The kingdom Jesus came to establish is counter-cultural and completely “upside down” from the way life works in our world — from the way we tend to think, act, relate, do business and even worship.
Here are just a few of the “upside down” paradoxes in the Bible?
“…humble yourself before the Lord, that He will lift you up in honor.” —James 4:10 NLT.
“…the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” —2 Cor 10:12 MSG
Jesus: “You’re far happier giving than getting.” —Acts 20:35 MSG
“If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.” —Matthew 10:39 MSG
Every one of those passages, describe a completely upside-down paradigm from the way most of us view life!
Today, we’ll look at the last four Beatitudes which contain the final four principles for living in the “real” upside down. (Check out the first three posts for the other four…)
Living in the “Real” Upside Down — The Final Four:
5. Live out the MERCY, love and forgiveness you’ve received from God (5.7).
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. —Matthew 5:7 NIV
The word “mercy” means “sympathy that expresses itself in ACTION.” We would probably call it empathy.
Jesus basically said, “You’re blessed when you care… When you allow yourself to FEEL another person’s PAIN and take some action to relieve it. Because it’s when you give love, forgiveness, mercy and kindness, that you open yourself up to receiving it.”
This is actually the way God relates to us!
For instance, have you ever read the way God described Himself to Moses?
Check out God’s self-description to Moses when Moses pleaded with God, “Let me see your glory.” In other words, “Show me who you really are.” (See Exodus 33)
God spoke these words to Moses: “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.” —Ex 34:6-7
Wow! That’s how God describes Himself! Take a look at that description again. And again. And again. Seriously, you can’t read that too many times! God basically said, "This is who I am. Compassionate. Gracious. Slow to anger. Abounding in love and faithfulness..." Wow! Wow! Wow!
Ephesians 2:4 says: “…[God is] rich in mercy…”
David said it like this: “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me every day of my life…” —Psalm 23:6. The Message translates it like this: “Your beauty and love chase after me…” —Psalm 23:6 MSG
Here’s the point: God sees our pain. He sees our brokenness, and He TAKES ACTION to relieve it! He meets us right where we are! No conditions!
In Matthew 5:7, Jesus is challenging us take our que from God! God is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love and faithfulness! He is rich in mercy! His beauty and love chase after us!
This is the challenge of the fifth beatitude: “Demonstrate the same mercy, love, kindness and faithfulness you’ve received from God to the people you interact with and relate to! When you do, you open yourself up to receiving more mercy, more love, more grace and more kindness than you can imagine…”
6. Keep your motives and attitudes PURE (5:8).
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. —Matthew 5:8 NIV
The word “pure” means unadulterated or unalloyed — not mixed with any foreign substances. In other words, “Blessed is the person who is completely devoted to God. Who doesn’t allow their heart to become divided. It’s the undivided heart that sees God.”
The Message nails it here. It reads: You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. —Matthew 5:8 MSG
This is about alignment. It’s about making certain that our attitudes and actions, our heart and habits are aligned with God.
7. Build BRIDGES and tear down WALLS (5:9).
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. —Matthew 5:9 NIV
The book of Matthew was written in Greek, so the word for “peacemakers” is from the Greek word, eirēne. But Jesus spoke Aramaic, a form of Hebrew. So when Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” He would have used a form of the Hebrew word, shalom.
Shalom is one of the most beautiful words in the Bible. It means a whole lot more than the absence of conflict. It’s actually means to “make complete, restore, to make whole.”
Shalom: “make complete, restore, to make whole.”
Jesus said, “You’re blessed, not necessarily when you avoid conflict or confrontation, because that can ultimately be damaging to a person or relationship. You’re blessed when you pursue peace, wholeness, healing and health in your relational world. When you make “shalom” the goal of conflict and confrontation.”
Get this: The goal is never to win the argument or fight.
The goal is SHALOM — wholeness, restoration, healing and peace.
Again, The Message is great: You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight… —Matthew 5:9 MSG
According to the NIV and NLT, here’s the blessing that comes from being a peacemaker: “…they will be called children of God.”
Think about that. “Children” — sons and daughters — reflect their parent’s likeness.
Have you ever heard the expression, “Like father. Like son.”? Or, “…the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”? Those are expressions about family resemblance. They’re about the fact that a kid looks or acts a lot like their Dad or Mom.
In Matthew 5:9, Jesus said, “When you decide to pursue peace… When you work for reconciliation… When you’re proactive about tearing down WALLS and building BRIDGES, you’re becoming more like the FATHER than you can imagine!”
God loves PEACE!
He loves UNITY!
He hates division and dis-unity!
He loves it when people get along!
How truly wonderful and delightful to see brothers and sisters living together in sweet unity.—Psalm 133:1 TPT
Peter gives people who want to follow Jesus a great challenge in 1 Peter 3:11.
…eagerly pursue peace in every relationship, making it your prize. —1 Peter 3:11c TPT
Do you pursue peace like that? Do you “eagerly” pursue wholeness and restoration? Do you make it your prize and goal?
8. Don’t give up when you GET PUSHBACK (5:10-12).
The eighth Beatitude is different from the previous seven. The first seven describe the life God calls us to pursue! This Beatitude describes the kind of “PUSHBACK” we can expect when we start to walk this stuff out!
This is story of the Bible. A guy or gal begins to pursue God and he or she immediately gets “PUSHBACK.”
Whether it’s Joseph who gets rejected by his own brothers;
Moses who gets rejected by his own people;
Jeremiah who was thrown into an empty well;
Daniel who was thrown into the lion exhibit in the Persian Zoo;
John the Baptist who ended up losing his head — the dude was actually decapitated — for speaking truth to power; or, Jesus, who was tortured and ultimately crucified for simply living a beautifully flawless life.
This is the story of the Bible!
In Matthew 5:10-12, Jesus said, “Sometimes you’re going to get PUSHBACK… When you do, the way you respond is going to be a huge indication of what I’m doing in you and through you!”
The way you respond to pushback is a huge indication of what God is doing in you!
Here’s the final Beatitude:
You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble. —Matthew 5:10-12 MSG
Let’s wrap up.
How are you doing when it comes to the Beatitudes?
Over the last four days we’ve described eight principles that will let us live in the “real” upside down, which is actually Jesus setting everything back “right side up.”
I want to end this series of blog posts with a series of questions based on the Beatitudes. If it’s helpful, make this a part of your prayer time. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you guidance, to speak to you and reveal areas and opportunities for growth.
Remember: “Blessed” isn’t about the possessions you own, but about the person you are becoming.
I’ll admit it: working through the Beatitudes is challenging for me, because I am regularly convicted at how often I fail to live this stuff out. But I believe that growth almost always involves some kind of pain — the pain that comes from seeing our brokenness and how desperate we are for Jesus. But it’s when we see and admit our brokenness, that God is able to heal us with His amazing and extravagant grace.
So, here are some questions for personal reflection:
· Am I completely dependent on God? Am I desperate for God? Am I desperate for Jesus? Am I “poor in spirit”? (See Matthew 5:3)
· Am I broken over the damage sin does? Do I mourn? Do I know what it is to cry? (See Matthew 5:4)
· Am I submitted to God, the authority of His Word and the people He has placed in my life? Or, am I relying on God’s strength or my own? Am I meek? (See Matthew 5:5)
· Am I totally focused on pursuing God? His purpose, plan and presence? Am I hungry for God? How hungry am I? Am I hungry enough to pursue God through prayer and fasting? (See Matthew 5:6)
· Do I allow myself to feel the pain of people and then take action to meet their needs? Am I showing people the love, forgiveness, mercy and kindness I’ve received from God? (See Matthew 5:7)
· Are my motives and attitudes pure? (See Matthew 5:8)
· Am I building bridges and tearing down walls? Am I pursuing peace, wholeness and reconciliation in every relationship in my life? Do I need to work on any relationships in my life? Are their people I need to ask for forgiveness? (See Matthew 5:9)
· Am I committed to making a difference, even if it brings pushback? (See Matthew 5:10-12)
Now it’s time to start living in the “real” upside down.