|Volume 21 Number 1 January 2019||
During this time of the year, people are frequently greeting each other with a “Happy New Year.” What do they mean? Most mean nothing; they just say those words traditionally, just as some say, “Praise the Lord” (Exodus 20:7). Christ, however, almost two thousand years ago, in His sermon on the mount in Matthew 5, taught how man can achieve the true happiness while living on this earth and in the world to come. The ingredient of genuine and true happiness that Christ revealed, though paradoxically, are so valuable, that if followed, they will bring happiness to any individual not only in this world but also in eternity.
Christ taught, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The word “blessed” means “happy.” Being poor in spirit is that quality of recognizing one’s spiritual destitution in such a degree as to be enabled to approach God, not as the Pharisee, but as the publican, supplicating the Father for necessary and desirable blessings (Luke 18:9-14). One must have the genuine spirit of poverty and destitution to the extent that even if he possesses his wealth, he possesses it as if he possessed it not. It is to come off from all confidence in our own righteousness and strength that we may depend only upon the merit of God through Christ for our justification, to enable us to become worthy of the kingdom of Heaven (Romans 3:21-26).
Secondly, Christ taught, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” The world says, “Blessed are the merry; those who are drinking, dancing, singing and gambling.” However, Christ taught that those who mourn are truly happy. The happiness of worldliness in the end brings sorrows. Think of those who seek happiness in liquor, drugs, money and worldly enjoyment. What do they get in the end? Only sorrows and eternal destruction in the world to come (Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Timothy 6:7-10; Luke 12:16-21). Yet, godly sorrow that leads one to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10) brings salvation from sin and finally eternal happiness in Heaven (Luke 13:5). Not only do we need to mourn for our own sins, but also, we need to mourn for the whole world, which is lost in the darkness of sin. If we are sorry for our sins and are concerned for our sinful world, then we are going to do something about it. We would repent, change and would tell others to do the same. Sin offers momentary happiness, but repentance from sin, through godly sorrow, will bring eternal joy.
Thirdly, Christ said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” To be meek is to quietly submit to God and to His will and follow His direction and comply with His designs. Meekness was a trait of Jesus (Matthew 11:29). “Who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond-servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8). Meekness is opposed to arrogance. The meek or the humble, Christ said, shall inherit the earth, because they will enjoy it more fully while in it, being content, satisfied and thankful to God for whatever they receive from Him. They, like Christ, will continue to influence for good the lives of men and women on earth after their departure from earth (Revelation 14:13), to inherit the “new earth” in which righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13).
Fourthly, “Blessed are those,” Christ taught, “who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” The carnal man, who is filled with worldly and fleshly desires, has no taste for things spiritual. A longing for righteousness will bring its possessor to righteousness. Those who do hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled with that for which they have an appetite. God created man with dual personalities. There is the physical man—the outward—and there is the spiritual man—the inward (2 Corinthians 4:16). Just as man needs physical food to live physically, so he needs the spiritual food to be alive spiritually. Again, Christ taught, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). The spiritual man needs spiritual food, which is the Word of God that instructs and guides man to live the kind of life for which God created him.
Too, hunger and thirst are appetites that return frequently and call for fresh satisfactions. Those who hunger and thirst continually labor for supplies. To have hunger and thirst for righteousness means to have the desire to know God’s will, which He has revealed in the pages of His book—the Bible. Righteousness in the scriptural view means keeping God’s commandments (Luke 1:6). Righteous is obtained in only one way, that is, by obedience to God’s commandments, all of which, as the Psalmist declared, are righteousness (Psalm 119:172). We should, therefore, be not only eager to know God’s commandments, but also, we ought to be willing to do what God requires of us. When we have that kind of attitude toward God and His will, then that will bring real happiness and satisfaction to us, as we will know that we are living by the will of God.
Fifthly, revealing the secret of true happiness, Christ said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Mercy implies compassion that forbears punishment even when justice demands it. Very often people exhibit the attitude of those sinful men who were getting ready to stone to death the woman who they claimed had been caught in the very act of adultery. Yet, Jesus, who was sinless, on the other hand, said to the woman, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more” (John 8:11). We should be merciful to others if we want God to be merciful to us. “For whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” says Galatians 6:7. Even after we have believed in Christ and have obeyed His commandments to be saved, we shall still be saved eternally in Heaven only because of the mercy of God. We must remember, though, that God will be merciful to those who are merciful to others (Matthew 6:14-15).
In the sixth place, Christ taught, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” The heart of man is the mind, which is the seat of intelligence, will and thought. Purity of heart or mind is freedom from evil desires and purposes. Whatever man does, he first thinks or plans in his mind (Mark 7:21-23). The wise man of Proverbs, therefore, wrote, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). This is to say that if our hearts are pure, our lives will be pure. The happy thing about this is that those who are pure in heart shall see God. They will live with Him, in His fellowship, eternally (Revelation 21:27; 22:5). In heart, we should endeavor to be like little children, as Christ taught in Matthew 18:3. They hold no envy or malice toward others, and neither do they think or plan to do any evil. The pure in heart shall see God by faith, as a source of happiness on earth, and they shall one day see Him face to face in Heaven.
Seventhly, Christ said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” The peacemakers are called children of God, because they possess the very characteristics or the traits of God. They resemble Him and are most like God in His efforts to reconcile man to Himself through His Son (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). The good news of Christ is called the Gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15). If there is anything our world needs the most today, it is peace. Just imagine for a moment, if every person on earth today were a Christian—a Christian in the real sense as the Bible describes—there would certainly be no wars on earth, no envy and no hatred. Then, everyone would think others better than himself as the Bible teaches (Philippians 2:3), and everyone would treat others as he wants to be treated by others, as Christ taught (Matthew 7:12). The followers of Christ can bring peace to their fellowmen who are at strife among themselves. Above all, they can help many to be reconciled to God by proclaiming His Gospel of peace, by urging them to believe in Christ and to obey Him to be at peace with God. Because God is the God of peace, therefore, those who will bring peace to others shall be called God’s children.
Lastly and eighthly, Christ said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Those whose troubles arise from other causes, such as their own misconduct, are not included in this beatitude of Christ. However, those who try to live righteously by following God’s will as is revealed in His Bible and face Satan’s wrath because of their righteous living for Him are promised the eternal blessed inheritance in Heaven (1 Peter 4:15-16). Evil forces are at war against the forces of righteousness. Therefore, those who maintain a firm stand for righteousness may expect to be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). Those who suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake have the wonderful promise of the blessing of the kingdom of Heaven. As a matter of fact, persecution for righteousness drives the persecuted closer to God for refuge, and the closer one gets to God, the richer and fuller are the blessings.
May you indeed have a blessed Happy New Year as you resolve to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ to achieve the true happiness in Him.