Kingdom requirements

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
   for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
   for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
   for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
   for they will be filled.  (Matthew 5:3-6)

Kingdom requirements. That’s what these are. Kingdom requirements. It’s what you need to see it. It’s what you need to be in it.

This is not Jesus being extra special nice to people who haven’t gotten a fair shake in life. This is not Jesus giving the poor a break. This is Jesus announcing the arrival of the kingdom of God and describing who is going to be a part of it. This was the first thing he said. This is where it all starts.

Proud people don’t get in. Rich people don’t get in. Successful people don’t get in. Self-righteous people don’t get in. Happy people don’t get in. Competent people don’t get in. And it’s more than just getting in. People like this don’t even see it. They don’t know what it is. They can’t. They are blinded by their own sufficiency.

What are these blessings and how do you get them? You get them by becoming like this. And how do you get like this?

Life does this to you. Your desire to be pleasing to God – your desire to be like Christ – will make you like this. It will break you. It will show you how much you are not mourning over yourself and your selfishness. It will show you how proud you are. It will show you how far you are from being righteous. The people who get into the kingdom of God are the ones who realize they least deserve it. Let me rephrase that because I think it’s stronger than that: The only people who get into the kingdom of God are the ones who realize they don’t deserve to be there.

And here’s the other reason why this works. This is how you come to realize your need for the Holy Spirit in your life. This is how you finally get it that it is the Holy Spirit who does all of this. God breaks us down to bring us up. It’s a requirement of spiritual transformation to be broken. God strips us of everything we thought gave us an advantage because the Holy Spirit only comes to the disadvantaged.

The Holy Spirit doesn’t come alongside strong people to make them stronger; the Holy Spirit comes inside the lives of those who know they can’t make it any other way.

Now go back and read those “blessed”s again and realize Jesus is saying this the start. This is where it all begins.

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8 Responses to Kingdom requirements

  1. 1 Corinthians 1:27
    but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, etc.

    This is true. But it doesn’t say that is ALL He has chosen. God HAS chosen some wise, some strong, some rich, etc. Because when Christ made his statement about the eye of the needle and how difficult it was for a rich person to enter HIs Kingdom, his disciples retorted, “Then who can be saved?!” and Christ answered “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” So it is possible for Christ to save a rich person, etc.

    And salvation is based on grace through faith, not on keeping the Beatitudes.

    Yes we need to be poor in spirit, mourning, meek, etc. But God will put us there. I’m not sure that is a place we can put ourselves. Otherwise, I think we will end up as hypocrites; because the Pharisees were very good at looking downcast when they fasted, etc. But Christ said, no, wash your face, be happy, don’t let others know that you are fasting. Our humility, our adherence to the Beatitudes needs to be something we do in our closet, that only Christ sees – not something we do in public for others to see. Otherwise, it’s not real.

    Waitsel

    • jwfisch says:

      Of course no one is saved by keeping the Beattitudes. In face you can’t really “keep” the Beattitudes. They are more a statement of the kind of people that get it.

  2. I read it a bit differently than Waitsel did. I read it, not that John was saying we can’t be “rich” but that riches, pride, success, etc will not get us into the kingdom and they won’t help us get in either.

    But Waitsel’s points are good. We can’t do it on our own (the beatitudes) but when we depend on God, the Holy Spirit will do them through us and change us at the same time.

  3. Clay says:

    Jesus did refer to the “gospel of the kingdom,” as though belief in the kingdom was the good news, but I think it’s important to make a distinction between the Kingdom and the Cross.

    There are over 100 references to the kingdom in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke). It was clearly the primary message that Jesus preached. However, there are only two references in John’s gospel, and John 3:3 (in the context of 3:16) makes a strong distinction: Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” In other words, you must be saved to find the kingdom, not the other way around. Acts contains relatively few references to the kingdom, and tends to make a distinction between the preaching of the kingdom and the teaching about Jesus (ex: Acts 28:31). The epistolary writers seemed to focus mostly on the future kingdom we will inherit as believers, but also suggested that the kingdom follows the cross (ex: Col. 4:11, Heb. 12:28).

    The kingdom is a much overlooked and misunderstood biblical truth. You are right to let it rise to the top as a subject of study. However, I think we have to hear the very strong words of Jesus about the kingdom within the larger context of the Jewish culture into which he came and to which his preaching was particularly attuned, and the rest of the New Testament that moved that message into the non-Jewish world. (The same kind of study can be done of the word “disciple,” which disappears after Acts 12 and is never used by the epistolary writers.)

    It is the cross by which are saved; it is the kingdom by which we are blessed. However, the sad reality is that not everyone who is saved will experience the blessing of the kingdom. Those who are the neediest, as in the Beatitudes, will be able to see the kingdom first and most clearly because they are not distracted by the things of this world. That is a message for all of us.

  4. I know of some financially wealthy Christians; I know some who are super-achievers by the world’s standards. I have no doubt that the individuals I’m thinking of will be in Heaven for eternity. They live some of the most (quiety) Christian lives I’ve ever seen; they teach me how to live the Beatitudes! As for me, some of my most prideful moments have come when I’ve been the most broke (money) and broken (career and other circumstances). I have so much to learn about meekness it’s dizzying. Tonight I thank Waitsel wth all my heart for posting “With people this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.”

  5. ruth says:

    John,
    Thank you for your continued faithfulness. I have been both challenged and blessed today by the thought of my integrity before Christ. It doesn’t matter much what I or others think of me, my gifts or inadequacies, but what matters is the sacrifice that Jesus made so that I do have free passage into the kingdom. If I take credit for one single thing that I have done or focus on what I have not done, I take away from the incredible price that HE paid.
    I love your statement – I have been rereading it all day and meditating on it -“The Holy Spirit doesn’t come alongside strong people to make them stronger; the Holy Spirit comes inside the lives of those who know they can’t make it any other way”.
    What a wonderful way to celebrate Independence Day – – ‘If the Son makes you free, you are free indeed’.
    Ruth

  6. Peggy Savage says:

    I think that Jesus was teaching us through the Beatitudes how to be involved in life at its most basic level… mourning, meekness, searching for meaning, standing up for righteousness, persecution. Jesus lived these levels of life. He healed the sick and the despised. He was there to suffer with the downtrodden and persecuted. He cried for the lost and raised the dead. As He encountered all of these, He brought life and light into their world. He brought the Kingdom of Heaven into the real world of sin and despair. He challenges us to allow the Holy Spirit to use us in the same manner. We can’t do it on our own. We can’t save anyone. Only God can do that. But, we can recognize those around us and reach out and do what God directs us to do on their behalf. We can reflect the Kingdom of God and the light of His love. This challenge does not depend on our wealth or lack of wealth, our knowlege or lack of knowledge, our success or lack of success. It depends on our willingness and openness to respond to God and His opportunities. So, you see, we all have a choice—

  7. Dwight Corella says:

    How do you get there, indeed! There are a million miles between the theological beliefs we espouse and the practical choices we make. Every day we stand at a crossroads and choose to trust in an unseen God and His value system or a very visible, vocal world and its values. Rich, successful, powerful, of noble birth, winners of the game- these have an undeniable appeal to us as being immediately gratifying. But waiting, trusting, hoping, living by faith and being poor in spirit- well, these are not for the faint of heart. It does not surprise me that the unbelieving world chooses to live by sight and not by faith. But the so-called Church… well, as mentioned before, “Every day I stand at the crossroads”….

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