Attitude of Beatitude

Many of you are familiar with the phrase, "attitude of gratitude," meaning we ought to be thankful for what we have and give thanks to God who is the great provider.

Well today I want to look at this phrase from a slightly different perspective, specifically, having an attitude of beatitude, or in other words having an attitude of blessing.

All to often we focus on the negative things of life rather then the blessings. Think about it, when we pray what do we usually highlight in our prayers? For most folks it's our concerns. Abraham Lincoln once said, "We'd all be much happier if we magnified our blessings rather than our disappointments." And I agree.

Last week Bill spoke about the dash in your life, that time between your birth and death. What an important time. Wouldn't we spend those days much happier if we focused on our many blessings rather than our disappointments? Wouldn't we be happier if we focused our attention on blessing others rather than how we can be blessed ourselves? As many of you know first hand many of our blessings are experienced through the act of blessing others, a fact that shouldn't be arbitrarily dismissed.

One of the problems we have as a society today is that we've forgotten the power, and the art of blessing. The election of Israel began with God's promise to bless Abraham and his descendants making them a blessing to all the people of the earth. (Gen. 12:1-3) It's no wonder then, that the words preserved on the oldest scrap of scripture we possess are the familiar words of the blessing of Aaron in Numbers 6, which begins: "The Lord bless you and keep you…"

The blessing of Aaron was also recently found on a piece of silver in a tomb just south of Jerusalem that dates back to 600 BCE. Therefore, we can assert the biblical message is not only that God redeems us, but that God blesses us as well.

In Jesus' sermon on the plain, as it's referred to in the Gospel of Luke, or Sermon on the Mount as it's referred to in The Gospel of Matthew, there's a list of pronouncements given to confer an end-time blessing upon all people regardless of who they are and what they do. The blessing assures those who follow Christ the vindication and reward that eventually comes to all who believe. In other words, the blessing of eternal life is there for all who believe in Jesus Christ regardless of their socioeconomic situation, or other difficulties being experienced now in this life. Blessed are you who are poor, meaning wealth does not determine our place in God's kingdom. Blessed are you who hunger now, meaning hungering for righteousness and yearning for final salvation. Blessed are you who weep, meaning in the end those who weep will have the final laugh so to speak, as salvation is granted to them for their faithfulness, and not for what they own.

Blessed are you when men hate you, meaning those who suffer or are persecuted because they follow Jesus will still be blessed. In the early church those who were Christian were often persecuted and mistreated. The same can be said today of many in different parts of the world.

The beatitudes are not meant to make people feel bad if they're not poor or persecuted, rather the beatitudes make it clear that the kingdom will mean redemption for the poor and the oppressed, not just those who are wealthy and have prominent positions. Although oppressed and mistreated now, all will enjoy God's blessings in the kingdom. All believers will be released from degradation in its many forms.

The beatitudes also describe what it means to be Christ's followers; they're standards of conduct; they contrast kingdom values with worldly values, illustrating what Christ's followers can expect from the world and what God will give them. The beatitudes contrast fake piety with true humility; and finally they show how Old Testament expectations are fulfilled in God's kingdom.

The beatitudes assure us that no matter what takes place in our lives, all will be well in the end if we place our faith in Christ. And because of this knowledge, this blessing, we can live with hope and assurance of a wonderful life in Christ.

Ok, so we know what the end blessing looks like if we believe and persevere, but how can we live a life of blessing now, when we're bombarded with the ills of this world? Where can we turn and get practical advice on how we should live? What practical wisdom can we employ, which will lead to the fruit of blessing? How can we help shape our children and grandchildren into becoming heirs of God's blessing?

Well, one answer to these questions is refer to the Bible, but if you're like me you want some golden nugget that you can refer to quickly, sound wisdom to fend off temptation and evil. So for some practical wisdom I refer us all to the book of Exodus and the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments tell us in a clear and concise manner the way God wants us to live. Here are the Ten Commandments in more modern language. 1. I am your God, have no other God but me 2. Worship no idols bought or made (and yes this include cars, tractors, and houses) 3. Don't use the name of God in curses or silly banter 4. Observe a day of rest and dedicate it to God 5. Give your father and mother your utmost respect 6. Do not commit murder 7. Do not commit adultery 8. Do not steal 9. Do not lie 10. Do not lust after your neighbors, or their possessions Pretty clear aren't they?

And notice the breakdown of the commandments. The first four commandments speak of a vertical relationship, our relationship with God. The second six commandments speak of a horizontal relationship, our relationship with one another. And it's not uncommon to see the commandments displayed this way on tablets that you see in stain glass windows or other types of displays. (As a matter of fact if you look at the stain glass window in the back room you see the commandments displayed this way, 4 on one tablet 6 on the other)

We are all also aware that it's not uncommon for the Ten Commandments to come under fire from time to time. I'm sure you remember during this past year there were several cases involving the Ten Commandments and their public display. In Alabama the Ten Commandments in the Courthouse were eventually removed because of the argument addressing the public display of the Ten Commandments as a violation of separation of Church and State laws. Here in Frederick County we went through a similar situation with the Ten Commandments being displayed on public property. Now I'm not hear today to debate for or against these issues, I'll save that for another time, but I am here today to say the issue that does have eternal significance for us is not whether the Ten Commandments are etched in stone and displayed, it's are the Ten Commandments etched on our hearts, and do we follow them.

I for one feel we ought to display the Ten Commandments to remind people of how to live, but more importantly I believe we should live with the Ten Commandments firmly rooted in our souls showing others how God's children ought to live, bearing witness to their goodness and blessings on our lives. To me this is a more effective way of displaying the commandments.

And the good news is we can witness to this truth whether we're on public property or not. No one can tell us to stop acting like a follower of Christ. No one can tell us to stop following the commandments. And no one can tell us to stop being a blessing to others.

The Ten Commandments have stood the test of time, not because of their display, but because people have embraced them and lived according to them. I commend each of us to do the same.

Lets also be clear that the Ten Commandments, as given to by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai, are not multiple choice, and their not guidelines open to interpretation. We are commanded by God to follow each and every one of them, not because God wants to control us, but rather because God wants to keep us safe.

God gave Moses the Ten Commandments not just to restore order to what had become a corrupt people, but to prepare them for the journey ahead. And it's out of our faith and desire to love and please God that we ought to live our lives in accordance with the rule of God.

The same can be said of the beatitudes, Jesus shared this divine wisdom to his followers to prepare them for the coming kingdom; he was preparing them for the journey they were embarking on. He was teaching them how God expected them to act towards others.

Now I can look at each commandment and I can give real examples from my sphere of experience of how people have gotten themselves into trouble by not following them. And I dare say we all probably can. But lets also be honest enough to admit that we all have fallen short of following the commandments to the letter ourselves. So lets not be quick to judge.

I know of no one who has been blessed by killing someone. I know of no one who has been blessed by committing adultery or wanting something that's not theirs. I know of no one who has been blessed by worshipping a car, tractor, or house. And I know of no one who has been blessed by being disrespectful to his or her parents or anyone else for that matter.

Yes, I know sometimes it seems as though some people who violate every commandment continue to get what they want, and those who strive faithfully to live a righteous life seem to get more pain then is fair, but just because you get everything you want doesn't mean you're really blessed, and just because someone seems to be in pain and going through tragedy doesn't mean they aren't blessed.

Blessing is a spiritual issue not a material one, so I caution you about drawing conclusions about people based on what they seem to get or not get. This is a very important point, and I don't want us to blow by it too quickly. Blessings come in different forms: health, endurance during tough times, courage, peace, contentment, patience, love, and so on.

I know many people who seem to have it all, materially speaking, yet when I've spoken with some of them I begin to see in their heart that they really have little or in some cases nothing at all. In reality they're hurting, and instead of seeking God for fulfillment they've turned to the local store, the bottle, the pill, or false teachings seeking relief from they're spiritual pain. And conversely I have spoken to people who are clearly in material need, but really desire little, and when you ask them about how things are going they respond, "I am very blessed."

Christians ought to live with an attitude of beatitude, meaning living with an understanding of God's grace, acknowledging just where our blessings come from, and loving God so much that we want to live according to his commandments.

Yes, it's more comfortable to not take a firm stand and it's more comfortable to simply blend in with the crowd. But if we'll just focus our energy on the task of living a life of blessing, both in giving and receiving, many of the other issues we run into every day of our lives will begin to take care of themselves. Follow God's teachings and allow God's word to shape and form you.

But lets also be clear on one point, I'm not suggesting we should be spectators, or we shouldn't be bold in proclaiming our Christian positions with respect to the beatitudes and commandments, we should. I am saying don't worry about other people and what they have or how they feel about God's way; pray for them, live as God wants you to live and let God deal with them, because only God can change hearts. But be ready, God may call upon us to be the means by which their hearts are changed.

Living a life of blessing is always rewarding, because our vision becomes clear. We know from whom all blessings flow, and we know where we're headed. Unfortunately our world has little tolerance for saints who set their sights on values and principles the world doesn't share. But the good news is, those who persevere and participate in God's work, and follow his commandments will experience blessings stacked upon blessings.

My friends, I pray we all stay faithful, experience the fullness of God's blessings, and share the riches of the knowledge of God and his grace with all people! Thanks be to God

Read other messages by Pastor Wade