Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Happy Holiness

Matthew 5:8

24 March 2013

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." (Matthew 5:8 ESV)



This week we move to one of the most powerful of all the beatitudes. Though it too is built upon the previous beatitudes, by itself we could spend hours discussing its necessary application in our lives. The title of this lesson is "Happy Holiness" for that is really what this beatitude means: happy are the holy (as MacArthur writes). True blessedness only comes out of a life of holiness.


If this last sentence is true, then, one should ask, why is this beatitude not the first one, to begin the series, or the last, to end on a high note? It is not even the middle beatitude, rather is it number six. If it is so important why is relegated to this spot? It is important to answer this question for it shows this beatitudes relationship to the others. You could look at the eight beatitudes in this way: the first three work to approach the fourth (humility, mourning sin, and meekness are prerequisites for a life of righteousness), the fourth sits on its own as the central quality of life with God—righteousness, the next three flow out of the fourth (the righteous are merciful, holy, and peaceful), finally the eighth depicts the life that lives all seven.



1—Poor in Spirit



            4—Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness


    6—Pure in Heart




With this movement to and from the fourth beatitude we see correlations between the beatitudes. 1, 2, and 3, correspond to 5, 6, and 7, respectively. This means there is a close connection between being poor in spirit and being merciful, between mourning sin and being pure in heart, between being meek and being a peacemaker. All of these work closely together and one is not more important than another. For our purposes, we need to remind our classes that being pure in heart has a direct correlation to mourning our sin. So take a few moments to review the second beatitude.


The Pattern of Holiness


When you approach this beatitude one of the first questions that needs to be answered is: what does "pure" mean? Most of what will follow is dependent upon our conceptions, or misconceptions, of purity. The word pure has several definitions to it:


  1. free from anything of a different, inferior, or contaminating kind; free from extraneous matter: pure gold; pure water.
  2. unmodified by an admixture; simple or homogeneous.
  3. of unmixed descent or ancestry: a pure breed of dog.
  4. free from foreign or inappropriate elements: pure Attic Greek.
  5. clear; free from blemishes: pure skin.


We use it often in certain contexts. When we think of gold or water we long for something that is close to pure as possible. We think of it in a negative connotation when we see reports of genocide in atrocities like the Holocaust wherein a pure breed of man was sought. What all these thought have in common is the element of simplicity. Something that is pure is something that is single, there are no additives, no mixtures, there is just one thing in it.


In the spiritual life this purity comes about in our relationship to God and our involvement in sin. Contemporary Christianity often only uses this term in relationship to sexuality. Someone who is pure is someone who is a virgin, impure thoughts are often those of a sexual nature. Though we may say that much more needs to be presented upon purity in the Christian life we get the idea: purity is the absence of sin.


When we allow sin to enter into our lives we are staining ourselves before God. Sin puts blemishes upon us and makes us impure. This impurity also means that we are not holy. When we try to understand what it means to be pure we need to correlate it to the attribute of holiness, for that is what this beatitude is about.


In the Bible we find this in many places. In Isaiah we find:


    but your iniquities have made a separation

        between you and your God,

    and your sins have hidden his face from you

        so that he does not hear.

    For your hands are defiled with blood

        and your fingers with iniquity;

    your lips have spoken lies;

        your tongue mutters wickedness. (Isa 59:2-3)


In Jeremiah we see the condemnation of the Lord for the sin of His people:


They have turned to me their back and not their face. And though I have taught them persistently, they have not listened to receive instruction. They set up their abominations in the house that is called by my name, to defile it. They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin. (Jer 32:33-35)


Notice that the sin is a defilement, it is a blemish, it is unholy. The judgment upon the nation of Israel came because of their sin and their disobedience to God. In the New Testament this does not go away. God still demands purity from us:


Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Col 3:5)


Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:9-10)


Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. (1 Pet 2:11)


Remember the steps; we don't earn a pure heart, this holiness is an outflow of walking in the righteousness provided with our redemption.


The Placement of Holiness


The second aspect of this verse is the "heart." The phrase is the "pure in heart." With the definition of purity above we now should turn to see what it means to have purity in our hearts.


The Biblical usage of the word "heart" refers to the innermost being. Whereas the Pharisees were "whitewashed tombs" clean on the outside but filled with decay and corruption, our purity must flow from the depths of the soul. Loving the purity and holiness we see in Jesus, we begin to value and desire this in our own lives.


Proverbs says,

    Keep your heart with all vigilance,

        for from it flow the springs of life. (Prov 4:23)


Now, we can have either a good heart or a bad heart. The Bible is full of people with both characteristics. In Jeremiah 17:9 we see the base statement of man's hearts:

    The heart is deceitful above all things,

        and desperately sick;

        who can understand it?


Matthew builds upon this thought:


For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. (Matt 15:19)


Romans shows us that it is because of our bad hearts that judgment is coming:


But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. (Rom 2:5)


From these passages then we are left asking: How can we have a good heart? The Bible provides us the answer completely. In Ezekiel 36 God says,


And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezek 36:26)


The cure for our wicked hearts is for God to give us a new one. Because it is God alone who can provide us this new heart we must pray like David for repentance:


    Create in me a clean heart, O God,

        and renew a right spirit within me. (Ps 51:10)


When we seek the Lord in the purity of our hearts that is when we find Him. Many commentators believe that this beatitude has a direct relationship to Psalm 24, which asks who can go see God?


    Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?

        And who shall stand in his holy place?

    He who has clean hands and a pure heart,

        who does not lift up his soul to what is false

        and does not swear deceitfully.

    He will receive blessing from the LORD

        and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

    Such is the generation of those who seek him,

        who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah (Ps 24:3-6)


The answer to the question is: those with clean hands and pure hearts. The whole being of the man who wants to see God must be holy, undefiled, in order to see Him. We must not only live lives that are patterned after being holy, but we must live lives that are completely holy. The heart that God desires from us is one that is steadfast and set on Him. To set our hearts outside of God is to invite sin into our lives. Our whole beings must be holy.


The Promise of Holiness


Finally we need to see the promise that comes along with the holy life: "they shall see God." In Psalm 24 that we studied above we see that only those who are clean and pure are able to ascend to heaven to "see" God. Now seeing does not merely mean to be able to have a glimpse, a picture, of God. Seeing implies a more intimate relationship. There is a connection of sight, knowledge, and relationship in this term.


Because of this connection, the Bible, at times, showed strong prohibition to seeing God. As the Israelites are traveling in the wilderness God sets up barriers to protect the people from Him. "And the LORD said to Moses, 'Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the LORD to look and many of them perish.'" (Exod 19:21). In Exodus 33:20 God tells Moses, "you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live." The being of God Himself is so great that it is too much for man to behold. Moses was provided a glimpse of God's back and then he glowed for years after so much that he had to wear a veil over his face. It was dangerous to see God.


However, the Bible also tells of many who have seen God, though in slightly different ways. Even though the account in Exodus 33 shows that God prohibited Moses from seeing Him, in Deuteronomy 34 it is said, "And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face." (Deut 34:10). In Isaiah 6:1-7 we have a depiction of the LORD in His thrown room and Isaiah is able to see Him,


In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

    "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!"

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!"

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said:

"Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for." (Isa 6:1-7)


Here it is only through the atonement of sin that Isaiah is able to see God and live. This is the core of the beatitude. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. The promise here is that when we mourn our sin and live in repentance we then will live holy lives. When we live holy lives we will be able to live in the presence of God, now from a distance, but with God for all eternity. For those of us who still strive on the earth we must seek holiness. This is the command of Hebrews 12:14 which is an echo of our beatitude, "Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." (Heb 12:14). The sight of the Lord is connected to the way in which we live.


We also know that this is a future promise. In I John 3:2 we see, "Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2). This is the hope of us all, that the way in which we live (based from and out of our salvation) helps us to be able to see God as He is. It is what Revelation 22 depicts for us all, "They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads." (Rev 22:4).


Seeing God as He is causes us to reflect His holiness in our lives today.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Have Mercy!

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" (Matthew 5:7 NKJV).

It's scary to think where we would be without mercy! We demand justice for others, but we desire mercy for ourselves.


Abraham Lincoln wisely said, "I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice."


Studying the first four Beatitudes progressively leads us to believe that we are in desperate need of MERCY. When we remember that we have NO personal righteousness to offer God, recognize the horror of our sin, repent to live under God's control, and run after God's righteousness we realize just how MERCIFUL God has been to us. This new perspective leads us to be merciful people.

In this brief passage we will consider four motivations to have mercy:

  1. The Model of Mercy

Almighty God is our Model of mercy.

Lamentations 3:22-33 says, "Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness" (NKJV).

One cannot read the Old Testament without seeing the wonderful mercy of God:

  • God's mercy allowed Adam and Eve to live, and even clothed them, after their sin.
  • God's mercy sought out Noah and his family to be the sole human survivors of the great flood.
  • God's mercy called an idol-worshiping pagan, named Abram, to be the father of a great nation.
  • God's mercy spared Israel and her leaders time and time again in their rebellious sin.
  • God's mercy sent Jonah to preach the gospel to the most sinister and repulsive culture on the planet – Nineveh.

When you look at God's dealings with mankind as a whole, you see MERCY. When you examine God's dealings with individual lives, as recorded for us in Scripture, you see MERCY.

Just in the life of King David alone (1 Samuel 16 – 1 Kings 2) we see the mercy of God demonstrated time and time again.

David's most famous transgression was committing adultery with Bathsheba, then having her husband (a faithful soldier in David's army) killed.

After being confronted by Nathan the prophet about his sin with Bathsheba, David prayed,
"Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin" (NKJV).


Brother Lawrence, in his book The Practice of the Presence of God writes, "I regard myself as the most wretched of all men, stinking and covered with sores, and as one who has committed all sorts of crimes against his King. Overcome by remorse, I confess all my wickedness to Him, ask His pardon and abandon myself entirely to Him to do with as He will. But this King, filled with goodness and mercy, far from chastising me, lovingly embraces me, makes me eat at His table, serves me with His own hands, gives me the keys of His treasures and treats me as His favorite. He talks with me and is delighted with me in a thousand and one ways; He forgives me and relieves me of my principle bad habits without talking about them; I beg Him to make me according to His heart and always the more weak and despicable I see myself to be, the more beloved I am of God."


  1. The Mission of Mercy

If mercy can be identified in the Old Testament, then mercy is certainly magnified in the New Testament. The fact that a merciful God would spare mankind in their sin is one thing, but that this same God would send His only Son to save sinful mankind is quite another! The coming of Jesus Christ described in the gospels is truly a miraculous mission of MERCY.

Ephesians 2:1-7 summarizes this mission of MERCY - "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (NKJV).

We deserve death and hell, but are offered eternal life and heaven – that's MERCY! Instead of hell-fire, we find His forgiveness; instead of our destruction, His salvation; our rags for His righteousness - that's MERCY!

  1. The Mandate of Mercy

To the Jews hearing Matthew 5:7, they understood mercy is two ways; the pardon of injuries, and the giving of alms. In showing mercy we see the wretched condition of others and are moved to action.

While Jesus was fulfilling His mission of mercy, he issued some mandates to His followers (that's us).


In Mark 12:30-31 Jesus said, "'And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these" (NKJV).


Loving my neighbor as myself essentially means that I treat them the way I would want to be treated. Early in this lesson I stated, "We often demand justice for others, but desire mercy for ourselves." However, the mandate of mercy says, "Mercy for others".


This is difficult because mercy deserved is not mercy at all. The people in our lives that need mercy are the very ones that don't deserve mercy. They're guilty; they're harsh, they're selfish, they're sinners; just like us.


Timothy Keller, in his book The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith writes, "Mercy and forgiveness must be free and unmerited to the wrongdoer. If the wrongdoer has to do something to merit it, then it isn't mercy, but forgiveness always comes at a cost to the one granting the forgiveness."


If you're still seeing yourself more on the receiving end of mercy and not the giving end, let me remind you that Jesus said in John 20:21, "As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you" (NKJV). This means that Jesus' mission of mercy now belongs to us. He was the Salt and the Light; now WE are the salt and the light. He came to seek and to save the lost; now WE are to seek and share the life saving message of the gospel with the lost. He has shown us mercy; now we are to show mercy to those around us.


It breaks my heart to see people who call themselves Christians be merciLESS. I think of the hate-filled cult known as Westboro Baptist Church. Their web address is www.godhatesfags.com. They spew hatred and venom in the name of God's holiness. One look at their protests exposes the fact that they do not represent the loving and merciful God we serve. Jesus didn't spend His three years on planet earth railing on the immoralities of Rome, or ridiculing the wretchedness of man. He said, "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (NKJV). He also said, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (NKJV). A merciless "Christian" contradicts Christ. Jesus was merciFULL and his followers should reflect that mercy.

  1. The Mirror Effect of Mercy

Perhaps the greatest commentary on mercy outside of the Bible came from the pen of William Shakespeare.

"The quality of mercy is not strained;

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed;

It blesseth him who gives, and him who takes:

'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes

The throned monarch better than his crown

It is an attribute of God himself;

And earthly power doth then show likest God's,

When mercy seasons justice. -

Though justice be thy plea, consider this,

That, in the course of justice, none of us

Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy;

And that same prayer doth teach us all to render

The deeds of mercy. -

(The Merchant of Venice)

This conditional promise of mercy to the merciful seems to me much like the plea for forgiveness in the Lord's Prayer: "forgive us, as we forgive others". Shakespeare observes that mercy blesses those who give it and those who receive it. No one would be saved by justice alone, as all are guilty. But all who are saved by this great mercy, should be first to show mercy to others, if the mercy of God has really changed us as we claim. God satisfied justice with the blood of Christ, so that he could show us mercy. Do we value the justice earned by Christ enough to be merciful to the wretched sinners we see? Earthly power is most like God's when mercy seasons justice. Shakespeare's monologue ends with this "How shalt thou hope for mercy, rend'ring none?" It is not the just, but the merciful, who are promised mercy in return.

The Longing for Righteousness

Matthew 5:6

10 March 2013

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (Matthew 5:6 ESV)


We pick back up this week with the Beatitudes. We have discussed humility, mourning for sin, and meekness.


Last year 70 atheists engaged in a prayer experiment where they pledged to pray for several minutes each day for 40 days that any god who might be listening would reveal his existence to them individually. One of them blogged that it was a "hello, is anybody out there" test. And while many of them reported strange coincidences of natural phenomena like rainbows and floating leaves, right after prayer; in the end only one of the 70 began to believe in god during the test.


Now most atheists claim to be intellectual, so an experiment of this nature is not surprising. In reality most of them had no desire for a god in their lives, but rather a curiosity, that if something was "out there" they would like to know about it. And of course some of them just wanted to do it for the sake of argument, perhaps to silence some well-intentioned believer in their lives.


What does it Mean to Hunger and Thirst?


When is the last time you were truly famished, or so water deprived that you thought you would die? When my eldest son, Austin, was about 16 we took a backpacking trip with the Boy Scouts to the Double H high adventure base near Datil, New Mexico. This wilderness area had no permanent facilities, and each camping area was only called such because there was a source of water nearby. So each day we filled our water bottles and hiked to the next camp area, usually with our water supply exhausted when we got there. After 7 days on the trail, we reached our final camp-site marked by a windmill pump fed stock tank. Only the pump had stopped working sometime in the past, and the stock tank was stagnant and green. First we tried to repair the pump, then we tried to use all of our gear to purify the green slime to the point where it would be safe to drink. When all that failed we decided to use our last bit of clean water to make dinner, then use our cook stoves to hard boil the bad water until it was potable. After the boiled water cooled a bit, it was a somewhat clear broth that tasted like the water in a bowl of cooked Ramen noodles, before you add the flavor packet. We gave each person one quart of the boiled water, and the next day we made a short hike to the pickup spot, and were transported back to base camp and I arrived with my water bottle still full, and went straight for the water tap, and that is probably as thirsty as I have ever been going about 16 hours with no desirable water.


The words for hunger and thirst here refers to those who have gone weeks without food and days without drink. In Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline he discusses 40 days of fasting and points out, "Anywhere between twenty-one and forty days or longer, depending on the individual, hunger pains will return. This is the first stage of starvation and the pains signal that the body has used up its reserves and is beginning to draw on the living tissue. The fast should be broken at this time." (Foster, 59) Few of us have been here where our body is turning on itself. This is deep hunger. Genuine thirst is similar to it. In an account of true thirst from the crusades it was stated, "our tongues began to swell…our lips turned to purplish black and burst." Though many of us have not been here, we can imagine and we must for this is the way we are to hunger and thirst.


The word for "filled" or satisfied refers to animals fed with grass. The 23rd Psalm paints this word picture perfectly.


    The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

        He makes me lie down in green pastures.

    He leads me beside still waters.

        He restores my soul. (Psalm 23:1-2)


    As a deer pants for flowing streams,

        so pants my soul for you, O God.

    My soul thirsts for God,

        for the living God.

    When shall I come and appear before God?

    My tears have been my food

        day and night,

    while they say to me all the day long,

        "Where is your God?" (Psalm 42:1-3)


It is the words of Paul who also had seen Jesus, done marvelous works for Him, planted many churches and said, "For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day." (2 Tim 1:12) and then still could say, "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,"
(Philippians 3:10). This longing must be deep and wide. It must be a longing that is greater than any other desire in our lives. But it must be a longing for a specific thing.


What is Righteousness?


The object of this hungering and thirsting is the word Righteousness.


It should be obvious that we are here commanded to hunger after something greater than this world. It is apparent that this world is striving for something; it is longing for a need that it has not found. We know that ultimately this longing is found in Jesus, but there are still dangers in the way that Christians approach this longing. We must see that this longing for righteousness is not a longing for an experience. Some are seeking lesser, though good, things. These people run from church to church wanting to hear a certain teaching. They take seminars and conference in hopes of finding a deeper meaning in their Christianity. They go from worship service to worship service looking for a greater "feeling" of the Spirit. This is not what it means to long for righteousness. Though seeking more from God in these ways is not bad, they should not replace the deepest meaning of this longing. So what it is?


The word for righteousness here is basic to all Christianity. Though scholars deeply define it, it is understood by the simplest of children. The word in Greek is dikaiosune. This means: righteousness or justification, but a literal translation means "as it should be". We long to be as we should be, for the purpose we were made but Romans 3:10 reminds us "None is righteous, no, not one." We are not as we should be, but we desire it still.


We can understand this Righteousness through Jesus Christ in two ways: salvation and sanctification. Justification is intimately tied to our salvation. Simply stated it means, just as if I have never sinned. When we are saved this is how God looks at us in Jesus: sinless. John MacArthur says this well,


In fact, we can insert salvation as a substitute word in the Beatitude: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for salvation." Do you want to be happy? Hunger for salvation. Hunger to be saved. Hunger to have the blood of Christ cleanse your sin. Hunger to have the righteousness of Christ applied to you. When a man abandons all hope of saving himself and beings to hunger for a salvation that he can receive only at the hands of God, then he is going to know this blessed happiness. (MacArthur, Kingdom Living, 96)


Though righteousness means justification and is the way in which God looks upon us as sinners in Jesus Christ, this also has a continual aspect to it, it relates to our sanctification. This is another important word for Christians and it is the continual process of being made holy. Daily we are being sanctified as we are repenting of our sin and humbling coming to Jesus Christ; when we do so we grow in our faith and find spiritual maturity. This hunger and thirst for righteousness, is a longing for Jesus.


Ultimately, what we must understand is that we need to seek to be holy and to put away all sin. To be righteous is to live "a pattern of life in conformity to God's Will" (Carson). We must choose to live this way. Not as a way of earning salvation, but as a way of living as a saved person. It is what Matthew 6:33 is really about, "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."


What is Satisfaction?


Finally, we ask the question, "What does it mean to be filled, or satisfied?" This is probably the most interesting aspect of this verse. Remember again Psalm 23, with green pastures and still water God restores the souls of His sheep. Matthew 15 uses the same word for filled when Jesus feeds the 5,000 and they were all filled. Luke 9:17 telling the same story uses the word twice literally "filled, all filled".


To be satisfied or filled means that your longing is fulfilled, "I shall not want". Your hunger and thirst will be met. This great need in your life will find its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. However, in the references above we see that David, and Paul, all had experiences with God. Yet, they wanted more. Their understanding of what it means to be "satisfied" is quite different. It exists with a longing for more. We could say it like this, "Though we are full we still want more." It is like the Psalmist says,


    Some wandered in desert wastes,

        finding no way to a city to dwell in;

    hungry and thirsty,

        their soul fainted within them.

    Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,

        and he delivered them from their distress.

    He led them by a straight way

        till they reached a city to dwell in.

    Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,

        for his wondrous works to the children of man!

    For he satisfies the longing soul,

        and the hungry soul he fills with good things. (Psalm 107:4-9)


    Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!

        Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

    Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,

        for those who fear him have no lack!

    The young lions suffer want and hunger;

        but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. (Psalm 34:8-10)


We find our fulfillment in God alone, not just at one time, but continually, perpetually. We are not saved so that we no longer want God, but so that we will always want God. That means we are moved to be in a relationship with Him. We are filled when we hunger and thirst because we have found Him and being with Him leads us to want Him more. You see we were saved at the start, are being sanctified in this life, but one day we will be with him face to face in glory. Only then can we be fully satisfied by His eternal presence.


    But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3:7-11)


Righteousness comes from God and our desire for it can be satisfied only by Jesus, and in Him we are "as we should be", "filled all filled".

Saturday, March 9, 2013


Matthew 5:5

24 February 2013

    "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5 ESV)



We are entering into our fourth week on the Sermon on the Mount and our third Beatitude. With the detailed study of these past few weeks discuss with your class what God is doing in their lives. Are people finding humility, mourning sin? Are they seeing their place in the kingdom, are they finding comfort? These are important discussions, for we must not forget what we studied previously in moving forward to study what we have this week.


This week we will look at the meek. This beatitude proves to be interesting because it appears to be very similar to the poor in spirit of verse three. In addition to this similarity, Luke 6 does not have a similar beatitude, which has led many to ignore this beatitude. We do not want to do that. As we move from humility, to sorrowfulness, we must see that the next step on the way to complete Christian character is in meekness. As you discuss this beatitude with your class please make the point that meekness is built upon humility, but is not equivocal with it.


Meekness Provides the Right Power


If you are like many people in your class you probably do not use the word meek in your normal conversations. Since we see that it is an important characteristic of the Christian faith we need to make sure that we define it correctly. The dictionary defines meek as:


1. Humbly patient or docile, as under provocation from others.

2. Overly submissive or compliant; spiritless; tame.

3. Obsolete. gentle; kind.


From this definition we perhaps have the idea that one who is meek is equated with one who is weak. The words submissive, spiritless, tame, etc. lead us to believe that there is a prevalent weakness in this word. However, what we see in the Bible is that God wants us to be courageous and bold, words devoid of any thesaurus entry on meek. What we need to see for a definition is perhaps what we find in the "obsolete" definition: gentleness or kindness. This more to the point of what "meek" means biblically, but as we discover what it means to be meek we must understand that meekness is not weakness, the Christian meek are not weak!


Before we give a good picture of what it means to be meek we must understand what it is not. First, it is not one who is just easy-going, I believe the younger people would call this one who is "chill." You can be laid back but not necessarily meek. Second, this does not just mean that a person is nice. Niceness is a quality I think we should all have, but it is not the full definition of being meek. Third, the meek are not those who find ways to compromise, those who are always seeking to put out any turmoil around them. In acknowledgement of these false characteristics of meekness Martin Lloyd-Jones provides this commentary:


Meekness is compatible with great strength Meekness is compatible with great authority and power. . . . The meek man is one who may so believe in standing for the truth that he will die for it if necessary. The martyrs were meek, but they were never weak; strong men, yet meek men.


So what is meekness? We see what it is not, but that does not completely help. Meekness is related to the power that we have and the way in which we use it. We are a people given the power to do certain things in our lives. We have the ability to act certain ways for ourselves and towards other people. A meek person understands that these choices of power must always be other-centered. Building upon the first two beatitudes, one who is meek is one who is not proud and is ever aware of his or her sinfulness. The meek person is not concerned with his own wants and desires all the time. We live in an age that says, "take care of yourself first," and though there is some wisdom in this, we must not abuse that little wisdom to make an excuse for being selfish and self-centered. The meek person must look to his or her own abilities and choose to have them focused away from self.


From this we must also see that the meek person must be one that is ever trying to show others that they are more important than themselves. This is not being a pushover, but it is being other centered. The meek person is never on the defensive. The meek person keeps his or her cool and handles situations that arise with confidence. The meek person responds in gentleness to all.


The Bible is replete with instances of being meek. We see it in Genesis 13 where Abram lets Lot pick his choice of the land before him and gives up his right. We see it in Numbers 13 where Miriam and Aaron oppose Moses and God calls all three out to him to make a judgment on Miriam and Aaron. Inserted in this story is the assertion that Moses is the meekest man on the Earth. The one who led the Israelites out of Egypt is not a weak push-over, but he was a meek man. We see meekness in David as he patiently waits for his time to be King as Saul still reigns. Twice David had the opportunity to kill Saul who was out to kill him and he stayed his hand. (See 1 Sam 24) We see it in Stephen in Acts 7 as he is being condemned to death. Most of all though, we see it in Jesus "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28-29)


Meekness Presents the Best Position


When we are truly being meek we are able to place ourselves in the appropriate places before God and before others. We have already stated that meekness is gentleness, but it also can be seen as being mild, quiet, low, patient, long-suffering, and teachable. All of these attributes are important for us to play in our lives as we serve God and serve others. Any position of placing ourselves before God or others negates the attribute of meekness. In a word we could call it yieldedness. Lets spend some time looking at how we positionally yield ourselves before God and before others.


When we come before God we must do so in humility and in repentance, but we also must do so in a position of yieldedness before him. God does not just want us to bow before Him, he wants us to do His will. In Matthew 11 we read of how we are to take His yoke. This means that we are not to do our wills anymore, but are to yield to God's. A particular way that we can show this is our approach to world missions. This coming week will be our missions conference and we are focused on the theme "Unashamed." Romans 1:16 says, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ." The only way we can be unashamed is to be yielded to God's will; to be meek. Practically speaking, this means that we are to seek his will on how we are to be involved in missions. For some this means that they yield their lives to God and leave to serve Him in a foreign country. This is an activity in meekness if it is done so because of God's will alone. For those not called to go, we are called to support those who do go. We are able to do this through Faith Promise Giving. Take a few moments in your class to discuss what Faith Promises giving is and how they can yield their finances to God.


Another way we are to be meek is to other people. We have already seen this in the way we are to be other-centered. This beatitude takes a turn from internal attributes to externals. Meekness is not just something between us and God, but is something we do with other people. I think one of the best examples of meekness before others is Peter before the Sanhedrin in Acts 4. Here Peter and John have come into trouble because of their boldness in preaching the Gospel. Though they could make many claims as to why they should not be imprisoned they answer before others in meekness. "But Peter and John answered them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard." (Acts 4:19-20). They were willing to allow others to do as they must, they did not fight, they did not struggle, they accepted the consequences. However, they remained bold in the proclamation of Christ. This is strong meekness. This is the example we are to follow. The only position we are to have before others is one of yieldedness, of meekness.


In concluding his thoughts on meekness, Lloyd-Jones made this statement, "The man who is truly meek is the one who is amazed that God and man can think of him as well as they do and treat him as well as they do." When we base our understanding of grace and mercy provided to us in the reality of our lives and sinners we have no other reaction than to be meek. We are underserving, yet we have been given beyond measure.


Meekness Procures the Proper Possession


Finally, we see that meekness presents a reward. Like all the beatitudes this is a conditional statement based upon one's ability to be meek. The simple statement is, "you will inherit the earth." This is to be our possession for now and for eternity, if we are meek. We can be understood in two ways: a present satisfaction and a future glory.


Presently, when we are meek we become inheritors of the earth because we find a new perspective on our lives here. If we are not meek we are focused on ourselves and become accustomed to wanting more and more and more. There is nothing that can satisfy the worldly, self-centered appetite for position and power in this world. We become insatiable. We become overcome by the three fold curse of 1 John 2:16 "the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life." These things are not from God, but keep us from him. When we are meek and we are yielded to God and yielded to others, then we are able to inherit the earth. This means that we are then able to appreciate what is given to us. We are able to be satisfied with the portion the God has provided for us in this world. Think of a time when you were dissatisfied with something at your job or in your community. Nothing big, but the small things. More often than not it arose out of an inward focus, a lack of meekness, and you could accept the blessing God is giving to you at this present time. When we do yield our perspective broadens to see the blessings of God in our lives. We cannot see them if we are not meek.


We also have a future glory with meekness as well. One day Jesus swill come back and this present world will go away. A new heaven and a new earth will be created. We will be partakers of that kingdom if we are part of Jesus. So our meekness on this side of heaven, so to speak, is related to the eternal blessings of the new earth. The living hope within us (Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 1 Peter 1:3) provides the perspective we must have for the future glory of being in God's kingdom. We must remember our actions in this life effect our eternal lives. Therefore we must be gentle to others, yielded to God, and hopeful of Christ's return.