Blessed Are The Persecuted

Matthew 5:10-12 says “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ 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.”

At first thought one might say “Only a fool would say that the persecuted are blessed.” Certainly those who are suffering persecution wouldn’t count themselves among the blessed. How then could Jesus say “Blessed are they who are persecuted?”

I must confess that I cannot speak from experience when I write an article on this subject. I was blessed to be born in America. In the years I spent on the mission field I never experienced anything I would call persecution. I don’t expect to share in any of the blessings God has for the persecuted.

Our all wise God knew that many of his people would suffer persecution. God holds in high esteem those who suffer persecution. Perhaps that is why he devoted three verses of the beatitudes to this subject and only one to the other beatitudes. These three verses are not the only ones in the Bible dedicated to the persecuted.

We find persecution in the Old Testament. Some examples are:

Elijah: I Kings chapter 19

Jeremiah: chapter 38

Danial: chapter 6

Danial’s three companions: Daniel chapter 3

In the New Testament we find that Jesus himself suffered persecution. After preaching in Nazareth we read in Luke 4:28-30 that they thrust him out of the city and took him to the brow of a hill with intentions of throwing him down headlong. Miraculously he passed through the midst of them and went his way. In John 10:31 we read that the Jews took up stones to stone him because he said “I and my Father are one.” In John 15:20 Jesus said “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.”

The early disciples were persecuted by the Jews and later by the Roman government. Persecution has been a part of the history of Christianity from the beginning until the present day.

God has never put his stamp of approval on using persecution as a means of persuading people to become Christians. Sad to say, we read in history of some groups that called themselves Christians, but they persecuted unbelievers and even Christians if they left their group. In so doing, they brought disgrace upon themselves. Freedom of religion has always been taught and practiced by genuine Christians.

Hebrews 11:34-38 lists the persecuted among the heroes of the faith. “Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” They deemed the excellency of Christ of more value than their own life.

Christians suffer persecution for more than one reason. Those who live a consistent Christian life put sinners to shame. Sinners don’t feel at ease in their presence and good Christians shouldn’t feel at ease in the company of sinners. Satan has blinded the minds of unbelievers. II Corinthians 4:4 says, “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.” They can’t see that Christians enjoy a serenity that the unbelievers don’t have. Christians have direction in their lives that helps them avoid pain and shame that others suffer from because of foolish mistakes they make. Rather than recognize that Christians are right, the unbelievers ridicule and persecute them.

Other persecutors are adherents of a religion that is advanced by force rather than by persuasion. People are given the choice of either accepting that religion or accepting the consequences. The consequences are most often death. The adherents of this religion are encouraged to praise, honor, and exalt those who kill the most people. The abundant satisfaction of sexual lusts in heaven is promised to those who kill those whom they call “heretics.” I would rather think that they will be given a special place in the fires of hell. Most of the persecution Christians suffer today stems from this religion. It is a serious mistake to let a religion that believes in making converts by means of the sword take advantage of our freedom of religion.

The Bible says that God promises a special place in the kingdom of heaven to those who suffer persecution. Twice he says they are blessed. He says their reward in heaven will be great. It is doubtful that anyone ever seeks to be persecuted, but there are those who choose to accept persecution rather than deny their Lord. Because of that, they shall be among the most richly rewarded in heaven. Jesus was contemplating the rewards that will be given in heaven to those who are persecuted when he said “Blessed are they who are persecuted.”

The power to take revenge is not given to those who are being persecuted. It is human nature for us to question why God allows it to go on. Only God has the right to take revenge. It appears as though it will go on until the end. In Revelation 6:9-11 Christian martyrs asked why God allowed persecution to go on. “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.”

(16)

Where Are The Peacemakers?

Matthew 5:9 says “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” But, Were are the peacemakers? We need them.

Our country is plagued by trouble makers. When the citizens of our country don’t speak out against them, in reality, they are giving their approval. A country overrun by troublemakers will end in chaos and ruin. Trouble makers must be confronted by peacemakers.

With which group do you prefer to be identified with, the peacemakers or the trouble makers? There may be something to be gained by being a trouble maker, but it isn’t a virtue. What troublemakers do is always at the expense of others. On the other hand, there is much to gain by being a peacemakers and it won’t be at the expense of others. To the contrary, it will be to the benefit of others, even the trouble makers.

The Bible has nothing good to say about trouble makers. In Acts 17:5 we find an example of what trouble makers do. “But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.” Notice that they are called “lewd fellows of the baser sort.”

It doesn’t take an education to be a troublemaker. Some of them have never been able to get a job and provide for their own needs. In our day there are those with an irrational ideology who are willing to pay them well for demonstrating in the streets. There they can get paid well for using their dirty mouth to cuss, criticize and condemn those who seek to do right.

The Apostle Paul prophesied that in the last days we will see what we see happening in our day. II Timothy 3:1-7 says, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” In this list, I don’t see any group I would care to be identified with. Among them are those who have “a form of godliness.” In our day we have some who are called Reverend ….., but there is no indication that they are on God’s side of the issues.

In Matthew 5:9 Jesus promised that the peacemakers will be blessed. II Timothy 2:24 says, “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient.” God’s people are to be characterized by being peaceful. Christians believe that every individual, regardless of his skin color, is unique, special, and has great dignity.

Matthew 5:5 has something good to say about the meek. “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” Meekness should be another characteristic of God’s people. When we find the word “meekness” in the Bible it means a humble and quiet spirit that accepts what happens without resisting and disputing. That is almost the opposite of what troublemakers do. If things don’t go their way, they are quick to take revenge. Some take it as a mandate to riot, even loot and burn. Such behavior doesn’t make friends or convince anyone that they are right.

There is a story that is told about George Washington Carver. It is an excellent illustration of meekness. George Carver was an African American scientist, inventor, and educator. He was born in the days of the Civil War. In spite of his humble birth, he rose to be the president of Tuskegee College in Alabama. I don’t remember where I read this story about him, but I have no doubt that it is true. One day he was walking down the street near the college when a white lady sitting on her porch saw him go by. She called out, “Hey black man. Come over here.” He stopped to see what she wanted. She said, “I need to have someone mow my lawn. If you do a good job, I’ll pay you for it.” With no protest, he asked her to get out her lawn mower for him. After he finished the job she was impressed with the good work he did and paid him for it. She said, “Do you live around here? I just might want to have you work for me again.” He told her that he lived over at the college. She asked, “Oh, are you a student?” He said, “No. I’m the president of the college.” When she heard that, she was embarrassed and ashamed of the way she had treated him. She apologized. She was a wealthy woman. A few days later she gave a considerable amount of money to the college and continued to contribute. It was the reward for the meek and quiet spirit of George W. Carver.

Adverse race relations are a grievance among people. There is never a good excuse for it. When I was in seminary we lived for a year or more in what was known as “the colored district” of Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was no hardship for us. We made friends with some of the people there. None of them were our close friends because they had a different live style than we did. That wasn’t because of the col0r of their skin. We have had some close friends who were African

Americans.

Did God do wrong when he made people of different skin colors? I can’t believe that he did. Malachi 2:10 says, “Have we not all one father? Hath not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?” I Corinthians 4:7 asks a question that deserves an honest answer. “For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?”

Again I ask, where are the peacemakers? Are you one of them? It can’t be denied that racism exists, but God hates those who perpetuate it. If you have a negative attitude toward those of a different skin color, ask God to forgive you. Matthew 7:12 says, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” Be among the blessed. Be a peacemaker. “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God”

God looks with favor on the peacemakers and pours out his blessing on them. You will gain far more by being a peacemaker than you will by being a troublemaker.

If you have questions or comments you can send them to our E-mail address. rusandmargaretgeorge@windstream.net

(15)

The Pure In Heart

April 29, 2017

The Pure in Heart

Matthew 5:8 says “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” The Bible has a lot to say about the heart. The word appears 916 times. There is no way we can enjoy a good life without a healthy heart. Proverbs 4:23 tells us that the issues of life proceed from the heart. “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” For that reason, we need to give close attention to the condition of our heart.

In medical terminology the word cardiology refers to the study of the heart and its functions. The word is taken from the Greek word Kardia which means heart. That is the word in the Greek New Testament that we find in Matthew 5:8. Some doctors specialize in treating people with heart problems. They are called cardiologists. Our heart condition demands special attention both medically and spiritually. That is why Proverbs 4:23 tells us that we need to guard our heart with all diligence.

Jeremiah 17:9 says “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Fortunate is the person who is aware of that. We can know if our physical heart is functioning normally by means of a blood pressure monitor. We don’t have any mechanical way to check on the condition of our spiritual heart. That is why David, in Psalm 139:23-24, prayed “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.” Jesus also warned us about the dangers of a bad heart. In Matthew 15:19-20 he said “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.”

If our physical heart isn’t functioning normally it is serious and we need to be under a doctor’s care. In like manner, we need to be concerned about our spiritual heart condition. The issues of life stem from the heart. There is no beatitude that says “Blessed are the well educated.” A careful monitoring of the spiritual heart condition should have priority over a secular education. Many of our modern colleges are duming down students. They graduate from college with no moral values and are incapable of thinking for themselves. It isn’t long before many of them are involved in corruption and crime.

Purity of heart enables us to make right decisions in life. We chose to do right, not because we fear the consequences that will come from doing wrong, but because we want to do right. [See the article on Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness.] We feel constrained to do right because of our love for Christ. II Corinthians 5:14-15 says “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.”

Blessed, highly favored, are those who have a pure heart. He is the blessed man of Psalm 1:2-3. “His delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” Another advantage that is promised is that he shall see God. Those words are a Hebraism that means to enjoy being in the presence of God. It doesn’t mean that he shall see God with his eyes, but he shall be conscious of the presence of God with him.

There are numerous advantages to having a pure heart and no disadvantages. There are many disadvantages to having a dirty heart and no advantages. Keep your heart with all diligence.

(14)

The Way Of The Merciful

April 17, 2017

The Way of the Merciful

Matthew 5:7 says, Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.”

Merciful people can’t see people hurting, or in a predicament, without wanting to help them. The good Samaritan, in Luke 10:30-37, is a good example of a merciful person. “And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.”

If we follow the golden rule in Matthew 7:12 we can’t help but be merciful. “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” Jesus said that by doing this we will fulfill all that the law and the prophets demand of us.

It is our selfish nature that gets in our way and hinders us from being merciful. When we see someone with a need, Satan is quick to put in our minds a reason for not helping them. The following are some of the first excuses that come into our mind:

* “I’m too busy.

* “I don’t have time.”

* “I can’t afford to.”

* “He is no friend of mine.”

* “Let someone else help them.”

To be merciful nearly always demands a sacrifice. The two most common sacrifices are time and money. When David sent some of his men to Nabal to ask him to be merciful to him and his people he responded by saying “Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be?” (I Samuel 25:11) He was a rich man. It wouldn’t have been any sacrifice for him to share some with David, but his selfish nature hindered him.

To be merciful also includes thinking of the well being of others. Maybe they aren’t hurting or in distress, but we need to ask ourselves “Are my actions placing a burden on others?” It may be that you have a habit of leaving your things scattered around the house for someone else to pick up and put away. Maybe you have a dog that barks at night and hinders your neighbors from sleeping.

Our duty to be merciful is clearly taught in the Bible. The words mercy or merciful are scattered throughout the Bible all the way from Genesis to Jude. We bring shame and disgrace upon God if we aren’t merciful.

Merciful people find satisfaction in helping others. They look for ways to show mercy. They are quick to share with others. When I was a boy growing up on the farm we had a neighbor who had a blade on the front of his tractor. He knew we didn’t have a blade on our tractor. After a snow storm he often came and plowed out the road into our house. We didn’t ask him to do do it. He just did it. There is a satisfaction that comes from being able to do for others what they can’t do for themselves.

To be merciful is to be godlike. God is rich in mercy. Ephesians 2:4-5 says “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)” There is no greater example of mercy than that which has been shown by God. It was the love and mercy of God that moved him to give his Son. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” It was the mercy of Jesus Christ that moved him to give his life as a sacrifice for us. Titus 3:5 says “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.”

God promises to pour out his blessing on the merciful. Our text from the beatitudes says “They shall obtain mercy.” If we have been merciful to others, God will see to it that we obtain mercy when we need it. Many times we don’t receive mercy from those to whom we have shown mercy. Maybe we will, but if not, God will send others across our path to show mercy to us when we are in need of it.

The most difficult assignment regarding being merciful is no doubt the teaching in 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.” The coals of fire means that we make them ashamed of themselves. If we know that someone hates us it is extremely easy to say, “Why should I show mercy to him or her?” The good Samaritan showed mercy to a Jew. John 4:9 says “For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.” No doubt this Samaritan was aware of that, but Luke 10:33-34 tells us what he did for this Jew when he found him in misery. (See these verses at the beginning of this article.) He didn’t stop there. He left the innkeeper with money to take care of him.

It is our duty to be merciful, not just to those from whom we have good reason to think that they would be merciful to us. It is from the Lord that we shall obtain mercy. That takes faith plus sacrifice. Be merciful and claim the promise of Luke 6:38. “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” God may use you to be merciful to others who have been merciful to others who have been merciful to others.

(10)

Blessings Promised to the Meek

In Matthew 5:5 blessing is promised to the meek. “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” Meekness and humility are brothers and sisters. They are in the same family. To be meek is to be humble. In writing about meekness, I’m also writing about being humble. The two words are almost interchangeable.

In writing articles about the beatitudes, I anticipated that writing about meekness would be the most difficult. We all face the temptation to exalt ourselves. We all want to be praised. Asking God for meekness is seldom included in our prayers. How often do you ask God to help you be humble. If we only knew what is included in the blessing God promises to the meek, we would be more diligent in asking God to help us be meek.

Perhaps the meek will receive the richest blessing God can bestow upon us human beings. More than once we read that God promises to exalt the humble. Luke 14:11 says “For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” Again in Luke 18:14 we read “Every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” God also promises to abase those who exalt themselves. If we expect God to complete his promise to the humble, we better believe that he will also abase those who exalt themselves.

Yes, we like to be exalted, but we like to think there must be a better way to achieve it than by being humble. We put forth the utmost exertion to do that which is commendable. We want to be among the brave, or make notable achievements in life. In so doing, we expect to get the praise of men. We are often satisfied with that. No doubt the blessing of God on the meek is something much more to be desired if we only knew what it was.

There is much that we can learn from Christ about meekness. In John 8:50 he said he sought not his own glory. “And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.” He sought not the praises of men. He didn’t get much of it either when he was here on earth. To the contrary, he was known as the meek and lowly one. Matthew 11:29 says “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.” Philippians 2:9-10 says that because Jesus humbled himself he was highly exalted. “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth.” Humility comes before exaltation.

In Matthew 6:1-2 Jesus warns us of the danger of seeking the praises of men. “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.” Jesus said “They have their reward.” By that he meant, that’s all the reward they are going to get. It is hard for us to comprehend that God is capable of exalting us much more highly than men can. I Corinthians 2:9 says “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”

The meek and lowly in this life are often overlooked; sometimes even disdained. Genuine Christians should recognize and respect them. Even so, they may not choose them as their mentors and seek to follow their example. Among the surprises awaiting us in heaven will be to find that there are those who have been more highly rewarded than those who distinguished themselves as great servants of God here on earth. They were the ones who were willing to remain behind the scenes and do the dirty work of keeping church floors clean. It might be that they were the ones who walked the dusty roads, knocking on doors, leaving gospel tracts, and an invitation to consider their need of salvation.

God doesn’t overlook the meek. Most often the exaltation that God has for the meek will be in heaven. He says “They shall inherit the earth.” During their days here on this earth they often felt left out. Most commentators say that the earth promised here will be the new earth spoken of in Revelation 21:1. “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.” There have been many humble believers who passed through this life without ever having a home they could call their own; much less an acreage. In the new earth they may have an extensive piece of land and a home of their own. It isn’t a promise of Scripture, but the old hymn “A Child Of The King” says “A tent or a cottage, why should I care? They’re building a palace for me over there!”

Every time we read in the beatitudes, “blessed are…” we need to stop and take heed to who the blessed are. What God promises to them far exceeds anything this world has to offer. Galatians 6:7-9 says “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

Note: In writing this article, I was greatly helped by what I learned from reading the book: “Humility” by Andrew Murray. I read the book twice and made notes on each chapter the second time I read it. In your pursuit of meekness you could be greatly helped by reading the book.

(18)

A Fervent Desire to Acquire Righteousness

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled”

(Matthew 5:6).

When we acquire what we desire we are satisfied. That is what the word “filled” means in this verse. After eating a good meal we are satisfied. Some of us eat more than we should, but that is just because the food still tastes good. When we have enough food in our stomach our desire is turned off. It will be back again after a few hours.

Unfortunately, some people have inordinate desires. They aren’t seeking after that which is legitimate or good for them. Parents have to teach their children to eat, and then what to eat. If they are allowed to choose their food preferences they may just eat sweets. God also wants to teach his children to seek after what is good for them.

Some people set their hearts on reaching a goal in life, but after reaching the goal the glory starts to fade away. An author may spend a year or more writing a book in hopes that it will be a number one best seller. Even if he achieves his goal, the book won’t stay on the best seller list very long. A young man may have a goal of being a mountain climber. He has read about a mountain whose peak is sometimes hidden by the clouds. Few people have succeeded in reaching the summit. He is careful about what he eats. He dedicates himself to exercise to strengthen his muscles. He studies to learn the techniques of mountain climbing. He dreams of the thrill of reaching the summit and looking back to where he came from. He looks forward to seeing what’s on the other side of the mountain. Let’s suppose the day comes when he succeeds in climbing that mountain. Then what? When he is reunited with his friends and family he can say “I did it.” But then what? The glory will soon fade away.

That isn’t so, however, with those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. There is always more ahead. Those who are in the right relationship with God will seek things which are above. Colossians 3:1-4 says “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” That doesn’t mean that they are, as some say, seeking “pie in the sky by and by.” The pursuit of righteousness will enable us to live better in this life and also enjoy the added blessings God will give us when we get to heaven.

Proverbs 14:34 says “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” Anyone with a minimum amount of perception can see the truth in that verse. The lack of righteous in a nation results in crime and violence. Our nation is hurting more and more because a growing number of people are seeking their own selfish, often fleshly desires, and not what is best for those around them. We do good for ourselves when we seek the good of others. When we do, there is peace and harmony in our marriages, in our homes, in our schools, and in our work relationships. The one who has a hunger and thirst for righteousness has an ardent desire to do right. He reads his Bible to learn what is right. He prays and seeks God’s will about the right thing to do.

We often see advertisements on television that are the reverse of hunger and thirst for righteousness. They try to sell a product by showing a woman dressed inappropriately. It attracts the eyes of men and excites a desire for illicit behavior. The desire of the advertiser is to get money; not to produce a thirst for righteousness. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves if we buy the product that is thus being advertised.

Proverbs 4:23 says “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” If our heart is right we will seek that which is right. A neglected heart is in danger of being filled with inordinate affections. He who hungers and thirsts for righteousness will do what Colossians 3:5 tells us to do. “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Inordinate affections give us a moment of satisfaction, but then we pay for it with pain and shame. We often hurt others also.

God promises satisfaction to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. In Psalm 75:10 he also promises to exalt them. “All the horns of the wicked also will I cut off; but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.” The word “horns” means power and authority. That is even more reason for hungering and thirsting for righteousness. Are you doing it?

(14)

An Introduction To The Beatitudes

Matthew 5:1-12

The beatitudes were written by Jesus for his disciples. The fact that they are included in the Bible gives us reason to think that they are meant to be for his disciples in our day as well. No doubt Jesus taught his disciples many things that aren’t included in the Bible.

To be a disciple of Jesus is to be a learner of his. Jesus taught the beatitudes to his disciples while they were seated on a mountain. Matthew 5:1-2 says “And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying…” In that time it was the custom for teachers to sit while they taught. No doubt the ones being taught were also seated.

To be a disciple meant to be a follower. That meant that they followed the teaching of someone. In II Corinthians 11:1 the Apostle Paul asked people to be his followers. “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” If we are followers of a man it doesn’t mean that we accept his teaching as divine. Since Jesus was God, we should accept his teaching as divine. Therefor to be a follower of Jesus demands a higher level of submission.

The beatitudes are lessons in regard to the attitudes we should have in regard to certain issues of life. There are times when we are obligated to mourn. It is never a pleasant experience. There is a right and wrong way to react to it. The wrong way is with anger. Some turn their anger towards God. Some direct their anger towards the doctor or others who did or didn’t do what they could have or should have. Anger doesn’t change the reality in any way and increases the stress that we suffer.

The proper attitude for the Christian to have in time of mourning is to call upon God for the consolation that only he can give. II Corinthians 1:3-4 says “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” We must accept the fact that God has the right to take our life, and that of others, when he chooses. The proper attitude in time of mourning will greatly minimized the grief that is always part of suffering loss.

We also need the proper attitude regarding ourselves. Romans 12:3 says “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”

The meek don’t think of themselves more highly than they should. The meek are not easily offended when someone is preferred above them. They find it easier to give thanks to God in everything. I Thessalonians 5:18 says “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” The meek have the attitude that enables them to accept and adjust to the situations they face in life.

We also need to have the right attitude in regard to righteousness. A disregard for righteousness causes many to do things that get them in trouble. There are no laws against doing right, but there are against doing wrong. Many times doing right demands more effort and sacrifice, but in the end we will be rewarded for it. The attitude we should have enables us to say, “I’m going to do what is right regardless.”

Persecution is another issue that demands that we have the right attitude. If we have surrendered our life to the will of God he has a right to allow to come what he wills. Psalm 37:1-3 tells us what our attitude should be when we suffer because of evildoers. “Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.” The time will come when God will settle his accounts. At that time the evildoers will be cut down like the grass and wither. The time will also come when the righteous will receive the desires of their hearts.

God hasn’t promised to any of us that our life will be a bed of roses. Some suffer because of the wrong they have done. Bad things also happen to good people. The beatitudes help us have the attitude we should have as we go through life. The attitudes taught in the beatitudes will enable us to rejoice when we should rejoice and endure and go on trusting God in times of suffering. The beatitudes will enable us to be properly armed for what may come in life.

(26)

Blessed Are They That Mourn

The second beatitude says “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4)

That statement appears to be a contradiction. Is there anything good about mourning? Is it ever a pleasant experience? Jesus tells us that there can be blessing in mourning. We need to inquire into what he meant by that.

The loss of a loved one is not the only time Christians mourn. If we contemplate the bliss we could enjoy in this life if everyone was surrendered to the will of God, we would have reason to mourn. We have to wait until we get to heaven to enjoy that bliss. We now live in a fallen world. We suffer from the wicked deeds of those around us. The farther people get from God, the more crime and unrest there is.

We mourn because people all around us are suffering. Sometimes they suffer because of the behavior of their loved ones. Christians suffer because their loved ones leave God out of their lives and aren’t enjoying the peace, comfort, and divine direction they could have if they would only let God have his way in their life. Parents and grandparents often suffer because their children and grandchildren have dropped out of church and have adopted a sinful life style. For the same reason marriage partners often suffer.

Some might have reason to question the teaching that God is love. I John 4:16 says “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” They might ask, “If God is love, why has he brought this grief into my life?” It is in times of grief that we learn to appreciate more than ever the love of God and others. God hasn’t promised that this life will be a bed of roses for us. John 16:33 says, “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.”

If we have the right reaction in times of grief and loss we will be rewarded with the blessing that God has promised. Job showed us the proper reaction. In Job 1:21 he said “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.” Isaiah 61:1-3 has some comforting words for those who mourn. “ The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.”

When Christians are in a loving relationship with the Lord they have access to a wealth of comfort and consolation in times of mourning. The assurance that there is life after death gives us hope and consolation. I Thessalonians 4:13-14 says “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” Our God gives us a measure of consolation that no human being is capable of giving. II Corinthians 1:3-4 says “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” Psalm 34:18 says that God is neigh unto them of a broken heart. “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” God also wants to use us to give comfort and consolation. It is our responsibility. In Isaiah 61:2 we read these words “Comfort all that mourn.” When Christians suffer the loss of a loved one they are comforted, not only by family members, but also by the love of their church family.

Bereavement and mourning isn’t something we wish for ourselves, but when it does come, God’s people are blessed above others because of the comfort they receive. That’s why you need to be a part of the family of God and of a Bible believing local church. God takes care of his own. His heart is touched when we mourn. You can be a part of the family of God by asking God to forgive you and make you a part of his family because of the sacrifice Christ made for you when he died on the cross. John 1:12 says “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”

(72)

The Blessed Poor

March 9, 2017

The Blessed Poor

One of the beatitudes says “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3). This sounds like a contradiction. What is blessed about being poor? We need to find the right interpretation of this beatitude. Jesus didn’t say anything that doesn’t make sense. If we go to the Greek to find the meaning of the words “blessed” and “poor” it appears to be an even greater contradiction.

The word blessed means to be highly favored. It was used to speak of the one that others looked up to with envy and said “I wish I was as fortunate as he is.” The word poor speaks of those who had little they could call their own. They were often dependent on the mercy of relatives and friends to supply their needs. Some sat on the street begging.

To find a logical explanation of this beatitude we need to look at it in the light of our relationship to spiritual things. Jesus said the poor “in spirit.” If those two words were left out we might have reason to accuse Jesus of having said something that didn’t make sense. If we take into consideration the words “in spirit” there is more than one explanation of this beatitude.

This beatitude could be applied to the one who stands at the threshold of becoming a child of God. He has heard that Jesus gave his life as a sacrifice so that he could be forgiven by God and be received into the family of God. He has come to the realization of his poverty in relation to spiritual things. There are many who trust in their own merits. They think “I have done a lot of good things. That should count for something.” Such people are ignorant of, or haven’t accepted the teaching of the Bible that says that we don’t get to heaven by our own merits. Titus 3:5 says “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.” The blessed one in this beatitude is the one that has come to the reality that God has every right to condemn him. In fact John 3:18 says he is already condemned. “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

This man is blessed because multitudes don’t have the understanding that he has. They go on with their life being ignorant of, or indifferent to spiritual realities. They are still under condemnation and destined for eternal damnation. This man, however, has come to the realization of his spiritual need, and is at the point of asking God to forgive him and accept him as one of his children.

Another explanation of this beatitude is that it refers to the genuine Christian who is in the right relationship with God. From his study of the Bible he realizes that he is dependent on God just as the beggar is dependent on the mercy of others. A genuine Christian is one who has submitted his life to God and is willing to obey him. He doesn’t sit back and wait for God to provide for his needs. He has read Proverbs 13:4 and knows that God expects him to provide for his needs. “The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.” At the same time, he realizes that at any time God could take away his ability to work and provide for his needs.

The obedient Christian looks to God for direction and wisdom in making his decisions. He has read Jeremiah 10:23 that says, “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” He is humble and recognizes his need of God and the help of others. He never gets to the place where he is self – sufficient and doesn’t need God. He continually trusts in God as it says in Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

The man who is poor in spirit is blessed because of what God does for him each day. Psalm 37:3-5 says “ Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” In this beatitude the promise is that the poor in spirit shall have a special part in the kingdom of heaven. Heavenly rewards shall be ours for all eternity. No one will take them away from us. Their value will far exceed anything on earth that we deem valuable. The poor in spirit have surrendered their life to God. They are willing to be used of God and let him make of them what he wants .

(38)