Month: May, 2017

Blessed Are the Pure in Heart

 

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me… 

Pastor Henry Booth writes, “According to the nature and character of the fountain will be the character of the stream. The heart may be compared to a reservoir which supplies a large town with its hundreds of streets and thousands of pipes. If the water be pure in the reservoir it will be conveyed in its purity through the pipes to the inhabitants; but if unclear there, it will be impure at its destination. The heart is the reservoir from which life flows. The mouth, hands, feet, looks, actions, etc. are the pipes. If the heart is pure, purity will be manifested in life.”

 We move onto our next beatitude destination found in Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” I’ll be honest with you. This one is challenging. With all the muddled mess we must deal with in life, how in heaven’s name can we ever expect to achieve a heart of purity? Well, I guess I kind of answered the answer in the question didn’t I. It’s only by Heaven that we have a chance at all.

If you think of our Christian walk, this really is our #1 goal isn’t it, to have a pure heart. It’s easy for us to understand the opening illustration because, inwardly, we all know that all our deeds stem from the condition of our heart. If our heart is pure, our deeds will be unpolluted. If our heart is full of darkness and corruption, it will be shown in our actions.

As Americans, we understand the importance of purity in a worldly sense. We want our bottled water to be the purest. We want our food to be untainted. We want our friendships to be without corruption. We want all those things coming from outside sources to be uncontaminated in any way so we know what we’re getting.

It’s when we are asked to give that the problem with purity rears its ugly head. As far as giving, we like to do it with the least stress on ourselves. We like to give, only to the point of acceptance and not beyond. The least pure form of ourselves that we can get away with, the better.

Unfortunately for us, God cannot accept anything but the purest of hearts. There can be no sin, no unwholesomeness whatsoever within us. Our morals must be unadulterated and our actions clean. Sounds like we’re doomed. Of course, we would be if not for Christ.

So, what does Jesus mean here when He says, “Blessed be the pure in heart?” What does “pure” mean in a godly sense? Does it mean to be perfect? If so, we have some ‘splainin’ to do. After all, who among us is perfect? Who is without out a blemish or……. four?

Let’s first start with the English definition. To be pure means, really, two things, to be uncontaminated or to be unmixed. To be made pure is to be cleansed from impurities.

I believe these definitions give us a lot to work with when we’re talking about the kind of impurity Jesus is talking about here. After all, what did Jesus come to do? He came to take our impurities away. He came to become the prism that the Father looks through when He gazes at His creation. He came to make His perfection our own.

Of course, this kind of blessing cannot be attributed to any of our earthly effort. This is a kind of grace filled purity that can only come by way of the divine. So, the pure in heart are those who trust in Christ alone for their cleansing. The pure in heart are those who recognize their worldliness of sin and corruption understanding that, purity through forgiveness is something to be grasped because of the unselfish act of the only one who could honestly claim purity.

Our second definition means to be unmixed. In other words, for the pure in heart, there is no room for the things of the world. The Greek word was used to describe clear water or metal with the impurities removed or grain that has had the chaff removed or of feelings that are unmixed.

With this definition in mind it means having a heart that is unmixed in its devotion. For instance, we cannot properly serve God with a pure heart if our devotion is split between Him and our passion for wealth, or anything other than God.

This kind of double-mindedness has always plagued the church. If truth be told, it’s probably something you’re dealing with right now.

The trouble with us is our divided heart. We want the best of what God has to offer, but we want what we can get from our worldliness too. One part wants to know God and worship God and please God; but another part wants things our own way.  Paul expressed this well in Romans 7:

“For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep doing.”

Sound familiar? I know it does for me.

A pure heart is a focused heart. One that gives its full attention to what is right and rebukes what is wrong. Its single purpose is to please and glorify God.

In Biblical terms, the heart is not an organ that transfers blood but something much broader. It has more to do with  human emotions:

John 14:1, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me,” or  human intellect, Mark 2:8, “And, immediately Jesus, perceiving in His Spirit that they thus questioned within themselves said to them, “Why do you question these things in your heart?”  Or human will, from Daniel 1:8, “But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the King’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.” But all these references view the heart as being the seat of character.  Thus the Proverb, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

Our heart is and has always been the source of all our trouble. From the very beginning of time our heart has been split. From that first bite of the forbidden fruit our hearts have yearned for other things than God. Our hearts separate us and are stubborn in their healing. Our hearts still want the forbidden over the holy. It’s something sin has brought into the world and therefore our struggle never ends.  Jesus Himself said, “…out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” (Matthew 15:18-19) Our truest nature is found in the heart. The fact that God can work it into purity is one of His greatest miracles.

Jesus said when talking of the nature of the heart, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. 

The heart, therefore, is the center of spiritual life. That is why, to be like God means to be of pure heart. But can the heart be changed? Again, the answer is a resounding YES!!

The pathway to purity has always led through Christ. Because we had no hope of purity through our own efforts, God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us. Jesus Christ has become our purity. But in order to truly receive this great gift we must first recognize our need for it. First, we must recognize our own imperfections.

A soon as we understand that godly purity is beyond our reach and only achieved through Christ, we can begin the process of purification. But to admit that only God can make your heart pure is not to suggest that you are allowed to become passive in the matter. Or as Martin Lloyd Jones suggests, it does not mean that I should walk the gutters in life waiting for God to cleanse me.”

A heart intent on godly purity continues to strive for purity even as it is being cleansed. A heart intent on perfection continually strives to overcome those things that make it unperfect in the eyes of Christ.

Each believer has a responsibility for maintaining the purity which has been gained.  Paul writing to the church in Corinth said, “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” 

So, as in all things we need to be steadfast in our prayers to be pure knowing that communication is key to improvement. David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart Oh God and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” He knew that only in desire expressed through prayer could he remain committed to the task.

To be pure in heart we must be committed to the Word of God as our blueprint to life. The heart committed to purity daily ingests the vitamins needed to heal itself. Our vitamins come in God’s word and direction. You ignore the medication and the infections and impurities escalate. The heart in search of purity takes in the Word daily.  The heart in search of purity worships God in all things and commits themselves to worshipping with those who fight the battle at their side. This was never a battle we were to face alone. God is always at our side but also are all the brothers and sisters we have inherited as believers. We need each other to fight our way through the impurities and temptations of the world. When you miss worship, you miss the opportunity to help and to be helped.

Finally, the heart that searches for purity is the heart willing to surrender itself to the only one from which true purity can be found. Only God can do the impossible and only he can provide a heart in good standing. As in all the beatitudes it is only the strong who can do the things Christ is asking of us. In this is no exception, and for that kind of strength, our source can only be the one true God. That is why it takes our total surrender.

Do you want to see God, I mean truly see Him? Then it will take a pure heart that only He can provide.  2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 

God longs for your undivided heart. He yearns for a heart that has not been mixed with worldliness. Won’t you give Him your heart today? All of it? Don’t let your own ambitions cloud you from the things that are most important.

Paul Thigpen writes, “Unfortunately sin has blinded us, leaving our spiritual eyes swollen shut. Unable to see God, we grope in the darkness, searching desperately for someone or something to make us happy… our heart is splintered and shattered. We run to and fro, gathering first this trinket, then that one, dropping both for the next shiny one we spy…the result is civil war of the soul. All the while the Father stands close by, waiting for us to turn around and run into His arms…if our vision of God is to grow wider, clearer and brighter, our will must be united in a single focus on Him and an overriding desire to know Him and to love Him.”

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Amen

 

 

Bible Study: Blessed Are The Pure in Heart

 

Bible Study Questions – Matthew 6:19-24

Why do some hearts love or value this world’s goods and treasures and make them their god while other hearts love and pursue the things of heaven? In other words, what determines our values system?

So why do we seek to accumulate “treasure” on earth?

How does one store up treasures in heaven? 1 Timothy 6:17-19; 1 Peter 1:3-6

How does godliness yield heavenly treasure? Proverbs 15:16, 16:8; 1 Timothy 6:6-7

What would you give up, to have treasure in heaven? 1 Corinthians 3:10-15

What are some examples in scripture of people storing up for themselves treasures on earth? Joshua 6:17-18, 7:1-26; Matthew 19:16-22

Why is prioritizing God so much harder than coveting things on earth? Hebrews 11:13-16

What do verses 22 and 23 have to do with having a pure heart?

How does gathering up treasures on earth blur our vision? Luke 12:13-21; Acts 4:34-35, 5:1-11

In what ways have you seen greed in people’s lives?

How does a person become “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21)?

Why did Jesus say, in verse 24, that it is impossible to serve two masters—God and money?

Materialism, in philosophy, a widely held system of thought that explains the nature of the world as entirely dependent on matter, the final reality. How do we see this in our world today?

Jesus is literally saying in Matthew 6:19, “Do not treasure for yourselves treasures.” What does He mean? What does prioritizing our treasures have to do with having a pure heart?

What can we do to achieve a pure heart in such a materialistic world?

If God is our only hope and there is nothing we can do to achieve purity, is it proper to sit back and wait for it to happen? Why or why not?

How do the pure in heart, “see” God? Matthew 5:8

Why is it impossible to see Him without it?

How is the heart the center of spiritual life?

Why are prayer, God’s Word and worship vital to the maintaining of a pure heart?

How can we help each other in our quest for a pure heart?

How can our ambitions cloud us from the things that are most important?

(Bible Study materials are gathered from various resources, i.e. Bible.org)

“The Greatest Form of Mercy”

The Beatitudes:  Blessed Are the Merciful – “The Greatest Form of Mercy”

Matthew 6:9-15

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

Every Sunday, whether in the early service or late, we have something beautiful that sets us apart from many of the churches in this area. Many of these other churches have decided to part with this style because they find it boring or monotonous. They see it as nothing more than mind-numbed mantra, and that’s really unfortunate. Because this style of worship, if done properly, can truly inspire. Of course, I’m talking about Liturgy.

The dictionary defines liturgy as a form of public worship or ritual and I think it’s the ritual part that gets our modern crowd a little nervous. What they fail to see is that, the parts of liturgy we practice every week are there for a reason. Together in the beauty of community we confess our sins together and equally share in the forgiveness God grants to us….every Sunday. Together we make confession of our beliefs as Christians, in community, every Sunday because the freedom to do that together is so very precious. And, together we recite the prayer our dear Lord taught us and of where we find ourselves today in our Gospel lesson. We do these things every Sunday because they are that important. As a community in Christ we do the most intimate things possible in worship as we confess, profess and pray together. It’s really a beautiful expression of togetherness and a blessed way to show our devotion to God.

Of course, there will always be those who can’t quite understand the beauty of it all. They want to be entertained, and reciting something together, even as important as these things, is just not going to do it. And, you know, I even understand this. It’s the way our society has evolved. We’re a very finicky lot us Americans. If you’re going to win us over, you’re going to have to work for it. So, we do what we must to attract the post-moderns in our neighborhoods. Sometimes that includes big bands and light shows. I feel, however, that to do so at the expense of losing Bible based liturgy is a step in the wrong direction.

Today, as we continue our walk in the Beatitudes, we come to Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” I picked our Gospel lesson today because I believe that forgiveness is the best expression of mercy there is. I especially want to concentrate on verse 14-15, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Seems like a pretty important command harking back to the words in the Lord’s prayer, “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” I think it’s interesting that, after the teaching of the Lord’s prayer, Jesus sums it all up in the Father’s command to forgive.

One of the most beautiful parts of our liturgy is when we are blessed to pray together a prayer that the Lord Himself taught to pray. Its words come right from the source of our worship. You can’t get a better source than that.

In its words, a whole gamut of prayerful expressions are found. We reach out to God calling His name hallowed and we participate in words that anticipate His coming. We are blessed to ask for things  that we need in our lives as we ask for Him to take direction in our lives. And in the middle of all this, we ask for mercy through forgiveness. If you are reciting this prayer as mere words, your missing so many beautiful things that are available to us through prayer.

And forgiveness is foremost in this prayer. A forgiveness that equals our Lord’s forgiveness of us. Not long before she died in 1988, in a moment of surprising candor in television, Marghanita Laski, one of our best-known secular humanists and novelists said, “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me.”

I think she finally caught onto one of the most important truths in the Christian faith, the ability to receive forgiveness from the Creator. The gift to know, that just in the asking, our sins are washed away. It’s something no human can thoroughly give you. Complete and total forgiveness.

It’s hard for us because we are people of vengeance. We like to get even, if only in a small way. We like to see the sinner get his or her due, for them to be able to see the circumstances of their bad behavior and when that doesn’t happen we feel cheated somehow. How nice it would be to forgive and forget.

One of the greatest blessings we have as Children of God is His great ability to forgive and forget. At the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Even at the cross, Jesus Christ was our advocate and he knew that His appeal would be heard and granted.

We are left to wonder, “How could Christ so earnestly ask for our pardon even after all He endured?” Yet our Lord still does it today even after we’ve gotten comfortable in our semi-active Christian existence, even after taking advantage of His forgiveness over and over again while never seeming to learn our lessons. In all this, Christ continues to show us the greatest mercy by advocating on our behalf time after time so that we might be forgiven for our reckless and disrespectful behavior.

(Slide) Hebrews 10:16-17 repeats the promise in Jeremiah 31, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

As we serve our neighbors, this is the same mercy God is looking to see from us towards them. The kind of forgiveness that forgives and forgets. The kind of forgiveness that focuses on the things that are really important, vengeance and revenge not among them.

Marianne Williamson once said, “The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.” Imagine if democrats and republicans could learn to forgive and forget. Imagine what a wonderful country this would be if we set the example of forgiveness in our public service.

Now, forgiveness does not mean tolerance. We are still called to stand up for what is right and to fight against what is wrong. But we are asked to do this with love and forgiveness. This happens so little that it even seems weird to say. Who among us is strong enough to do such things.

Yes, it does take strength to show mercy. It means fighting against our very natures. Yet it’s something the Lord commands from us. We are to be like Him, to be His very imagine in a hurting world. The best way to shine this light is in the mercy and forgiveness we are willing to give to those who have wronged us. It takes everything we have sometimes to do what we know is right, yet God has given us the strength to succeed even in this.

God says in our Gospel lesson that, if we want to receive His forgiveness, we must be willing to forgive others. Its black and white. Unless you show mercy, you cannot expect God to provide you mercy. Forgiveness is that important. So important that we pray for it every Sunday during our liturgy. So important that it is expected to be in our prayers every day.

Maybe the real key to finding true forgiveness is from where we begin our journey. Maybe it comes through what truly motivates us. Is your desire to be free from anger, revenge and hostility? Is your desire to show gratitude to God for His unending forgiveness of us? Is your desire a restored relationship? Is your desire to be seen as someone of mercy rather than revenge? If this is true than maybe forgiveness is for you.

On the other hand, if your motivation is to finish first, to protect your pride, to have others fear you when they’ve wronged you, then maybe forgiveness isn’t going to be the motivating factor it should.

It’s really about picking a particular lifestyle. One that puts others first. A lifestyle that doesn’t seek revenge or harm upon their neighbors even when you’ve been wronged. Sounds like the better choice to me.

From now on make forgiveness what defines you. By overcoming hurt while showing mercy in the process, you can truly say that you’ve won. You have overcome one of the hardest challenges in life.

The first to forgive is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest. The first to forgive is the happiest. Colossians 2:13 tells us to, “bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

These are God given words to live by. If we can discipline ourselves like this, our lives will be stronger, our church will be stronger and our faith will be stronger. May God, who is the strongest of all, lead us always to forgiveness and mercy and may we make His example to us the blueprint towards how we treat others.

Our verse for today, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” But it goes even farther than this:

 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37)

 

Bible Study: “The Greatest Form of Mercy”

 

 

The Beatitudes:  Blessed Are the Merciful – “The Greatest Form of Mercy”

Matthew 6:9-15

What are the benefits of prayer?

The Bible, of course, nowhere calls Jesus’ prayer “The Lord’s Prayer,” nor is it called the “Our Father.” How are we to look at it? Is it an example prayer? A pattern prayer? or A prayer book prayer to be repeated?

There is very few references of “God the Father” in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 32:6, Isaiah 63:16) but the New Testament uses this term for Him 195 times. Why the change? Mark 14:36; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6

In what way does the word Father in the Lord’s prayer encourage us to pray? Romans 8:15-16; 2 Corinthians 6:18; Hebrews 4:16; 1 John 3:1

What are the three petition in verses 9-10? Why is it proper to begin a prayer this way?

How can a name be regarded as holy, venerated and sacred? Exodus 20:7; Psalm 148:13; Nehemiah 9:5 What are some ways we can do this in our daily lives?

What are we asking when we say, “Thy kingdom come?” What has it to do with the next petition? Exodus 19:3-6; Matthew 3:1-2, 4:17; Luke 10:9-11; Revelation 11:15, 22:20

Why are we asking for the Father’s will to be done here on earth? How should this prayer affect our living?

Why do we pray to God for daily bread? Psalm 145:15-16; Matthew 6:33; 1 Timothy 4:4-5

Should we thank God for our food if we have earned the money for it by our own labor? Deuteronomy 8:17-18

Why do we seek to be independent of asking anyone for help? Why do we seek to be independent of God?

What do we confess when we pray, “Forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us?” Proverbs 28:13 What are we really asking?

Why should we continually ask forgiveness? How can unforgiveness on our part block God’s blessing?

Does God ever lead us into temptation? John 6:5-6; James 1:2-3, 13-14 Explain.

How does the Lord rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation? Psalm 91:9-10; 2 Corinthians 12:9

How do we know God is able to answer the prayers of His people in Christ Jesus? Psalm 33:6; Ephesians 3:20-21; James 1:17

(Note:  Bible Study materials are gathered from various resources, i.e. Bible.org)

The Law of Righteousness

Text:  Matthew 5:17-20

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

Recently President Trump enacted a law to make it safer for the clergy to say what was on their political minds from the pulpit…….. I can almost hear some of your thoughts….”Oh! Oh! What are we in for now! Don’t worry, I’m not going to say anything to get us in trouble. But I do have something to say that has become quite political lately and it has everything to do with our Gospel lesson for this morning.

As we continue in our Beatitudes series,  we come to Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Well, our Gospel lesson comes just a little later in that very same chapter as Jesus continues with His Sermon on the Mount where Jesus expands His conversation on righteousness to include the law, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

In this way, Jesus has connected righteousness to the keeping of the law. Romans 13:1-7 adds to this saying:

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” 

Today, believe it or not, this very rule has become controversial. We look at illegal immigration and it should make sense. Just as God’s own kingdom is, the United States is a country of laws. In fact, that’s in large part why people want to be here. Yet, when one of those laws run contrary to the wishes of the people, we have a right to change them.

If coming into this country by sneaking in without going through the right channels is indeed illegal, if it is a law of our great nation, then it only makes sense we abide by it and persecute the law breakers. If you sneak into a movie theater, you get thrown out. If you sneak into a bank after hours, you get arrested. Yet, if you sneak into our country, as long as you don’t get caught, you’re ok somehow. I’m not sure this can be properly defended yet it’s become a political hot button with sanctuary cities vowing to protect those who illegally came into this country.

Now, I’m not saying our immigration laws are perfect and that they don’t need to be modified. I’m just saying that, until that happens, we must abide by the laws of the land. Go about changing the laws but don’t simply disregard them. Protest if you must, write your congressmen, advocate for an easier path to citizenship but don’t simply act as if the laws don’t exist.

I didn’t bring this up to stoke some kind of fire within you. I did so because it’s a perfect example of what we have been doing all our lives to God’s law. If we don’t agree with it, we simply ignore it. If I want to marry someone of the same sex, I’ll simply ignore God’s law or I’ll give it my own interpretation so it fits into my lifestyle. If I want to kill my unborn child, I will ignore what God thinks of His creation and get rid of the problem regardless of what God has commanded.

Righteousness is not an easy path. To be righteous means to be a person of discipline and faith. Righteousness means doing the right thing, even if we don’t necessarily agree with it. Righteousness is the way to heaven, but the path is narrow.

We live in an orderly society, or, at least, we try to. If there were no laws, we would expect only chaos because everyone would enact their own regulations. It because of our natural inclinations that if laws are set for a large group of people, it’s only natural that some will disagree with them. That’s why we have things like congress and the courts to hear the arguments. None of us want to live in a lawless environment.

You might disagree with certain laws of the land but you appreciate them when you go somewhere where those laws are much less stringent.  Go to Europe and you appreciate our traffic laws much more.  Go to Caracas Venezuela today and you appreciate that we enforce the laws.

Think of what a society would be like without laws. Think of what it would be like to have no authority outside your own. We might fantasize that it’d be great to have no rules but then when we’d have to deal with the desires of others, we would soon wish there were.  Judges 21:25 describes such a situation:

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in His own eyes.”

Most of the laws in the United States have been derived from the laws in Scripture. There was once a time when the Ten Commandments were the blueprint of a structured society but even this is being trampled on by those who chose to ignore them for the benefit of their own beliefs. Today, many would like to do away with the Bible. It’s too restraining. It’s way to righteousness is too difficult. They insist on laws that leave any concept of God completely out of the discussion yet they forget where those laws came from in the first place. Where do they think laws protecting the weak and disenfranchised came from? Where did the laws to fair trade and proper weights and measures originate? Yes!     Scripture!

Yet, Christians can be some of the worst law breakers. We call ourselves Christian but we take the wider road. We define Christianity in our own terms so they limit us less and require little from us. We proclaim things like, “We are no longer under law but under grace” yet we have no idea what that means. It just sounds like a ready excuse for lawlessness.

We rely on forgiveness so much that we lack the discipline God has called us to have in our daily lives. If I mess up I’ll just ask for forgiveness and all the while we condemn ourselves because this kind of contrition is never genuine.    Yet we must be careful in the law also, so as not to see it as a path to heaven. The Pharisees made this mistake adding law after law to somehow earn their access to the narrow path.

Jesus was not a legalist, He was a law keeper. He did not come to change the law but to abide by it as an example to us all. He did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. He held the laws of God in the highest esteem. When he spoke of fulfilling the law, He was not talking about fulfilling scribal law, but to the purpose for which God gave the law to begin with. Jesus was pointing to the goal that transcended the law. The way to everlasting life.

Notice, for instance, how He emphasized the importance of the entirety of God’s law, “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”  Hearing this there is no way anyone can claim that Jesus’ gift of freedom means freedom from the law.  He makes this clear saying, Therefore, whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven,” 

Don’t be mistaken. He is not teaching law as a way to salvation. He is rather, reflecting the values of the Creator, His character, His purpose. And because the Creators laws don’t change we know that we can never repeal them. This is because His laws are perfect, unlike our worldly laws. Righteousness comes from following the perfect laws of God but it also comes in following the laws set by the officials God has appointed for such a purpose, even if they might seem to cramp your style.

So, it’s clear that God’s laws remain as important today as they ever were, despite our attempts to disown them. Righteousness is still governed in the same way it has always been governed and God’s expectation of us have not diminished in the least. The laws set by God are given to us for our good. They still keep us on the path to heaven even if they don’t grant us admittance because we keep them. Faith is still the key.

The law was given to point us to the way of Christ. The laws of the Old Testament were fulfilled through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. These temporary substitutes were replaced when the perfect sacrifice was accomplished. And the reason for that is that God’s desire for the children He so dearly loves, His intention, His very design is that we should become like Jesus.

The Pharisees focused on keeping the law but they never lifted their heads to see what direction they were taking them. It’s like someone setting out without a map.  But Jesus goes on to say, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” 

What the law does, and what Jesus is pointing to in His sermon, is that the law shows us how we’re doing, it keeps us on the path and it guides us to our destination. The way of righteousness follows these three principles.

God gave us His law to Keep us on the right path. When we ignore those laws, we stray into very dangerous territory, especially if we decide to reinterpret them to fit our own wishes.

God gave His law so that we might know how we’re doing on our own path to righteousness. He gave His law so we could one day see the fruits of that righteousness. And He gave us His law so that we might lead others to that same path.

There is, therefore, the closest connection that can be conceived between the law and the Gospel. On the one hand, the law continually makes way for, and points us to the Gospel; on the other hand, the Gospel continually leads us to a more exact fulfilling of the law. The law, for instance, requires us to love God, to love our neighbor, to be meek, humble and holy. In other word’s it requires us to be righteous in the eyes of God.

We know that we are not worthy or capable of such a thing but then we see the promise of God provided in love through Jesus Christ so that we might achieve that love, humility, meekness and holiness we could never attain on our own. We lay hold of the beautiful Gospel and it is done unto us according to the faith we place in God’s own Son and the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us.

You see, righteous people keep the law because they are righteous on the inside. They don’t become righteous by following the law, they become righteous because the law has been fulfilled in Christ, the product of their faith.

Our children are being taught that law can be subjective, that there is no real truth, that morality is what feels right to you, and that we can create our own reality. They are being taught that rebellion and chaos against authority is good and right. They are being taught that good things are bad and that bad things are good. They are being taught that nothing matters and that anything goes.

But we know in faith that there is a righteous way to live and that God has provided, through His laws, the righteous path. We know that our loving Father has made all things possible through His love and that righteousness can be reality. He’s counting on us to stand up for that message.

We all want civility and justification – including our kids. A civil and just society is a righteous one, and for that to be reality, it takes righteous people to govern it. Make a stand for righteousness. Hear the calling of God and take the direction He is offering you through His law. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” Amen

Bible Study: The Law of Righteousness

 

Matthew 5:17-20

How does Jesus’ teaching “fulfill” the Law and the Prophets (5:17)? Isaiah 53; John 1:29; Romans 3:21

Where else have we heard this term, “Law and prophets?” Matthew 7:12, 22:40; Acts 24:14, 28:23; Romans 3:21

Where else in Matthew have we read about Jesus’ fulfillment? Matthew 1:22, 2:5, 15, 17, 23, 4:14, 8:17

If Jesus came to fulfill the law, why is the law still so important?

Some people claim that Jesus abolished the law for the Christian and that we are only responsible for obeying the “law of love.” Respond to this view in light of Jesus’ words in this passage.

How does Jesus here emphasize His high view of Old Testament Scripture?

How did Jesus fulfill ceremonial law? Hebrews 9:11-12, 10:9-12 Judicial law? Moral law? Hebrews 4: 14-16

How does the coming of Jesus impact the OT Law? Mark 7: 1-23

Jesus said that until heaven and earth cease to exist, nothing would disappear from the law “until everything is accomplished” What is to be accomplished? Galatians 3:19, 23-26

In Matthew 5:19 Jesus also said that if anyone broke “one of the least of these commandments” and taught others to do so, that person would be called “least” in the kingdom. Those who practiced and taught these commands of which he spoke would be called “great” in that kingdom. How do these words fit into the discussion?

What does it mean to be righteous in God’s eyes?  1 Corinthians 5:9-10; 1 John 5:3

Can anyone ever be righteous enough on their own to gain heaven? Romans 3:20-22; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 10:1

Whose righteousness must we depend on? Romans 8:3-4; 2 Corinthians 1:19-20

How can one be more righteous even then the Pharisees? Matthew 23:25

How are righteousness and the law connected?

How should we interpret Jesus’ massive claims in Matthew 5:18-19?

Why was this message so important for His hearers to hear?

How should these sayings influence our approach to evangelism?

In a society that interprets the law according to its own purpose, what can we do to uphold it?

(Note:  Bible Study materials are gathered from various resources, i.e. Bible.org.)

Strength in Meekness

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

It was January 30, 1994 and Super Bowl XXVIII was being played out at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The NFC champion Dallas Cowboys had just defeated the AFC champion Buffalo Bills, 30–13. Dallas scored 24 unanswered points in the second half, and Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith was named the Super Bowl MVP, with 30 carries for 132 yards and 2 touchdowns, while also catching 4 passes for 26 yards. At the end of the game, Buffalo Bills player Thurman Thomas stayed on the Buffalo bench with his head in his hands. It had been Buffalo’s fourth straight Super Bowl loss. The Bills became the first team to both appear in and lose 4 consecutive Super Bowls. During the game, Thomas fumbled the ball three times which had contributed to the Bills losing the game. But Thomas looked up from the bench to see the Dallas Cowboys’ star running back, Emmitt Smith standing in front of him. He was holding his small goddaughter. Smith looked at her and said, “I want you to meet the greatest running back in the NFL, Mr. Thurman Thomas.” Smith and Thomas were competing for NFL records, but there was no gloating on Smith’s part. Emmitt Smith, if you do not follow sports, retired from the NFL in 2005 as the NFL’s all time rushing record holder, and one of the greatest players in the history of the game. He is also a professing Christian.

One article states, “Emmitt founded an organization called the Open Doors Foundation to help underprivileged children overcome and be successful. In an amazing act of selflessness he has donated much of his personal memorabilia collection, and has auctioned much of it off to support the foundation.” The article concludes, “This is just another example that Emmitt played for the game itself rather than the glory.”

Today we continue our series on the Beatitudes looking at chapter 5 verse 5 of the book of Matthew which reads, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” You might wonder, then, why I started out with a story of humility. After all, isn’t meekness for the weak. Isn’t meekness to be overly submissive. Emmit Smith wasn’t being any of this, he was simply being humble and courteous to a fellow athlete.

If you’re thinking that, then you’re thinking like the world who sees meekness as weakness. The Greek here means to be gentle in spirit. It really has everything to do with humility. Meekness, according to Scripture is not for the weak but for the strong, especially in a world that values self-praise over humility. When we see Christ we see meekness in its truest form because His focus was on the will of His Father, not His own. His attention was not on Himself, but always on others.  His passion was to serve, not to be served.

The very Son of God, great in power and might, omniscient and omnipotent, the perfect example of humility. He gave all that up so that we could be saved.

In our world and even in our churches, we have trouble with our call to be gentle in spirit. Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” yet we ignore the command to maintain our earthly control. We find it hard to get on our knees in submission to anyone or anything, even God. It’s not the way we’ve been taught. It’s too great a burden.

Yet God in His infinite patience waits for the day we will find freedom in submission and power in gentleness. He waits for us to learn the lessons Christ came to teach us knowing that when we finally find humility, we will find our rest.

Our pride and arrogance separate us from God because they worship the created more than the creator. They find value in worldly things over Godly things. They teach us to trust in ourselves rather than God. All the while the devil wonders why it’s so easy to lead us astray. We’re easy marks in our conceit and self-importance.

 From Romans 12 we get this warning, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement……do not be proud……do not be conceited.”

So we look to Jesus as our example of meekness and humility for it is in His strength that we see these attributes so boldly. First, Jesus showed His meekness and humility in the love He had for His Father and in His willingness to follow His will. Jesus Christ knew what He came here to do and, even facing pain and ridicule, He was true to His calling. Never did He complain. He never tried to find a way out of His calling or try to find someone else to do what he was called to do. Rather, he willingly faced the cross in all meekness and love so that those who would curse and spit upon Him would have a chance to be saved. He didn’t cry out how unfair it was or seek a different way, but boldly carried His cross all the way to glory.

 In John 6:38 Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me.” On the night He was to be condemned He said in prayer, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  To learn gentleness of heart, we have but to look at Jesus and the example He showed towards His heavenly Father.

If we are to be like Christ, we must first be equipped with a gentle heart to understand strength through meekness. We must be willing to follow God’s plan to its conclusion and we must be willing to do what at first might even seem unfair to glorify our Father in heaven.

From Philippians 2:5-8:

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

To be like Christ is to take on humility in your very souls and in such a way that others can see the light of Christ in you. It requires you to die to your stubborn self with all its conceit and pride and fully surrender to the will of God. It’s a complete life change where one gives up their independence to God so much so that your dependence on God matches your dependence on air to breath.

Next we find our example of meekness in Christ in how He cared more for others than He did for Himself. It didn’t matter whether you were a blind beggar, a lame peasant or a Pharisee. He wanted all to come to the true knowledge of God. He was the perfect example of Godly strength but He never used it to glorify Himself. He was the very recipient of Godly power but only used that power for the benefit of others. He was the only one without sin, yet never boasted as He first thought of others in an effort to save them from their own sins. His first thoughts were always on others.

In Luke 19 we learn that Christ came to seek and to save the lost and he showed that in every aspect of His life even unto death. 1 Corinthians 10 says that “Nobody should seek His own good, but the good of others.” As you have probably heard me say, our purpose in life has very little to do with ourselves but rather in how we serve others. Christ proved this in His life and continues to lead us to that end today.

Proud people are self-focused. They worship themselves more than they worship God. They seek self-fulfillment rather than seeking to find their fulfillment in Christ. It’s all about them because, to themselves, they warrant the most attention.

Shane Claiborne, who spent a summer in the slums of Calcutta with Mother Teresa, wrote about her experience there. She said, “People often ask me about what Mother Teresa was like. Sometimes it’s like they wondered if she glowed in the dark or had a halo. She was short, wrinkled and precious, maybe even a bit ornery – like a beautiful, wise old granny, But there is one thing I will never forget – her feet. Her feet were deformed. Each morning in mass, I would stare at them. I wondered if she had contacted leprosy. But I wasn’t going to ask, of course. “Hey Mother, what’s wrong with your feet?” One day a sister said to us, “Have you noticed her feet?” We nodded, curious. She said: “Her feet are deformed because we get just enough donated shoes for everyone, and Mother does not want anyone to get stuck with the worst pair,

so she digs through and finds them for yourself. And years of doing that have deformed her feet.” Years of loving her neighbor as herself deformed her feet.” This is meekness in its truest form. The meekness of Christ Himself.

Meekness and humility mean that the focus is away from ourselves, not on ourselves. Godly meekness is a strength that can carry us past ourselves towards the needs of others. It is not for the weak but for the strong. It is not shown in revenge but in forgiveness. It is not for the weak in spirit but for the gentle. I’m sure no one would see Mother Teresa as weak would they?

Scripture tells us, Do nothing out of self-ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4) 

Finally, Christ showed His gentleness of heart in that His passion was to serve and not to be served and the perfect example of this was shown on the night before His death when, in meekness, He washed his disciple’s feet. After He washed them He said to them, “Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me Teacher and Lord and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should also wash one another’s feet. I have set you as an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

Christ’s very passion was to attend to others, not to be waited upon. He could not help Himself because His very nature was to be a servant even in His Godliness. His purpose on earth was to assist others and to do so in such a way that there was no room for excuse.

He wishes that same passion and meekness of heart to be ours. An example is no good unless it helps you to achieve a certain goal and Jesus served as the perfect example of Christian meekness so that you could modal that meekness in your own life with the same goals He had to be there for others before yourselves. Just as he gave all of Himself out of a Godly passion to do what was good and right, so he wishes for you to do the same. The love of Christ is more powerful than the sword.

Emmit Smith showed humility even in His victory and in that way he modeled Christ who overcame even sin and death with all humility and meekness. If we are to fulfill our calling as Christians, we must do the same with the same love and modesty as our Savior showed.

The Jewish leaders knew that the coming Messiah would come in strength but when He showed up in meekness, they rejected Him. But now we can see that He came in the greatest strength of all. A kind of strength that can only be found in our service to others. He did more to change the world than all the military leaders of the world combined throughout history and he did it with a gentle spirit and a passion towards others. May we be so bold as we carry His example of meekness to the world.

Bible Study: Strength in Meekness

Matthew 11:25-30

Jesus thanked His Father for hiding “these things” from the wise and prudent. What are some of the “things” He is referring to? Matthew 13:11, 16:17; John 14:6-7, 15:15

Who are the children that Jesus speaks of in verse 25? Proverbs 22:6; Matthew 19:14; Mark 10:13-16; Romans 9:8; Ephesians 5:1-2; 1 Thessalonians 3:3-6; 2 Timothy 2:2; 1 John 2:28

How do you become a child in this way? Matthew 18:3, 19:14; Acts 4:13; 1 Corinthians 1:27

What place does wisdom and intelligence have in the things of faith?

In verse 27, Jesus said, “And no one knows the Father except the Son… How does a person come to know the Father? John 14:6-10, 1 John 2:23, 5:20

In the Old Testament the rebellious Israelites were often accused of being “stiff-necked” by God and by His prophets  Exodus 32:9; Deuteronomy 9:6; 2 Chronicles 30:8 what comparison is being made and what does “stiff-necked” refer to? Isaiah 40:10; Ezekiel 34:15-16

What is meant by the words ‘yoke’ and ‘burden’ here in this teaching of Jesus?            Lamentations 1:14; Psalm 55:22

You won’t fully understand vs. 28, if you don’t also take into consideration vs 29. What is the important demand or condition on the promise? Why is that important?

No one can find rest in Christ for his soul if he doesn’t meet the conditions that Jesus also speaks about. So what are the 3 conditions? Revelation 22:17; Luke 9:27; John 6:45; 1 Peter 2:21

How do these three conditions prepare us for discipleship?

What promise does Jesus’ make to us in His invitation to “Come to me” and to take up His yoke of obedience? Ephesians 2:13-14

(Note:  Bible Study materials are gathered from various resources, i.e. Bible.org.)