kingdom conundrums, it reveals how differently Heaven operates from Earth.
Let us look at each characteristic individually and then ask: how far along are we in our Kingdom training?
1. SPIRITUAL POVERTY: THE DECREASE OF SELF
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
This spiritual poverty is the result of recognizing that apart from Him we can do nothing. It is a willingness to be broken and reduced to spiritual bankruptcy, which implies not only losing everything we once enjoyed but also making a fresh start with a clean slate and all our debts erased. It is the Second Universal Spiritual Principle, which states: “I must decrease” (John 3:30b).
This decreasing, or as I like to say, this reducing to Christ, is the first requirement. If we are unwilling to be emptied then we cannot have the riches of the Kingdom of Heaven. We will be like the Laodicean church, who said they were “rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing” yet in God’s sight they were poor, blind, naked, and miserable (cf. Revelation 3:17). So the Kingdom belongs to those who readily admit right from the beginning that “a man can have nothing unless he receives it from heaven” (John 3:27).
2. REPENTANCE: GODLY SORROW
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
What are they mourning over? One definition says this kind of mourning means to grieve over your own sins and the sins of others. This godly sorrow leads to repentance and a desire to see others brought into a right relationship with God.
Those who cry out in anguish over the evil they see taking place around them are the ones God is looking for as potential kings and priests in His Kingdom. A person who mourns is a person who sees and a person who cares. They will be comforted, and they will be able to comfort others with the same comfort they have received.
3. MEEKNESS: THE ABSENCE OF SELF
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).
The idea of the meek inheriting the earth is found throughout the Book of Psalms. When someone is poor in spirit and mourns over his own sins and the sins of others, pride and arrogance are eliminated. A person who knows he is no better than the rest will not be easily lifted up above his brothers and sisters. But this meekness does not imply lack of power, or spineless passivity. It is power, but it is power under the control of love and without the poison of self-interest and self-seeking. To have power, and to use that power only for the good and well-being of others, is meekness. Jesus perfectly demonstrates how power that operates through meekness cannot be quenched, whereas temporal power and people who play politics always come to a bad end.
There is no room in His Kingdom for the politics of man and all the fleshly manipulation and abuse of power of position that inevitably accompanies it. Instead, those who will inherit the earth will be broken people, meek people, people who can be trusted to inherit the earth without ruining it. This is an altogether different kind of government, the likes of which we have never seen.
4. INSATIABLE DESIRE FOR THE UNIVERSAL RULE OF CHRIST
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to have an insatiable desire and drive to see this Kingdom established, and to see Jesus having the manifest preeminence over all things. There is only one way for this hunger and thirst for righteousness to be quenched, and that is for Christ to rule and reign over the earth, for “a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom” (Hebrews 1:8). The idea of the Kingdom being inescapably linked to righteousness is introduced later by Jesus, Who says we are to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Only those who are hungry and thirsty for it will seek it.
To hunger and thirst for righteousness it is to look forward to the promise of new heavens and a new earth (cf. II Peter 3:13): to long for it, to desire it, to pine for it, to seek it, to prepare for it and to keep praying for it until it arrives. It implies that we are not content with things just the way they are, and we are not satisfied to just let things go along as they always have. We hate sin, we hate the affects of sin upon this earth, and we mourn the consequences of man’s inhumanity to man and rebellion towards God; but we have hope for a better day, a better life, a better world where Righteousness Himself is living among us. Until such time, we are hungry and thirsty for more of what we have only just begun to taste.
5. DEMONSTRATING THE MERCY OF GOD: FORGIVENESS
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
God is “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4). Entry into His Kingdom is established upon the principles of grace, mercy, and forgiveness. To live in His Kingdom is to experience the grace, mercy, and forgiveness of God on a daily basis.
The nature of the Kingdom reflects the character of its King. If this is so, how can we claim to be representatives of this Kingdom of Love and refuse to forgive as freely as we have been forgiven? If we have been forgiven by God then we have an obligation to forgive others – not for their sake, not for our sake, but for the sake of the Kingdom. It would be inconceivable to claim to be a king and priest of a Kingdom based on forgiveness of sins and, at the same time, allow unforgiveness and bitterness to remain in our personal life. It will be difficult for people to believe God can forgive them if His own people are unable or unwilling to forgive one another.
A brother who struggled to forgive finally came to the understanding that his actions were not accurately reflecting the Kingdom and the King he claimed to represent. When he came to this knowledge he was able to release those who had hurt him in the past and show them mercy. Experiencing a new freedom and release, he wrote:
Now I know where the joy of our salvation comes from. It comes from the knowledge that God is not holding my sins against me, and I am not holding anyone else’s sins against them. This is a small taste of what it means to live in a Kingdom where everything is fresh, where His mercies are new each morning.
According to Vines, “Mercy is the outward manifestation of pity; it assumes need on the part of him who receives it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of him who shows it.” Ideally, forgiveness is based on repentance; but whether or not a person repents and asks for forgiveness, they are still in need of mercy (even if they do not deserve it). If nothing else, we can pray that a merciful God will open their eyes and show them their true condition. The question is not whether or not someone deserves mercy, but whether or not they need mercy, and whether or not my spiritual life is rich enough to extend it to them.
6. HEART-DEVOTION TO THE ONE THING THAT IS NEEDED
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8).
A pure heart is an undivided, undistracted heart that is devoted to one thing. It is the heart of Mary, who sat at the feet of Jesus and heard His Word, even while Martha was demanding her to come help in the kitchen. Jesus said that Mary had discovered the One Thing that is needed (cf. Luke 10:42).
Singleness of purpose and purity of heart are required of kings and priests. This is why satan desires to lead us astray from the simplicity of Christ (cf. II Corinthians 11:3). The opposite of simplicity is complexity, and when a disciple forsakes the One Thing to follow “another Gospel” then they are not ready to be a king and priest in a Kingdom where Christ receives all the attention. The pure in heart will see God, and others can see God reflected through that purity and simplicity.
7. AGENTS OF GRACE AND PEACE
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).
Notice the difference between a peace maker and a peace keeper. A peacekeeper is charged with enforcing the law and punishing those who break it. This has been the usual and customary duty of religion for centuries, but it is beyond the scope of kings and priests in the Kingdom of God. Thankfully, we are not called to keep the peace, or enforce the law – the King of Kings has that responsibility.
Peacemakers are simply agents of grace, showing people the way to the Prince of Peace. Peacemakers are ambassadors sent to represent the King and His Kingdom. What is the message? It is the message of reconciliation, the message that all is forgiven, the message of hope, and love, and grace, and a thousand other good things (see II Corinthians 5:17-21). It is the most awe-inspiring mission a human being could ever have: to represent Heaven in the midst of Hell; Light in the midst of Darkness; Liberty in the midst of Bondage; to proclaim the preeminence and Lordship of Jesus when we do not yet see all thing submitted to Him (cf. Hebrews 2:8). And to do all this in a way that does not drive people away or turn them off, but causes them to fall in love with Him and make their peace with Him – not through forced submission, manipulation, or fear – but willingly, gladly.
8. HURT, BRUISED, AND PERSECUTED
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:10).
It seems hardly fair that a king and priest in this wonderful Kingdom of God should suffer at all for simply carrying out the Will of their King and faithfully representing His Kingdom. Yet we must remember that the King of Kings Himself was despised, rejected, and crucified; so it follows that “all those who will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (II Timothy 3:12). Persecution should come as no surprise to those who seek first the Kingdom of God, because that kind of single-hearted pursuit for things Above will only antagonize those earthly-minded folk who cannot comprehend that level of Righteousness where Jesus is really All and Everything.
Persecution for the sake of that all-encompassing Righteousness, that universal dominion of Christ on His Throne, is the best proof we could possibly give that we really are kings and priests. The depth of our sufferings reveals the depth of our relationship with God, and if our suffering is light then our relationship is certainly shallow. When we can take up the Cross daily and follow after Christ then the centurions of this world will be able to look at us and say, “Surely this person is a son or daughter of God. Not only do they represent Him with their life, they represent Him with their death.”
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Lord, You have shown us how differently Your Kingdom is from the kingdoms of this world. You call us kings and priests, but in outward appearance we are children in need of training. We are unfit to rule and reign with you as we are now. We have sinned against Heaven and against You and are no longer worthy to be called sons and daughters, much less kings and priests Forgive us, Lord. Conform us to the image of Christ and show us how to rule and reign over our own selves. Let Jesus be increased and let us be decreased. Let your Kingdom be enlarged and expanded, beginning with each disciple, then with the Church, and then with all Creation. Apart from You we can do nothing; but with You we can do all things. Let it be done for Your Kingdom and Power and Glory and not for us. Amen.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon