If we closely look at the beatitudes as found in Matthew chapter five, we can see eight steps in spiritual growth.
1. "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." This is coming to the end of self and giving our life to Jesus as Lord.
2. "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted." This is crying out to God for emotional healing.
3. "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth." This is learning to submit to the authority which God has set over us.
4. "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." This is being motivated to do right.
5. "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy." This is a positive change of attitude toward others.
6. "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." This is a inward change by bringing every thought captive.
7. "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." This is bringing peace to others or witnessing.
8. "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." This is learning to endure.
It is important that we don't lose ground by forgetting any of the former steps, but that we press toward making each of these steps. There is a miraculous blessing attached to each of these steps to maturity.
AN IN-DEPTH STUDY:
Jesus was consciously aware that different people were on different steps. "And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him" (Matthew 5:1). Therefore, he tailored is message to all the people by addressing each one, but also challenging them to move to the next step. "And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying ...." (Matthew 5:2). We have come to know the message as the sermon on the mount. However, I desire to focus our attention to the beatitudes. Each of the beatitudes begin with the word "blessed." It means to be happy because of God's favor.
Religion and the church sometimes teach wrongfully so that it is unspiritual to be happy. God is to be reverenced, but He enjoys blessing us. He indeed wants us to make us happy by showing us His grace. However, each steps starts with a recognition of a NEED. There are no miracles where there is no NEED for a miracle.
I. "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3).
This is the first step toward being happy. It is the bottom rung of the ladder; however, man people never reach the first step. Why? The first step is to acknowledge that we are needy. My pastor, Johnny Hendricks many years ago gave a great explanation of being poor in the spirit. There are three D's. The first D is destitution. Everything is falling apart than can fall apart. The second D is detachment from self. This means that we have come to the end of our rope and there is nothing left to hold to. The good news is just around the corner. The third D is dependence. If we will let go and depend upon God, we enter into kingdom living. Jesus came to save those who first admit that they are lost. He came to save those who understand that they are sinners, but will come to depend upon him for salvation. This is the foundational step. "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 3:11).II. "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted" (Matthew 5:4).
I grew up in a denominational church which camped on the first step, but little or nothing was said about the second step. The second step speaks of emotional healing. It is essential to get the first step down, but we should move on to the second step. "Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up" (Hosea 6:1). Jesus indeed came to save the lost; however, there are things which accompany that salvation. Where there is discomfort, there is pain. However, where there is comfort, there is healing. Jesus also came to heal the broken hearted. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord" (Luke 4:18-19). Although, I was saved at the age of nine, it was not until about thirty three years later that I learned about the healing of emotional wounds. I often work with individuals who have accumulated wound upon wound for many, many years. They need emotional healing. The promise is that they will be comforted.III. "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5.
This deals with submission to authority. The need is to have authority, but to have authority one must submit to authority. Meekness is not weakness, but strength submitted to authority. It seems that everyone wants to be their own authority. However, maturing is learning to submit to authority. "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake" (Romans 13:1-5). Even Jesus exhibited the trait of meekness. "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls" (Matthew 11:29). Look at what Peter says, "Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time" (I Peter 5:5-6). Nebuchadnezzar, the king, had to learn this lesson the hard way. (Daniel 4:1-33). However, when he submitted himself to the authority of God, God gave back his kingdom and added to it.IV. "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled" (Matthew 5:6).
Again, one must recognize the NEED to be righteous and also recognizing that we can't accomplish that in and of ourselves. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price" (Isaiah 55:1). To mature is to recognize that our righteousness comes by faith in Jesus, the Righteous one. "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (II Corinthians 5:21). We, as Believers, need to see ourselves as being make righteous. A second aspect of this is to get a clear conscience. Paul asserted, "And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men" (Acts 24:16). Paul made sure that no one could point their finger at him and say, "You have wronged me and haven't done anything to make it right." A third aspect is to learn to live a righteous life by the grace of God. "And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them" (Ezekiel 36:27). The expression "they shall be filled" speaks of being satisfied to the fullest.V. "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy" (Matthew 5:7).
As the individual continues to mature, he begins to recognize that he needs to depend the mercy of God. He sees the mercy that God has extended toward himself. Judgment is what we deserved, but we often receive God's mercy. Mercy is receiving less that what we deserve. David said, "For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell" (Psalms 86:13). Solomon wrote, "It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:22-23). The Believer then also sees that the mercy that he received is connected with the mercy which he extends to others. "With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright" (Psalms 18:25). When people hurt us the old man reacts to hurt back, but as we grow in in the spirit in Christ we come extend God's mercy toward others. This is a sign of maturing in the spirit. Furthermore, it is a blessing in return when we fail and God shows His mercy toward us. "Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble" (Psalms 41:1). When we have mercy upon the poor, God blesses us.VI. "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8).
This step toward maturity goes a bit deeper. It goes from the outside down into the inside where the thoughts originate. Look at the words of Jesus: "And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man" (Mark 7:20-23). When there is a stronghold in our thoughts, it is difficult to see God clearly. Therefore there is a need to tear down any inward strongholds of the enemy. "(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (II Corinthians 10:4-5). We can begin by asking God to show us where the strongholds are: "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts" (Psalms 139:23). See: Prayer of Discovery.VII. "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God" (Matthew 5:9).
Once we have peace within, then we can more toward having and sharing that peace with others. Jesus is our peacemaker. "For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us" (Ephesians 2:14). On the day of the resurrection when Jesus met with the disciples and showed them his hands and side, "Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you" (John 20:21). Jesus was saying that the peace offering with God had been made for you and I. However, it goes beyond that. It is peace on the inside. Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27). When Asa did what was right, commanded the people to obey God, and cast down the strongholds, then God gave him peace both within and without his borders for ten years. (II Chronicles 14:7). See: Taking A Spoil. Once we have peace within, we are free to share the good news of peace with others. "And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace" (Ephesians 6:15). All too many Believers are still fighting with flesh and blood rather than sharing the gospel of peace. When we come to share the gospel of peace, others begin to recognize and call us children of God.VIII. "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you" (Matthew 5:10-12).
The final step is a test of endurance. "This last Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (II Timothy 3:12). This is a test of our faith. Are we willing to suffer for righteousness' sake? "But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ" (I Peter 3:14-16). Again, if we are willing to suffer persecution, then we see God work in the situation. Furthermore, we will have a great reward in heaven. Jesus is our example. "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds" (Hebrews 12:2-3)