The Approval of God
Is it actually August? School is starting back in a few days? These summer breaks feel shorter and shorter. Oh well, I love the smell of school supplies in the morning. I also love the proud smiles of my children as they make their way to a first day of school. I pray for the teachers as well, be they at home or in larger settings, to embrace the day with the same delightful countenance.
As a parent or teacher, my guess is there is something incomparably satisfying about watching children trust and obey you. You can’t hide the smile. As surprised at the obedience though you may be, the approval has to leak out somewhere. It’s uncontainable. If God, the Father, shares with us what makes Him smile, shouldn’t we be equally serious about obeying Him as His children. It’s in Matthew 5 where Jesus shows us, I believe, what makes God smile, and Jesus should know better than anyone about this matter. The Beatitudes portion of the Sermon on the Mount displays for us the character of one who is to be congratulated, approved of God, and truly happy in life.
We live in a country where “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is our mantra. And we certainly pursue happiness. It’s tragic to observe, however, certain methods we employ in this pursuit. No one is pursuing misery, and yet the quest for happiness often leads to that end. The lies of our enemy, even our own sinful natures, promise to satisfy, but they never do. Instead of allowing the disillusionment to redirect our search, we often go farther away from God and wallow in despair.
This is where the Beatitudes come in to teach us. Jesus confronts our upside down world and shows His followers the way out. The problem remains, however, that once you’ve gotten familiar living opposite of God’s Kingdom, it may take some time getting used to living on the other side of things. Sometimes it’s hard to see this world in opposition to God’s kingdom, and at other times the opposition is all too clear. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches us that a Kingdom lifestyle is more than mere ethical reformation or personality adjustments -- Kingdom lifestyles require Kingdom resources. This comes with a change from the inside out—a transformation of heart and mind.
The first half of Matthew 5 deals with the character of one living a Kingdom lifestyle. For the purposes of the study we are now in, we should remember that the issues at hand are based upon character and not merely behavior. The content of Matthew 6 and 7 flows from what Jesus has established in Matthew 5. As we continue the “Back to the Mountain” series, let’s not forget why we came to this mountain in the first place. My hope for us as a church is that we will deeply consider the life Jesus is describing in this sermon. It is a life that is rooted and grown from the words spoken in this mountain sermon. Before the weekend arrives, take some time and refresh your thinking over Matthew 5:1-16. Look again at the character of God’s kids—children of His Kingdom—who bring out the smiles of approval from their Heavenly Father.