We have looked at Jeremiah 29:11 and its misuse in understanding God’s plan for your life. Countless Christians hang on to this verse as a personal promise from God but we discovered this is misguided. You can read more here. So what is God’s plan for your life? How do a saved people live, what does God expect of us, what has God promised?
Remember God had miraculously brought Abraham's descendants out of the house of slavery and commanded them 'now live like this,' giving them the Law through Moses. The Law didn't bring people to God, God brought people to himself then gave them the Law - Exodus 19:3-6. The Law describes how a saved people live. Why give a saved people a code to live by if they are already saved? The Proverb tells us:
'Where there is no revelation [prophetic vision ESV] the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law' (Prov. 29:18)
To an unsaved people the law prescribes and proscribes. To a saved people the law describes how a saved people live in the light of God’s love, how we are blessed and a blessing, and how we need never again cast off restraint and incur God’s displeasure. A code to live by describes God’s purpose in us as saved people. The prayer of every believer is:
‘Two things I ask of you, O LORD...Keep falsehood and lies from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the LORD?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God.' (Prov.30:7-9)
The code by which God would have us live is not constraining but liberating, freeing us to live such that we don't forget or dishonour the God who saved us. That is the Old Covenant but what of New Covenant people, what is the Kingdom code for Christians?
The Beatitudes are the basic values the world is meant to, but doesn't, live by. Paul writes:
'And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.' Eph.1:22-23
The rule of God extends over all but finds special focus in his concern for his own, the church. Not all keep his law but kingdom people live according to the values the world despises, but which God holds dear. Those who live kingdom lives are blessed.
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…’
Ashrey is the word used in the Old Testament to talk about blessing. The psalmist writes of blessings that will come to those who delight in the law of the LORD (Psalm 1:1-2) This is a promise of future reward in material goods.
Makarios is the New Testament word and the emphasis is our present state. Adopt these values and know God's presence in your life. There is some confusion about these beatitudes, what role they play in God’s plan, whether they are practical in a fallen world.
Some teach that the beatitudes are a salvation message – live this way to get right with God. This doesn’t account for the problem of sin, the fact that Jesus calls us to repent, not to do better. Others have thought it a kingdom truth - One day, in God's kingdom, we will live this way. The problem with this view is it excuses us when we fall short. Others still think it a message that is exclusive to the church – But Jesus he is king over all, even those who reject him, although he has special concern for those who are his own.
I suggest the sermon is a description. The sermon describes the way in which we are freed to live when we commit fully to the kingship of Jesus. When Jesus is near we are free to obey. Matthew begins his account of the Sermon on the mount:
'He went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them...' (Matt.5:1)
The Sermon on the Mount is for people who have chosen to be Jesus' disciples and have freely committed themselves to the King.
When we think of kingdom we think of a place. When we think of God's kingdom we tend to think eschatologically, of that day when Christ will rule unchallenged on the earth. But Jesus said, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near' (Mt.4:17)
How is God's kingdom near? It is not a place, or a promise, but an action. It is God breaking into our universe and moulding times, places, people, and events for his purpose. The clearest expression of this is Jesus' life and ministry. The expression of that action today is the people of God, Christians, the church.
- The kingdom is near in the person of Jesus.
- The kingdom is here in the fact that God's people, indwelt by God's Spirit, are here.
The sermon on the Mount is Jesus' values for his people. It implicitly rejects the values of the world. It is difficult to live among people who reject God's values and not be influenced by the airbrushed lives of the 'beautiful people.' We appreciate, value, and are drawn by others' lives and can too easily fall into line with them. They are appealing because we tend to associate them with fulfilment.
Jesus shatters this illusion and sets up an alternative set of values that he assures will truly fulfil us. Jesus' values are not in pleasure but in longing, not in satisfaction but in hunger, not in popularity but in commitment to an unpopular cause, not in competition but in helping others to find peace with God and each other.
"Only those who throw the full weight of their confidence on God as a King who acts in and for them now can ever locate the courage to live the startling lifestyle Jesus lays out for his disciples. (Mt.5:1) The Sermon on the Mount is for people who have chosen to be Jesus' disciples and freely submitted themselves to the King. In it Jesus explains to his disciples of every age what living as a citizen of heaven's kingdom involves. Abandoning the ways of the world to adopt a diametrically different set of values and commitments." (Lawrence O Richards, Small Group Members Commentary)
How are we to live in this new, born-again, kingdom society? How are we to negotiate this fallen world as citizens of that kingdom, followers of King Jesus? What is God’s plan for my life? Paul helps us in his letter to Christians in first century Rome:
‘Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve [discern] what God’s will is-his good and pleasing will.’ (Romans 12:1-2)
In an ongoing process our minds are renewed. The plan of God for your life is that you should be equipped with a new mind, able to test and discern what is the will of God, what pleases him, make kingdom choices in every day life. Someone has said that if you want to hear from God take the Bible and read it aloud. Here in the Beatitudes we find God’s plan, we begin to understand the code of the kingdom. Now we must choose to live it.
Of course sometimes, in the midst of our kingdom living, God has a specific call for us. When the call comes it is encouraging to remember Jeremiah was a timid man (1:4-6) He was not the prophet 'type' and felt much as we do when we consider what God is calling us to. What made him a prophet was not his own character but God's provision (1:17-19) God always provides grace for the day, whether it is a routine day that tests our discernment and choices, or a stand out day when God meets us with a particular calling to serve. Either way, Christ frees us to serve.