Matthew 5:3-12 records the “Beatitudes” of Jesus Christ, which introduce the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7). These eight declarations pronounce divine blessings on those who possess the characteristics of citizens of the kingdom of God. Specifically, Jesus blesses the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. These eight brief but potent statements describe what it means to right with God. They teach what it means to be righteous, rather than merely being religious. In a real sense, a clear understanding of the beatitudes is a life-transforming introduction to the practical implications of Christian salvation, growth, and service. In the preface to When Grace Transforms, Terry L. Johnson comments:
In the Sermon on the Mount in general and the Beatitudes in particular we are treated to Jesus’ most complete description of his disciples. Jesus works from the inside out, zeroing in on the heart and describing the behavior that flows from it. What emerges is an individual, and then a community that is radically different. (p. 8)
Without a doubt, one of the most profitable things we can to examine ourselves and to care for our souls is to regular meditate on and study the beatitudes of Jesus. Indeed, there are many helpful resources available you can use as a guide to lead you through the high and rugged terrain of Matthew 3:1-12. But I would like to recommend that you add Johnson’s When Grace Transforms to your collection of resources.
Terry L. Johnson is the senior pastor of the Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, Georgia. And along with his ministry of the word to his own congregation, Johnson has put pen to paper to the benefit of the larger church of Christ. In fact, When Grace Transforms is a part of a trilogy, of sorts, on the dynamic work of God’s sovereign grace. Johnson has also written When Grace Comes Alive (on living through the Lord’s Prayer) and When Grace Comes Home (on how the doctrines of grace change your life). I warmly recommend all three of these works. But When Grace Transforms would be a great place to start reading Johnson.
Published in 2002, Transforms is a newer study of the beatitudes. And in some instances, that would be a bad thing. I have found that when it comes to finding helpful materials on the Sermon on the Mount, the older the better. But Johnson provides a sound, fresh, and compelling treatment of the beatitudes. Though Johnson has obviously studied the classic, he his not merely parroting what has already been said. In Transforms, Johnson combines the skill of a theologian, the precision of an expositor, and the heart of a pastor, to explain what the beatitudes do and do not mean in simple, challenging, and practical terms. I encourage you to change your life by prayerfully reading When Grace Transforms. And I dare you to change your world by sharing this rich, little book with someone else.