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Archive for December, 2016

“The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness (adultery and lust), not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” (Romans 13:12-14)
 
sdMany people believe in parachutes. That is to say they know what they do and believe (for the most part) that they’ll perform as advertised, but they would NEVER put one on. Myself included.
 
And for many people, it’s the same way with Jesus. They believe Jesus is who God says He is, but they’re not going to ‘put Him on’ because to do so would mean to alter their lifestyle.
 
Some believe that they can put Jesus on just before they die. That’s like saying they’ll jump out of the plane just before it crashes, but having no idea when that will occur or that it’s happening now.
 
When the Bible talks about belief (or faith), it’s with the understanding that the ‘believer’ trusts to the point of obedience. In other words, if you truly believe (if your faith is real), you will do as Jesus (God) has commanded.

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When Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Matthew 7:28-29

In Chapter 5 of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus delivers His Sermon on the Mount, beginning with the Beatitudes. It was in the previous chapter that Jesus began to gather His disciples and gave them this promise: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” So they followed Jesus all about Galilee, as He taught in the synagogues, as He healed the sick, and finally to a foothill where they would receive their first fishing lessons, more commonly known as the Beatitudes.

The Beatitudes are not merely moral ideals by which folks should ascribe, nor are they a Christian formula towards achieving our best lives now. No, there was a bigger picture being presented here, one that is characterized by a narrow path. It is the destination realized in the personal receipt of God’s grace via the redemptive of power of Christ’s finished work on the cross and I would submit that if we handle them in any other regard we are sidestepping their inherent worth.

As we expound briefly on each tenet, understand that the Beatitudes are characteristics, not works or steps, that identify conditions of the heart which are the result of conviction by God by means of His Holy Spirit.  It is these spiritual positions (or phases) that we should broach when sharing the Good News.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit”

If salvation in Jesus Christ is our ultimate destination (and it is), then it’s clear to see that, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” has less to do with worldly ideals or moral character, but rather it is the realization of spiritual poverty due to (our) sinful nature. I believe Jesus is conveying to His disciples that in order to lead a soul towards salvation, the lost need to take ownership of their spiritual depravity, along with the recognition that they cannot save themselves. When the Apostle Paul wrote, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), this was the point he was driving home. It is no accident that poor in spirit is first in this sequence. It is in this vital first phase that we first recognize that we’re not okay and move closer to discerning our solution in Jesus Christ and can begin to see the blessedness of the situation.

“O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 7:24-25a)”

“Blessed are those who mourn”

Phase two, “Blessed are those who mourn,” is the consequence of grasping phase one; if there was sincerity in that first step, we will be mournful. It’s at this place where we may first recognize the devastating effects of our sin and the blessing of Jesus as our Savior and healer. Somewhere between here and our poverty of spirit the need for repentance surfaces as we begin to grasp that we cannot continue in our former manner. We see this being played out in John 8:11 where we find the woman caught in the act of adultery. Jesus said to her (and He says to us), “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

The Apostle Paul wrote of this circumstance as well: “Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10). We don’t get to this point unless we take ownership of Christ’s previous teaching.

“Blessed are the meek”

In “Blessed are the meek,” we may recall the maxim, ‘meekness is not weakness, but rather strength under control.’  In our Christian realm it speaks to submission to God (for) our own good, but more importantly for His good purposes. It’s here that God breaks us in the same way a rancher would break a wild stallion. Just as a broken vessel will give up its contents, so to in our brokenness we are emptied. In this place Jesus encourages us, Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Matthew 11:29). The call to repent and follow our Lord and Savior is truly where the meek are blessed.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” 

Having realized our spiritual poverty, having mourned, and having been comforted, we have been emptied. In this condition it is only natural we would desire righteous replenishment. We are hungry! At some point during the process, the Holy Spirit has taken up residence inside us to guide and to give us understanding. Micah 4:2 reminds us, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lordand to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Meekness and mourning (as with the others) are humility steps and we should visit them daily as part of a spiritual routine lest we regress in some fashion.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy”

Filled with His Spirit, we discover that the fruit of the Spirit is love and out of love grows mercy towards others. We recall Luke 7:47, “Wherefore I say unto thee, her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.” A saved person who appreciates the great volume of sin that Christ has cleansed on their behalf will likely extend mercy to others. This blessing, this spiritual condition bears witness to the changes God is making in us.

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

Here we see the difference between the cleansed heart and the pure heart. All believers have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus, but a pure heart comes as a result of submission to the sanctification (or refinement) process. We catche glimpses of God throughout our journeys, and of course we see Him more clearly when we are closest to Him, but it is when we finish well; our purified state, we shall see Jesus. Once again we’re experiencing God’s changes in us. We do not act as we once did, but find ourselves acting out of character to our old selves. The saved soul sees increasing uprightness and honesty in their conduct.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God”

This speaks not to mere peace as the world knows peace, but the peace that can only be attained through a faith-relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We are peacemakers as we share the great blessings that we have received in Jesus – when we share the Gospel, we’re sharing the Prince of Peace, therefore in every instance we are peacemakers. Zacharias said Jesus will Guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:79)

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake…Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you”

There will be persecution.  In 2 Corinthians 12:10, Paul said, “I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” Consider persecution a confirmation that you’re on the proper path – what a blessing! In contrast if these things are not happening in our Christian walk it should give us pause. It could be that we haven’t been practicing our peacemaking skills and hiding our light beneath a basket.

“Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

The Beatitudes as a series of road signs bringing us to very specific places of blessings and of course, to our final Heavenly destination. I believe that in teaching His disciples the Beatitudes, Jesus provided a checklist of the issues that needed to be addressed when sharing the Gospel message. In one sense it was coded (as were the Parables of Jesus) so the masses would not necessarily glean from them initially, but these lessons weren’t for them necessarily, but for those who would be sent out to share the Good News. We could also note that in the same manner that the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9) is a model prayer not to be recited word for word (necessarily), so are the Beatitudes a model to be recalled in sequence as a reminder to the bases we should cover when sharing the Gospel message, the continual discipleship process, and of course for periodic self-examination, as per 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”

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