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Author Topic: God's Value System
Carol Swenson
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THE BEATITUDES PRESENT GOD'S VALUE SYSTEM

Your thoughts naturally focus on the so-called important issues in the world — family, work, possessions, getting ahead in life, experiencing life, and so on. It is easy to relate to this way of thinking, because it is so predominant and such a natural result of living on earth. There is a strong reality about it because you continuously experience it both physically and mentally. How could you possibly deny the value of thinking this way?

The issue is not whether the world system is real or whether you should think about it because you live in it. Rather, it is a matter of realizing the greater reality of another system and reshaping your thinking so you can live effectively in it.

You are a spiritual being living in a physical body. Your mind is strongly oriented toward your physical existence and life on earth. But your spiritual strengths and capabilities greatly surpass those of your mind and body.

Because your mind focuses almost exclusively on your earthly existence, and because it has been programmed all your life to accept the world's ways, you very naturally accept the world's values and standards. Because you are a Christian, however, your spirit has new life — it is born again — and you are a member of God's kingdom. You still live on earth, but you no longer belong here and you no longer owe allegiance to the world system. That means you no longer have to think the way people in the world system think and you can have different values. In fact, not only is it possible for you to think differently, you really must.

The predominant theme is repentance, or changing the way you think. Because you no longer belong to the world system or Satan's kingdom, it is reasonable to conclude that your values and standards must change to conform to God's kingdom. "What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight" (Lk 16:15), so moving from Satan's kingdom to God's requires a major shift in your values. The question now becomes whether God has clearly stated the values of his kingdom.

It is very significant that the gospels record an in-depth teaching Jesus presented in the early stages of his ministry on earth. Put yourself in Jesus' place. His role on earth was to introduce people to his Father and his Father's kingdom, then make it possible for people to become part of that kingdom. If he wanted to teach about the kingdom, what it is and how it works, he should begin with basic principles and show some practical ways the kingdom differs from their current system. That actually is what he did, and his introductory teaching about the kingdom is what we call the Sermon on the Mount.

Permit me to list phrases from that teaching to show that it is about God's kingdom. He spoke of the kingdom of heaven (5:3, 10, 20. 7:21), sons of God (5:9), reward in heaven (5:12), the least or greatest in the kingdom of heaven (5:19), your Father in heaven (5:45, 48. 6:1, 9, 14, 32. 7:11), God's kingdom (6:10), and treasures in heaven (6:20). We could call the Sermon on the Mount "An Introduction to God's Kingdom."

Sinful man cannot relate to God, comprehend his nature or understand his kingdom. Much as a toddler cannot comprehend social graces and must be taught laboriously with rules, such as "Don't do this" or "Behave this way." Because God still loved his creation and had a plan to redeem it from sin, he had to develop a concept of his kingdom that man could understand: the do's and don'ts of the Law. So we wound up with a list of rules. Don't murder, don't steal, observe the Sabbath and so on. The Law of Moses was the only legitimate concept mankind had of God and his kingdom for thousands of years. That is, until Jesus came.

Jesus' purpose on earth included introducing people to a more accurate image of God and his kingdom. Jesus frequently made such statements as, "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father." He also used analogies to present images of the kingdom; "the kingdom of God is like . . . ." He was explaining what the kingdom is, how it works, what it's principles are.

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus used the list of rules they understood and explained the motivation and process behind the Law. Sinful man, separated from God and having a terribly inaccurate concept of God, could only understand and accept specific laws, such as "You shall not murder." Jesus explained there is much more to it. Where the Law prohibited specific actions, Jesus identified the motivating attitudes. He moved the focus from the external to the internal.

To understand the motivations behind God's Law is to have a clearer understanding of God himself. It is God's nature, rather than his laws, that governs his kingdom. Jesus' role was to shift the emphasis from God's edicts to his character.

A child has little comprehension of a gracious demeanor until he learns he cannot slug somebody for doing something he does not like. The law must precede character development.

The Law brought man to a point of impossibility: "How can I possibly observe all these rules? I can't do it!" At the right time, Jesus introduced God's nature: "If you change your character to be like God's, you can easily honor these rules. Better yet, the rules will no longer be necessary." That is the purpose of the Sermon on the Mount — to shift the emphasis from obedience to character, from a list of rules to attitudes. God knows that attitudes determine actions. If someone were to control their behavior without changing their attitude, the results would be both temporary and frustrating. If instead they corrected their attitude, then correct behavior would immediately follow. We can see this emphasis on attitudes in Jesus' teaching.

In his very first remarks of his introduction to the kingdom, Jesus presents an overview of kingdom values. What we call the beatitudes are actually kingdom values, concise statements of attitudes that God values very highly. If we want our attitudes to be compatible with God's, we should consider his statement of values.

At first reading of the beatitudes, they seem to be almost arbitrary statements, as if God were choosing to bless random groups of people: the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who desire righteousness, the merciful, the pure-hearted, peacemakers and the persecuted. These are all admirable qualities for God to select, but the list is somewhat puzzling. To begin with, some of these categories appear beyond an individual's control: poorness of spirit, meekness, pure-hearted and persecuted. Second, only a few are clearly the result of personal effort: peacemaking, for example. As humans, we prefer lists of tasks we can do to qualify for rewards, and this seems an unusual list.

If we consider that one of the primary themes of the New Testament is repentance, or changing the way you think, we begin to see the relevance of the beatitudes.

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Carol Swenson
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More On Kingdom Values

Those who believe the Word of God and obey it (James 1:21-25) will grow in their understanding of the ways and wisdom of God. Such growth doesn't happen all at once but gradually and progressively as the mind is renewed through the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit.

Here are eight parables of Jesus which reveal deep truths about the Kingdom of Heaven:

Faithful and Unfaithful Servants (Matthew 24:45-51; Luke 12:41-48) — In this parable, Jesus taught that the servant who remains faithful while his master is away will be rewarded with greater responsibility when his master returns. But the servant who acts carelessly and gets drunk while his master is away will be cut off to join the unbelievers in weeping and gnashing of teeth. The message is this: to whom much is given, much is required. When you know the will of God, you had better obey it. "Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful" (I Corinthians 4:2).

Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) — This story is about a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard, agreeing to pay them "one day's wage" (a denarius). At various times throughout the day, the man returned to the marketplace to hire more laborers, saying that he would pay them "whatever was right." At the end of the 12-hour workday, all the laborers received the same pay! Well, the workers who had been in the vineyard all day grumbled about their wage. Surely, they should receive more because they bore the heat of the day! But the householder replied that he had paid them as agreed, and it was his choice to be generous to the other workers. In a similar sense, those who serve the Lord and leave the size of the reward up to Him will receive far more than if they insist on knowing the reward ahead of time. It could also be said that some people receive Jesus in their youth and others in their old age, yet all enter the same Kingdom. Jesus concluded by saying that "the last shall be first, and the first last; for many are called but few chosen."

Stewards and Talents (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27) — A certain nobleman traveled to a far country to receive a kingdom for himself. He left his possessions under the supervision of his servants. According to Matthew's gospel, the nobleman gave five talents to one servant, two talents to another, and one talent to the third. Luke's gospel gives a slightly different account, saying that the nobleman gave one pound each to ten servants. Well, the nobleman went away on his journey. Upon his return, he took account of his servants. The first and second servants had increased their master's possessions by wise trading and were rewarded. But the third servant returned the master's pound to him, having hid it in a napkin, and the pound was taken from him. The message is this: no matter how much or how little we have, God is the source of all gifts and talents and we are reponsible to be wise stewards of that which He entrusts to us.

Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) — This parable tells of ten virgins who awaited the bridegroom's arrival for his wedding. Five of the maidens brought oil in their lamps and five did not. While they all slept, the bridegroom arrived suddenly! The wise virgins hurried out to meet him, but the foolish virgins were delayed because they had to go buy oil. By the time the foolish virgins returned with oil, they were too late; the wedding had begun and they were not admitted through the door. The message is this: we must be ready at all times for the coming of the Lord, for we do not know the day or the hour of His return.

Three Lost Things (Luke 15:3-32) — Three parables feature lost items which were found. Jesus' parable of the lost sheep shows how a shepherd (representing Himself) will go out of his way to find one sheep that strays. The parable of the lost coin reveals that angels in heaven rejoice over one sinner who repents. The parable of the lost son (also known as the "prodigal son") shows how our Heavenly Father receives with open arms His backslidden son who returns to Him. These stories illustrate Kingdom principles such as mercy, forgiveness, and the steadfast love and kindness of God.

Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:23-35) — In this story, Jesus likened the Kingdom of Heaven to a certain king who took account of his servants. One servant in particular owed the king ten thousand talents (in today's money, over a million dollars). The servant had no way to pay up, so he begged the king to have patience with him and not take away his family and possessions. The king was moved with compassion and forgave the man's entire debt! Well, that same servant went out and found a fellowservant who owed him a small amount of money. The fellowservant begged for mercy, but the servant would not have patience with him, but instead cast him into prison. When the king heard what the servant did, he was angry and required that his servant pay back the enormous debt in full. The message is this: we are to forgive others, even as our Heavenly Father forgives us our trespasses.

Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:1-14; Luke 14:15-24) — This parable tells of a certain king who made a marriage for his son. He prepared a feast and invited many people to come and celebrate. But those who had been invited made excuses as to why they couldn't come. Some of them even killed the king's servants who brought the invitation. Of course, the king was angry at the response to his invitation, so he sent his servants into the highways and byways to invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind so his banquet hall would be filled. Matthew's account adds that the king found a guest in the banquet hall without a wedding garment (representing the righteousness of Christ), whom he promptly cast out. The message is this: many are called (or invited), but few are chosen.

Wicked Husbandmen (Matthew 21:33-43; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19) — A certain householder planted a vineyard, hedged it, digged a winepress in it, and built a tower in it. He lent out the vineyard to some caretakers (husbandmen) and left on a long journey. While the householder was away, he sent servants to his vineyard to receive some of its fruits. But the caretakers treated the servants shamefully, beating one, stoning one, and killing another. The householder sent more servants, but the caretakers treated them the same way. Finally, the householder sent his beloved son. But the caretakers, knowing that the son was the heir to the vineyard, killed the son and cast him out. Now, what will the householder do? He will destroy those wicked caretakers and turn the vineyard over to others. This parable speaks directly to those who reject Jesus Christ, for He will share His Kingdom only with those who bring forth Kingdom fruits.

Posts: 6757 | From: Colorado | Registered: Dec 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator


 
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