Blessed Adventure is author Dean Duncan's refreshing perspective on how the Beatitudes play a significant role in our Christian life. Found in the book of Matthew, the Beatitudes offer a pathway to spiritual development and contain nine "blessings" for Christians. These blessings are not archaic, but pertain to the here and now and are beneficial for all followers of Christ.
Duncan examines each beatitude and shows how they can be achieved only through Jesus himself-not on our own volition. He shows the unique relationship between the Gospel message and the Beatitudes, pointing out how they support each other and intertwine in such a way as to enrich the understanding of each. In addition, Duncan's thoughtful interpretation encourages believers to dig deeper into Scripture and forge an unbreakable bond with the Lord.
Written in an easy-to-understand format, Blessed Adventure is perfect for Christians young and old. Grow your faith today!
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Blessed AdventureThe Beatitudes and the Journey toward God
By Dean Duncan
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Dean Duncan
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHearing and "Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit, for Theirs Is the Kingdom of Heaven."
Is being poor in spirit something to be rewarded? How can it result in your receiving the Kingdom of Heaven?
Hearing the facts of the Gospel and the good news that you can enter into the facts to become God's person (Rom. 6:3–4) leads to another question. What was the reason for Jesus's sacrifice?
All people are separated from God because of the sin in their lives (Rom. 3:23). When I apply this to myself, I realize I have a problem:
I am a sinner.
I am not connected to God.
I want to be connected to him.
God requires a blood sacrifice for sin.
The sacrifice needs to be perfect.
I do not have a fitting sacrifice,
not even myself, since I'm not perfect.
God has furnished the perfect sacrifice!
If we want to be presented to God as holy (Col. 1:21–23), God requires a perfect blood sacrifice for our sins (Exod. 12:5 and Heb. 9:22), but we have no sacrifice to bring. Nothing we have is good enough; nothing we have is perfect. The good things we have done in our lives are not good enough, and they do not come close to making up for the sins we have committed. Nothing we own—even ourselves—is good enough or pure enough to serve as a sacrifice for our sins. We need something outside of ourselves, a perfect, unblemished sacrifice. Where can one be found? We must rely on God's grace.
We have nothing except hope in him. God has provided. Jesus lived a perfect life, so he is the perfect sacrifice we need. God gave us his perfect son (2 Cor. 5:21 and Heb. 4:14–15), the Lamb of God, to be our savior (Col. 2:13–14). Therefore, he is the only possible perfect sacrifice for our sins.
Spiritually we are no longer proud and self-sufficient. We are "poor in spirit." We know we cannot be reconciled with God on our own. We comprehend our utter spiritual destitution and our total need for the sacrifice God made for us in his son's death. We must rely on God's grace.
This concept of my being poor in spirit has been a hard one for me to accept. I was brought up to be self-reliant, ready to take care of myself. To admit that I needed someone outside myself to become right with God was difficult. I needed God to send Jesus to die in my place. It has taken several years to accept the idea that anything I could offer God is just not pure enough to bring to him. You may grasp it more quickly than I did, and I hope you do; but either way, it is a very important concept to grasp in beginning your journey toward God.
The ultimate reward is promised in Matthew 25:34: "Then the King will tell those on his right hand, 'Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.'"
The Beatitude teaches that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are poor in spirit. It is an immediate reward because embracing our poverty of spirit humbles us and is essential to our starting on the journey toward God.
Here are the Bible verses mentioned in Chapter One:
Or don't you know that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism to death, that just like Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
You, being in past times alienated and enemies in your mind in your evil works, yet now he has reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and without blemish and blameless before him, if it is so that you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the Good News which you heard, which is being proclaimed in all creation under heaven; of which I, Paul, was made a servant.
Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You shall take it from the sheep, or from the goats.
According to the law, nearly everything is cleansed with blood, and apart from shedding of blood there is no remission.
2 Cor. 5:21
For him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Having then a great high priest, who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold tightly to our confession. For we don't have a high priest who can't be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but one who has been in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin.
You were dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh. He made you alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, wiping out the handwriting in ordinances which was against us; and he has taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross.
For meditation or, as we say in Texas, "Just ponderin'":
Think about listening and hearing, looking and seeing. Often we listen without really hearing much. Sometimes we look, but we do not see.
Our ears listen and our eyes look, but it is our minds and hearts that hear and see. While reading chapter 1, did I simply listen and look, or did I really hear and see God's truth and what was said about it? Do I need to go back over the material and pause to think about its meaning for me at this time and in my life situation?
Am I starting to realize my poverty of spirit? Do I have the common idea that the good things I have done will outweigh the bad? God has spent a lot of time and effort in the Bible to teach us that he requires not good deeds, but faith to have our sins permanently removed.
As I read the introduction and chapter 1, did I realize that the Gospel applies to me?
Is the general direction of my life "pretty good"? Is that what God wants?
Do I have anything to offer God? If not, what can I do?
Chapter TwoBelieving and "Blessed Are Those Who Mourn, for They Shall Be Comforted"
Why are we being congratulated for mourning? Mourning what?
Are we lamenting the dead? Jesus did not encourage mourning for the dead. As we find in Matt. 8:21–22:
Another of his disciples said to him, "Lord, allow me first to go and bury my father." But Jesus said to him, "Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead."
Is it our personal sins that we are mourning? Is it our consciousness of the cost of our sin and the resulting grief of the Father? Is personal death being mourned? The sins of the world? These concerns are certainly often part of the mourning process.
Believing what has been heard and realizing that we have no personal, individual spiritual value opens us to mourning. The mourning is for the sinful state in which we find ourselves and our spiritual deadness. We can do nothing for ourselves; we are "poor in spirit," and we grieve.
Knowledge of the fact that Jesus died for us brings home the reality of what we did to Jesus on the cross, and we mourn before God (Rom. 5:8). Let me make that more personal: I realize that Jesus was the sacrifice for my own sins, and I mourn.
Sin brings death. Look for life! What can be done about it? Turn to Christ!
As a result of starting to turn toward life, the process is begun: we are on the way toward being comforted by God through Jesus, his son.
The Spirit of the Lord Yahweh is on me; because Yahweh has anointed me to preach good news to the humble. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of Yahweh's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to appoint to those who mourn in Zion, to give to them a garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of Yahweh, that he may be glorified. (Isa. 61:1–3) For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shepherds them, and leads them to springs of waters of life. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." (Rev. 7:17)
Our hearts are beginning to accept how much Jesus has done in paying for our sins. We find we are marvelously comforted, knowing our sins can be completely removed by his work on the cross and that we have life because of his astounding resurrection. We can have someone walking beside us in this journey, the Holy Spirit, the comforter (counselor) promised in John 14:16–17. The promise of comfort does not mean that God will make us comfortable; it means he will stand by us, support us, encourage us, and console us. As we lean on Jesus, we are leaning toward repentance.
When one is comforted, he learns to comfort others, for how could one comfort unless one has first been comforted oneself? Having received the ultimate comfort of knowing God has given us a way to have our sins removed, we are able to comfort other people as they face the trials of ordinary life and offer them the transcendent comfort of knowing their sins can be forgiven.
I have been growing in my ability to accept my own poverty of spirit, and my ability to mourn the state of my spiritual poverty continues as I mature. The older I become, the more clear it is to me that I am spiritually "broke" on my own, and I still grieve over this, but I also rejoice in the comfort the Holy Spirit provides.
These are the verses I quoted in Chapter Two (the others are included in the chapter):
But God commends his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
I will pray to the Father, and he will give you another Counselor that he may be with you forever,—the Spirit of truth, whom the world can't receive; for it doesn't see him, neither knows him. You know him, for he lives with you, and will be in you.
Meditate on these questions from Chapter Two:
Have you ever had a time in your life when you let it soak in that you are spiritually "broke"?
Did you mourn over that awareness and the idea that your sin caused Jesus to have to die?
A Bible study suggestion: Read chapter 53 of the book of Isaiah. It was written some seven hundred years before Jesus was born, but it feels like the author witnessed the crucifixion.
When you see Jesus dead in the tomb, do you comprehend and appreciate that it should have been you?
Chapter ThreeRepentance and "Blessed Are the Gentle, for They Shall Inherit the Earth"
Having heard the Gospel message and believed the facts, the believer mourns over his or her condition. Something must be done. There stirs a desire to turn to God. This is the beginning of repentance.
Repentance has been referred to as doing an "about face," but I would call it executing "to the rear, march." The human journey through life embodies movement, either away from God or toward him. The unsaved person has been marching away from God. He or she learns of the need for God, does a 180-degree turn, and marches toward him. The general drift of his or her life has been in alienation from God. Now he or she seeks an ever-closer walk with Him through Christ.
A result of this turning and walking in a new direction is a gentleness (meekness in many Bible translations) arising out of inner strength—strength from the decision to live God's way, to search the scriptures for the Lord's will, and to act upon what is found there. This is gentleness, not as the world defines it, but a willingness to be controlled by the Maker of everything.
The quality of gentleness in life is not fear of what the outside world can do to an individual, but controlled strength. There is humility in submission to God's will, and there is power in knowing and carrying out that will.
Gentleness is not weakness. Think of a fast, powerful wild horse. With training and under the control of an experienced rider, the horse is not slower or weaker as it acts in concert with its master's will. The gentle (meek) person of God is like this: gentle but strong.
This idea of God's expecting us to be meek is especially difficult for men to grasp. Men have been taught most of their lives to be strong and to look out for themselves. When I have discussed this concept with men, sometimes it seems that it doesn't soak in at all. If you are having a hard time with this, think about the strong horse that is not weakened at all by submitting to his master. With God's help, you can be gentle and still be strong.
I have often been sarcastic in my conversation, but when I took this Beatitude to heart, I became aware that sarcasm is definitely not being gentle. Old habits die hard, but I think I am much less unkind in my speech than I once was. I try every day to improve.
This Beatitude promises that the gentle (humble) shall inherit the earth (the land, Ps. 37:11). I believe that this inheritance shall not come by conquering other people or lands but by achieving ultimate spiritual victory during the final disclosure of the Kingdom. This faith, demonstrated during our lives by our gentleness is the victory that overcomes the world. Who overcomes the world? Those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God (1 John 5:4–5).
Abraham looked for a city whose maker and builder was God (Heb. 11:8–10). We look and hope for no less than a place made by God. We anticipate a new Heaven and a new Earth. A new city is coming out of Heaven where God will live with humankind and we will live with him (Rev. 21:1–4). Abraham was promised a land. As Abraham's offspring by faith (Gal. 3:29), we, the gentle, will inherit a Kingdom!
Here are the verses used in Chapter Three:
But the humble shall inherit the land, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
1 John 5:4–5
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world: your faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
By faith, Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go out to the place which he was to receive for an inheritance. He went out, not knowing where he went. By faith, he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a land not his own, dwelling in tents, with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked for the city which has the foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth have passed away, and the sea is no more. I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice out of heaven saying, "Behold, God's dwelling is with people, and he will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away from them every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; neither will there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more. The first things have passed away."
If you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to promise.
Some thinking about Chapter Three:
Was that a new thought—that thing about looking for a city made by God? Do you ever think about it? What is it like? What kind of streets does it have? Does it have streetlights? Hint: it may take a little Bible study to find the answers.
Do you dream about being in the new city and the new earth?
Are you headed toward that city or away from it? Do you need to make that 180-degree turn in the direction of your life?
Do you have the strength to be gentle?
Chapter FourConfession and "Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst after Righteousness, for They Shall be Filled"
As the repentant believer makes his way closer to God, he or she finds in the Bible that he or she should confess, letting other people know of his or her belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. (Rom. 10:8–10).
The name "Jesus" shows he is wholly human. The word Christ means "the anointed one" or "the Messiah." The title "Christ" denotes that he is the King who was promised to his people. Jesus is the savior who was promised by God centuries before he was born. He is the only begotten Son of God, miraculously born of the Virgin Mary. The relationship of Son indicates he is wholly divine. He is truly God on Earth.
Excerpted from Blessed Adventure by Dean Duncan Copyright © 2010 by Dean Duncan. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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