People of Promise 65 Beatitude 9

Beatitude 9 could also be labeled Beatitude 8b because it deals with the same basic topic—persecution. But, we designate this passage as Beatitude 9 because it starts with “Blessed.”  So, let’s have a look.

Matt. 5:11 Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous— with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of your outward conditions) are you when people revile you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things against you falsely on My account.

Matt. 5:12 Be glad and supremely joyful, for your reward in heaven is great (strong and intense), for in this same way people persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The difference between 8 and 9 is quite subtle, but certainly real, none the less. In 8, the persecution is for righteousness sake—that is being persecuted for doing what God asks us to do. In 9, the blessing comes to those who are persecuted, as Jesus says, “on my account.” In other words, we will be persecuted because we believe in Jesus, or because we tell others of Jesus, or write about Jesus, or in any way, shape, or form acknowledge Jesus in our lives.

Again, we should expect this type of persecution. Jesus knows the heart of man, and gave us this warning/statement of fact: If the world hates you, know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would treat you with affection and would love you as its own. But because you are not of the world [no longer one with it], but I have chosen (selected) you out of the world, the world hates (detests) you (John 15:18-19).

Notice the reason that the world hates us: we are not of the world. I like the way Peter put it: Once you were not a people [at all], but now you are God’s people; once you were unpitied, but now you are pitied and have received mercy. Beloved, I implore you as aliens and strangers and exiles [in this world] to abstain from the sensual urges (the evil desires, the passions of the flesh, your lower nature) that wage war against the soul. Conduct yourselves properly (honorably, righteously) among the Gentiles, so that, although they may slander you as evildoers, [yet] they may by witnessing your good deeds [come to] glorify God in the day of inspection [when God shall look upon you wanderers as a pastor or shepherd looks over his flock] (1Peter 2:10-12).

We are aliens! So if anyone asks you if you believe in aliens, say yes, and then tell them why. Well, the point really is that we should consider ourselves to be separated from the world (the nature and functioning of man without God). We need to consider ourselves for what we really are. And what is that? Saints. Not sinners.

Saint = child of God; one who lives in a relationship with God; made so by the reliance of that person on Jesus Christ for his/her salvation, having asked God for that salvation and “confessed” (said it) with their lips (Rom. 8:17, 27, 10:9-13, Eph. 1:1,).

Sinner = anyone that has not made Jesus the Lord of their lives and therefore lives outside a relationship with God (Matt. 6:24, Rom. 13:2, 14:23, Eph. 2:2, Heb. 11:6, 1Peter 3:12).

Paul carefully explained this to the believers at Ephesus: Therefore you are no longer outsiders (exiles, migrants, and aliens, excluded from the rights of citizens), but you now share citizenship with the saints (God’s own people, consecrated and set apart for Himself); and you belong to God’s [own] household (Eph. 2:19).       Rather amazing. We have not only been extracted from the slime and ooze of this world, but we have been made citizens of God’s own household. This does come with a cost, however, and that cost is envy, jealousy, fear, bitterness, and hatred of the world toward us. Now, hold on just a minute. This does not mean that people are immediately going to come against you. It does not mean that friends will abandon you (although that may happen). It does not necessarily mean that everyone you meet that is not God’s child will immediately get their hackles up and begin persecuting you. There are plenty of people around who will persecute just by saying that they just want to “live and let live,” and so don’t want to be around “intolerant” Christians that are always talking about Jesus, not realizing that they are being intolerant by having such an attitude.

We need to always remember that Satan has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING GOOD for humans. His “job” (as he sees it) is to “kill, steal, and destroy,” while Jesus’ job is to give us life full to abundant overflowing (John 10:10). We need to remember that God is not capable of being tempted with evil, nor does He temp anyone with evil. We are tempted when we are drawn astray by old, worldly lusts, emotions, and attitudes (James 1:13-15). This is why we need to renew our minds (Rom. 12:2, 1Cor. 2:16), fill our brains with God’s Word, seek His ever-presence, and concentrate on the “good stuff” (Phil 4:8). Further, we need to remember that ALL GOOD THINGS come from God (James 1:16-17), and ONLY FROM GOD. And still further, we need to remember that in our worldly existence we WILL HAVE trials, temptations, and frustrations, and that we can escape from them though Christ Jesus (John 16:33, Phil. 2:13, 4:13, 19, 1John 4:4, 5:4-5).

When we are persecuted on account of Jesus in our lives, then we need to go to God, open our hearts in praise and thanksgiving (Eph. 5:20, 1Thes. 5:18), knowing that He has provided a way out for us (1Cor. 10:13), and give Him thanks that He always sees and hears us when we are operating in His will (1John 5:14-15). Then we need to move forward, leaving the garbage of persecution piled on yesterday’s trash heap.

People of Promise 64 Beatitude 8

Blessed and happy and enviably fortunate and spiritually prosperous (in the state in which the born-again child of God enjoys and finds satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of his outward conditions) are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake (for being and doing right), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven! (Matt. 5:10)

Ouch. Here’s a Beatitude that doesn’t seem to be any sort of beatitude. After all, being persecuted doesn’t seem to be a blessing. And it’s not. The persecution is not the blessing, the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven, is the blessing. Again, let’s flip it for a moment and look at this Beatitude the other way round: Those in God’s kingdom will suffer persecution for their righteousness. This is not a maybe, this is a “for real,” it will happen. Jesus also said, I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.] (John 16:33).

The Hope of every child of God, the Strength of every child of God, the Wisdom of every child of God, the very Being of every child of God, is the Lord Jesus. There is, and cannot be, any other in first place in our hearts and minds (Rev. 2:4). If you cannot trust Jesus, there is no hope. And He most specifically told us, The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows) (John 10:10). Jesus is full of life beyond measure, and when we live in Him, we live in that fullness of life beyond measure.

It is not a life without complications and without trouble; rather, it is a life in which we are able to overcome complications and troubles because we live in Christ Jesus (1John 4:4). That overcoming is rarely easy, either. It requires that we work at it, hand in hand with the Living God. We must stand in the strength and truth that He provides (Eph. 6:13), and not waver in it (James 1:6).

The persecution that comes against us can be as soft and gentle as whispers behind out backs at work, more open, as in arguments that people involve us in to show they are “stronger” and know more about “religion” than we do, or it may involve more harsh physical persecution, even death. In this country, persecution currently involves calling Christians “intolerant,” trying the best way that the law will “allow” (read: look the other way) to wipe God out of all public life, promote all manner of acts that defy God’s Word, and so on. Physical persecution is not yet a tolerated norm in this country, but times can change. We need to stand in God’s Truth, and ask Him to help this nation turn back to Him, and seek His justice in our lives.

Taking a stand for God is not to be an “I’m better that you are” position. That’s the way to get the hackles up on nearly everyone. No, first of all we are always to have an answer ready for what we believe, and then always be ready to tell others in a polite and gentle way. But even in case you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, [you are] blessed (happy, to be envied). Do not dread or be afraid of their threats, nor be disturbed [by their opposition]. But in your hearts set Christ apart as holy [and acknowledge Him] as Lord. Always be ready to give a logical defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope that is in you, but do it courteously and respectfully (1Peter 3:14-15).

So, are we to study to become the best apologist out there, so that we can argue even the staunchest atheist to an absolute standstill? No, that’s not what Peter is saying. Even the best of the best apologists cannot under any circumstance “argue” anyone into the Kingdom of Love and Light. Our job is not to try to convict others of their “sin,” but rather to give a logical defense for the hope that is in us—the hope that relies on the salvation bought and paid for by Christ Jesus on the cross. And the best and most logical defense that you have is your own story of what God has done for you.

Don’t go and get all hot under the collar. You are not defending God! He doesn’t need your defense. If fact, if anything, He is helping you to stand on the Truth that lives in you so that you can give an accurate defense for the faith that is you. Look again, the passage does not say to “fly off the handle,” and give those questioning you a really good tongue lashing. If anything, it says exactly the opposite. Remember the problem with ye olde tongue?? If not, have a look at what God say about this unruly member: If anyone thinks himself to be religious (piously observant of the external duties of his faith) and does not bridle his tongue but deludes his own heart, this person’s religious service is worthless (futile, barren) (James 1:26).

And there’s more—a great deal more:

James 3:5 Even so the tongue is a little member, and it can boast of great things. See how much wood or how great a forest a tiny spark can set ablaze!

James 3:6 And the tongue is a fire. [The tongue is a] world of wickedness set among our members, contaminating and depraving the whole body and setting on fire the wheel of birth (the cycle of man’s nature), being itself ignited by hell (Gehenna).

James 3:7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea animal, can be tamed and has been tamed by human genius (nature).

James 3:8 But the human tongue can be tamed by no man. It is a restless (undisciplined, irreconcilable) evil, full of deadly poison.

James 3:9 With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who were made in God’s likeness!

James 3:10 Out of the same mouth come forth blessing and cursing. These things, my brethren, ought not to be so.

James 3:11 Does a fountain send forth [simultaneously] from the same opening fresh water and bitter?

James 3:12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine figs? Neither can a salt spring furnish fresh water.

How’s that for a scriptural “tongue lashing” about our lashing tongue? Now read this verse very carefully: For we all often stumble and fall and offend in many things. And if anyone does not offend in speech [never says the wrong things], he is a fully developed character and a perfect man, able to control his whole body and to curb his entire nature (James 3:2). Wanna be perfect, even as God is perfect (Matt. 5:48)? Then curb your ugly tongue and control what you say and how you say it. Yours is a defense of your faith, not a defense of God, and certainly not a viperous belittlement of those asking about your faith. That’s the way you turn people off and block the Holy Spirit’s access to their lives.

Here are a dozen potential Q & A’s.

1. Q: Why do you believe in God? A: I know God personally, and He has helped me in so many difficult situations. He not only brings me comfort in times of emotional turmoil, but He gives me the strength to get through those tough times and to help others to do the same.

 

2. Q: How do you know God is real. A: Because I can talk with Him and ask Him anything, and He answers and helps me to understand both myself and Him better. When I read scripture, His words illuminate my life and give me guidance that I can find nowhere else.

 

3. How can you be so silly as to believe in God? A: Believing in God has nothing to do with silliness. I believe in Him because He is real and has shown His true love for me in so many ways, including making you my friend.

 

4. Q: Why would you want God to tell you what to do. A: Not only do I want God to tell me what to do, but I go and ask Him to tell me what to do because His way is always the best. He is the most gentle, kind, loving being that there is, and His advise is always sound and brings the best of the best into my life.

 

5. Q: Why do you go to church? A: Because God loves me and I love Him, and being in church gives me an opportunity to be with Him and with others that love Him. It’s a great opportunity to further my relationship with Him.

 

6. Q: Why do you read the Bible so much? The Bible is God’s love letter to me, and I really enjoy learning from Him. He has put so much good advice and information about Himself in the Bible, and I truly love discovering everything about Him that I can. In addition, He has great advice on the best way to live my life.

 

7. Q: How can you stand to be such a “goodie-two-shoes”?  A: Knowing God personally and intimately allows me to choose the best things for my life. I’m not a “goodie-two-shoes,” I’m just God’s child, and I really want to please Him by the way I live.

 

8. Doesn’t God make you “do” all sorts of things, like go to church, give money, not have drinking parties, and so on? A: One of the really great things about my relationship with God is the fact that He let’s me do whatever I want, no questions asked. Of course, my true desire is to do what He wants, and that makes me the very happiest. I don’t go to church because I have to, but because I honestly want to. I don’t give money because I have to, but because I truly want to help others to enjoy all they can in their lives. I don’t have drinking parties because I don’t like the idea of getting drunk and having a hangover and puking, etc. I’d rather have control of my life and not allow others to control me, and that’s what knowing God allows me to do.

 

9. Q: How can you stand to have God boss you around all the time? A: He doesn’t. I’m the boss of me. What He has done is give me the tools to be the best boss of me that I can be, and enjoy life to the very fullest. And, because His way is always the best way, that’s the way I choose to live my life.

 

10. Q. How come you always seem so content? A: I’m content because I asked God to help me control every aspect of my life, and He is helping me to do exactly that. It doesn’t mean that I always get it right or that I’m happy every second of every day. No, I have my ups and downs, too. But when I’m down, I can always count on Him to pick me up and get me going again, a whole lot faster that if I were doing it on my own. Who would not want that?

 

11. Q: How come I feel so empty and you don’t seem to act that way? A: God fills every nook and cranny of your life when you enter a relationship with Him. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t times when I don’t feel empty, or alone, or unloved, or even worthless, but when those times come, I go to God and talk to Him openly about my feelings and needs, and He always picks me up and helps me to feel His ever presence in and with me.

 

12. Q: How can I know God like you do? A: All you have to do is honestly want to know God and then ask Him to become a member of His family. Jesus purchased this right for you by His death on the cross. If you really what to become God’s child all you have to say is: “Father God, I want to live in a relationship with you. Please wipe away all the things I’ve done in the past that did not include You, and make me your child. Let me live my life with You from this moment forward. I ask this in the name of Jesus. So be it.”

 

People of Promise 62 Beatitude 6

In His sixth Beatitude, Jesus notes: Blessed (happy, enviably fortunate, and spiritually prosperous—possessing the happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His grace, regardless of their outward conditions) are the pure in heart, for they shall see God! (Matt. 5:8). It might seem at first glance that Jesus is saying basically the same thing he said about righteousness in Matt. 5:6. After all, aren’t the pure in heart the righteous? Well, these two Beatitudes are not addressing exactly the same concepts. Being pure in heart is an attitude. Righteousness is a condition.

Purity of heart means being “innocent” in our attitudes, thoughts, and actions in the way little children are innocent in their attitudes, thoughts, and actions. Jesus made this eminently clear when he told His disciples, Leave the children alone! Allow the little ones to come to Me, and do not forbid or restrain or hinder them, for of such [as these] is the kingdom of heaven composed (Matt. 19:14, Luke 18:16). The Kingdom is composed of those, who like little children, are “pure” of heart. That is they are open and honest in their relationships, not yet having learned to lie, cheat, steal, manipulate, and participate in other worldly activities.

And that’s the way God’s children are to operate. We are to be “innocent” in the way we think and operate. Not an easy task, always, but an essential one if we are to show Jesus to the world. One of the truly powerful directives relative to purity of heart that God has given us is found in Romans 12:2: Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].

We renew our minds first by accepting the mind of Christ that we have been given (1Cor. 2:16). It is a free gift of God to every one of His children. But if a gift is never accepted and never opened and used, it is as valueless as no gift at all. If you have never really accepted this gift, then get thee to 1Cor. 2:16, read it, and say “Aha, I have been given the mind of Christ, I’m going to accept that right now!” Then give God thanks for this great Gift, open it up, and stick it in your head.

Now, begins the process of thinking with the mind of Christ, which is pure and clean and fresh before God. But, there’s a rub. The mind of Christ, which you have accepted and want to use, will only think with the things of God, not the concepts, ideas, ideals, facts, etc., of the world (John 5:19l 30). So, time to start getting your RSMMA in order: Read, Study, Meditate, Memorize, and Act on God’s Word. The more of God’s Word that is in you, the easier for the mind of Christ in you to think the way God intends you to think.

One of those verses that should constantly be at your fingertips is Phil. 4:8–For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them]. How’s that for a God given list of things to think about? Let’s do this. Below are some verses that pertain to each of the items listed in Phil. 4:8. Read them over and reflect on what God is saying to you in these verses.

 

Reverence, Honorable, and Seemly

1. So now let the reverence and fear of the Lord be upon you; take heed what you do, for there is no injustice with the Lord our God, or partiality or taking of bribes (2Chron. 19:7).

2. Let them confess and praise Your great name, awesome and reverence inspiring! It is holy, and holy is He! (Ps. 99:3).

3. And if you call upon Him as [your] Father Who judges each one impartially according to what he does, [then] you should conduct yourselves with true reverence throughout the time of your temporary residence [on the earth, whether long or short] (1Peter 1:17).

4. His work is honorable and glorious, and His righteousness endures forever (Ps. 111:3).

5. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also [utensils] of wood and earthenware, and some for honorable and noble [use] and some for menial and ignoble [use]. So whoever cleanses himself [from what is ignoble and unclean, who separates himself from contact with contaminating and corrupting influences] will [then himself] be a vessel set apart and useful for honorable and noble purposes, consecrated and profitable to the Master, fit and ready for any good work. (2Tim. 2:20-21).

6. Now I say this for your own welfare and profit, not to put [a halter of] restraint upon you, but to promote what is seemly and in good order and to secure your undistracted and undivided devotion to the Lord (1Cor. 7:35).

 

 

Pure

1. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirits (the thoughts and intents of the heart) (Prov. 16:2).

2. Whereas the object and purpose of our instruction and charge is love, which springs from a pure heart and a good (clear) conscience and sincere (unfeigned) faith (1Tim 1:5).

3. To the pure [in heart and conscience] all things are pure, but to the defiled and corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are defiled and polluted (Titus 1:15).

 

Lovely and Lovable

1. How lovely are Your tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! (Ps. 84:1)

2. Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God, for He is gracious and lovely; praise is becoming and appropriate (Ps. 147:1).

3. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace, who brings good tidings of good, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, Your God reigns!  (Isa. 52:4).

4. Love one another with brotherly affection [as members of one family], giving precedence and showing honor to one another (Rom. 12:10).

5But concerning brotherly love [for all other Christians], you have no need to have anyone write you, for you yourselves have been [personally] taught by God to love one another (1Thes. 4:9).

6. By this it is made clear who take their nature from God and are His children and who take their nature from the devil and are his children: no one who does not practice righteousness [who does not conform to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action] is of God; neither is anyone who does not love his brother (his fellow believer in Christ) (1John 3:10).

 

Kind and Winsome and Gracious

1. And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord! the Lord! a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in loving-kindness and truth (Ex. 34:6).

2. Now the man Moses was very meek (gentle, kind, and humble) or above all the men on the face of the earth (Num. 12:3).

3. The Lord is long-suffering and slow to anger, and abundant in mercy and loving-kindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, upon the third and fourth generation (Num. 14:18).

4. As it is written, He [the benevolent person] scatters abroad; He gives to the poor; His deeds of justice and goodness and kindness and benevolence will go on and endure forever! (2Cor. 9:9).

5. Let your speech at all times be gracious (pleasant and winsome), seasoned [as it were] with salt, [so that you may never be at a loss] to know how you ought to answer anyone [who puts a question to you] (Col. 4:6).

6. The Lord make His face to shine upon and enlighten you and be gracious (kind, merciful, and giving favor) to you (Num. 6:25).

7. Do not forget or neglect or refuse to extend hospitality to strangers [in the brotherhood—being friendly, cordial, and gracious, sharing the comforts of your home and doing your part generously], for through it some have entertained angels without knowing it (Heb. 13:2).

 

Virtue and Excellence

1. You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity], as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matt. 5:48).

2. For this very reason, adding your diligence [to the divine promises], employ every effort in exercising your faith to develop virtue (excellence, resolution, Christian energy), and in [exercising] virtue [develop] knowledge (intelligence) (2Peter 1:5).

3. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your amoral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven (Matt. 5:16).

 

Worthy of Praise

1. But the centurion replied to Him, Lord, I am not worthy or fit to have You come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant boy will be cured (Matt. 8:8).

2. And he who does not take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conforming wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also] is not worthy of Me (Matt. 10:38).

3. But as for that [seed] in the good soil, these are [the people] who, hearing the Word, hold it fast in a just (noble, virtuous) and worthy heart, and steadily bring forth fruit with patience (Luke 8:15).

4. I, therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, appeal to and beg you to walk (lead a life) worthy of the [divine] calling to which you have been called [with behavior that is a credit to the summons to God’s service (Eph. 4:1).

5. The saying is sure and true and worthy of full and universal acceptance, that Christ Jesus (the Messiah) came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am foremost (1Tim. 1:15).

That’s more than enough to think about. Get your heart’s attitude in line with God’s. Keep it pure by thinking on those things that God has done and will do for you. Develop a world-view that is based on God’s care and love for us and not on the things that ooze out of the Evil One.

 

People of Promise 61 Beatitudes 5

Mercy is certainly in short supply these days. Movies are based on vengeance, or out and out violence against the innocent. The headlines are saturated with the likes of ISIS atrocities, suicide bombers, the sex trade, brutal shootings that have no meaning, and much more that reflect human depravity and total lack of compassion and mercy. We may not like it, but we should expect it because that’s the way the human mind without God works. To them, mercy is a weakness. But it’s not a weakness in God’s eyes. Jesus made this eminently clear in His fifth Beatitude: Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous— with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy! (Matt. 5:7).

The mercy that Jesus is describing is an interesting trait. It involves a healthy dose of both God-centered forgiveness and Agape love, neither of which is possible without God. It is most interesting that the only phrase that Jesus commented on in the “Lord’s Prayer,” was the one about forgiveness. After giving the disciples this prayer example, He went on to say, For if you forgive people their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses (Matt. 6:14, 15).

That’s a rather harsh statement at first glance. Almost a “take it or leave it,” attitude on God’s part, it would seem. Well, first glances can sometimes be right, but other times they can be way off the mark. First, doesn’t it seem odd that we have to forgive others to get God to forgive us? After all, Jesus died on the cross so that we could receive the ultimate forgiveness and become a child of the living God, no string attached. I see no place in scripture where God says we have to forgive everyone that has trespassed against us before we can receive His forgiveness and salvation. That doesn’t even make sense. Neither do I find any place in scripture where God is resentful. Also, why should I have to forgive them instead of God forgiving them? So obviously Jesus is talking about something slightly different.

The word “trespass” comes from the Greek word, paraptoma, par-ap´-to-mah;  which means a side-slip (lapse or deviation), i.e. (unintentional) error or (willful) transgression: — fall, fault, offence, sin, trespass. This is a fault or slip that has somehow caused us offense. And we are to forgive the perpetrator, not the act. So, a better way to think of what Jesus is saying is to insert “can” in the place of “will,” like this: “If you cannot forgive others, God cannot forgive you.” Suddenly, this passage becomes an issue of the heart, and not just an “I forgive you” issue. Words are cheap, mighty cheap in fact, and often filled with half-truths and downright lies. It’s easy to say “I forgive you,” and not mean it in any way shape or form. But God searches the heart. David clearly told Solomon, And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father [have personal knowledge of Him, be acquainted with, and understand Him; appreciate, heed, and cherish Him] and serve Him with a blameless heart and a willing mind. For the Lord searches all hearts and minds and understands all the wanderings of the thoughts. If you seek Him [inquiring for and of Him and requiring Him as your first and vital necessity] you will find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever! (1Chr, 28:9).

It is with our heart, our inner person, our spirit, that we must forgive. Yes, our mouths should say “I forgive,” but that must be the truth in our inner being, not just because we are “supposed” to say it. As a child, when someone did something wrong to you, like hit you, your mother may have forced you to say “I forgive you,” after the other child’s mother had forced him/her (certainly under duress) to say “I’m sorry,” or “please forgive me.” I guarantee you (having had such childhood “teachings” from both sides of the equation ) that there was no sorrow in the “I’m sorry,” and no forgiveness in the “I forgive you.” There was only anger and resentment—mostly toward the mother.

God cannot forgive you (bless you) if your heart is hardened and unwilling to release your resentment. His forgiveness cannot replace your resentment. Remember, we are agents of free will. God set that in His Blood Covenant with us (Deut. 30:19, Josh. 24:15). We can tell Him to “get off my back,” and He will. When we choose to be resentful and angry toward others, then that resentment and anger fills up all the places in our hearts (our inner being) where God could put any forgiveness for our trespasses against others. And by the way, that resentment and anger is what constitutes our trespasses against the “others” that have committed “trespasses” against us.

It’s a simple matter of keeping ourselves open to all that He has for us. When we get filled with the things of the world, there’s no room left for the things of God. Don’t hang on to all the “filthy rags” of the world; heave them out and allow the cleansing and healing salve of Jesus’ Blood to wash over you.

Now, let’s take a little trip down the old forgiveness lane and see exactly how to do this. Saying it is one thing, doing it is something totally different.  The key here is to be the king that God made you to be (Rom 5:17, Rev. 5:10), use the name of Jesus as your badge of kingly authority (Col. 3:17), and bring into play your right to bind in your life whatever has been bound in heaven and loose in your life whatever has been loosed in heaven (Matt. 16:19, 18:18). Let’s say you hold something against “X” because they have done something to offend you. Go to God with an honest heart and say something like: “Father, I’m having a hard time with “X.” He/she has done “abc” to me, and I don’t like it. I want to forgive them, but boy it is hard. So, In Jesus Name, the Name above every name, I bind this anger and resentment in Your presence and cast it out. I loose in myself, the fruits of the Holy Spirit to operate in my life: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, kindness, faithfulness, and self control. Thank you gracious King.”

Then, accept what you have done, and relax in it. But, it isn’t going to go away without a fight. And it might be a rather long one. Long or short, however, it is your job and your responsibility, not God’s, to get rid of it. God doesn’t do this, you do! You do it willfully and you do it purposefully. Stay at it. When the feelings come back, bind them and toss them out and loose the fruits of the Holy Spirit in you once again. Stay at it. You will win if your hang in there and use the authority that God has made available to you.

Now, “mercy” also involves Agape. That is the kind of love that is willing “to give the best you have without regard to the consequences to yourself.” That’s tough. But true forgiveness says that the Agape that God has put in me (Rom. 5:5) must be the dominant force in my life, and I must exhibit it, regardless. Believe me, it takes true Agape to forgive someone and not hold something is reserve against them. After all, there were consequences to you from their actions. You have to shake them off, and get your feet on the right path (Heb. 12:12-13). Again, the only way you can do this is with God’s help and strength (Eph. 1:19-20, Phil. 2:12-13).

The more we exercise our God given right (read “responsibilities”) the easier it becomes to do what God asks, so that He may shine through us and touch the lives of those that don’t know Him. After all, isn’t that what you want?

When we truly extend this God-centered mercy to others, it is flowing from God, through us, to the other person, and one never knows where that can lead them. When mercy flows from us, it also flows to us from the throne of the King. That’s what Jesus is saying in this fifth Beatitude.

 

 

 

 

People of Promise 60 Beatitudes 4

In the Beatitudes, Jesus is describing His Kingdom benefits for those of us living here and now on this earth. True, we live eternally with God when we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, but what many don’t realize is that this eternity with our Creator begins the very moment we accept what He has to offer. We are not supposed to live out our lives here in desperation, awaiting for death so that we can be with God. No, we are to live out our lives here in the pure joy of our eternal life so that we can help others find their way out of the darkness and into the Light of God’s Love.

And that is the main thrust of the fourth Beatitude. Blessed and fortunate and happy and spiritually prosperous (in that state in which the born-again child of God enjoys His favor and salvation) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (uprightness and right standing with God), for they shall be completely satisfied! (Matt. 5:6).

Notice that this Beatitude is one of action on our parts. We have to actively go after righteousness. That is, God will not, in fact cannot, make you His child unless you want to be His child. We have go after it. We have to commit ourselves to God’s headship. We have to look at our life in all truthfulness and admit that it would be better with God in it. We have to admit that we are living outside a relationship with God. When we come to the realization that we are not all we could be, and that we are living apart from our loving Creator, then we can make the leap from self-centered living to Christ-centered living.

Christ-centered does not mean losing our identity. It means gaining a new one, a better one. An identity that is linked to the Lord God Almighty. An identity that gives us all the rights of the Kingdom, and allows us to operate in the fullness of God’s authority and power, for Him. This ownership of rights is called “righteousness.” Said another way, righteousness is having the right to all that God has made available to His children. And that’s a lot.

Furthermore, righteousness means being pure, cleansed of all sin. Now hold up there just a moment. When I use the word “sin” I know it conjures up all sorts of images of killing, rape, theft, cursing, hating, jealousy, etc. But what it really means, at it deepest core, is living outside a relationship with God. The acts that we consider “sins” are acts committed by those living outside a relationship with God, and our abhorrence of them is not an abhorrence of the person, but an abhorrence of the act of sin and it’s deleterious consequences for all involved, the innocent as well as the guilty.

Being a “good” person is not enough. One can be “good,” even a “goody two-shoes,” and still be living outside of a relationship with God.

When one becomes God’s child, one enters into a relationship with God, for eternity. God “cleanses” us of “sin.” That is He lifts us out of a relationship to the Evil One and puts us in a permanent relationship with Himself. We call that the “new birth” we are born out of our old relationship with Satan and into a relationship with God. And in that, we are like new born babies—pure and clean as the driven snow. Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool (Isa. 1:18). And may the Lord make you to increase and excel and overflow in love for one another and for all people, just as we also do for you, So that He may strengthen and confirm and establish your hearts faultlessly pure and unblamable in holiness in the sight of our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) with all His saints (the holy and glorified people of God)! Amen, (so be it)! 1Thes 3:12-13).

This does not mean that “once clean, always clean.” No it means that we start off clean, but we can certainly get dirty. Jesus specifically noted this in the “washing of the feet” (John 13:5-14). Peter jumps up when Jesus tries to wash His feet and Jesus tells Him that he, Peter, is not of His (Jesus’) unless He washes his feet. So, Peter, not really understanding what is going on, and wanting his lion’s share, commands Jesus to wash all of him. Jesus said to him, Anyone who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is clean all over. And you [My disciples] are clean, but not all of you (John 13:10). Jesus washed their feet as a symbol of God’s forgiveness. The feet get in the world and get dusty and dirty. It not necessary to “cleanse” the whole person once again, only the dirty part.

We wash our “feet” of the dirt that we have gotten into by asking God for forgiveness for walking outside our relationship with Him, that is our “sinning.”  When we repent—that is see the error of our ways and turn from it in total disgust, and ask for forgiveness–God does forgive us and purifies us in the Blood of the Lamb (1John 1:9, 7, Rev. 7:14). That is, He brings us back into a full relationship with Him. And that’s the place to be, and the place to operate our life from.

People of Promise 59 Beatitudes 3

The third beatitude or blessing that Jesus pronounces to the crowd on the mountainside is: Blessed (happy, blithesome, joyous, spiritually prosperous— with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the meek (the mild, patient, long-suffering), for they shall inherit the earth!  (Matt. 5:5). Jesus had just inaugurated His ministry here on earth. He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11), and heard that John the Baptist was imprisoned. He moved to Capernaum, and it was from this city that Jesus began to preach, crying out, Repent (change your mind for the better, heartily amend your ways, with abhorrence of your past sins), for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matt. 4:17).

This is the basis from which Jesus taught, preached, and healed. The Kingdom is at hand, He proclaimed, and then spent the rest of His ministry demonstrating and discussing the Kingdom. The Beatitudes are a straight-forward exposition concerning what the Messiah makes available to those that seek and find Him. In this third Beatitude, He addresses the people about meekness. The Amplified Bible modifies the word “meek” saying that it denotes the mild, patient, long-suffering. But these words need a bit more explaining. First, “meek” does not mean a “milktoast” attitude. It does not suggest that one who is meek is a doormat for others. It does not indicate an introvert, too shy to assert him/her self, and consequently constantly being taken advantage of by others.

Whenever one needs to examine the characteristics that God champions in His children, one needs to have an intense look at God’s only begotten, Christ Jesus. He is the very definition of meekness, patience, and long-suffering. Meekness, as defined by Our Lord and Savior’s life, means recognizing God as Creator and putting Him first, above our own desires. Meekness in this sense is really no different that humbling one’s self under God’s will. Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:] Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, But stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being. And after He had appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross! (Phil. 2:5-8).

Real meekness is honestly admitting that God is supreme and you want Him to be supreme in your life. This goes beyond the simple act of salvation. It means to say, “My life is Yours, Father, and I want to become everything that You want me to become.” And then it means getting busy and becoming that child that God wants you to be. Read His Word, Study His Word, Meditate His Word, Memorize His Word, Act on His Word. An hour on Sunday morning is not going to cut it. Get busy and dig in, dig deep. Make God’s Word you word.

When we dedicate ourselves to truly learning what God wants us to learn, and then focus on doing what He wants us to do, then we are blessed. This does not mean that B is the result of A. It means that A is also the blessing. That is, the learning and the doing are in themselves the blessing. True meekness, the kind that Jesus displayed, is in and of itself a blessing. Why? Because it positions us in God’s full will, and there is no better place to be, regardless of outside circumstances. When we live our lives with God in first place, we truly can give thanks in all circumstances (1Thes. 5:18).

When we put God first, we are giving back to Him His Agape, which He poured out into us (Rom. 5:5). For the [true] love of God is this: that we do His commands [keep His ordinances and are mindful of His precepts and teaching]. And these orders of His are not irksome (burdensome, oppressive, or grievous). For whatever is born of God is victorious over the world; and this is the victory that conquers the world, even our faith. Who is it that is victorious over [that conquers] the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God [who adheres to, trusts in, and relies on that fact]? (1John 5:3-5).

We are told in this third Beatitude that the meek with inherit the earth. Well, I don’t see any meek people inheriting any earth. So obviously, God had more in mind that dirt and rocks. His ultimate purpose for His children is to overcome the things of the world and live in the fullness of God. And when we are truly meek—putting God first—that is exactly what He makes available for us. In fact, Little children, you are of God [you belong to Him] and have [already] defeated and overcome them [the agents of the antichrist], because He Who lives in you is greater (mightier) than he who is in the world. (1John 4:4).

But please note, in order to live in all the fullness that God intends for us to live in we have to operate in the fullness of God’s Word. That’s what Jesus did. Though the meekest of the meek, He never turned away from the Truth. He faced all that Satan could throw at Him squarely, doing exactly what God wanted Him to do, without regard to the consequences to Himself. That can sometimes be a hard row to hoe, but out of it we grow in who we are in Christ, and that is the greatest blessing of all.

People of Promise 58 Beatitudes 2

After opening His discussion on the mountain with the call to salvation, Jesus continues with a list of eight other beatitudes, or discussions of God’s desire to pour out all He has without regard to the consequences to Himself. The second topic that Jesus covers is mourning. Blessed and enviably happy [with a happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His matchless grace] are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted! (Matt. 5:4). And of course, we immediately assign mourning” to the physical—as in mourning a death.

But, we need to remember that God is concerned with our entire being: spirit soul, body, finances, and social life, and we can most certainly mourn in all five of those areas. Mourning in our spirit is the first step to truly coming to grips with the fact that humans live in slavery to Satan and need to escape it. It is this deep realization of loss—loss of our relationship with God—that prompts us to truly begin seeking Him in all His fullness. This does not have to be mourning over a long period of time. It can come in an instant when we hear the Gospel preached, causing us to seize the moment and escape the devil’s grasp by making Jesus King of kings and Lord of lords of our life. Or, it may require a bit of thought and contemplation—mourning—before we cast all our cares on Him and truly become one of His own (Phil. 4:6-7, Rom. 10:13).

Our “soul” is not our spirit, although many people (pastors included) don’t understand this, and so blend the two as a single unit. But the Word is clear, we are a spirit being, with a soul, living in a physical body (Heb. 4:12, 1Thes. 5:23). The soul is our mind, will, and emotions. And certainly “mourning” can and does involve our mind, our will, and our emotions. Our mind can “mourn” loss of time, ideas, loved ones, etc., etc., etc. because it is our mind that does the thought processing, and “mourning” most certainly begins and ends with our thought processes. Our will is the conscious part of us that enforces and carries out decisions that our mind has made. And we can in fact, utilize our will to control our “mourning.” There are many people that need to mourn at the loss of a loved one, a job, or other aspect of their lives, and which never do mourn, keeping all their loss bottled tightly inside. This is not a wise decision, but one which some do indeed make.

Of course, mourning over bodily ailments (a ”why me” attitude that tries to elicit sympathy from others) is another very common human trait. We want sympathy, especially in the face of unfavorable circumstances. For example, when given the diagnosis of cancer in a late stage, many people immediately plunge in darkness and despair and “mourn” their loss. That’s OK for a while, because we need to deal realistically with the diagnosis, and there is a true sense of loss. But, to stay there is not only not wise, it’s actually harmful to our physical well-being. We need to recognize the loss for what it is, mourn it, and then get on with getting on.

Having a financial loss or setback can be as devastating as having a really bad physical diagnosis. Money is more that just a medium of exchange for many people. It can mean status, freedom and independence, more things, and so on. There is true “mourning” at the loss of a planned future, a job that is essential to feeding a family, a stolen vehicle, a destroyed home, and other catastrophic losses that put us into a financial tailspin. As with physical stresses, financial stresses can and should cause us to “mourn” (evaluate and monitor the results of the loss). But, there is no sense in living in that loss. Mourn for a period, then get back at living life.

Our social life can experience great loss at times. Moving to a new city to begin a new job is one of the most stressful of human experiences. There’s the need to find lodging, acquire new friends, locate the dentist, doctors, car repair garage, shopping centers, and so on. This takes a great deal of time and wisdom, which takes away from our daily routines, inserting stress where there was none in the “old home” town. Likewise, growing older and losing friends to death reduces our social circle and puts pressure on us to reach out at a time in life when we are tired of reaching out. Giving one’s life to Christ can immediately and dramatically reduce our “circle of friends,” as they shy away from our newness in Christ.

Heraclitus of Ephesus, who lived about 500 years before Christ, was a Greek philosopher who put forth the idea that the only permanent thing is change. Certainly in the physical universe that is absolutely true. In modern times, we express this idea in the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which notes that the randomness of matter and energy of the universe (its entropy) is ever increasing. He also coined the term “Logos” to mean the source and basic order of the universe.

 

Since change is ever present, and change causes us stress and the need to ever be ready to adapt to the new, “mourning” is ever present. But we have a permanence that goes beyond the simple idea that the only permanent thing is change. We have a “rock that cannot be moved,” (Ps. 18:2), and an anchor for the soul (Heb. 6:19) that never changes (Heb. 13:8)—God Almighty. We need to pour ourselves into His hands and move forward in His eternal permanence, seeking His strength, His guidance, His ambitions, His favor, His love, His thoughts—all that He is. He is more than willing to give us all that we need, and then some. But only if we seek it and truly want it in our lives.

Our peace, our comfort, our resolution to move ahead, regardless of the loss that we mourn, can only come from God, who told us with no uncertainty: Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:6-7).

We shall be comforted if we seek God and turn it all over to Him. Do so, and enjoy His constant unchanging encouragement and peace.

People of Promise 57 Beatitudes 1

SEEING THE crowds, He went up on the mountain; and when He was seated, His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying (Matt. 5:1-2). Thus begins Matthew’s account of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount,” or the “Beatitudes.” The title “Sermon on the Mount” is easily understood. Jesus was up on a mountain, and He was telling people relational information about them and God. But what about “Beatitudes”? Well it can mean a statement about those who are blessed. It may also mean heavenly happiness or bliss. And there’s that word “blessed” sneaking in. Of course, to the western way of thinking this means only one thing—cash! And not Johnny; real money, coin, folding bills, big bucks, etc. Well, perhaps, but that’s only the tip of the cashberg; I mean iceberg.

Blessed is not a word with a simple translation such as wealthy. It is a complex word that conveys an outpouring of God’s love, mercy, thoughts, ambitions, power, understandings, knowledge, etc., into our lives: spirit, soul, body, finances, and social life. God never intended to only bless us cash-wise. In fact, if one reads carefully what God has to say in His Word, it’s rather obvious that there are people that have financial need, and that the tithe was set up to help them: When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce the third year, which is the year of tithing, and have given it to the Levite, the stranger and the sojourner, the fatherless, and to the widow, that they may eat within your towns and be filled (Deut. 26:12). Not only that, but Jesus was dramatically clear on the fact that there were, are, and will always be those in financial need: For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you will not always have Me (Mark 14:7).

He wasn’t necessarily talking about poor people that believe in Him, He meant the poor in general, but even those that do believe in Jesus can occasionally find themselves in times of financial shortfall. This happens not by God’s plan, but because we live in an imperfect, fallen world with fallen people all around us—people who are opposed to God’s will and guidance. If we do find ourselves in financial need, then we must turn to God and ask Him for His guidance, His wisdom (James 1:5), His help in finding a job, etc., etc., etc.

God is faithful and will help in times of trouble, only we must believe that He will (Heb. 11:6), and then turn it all over to Him. Sometimes, the help that He sends is to line up other Christians to give aid until the new job comes, or some other method that He sets in motion; one way or another God gets us into a better position. And getting there will require that we get actively involved. If a person needs a job, they don’t stay at home and wait until God plops it in their lap. They actively seek a job with God’s guidance in finding one that will fulfill His desire for them.

But that’s not the emphasis of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is much more concerned with expressing God’s concern for us in depth, not just in cash. And so His “Sermon on the Mount” starts, Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous— with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the poor in spirit (the humble, who rate themselves insignificant), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven! (Matt. 5:3).

Right out of the box, Jesus’ first concern is salvation. That was His first concern, always, and always will be. He died on the cross so that we could (1) be saved, (2) grow in relationship with our Father so that (3) we could enjoy all His blessings in our lives. The big difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant is that in the New one, we can be re-born in spirit. That was not available in the Old one. Certainly God’s blessings came to those under the Old Covenant (see Deut. 28:1-14). And certainly God loved those under the Old Covenant as much as He loves those under the New Covenant. But as noted, under the New Covenant, we can become heirs of God and coheirs of Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:17) while we are alive and kicking on this earth.

This was not just God’s way of showing His lovey-dovey side to us. Hardly. It was His way to create a Body that could show His love to others for Him, directly. God does not preach the Gospel, Jesus does not, the angels do not; we do. That’s our way of honoring God and helping others. It’s our way of passing on His blessings to anyone who wants to receive Jesus as King of their lives.

That is, to the “poor” in spirit. The Amplified Bible explains “poor” as “the humble, who rate themselves insignificant.” I would add “before God,” that is: “the humble, who rate themselves insignificant before God.” To be humble before God is to recognize that He is Creator and we are the created. He is All in all. We are simply ourselves. He has all power and authority, and we have none. We also recognize with thanksgiving beyond telling, beyond expressing, what He has done for us through His Son, Christ Jesus, even as we likewise recognize what Jesus did for us on the cross. When we come to God it is not with “hat in hand,” it is with a joyous and celebrating spirit that truly sees God as “abba.” Humble yourselves [feeling very insignificant] in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you [He will lift you up and make your lives significant] (James 4:10)

Abba is the first word that the peoples of the Middle East teach their children. It means “daddy,” “dad,” “Popper,” “Pops,” or any other endearment term that we use for a Father that loves us beyond comprehension and wants so much for us that He was willing to send Jesus to pay the awful price necessary to get us back into His Kingdom. When we recognize this trait of God, we can only give in to His call, and grasp with an eternal hug this amazing blessing that He has provided for us.

People of Promise 56 Best Known Promise

 

Without a doubt, the most quoted verse in the Bible is John 3:16. For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. But quoting something does not necessarily mean that it will mean anything to the person(s) who hear it, nor maybe even to the person who says it. The reason is, that many times we have only an unclear understanding of what the words mean or what the verse means in toto.

So, let’s have a look. God so loved. Yes He did, yes he does. After all, God is love (1John 4:8, 16). But what exactly does that mean. I love my wife, my family, my dogs, my guitar, my country, my good friends, fly fishing, and I love to eat. Is that God? Hardly. The Greek language had seven different words for love, each reflecting the nature of the object that was being loved. And the special word that they used for God’s love is Agape. This means to give the best you have without regard to the consequences to yourself. That’s God. He gives us the best that He has without regard to the consequences to Himself.

What, you say, how there be consequences for God? After all, He is God, and He has the ability to do whatever He wants, including getting rid of consequences. Nope, sorry, that’s not the way it works. That’s not the way it works because God has selflessly limited Himself when it comes to dealing with humans. Seems like an odd thing to do, but He has done exactly that. First, He has given us “free will,” allowing us the right to choose what we do without limitation from Him (Deut. 30:19, Jos. 24:15). Rather risky on His part, as we humans prove time after time. But at the same time, He has given us the right to willingly involve Him in all that we do. And when we do, we can become all that He desires for us to be.

But, and this is a very important but, God is not keeping score, chalking up the things we do with Him, and the things that we do in disregard of His wishes; then, when the balance is on the unfavorable side, He punishes us. NO, NO, NO. That is just plain silly thinking on our parts. That’s the way humans might operate; it is no the way God operates. We need to clearly understand that God is Agape love. He is not Agape love and demonic rage rolled into one. He is not out to “get” us; He is out to help us in every way that we will allow Him to help. Note I said that He is out to help us in every way that we will allow Him to help us.

We are the ones that decide whether God will help us, or not help us. Free will means free will. God loves us so much that He absolutely allows us to make every decision, regardless of its import in our lives. What He wants is for us to ask him to be involved and then follow His advise. But even when we do ask Him to be involved, He allows us to go ahead and dismiss His advice and do what we want. The responsibility for our actions lies solely with us. God is our advisor, not our boss. Sounds a bit harsh, but that’s the reality of it. We choose.

This does not mean that God has a “ho-hum” attitude toward us and the decisions that we make. Hardly. He is Agape, which means that He always stands ready to give us the best He has without regard to the consequences to Himself. So when humans sold out to Satan (Adam’s “original sin”), God gave us the best He had—Christ Jesus—to buy us back out of slavery to the Evil One. And Jesus? He gave the best He had—His very life (both physical and spiritual)–to be the ransom price for us. God restored Jesus’ physical body with a resurrected one that heralds what we will be in the eternal Kingdom of Love and Light. He also restored Jesus spiritually; thus He is called the Firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29). When those living in sin (outside a relationship with God) ask to enter God’s Kingdom, they are admitted via the ransom price that Jesus paid on the cross. What better example could we have of the true nature of Agape love?

“Eternal life” is not something in the future, it is something that we get the moment that we accept what Jesus has done for us; the moment that we ask to become God’s very own child. That very moment, we are snatched out of the dark side and into the Kingdom of Love and Light, there to live in the eternal presence of the King of kings and Lord of lords. And at the very moment that a person becomes God’s own, that person is transformed into a priest, a prophet, and a king, fully able to govern their own lives in the power and authority of the Blood of Jesus, the Word of God, and the Name of Jesus. And this means that we can involve God fully in everything that we do.

Do not neglect to operate in all the fullness that God has for you. Every day, without fail, give your life to God, give your work to God, and ask Him to put His thoughts in you, give you his strength, His wisdom, His ambition, and help you do all that he wants to in order to be of the greatest help and benefit to others. Then pay attention, and pour out God’s Agape (which He has put in you—Rom. 5:5) to those around you.

People of Promise 55 Lukewarm

The church at Laodicea represents one of the two current church models: Philadelphia which has little power (in the world), but is spot on in their relationship with God, and then the overwhelming large church of this age—the lukewarm church of Laodicea. Please note that it is very possible to be lukewarm toward Jesus and still be a huge and vibrant congregation. Just huge and vibrant about the wrong things—thinking positively, being upbeat about yourself, doing as many “help” projects as your time and cash flow will allow, and so on.

First and foremost, the warning to the first church in Jesus’ list—Ephesus—that they had forgotten their first love (Jesus) should ring loud and clear in our ears. That is to be our overwhelmingly primary goal in life—to love Jesus with all our hearts, all our souls, and all our minds (Matt. 22:37). Out of that will flow everything else for our lives. Yes, I know we are to carry out the Great Commission, but trying to carry out the Great Commission is rather futile without total and full Agape love for God (our willingness to give whatever He asks without regard to the consequences to ourselves). We need God’s full love in us, and we need to love Him fully before the Great Commission becomes a reality in us.

And Lukewarm—Ugh. Jesus has little use for people who only honor Him with their lips, and not their hearts.

Rev. 3:14 And to the angel (messenger) of the assembly (church) in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the trusty and faithful and true Witness, the Origin and Beginning and Author of God’s creation:

Rev. 3:15 I know your [record of] works and what you are doing; you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot!

Rev. 3:16 So, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth!

Rev. 3:17 For you say, I am rich; I have prospered and grown wealthy, and I am in need of nothing; and you do not realize and understand that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

Rev. 3:18 Therefore I counsel you to purchase from Me gold refined and tested by fire, that you may be [truly] wealthy, and white clothes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nudity from being seen, and salve to put on your eyes, that you may see.

Rev. 3:19 Those whom I [dearly and tenderly] love, I tell their faults and convict and convince and reprove and chasten [I discipline and instruct them]. So be enthusiastic and in earnest and burning with zeal and repent [changing your mind and attitude].

Rev. 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he [will eat] with Me.

Rev. 3:21 He who overcomes (is victorious), I will grant him to sit beside Me on My throne, as I Myself overcame (was victorious) and sat down beside My Father on His throne.

Rev. 3:22 He who is able to hear, let him listen to and heed what the [Holy] Spirit says to the assemblies (churches).

There’s some great stuff in here. First, Jesus doesn’t want lukewarm followers. He says to the church at Ephesus: Would that you were cold or hot! We need to slam on the brakes right here and examine this statement carefully. Jesus is NOT saying that He wants people to either believe in Him or not believe in Him. That’s the illogical man’s interpretation. Let’s look a bit more closely at what God has said in His word. First, Such [praying] is good and right, and [it is] pleasing and acceptable to God our Savior, Who wishes all men to be saved and [increasingly] to perceive and recognize and discern and know precisely and correctly the [divine] Truth (1Tim. 2:3-4).

God wants all men to be saved—not some to be “cold” and some “hot” for Him. He wants everyone to be “hot” for Him. Jesus didn’t die on the cross for a few select people. His death was to take away the sins of everyone (1John 2:2). Well if that’s what He did, then that’s what He did. No quibbling. No saying that He wants some cold and some hot for Him. That’s just illogical, and a lazy man’s way out. No Jesus was talking about people that are refreshing to the lives of those around them. On a hot day, a cold beverage is very refreshing. And on a cold day—like the one I’m experiencing in Wisconsin’s winter right now—a hot drink, such as my Thermos cup of Earl Grey tea, is refreshing. God want us to refresh the world, not be a lukewarm drink that brings no satisfaction at all to the person drinking it. Just think, you grab a bottle of grape Nehi soda and have a big slug on a hot summer day, and the soda is insipidly warm. Not all that great is it? Then you come in from skiing or sledding and grab a big cup of cocoa and its barely warm. Yuck. That’s Jesus’ reaction to people who only give Him lip service and don’t really know Him. They know of Him, but they don’t know Him on a personal level.

Remember the story of the wedding and the ten virgins. Five left to get oil because they had not brought any. Then, Later the other virgins also came and said, Lord, Lord, open [the door] to us! But He replied, I solemnly declare to you, I do not know you [I am not acquainted with you] (Matt. 25:11-12). When they returned they were not admitted to the wedding because the Groom did not know them—they were away when the other guests were introduced, and the door had been closed so that the wedding could commence.

And what about those who pretend to know Jesus and go about using His name for their own gain? Well, Jesus has this to say about these fakers: Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name and driven out demons in Your name and done many mighty works in Your name? And then I will say to them openly (publicly), I never knew you; depart from Me, you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands] (Matt. 7:22-23).

Knowing Jesus personally is the key, not just using His name to fake your way through life. Going to church is of absolutely no value unless there is the desire in your heart to know Jesus ever more personally—whether it’s to met Him for the first time or to get to know Him ever better and more closely. You can never get too much of Jesus.

In His address to the church at Laodicea, Jesus notes that they think they are rich, but they are poor. This has two implications. First, they have some serious cash and so think that they are in God’s graces for sure. Well maybe not. Satan can help his followers get cash, too. Jesus told a wonderful parable about a rich man whose land yielded a great crop. The man was very happy because now he had a super abundance. Surely God had blessed him, and he intended to horde what he had been given. And he considered and debated within himself, What shall I do? I have no place [in which] to gather together my harvest. And he said, I will do this: I will pull down my storehouses and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain or produce and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have many good things laid up, [enough] for many years. Take your ease; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself merrily. But God said to him, You fool! This very night they [the messengers of God] will demand your soul of you; and all the things that you have prepared, whose will they be? So it is with the one who continues to lay up and hoard possessions for himself and is not rich [in his relation] to God [this is how he fares] (Luke 12:17-21).

Here we see the other concept of richness clearly defined—it had to do with our relationship with God. We always see sin as “bad” acts, but the truth of it is, people who are generous, caring, helpful, “good citizens” and admired by other for their “goodness” can still be sinners. That’s because the true definition of sin is nothing more than “living outside a personal relationship with God.” Righteousness, on the other hand is “living in a right relationship with God.” So the righteous or “saints” are those who know God personally and live in the fullness of that relationship. Obviously, those in Laodicea were not living in any personal relationship to God through Jesus Christ.

Jesus counsels the Laodiceans to purchase from Me gold refined and tested by fire, that you may be [truly] wealthy, and white clothes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nudity from being seen, and salve to put on your eyes, that you may see (Rev. 3:18). The gold refined by fire is the true knowledge of God, which comes from His Word (John 8:31-32). The white robe represents our cloak of salvation bought and paid for by Jesus’ death on the cross and made pure and sparkling white by dipping in the Blood of the Lamb (Rev. 7:14). And the salve, well that’s our baptism in the Holy Spirit, Who opens our eyes that we may see all the fullness of God’s truth for us (Jer. 8:22, 1Cor. 2:9-16).

Then Jesus instructs them to repent and fill their lives with His enthusiasm and His zeal for life in God. And then comes one of the truly great verses of God’s Word, Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he [will eat] with Me (Rev. 3:20). Jesus is actively seeking those who don’t know Him. He is there, knocking, asking to be allowed in. Asking to bring salvation and fullness into every life. But too often, the noise of our own boisterous party, celebrating our achievements and our way of doing things, drowns out His knock at the door. Or worse, yet, we hear Him, but simply refuse to open the door.

Get off the lukewarm roller-coaster, and get settled in a solid relationship with the King of kings and Lord of lords, where you can be a constant refreshment for those who don’t know Him, and experience all He has for those who love Him.

Jesus remarks that He who overcomes (is victorious), I will grant him to sit beside Me on My throne, as I Myself overcame (was victorious) and sat down beside My Father on His throne (Rev. 3:21). By “overcomes,” Jesus means to find the way out of Satan’s darkness and into God’s Kingdom of Light and Love. This is done simply by asking God, in all sincerity and in Jesus’ name, to be made His child. It is only through Jesus’ victory over Satan that we gain our victory over Satan. And once we gain that victory, it’s ours eternally. Little children, you are of God [you belong to Him] and have [already] defeated and overcome them [the agents of the antichrist], because He Who lives in you is greater (mightier) than he who is in the world (1John 4:4).