The Beatitudes – A Radical Contrast


In the beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12) we see that many of our cultural norms are often in direct opposition to a godly life. Jesus presents a set of values that is in stark contrast to worldly values.

For part of this week’s sermon at Northbrook I imagined what it may look like if the world produced a set of beatitudes corresponding to Jesus’s words. I thought through what the world views as important, fun, or successful. Seeing these side by side showed me the radical difference between what Jesus says leads to a blessed life and what the world says leads to a blessed life.

Where do you see your own values? Is it easy to follow the trends of our culture? Read these beatitudes and ask yourself what the blessed life really looks like.

Jesus’s view of the Blessed life –

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
  • Blessed are those who mournfor they will be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meekfor they will inherit the earth.
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
  • Blessed are the mercifulfor they will be shown mercy.
  • Blessed are the pure in heartfor they will see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakersfor they will be called sons of God.
  • Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

Now contrast these with my interpretation of worldly beatitudes.

The World’s view of the Blessed life –

  • Blessed is a self-made-man, because they have built their own kingdom.­
  • Blessed are your social media posts, because you always look perfect.
  • Blessed are the ruthless, because they get what they want.
  • Blessed are those who hunger for the newest iPhone, because you will be the envy of your friends.
  • Blessed are the powerful, because they receive respect.
  • Blessed are online dating app users, for they will see a good time.
  • Blessed are those who win at all costs, for they will be called successful.
  • Blessed are the celebrities, because everybody loves them.

It is truly striking when you dwell on these words. What our culture tells us to pursue, Jesus flips it totally on its head! It is no wonder unbelievers consider us fools. Look at the subjects of each sentence in Jesus’s words. The worldly man has no desire to be characterized by such descriptions, it would be an insult and an embarrassment.

Yet, the follower of Jesus…

  1. Understands his/her total dependence on God – vs. 3-5. Being poor, mournful and meek is not Christian depression, but rather seeing our sinfulness for what it is and then taking our eyes off ourself as if we could be good enough to earn God’s love.
  2. Is filled with godliness, vs. 6-8. Living according to God’s ways (righteousness, mercy, purity) truly is the best way to live.
  3. Is actively living this out in our world, vs. 9-12. As we are on display we become peacemakers by introducing others to the One who made peace with God, and yet we can be persecuted for shining light in the darkness.

Seek the blessed life today as you encounter these words of Jesus!

The Sermon on the Mount

refocusOur time is one of extraordinary change. The virus has altered the daily life of everyone on the planet. We have new systems in place, new routines to develop, even new values emerging.

Over the next few weeks I want to unpack a passage of scripture that should help us refocus our view of life around us. Jesus called us to live his way in this new world. What will that look like? Whether we are dealing with Covid 19 virus restrictions, shifting cultural norms, or political upheaval, the believer is given a picture of how to live in a fallen world. This standard comes straight from the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5-7.

These chapters, known as the Sermon on the Mount (first acknowledged in literature as a unified sermon by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430AD), are full of practical, yet challenging, depictions of daily life. This sermon of Jesus was intended not as vision of heavenly existence, but rather of life here and now when submitting to him as King.

One misinterpretation of the Sermon of the Mount is to read these chapters as a conveyor belt of guilt. With subheadings such as Anger, Lust, Divorce, Retaliation, Loving your Enemies (just to look at Chapter 5), it could be easy to see this sermon as Jesus’s list of ways we don’t measure up. While it is true that we all fail, Jesus didn’t come to condemn, but rather to save! (John 3:17) The Sermon on the Mount must be read in light of Jesus’s invitation to a real relationship. As we submit to the King in a relationship, the Sermon on the Mount reveals a grand picture of kingdom life motivated by that relationship. Kingdom life is not about performance of rules, but rather a process of growing in Christlikeness. Toward the end of this sermon in Matthew 7:23 Jesus highlights this by acknowledging that many people will call him “Lord, Lord” but at the end of the day it is all about relationship and he will say “Depart, I never knew you.”

To believers reading this, we see a clear call to get to work. Be on display. If there was ever a time the world needs to see the church taking Jesus’s teachings seriously, it is now. The church needs to be that influence (salt and light, 5:13-16) in a world that is desperate for something real. We need to pray for God’s will to be done HERE as it is in Heaven (6:10). With so much changing in our world we must model how we build our house on the rock, not shifting sand (7:24-28).

While we may benefit from many sermons and never personally know the preacher, which is totally fine, that is not the case with the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon’s power is inextricably linked to a relationship to the Preacher. Without knowing him you will never really know what the Sermon on the Mount is truly about. Jesus is the King and as his subjects submit to his authority we find a new way to live in our crazy changing world.

Next week I will be looking at the upside-down value system of God’s Kingdom revealed by Jesus’s first topic as we go bit by bit through this text. May the Master Preacher help us refocus our view of reality through his words!