Knowing Versus Doing

Knowing Versus Doing

 
    “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection….” – Philippians 3:10


    If I asked you the purpose for which God made you, what might you say? You might give a lot of answers that required some action on your part. However, the simplest answer to that question relates to one primary thing: fellowship. The most important thing God desires from us today is to have a deep and intimate fellowship with each of us.


    The apostle Paul said he wanted to know Christ, and by knowing Christ he could experience the power of His resurrection. I find this to be the hardest thing for many of us believers to do. So often it is much easier to be busy with the urgent – or even Christian – activity than spending quiet moments before the Lord. Before we realize it, days have passed since our last quiet time with Jesus.


    Jesus understood how important quiet moments were with the Father. “After He had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone” (Mt. 14:23). The more mature I become in my relationship with the Lord, the more precious this time becomes to me. It is a time I look forward to almost daily. It offers me a time to reflect, to share my concerns with my Lord, and to hear Him speak. In the last few years I have begun prayer walks, which accomplish three things: fellowship, prayer, and exercise. It has changed my prayer life. I have come to understand that Jesus wants to spend time with me, personally.
 
We are depriving ourselves of valuable time with Him and the peace He affords when we put Him aside for the urgent. An interesting thing happens when we make prayer a priority: Urgent things seem to wane as we focus on Him. He makes all these other things fall into place. “He will give perfect peace to him whose mind is stayed on Thee. Because he trusts in Thee.” Isaiah 26:3


    Are you taking the time to get to know Him today?
 
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Spiritual Warfare

Spiritual Warfare
 
    “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood….” – Ephesians 6:12


    Have you ever heard someone say, “I will never do business with another Christian”? I’ve heard this comment quite often in my dealings with Christian workplace believers. This comment represents the battle that rages against us by the enemy of our soul to destroy the witness and effectiveness of Christian workplace believers. We must realize that we are in a war – a war for the souls of men, a war to discredit all that a Christian stands for, a war that is designed to divide Christian against Christian.


    Satan’s ploy in the life of Christian workplace believers is to do several things to make them ineffective as soldiers in the workplace. First, he wants to discredit them by allowing them to fail other people in their professional services. This often shows up in failing to perform what they committed to do or performing in an unsatisfactory way. Sometimes, this is a result of a downright failure of the workplace believer to perform with excellence. In other cases, it may be a misunderstanding in the midst of the service that causes strife and division instigated by the enemy.


    The result in both cases is the same: a division among Christians and even non-Christians, further resulting in a damaged witness for Christ. The apostle Peter admonishes us to “live such good lives among the pagans
 that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us” (1 Pet. 2:12).


    There are times when each of us is thrust into situations out of our control. Sometimes this results in our inability to pay a bill on time, or to deliver a service. Defeating satan in these battles requires extra communication with those with whom we are dealing. If the motive of your heart is to do right, then God will give you favor in order to work through these difficult spots. Ask God today to show you where the enemy is seeking to make
 you ineffective.
 
We wage a spiritual war that is not flesh and blood. We must fight this war with spiritual weapons applied to practical daily living.

Joy to the World

Joy to the World!

Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises.
Psalm 98:4

Recommended Reading
Psalm 98

It might surprise you to know that when Isaac Watts wrote “Joy to the World,” he wasn’t thinking of Christmas. He had been studying Psalm 98 and contemplating the millennial reign of Christ. When Jesus comes again, He will establish a thousand-year reign on earth, and heaven and nature will sing. Fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains will repeat the sounding joy. Only during the Millennium, which comes  after the second advent of Christ, will the words to “Joy to the World” really be fulfilled. The Millennium will be an earthly foretaste of the New Heavens and New Earth, which will be our eternal home. 

If you want to know what the Millennium will be like, read passages like Revelation 20 and Isaiah 11. This is earth’s future. When you hear now of wars and rumors of war, and when you despair over the coarsening of society, and when you worry about global issues, remember: He will come to make His blessings flow as far as the curse is found — a joy for earth and a foretaste of heaven. 

He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove, the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love.
Isaac Watts

 
 

Full Circle

 
Full Circle

Cursed is the ground… And there shall be no more curse.
Genesis 3:17; Revelation 22:3

Recommended Reading
Philippians 1:20-26

In a well-crafted novel, a problem is usually introduced in the opening pages, often involving life-and-death matters. A plot then unfolds with twists and turns, all connected with a heroic protagonist. Then the story  climaxes and concludes in a way that satisfies the reader. 

The Bible isn’t a novel, but it is inspired by a Master Author. In its opening pages we’re introduced to a set of terrible problems. The plot unfolds with twists and turns, centered around one heroic personage — Jesus Christ. The book concludes with the story coming full circle in a satisfying way. 

In Genesis 1-3, humanity is separated from God by a serpent and by sin, and a curse falls over creation. In Revelation 19-22, sin is dealt with, the serpent condemned, paradise restored, and God’s people eternally satisfied. In the New Earth, the curse of sin will be reversed, revealing once again the beauty God designed for us. No curse will spoil the new creation, and no dullness will dim our eyesight. So we will see it. How wonderful to read God’s Book, knowing it is all written for us to claim! 

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. 
C. S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity

The Endless Song

The Endless Song

So I will sing praise to Your name forever.
Psalm 61:8

Recommended Reading
Revelation 4:6-8

Someone just paid a million and a half dollars for a ruined violin that can’t be played. Its value isn’t in its musical quality but in its history, for it was played the last time in April 1912 by a doomed musician named Wallace Hartley aboard the Titanic. Hartley and his fellow musicians reportedly played “Nearer, My God, to Thee” as the vessel slipped beneath the icy North Atlantic. Hartley’s body was recovered ten days later with his violin strapped to him. 

God’s children never know when we’ll sing our last song on earth; but we know that because of Christ, we’ll be part of an endless choir in the heavens. The palmist said, “I will sing praise to Your name forever.” 

Since heaven is a literal place, and since we’ll have resurrection bodies, we’ll all be capable of singing and rejoicing and praising. It’s not that heaven is merely a never-ending church service. The New Heavens and New Earth are literal places with never-ceasing meaningful activities. And praise will be a rich part of that activity. 

Our joy there will be unending and unsinkable. 

I want to be fluent in heaven’s language. I want to become an expert at praise. 
Ruth Graham, in In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart

Four Seasons: A Season of Rededication

Four Seasons: A Season of Rededication

I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live. 
Deuteronomy 30:19

Recommended Reading
Romans 12:1-2

The second law of thermodynamics says that disorder increases over time unless it is interrupted. Not only is that true physically, it is also true spiritually. Left to ourselves, our carnal nature wars against the Spirit to pull us in the direction of spiritual disorder (Galatians 5:17). 

Moses called each generation of Israelites to affirm their allegiance to God. The Exodus generation dedicated themselves to God at Mount Sinai (Exodus 24) and the second generation was called to do the same (the book of Deuteronomy). Moses then instructed Joshua to lead Israel to rededicate themselves to the Covenant before they settled the land (Joshua 8:30-35). And after their expansion into the land, they rededicated themselves again (Joshua 24). 

Why not let February — even today — be when you rededicate yourself to God: to love and obey Him in everything in the coming year. 

The year is made up of minutes. Let these be watched as having been dedicated to God. It is in the sanctification of the small that hallowing of the large is secure. 
G. Campbell Morgan 

 
 

The Gospel of Matthew: The Messiah of Promise 5:1-12 Pt. 2

Beatitudes

Preached @ Anchor Community Church on February 23rd, 2014

“The more I read these chapters (Matthew 5-7), the more I am both drawn to them and shamed by them. Their brilliant light draws me like a moth to a spotlight; but the light is so bright that it sears and burns.”

D.A. Carson

Intro

Big Picture: Jesus Gives Us the “Ethical Norms” of His Kingdom

You can’t live like this, unless something is empowering you to live like that. This is where the Beatitudes come in. The Beatitudes are truths about one who is being transformed by the kingdom, and make it possible to live within the Kingdom norms.

Apart from Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount exposes and condemns you. We want people to live like that, but we struggle to live like that. Therefore, we treat it as an unapproachable ideal, because the kingdom we live in does not live like that.

Once we see the glory of God and the terror of God in the sermon, we can turn to the hero of the sermon; Jesus. So I pray that you aren’t taking these sermons as a “Therefore, Do” sermon, but a “Therefore, Be” sermon. Ephesians 4:1 makes the point once we understand the Indicatives of who we are, we can then “Walk worthy of the calling by which we have been called.” We aren’t striving to live out the Beatitudes; they are true of those in Christ. The Beatitudes reflect how we come to Christ. Jesus is the end game, not the blessings! The Beatitudes show who we are (Being) not what to do (Action). Being always precedes “Doing” in the Kingdom of God.

So many people see Christianity as “Following” Jesus, but that following must be preceded by an about face, a recognition of poverty, and then a turning to Christ and His grace and mercy.

I want to recap the first Four Beatitudes from last week, and then look at the last Four Beatitudes this week.

Part #1 (Recap)

Knowing You Are Spiritually Bankrupt is the beginning of Blessedness

Being Disgusted By Our Sins Leads to Comfort

A Humble Desire to See Others Prosper Leads to Contentment On Earth

Those That Desire God Over Everything Else Will Find Satisfaction

It is in His Righteousness that we are saved (Philippians 3:9)

From the Head…

Showing Mercy to Others, Reflects Your Recognition of Mercy In Your Own Life (Matthew 5:7)

This one is often linked to Matthew 6:14-15 and is interpreted legalistically. It becomes a one for one truth. “You show mercy, you get it; you forgive, you get forgiven; now get to work.” Sort of an “Eye for and eye” idea. However, that’s not the intent of these verses. Remember, the verses we are looking at are indicatives; they are already true of those in the kingdom. The word mercy (Eleemon), though similar to the word Grace, carries the idea of showing love to the helpless, as one commentator writes,  “A loving response is prompted by the misery and helplessness of the one on whom the love is to be showered.” D. Martin Lloyd-Jones wrote, “Grace is especially associated with men in their sins; mercy is especially associated with men in their misery,,., mercy looks upon the miserable consequences of sin.

Thus, when we understand our bankrupt spirit (v. 3) and we mourn over our continued sin (v.4) forcing us then to hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness (v. 6), then we too are able to show mercy to the downtrodden, pathetic, and hopeless. It is because we are shown mercy that we can give it. It’s the same with forgiveness in Matthew 6. Thus our mercy is a response to God’s mercy, so in that sense we are very blessed!

Only A Transformed Heart Can Experience the Glory of God (Matthew 5:8)

The heart in scripture is the seat of motivation. It is the reason we do what we do and think. It encompasses the mind, emotions and the will. It is out of the “Heart” that our real sins are discovered (See Jeremiah 17:9 cf. Matthew 15:8-9). In spite of our wicked hearts, God is able to change them.

Religion and secular solutions are great at cleaning the outside of our lives, without dealing with the inner roots of our problems. This is essentially what Jesus’ words to the religious Pharisees of His time mean when He says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and rapacity. You blind Pharisee! First cleanse the inside of the cup and of the plate, that the outside also may be clean” (Matthew 23:25–26). Psychology helps with relief from symptoms, but cannot cure the disease; sin. Religion does the same; it works toward changing behavior without dealing with the heart enslaving sins and desires that cause the behavior.

What is a Pure heart?

Psalm 24:3-4 indicate that a “Pure Heart” is related to falsehood and deceit. James 4:4-8 connect a pure heart more specifically as a “Double-Mindedness,” which means that one who is double-minded has one foot in the world, and one foot out. Jesus Himself says that we are to “Love the Lord God with all of your heart, all of your mind and all of your strength” (Matthew 22:37). Therefore a pure heart is one that isn’t double-minded and has his or hers loyalty and love divided between God and the world.

Who Has A Pure Heart?

The problem is as Proverbs 20:9 reminds us, “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart clean; I am pure from my sin?’” Jesus reminds His disciples that ask a very similar question that He answers, “With men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

As with all of the Beatitudes, it is God who acts first. Psalm 51:10 asks God to “Create in me a clean heart oh God,” and Titus 2:14 demonstrates the same idea, “who gave himself for us . . . to purify for himself a people.”

Our “Pure” heart is a result of God’s action in Christ on the cross and through His resurrection!

What Does It Mean to “See” God?

The result of God’s work in us is that we will “See” God. To “See” Him is to experience Him (See John 3:36). This includes His grace, mercy, righteousness and glory. Only with eyes that have been transformed by His power, can truly see and love God. It is similar to Moses experience in Exodus 33:18 when Moses prayed “I see your glory,” God showed Him His “Glory” by showing Him His attributes (See Exodus 33:19-34:7). 1 John 3:2 tells us that we will be “Like Him, because we will see Him as He is.” When we truly experience God and are made pure, and given His righteousness, it is then that we see Him as He is, and can emulate Him in this corrupt world.

Striving For Peace Emulates Our Father Who Saved Us (Matthew 5:9)

This is an interesting one. Even in the church, the idea of peace can sound hollow, and silly. The world strives for it, but can’t seem to come to it.

Peace or “Shalom” is at the heart of the Father’s plan for His creation. In Jeremiah 29:7, God tells those in exile to “Seek the welfare (Peace/Shalom) of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in the welfare (Peace/Shalom) you will find your welfare (Peace/Shalom). The word for peace in that passage is the same one Jesus uses in our passage. Peace was part of the common greeting we see in the epistles (1 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1). Peace was also attributed to the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), and according to John 16:33 our “Peace” would be found in Christ, and not the world.

There is no doubt that this idea is balanced by God’s wrath and judgment, and Matthew 10:34 even reminds us that Jesus didn’t come to bring peace, but execute justice. This latter verse though must be understood in the light of context, that Jesus knew that His Gospel would be met by much opposition, and hate.

It is our context that explains our passage to us. Matthew 5:45 uses this phrase, “so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven,” quite like our passage in verse 9. In the former passage, it is the love of God that overcomes even hatred for an enemy. Once again, In Christ, we will begin to see His love formulated in us.

The idea that “We will be called “Sons of God,” and not children, carries the idea of identity, and likeness. To be called “Sons” is to be called “Like” the Father, who is a God of Peace! The fruit of the Spirit will emerge in reality, and we will become “Like” our Father who is in heaven! This is God’s goal for us in redemption.

“Darkness can not drive out darkness, only love can do that; hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Martin Luther King was right in realizing that more acts of retaliation and hate do not drive out hate, only love can overcome that; a love that comes from well beyond our own self; a divine love!

All of Those Persecuted Because of Jesus Can Enjoy the Kingdom (Matthew 5:10-12)

Persecution is very real for many of our brothers and sisters around the world, but Paul reminds us that “All who chose to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted(2 Timothy 3:12). The fact is, fallen man loves his/her sin, and will persecute to justify their belief about that sin.

Here we see the end of the beatitudes that frame our theme the “Kingdom of God.” This phrase also ends part 2 and the last 4 Beatitudes similar to the way part 1 and the first 4 Beatitudes ended; discussing righteousness.

First, the first half of our Beatitudes demonstrated the spiritual poverty of those in the kingdom, while the second set of four describe the transforming life of mercy, purity and peacemaking.

Secondly, our persecution comes from being acquainted with Jesus (See v. 11 cf. John 15:18-20), not our annoying “Self-Righteousness” or severe weirdness.

This is why that ultimately no matter how much you love the person, and work toward the peace of the community, you will be hated because of your core beliefs in Christ.

…to the Heart

  1. Have you placed your trust and faith in Him?
  2. Have you come to a place in your life that you agree with your spiritual poverty, and NEED Jesus as your savior?
  3. Are you trusting in God’s righteousness, and therefore thirst and hunger after His righteousness?
  4. Are you “Seeing” God and experiencing His fruit in your life?
  5. Are you still seeing the Beatitudes as something to emulate, or are you starting to see that these characteristics are only true of one who has bowed down to Christ as Lord of your heart?

 

For Further Reading

A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Craig S. Keener

The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, Michael J. Wilkins

The Gospel According to Matthew, Leon Morris

Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament 1A, ed. Manlio Simonetti