This Changes Everything.
God blesses those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and justice, for they will be satisfied. God blesses those who are merciful, for they will receive mercy. God blesses the pure in heart, for they will see God. God blesses the peacemakers — those who work for peace — for they will be called the children of God. — Jesus of Nazareth
In Matthew 5, Jesus begins to show us how his kingdom works. Right in the middle of what we call the Beatitudes, he makes these four pronouncements. As I look at the current state of our culture, I hear the Spirit pulling us back to the core of what sets us — citizens of Christ’s kingdom — apart.
When you feel the lack of right-ness in yourself and your world, when you reach out for and seek after shalom, justice, the putting-right of all things both internally and in the world around you, God blesses you. He promises that you will have what you long for because that’s what’s on his heart as well. Since the very beginning, God has been telling us that a new heavens and a new earth are coming, when heaven fully comes to earth, when the cosmos and Jesus’ bride will be resurrected. In that day all will be made right, nothing broken, nothing missing. Through Christ, however, heaven has been rent open and the Age to Come has begun to spread in the here-and-now. Therefore we can also have a foretaste today of the righteousness and justice of eternity future.
When you are merciful, yes to other human beings, but also to yourself, you mirror how God treats us. He does not treat us as our sins deserve, but he is rich in mercy and kindness. He is slooooow to anger and eager, so very eager, to be kind to all. He works tirelessly — literally — to make it possible for all people to encounter his goodness and covenantal love. When you assume the best about others, when you overlook an offense, when you give yourself a break instead of beating yourself up, God blesses you there. You are sowing mercy and you will reap mercy as a result. So be merciful even as your heavenly Father is merciful.
When you are pure in heart, you see God. This can be a tough one for a lot of us, as we can read it as something like, “When you are completely sinless and perfectly resist all temptation, then and only then will you finally see God.” Be honest, now, that’s probably what you thought or at least felt. :-) Hear me, though: be honest with yourself. For that is a huge key to understanding this statement of Jesus. When we examine the root of the word translated as, “pure in heart,” it carries the idea of an undivided heart. A heart which is not at war with itself, which does not split affection between God and this world, a heart which is committed. It’s also a picture of honesty. This is why we don’t condemn the Psalmists when they cry out in anguish and anger. That’s purity of heart! And yes, when we look ourselves full-on without stuffing away anything, it enables us to partner with the Holy Spirit and grow in sanctification. You can’t repent of a sin that you refuse to acknowledge. You can’t be healed of something that you refuse to look at. When we press into God with undivided hearts we find peace, perspective, and we grow in Christlikeness. Character is hugely important and is one of the many things which sets us apart, yet it all starts here: honesty with ourselves and honesty with God. You’ll see him at work in you and around you.
God blesses the peacemakers. It’s when we work for peace that others around us realize that we’re God’s kids. Isn’t this what we all long for? For the lost and broken to suddenly realize that God is real, and that the Jesus we follow is the one true and living way? It’s interesting to me that this statement follows the pure in heart declaration. When we are honest with ourselves and God, we give our hearts to him, we essentially are making peace with God and with ourselves. The natural outgrowth of that is that we then make peace with others around us and we enable other people to make peace between themselves. It starts with internal peace — through Christ we’re at peace with God, and through the indwelt Holy Spirit we can be in a state of internal peace as well — which lets us show others the way. This absolutely has real world implications. It must, in fact, mean that when we literally make peace, God blesses us. Find ways to end conflict. Look for ways to love people with whom you disagree. Find ways (and pray) for wars to end. We must remember that political divides do not exist in the Kingdom of God because we ultimately have only one King. This should enable us to make peace with our brothers and sisters and to show the world how to have peace. Fight for the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
A Call to Action
This is our stance, our internal posture, our cause for action:
- To long for the world to be made right. To remember that there is an Age to Come for which we long, and that Jesus has brought and is bringing that Age to Come, that Kingdom to our broken world.
- To be kind, merciful, loving, generous, and great-hearted to ourselves and to all those around us, thereby demonstrating the kindness of the God we follow. Let your speech be seasoned with salt. Suffer yourself to be defrauded. Love your enemies.
- To come to grips with ourselves so that our hearts are fully devoted to God. To pour out our hearts like water before the Lord, to give him our anxieties, our anger, and everything which taints our relationships with others. To seek personal holiness and co-labor with the Holy Spirit inside us to become more Christlike. To remember that we may have a log in our eye before we go after the speck in someone else’s eye.
- To work for peace. Both internal peace and external peace. To, within the body of Christ, fight for the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. And to dream up new ways to show the world that we are the peacemakers, and this is what Jesus looks like. This is how Yahweh acts: he never stops pushing to make a way for reconciliation. We’re his ambassadors, after all. Put aside divisions and call others to Jesus. It’s around Jesus that we gather. It’s Christ alone which unifies us, through the Holy Spirit which lives inside all of God’s people.
The result of that call to action? We will be satisfied, we will receive mercy, we will see God, and so will the world around us. And this, people of God, this changes everything.
P.S. If, after reading this, you’re still feeling anxious or out of sorts, remember Philippians 4:6–7: “Don’t worry about anything. Rather, in every area of life let God know what you want, as you pray and make requests, and give thanks as well. And God’s peace, which is greater than we can ever understand, will keep guard over your hearts and minds in King Jesus.” I’d also encourage you to read an article I wrote called “Unreasonable Peace,” which can be found here >>
P.P.S. If you’re curious what translation was used for the scripture passage at the top, it’s a combination of the LEB, NRSV, ESV, NLT, and NTE translations.
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This commment is unpublished.· 18 days agoThank you so much for this profound article. Your words are full of insight and impact! You are a treasure and your writing it’s a precious gift!
This commment is unpublished.· 5 months agoLoved this message. It's all about Unity in the bond of peace.(Ephesians 4:3) Even the five fold ministry is about Unity. Patricia King has a message called fullness of Christ and she says"the 5 fold minstry will bring the body of Christ into fullness". God's Word is amazing. Just knowing that He will guard our HEARTS and MINDS in Jesus is beyond anything I could ask. Then again He does do exceedenly and abundantly above all we ask or think.Thanks for the reminder of our hearts being like water and pouring out everything just knowing as we pour out He pours in and we get to receive all He has promised us. Have a Blessed Holiday Season this year and may your New Year be filled with lots of worship, answered prayers, expectations , getting closer to Jesus than last year.
This commment is unpublished.· 6 months ago@angela evans Hi Angela!Wow, thank you so much! My heart just grew a few sizes when I read your comment. :-)
This commment is unpublished.· 6 months agoJoseph Cotton: your words are as smooth as your name. Gentle and healing...thank you.
This commment is unpublished.· 6 months ago@Kathy Cronheimer Wow, I think you’re right, Kathy. It never grows old; there’s something to what you said which makes me think of new life. It’s as if the Holy Spirit within us is constantly bringing us back to resurrection. The more we’re surrounded by death and disorder, the more we need to plug back into the life of God.
This commment is unpublished.· 6 months agoLove this - "To come to grips with ourselves so that our hearts are fully devoted to God. To pour out our hearts like water before the Lord...."I expect this is something that never grows old as our hearts are constantly under attack in the world we live in and our Christian perspective must be renewed if we have any hope of Christ likeness and abiding in Him for the sake of our communities.
This commment is unpublished.· 6 months ago@Josie Surgenor Wow, thank you, Josie. I’m sure I speak for everyone here in the USA when I say “we need the prayer!”
This commment is unpublished.· 6 months ago@Susan Dolliver I love this, Susan. “Don’t compromise out of fear.” That’s such a good word.
This commment is unpublished.· 6 months ago@bill beran Amen, Bill. That’s a good word!
This commment is unpublished.· 6 months agoThis the gospel in a nutshell. I really liked the idea of making peace with God. He doesn't want peace at any price, in other words, don't compromise out of fear. Peace with Him in trusting obedience comes before real proactive peace with neighbor.
This commment is unpublished.· 6 months agoThank you Joseph.AS I am here praying for my own nation so I pray too for the USA in these troubled times. The Lord bless you.
This commment is unpublished.· 6 months agoThanks for pointing us back to our true purpose, expressing Christ in the earth. If it was ever needed in the body of Christ, it is certainly more so now. The raging tumult over political outcomes needs to give way to the timeless truth's of Jesus gospel.
This commment is unpublished.· 6 months ago@Steve Jacks Very cool, Steve. I am encouraged to see more people echoing this refrain as well. When the world gets tumultuous, Jesus is more clearly seen as the rock. :-)
This commment is unpublished.· 6 months ago@Donna Nickerson Wow, Donna, what a blessing this is to hear! And my goodness, I love the picture of words being like wood added to the blazing fire of God in our midst. Come, Holy Spirit, and fan that flame!
This commment is unpublished.· 6 months agoAwesome and timely for the entire Body of Christ. I and those around me are saying many of the same thing. You just articulated it much better.Walking together with JesusSteve
This commment is unpublished.· 6 months agoWow Joseph - I'd thought your blog post "For the Sake of the Elect(ion)" and your comments there were powerfully healing... and now this! I believe you're in full stride with our Lord, brother! Thank you for your words that are like wood added to the blazing fire of God in our midst as we choose to love. His light shines bright!