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Lesson 4: The Wisdom of His Teachings *

Introduction: Most of my e-mails these days end with the closing "Blessings." Exactly what would you think this means? My thought is to have God bless the person to whom I'm writing. But, that does not answer the question: "What is a blessing?" What am I wishing on the other person? When I looked at the Greek word translated "blessed," I found that it meant (according to Strong's) "happy," "fortunate," and "well off." Would you like to be blessed? This week we turn our attention to the wisdom of what Jesus was trying to teach us. Let's start with His teaching on how to be happy!

  1. Happiness

    1. Tell me what you think brings or would bring you happiness? (Write them down.)

    2. Read Matthew 5:1-3. We are told that the first path to blessings (happiness) is to be poor in spirit. This is not on your list! Why not?

      1. The Greek word for poor in spirit means "crouching" or "cringing." This is how you might imagine an honest beggar would come to ask you for money. Would that attitude logically bring you happiness?

      2. What do you think is really being suggested as a road to happiness when Jesus talks about the "poor in spirit?" (The idea is that you come to Jesus realizing that you are poor and naked and a beggar spiritually. You say "God, I need You!" The people who have this attitude towards God are fortunate, happy, and blessed.)

      3. How would you suggest that a person most often comes to this point of realizing that he is a beggar? (Some of life's toughest circumstances are a blessing because they bring us to this point of realizing what spiritual beggars we really are. I saw a poster which said that we can forgive the unbelievable because Jesus forgave the unbelievable things we have done!)

      4. What is the end result for the people with this attitude in their spirit? ( Matthew 5:3 says these people go to heaven! There is the ultimate blessing, the ultimate happiness.)

    3. Read Matthew 5:4. This is not on your happiness list either! Why not?

      1. The Greek word for "mourn" refers to intense mourning. It goes beyond simple grief. Happiness and mourning are opposites, right?

      2. How can we possibly be happy when we are intensely mourning? Is mourning ever a good thing for you? (There is a very interesting and unique story in Ezekiel 9:1-5 that is a parallel to the final judgment. The story tells of six warriors and a scribe. The scribe goes about the city and writes a mark on the forehead of all who "grieve and lament" (NIV) or "sigh and cry" (KJV) or "sigh and groan" (RSV) over the sins that are committed. Everyone that does not have the mark is killed by one of those six warriors. So surviving turns on whether you "sigh and cry" about the sins that are committed.)

    4. Let's see if we can put all this together. Matthew 5:3 talks about the poor in spirit. Matthew 5:4 refers to those who realize that they are poor in spirit and are truly concerned about it. Those who are comforted are those who not only realize their need, but are sad about this gulf between their character and perfection. We come to Jesus as needy sinners. We mourn our failures. Our soul yearns for forgiveness. Jesus comforts us with forgiveness and the promise of eternal life. That puts a smile on my face!)

    5. Read Matthew 5:5. Is meekness on your happiness list?

      1. A suggestion that I should be meek sure goes against my grain. How about you?

      2. The Greek word means "mild," and Strong's suggests that implies "humble." Do you think that this really means that we should be mild and humble? Would this refer (gulp) to "real men" too?

      3. The philosophy of secular society is to bring attention to ourselves. We say, "This is what we have done." "This is what we own." "This is what we think." Just based on your knowledge of life, does the statement "This is what I've done" pose any problems? (It is like a public challenge. You have to live up to what you say you can do. People will try to knock you down.)

      4. I like to compete because I like to win! Do you like to win? If so, do we get an exemption from the mildness and humility requirement? (Jesus is suggesting a different philosophy of life. He suggests that we focus on God and His will and not focus on us. The amazing and ironic thing about this is that those who are not putting themselves first will inherit everything--the whole earth! As the "Purpose Driven Life" says, "It's not about me, it's all about Him.")

    6. Read Matthew 5:6. Is being hungry and thirsty on your happiness list? (I know I could lose a little weight. But, I'm never happy about being thirsty or hungry.)

      1. What to you think is meant by "hungering and thirsting for righteousness?" (This presents a little different angle on the idea of mourning because of our sinful situation. We keenly want to have this righteousness that Jesus gives.)

      2. Would you like to be righteous? (The text says that these people who really want it will be filled with righteousness.)

    7. Read Matthew 5:7. Is mercy on your happiness list?

      1. How did you feel when you heard that Eliot Spitzer (Governor of New York and former New York state chief prosecutor) had been caught with prostitutes? This was a man who terrorized the New York business community with what some saw as ruthless prosecutions on questionable matters.

      2. Did you smirk and say, "What a self-righteous hypocrite!" (Some part of me smiled. At the same time I realized what a horrible and hypocritical attitude I had. I was gloating because of this fellow's sins when I, too, would be very embarrassed were everyone to know of my sins. Who would be willing to have their sins published on the front page of the newspaper and on television and radio?)

      3. What attitude does Matthew 5:7 suggest that we have? (We should be merciful.)

      4. What is the "down-side" if we do not have this attitude? (Mercy will not be shown to us.)

        1. Friend, do you need mercy?

    8. Read Matthew 5:8. Is this on your happiness list?

      1. The word translated "heart" means the intellect, the conscience. Do you think that being "pure in heart" means that you are sinless?

      2. Why didn't Jesus say "Happy are those who have pure actions?" (This all gets back to my theory that righteousness is a matter of attitude. It is our motives and not our actions that are most important. Jesus is looking for people who have attitudes such as those we have discussed this morning. They may not have perfect acts, but they have a pure attitude.)

      3. We can often change our actions though determination. How easy is it to change our attitude? (Only the Holy Spirit can change our heart. The beatitudes leading up to this one direct us in the path of a pure heart. These are the steps to throwing ourselves on Jesus' mercy.)

    9. Read Matthew 5:9. Is this on your list, making peace?

      1. Does this refer to those who get along in their marriage?

      2. How about those that help to resolve problems?

      3. Notice that it says that they are the children of God. Let's move down a few chapters in Matthew and read Matthew 10:34. What should we conclude about these two statements? Blessed are those who make peace and blessed are those who make war? (It seems obvious that Jesus is not talking about human to human relationships. The reference that Christ makes is to bringing men into harmony with God. Christ came to show that God is not our enemy and that is our task too.)

    10. Read Matthew 5:10-12. These verses talk more about what happens to us rather than what kind of attitude we should have.

      1. Was this on anyone's happiness list? I am most happy when people insult me, persecute me and lie about me!

      2. How can you be happy in these circumstances? (There is a war going on between Jesus and Satan. Jesus says you can be happy during times like this because you know that these insults mean you have membership in the Kingdom of God!)

      3. As you think back about tough times, did it make you better or bitter?

      4. Consider whether you faced tough times because of "His sake" or because of something that you did.

    1. Friend, perhaps you need a new list of things that make you happy. If you feel a deep, unfulfilled desire to be happy, how about looking to the wise teachings of Jesus? How about turning your life over to Him? Why not right now?

  1. Next Week: The Wonder of His Works.
* Copr. 2008, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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