Author: Matt Sherro

What is discipleship and how do I do it?

What is discipleship and how do I do it?

Here, at Exploring the Truth and Abounding Grace Baptist Church, discipleship is a critical part of what we do. In fact, you might go so far as to say that it is our most important act of worship. We have to ask, though, what is discipleship and how do I do it?

First, discipleship is what happens when you obey the command of Jesus to “Follow me.” It is the process of learning everything we can about what He teaches us and the Holy Spirit conforming our new nature into a nature like His. Discipleship is a lifelong process and as we grow, we will produce new disciples by leading others to Christ.

How do I “do” discipleship?

It all starts with repentance. Repentance, simply, means a change of mind; you change your mind about your sin, you change your mind about who Jesus is, and you change your mind about whether or not you deserve to go to Heaven when you die. In repenting, you agree with God that you are a sinner, that you are totally unable to do anything to merit a place in Heaven, that you deserve eternal punishment in Hell, and that without Jesus, you have no hope.

Repentance leads to confession. Confession is simply this: you acknowledge Jesus Christ is Lord, that He was raised from the dead, and that His death and resurrection paid for your sins. The Bible does not give us a set formula or set of words to use to do this. It can be as simple as saying, “Jesus, I am a sinner and I deserve eternity in Hell but you are Lord and you died for my sins, please give me forgiveness and help me to live a life that is pleasing to the Father.”

Once you have repented, then discipleship really begins to move. There are some things you need, and different churches have different ways to help you get what you need. For example, at Abounding Grace Baptist Church, we have a New Disciples Kit that we can provide. The kit includes: a Bible, a set of colored pencils for marking, and a study guide to take the new disciple through basic Christian doctrine. What your church provides may be different.

There are two questions that we need to deal with and these are very important to your discipleship process: Which Bible should I choose and which church should I choose? The second question is easier to answer so we will take it first.

You should choose a church where the pastors teach the Bible systematically. Systematically teaching the Bible could be teaching one verse at a time, one section of Scripture at a time, or one chapter at a time. I don’t recommend a church that teaches a different topic every week as it is too easy to skip over uncomfortable portions of Scripture. You do not have to choose one denomination (grouping of churches) over another. Admittedly, we at AGBC are Baptists but there are a number of other good choices: Calvary Chapel, Evangelical Presbyterian, United Reformed, Dutch Reformed, Orthodox Presbyterian, Reformed Anglican, etc. The important thing is that the Bible is taught from the pulpit and that you have opportunities to grow.

As for which Bible to use, you want to get an English Bible that is easy to understand. At Abounding Grace, we preach from the New Living Translation because it is a very accurate translation that is easy for most people, including those with English as a second language can understand. Other translations we recommend are: Christian Standard Bible, New International Version, English Standard Version and New King James version. I recommend that you spend some time comparing the 5 translations at the Bible Gateway website so that you can decide which is easiest to understand.

It would be helpful if your new Bible had cross references to help you see how the Bible interprets itself. You may even want one that has commentary notes in it. If you are not sure what to get, ask your new pastor what he recommends. Most definitely, ask which additional resources he recommends.

Now that you have a Bible and a church, it is important to study. We provide Christian Life Master Outlines that were written by Dr. Porter Barrington. These outlines cover the basic teachings of the Christian faith. Once you have grasped these outlines, you can move on to more advanced studies.

It is important to find a more mature Christian to guide you through the process. You are going to have questions and you will also need/want prayer as you go and so it will be important to have someone walking with you in the discipleship process to help guide you on the path to Christlikeness. In time, you will probably take on your disciples and teach them.

 

We are happy that you have become a disciple and we are anxious to walk with you. If you have questions, you are always encouraged to reach out to us.

Salt and Light: A Robust Faith

Salt and Light: A Robust Faith

Our text this morning is Matthew 5:13-16 where we see Jesus use the metaphor of Christians being both salt and light. I referred to these as being the fruits of a robust faith so let us think about that a little.

Salt:

The salt we would be most familiar with is iodized table salt. When you consider table salt there are some interesting things to note. It is coarse to the touch, has a distinct flavor profile, and performs a unique function. How is that a metaphor for the Christian faith? In short, to the world, we are coarse, we definitely have a unique function and profile.

A little background information:

In the ancient world, and even still today, salt was a preservative. During the time before refrigerators, salt was rubbed on meat to prevent putrification.  In biology, we notice that salt is an essential element for life (a critical electrolyte) and saltiness is one of the four taste sensations.

Have you ever heard that a person was “worth his salt?” That is because salt was such a valuable commodity that it became useful as a form of currency.

So what does any of this have to do with Christians and our faith? Well, a person full of the Holy Spirit and demonstrating the character traits in the Beatitudes will have a preserving influence on the world.

“Wherever there is a strong Christian emphasis and a strong Christian voice, that society is being preserved and maintained. But whenever the Christian voice begins to wane, that society begins to deteriorate and ultimately be destroyed.

And take a look at history and notice the preserving influence of Christianity, as long as it remained strong and a dynamic influence within the community, the community was strong and powerful. Look at the United States, we were formed on Christian principles. Tremendously heavy Christian influence in the forming of this nation and thus written into our very Constitution those safeguards to protect that religious freedom, freedom of worship and assembly in all because the Christian influence was strong and we weren’t afraid to say, “One nation under God”. But through the years, the Christian voice has been weakened in its influence upon our society. And we can see those rotting forces that are beginning to erode away the very foundations of our democracy, as we see children being exploited for sexual purposes, as we see child pornography being produced and purchased.” —Chuck Smith

  1. Campbell Morgan said, “Jesus, looking out over the multitudes of His day, saw the corruption, the disintegration of life at every point, its breakup, its spoliation; and, because of His love of the multitudes, He knew the thing that they needed most was salt in order that the corruption should be arrested. He saw them also wrapped in gloom, sitting in darkness, groping amid mists and fogs. He knew that they needed, above everything else…light” (The Gospel According to Matthew [New York: Revell, 1929], p. 46).

We are living in a world full of filthiness, though it is no small thing for the world to live in its filthiness; no the world celebrates its filth and puts its debauchery on display. They demand celebration of their filth; celebrate or be destroyed. Don’t believe me? Try reading a news story about Christian owned businesses that do not capitulate to the LGBT agenda. Each story is a testimony to the demands of the world, celebrate us or be destroyed.

Let’s look back to Genesis Chapter six. This is the account of the Noahic Flood and Covenant. Genesis 6:5 The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil”

I wish that I could say it was different today but it is not. Our society is consistently and totally evil.

In the OT salt is most often a purifying agent (Ex 30:35; Lv 2:13; 2Ki 2:21; Ezek 16:4). As the salt of the earth, Jesus’ disciples are to purify a corrupt world through their example of righteous living and their proclamation of the gospel.

Light.

In the Bible, darkness is a metaphor for sin. Let us take a look at the conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus…

17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God. (John 3:17-21)

It’s safe to say that “living in darkness” general means “living in sin”. And while “sin” can be described in terms of actions, like murder or fornication, it ultimately means rebellion against or rejection of God. Christians are those people who no longer walk in darkness because they live with God as their king. Non-Christian people, even if they “live a good life,” continue to reject God and therefore remain in darkness.

How many people, upon being asked why they should be allowed into Heaven answer with, “I’m basically a good person?” Without going down a different road and travelling far into the Doctrines of Grace in Salvation, I want to assure you that, “I’m basically a good person” is nothing more than a fiction that we comfort ourselves with. It is written, there is none righteous or there is no one who seeks to do good. (ROMANS 3:10–12; PSALM 14:1–3; PSALM 53:1–3) Paul further points out that in the flesh dwells no good thing (Romans 7:8)

If being a “good person” is a fiction, why do so many people buy into this idea? The terrifying answer to that question is found in Isaiah 9:6 (I’m paraphrasing), “Hear but don’t understand. See but do not learn anything.” God has decreed that they will stay in darkness.

Being Light as a Christian

“Jesus also calls us to be light. You are the light of the world. Whereas salt is hidden, light is obvious. Salt works secretly, while light works openly. Salt works from within, light from without. Salt is more the indirect influence of the gospel, while light is more its direct communication. Salt works primarily through our living, while light works primarily through what we teach and preach. Salt is largely negative. It can retard corruption, but it cannot change corruption into incorruption. Light is more positive. It not only reveals what is wrong and false but helps produce what is righteous and true.” (John MacArthur)

2 Corinthians 4:6

For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

What does this really mean when we say Christians are the light of the world?  It means that we are so full of the Holy Spirit, so steeped in Scripture, and so focused on Jesus that our actions overflow with his presence and the world sees and gives glory to God because of it. I do not want to set false expectations with you, most of the world will not glorify God even in the face of your acts of righteousness; nearly the whole of Revelation is filled with the tale of the obstinate wicked that demand any other god but YHWH, any other savior but Jesus. Be assured though, that some will see and some will hear and will be converted.

Some thoughts from Chuck Swindoll

“When you’re willing to be salt and light in the world, you cultivate in people an appetite for God.

First, live right and start praying. These two go together. Each of us lives in a neighborhood or a community. Each of us works or lives around people who are lost. Each of us is engaged in activities alongside lost people. Live right and start praying. When you pray, think outside the box. You’re not just praying for another person. You’re praying that you will have the opportunity to strike a match where there’s only darkness or to shake some salt on a life that has become bland.

Second, care about and reach out. Start simply by being friendly. You might practice smiling regularly. People are drawn to those who smile. It is amazing! I’ve had the most fantastic conversations in grocery stores that have started just because I’m smiling.

Third, be available and listen. Listen, for a change. Don’t do all the talking. When you’re available—when people know you will listen—they will tell you their needs, their worries, their concerns. They will share their hearts with you. Care enough to enter into where they are. Laugh with them, cry with them, sigh with them. Tell them you care. You may not have the answers and you may not be able to solve their problems, but you can do a lot for people just by being available and listening.

Fourth, share your faith openly and follow through. Be ready. When the opportunity is right, when you sense that the Spirit is guiding you to share your faith, don’t hold back. As Peter says, “If someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it” (1 Pet. 3:15).

When you’re willing to be salt and light in the world, you cultivate in people an appetite for God—or at least a curiosity. You become a phenomenon to them because you live in the same world they do yet live with a totally different attitude. It makes them wonder what gives you that kind of joy. Trust me—people will ask, and they will listen. Be ready to tell them the answer: It’s the Good News about Jesus Christ.”

I called being salt and light the fruit of a robust faith and before we go, I want to develop that a little.

The Object of our Faith

For our faith to have any efficacy, at all, it must have a sure object. This is a total contrast to when people in the world tell you that you need to “have faith” or “keep the faith.” Aside from the fact that they are speaking nonsense based in ignorance, what they really mean is to stay positive. Not withstanding what Norman Vincent Peale or Robert Schuller may have told you, being positive does not have anywhere near the impact on our faith that the world would have you to believe it does.

Join me in Hebrews 11

We read the first verses this morning and I want to turn your attention to the last 8 verses:

32 How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions,34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35 Women received their loved ones back again from death.

But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half,[d] and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.

39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.

The Triune God is the object of our faith. This is the central truth that underscores all we will do here. We believe in God the Father and all the truth that He has revealed to us, we believe in God the Son (who is Jesus our Lord) and His atoning death and resurrection, we believe in the Holy Spirit who indwells us and empowers us to desire righteousness and to carry out that desire.

 

The Actions of our Faith

Being consumed with the Lord, we minister to others as ambassadors of the King. James, in his epistle, tells us exactly what the actions of our faith look like: James 1:27

27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

 

The Results of our Faith

“By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions,34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35 Women received their loved ones back again from death.”

Ultimately, the results of our faith will be that others are converted through our witness.

 

WAIT!!! If the salt loses its saltiness…that sounds like losing salvation! Don’t worry, that isn’t what Jesus means. If you “lose your saltiness” you are losing your influence. Cheap salts that were found near the dead sea were easily corrupted and lost their flavor. Continuing the metaphor, a Christian who falls into sin will lose their influence in the world.

You are secure in Christ so you will not lose your salvation, but influence? That can definitely be lost. Now you may hear references to a person who has “fallen from grace” but I want to tell you that this cannot happen. You cannot fall from grace. You absolutely can fall into sin and you can grieve the Holy Spirit which of necessity will bring chastisement but if you are a true Christian, the indwelling Holy Spirit, who is the embodiment of grace, does not leave you. To be sure, you will feel a difference in the relationship and this is part of His chastening but Jesus said, ” And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28). Be on your guard against sin, daily, but do not despair of losing your salvation. Jesus never lies and no one will ever pluck us from His.

There is a price to pay, while we walk on this earth when we sin. At the same time, we are pardoned, forever, from the eternal price of our sin. Sin has penalties and leaves scars on our lives. This is that “losing saltiness.” If you do fall into sin, or have fallen into sin, you can be restored; you will, most likely, not have the same influence on the world that you had before, but be assured that when you come for forgiveness and restoration, you will find it. You could say that God will give you a new light bulb so you can shine for Him again.

Family Readings 1/14-1/20

Family Readings 1/14-1/20

Family Worship: 14 January to 20 January

 

Family dysfunction is the theme of this week’s reading. We will see Jacob and Esau struggle for family supremacy and, in the next two weeks,  we will watch the birth of a nation.

 

  • Monday: Genesis 22:1-24
  • Tuesday: Genesis 24:1-67
  • Wednesday: Genesis 25:19-34
  • Thursday: Genesis 27:1 -28:9
  • Friday: Genesis 28:10-29:14
  • Saturday: Genesis 29:14-30:43

Discussion Questions:

 

  1. What can we learn about faith from Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac in obedience to God’s command?
  2. What can we learn about the Doctrine of Resurrection from the story of sacrificing Isaac?
  3. Abraham said the Lord will provide Himself a lamb. What is foreshadowed in God providing the lamb?
  4. What do we learn about Human Nature from Esau selling his birthright for a bowl of soup?
  5. Why did God withhold children from Rachel while Leah had several? What do we learn about God from this?
Beatitudes: A Life Hidden in Christ

Beatitudes: A Life Hidden in Christ

Background and Introductory Remarks

The Sermon on the Mount is most likely a collection of Jesus’ sermons and not a single sermon. (Word Biblical Commentary). I want to say that I disagree with the commentator; I think the Sermon on the Mount is more of a Matthean example of the most common sermon/type of sermon that Jesus preached. 

The righteousness of the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33) expounded in the sermon is presented as being in continuity with the righteousness of the ot law (5:17–19), yet also as surpassing it. In the Beatitudes, we see Jesus lead off with what a life that pleases God looks like; I call it a life hidden in Christ.

5:1–7:28 (NISB) These chapters comprise the Sermon on the Mount, the first of five collections (chaps. 10; 13; 18; 24–25) of Jesus’ teaching or revelation of God’s will. These thematic discourses instruct disciples, shaping their identity and lifestyle. The Sermon begins with blessings and sayings (5:3-16). Its middle section comprises six interpretations of scripture (5:17-48), instruction on three distinctive discipleship practices (6:1-18), and teaching on social and economic practices (6:19–7:12). The sermon closes with scenes of eschatological destiny (7:13-27). More than providing information about God’s will and motivating disciples to do it, the sermon offers visions of God’s empire. It sketches life in an alternative community marked by justice, transformed social relationships, practices of piety, and shared and accessible resources.

Main Sermon:

Word Wealth: makarios (Matt. 5:3; Luke 10:23; Acts 26:2; 1 Tim. 1:11) G3107. Strong tells us that it means to be blessed/happy/large/filled-up and/or content. Thayer points out that makarios is frequently paired with God’s name. Makarios, then, is most commonly used for blessedness or the enjoyment of favor from God.

I want you to understand that makarios can mean happy, and that is often the case, but it does not always guarantee your happiness. You may be in the midst of persecution but God is shepherding you through it, in which case, you are still blessed even if you are not, in the moment, happy.

Here, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus both reinterprets the old law and offers a new law, recalling the revelation of the law to Moses on Mount Sinai (see Ex 19–24).

Since Matthew introduces the Sermon on the Mount by highlighting the connection between Jesus and Moses, the Beatitudes (Mt 5:3-12) should probably be read against the backdrop of Moses’ teachings. The only time the adjective “Blessed” was used by Moses was in his blessing on Israel (Deuteronomy 33:29): “How happy you are, Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is the shield that protects you, the sword you boast in. Your enemies will cringe before you, and you will tread on their backs.” Israel’s blessing had both a historical and future focus. “Saved by the Lord” referred to Israel’s exodus from Egypt. The remainder of the blessing assured the Israelites of success in their conquest of the promised land. Against this backdrop, the blessings of the new Moses (Jesus, the one Moses prophesied as being greater than him {see Deuteronomy 18:15}) identify Jesus’ disciples as the new Israel who will enjoy a new exodus and conquest. The new Moses is a spiritual deliverer rather than a political one, and His promises must be understood in that light. In the Beatitudes, the new Moses pronounces spiritual salvation (exodus from slavery to sin) and promises spiritual victory (conquest and inheritance of a new promised land) to the new Israel. This background is confirmed by the allusion to Israel’s exodus and conquest in the promise that the meek will “inherit the earth” (5:5).

In the OT, the poor were those who cried out for God’s help, depended entirely on Him for their needs, had a humble and contrite spirit, experienced His deliverance, and enjoyed His undeserved favor (Psalm 86:1-5). In light of this background, Jesus was describing His disciples as unworthy sinners who depend on God’s grace for salvation. Although the promises in Matthew 5:4-9 are expressed in the future tense, the affirmation the kingdom of heaven is theirs is in the present tense (5:3,10). This suggests that the kingdom had already arrived through the coming of Jesus but that the fulfillment of many kingdom promises will occur only in the future. This future fulfillment awaits Christ’s second coming. The statement “the kingdom of heaven is theirs” appears at the beginning and end of the main body of the Beatitudes (5:3,10). This bracketing device suggests that the Beatitudes constitute promises only to those who belong to the kingdom. Isaiah 61:1 promised that Messiah would bring good news to the poor. This beatitude serves as a fulfillment of that prophecy (Luke 4:16-21).

In the case of the Beatitudes, blessed (Psalm 1:1) are…

  • poor in spirit
  • those who mourn
  • those who are humble (meek/gentle)
  • those who hunger and thirst for justice/righteousness
  • those who are merciful
  • those whose hearts are pure
  • those who work for peace
  • those who are persecuted
  • when people mock, persecute and lie about you because of Jesus

 

If you look, closely, you will see that they build upon one another. We will circle back in a minute to look at each one after we talk a little about their progression…The poor in spirit recognize their total dependence upon God for any hope of Heaven and because of that, they mourn over sin, not just their own but the fact that all sin separates from the goodness of God and richness of fellowship with him. They are not consumed with pride because they have recognized their dependence upon God. In longing for more fellowship with Him, they hunger and thirst (a picture of total desire) for God’s justice and righteousness to fill the earth. A life hidden in Christ leads to mercy, we do not give others what they deserve just as we are not given our just desserts. We become pure of heart in not having any guile but a sincere desire for more of God and in that desire we work toward peace with God. As a consequence, the unsaved world will persecute us; such persecution will result, among other things, in being mocked and lied about because of Christ.

So why bother? At the risk of sounding cliché, we bother because we will spend eternity in Heaven with the One in whom our souls delight. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. Shall we circle back and look at those beatitudes?

poor in spirit This first beatitude recalls Isaiah 66:2, “For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,” Says the Lord. “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word. (NKJV)”

The poor in spirit recognize that they have no spiritual “assets.” They know they are spiritually bankrupt. We might say that the ancient Greek had a word for the “working poor” and a word for the “truly poor.” Jesus used the word for the truly poor here. It indicates someone who must beg for whatever they have or get. (Guzik)

We learn from Calvin: “Many are pressed down by distresses, and yet continue to swell inwardly with pride and cruelty. But Christ pronounces those to be happy who, chastened and subdued by afflictions, submit themselves wholly to God, and, with inward humility, betake themselves to him for protection. Others explain the poor in spirit to be those who claim nothing for themselves, and are even so completely emptied of confidence in the flesh, that they acknowledge their poverty. But as the words of Luke and those of Matthew must have the same meaning, there can be no doubt that the appellation poor is here given to those who are pressed and afflicted by adversity. The only difference is, that Matthew, by adding an epithet, confines the happiness to those only who, under the discipline of the cross, have learned to be humble.”

We further learn, from Chuck Smith: “First of all, he’s not talking about physical poverty, poor in spirit. This is in opposition to being proud, and this is always the inevitable consequence of a man coming into a personal, real confrontation with God. If you have come into a true confirmation of God in your own life, the result immediately always is that of poverty of spirit. You see a person who is proud and haughty, he is a man who has not had a true encounter with God.

In Isaiah chapter six, upon the death of the popular king Uzziah, when the throne of Israel has been emptied of this great popular monarch, Isaiah writes, “And in the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting on the throne, high and lifted up, and his train did fill the temple…Then said I, woe is me! For I am undone; and I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell amongst a people of unclean lips:” (Isaiah 6:1, Isaiah 6:5). That’s always the result of a man seeing God in truth. “Woe is me! I am undone”.

Daniel, when he saw the Lord said, “My beauty was turned into corruption” (Daniel 10:8). When Peter had his confrontation he said, “Depart from me; for Lo, I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8). The man who truly sees God sees himself in truth.”

Of all the traits a Christian should have, it is poverty of spirit that is the most difficult for us. Why? Because we wish to aggrandize self, to be more than what we are, and to think that we bring something to the table for our salvation. Friend, Jonathan Edwards said it best, you contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary. All the self esteem and self worth you could ever need is found at the cross where God, Himself, took away your filthiness and gave you Christ’s righteousness so you can have a relationship with Him

Exactly what is being poor in spirit? I heard an excellent sermon from John Piper on this concept and in my notes I have:

  • It is a sense of powerlessness in ourselves.
  • It is a sense of spiritual bankruptcy and helplessness before God.
  • It is a sense of moral uncleanness before God.
  • It is a sense of personal unworthiness before God.
  • It is a sense that if there is to be any life or joy or usefulness, it will have to be all of God and all of grace.

In short, poverty of spirit says, “God I know I do not deserve anything from your hand but I come to you ready to accept anything you choose to give and I come ready to do anything I can to please you.”

In the hymn Rock of Ages, we find the perfect embodiment of being poor in spirit. The hymn says, “In my hand no price I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” That, beloved, is what it means to be poor in spirit; it is not simply humility but it is the acknowledgement that everything we have, every single good thing that we possess, is a generous gift from the hand of God the Father, who delights in giving good gifts to His children.

those who mourn This is not a simple weeping or a general sadness.  “The Greek word for to mourn, used here, is the strongest word for mourning in the Greek language. It is the word which is used for mourning for the dead, for the passionate lament for one who was loved.” (Barclay). The connotation is a deep guttural wail. The poor in spirit have realized what sin does to our relationship with God and so there is weeping, not just over our own sin but a wailing over the fact that the wicked, who, will not turn, must in the end be consumed buy their wickedness and given over to judgment.

those who are humble (meek/gentle) Before we consider this trait we need to realize that blessed are the meek is the best translation. “Blessed are the meek: It is impossible to translate this ancient Greek word praus (meek) with just one English word. It has the idea of the proper balance between anger and indifference, of a powerful personality properly controlled, and of humility. In the vocabulary of the ancient Greek language, the meek person was not passive or easily pushed around. The main idea behind the word “meek” was strength under control, like a strong stallion that was trained to do the job instead of running wild.” (Guzik)

F.F Bruce points out that the meek are the men who suffer wrong without bitterness or desire for revenge. This is also a very hard personality trait to have since to be meek means to show willingness to submit and work under proper authority. Meekness means I give up my rights and privileges.

Let’s consider this thought from the great commentator, Adam Clarke “Our word meek comes from the old Anglo-Saxon meca, or meccea, a companion or equal, because he who is of a meek or gentle spirit, is ever ready to associate with the meanest of those who fear God, feeling himself superior to none; and well knowing that he has nothing of spiritual or temporal good but what he has received from the mere bounty of God, having never deserved any favour from his hand.”

those who hunger and thirst for justice/righteousness As we hide our lives in Christ, we become consumed by a hunger for His justice and righteousness to work through us. Do not kid yourself into thinking that this is a simple hungering. No this is a hunger that cannot be satisfied until Christ comes.

  • This passion isreal, just like hunger and thirst are real.
  • This passion isnatural, just like hunger and thirst are natural in a healthy person.
  • This passion isintense, just like hunger and thirst can be.
  • This passion can bepainful, just like real hunger and thirst can cause pain.
  • This passion is adriving force, just like hunger and thirst can drive a man.
  • This passion is asign of health, just like hunger and thirst show health.

How does this hunger and thirst for righteousness express itself?

  • A longing to have a righteous nature.
  • A craving to be sanctified, to be made more holy.
  • A fervent desire to continue in God’s righteousness.
  • An insatiable desire to see righteousness promoted in the world.

 

those who are merciful Here we are talking about someone who has already received mercy. The merciful one will show it to those who are weaker and poorer.

  • The merciful one will always look for those who weep and mourn.
  • The merciful one will be forgiving to others, and always looking to restore broken relationships.
  • The merciful one will be merciful to the character of other people, and choose to think the best of them whenever possible.
  • The merciful one will not expect too much from others.
  • The merciful one will be compassionate to those who are outwardly sinful.
  • The merciful one will have a care for the souls of all men.

 

Having been shown mercy, a heart filled with the Holy Spirit will desire to give mercy to others. This is the outworking of the Spirit in our lives both to will and to do (Philippians 2:13)

Next we have the final two characteristics of a life hidden in Christ and the world’s reception of us.

those whose hearts are pure Church Father Origen understood this to be a reference to having a pure mind, as this fits best with the Greek understanding of the intellect. (Origen, De Principiis, 1:1:9, in Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, 4:245.)

This concept of a pure heart denotes one who loves God with all his heart (Deut. 6:5), with an undivided loyalty, and whose inward nature corresponds with his outward profession (cf. Isa. 29:13). ‘Such is the generation of those who seek him’ (Ps. 24:6), and they receive the promise that they shall see God. This can only fully be realized in heaven, when ‘we shall see him as he is’ (1 John 3:2); then ‘we shall be like him’, and the longings of v. 6 will be finally satisfied. But in a lesser sense the vision of God is already the experience of his true lovers on earth, who persevere in his service ‘as seeing him who is invisible’ (Heb. 11:27).
–Tyndale New Testament Commentaries – Matthew.

 

those who work for peace (blessed are the peacemakers) In his exquisite commentary on Matthew, David Guzik tells us “This does not describe those who live in peace, but those who actually bring about peace, overcoming evil with good. One way we accomplish this is through spreading the gospel, because God has entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). In evangelism we make peace between man and the God whom they have rejected and offended.”

Truly, then, a peacemaker is one who works toward making peace not just between two rivals but ultimately, the true peacemaker seeks to make peace between God and the sinner. This is accomplished through helping the sinner to understand his sin and to understand what an offense sin is when considered by the Holy God. From there we take the sinner, now aware of his wickedness and what is due him, to the cross; it is from the cross that the sinner approaches God’s Throne of Grace and receives reconciliation between himself and his God. Once reconciled and no longer God’s enemies, the repentant now is adopted as a son since he is no more an outsider.

Now, having laid out what life in the Kingdom of Heaven looks like, Jesus takes us to the reception that we can expect from the world and those who are outside the Kingdom…

 

Blessed are those who are persecuted when people mock, persecute and lie about you because of Jesus The world hates Christ and you can be sure that they will hate us too. If you watch any television, these days, you will see that we are portrayed as aberrant, sometimes as simple minded fools, sometimes outright lies are made up about us and our values.

 

Early Christians heard many enemies say all kinds of evil against them falsely for Jesus’ sake. The 1st generations of Christians were accused of:

  • Cannibalism, because of gross and deliberate misrepresentation of the practice of the Lord’s Supper.
  • Immorality, because of gross deliberate misrepresentation of weekly “Love Feast” and their private meetings.
  • Revolutionary fanaticism, because they believed that Jesus would return and bring an apocalyptic end to history.
  • Splitting families, because when one marriage partner or parent became a Christian there was often change and division in the family.
  • Treason, because they would not honor the Roman gods and participate in emperor worship.

Even today, there are those who believe they are doing a righteous work by killing Christians. For example, ISIS believed in beheading Christians, they were earning a place in Heaven and rewards from God. How many Christians have we seen dragged into court because they refused to engage in business practices that violated their conscience but the world demanded thes practices any way.

I could go on about persecution ad nauseum but I would leave you with this thought on the matter: John 16:33b, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

So what do I do about this? Beloved, having now understood what life in the Kingdom of Heaven looks like, it should be our sincere desire to see the traits laid out in the beatitudes cultivated in our lives. These character traits are a gift from God and also an answer to prayer. As we earnestly desire to be more like Christ, we will see these traits manifest more and more in our lives.

Do not be discouraged when trials come. Instead, have the mindset that James, the Lord’s brother encouraged– Count it as a blessing when trials and persecutions come because it means that our faith is being perfected. We will not always get to know what God is doing but when we look back over the most challenging times in our lives, we can see that God is working everything together to conform us to the image of His Son. The ultimate result of such confirmation will be the day when we are resurrected and glorified with bodies suitable for Heaven and prepared to enjoy the majesty of our Savior into the ages of ages.

 

Family Worship 1/7-1/13

Family Worship 1/7-1/13

Family Worship 1/7-1/13

This is week 2 of our guided tour of the Bible. This week we will look at God calling Abraham and the beginning of a Covenant People, Israel, who is God’s beloved.

 

  • Sunday: Genesis 11:27-12:9
  • Monday: Genesis 13:1-18
  • Tuesday: Genesis 15:1-21
  • Wednesday: Genesis 16:1-6
  • Thursday: Genesis 17:1-18:15
  • Friday: Genesis 18:16-19:38
  • Saturday: Genesis 21:1-34

 

Discussion Questions

  1. What, if anything, made Abram special enough for God to call him to be the Father of Many Nations?
  2. How will all the nations be blessed through Abraham?
  3. What do we learn about God from His promise of a child to Abraham and Sarah in their old age?
  4. What do we learn about God’s holiness, justice, and mercy from the account of Sodom and Gomorrah.

 

 

A New Beginning: Family Worship Readings 12/31-1/6

A New Beginning: Family Worship Readings 12/31-1/6

We begin our guided tour a day early so that we can have the Bible completed by 12/31/18. Below, you will find 7 days’ worth of readings along with discussion questions and a sample prayer. There is no set formula to use the materials so utilize them in whatever way fits your needs.

 

  • Sunday: Genesis 1:1-2:25
  • Monday: Genesis 3:1-24
  • Tuesday: Genesis 4:1-26
  • Wednesday: Genesis 6:1-22
  • Thursday: Genesis 7:1-8:22
  • Friday: Genesis 9:1-29
  • Saturday: Genesis 11:1-9

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What do we learn about God when we read about Him as the Creator?
  2. The sin of Adam and Eve was that they did not trust the revealed truth of God and disobeyed His commands. In what way’s do you find yourself tempted by the serpent’s whisper, “Did God really say…?”
  3. When God destroyed the world, in the flood, He spared Noah and His family. What does this teach us about the character of God, and especially about how He deals with sin?
  4. When the Tower of Babel was built, what were the men trying to accomplish and why did God stop them.

 

Sample prayer:

Father, please help us to see your truth in Scripture. Help us to know you better and to see the many ways that you deserve glory. In Christ’s Name and for His sake, Amen.

Advent Week: The Redeemer has come; the King is Coming

Advent Week: The Redeemer has come; the King is Coming

At last we arrive at one of the most important weeks in Redemptive History! On Advent Sunday, we celebrate the Incarnation of Christ the Redeemer and we look to the future when Christ the King returns to gather His people into the Kingdom. Our readings this week will take us through the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, The Resurrection, the Ascension, the Rapture, and the 2nd Coming. All praise to Him who sits upon the Throne and unto the Lamb!!

(Instead of Discussion Questions, this week, we will close with the Apostle’s Creed)

  • Sunday: John 1:1-18
  • Monday: John 19-21
  • Tuesday: 1 Corinthians 15:1-30
  • Wednesday: 1 Corinthians 15:31-58
  • Thursday: Acts 1:9-11, Romans 8:34, Ephesians 1:19-20, Colossians 3:1, Philippians 2:9-11, 1 Timothy 3:16, and 1 Peter 3:21-22
  • Friday: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
  • Saturday:  Revelation 1:7

 

The Apostle’s Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic* church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

*that is, the true Christian church of all times and all places

 

Why Break the Wafer

Why Break the Wafer

Years ago, a friend of mine asked me about my habit of breaking the wafer before eating communion. He pointed out that there is no scriptural mandate for doing so, and he is correct. Nothing in the Bible mandates to break the wafer, so why do it?

I got to thinking about this as I prepare to lead communion as the pastor for the first time in two weeks. After meditating on it for a while, here is my answer:

The Apostle Paul, writing to the Church in Corinth said, “ For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:  And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.  After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

This is my body, broken for you. That is why I break the wafer. The wafer symbolizes the body of the Lord, broken and battered, first in the scourging and then in the crucifixion to pay for my sin and so I break it to remind myself that my iniquity along with the iniquity of a host of others is why Christ was nailed to the tree.

The breaking of the wafer, is part of my self examination process; I break it to give myself pause to remember that I bring nothing to Christ save my own sin in all its filthiness and that the cup which follows signifies His blood which flowed from a broken body to fully wash away all my sin. When I break that wafer, I almost always hear the words of the old hymn going through my ears,

“The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day. And there will I, though vile as he, wash all my sin away.”

Beloved, there is no real magic to the habit of breaking the wafer. However, you come to the Lord’s Table, simply remember these words: “The Lord’s body, broken for you and the Lord’s blood, shed for you.” Wash and be made clean and then partake. Freely, He gave; freely we will receive.

 

3rd Week of Advent: the Incarnation of Christ

3rd Week of Advent: the Incarnation of Christ

In our 3rd Week of Advent Readings, we consider one of the 3 most important moments in Redemptive History, the Incarnation, the moment when the Divine Son takes on humanity. This Incarnation, is the build up to the crescendo of redemption which came at the cross. It is here, in the birth of the Christ Child, that man’s hope of being restored to relationship with God is finally realized.

  • Sunday:  John 1:1-18
  • Monday: Luke 1:26-38
  • Tuesday: Luke 1:39-56
  • Wednesday: Luke 2:1-20
  • Thursday: Luke 2:21-40
  • Friday: Matthew 2:1-12
  • Saturday: Philippians 2:5-11

Discussion Questions:

  1. Who was Jesus before the Incarnation?
  2. How does Christ coming to earth give man hope of redemption from sin?
  3. In Sunday’s reading, we see Jesus as the Word of God. What does it mean that Jesus is the perfect expression of the Father?
NLT Christian Basics Bible Review

NLT Christian Basics Bible Review

 

 

NLT Christian Basics Bible Review

As I am preparing to step into a Senior Pastor role, I find myself looking at resources for the disciples who come to church and today I would like to introduce you to one of the two Bibles newly saved disciples will be offered, the NLT Christian Basics Bible. (Disclaimer: unlike other review Bibles, this was not sent by Tyndale nor was a review solicited; this is completely on my own.)

First, some information from the publisher:

New to the Bible? The Christian Basics Bible is for you! It can be difficult for readers who are new to Scripture to explore the Bible’s teachings and to understand how Christian beliefs are established in its pages. The Christian Basics Bible is filled with features designed to help readers-especially those new to the Bible-connect biblical teachings to Christian beliefs and to see how those beliefs apply to their lives. By delivering the right amount of both information and application, the Christian Basics Bible can become the catalyst that helps you to live a vibrant Christian life guided by God’s Word.

Product Information

Format: Imitation Leather
Number of Pages: 1700
Vendor: Tyndale House
Publication Date: 2017
ISBN: 1496413571
ISBN-13: 9781496413574
References: Cross References

Initial Thoughts:

I was rather surprised with the Christian Basics Bible; my original expectation was something geared more toward teens or perhaps children and I was not expecting much theology. I half expected the Christian Basics Bible would just call out the major stories that most people would already be familiar with. Instead, you actually get Theology, and good Theology at that.

Translation Choice:

The editors chose the NLT and they could not have made a better choice. The NLT is translated using English at an early middle school level, approximately 6th-7th grades. The “Meaning Based” or “Thought-for-Thought” approach is what gives NLT its broad appeal; if you did not know it, outside the United States, NLT is in a statistical tie with the NIV for the dominant English Translation and I find that it is perfect for someone who has English as a second language.

Front Matter:

First up, we are given a Read This First Article. This article is a brief overview of the Christian Basics Bible and a guide to using it.

Becoming a Christian

This article provides a guide to how to become a Christian and begin a life of discipleship. The article discusses the need for a savior, the need to repent, and how to do so. There is a sample prayer provided to help the new disciple in confessing sin and yielding to the Lordship of Christ.

Now That You Are a Christian

Following on the Becoming a Christian article, this article guides new disciples through the beginning stages of the process of becoming a disciple of Jesus. The article references several topical articles located throughout the Bible that will provide guidance in starting that relationship.

What is the Bible

This is the longest of the three articles. It covers Bible history, the major sections of the Bible, and the languages of the Bible. The article also covers the overall message of the Bible as well as its priority in the life of a believer.

A Timeline of the Bible

This is an estimated chronology of when the events in the Bible happened. It is fairly self explanatory.

Main Study Helps

Book Introductions

Like any good study Bible, each book comes with its own introduction. Each introduction has a 1-paragraph summary of the book. The What’s It All About section provides an overview of the book and where it fits in the overarching story of redemption. The What Does It Mean for Us section gives us a glimpse of how the truths of each book applies to our lives today. Lastly, the Overview Section provides a brief outline of the book.

Topical Articles

Interspersed throughout the Bible are topical articles related to what it means to be a Christian. Each article concludes with a reference to another article that is related to the topic being studied. Topical exegesis isn’t my favorite way to study the Bible but when you are trying to learn theology for the first time it is a very helpful way to begin.

Back Matter:

Reading Plans

Plan 1 takes 28 days and gives an introduction to the Bible. Plan 2 will take approximately 180 days and provides a panoramic picture of the Bible. There is not a Plan 3 but that isn’t a drawback. By the time a new disciple completes plans 1&2, there should be enough familiarity with the truth of Scripture to be able to decide what is desired to be studied next and select an appropriate study plan.

Basic Truths of the Christian Faith

At first glance, you would think this is a concordance, but you would be mistaken. This is a topical guide to the major subjects a Christian would be expected to deal with in their life. There is an introduction to the topic followed by an expository outline to the reader through the topic.

Glossary

There is a brief glossary which helps readers to understand the terms that Christians commonly use.

Visual Overview of the Bible

Lastly, there is a visual overview of the Bible. These are 14 full color maps and charts to help you visualize what you are reading about and make the Bible come alive.

Final Thoughts

This is not what I had expected and I am delighted by that fact. I have spent almost a month on reviewing the materials offered and I am well pleased. The theology is basic enough that a reader would have a solid foundation after following the 200 days of readings recommended in the reading plans but it will also provide a jumping in point for deeper discussion of theology.

This is one of two Bibles that we will be providing at Abounding Grace Baptist Church for those who are new disciples, the other being the Swindoll Study Bible and we will choose which one to give based on how much, if any, the new disciple already knows about the Bible. I highly recommend the NLT Christian Basics Bible.

 

 

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