Jesus Christ was accused of many things. Many believed he violated God’s law (Luke 6:2). Others thought he possessed the power of the devil (John 8:52). He was crucified as a blasphemer (Matt. 26:65).
Though none of those accusations were true, there was one assertion never made about Jesus. No one ever said he was conventional.
A search for “happiness” on Amazon produced 30,064 results in the book category alone. Many have attempted to teach how we might obtain happiness. But none with ideas as radical as Jesus.
The last word in scripture during the time of Christ was curse (Mal. 4:6). The first word of the Lord’s first full discourse was blessed (Matt. 5:3).
Jesus’ “sermon on the mount” was radical from the start. But the substance of that sermon was even more unconventional.
1) Begin with spiritual poverty
“Blessed are the poor in spirit…” (Matthew 5:3)
“Blessed” literally means happy. Never mind how we’ve devalued that word. Jesus was talking about real joy, peace, and satisfaction.
If you want to obtain happiness, begin by acknowledging your depravity. This is only the first step but one too important to miss.
2) Allow yourself to mourn
“Blessed are they that mourn…” (Matthew 5:4)
When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he wanted them to feel sorrow over their sins and he rejoiced once they had (2 Cor. 7:9).
It is not enough to be “poor in spirit” or merely acknowledge how wretched we are as a result of our sin. We must also mourn over that sin and experience true godly sorrow.
3) Become gentle
“Blessed are the meek…” (Matthew 5:5)
When a child is disciplined for misbehaving, that child often becomes relatively docile. Mourning over sin has the same effect.
According to the world’s philosophers, self-esteem and pride are prerequisites to happiness. According to the unconventional wisdom of Christ, we should become the exact opposite of that.
4) Set your sights on Christ
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness…” (Matthew 5:6)
Spiritual poverty, mourning, and meekness may not seem like steps to happiness, but those are only the first three rungs on the ladder.
To truly hunger and thirst is to believe without soon acquiring food or water we will die. In this case, we should desperately want righteousness.
By hungering after righteousness, we are essentially hungering after Christ himself, since it is only by Christ we can gain righteousness (Rom. 3:22).
5) Be merciful to others
“Blessed are the merciful…” (Matthew 5:7)
If we set our sights on Jesus, we cannot deny the mercy he has shown us. He turned the other cheek until there were no cheeks left to strike.
We are to let that same humble mind be in us (Phil. 2:5-8). As we learn more and more about the grace we’ve been given, we are to extend that grace to others in our lives.
6) Change even on the inside
“Blessed are the pure in heart…” (Matthew 5:8)
When we become disciples of Christ, we still struggle with the sins we always have. But we do our best to do what we know is right.
As time goes on, we are not merely doing what we know is right. It becomes second nature to us. We become purer even on the inside.
7) Pursue peace always
“Blessed are the peacemakers…” (Matthew 5:9)
Discipleship is about magnifying Christ in our lives (Phil. 1:20). Meekness, mercy, and looking to Jesus leads us to emulate him.
Jesus was full of peace and we are called to pursue peace (Rom. 14:19). Peace requires humility, forbearing, and long-suffering, but it’s also one more step toward happiness.
We are often tempted to make exceptions to this rule–such as in the realm of politics–but there are to be no exceptions.
8) Allow yourself to be persecuted
“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness ‘sake…” (Matthew 5:10-11)
Christianity is divisive (Matt. 10:34-36). But we are called to love even our enemies (Matt. 5:44). When Jesus was captured and Peter drew his sword, Jesus told him to put it away (Matt. 26:50-52).
Though we may struggle to understand how these eight steps could possibly lead to happiness, the question is, do we believe they can?
“Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven…” (Matthew 5:12)
Listen to my recent sermon on Matthew 5:1-12 at Angier Church.