Thursday, April 03, 2014

Persecution, the Marker of a True Christian

Blessed are those who have been persecuted
for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the 
kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when people
insult you and falsely say all kinds of evil against
you because of Me.  Rejoice and be glad, for your
reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they
persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 5:10-12

In the Beatitudes Christ gives us the markers that describe a true disciple, one that is truly following Christ. The first seven markers are found in verses 3-9 and they are internal spiritual realities that manifest themselves in many ways in the life of a true believer.  They are being poor in spirit, mourning over sin, being gentle or meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, being merciful, being pure in heart, and being a peacemaker (notice it is being a peacemaker, not being peaceful or at peace).  The final marker is one that comes from the outside, and that is persecution which is seen in verses 10-12.  

Interestingly, there are three reasons given for the persecution.  They are for right living (righteousness sake, vs 10), right belief (because of Me, vs 11), and right testimony (in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you, vs 12).

In the NT we see many instances of persecution for the reasons listed above, here are a few:

Right Living
I Peter 2:20-21, 3:17,  4:4, 4:15-16, 4:19, II Timothy 3:12,
II Corinthians 3:14-16, John 3:19-21, Ephesians 5:6-11

Right Belief
Acts 4:8-21, Acts 5:41, Acts 15:25-26, I Peter 4:14, II Timothy 1:8, 12

Right Testimony
Acts 4:8-21, 14:1-6,16:19-24, 17:2-7

Because you believe the right thing, you will speak the right thing and live the right way.  The result of this at some point and at some level will be persecution; and blessed are you when being persecuted for these reasons.  Persecution for right belief, right living, and right testimony is a marker, an identifier, that this person is truly a child of God.


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Crucifixion and Freedom

In Galatians 5:1 Paul tells us, "It was for freedom that Christ set us free."  To be set free means to no longer be in bondage.  To be free means to no longer be in subjection to, under the dominion of, or be controlled by.

Unlike the silly song that tells us we are free to dance, there is a spiritual freedom, a true liberty of heart and soul and mind that we have been given in Christ.  Paul lays the foundation for our understanding of this freedom in Romans 6:1-14, as he tells us that we have been set free from sin, we are no longer slaves to sin, that sin should no longer be our master.   The key to understanding this, and the foundation of our freedom, is given in 6:6-7 as we are told our old self was crucified with Him and that he who has died has been set free from sin. So we see that it is crucifixion that sets us free.  Our being baptized into Christ unites us with Him in His crucifixion and resurrection. We have been freed from sin and its stranglehold by being crucified with Christ.

In Galatians Paul fills out the rest of of what is implied in Romans 6:1-14, and what has been accomplished in our being crucified with Christ.  In Galatians 2:19-20 we see that through crucifixion we are set from the bondage of the Law (Romans 6:14, 7:1-2).  In Galatians 5:24 we see that through crucifixion we are set free from the flesh with its passions and desires (Romans 6:12-13, Galatians 5:16-21).  In Galatians 6:14 we see that through crucifixion we have been set free from the world (I John 2:16, 5:4-5, 5:19, Colossians 2:20-23).

As Christians we no longer breath the foul air of imprisonment, but now breathe the fresh air of freedom. The freedom that only death can bring.  Let us rejoice in our freedom, and praise God for our freedom, because in Christ we are free indeed.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Blessed are the Pure in Heart

In the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount there is a pronouncement of blessings.  Blessings for those who are true disciples of Christ.  Blessings for those who possess certain spiritual characteristics, the characteristics of true disciples, who, therefore, are true Christians.  As you go through the pronouncement of these blessings, every blessing is spiritually rich, and spiritually beneficial.  Every blessing pronounced is an extravagance of the grace of God, and to have them in total is much like drinking out of a fire hose. However there is one blessing that stands out from all the rest because it is the greatest of these blessings, it is the pinnacle of these blessings, it is the blessing by which all others pale; and, indeed, it may well be the greatest promise He made, and it is found in verse 8..."Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." This has been called one of the greatest verses in all of Scripture, one of the greatest sayings of Christ, the most gracious words that ever came from His lips.

We know from Exodus 33 that no one can see God and live.  From I Timothy 6:16 we learn that the Lord dwells in unapproachable light and no man has seen or can see Him.  So to see God would be a most unimaginable blessing, and I Corinthians 13:12 gives us additional insight into what is entailed in seeing God as it tells us this, "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known."

In I Corinthians 13:12 we see that for those who believe there is a seeing of God, the sight of faith (as we also see in Hebrews 11:24-27); but that is likened to a dim reflection, of which the fullness of sight and with it the fullness of knowing are yet to be.  From this verse we understand that in seeing God we will fully know God.  Since God, Himself, is the highest and most supreme Being, seeing Him and knowing Him would be the highest and most supreme blessing, and to receive this blessing is the highest and most extravagant grace one could ever receive.

Now, the recipients of this supreme blessing are those who are pure in heart.  So the question for us to consider is who exactly are the pure in heart.
Those who are pure in heart:

Love God
I Timothy 1:5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.
Deuteronomy 6:4-6 Hear, O Isreal!, The Lord is our God, the Lord in one! You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  These words I am commanding you today shall be on your heart
Deuteronomy 10:12 Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul.
Mark 12:30 and you shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, and with all your souls, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.

Not the state of the natural man
Romans 1:29-31 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful.
II Timothy 3:2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,

The love of God will be evidenced by
1.      Love of neighbor
Mark 12:31 the second is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no other commandment greater than these.
Romans 13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor

2.      Love of the Brethren
John 15:12 This is my commandment that you love one another, just as I have loved you.
I Peter 1:22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart.

3.      Obedience to God
John 14:15 If you love me you will keep My commandments
John 14:24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words
I John 5:2-3 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

Those who are pure in heart:

Seek God
Psalm 27:8 When you said, Seek My face, my heart said to You, Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.
Psalm 105:3-4 Glory in His holy name; Let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad.  Seek the Lord and His strength, seek His face continually.
Jeremiah 29:13-14a You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me will all your heart.  I will be found by you….
Deuteronomy 4:29 But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.
I Chronicles 28:9 As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts.  If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if your forsake Him, He will reject you forever.
Isaiah 55:6-7 Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near.  Let the wicked forsake His way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God for He will abundantly pardon.
Matthew 6:33  Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness….
Psalm 119:2, 10 How blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with all their heart….With all my heart I have sought you; do not let me wander from Your commandments.

Those who are pure in heart:

Find God
Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
Jeremiah 29:13-14a You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me will all your heart.  I will be found by you….
Psalm 63:1-5 O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  Thus I have You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and your glory.  Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You.  So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.  my soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.
Jeremiah 24:7 I will give them a heart to know Me.

If we understand correctly that the unsaved and unregenerate do not seek God (Romans 3:10-18) and are haters of God (Romans 1:31, II Timothy 3:1-5), then we are left with the conclusion that those who are pure in heart are those who heart has been cleansed, been made pure (Ezekiel 36:26, John 13:8-10; 15:3), and filled with love (Romans 5:5).  In other words, no one truly seeks God until he has been saved; and then he spends a lifetime of seeking after God, and God rewards his seeking by disclosing more and more of Himself.

And how do we see God?  We see God in the Word of God. We see God in the person of Jesus Christ. No greater blessing can be bestowed.  Make this your desire, make this your prayer, make this your quest today. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Goodness of God

And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call
Me good?  No one is good except God alone.
Luke 18:19

The goodness of God is goodness in its original and untainted form.  Since God is impassable and immutable, then His goodness is unchanging and unaffected by anything outside of Himself.  Therefore God is good in a complete sense, in an absolute sense, not in a relative sense.  His goodness is a pure goodness, untainted, undefiled, unaffected, untempered, and without degrees.  

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Our Response to Answered Prayer

Too many times when God answers our prayers we
 disregard it because it doesn't come packaged as we "expected."

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Victory in Christ

For Jesus Christ the road to Calvary was the road to victory.
For us, the daily taking up of our cross is the key to victory in 
the living out of our Christian life.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Guarding Against Self in Our Preaching

Brother pastors, as you prepare for Sunday are you intent
on showcasing God's wisdom or your own?  Are you preparing
for your people to hear from God, or hear from you?  Is it God's
Word you are preaching or your own?  Do you have more
confidence in your own word than God's word, or more 
confidence in your own machinations than the work of 
the Spirit?  
I Corinthians 2:1-5, Romans 1:16

The temptation for all of us is to serve ourselves and trust
ourselves rather than the Lord, even in our preaching.  Let 
us be like Joshua and chose this Lord's day to serve and
trust Him and Him alone in our preaching.
II Timothy 2:21