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March 30—Lent Devotional 2013

March 30—Lent Devotional 2013

As you read and reflect on today’s beatitude, please listen to this track from contemporary Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. We will feature this track throughout Lent.

The Beatitudes

“Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching.”
Matthew 7:28

 

Mark Twain said, “It’s ain’t those parts of the Bible I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts I do understand”. I wonder what he would have said about the beatitudes of Jesus! Or what about comedian W. C. Fields, who quipped that he had spent a lot of time searching the Bible for loopholes! But there are no loopholes in Jesus’ beatitudes, or little we would find hard to understand. Yet they always startle and amaze us.

We saw earlier in these daily reflections that Jesus spoke the beatitudes to His disciples, instructing them on the core values of His kingdom. The crowds who overheard Jesus’ training of His disciples “were astounded at his teaching”. Jesus’ words will always challenge conventional wisdom and subvert popular notions about how to live the good life. No wonder Jesus’ followers were called “People who have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). Jesus turns everything upside down, or rather, right side up. His kingdom will set everything right.

Today Jesus calls us to be part of His kingdom, to reign with Him in this life and the life to come. There are no loopholes or anything hard to understand about His command “Follow me!

I was a teenager when I learned a song that was known then as “The Song of the Garo Christians”. It was my delight, many years later, to visit that part of India where the song originated and to find a thriving church there. The song that is now popular around the world comes from the Garo people in northeast India, and from a time when the good news of Jesus was first brought to them. The author of the song is unknown to us, but was called an “Indian prince”. We know only that in the face of fierce opposition and mockery the Indian prince made a costly decision to follow Jesus. The words of his song are:

I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.
Though no one join me, still I will follow;
Though no one join me, still I will follow;
Though no one join me, still I will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.
The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
No turning back, no turning back.

We have spent the last several weeks meeting with Jesus around His beatitudes. John Stott describes them as “The eight qualities together constitute the responsibilities, and the eight blessings, the privileges of being a citizen of God’s kingdom” (The Message of the Sermon on the Mount). Some days Jesus’ words have comforted and soothed us, while other days they have confronted and provoked. Here is a way of life distinct from that admired by the world. Jesus invites us to be part of a revolution that does not measure the good life by the size of the house, the value of the car, or money put away in pension plans.

We will likely need to devote the rest of our lives living into what Jesus teaches us here about life. We will make some false starts, waver in our determination, and constantly need to seek His forgiveness. But God always allows U-turns and welcomes us admitting our spiritual poverty. We will be blessed to hunger and thirst for more of what Jesus offers here.

Although we are coming to the end of the season of Lent, we are entering the season of Easter. Easter means new life and the indwelling power of Jesus. Allow me to offer three suggestions as these series of daily retreats with Jesus come to an end:

  1. Continue to meet with Jesus each day by spending a few moments in prayer and Scripture reflection. Ask Him to bless you and help you as you do this, and He will! Spend time with Him and you will become more like Him.
  2. Purposefully live out one of His beatitudes each day. Why not write a beatitude on a 3X5 card and carry it with you, enter it in your smart phone, or memorize and meditate on it. Ask God for the grace to live as Jesus asks you to live.
  3. Finally, always be ready to make U-turns back to the heavenly Father.

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