The Beatitudes

One of the beauties of God's Word is that no matter how well you think you understand a particular text, there's still more you haven't seen. The following study illustrates that a goldmine of truth lies hidden from a surface seeker. The picture that emerges from this study reveals that the beatitudes are also the steps to conversion. The tool that helped bring this concept to light was the Strongs Concordance. The choice of words in the original language is so rich in meaning and intent, but one does not have to be a Bible language specialist to benefit from this type of word study. Dig deep into the Word, and your efforts will be rewarded!

One of the beauties of God's Word is that no matter how well you think you understand a particular text, there's still more you haven't seen.

The following study illustrates that a goldmine of truth lies hidden from a surface seeker.  The picture that emerges from this study reveals that the beatitudes are also the steps to conversion.

The tool that helped bring this concept to light was the Strongs Concordance.  The choice of words in the original language is so rich in meaning and intent, but one does not have to be a Bible language specialist to benefit from this type of word study.  Dig deep into the Word, and your efforts will be rewarded!

The Steps to Conversion

When Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount, He introduced principles of His Father's government, of His very life.  These principles were so contrary to what other religious teachers were presenting that the people sitting on the hillside, listening, were spellbound.

Step 1. Matthew 5:3
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The key word in this text is "poor." In the original language, it means "to crouch; a beggar (as cringing), i.e. a pauper, strictly denoting absolute or public mendicancy," which is a fancy word for someone dependent upon others for their sustenance -- a beggar. 

Here the word poor reveals the necessary condition of the sinner, quite contrary to that of the human heart prone to pride and self-sufficiency.  When the Holy Spirit reveals something of our true self, that our sin caused the death of God's Son, we no longer stand with pride or in rebellion.

So the very first step in conversion is to realize our true condition before God.  We go from standing to kneeling before the God whom we have offended.

Step 2. Matthew 5:4
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

The word "mourn" means "to grieve" (the feeling or the act).  The root word means to experience a sensation or impression (usually painful).

The Holy Spirit quickens our spiritual perceptions, and we see things with new spiritual eyesight.  The result is painful, because we begin to see ourselves in a whole new light -- in the light of God's perfect character.

The next step in our conversion is to grieve over our sinful life and actions.  We see that our sins cost the life of Jesus, and we confess and repent of our evil ways.  We must go through this daily sanctification process because a full revelation of God, and thus a full revelation of our selfishness and guilt, would destroy us.  Day by day, God reveals more of our self so we can let it go, until we can see Him fact-to-face and live.

Step 3. Matthew 5:5
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Once we see ourselves in need of a Savior, and experience a heartfelt sorrow for sin, we come to the next step: We become meek.

As I prayed about discernment on this verse, the Lord brought to my mind a definition of what meekness really is.  "Meekness is the absence of self-will and human pride."

Was Jesus a push over?  Not at all!  When I consider what Jesus faced from His own family, the religious leaders of the day, and the masses of people surrounding Him, I realize Jesus was a very strong person.  He was neither deflated by censor nor elated by the praise of men.  He could face the most powerful, imposing religious leaders and never cower in fear.  He could suffer abuse without it affecting how He felt about Himself.  He could combat issues and walk away with a clear conscience, because self never got in the way.  He was meek, but He was powerful.

Jesus had no self-will.  He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, "Lord not my will, but Thine be done."  he also had no human pride.  He never sought flattery or the praise of men.  He didn't need to because the principle of love, which is selflessness, ruled His life.  

Jesus says in Matthew 11:29, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest for your souls."  A person who lives for self, will never find rest for the soul.  "Lowly in heart" is another way of saying, "humble or lack of human pride."  Self-will and pride were at the root of Lucifer's fall, and we humans are naturally that way.  Only the power of the gospel can change our condition. 

Step 4. Matthew 5:6
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

The word "hunger" means, to be famished, or to crave.  When the human soul is void of God's presence, there is a longing in the soul that only He can satisfy.  We are not aware that it is God we long for.  But then He reveals our need for Him.

When God changes the heart, we are born of the Spirit.  We experience the new birth Jesus spoke of in John 3:3: "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."  Our whole life is changed.  Whereas before, we had enmity against God and had no desire for spiritual food, we now hunger and thirst after those things which are holy.  

The word "filled means literally "to gorge oneself and comes from the original word, a garden, by implication a pasture."  When we are born again, it seems we cannot get enough spiritual food.  We consume everything spiritual that we can get our hands on.  Jesus said that those who hunger and thirst shall be filled.  Psalms 23:2 says, "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters."

So far, in the conversion process, we have seen our need for forgiveness, mourned for our sins, had self-will and human pride buried in the dust, and found new joy in feeding upon spiritual food.  The natural consequence of this process is that we no longer see ourselves as basically a good person.  The gospel puts everyone in the same boat.  We are all sinners in need of a Savior, all the time.  

Step 5. Matthew 5:7
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

We realize that the debt that was paid to ransom our soul was enormous -- it tood the very life of God.  We see that instead of justice, God granted us mercy.  We then look at fellow human beings with the same merciful eyes as God.  He sees their sin, but loves the sinner.  We become merciful, longsuffering, and patient with those we seek to draw to God.  Instead of having an attitude like the Pharisees, condemning the faults of others, we are mindful of our own weaknesses and sins, and show mercy to every soul God brings into our lives.  

The Bible teaches that only the merciful obtain mercy.  How can we stand before God and demand that He be merciful to us, when we are judging and condemning others?

That is precisely the meaning of the story about the man whom the king forgave much, but who then turned around and threw his brother into jail, over a very small debt, compared to the amount owed the king.  

Step 6. Matthew 5:8
The conversion process transforms our lives.  The word "heart" in the Greek means, "thoughts and feelings."  God changes our thoughts and feelings so that they become pure.  It is a daily battle we fight with self, but so long as we submit to God's will, He will make us pure in heart.  I found a spiritual equation that relates to this: "Our thoughts and feelings combined = moral character."  So to be pure in heart is to have a transformation of character.

The word "see" is very interesting, and literally means "to gaze" (i.e., with wide open eyes, as at something remarkable). It differs from three other words in the New Testament that denote simply voluntary observation, passive or casual vision, and watching from a distance.  The word is very expressive, and indicates a type of reaction as a result of what we see.  The pure in heart shall literally stand in the very presence of the God of the Universe.  Our mouths will drop open, and we will be astonished at what we see.  I might add, that as we see what God is really like now, we look in awe and wonder at His marvelous character of love in this life too.  

Psalms 24: 3, 4, says, "Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD?  Or who shall stand in his holy place?  He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart."  This is talking about the same event Jesus refers to in Matthew 5:8 -- only the pure in heart will stand in His holy place and see God face to face.  That place is in the hill of the Lord, the holy city, the New Jerusalem.

Step 7. Matthew 5:9
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

When you hear the word "peacemaker," what immediately comes to mind?  The United Nations? Or someone who tries to stop quarrels in the family?  Good answers, but it's not the intent of the word in Matthew 5:9.  "Peacemaker" comes from two words, which means "to join," or set at one again.  Sound familiar?  It should.  The word "atonement" has a similar meaning. 

When we are converted, we become ambassadors for Christ.  We diligently labor to set-at-one those people who are enemies of God.  We help bring them to the saving knowledge of God's love, and thereby help them become united or one with God. 

Those who get involved in soul-winning become peacemakers.  No one has peace apart from God.  As people come to Christ they have peace.  We literally become peacemakers, the only kind who are really effective here on earth.  

Step 8. Matthew 5:10
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

In 2 Timothy 3:12, we read, "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."  As we become like God in character, our lives are a rebuke to the sinful, world-loving people around us.  It is inevitable that when we become righteous through the power of God, we will suffer. 

Persecution takes on many forms.  We suffer when we are honest and true in the work place -- when people we work for pressure us to lie, cheat, or do any number of unethical things, but we do not yield to that pressure.  We suffer as Christian students, by not joining in with the popular crowd to do it's bidding.  We suffer when married to spouses who either are not believers, or who are professed Christians only. 

One of the greatest gifts God can give to us is that we share in suffering persecution because we represent His character in this world.  We enter into the ranks and class of all who have suffered before us.  We enter into the experience of Jesus Himself, who suffered an extreme amount of persecution because He was just like God.  

Step 9. Matthew 5:11
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Notice that in this beatitude, Jesus says we are happy, or blessed, when we are reviled and persecuted falsely for His sake.  We are falsely accused precisely because, like Jesus, we are without fault.  In other words, our lives have been transformed and we are not doing anything they can revile or persecute us for.  Satan can only bring false charges against us, just as they brought false charges against Daniel in the Old Testament, and Jesus in the new.

In conclusion, we have seen the steps of conversion in the beatitudes:

Blessed are the poor in spirit ... we recognize our great need.

Blessed are they that mourn... we experience true sorrow for sin.

Blessed are the meek... we loose our self-will and human pride.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness... now that we are born of the Spirit, we desire spiritual things.

Blessed are the merciful... because we have obtained mercy from God, we are merciful toward others. 

Blessed are the pure in heart... God changes our thoughts and feelings, which prepares us to one day gaze in awe and wonder when we look on His face. 

Blessed are the peacemakers... we become ambassadors for Christ, uniting people to their Savior.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake... we are now living the life of Christ, and are persecuted for being like Him.

The beatitudes present a clear, definite path in the steps of conversion.  It is a journey that we all must make if we would become children of God, destined to live in a world without sin.  The human heart is transformed by the power of the cross.  The journey, while painful at times, promises real joy in this life, because the restless life of sin, without God, is replaced with a restful life in God.  I'm so thankful that God gave us this nine-step plan for our recovery from sin.  If we resist these steps, God cannot transform our lives.  Let us continue the steps of conversion until we can say, "Beloved, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is! (1 John 3:2)

-- Charles Lawson
White Horse Media Ministry

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