Your View of Christ is Too Small – June 11, 2021

To every Christian we could say, “Your view of Christ is too small!” As we walk through life, face the challenges, and absorb the sinful consequences of our world, it is easy to begin to believe in a God that operates in the spiritual realm only. But Christ reminds us of the real world working of God. Paul addresses this concept over and over in his epistle to the Colossians. In Colossians 1:15, We see clearly that, through Christ, God deals intimately with His creation. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. Christ is God in the flesh. He is the cause of our redemption, the foremost and authority over all things.

When we think of Christ, we must think beyond our imaginations. Colossians 1:16 informs, For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.  Through the verbal word, the Incarnate Word created all things. Nothing exists on this earth apart from the direct act of God. This includes all that would seek to be apart from God. World governments are subject to God’s rule and authority. This seems odd as we recognize most governments actively work against God. But we are reminded in Habakkuk 2 that God is actively using those governments opposed to Him for His own purposes. Daniel 2 informs us that God actively places governmental rulers into their positions. He is not passive! World governments are subject to Christ.

All things were created for Christ. This includes you and me. We often live life after our own devices. In the daily ebb and flow of life, we forget that all are subject to the rule and reign of Christ because he created us. Our interactions with others must reflect the rulership of Christ. Our management of finances must be subject to the rule of Christ. Our work must be subject to the rule of Christ. Even our eating and drinking must be subject to the rule of Christ (1 Cor 10:31). This means that everything we do is dominated by the Word of God. We allow Scripture to have the final say over everything, regardless of our emotions and opinions. Often our view of Christ is too small because we do not think of Him at all.

Yet not only is He the creator of all. He is also the sustainer of all. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17). The statement that He is before all things indicates again His authority over them. He is first, foremost, and supreme. As the foremost, all things find their source and sustenance in Him. He holds it all together. This may be saying that all creation would physically break apart without Christ sustaining it as it will in the last days. It is certainly stating that nothing will work apart from Christ. He holds life together. When we seek to live life apart from Christ, it cannot work. Because Christ is the one who sustains.

What do you think of Christ? Is He simply someone you think about on Sunday? Or is He the ruler of your life? Are you content to live like the rest of the world? Or do you submit yourself to Christ through obedience to His Word? Your view of Christ is too small! Relationships, marriage, money, outdoor vehicles, houses, and prestige cannot and will not bring satisfaction and joy. Only a life completely submitted to and committed to Christ can satisfy. So, build your view of Christ! I might suggest starting with reading the Gospels.

Happy are the Persecuted – May 21, 2021

As we work through the beatitudes, the last one seems the most contradictory to human experience. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12). The believer finds happiness and satisfaction in the middle of persecution. There are several important notes we must make to understand this properly.

First, we must understand what persecution is. Today in America we don’t necessarily understand the idea of persecution. We face being reviled and mocked for our faith. We face what one man described as “the persecution of the raised eyebrow.” But we have not faced imprisonment, torture, death, or loss for our faith. Our dear brothers and sisters in Christ around the world are facing this as we speak. We are not. But make no mistake. It appears that persecution is in our future. If not for us, then certainly for our children.

Second, this persecution is for our faith. Mask wearing, vaccine debates, stay at home orders, etc. are not what this text is speaking about. Christ is speaking about Christians being targeted for the sole reason that they are Christians and follow Christ. Christ stated that this persecution is on my account. The world hates Christ and the truth of the Gospel. The world will seek to snuff it out. This is the persecution of which Christ speaks.

Third, this persecution is unjust. They will utter all kinds of evil against you falsely. This persecution which leads to joy is only promised if it is unjust. Peter puts it this way, For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God” (1 Peter 2:20). Facing the consequences of disobedience to God’s Word is not persecution. Facing the consequences for being a jerk is not persecution. Facing unjust suffering because you are a believer is persecution.

Fourth, we can rejoice in this persecution when it does come because we are standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. We are declaring God’s glory to the lost world. And our reward in heaven is great. History demonstrates that the gospel advances through persecution. While we don’t long for it, invite it, or look for it, we need not fear persecution. We can be happy as we suffer for the cause of Christ and reveal Him to be as good as He really is.

Happy Are the Peacemakers – May 7, 2021

Conflict seems to be the fare of the day. Turn on any tv news station and you are lambasted with conflict. If the news is not about some conflict taking place in the world, then the news personality is creating conflict with other viewpoints. Further, we all experience conflict on a regular basis: Social conflict, relational conflict, spiritual conflict, personal conflict. Sadly, in many cases Christians have led the charge in the conflict. The old saying goes that if you want to see a good fight, go to a church business meeting.

But Christ presents another way. He informs us that it is the peacemakers that are happy: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). The path to joy and satisfaction in life is to pursue peace. As a result, pursuing peace is a command from God twice stated in Scripture (Psalm 34:14; 1 Peter 3:11). Yet, this is easier said than done. We live in a society which promotes self and one’s own ideas. This leads to conflict when others do not promote me or agree with my ideas. Thus, it is important to understand that peace is intricately tied with righteousness. As I draw closer to God in righteousness, humility results and I value peace. My ideas and self take a back seat to God’s commands and agenda. This is why the Psalmist declared, “Righteousness and peace kiss each other” (Psalm 85:10). To be true peacemakers, we must seek to walk in righteousness. The writer of Hebrews exhorts us, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

However, this peace does not come at the expense of truth. Peacemaking does not mean that we avoid conflict at all costs. Righteousness cannot be realized without truth. When we fail to stand for truth, we fail in righteousness. Yet this stand for truth must be done in a gracious way, keeping the commands of God free from reproach (1 Timothy 6:14). We speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

Christian, are you a person that loves peace or conflict? Some people are described as “great to have beside you in a battle but terrible to have beside you in peace” because they seem to thrive in conflict and seek it out. Instead, we are to seek peace and pursue it. For it is the peacemakers that are happy. 

Happy are the Pure in Heart – April 30, 2021

As long as you love Jesus and go to church, does it matter how you live? We live in a day in which the vast majority of church attenders are satisfied to allow that to be the sum total of their religious life. Spiritual disciplines such as reading the Bible and prayer are seen as the things that the super spiritual do. The pursuit of life is not godliness, but pleasure. We believe that because we prayed a ditty, we are Christian. Yet in the middle of the list of blessed people, Jesus dropped a bomb on this thinking. He stated, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8).

To be pure in heart means to be completely separated from sin. No sin stains the life. The word pure means to be completely cleaned and spotless. We often use another word: holiness. To understand this, we must examine two important thoughts. First, when you come to Christ in salvation, confessing your sin and acknowledging Him as Lord, His righteousness is placed on you. We become righteous (holy). You are now positionally pure. Many stop here. But second, we must understand that true purity demonstrates itself in functional purity. In other words, true Christians act like Christians. They are concerned for purity in their life. Ephesians 5:6-15 informs us, Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Those who are truly pure in heart have nothing to do with a sinful lifestyle. They seek with all their power to please God.

The result is that the pure in heart will see God. Their purity reveals their standing. They are truly children of God. They have full confidence in their standing because everything in their life confirms their righteousness through Christ. They know that the day is coming in which God will say to them, “Well done, enter into glory.” And for all eternity, they will see God face to face. Christian, take purity seriously. Live out your faith. If you don’t value holiness, you need to check whether you are even of the faith.

Happy are the Merciful – April 23, 2021

How do we respond when someone wrongs us, inconveniences us, or sins against us? Some hold to the old saying, “I don’t get mad, I just get even.” Others simmer until the final straw pushes them to explosion. Some begin to complain about the individual and slander them to others. Some demand their rights be honored. Some loudly and colorfully inform the individual of their crime. Few are inclined to show mercy.

Yet, we learn in the next Beatitude that it is the merciful that are happy, for they find mercy themselves. Christ stated, Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy (Matt. 5:7). The principle seems to be twofold. First, when you love to show mercy to others, others will show mercy to you. Second, when you show mercy to others, you demonstrate the mercy that God has and will show towards you. Whenever we come across people who are unhappy with life, it is inevitably true that they do not show mercy towards others. Instead, they stew in the bitterness of their “unjust” treatment. Further, it reveals that they do not truly understand the mercy of God.

We are reminded of the parable of the unforgiving servant. “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (Matt. 18:23-35). We have mercy on others because God has shown incredible mercy to us. And when we show mercy to others, we find true joy and contentment. Happy are the merciful.

Happy are Those Who Hunger for God – April 16, 2021

Your view of God dictates your view of life. This is also true in the area of one’s happiness and satisfaction. Ecclesiastes spends significant time revealing that the pursuit of the things of this world is vanity. Nothing this world has to offer can bring true happiness. Seeking happiness through the things of this world is like chasing the wind. That promotion at work, that relationship you desire, that new toy you want, that new car you crave cannot bring lasting happiness. Instead, Christ informs us, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). When we hunger for God, we can find true happiness.

When Scripture speaks of hunger, it indicates a driving pursuit for something. What is the driving pursuit of your life? From the moment of birth, the driving pursuit of our life is to have our own lusts and desires fulfilled. We seek comfort and satisfaction. Yet, this world cannot truly offer this. This only comes from God. As you cannot get enough of the food you love, so you should pursue God.

We are also to thirst after righteousness. Years ago, I went on a hike in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and foolishly forgot to take a water bottle. It was not long before I began to get a little dryness in my throat. That dryness soon turned into a burn. And the burn soon turned into a longing. When I was finally able to get to water, I felt as though I could never drink enough. After what seemed like gallons of water, I was satisfied. So it ought to be with God. The believer ought to long for God and righteousness like the traveler in the desert. He becomes the sole focus of our thinking. He becomes the sole desire we long for.

We are to hunger and thirst for righteousness. But what exactly is righteousness? One could simply define it as rightness with God. We come to rightness with God through salvation (or justification) in which we give our lives to God through faith and find forgiveness at the cross. We also find rightness with God through sanctification. Daily living our lives in a manner worthy of our salvation. We seek to have our lives reflect our justification.

When we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we are promised that we will be filled. Like the experience of leaving a buffet, we will find fullness from God. This is when we find true happiness and satisfaction. You will not find true happiness through the things of this world, but you will find true happiness through an urgent pursuit of God. Live for God and find true joy.

My Sin, Nailed to the Cross – April 2, 2021

Consider for a moment the thought that God created all things with a word. Yet shortly after this creation, the gem, the prized creation determined that it would not longer fulfill its created purpose. Instead, mankind determined that they were gods themselves. From that day forward, every human has continued in this open rebellion. Through one man’s sin, all were made sinners. In justice, God fulfilled His warning to mankind and death entered the world. It awaits each of us. This means that you and I are not good people. Ephesians 2 informs us that we were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Yet God in his eternal love and goodness had determined a way of escape before He had created anything. From eternity past, the Triune God determined that the Son would enter into His creation, become His creation, and be murdered by His creation as a substitutional sacrifice for the sin of mankind. Over 2000 years ago today, Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price for our sin. He took our sin on Himself on the cross. So that through faith, His righteousness could be placed on us. He endured cruel mockings and beatings. He endured blasphemy and ridicule. And ultimately, he endured the death of suffocation and excruciating pain in the cross. All so that you and I could enter into life through Him.

So today we echo the words written by Horatio Spafford:

My sin, o the bliss of this glorious thought,

My sin, not in part, but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross,

And I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

O my soul!

Happy are the Gentle – March 26, 2021

Bold, brash, and confident: these are the marks of someone who will change the world. Or so the world would have you think. We live in a society which loves and values brashness. One who stands up for themselves and takes no prisoners. The way to the top is by climbing over the bodies. However, Christ informs us that this is not God’s way. Those who would inherit the earth must learn to be gentle. The next attribute for happiness in the sermon on the mount is stated as, Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). It is not the bold, the brash, or the confident who will inherit the earth and find happiness, but the meek.

Many look down on meekness because they view it as weak. Meekness and weakness are not synonyms. Rather, some have described meekness as strength under control. To be meek means to be soft and gentle. The picture is of a large muscular father gently holding his newborn baby. While he has the strength to crush it, he holds it with tender compassion and love. Meekness knows when to use its strength and when to subdue it. It shows forth its strength in defense of others in the battle against sinfulness. It subdues it when it would result in selfish ambition.

Jesus is our greatest example of meekness. As he headed towards the cross, He was sorely mistreated: beaten, spit on, humiliated, and mocked. Yet in all of it 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed (1 Peter 2:22-24). Our first reaction is often to seek revenge and restitution when mistreated. We scream loudly so that we can be heard above the din of the world. Yet, this is not the way of Christ.

Those who are gentle will inherit the earth. The Kingdom of God is coming in which we will rule and reign with Christ. All the misfortune and mistreatment in this world will be over. Through Christ, we will inherit the earth. While the way to the top today might be through boldness, brashness, and confidence, it is short lived and short sighted. Those who are gentle will inherit the eternal kingdom.

Don’t be known as a mean, vindictive, brash, angry person. Place your confidence in the eternal sacrifice of Christ. See the souls of men as more important than your rights or comfort. Be willing to respond like Christ to mistreatment. Be known as a gentle person. For the gentle will inherit the earth!

Happy are the Sad – March 19, 2021

In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ makes a statement that seems outlandish. He states: Blessed (Happy) are those who mourn (Matthew 5:4). How can the sad be happy? How can the mourning person be blessed? This is an important concept for believers to understand because life is filled with sadness. Loss of loved ones, battles with illness, financial trials, loneliness, and conflict all lead to a steady stream of sadness. Paul recognized that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now (Romans 8:22 NASB). Even creation is longing for the suffering to end. Yet, Christ states clearly that those who mourn are blessed. How can this be?

We must first understand why we mourn so that our mourning is proper. This mourning is not referring to an improper mourning over selfish or sinful desires unfulfilled. This mourning refers to the recognition of the effects of sin in our world. This mourning occurs because we see that sin has corrupted the world. But not just any sin: our sin. Our world is broken, and our lives endure suffering because we sin. Death, decay, and depravity result from our sin. We mourn, not just over the loss of life, the physical struggle, the financial burden, the loneliness, or the conflict, but also over the sin which brought this all about. We mourn over a sin-stained world.

Understanding proper mourning leads to the ability for the sad to be happy in their sadness. Because Christ continues: Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. This “shall be” event is both near and far future. It is far future in that the day is coming in which He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (Revelation 21:4). The day is coming in which God will redeem His creation and make all things right. Glory will be revealed, and mourning will cease eternally.

However, this is also a near future event as well. When the mourner comes to God with a recognition of their own sin and the reality of a sin-stained world, God will comfort them today. Our God invites you to cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). He promises that He will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). So, amid your mourning, look to your God for comfort. For he has promised, Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Happy are the Poor in Spirit – March 12, 2021

From the moment of birth, we are taught in this country to rely on our own abilities and make something of ourselves. We see ourselves as amazing. We tout our abilities and knowledge. We love us. The road to happiness is the one we pave with our accomplishments. Then we wonder why happiness eludes us. It might just be that we are looking in the wrong place.

Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount with a series of blessing statements. The word blessing is a word which translates also as happy, fortunate, free from daily cares and worries. As Christ used it, it pictured a person in close communion with God who lives in peace and contentment. Through this section found in Matthew 5, Jesus gives a glimpse into the secret of true happiness. This glimpse reveals that happiness is not found where we expected.

First, Jesus informs us that the poor in spirit are the ones who are happy. These are the ones marked by spiritual poverty. While as believers we acknowledge our need for salvation, we see ourselves as basically good. At least better than others. We constantly look to correct others’ incorrect thinking without looking in the mirror. Yet, Jesus informs us that happiness comes when we recognize our spiritual poverty. We have no goodness in ourselves. We are spiritually bankrupt. We are totally destitute and completely dependent on God. We have no innate goodness. And every ability we have is a gift from God (James 1:17). Pride leads to frustration, while humility leads to happiness. This stands in stark contrast to all the world teaches. We are supposed to tout our abilities and knowledge. We are supposed to mock and ridicule opponents to bolster our arguments. We are right to look down on others for their “stupidity.”

Unfortunately, this mindset has also infiltrated the church. Think of the average Sunday. We inform those around us of our goodness. We promote our abilities and the things that we have accomplished. We sulk when our ideas are not agreed with or our abilities are not recognized. We become frustrated when our accomplishments are not praised. And when prayer time comes, we cannot allow our vulnerabilities to be revealed. So, like everyone else, we insist that everything is awesome.

But the road to happiness travels through the valley of humility. We must acknowledge our spiritual bankruptcy apart from the spiritual riches of Christ. We must seek the good of others over our own needs. We must be humble like Jesus. Then we can be truly happy.