Paul tells us in Romans 8:29, “those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” God’s purpose in redeeming me is that I become like Christ in the inner attitudes of my heart. God, the Father, desires to gaze into the soul of Gary Yagel and see there the image of his beloved Son, Jesus. The single thing I can do in 2015 that will most bring pleasure to my God is to cultivate the heart attitudes that Jesus modeled and called us to pursue as his followers.
Jesus gave his portrait of redeemed, restored humanity in his Sermon on the Mount. He began it by articulating eight foundational heart attitudes that are like different facets of a diamond reflecting the light of holiness. May cultivating these heart attitudes be among your most important goals in 2015.
Blessed are the poor in spirit—those who recognize their abject spiritual poverty and utter dependence upon God’s grace. After Jesus had fasted forty days and was at the point of starvation, he resisted the temptation to use his power to turn loaves into bread. Instead he expressed his utter dependence upon the Father, saying, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” This heart attitude describes:
- Those who abide in Christ, spending time daily with him, because they believe Jesus’ words,“Apart from me you can do NOTHING.”
- Those who realize their need of a spouse’s insight or a brother’s encouragement, knowing that God’s provision of strength for Christ-followers comes largely through his body—connection with fellow believers.
- Those who trust God in difficult times because they realize they don’t have the mental horsepower to see God’s good purpose in painful trials.
Blessed are those who mourn—those who hate sin as a doctor hates cancer, weeping over the devastation it brings upon human beings. Jesus wept over that devastation—death—at the grave of Lazarus and over Jerusalem because he foresaw the awful suffering that its inhabitants would experience because they rejected him. This heart attitude describes:
- Those who never envy the wicked, but realize that sinners don’t so much break God’s law as God’s law breaks them.
- Those who realize that their sin is a personal affront to God, and grieves his heart—who confess with David, “Against YOU and YOU ONLY have I sinned and done what is evil in YOUR eyes.”
- Those who weep for those enslaved by broken sexual desires that result in the homosexual lifestyle or for angry feminists in the grip of bitterness often because of being mistreated by men.
Blessed are the meek—those who have surrendered their personal rights to God and assumed the role of servant to God and others. Paul says that Jesus, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant.” This heart attitude describes:
- Those who instantly obey to the promptings of God’s Spirit because they have invited Christ to be the master of their lives.
- Those who view their time, treasure, and talents as belonging to God who has the final say about how they are invested.
- Those who are free to give lavishly to meet the needs of others knowing that God will supply their needs because they belong to Him. God takes good care of his property.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness—those who know that the human hunger for respect, love, success, sex, financial security, etc. is most thoroughly satisfied by following God’s righteous pathway and never ultimately satisfied through an unrighteous pathway of sin. Jesus’ passion for righteousness is seen in his zeal for the purity of the temple, as he fashioned a whip and drove the money changers and crooked priests from the place that was to symbolize the presence of God. This heart attitude describes:
- Those who are passionate about personal integrity.
- Those who resist a secret closet of sin but pursue accountability and transparency.
- Those who are radically resistant to exaggerating or bending the truth when it would put them in a bad light.
Blessed are the merciful—those who like Jesus are deeply moved by the suffering of others. Jesus is our compassionate High Priest who enters into our suffering and pain. This heart attitude describes:
- Those who slow down enough to notice, and be moved by other’s pain and then do something about it.
- Those who are never judgmental; they are too busy dealing with the log in their eye to notice their bother or sister’s speck.
- Those who cannot ignore the state of unbelieving relatives and friends but are compelled to pray for and seek opportunities to share Christ with them
Blessed are the pure in heart—those who are regularly on the attack against their own tendency to be selfish and self-centered. Jesus told us, “Greater love has no one than this—that he lay down his life for his friends,” then showed us the purity of his love for us by dying for us. This heart attitude describes:
- Those who are driven by a heart passion for Jesus’ honor and God’s glory.
- Those who love others faithfully in the face of unreturned love or even hostility.
- Those who, when unfairly forced to go a mile, go two miles if necessary, to meet another’s needs.
Blessed are the peacemakers—those who are agents of reconciliation in relationships. Paul writes, “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” This attitude describes:
- Those who see themselves as ambassadors of Christ and are intentional about seeking opportunities to build relationships with unbelievers so that they might urge their lost friends or relatives to be reconciled to God.
- Those who refuse to slander or criticize a person behind his back but have the courage to speak the truth in love directly to another when there is disharmony.
- Those who take responsibility for their 10% of a broken relationship, pursue their offended brother or friend, confess their sin, and seek forgiveness.
Blessed are those who suffer persecution for the cause of righteousness—those who embrace their role in the culture as salt, light, and Christ’s ambassadors despite the personal cost of being rejected. Jesus was clear that the world would hate those who faithfully follow him. “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. This attitude describes:
- Those who are quick to take a winsome stand for biblical truth whenever they are in a public situation.
- Those who look for opportunities to publically identify themselves as followers of Christ when appropriate.
- Those who defend fellow Christians (perhaps even unwise believers) when they are being criticized by those around him rather than joining in the criticism
Of course, none of us will ever come close to exhibiting the character of Christ. Praise God that his love has never depended on it! Nevertheless, it pleases our God when we make HIS PURPOSE in redeeming us OUR PURPOSE—becoming like Christ in the attitudes of our hearts. That is a goal worth pursuing in 2015.