The late Bob Proctor was an avid promoter of positive thinking and the philosophy of “I can if I think I can.” He began his search for that happiness when he admitted he was not happy with his life that was so empty and shiftless. That was a good starting place, and whether he arrived at that true happiness when his life ended, I do not know. However, the first of his four basic principles of life was, “God is always a good God,” obviously a great starting place.
But the Apostle Paul summed up his search for that when he wrote, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
Many of us are like Bob Proctor, or have been, wanting that “true happiness” state of mind. But we are not prepared to pay the price for it. Do I mean there is a price to pay for it? Yes, but not in legal tender (cash).
Those attitudes Jesus proposed in Matthew 5:3 to 5:10, called the “Be” attitudes, lay out a pattern of life that He says is one of true happiness. Let’s just see if that really is the result, and why.
The Be-Attitudes are in three clusters of three verses, with the second and third verses supportive of the first one.
The first one is foundational to all the others, so I will give attention to it in detail. As written, it says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” To open that up a bit further, read it this way: “The truly happy man is one who realizes his own spiritual poverty.” Now, how could that be so?
If a person is filled with himself, and that filling is of the old Adam nature, his life will be filled with all that his Adam nature can produce—envy, hate, selfishness, pride, and sinfulness of all sorts. What room is there left for Christ? One must be empty of self that he may be filled with the likeness of Christ.
The Apostle Paul learned this as he struggled with his “thorn in the flesh” that God did not remove from him. “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
He described himself and his associates in this way: “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing all things” (2 Corinthians 6:10).
In a passage dealing with a believer’s moral character, Paul writes, “Those who belong to the Lord have become one spirit with Him” (1 Corinthians 6:17), followed by verses 19-20, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and you are not your own, for you are bought with a price.” It speaks of total surrender.
With that kind of heart, such promises of God as these following can be a person’s own experience: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4), and “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).
The second Be-Attitude in this first cluster says, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). The old Adam nature does not want to be ignored or rejected, and the new nature weeps as it realizes how close it was to missing the truth about eternal life and death. God reassures His comfort for the one mourning.
Now the new nature begins taking control with the one who has been spiritually empty, having begun to obey the directive of Romans 12:2, “And be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind….” That strange quality of meekness as “controlled strength” becomes a feature of his character, that person is blessed, as Matthew 5:5 says, and he “will inherit the earth.”
That second cluster of a changing character begins with knowledge of a hungry heart, saying, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled.” Peter wrote to new believers, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2-3). It is the source for renewing the mind.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy,” is what Matthew 5:7 declares, and what a reward that is! James writes that “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13b) because when exacted by a judge, it replaces judgment.
It is said that no one can look on God and live, for His presence is a consuming fire in its blazing purity, no doubt. But Matthew 5:8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” John relates this to when Jesus is revealed and we see Him face to face, that “Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3).
So how can that be? It speaks of having a heart that is clean of sin and not given to the Adam nature, just as the first Be-Attitude proclaims. No hidden loyalties or reservations being held back to discolor the commitment to Him.
But Jesus has made a way around that warning of facing God and dying. He told Phillip, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
That closeness to God readies a person to be a peacemaker, for they are blessed to be called the sons of God (Matthew 5:9). Who is a peacemaker but one who brings the Prince of Peace to those who are without peace. It is the Great Commission.
With that blessing are two attendant Be-Attitudes that test of discipleship and willingness to obey, for one must have gone past any self-centered purpose of his own and have reached a depth of commitment that, no matter what, he will endure.
Paul was cut from that kind of fabric, having claimed this purpose: “And be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:9-10).
Those final two Be-Attitudes are, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Then, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake” (Matthew 5:10-11).
There is within us a strong resistance to such attacks, but when those first seven Be-Attitudes are firmly in place in us, we are ready to respond with true joy—in Christ! After all, believers know the end of the story. Like Paul says in 1 Corinthians 16:9, “For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries,” just as those last two Be-Attitudes indicate.
Now, how are these attitudes fixed in place?
Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness, as you recall. Habakkuk 2:4b says, “The just shall live by his faith.” The New Testament repeats that three times, as “The just shall live by faith” in Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11. But in Hebrews 10:38, there is an added warning: “Now the just shall live by faith, but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.”
It seems to say, “onward, forward march,” for faith is the basic requirement for living a godly life and serving the Lord. Hebrews 11:6 brings that out more clearly: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
After Paul finishes writing of Abraham’s faith and its meaning for mankind at the end of Romans 4, he establishes where faith has brought the believer, in Romans 5:1: “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The awesome meaning of Romans 8:32 then comes into view as faith captures our heart and soul: “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Not for a select few, but for all, and not without Christ, you should note.)
Finally, Habakkuk, again, lays out the effect that living by faith will bring us to as we empty ourselves of self (that first Be-attitude): “Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls—yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills” (Habakkuk 3:17-19).
However, as Paul wrote, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (Philippians 3:12). (No doubt but that is the truth for every believer.)
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