Thursday morning greetings to each and to all!
You fellows still remember that last Lord's Day Pastor John spoke to us using Matthew 5:1-12 which began Jesus's fundamental teaching – first to His disciples and then to the rest of us - in His Sermon on the Mount:
1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him,
2 and he began to teach them the Beatitudes (from the Latin word for “blessings”)
You recall a couple days ago we noted that Jesus spoke of the blessings in the order they are in very intentionally.
So, we looked at the first Beatitude first:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
At length we understood very clearly as Pastor John told us, that being “poor in spirit” means realizing and confessing in our heart of hearts that we are broken people. Once that basic understanding is established, we go on:
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Those who mourn are those who have true heartfelt sorrow and anguish when confronted by the woes of this world – sin and the many sufferings that have been our portion in life on earth since Adam and Eve's original sin. If we have confessed our brokenness, then through the inevitable pain of mourning we come at length to see ourselves as we truly are — created in His likeness to know and commune with Him in true love.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Meek” is today quite misunderstood, as Pastor John said. Meek is a Middle English term that meant “strength under control”. A meek horse was a healthy, powerful animal but it did not run wild according to whatever primal urges goading it. Instead the meek horse always obeyed its master's prompts in using its strength. If we are truly meek, then we will use whatever powers that He has bestowed on each of us to show His glory. His only begotten Son in the Sermon on the Mount promised the meek among us a marvelous inheritance.
These last two blessings: do you fellows see that they are dependent on the first one? So also the following:
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Pastor John explained to us that this hunger and thirst means that you want to live your life wholely for Jesus. All throughout His earthly ministry Jesus emphasized that truly following Him was not a part-time matter:
Just one example Mark 10:21: Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." This, and many other examples of verse, mean the same thing: Commiment to Jesus and His teachings are first and foremost. Everything else in your life is secondary to this; is dependent on this. If you truly have been broken then you will have this hunger and thirst for righteousness.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Remember what Jesus said about judging people? “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1). This does NOT mean that we excuse the moral lawlessness and libertinism of this world! What Jesus meant in this beatitude is that when we recognize the failings of others we also have compassion for them as He has had compassion for each of us. We pray that our errant fellows will see their sins through His grace as He has also empowered us to see our own many grievous sins.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
A pure heart is a heart that has nothing to do with falsehood. How many times has a lie or deceit been convenient in our ungodly, unholy daily lives? If we are truly broken from Satan's wiles, we have a profound change of heart.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
We are born in original sin and so are naturally enemies of God. If at some point in this life we have been broken to His love and will, then our first rule in our new life is to live our lives as His witness to all those around us. In doing so, we begin, as Pastor John said, to reconcile others to God, that they make peace with God.
And, when men can make peace with God, they are truly able to make peace with each other.
What could be more blessed?
Last Lord's Day, commonly called Easter Sunday or more properly Resurrection Sunday, Pastor John set the stage for his talk to us by reading from the Apostle Paul's letter to the Ephesians, chapter 1, verse 7:
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” Alright, then: no more chronic sacrifice of unblemished large animals like sheep for the forgiveness of sins; the one-time sacrifice of the Son of God, the one perfect being who ever existed, covered the terrible penalty of sin for each of us forever - if only we sincerely repent and continue to believe for the rest of our lives!
Pastor John soon made this memorable point about blood:
It has been reliably reported that blood plasma from Covid-19 survivors offers immunity to that particular virus through blood transfusions to needy hospital patients. Good to know, right?
But: the blood of Jesus wipes away our sins and gives us eternal life. This is more important than the Covid-19 immunity to the Nth degree! In this we are talking about immunity against death; so that physical death cannot hurt you; it cannot harm you; it is the gateway to eternal life.
Always bear in mind that the 66 books of the Bible all contribute to the same message. That's why Pastor John could quote from both the Old and New Testaments to illustrate the saving power of Jesus's blood:
Psalm 103:12 “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” This from the Old Testament forecast the power of what the Christ did on the cross many centuries before it happened!
Decades after the crucifixion, the Apostle Paul dwelt on this in his Letter the the Romans, as Pastor John quoted from twice:
Romans 8:11 “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”
- and also -
Romans 8:24 “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?”
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus daily helps us to overcome. So no matter what happens in our lives – auto accident, cancer, job loss, some pandemic, you-name-it - there is no reason for despair because in His blood we have the power we need to live victoriously.
This is the Easter message we need to keep in mind through thick and thin. Best for the rest of the week!
Hello fellows! Hope that you are all getting along alright in these changed circumstances. It will pass soon enough. Anyway, last Lord's Day Pastor John based his sermon on a passage from the first half of the Gospel of John. It is a good idea to understand the gospel in context: who wrote that Gospel, who were his audience,, and what were the main ideas he wanted to get across to them, and now to us. Towards this foundation of understanding this Bible Project video is good to watch before reading the Gospel of John.
Pastor John had us read a passage from John chapter 10.
John 10:1-9 (NIV) The Good Shepherd and His Sheep
1 “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.
5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them. 7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Even though the 66 books of the Bible were written by about 40 authors over some 1400 or 1500 years, because God was the divine editor, the 66 books all contribute unfailingly to the same message. See Psalm 23, written by Israelite king David many centuries before John:
Psalm 23 (NIV) A psalm of David.
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.At that gate: How do we approach God? Sometimes we have fear and despair. What if God rejects me and I am not welcome to enter?
As Pastor John says, we all want to be accepted. But: when we place our value and worth on ourselves we will always be disappointed and offended. God.s value stystem is different from ours. It is as Pastor John illustrated to us through John 6:37: All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.
Jesus is the gate. Do you admire all that Jesus has done for you, just as you might admire the gate at Disneyland? Would you admire the gate at Disneyland, and then just walk away? Not likely! So also Jesus your gate: don't just admire what he has done for you, but walk through the gate into his abundant life!
If you don't go through the gate, maybe so far in your life you don't see the need for salvation from your imperfect, sinful self.
Do you care if other people are hurting for one reason or another? If so, you surely would wish to help a hurting person as best as you can. But: you cannot be of help to a hurting person unless you yourself have been cured of your own hurts by the Good Shepherd, the Gatekeeper. In all humility and expectation, go through the Gate! Then you can truly care for others.
Security: John 10: 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.
You are saved not because of earning God's love, but because you believe that God loves you despite your imperfections. If you are so loved, you have love to flow out to others. You feel secure in God's hands, in the hands of the Good Shepherd. So, whatever happens, Covid-19, Covid-20, earthquakes, nuclear war, or whatever, God will see you through. Just don't allow the devil to steal your faith through doubt.
When Jesus died on the cross, the temple veil preventing anyone but a Jewish high priest from being in God's presence was torn. Not just Jews, but all the rest of us, can be in God's presence, if we believe.
Do not have an attitude of “I want you Jesus, but also I want...(good grades, toilet paper, etc)” No. Rather -
Matthew 6:33 (NIV)
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Go through the gate in absolute trust in Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and whatever you truly need in this life will be given to you in His good time.