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  A PRESCRIPTION FOR HEALTH MATTHEW 5:1-12: “Seeing the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and when He was seated, His disciples came to Him.” (v1)

Remember that we learnt about living life whole, which is having your life body, spirit and soul all complete and intact without anyone being dented by evil spirit, especially your soul. We have also learnt what it takes to live life that is completely saved, and we know that our salvation need to be properly guided by making sure that we are in tune with the Lord Jesus Christ by keeping our cleansing, maintaining our being dead in sin, keeping all the requirements of our being raised to a new life with our sin-forgiven being intact for our journey to eternity heaven from this existence to be assured and for all the evil plans of our adversaries to be overcome giving us the benefits of our complete salvation as seen in Jn. 1:16, meaning that there are benefits when one succeeds to achieve a complete salvation. Today we shall be considering what people need to know and do in order to live a life that is complete with the deepest possible contentment and that is truly blessed of God. It is in our lives that God does His greatest work. No one knows the personality in every individual better than Lord Jesus because He designed them when He gave life to every one of us. The stamp of Christ is on all creation, including the human soul, as seen in Colossians 1:16 which says “16 For it was in Him that all things were created, in heaven and on earth, things seen and things unseen, whether thrones, dominions, rulers, or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him [by His service, intervention] and in and for Him”. Frequently I have thought that if we could look deep inside the soul we would find the words inscription “Made by Him and for Him” sewn into the fabric of the soul’s very structure. But what exactly is the soul? A basic definition is this: the soul is the part of us with which we think, feel, desire and decide, or to put it another way, our thoughts, desire, feelings and will comes from our soul. Traditionally, three positions have been put forward concerning the soul: that the soul is naturally Christian: that the soul is naturally pagan: that the soul is naturally half pagan and half Christian. I vote for the first view: that the soul is naturally Christian. We are God’s image bearers –in whom the image of God has been marred by sin. The soul is not naturally pagan and so when it is pagan it is eccentric –off-centre. Eccentric is of a person or their behaviour, unconventional and slightly strange. A radiant man of 82 years old declared after he had invited Christ into his soul. ‘I know I had done the right in surrendering to Christ, for the moment I received Him I was no longer fighting with myself.’ This comment highlights the fact that the way of Christ and the way of the soul are one. ‘When the soul finds Christ, It finds itself.’ When the soul naturally become any other thing (pagan, half Christian, half pagan, other religions) other than Christian, it becomes off-centre and you know that Christ is the centre. From the above, what we said is the soul comes into its own when Christ dwells in it. Christ’s will is the life of the soul, and any other will is its tension or its controversy. If the soul were naturally pagan it would be very ill at ease when coming into the kingdom of God, but instead it feels a releasing sense of homecoming, which shows it is naturally Christian! In today’s reading Lord Jesus describes the qualities necessary for the soul to function as it should, and the best prescription for spiritual and mental health it is possible to find. They form what I like to describe as ‘the psychology’ because it simply means a study and understanding of the working of the soul’. And who is better to understand the soul than Lord Jesus? He is the Master Psychologist. These eight crisp and powerful statements give us the irreducible minimum divine standards of beautiful healthy attitudes that we need for our soul to function in the way it was designed by the Creator. What Lord Jesus presents here for our development are healthy attitudes of life that we need to imbibe, and that is why we call them ‘the Be-attitudes’, or ‘Declaration of Blessedness’, or if you prefer ‘the Beautiful Attitudes’ given by the Lord Himself on His popular Sermon on the Mount. In the Lord’s declaration of Blessedness on the mount each statement begins with the word ‘blessed’, so it follows that if you want your life to be blessed, then the more fully these attitudes are in you, the more content you will be. An attitude is ‘a settled mode or way of thinking, of feeling or of desiring something.’ The attitudes Lord Jesus talks about in these verses will have a powerful influence on us–spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and even physically. Someone said, ‘Your attitudes determine your attitude’: in other words, your growth as a Christian depends largely on your inner attitudes and the way they are controllably displayed in relation to yourself and to your fellow human. When these eight or nine beautiful attitudes as declared by the Lord Jesus as itemized in all the ‘blessed’ become such a part of us, then believe me, the sky is the limit or will be our limit in life if we are able to apply these itemized beautiful attitudes of life in our daily work of life:  Blessed is the Poor in Spirit, the humble, the insignificant ones for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,  Blessed are those who Morn, those who have matchless Grace of comfort, they will be comforted,  Blessed are the Meek, the patient long suffering people, for they are those who shall inherit the earth,  Blessed are those who Hunger and Thirst for righteousness and right standing with God, for they shall be satisfied,  Blessed are the Merciful, for they are those who shall obtain mercy,  Blessed are those with His Grace, for they shall see God,  Blessed are the Makers and Sustainers of Peace, they are those who shall be called Sons and Daughters of God,  Blessed are those who are Persecuted for Righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,  Blessed are those who people revile and persecute, saying all kinds of evil things against falsely on God’s account, for they will receive great, strong and intense reward in heaven.

   The Way Forward: Lord Jesus Sermon on The Mount Matthew 5:1-12:

Let us begin by reading Matthew 5:1-12 Seeing the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and when He was seated, His disciples came to Him. 2Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: 3Blessed (happy, [a]to be envied, and [b]spiritually prosperous—[c]with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the poor in spirit (the humble, who rate themselves insignificant), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven! 4Blessed and enviably happy [with a [d]happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His matchless grace] are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted! 5Blessed (happy, blithesome, joyous, [e]spiritually prosperous—[f]with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the meek (the mild, patient, long-suffering), for they shall inherit the earth! 6Blessed and fortunate and happy and [g]spiritually prosperous (in that state in which the born-again child of God [h]enjoys His favor and salvation) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (uprightness and right standing with God), for they shall be [i]completely satisfied! 7Blessed (happy, [j]to be envied, and [k]spiritually prosperous—[l]with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy! 8Blessed (happy, [m]enviably fortunate, and [n]spiritually prosperous—possessing the [o]happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His grace, regardless of their outward conditions) are the pure in heart, for they shall see God! 9Blessed (enjoying [p]enviable happiness, [q]spiritually prosperous—[r]with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the makers and [s] maintainers of peace, for they shall be called the sons of God! 10Blessed and happy and [t]enviably fortunate and [u]spiritually prosperous [v](in the state in which the born-again child of God enjoys and finds satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of his outward conditions) are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake (for being and doing right), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven! 11Blessed (happy, [w]to be envied, and [x]spiritually prosperous—[y]with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of your outward conditions) are you when people revile you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things against you falsely on My account. 12Be glad and supremely joyful, for your reward in heaven is great (strong and intense), for in this same way people persecuted the prophets who were before you.

  Introduction:

This chapter, and the two that follow it, are a sermon, a famous sermon of the Lord Jesus, the sermon upon or on the Mount. It is the longest and fullest continued discourse of our Saviour Lord Jesus Christ that has its input upon or in all record of the gospels. It is a practical discourse, there is not much of the credenda of Christianity in it-the things to be believed, but it is wholly taken up with the agenda-the things to be done, these are where Christ began with in His preaching for if any man will do His Will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God. The circumstances of the sermon being accounted for as seen in Matthew 5: 1, 2, the sermon itself follows, the scope of which is, not to fill our heads with notions, but to guide and regulate our practice in life on earth. Credenda means doctrines to be believed, matters of faith or belief, different from agenda which is a list of items to be discussed at a formal meeting, so the Sermon on the Mount by the Lord is not an agenda. 1. He proposes Blessedness as the end of a life in Christ, and gives us the character content of those who are entitled to blessedness (very different from the sentiments of a vain world) in eight beatitudes, which may justly be called paradoxes, as seen in Matthew 5:3-12. A paradox is a seemingly absurd or contradictory statement or proposition which when investigated may prove to be well founded or true. 2. He prescribes Duty or Sincere Services as the way to attain this blessedness, and gives us standing rules that governs the duty. He directs His disciples, i) To understand what they are, telling them that they are –the Salt of the earth, and the Lights of the world as seen in Matthew 5: 13-16 ii) To understand what they have to do –they are to be governed by the moral law. Here or in this Lord’s message is, a) A general ratification or making of God’s divine law officially valid, and a recommendation of it, the validity of the law to us, as our rule of life as seen in Matthew 5:17-20 b) By this sermon the Lord gave particular ratification of divers mistakes or, rather, a reformation of divers wilful, gross corruptions, which the scribes and Pharisees had introduced in their exposition of the law and an authentic explication of divers branches which most needed to be explained and vindicated as seen in Matthew 5:20. Particularly, here is an explication, i) Of the sixth commandment, which forbids murder as seen in Matthew 5:21-26 ii) Of the seventh commandment, against adultery, as seen in Matthew 5:27-32 iii) Of the third commandment as seen in Matthew 5:33-37. iv) Of the law of retaliation as seen in Matthew 5:38-42 v) Of the law of brotherly love as seen in Matthew 5:43-48. And the scope of the whole is, to show that the law is spiritual. Divers in the bible means various mistakes, wilful gross corruptions, added as “various diseases’’ which takes or renders the divine law of God out of context which the Lord is not pleased with. Do you preach a sermon about a sermon? That’s what we will be doing here as we look at the Sermon on the Mount. The Lord preached a sermon about the sermon which the scribes and the Pharisees are erroneously preaching to the people just as it is currently going on in our society today, hence that question above, do you preach a sermon about a sermon? Lord Jesus has gathered all His disciples and begun travelling around, healing the sick and proclaiming the good news. Here is where we first get a first hand from Lord Jesus Himself what that good news might be. We have this incredible moment of a long, important sermon. Matthew contains several of these long discourses. There are a lot of Lord Jesus’ words in this Gospel. This sermon, my friends, including the part that we focus on this morning, was written for times such as these or the times of corrupt sermon as the ones we are witnessing today. Lord Jesus is telling us about what good living looks like here and He’s offering us the great promise of following in His path or in His example of living. This is an active demand of the Gospel. The Beatitudes are one of the most familiar passages and yet their challenge to us never gets old. We are continually called to reinterpret its call on our lives into the given moment. The Greek word that’s translated here as blessed can also be translated as happy – the basic point is that these are some of the keys to living a good life – this is what Lord Jesus lifts up as what is required of us and what comes to us on this path of life on earth. The Lord Jesus tells us: that or this is how we navigate or live life. That or this is how we meet the challenges of life, the uncertainties of life, and the difficulties of life. That is what we are to teach our children and grandchildren the Lord Jesus tells us. A lifetime of living the beatitudes day after day, year after year, is how we overcome ourselves and secure our salvation in the Lord. The beatitudes are not simply Lord Jesus’ helpful hints for happy living. They are not the church’s version of “Hints from Heloise” the respected French Nun. They are descriptive of God’s mind and Lord Jesus’ heart. They are kingdom values and reveal what kingdom life is like. They shape and form our lives and longings to be like God’s life and longings. That’s a pretty different approach. Most of the time we twist and distort God’s life and longings to fit ours instead of the other way round. That’s why the beatitudes are so radical and often seem so out of reach. As we hear Lord Jesus’ words and consider the beatitudes it’s easy to look at ourselves and say, “That is not me, that is not the world, that is not even the church.” You are right, it’s not. We tend to look at what we are not. God, however, focuses on what we can become, who we are called to be, and who we are created to be. The temptation is to think that the beatitudes are rules or conditions for being blessed or receiving our heavenly reward. They are not that at all. They are not about building up, accomplishing, or acquiring. They are about letting go, surrendering, sincere service, living with a vulnerable and open heart. That does not mean we run away, back down, or isolate ourselves from the realities of our life and world. It means we engage them, that is engaging the people and the world in a different way, Lord Jesus’ way. The beatitudes teach us to trust God more than the external circumstances of our lives. The Lord Jesus teaching on the beatitudes invite our sincere and honest dependence on God rather than on self-reliance. In today’s world where divers’ teachings have corrupted the Scriptures and the gospel at large dishing out the leaven of the scribes and Pharisees that sounds a lot like weakness and foolishness, the beatitudes of the Lord is very much required to be preached by God’s people. That’s what the divers’ sounds like in every age. But to those who are being saved it is the power of God. God chose what is foolish to shame the wise and what is weak to shame the strong. The beatitudes are nothing less than the way of the cross. The fullest expression of a “beatitudinal life” is seen in the Lord Jesus’ crucifixion. If we live the beatitudes in our everyday life they will take us to the cross. In the trauma and setbacks of life we discover that we cannot do or live life by ourselves and achieve the purpose of God. As we admit our need of God we find purity of heart. When this is achieved then the arrogance of self-sufficiency gives way to meekness. We realize that all that we are and have is from God and we begin to know ourselves as poor in spirit. Our own misfortunes awaken and connect us to the pain of the world for which we cannot help but mourn. We think less about ourselves and become merciful to others. We have nowhere else to go and so we turn our gaze back to God. The longer we gaze at God the more we hunger and thirst for righteousness, for God’s life, and we become peacemakers reconciling ourselves to God and our neighbour. This is the life type for which Christ’s disciples are willing to be persecuted, a life of righteousness, a life for which Christ died and rose again. The beatitudes are not so much about what we do, our actions, but how we do, and our being. They are less about actions and more about relationships. To live the beatitudes is to live a life of reckless, exuberant, self-abandonment to God and our neighbour. That’s called love. The only reason we can do that is because we know and trust ourselves to have already been blessed by God. We live the beatitudes as a response to God blessing us. That is the way of Christ. That is not only the way forward through this life but it is the way to life. If we are to follow Christ beatitudinal life must become our way. This sermon is said by many to be the most famous sermon in the history of human civilization. Throughout our world, the Church, and our homes a common question is being asked. People want to know if the waters of life are navigable and, if so, how. People are looking for a way to deal with the challenges, the uncertainties, and the difficulties of life and that is what we are navigating across in the waters of life. We want some assurance that the direction of our life will offer meaning and connect us to something larger than our individual stories. So how do we move forward? What are we to teach and tell our children and grandchildren? Those are the age old questions, asked in every generation. Those questions are, I believe, what President Obama was speaking to in his state of the union address when they kept referring to “winning the future.” We must, he says, out innovate, out educate, and out build the rest of the world. The Republicans and the Tea Party Movement were answering the same questions when they offered their responses that we must repeal Obamacare, end spending, and balance the budget. You can watch those questions being answered on the news as Egyptian protesters and the government confront each other struggling with different ideas and directions of how life should move forward plus the new world order saga. I recently saw those questions in the tears of a man in today’s Nigeria who, for the first time, accepted financial help as he tries to chart a way through unemployment. More often than not our attempts to navigate life do not make the news. Regardless of whether they are personal struggles or family matters, however, they are just as real and of no less concern to God. Each of us could tell stories about the questions we face, the challenges we confront, and the difficulties we must overcome plus the uncertainty that faces us. Sometimes we seem to succeed and other times we don’t. Most of us have been taught to navigate the waters of life through power, strength, accomplishment, and acquisition. We work to be rich so we can have what we want. We seek power so we can take what we want. We argue to be right so we can have our way. We compete to win so we’ll be respected and admired. We want to be beautiful so we’ll be liked and desired. Any of that sound familiar? Have you ever tried those ways of getting through life? The beatitudes is teaching us that they not the right way of navigating through life.

  These attitudes

These attitudes fill headline news, magazine articles, tabloid pictures, television, and our own lives. They find their origin in the idea that we are to be self-made men and women that we are to build up ourselves and make life. After all we must look out for number one because if we don’t become number one then no one will, which is where envy and jealousy stem from. At least that’s what many of us have been told. For too long that has been the myth or tradition with which we have lived. Lord Jesus’ life and teaching fly in the face of that myth. Lord Jesus offers a different way of navigating life. The waters of life, Lord Jesus says, are navigable, but it’s not through power, strength, accomplishment, or acquisition. The way forward is not the way we’ve always done it. It is not enough for us, as believers and followers of Lord Jesus, to simply make over a little piece of our world or life. It is not enough to just reform a political or economic system. Navigating life is not about overcoming circumstances or other people. It is about overcoming ourselves. If you want to know what overcoming yourself looks like then look at the beatitudes: • Blessed are the poor in spirit. • Blessed are those who mourn. • Blessed are the meek. • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. • Blessed are the merciful. • Blessed are the pure in heart. • Blessed are the peacemakers. • Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. Let’s look at the first 3 and let us hear them in this way – blessed are the humble, the grieving, the powerless. First we need to make sure that we distinguish between humility and humiliation. Those words are so similar. This is not about humiliation. To be poor in spirit is to be humble, the ability to set aside the drive of your own ego and let yourself be open to God. It is to orient yourself to God’s love so that you can carry God’s love out into the world. Then it can be put this way, Blessed, happy are those who are humble – for they (such people) let God work through them, through their life allowing or enabling them to bear witness to the goodness of heaven here on earth. Blessed, happy are those who grieve: – for in a community of love and fellowship, they will be comforted. There will be mourning. There will be grief. There will be suffering. But you do not grieve alone. You do not suffer alone. God is with you and your community is with you. Blessed, happy are the powerless – for if we follow the way of Lord Jesus, if we live in the realm of God into reality, we erase the margins or barriers to which we exile some people in this world. If we are truly following Lord Jesus, we move people from margins to the centre, so that together we all share in the abundance of society. For example the cry in Nigeria today is marginalisation whereas people are busy enjoying themselves at the center with the commonwealth. We do not leave behind the refugee or the Muslim or the immigrant. We do not leave some people without affordable health care or some people without food or some people without security and decent housing. We do not clear cut public forests and run pipelines through indigenous lands without compensation. If we are to take the message of the Gospel seriously, then we create a world where the most powerless among us are brought into the fullness of our world. The grave abuse of human power at the expense of the powerless among us stands in direct contradiction to the teachings of the Gospel. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled” You know all translations are human and all translations are political. We hear the word righteousness and we think about our own individual piety. He believed that was a mistranslation and argued that the word should be ‘justice’. So we hear the reading as blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice for they will feast on justice. What better meal could there be? If you carry Lord Jesus in your heart, how can we not strive to bring about a world where no one is an outcast and no one is a stranger? “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” The work of mercy is everyday work – and we are called to it by the Gospel. We are called to it by our faith. In a true and just realm of God, all will be merciful and all will receive mercy. That is the world that we are striving for where mercy and poor in spirit would not be misunderstood where one set feels it applies to them more than it applies to another. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” God is with us and loving us all the time. The question is whether we live in such a way of pure heart as to see God and God’s call on our lives. To be pure in heart is to live with a sense of integrity. There is corruption all around us. There is manipulation of power all around us. There are questionable motives and mean people and moral ambiguity at every turn. But why will we not do any of this? We will not do any of this because we live our life seeing God and God’s call for us. Any pure hearted person will not be involved in any of these. Because we believe in something that is greater than ourselves and that’s love of God into this world that speaks back to a system that deals with death that lives for profit that consumes the earth that exploits people that uses everything to its own advantage warning us not to have or develop such impure heart. The book of Matthew is full of these people and our world is full of these people too. Lord Jesus is consistent in His witness for God’s love and justice and so must we be. To be pure in heart is to live with integrity – and when you do that you will see the presence of God in this world. That is the call of the Gospel. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Peacemaking is work. Peace is not passive. Peace is not false unity that silences oppression. Peace does not mask injustice and allow it to fester. Peacemaking is hard, daily, active work. It is necessary. It is constant. It is the duty of people who claim to be Christian. But there’s another cool part of this. Sometimes peacemaking is grim duty, but it’s also active joy. It is life-giving to the person doing it and to all involved. It is embodied hope and steadfast dedication. It is connection and deep satisfaction. It is friendship and transformation and possibility. Peacemaking is an act so fully suffused by the Holy Spirit that it lights up your heart and feeds your soul. By this work God is pleased. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Remember our tweak means twist or pull (something) sharply of the word righteousness. But this really works either way, provided that you don’t see this as just some measure of narrow personal morality. Let there be no mistake. The quest for genuine justice will not make you popular in some circles. When you stand up for the innate value of all people and the planet, people will come after you. When you say that Muslims and physically disabled and mentally ill people and Guatemalan immigrants and the homeless and Syrian refugees and urban black folk and transgender people and those living in poverty and queer folk and precious natural ecosystems – when you say that all of these are precious and fully worthy in the sight of God, there are people with power in this world who do not want to hear it. Because if that is true then we as a global culture are called to live in a very different way. Living the way of Lord Jesus, that is a threat to their power and their profits – and it is a wise thing to be prepared for what might come at you when you begin to live differently, the Lord Jesus way. That is not a happy thought. But the alternative is to turn away from the Gospel message and that is worse. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” So we get this two verses in a row – be aware that this living differently, which is living Lord Jesus way is not going to be an easy road. Lord Jesus knew what was coming when He began to teach the people this different way to live life. Do not expect success by the measures of this world. There will be days when you don’t seem to make anybody happy. Living out the love of the Gospel is a huge challenge – it is a challenge to ourselves and it is a challenge to the powers that be and the way we are supposed to believe and buy our way through life. So you must expect oppositions, persecutions! It is a call to live differently, to love extravagantly, to care deeply, to pray without ceasing, to tend to the needs of your neighbour, to see everyone as your neighbour, to find the face of Lord Jesus in the marginalized, and to work to change a system that puts people and the planet at the margins and try bring them to the centre. You may or may not see your reward on earth for this work. People have lived and many faithful people have died at the hands of men across the millennia. But if you live as a peacemaker, if you seek justice, if you live with integrity, if you are humble and merciful, you are living the life God calls you to live, and people will misunderstand you and they will revile and say all sorts of evil things against you. The Lord said you are blessed and you should rejoice for so have they treated those before you.

  

Lord Jesus, I see that You have created me to live in harmony with Your will and to embrace Your attitudes, which is the attitude of heaven. Help me realize that this is good and healthy, as You always want the best for me. Lead me on Lord: I am following. Always help me to follow no matter the cost, give me the courage and fearlessness to follow You to the end. In Your name Lord Jesus I pray. Amen!