Jesus said Come, Follow Me!
Chapter 4 Ė How to Approach God
Perhaps you have begun to realize that the reality you have known, this earth and all that is therein, is only a temporary anomaly in Godís grand plan for things and is quickly passing (2 Cor 4:18)? Romans 9:28, "For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth." This does not mean that God doesnít love us, just that this world is fallen and short of Godís ultimate desire. All of us have had sincere moments of deep thought and consideration about what is really important. Maybe reality surfaced for a passing moment at the death of a loved one or during a devastating illness or accident. You know, whatís it all about? The home, money, cars, possessions, career, etc. are suddenly seen in a better light (due to your humbled-ness) as to what they really are: eternally worthless - without merit. Perhaps some reading this book are starting to realize that the truth of the gospel is much more than what the religious institutions of man have presented it as. Christís doctrine was never one of self or the flesh. Godís truth cannot be franchised, regulated and institutionalized by man nor is His Spirit answerable to man or directed by him. Faith in Christ is much more than a mere mental acknowledgement and agreement of who Jesus is through a quick repeated prayer. Much more than the voluntary, yet implied mandatory, church (religious) attendance and observances. James 2:19, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." The devils believe in God, they know personally of His certainty (Mk 1:34). Even though they believe, they are in rebellion to Him since they sought their own will by following Satan. Oh man, it shall be no different with you. Do you acknowledge God, but seek your own will? Do your opinions drive your belief? If so, then you are in the same rebellion as the devils. Better to face this reality now than when you stand before the throne of God. You now have the ability to change course, but do not delay. Time is a fleeting thing in a fallen rebellious world. Once dead there are no more chances, you will stand on the merits of the life you lived. Faith in God is not a religion, itís a relationship. Consider the true path to salvation as presented by Jesus Christ.
Identifying with Christ in His own words (see scriptures): You must Seek Him (Mt 6:33, 7:7); Know Him (Jn 8:31-32, 11:25-26); Count the cost of following (Lk 14:28-32); Be drawn of God (Jn 6:44); Repent (Mk 1:15); Forsake (Lk 14:33, 18:22); Die to self (Lk 9:24-25, Jn 3:30); Be born again (Jn 3:3); Receive the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:26, 15:26-27, 16:7-14); Do not sin (Jn 5:14, 8:11 & 34); Self denial (Mt 16:24); Obedience/Love to God (Jn 14:15,21); Love others (Mk 12:31); God must be the priority (Mk 12:30); Love not the world (Lk 12:15); Know Godís Word (Mk 13:30); Control your thoughts (Mt 5:27-30); Follow Christís example (Lk 6:40); Devotion (Lk 16:13); Produce fruit (works, Jn 15:5, 8); Forgive (Mt 18:21-22); Persecution (Lk 6:22); Faithful (Mt 25:21); Follow (Mt 16:24, Mk 8:34, Jn 10:27, 12:26) and Endure, firm and steadfast in confidence until the end (Mt 24:13, Heb 3:6, 14).
Sermon on the Mount
Jesus delivered what must be the perfect message, known as the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus thoughtfully laid out the path to salvation for all who will heed and apply the message. These are the beatitudes or the way God would have us be, presented as nine "blessed" statements of character. Jesus lived the Sermon on the Mount. The scriptures say that which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination to God (Lk 16:15). Therefore we find many opposites in scripture that conflict with and confuse the will of man. God says to be great you must be least; to live, you must die (to self); to gain you must lose and the last shall be first. Man always desires to exalt himself, yet God says, Matthew 23:12, "And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted" (Also 1 Pt 5:6). God hates the proud and arrogant, but hears the humble (Ps 34:15-19). Man desires self-sufficiency, God demands dependence upon Him (Ps 34:22, 37:5, 23-24, 39, 62:7-8, 119:114). Isaiah 45:22, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else."
Poor in Spirit
Matthew 5:3, "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." To approach Christ you must first see your need for Him. To be poor in spirit would be to recognize your inabilities and limitations and your great need for God. This is to be a beggar crying in need of help displayed as brokenness before God, and pleading for His mercy. This is a humbling of oneself before God and a perpetual dependence upon God. To be poor in Spirit is a constant attitude of need and reliance upon God rather than man (flesh). Realizing that you are nothing, have nothing and can do nothing. This is an emptying the heart of self such that Christ may fill it. You realize that you have nothing to offer God from self. Your best works of righteousness far miss the mark of Godís expectations and they are as filthy rags. You realize that nothing you could ever do on your own merits could ever warrant Godís acceptance or justify you. This is a setting aside of self, a self-loathing, a self rejection in all respects, a casting away all hope in yourself, all self dependence, all trust in our own wisdom (knowledge) or righteousness, or your efforts of being good, and every thing else which is your own. The one who is poor in spirit recognizes their absolute wickedness and just condemnation. Only at this point can you acknowledge that Christ is the only possible hope for your helpless condition. You now begin to seek God. Being poor in spirit would be the opposite of being prideful, arrogant and self-willed. There is no self-confidence, sufficiency, interest or assertiveness regarding your own efforts. To be poor in spirit is to be utterly helpless, humbled, broken (Ps 51:17), emptied and destitute before God. When you can come to this place, God can use you and thus you can become a member of the kingdom of heaven. The poor in heartís plea is: Luke 18:13-14, "And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." Therefore: James 2:5, "Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?"
We must recognize our inabilities and great need for Jesus or we will trust in self rather than God. We will seek our will rather than His purposes. Consider Paul: 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." This is a paradox; we are strong when we are weak (Heb 11:33-34)? We cannot depend on self. When we recognize our weakness, then Christ can show Himself strong. Consider the old song: Yes Jesus loves me Ė for I am weak (humbled, broken, dependant) and He is strong. We are to depend upon God for all. This is humbleness and brokenness before God. Psalm 34:18, "The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit (also Ps 51:17)." Luke 6:20, "And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God."
Those who Mourn
Matthew 5:4, Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted." To mourn is to realize the sinfulness in your life and to have deep regret and godly sorrow for past thoughts and deeds (Ps 32:5). To mourn is to see the shame of thy nakedness (sinfulness). This would include your own iniquities (transgressions) and those sins you have committed against others. You must realize your wickedness and your own inability to correct the condition as evidenced by agony and contrition concerning how you have transgressed Godís will and been displeasing. To acknowledge how you have brought shame and dishonor upon God. Deep heartfelt sorrow for past sins is not sufficient and must be accompanied with a desire to forsake all sin in your life. Isaiah 55:7, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." This is to mourn after the sin itself and state of your heart and not just the consequence or penalty such as being caught or the ultimate penalty of eternal hell and damnation. The primary concern is that you have sinned against the loving God causing a separation. Isaiah 59:2, "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear." You realize if uncorrected that your separation from God will be eternal. You see that sin was such displeasure with the Holy Righteous God that rather than excuse it or overlook it, He sent His only begotten son to be the sacrifice for your sins to make atonement. You must realize that your way has been a failure and that your only hope is to turn to God Ė He is where the comfort is. Psalms 126:5, "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy." You realize that you must die to yourself and start living a life that conforms to Godís will and that only Jesus Christ can make this happen. Youíre no longer self-centered, but God-centered. Those who mourn desire reconciliation with God. You understand that forsaking your old life not only means to abandon it, but also to not look back favorably on sinful aspects of it (Ez 18:27-28, 33:19). Psalm 119:59, "I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies." This is true repentance which is a hatred for your sin and an unconditional surrender to the sovereign will of God. Romans 2:4, "Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" This acknowledges your rebellion against God and puts self aside while yielding to Him. Psalms 145:18-20, "The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them. The LORD preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy." Joel 2:12-13, "Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil."
True mourning is always accompanied by a change in oneís life. Mourning is also a continuing attitude throughout life and a constant self examination whereby one is grieved by any personal transgression against Godís will in their life. You also sorrow and grieve for all the sin committed by others around you and the wickedness in and of the world itself. To be blessed in mourning seems like a paradox, but it brings one to the place of seeing their need for Christ to realizing how precious His sacrifice really is. At this point Jesus can provide the comfort that you now realize you need. Proverb 28:13, "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." God can do a work in the one that confesses and repents. Psalm 86:5, "For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee." The more we see our wickedness the more distinct the purity and righteousness of our Savior will become. Those who do not acknowledge their fault or shift blame to others show their continuing rebellion and justify their just condemnation. These shame God and bring disrepute on Christís great sacrifice, thus no mercy shall be shown. Luke 6:21, "ÖBlessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh."
Matthew 5:5, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth (also Ps 37:11)." Palms 22:26, "The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever." We must strive day after day against the sin of pride and rebellion. By our fallen nature we are quick to justify self. We tend to be self-centered, but spiritual meekness must be God-centered. True meekness submits to God's sovereignty (as righteous and just) and justifies the Lord even in your own condemnation (Neh 9:33, Job 13:15, Dan Chap 9). God will teach the meek His way (Ps 25:9, 116:6). Scriptures say that one day every knee will bow and confess Christ as Lord Ė the good, the bad, and the ugly (Rm 14:11). Meekness is to be yielded and submissive to Godís divine will Ė a dying to self. Job was stripped of everything he owned, yet he never defended himself, but said: Job 1:21, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." The first full demonstration of meekness is to be able to surrender everything to the will of God and commit everything unto Him that judgeth righteously (1 Pt 2:23).
To be meek is to be able to take correction graciously, putting aside all self-righteousness and not to complaining under Godís chastening. Psalms 139:23-24, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." The Lordís honor is more important than your own. When the honor of God is being destroyed, we must defend His honor and His truth (Word). We must understand that meekness is not standing for our own honor. It is standing for God's honor. Meekness is also forbearance under injuries. We must be able to be reviled without reviling again. We must be able to suffer without threatening. Spiritual meekness is how we view ourselves with regards to others. Meekness prefers others above oneself. Philippians 2:3, "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves."
Jesus displayed meekness as prophesied. Isaiah 53:7, "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth." Jesus was obeying God by laying down His life, rather than justifying self or avoiding sacrifice. Christ was brought before the Roman governor and falsely accused, yet He did not open His mouth in self defense. John 19:10, "Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?" Jesus accepted His fate as Godís purposed it and there was no reason to protest. Matthew 11:28-30, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." We must ask ourselves, can we put aside our flesh and our thoughts without protest? Can we seek Godís will and follow it even if it inconveniences us greatly? Notice that Jesus said, "come unto me." Those who do not come are excluded. Those that labor and are heavy laden see their need and Christ gives them rest. Those who do not are self sufficient and do not see their need. Those who live for the flesh will continue to toil and labor seeking their will. Those who seek Godís will shall rest and be content. God dwells with him that is of a contrite (remorseful, repentant, penitant, regretful) and humble spirit and He will revive such (Is 57:15). These tremble at His Word (Is 66:2).
Hungering and Thirsting After Righteousness
Matthew 5:6, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." Righteousness is purity of heart and correctness of life. Hunger and thirst are two distinct needs that every human has and understands. The lack of either will soon weaken one and eventually result in physical death. You cannot have just one and not the other and require both to survive. The combined effect of the two produces a tireless craving and extreme yearning. Hungering and thirsting after righteousness is a continuing process that never ends and is a matter of eternal life or spiritual death. This craving follows you throughout your daily life (not just on one religious day of the week). Psalm 107:9, "For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness."
Jesus said, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness," this must become the priority in your life (Mt 6:33). The truly repentant are concerned that these spiritual needs will not be met. Thus Jesus said you are blessed in this condition because you will be filled. Jesus is the bread of life (broken body of Christ) that we must hunger after to be made righteous. John 6:51, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." Jesus redeemed us with His blood from a debt that we could not pay and gave us justification before God the Father. John 10:9, "I (Jesus) am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out (justification), and find pasture (satisfy hunger)." Nothing short of Christ's righteousness will satisfy your hungry soul Ė no good works on your part.
The Holy Spirit is the living waters that you must thirst after for purification. John 4:14, "But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." To thirst for righteousness is the desire that all things offensive to God be removed from your heart Ė to be cleansed from all sin and wickedness. Any sin in your life should be a great source of grief to you. The Holy Spirit works within to sanctify you and to lead you daily. As the Spirit leads, you must yield to Godís will as convicted. This is not becoming righteous in your own strength, but living within Christís strength, power and ability. 2 Samuel 22:33, "God is my strength and power: and he maketh my way perfect." God is our only hope to be made perfect. Psalm 63:1, "O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is." The Spirit will lead in paths of righteousness to holiness. Hebrews 12:14, "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." Those seeking righteousness apply the Word of God to their lives and gladly live within it, and only the Holy Spirit gives you this ability. That which is impossible to man becomes possible through God. Isaiah 55:1-2, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself infatness." Our hope should be Christ: 1 John 3:3, "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." If we truly love and follow Christ, then our desire will be conforming to His image. In doing so, we will soon realize that self has to die for this to be possible. 1 John 2:29, "If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him." Luke 6:21, "Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled..."
Repenting and Regeneration
John 3:3, "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." The first four beatitudes explain the work of regeneration whereby God creates in you a new heart (Ps 51:10, Ez 36:26). 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." Water baptism is symbolic of dying to ourselves, being washed and purified with the Word and then living anew for God (Jn 15:3). The old sinful man is covered over (with water) and dies. The new man in Christ Jesus emerges from the water. The old man would be that self-willed, self-seeking, rebellious, sinful person that does what is right in his own eyes. One determined to live according to his own will in a manner based upon his own fleshly desires. Romans 6:4-7, "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin." The old man cannot be salvaged or improved and must die; you must be "born again." Ephesians 4:22-24, "That ye put off concerning the former conversation (life) the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." Regeneration is an act that God alone can perform, Philippians 2:13, "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." You must yield to Him. The sinful man cannot understand repentance because it goes against his interest of self. The unconverted is pursuing the things of this world, not denying them. How can such a man grasp that all the things he lives for must be crucified and put to death on the cross? The unconverted will seek the flesh and thus be blind to the Spirit. God says we must be broken, but the lost seek self-sufficiency. TAKE NOTE: Psalms 147:11, "The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy." Its not about you or your efforts Ė God wants your brokeness and faithfulness.
When we submit to God in faith, men become equal before God. There is no advantage to being rich, influential, intellectual, strong, self-sufficient, etc. These things are actually disadvantages that must be overcome in submitting to Jesus Christ as Lord. We die to these things in yielding to Godís will. We must cast self aside and all the things the flesh seeks and elevates. Our sincere heart and brokenness before God to fulfill His purposes is what is important. This equals us all and gives no advantage to the flesh.
The next four beatitudes detail the fruits of conversion Ė evidences of regeneration. Conversion is what comes out of a man. The evil thoughts, hard attitudes, and unmerciful spirit must be converted. The work of conversion is the work of grace as well as the work of regeneration. The work of conversion is the evidence. It is the fruit. Jesus said: Matthew 7:20, "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." This new heart is seen in oneís life through oneís actions. Conversion is continuous and progressive. The conversion of the heart or the fruits of regeneration are shown in the last four beatitudes. The Pharisees (religious) so missed what God desired (Mat 5:20). They thought they had salvation due to their forced outward righteousness (they kept the letter of the law). Their hearts were unchanged. Jesus told them: Matthew 23:25-28, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." Their hearts were not regenerated and they showed no fruit of conversion. Grace, which is the circumcision of the heart, was never worked in their hearts. They had no compassion and were indifferent to the suffering of others (1 Thess 2:15-16). God puts a new spirit within you and creates a new heart (Ps 51:10). God will work in us to do His good pleasure, but we must let Him. The Spirit works on us to make us like Christ.
Matthew 5:7, "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy." Mercy is undeserved love and is one-sided love. God has shown great mercy toward us by extending forgiveness to us regarding our rebellion and many transgressions. This redemption came at a great price Ė the death of Godís only begotten son. Titus 3:5, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;" We are restored and transformed by His Spirit. We are expected to show mercy toward others. Jesus best explained this mercy in the parable of the king who took account of his servants (Mat 18:23-35). A servant was unexpectedly and totally forgiven of a tremendous debt (after showing remorse). The king had compassion on the servant. This same servant then showed no compassion on a fellow servant who owed a small debt and had him put in jail until the debt could be paid. When the king heard, he asked the servant how he, who had been forgiven of his entire debt, could do such a thing. Why he had no compassion or pity. He was then handed over to the tormentors until he paid all. Jesus then said: Matthew 18:35, "So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses." To be merciful is to show love, tenderness, and kindness to those who have come against you with bitterness and hatred Ė a heart that disposes to overlook injuries or to treat an offender better than he deserves. 1 John 4:20-21, "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also." Matthew 5:44, 46, "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?" Romans 12:20, "Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head." Luke 6:35-36, "But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful."
The Lord requires us to show mercy to those who don't have the necessities of life. Psalm 41:1, "Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble." 1 John 3:17, "But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" James 2:15-16, "If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?" Romans 11:31, "Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy." James 2:13, "For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment." When we show love and mercy to others, then have just as same as done it for the Lord. Matthew 25:34-40, "Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." All of our actions really do have consequences.
The Pure in Heart
Matthew 5:8, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." A wicked heart (Jer 17:9-10) is a mind in a state of devotion to self; a pure heart is a mind in a state of devotion to God. Jesus is our example: 1 John 3:3, "And every man that hath this hope in him (Jesus) purifieth himself, even as he is pure." The purity of Christ will cause us to see our own impurity Ė that which we have become blind to and comfortable in. When we have a revelation of Christ, then the purity of Christ truly shines into our soul, then we see the impurities of our hearts. All of the impurities found in our heart must be purged out. Revelation 21:27, "And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they (the pure) which are written in the Lamb's book of life." Isaiah 35:8-9, "And an highway shall be there, and a way (narrow path), and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there." These are those who choose to walk in righteousness and who have been redeemed from their sins (Mat 1:21). Isaiah 52:1, "Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean." The circumcised of heart (also see Deut 30:6) are those who gladly hunger and thirst after righteousness, those who understand spiritual poverty, those who have learned to mourn over sin. These are those who yield to God. Those who have been converted no longer walk in the ways of the world.
To be pure in heart is to serve God with correct motives. We must truly love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength (Mk 12:30). This love is developed as we trust and obey God in all things Ė we yield to His authority. We must never seek God with ulterior motives that are self serving. We seek to glorify God in all things by doing His will.
When the emptiness of our heart is filled with the things of this world we don't understand what it means to be purified. The ability to see God is blinded by impurities of the heart. 2 Corinthians 4:4, "In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." The desires and motives of the heart must first become pure. We must correct our attitude Ė Is it self serving? Pureness must come from a heart of love. We may not stand before God with belligerence, bitterness, false accusations, sharp tongue, and a wrong attitude. The Spirit of the Lord dwells with those of a pure heart (1 Tim 5:22). They are fully conscious of His presence. 1 Corinthians 6:11, "And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." We cannot be justified in Christ without also being sanctified (set apart - cleansed, purified and made holy). If we continue to follow the things or course of the world, we cannot claim nearness to Christ. We need the washing of the water of the Word (Ps 12:6, 51:7, Pv 30:5-6). We must desire a purging of any impurity of the heart. Note: you can have a righteous exterior, but be inwardly wicked. Satanís strongholds are set-up in the heart. After oneís heart is made pure, you have no need to argue with a man to persuade him to give up worldly entertainments or unrighteousness he takes pleasure in (i.e. television). However, before his heart becomes pure, your best arguments avail nothing. He will only think there is no harm in it and seek to justify it. The pure in heart become very guarded as to what they will allow in their hearts and are keenly sensitive against everything impure Ė for what goes into the heart determines ones nature and also proceedeth out (external actions). We live in a wicked world and must be watchful to the things which defile the mind. Even a trip to the discount store can be a spiritual minefield. Things that most find innocent will grieve the pure in heart. We are admonished to think on pure things (Php 4:8) and keep ourselves pure (1 Tim 5:22). Our very thoughts must be brought into obedience to Christ (2 Cor 10:5). Purifying the heart is a continuous process (1 Thes 4:4). The Lord is glorified only with righteousness and true holiness, submission, obedience, and reconciliation (1 Pt 1:22-23, 2 Cor 7:1). Christ has opened the gate of heaven far enough that the foremost of sinners can enter in, but that way is too straight and narrow to allow impurity. 1 Corinthians 6:9, "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?Ö"
Matthew 5:9, "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." In Paradise there was a perfect peace - between man and God and between man and creation. Due to the horrible contention and enmity which sin has brought into the world there was a great loss of peace. James 3:17, "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy." Purity (as previously discussed) must come before peace. Christ was the greatest peacemaker. Jesus brought peace between God and man: Colossians 1:20, "And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven." The Lord Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2), and He is the only Peacemaker to whom we can look for salvation. Ephesians 2:14, "For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us." The middle wall is the separation between sinners and God, and also between each of us (Gal 3:28). Ephesians 2:13, "But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ." Through the blood of the cross and the blessed sacrifice, peace was again restored for anyone who repents and believes. Look how God reaches out to us: Isaiah 1:18, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." Jesus stepped into the wrath of the Father to appease His wrath against our sins. Psalm 85:10, "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other." A just and righteous God can now show mercy to an unworthy sinner through the blood and righteousness of Christ. First we must make peace with God by laying down all our rebellion and self-centeredness Ė holding on to nothing. Secondly we must be peacemakers with our fellow man. No person can be a true peacemaker until they have undergone the work of regeneration and conversion - The heart must change to have charity (love first directed toward God and then others) Ė to think the best of everyone and desire the best for them (within Godís framework). Jesus came: Luke 1:79, "To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."
A peacemaker must guard against anger (Eph 4:26), and love their enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you (Matt 5:44). The heart of a peacemaker is: Luke 6:31, "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." When others do not treat us this way, we must not lash out in vengeance, but look to our Lordís example and take tribulation and persecution patiently: 1 Peter 2:23, "Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously." Judgment is in Godís hands. Evil thoughts and words must be purged from your heart - little sparks ignite such great fires (Jam 3:5). James 1:19-20, "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God." When someone has been taken in a fault, our heart should go out to restore such a one (Gal 6:1). We must never become self-righteous or look down upon others (Jam 2:2-4). Peacemakers acknowledge that there can only be one authority (Eph 4:15 & Col 1:18) and constantly encouraging people to walk under the Lordship of Christ (The Word) by living His words (Bible). We desire Godís will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. After all, this temporal existence is a test, if you are not walking in Godís will now; God knows you will have not such interest later. Romans 5:1, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:" 2 Corinthians 13:11, "Öbe of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you."
Matthew 5:10-12, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousnessí sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." When you become a "follower" of Christ you can just expect persecution. 2 Timothy 3:12, "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." Jesus said quite plainly, Luke 21:17, "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake." We are further told, Philippians 1:29, "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake." The truth is that if you are not suffering in some way for Christ then this could be a negative indicator concerning your relationship. Suffering and persecution can take a toll, but we are told by Jesus, John 16:33,"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." When you are walking the narrow path, the flesh will be inconvenienced and there will be a separation between light and darkness, spirit and flesh. You may lose some friends and be unpopular. Luke 6:22-23, "Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets." Family members may not embrace or be understanding of your new relationship with Christ. Matthew 10:34-37, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." We cannot have anything more important than Jesus in our lives and this will bring persecution. Luke 14:26, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."
What Does Man Teach Us?
We live in a culture that teaches, instructs, insinuates, and implies, through television, radio, magazines, newspapers, etc. the very opposite of what God desires us to be. We are told we should be proud, independent and self-sufficient. Consider how most are being led: 1) Self confidence - You can do anything that you set your mind to. Be all that you can be! Dress for success. Have a positive mental attitude. Be in charge (control). Trust in your own abilities and constantly seek to improve yourself through education, skills, and ingenuity. Mind over matter Ė thereís nothing you canít do. Beat the next guy! Dreams will come true! 2) Self sufficiency Ė Depend and rely on no one. Make your own way Ė be your own man (boss). Invest in your future. Charter your own course. Money is power. Golden rule - He who has the gold makes the rules. Be independent. Set for life Ė retire early. Dog eat dog world. Save for a rainy day. Believe in yourself, thereís nothing you canít do. 3) Self centered - You work hard and deserve the things you have. Big I, and little you. Have it your way! I know the things I like! Speedy service Ė the customer is always right. Get all you can and can all you get. He who has the most toys wins. Deny yourself nothing. Never be satisfied with second best. You deserve a break today! If it feels good Ė do it! Pay yourself first. No rewards for second best. No rules, just right (in your own eyes). Take no prisoners. Whereís the beef? 4) Be proud of yourself and all your accomplishments. Proud to be an American! Self exaltation Ė thinking of yourself more favorably than others. Iím special! I deserve better! We are the champions. I win and you lose.
The world teaches us that we must get, get, get. The Lord teaches us that we must decrease and die and come under His authority. We must not trust in ourselves, but in God alone (2 Cor 1:9, 3:5). Jesus says, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor 12:9). Our weakness is our dependance upon Him.
The other side of the beatitudes might be termed the "ME"attitudes or the way ME would have you be. Rather than blessings, these are woes (grief). This would be the way the flesh tries to reach God on itís terms. By his very nature, man wants to exalt his will above Godís. ME would have God conform to its image and serve man.
Luke 6:24, "But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation." To be rich is the opposite of poor in spirit (Pv 13:7). The rich tend to depend upon themselves (self-sufficiency) for their needs (Ps 52:7). Their confidence is in their abilities, ingenuity or resources. Jesus said, "Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God (Mk 10:24)!" Notice the words: "trust in riches" (Pv 11:28). Whereas the poor in spirit see their wickedness and need for God and are very repentant, the rich are self-righteous. The rich are very proud of their many accomplishments and are confident in their resourcefulness (Pv 21:4). Luke 1:53, "He (Jesus) hath filled the hungry (for righteousness) with good things; and the rich (SELF sufficient) he hath sent empty away." Recall the Pharisees: outwardly they appeared very righteous; they kept the law; gave to the poor; made impressive public prayers; dressed religious; fasted; and never missed worship ceremonies. Yet we are told our righteousness must exceed theirs or we will not enter into the kingdom of heaven (Mat 5:20). Until we die to self and see the need for God and yield to His authority we will never have the heart and motivation God desires. The rich have received their comfort; this is as good as it will ever get for them. Luke 18:11-12, "The Pharisee (rich) stood and prayed thus with himself (note: SELF), God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican (sinner). I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess." Notice the dependence upon self and not God. The lord said he was not justified (v. 14). The rich (wealthy, resourceful, influencial, powerful, intelligent) have the greatest need to humble themselves before Christ, yet they are the least likely to acknowledge it.
Those who Laugh
Luke 6:25, "ÖWoe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep." To laugh is the opposite of mourning. Those that mourn see the sin and wickedness in their life (and around them) and it is much grief to them. They constantly seek Jesus, who came to save them from their sins (1 Jn 3:5). They realize that only through Christ will victory be achieved. Even very small sins (thoughts, attitudes, actions) will cause distress to those who mourn. Those that laugh are oblivious to such things. (Note: These may be religious people who are active in forms of religious service). Sin is not a serious concern to those who laugh and this will be evidenced through their thoughts and deeds (fruits). They may take pleasure in unrighteousness through various daily entertainments, thoughts or conversations. They see no contradiction in seeking the things of the world. They had much rather focus on perceived liberties than sacrifices. Self-denial, obedience, forsaking, discernment, and separation are just fanaticism to them. Those that laugh want to die a righteous manís death, but do not want to live a righteous manís life. Those that laugh are not so much concerned for the sin in their life as they are for the consequences of it (eternal punishment). Those that laugh believe in God, those that mourn follow God. Those that mourn seek God on His terms; those that laugh seek God on their terms (have a form of godliness) although they assume this (blind) is also Godís terms. Those who laugh continue basically unchanged; those who mourn change considerably and continue to. Those who Laugh will eternally mourn and weep. Matthew 25:30, "And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." This is the message for those who laugh: James 4:9-10, "Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up." Pray to God that you will be able to see your sin and your need and mourn and weep greatly. Only through your heaviness of heart over your transgression will you be able to approach the Holy living God.
Luke 6:25, "Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hungerÖ" Those that hunger constantly seek to know God and have a vibrant living relationship with Jesus Christ Ė to be filled with His Spirit (1 Cor 6:19). To truly know Christ, is to follow His example down the narrow path. Those who follow will humble themselves; be obedient; be meek; will partake of Christís sufferings (2 Thes 1:5); and will be peacemakers. In other words, they will die to self and be led of the Spirit in paths of righteousness while making necessary sacrifices along the way. To be full is just the opposite (Lk 1:53). Many are content to have once made some "belief statement" and are content to sit on a pew in a religious structure while others tell them smooth messages. When discussing the Lord they will tell you, "I go to church" rather than about a personal relationship with any depth. To be full is to be unconcerned about the daily walk that one must take with cross in hand (Lk 9:23). To be full is to deny the work of sanctification the Lord wishes to do in you. Those that are full will hunger for that relationship with God when they are eternally separated. Sanctification is the act of making holy. In an evangelical sense, the act of God's grace by which the affections of men are purified or alienated from sin and the world, and exalted to a supreme love to God. Luke 12:16-21, "And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." This man depended upon himself, was prideful and lived to satisfy his own will. When we do not trust and depend upon God, the thing that we think will save us shall surely fail. To be full is self reliance for sure and is an exaltation of self. The full just do not realize their absolute need for God. They do not appreciate how far they are missing the mark and their lack of a true relationship. Psalm 51:17, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."
Luke 6:26, "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets." This is the opposite of suffering persecution or tribulation for Christís sake. Historically, false prophets have always been well received. Why? Because they tell men what they want to hear. Isaiah 30:10-11, "Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us." They cry peace when destruction cometh. Their messages appeal to the flesh, are feel good, and never require self-sacrifice or denial. Jeremiah 5:31, "The prophets prophesy falsely (feel good messages), and the priests bear rule by their means (Lord it over the people); and my people love to have it so (fleshly, content, spiritual lazy): and what will ye do in the end thereof?" A true prophet of God will always bring a message of self denial that the flesh does not want to receive. These prophets are never well received and are often mistreated, misrepresented, imprisoned or killed. A false prophet will lead you away from God into the things of the flesh and worldliness no matter how subtle. A true prophet of God will lead you to God by way of righteousness and holiness. To meet that end you will always have to deny the flesh and make self sacrifices. The Devil and his workers will always work within in subterfuge. They will come as a sheep, but inwardly be a wolf. Matthew 7:15-16, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheepís clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits." What this means is that the most likely place you will encounter such deceivers would be in a religious institution claiming to represent Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works." They gain your confidence and then lead you away from God. Many of these are just as deceived about their standing before God as those they teach. Jesus said, Mark 13:6, "For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ (saying they believe in Jesus Ė using His name); and shall deceive many." Be warned! When men speak well of you, it suggests that your walk does not bring conviction upon others and perhaps their influence has altered you. This could be because you do not confess Christ before men or that you have compromised your relationship to be friendly with the world. Matthew 10:32-33, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven." Silence can be denial!
Luke 14:12-14, "Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just." The meal is a gathering or celebration. The Bible says that it is easy to love a friend, but we are to reach out to those who hate us and mistreat us (Lk 6:27, 32). Brethren would represent those who already have the gospel. Kinsmen represent those that have no appreciation for what you are saying because you are familiar to them and they do not necessarily respect your spiritual insights - (unbelief). Thus: Matthew 13:55-57, "Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house." A second meaning to friends, brethren, and kinsmen would be that we (followers) tend to spend more time in prayer, teaching, encouraging, admonishing and proselytizing those who are close to us (that we love) and thereby neglect our neighbors who may be more needy and receptive concerning what we are saying (but are more unlovely). The rich neighbors are the self-righteous who do not see the need for Jesus in their daily lives. After all, they are a religious member of a denomination and attend services weekly. They think they are spiritually self-sufficient. We are not to expect recompense for our actions Ė not look for a fleshly benefit. Many follow Christ seeking blessings so they are blinded to sacrifice, denial and death to self. Followers of Christ are not to obligate, seek reward, self-gratification or honor from others Ė we do not build idols to ourselves. Jesus said to take the gospel to those who would welcome (receive) it. The poor are those who beg (in agony) for spiritual truthĖ they mourn over their sinful condition. The maimed would be those who have been spiritually hurt Ė maybe from the self-righteous. The lame would be those who cannot spiritually walk on their own and need help. The blind are those who are deceived (yet not self-righteous) and will be receptive to doctrinal correction. This group is misfits in the worldís view and has nothing to offer in return, yet God will be pleased to provide payment on their behalf. Jesus always cared for the lame, blind, dumb and maimed (Mt 15:30-31).
Open to All
Consider the following parable: Luke 14:16-24, "Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper." The certain man is God. The great supper is Godís provision for salvation. The invitation is Godís reconciliation (salvation) through Jesus. Those that were bidden all knew the man (were religious), but were more concerned about temporal possessions, livelihood, and relationships Ė things of the world, than with what was truly important which is a heart for God (obedience) and relationship (the great supper). The inference is similar to Esau who sold his birthright for a bowl of soup. These folks are so busy living for SELF, that they do not see the value/importance/significance of what is truly meaningful. They made light of the invitation (Mt 22:5). They did not have time (shunned) to please the Lord God and submit to His will. The things they were doing seemed much more important to them (SELF), and frankly they did not see (deceived) why these things would be offensive to God. They assumed they could serve Him in their own way and time. God was angry because this reconciliation came at a great price Ė the death of His only Son. Those invited took more consolation in temporal things than truly meaningful eternal things. God then offered the invitation that was meant for them (professed believers) to those who would obey Him (Similar to Saul and David). This group of grateful/receptive people (poor, maimed, halt and blind) has been previously defined (Mt 15:30-31). The highways and hedges represents salvation being open to all who will heed (follow) the invitation with child like faith. Unfortunately those who had been invited became eternally excluded because they did not see how precious the invitation was. One came without a wedding garment and was thrown into outer darkness (Mt 22:11-13). The wedding garment is the preparation that must be done in advance. Only through Christ can our soiled garments be made spotless.
We have examined the earthly life of Christ who is our example to follow. We have studied Christís very Words concerning what it means to have saving faith. There are many very noteworthy men in scripture and God had a particular fondness for each of them. Some of these men are Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Daniel. All of these men had one thing in common that set them apart from all others. They each had a heart toward God and obeyed His will Ė living faith. Three of them lived before the law and three during the time of the law. Let us take a quick look at their lives:
The biblical account of Enochís life is quickly to the point: Genesis 5:21-24, "And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him." Why would God just take Enoch? Hebrews 11:5, "By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God." Enoch sought God with a heart that pleased Him. He did Godís will.
Noah lived in a time when there was no law. Most did what was right in their own eyes living for their own desires and becoming totally wicked and corrupted (Gen 6:5). Noah was truly unique and must have suffered tremendous persecution for his righteousness. Genesis 6:9, "ÖNoah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God." Being perfect and walking with God are descriptive of one who has died to their will and seeks to obey Godís will. Noah was given a tremendous task. He was to build a huge boat, fill it with provisions, and receive and lodge animals from all over the earth. Genesis 6:22, "Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he." What a wonderful statement. Noah did what God required of him. 2 Peter 2:5, "And (God) spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly." Noahís righteousness and faith in God saved him physically and spiritually. Hebrews 11:7, "By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith." This earthly judgment was a foreshadowing of the final judgment. The righteous faithful will be saved and the ungodly will be removed and condemned. Noahís preaching only secured his own family. God was obviously looking for quality and not quantity. Man always seeks quantity and forgoes quality Ė opposites equal rebellion. The earth is again approaching this point of wickedness as most will not yield to God Ė they are much to busy pleasing themselves. We are required to present the gospel. God is sovereign and will move upon hearts and save souls.
God called Abram out of the country in which he dwelt to a strange land. Hebrews 11:8, "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went." He didnít question God, but just obeyed believing in Him. The Lord made a covenant with Abraham to make him a mighty nation and bless all nations through his seed (Gen 15:18, Gal 3:8). Sarai was barren. Abram and Sarai were advanced in years and God promised them an heir (a son). Romans 4:3, "For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness." Abrahamís righteousness was an obedient love for God (Gal 3:6). Hebrews 11:11, "Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised." Hebrews 6:15, "And so, after he (Abram) had patiently endured, he obtained the promise." The promise began with their son and his name was Isaac. Through Issac, Godís promises would be kept: Hebrews 11:12, "Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable." After Abraham and Sara had waited for some time and a son was born, God asked Abraham to do a hard thing Ė sacrifice his only son. Hebrews 11:17-19, "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure." Abraham did not question God, and prepared to offer up his only begotten Son for God. At the last moment God did not require it. However, God did offer up His only begotten Son for man as a sacrifice (Jn 3:16). As a man, Jesusí faith rested on the Father that He would raise Him up the third day (Lk 24:46, Acts 10:40, 1 Cor 15:4). James 2:21-23, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God." Abrahamís willingness to serve God unconditionally regardless of what he may have to suffer to do His will is the mark of a true believer. This is true faith! Todayís espoused believer wants God to serve him unconditionally as he supposes that God is eternally obligated due to his one time acceptance of Christ.
Moses was a Hebrew child who was adopted by Pharaohís daughter (Ex 2:5-10). Hebrews 11:24-25, "By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season." Moses was a man of priviledge in Pharaohís house, but gave it all up (forsook the world) for his people and Godís purposes. Moses allowed himself to be inconvenienced (denied self) for God. Jesus spoke to Moses through a burning bush as "I AM" and told Moses to represent God before Pharaoh (Jn 8:58). Moses obeyed God and was used in a mighty and miraculous deliverance (by God) of the children of Israel from the hold (bondage) of Pharaoh and led out of Egypt. Moses was as a father to the multitudes of Israelis and he put up with their continual whining, always defending them before God. Moses fasted forty days and forty nights for the children of Israel in bearing their iniquities before God in sacrificial love (dying to self, Deut 9:24-26, 10:10). Moses was a true shepherd to Godís sheep Ė seeking that which was lost. Deuteronomy 9:18-19, "And I fell down before the LORD, as at the first, forty days and forty nights: I did neither eat bread, nor drink water, because of all your sins which ye sinned, in doing wickedly in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger. For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure, wherewith the LORD was wroth against you to destroy you. But the LORD hearkened unto me at that time also." Later, Jesus (I AM) would also fast forty days and forty nights in bearing the iniquity of mankind (Christ had no iniquity) in great sacrificial love (Mt 4:2). God tested Moses with an offer: Exodus 32:10, "Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation. (also Num 14:12, Deut 9:13-14)" Moses put all self interest aside and pleaded for the people as a true shepherd (v. 11-14, also Ex 34:9, Num 11:1-2, 13-21, Num 16:20-22, 42-49, 17:10-13, 21:4-9). Moses even put his eternal security on the line (Pastors take note): Exodus 32:32-33, "Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin--; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book." Notice how Moses is a true shepherd: Deuteronomy 9:25-26, "Thus I fell down before the LORD forty days and forty nights, as I fell down at the first; because the LORD had said he would destroy you. I prayed therefore unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, destroy not thy people and thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed through thy greatness, which thou hast brought forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand (also Deut 9:18-20)." God gave the law to Moses. Christ would later fulfill the law. Numbers 12:3, "Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth." Moses was very humble and obedient to the Lord. The Lord said of Him: Numbers 12:6-8, "And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?" Moses once became angry with the whining of the children of Israel and did not exactly follow the Lordís direction (Num 20:2-13, 27:13-14, Deut 1:37, 3:25-26). The Lord did not allow him to enter into the Promised Land for that transgression. Moses did however demonstrate his love and obedience to the Lord through enduring living faith for much of his life. Deuteronomy 34:5-6, "So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day." God Himself buried Moses in a secret place. The devil even contended over the body of Moses (Jude 1:9).
God chose David to be king over Israel in the place of a disobedient Saul. The Lord sent Samuel to anoint David. Samuel thought surely the Lord would rather have his older brother: 1 Samuel 16:7, "But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart." God looks for hearts that will follow and obey His will. This applies to all of us. David walked before God with integrity of heart (perfect), and in uprightness obeyed the will of God with a whole heart and was the measuring rod for all subsequent kings of Judah (1 Kg 9:4, 11:4, 15:3, Ps 119:34). Acts 13:22, "ÖI have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will." The Lord desires those who will perform His purposes. This is how David sought the Lord his God: Psalms 119:34-35, "Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight." David wrote many Psalms describing his love, trust and whole hearted faith toward God. All of Davidís actions were not perfect, but is heart (love) and faith toward God were. 1 Kings 15:5, "Because David did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite." David was quick to recognize and repent of his transgressions before the Lord. We must all be poor in spirit, repentant and have a love and desire to perform Godís will. David also had outward righteousness manifested from the inward work that the Lord had worked in his life. He was able to say: Psalms 119:10-11, "With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." AND Psalm 18:24, "Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight." We cannot come to God proposing that we have a good heart when our lives are absent of the application (demonstration) of the faith we espouse.
Daniel was a man greatly beloved of God (Dan 10:11, 19). From a young age he chose to serve God and reject the things of the world. He refused to eat meat sacrificed to idols or the Kingís wine in favor of pulse in order to stay pure before God (vegetables and water Ė Dan 1:5-8, 12). In choosing correctly, God blessed Daniel with knowledge, skill in all learning, wisdom and interpretation of dreams and visions (Dan 1:17). Daniel made supplications for he and his people per Solomonís prayer (1 Kgs 8:46-52) even when it was against the law to pray. He was thrown into a den full of lions due to his obeying God rather than man (Dan Chap 6). God miraculously protected him in the midst and delivered him to safety. Daniel often mourned, chastened himself, fasted, repented and prayed for his sin and the sin of the people because of their transgressions and resulting captivity (Dan 9:3, 20, 10:2-3). His heart was continually seeking the Lord. He prayed to the Lord saying: Daniel 9:5, "We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments." This was a true mourning over the sins of the people. Daniel 9:7-9, "O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee. O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee. To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him." Daniel justified God even to the detriment of himself and the people and this was true meekness. He confesses to God that Israel has not obeyed him and justifies Godís judgment (Dan 9:10-12). Daniel 9:13-14, "As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth. Therefore hath the LORD watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the LORD our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice." Daniel is offering true repentance to the Lord. He has recognized and confessed the guilt in all humbleness and has justified Godís actions. He petitions God that His anger might be turned away (Dan 9:15-16). Daniel 9:18, "O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies." Notice that Daniel is poor in spirit and admits they have no righteousness and are undeserving. He falls upon Godís mercy as we must also do. Daniel 9:19, "O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name." Daniel is truly hungering and thirsting after righteousness and has just displayed the beattitudes that Jesus would later preach about. This is how we must approach God. Daniel stood up for God against an unjust law forbidding prayer (Dan 6:1-9). The penalty of disobeying the law was being thrown to the lions. Daniel chose to obey God rather than man even if it required the ultimate sacrifice from himself. It would have been very easy for Daniel to have compromised a bit and prayed in secret, but that is not an option for those who seek God through righteousness. Daniel 6:10, "Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime." Daniel was thrown to the lions in a demonstration of his faith (Heb 11:33). God honored Danielís faith and preserved his life (Dan 6:22).
Hebrews 11:13-16, "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city." Followers of Christ are strangers and pilgrims on this present temporal earth Ė just passing through. Our hearts have an eternal outlook of living faith for our Lord and a desire to be with Him Ė for all live unto Him (Lk 20:38). What can we learn from these men of old? They all had a heart for God and submitted to Him in obedience. They were meek (in Godís order) Ė consider Moses (Num 12:3) and Jesus (God incarnate, as a man Ė Mt 21:5). They put God first and sought His will.
How do we know we are Christís? We hear the Word of God and do it (Lk 8:21, 11:28)! So basic, yet so misunderstood. Hebrews 10:36, "For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise." So much religious energy is spent attempting to justify how one should really be able to remain in darkness, yet still be Christís. Wake up and repent!
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