Episode 46: The Third Beatitude (Part 4)

At this present moment, who is the mightier? Caesar with his legions or Christ with His cross?  We know who will be the victor before long–Mohammed with his sharp scimitar or Christ with His Doctrine of Love.  When all earthly forces are overthrown, Christs Kingdom will still stand.  Nothing is mightier than meekness.  And it is the meek who inherit the earth in that sense.–Charles Spurgeon

Read the whole sermon text at Spurgeon Gems

This week I got to teach some of the little kids at my church, and had the opportunity to talk to them about what it meant for Jesus to humble himself, to go from His glory upon the throne of Heaven, to becoming a man of low status and submitting to a life of a servant, and an ignominious death.  As I did I thought about this sermon I would be recording, and it seems that the text that lesson was based on is incredibly fitting to it, so I want to first read this passage:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.Philippians 2:1-18

Now of course, I didn’t exactly exegete this whole text for the 4 year olds, but rather I concentrated on the main points and tried to make it clear to them in a way they could understand and talk about with their parents later.  This passage, however, is such a deep and rich one, that it truly deserves to be read alongside Jesus’ words of promise to the meek, as the way by which one who desires to have such a title attached to himself can achieve such a thing.

Christ the servant King

The Son of God gave up all, for the sake of glorifying God, for the sake of salvation for His people, and for the sake of showing the way by which one can walk in peace with God.  It is in this way that the Christian shows his love, and it is by our love that we are known–love for each other, and love for God.  There cannot be love without this heart of service, without meekness setting the tone of life.

On a personal level, to be quite honest, it is one of those things that drives me to my knees.  I know exactly how much my heart does not want to be meek, how self-seeking I can be, and how much love I do not show.  My desire is to put self-seeking away, and that means daily battle with the flesh.  Many days I feel so very distant from that goal, and yet the Lord has patiently and lovingly led me along each day.  He has heard my prayers and shown me grace in new ways every day.  That, I think, is something every Christian can praise His name for daily.

Meekness, real humility, is something that a man on his own cannot fully appreciate.  It is only in the great shadow of the throne of God that it truly reaches its greatest meaning.  It is therefore incumbent upon all of us as Christians, to truly represent that attitude.  It is humble, first and foremost, to go to God and wait upon Him in our greatest and least needs.  It is humble to serve others with a loving heart, not expecting payment but wanting to benefit them.  And it is humble to confess your sins, before God and before your brothers and sisters, and let them die of exposure nailed to the cross.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that every Sunday you need to get up before the pastor speaks with a laundry list of offenses.  But as Christians, I believe that one of the deadliest things we can engage in is allowing any sin to take even the smallest root and be hidden away from anybody who can truly speak truth into our lives.  God certainly knows, and He will not be mocked.  Certainly we are seeing the results of God upending hidden sin, throughout the world and throughout the church, right now.

Practicing humility

We need to be humble before God with our sinfulness, meek and gracious to others as servants, and yet also trusting to God for provision and for truth.  I recently encountered a quote from one of John Piper’s books that has stuck with me hard: “Oh how rare are the pastors who speak with a tender heart and have a theological backbone of steel.”  To be meek is not to be a doormat, it isn’t to be halfhearted or to refuse to engage in discussion.  Too often, however, true patience, tenderness, and love seem to be absent by those who claim the name of Christ.

I will close with greetings to my brothers visiting my area for the SBC 2018 convention.  Hard things have come to light and I implore you to heed the words of Dr. Al Mohler as you get ready to come together.  Do not let Baptist politics or fear of losing face keep you from seeking after the Lord in obedience.  Do not let a fear of liberalism infiltrating keep you from exposing sin to the light, and likewise, do not fall for the claim that because sin has been exposed, the antidote to it is biblical compromise.  Heed the words of the apostle Paul:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.–Romans 12:9-21

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Episode 45: Beauty From Ashes (Part 3)

Surely, if the Savior has divine power, as the text declares to proclaim liberty to the captive, and if He can break open prison doors, and set free those convicted and condemned, He is just the one who can comfort your soul and mine, though we are mourning in Zion! Let us rejoice at His coming and cry, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Happy are we that we live in an age when Jesus breaks the gates of brass, and cuts the bars of iron in sunder! – Charles Spurgeon

Read the whole sermon text at Spurgeon Gems

Opening prayer from Spurgeon’s Prayers Personalized, free to download at Monergism

It may strike you as a little confusing as to why I’m suddenly reading a sermon out of Isaiah, when this is supposed to be a series on the Beatitudes.  The sad fact is, as far as I can tell, Charles Spurgeon never preached a sermon explicitly on Matthew 5:4, which of course reads, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  I did not want to simply skip the passage, however, and certainly the idea that Jesus speaks to in this verse is one that is found throughout Scripture, so it made sense to pick a sermon that spoke to the same subject.  I also wanted to cover it for personal reasons, especially because I am now passing roughly one year since what could be termed “my Weathertop.”

But as the good Brother Spurgeon says in his sermon, mourning for the believer is not something that is simply dreaded or to be avoided.  On the contrary, a believer mourns with hope in their heart.  Though there is pain and heartache now, the believer in Christ thinks of God’s promises in His Word.  Ecclesiastes 7:2, for example:

It is better to go to the house of mourning
    than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
    and the living will lay it to heart.

We will die.  It is the result of the curse of sin on all of us, and whether it’s tomorrow or a hundred years from now, whether because we get hit by a bus or because we can’t physically endure one more moment of a long life.  And we look to Paul’s words, as he spoke to Christians who faced persecution:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can beagainst us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So we can readily see, in a broad picture, why one might believe that those who mourn are blessed.  And even more, as was noted in the sermon, the kind of mourning that a believer does is done in such a way as to drive us to prayer, to communion with God, to once again nail our sins to the cross.

Those whose eyes are opened by God to their poverty of spirit are blessed, because that moment is the moment they come into their grand inheritance of the kingdom.  Yet on this earth we are surrounded still by darkness, we are still plagued by sinful desires that seek to upend a life in Christ and seek after foolish things that bring no life, and we mourn all of that.  We mourn our own sinfulness and we mourn our dry times, we mourn the ways that we have foolishly sinned and stumbled and rebelled.  But in that mourning, there is joyfulness, there is the comfort of the Lord, because that is the state of heart that leads us to bow in humility before the mercy seat, and to worship and rejoice in God’s incredible love and graciousness towards us.

Episode 44: The First Beatitude (Part 2)

“No proud man reigns–he is the slave of his boastings, the serf of his own loftiness.  The ambitious worldling grasps after a kingdom, but he does not possess one.  The humble in heart are content and in that contentment they are made to reign high!” – Charles Spurgeon

Read the whole sermon text at Spurgeon Gems

Let’s take a moment and look again at the full text of the Beatitudes:

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

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

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

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

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”–Matthew 5:1-11

We are at the beginning, and one thing that strikes me right away is that in the same way, this is how the life of a believer in Christ begins: we become aware of what we really need.  The lack of fulfillment, the lack of peace, the lack of righteousness–these are attempts to express in limited words what are needs in the deepest parts of our being.  More even than that, someone who is about to take the first step on this journey has come face to face with two facts: 1) There is a God, who made me and made everything, and who has been generous to me in ways that are unspeakably great, and 2) I am guilty of great sin against this God, because I have been eating His food, drinking His drink, breathing His air, and taking every last bit of it for granted, believing that it is mine by all rights.  Paul describes this person in Romans 1:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.–Romans 1:18-23

And at the close of the same chapter, he reveals the depths of darkness such hearts descend to:

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.–Romans 1:28-32

Reborn to the deepest need

But we’re talking about the person who sees this in themselves in a way he’s never seen it before.  He perceives that he has spent his life taking from God without gratitude, hating Him who made him, blaming Him for his pain all the while not taking it to Him for healing, and compounding sin upon sin–and his eyes are opened by the grace of God through His Holy Spirit.  He sees his true state, and he mourns it.  He is in the temple of God beside the tax collector who cries out “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!”

Just like that: that is one who will inherit the kingdom of heaven.  Not because he has done anything or said magic words, not because he has atoned for his sins–he could never hope to atone for such a mountain–but yet here he is, someone who has come face to face with his complete poverty of spirit, with the fact that all the achievements of his life will be like ashes in the wind one day, and that eternity is a vastness which he cannot comprehend, yet he feels its great weight on him.  He counts himself at the center of the mass included in Paul’s words from Romans, “For all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God,” and as one who is due to receive a great sum in pay, “For the wages of sin is death.”

This was me, when I had my eyes opened to the reality of my life and my heart.  The amazing thing about this, however, is that God never leaves us there.  He didn’t leave me sitting with a handful of nothing except promises of judgment, He instead turned me to the next truth, the one that follows from this: in seeing this deep poverty which I am unable to overcome, I can instead look to His promise that instead of striving to fill myself with things that only frustrate and never soothe, I will be inheriting something so great I can hardly conceive of it.

“The kingdom of heaven is like…”

Yet, that kingdom is not one of lording authority over another.  It is not like an earthly kingdom, but as Jesus said, “The one who would be greatest, must be the servant of all.”  So our sense of poverty of spirit drives us back to the beginning, back to humility and to service.

So what if you don’t feel like this?  What if you don’t feel that you are poor in spirit, but that you have been deprived, that you have not been given a fair shake?  This world is fractured by sin and our lives in it are hard.  We enter it in pain and leave it in pain.  We only are able to get what we need through great toil, because our first parents did not trust God to be God and instead tried to stand alongside Him.  So if you are someone who hears this and reacts in anger, and says “Well maybe I wouldn’t need so much from God if He would just give me what I want!  My life has been full of pain and hardship, I have lost everything!”  And I don’t begrudge such a person their pain, nor do I pretend it isn’t real.

However, just as much I would also point to the fact that such pain serves a purpose even in its darkest times.  It is a reminder to me that this world is not ultimate.  It’s a blip in time, a glancing look in the grand scope of eternity, and those who trust in Christ, as the Lord himself said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29)

The kingdom of heaven turns the world upside down.  Suffering finds its complete healing and fulfillment.  Pain and heartbreak end, and what has been broken is restored.  We look to the future and the fulfillment of the words of John in Revelation 21:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 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.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Lean on Him, my friends.  If you have tasted that emptiness, that pain and knowledge of your own sin, if you long to know how to soothe the damage done by the evils of the world, look to Jesus!  Heed the words of the very next chapter of Revelation, and know that your heart can worship and find real peace.

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

As mentioned on the podcast, below is the full video of the discussion I took part in through my church.

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Charles Spurgeon’s “Morning and Evening” – March 18, Evening

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” -Matthew 5:9 This is the seventh of the beatitudes: and seven was the number of perfection among the Hebrews. It may be that the Saviour placed the peacemaker the seventh upon the list because he most nearly approaches the perfect man in…

via Charles Spurgeon’s “Morning and Evening” – March 17, Evening — Theology Mix

I wanted to remind again about the ongoing Morning and Evening podcast devotional every day at Theology Mix, which you can subscribe to through any podcast catcher.  It was also a good opportunity though, with this particular episode, to remind about the ongoing series here as well.  God willing, tomorrow will see part 2 of the Beatitudes series posted with sermon 3156, “The First Beatitude.”  Come back tomorrow and listen, download and share!

“Though we are nothing, Christ is All. All that we need to begin with we must find in Him, just as surely as we must look for our ultimate perfecting to the same Source!”–Charles Spurgeon, “The First Beatitude”

Episode 43: The Beatitudes (Part 1)

Read the sermon text at Spurgeon Gems

Opening prayer from Spurgeon’s Prayers Personalized, free to download at Monergism

I have desired to begin this series on the Beatitudes since before Christmas, but schedule and then illness held me back. I am very grateful to finally be able to begin this, and the extra time has only allowed me to think and meditate more on this, on the passages in question and to anticipate the effect of preaching on Jesus’ words both on myself and on anyone who listens.

This sermon is definitely one of the shorter ones I have done, but it is the beginning of the second series I’ve ever done here, and the longest one I have attempted. It has been a blessing to read and prepare for it, and it has prompted me to not just spend time talking about my thoughts, but to want to study the text more and speak on it.

One of the points that struck me as I did this, was that these are not simply “good ways to be,” which is how many people think about the word. “Beatitude,” after all, is not “be-attitude,” but rather it comes from the Latin word beati which can be understood as “happiness,” or “blessedness.” In his famous commentary, Matthew Henry notes the same thing Charles Spurgeon did in contrasting the end of the Old Testament, which pronounces a curse, with the opening of Jesus’ first sermon with a blessing:

The Old Testament ended with a curse (Mal. 4:6), the gospel begins with a blessing; for hereunto are we called, that we should inherit the blessing. Each of the blessings Christ here pronounces has a double intention: 1. To show who they are that are to be accounted truly happy, and what their characters are. 2. What that is wherein true happiness consists, in the promises made to persons of certain characters, the performance of which will make them happy. Now,

1. This is designed to rectify the ruinous mistakes of a blind and carnal world. Blessedness is the thing which men pretend to pursue; Who will make us to see good? Ps. 4:6. But most mistake the end, and form a wrong notion of happiness; and then no wonder that they miss the way; they choose their own delusions, and court a shadow. The general opinion is, Blessed are they that are rich, and great, and honourable in the world; they spend their days in mirth, and their years in pleasure; they eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and carry all before them with a high hand, and have every sheaf bowing to their sheaf; happy the people that is in such a case; and their designs, aims, and purposes are accordingly; they bless the covetous (Ps. 10:3); they will be rich. Now our Lord Jesus comes to correct this fundamental error, to advance a new hypothesis, and to give us quite another notion of blessedness and blessed people, which, however paradoxical it may appear to those who are prejudiced, yet is in itself, and appears to be to all who are savingly enlightened, a rule and doctrine of eternal truth and certainty, by which we must shortly be judged. If this, therefore, be the beginning of Christ’s doctrine, the beginning of a Christian’s practice must be to take his measures of happiness from those maxims, and to direct his pursuits accordingly.

Another thing I would like to draw out of this, and which I hope will be very evident by the end of this series, is the God-centeredness of these blessings. Not that He is talking about what God is doing directly, because Jesus is most certainly talking about men here, but that He is talking about what the life of one who truly has God as Lord and center of worship looks like. There is an aspect of holiness that is married to this, and in seeking after these blessings, it is holiness that the believer will find, as he grows in reflecting these.

I want to close by recommending the book The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. You may have heard that Dr. Sproul passed away recently, and it was in light of that, that I decided to take time out and read this book I have heard mentioned so many times, and it has had a profound impact upon me. If you can, I highly recommend that you do the same, because the grace of God is perhaps most profoundly understood, and most sweetly tasted, in light of His tremendous and awesome holiness.

I will try to keep these coming more regularly, God willing, and I am hopeful that my work on this has an influence leading to worship on anyone who is able to listen.

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