Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Beatitudes - Blessed Are The Meek

Today we are continuing in our series on the Beatitudes.  Today we are on the third beatitude.
Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.  Matthew 5:5 NKJV
The first two beatitudes talked about our relation to God.  First we see ourselves in the light of who God is and see the poverty of ourselves.  Then, in that poverty, we see our the bankruptcy of our righteousness and mourn for the sin and rebellion that defined our lives.  Today we progressing further in that we have talked about how the Christian sees himself or herself in relation to God to today where we see how we should relate to the rest of the world.  I hope we will see what a change it was from before our encounter with God, or at the very least that it should be.  Unfortunately, meekness is lacking in much of today's church. 

First, we must define what it means to be meek.  In the original language, the world can also be applied to a domesticated animal.  That picture may seem harsh or even demeaning, but it is perfect for the Spirit-filled Christian.  While we are not animals broken by a harsh master, we are men and women who have subjected ourselves to the control of God.  Someone who is meek is someone who is under the control of God.  In fact, like the domesticated animal, we learn to rely and trust in God for everything.  Also, someone who is meek is someone who has no concern for self and especially not self promotion.  Meekness is also a kind of gentleness.  Someone who is meek is not overly aggressive, especially for the things of the world.  He would rather trust God to provide than to go out and take.  Meek, however, does not mean weak or passive.  A meek person can still stand for righteousness, be very courageous, and do great things for God.  The difference is that the meek person does not do it under his own strength or by his own volition. 

One other thing about meekness is that it is diametrically opposed to the values of the world and our sinful nature.  Meekness is impossible to attain on our own.  In fact, it is a bit of a paradox.  If you strive for meekness, you are not being meek.  Being meek is a fruit of the Spirit and is a state of being we assume through the work of God in our hearts when we submit ourselves unto Him. 

Let us see what the Bible says about meekness.  First, we see Jesus using the metaphor of following him likened to a domesticated animal.
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV
The worst idea you can come from this is that God thinks of us as animals.  This is a metaphor and not literal.  We do not literally take a yoke upon our necks and pull a plow through a field.  The idea, though, is that we follow the direction of Jesus.  Furthermore, it is the idea that the taskmaster called sin that once ruled our lives is a much harder burden to carry.  A meek person takes the yoke of Jesus upon him and lives to follow his Lord.  Jesus also refers to Himself as meek in this passage by referring to Himself as gentle and lowly in heart.  So with our Lord as our example, let us go through the characteristics of a meek person. 

First of all, a meek person relies on God for everything.  In fact, it is this reliance upon God that leads to all the other effects of meekness.  Here is how Jesus expressed His submission to the Father.
I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.  John 5:30 NKJV
This verse should deflate any arrogance in any one of us.  This is not Jesus talking about our relationship with the Father, but His own.  If Jesus can do nothing apart from the Father, then what can we do?  I hope you can see the natural progression of the beatitudes in this.  When we look upon God and see ourselves for what we truly are when compared to Him, we can have no arrogance about what we can do or even who we are.  A meek person does not see himself as better or worse than anyone else, but he sees himself in relation to God.  In that, his identity is not defined by his own desires or even the world, but his identity is defined by God.  This concept is foreign to a world where degrees, titles, trophies, rewards, and promotions define one's worth.  Unfortunately, this concept has crept into the church.  We have church leaders with more titles then names. Just making up a name (but not the titles) we have leaders like Dr. Bishop Reverend Bob Smith, Pastor.  We have others who have less titles, but just as much pomposity.  I know of people who call themselves Apostle This and Prophet That  Yes, I know Paul addressed his letters as an apostle and prophets wrote that they were prophets, but identifying who you are as an officer in the ministry of God and expecting people to make that part of your name are two entirely different things.  I am positive that Paul did not introduce himself as Paul apostle when talking to people nor did Jeremiah introduce himself as Jeremiah prophet.  When Jesus called Peter, he did not say "Peter, I am Jesus, Messiah, come follow me."  When he called John, he did not say "John, I am Jesus, King and King and Lord of Lords,  come follow me."  When Jesus began the sermon we are speaking he did not cry out "I am Jesus Christ, Son of God, hear my words!"  Jesus did none of those things.  He did not even allow his status to be publicized.  He knew who He was because His identity was from God, not from the world.  He was secure in that identity because it came from God and did not need reassurance from the world.  In fact, He was rejected by the world and hung on a cross, which had no bearing on who He was.  A meek person does not care what the world thinks of him because his identity is in God.

Someone who is meek also does not strive to lay claim to God's promises.  As we have seen, meekness is living in complete reliance upon God.  Abraham was given the Promised Land.  He did not know exactly what that land was, but he still let Lot choose which land he was going to own first.  He knew God made him a promise and that God would come through with that promise.  He did not need to assert authority over Lot or get into an argument, but he just deferred to Lot and allowed him to choose first.  We must live in that same spirit.  God promises to provide for us and so we can not hoard our money and resources while others are in need, but we must be generous with what we have.  This also means we should not strive to undermine someone else's success in order to achieve the kind of provision we think God wants for us.  God will provide.  Do not worry about anothers success or whether or not you are successful by the world's standards.  We are not to strive for worldly success but to rest on God's promise to provide for us.

And, finally, someone who is meek is content with his lot in life.  So many Christians today strive for more. We seem to believe that if Jesus were alive today, he would be a Republican or Constitutionalist.  Just to get a few things straight, I do not think Jesus would involve Himself in politics.  Furthermore, Jesus does not compromise and so despite what people believe, the Constitution is not some God-inspired document.  Did Jesus ever call for more religions freedom from the Romans?  Did Jesus call for the freeing of the slaves?  Did Jesus tell the Israelites to rebel against their oppressors?  No, He did not.  In fact, it was that very fact that caused many to reject Him as they had the impression that the Messiah would lead the people to some great military victory over the Romans.  Furthermore, Jesus was homeless, poor, and unemployed.  He never strove to improve His lot in life at all.  He was content with what He had and instead devoted His energy to spreading His message.  And so must we. We must not waste our time trying to reform a corrupt man-inspired form of government ruled by sinful men.  We must not waste our time striving to increase our earthly success.  If God wants us to have those things, then He will provide them.  Our desire needs to be to serve Him and not to serve ourselves. 

One thing that meekness is not is laziness or cowardice.  Many think that meek means not doing anything.  It only means not doing things apart from God.  There are many things to do in the Lord, though.  Many also think that being meek means keeping our head down and never standing for anything.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  We are to stand for righteousness with boldness.  Jesus had the boldness to flip tables and chase money changers out of the Temple.  Jesus had the courage to allow Himself to suffer and die for our sins.  We are to stand boldly for righteousness.  Meekness can not be an excuse for lack of action. 

The best definition for meekness I can say is this: It is living and complete and total reliance on God and making that your way of life.  When that is your way of life then you never have need to strive for more.  That is because if you rely on God for everything, you rely on the world for nothing.  Our identity, our worth, our calling, our provision, our lot in life, and even our righteousness we see as of God and not of ourselves and especially not of the world.  We rest in Him and have contentment in our lives.  How can we have contentment in this life?  In other words, how can it be that happy are the meek when the world tells us otherwise?  It is because this world is not our home.  We are content because we will inherit the kingdom of God.  We are content because even if slaves now, we will rule with Christ.  We are content because even if we are poor now, we will have riches beyond measure in eternity.  We are content because if we are lonely now, we will spend eternity in the fellowship of all who came to know the Lord.  We are content because even if we are unsuccessful now, we are coheirs of the kingdom of God.  With that as our eternal destiny, why do we fight so hard for things in this brief life?  Rest in the Lord and in His promises to come. 
Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret—it only causes harm.
For evildoers shall be cut off; But those who wait on the LORD, They shall inherit the earth.
For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; Indeed, you will look carefully for his place, But it shall be no more.
But the meek shall inherit the earth, And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.  Psalm 37:7-11 NKJV

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