Lesson 5 – Making Jesus’ Life Principles Our Habits

Making Jesus’ Life Principles Our Habits

Scripture:  Matt. 7:24-27.


Jesus closed His Sermon on the Mount with one of His favorite and very effective methods of teaching.  He gave the world a parable; however, Christians are the only people who will be able to make His parable “work out” in their lives in the context of Jesus’ sermon.  His phrase, “these words of mine” refer to the full content of Matthew’s recording of His sermon.  As it was stated in the opening remarks of Part I, Lesson One, these laws, or principles of life, can only be written on clean hearts and minds.  As the attitudes and character traits are being developed in Christians, they become their practice in their everyday life.  Their practices that are consistent with their values and world view produce their identifying characteristics.  They are usually referred to as habits.  People are understood and identified by their habits.

We will review the content of Jesus’ sermon in order to develop a concept of the ideal Christian person Jesus has presented as our personal goal.  Jesus is everything He taught.  This may overwhelm some Christians; however, we should keep in mind God always gives us the perfect principles to use as our goal.  The way to our goal of developing like Jesus is the growth processes in which Christians have continuous enrolment.    In our “classroom of world time” we have the grace of sanctification and justification by faith plus the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:4-7).  We enjoy the state of being a saint while growing in holiness (Col. 1:2).  We are counted as righteous people while improving our habits (Rom. 8:31-33).  We are the temple in which God lives by His Holy Spirit (I Cor. 3:16).

We will start this lesson by picking an excerpt from each of the lessons in Part II about the eight emotional attitudes in Matthew 5:3-12.  We will need to blend all these attitudes into one personality.

After we review the attitudes we will consider how the reward Jesus pronounced for developing each attitude works for strengthening our character.  Our aim is to view the total Christian person Jesus presented in Matthew five.  The healthy emotional attitudes and character traits that determine our habits are synonymous with Jesus’ “house on the rock.”  It should not surprise us that Jesus’ teachings and life is the “cornerstone” for Christian’s life building (Matt. 16:18; I Cor. 10:4; I Pet. 2:6-8).  Our aim in this lesson will be to re-emphasize the value of developing the emotional attitude of being persecuted for righteousness sake as a blessing.


Jesus used the word “practice” in our text.  It is a synonym for a good habit.  A habit is a function of our character.  It may be different from a behavior we select and perform at different occasions. We may adjust our behavior depending upon the situation.  Habits are our behaviors that come from our attitudes toward a life encounter.  The attitude we have about this situation will flow from the paradigm we use which will come from our value system.  What we value in life and the preconceptions we have formed about similar situations will form the window, or paradigm, through which we view this life encounter.  Therefore, this will illicit an emotional attitude which expresses itself in a behavior, or habit.

A good habit has three components: The first involves the perception of what needs to be done in a given situation.  The second is about how to do what we know to do.  Are we competent?  We must have the skill to perform what needs to be done.  The third element involves one’s willingness to allot the time and energy to perform the task.  Willingness is a key word in this lesson.  It stands up over and against “willfulness.”  It is our “want to” or passion for what needs to be done.  Our zeal, or passion, will determine the level of discipline we will have for our body.  Habits are performed by our bodies (Jas. 2:12).  Practice is the third element in learning.

Jesus started His discourse with the “poor in spirit” emotional attitude.  This emotion like the other seven emotions He taught are something people develop or don’t develop as they respond to their environment in their effort to satisfy one or more of their inherent needs.  These emotions are developed as pleasure or displeasure tones.  They become fixed as attitudes that makes up our personality.  Therefore, people who have learned the poor in spirit attitude will have this view toward God, mankind and the universe.  The opposite attitude is “I know it all.”

The poor in spirit attitude has its root in experimental faith.  People see the vision of a better life through the door of faith and they experiment with their faith in the teachings of Jesus.  Christians have faith and it is a healthy emotion because Jesus said it is; therefore, we have the “poor in spirit attitude” about the attitudes He presented.

The attitude of mourning for the spiritual condition of others is based on love (agape).  Christians have faith in God and Jesus Christ.  Christians love God and Jesus Christ.  Our faith and love is the seedbed for our healthy emotional attitudes Jesus taught in His great sermon.  As our faith and love grow our healthy emotional attitudes will be strengthened.  The result is a happy Christian.

Where does this emotion of mourning for the physical and spiritual needs of others get its impetus for the human personality?  We are not born with it; however, it can begin to develop very early in one’s life.  What child does not have sympathy for others, and a lot of it, at a very early age?  If this innate characteristic is allowed to be expressed by the child the emotional attitude of a mourner may develop as the child’s decision making characteristics mature.  The emotion of a mourner is not an innate characteristic but sympathy appears to be an inherent urge.  The urge to sympathize may be a component of our inherent need for friends.  A person needs to let the expression of sympathy develop.

The Greek word “praus” has been translated meek, humble or gentle.  Jesus gave us insight for its usage when He said, “Not my will but thine be done.”  He was speaking to God our Father in prayer the night before He went to the cross for our sins (Mark 14:36).  Meekness is a temper of spirit in which we accept God’s dealings with us as good.  We also accept governmental and societal rules as good, if they do not conflict with the spiritual laws of God.  Meekness is a prerequisite for godliness which, with God in mind, is our habit to please Him.  “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”  I Tim. 6:6.

The fact that Jesus used the word “satisfaction” and “hunger and thirst” in the same sentence shows He is keenly aware of our inherited drives.  Of course, it should not surprise us that Jesus knows all about mankind because it was through Him all things were made (Col. 1:16).  An inherited drive is defined in this lesson as being something with which we were born.  In other words, it is not a learned urge.  It is something within people that pushes them and demands satisfaction from their environment.  The stronger the drive the more our happiness depends upon its satisfaction.

Modern psychology tells us how our happiness depends upon how well and how many of our inherited drives are satisfied.  Hunger and thirst are thought to be the strongest inherited drive people possess in the “physical needs” category.  Jesus summed up His comments about this human need by saying, “Seek ye first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  Matt. 6:33.  The priority Jesus gave to righteousness in relation to our happiness is equal to the importance of food and water for our physical needs.

Let us now consider Christian character.  The foundation for strong character can be formed on the eight pronouncements Jesus listed for the person who developed each particular attitude.  The Christian whose personality encompasses the foregoing emotional attitudes will have the following eight items as a base for his or her character.  Their citizenship is in the heavenly kingdom of God (Phil. 3:20).  They have the comfort of the “Father of compassion.”   II Cor. 1:3-5.  They have inherited the earth.  They have a full life, that is, all of an individual Christian’s instinctual equipment is being integrated with their four capacities; mind, heart, conscience and body.  Please consider Paul’s explanation of what Jesus may have meant by inheriting the earth and having a filled life.

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.  Philippians 2:14-16

When people understand how God was faithful to His own righteousness they will have faith that they have found true righteousness.  Then when they are told they can have a gift of God’s righteousness while they improve their own behavior, it will bring untold satisfaction to the soul.

Since faith in Jesus Christ and the love of God is the premise for all Christian personalities, as these emotional attitudes are being developed in a Christian, his or her habits will be improving in God’s righteousness (7:24).  If indeed, Jesus is the Son of God, it must be assumed His teachings produce good mental health.  Basically this means when fear or anger dominates one’s personality, unhappiness and weak character is the result.  When faith and love are the dominating characteristics, happiness and strong character are evident.  The teachings of Jesus about emotional attitudes are mentally healthy because they have their roots in faith and love.  Jesus challenges mankind to try His teachings to see if they come from the philosophy of man or from God (John 7:17).

The emotional attitude of mercifulness involves doing something for someone that helps his or her present and future happiness.  It more often involves their future.  To render a merciful act one must use wisdom (Jas. 3:13-18).  Being merciful to someone is not always doing for them what they want you to do.  For instance, parents are being merciful to their children if they discipline them because of their disobedience.  Discipline is, or should be, the results of the parents’ emotional attitude of mercifulness (Heb. 12:5-13).

Being merciful is not only doing things which will help the future of others but it has something to do with our own future.  The parable Jesus taught Peter and the other disciples in Matthew 18:21-35 shows how the attitude of mercifulness requires forgiveness.

Jesus demonstrated the pure in heart attitude for us when He looked at others.  He saw in the person the potential of becoming more than what he or she was at the present time (Luke 7:44-50).  When we have faith in others it causes them to strive to achieve the expectations we have for their future lives.  It gives them the motivation to achieve.

Jesus did not shut his eyes to evil.  He saw what people could become.  Peter finally developed into the person Jesus knew he could be.  So we need not shut our eyes to evil but rebuke it and look past it to see God’s will.  He is not willing that any one should be lost (I Tim. 2:4).

Peace is a harmonious relationship between God and man (Rom. 5:1).  It also describes the same kind of relationship between people.  A peacemaker is one who is able to bring about and maintain a harmonious relationship that did not previously exist.  A peacemaker not only brings about such a relationship but he or she is able to cause this condition to be maintained.

The last beatitude Jesus presented may be the most difficult challenge. Surely a person who has these seven beautiful attitudes taught by Jesus would be loved by everyone.  However, Jesus warns us to expect persecution.  Our persecution must be embraced with the emotional attitude that it is a blessing to be persecuted for righteousness sake.

It is a well accepted fact that if people cannot see the value in a principle they will not use this principle in the formation of their habits.  Jesus’ beatitudes are for the development of personality.  Personality is manifested in the fruit of habits (Matt. 7:17, 24).  When Christians lose their vision of the goal of Jesus’ mission, we will no longer accept discipline by tribulation.  Howbeit, discipline is still necessary to develop the personality and character of Jesus (Col. 1:27).  Sonship and our eternal inheritance is the reward for suffering (Rev. 21:7).  When we view our lives in this world with the personality of Jesus as our goal, we will understand the need for tribulations.  It is a learning process.  This learning process is our daily lives.  The world is our classroom.  There are no recess periods.  Judgment Day will be the day for rewards.

Let us note the rewards for strengthening Christians’ character in the last four beatitudes taught by Jesus.  We have the strength of character to forgive and therefore be merciful.  The love of “God has bound all men over to disobedience so that He may have mercy on them all.”  Rom. 11:32.  God’s love and mercy has been made available to mankind through and “in Christ.”  Please read Romans 9:22-24; 11:16-21.  Because of God’s mercy we are free from the guilt of our own sins of ignorance and weakness.   With the full help of Deity we are able to remove the “plank” from our own eyes so we can see God in others.  We can also see what is not “of God” and help them to produce the fruit of “salt and light” in themselves.  God made peace with Christians; consequently, we are sons of God.  Like Father, like son, we are peacemakers for others.

Let us add these strengths for our character to those Paul summed up for us in Philippians 2:14-16. Then we will accept what Jesus said:

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  Luke 6:35, 36

The ultimate goal of every Christian must be to “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Young children do not find this to be an unreasonable goal.  In fact, parents expect their children to have this attitude and are saddened when they change goals.  Obviously, Jesus chose a very high bar for Christians.  The Apostle John’s comments are appropriate for helping us accept the reality of Jesus’ expectation.

We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands.  The man who says, ‘I know Him,’ but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But if anyone obeys His word, God’s love is truly made complete in him.  This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.

Dear friends, I am not writing you a new commandment but an old one, which you have had since the beginning.  This old command is the message you have heard.  Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in Him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.  I John 2:3-8

Jesus Christ came to consummate God’s plan to have children in heaven.  These are the last days (II Pet. 3:3).  God’s love made complete in Christians may be the new command.  (I John 4:16-18).  If we keep our eye on the reward we can accept loving our enemy, like Jesus did on the cross.  If we reject it as a goal we have lost faith in the teachings of Jesus.  He did not close out His sermon with, “pick the principles for your life that you like and I’ll go along with you.”  What He had said was, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?”  Matt 5:46.

The key word we must focus on is “reward.”  Again, parents understand this principle for rearing children.  Parents often reverse the procedure God, our Father, makes use of in His sanctification program for His children.  Parents may shower their children with gifts in order to get the approval of them as the most significant persons in their lives.  This generally promotes selfishness and greediness.  God asks us to delay gratification.  Christians learn to schedule their pain first and then reward of joy can be expected.  This calls for discipline because the “work first and play later” concept is painful.  People attempt to avoid pain.  In fact, they take great pains to avoid little pains in many cases.

Sports coaches know how to make stars of young men and women.  The first lesson is suffering comes before the joy of winning.  The Apostle Paul said, “I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”  I Cor. 9:27.  Paul was a preacher of the gospel.  This is what he taught people in order to bring them to repentance before their baptism.  In order to bring about this kind of repentance he, like Jesus, gave them a clear view of the reward.  The reward is, “you will be sons of the Most High.”

Christians will never reach the goal of being perfect as God is perfect but we must never think we can “lower the bar.”  Jesus did not lower the goal for Himself.  He would not have qualified as our sin offering, high priest and king if He had given up His goal of doing God’s will.  He taught Christians to pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  Matt. 6:10.  God’s will is that we be perfect.  The reward is great and so is God’s discipline by “tribulation exercises” for developing the healthy emotional attitudes and strong character required to “love those who hate us.”

Jesus’ parable teaches us to prepare ourselves for the time when “people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.” Matt. 5:11.  If we have not already laid our foundation of healthy attitudes and strong character before the “storms” start, we will not behave in a manner required to stand up to this tribulation.   When we make preparations for the storm, which will surely come, the storm will be a learning exercise for us.  We will become equal to the strength of the storm and this will solidify our foundation for the next storm.  Storms will continue to come until we die, which might be our last storm, or until Jesus comes.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Where can we find a view of Jesus’ ideal Christian person?
  2. Where can we find the character qualities of an ideal Christian person?
  3. List the eight items that strengthen character.
  4. Explain how the removal of the “plank” from a Christian’s eye would help him or her to see God.
  5. What is the ultimate goal for a Christian in relation to the development of our selves?
  6. What are the three components of a healthy habit?
  7. How does a habit differ from selected behavior?
  8. What subject should be clarified before people will consider discipline by tribulations.
  9. What may be the new commandment given by the Apostle John?
  10. How and when does a Christian prepare themselves for slander because of their faith?

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