Minneapolis: Tristan Publishing, 2020
This book is deceptive. At first glance it seems short, easy reading, and not very deep, but in reality this study of the “beatitudes” (“Blessed are …”) found in Matthew 5:3-12 is hard hitting and insightful. Here’s what the dust jacket says about it:
It’s easy to receive an easy message – one we want to hear – one that allows us to settle back in our comfortable seats. But occasionally we hear a message that shakes us up – a message that challenges our comfortable thinking. Author Troy Dobbs, senior pastor at Grace Church of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, confronts the wildly popular prosperity gospel – that God promises health and wealth – which has gained a foothold in the world today. He unpacks the profound message from Jesus that will make you think and rethink … and maybe even change your mind about what a blessed life really means.
Many sections of the book touched me personally, but perhaps Dobbs’ comments on the last beatitude in Matthew 5:10, the only one with a commentary (5:11-12) by Jesus, was the hardest for me to swallow. It reminded me that we will most certainly be persecuted if we stand up for righteousness. It is normal. It is par for the course. Christ was persecuted. Paul was persecuted. The prophets were persecuted. If we aren’t persecuted, something is wrong.
It comes down to this: every Christian needs to understand that the goal of Christianity is not to be a nice person who never offends anybody. As a matter of fact, Jesus said in Luke 6:26, “Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.” This verse haunts me because I can easily get caught up in wanting everyone to speak well of me, wanting to be a nice popular Christian person who never offends anyone. Yet as Alexander MacLaren said, “Antagonism is inevitable between a true Christian and the world. … A true Christian ought to be a standing rebuke to the world, an incarnate conscience.”
Besides needing to be made uncomfortable from time to time, I like this book (109 pages) because it is Biblical, clearly written, has interesting illustrations (often very vulnerable on the part of the author!), and contains some great quotes by past and present Christians whom I respect, like Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, Tozer, Keller, Piper, etc. I also like the short, sincere prayers at the end of each chapter. They helped me to apply personally the truth of each beatitude.
It’s obvious that Dobbs is a good story teller. He weaves powerful tales into every chapter. Take this one for example on mercy (Matthew 5:7). It’s about an old priest who welcomed a weary traveler into his home.
After learning that his guest was almost one hundred years old, the priest asked about his religious beliefs. The man replied, “I’m an atheist.” Infuriated, the priest forced the man out, saying, “I will not harbor an atheist in my home.” Without a word, the elderly man hobbled out into the darkness. As the priest sat down to read the Scriptures that evening, he heard the voice of God say, “Son, why did you throw that man out?” “Because he’s an atheist, and I cannot endure him overnight,” he answered. To which God replied, “I have endured him for almost a hundred years. You can at least extend mercy to him for one night.” At that the priest rushed out and treated him with compassion and mercy. The moral of the story is that mercy is great in theory … but tough to put into practice.