Archive for the ‘israel’ Category

BE{atitudes} a Cultural Rebel
June 28, 2011

Here are my thoughts and notes on Matthew 5:3-12 while I was in Israel:

 The greatest man who ever lived, besides Jesus, was John the Baptist. He was a nomad, he was not materialistically wealthy, he never married, he didn’t drink alcohol and he was executed at a young age. By the world’s standards, he would be pitied and called a fool; but in the eyes of Jesus he was great. A life characterized by the principles which Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount is a great instrument for evangelism. It a life obedient to the will of God, a life striving for holiness, and it is a life that recognizes its insignificance apart from God. The word “beatitude” comes from a Latin word that means free from worry, prosperous. This is happiness, not from this world, for this happiness comes from an inner contentedness which is not affected by outer conditions. All the blessings and happiness that Jesus talks about in this sermon, comes from a relationship with Him and the fact that a Christian’s life is now right with God. For those who come to Him in the way Jesus lays out in this sermon will be blessed. However, we see Jesus lay out a standard of living that is contradictory to everything that the world deems admirable.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).

The word, poor, comes from the Greek word which is used to refer to a person who is totally deprived, begging poor. Poor, in this case, does not refer to a materialistic type of poor; moreover, it is a state of the spirit not of the bank account. Without Jesus Christ, every person is spiritually poor, no matter what his education, social status, religious knowledge, or social statuses are. Jesus says a man is blessed if he recognizes his complete reliance on God. Nothing in our strength can save us; all we can do is rest on God’s mercy and grace. In Psalm 34:18 we see God’s favor on those who recognize the condition of their spirit, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Even in Exodus 32:1-6, when the law was given to Moses, it was evident that even God’s chosen people could not fulfill its requirements; for instance, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai, Aaron was leading the Israelites into a pagan orgy. Jewish people, made interpretations of the law, composing traditions that were easier to obey in their own strength. They exchanged God’s written law for the Talmud, which is man’s modification of the Law. They falsely thought God was less holy than He is and they were more holy than they were. The result was that they believed they were self-righteous enough to make themselves right with God. To enter the kingdom of heaven, we need to recognize that nothing in our power can get us to be made right with God. In Matthew 18:3, we see God’s instruction for humility of those who want to enter His kingdom, “unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” We cannot be made valuable until we notice our lack of worth and we cannot live until we discover we are dead. In our society, there are thousands of Christian books on how to become successful and happy, but there are few that are about denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following Jesus Christ. We will never treasure Christ the way we should, if self improvement is most important to us. Until we see our worthlessness, sinfulness and poverty of spirit we can never truly see our Savior’s strength, worth and glory. We cannot see God’s richness until we see our own poverty.  We cannot make ourselves humble to try to make ourselves right with God by our own will, but it is a divine work to make us see we cannot change without the help of God. Our own efforts to make amends with God are enemies to humility. Authentic humility is given by God; however we commanded to be humble, “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you (James 4:10).” Another example that we are called to humble ourselves is in 1 Peter 5:5, “and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” We know that we possess a heart that is poor in spirit when we consider ourselves as nothing and Christ as everything. We should consider no situation in life to be unfair because we deserve far worse than anything we can experience in this life. Those who come to God with humbleness will receive the kingdom of heaven, as we see in Luke 12:32 “Do not be afraid little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.” Once we recognize our poverty, only then God can make us heirs in His kingdom.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4).

When it comes to mourning we have to make sure that our mourning is proper. Improper mourning is the aggravation one gets when a plan of selfish intention is thwarted. Another illegitimate mourner could be a person who carries grief to illegitimate lengths. Our lives should have mourning at one point or another. For a trouble free life is destined to be a shallow life. The trials we go through make us stronger and more mature than if we lived a life that always went the way we wanted it to go. The spiritual poverty in verse 3 is connected to godly sorrow in verse 4; those who are poor in spirit become those who mourn over their sin. God looks favorably on a person who is leading a righteous life; however it does not replace a humble and contrite heart which God honors even more. In Isaiah 66:2 it says, “this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at my Word.” David gives an example of godly mourning over his sin with Bathsheba in Psalm 51, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me, against You, You only, I have sinned.” In a Christian’s life, sin and happiness are incompatible. As we become more mature in our faith, our awareness of our sin increases and we begin to constantly mourn over sinfulness. Most of the church today has a faulty sense of sin that either ignores sin or makes light and jokes about sin. The path to blessedness is not looking at sin as though it was respectable but instead seeing it as a cause for great sorrow. True mourning does not focus our attention on our sinfulness but on God’s forgiveness. In 1 John 1:9 it says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We need to be characterized by a continual confession and repentance of our sin. The blessing that God gives is not from the mourning but the comfort which God gives a godly mourner. Every time we mourn over sin we will be continually comforted.  And as we confess our sin he is faithful to comfort us, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).” As long as we mourn over our sin, He is faithful to comfort; that is the blessing we receive. The sooner we confess our sin the sooner the comfort will come.  Sin is repulsive to God and is destructive to us. Sin robs us of comfort and robs God of His glory. The godly mourner should be repentant for the harm his sin has done to God’s glory not the harm it might bring to his name or wellbeing. In Psalm 119:136 we see godly mourning and a desire for holiness, “My eyes she streams of water, because they do not keep Your law.” Jesus gives us an example of being mournful over the sins of others when He cries for Jerusalem in Luke 19:41, “When He approached Jerusalem; He saw the city and wept over it.” If we are to be godly mourners, then we will grieve not only for our sins, but for the sins of fellow believers and sins of the world.

Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).

Gentleness is not an attribute which the world highly esteems. The Jewish culture in the time of Christ was expecting a Messiah to come that was powerful and would overthrow the Roman rule. However, in Isaiah 53 we see that the Messiah was to be a Suffering Servant who was humble and self-denying.  In Greek the term used for gentle is also used to describe a soothing medicine or a soft breeze.  The term is used to describe Jesus when He was coming in on a donkey during the Triumphal Entry in Matthew 21:5. Gentleness is not weakness, but is power put under control. Meekness surrenders its power to God’s control. For example, Paul, being mentored by Gamliel, had the best religious education for a Jewish man of his day; however, he counted it as loss and put no confidence in his flesh but found that He could do nothing apart from Christ. The blessing of those who are gentle is that they shall inherit the earth. Those who are meek understand their worthlessness apart from God and all they can do is beg God for His mercy. The blessing of the humble and meek is seen in Psalm 37:11, “But the humble will inherit the land and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.” Our inheritance to the kingdom is as secure as Christ’s inheritance, “For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apoloos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).” Salvation requires meekness, “unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:2-4).” Christians are commanded to be meek and gentle especially as a good testimony in evangelism, “always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15).” In order to be more Christ like we need to have the spirit of Christ, which was the spirit of gentleness. This is not only is not only a necessity in order to enter His kingdom but it is a command as well as a requirement to properly give an account of the hope that is within us.

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

Righteousness is not a characteristic our culture desires to pursue. Our world desires artificial happiness which comes from the hunger to become powerful, gain praise or pleasure. However, hungering and thirsting after righteousness is the only craving which once pursued can bring continual happiness. Our culture tells us to pursue the wrong kinds of happiness, which result in no happiness. Spiritually hungering and thirsting for righteousness will lead to true satisfaction. Just as hungering and thirsting are a necessity to maintain our physical life; hungering and thirsting for righteousness is required to maintain our spiritual life. As food and water are needed for physical life, righteousness is needed for spiritual life. Righteousness is not a spiritual option, but is essential to spiritual life. God has created man with a desire for Himself, though men try and satisfy that desire man made gods. But those who belong to the God, desire for His righteousness; those who do not desire His righteousness do not belong to Him. We see the desire of the Psalmist in Psalm 119:97, “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.” Even though the believer has war with its flesh on a daily basis, our inner man thirsts and loves the law, “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man (Romans 7:22).” A child of God pursues righteousness despite his resisting flesh.  Those who are God’s children have a God given longing to pursue holiness and righteousness. The desire for righteousness shouldn’t be delayed later in life but should be instant and continue for the rest of our earthly life, “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 (Psalm 63:1)” The result of us hungering and thirsting for righteousness is to be satisfied.  The word for satisfied is the Greek word, Chortazo, which is used in reference to the feeding of animals until they want no more. Our job is to seek righteousness, God’s job is to satisfy our longing, “For He has satisfied the thirsty soul and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good (Psalm 107:9).” The reason we constantly desire righteousness is not because it never fully satisfies but because we want more of what is so satisfying. In Psalm 34:10 we see the satisfaction righteousness brings, “The young lions do not lack and suffer hunger; but they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.” In John 6:35 Jesus speaks about how only He can satisfy our longing souls, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” An element of genuine desire for righteousness is discontentment with one self. Those who are content with their own righteousness, never see a need for God’s. Let God’s children have the same attitude of Paul in Romans 7:24, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” Let us never depend on earthly things for satisfaction but have a deep craving for the Word of God. We should never have to be persuaded or convinced to pursue righteousness just as a hungry man would never have to be begged to eat. Let us have the same attitude in Jeremiah 15:16, “Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and delight of my heart; for I have been called by Your name O Lord God of hosts.” Not only should the God’s word alone bring joy, but to a Christian, even discipline will bring joy because it is evidence of His love; we can see this in Proverbs 27:7, “A sated man loathes honey, but to a famished man any bitter thing is sweet” and in Hebrews 12:6, “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and he scourges every son whom He receives.” Lastly, spiritual hunger for righteousness is unconditional. In Psalm 119:20 it says, “My soul is crushed with longing after Your ordinances at all times” and in Isaiah 26:9 it says, “At night my soul longs for You, indeed my spirit within me seeks You diligently.” As Christians, our spiritual hunger for God and His righteousness should be priority in our lives because we know that it is the only ambition which satisfies.

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

Just as Christ showed mercy to us, we too are to extend mercy to others. The term mercy, in Greek is eleemon, which means to give help to the helpless; it is compassion in action. In order to be merciful, you must bear the punishment in which you are pardoning. For even God, being just, does not show mercy without punishing sin. The foundation of God’s mercy is not only in His love but in His justice. Jesus bore the punishment for our sins so that God might be merciful and just. Those who have received much mercy should show much mercy; we can see the command for us to be merciful in Matthew 25:42, “for I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invited Me in; naked and you did not clothe Me; sick and in prison and you did not visit Me…to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.” The way we can have a righteous motive when we show mercy is only when we receive God’s mercy. We are commanded to be merciful in Luke 6:36, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” The blessing is being able to show mercy to others because of the great mercy we have been given. Mercy is an evidence to salvation. But, we are not granted salvation on the basis of us giving mercy or withholding it; nevertheless, we must be saved by God’s mercy until we can be truly merciful.

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

The heart referred to in this verse is not a physical heart, but the center of the mind, will and emotion. All of our actions begin in the heart and mind, we can see this in Proverbs 4:23, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” as well as Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick, who can understand it?” The blessing of having a pure heart is seeing God. David, being a man after God’s own heart got to be known for finding joy in the Lord. A double-minded heart is not a pure heart, “You adulteresses, do you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God (James 4:6).” Those who are God’s children will be motivated to live a pure life. A pure life is characterized good deeds which come from a genuine heart, “For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first, clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also (Matthew 23:25-26).” Though we may be busy with religious deeds, we cannot please God unless our hearts have the right motive. We are not called to compare ourselves to others like the Pharisee did with the tax collector, but our only standard to purity should be God’s holiness. Just as our sin separates us from God, “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 (Isaiah 59:1-2)” a pure heart through Jesus can reconcile us to God. However, if purity does not characterize our life, we either do not belong to God or we are being rebellious. This does not mean we will never have temptations, but God will always provide a way out of sin. This does not mean we should live in a monastery without any temptation of our culture around us. For the problem of sin is not the world around us but the sin within us. God provides for what He demands from us, and His desire for us is to live a pure life. We are unable to even live one holy second apart from the power of God. The blessing of having a pure life is that we may see God; this is continuous fellowship with God. Just as Moses who saw the glory of God continually asked to see more of Him (Exodus 33:18). Purity of the heart makes it so our hearts can see more clearly the beauty of God.

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called Sons of God (Matthew 5:9).

The peace which Jesus talks about here is more than just an absence of fighting. In Hebrew, the word, “shalom” states a desire for a person to have all the goodness God can give, “God’s highest good to you”. There cannot be true peace while there is still unrighteousness; where there is sin there cannot be peace. We can see the importance of righteousness in relation to peace in Isaiah 48:22, “There is no peace for the wicked, says the Lord.” There cannot be peace while there are still sinful men, “out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fortifications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man (Mark 7:21-23).” We also see that sinful men cannot have peace in James 3:16, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.” To be a peacemaker means one has embraced a holy life and is now calling others to embrace the gospel of holiness. Men who are without God are also without peace, for God is the source of peace. Not only is God of peace but has brought peace to us through the cross, “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross (Colossians 1:19-20).” The promise to being a peacemaker is being able to be called a child of God. As a child of God we have abandoned the false peace of the world, which means we will not have peace with the world. However, as children of God, even if we do not have peace with the world, we will always have peace while we are in the world- the peace of God, which no person can take from us.

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:10-12).

Those who are holy are blessed, but they pay a price for it, “Indeed all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).” As we become more like Christ, the world will treat us the same as it treated Christ. Persecution is a concrete evidence of salvation, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him (Romans 8:16-17).” To live in a manner worthy of the gospel is to live in a way that invites the world to resent you. The fact that some believers are popular and loved by the world does not mean that the world has raised its standards, but that those “Christians” have lowered their standards. We should not be eager to seek out persecution but we should be ready when it comes. We should not lower God’s standards in order to be popular with the world, and therein avoid conflict. Holy living brings conflict. Instead of trying to fit in with the world, we need to be a cultural rebel by fully obeying all the commands of the Lord.