Last Sunday I began a summer message series with the Columbia Church of Christ on the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew called The Blessed Life. By speaking of blessing, I’m making a play on the word “blessed” (blĕs′ĭd) which begins each of the beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12. Since these beatitudes are declarations about who is privileged in the kingdom of God, they are pronouncements of divine blessing (Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 33-34). In other words, Jesus is declaring that in the kingdom economy, God has blessed the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for righteousness.
I believe the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount paint a picture of the life that is lived by those whom God has blessed. In turn, such people, who are disciples of Jesus, become a blessing to others as they are a living expression of the kingdom of God among a rebellious world suffering under the consequences of sin and evil.
Yet I feel the need to press this a bit more because we live in a culture that seeks God’s blessing in many ways and for an array of activities. Not only do we want God to bless our homes, our marriages, our children, our jobs, and so on, as an American culture, we want God to bless the nation. Just wait until the seventh inning of nearly every Major League Baseball game when someone leads the civil assembly in singing God Bless America.
But here is an important clarification. God has already spoken and has already blessed us, our marriages, our children, the nation, etc… by offering us his blessing—Jesus and the kingdom of God. We receive this blessing by submitting in faith to Jesus and the kingdom way of life that he teaches us to live, a significant portion of which is taught in the Sermon on the Mount. Such submission is to place ourselves under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Do we really want this blessing?
This is the fork in the road moment where we must decide. We are not created robots who must automatically do as God wills. Out of his great love for us, God created us as human-beings who have the freedom of choice. We can live the life which God has blessed us to live or we can live our own lives but we cannot receive the blessing of God apart from submitting by faith to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the kingdom way of life God blesses for us. And to be perfectly clear, God is not blessing any other way of life. For all other ways of life other than this kingdom way of life is rebellion, something God has sought to redeem the world from since the rebellious sin of Adam and Eve.
So unless we are willing to submit by faith to the blessing of this kingdom way of life, we should stop asking God to bless our marriages, our jobs, America, etc… For that is like us asking someone for food and then refusing to eat once they offer us food. Of course, when we receive the blessing of this kingdom way of life, we enjoy the blessing of God and so do our homes, the nation, the neighborhoods we live in, etc…. For among all of these places there will be disciples of Jesus expressing the will of God upon earth as it is in heaven.
So maybe, we should quit asking God to bless this and that and start living the blessing he has offered us—the kingdom way of life lived by submissive faith to the Lordship of Jesus Christ!
* This post is a slightly modified version originally published as an article titled The Blessed Life in Connecting 28 (June 12, 2013), a biweekly publication of the Columbia Church of Christ.