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“Success” in the Kingdom of God: 8 Invitations from the Sermon on the Mount

Jesus came to give us “life to its fullest(Jn. 10:10). How do we know when we’re ‘in’ it? What are the telltale signs of a life truly lived?

Some chase a ‘consumer gospel’ seeking position, possessions, prestige, or some other a la carte menu item of a self-defined ‘heaven on earth’ in exchange for good behavior. In the end, it proves to be nothing more than a faith forged by idolatry, instead of one formed by intimacy, and no ‘life’ at all. 

Against this, Jesus preached an upside-down Kingdom, where true wealth looks like emptying oneself, true joy is birthed in willingness to suffer, and true victory looks like surrender. In His ‘Sermon on the Mount,’ Jesus gave us 8 invitations into a life of Kingdom “Success.” May we all find life here.

  1.  Success is emptying your hands of your own plans or provision. 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit. For theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 5:3

Poor: “one who knows they are bankrupt, needy, and powerless to change it on their own.” 

Success in the Kingdom is the clarity of childlike faith that refuses to lean on your own understanding, because you don’t trust you; You trust Him. Success is Spirit-Sufficiency.

Where do you need to empty your hands of your plans today?

2.  Success is compassion that stays vulnerable and available enough to have its heart broken.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

Mourn: “One who allows themselves to feel, lament, and grieve.”

It’s hard to have your heart broken, and only natural to want to avoid it. Except, love is emptying yourself to seek what is best for another, and often, heartbreak is the cost of love. If you choose to live a compassionate life, being courageously available to people in their brokenness, I promise, you will have your heart broken. Success is loving anyway. Success is trusting God with your heart enough to put it out there, even (and especially) when it hurts. 

Who do you need to keep loving, even though it might break your heart?

3.  Success is making much of others, and letting Jesus make much of you. 

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5

Meek: “One who is gentle, humble, mild in disposition.” 

In a world that often celebrates loud, energetic, charismatic leadership, Jesus offers another picture of strength. The meek person does not need to jockey for position, climb ladders, or defend their own empires. They simply KNOW who and whose they are. Because of this, they don’t spend their lives seeking to impress others. They elevate them.

Where am I being invited today to remember that meekness is not weakness? Who can I make much of? 

4.  Success is feasting on the only One who will satisfy your hunger. 

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6

Righteousness: “to return to the state of who one was always intended to be."

We were created to know God and to be known by Him. Intimacy is our first (and our foremost) inheritance. Augustine said our hearts would be restless until they find rest in the arms of our Creator. It’s true. Success is making intimacy with God our greatest privilege and greatest priority.

How can I prioritize intimacy with God today?

5.  Success is choosing mercy over judgment. 

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Matthew 5:7

Merciful: “Mercy, joined with an active compassion that moves to help the afflicted.” 

This very moment, our every action is being sustained by God’s mercy. We’ve done nothing to create ourselves. Indeed, we’ve done many things to hurt ourselves and others and to offend our Creator. And yet…God delights for His mercy to triumph over judgment (James 2:13). Success is forgiveness to those who don’t deserve it and who lack the self-awareness to even ask. Success is praying for those who oppose us from a pure and sincere heart. Success is the declaration that the bleeding Savior of Gethsemane triumphs over the brooding serpent of Eden in our own hearts. 

Who do I need to show mercy or to forgive today?

6.  Success is choosing to be refined and not defined by our deserts. 

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8

Pure: “Those who choose to be continually refined by fire and pruned as a branch.”

Purity is the process of submitting ourselves before God to remove every thought or desire that would hinder or dilute His best for us. Success is refusing to stop at ‘deconstruction,’ walking to the house God is desiring to ‘reconstruct’ in His image. Success is understanding that ‘glory to glory’ only happens as we allow the Refiner’s Fire to remove every lesser coping mechanism, comfort, and consuming pursuit that sets itself up against the knowledge of who we’ve become in Jesus. Success is letting go of the white-knuckled grip of certainty and control in favor of seeking the true God in all of His fullness.

What is God desiring to refine in my life through the desert?

7.  Success is compassionately running into dark places to carry the light of the world. 

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

Peacemaker: “One possessing both the character and disposition to reproduce peace in any place it is absent.”

We live in a polarized world that loves to love, accuse, point the finger, and identify enemies. Jesus came so that the whole world could experience His love, desiring that none perish (John 3:16, 2 Peter 3:9). 

Success is befriending very broken people and meeting their gaze with the adoring disposition of their Father. 

Success is letting go of our obsession with labeling and categorizing others, recognizing this is the key fruit of the kingdom of darkness (Satan’s name ‘Accuser’ means ‘the categorizer’)

Success means being louder with our presence than we are our theological positions, refusing to lob self-righteous grenades about ‘God’s standards’ into dark rooms we aren’t willing to go to deeply love those trapped in darkness. 

Success is saying goodbye to childish polarizations that caricature entire populations Jesus died to save. 

Success is stepping out of insulated bubbles that curate our entire worlds to be only with ‘good people’ who believe (and sin) just like us. 

Success is spending ourselves for the gospel, knowing full well that some of our biggest opponents will look down their noses at us as if they hold greater religious fidelity, even as they recline on comfortable ‘Christian’ couches. 

Praise God, these are only a few loud voices; if you will live this way, you can be assured there are MANY longing to join you in the tension of deep commitment to God and deep compassion for the broken. Keep going! 

What place in my world (my family, work, neighborhood, church, city) presently lacks peace? Where is God calling me in as a peacemaker?

8.  Success is Choosing Jesus anyway. 

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10

Persecuted: “One chased by eager hostility that puts you to flight; one who is harassed, mistreated, pursued, and assaulted.”

Success is understanding where we are in the grand eternal story…and who we belong to. 

Success is allowing ‘the unseen which is eternal’ to hold more gravity than the here and now, understanding that it is fading like a vapor. 

Success is the clarity of sight to see that our light and momentary afflictions are purchasing for us a glory that far outweighs it all. 

Success is knowing that love and life will be hard, and choosing Jesus anyway.

Pray: “No matter where the road leads today, I choose YOU, Jesus. You are my success."

We are “called” to a life full of this kind of success, and the One who calls will be faithful to do it. I am praying for you today, friend. May we live truly “blessed!”

Adapted from Thru the Book: Matthew, © 2023 by Chuck Ammons. Available on Amazon.

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