So I have been reading Willard. He is wrong. He rewrites the sermon on the mount so we do not have to face our sin and poorness in spirit. He rewrites the sermon. He should call us to press on hard towards the goal, but he takes the hard teaching of Jesus and makes it a kingdom that comes even to fat people. He should stick with the message of Jesus and teach that the kingdom comes to those who are poor in spirit.
So for all you emerging people that are interested in a conversation...Lets get on started and be driven back to the source of all truth. The Word of God and Christ!
I can see how it is tempting to make the sermon refer to simple the availability of the kingdom. No one likes to face their poverty. I don't like to see how fall short I fall of being a kingdom person. This is a searching and convicting sermon from our Lord. It cuts right to the core of my being. It exposes me as being sinful. If I could avoid the impact of this on my life, I would. If I could escape the conviction, I would try. But it is by being broken over our sin, that we are blessed.
I would like to read the sermon on the mount and think that Jesus is saying
"Blessed are the physically repulsive
Blessed are those who smell bad
The twisted, misshapen, deformed,
The too big, too little, too loud,
The bald, the fat, the old"
But Jesus has more important thing to do than play doctor Phil. He had more important things to teach on that ugly people being in the kingdom. He is not simply teaching on physical things, he is teaching us what life in the kingdom looks like. If the only thing in the way of me and the kingdom of heaven was 20 pounds, that would be great.
It's odd that we would see Jesus call us to repent in Matthew 3:17 because the kingdom is at hand and then launch into teaching that smelly people who have fat bald heads can be in the kingdom. And don't get me wrong, the kingdom will be full of all sorts of people who do not meet worldly standards.
But we have a much deeper problem than not having worldly wealth. I have offended a holy God and that offense goes far past being fat. It goes far past not having any money in my bank account. It is not because I am bald or old.
My offense is that I have not lived up to his standard.
That is why He starts off by calling us to repent. He says in Matthew 3:17 "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." He calls us to a higher standard. He calls us to holiness. He calls us to blessing. Jesus is about to teach on what the life of a kingdom person looks like.
The first thing we will see is our poverty. We will see that we cannot live the way He calls us to. Spurgeon is so wise when he comments that Jesus did not start with "Blessed are the rich in grace." Jesus starts where the law leaves off. The best the law can ever do for us is show us our spiritual poverty.
But let us assume for a moment that Jesus is teaching that all sorts of people can be in the kingdom...Let's see how well each of the beatitudes holds up.
Poor in Spirit. Ok. I can see that. The kingdom comes to the spiritual zeros. That is a Biblical teaching. We come with nothing to offer. So far I'm on board.
Mourn...If it is simply mourning as in being sad that bad things have happened, it breaks apart. Look at 2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. Here we see that worldly grief dose nothing for us. So while there are people in the world that mourn, if it is not godly sorrow and grief, it will produce death.
Meek. We see in scripture that this is a call to do something. Look at Ephesians 4:1-21I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love. And we see the same thing in Colossians 3:12 when we are told to Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,
Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness... These are not people of the world. These are kingdom people. This is not physical hunger. This is not physical thirst. This is a deep longing for Christ. Look at what Paul says in Philippians 3:12-1412 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. He presses on. He keeps going. He has a hunger for righteousness. Who outside the kingdom hungers for these things?
Merciful...Mercy is acting and taking care of others. God is the source of mercy. Daniel 9:9 tells us that 9To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him. And the idea that even the people who show mercy can be in the kingdom...Its non-sense. Look at what God tells us about those who do not show mercy. Romans 1:29-31 says 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. So ask yourself...Dose the kingdom come to people who dont show mercy?
The pure in heart. This goes right back in the Pharisees. The pharisees could not keep the law of Moses so they made new laws they could keep. There will always be people trying to earn their way into heaven. Even the pharisees would have know Gods standard. Psalm 51:6 says that Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. God wants us to have a pure heart. How can we be pure in heart? Proverbs 20:9 9 Who can say, "I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin"? Job ask Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is only one person who can do that. That is the Lord Jesus Christ. That is a blessing that he gives us because we are person in the kingdom. We are also told that the pure in heart will see God. Not some of the pure in heart who get into the kingdom, but the pure in heart will see God. And were do we find these people? In the kingdom.
Peacemakers. All you have to do is read the text and you are able to refute the absurd idea that Jesus is teaching who can be in the kingdom. In 5:9 He says that "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Notice that he says they shall. They shall be called Sons of God. Who is the kingdom for? Sons or God? Or son of the Devil? Peacemakers will be in the kingdom and will be called Sons of God. He is not talking about worldly peacemakers. He is talking about true lasting peace. James 3:17 says But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. You cant be a peacemaker unless you first deal with sin. And only the people under Gods rule can bring peace. God is the true author of peace. 1 Corinthians 14:33
Persecuted for righteousness' sake. This is another hard one to get around. Who is going to be persecuted? The people living a Godly life. It is the same people who are living in blessing. The more we live for Christ, the more the world will hate us. If you do not have the inner attitude of the above beatitudes, you will not be able to be blessed in persecution. Unless we see ourselves poor in spirit, we will want to fight back when persecuted.
Revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. There is only one type of person that this can be talking about. Only one. It is a person who is in the kingdom. It is a person who is persecuted because of the King. If we have a King, we are in the Kingdom. I dont know how to read this verse any other way. God is clear about what our reward is. It is the kingdom.
So yea...I see these and see my brokenness. I see how fall short of the standard I fall. But I would not change them. I would not try and make them say things they do not. God has a perfect standard. He dose not change. He calls us to life in the kingdom. He shows us what kingdom living looks like. And we cannot meet the standard. But the glory of God is that He dose not lower his standard. He send Christ and calls me to that perfection