Tag Archives: Christ
Below is a re-post from Stand To Reason’s Greg Koukl. I met some of Greg’s staff and volunteers a few years ago at BIOLA and immediately recognized him as someone who “gets it” when it comes to grace… and Jesus… and the cross. I hope you’ll visit his site, learn about his ministry, and be encouraged by his word.
Sometimes, knowing what Jesus did not come to do is almost as important as knowing what He did come to do because a wrong understanding of the first can lead to confusion on the second.
Two groups seem to go astray here.
The first are non-Christians enamored with Jesus for what they take to be His emphasis on the Golden Rule, love for one’s neighbor, concern for the poor and the outcast, and “tolerance” (the latter understood as accepting all and judging none)—broadly what has come to be called “social justice.”
The second group are Christians who, focusing on the “red letter” sections of the Gospels—the actual words of Jesus often rendered in red so they stand out—come to the same conclusion as the first group, on the main. These believers ask, “What if Jesus meant what He said?” in discourses like the Sermon on the Mount. Again, social justice.
For those tempted to summarize Jesus this way, consider for a moment the final record of Jesus’ life—the last testament of His purpose and mission—written by one of Jesus’ intimate inner circle, the “beloved” disciple John.
Surprisingly, from John 1:1 to John 21:25 there is not a single verse that advances the cause of social justice. Not one. Jesus’ only mention of the poor is this—“The poor you always have with you” (Jn. 12:8).
Check any major discourse of Jesus—the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), the Bread of Life Discourse (Jn. 6), the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24, Lk. 21, Mk. 13), or the Upper Room Discourse (Jn. 13-17)—and you will search in vain for emphasis on the social gospel. Why?
Indeed, check any Gospel. Yes, occasionally you will find a mention of the poor, but almost always when Jesus is making a point about something else—hypocrisy (Matt. 6:2-3), a widow’s generosity (Lk. 21:2-3), Zaccheus’s repentance (Lk. 19:8), the rich young ruler’s confusion (Matt. 19:21), or a lesson about the afterlife (Lk. 16:20, 22). Why?
Because proclaiming social justice was not Jesus’ mission. Jesus’ discourses focus on something else. The Gospels focus on something else. The Epistles focus on something else. Not on the works of Christians, but rather on the work of Christ.
It isn’t the poor who Jesus commends on the Sermon on the Mount (and elsewhere), but rather the poor in Spirit, not the poverty stricken, but the morally broken.
Picture the tax collector Jesus tells about—hardly destitute—beating his breast pleading, “God be merciful to me, the sinner” (Luke 18:9-14). This man proclaiming his spiritual poverty went away justified while the Pharisee, whose spiritual arrogance clouded his genuine spiritual need, did not.
The main divide for Jesus was not between the poor and the rich, but between the proud and the repentant. In His own words:
• “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Lk. 6:32).
• “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).
• “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” ( Lk. 19:10).
• “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (Jn. 3:17).
I point this out not to deemphasize our obligation to the poor because certainly the Bible teaches us to be compassionate and help those in material need. I point this out to emphasize the centrality of the Gospel. Did Jesus care about the poor and downtrodden? Of course He did. He also cared about the rich and powerful. Jesus helped everyone and anyone who came to Him—poor beggar or prostitute, wealthy tax collector or Pharisee.
“Social justice”—a.k.a. the “social gospel”—is not the Gospel. It was not Jesus’ message. It is not why He came. His real message was much more radical.
“What if Jesus meant what He said?” Indeed. That’s my question, too.
So many confusing messages and well-meaning, yet unbiblical viewpoints find their way to the forefront of our society. But at Stand to Reason, we continue to dedicate ourselves to ensuring you and others live and act in light of the true Gospel of Christ.
Interesting that Ron Dunn would be leading a deep dive into the 10 Commandments at One Th1ng the same week I watched “Saving Mr. Banks”. I just might not have seen the connection between this movie and the second commandment, had God not juxtaposed these two events so closely.
No big spoiler here – if you’ve read the title of the movie, you know “Saving Mr. Banks” is a statement of identity for Mary Poppins. It’s what she was created to do: save Mr. Banks. The movie covers two stories in parallel: the childhood of Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers and the 1960s collaboration between Walt Disney Studios that gave birth to the big screen film. So, what does this have to do with the Ten Commandments, much less you and I?
Thanks, for asking. Let me dive into the “you and I” part first and the Commandment part should become pretty obvious along the roadside.[Spoiler?] As Travers’ father’s alcoholism began to take its toll on her father’s health and her mother began to break down under the stress, her aunt enters the picture – on whom she’d later base the beloved Poppins. But, this Mary Poppins – to save the family from utter destruction. But, while this Poppins could offer help to Travers’ beleaguered mother and siblings and limited care to her dying father, she couldn’t save her father from the damage already done. The story left me wondering how much of our adult lives we often spend trying to right childhood wrongs. Travers, who loved her father’s whimsical imaginations, apparently shut her self off from all childhood fun, save that which she wrote about in her books.
Mary Poppins was sent to save Mr. Banks since her own aunt could not save her own dad. In other words, Travers created for herself a savior who would make all things right that she could not…
I know, that’s a little heavy for Monday Morning Momentum, isn’t it?
Not for the Christian. For those who are in Christ, we understand God as the loving father far better than Travers’ faulty dad. Our Sovereign Father doesn’t have an alcohol problem or a bad temper at work, and He appreciates whimsy far more than even Colin Firth can revel in. Because He loves us now, and Israel long before us, He gave the command to worship no rival gods. The second commandment warns us not to even dream up our own physical representation of Him, because such things always fall short, and will consequently leave us only temporarily fulfilled and unsaved from our greatest need. The Disney story shows Travers reaching a final, cathartic salvation when she sees her father figure, Mr. Banks, alive and well and frolicking with his children – eventually flying kites they repaired with money her own father would have made her invest.
Who Made Your God?
Though she may have experienced temporal justice, without a true Savior, she’d never truly know the good of a perfect and loving Heavenly Father.
Do not act like the other nations…Their ways are futile and foolish.
They cut down a tree, and a craftsman carves an idol.
They decorate it with gold and silver
and then fasten it securely with hammer and nails
so it won’t fall over… such gods,
for they can neither harm you nor do you any good. (Jer. 10:2-3,5)
If Travers spent much of her adult life writing, forming a savior decorated with earthly wisdom, silvery songs, and fancy on pages her typewriter hit like hammer and nails, she’d have created a god that could only save her from the wrongs of her childhood. Easy mistake: even the disciples often mistook Jesus as one who would merely save them from the oppression of Rome and earthly princes. They would scatter at His death because they missed the fact that He died to save them, save Travers, save all of us, from something far greater – a future eternity separated from God. Ironic that Mary Poppins would be so famous for quoting that “some people cannot see past the tip of their own nose…” Her man-made idol’s power went only so far.
The Good News:
In Christ, you have a Savior – capital “s” – who does not promise you mere temporal justice. Things done to you or not done for you in childhood may not be reconciled this side of heaven. But, one day, He will wipe away every tear from our eyes and we will reign with Him in glory. Wrong will be made right. The wicked will be cast off. And, those who are cleansed by the atoning work of Christ will not gloat over this, rather rest in the peace and joy that only a Savior created by God can promise.
So, Lemme Askya
Is there anything – a situation, a relationship, a deal, an ideal – that you’ve created in your life to fix what didn’t happen or didn’t happen as well as you wished in childhood? Any temporal problem you’re striving and striving to save yourself from while God is calling you to set your eyes on the greater problem of eternal salvation? Do as Moses did – crush the idol to powder and feed it to the Israelites… Okay, maybe not the second part. But, repentance for this is simple – “Lord, I’ve bowed down to a god that can scarcely save me from my own past. I want a God who can save me from my future.”
I have a dirty little secret. It mostly only comes out at parties and weddings, but Friday night my firstborn and I attended our very first “Daddy-Daughter Dance” and it reared its ugly head: I can’t dance to save my life. Not that I don’t try… I used to think I was pretty good. I believed in my reputation of being a “great dancer” until a look of near panic came over my then fiancee’s face when we were at a wedding together. One look at my “interpretation” of the moves and she immediately thought: “Oh, NO! He’s a MESS on the dance floor!” While I was initially offended at her opinion, I eventually faced reality. Not an ounce of rhythm in this dancer…
She’s now my wife of nearly 7 years. But, she who has all the moves still doesn’t understand how I can know so much about music yet be so “white” and clumsy on the dance floor. Having a ton of knowledge and doing the right motions, doesn’t mean you’re doing them with soul. It’s different to “know about” rhythm than to “have rhythm”. Wouldn’t you agree?
Jesus had a hard time with the Sadducees, Pharisees, and other religious types of His day because many of them were so caught up in their religious moves – outward behavior – that they didn’t realize they had no soul… Pharisee [Hebrew parûsh’] means “set apart”. And, I really believe that these guys started out in the same good place many of us do when we first come to know how holy God is and how utterly sinful we are apart from Him. I learned this in 2001 and immediately wanted to be “clean” in His presence. The problem for the Pharisees is that the ones Jesus was confronting had become so caught up in the moves – the external behavior – that they neglected the proper attitude of the heart: soul… rhythm… love for God and others.
They were Chris Brown in their minds… Montgomery Burns in their hearts… Therefore, Ed Grimley in their moves.
In the Sermon on the Mount beginning in Matthew 5, Jesus essentially tells thousands in attendance that the Pharisees, etc., had all the right moves in God’s eyes, yet no rhythm. How do you think they felt? Offended to know they had no rhythm? They had boiled a relationship with God down to a list of behaviors that demonstrate piety, but were devoid of it. In fact, throughout His interactions with them, Jesus exposes some of them as using God’s name and God’s law for their own gain. “Selfish ambition” is a drive for “progress” devoid of love for God and love for others. But, when it shows up in our own mirrors, ouch. Hurts to find out you’ve got all the right moves and no rhythm… Offensive.
Lately, I’ve heard a number of people talk about being “radical for God” or being “offensive for Jesus”. Most of them, are well meaning – out of devotion to God, and love for how the truth of Christ offends “those who are perishing”, they say offensive or radical things. Their initial hope is good: wake those who are slumbering to the love of God and the atoning work of Christ. However, there is a fine line between offending those enslaved by sin with the truth that can set them free, and being offensive just for the sake of offending.
How to Properly Offend?
We are in grave danger of walking in the Pharisees’ shoes when we seek to offend merely for offendings’ sake. The Lord didn’t offend merely to be countercultural and offensive. But, exposing “inconvenient truths” about deeply held convictions will offend those who do not have “ears to hear” constructive criticism. Jesus only offended with the “you ain’t got no rhythm” truth so that He could teach them “the unforced rhythms of Grace“, rooted in love for those who have all the right moves with the wrong heart and soul. Agape love – the kind of love that God offers us through Christ – is the kind that seeks to elevate others at our own expense, not vice versa. This is the proper starting point for offending others – aim with restoration in mind.
Before you say one more thing to that guy who’s a hypocrite at work, before you send that private Facebook message, before you send that Tweet – are you seeking to offend only to be offensive or because you’d love to see the hypocrite transformed by the Truth, set free by the Lord, and welcomed as your brother/sister in Christ?
Much love (and a whole lot of rhythm),
Longing to be Set Free?
We’ve all heard the story of the Golden Calf, haven’t we? Exodus 32, Moses goes up the mountain, the people begin to doubt he’ll return and in their wicked need for a tangible representation of God, melt down all their personal “bling” to form a golden calf. They sing and dance around it… Moses comes down and loses it, and the Levites slaughtered 3,000 of the offenders that day. God alters the game plan – no longer will He lead the nation, but an angel will be taking lead because if God were to go with them personally, He might have to kill them for their stubbornness. He’d set them free from 400 years of slavery under the wicked rule of idol worshippers. You’d think they’d have had enough of that, not to mention a little more practical devotion to the God who parted the Red Sea for them… But, when we’re used to living as a slave, it’s very possible to be “set free, but not living free.”
Idols enslave. That’s what they do. Sin is sticky and familiar. Sometimes, it’s hard to shake and easy to shift back into even when you’re liberated from it. So, what’s stuck to you right now? And, how do you get it off and keep it off?
God didn’t give the nation of Israel the 10 Commandments until after He’d already set them free – His rules were established after their relationship was established. The famous maxim – “rules without relationship lead to rebellion” is typified here. But, Moses somehow sees the big picture here. Thank God.
“If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth? (Ex. 33:15-16)”
Moses understood God wasn’t on some power-tripping mission to make the Israelites follow a bunch of baseless rules and play Simon Says: Desert Edition at His beck and call. Moses had a relationship with God. Moses understood early in the game that the only reason God would have them as His people, further ever have a people – Israel, the Church, etc. – is for distinguishing Himself and His holy name. Holy people reflect a holy God more clearly. For this reason it seems Moses refuses the angelic point man and returns to first principles: if it’s not You, Lord, in the lead – anyone in our path will miss Your point. Moses pleads for more of God.
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation… If the Son sets you free you will be free indeed… In Christ, we’re no longer obligated to answer to our inner teenager who wants what they want, when they want it, the way they want it. But, don’t we all have a “pet sin” that stirs up godly sorrow every time we commit it? Aren’t there seasons of your sanctification you wish you could fast forward beyond? Feeling… stuck? Feeling… like the Israelites a bit? But, you’re free!!! Shouldn’t this be easy? As Moses understood – it’s simple, but not easy.
Had Enough? How about More?
If you’ve had enough of slavery to sin or a sin in particular, you don’t need “wisdom and discernment” (#1 prayer request of the decade). You need deliverance. You need to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. So, let me ask you: when is the last time you found yourself on your face before the throne with that kind of attitude? Refusing to move forward without His presence? Your greatest need isn’t wisdom or even courage – you know what you’re doing is offensive to God, you’ve just pushed God away thinking He can’t or won’t see what you’re doing in “secret”. I’ve been there, too. If there’s a sin or groups of sin in your life that you keep finding yourself stuck to, even though you are set free, perhaps it’s not an end to the sin you seek. Perhaps it’s just more of the presence of God. How about a little “on-your-Facetime” with God this week? Got a half hour you can carve out in your schedule to just lay prostrate, call out to God, and listen for His reply… wait on His presence?
Hope it’s the best 30 minutes you’ve spent all week…
in it with you,
Breaking Breakfast News:
The week after “Snowmageddon” had most of Atlanta iced into their homes, we drove a quick hour away for a quick “staycation” in Helen, GA. Nothing fancy, bargain hotel deal with a pool to wear out the toddlers and breakfast included. Just had to get out of the house, you know? After a post-breakfast stroll, I went back to the hotel to find 3 urgent voice mails eagerly awaiting on my cell. It wasn’t “good” news: my sister Shanua, had suffered a stroke… in India… and the brain bleeding looked like it could go from bad to worse. Shortly after admission to ICU, the doctor gave her 24-48 hours to live. “Fine, how was your breakfast?”
I’m 42. My sister’s only a couple years my senior. Nobody in my family dies of a stroke in their 40s! Do they?
A few days pass, tons of prayer across the country, some emergency expediting of visas takes place and a few family members make haste to her side at the ICU. She’s better, still a little numb on one side, but would have to return to the States to complete her very miraculous turnaround and recovery. The day before she arrived home I got the news one of our most beloved uncles died. It was tough news for me and would be tough news for her even under normal circumstances. I spoke with her on the phone yesterday morning, she had taken it well. I could tell she was a bit busy wrapping her brain around the fact that her brain had almost taken her out… “Less than 10% of people who went through what I went through survive.”
Today, with my sister’s miracle as the first word of the sentence and Uncle Rufus’ death as the period, I understand a phrase that Shanua now knows in all too vivid detail: we all have an expiration date.
“I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. (Acts 20:28-31)”
Paul was clearly warning the elders at Ephesus that men bent on their own fame and agenda would come swooping in as soon as he left town to draw them away from the simplicity of the gospel. Paul broke down the gospel into two very simple principles a few verses earlier: “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ”. Nothing more. Nothing less. This is a freedom bigger than many of us are prepared for. It’s so big, in fact, that in the flesh, it’s very easy to drift away from it. Enter, wolves.
Many had already picked up pieces of the gospel and tried to co-opt it for their agenda, taking grace alone and adding to it works. Some said that to follow Christ one would have to first become a Jew via rites and rituals including circumcision. This would have drawn them closer to men, not God (you’ve got to be one of us before you can be one of His). Paul outright condemns this practice and explains in later letters that it’s grace and grace alone via repentance and faith. Repentance turns us away from sin and faith knits us in to God.
A Stern, Prophetic Warning to America
by Messianic Rabbi Jonathan Cahn
From the Presidential Inaugural Prayer Breakfast
January 21, 2013
In his keynote speech, Jonathan Cahn brought to light biblical passages concerning the fall of nations (as characterized by the fall of Israel) and connected the dots between those harbingers and the potential judgment of America, as a nation that has made itself a stranger to God.
Rabbi Cahn presides over Beth Israel Worship Center in Wayne, NJ and Hope of the World Ministries, also in Wayne, NJ. His book “The Harbinger” has been a best seller, but we will not be featuring it here because, in my opinion, it is a bit more reiterated fluff and filler than concise and theologically sound content. For purposes of intellectual honesty and full disclosure, this assessment is not from my actual reading of the book, but a conclusion based on first watching this video, transcribing it, and reading sound reviews of the book online.
Chew the Watermelon,
Spit Out the Seeds
Warning: We believe that parallels of America and Israel can be quite dangerous. The church is God’s chosen means to reach the world, not America, nor any other geo-political entity. So, any attempt to consider it a “chosen” nation is in error. America is not the hope of the world, unless we begin spelling America “J-e-s-u-s”. A once shining city on a hill, as Cahn reminds us, but not the hope of the world, nor a nation without hope.
That aside, we cannot argue that we have much to learn from the fall of Israel as a world power both on a macro and micro level. America‘s foundation is firmly rooted in Judeo-Christian values and has strayed greatly as a culture from this for many decades now. The signs and symbols present in the front page events he describes bear incredibly eery parallels to past biblical events. Disobedience still brings death. Perhaps not actual, biological death, but death in some form. God still punishes sin, if only with temporal consequence and a removal of the veil of protection from such consequences. We are by no means suggesting any form of salvation by works and I don’t believe Rabbi Cahn is, either.
If Rabbi Cahn is correct about these harbingers, which I currently hold he is, we must begin praying fervently and frequently for great, national revival and surrender more soundly to the call of Christ to “go forth and make disciples”.
How it Went “Down”…
On the morning of January 21st, 2013, as on all Inauguration Days, there are dozens of events, speeches and breakfasts in the nation’s capitol. This year was no different in that the usual invites went out to the usual VIPs, power brokers, politicians, and leaders. But, this year, a bold word was spoken at the Presidential Inaugural Prayer Breakfast by a man, a Messianic Rabbi, named Jonathan Cahn. In his own words, he stated that his message would not be politically correct, nor political, rather Biblical.
He wasn’t joking and he delivered on his promise. For 35 minutes, he unfolded the truth that America is a nation in the early stages of Divine judgment and that we have time to repent and return to God as a nation. He urged us to pray in that direction… The biblical parallels he drew were stunning and the idea that prophecies thousands of years old could be unfolding on American soil during the 21st century rang hauntingly accurate.
His speech was captured on video and made its way to YouTube. By Friday morning, 01.25.2013, I and many of the table leaders from ONE TH1NG had already seen it and forwarded the link on to friends, family, and co-workers. I had opportunity to watch it on Friday morning and immediately ripped and re-posted it on the Seasons of Life Ministries YouTube channel. By Friday evening, it had over 9,000 views.
By Saturday, it was in the 20,000s and on Sunday morning, just 48 hours after posting it, it had 48,000 hits. Viral by any statistics. That day, we received correspondence from Scott Pinto at Hope of the World Ministries, in Wayne, NJ, Rabbi Cahn’s organization. He informed us that the production company that filmed the event owned the intellectual property and if too many people posted it before they were able to put it into proper distribution (which they plan to do with HOTW) it could wind up tied up in copyright court rather than getting into wide scale, legitimate distribution.
We immediately complied and took the video down. However, I asked Scott if it would be permissible to put out a transcript of the speech, to which he replied “yes”. So, after hours of regular work and many hours of back and forth between YouTube and Evernote, we have the below transcription. It’s rough and fairly unedited, but you’ll get the idea. It is a long one, but a very worthy read. We look forward to your comments, questions, and reactions.
Let’s pray for great repentance and revival in our nation while there is still time.
UPDATE: The video has been reproduced and cleared for distribution as of 02.04.2013. It is live, again at: http://youtu.be/bovMw1l056k.
The city on the hill has grown darkened. Its lamp has grown dim. Its glory is fading, for God is not mocked. No nation can war against the very source of its blessings and expect its blessings to remain. And, as it was with ancient Israel, the city on the hill now stands in the shadow of judgment.
How does judgment come to a nation? After defying all of God’s calls and warnings, the nation of Israel would experience something unprecedented. It was the opening stage of national judgment. God removed one of Israel’s blessings. Years before its destruction he allowed it’s hedge of protection to be lifted up. He allowed an enemy to make a strike on the land. It was a wake up call. To avert national destruction, to wake them up. Nothing else would reach them. The strike was limited and temporary. The nation was now given a period of time to turn back to God or enter into judgment. The first opening Biblical sign of national judgment is this: the initial removal of the nation’s hedge of protection.
|Harbinger #6 – the sycamore at
|The Chapel at Ground Zero, which averted destruction
because of the sycamore.
NOTE: Late this afternoon, we will begin publishing the transcript of Rabbi Jonathan Cahn’s keynote address at the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Prayer Breakfast. For now, please enjoy this week’s installment of Monday Morning Momentum in a Minute.
“But, if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. 2 Peter 1:9”
When we lose touch with the massiveness of the sins we’ve been forgiven, we’ve become nearsighted and blind. You and I are “eternally opposed” by the enemy, be it Satan, our old sin nature, or the world and their common MO is to keep us so focused on present circumstances and worries of what is yet to come that we are just that: nearsighted and blind. The result – discouragement, ineffectiveness, and “unproductiveness”.
This morning, I was interrupted on several occasions by each one of our three toddlers and even a few requests by my wife. When you crave uninterrupted time in the word like I was craving it this morning, “interruptions” can easily become the objects of your wrath. Knowing I couldn’t unleash my full fury on my bride or these three precious children, my brain followed the natural pecking order – “point your anger somewhere else”. In this case, it was inward. In other words, rather than exploding at my wife and kids, I chose to be discouraged. I had become short sighted.
Ever been there?
The beauty of my folly, or should I say the God who saves me from my own folly, is that ten minutes later, my wife encouraged me with this very verse:
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1.10-11)
Don’t Be Tardy to the Party…
Imagine for a moment, the scene outside the Oscars or the Super Bowl – the atmosphere is rife with celebration and anticipation of the imminent event. The air is charged with excitement, with everyone looking forward to great moments of victory for someone(s) who will be honored very soon. But, this isn’t the Oscars and the crowd is far larger than all of the Super Bowls combined.
It’s THE biggest party EVER – the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10) and the day we all get to meet Jesus face to face! And, that’s not all… You hear your name announced in 4-D Dolby Pro Logic 10.1 Infinisound. At the mention of your name, Jesus and the billions in attendance all shout “WELCOMMMMME!!!!” in unison. Balloons fall from the ceiling of heaven, a warm blizzard of confetti flies in your face, choirs of angels sing and Chris Tomlin (God’s worship leader) plays power chords on his 50-string guitar. You are given a VIP welcome to the biggest party EVER!!! Whoop-whoop!!!
Would that not be “a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom”?
This is the target we have to keep our eyes on. This is the target I’m praying right now that God keeps my eyes on. It is so easy to become discouraged, ineffective, and unproductive when we are caught in near-sightedness. Lift up your eyes – look far into your past to see all the sin Christ has lifted you out of. Lift up your eyes – look into the future where a rich welcome awaits those who choose not to forget that we have been cleansed from our past sins.
I wonder what Jesus’ audience thought about this statement. After all, the Pharisees had been teaching people to obey the law of Moses and then some for what seemed like forever. For Jesus to say this in the about the same breath as “poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (Mt. 5:2)” must have seemed a bit strange: He had already begun to unfold the wrapper of grace, was He now exposing more law as the gift?
Or, was it much simpler than that?
Whether Psalm 119 was written by David or Ezra, it is clear that the author’s heart was broken, wrecked, and shattered for the Lord. As we read through v 131 and 133 we hear from a man who opened his mouth, panting for God’s word. Jesus makes it clear throughout the Beatitudes that sincere and pure devotion to God isn’t about the outward behavior, rather a heart desperate for God, dependent on Him, that propels us to outward behavior.
A resume rich in church activity doesn’t necessarily indicate a beggar’s heart for God. Only the poor in spirit have room for God in their hearts.
As we enter week 2 of the fast, there are times when our flesh begs for old forms of satisfaction: “comfort” food, entertainment, and other forms of self comfort rather than on the God of all comfort. Jesus’ statement from Matthew 5.8 is clear – you can’t have both. These lesser gods have not only stolen our full devotion from God, but deprived us of experiencing the God who sent us “the Comforter”. Why would we want anything less? Because it’s wrapped in a more tangible, sleek package and available with free shipping or for instant download?
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1.27)”
Question yourself as you pray – “What in the world is polluting me, Lord? What has my heart leaning even the slightest degree away from You? What can be done about the condition of my heart that would make me hate “even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh (Jude 1.23) and bring me to a place where I pant for Your commands?
How can any sin “rule over” us if our hearts are that hungry for God?
God sent us the Comforter to do just that – comfort us. Let us call on Him today with hearts that desire not God’s blessings, but the God of all blessings. Surely, His blessings will follow, but we cannot manufacture a heart desperate for Him. This is a work of God and it must be begged for. Would you be willing to beg God for this?