When we read these out of our naturally legalistic hearts, we interpret them as isolated commands; some are poor in spirit, others are pure in heart, and so forth. And so we ask the “enough” questions as a result:
- Am I poor in spirit enough?
- How do I get more humble?
- I need to be more merciful, so I’ve got to get to work on that.
But that’s not what the text says. Instead, the passage collectively describes the sort of person whom God calls blessed. It is a declaration of God’s grace, before Jesus offers any commands.
In the same way, think about Galatians 5:22-23: “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” It’s so easy for us to turn fruit into an end goal—something that we can white knuckle our way toward. But fruit is exactly that: fruit. It’s not something we can make happen; it’s the result of the Spirit’s work in us as we live faithfully in light of what Christ has done for us.
We do the same with the description of the early church in Acts 2 and 3, where we read that the believers were selling their possessions and sharing all they had with anyone who had need. So where we can too easily go is to assume this is prescriptive—that it is a specific instruction for us to follow. But the description is exactly that—a description—and we need to see it for what it is: a beautiful picture of the gospel at work in the lives of His people.
And that’s the point we have to remember: The New Testament is not a new law; it is good news. In it, we learn how Christ completed the Law for us and by faith, His righteousness becomes ours. God gives us grace, and we live in response to it. That is such good news, isn’t it?
We live in light of the end of the story.
It’s not easy to live faithfully in this world. We can look around at what’s going on socially or politically, and it’s tempting to lose hope. Worse, we can live in fear, looking for signs of the end. But this isn’t what God has intended for us. He has shown us how the story ends—and it is good news!
The story ends with the defeat of sin. Jesus will come back and put an end to the serpent once and for all. Sin will be no more, and death will die, and God’s people will rejoice.
The story ends with comfort for God’s people. When Jesus comes to put the final nail in sin’s coffin, He will wipe every tear from every eye of every one of us. Jesus cares deeply for every single one of His people, and He will comfort each of us when He makes all things new.
The story ends And the story ends with a promise: “I am coming soon.” This is such good news. We know there’s no question over if Jesus will be victorious. We know that there’s no doubt that He will return. But He gives us confidence that He will be coming “soon.” And we have the opportunity to share this hope with others while we wait for “soon” to become “now.”
That’s what seeing the Bible as one big story does—it changes how we see the Old Testament by giving us a foundation for the gospel; it changes how we see the New Testament, by reminding us that it is not a new law but good news. And it changes how we live right now because we know the end of the story.
It changes everything.
Responding to the Big Story
So how should we respond to this? What can we do, or should we do, in response to what we’ve heard today? Let me offer three encouragements as we close:
First, we should repent. We should turn away from our old thinking, our tendency to reduce God’s Word into a book of rules and inspirational stories. He wants us to see something bigger in Scripture—that the gospel is at work from beginning to end.
Second, we should pray. Pray that God would help us to see the Bible for what it is. If all Scripture testifies to Jesus, then we want to see it. So let’s ask the Lord to help us. He will surely do it.
Third, we should pursue. This good news is too good to be kept to ourselves. We want to encourage others to see it as well and join us in this mission we’ve been called to—to make Christ known to people of every tribe, tongue and nation until there is no one left who needs to hear it.