The beatitudes constitute a whole garden of heart attitudes that are awakened within the believer at the new birth. Even before we “feel” or consciously and naturally express those heart attitudes, the work must begin immediately to care for and nurture those tender, immature plants. Before we receive a revelation of eternity, we must begin to mourn. Before we fully understand the aspects of independence and pride that drive us to react to the people and situations that irritate and wound us, we must work to learn meekness. Before we yearn and long for holiness, we must still live holy before the Lord in full obedience. Obviously, we will fail miserably early and often in this pursuit.
Not only are the beatitudes a simultaneous reality that we must grow and cultivate, but they also constitute the natural progression of our hearts before God as we journey from immaturity to maturity. Cultivating each successfully through the grace and power of the Holy Spirit makes it much easier in many ways to lay hold of the next one in the progression. A true revelation of our spiritual poverty and great need naturally can lead us to mourn deeply for the absence of God in our lives and homes. We are humbled in the process; thus we stand before God broken, weak, and truly dependent as a result. If the “plants” of spiritual poverty and mourning are healthy realities in our hearts, it doesn’t take as much work to be meek before God and man.
Then, along the way, we grow in our desires for the things of heaven. Supernatural longings lay hold of our hearts and we grow in thirst for the establishment of righteousness. Not only are we continually mourning the lack, but we now have a corresponding thirst for the fullness of God. Desire for righteousness and the things of God do not necessarily translate immediately into success in living obediently and diligently on a daily basis, however. Even now, the sting of failures past chasten us and check our prideful, self-congratulatory tendencies, as if the Beatitudes could be reduced to a kind of spiritual “checklist” to be accomplished on the way to glory.
The limp that we walk in as we begin to emerge with authentic, Christlike maturity then serves as a continual reminder of our spiritual poverty. Rather than exult in our current success as a mature believer, the failures and glories of our journey to this phase in our development help make our hearts tender towards the Lord. We become thankful and filled with gratitude for His faithfulness and continual work in our lives. Chastened but bold, we are growing in our courage to go before Him in prayer and supplication to ask for more grace. As our hearts become more tender, our inner man becomes more alive, and we in turn become more responsive to His voice and His leadership in our lives. We are becoming authentically prophetic in the process of becoming a true man and woman of prayer.
This is a glorious reality to embrace as a believer who endeavors to know the Living God. In the journey we find ourselves continually impacted in a new way by the scriptures we read, the messages we hear, and the prayers we pray. The thoughts we think are different. The emotions we feel are being transformed. Through the first four beatitudes our heart has been pierced, it has ached, it has yearned, and it has grown stronger in our internal resolve to lay hold of the heart of Jesus. Jesus spoke of this reality as the “flowing heart” - as He said in John 7:38: “…out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” What you sow in your heart, you will reap magnificently in regards to the abundant activity of the Holy Spirit in the area of your emotions.
This is critical for the next heart attitude that Jesus is jealous to see “flow” out of a living reality that abides within us. Jesus is jealous for us to be a truly merciful people. He was speaking about something wholly different than pity, but He was speaking about something a bit deeper than compassion as well. There are elements of compassion, or a deep identification with the suffering and trial of others, that will be dynamically connected to the one who becomes merciful. More than identification, however, is delight. God longs for His people to participate in His deep delight and enjoyment of people. This does not happen quickly, naturally, or easily.
We can only love and enjoy people to the measure that we feel loved and enjoyed by God Himself. As His love and passion for us settles the storm that rages within us related to our true identity and confidence, we become increasingly free-hearted. The wounds and failures have tempered us. The love and tenderness of God have softened us. We begin, over time, to truly believe that God finds us “lovely” in the darkness and immaturity of our present unrenewed and carnal condition. We actual feel and experience His delight in our desire to reach for Him and live holy lives even before we are able to find a measure of “success” in the place of obedience. That we would desire to be obedient and loyal to Him is as enjoyable to God as it would be for us to hear our own children express such desires.
That our children would truly and sincerely want to be obedient would fill our hearts with joy and satisfaction. Even if, in their inexperience, youthful zeal and idealism, and sinful condition assure them of failing at what they have set their hearts to do, we still are delighted that they are trying. Because they are sincere, we will fight for them and exhaust our resources to help them succeed and learn to obey and live faithfully to what is right and good. Comparatively, God calls our attempts to give good things to our children “evil” compared to the perfect love and leadership that flows from His heart towards us as a passionate Father. We cannot fathom the transcendent depths and heights of the vast ocean of God’s love and delight for us as we strive to obey His commands in the name of love.
This revelation changes everything. Our identity shifts dramatically from what we can produce for God through our labors, titles, and positions in the body of Christ, to who we can be and become in Him by grace. Our identity and confidence begin to flow from His abundant love and tenderness towards us as we grow in Him. Self-importance, competitiveness, and ambition begin to fade. True confidence, boldness, and deep resolve to be great in His sight begin to ignite within us.
Then, the most astonishing thing begins to happen - and quite naturally (and quite supernaturally as well). As we become tender towards God in faith we become tender towards others. As we enjoy God (and feel enjoyed by Him) we begin to enjoy people. Rather than seeing people through the lens of what they can give or take away from us, we begin to evaluate them on an entirely different set of values. We do not judge them by their success or failure. We are not annoyed by their weakness and shortcomings, but neither are we awed by their accomplishments and abilities. We enjoy them for who they are. We become thankful for them. We begin to see them in the same manner that God does. We begin to evaluate them in the same manner that King David did. This is what he said:
“As for the saints who are on the earth, ‘They are the excellent ones in whom is all my delight.’” (Ps. 16:3) King David had a bonfire ignited in his heart for people - for believers who loved God as he did. He saw them as excellent comrades, not as resources to help him accomplish his goals. He needed them to build a successful kingdom, but those kinds of considerations ran a distant second to their true identity and value as fellow pilgrims on a journey. Their journey and the reach of their heart for God was as endearing to him as it it was for God. David began to delight in the sincere reach of the heart by an immature believer. He began to grow in his delight, respect, esteem, and desire to fight for them to give his resource to help them succeed at their pursuit. He became a true father for authentic “sons” who responded passionately to the invitation of the Lord.
This is our journey as well. The limp of past failures and the cultivation of a tender heart both work together to make us truly and authentically merciful. we don’t just “show” mercy, we become merciful. The heart reality and posture of our lives exudes and expresses mercy. To love God is to love people. To enjoy God is to enjoy people. As we make the first commandment (to love God) our top priority the second (to love people) will be natural and easy. True love will flow out of the depths of our heart and we will be compelled by what is burning within us to serve. The one who becomes merciful will do even more than serve, however.
They will lay down their life for a friend.
5 comments February 21st, 2007