I would like to begin this article with looking at the character of those who have and live by the righteousness of God. In Matthew 5:3-9, Jesus reveals what this character is through what we call the “Beatitudes”.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
There are 7 character qualities listed here. The bad news is, we are not born with any of these qualities. The good news is, we can receive each one of them from Jesus Christ.
The first thing that I would like to focus on is the result of having these character traits. Jesus says that those who have these traits are “blessed”. The word that Jesus chooses here is interesting and it helps shed some light on the entire subject. The Greek word translated “blessed” is “makarios” and it means “happy, satisfied, content”. A person who lives with God’s righteousness and according to God’s righteousness is satisfied and content with his life. That is in contrast to the person who tries to live according to the righteousness of man. He is never content in life. He is never fully satisfied with who he is or what he has. He is always looking for more. Now let’s look at the character traits one by one and see if we have them or not. These traits are not like a buffet where you pick and choose the ones that you like. This is a packaged deal. You either take them all or none at all.
I. He is poor in spirit.
When Jesus talks about being poor or poverty in spirit, He does not refer to physical poverty, that is why He says “in spirit”. He is describing the attitude of a person who must totally depend upon God for everything. Spiritually speaking, he is bankrupt. He is a beggar before the Lord. He has nothing to offer to God and only to receive. The righteousness of man teaches that we get to God through our good works while the righteousness of God teaches that we come before Him as bankrupt beggars in need of help. Which position have you been taught, do you try to work your way to God with your good works or do you recognize the fact that you are spiritually bankrupt and have nothing to offer and only to receive? Jesus illustrates this point in another message that He preached.
9 And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:
10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
11 “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
12 ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’
13 “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ (Luke 18:9-13)
One of these men trusted in himself and did not see himself as being spiritually bankrupt before God (he lists all his good deeds) while the other came seeking after mercy, because he knew who he was and that he had nothing to offer. Which man do you associate with more?
II. He mourns over his sin and the sin around him.
We live in a day and age when people have become calloused to sin and its consequences. People just say things like, “that is just the way it is, these are the times” ect. ect. That is a poor excuse. Things are not supposed to be this way. We were not created to wallow in sin. We were created to have a relationship with God and live above sin. The reason things are the way that they are is because people try to live by their own righteousness, which tolerates sin, and as a result, we have what we have today. Things were no different back during Jesus’ days. People were tolerant of sin just like today. If you look at the major religions of the world, both past and present, other than Judaism and Christianity, you can see that sin is tolerated (in some cases accepted and promoted). God’s righteousness is much different. When a man receives and lives by God’s righteousness, he hates sin the way that God does. He hates his own sin and the destruction that is has brought and continues to bring as well as hating the sin of the world. How do you view sin? Do you mourn over your sin and the state of the world around you? Do you hate sin with a holy hatred the way that God does? A good example of mourning over sin can be found in Psalm 51. This is David’s repentance after he was caught in a string of deadly sin.
III. He is gentle (meek).
The word gentle or meek does not mean a person who has no backbone and never stands up for himself. He is not a doormat to be trampled on. The word translated as gentle or meek is the Greek word “praus” and it is a term used for domesticating animals. It literally means “mildness of disposition”. It is used for taming wild horses. It means power under control. A horse that has been tamed is still just as powerful as it was when it was wild. The difference now, is that all of his great power is now harnessed and can be put to positive use. A person who becomes gentle or meek, is still a very powerful person, yet now, that power is controlled and can be put to positive use. Meekness is in no way a sign of weakness. Jesus was meek, yet at the right time and for the right reasons, He cleared out the temple of those who were making a mockery of the house of God. Another way of explaining meekness is “receiving everything in life as coming from the hand of God”. When you know God for who He is, according to His character, then you learn how to trust Him in every situation because He has promised that He will use every circumstance in life for our good.
God can turn the worst of the worst into the best of the best. Look at the example of the young man Joseph. He lost everything overnight, was sent into slavery in Egypt, and then ended up in prison, even though he was totally innocent. By the end, God turns this situation around so that Joseph become #2 in charge in all of the land of Egypt, behind the Pharaoh. He also ends up saving Egypt and the surrounding lands during a time of horrible famine. Not only that, he also takes part in the fulfillment of prophesy, getting the children of Israel safely into the land of Egypt. He understood that God was in control. He trusted God. He was a meek man, very powerful, but he had that power under control. As a result, he literally saved himself and the world (physically as well as spiritually, the Israelites, through whom was to come the Messiah, were preserved. Are you a meek person? Do you receive everything in life as coming from the hand of God? Do you allow God to use every situation in life for your good and His glory? Are you more like a wild horse or a tamed one? Remember, power under control is useful while power without control is useless and even dangerous.
Although these character traits are a packaged deal, there is a progression. Once a person realizes that he is not content then he seeks the source of contentment, which is God. Once he encounters God, he realizes that he is spiritually bankrupt and he comes to God as a beggar. When he receives God’s character, he views sin the way God does and mourns over it. As he gets to know God more and more, he realizes that God is in control over all things and he begins to be meek, having the same power as before, but controlled, and he begins to see everything in life as coming from the hand of God for his good. Has this process happened in your life? If not, then you need to take the first step and go to God. This is also what is known as repenting or being born again. That is what it takes to have the righteousness of God that opens up the Kingdom of heaven to you. Has this happened in your life? Now would be a great time to take this step. In the next article, we will look at the 4 remaining character traits.