Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Meek

Matthew 5:5
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.

Meekness is having humility and gentleness, but does not equal weakness. Meekness is a fruit of salvation: something which comes about when we have turned to Christ, and humility also has a part to play in the first act of salvation. We must be humble before we will turn to God for salvation. We need to be humble before we will submit to him as Lord and Saviour, before we will realise that we cannot help ourselves but that Jesus is the only way to be saved. Once we submit to him, we will start to live like christians also: obeying God's word and doing good doing things for God's glory. Meekness is not being cowardly, but being gentle - it still means that we stand up for what is right and for truth. Meekness also means not trusting in your own strength. Instead we need to trust in God's strength, give him the glory and submit to him. Instead of using power selfishly, meekness is about using it to benefit others and glorify God. It is trusting God in everything that happens and being content, instead of being anxious about life and troubled about things going 'wrong' in the world.

There is such a thing as fake meekness: claiming to be humble when you actually aren't. I once heard a quote: the moment you think that you are humble is the moment that you are not. Humility is realising that we deserve nothing, we deserve no blessing from God - only judgement. It is tied to mourning for sin and being poor in spirit. Likewise there is a fake meekness which is using gentleness as an excuse to be weak: to hide from confrontation and not stand up for the truth. We need to make sure that we don't use meekness as an excuse to hide.

'For they will inherit the earth' - This promise does not have its complete fulfilment here: we will not be exalted on this earth, in fact we will face persecution here. But when Christ returns to judge, he will exalt us. We are adopted as God's children, and we are co-heirs with Jesus. Of course, we are not equal to him, but we will inherit eternal life. This blessing is partially fulfilled here though: we are blessed through being christians. We are given access to God when we pray, we have hope and joy and assurance. We also are united with fellow believers as God's family.

This passage is almost a direct quote from Psalm 37:11
'But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.' The New testament is nothing new: it is the fulfilment of the Old. Jesus did not come to bring new laws or change God's law. He came to fulfil it. God does not change and we can trust him. His word is true. 

Monday, 24 September 2012

Those who Mourn

Matthew 5:4
'Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.'

What does Mourn mean? Many would apply it to being being grieved about the death of something - may be a friend or family member, maybe even a pet. That is a good definition, but in the context it is applied to something else. Those who mourn are those who mourn because of sin. They are so grieved by their state before God that it is as if they are mourning for a dead relative. This comes directly from being poor in Spirit. When we realise our state before God and how abhorrent our sin is, there are only two options: to mourn for our sin, or to ignore and reject God. One of our biggest problems is that we do not realise how very bad sin is, and the fact that even one sin (e.g. lying once) is enough for God to justly sentence us to an eternity of condemnation in hell. We need to realise our helpless state before God and Mourn because of it. Realise that we can do nothing to save ourselves. This means humbly submitting to God, realising that we need his mercy and grace to be saved. Realising that we cannot make it on our own.

Every religion in the world, aside from Christianity, focusses on things we must do to save ourselves. But the truth is, there is nothing that we can do to save ourselves because all that we deserve is hell. Whatever we do is tainted by our sin and we are completely helpless. This isn't a popular thing to say or hear but it is truth. Imagine if there was a man who committed murder and in court his defence was that he had done plenty of good things in his life. He'd hold doors open for people to help them out, he was generous, he was kind, etc. Imagine if the judge allowed him to go free because he had done enough good to cover for his evil deed. That would be entirely unjust. We are in the same situation - we are sinful and deserve hell. Noa mount of good work can save us from God's wrath or make us right in his sight. But theres good news: Jesus did not sin at all. He alone deserved blessing from God, but he came to earth as a man, suffered in our place and took our sin. he took God's wrath and paid the price which we could not afford, and likewise we (Christians) take his righteousness when we repent and believe and are forgiven by God and even adopted as his children. But why would we repent? We need to realise our position before God and mourn for it. That leads to genuine repentance, which in turn leads to salvation, which in turn brings us to do good deeds. 

It all starts with Mourning for sin, humbly realising pour position before God. With that basis we come to him in repentance and we have faith, and by that we are forgiven and shown grace and mercy. That's the blessing - 'For they will be comforted' - their sins will be forgiven. They will be washed clean by God through Jesus. They will be granted eternal life. Not because they deserve it but because Christ took their sin and the penalty for it even though he didn't deserve it.

So, do you Mourn for sin? Have you realised how deeply God hates it and Have you repented of it? Only then will you be forgiven, declared 'Not guilty' and comforted by the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Poor in Spirit

Matthew 5:3

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

To be blessed is not simply to be happy. It is to have God's favour on us. Many of the beatitudes will not cause us to be happy in this world (eg: blessed are those who are persecuted), but to have God's favour is a wonderful thing and we have the promise of eternal life. This first Beatitude is the first of the four which are between man and God, and it is crucial to becoming a christian.

To be Poor in Spirit is to realise that there is something wrong in your relationship with God. We need to realise that we are sinful, that we are helplessly and totally depraved. We cannot save ourselves, we cannot do anything which will please God by ourselves - even our good works are filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6, Philippians 3:8). We know that everyone sins. Sin is disobedience to God. Romans 3:23 says that 'all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God'. There is not one human being who has ever lived (besides Jesus, who is God) who has not sinned, from Adam and Eve to us. Since we sin, and since God is just, the only possible solution is his judgement upon us. His justice must be fulfilled, and that means an eternity in hell. No matter what sin we have done - be it murder or lying. We are all equally as sinful, and even the 'smallest' of sins deserves the penalty of eternity in hell. The Poor in Spirit see this and realise their completely helpless condition. We need to realise that we cannot save ourselves and that we don't even deserve salvation before we will be humble enough to repent and turn to God. 

What's the good news then? Where's the hope? Well it's in what Jesus has done. Jesus is God, and he gave up his glory and became a human. he suffered along side us as a man, he was tempted - though he did not sin. He completely obeyed God's laws and he alone did not deserve God's wrath on sin. As a result, he alone could die in our place to takes the sins of his people, dying on the cross and being forsaken by God as we deserved. He deals with our sins completely so that we can not only be forgiven (which is amazing), but adopted as God's children and granted eternal life. God is truly gracious and merciful! But to be saved requires us to accept it. We aren't saved by what we do, but we need to accept salvation, and if we are genuinely Christians then we will act like it - to serve God, to thank and glorify him, and because we are truly sorry for sins. In Mark 1:15 Jesus says 'Repent and Believe for the Kingdom of God is near'. That is how we accept salvation. Repentance is saying sorry for sin, and is followed by a complete change in life. From disobeying God to obedience. A 180 degree turn. If we are genuinely sorry for sin, then we will fight it in our lives and live like christians. To believe is to have faith - to trust in Jesus: as Saviour and Lord, as the fulfilment of God's promises and as the only way to be saved.

The promise: "For theirs is the kingdom of God", and theirs alone. What a blessing! We (Christians) are given eternal life with God, we are adopted as his children, we are forgiven even though we dont deserve it! We need to realise our state before God, humbly repent and he will exalt us. He will bless us - a little here, especially with the promise and sure hope of salvation, but ultimately in heaven, which he returns to judge and when he saves us completely. Take a look at Revelations 21 for a snapshot of what heaven will be like! What a glorious thing our saviour has done! All glory to God! Note: this reward is also int he last beatitude. These things are things which all true christians should be doing and building in our lives. As a result, the blessings are all linked.

So, are you poor in spirit? Do you realise your absolutely helpless condition before God? It is only then that we will turn to him as the only way to be saved.  Have you repented and do you have faith in jesus as saviour and Lord? He is the only way to be saved.

Romans 5:8 
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Isaiah 1:18
“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool.

Monday, 17 September 2012

The Beatitudes

I just came back from a youth-group camp, and the talks were on the Beatitudes, so I thought I'd write a few posts on them. Firstly a summary:

The Beatitudes are 8 statements made by Jesus near the start of his Ministry which were basically the opposite to what people would expect. They can be split into Two groups: the first four are between man and God, and how we need to fix our relationship with him, while the second four are about how we should be treating fellow people. In comparison, we have the 10 commandments in Exodus, which are split into four which are about our relationship with God, and six which are about our relationships with others. Both are God's word, and both are applicable to our lives now. As christians, these eight things are crucial to living how we should. If we have faith in Jesus, we need to act like it - our works cannot save us, but if we are saved, we need to do good works - to glorify him, and to thank him for ll he has done, and also so that we prove to others that his word is truth and truly does change lives.

Each one has a command (Blessed are the...) and a reward (For they will...). Blessed in it's simplest form means happiness, but it doesn't mean happiness in how we think of it. it means having God's favour, his blessing on us. It is about pleasing God. Living here on earth, we will have times when we are happy, but we will also suffer for our faith. God doesn't promise prosperity here, in fact, he promises persecution and hardship for his sake (2 Tim 3:12). 'They' refers to them alone. It is only those who do certain things who will get the blessings. This is not because our works save us, but because if we are saved we will do these things. If we dont do these things, chances are we are not actually saved. 

So for the next week or two, I'll be posting about these beatitudes and trying to explain them a little. The Beatitudes are as follows:

Matthew 5:1-12
 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.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Romans 1:16-17. Not ashamed.

Romans 1:16-17

New International Version (NIV)
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

A few good lessons in here. Are we ashamed of the gospel? 

The gospel is the good news of Jesus, God's only son, coming to earth as a man and taking our place to save us from God's wrath for our sins. We all sin, and we all deserve hell because of it, but Jesus came to earth and lived a perfect life. he did not sin, but took our sin, and the punishment for it (God's wrath), and died in our place. He then rose again to prove that he had paid the penalty for us and that he truly is God. This is the gospel, and we need to tell it to all people. Through Jesus there is salvation to all who believe: complete forgiveness from sins, changing us from God's enemies to his people, and adopting us as his children. We need to tell people! If we have seen God's wonderful grace, been shown his mercy, then what reason is there not to tell people? The only real reason is shame and fear of man. I have always struggled to share the gospel, but God has challenged me to do it heaps over the past years and there is only one response: to do it. It will lead to persecution, it will lead to people not liking us - but it's worth it isn't it? If even one person turns to Christ, it is well worth it! We dont save people, God does, but he has called us to share the gospel and to bring people to him. He uses us even though he does not need us, and it is an honour to serve God. So do you do it?

I think the reason that paul says 'to the Jew first, and then the Gentile' is that the Jews were God's people from the Old Testament. They knew God's promises, they knew that he promised a saviour, and so they had the groundwork already laid to point them to Jesus as the fulfilment of all prophecy about the messiah. Jews are not 'more' saved then Gentiles, we are all equal: sinful, completely helpless and depraved, but saved by grace through Jesus. If people have different views on this, then I would love to hear them!

We are saved by faith - genuine trust in God. But faith comes with fruit, genuine trust in God means that we will obey him, that we will give up sin in our lives. God calls us to be unashamed of the gospel, so are you? If you are unashamed, then do you show it?

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Romans 1:4-7 Grace and Peace

Spent today in Romans 1:4-7

4 ...who was declared the Son of God with power [a]by the resurrection from the dead, according to the [b]Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship [c]to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;
to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as [d]saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Just want to dwell on Verse 7 today. Paul says  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace is God's undeserved favour, and is shown to us most fully through Jesus dying for us we dont deserve it, we were helpless, weak, sinful and God's enemies, and yet we are shown mercy and grace and LOVE by God. What he has done for us is truly unfathomable and amazing. He is mighty and merciful and gracious! He gives us his grace, even though we in no way deserve it. He is truly a merciful God! 

As I said, we were God's enemies. This means we were basically at war with God: slaves to sin. and not serving God. We were only deserving his wrath and hell for eternity. Through Jesus we have peace with God. Instead of facing his justice and perfect judgement, we face his mercy and grace, we are utterly forgiven, completely washed clean through Jesus if we repent and believe! God is ready to forgive, we accept by giving up our sin in proof that we are truly sorry. This means that we have eternal peace with God, eternal life in heaven with him! What a blessing! 

'From God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ'. God has adopted us as his children! We are his sons, through Jesus. Jesus took our sin and God's wrath, and died for us, while we took his righteousness and were adopted as God's sons. Of course, after dealing with out sins he rose again and proved that he has saved us. God is our father, therefore we know that he is looking after us, he is caring for us, he loves us, he is always ready to provide for us. He doesn't promise us good things here, but he has satisfied our deepest need through jesus, and also often blesses us here. Ultimately though he works for our spiritual good (Rom 8:28, James 1:2-4), which is often accomplished best when we suffer and have to persevere in the faith. We also see that Jesus is Lord and saviour. As saviour, he deserves our eternal gratitude and praise. As lord, he deserves complete and utter obedience, not because that will save us, but because we are so thankful and realise that sin leads to death, while repentance and faith leads to eternal life. 

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Romans 1:1-4 Jesus the Descendant of David

Short one today, I did some looking into How Jesus is descendant from David, since Joseph was not his physical father.

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God the gospel he promised beforehandthrough his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life[a] was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power[b] by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Theres heaps in here, but I just wanted to focus on Jesus' Genealogies. 
So in Matthew 1, we have the Genealogy os Jesus from the line of Joseph. After some research, I think Matthew did this because he was writing to the Jews, and they would only accept the Messiah from a male descendant of David. Joseph was legally Jesus' father, and so Jesus was Legally a descendant of Joseph. 
In Luke 3, we see a different Genealogy -  coming from David's son Nathan, and it could be argued that This is Mary's Genealogy. Verse 23 of Luke 3 says

Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli...

Apparently in the original text, it says Joseph of Heli, not 'son' of Heli. It could be argued that a better translation could be 'son-in-law' or Heli. I'm not sure how feasible the explanation is, but it fits well. 
This also seems to fit with Jeconiah who is in the matthew 1 account, and in Jeremiah 22:24-30 is cursed along with his descendants. In comparison we have Zerubbabel in the Luke Genealogy, who was promised in Haggai 2:20-23 that the messiah would come through him. If he is in Mary's line, then God is keeping this promise directly. If Jeconiah is in Joseph's line, then God is also keeping his promise of the curse on his descendants, as the messiah is not Joseph's physical son Only by law.

Interested to hear your thoughts/ideas/opinions on this!