October 7th Matthew chapter 5 “blessed are the merciful”

Today we see the first effect of our new being.  by “being” I mean we are no longer just doing, but we are transformed into something else in Christ.  This fifth beatitude is the effect of the first one.  Due to being poor in spirit we are able to become merciful.  This type of mercy is no longer a forced mercy because we are commanded to have mercy; it is instead a mercy that has been engrafted into us by Jesus Christ as He has renewed us in Him after repentance.

I remember fighting with my little brother when we were younger.  I used to be able to whip him, I’m glad that I moved away because I believe that those days are over.  At any rate, I recall our mother making us say that we were “sorry” after an altercation.  It was a forced apology that was not meant, but forced on us.  We would, reluctantly say the dreaded words, but they meant nothing because we were not sorry at all. Fast forward a few years to when I was in my twenties.  There was a new pastor at my church who had walked into a divided, fighting congregation unbeknownst to him.  Of course the search committee failed to mention that to him when he arrived.  Being on one of these sides (kind of like the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s) I became angry at someone that he had allowed to become a deacon, because after all he was a “McCoy!”  I caused that pastor a great deal of stress as I told him how utterly foolish that he was.  Then, in selfish, sinful rage I told him that I was leaving the church.  This pastor did exactly what he should have done and simply said OK.  I couldn’t believe that he didn’t beg me to stay, but I now know that he was much better off with out me because I was in the way of promoting the Gospel.  As God, in the following couple of years, showed my how evil and wrong that I was I went to him to tell him how terribly sorry that I was.  I was so embarrassed of my actions and I felt so demoralized standing before him.  I was not looking to gain anything (other than forgiveness), no one was forcing me to go to him.  I was, instead completely broken over my sin and my actions.  I still think of those actions in horror as I now realize how I must have caused him such stress and many sleepless nights.  If he would have not forgiven me it may have been the end of me for it bothered me so badly.  This amazing man of grace later became the one who gave me the encouragement that I needed to accept the call to vocational ministry in my thirties.

The above story is a picture of someone who was truly regretful (greatly regretful) for their actions.  When a person comes to the realization of their sin, when forgiven, they have an attitude of mercy.  Grace for grace.  Due to the grace that has been shown the believer in Christ, grace will be reciprocated.  Those who are not full of grace have most likely never really experienced it.  Once again, if someone does not feel as though they have much to be forgiven, they do not treasure the grace of God.  Grace for grace is the empathy of the believer because we were once where the unhappy, angry one caught in his own sin was, but we have been forgiven.

Jesus gave us the parable about the debtors (Luke 7:36-50).  One debtor owed a great deal of money (500 denarii) and another owed a small amount (50 denarii).  The creditor forgave both men of their debts, so Jesus posed the question “which of these will love the master more?”  This parable sums up the concept of those who show mercy.  All of those who come to Christ in repentance realize the great debt that has been forgiven.  In turn they love the master and reciprocate grace.

 

Pastor Steve

October 6th Matthew chapter 5 “blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness”

Today we are looking at the fourth step to attain happiness.  Today’s step is the hungering and thirsting for righteousness.  This step can only come about by these who are meek.  If you have not been following this blog daily the steps are listed below.

Blessed are:

#1 The poor in spirit (realization of our sin and God’s righteousness)

#2  Those who mourn  (severe mourning over our sin condition)

#3  The meek  (those who know their place in view of God and men)

#4  Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness  (longing to be like Him)

As we look at what it means to hunger and thirst after righteousness I hope that each of us reading this will examine ourselves and see if we have fallen in line with the teaching of Christ.  The first thing we need to understand is the desperation of those who are truly hungry and thirsty.  In the United States there are few who will go with out food or water to the point of starvation or dying of thirst.  The desire to meet those two needs when one is hungry or thirsty in the real sense is hard for us to imagine.  To what lengths will people go who are this in this type of need?  I have read of the atrocities that happened to the US soldiers during the death march of Bataan.  The Japanese had taken US troops in the Philippines prisoner and forced them to march for more than one hundred miles with out giving them sustenance.  Many did not survive the march and many others were beheaded at the amusement of the Japanese soldiers.  One story of the march told by a survivor  was that of extreme thirst.  If you have never been to South East Asia it is hard to understand how hot it can get.   This man tells of troops who dove into an oxen trough to eat the mud that was filled with urine due to their desperate need for water.  They gorged themselves as quickly as possible on this mud-urine in order to try and satisfy their insatiable thirst.  These men know the real meaning of being thirsty.

In the life of a true believer there is an indescribable desire to be more like Christ.  This desire stems from the first three steps mentioned in the paragraphs above.  The believer realizes how defiled they are, how much grace has been shown, their position in Christ (He is the master) and there is a strong desire to follow and obey Him in order to do what is right in His eyes.  This is repentance.  This is what Jesus was preaching about when he said “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  In this mentality the individual no longer looks at the Word of God as a book of “what can I get away with?”  They instead, look at the Word of God to see “how can I become even more like Him?”  Instead of studying what liberty we have in Christ we begin to focus on what we can do to more glorify Him and draw others into His marvelous grace.  We begin to think like David in Psalm 51 when He says “search me and see if there is any wicked way in me…”

A good illustration of this is with the consumption of alcohol.  Alcohol is always shown in a bad light in scripture (the wine Paul asked Timothy to drink was not alcohol).  No where in scripture does it formerly forbid one to abstain from alcohol although, the Bible calls it a moocher (Proverbs 20:1) and says not to be drunk with wine which leads to debauchery  but be filled with the spirit (Ephesians 5:8). Scripture also says not to gaze on the wine when it is red…(Proverbs 23:31) along with many more warnings.  We hear story after story of those who become addicted to alcohol, marriages that have been torn apart and children left without parents due to it.  There are many who have died in traffic accidents due to the use of alcohol and it causes liver damages and poor decision making.  Many girls and women will be molested due to the consumption of alcohol.  So, the believer is left with a choice, that choice is weather to claim “liberty” which we indeed do have, or to hunger and thirst after righteousness.  Do we neglect how the world views us as we decide to take part?  Do we chance the circumstances of alcohol consumption due to this liberty?  Or, do we look at it from a hunger and thirst for righteousness point of view?  When we chose what we want to do in liberty over what will glorify God, we are not thirsty for His righteousness.

The happy, blessed, true believer will always search out ways to become more like Him.  It will be a life long struggle with many failures, but it will be a constant fight as we have this over riding desire to put on the righteousness of Christ and become more like Him each day.  I believe that any one who does not have this desire has not come to salvation.  This attitude is a part of repentance and is necessary for s relationship with Christ.

Tomorrow we will begin to look at the next four beatitudes.  These next four are the effects of the first four.  Each change that God makes in us causes an effect.  Jesus, the master teacher, gives these responses in the next verses.

Pastor Steve

 

October 5th Matthew chapter 5 “blessed are the meek”

Today we are looking at the third step toward happiness.  We have seen in these verses that one first needs to be poor in spirit (realizing their own sin) and then be in a state of mourning over this sin.  Now we see that the next step is meekness.  This will be todays focus.

I think that the word meek is greatly misunderstood today.  Most believe that in order to be meek one must become a door mat.  The common thought is that those who follow Christ are never to defend themselves (either verbally or physically).  It is as if we are to allow every one to walk all over us and to treat us with contempt.  Although there are some situations that may merit these passive actions, not all do.  Meekness has a very specific and understandable definition.

Meekness is the realization of ones standing with God and others.  One who is meek is one who realizes their place.  I like to look at it as a chain of command.  When in the Army, I had people under my command.  These soldiers were to take direction from me and it was my job and my position in which to lead them.  Although I had men underneath me in rank, I had a great deal more men that out ranked me.  So, to some, I led and after others I followed.  I did not allow the men under my command to do what ever they felt they needed to do because I was in a position to guide them.  I also did not decide to do what ever I deemed necessary because I had those over me who were in charge and I was obedient to them.  I had respect for both groups mentioned above, but there was a difference in how I held myself in their presence.  In a relationship with Christ we must have this type of meekness.  We need to know our place in view of God who is our master and with men in whom He loves.

Once again, this third step is impossible without the first two steps.  One will never know their position in Christ if they do not come to the realization of two things:  The first is the knowledge of the righteousness of God, and secondly the depravity of ones sin.  Only when these things play out can one truly become meek.  It is impossible to “fall in line” if we have not yet realized where we are in this chain of command.  We will also view others differently when we mourn over our sin.  instead of being prideful and looking down our noses at those who are lost or have found themselves in the mess of sin, those who have mourned over their sin and have realized the awesome grace of Christ, will reciprocate that grace.  So, in effect, our being poor in spirit allows us to better view those around us and have empathy for them. We are able to do this due to the knowledge that we also were once lost in our own ocean of sin.  We had no way to get out from under that sin other than the mercy of Christ Jesus.

Tomorrow we will look at the fourth step toward happiness; a desire for righteousness.  Guess what…this step requires the first three steps in order to take hold in our lives.

 

Pastor Steve

October 4th Matthew chapter 5 “blessed are those who mourn”

Yesterday we looked at the first step that Jesus gives in order to attain happiness.  I don’t know if you realized it, but these steps are also the steps to salvation.  This first step is being poor in spirit.  As I mentioned yesterday, being poor in spirit is the effect of grasping the reality of our sin.  This first step is the realization that we are in need of a savior.  The second step, which we will look at today is mourning.

Mourning is an emotional reaction to something.  We cannot force an emotional reaction, it is instead something that happens due to situations in our lives.  One cannot make themselves happy, sad, mad or glad, these emotions come upon us due to the condition of our heart and the situations in which we find ourselves.  Since we cannot force ourselves to mourn, this second step of mourning is impossible without the first step of being poor in spirit.  If we are not poor in spirit (facing the reality of our sin before a righteous God) we will not begin to mourn, my friends it is, in fact, impossible to do so.  So Jesus tells us that those who mourn over their sin are the ones who will be blessed.  This second step is the second step toward salvation, which is true happiness.

The Greek language has nine different words for our English word mourn.  In Greek, each  of these words are used in different situations and they vary in the extent of mourning.  One would not use the same word to mourn over the loss of their favorite football team as they would to mourn over a commercial airliner that had crashed and taken the lives of hundreds of people.  The word used for mourn in these verses is the one that depicts the most intense kind of mourning.  One Biblical scholar wrote that this type of mourning in the original language would be as one who mourns over the death of a child.  A person who finds themselves in a place of that kind of mourning is someone who truly realizes how desperately lost we are with out Christ.  In Matthew chapter seven Jesus says “many will come to me in that day and say ‘lord, lord’; and I will say to them depart from me for I never knew you.”  I believe that the ones who are being talked about in Matthew chapter seven are the ones who have supposedly come to Christ, but have come in their own righteousness.  Jesus also tells the parable of the wedding feast in which all were invited to come.  At first glance this parable seems to be terrible and dreadful.  It seems as though the master of the house, who illustrates God, was a vengeful, uncaring and angry king.  When the feast had begun the master of the house noticed that there was one there that did not have the appropriate apparel for the occasion.  The master then called him out and had him cast out.  What we need to understand about this parable is that in that time period in the East, a rich master or a king provided wedding garments for their guests.  So the master of the house did not decide to pick on the one poor person at the feast; he instead had given freely to all who attended the clothing that was needed.  This man, wearing inappropriate clothing, had rejected the clothing of the king.  Clothing that was given freely to him in order that he may freely attend the great banquet with the king and his court.  This man was not cast out because he did not fit in, or that he could not afford good clothing; he was, instead cast out because he decided that what he had was good enough.  With that thought he rejected the clothing of the king.

Being poor in spirit, which allows us to mourn, causes us to realize that the clothing that we have will not due in the presence of the king.  When we grasp the majesty of His garments and that of His guests we realize that we need to take off our righteousness and put on the righteousness afforded by the king.  This righteousness was freely given to all who will don it by the Son of the great King, Jesus Christ.

Tomorrow we will look at the third step that leads  to happiness which is meekness; once again it is impossible to reach this third step without the first two.

 

Pastor Steve

October 3rd Matthew chapter 5 “blessed”

Jesus, after He gets the attention of the disciples and other listeners, begins His sermon with the words “blessed are…”  This word blessed means “happy.”  It is not a word we usually use in that context today, but it is the meaning.  So, as Jesus begins to tell His disciples how to be happy, it is a new train of thought.  Jesus has ushered in another covenant with man.  We need to remember that He said “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”   This way of thought is brand new to all of man kind, we have just left the old covenant of the law and entered into a new covenant of grace.

Before we dive into the beatitudes we need to first compare it to what the old covenant had to say about being blessed (or happy).  Look at the verses below; they are the opening words to the book of Psalms (Psalm 1:1-3)

“1 Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.
3 He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.”
We see in these versed that they way to be happy lies in six things.  Three things are things that we should not do and three are things that we should do.  The key to happiness is wrapped up in what is done or not done.
We should not:
1.  Walk in ungodly counsel  (make the ungodly your main friend group)
2.  Stand in the way of the sinner (go where the ungodly go)
3.  Sit in the seat of the scornful (do what the ungodly do or think in the same way)
We should:
1.  Delight in the Law (the Word of God)
2.  Meditate on it day and night (memorize and take to heart His Word)
3.  Bringing forth fruit in his season (leading others to repentance)
In these six things we know what to do in order to be blessed.  But Jesus turns this upside down when He begins His sermon.  We see in the beatitudes that Jesus is no longer demanding what we do in order to achieve happiness, but instead He is telling us what we are to be in order to achieve happiness.  Where in the law (before Christ) we were told what we were to do; Jesus is now telling us that in Him, we can instead become different.  So instead of denying ourselves of things that we desire to do, He will change us insomuch that our desires will change.  He is now showing the world that in a relationship with Him, He will change the heart of man instead of just the actions of man.
So He begins with a statement that would make little sense to the listeners.  John MacArthur puts the phrase in such a way that we can see how different the ways of God are in comparison to our own and how difficult it must have been for those first listeners. John MacArthur says that Jesus, is in effect, is saying, “happy are the sad.”  I would like to have seen the faces of those around Jesus when He said those words.  There was most certainly an anticipation of what this great teacher would say.  The crowd along with the disciples wait for the master teacher to be seated then He comes out with the statement “Happy are the sad.”  I imagine the expressions would be much like that of a puppy when it is confused; ears perked, head cocked slightly sideways and eyes that scream “what in the world are you talking about?”  But as Jesus goes on He begins to explain that true happiness only begins with the brokenness of man in repentance.  In order to come to Christ all must realize how utterly bankrupt that we are without Him.  We all must realize the depravity of our sin, for with out that realization, we will never reach for the savior.  Why would one who considers themselves “a good person” need a savior?
So Jesus begins by saying “blessed are the poor in spirit.”  When ever I teach on this text I use the same illustration because I believe that it is the best way to put this phrase into perspective.  When a local high school has “spirit” day they brag that they are the best (even if they had never won a sporting event).  The band plays songs, the students use chants with their abbreviated school’s name and sometimes there is even a mascot that performs.  The idea is to promote pride in their school.  The reality of the school is never really talked about, they are always “number one!”  If the football had not won a game in three years the cheer leaders would still cheer that they are number one.  This builds team and school spirit.
Being poor in spirit is the exact opposite.  It is when we look at ourselves in the light of the perfect righteousness of the Son of God and come to the reality that we, in of ourselves, have nothing to boast about.  We can only lay before Him, ask for mercy and a transformed life.  This is the first of four steps that Jesus lists in the beginning of His sermon.  There are many who simply just began going to a church because it was the right thing to do, but have never come to the realization of the desperate need of repentance ( a changed life).  These will never find true happiness and joy because there has never been a need for a savior.  Therefore only the sad can truly be happy, but that sadness turns into joy upon accepting and understanding the marvelous grace of the Savior.
We will look at the second step to attain happiness tomorrow.
Pastor Steve

September 30th Matthew chapter 5a

As we get into Matthew chapter five we find the sermon on the mount.  There is no way to even come close to doing justice to this sermon by studying an entire chapter in one day.  So, I am going to break it down.  If you are in the habit of daily reading, I would like to ask you to read chapter five each day as we study it.  When this is done in repetition, it is amazing how much more clear the passage is.

Jesus, at this point, is giving the only recorded sermon of His entire ministry.  No where else do we see an entire sermon being presented.  When seeing the words of Jesus else where we see snippets of what He is saying.  So, think with me for a moment; How important must these words be?  Jesus’ sermon, if read, is only ten minutes long.  These words are of great importance and they completely destroy the tradition of that day and also today’s.  In this sermon we see the recipe for salvation, Godly living, the desire of the true believer, those who will be forsaken that truly believe they are His, adultery, our witness, judging, anger toward a brother in Christ and much much more.  I hope that you will get as much out of these chapters as I have.

Today we will just start with the first verse of introduction.  It is important to realize why this introduction is mentioned.  Opposite of what we do today, the teachers and rabbis would sit when they began to teach.  When the master was seated it was time to pay attention.  This is why we see in Acts that Paul was trained “under the feet of Gamaliel.” The term under the feet literally meant that students would sit before the master teacher as he taught them in the seated position.  Much like today, when someone rises, we tend to know that they are about to speak and that we should listen.  So we see that these are not just jumbled thoughts that have been placed together by the author, it is instead a sermon that builds, it has a beginning and has a conclusion.

Monday will will begin to look at the beatitudes.  I have been surprised and enlightened by these eight verses more so than any other in scripture.  If the book of Revelation is the revelation of Jesus Christ (which it is), I would consider the sermon on the mount the revelation of man.  The beatitudes explain what happens when a person truly repents and I think you will find it quite intriguing.  Can’t wait for Monday!

 

Pastor Steve

 

September 29th Matthew chapter four

In today’s reading we see the temptation of Christ.  Satan tries his best to get Jesus to skip the sacrificial death in God’s plan.  Lucifer even offers to hand everything over if Jesus will change His direction of fulfilling the Father’s will.  If we look a bit deeper at the temptations we will see what was behind them.  When Satan wanted Jesus to turn the stone into bread and to have Jesus jump from the temple,  I do not believe that it was just for the purpose of a meal or disobedience.  The Jews, under Roman rule, were kept content and paying taxes because the Romans kept them fed and entertained.  If Jesus were to do these two things the people would have crowned Him king on the spot.  We will see later that Jesus had to slip away before the people took Him by force and made Him king.  If Jesus would have taken the easy route and skipped the cross His reign would only have been an earthly reign.  Jesus came to save men from sin, not from Rome.  When these two temptations failed, Satan offered the kingdom to him with out a fight if He would bow to him.  Once again, this would remove the sacrificial death on the cross.

We need to make sure that we see how Jesus, the son of God, defeated Satan’s temptations.  Jesus did not debate Lucifer (although He could have and He would have won) He instead relied on the Word of God.  Each and every attempt by the evil one was combated with the Word.  With the truth of the Word Satan has no foot hold. It is interesting that Satan stopped after three attempts.  Lies cannot stand up against the truth. Psalm 119:105 states “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path…”  If Eve would have trusted in the truth of God’s Word she never would have eaten the forbidden fruit.  After doubting God’s word she denied God’s Word then, tragically, she disobeyed God’s Word.

Now we see, as I mentioned yesterday, the message of Jesus.  He begins His ministry by preaching “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (4:17).    Jesus not only demanded repentance, but He also said that the Kingdom was “at hand.”  So often people view the Kingdom of heaven to be in eternity only, but it is not.  When Jesus came he set up a Kingdom without borders.  Jesus set up a Kingdom without discretion of race, ethnicity, gender or social status.  The thing that makes people part of the Kingdom is a renewed Spirit through repentance.  When trusting in Christ for the remission of sins and turning from those sins people become the son’s and daughters of God.  This happens right here, and right now, not some time in the future.  Kingdom dwellers obey their new found King.

I John 3:3      “Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us that we should be called the son’s of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew not Him.”

 

Pastor Steve