09/17/2017 = Nehemiah 8 = Always Being Reformed: “Sola Scriptura”

Clicking HERE will allow you to HEAR this message.

Mark Wheeler

Nehemiah 8

Always Being Reformed: “Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)”

09/17/2017

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Grant, Almighty God, that as we are at this day tossed here and there by so many troubles, and almost all things in the world are in confusion, so that wherever we turn our eyes nothing but thick darkness meets us, O grant that we may learn to surmount all obstacles and to raise our eyes of faith above the world, so that we may acknowledge that governed by [Your] wonderful counsel is everything that seems to us to happen by chance, in order that we may seek [You] and know that help will be ready for us through [Your] mercy whenever we humbly seek the pardon of our sins, through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. (John Calvin, prayer for faith from his Commentary on Lamentations 3:39)

 

Suppose the Mariners win enough September games to put them in the post-season (it is still feasibly possible). And in the first division playoff game Nelson Cruz slams a line-drive that hits the top of the fence and ricochets over centerfield into the stands. The Mariners fans cheer, Cruz pumps his fist as he rounds third base, and the umpire calls it a Ground Rule Double!  What?!

Cruz comes screaming to Homeplate, the coach comes running out of the dugout, and the ump stands his ground. Who’s right? Does anyone know? Who’s got the ultimate authority?

Well – there’s a MLB Rule Book that the umpire is supposed to know; and every baseball field also has their own rule books. Are you ready? The local homefield rules must always comply with the MLB rules, but in the case of “Ground RuleDoubles, the MLB bows to the particular home field rules.

 

Today’s sermon is called Sola Scriptura! The Bible Alone is the authority over what is righteous and what is not!

 

Last Sunday we started our Fall sermon series recognizing both the chasm created by, and the theological correction offered by, the 16th Century Protestant Reformation. I confess that this series will be a little less “preachy” and a little more “teachy” but the history that leads to today’s context and the theological discussions that inform that history, I believe, are vitally important.

This Fall marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. So, like I did last week, let me set the background (those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it – well, we’re going to repeat it so that we’re doomed to know it!):

500 years ago, 1517, was a world in which the printing press had only very recently been invented and put to use. Prior to 1440 literature in the western world had to be hand copied, page by page, word by word, letter by letter. You can imagine how time-consuming it would be to make a copy of a book. And what book was copied most? The Bible. (Sidebar note: the Chinese had invented a wood-block printing press some 600 years earlier, but it was so cumbersome it was still only rarely used.)

Because of how laborious it was to copy a book, very few people owned their own Bible. It would just be way too expensive. (Remember what Gothic style Cathedrals look like? What do their windows dispolay? Stained glass windows was the Church’s way of providing Bibles for the masses!) But after 1440, Gutenberg’s invention made printing books much more affordable! And, of course, his most famous book is “the Gutenberg Bible” – worth well more than $2 million today.

 

It was just a generation after Gutenberg’s invention that a German Roman Catholic was born who grew up into his divine vocation as a RC priest. Father Martin Luther was priest at Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. And history was changing right before his very eyes.

 

In the pre-Reformation Church, the Bible was widely recognized as authoritative for faith and obedience, as the rule for faith and life. In 21st Century America (and Europe) the Bible is more questioned and ridiculed than it is read and obeyed, but that was not the way it was in Europe in the 16th Century. But the Christian world of Europe did offer another challenge to the Bible as our main authority – that was the Church itself.

One of the main teachings of the Church of that time was that it was impossible to be saved outside the Churchnot outside the Christian faith, but salvation was understood to be impossible without the sacraments of baptism, eucharist, penance, etc.

So, in 1517, when Father Martin Luther read the New Testament book of Romans (and other Bible passages) not only could he not defend that view, he found no evidence for it at all. Here is what Romans alone says about FAITH ALONE being the means of salvation:

  1. 3:28-30, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from worksof the Law. 29Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.”
  2. 4:5, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Himwho justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness,
  3. 5:1, “therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ;
  4. 9:30, “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith;
  5. 10:4, “For Christ is the end of the lawfor righteousness to everyone who believes.”
  6. 11:6, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.

 

Admittedly, before Bibles were available to the public to own and read, the priests were the carriers of God’s Word. The Bible was of utmost importance, but only as read and taught by those called by God into the priesthood. “We cannot be saved outside THE Church”, they said; and since it was the Church who owned the Bible, the Church’s authority of over faith and life was at least equal to that of the Bible, and maybe more.

 

One of Father Martin Luther’s insights in 1517 was that, especially post-Gutenberg, the Bible should regain its role as sole authority over body and soulthis is what we look at today.

 

Last week as we started this teaching series we were introduced to the 5 “Sola”-statements of the Protestant Reformers: Sola Fide (salvation is through “Faith Alone” – last week), Sola Scriptura (the sole authority over faith and life is the written Word of God, the “Bible Alone”), Sola Gratia (that the Scriptures teach that it is by God’s “Grace Alone” that effectualizes our faith), Solus Christus (that God’s grace is demonstrated and offered through “Christ Alone”), and Soli Gloria Deo (that all of life is to be lived to the “Glory of God Alone”).

 

Listen to this keynote passage from the Old Testament history book of Nehemiah, chapter 8: So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law….

They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read. (NIV)

 

The context of this story is that the Jewish people had been taken captive by the world dominant power of Babylon (remember the Daniel in the Lion’s Den story and the Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace story – that’s the situation, about 150 years before Nehemiah steps on the scene), only now it is Persia who is the World Power, and Nehemiah, a Jew who served in the King’s palace, was given permission to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.

What did you notice about what was happening here? At what time did “churchstart for them? How long was the sermon? How comfortable was the seating area? How many people complained?

The Jewish people were, for the first time in generations, allowed to gather in the public square and hear God’s Word – and they loved it!

Again, this was at a time when people did not have their own copies of the Bible, but part of what they read instructed them to “meditate on God’s Word day and night” (Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1) anyway, to “keep it on their heart”, to “long for God’s Word”, to “delight in God’s decrees” (Psalm 119).

 

What we believe the Bible teaches is that it is God alone who has the right and the ability to declare us righteous in His sight.

So, if it is “Sola Scriptura”, why should we bother to listen to Wheeler preach at us every week? Or Billy Graham, or Andy Stanley, or Kathy Sandusky, or any human with the guts to stand in the pulpit?

Why indeed? What do you think?

And, if what we say is not grounded in God’s Word, or if it is against what God’s Word teaches, it certainly may be time to stop listening. But, only then. Not just because we don’t like what the Bible says….

 

I’m going to try to be shorter for these sermons, and offer a little feedback time – so if you have comments you’d like to add, or questions you might want to ask, you’ll have a chance in just a minute.

And, if they’re a little more private or personal, I’ll be downstairs during the Fellowship Time (and today’s extended Prayer time [Lord’s prayer Corps]) where we can talk even more.

 

This series is called “Always Being Reformed” which is part of a Reformation-based phrase that fully says, “We are the Church Reformed, and always being Reformed, according to the Word of God”. May we never be swayed merely by societal influence or pressure to be liked; may we always be swayed by God’s Word!

So I’ll close today by simply asking how important God’s Word is to you? If this is the means by which God reveals Himself to us, and if we say we are followers of Jesus, how much time do we devote to listening to His Word, alone, and together?

 

Grant, O God, that we may learn to surmount all obstacles and to raise our eyes of faith above the world, so that we may acknowledge that governed by [Your] wonderful counsel is everything that seems to us to happen by chance, in order that we may seek [You] and know that help will be ready for us through [Your] mercy whenever we humbly seek the pardon of our sins, through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

 

Resources:

Godfrey, W. Robert.; “Continuing the Reformation”; TableTalk; October 2017; Pp. 33-36.

 

Nichols, Stephen J.; “The Ninety-Five Theses of Martin Luther, October 31, 1517”; TableTalk; October 2017; Pp. 70-71.

 

Reeves, Ryan; “The Geography of the Reformation”; TableTalk; October 2017; Pp. 22-25.

 

Sproul, R.C.; Into the Word; TableTalk; June 2017; P. 33.

 

Sproul, R.C.; Sola Fide; www.ligonier.org/blog/faith-and-works/; October 21, 2015

 

Waters, Guy Prentiss; “Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide”; TableTalk; October 2017; Pp. 18-22.

Advertisements

09/10/2017 = Ephesians 2:8-9 = Always Being Reformed: “Sola Fide (Faith Alone)”

You can add AUDIO right HERE!

Mark Wheeler

Ephesians 2:8-9

Always Being Reformed: “Sola Fide (Faith Alone)”

09/10/2017

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Grant, Almighty God, that as we are at this day tossed here and there by so many troubles, and almost all things in the world are in confusion, so that wherever we turn our eyes nothing but thick darkness meets us, O grant that we may learn to surmount all obstacles and to raise our eyes of faith above the world, so that we may acknowledge that governed by [Your] wonderful counsel is everything that seems to us to happen by chance, in order that we may seek [You] and know that help will be ready for us through [Your] mercy whenever we humbly seek the pardon of our sins, through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. (John Calvin, prayer for faith from his Commentary on Lamentations 3:39)

 

This Fall our sermon series will be a little more “teaching” and a little less “preaching”. This is not my normal style, as you will recognize, but the history that leads to today’s context and the theological discussions that inform that history, I believe, are vitally important.

This year, many people are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Many are. But certainly not everybody.

Let me set the background:

500 years ago, 1517, was a world in which the printing press had only very recently been invented and put to use. Prior to 1440 literature in the western world had to be hand copied, page by page, word by word, letter by letter. You can imagine how time-consuming it would be to make a copy of a book. And what book was copied most? The Bible. (Sidebar note: the Chinese had invented a wood-block printing press some 600 years earlier, but it was so cumbersome it was still only rarely used.)

Because of how laborious it was to copy a book, very few people owned their own Bible. It would just be way too expensive. (Who here has been in Gothic Cathedrals? What do their windows look like? Stained glass windows was the Church’s way of providing Bibles for the masses!) But after 1440, Gutenberg’s invention made printing books much more affordable! And, of course, his most famous book is “the Gutenberg Bible” – worth well more than $2 million today.

 

It was just a generation after Gutenberg’s invention that a German Roman Catholic was born who grew up into his divine vocation as a RC priest. Father Martin Luther was priest in Wittenberg, Germany. And history was changing right before his very eyes.

 

In the pre-Reformation Church, the Bible was widely recognized as authoritative for faith and obedience, as the rule for faith and life. In 21st Century America (and Europe) the Bible is more questioned and ridiculed than it is read and obeyed, but that was not the way it was in Europe in the 16th Century. But the Roman Catholic world of Europe did offer another challenge to the Bible as our main authority – that was the Church itself.

My favorite professor at CSUF was a Roman Catholic, former-priest, named George St. Laurent. Most of his students were protestant, but he was well loved by everybody. He used to tell us that you could tell a Catholic from a Protestant in two ways: 1) by the way someone pronounces Augustine (accent on the GUS is RC, accent on the AUG is Protestant); 2) by how important “church” is (RC’s cannot be saved outside “the Church”, Protestants can).

In 1517, when Father Martin Luther read the New Testament book of Romans (and other Bible passages) not only could he not defend that view, he found no evidence for it at all. Here is what Romans alone says about FAITH ALONE being the means of salvation:

  1. 3:28-30, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from worksof the Law. 29Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.”
  2. 4:5, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Himwho justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness,
  3. 5:1, “therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ;
  4. 9:30, “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith;
  5. 10:4, “For Christ is the end of the lawfor righteousness to everyone who believes.”
  6. 11:6, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.

 

Admittedly, before Bibles were available to the public to own and read, the priests were the carriers of God’s Word. The Bible was of utmost importance, but only as read and taught by those called by God into the priesthood. We cannot be saved outside “THE Church” (that meant the Roman Catholic Church, partly because that really was the only Church in Europe); and since it was the Church who owned the Bible, the Church’s authority of over faith and life was at least equal to that of the Bible, and maybe more.

 

One of Father Martin Luther’s insights in 1517 was that, especially post-Gutenberg, the Bible should regain its role as sole authority over body and soul; and the Church should back off from claiming its necessity for salvation.

 

Whoa! Did you hear what I just said?! The Church is NOT the biggest voice in the discussion? Luther was pushing against the biggest corporation in the world, and trying to take away its power! And the Pope was not happy about that!

 

Luther was not saying that the Church is unimportant. In fact, he would argue that the Church is God’s instrument for bringing the Gospel into the world. John Calvin, another Protestant Reformer would agree with that. The Church is vitally important, necessary even, But, we are saved, not by the Church, but by faith alone!

 

Listen to this keynote passage from Paul’s epistle to the Church in Ephesus, chapter 2, verses 8-9: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

 

John Calvin tells us that it is “the doctrine of justification … [which] is the principal ground on which religion must be supported.” Justification is the means by which salvation is attained.”

The first theological point about which those 16th Century Reformers Protested was that the Bible is the only means by which we come to know what God wants for us. What do you think the language of the Church was in the 1500s? Latin, of course. “Sola Scriptura” was the first principle of Christian theology. We introduced it today, but we’ll dig a little deeper next week.

The second theological point of dispute was “Sola Fide” – Faith Alone! This becomes the central question of human existenceif we believe there might be a God, how can we be reconciled to Him?

What we believe the Bible teaches is that it is God alone who has the right and the ability to declare us righteous in His sight.

We cannot work hard enough to deserve God’s favor.

We cannot give enough money to the church, say enough prayers, pay enough penance, no amount of “hail Marys” or “our Fathers”, not flagellation, not even perfect obedience. Scripture alone teaches us that it is God’s grace alone, received through FAITH ALONE (Sola Fide) that puts us in place for this gift of God.

 

As you may well be aware, the Roman Catholic Church excommunicated Luther, then responded to the outbreak of the Protestant movement with a major church council, the Council of Trent, which was part of the so-called Counter-Reformation and took place in the middle of the 16th century. The sixth session of Trent, at which the canons and decrees on justification and faith were spelled out, specifically appealed to James 2:24 to rebuke the Protestants who said that they were justified by faith alone: “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.” How could James say it any more clearly? It would seem that that text would blow Luther out of the water forever.

Of course, Martin Luther was very much aware of this verse was in the book of James. Luther was reading Romans, where Paul makes it very clear that it’s not through the works of the law that any one is justified and that we are justified by faith and only through faith. What do we have here? Is this an irreconcilable conflict between Paul and James? Was James trying to correct Paul. Was Paul trying to correct James.

I’m convinced that we don’t really have a conflict here at all. What James is saying is this: If a person says he has faith, but he gives no outward evidence of that faith through righteous works, his faith will not justify him. Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Knox would absolutely agree with James. We are not saved by a profession of faith or by a claim to faith. That faith has to be genuine before the merit of Christ will be ascribed to anybody. We can’t just say we have faith. True faith will absolutely and necessarily yield the fruits of obedience and the works of righteousness. Luther was saying that those works don’t add to that person’s justification at the judgment seat of God. But they do justify his claim to faith before the eyes of man. James is saying, not that a person is justified before God by his works, but that his claim to faith is shown to be genuine as he demonstrates the evidence of that claim of faith through his works.

 

I’m going to try to be shorter for these sermons, and offer a little feedback time – so if you have comments you’d like to add, or questions you might want to ask, you’ll have a chance in just a minute.

And, if they’re a little more private or personal, I’ll be downstairs during the Fellowship Time where we can talk even more.

 

So I’ll close today with the two questions on the bottom of your Sermon Notes Page, and open the floor for your comments, insights, and questions:

 

  1. Can we be saved by the works or the words of, really, ANY human being?
  2. Where do we find the only means of forgiveness?

 

Grant, O God, that we may learn to surmount all obstacles and to raise our eyes of faith above the world, so that we may acknowledge that governed by [Your] wonderful counsel is everything that seems to us to happen by chance, in order that we may seek [You] and know that help will be ready for us through [Your] mercy whenever we humbly seek the pardon of our sins, through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

 

Resources:

Godfrey, W. Robert.; “Continuing the Reformation”; TableTalk; October 2017; Pp. 33-36.

Nichols, Stephen J.; “The Ninety-Five Theses of Martin Luther, October 31, 1517”; TableTalk; October 2017; P. 70.

Sproul, R.C.; Into the Word; TableTalk; June 2017; P. 33.

Sproul, R.C.; Sola Fide; www.ligonier.org/blog/faith-and-works/; October 21, 2015

Waters, Guy Prentiss; “Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide”; TableTalk; October 2017; Pp. 18-22.

 

09/03/2017 – Matthew 5:11-12 – Happy to be Blessed: “You–>Heavenly Rewards”

If you wanna HEAR this message, click HERE.

Mark Wheeler

Matthew 5:11-12

Happy to Be Blessed: “You–>Heavenly Rewards”

09/03/2017

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

As we worship You, O Lord, please take away our sorrows and strengthen our faith in the face of our struggles that we might experience the joy of Your presence, in Christ’s name. We seek Your true blessing, and we hope to be that blessing for those around us in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

The professor’s face was contorted with anger as he yelled and shook a fistful of torn paper in my face,” writes a Rev. Donny Friederichsen, pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church (PCA), Short hills, NJ. “He accused me of harassing and attacking university students. What egregious act had I committed? I had properly posted an approved sign on a bulletin board advertising a campuswide outreach that my student ministry was sponsoring. I was stunned. I had never been the recipient of such harsh accusations.”

 

A Bremerton, Washington, high school football coach was punished for taking a knee at the 50-yard line for a post-game prayer, “violating the U.S. Constitution”, according to the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

A three-judge panel ruled the Bremerton School District was justified in suspending Coach Joe Kennedy after he prayed silently at midfield after football games.

He didn’t force anyone to do anything with him; he merely prayed in public. It looks like Roman Catholic coaches won’t be allowed to “cross themselves” when someone might see them either.

 

Today we come to the conclusion of our Summer-long series on the Beatitudes from JesusSermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. Listen to this postscript, this assignment, and hear Jesus speaking to you: 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you….”

 

We are in this list of Beatitudes because of the varieties and ferocities of struggles we have all witnessed in our homes, in our city, amongst our national leaders, and across this globe. These Beatitudes see these struggles as opportunities for blessing.

Do we need mercy shown in our world? Here’s an opportunity for blessing: BE GRACE-FILLED!

Do we need peace in our world? Here’s an opportunity for blessing: MAKE PEACE!

 

The 1st four Beatitudes are all about how much WE NEED GOD in order to live fulfilled lives! Poor in spirit, mourning over that poverty, humbled by our spiritual condition, and then, transitionally we begin to resemble God’s character by desiring righteousness. And God promises His eternal presence and comfort and satisfaction.

The next three Beatitudes describe CHRISTLIKE character traits that will form in those who follow Jesus well. Like the fruit of the Spirit, these grow in us as we grow in Christ.

The 8th Beatitude is like a LITMUS test for how well we live in the first seven Beatitudes.

The 1st and 8th Beatitudes are like bookends with the promise of “the KINGDOM of HEAVEN”.

And the 4th and 8th beatitudes close two sections by landing on a theme of RIGHTEOUSNESS.

 

Listen with me to these words of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon of the Mount. Matthew 5:1-2, 3-10, and then 11-12 ….—-

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.  He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,    for they will be comforted.  

Blessed are the meek,    for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,     for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,    for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,    for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,    for they will be called children of God.  

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you….”  (NIV)

 

You caught that this stanza was different, right? Notblessed are those (or the ones) who …”, but “blessed are YOU when these bad things happen….

 

Do these things happen to us?  I ask because JesusSermon on the Mount is usually interpreted as a message for all time, for all peopleI wonder, if Beatitude #8, verse 10, is a litmus test for our faithfulness to the other Beatitudes, then does this statement, which is directed at us personally (not LPC, but those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ), mean we must expect that we/I will, in fact, be reviled, persecuted, have evil lies spoken about us/me because of how our lives/my life reflects that of Jesus Himself?

Jesus doesn’t say, “Blessed are you if these bad things happen to you,” He says, “WHEN they happen.”

 

I’m reminded of the story Josh Snodgrass told us two weeks ago when he taught about the difference between praise and worship. Some of you will remember: praise is when we thank God for what He has done; worship is when we adore God for who He is!

And then he told a story about his roofer-friend who injured his leg so badly it had to be amputated. When Josh asked him about how this effected his faith his friend said something like, “I know that my leg will be totally healed some day, and for all eternally; but this is my only chance to worship Him with just one leg, and I’m not about to miss this opportunity.”

Now, his leg missing was not due to persecution, or hate, or because he stood up for his faith. It was an accident. But his perspective connects straight up with this passage at the end of the Beatitudes.

Today’s Children’s Message was the story about Jesus’ teaching that we must deny ourselves and pick up our cross and follow Him. How many times have I heard people say things about their health or their finances or their jobs when they “Well, I guess that’s just my cross I have to bear.”

No, a cross to bear is our choice to offer our lives for Kingdom purposes. Jesus died on a cross so that we might receive and believe His offer of Good News of salvation by faith alone. He then says that people will hate us because they already hate Him (that was the experience of Rev. Donny Friederichsen that we started with today.) THAT is our cross to bearnot just a difficult life happenstance, but a choice to be a person that reflects God’s love in Christ, even to the point of possibly suffering for that choice!

And our perspective on life circumstances plays into that. My Diabetes is not my cross to bear, but my choice to worship God without a working pancreas is! And this is mychance to be blessed”!

 

Last week in my devotional reading I was in Isaiah 51-53, where 700 years before Jesus spoke His Sermon on the Mount this Old Testament prophet wrote: “Listen to me, you who know right from wrong,
you who cherish my law in your hearts.   Do not be afraid of people’s scorn,    nor fear their insults.
    For the moth will devour them as it devours clothing.    The worm will eat at them as it eats wool.
But my righteousness will last forever.    My salvation will continue from generation to generation.

(51:7-8, NLT)

When we are faithful we will experience scorn, insults, persecution, for a time – but salvation lasts forever!

And a couple chapters later we read this Messianic prophecy: “He was despised and rejected
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.  We turned our backs on him and looked the other   

    way.        He was despised, and we did not care.   Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.   And we thought his troubles were a punishment from

    God,     a punishment for his own sins!
    But he was pierced for our rebellion,    crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.    He was whipped so we could be healed.
    All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.    We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him    the sins of us all.    He was oppressed and treated harshly,
yet he never said a word.    He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.
And as a sheep is silent before the shearers,    he did not open his mouth.
    Unjustly condemned,    he was led away
.”    (53:3-7, NLT)

Jesus did not warn us about difficulties without having endured them Himself first! All the way from Galilee to Jerusalem He kept telling His disciples He was going to face scorn, insults, even death. Peter said, “No! That will never happen!” and Jesus told him, “Get behind me, Satan!

Today’s passage says, “Blessed are you when these same things happen to you!

 

Paul writes to the Christians in Rome (4:46): “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes!” Can we say the same thing? Because we, also, believe the same thing?

Just a couple of verses following today’s stanza in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus continues with these words (Matthew 5:16): “Let your light shine … so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Immediately after telling His followers that we will suffer because of our faith in Him, He says to live lives that produce that suffering so that others will discover God’s grace and power as well. (Sidebar notation: Jesus says, “so they will give glory to your Father in heaven”; I don’t know if He means ourFather in heaven”, ie God, or if He means that “they will give God glory in heaven”, ie for all eternity. Maybe He means both!)

 

Now, to start to reel this in: All of the Beatitudes give a “Blessing” followed by a “promise”. This last paragraph gives a warning followed by an assignment: “Rejoice for being persecuted!” But He doesn’t leave us hanging; He lists three reasons to rejoice for being persecuted:

  1. Privilege of SHARING in Christ’s sufferings! We are counted as worthy to participate in the same sufferings as God’s only begotten SonBeatitude #7’s promise was to be “called sons/children of God”! John 15:18-19 records Jesus saying, “If the world hates you, know that it hated me first! … because you are not ‘of the world’, but I chose you out of the world, , therefore the world hates you.” Rejoice, because our sufferings might be a sign that we are truly in Christ!
  2. We are counted among the HEROES of faith – just like the Old Testament prophets, most of whom also suffered for their faith! The Book of Life will list all the names from Hebrews 11’s Old Testament Heroes, and our names will be included in that great cloud of witnesses!
  3. We are promised an EVERLASTING reward – a heavenly reward!

 

I, in no way, want to downplay the horrors of suffering persecution. Last week Boris was not in worship with us, and I made mention of his years in prison and even solitary confinement because he boldly lived his Christian faith under a regime of a communist/socialist control. He would be the first to tell you that none of that was easy/fun!

But his story, and Jesus’ words in this Matthew 5-7 Sermon force me to ask how well we actually live into these Beatitudes. Am I persecuted? If not, maybe I’m really not living like Jesus wants me to live….

 

The command here is to live our faith out loud in such a way that that suffering actually happens. And the promise is for right now! That Bremerton High School football coach is actually doing this!

 

Do you live that out? Do you want to? Is Jesus in your life? Let’s make that happen today – rejoicing for the heavenly rewards which are ours, right now!

 

Living and gracious God,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
You have brought us out to a spacious place
where we are called to live as those redeemed.
Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to keep Your commandments,
that we may show forth Your love
with gentle word and reverent deed
always, everywhere. Amen.

 

Resources:

Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange; hermeneutics.stackexchange.com.

 

Friederichsen, Donny; “Blessed Are The Reviled”; TableTalk; June 2017; Pp 30-31.

 

Makarios: Blessed; the state of one who has become a partaker of God; to experience the fullness of God”; StudyLight.org.

 

 

 

08/27/2017 – Matthew 5:10 – Happy to be Blessed: “Persecuted for Righteousness–>Kingdom of God”

Please click HERE to find the AUDIO of this message.

Mark Wheeler

Matthew 5:10

Happy to Be Blessed: “Persecuted for Righteousness–>Kingdom of God”

08/27/2017

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

As we worship You, O Lord, please take away our sorrows and strengthen our faith in the face of our struggles that we might experience the joy of Your presence, in Christ’s name. We seek Your true blessing, and we hope to be that blessing for those around us in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

In our Summer series of teachings on the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, today we come to the eighth Beatitude: 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 

We are in this list of Beatitudes because of the varieties and ferocities of struggles we have all witnessed in our homes, in our city, amongst our national leaders, and across this globe. These Beatitudes see these struggles as opportunities for blessing.

Do we need mercy shown in our world? Here’s an opportunity for blessing: BE GRACE-FILLED!

Do we need peace in our world? Here’s an opportunity for blessing: MAKE PEACE!

 

The 1st four Beatitudes are all about how much WE NEED GOD in order to live fulfilled lives! Poor in spirit, mourning over that poverty, humbled by our spiritual condition, and then, transitionally we begin to resemble God’s character by desiring righteousness. And God promises His eternal presence and comfort and satisfaction.

 

And then the 5th Beatitude begins a list of CHRIST-like character traits that will form in those who follow Jesus well. Like the fruit of the Spirit, these grow in us as we grow in Christ.

 

Listen with me to these words of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon of the Mount. Matthew 5:1-2 and 3-10 ….—-

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.  He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,    for they will be comforted.  

Blessed are the meek,    for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,     for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,    for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,    for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,    for they will be called children of God.  

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 (NIV)

 

Take a quick look at what we just read. Your Sermon Notes page lists two more verses (we’ll get to them next week), but I want to suggest that the proper list of Beatitudes actually ends here, in verse 10, with Beatitude #8. Here’s why:

What do you notice about verse 3, Beatitude #1, and verse 10, Beatitude #8? They are the only two with the same Promise (“for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”). And verse 11 starts with a very different subjective pronoun – the first 8 say, “Blessed are those (or the) …”; verse 11 says, “Blessed are you …”. I think the proper Beatitudes end with today’s verse, and the next line is like a postscript, an application, an assignment. We’ll get there next Sunday.

So Beatitude #1 and Beatitude #8 are like bookends – “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.

 

The first four Beatitudes all describe the needs of a disciple. They remind us that, as human beings longing for eternal love, we need a Savior – who has come to us in the person of the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth.

 

Remember that the Greek word Matthew uses for “blessed” is Makarios, which refers to the BELIEVER in Christ who is SATISFIED and SECURE by the indwelling of the HOLY SPIRIT. (StudyLight.org) This is much more than the simple word “happy”. Makarios implies that there is nothing else needed.

 

The 5th Beatitude begins a list of CHRIST-like character traits.

Being “MERCIFUL” displays a life filled with God’s grace.

Being “PURE in HEART” reveals one’s utmost priority in life.

Being a “PEACEMAKER” exhibits our spiritual genes.

 

But now, verse 10, Beatitude #8, shifts gears again. Yes, being persecuted is a Christ-like character trait.

Being “PERSECUTED for RIGHTEOUSNESS” is exactly what JESUS did!

 

And there’s another place-marker. The first four Beatitudes end with desiring RIGHTEOUSNESS. And the second four end with being persecuted for that same RIGHTEOUSNESS!

The Beatitudes are both bookended with kingdom of heaven and sectioned-off landing on the theme of righteousness.

 

But did you hear a difference between this Beatitude and the first seven? What is that difference?

Any English majors out there? Any linguists? School teachers? What do you notice about the verb used in today’s Beatitude? It is in the PASSIVE voice! All the other Beatitudes are ACTIVE verbs (including the to-BE verbs): BE poor in spirit; MOURN; BE meek; HUNGER & THIRST for righteousness; HAVE mercy; SHOW a pure heart; MAKE peace.

Beatitude #8: PERSECUTED!

This is the result of being one who recognizes spiritual poverty, mourns that condition, humbly accepts that truth, desires God’s righteousness, acts mercifully, keeps God’s kingdom as top priority, and steps into the riotous mess and makes peace. These people will be persecuted!

Maybe this is the litmus test for how well we actually live into the other Beatitudes. Am I persecuted? If not, maybe I’m really not living like Jesus wants me to live….

 

But before we get too far down that road, let’s make sure we understand what it means to be persecuted? Being “unfriended” on Facebook is not persecution for righteousness!

(Click HERE for the TIM HAWKINS routine on “the worst”.)

There are Christ-followers across this globe who are thrown in prison, hunted down and tortured, whose families are criminalized because of their Christian faith. That is persecution.

Someone “unfriending” me because I post a comment about Jesus hardly meets that kind of definition.

However, we do live in a world now, here in America, where there is some legit persecution happening – where businesses are sued, where people face unemployment, where lives are threatened because of a Christian perspective.

Because that’s what this persecution is about! “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness” means for doing the WORK of our heavenly Father in the midst of a world that REJECTS that!

 

And the promise for this Christ-like character trait (as we’ve already seen in the 1st Beatitude) is to be given the “KINGDOM of HEAVEN” – abiding with God and His blessings forever!

But let’s not miss one more distinctive. In Beatitudes #2-#7 the promise is always future tense – they will be comforted, will inherit the earth, will be filled, will be shown mercy, will see God, will be called children of God. But in Beatitudes #1 and #8 it is very present tense. “Theirs IS the kingdom of heaven!

Friends, being persecuted is no fun. Boris spent years in prison, in solitary confinement, simply because he was a Christ-following church leader under the regime of a communist/socialist government. None of that was any fun! Yesterday’s paper told us that Spokane’s Slavic churches have on display a museum of different ways that Christians in Ukraine Kyrgyzstan and Belarus hid their Bibles because to get caught with one meant prison! But experiencing the kingdom of God does not wait for us to die and “go to heaven”. “Theirs IS the kingdom of heaven!” Right now! In power and in grace!

 

How do we live this Beatitude out?

Some of you will remember that these Beatitudes are stated in what is called an Indicative/Imperative clause. The statement Indicates a truth/and then imperates our behavior.

  • The truth is that as followers of Jesus, as people who call Jesus both Lord and Savior, we are people who might be persecuted for righteousness.

And the command is to live our faith out loud in such a way that that happens. And the promise is for right now! The Old Testament prophet Isaiah once said (again, note the verb tense), “He hath swallowed up death in victory, And wiped hath the Lord Jehovah, The tear from off all faces, And the reproach of His people He turneth aside from off all the earth, For Jehovah hath spoken.

And [one] hath said in that day, ‘Lo, this [is] our God, We waited for Him, and He saveth us, This [is] Jehovah, we have waited for Him, We joy and rejoice in His salvation.’” (Isaiah 25, YLT)

 

Do you live that out? Do you want to? Is Jesus in your life? Let’s make that happen today – the kingdom of heaven, right now!

 

Living and gracious God,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
You have brought us out to a spacious place
where we are called to live as those redeemed.
Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to keep Your commandments,
that we may show forth Your love
with gentle word and reverent deed
always, everywhere. Amen.

 

Resources:

Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange; hermeneutics.stackexchange.com.

 

Makarios: Blessed; the state of one who has become a partaker of God; to experience the fullness of God”; StudyLight.org.

 

Glodo, Michael J.; “Blessed Are Those Who Are Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake”; TableTalk; June 2017; Pp 28-30.

 

08/13/2017 – Matthew 5:9 – Happy to be Blessed: “Peace-Making–>Children of God”

Click HERE to LISTEN to this message.

Mark Wheeler

Matthew 5:9

Happy to Be Blessed: “Peace-Making–>Children of God”

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

As we worship You, O Lord, please take away our sorrows and strengthen our faith in the face of our struggles that we might experience the joy of Your presence, in Christ’s name. We seek Your true blessing, and we hope to be that blessing for those around us in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

There’s this group of everyday Jews gathered on a hillside to listen to a “new teacher” who’s just started His lecture, but there a few in the back who missed His last point because of an argument they started with each other:

 

“What was that?”

“I think it was, ‘blessed are the cheese-makers’.”

“Uh … what’s so special about the cheese-makers?”

“Obviously it’s not meant to be taken literally. It refers to any manufacturers of dairy products.”

 

Then the argument resumes and escalates into name-calling and threats of violence, and an obscure, not-involved, third-party man interrupts and says, “Oh, lay off him.”

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xLUEMj6cwA  (my apologies for the cussing toward the end of this clip)

 

Some of you are in as much trouble as I am, because you obviously recognized those lines from Monty Python’s 1979 classic The Life of Brian. That 25-second dialog cleverly does three things that are worthy of note:

  • It points out that we sometimes mis-understand what Scripture is teaching.
  • It suggests that we need to be careful about how we rationalize our interpretations.
  • It closes with one very insignificant character demonstrating what Jesus actually says in His Sermon on the Mount.
    • What does Jesus actually say here? “Blessed are the PEACE-makers.”
    • What does this “third-party man interrupting the argumentdo? He MAKES PEACE among his neighbors! He enacts what Jesus says!

 

In our Summer series of teachings on the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, today we come near the end with the seventh Beatitude: Blessed are the peacemakers,    for they will be called children of God.

 

We are in this list of Beatitudes because of the varieties and ferocities of struggles we have all witnessed in our homes, in our city, amongst our national leaders, and across this globe – last Thursday’s Spokesman-Review headlined War Games, with a map of how far North Korea’s nuclear weapons could reach; and the headline was followed with our own President’s trumpets of “fire and fury; page 4 headlined with Deadly Kenya protests as opposition alleges vote hacking, with a story about their national elections and reactions to the expected outcomes; Yesterday’s news displayed a group of white supremacists carrying torches and marching through the University of VA; and yesterday ended with at least one death. These Beatitudes see these struggles as opportunities for blessing.

Do we need peace in our world? Here’s an opportunity for blessing: MAKE PEACE!

 

The 1st four Beatitudes are all about how much we NEED God in order to live fulfilled lives! Poor in spirit, mourning over that poverty, humbled by our spiritual condition, and then, transitionally we begin to resemble God’s character by desiring righteousness. And God promises His eternal presence and comfort and satisfaction.

 

And then the 5th Beatitude begins a list of CHRIST-like character traits that will form in those who follow Jesus well. Like the fruit of the Spirit, these grow in us as we grow in Christ.

 

Listen with me to these words of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon of the Mount. Matthew 5:1-2 and 3-9 ….—-

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.  He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,    for they will be comforted.  

Blessed are the meek,    for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,     for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,    for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,    for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,    for they will be called children of God.  (NIV)

 

The first four Beatitudes all describe the needs of a disciple. They remind us that, as human beings longing for eternal love, we need a Savior – who has come to us in the person of the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth.

 

Remember that the Greek word Matthew uses for “blessed” is Makarios, which refers to the BELIEVER in Christ who is SATISFIED and SECURE by the indwelling of the HOLY SPIRIT. (StudyLight.org) This is much more than the simple word “happy”. Makarios implies that there is nothing else needed.

 

The 5th Beatitude begins a list of CHRIST-like character traits.

Being “MERCIFUL” displays a life filled with God’s grace.

Being “PURE in HEART” reveals one’s utmost priority in life.

Being a “PEACEMAKER” exhibits our spiritual genes.

 

Let me take you back to that Monty Python scene. The first thing those present at the Sermon on the Mount do is MIS-understand what Jesus says. You and I do not have the same excuse they had – we’re not standing at the back of a several thousand-person crowd trying to hear what someone up on the hill is saying (without the help of electronic amplification). We have His sermon in print!  We can read it! And re-read it! But we still, too easily, mis-understand what Jesus is saying.

What do we often think of when we think of a “peace-maker”? Some of us think of a gun – and perhaps that sometimes plays an appropriate part in the process of peace-making – but most of us, I believe, water it down to “peace-KEEPING”. If I don’t cause a stir, or if I just hold my tongue, if I listen to Mom who told me “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

But is that what Jesus means here? Dr. Martin Luther King said something about how when we passively accept evil we are as much involved in the evil as he who helps perpetrate it; when we see something wrong and don’t do anything to stop it or fix it, we participate in the wrong we’ve witnessed.

 

So, how do we MAKE peace? Is it with a gun? Do we make peace when we avoid conflict? When we walk away from an argument? The Greek word Matthew uses to record JesusSermon on the Mount is Eirene – which is usually, commonly, used to describe a state of national tranquility or harmony between individuals or personal serenity; but it is also used to describe something special about the way that leads to salvation and that provides for a sense of spiritual satisfaction.

The Hebrew word used would have been SHALOM, but this word always includes far more than just absence of conflict. It also means WHOLENESS, COMPLETE, FINISHED. When Jesus spoke His last words on the cross, what did He say?It is finished.” That comes from Psalm 22, and the word there is not shalom, but the word used carries with it a sense of shalom.

Having Peace suggests something of experiencing fullness; we are not finished until we have what Jesus offers from the cross and the empty tomb. We are not peacemakers until we hear those words rightly, and bring them with us to the hurting world in which we find ourselves – our families, our neighbors, our co-workers, our classmates, our national leaders and any who know fear or estrangement….

A true peacemaker does not AVOID conflict, but engages conflict in order to RESOLVE it!

 

The woman who questionswhat’s so special about cheesemakers?felt abandoned by the blessing because she was notone who manufactured dairy products”. So her husband who explains that “it’s not to be taken literallymade the blessing easier to accept, but worthless to his wife. It’s one thing to misunderstand what the Scriptures teach, it’s entirely something else to assume we understand without taking the time to listen to it carefully and then make it say what we want it to say; when we don’t listen to the entirety of the counsel of God’s Word.

Probably what I hear most out of context and re-interpreted so that it’s less demanding on its hearers is this: “Judge not lest ye be judged. (Matthew 7:1-2)” If I read that to mean that I am not allowed to have an opinion about what someone else says or does, then I have no reason to confront that person with any sort of lifestyle correction. “Yeah, he cheats on his wife, but who am I to judge? We’re all sinners, right? Like Jesus said, ‘Judge not lest ye be judged’.” But is that what Jesus really says? The context suggests that it’s really about hypocrisy – it’s followed immediately by the counsel to take the log out of your own eye before you start pointing out specks in someone else’s eye. Jesus then goes on to talk about not throwing your pearls before swine. That might require one to judge what is a pearl and who is a swine. Two reasons why this interpretation is wrongany society void of judging would soon devolve into chaos – murder? “don’t judge….” And without judgment, forgiveness would be impossible. If I cannot judge a behavior as wrong, I have no reason to forgive you for doing it (but obviously, Jesus says to forgive as we have been forgiven).

We tend to rationalize our interpretations to make the Scripture’s reading – more easy, less demanding, etc.

 

In that scene from The Life of Brian, a man on the side, not involved with the argument, not taking part in the Q & A about “cheesemakersinterrupts all the hubbub and tells his crowd-neighbors to just drop their dispute: “Oh, lay off him,” he says. He takes a step toward conflict to resolve it.

How do we live this Beatitude out?

Some of you will remember that these Beatitudes are stated in what is called an Indicative/Imperative clause. The statement Indicates a truth/and then imperates our behavior.

  • The truth is that as followers of Jesus, as people who call Jesus both Lord and Savior, we are people of peace – we’ve attained wholeness, completeness, soul-satisfaction, we have a life-giving relationship with the God of the universe. And, therefore, we are makers of peace as we “make disciples, baptizing in the name of the Father and the Son and Holy Spirit….”

You are a person of peacenot because that’s how we earn God’s favor, but because we already ARE God’s favor! You carry God’s genetic make-up, His DNA, because you have “believed and receivedJesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Paul tells us in Galatians 5:22 that “Peace” is one piece of the Fruit of the Spirit. It is a confidence and rest in the wisdom and control of God, rather than our own control.

  • And the command is to live that out fully, with utter shalom. The Old Testament King Solomon once said, “When a man’s ways please Jehovah, even his enemies, He causes to be at peace with him.” (Proverbs 16:7). We are peacemakers when we are in full relationship with Jehovah/Yahweh, when our lives please Him because we seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness.

 

Do you live that out? Do you want to? Is Jesus in your life? Let’s make that happen today – wholeness, holiness….

 

The promise for this Christ-like character trait is to be called “CHILDREN of GOD!John 1:10-13 tells us, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own but His own did not receive Him. Yet to all who received Him to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become the children of God … born of God!”

The NIV translates this promise as “they will be called children of God.” And that is a very fine/accurate translation. But the word used for “children” is a word that literally translates as “sons”. Now, it is perfectly true that in most languages when the masculine word is used in the plural it can mean both genders, sons and daughters, children. But there is another, gender-neutral word that could have been used to mean children. Here Matthew uses the Greek word for “sons”, and I want to suggest how significant that might be. I do believe it totally means both males and females, men and women, sons and daughters, but by using the word for “Sons of GodMatthew (and Jesus) cleverly connects us to the “Son of God”.

We know that Jesus is the unique, only begotten, Son of God; but don’t miss what the Scriptures teach us: Luke’s genealogy of Jesus goes all the way back to “Adam, the son of God; and in Exodus 4, God tells Moses to tell the Pharaoh to let His people go, “Israel, my son” (and then He sends the angel of death to take the first-born sons of Egypt); in the Gospels we discover the fulfillment of this image with the birth of Jesus as the Son of God – do you see the biblical thread running through here? Now, “Peacemakers will be called Sons of God!

We are co-heirs with Christ! We carry God’s DNA when we are in shalom-relationship with God as our Father by faith through Jesus Christ!

As discipled followers of Jesus we are already what we hope to becomemakers of peace. But here’s the thing – we can do better as we live our lives seeking first God’s Kingdom and righteousness, as child-like followers of Jesus, what we are promised is to be sons/children of God.

 

Do you want that? Find a place in your life that seems filled with turmoil, with discontent, with hostility, with fear or anger – and step into that with God’s peace, with God’s grace, with confidence in God’s sovereign presence – and offer God’s peace into that situation/relationship, with prayer and humility, because we cannot do it on our own!

The world will see this, and we will not be able to contain the joys of heaven!

 

Living and gracious God,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
You have brought us out to a spacious place
where we are called to live as those redeemed.
Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to keep Your commandments,
that we may show forth Your love
with gentle word and reverent deed
always, everywhere. Amen.

 

Resources:

Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange; hermeneutics.stackexchange.com.

 

Makarios: Blessed; the state of one who has become a partaker of God; to experience the fullness of God”; StudyLight.org.

 

Monty Python’s The Life of Brian; Monty Python; 1979.

 

Naves, Dirk; “Blessed Are The Peacemakers”; TableTalk; June 2017; Pp 27.

 

07/30/2017 – Matthew 5:8 – Happy to be Blessed: “Pure Heart->View of God”

Click HERE to get the AUDIO version of this message.

Mark Wheeler

Matthew 5:8

Happy to Be Blessed: “Pure Heart->View of God”

07/30/2017

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

As we worship You, O Lord, please take away our sorrows and strengthen our faith in the face of our struggles that we might experience the joy of Your presence, in Christ’s name. We seek Your true blessing, and we hope to be that blessing for those around us in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

I think I could never win an argument about this, and if I had any wisdom I wouldn’t dare enter a conversation about it … but, I’ll start a sermon using it as a reference point. Ready?

The best superhero ever to appear in a comic book, or on a movie screen or TV station is obviously … (drum roll Jake) … Batman

Why? What super-power does he even possess? He’s not faster than a speeding bullet. He can’t stop a locomotive, or spin a web, or fly and invisible airplane.

Batman’s super power consists of, really, just one thing (OK, now I’ll confess why I should never argue my case – I have never read a Batman comic book [and they’ve been around since 1939(?)!], and I really don’t even like most of the Batman movies; but the 1960s Batman TV show? For me, HE’s the only real Batman) – his one, real super power: Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego is Pure of Heart!

Yes, it’s true that his ultra-extreme wealth makes his Batman a reality, but it is his purity of heart that has put that millionaire above all the rest in conquering evil in Gotham City. And as such, he inspires all of us that we could do something similar in our own neighborhoods.

OK, for those who think Superman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman, Mighty Mouse or Underdog deserve this honor, we’ll hold a support group – er, discussion group over in that corner after worship….

 

In our Summer series of teachings on the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, today we come to the sixth Beatitude: Blessed are the pure in heart,    for they will see God.

We are in this list of Beatitudes because of the varieties and ferocities of struggles we have all witnessed, shared, and talked about over these last several months. These Beatitudes see these struggles as opportunities for blessing.

 

The 1st four Beatitudes remind us how much we NEED God! Poor in spirit, in mourning over that poverty, humbled by our spiritual condition, and then, transitionally we begin to resemble God’s character by desiring righteousness. And God promises His eternal presence and comfort and satisfaction.

 

And then the 5th Beatitude begins a list of CHRIST-like character traits that will form in those who follow Jesus well. Last week we saw mercy as a Christ-like character trait. This week we see PURITY of HEART.

 

Listen with me to these words of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon of the Mount. Matthew 5:1-2 and 3-7 ….—-

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.  He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,    for they will be comforted.  

Blessed are the meek,    for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,     for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,    for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,    for they will see God. (NIV)

 

The first four Beatitudes all describe the needs of a disciple. They remind us that, as human beings longing for eternal love, we need a Savior – who has come to us in the person of the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth.

 

Remember that the Greek word Matthew uses for “blessed” is Makarios, which refers to the BELIEVER in Christ who is SATISFIED and SECURE by the indwelling of the HOLY SPIRIT. (StudyLight.org) This is much more than the simple word “happy”. Makarios implies that there is nothing else needed.

 

The 5th Beatitude begins a list of CHRIST-like character traits.

Being “MERCIFUL” displays a life filled with God’s grace.

Being “PURE in HEART” reveals one’s utmost priority in life.

 

All cultures mark purity in their own ways.

“Christian purity” is different. It is not about a list of what we can and cannot do. It is, rather, about our focus on GOD and GOD’S WORD.

 

Every culture on this planet carries with it a sense of what is pure and what is not. Every religion has some kind of list of rules that describe what it means to be pure. Batman’s sense of justice for the defenseless might not cross into every group’s list of mores and morals, but they describe something of the general American dream for peace and proper behavior (not necessarily the Christian understanding, but the American one).

The Christian list is a little different. Buddha said to follow his four noble truths, Mohammed said to follow his teachings, Moses said to follow his commandments, Jesus said to “follow ME”.

In this Sermon on the Mount, Blessed are the PURE in HEART, are those who follow JESUS.

 

What is the promised gift of being PURE in HEART? They will SEE GOD!

Long ago, Moses knew the desire to see God’s glory; David prayed for this “one thing” alone, “that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple” (Psalm 27:4); from Genesis where Adam walked in the Garden with God to Revelation where the chosen will again walk in the Garden with God, being in His presence is the longed-for hope and desire!

Jesus says, “The pure in heart will see God!”

What did the angel Gabriel tell Joseph (through the prophet Isaiah) that Mary’s son would be called? ImmanuelGod with us! Jesus was/is the visible image of the invisible God! When we see Jesus we see God!

 

So what does it really mean to be “pure in heart”? To be “pure in heart” is to have a heart after God’s own heartDavid was described in this way; to love the things God loves; to want the things God wants; to live in ways that honor and present God to the world around us.

 

One of my favorite pictures of Jesus – not necessarily the paintings, but the description in the Gospels – is the picture of Jesus scolding the apostles for their efforts to keep the little children away from their all-to-important-leader-Jesus.

No!Jesus, I imagine scolding, with a slightly raised voice and clenched jaw and fist, “Absolutely let these children come to me! Do not hamper them! Get out of their way! Get every obstacle out of their way! It would be better for you, if you do hinder them, to have a millstone tied around your neck and you be tossed into the river!” (I imagine, if Jesus were played by President Trump’s new Communications Director, “Tony Scaramucci, He would say, “You mess wit dese little ones, you sleep wit da fishes.”)

Jesus says, “If you don’t become like little children you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven!” Those are Jesus words describing “pure of heart”!

 

When Jennifer and I were sitting in the Dubai International Airport, in the “holding area” for our Gate before our flight to Seattle, we were sitting across from a Black man from Australia, surrounded by Middle Easterners, Londoners, and Chinese. And this little 3-year old Asian girl walks between our rows of chairs, smiling brightly and greeting us with “Baba!”

And the man from Australia looks at me and says, “That’s a pure heart! She has no prejudice, she knows no fear of our differences, she just knows ‘Baba!’” And we were all thankful for that brief moment of peace and joy before we rushed to board the sold-out 15-hour cramped ride to Seattle.

(I looked for a picture that represented this little girl for our bulletin covers, that Caucasian little boy is as close as I could find!)

 

In a moment, we approach the Table of our Lord, and we have the opportunity to see God face-to-face in the Bread and the Cup.

As discipled followers of Jesus we are already what we hope to becomepure of heart. But here’s the thing – we can do better as we live our lives seeking first God’s Kingdom and righteousness, as child-like followers of Jesus, what we are promised is to see God clearly, not just in a glass dimly. And when we do, we will not be able to contain the joys of heaven!

 

Living and gracious God,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
You have brought us out to a spacious place
where we are called to live as those redeemed.
Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to keep Your commandments,
that we may show forth Your love
with gentle word and reverent deed
always, everywhere. Amen.

 

Resources:

Allen, Michael; “Blessed Are The Pure in Heart”; TableTalk; June 2017; Pp 25-26.

 

Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange; hermeneutics.stackexchange.com.

 

Makarios: Blessed; the state of one who has become a partaker of God; to experience the fullness of God”; StudyLight.org.

07/23/2017 – Matthew 5:7 – Happy to be Blessed: “Mercy-Full–>Mercy-Filled”

Click HERE for an audio of this message.

Mark Wheeler

Matthew 5:7                                                                                                                          07/23/2017

Happy to Be Blessed: “Mercy-Full->Mercy-Filled”                                                       Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

As we worship You, O Lord, please take away our sorrows and strengthen our faith in the face of our struggles that we might experience the joy of Your presence, in Christ’s name. We seek Your true blessing, and we hope to be that blessing for those around us in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

In elementary school I was at the top of my class in math. No one was smarter. Then, in Jr. High School my Dad’s job moved him two times; thus I went to three different Jr. High Schools for 7th and 8th grades. Each new school I went to used the same PreAlgebra and Algebra 1 Math Books, but each time we moved the new school was a few chapters ahead of the old school. And since I had always been the smartest math student in my class, I just kept figuring I could catch up on my own…. I never did.

In 9th grade Geometry, Mr. Frasier new I wasn’t a slacker, he knew I was trying my best. By this time I even learned to ask questions and stay after class. But I could not understand math any longer.

In 10th grade Algebra 2, Dr. Jenkins understood exactly what Mr. Frasier understood.

In both classes I had earned a D+, something like a 67%. But both teachers had mercy on me. Neither wanted my GPA to suffer irreparably, so after both teachers suggesting I give up on math, they both gave me a C-. That was real Mercy.

 

In our Summer series of teachings on the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, today we come to the fifth Beatitude: Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

We are in this list of Beatitudes because of the varieties and ferocities of struggles we have all witnessed, shared, and talked about over these last several months. These Beatitudes see these struggles as opportunities for blessing.

 

The 1st Beatitude is about being “POOR in spirit”, acknowledging our spiritual bankruptcy, our need for God.

The 2nd Beatitude is about “MOURNING” our sinful tendency, receiving God’s comfort and grace.

The 3rd Beatitude asks us into “HUMILITY”, we know our spiritual poverty and mourn it, so we cannot exalt ourselves because we are unworthy.

The 4th beatitude deals with desiring legal, personal, and social “RIGHTEOUSNESS”, and Jesus promises to satisfy that desire.

 

Then this 5th Beatitude begins a list of CHRIST-like character traits that will form in those who follow Jesus well.

 

Listen with me to these words of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon of the Mount. Matthew 5:1-2 and 3-7 ….—-

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.  He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,    for they will be comforted.  

Blessed are the meek,    for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,     for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,    for they will be shown mercy. (NIV)

 

The first four Beatitudes all describe the needs of a disciple. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” is the last in this intro-series.

These first four Beatitudes all remind us that, as human beings longing for eternal love, we need a Savior – who has come to us in the person of the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth.

 

Remember that the Greek word Matthew uses for “blessed” is Makarios, which refers to the BELIEVER in Christ who is SATISFIED and SECURE by the indwelling of the HOLY SPIRIT. (StudyLight.org) This is much more than the simple word “happy”. Makarios implies that there is nothing else needed.

 

I began this message today with that story about my High School math teachers being merciful to me to help illustrate what mercy looks like.

“Grace” is often defined as getting what we DON’T deserveI did not deserve a C-, but I got one anyway – we do not deserve forgiveness, but God offers it through faith in Jesus anyway.

“Mercy” is often defined as NOT getting what we DO deserve – I did deserve a D, but I did not get that – we do deserve banishment, but God offers grace through faith in Jesus anyway.

 

Mercy is the generosity, tenderness of heart, and kindness of soul that moves us to alleviate the sufferings of others. It is one of the characteristics that reveal the children of God, for God Himself is “rich in mercy – Ephesians 2:4 tells us.

Lamentations 3:22 remind us that God’s mercies are never-ending.

 

The Apostle Peter tells us that those whose lives are marked by a deep and lasting heart of mercy are made this way by experiencing the mercy God shows us by allowing us to be born again! (I Peter 1:3)

 

Have you been “born again”? Do you know Jesus in a way that demonstrates faith and trust in Him as both Savior and as Lord?

If you say YES, then carrying the Christ-like characteristic of mercy will be a real thing.  People will say, look at her, she cares for people. They will watch you and wonder why you are so generous toward others, so tender-hearted.

If you say YES to that question about having a full-on relationship with Christ, but feel like you lack that love for the lost and the lonelyhere’s how we develop it:

We grow in mercy as we REFLECT on God’s mercy to us!!  Reflect on the truths of those first four BeatitudesPoor in spirit, mourning our sinfilled lives, humbly asking for God’s help, and hoping to gain in Christlikenessreflect on the fact that God’s Son died for you! Above all – He thought of you!

Reflect on that, son.

 

Then, after realizing how amazing God’s grace is – we will always want to share His grace with everyone around us – we will feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, take care of the infirmed. We may not all do all of that with perfection, but some of it we will excel in!

Jesus said, Luke 6:36, “Be merciful, even as your Father in heaven is merciful.”

 

As discipled followers of Jesus we are already what we hope to becomefull of mercy. But here’s the thing – as we live lives mercy-full what we are promised is to be, ultimately, completely mercy-filled. We have it, and then we get even more!

 

And this Beatitude, some believe, promises ultimate mercy on our souls! As we SHOW mercy to others, God promises eternal mercy on our souls!

 

We are invited to find God’s ultimate SATISFACTION in Christ. The imperative of this indicative/imperative clause is to be merciful; the indicative is that as those who know the deep, deep love of Jesus, we are already mercy-filled!

 

Living and gracious God,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
You have brought us out to a spacious place
where we are called to live as those redeemed.
Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to keep Your commandments,
that we may show forth Your love
with gentle word and reverent deed
always, everywhere. Amen.

 

Resources:

Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange; hermeneutics.stackexchange.com.

 

Steward, Gary; “Blessed Are The Merciful”; TableTalk; June 2017; Pp 21.

 

Makarios: Blessed; the state of one who has become a partaker of God; to experience the fullness of God”; StudyLight.org.