Monday, August 28, 2017

The SCRIPTURAL STAIRWAY To HEAVEN: The BEATITUDES as found in MATTHEW 5 - PARTS 1 & 2

The following is a revision and summary presentation of two articles in the TTUF study of MATTHEW CHAPTER 5 (to read the full study in Ch 5, go here). This article itself is divided into two parts for your convenience, in bookmarking it once you complete the first half.


~ ~ ~ ~ PART ONE ~ ~ ~ ~

What does the word ‘beatitude’ actually mean, have you ever wondered? One rendering says, “To be supremely blessed, consecrated, and holy, in a state of bliss”. 
Those who follow the truth as expressed by the LORD in this chapter will certainly know (even if they don’t understand) this bliss and peace; yet there must be no mistake: in order to follow the Truth Incarnate, His Spirit must be the one to empower and enable them by indwelling their person! 

Christianity is not, and cannot (successfully) be a mere philosophy or a set of principles for ‘moral man’ to abide by. The one statement alone, made by our LORD should put an end to any such endeavor: MATT 5:48

Christianity is “Christ in us, the hope of glory” (COL 1:27; 2 COR 4:6-8)! Certainly the principles laid out by the LORD here are absolutely contrary to the philosophy of this world (1 COR 2:13) which is ruled by Satan, and is why the kingdom of God and Light is diametrically opposed to the world’s view (and why the true church that lives by the Spirit of God is so hated by those of the world):

JOHN 3:18-20
18 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.
19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved

In these chapters, the King of Israel is laying down the holy law that applies in His kingdom, specifically in the case of Matthew’s account, the kingdom as it pertains to Israel and the Davidic covenant. This perspective will aid us in understanding many of the verses recorded in this section (Ch’s. 5–7).

Dr. Scofield comments:

“The Sermon on the Mount has a twofold application:

(1) Literally to the kingdom: In this sense it gives the divine constitution for the righteous government of the earth. Whenever the kingdom of heaven is established on earth it will be according to that constitution, which may be regarded as an explanation of the word ‘righteousness’ as used by the prophets in describing the kingdom (e.g.) ISAIAH 11:4-5; 32:1; DAN 9:24. In this sense the Sermon on the Mount is pure law, and transfers the offence from the overt act to the motive: MATT 5:21-22, 27-28.

“Here lies the deeper reason why the Jews rejected the kingdom. They had reduced ‘righteousness’ to mere ceremonialism, and the Old Testament idea of the kingdom to a mere affair of outward splendor and power. They were never rebuked for expecting a visible and powerful kingdom, but the words of the prophets should have prepared them to expect also that only the poor in spirit and the meek could share in it (e.g.) ISAIAH 11:4. [PSALM 72 speaks of that] . . . which was universally received by them as a description of the kingdom . . . For these reasons, the Sermon on the Mount in its primary application gives neither the privilege nor the duty of the Church. These are found in the Epistles. Under the law of the kingdom, for example, no one may hope for forgiveness who has not first forgiven, MATT 6:12,14-15. Under grace the Christian is exhorted to forgive because he is already forgiven, EPH 4:30-32.

“(2) But there is a beautiful moral application to the Christian. It always remains true that the poor in spirit, rather than the proud, are blessed, and those who mourn because of their sins, and who are meek in the consciousness of them, will hunger and thirst after righteousness, and hungering, will be filled. The merciful are ‘blessed’, the pure in heart do ‘see God’. These principles fundamentally reappear in the teaching of the Epistles.”

Let’s come before the LORD Jesus as He takes His seat and teaches us in this sermon . . . on the mount.

MATTHEW 5:1-2
And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

The LORD sees with His holy eyes, two groups of people here: the multitude, and His disciples. As He ascended a mountain (a mountain is often symbolic in Scripture for a kingdom, and in this case, representative of the kingdom of heaven; see DAN 2:35,44-45) He sat down, and His disciples came to Him and He taught them – that is, His disciples who looked for the kingdom of heaven to be established (this was in a very profound sense, a ‘pre-church’ time period!).

In today’s church one can hardly find the preaching of the unadulterated Gospel of Jesus Christ, with the essentials of repentance, surrendering one’s life wholly, continually to the LORD, and living the crucified life of self-denial – so that Christ may be manifest more fully in us and receive the glory (GAL 2:20); this aspect of Christianity – the life of the Cross is what discipleship is all about!

MATTHEW 16:24-25
24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

For an excellent book on True Discipleship, may I recommend William MacDonald’s work.

The other aspect of true discipleship is that we shall have such a love for one another as saints of God, that the quality of such will be indistinguishable from the very love of Christ for us (JOHN 13:34-35), because it’s the same love as by the Spirit of God in us! Astonishing!

Paul Washer talks about true discipleship in a video, here (1 hr 15 mins 20 secs). 

Here begins the Sermon on the Mount and our LORD teaches what is called the Beatitudes. As followers of Jesus what should be ‘our attitude’ in life and our daily conduct? 

The greatest in the kingdom would be the one that fulfills the spiritual truths of these verses in their lives in the greatest capacity. None fulfills them better than the LORD Jesus Himself (even verses 3 and 4? I will address this a bit later) – He is the standard, the measure of true holiness by which any that would claim to be holy should look to for comparison. 

The verses following are excellent as a kind of ‘spiritual barometer’ to determine where we are in the level of maturity we have (or not) in the LORD. Other such passages are 1 COR 13:1-8 and GAL 5:22-23.

Every stairway is comprised of steps, and if we would get to the upper room, we need to begin by taking the first and lowest step. We cannot leap to the middle of the stairway, or strive to reach the highest step first. We must reach the top by taking that lowest step first - and in this sermon by the LORD, on the mount, He relates these steps for us, beginning at the lowliest and most humbling place: this is the real and scriptural stairway to heaven!

MATTHEW 5:3-4
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

How blessed to overflowing are those who are poor in spirit – does this sound like a contradiction to you? One would suppose the LORD would have said, “Blessed are those who are rich in spirit . . .” but this is not the case.
Exactly who would qualify as being “poor in spirit” and what does this mean exactly?

Spiritual impoverishment is something that all of humanity suffers from because spiritual wealth – holiness, purity, beauty, truth, peace, grace, wisdom and knowledge (and so very much more) are all held in the treasure houses that is God’s own heart! 

But as sinners, sold under sin, in bondage to sin, we are separated from God (and all of the spiritual wealth inherent in His being), we are such poor and beggarly creatures that not only are deficient of such blessedness and riches, but also have the very perverted perception that ‘true riches’ are all about sin and sinful lusts and practices (that old ‘sex and drugs and rock n roll’ or even the devilish idea that ‘it’s MY life and I will live it as I see fit, and if God doesn’t like it, TOO BAD!’).

How then can we who are in such a deplorable condition ever think to be “blessed”? The LORD said of such that “. . . theirs is the kingdom of heaven”!
Of course, it’s those who come to the realization, by the conviction of the Holy Spirit (JOHN 16:7-11) that they are in such a state. In life, knowing and admitting that one has a problem is the first step in getting it solved.

If we humble ourselves by admitting the truth, by such a confession of our guilt, and with genuine repentance the LORD will honor such and respond (LUKE 18:9-14; JAMES 4:9-10; 1 PETER 5:4-6). 
Conversely, the religious who are sure of their supposed right standing before God, those who are rich in themselves and not of God, those who by pride in their religious accomplishments and deeds – these are those who will never share in the kingdom of heaven (See LUKE 18:10-14 for an example of both kinds of people, the humbly repentant and the arrogantly self-righteous). The LORD will address this religious pride later on in this sermon.

This leads us to the second verse in our study – “blessed are they that mourn . . .”

This mourning is not merely regret or ‘feeling bad’ about wrongs committed by ourselves. This sort of grief is far deeper than that. The Greek word pentheo describes the kind of "passionate grieving associated with the death of a loved one, or the destruction of one’s homeland".
It is a grief that encompasses the entire being until the entire consciousness is consumed by such. It is not emotionalism – that would entail the idea that we are made sorry by an appeal to our emotions via the soul (the seat of our emotions) rather than an appeal to the truth of God’s Word convicting our hearts (the central and essential being of who we are).

Such mourning over our sin – for the extreme offense it causes the Holy God Who created us, and for the spiritual poverty and death it has wreaked in our lives – is what this passage is addressing (See also 2 COR 7:9-10).

As the model and holy standard for these beatitudes, the One Who alone was able to claim to fulfill the Law; how would the LORD be described as someone who is spiritually poor and in need to mourn for such?

While the LORD Jesus would not Himself have any spiritual poverty of His own, and thus no need to mourn for such a non-existent deficiency, He is our sin bearer and mediator – thus for our own sake, He became poor (2 COR 8:9) and a Man of sorrows (ISAIAH 53:3). 

For such sinners then as we, who express this brand of deep, genuine, whole-hearted repentance in acknowledging their sin and seeking for God’s forgiveness, these shall “be comforted” that is, they shall “called near, invited, invoked by imploration, . . . to beseech, comfort, exhort; to call to one’s aid”. I am reminded of the LORD’s own words:

MATT. 11:28-29
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 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 (see also JOHN 7:37-38).

To comfort those who mourn is specifically a Messianic mission as spoken of in ISAIAH 51:3, 11-12; 61:2-3
Such ministry was to be a part of the rule of the Messiah in Israel, and such would have been the case had the Messiah been received two thousand years ago; but because He was rejected nationally, such ministry is postponed until later (at the Second Advent) when the LORD Jesus will inaugurate His reign alongside of His Gentile bride (the church; MATT 16:18).

In the meanwhile, the ministry of the LORD involves comforting those who mourn for their sins and bringing assurance to those who have humbled themselves before Him in a spirit of meekness, that such will inherit the earth!

MATTHEW 5:5
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Satan took away the stewardship of the earth from Adam who lost it when he fell into sin, and thus subjugated himself and the human race under the enemy’s power. Those of this world are ever seeking power and ruler-ship in this world over cities, districts, regions and nations, and now a global oligarchy is assuming power over the entire planet. 

Each of these have used power to take what they would (Nietzsche’s own philosophy of “the will to power) without any appeal to a higher authority to bequeath such, but seizing upon it for themselves and their own selfish agendas. 

Suppose you were the son of David Rockefeller or one of the Rothschild’s – imagine the sort of inheritance you would come into upon their death as their Last Will and Testament was read! Yet as the result of the New Testament (or Covenant; see JER 31:31; HEB 8:8) we have a far, far greater inheritance (ROM 8:17; COL 1:12) than the mere pittance acquired from the aforementioned trillionaires!

The Maker of heaven and earth will simply deliver this world into the hands of . . . the powerful? The proud? The arrogant? The selfish? Those that deem themselves gods? No – but to the meek (PSALM 37:11). Again, observe how diametrically opposed God’s ways are to the ways of this Satan-inspired world! How grateful I am that they are! 

Meekness is not weakness by any means! In the Greek it refers to: “mildness of disposition, gentleness of spirit, meekness." It means "to be ruled by God".

Meekness toward God is that disposition of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting. In the OT, the meek are those wholly relying on God rather than their own strength to defend them against injustice. Thus, meekness toward evil people means knowing God is permitting the injuries they inflict, that He is using them to purify His elect, and that He will deliver His elect in His time (ISAIAH 41:17).”
~ Quote from Scofield’s Commentary on Matthew.


The Messiah, the majestic God Incarnate, Who spoke all of creation into existence with only His spoken Word (thus demonstrating only one aspect of His omnipotence) could have wiped the universe out with another spoken Word when the Roman soldiers scourged the flesh from His bones, plated that crown of thorns on His Holy Head, and nailed Him to that rough hewn and blood stained cross – but He endured those things with meekness.

Great power under total control is part of this meekness; another is absolute surrender to God, leaving our own lives in His capable hands and looking to Him to address wrongs done to us, injustices suffered by us, sufferings endured and dire circumstances placed upon us and doing nothing to defend or save ourselves from such things that are entirely out of our hands any way. The LORD Jesus modeled this for us perfectly!

As the meekest Man in all the world (MATT 11:29), the LORD Jesus shall inherit all the domains of creation as KING of Kings and LORD of Lords – and we shall partake of such at the grace of our LORD as we exhibit this quality of meekness. In such meekness, there is a rest from strife, from self-preservation, and burdens to ‘fend for ourselves’.

MATTHEW 5:6
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Previously I wrote an exhortation FROM the MIND of FIRE entitled A Passionate Thirst for God; please feel free to check this out as we continue in this study of The Beatitudes in Matthew’s Gospel.

Since much has been stated already in the FMF article above, let me simply say this (as I have quite often before): In a world of empty, sinful mirages, amidst the barren bleak deserts of parched souls – there is an O.A.S.I.S. Only the Almighty Savior Immanuel Satisfies.

We are not merely physical beings; otherwise physical things would satisfy us – but they don’t ultimately.
We are not merely mental or emotional beings; otherwise intellectual and experiential things would satisfy us – but ultimately, neither do these satisfy us (PROV 14:14). 

We are spiritual beings: beings who because of sin are suffering from broken, ruined spirits that are incapable of anything at all in regards to responding to and receiving the LORD.

If you are thirsting and hungering in life, if you find that there is ‘something missing’ (despite the fact that we have tried everything this world has to offer) but the answer proves elusive, know that it’s because you are at heart a spiritual being, and nothing can ever satisfy you except the spiritual, and such spiritual satisfaction can only be acquired through the One Who created your spirit – the LORD Jesus Christ:

JOHN 4:13-14
13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this [physical] water shall thirst again:
14 But whosoever drinketh of the [spiritual] 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.



~ ~ ~ ~ PART TWO ~ ~ ~ ~ 

So far we have observed these spiritual steps: that (1) the poor in spirit will mourn over their condition, and as a result of (2) being comforted, they are grateful, worshipful and (3) full of meekness to the LORD Who has saved them. As a result of this comfort and salvation we find that we are no longer thirsty or hungry for the things of this world – but only such appetites that find satisfaction in the LORD Jesus the Righteous, the Bread of Life Himself is what (4) we hunger and thirst for more of! 
See ISAIAH 61:3 and 2 COR 9:10 to observe trees and their fruit of righteousness. 

God’s desire is that His righteousness would ‘branch out’ (every pun intended!) into all aspects of our lives! The blessed benefits of the righteousness of Christ in our lives as seen in: 2 TIM 4:8; JAMES 5:16; 1 PET 3:12; 1 JOHN 2:1,29

MATTHEW 5:7
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Those of us who have received the grace, mercy and peace from the LORD Jesus Christ have our lives so transformed, that we become a merciful people, people of tender mercies and loving kindness – even to our enemies, having the very character of Christ working in our hearts to fulfill all of His will for us, and through us! In sowing such mercies, we reap more mercy in abundance.

See 2 SAM 22:26; PSALM 41:1-3; 112:4-9; ISAIAH 58:9-11; MATT 5:44.

Remember that justice is getting what you deserve.
Mercy is the opposite of justice: it’s not getting what you deserve.
And grace is getting something that you don’t deserve.

The unrepentant sinner will receive God’s justice on Judgment Day, and will perish forever in hell! Justice.
The repentant sinner will be spared from God’s justice and will not perish in hell! Mercy.
The repentant sinner will not only receive the mercy of God, but also the grace of God, both via the LORD Jesus Christ – and be blessed by an eternity in heaven as the LORD’s gift of salvation; salvation from hell and for heaven!

Having received this mercy from God, and the Spirit that is working in us along with the Word of God, the ministry of sanctification is operative in our lives – working out the things of the old man, and instilling in our minds that which conforms us to the image of Christ in the new man (EPH 4:22-24).

We become purer of mind just as we have been made pure of heart (having that “new heart” as a result of our spiritual rebirth; JOHN 3:3-5; 1 PETER 1:23; EZEK 18:31; 36:26).

MATTHEW 5:8
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

No one can see God and live according to EXOD 33:20. In our natural state, such a visitation would prove our undoing.

Our Father dwells in heaven (MATT 6:9) and only those who are pure in heart will see Him in the Kingdom that the saints shall inherit; thus the need for the spiritual rebirth, without which no one will enter or even see it! 

This perfection (of purity) is something so entirely alien to our humanity, though mankind strives to obtain it for himself by education, philosophy and esoteric knowledge, by medical and nutritional technology, through exercise; through the obtaining of monetary wealth and power, and what not. 

He is destined for failure in as much as he himself is a failure – a ruination of sin and all the destructive influences contained therein. Were God to enforce the Law that demands such perfection, aside from any aid or intervention on His own part, we would be utterly hopeless to ever see God in His glory.

Therefore God determined by His foreknowledge of all that would transpire from that point of transgression at the tree of knowledge of good and evil that by grace we would be saved (2 TIM 1:9; TITUS 3:5-7; EPH 2:8-9), and not of works – because no one can in fact, boast of their accomplishments which are absolutely void of any element of goodness and holiness. 

We will never know complete purity experientially while on this Earth, but one day we shall be complete in Christ when we see Him (1 JOHN 3:2) and on that day, we shall experience for the first time in our lives that complete and entire purity that is unmatched by any other, save for the One Who’s purity has been granted to us!

That which was impossible under the commands of the Law, are now possible by the efficacious grace of God delivered to our hearts by the LORD Jesus Christ and His blood atonement and His Spirit! PSALM 24:3-4; ISAIAH 1:25-26; 1 TIM 1:5; 5:22; 1 PET 1:22; also EPH 5:27; HEB 9:22-26; JAMES 1:27; 2 PET 3:14

Purity of heart is not a religious drudgery but life and joy and peace in the Holy Spirit! ROM 14:17; 15:13

For those who know the mercies of the LORD and that such mercies are provided in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and knowing the blessedness of the purification process performed in us by the Holy Spirit, we saints endeavor to proclaim this good news to all far and near, heralding the reconciling peace that God offers to fallen man. Thus we become peace makers.

We continue now learning from the Messiah and hear the Kingdom message He declares. Once again we must recognize that the Kingdom of heaven is in a very real sense, a sort of sub-set or division under the over all Kingdom of God. In the Kingdom of heaven there are wheat and tares; there are good fish and bad, there is “the enemy” – hardly what one would think should be present in such a kingdom. 

Yet we understand that this Earth is polluted by such things, though God is present (behind the scenes as it were) and working to accomplish His objectives which will ultimately bring the Messiah King back to this rebel planet known as Earth, ruling and reigning and ‘cleaning house’ as it were of all things that offend.

This will become quite observable once the LORD Jesus Christ returns and commences the Kingdom given back to Israel in fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant, the veritable “kingdom of heaven” itself!

So as we learn more of this Sermon on the Mount, let’s not forget that though these Scriptural truths are entirely applicable for learning by us saints, who are of the church, its primary focus is in fact the Kingdom of Heaven, the reign of the Messiah and Israel in her glory during the Millennial reign . . .

MATTHEW 5:9
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

The world, for all its pretense of worship of God in the myriad of religions that span the horizons, is in actuality at war with the true God and proves their satanic origins. Religion is incapable (as is man himself) of creating a nature and a life that God would approve of. Religion at best can only reform; only the Spirit of God can transform. 

I love John MacArthur’s address on this issue of just “Two Religions”. Did you realize that in all the wide world, there really are only two religions? It’s true; have a listen to ‘Johnny Mac’ in this short video explaining the truth of just Two Religions, based on GAL 6:11-16.

This enmity will culminate when the Beast of Revelation leads his armies into Armageddon (that is, the Valley of Megiddo, which I myself have seen twice now; perhaps the third time it will be from the heavenly mezzanine! See REV 16:12-16; 19:20-21; ISAIAH 10:28-34; 63:1-6; ZECH 12:1-14) to destroy Israel, only to witness the intervention of the Messiah, the LORD Jesus Christ at His Second Advent.

The utterly ridiculous will then occur – the Beast and his armies will actually turn their weapons upon God. Holy incredulity will bring laughter from the lips of our LORD who will then express His derision and begins to destroy the blasphemous edifices of man’s world system (PSALM 2:1-12; 9:6-20).

JAMES 4:4
4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

ROMANS 5:9-11
9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

ROMANS 8:6-8
6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 
8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

Becoming citizens of heaven by the spiritual rebirth in Christ, we are now warriors of God that wage holy battles against Satan and his principalities and powers (EPH 6:10-18). We are also ambassadors to fallen humanity, seeking for the enmity between God and man to be dealt with, and relieved, so that reconciliation and peace with God may be experienced by those who surrender themselves at the Cross (2 COR 5:18-21; HEB 2:17; ROM 5:1-2).

It’s a sobering thought that as God’s peacemaking ambassadors, we shall one day be removed from these hostile territories that continues unrelentingly in its war and strife against the LORD. One of the first courses of action taken when one nation declares war on another – is the removal of its ambassadors and shutting down their embassies. 

Once we, the church of the LORD Jesus Christ depart from this world in the rapture (1 THESS 4:16-18; 1 COR 15:51-57), God shall finally declare war on this Satanically inspired world-system that will openly defy Him by worshiping His enemy, the fallen cherub Lucifer (ISAIAH 14; EZEK 28) also known as Satan.

Yet even in the midst of such terrible judgment, God will temper such with grace and an opportunity for peace and reconciliation in turning to Him for salvation (REV 7:13-15). God will commission yet more peacemakers to herald the Gospel of the Kingdom with the two witnesses and 144,000 Jewish evangelists (See REV 11:2-4; 7:1-9)!

The peacemakers of God are the Gospel heralders of God, for it’s only by the preaching of the Gospel and believing from the heart in the LORD Jesus Christ and His atonement for our sins that peace with God can be obtained (ROM 5:1; 10:15; EPH 6:15). However, as mentioned already, this dark world, filled with dark souls, have no desire for the Light and hate the Light as well as those who bring the Light of God to them (MATT 5:14; PHIL 2:15), thus the peacemakers become the persecuted.

MATTHEW 5:10
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The LORD ends this portion of His sermon where He began it – at the kingdom of heaven; at the beginning He spoke of those who are poor in spirit, and here He speaks of the persecuted who suffer such because of righteousness.
The righteousness of Christ imputed (ROM 4:11, 22-24) to such who are poor in spirit, thus making them rich spiritually (REV 2:9) is something that is despised by this world because of its pride and insistence in providing their own (dead) works for salvation – the quintessential element of self-righteous religion and works of the flesh (ROM 8:7-9; GAL 2:16; 5:18-20). 

I find it ironic that Christians who proclaim the Gospel of grace, and profess quite readily that they themselves are sinners who in their own right are deserving of hell (1 TIM 1:14-15) and but for the unmerited favor of God, and having received the gift of eternal life are labeled by the world as ‘self-righteous'! The very opposite is true!

Those engaged in ritual, ceremony, works, penance, mystical exercises, and all other religious forms that demand self-effort in order to achieve by their own merit the rewards, in view of such persuasions are the truly the self-righteous ones quite simply because they look to themselves for provision of righteousness!

In these days of increasing ecumenicism and a push towards a one world religious system, any exclusive claims made by any religion must be deleted in order to fit in to this global apostate ‘church’ and yet Christians declare that it’s only through Christ Jesus that salvation and righteousness may be obtained. This is a non-negotiable that will (and has already the world over) earned the church persecution by the hands of those who despise such grace (HEB 10:29).

The LORD states that those who are persecuted are “blessed” and this truly is our inestimable estate because of the reward we shall receive for enduring such “light afflictions” patiently (See HEB 11:36-40; 1 PET 2:19-21; 2 COR 4:16-18).

He goes on in the following verses in Matthew’s Gospel:

MATTHEW 5:11-12
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

We know that the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our LORD (ROM 6:23), and that gifts are different than rewards obviously. Gifts are freely given at no charge to the recipient, but rewards are based upon merit.
While all saints will be granted access to heaven by grace and receive the blessedness inherent in that glorious place, not all saints will receive equitable levels of rewards but such will be based on how faithful we’ve been in conduct, in service, in the very worship of God by self-sacrificing our lives for the furtherance of the kingdom of God as well as dying to self that Christ may be glorified in us (See 1 COR 3:6-15; DAN 12:3; MATT 10:42; 25:23; LUKE 6:35; ROM 2:10; EPH 6:8; 2 TIM 2:12; also see various crowns earned for faithfulness: 1 COR 9:25; 2 TIM 4:8; JAMES 1:12; 1 PET 5:4; REV 3:11).

It’s imperative to understand however, that any rewards we are given for any service done, any suffering endured, any stand for righteousness we may exercise is to bring glory to the LORD and not ourselves, because it’s only by the Spirit of the LORD we accomplish these things. His divine love shall motivate and enable us to work such exploits for God!

Even in the giving of rewards there is a considerable measure of grace, for without the grace of God operating in yielded hearts intent on obedience to the LORD (1 COR 15:10; HEB 4:16), such works would prove impossible for us creatures made of dust.

1 COR. 13:1-3
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

REV. 4:9-11
9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,
10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

Please note that for the cause of Christ in suffering persecution, our LORD states that we will receive, not merely “reward” but “great reward” comparable to the prophets of old, like Isaiah (who was sawed in half for his holy testimony to the truth) and all the others who were likewise persecuted, even slain for righteousness sake! 

The “evil speaking” against us that accompanies persecution should be false of course; as false as the witnesses against our LORD who couldn’t even agree among themselves what exactly He supposedly did that was sin (MARK 14:55-56). The LORD challenged His enemies to point out any sins He committed that could be used against Him (JOHN 8:46), but they couldn’t name a single sin or fault – I wonder what my enemies could say about my own testimony for the LORD?

Finally its been said by many, especially by those here in America who observe such worldliness and carnality in the church, that we need some persecution to purge out these heinous things and be purified. 

The sentiment is well received by yours truly and I know what those who say such things mean by them, but persecution in itself does not and can not purify. People of opposing religions have persecuted each other for centuries and this has done nothing to purify and make holy and clean such religious adherents. 

Some believe that before the LORD can return, the church must be so purified so that she will be presentable to Him. Yet, it’s the blood of Jesus Christ, shed for the remission of our sins and that bestows the garments of salvation that makes us presentable, not suffering or suffering persecution (REV 19:7-9; ROM 3:25).

Persecution (and suffering in general) is but a tool which the enemy would use to destroy the saints, but it’s rather more effectively and marvelously used by the LORD for His own purposes of purifying His people (JOB 23:10; PSALM 66:10-12; ISAIAH 48:9-11; MAL 3:2-4; 1 PET 1:6-7; 4:12-14,16,19). God alone works purification and sanctification by His Spirit, not by the deeds of sinners who persecute saints.

What persecution does is, it allows the saint to re-focus their attention and their hearts on the LORD and away from worldly pursuits and desires that would cause lukewarmness to set in; that refocusing in the midst of such hardships like suffering persecution is what is effective in the lives of believers who become ardent and persistent in their seeking God at such times. 

Thus ends this study on the Beatitudes - I pray that it has edified the saints. As stated previously, this is actually a segment from the expositional study on the Gospel of Matthew as found on The TRUTH Under FIRE.

Friday, August 18, 2017

CLASS: “Authentic” Youth Ministry


Here is yet ANOTHER post NOT written by yours truly (why is it every time I say that, I keep hearing applause??)


This article is by Greg Reid
www.gregoryreid.com

I came from an unconventional background, and I lived an unconventional life and did unconventional ministry. I was an unconventional child, much to the concern of my very conventional parents. I tried to re-bury worms when it rained one day because they were coming out of the ground and I thought they would be cold. I cried for hours when I was 6 when I couldn’t find my neighbor friend, and my mom told me he had gone to Washington. She couldn’t figure out why I was so upset…till she figured out it was because I knew Washington was dead, and I thought she was trying to find a nice way to tell me what happened to my neighbor…

I remember my friend David had been brought in as an elder at our church and he kind of defined unconventional. He challenged “doing church as usual,” urged compassion for the less fortunate and irked people who felt inconvenienced by “problem people.” I heard about one meeting where the leadership was discussing whether to help “that family” again since they always seemed to be in need. 

David responded, “I know! Let’s just chain them to their beds so they can barely reach their food!”  I would have loved to have seen the shocked expressions…

At one point one of the other elders looked at David and said, “You don’t color between the lines, do you, David?” “There’s lines?” David asked in astonishment.

I get David. I get loops, cliffs, turnarounds, but lines? Not really.

I am allergic to “how to” things – especially “how to” youth ministry books. They’re kids. They don’t color well between the lines either, so I figured, let’s just get ‘em to color. If we get them to do Jesus colors, the lines will come.

Some years ago, God set me in the midst of a group of some of the most unconventional kids you could imagine: “barely saved,” as some would say – still smoking, sometimes going on drinking binges, often cussing, ripped jeans, pierced, tattooed and earringed, kids who often went home to abusive parents, occult families or just the streets. I wasn’t prepared for them – but I was completely prepared – to try to steer the  Jesus bus in the chaos and pain and crazy lives of my young passengers. I understood their hurt – the abuse, rejection, loneliness, crushing sin addictions.  
What I didn’t know was, how do I act around them? How should I talk, dress, behave? Do I become super-parent, taskmaster, schoolteacher or buddy, pal, “one of them?”
When in doubt, ask.

“So what’s the best advice that you can give me?” I asked one of our guys that was most honest and understood my heart.  He said, “Don’t blow your class.” I understood immediately. At that time, I was 33. I wasn’t 15 or 18. Or 40. Or 80 or whatever. I could look or act old or like a child but I was still 33.

Recently, we endured what I call the “Rob Bell glasses phenomena.” 


Note to readers from James - watch this video:
Rob Bell-Beware of this false teacher!

Video (15:08 min) by Todd Friel of Wretched





Rob Bell, the author and later off-the-reservation theological pariah, wrote a millennial-appealing book and did some DVD’s and soon became the de facto role model for a whole new generation of young youth pastors in the early part of the millenium. Soon, everyone was buying Rob Bell glasses, dressing neo-preppie college cool, speaking in short sentences punctuated with angst and profundity followed by long pauses, waiting for the heavy truth to wow the crowd. Short, round bar table to replace the dreaded and outdated pulpit,…iPad and/or MacBook replacing the Bible, which was found on the iPhone app… These guys were plugged in, wired up and ready to go…nowhere…which is where Bell went before plunging off of Heretic Cliff. It was all questions, relevance, the hip du jour trends…and eventually became Emergent Soup, leaving a lot of pretty sincere young youth leaders embarrassed by Bell’s betrayal and having to “rethink” coolness as calling and connecting. All of it was, in the end,  simply the sound of fashion, signifying nothing…

And I think we all go through this stage when we’re younger as we’re trying to find our identity. But really…seeing 70-year-old evangelists with a ‘fro…no.

The Impact of our ministry to youth is not the clothes we wear or the hipness we try to exude. It’s in the depth of our message and the realness of our love and care. If “imitating culture” was the trick, John the Baptist was a total failure. Wearing camel hair and chomping on locusts – definitely uncool.
On the other hand, we don’t want to alienate the culture either.  Missionary Amy Carmichael did the unprecedented when she began to wear the traditional woman’s Sari dress so as to better fit with the people she longed to reach for Jesus. western dress had tagged her as an imperialist privileged person. Wearing a Sari said, “I do care not to offend you. I do want to identify with you..”
It’s hard to find the balance. I think it is partly in Paul’s “I am all things to all men, that I might by all means save some,” (1 COR 9:22) and “whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 COR 10:31).   It’s not to impress. It’s not to be cool. It’s not to be something else. It’s to do what God wants.

And that’s almost always just about matters of the heart. If you’re insecure, you might tend to act and dress to impress. If you were the uncool kid, you might act and dress to PROVE you’re cool. I pray God gives you the grace to avoid all of these things. Just be who God made you to be!
Here’s one key: Paul said, “By the grace of God, I am what I am.” Simple, isn’t it? There’s no trying, no struggle, no regrets and no one-upmanship. I am just who He made me to be. Be imitators of Christ, not of the world, not of the culture, not of the newest hip worship leaders or motivational “preacher.” Be who God made YOU to be.

I don’t know who said it, but I’ve taught it to many, many of my youth over the years (if it’s you, let me know and I will credit you, because it’s just so great!) but here’s the best bit of advice I’ve ever heard on this:  “Be who you is, because if you ain’t who you is, you is who you ain’t.”
A
s youth pastors, you may be expected to dress up for church events: when you preach, when it’s a special event like Christmas or Easter. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by showing up in ripped jeans and an old Iron Maiden t-shirt. “But I’m not a coat and tie guy!” You’re missing the point. You are all things to all people so you can by all means save some. Even church folks. Get it? It’s not about dress. It’s about the heart. You showing up in radical youth clothes on Sunday is a message: “ I don’t care what you think.” That’s a pretty good way to cut short your stay as a youth pastor.
Tattoos aren’t a great way to “relate” either. I know everyone is getting them. And I will leave the debate about whether it is scripturally allowed or not for another day. I do have a couple of thoughts, though. One, remember that when you get older, everything shrivels and sags and colors fade, and your radically awesome angel will eventually resemble a chunky midlife hippie with receding hair and mysterious lesions on his face…

And if you are getting it to impress others with your coolness, why? And if you’re getting it to impress kids in your youth group with your coolness, how does that model Jesus, bring them closer to Him? How does it model separation from the world? Just a thought for those honest enough to ask themselves these questions. Simply put, what is your real motive?

So how do you dress and still be yourself? Well…dress like you dress, unless (1) It’s offensive or (2) You’re asked to dress otherwise. Other than that, my best counsel is this: dress to minimize attention to YOURSELF. Don’t let anything distract from the message of Jesus. You’re a vessel for the glory, don’t TAKE the glory. It’s ok to look nice, or fun, even hip, but don’t dress to impress. Dress to decrease so He might increase. That means not being decked out in Armani everything and Ft Knox gold hangings that get more comments than whether your message changed anybody. And don’t dress like a slob either. It’s not grungy or classy that counts but what is in your heart’s motives, and whether you are working to become the backdrop to the real star of the show – Jesus.
In the end, kids won’t remember your cool tattoo much. (Unless if was a cheaply done lion head that now resembles a leaf…) They will remember some of your messages, many of your out of the pulpit words, some simple but profound words from God, but mostly, whether you really loved them, and were there for them in that crucial and painful time called adolescence. But most importantly, your prayer should be that they will remember Jesus.

Be who you is – uniquely, warts-and-all you – and avoid the traps of dressing or talking or acting like a kid to impress them with how well you can “relate.” They will see right through it. They’re not looking for someone LIKE them to party with them, but someone different from them to LEAD them. 

Don’t stoop to the world to find tricks to impress or clothes to draw attention to yourself. Help youth step up to the kingdom world where it’s not what you wear, but who you are in Jesus that is all that matters.

Don’t blow your class.
Gregory Reid
www.gregoryreid.com

For more on youth ministry according to Greg Reid, check out this article as well:

YOUTH PASTOR or YOUTH DIRECTOR?

Another note from James, for more about this, check out this article regarding who you are in Christ, your spiritual I.D. as it were:


IDENTITY INDELIBLY in CHRIST

Saturday, August 5, 2017

JEWELS From The GOSPEL Of JOHN: JESUS KNOWS ALL - JOHN 4:16-19

JOHN 4:16-19
16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.

17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:
18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.
19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.

The LORD Jesus is having a dialogue with the Samaritan woman. Thus far, He has asked her for a drink and she has become somewhat contentious, asking why He, a Jew, would have anything to do with her, a Samaritan - to say nothing of the social barriers that were in place between men and women.

He then mentions this "living water" that He offers to those who ask Him (vs. 10), to those who recognize Him for Who He is. She is still thinking in the natural however, considering the advantages of such water that would enable her to never "thirst again", but nevertheless is soliciting this from the LORD (vs. 15).

It is here that He beckons her to go and get her husband. Note that: the LORD is interested not only in this woman's salvation, but also that of her supposed husband. That is the heart of the LORD. The salvation of souls, as well as the redemption of entire families as each member places faith in Christ for themselves (ACTS 16:31), an institution that He Himself created (GEN 1:22) - and this institution is being dismantled today in the politically correct methods of perverting this sacred entity into forms that are both confusing and counter-productive if not to human proclivities, then to God's plans.

The woman then replies, indicating that she has no husband - and she isn't lying! As the LORD Himself reveals, she has had FIVE husbands, and has apparently given up trying to find the perfect man to marry, and is instead 'shacking up'. 
Again, this is the way of our modern society as well. For whatever reasons, more are living together, and by the biblical standard, committing fornication.

Sex is not dirty - it was created by God for man and woman, not only to instill a matrimonial union through intimacy, genuine love, caring and commitment to one another, but from that blessed union, create a family. Sex is not an amusement to be proliferated freely with just anyone, but with one and only that a person vows to remain committed to for life. This vow is ably fulfilled but only by those who possess the Spirit of God Who alone can enable us to fulfill it according to His approval. But I digress . . . 


Jesus knows her, knows all about her and her entire life, from birth to death and beyond (JER 1:5). This is the focus then of today's devotional instruction.
We as saints, true born again believers in Christ by grace and faith may on the one hand take profound comfort in this truth. At the same time, this truth should instill in us a sense of humility and reverence.

We derive comfort in knowing that no matter what trials, struggles, heart-ache, depression, loneliness, injustices, what have you - Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith knows all about it. In fact, long before we ever encounter these difficulties, long before God even created all things, He knew of every circumstance and situation we would ever face: and in His grace, mercy and almighty power and wisdom, provided an answer to these dilemmas. All He asks is that we trust Him, wait upon Him, and receive - in His time (whether that time is here on Earth or in eternity) - the answers.

We have comfort in knowing that the Almighty is All-loving towards His children (JOHN 1:12) and wholly trustworthy. Because of His Almighty power, we have confidence that He is able to do ALL things for us; because of His nature of love and holiness we know He has the purest and best motivation in His provisions for us, to the glory of God.

We should also have a deep sense of humility and reverence for the LORD because of His omniscience ("all-knowing") ability. He knows not only what we say and do, but what we think, perceiving even more deeply than we ourselves are able, the deepest intents, inclinations and motivations of our hearts. Consider Peter's denial that he knew the LORD, even when he vehemently denied beforehand that he would ever do such a thing!
He did deny the LORD, and Jesus knew he would (MATT 26:34-35).

He knows all that we do in ministry to the LORD, His church and this lost world. He knows our works (REV 2:2,9,13,19; 3:1,8,15) and will reward faithfulness (not necessarily success; see MATT 25:21,23) in such service that is according to His will and plan for our lives (JOHN 15:1-10).


We ought to examine ourselves (2 COR 13:5) and seek the LORD on issues of our hearts (HOS 10:12), allowing His holy light to shine into the deepest recesses (HEB 4:122 COR 4:5-6); and reveal that which brings offense to His Holy and tender heart, and implore Him to purge us of these things (2 TIM 2:21).
Jesus knows what we do in the dark, when no one is watching. The enemy whispers in our minds, "No one will ever know . . . "


And of course that is a bold faced lie - God knows and sees all! Even if no one else knows, the One Who is the MOST IMPORTANT will know, and this should inspire in us a kind of holy dread and fear of God (ISAIAH 66:2) as well as for the deplorable sinful nature of our fallen state (ROM 7:18).

I think it was John Wesley that said, "Give me 100 men that fear naught but God and sin, and I will overturn England!"


The lost souls of this world should rightly fear God in the deepest sense for His absolute and undeniable knowledge of all that they say, do and think. Unlike the saint of God, they have no refuge in which to hide from the judgment of God, but must face the Holy Law of God and be utterly condemned by it - no matter how moral or religious or righteous (in their own eyes or in the estimation of others) they may be.

A friend of mine told me he was sharing the Gospel with a stranger he met at a coffee shop and when he pointed out the demands of God's Law for sinless perfection, he asked what he would do once he faces God on Judgment Day. This stranger replied, "Oh, I'll just lie to Him."

Utterly blind!


There is only one refuge, one source of salvation, one means of a safe retreat from the incontestable, incontrovertible Judgment of God and that is the atonement for our sins through the act of grace by the LORD Jesus Christ on Calvary (ROM 5:1-16), Who bore not only all of humanities sins, but also God's Holy Wrath upon those sins (ROM 8:2-3)!! He willingly offered Himself (JOHN 10:17-18; PHIL 2:6-8) on our behalf, to suffer and die for our sins (which rightly would render to us eternal death and separation from the ONLY Life Source in all creation - God Himself). Yet not only did He pay the price for our sins, He then offers to us ETERNAL LIFE by His Spirit of Life. Our Blessed Redeemer!

By this paramountly priceless act, through His precious blood, He delivers to us this deliverance from sin, death and hell, transforming us from condemned sinners into consecrated saints! 


Are you saved or not? Jesus knows.
For those of you who are not yet saved, answer this call to repentance, for today is the day of salvation for you (2 COR 6:2)!

For those of us who are already saved, remember that in the very steps and course of your lives: all the blessings and burdens, from the heights of joy to the depths of sorrow, and every experience in between, Jesus knows!
Let us trust ourselves to and rest in the everlasting arms, and in those nail-pierced hands that created the universe with such omnipotent power and yet handles us with the tenderest of gentleness.