Christian Virtue: How to be a Peacemaker, Part 13

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

3Sept  Yesterday, we looked closely at Matthew 5:9, the seventh of the eight Beatitudes.  Jesus is preaching on the Mount Olives above the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus presented His next point by saying, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”  Those who profess faith in Jesus and claim to follow Him will be dedicated to seeking peace with God in their own lives and strive to live in peace and harmony everywhere they go and with everyone whom they encounter.  A spirit of openness, selflessness, and sincerity are essential for one to be a peacemaker, and these essential qualities come from being poor in spirit, understanding our sin problem, being meek and surrendered to the Lord, and hungering and thirsting after righteousness.

The Bible-believing Christian understands that the righteousness and peace required here comes only through faith in Jesus Christ which justifies the sinner, yet as John Calvin said, “the faith the justifies is not alone,” meaning that saving faith always demonstrates itself in the way a true believer lives.  For the one who has been saved, poverty of spirit, mourning, meekness, and desiring to please God by keeping His commands are at the core of who he/she is.  And these qualities are necessary to be merciful, pure in heart and a pacemaker.  So . . .

If you have been saved,

How then should

You go about

Being a peacemaker?

First, we are peacemakers when we promote agreement among others.  The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 1:10: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”  We work to promote peace with others when we seek to be of one mind in agreement with the Scriptures.  “Scriptures” is an important word here.

We cannot be of one mind

And without division with others

Who do not agree

On who God is,

The nature of the human condition,

What Christ has done,

And how we are saved.

But for those who hold an orthodox understanding of the Christian faith, we are to be peacemakers by being of the same mind and judgment, so there is no significant division with other believers.  We should make every effort to find consensus through a Bible-driven understanding of God and ourselves.

Second, we are peacemakers when we “bear with one another.”  Consider what the Bible says in Ephesians 4:2–3: “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” In this verse, the Bible tells us that the earlier Beatitudes are foundational to being a peacemaker in this sense.  With humility, patience, and gentleness, we are to work for the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace.  For a marriage to work, small things must be overlooked. It’s the same in friendships, in the church, and in the broader social community. The peacemaker cultivates the ability to overlook slight faults and minor transgressions. The peacemaker is careful with his or her words thinking first of how a statement will sound in the hearing of those around them. Rather than saying things that cause conflict, the peacemaker will be careful in speech and desire understanding.

Third, the peacemaker pursues reconciliation.  Peacemaking is costly.

It cost the Father

The life of His Son

To pursue peace with us.

It cost Jesus

The comfort of His relationship

In the eternal Godhead

When He took the wrath

Of His Father upon Him

For us to have peace with God.

So, peacemaking is costly.  It is costly to love our enemies, to seek forgiveness when we are in the wrong, and to offer forgiveness when we are wronged.  Puritan writer Thomas Watson put it this way: “Christ suffered on the cross that He might cement Christians together with His blood. As He prayed for peace He paid for peace.”

Peacemaking is costly, but when we are peacemakers, doing all we can to promote agreement and harmony, to bear with others and to seek reconciliation, Jesus says we will be blessed.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

Christian Virtue: What is a Peacemaker? Part 12

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

3Sept  The Beatitudes found in Matthew 5:1-12 show us a beautiful picture of how disciples of Jesus are to believe and behave.  In previous posts, we have seen that on the inside, a disciple of Jesus is humble, aware of his or her sinfulness and shortcomings, displays a meekness because they understand their true condition as a sinner, and hunger and thirst after righteous.  In other words . . .

They are the opposite of how most people

Act today who go about the business

Of being proud, self-serving,

Carnal, and self-indulgent.

Those who truly desire to follow Jesus

Do not act that way.

These internal qualities of humility, meekness, and a desire for righteousness have a great impact on how a Christian treats others.  A Christian should be kind, forgiving, able to empathize, sincere and “pure in heart.”

Jesus is not telling His followers that they

Must become like that

Before they can be disciples.

Instead, He is telling them that

These are qualities that are manifested

If they are His disciples.

Because these qualities

Are matters of the heart,

Only Jesus can remake us

To be the kind of people He describes.

Now, in this beatitude,  Jesus turns to the attribute of peacemaking – ““Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9).  This seventh beatitude, the desire to be a peacemaker is dependent, like all the Beatitudes, on those that have gone before. To be a peacemaker one must first be pure in heart, merciful, meek, righteous, mournful over sin, and poor in spirit.  R.T. France says this: “The absence of selfish ambition which has marked the earlier Beatitudes provides the only basis for the quality of peacemaking, which is especially pleasing to God.”

Since most conflicts result from some sort of “drama,” a spirit of honesty, selflessness, and sincerity are essential for one to be a peacemaker.  Being defensive, looking for some personal gain, or having mixed motives will never result in being the kind of peacemaker who pleases God.

Peacemakers are those who promote peace and harmony in public, at home, and in the community.  Peacemakers seek to reconcile people who are in disagreement and encourage harmony and unity wherever they go.  A peacemaker is the opposite of a troublemaker.  And those who are peacemakers shall be called “sons of God” not by God, but by those around them who observe their actions.  This is because peacemakers will more fully bear the image of God.

God is a God of peace (Hebrews 13:20), His Son is the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6-7), the gospel Jesus preached was the gospel of peace (Ephesians 2:17), and the Father sent the Son to bring peace (Luke 2:14). The Bible says in Colossians 1:19ff (and following) that the Father desires to reconcile all things to Himself.  Therefore, those who make peace are those who have made peace with God first in their own lives and are being led to follow the Father’s desire and, as peacemakers, they are truly His children.

Since reconciliation (peacemaking) is at the top of the Father’s agenda, it should be the top of His children’s agenda too.  Those who are disciples of Jesus “seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11), desire peace with all men (Hebrews 12:14), and do everything they can to be at peace with all (Romans 12:18).

But the peace of which Jesus speaks

Is not peace by appeasement.

Appeasement is not true peace;

It is a false peace

And can never be sustained.

The peace that Jesus is talking about

And every believer now has with God

Is peace and reconciliation that comes

Through the blood sacrifice of the Son.

Without His atoning death,

Without the covering of our sin,

Peace with God is not possible.

It was not secured by denying our problem of sin or trying to overcome our problem by our own efforts.  Instead . . .

It was obtained by God in Christ

Paying the ultimate price for our sin –

He died so that we can be justified

And have peace with God.

A form of “peace” which is sought without dealing with the deeper, more difficult underlying problem of sin is not true peace; it is a superficial peace at best.  True peacemaking is always set in the frame of justice and truth without compromising either. So . . .

No one can be a peacemaker

If one denies the gospel,

The problem of sin,

And the need for a Savior.

That may serve the efforts of ecumenism –

The attempt to reconcile Christianity

To other forms of religion,

But it is not biblical peacemaking.

The plain fact is the gospel divides.  A Christian is constantly at war with the world, the flesh, and the Devil (Ephesians 2:2-3; 1 John 2:16) and we don’t make peace by giving in to them.  Martin Luther said “peace if possible but truth at any rate” and that is still true today.

True peacemaking must have,

As its aim,

Leading others to Christ

By the gospel.

Only in Christ will people find true peace,

And be able to life a life of peace.

Tomorrow we will look at how to be biblical peacemakers.  Until then, may you know peace with God, and may the peace of God be with you and guard your heart and mind in Christ.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

Christian Virtue: True Purity of Heart: Realizing the Promise, Part 11

Grace For The Journey

In yesterday’s blog we discussed the sixth Beatitude, found in Matthew 5:8. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  We learned that Jesus is talking about those who are pure in their innermost being; in the heart, where the Bible says our deepest desires, emotions, thoughts, and will reside.

Pure hearts are those that are undivided

By conflicting concerns or unsure loyalties.

Pure hearts are those that are free from falsehood,

Are sincere and transparent.

Pure hearts are characterized by pure thoughts,

Motives and are free from hypocrisy.

For a disciple of Christ, a pure heart

Means undivided loyalty, undiluted

Commitment, and unmixed motives.

A pure heart loves God and Christ

First, only, and foremost.

Here is where the fourth Beatitude, ““Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied,“ becomes important.  When I wrote about that element of the Christian life, I wrote about and defined the word “imputation” in its theological sense.  Imputation is a legal and accounting term that means “to be credited,” and in the Bible, imputation is used to describe God’s gracious gift of perfect righteousness given to all those who trust in Christ for their salvation (Genesis 15:6; Psalm 32:1-2; Romans 4:24).  We called this Beatitude the hinge because all the others turn on this concept of a hunger and thirst for righteousness that is filled by the imputation of Christ’s perfect righteousness.

Those who are pure in heart love God with all their heart, soul, mind, will, and strength, and when they fail to do so, God credits them for having done so because of Christ.  The Bible tells us that this is the condition of the heart of everyone who is “in Christ” (Romans 8:1; 2 Corinthians 5:19).  And to those “in Christ,” purity of heart is realized and Jesus promises they receive God’s blessings.  So, let’s look at how this promise is realized in the here and now.

First, purity is its own reward.  Just as we appreciate clean air and water, clean living conditions because it carries the reward of healthy living, in the same way, spiritual and moral purity has rewards as well.  People who act out of pure motives, those which can be trusted to do what they say, who help with sincerity instead of anticipating a return, are the kind of people we want to know.  When we act out of a pure heart, people often treat us in the same way.  True and lasting friendships are built on actions that come from a pure heart.

Second, what price would you put on a clear conscience? At the end of the day, the swindler, or thief, or cheat looks in the mirror and sees a fraud.  They lie restless in bed knowing they are contaminated by their underhanded ways.  While the world may disdain the pure in heart because of seared consciences, God has a different view. The Bible says in Proverbs 19:32, “The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.”  Purity has emotional and relational rewards that lead to health, life, and rest.

Third, purity is rewarded.  Jesus says the pure in heart will see God.  How could there be a greater reward for the one whom God has called by faith?  Think of how you have been moved emotionally by the wisdom of some great person.  Imagine meeting Abraham Lincoln, or Albert Einstein, or William Shakespeare, or some other person you admire greatly for their intellect.  Well, God is infinitely more wise, interesting, and eloquent than any person who has ever lived.  God’s mere presence thrills our souls now when we can’t see Him; but think how thrilling it will be in His presence.  The Bible declares in Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Fourth, purity is real.  Do you want to see God?  Then God must purify your heart. The Bible says in James 4:8, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  Purity of heart is required in God’s presence and those whom God calls into His presence, He transforms and changes. They become new creatures in Christ and are given new hearts, indeed, they are given pure hearts (Ezekiel 36:26; 2 Corinthians 4:6).

What is the condition of your heart?  If you have trusted in Christ, God has given you a new heart that is pure.  And while that purity of heart is not yet complete, there is merit in an imperfectly pure heart when contrasted with an impure heart.  God replaces our old, filthy, dead heart with a new heart alive to Him and persevering in faith that leads to purity of heart.  If you wish to see God, then turn to Christ who alone can make you fit for heaven.  Then you will realize God’s promise, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

Christian Virtue: A Cleansing The Leads Us To Be Pure In Heart, Part 10

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

3Sept  In today’s blog, we come now to the sixth Beatitude. Matthew 5:8: ““Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

In part 2 of our study of the Beatitudes, we learned that when Jesus talked about those who were poor in spirit, He did not mean people who lack material possessions.  Instead, by ‘poor in spirit,’ Jesus means those who are spiritually impoverished by being humbly aware of their lack of any spiritual strength or ability.  This is a poverty that has nothing to do with economic standing and everything to do with an accurate assessment of who we are as fallen creatures. The poor in spirit confesses one’s unworthiness before God and (an) utter dependence upon Him.  In the same way, when Jesus talks about being pure in heart, it is not an external conformance to the law or a religious code that He is talking about.  Instead, it is an inward holiness and a moral purity that is at the center of a person’s very being.

The word translated in our English Bibles as “pure” is the Greek word “katharos,” from which we get the word “catharsis,” which means “an emotional and spiritual cleansing or release. “ To be pure in heart is to be pure and guiltless in the place where our emotions, thoughts, and will reside; in one’s “heart,” which, the Bible says, is the very center of our being (Matthew 15:19; Romans 10:10, ESV).  To be pure in heart is to be pure spiritually, and it is manifest in thoughts, words, and deeds.  It is a true purity, not a show of outward cleanliness.

Notice that Jesus does not say “blessed are the pure,” for there would have been those standing within earshot who would have considered themselves to be in such a condition.  The Scribes and Pharisees thought themselves to be pure in a ceremonial way which is why later, Jesus called them “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27).  The Apostle Paul considered himself to be pure before Jesus revealed to him what true purity required (Philippians 3:4-6).  So, when Jesus speaks of being pure in heart, He has something much more comprehensive and complete in mind when He speaks of the purity that leads to blessing.

Throughout Scripture, we find that God is never pleased with the right, moral behavior if it is without heart obedience. Through the Prophet Isaiah, God asks: “’What to Me is the multitude of your sacrifices?’ says the Lord; ‘I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats’” (Isaiah 1:11).  Instead, what God requires is internal purity.  He declares this in Isaiah 1:16-17, “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before My eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

And what has been true throughout history is still true today. There are many people who come to church on Sunday morning for worship yet live lives during the rest of the week with little or no regard for God, honesty, humility, or purity of heart.  You may even know someone who claims to be a Christian, who tries hard to do all the right things, but their heart is filled with bitterness, resentment, anger, lust, or covetousness.  These are all sins of the hearts, and while people can often be fooled, God knows the heart, and He is never fooled (1 Samuel 16:7).

Once again we see how the Beatitudes cause us to examine ourselves in light of what God requires of those who are His children.  In these few short verses, Jesus asks us to examine our spiritual condition.  Are we poor in spirit, do we mourn over sin, are we yielded and surrendered to the will, way, and Word of God?  If so, do we long to be different?  Do we hunger and thirst after righteousness?  If so, are we being controlled and guided by the Holy Spirit?  If we have then can it be seen in our conduct – we will be merciful and we will desire to be pure in heart.

Tomorrow we will look at what being pure in heart demands.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

 

Christian Virtue: The Obstacles to Being Merciful, Part 9

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

3Sept  The fifth beatitude; the blessing that comes from the Father to those who are in Christ, is for those who are ‘merciful.”  We learned in yesterday’s blog that Jesus defines the “merciful” as those who are “of helpful compassion, a quality of sympathetic interest and activity for those who are suffering because of sin.”

The one who develops

This quality of heart

Will be blessed.

Mercy is not

The inclination of

The natural heart.

Left to ourselves we are all self-centered and selfish to our core.  Mercy is a quality that must be developed in us, and it is a quality only a regenerated heart desires.  Yet, even for the redeemed, there are obstacles that must be overcome to develop a heart of mercy.

The first is our self-centeredness.  Being absorbed in our own issues and perceived problems make it hard to enter into and understand the suffering of others.  We can become used to pleasant circumstances of home, family, material blessings, and good health which makes it hard to feel empathy for those who are homeless, whose families are dysfunctional, those affected by poverty, or people experiencing chronic health problems.

Those who are merciful, the Bible says in Romans 12:15, “weep with those who weep.”   When Jesus encountered the sick, the Bible tells us He was “moved with compassion’ and healed them” (Mark 1:41).  When we desire mercy, God gives us the grace to look beyond ourselves and see where others are hurting and need help and compassion.  Our natural self-centeredness displays itself as an emotional distance maker from the suffering of others.

We can also be blinded to the plight of others by a preoccupation with our own perceived suffering.  This is called self-pity and is the second obstacle to address if we are to be merciful.  When we do look past our self-centeredness and see the pain of others, we often think that we have even bigger troubles.  We look at the problems of others and think; “I should have it so good.  If they think they have problems, well, I have problems too.”  When one has this attitude, it is impossible to develop a heart of mercy.

When we see others in need, we seldom see the full extent of their problems.  When we see the plight of others, we only see the proverbial “tip of the iceberg;” we never truly know the extent of anyone’s suffering.  It’s true, we all have our problems, but the merciful are those who are not so self-consumed that they will not have sympathy for the troubles of others.

There is a third barrier to having the quality of mercifulness, and that is our pride.  We see someone in difficult circumstances and think that they must deserve it because of something they have done.  But the Bible makes it clear, suffering is not always a result of sin.  In the opening verses of the Book of Job, we see that God allows suffering to come upon people for reasons other than their sin.  This lesson is driven home further in John 9 when Jesus and His disciples come upon a man born blind.  His disciples ask if his suffering is because of his sin or the sin of his parents.  The Bible says in John 9:3, “Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.’”  We can never assume that someone is suffering as a result of their sin.  And even when it appears that someone is suffering because of sin, we must never be disdainful or feel morally superior.  Such thinking will never result in developing a heart of mercy.  Here the saying of John Bradford, an English preacher (1510-1555) is appropriate: “There but for the grace of God go I.”  When we remember that this is true, then we are on the road to developing a heart of mercy for others.

Finally, our selfishness prevents us from having a heart of mercy.  Selfishness is different from self-centeredness.  Self-centered people can be generous, but that generosity is usually wrapped in a narrow view of life where they are at the center of their story.  But the selfish are not generous; they want to keep all they have for themselves.  But to be merciful carries a cost in time, money, and emotional energy.  Beyond question, life in the 21st century is busy and, with the demands of family and work, it seems there is little time, money, or emotional energy to extend selfless mercy to those in need.  But God’s goal is to transform us into the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:30), and one of the areas He transforms through the Spirit is our natural inclination to be selfish.  God wants us to be generous with the resources He has given us, and when we are, we extend mercy.

Jesus says the merciful are blessed.  John Calvin writes this regarding Matthew 5:7:

Here there is a paradox set against human judgment.  The world reckons those are blessed who are free of outside troubles to attend to their own peace, but Christ here says they are blessed who are not only prepared to put up with their own troubles but also take on other peoples’, to help them in distress, freely to join them in their time of trial, and, as it were, to get right assistance. (Institutes, I, 171).

The merciful are those who take on the problems of others even when they have problems of their own.  And for this, Jesus says, they are promised blessing – “They shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7b).

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

Christian Virtue: Being Merciful – Jesus Shifts His Focus From Relationship With God To Relationship With Others, Part 8

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

3Sept  The Beatitudes can be a problem for people and for many churches.  Today there are many churches that are, what Michael Horton has termed, the “happy-clappy” variety.  The characteristic of Happy-clappy churches is their relentless stream of feel good, positive messages.  God is a God of love.  He feels sad when bad things happen to good people, and He wants you to feel good.  The message is never about God’s just wrath for sin and the hopelessness of the natural human condition.  To the contrary, the message is usually about how to develop a positive self-esteem and then offers some tips from God that can help.

The Sermon on the Mount

Does not fit the happy-clappy

Requirements of a positive

And encouraging message.

Instead, in the Beatitudes, Jesus offers us a test.  He calls us to evaluate ourselves in light of what He has said about being poor in spirit, mourning over our sin, being meek, and hungering and thirsting for righteousness.  What does this kind of introspection do to your self-esteem?  Does it make you angry?  Do your regard this test positively or negatively?  Your response indicates a lot about who you are as a Christian.  This test makes us uncomfortable.  There is pain involved in evaluating ourselves in light of what Jesus has said.  And . . .

Because Jesus has said it,

It must be a good thing for us

To evaluate ourselves honestly.

It is good to look into

The mirror Jesus places before us

Because it is what

Our hearts truly need.

Jesus is mostly concerned about the condition of our hearts.  His emphasis is on attitudes not action.  Jesus will go on in His sermon to say a lot about what the Christian does and does not do, but . . .

He prefaces that with the demand

To consider the state of

Our hearts and our character.

He does this to make it clear

That it is attitude, not action

That is central to being a Christian

And this is why we must be changed

From within by being born again (John 3:3).

It is with “born again” hearts that we must come to these next three beatitudes as Jesus will now shift His focus from our relationship with God to our relationships with others.

The Bible says in Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” The word “mercy” is defined as compassion for people in need.”  The merciful are those who are habitually merciful, whose lives are characterized by mercy.

Where grace deals with

Pardon for sin,

Mercy deals with

The consequences of sin.

Mercy is about providing relief

From the pain, misery, and distress

Caused by sin.

By “merciful”’ Jesus means those who develop a quality of helpful compassion, a quality of sympathetic interest and activity for those who are suffering because of sin.  Because of a fallen world . . .

  • There is poverty – The merciful desire to find material possessions for those who lack.
  • There are children who are orphaned – The merciful will look to locate them into a supportive family.
  • There is ignorance – the merciful help to build schools.
  • There are those who are sick or handicapped – The merciful seek to provide doctors, hospitals, and facilities for those with limitations.

The world may turn away from those in need, but the Christian will respond with compassionate and sympathetic help.

Some mistake mercy for condoning immorality or perversion, saying “the merciful are not critical or judgmental.”  They say, “extending mercy means accepting people wherever they are without any opinion about what’s right and what’s wrong.”  But that is not the case.  God is merciful, but He never condones sin.  God is rich in mercy; we read of the tender mercy of God, that He is full of compassion and is merciful (Ephesians 2:4; Luke 1:78; James 5:11), but never in a way that compromises His moral law.  The Bible says in Exodus 34:6-7 that God is, “…merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, .. forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.  The Bible also says in Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.

Mercy must always be displayed

In the context of just laws

Where offenders are properly punished,

Yet aid and comfort

Are extended to those suffering

The consequences of their wrongdoing.

And the demands of mercy go beyond social justice and extend into our very homes. The merciful extend compassion and sympathy toward those who hurt us or disappoint us.  They are quick to respond to disputes with others with mercy.  And while there are consequences for actions of hurt and disappointment, those who are merciful are quick to forgive and restore those who have offended us, even to the point of loving our enemies (Matthew 5:43, 44; 6:15).

Is this the kind of person you desire to be?  If so, God can make you to be a person who is merciful.  However, there are barriers each of us faces on that journey, and that will be the subject of tomorrow’s blog.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

Christian Virtue – The Importance of Imputation, Part 7

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

3Sept  The Bible says in Matthew 5:6 ““Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”  To get the full effect of Jesus’ words, I need to give you a small bit of Greek grammar.  Stay with me here for the discussion is worthwhile.  I said yesterday that God blesses those who passionately hunger and thirst after a complete righteousness.  The noun used in this verse is singular, ‘the righteousness” and Jesus indicates He is speaking about a righteousness without limits.

In Greek grammar, a verb like “hungering” or “thirsting” is always followed by a noun in what’s called the genitive case.  In English grammar, we don’t arrange words to indicate the genitive case.  Instead, we usually use a word like “of” to indicate any limits on the noun.  For example, in a phrase like “peace of mind” the word “of” modifies the noun “mind” and sets limits on the word to which “peace” refers.  When we say “peace of mind” we mean our own mind, not all of the minds in the world.  In Greek grammar, the genitive case must be used to indicate the limits on the noun.  For example, when speaking Greek, if you were hungry, you would say, “I am hungry for of food” or “I am thirsty for of water” by using a genitive form of the word food or water.  Doing so would indicate that you’re hungry for part of the food on the table, or thirsty and want part of the water in the pitcher.  The genitive case is used to show that you’re not talking about all of the food or water in the world.

But in this verse, Jesus does not use this rule of grammar to indicate a limit on the righteousness for which we are to hunger and thirst.  He does not say “blessed are those who hunger and thirst after of righteousness,” as He should have if He were talking about a limited righteousness.  Instead, He says it in a way His hearers would have understood to mean their hunger and thirst is to be for all the available righteousness possible.  By doing so, Jesus is saying that blessedness comes to those who hunger and thirst after all possible righteousness – a righteousness that is equal to that of God’s righteousness.

Most people believe themselves

To be good and honorable,

And to have some

Degree of righteousness.

If they seek additional righteousness,

They seek a bit more to be added

To what they already believe they have.

But Jesus says this will not do.

If we were to rephrase this verse to capture the flavor of what Jesus is saying, it would be, “How happy is the one who knows enough not to be satisfied with any partial goodness they think might please God.  Blessed is the one who is not satisfied with any human goodness but instead seeks for the divine righteousness.  And for those who do, God will provide it, and they will be satisfied.”

How are we to gain

This righteousness

That is equal to God’s?

We come now

To the importance

Of imputation.

Imputation is a “big Bible word” that means “an action or state of being that is reckoned to a person.”  The Bible tells us that the sin of Adam is imputed to all his descendants, i.e., it is reckoned as theirs even though his sin wasn’t theirs (we all have enough of our own sin), and therefore, all are guilty in God’s court of law (Romans 5:12).

The good news of the gospel is this:

The righteousness of Christ

Is imputed to all who, by faith,

Believe in and put their trust in Christ.

In other words,

The perfect righteousness, under the law,

Is reckoned to them

As if it were their own (Romans 5:17).

What happened to our unrighteousness?

Paul goes on to say that our sins

Are imputed (reckoned) to Christ,

And He took the punishment

That God’s justice demands (Romans 5:19).

In both cases;

Christ’s righteousness reckoned to all who believe,

And the sins of those who believe reckoned to Christ,

The nature of imputation is the same –

A credit that is not deserved

Is given to the undeserving

By God’s amazing grace.

When we understand this concept of imputation, especially the fact that the Bible tells us it is a double imputation as we are taught from Romans 5, it causes those whom God has called and gifted with faith to hunger and thirst intensely for the only true righteousness.  And Jesus promises, those who do will be satisfied.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

On Christian Virtue: The Righteousness That Qualifies, Part 6

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

3Sept  So far, the description of a disciple, one who follows and learns of Jesus, has been negative in nature.  The first three “Beatitudes,” the “blessed are” statements of Jesus from His Sermon on the Mount have been about things that we lack in our live when we stand before God.  A follower of Christ is poor in spirit – has nothing that he can bring or offer to make him acceptable to God; a person who mourns over sin – what it has done to his life and the world; and is meek – has come to realize the need to surrender himself to God, understanding that without Christ, he can do nothing to save themselves.  The fourth Beatitude, however, is the jewel in the list.

What does one do, in response to the awakened awareness of one’s sin and need?  He or she doesn’t give up, doesn’t wallow in self-pity, and doesn’t whine and lament their condition.  Instead, those who belong to Christ become zealous to become what they are not.  When we see our self-righteousness for what it is, completely devoid of merit, when we understand that our default setting is hypocrisy and pride, when we recognize these traits for what they are, worthless in God’s sight, we hunger and thirst for righteousness.   And Jesus promises that those who do, “shall be satisfied.”

The words

“Hungering and thirsting”

Indicate “an intense,

Focused longing

For something.”

Think of a person wandering lost in the desert and without water.  Every mirage drives him forward, only to find more sand.  Water is all he can think of, nothing else matters.  He drops whatever possessions he has and stumbles forward, searching, hoping, looking only for relief for his parched lips and depleted, dehydrated body.  This is how the disciple of Jesus responds when faced with the reality of his or her need; they become driven to find the righteousness that restores their relationship with God.

Have you experienced this hunger and thirst?  If not, perhaps you have a compartmentalized faith.  If you have not recognized and lamented that you lack what is required, and hungered and thirsted for that righteousness, then maybe you have the kind of faith that you take out on Sunday morning to put on display at church, and then put away for the rest of the week.  Maybe you “play church” on Sunday and then return to the reality of who you are in the world on Monday.

That is not what Jesus has in mind when He says those who “hunger and thirst after righteousness will find it and be blessed.”  His genuine disciples are passionate about the things of God.

A Christian is consumed by

The desire for righteousness;

They long for purity

And will not settle for less.

This is a condition of

The heart and mind;

One that comes by the regenerating

Work of the Holy Spirit

Who removes a heart of stone

And replaces that dead, cold, stone heart

With a heart of flesh that is

Alive to and living for God.

What is clear from Jesus is that this is what He wants from everyone who names the name of Jesus for salvation.  Jesus is not looking for followers who want to trifle with the things of God; to merely add God to the other things already occupying their lives.  If our passion and focus are on anything other than God, including career, family, economic security, health and fitness, sports, or anything else besides God, then we are still lost.  That’s a strong statement, but one that comes out of these Beatitudes.

To know God

Is to passionately

Long for Him

And

His righteousness.

And that will be the subject of our conversation tomorrow.  I hope you will stay tuned.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

Christians Virtue – What’s All This Talk About Meekness? Part 5

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

3Sept  The early church theologian, John Chrysostom, was once asked, “What are the three most important Christian virtues?”  His answer was, “First, humility; second, humility; and third, humility.”   With these first three beatitudes we have looked at: 1) those who are poor in spirit; 2) those who mourn over personal sin and the sin in the world; and now, 3) those who are meek being blessed, we have a picture of a follower of Christ that is beginning to take shape.

In a way, the first three beatitudes are all variations on the same theme – that of a life that comes empty-handed, is humbled, and surrendered before the Lord.  The Greek word translated as “meek” is a hard one for which to find an English equivalent.  Some New Testament verses, where the same Greek word is used, are translated as “gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3.4), “humility” (Ephesians 4.2) and “forbearance” in 2 Corinthians 10:1.  The word was used at that time to describe what happened when a untamed horse was tamed through the bridle and saddle.  The horse would be broken of himself, still have the same ability and power, but it was now surrendered to the rider.  So, the biblical idea of someone who is meek is that of a person who is broken of sin and self and who now yields and surrenders to the will and direction of God.  They are known as ones who do not insist on their rights even when they are violated or even denied.

Does this sound like most people in the world today?  Not at all.  Today there are various movements that either insist on or stand for people who are oppressed and denied justice in some way.  While this is important, after all, James says; “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction…” (James 1:27a), this third beatitude tells us the Christian is neither surprised when he or she is denied worldly rights because of faith, nor demands the world’s justice for personal affronts.

When Jesus speaks of meekness, He is describing a person who chooses to forego asserting himself to advance personal goals and becomes content with whatever the service or situation in which God has placed him.  It’s important to view the beatitudes as progressive.  Why are the people of God meek?  Because they have first become poor in spirit and mourn their spiritual condition and continual sin.

This is a picture of a disciple of Christ.  Jesus goes on to say that, “the meek shall inherit the earth.”  But knowing the world in which we live, that those who follow Christ will be persecuted and suffer for their faith, why then would a Christian want to inherit this broken and dysfunctional earth?

The answer is clear when we understand that the promise of inheritance is not for this current earth.  Instead, it is for the renewed heaven and earth.  The inheritance we look forward to is the inheritance granted to all who are children of God.  And that is the renewed, unmarred by sin, eternal Kingdom of God.  Because of this promise, the Christian can face anything that comes from this fallen world.

But there is another reason that those who are meek are blessed.  Spiritual poverty, humility over a correct self-assessment of our true condition with the resulting meekness not only affects our relationship with God, it has direct bearing on our relations with others.  Most commentators agree that an attitude of meekness is best understood as an attitude that effects our relationships with people.  Meekness represents a step forward in spiritual maturity, one that is difficult to make.  D.A. Carson says this: “We may acknowledge our own bankruptcy and mourn (over our sin), but to respond with meekness when others tell us of our bankruptcy is far harder.”

With this understanding of meekness, the question then becomes, “How can one develop the spiritual maturity that meekness portrays?”  Consider . . .

First, the meek are teachable.  The Bible stands opposite from the conventional wisdom of men, and it requires meekness, as displayed by a teachable spirit, one that leads us to submit to the Word of God.  Meekness is required if you are to reorder your thinking and values; and since our sense of who we are is often wrapped in our views and values this is a difficult task.  But for those who do, they will be blessed.

Second, the meek receive correction graciously because they are teachable in their spirit.  So often, people who are offered correction can’t hear it because they are on the defensive.  Not so the meek.  When correction is offered, the meek don’t become angry, they don’t offer excuses, they don’t blame others; and they never attack the messenger.  D. Martin Lloyd-Jones says; “The one who is truly meek is the one who is amazed that God and others can think of him as well as they do.”  That is the attitude that allows correction to be received with thankfulness.

Third, the meek are gentle and kind to others.  When we recognize our own shortcomings, we tend to deal more gently with the shortcomings of others.  On the other hand, those who are proud are often unable to look with understanding at the failures of others.  The greatest example of this attitude is seen in Jesus.  Quoting Isaiah on the Messiah, Matthew writes; “a bruised reed He will not break, and a smoking flax He will not quench,” (Matthew 12:20a).  Those who are meek are patient and gentle with others, even as they fall short of expectations or promises.

Finally, the meek are modest.  When we recognize that all we have is from God, including all our skills, talents, and gifts, then we come to view our creatureliness in an appropriate way.  How can we boast about our performance in any endeavor when we recognize that it’s all from God?  Paul writes; “What do you have that you did not receive?  If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7b).

Poverty of spirit,

Mourning over the condition

Of ourselves and the world,

And displaying a meekness

That is not weakness,

But a recognition of

Our condition apart from God.

This is what sets Christians

Apart from the rest of humanity.

So, if you are not a “strange” individual to others because you act in accordance with these three beatitudes, then maybe you need to look again at your profession of faith.  None will have these attributes fully complete, but they are what each follower of Christ should be working toward each and every day.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

 

Christian Virtue – Why Are Those Who Mourn Blessed? Part 4

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

3Sept  Jesus continues, with the pronouncement of eight attributes that are seen in a disciple of Christ which will bring God’s blessing, with this second Beatitude.  ““Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4).

How is it, that a condition of mourning can bring blessing?  Isn’t someone who mourns miserable?  Is it a blessing to be unhappy?  Well, it depends on what a person mourns.  In our “natural” state, we do anything and everything to avoid being unhappy.  The entire entertainment industry, TV, movies, music, video games, sports, even the news which is little more than entertainment today, exists to distract us from the true condition that surrounds us in a fallen world.  Henry David Thoreau, the American writer, and philosopher who lived from 1817-1862, said; “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”  Today we are encouraged to live lives of aimless distraction.  Any distraction will do if it helps us to avoid thinking of our mortality and the prospect of eternity.

To understand what Jesus is saying in this verse, we need first to recognize that He is not speaking of people who mourn the loss of earthly things.  Nor is He saying that everyone who ever mourned the death of a friend or loved one will be comforted.   Instead, just as “the poor” in the first Beatitude did not mean everyone who lacks money, so to those who mourn does not mean everyone who happens to be grieving.

What Jesus is referring to here is not the sorrow of bereavement, but the sorrow of repentance.

Those who mourn, over their sin, and sin in general, with its effects of heartbreak, disgrace, pain, and loss are those who will be comforted.  There is a progression that is seen in the Beatitudes.  The Christian has a sense of self-awareness and is “poor in spirit.”  Knowing that sin is the root of his or her inability and unworthiness in God’s sight results in mourning over sin wherever it is encountered.  This means there is a fundamental seriousness about the Christian life.  In the joy of hearing the gospel of Christ that the Christian is forgiven of all sin and unrighteousness, still, the follower of Jesus is marked by a sense of gravity and seriousness  The world may be aimlessly distracted by the entertainment offered on every hand, but not the church and not God’s people.  The stakes are too high; eternity is the final reality.

But this does not mean Christians are to be dour and miserable.  What good is a person who has the joy of Christ if they go around looking like they just ate a lemon?  While we mourn over sin and its consequences, there are two primary ways that we are blessed with comfort in our mourning.

First, our mourning leads to salvation.

True repentance always contains grief for sin.  True repentance involves the mind, the will, and the emotions.  In our minds, we confess our sin and our sinfulness.  This recognition and confession cause our will to turn from sin to the righteousness defined by God’s laws.  The result is always grief, mourning, and a sense of emotional sadness.  When we harm or offend another person, the hurt can only be resolved when there is true sorrow for the offense.  It’s not enough to say ‘I’m sorry.”  The offense is only resolved when the offender has as much grief as the person who has been offended.  Only then does the person offended see that the offender understands the seriousness of what he has done.  Then true forgiveness and reconciliation can occur.

In a similar way, when we humble ourselves and truly grieve over our sin, God restores us, and we are again in His good graces.  This is the first reason we are “blessed” and “comforted” when we truly mourn.

Second, mourning leads to hope.

When Jesus says those who mourn “shall be comforted,” He is referring to the future.  While we gain a bit of comfort when we are restored to a right relationship with God by repentance, the final and complete comfort will not be experienced until we are with God in eternity.  For this reason, the writer to the Hebrews devotes an entire chapter, chapter eleven, to the hope that Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Moses, Gideon, David, Samuel, many others had in knowing there awaits “something better” (verse 40) that God promised those who trust in Him.

Therefore, we take comfort in knowing we will receive full comfort when we see Him face to face.  The certainty of comfort in the Kingdom of God makes it worthwhile now to mourn over sin when it leads to true repentance and the hope of forgiveness (1 John 1:9) and comfort that God has promised.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture