The Beatitudes

Speaker

In chapters 5-7 of gospel of Matthew we find what we call, “The Sermon on the Mount.” This was perhaps the first such sermon. Jesus had been teaching before this, but this seems to take on a different form from His previous talks. At the very front of the sermon, we find “The Beatitudes” as we often refer to this section. The word “beatitudes” simply means supreme blessedness. As the Sermon on the Mount commenced in Matthew 5:3, Jesus spoke of these great blessings:

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.

Jesus did not speak these words for the purpose of making an already religious society feel better about themselves. Rather, He sought to solicit their attention to characteristics that made the Kingdom of Heaven different from their customary lifestyles. His mission, besides redeeming sinful man, was to usher in a new rule. He sought to teach man about the Kingdom of God and how one could enter it. The beatitudes serve as the foundation for a highly focused spiritual life. They are unique in a way that makes them relatively easy to remember yet powerful in its impact.

If one would be a child of God, the beatitudes call on them to mold themselves in an image not recognized by the world (1 John 2:15). That is, they are to be completely different from the norms and societal values taught by men and governments. One does not have to think too hard as to how these values differ from those that would have been around the people of Jesus’ day. Nor or they traits found in most of society today. Forgiving someone a debt is a rarity in our society today. Purity of heart is certainly a far cry from what is on television, cell-phones and computers today. Perhaps all these things are more accessible today than it was 2,000 years ago, but it doesn’t change the fact that men seek to put an emphasis on satisfying the flesh rather than the spirit.

Jesus commended the multitudes to begin by being humble. As such, we must recognize we are sinners, and we must mourn over the sins we so often commit. We are to deal gently with our neighbors all while starving for the food which profits our souls: God’s word! Even when it can be difficult, we are to show mercy to one another just as our Lord has shown us His great mercy. We ought to be pure and holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16) and free from blemish. Even when we persecuted and ridiculed, we are to make peace with men (Rom 12:18).

I admit, these are not the easiest things to practice but they are worth it. They may not find favor with men, but they are most favorable with God. If these things are yours then you will indeed be a supremely blessed individual. May these values stand out in our lives as disciples of our Lord.

Something Far Worse than Covid

“Covid is real!” “Covid is deadly!” “People need to take Covid seriously!” Such statements ring resoundingly from both national news and social media outlets alike…And they’re absolutely right! Many Americans who had reportedly tested positive for Covid, had passed away.

Yes, there are more important things…

Now, as an aside, the reason I write it like that is because of the somewhat deceptive way in which such data is chronicled, conveyed to, and consumed by, us. Hopefully we all understand by now that only a portion of the total number of deaths being reported as resulting from Covid actually are. Check it out for yourself. Consider:

1). As a story in the Denver Post confirmed earlier this year, such categorization “has been used by the health department since the start of the pandemic and includes the total number of people who died who have COVID-19, regardless of whether it was the virus that ultimately killed them. (Emph. mine – DED)

2). It is also noteworthy that health care facilities can receive vastly more federal funding for each case of Covid that they list that they had to deal with.

3). When you add to that, the fact that in states like Oklahoma where the less dependable rapid test results that used to be considered as probable are now counted as positive. Well, you can see how that if one doesn’t understand the parameters behind which these numbers are arrived at, that the daily reported Covid “death toll” numbers can, at the very least appear to be quite deceptive, if not outright overly and grossly exaggerated.

However, the point of this article is neither to minimize the impact of the Coronavirus or to downplay the tragic loss of life that it is legitimately causing daily in our society. Any one life lost to this monster is one life too many! But what the point of this article actually is, is to bring to our attention a far, far, infinitely far greater and more deadly and dangerous event, and subsequently, the unbelievable irony that accompanies it. Consider…

Using these overly exaggerated numbers partly because even slightly more accurate ones are nowhere readily available as far as I know, that means that while 8,393,773 Americans have reportedly contracted the Coronavirus as of October 19th, that the other 322.5 or so million, or roughly 97.5% of Americans, have not. And yet, as to the infinitely more far reaching and life-changing event of which I speak, it will be experienced by every single American, as well as every other person on the entire planet to boot – 100% of us, no exceptions!

Also, while the recently-chronicled amount of Covid cases that have had an outcome in America as of the 19th of October numbered 5,688,234, some 5,463,410(or roughly 96%) of those people who once had it, had also recovered from and ultimately survived it. However, as to the far more fatal future event to which I refer, there will be no such overwhelming survival rate. In fact, there will be far more who will perish in it – and for all eternity – than there will be of those who survive it (Matt. 7:13-27).

Obviously by now you’ve figured out that the event to which I refer is the coming Judgment Day (Rev. 20:10-15). And the obvious irony is how so many unsaved folks who so adamantly claim that we must all take the Coronavirus more seriously – a disease that has only infected less than 3% of our population; a disease which, amongst those whom it has infected, have experienced about a 96% recovery rate; and a disease which can, only at its absolute most, take away one’s momentary earthly life–seem to want nothing whatsoever to do with taking far more seriously the eternal death that so many – including all of them if they don’t become Biblical New Testament Christians – will most certainly experience come Judgement Day! Talk about needing to take something far more seriously? Talk about messed up priorities! Talk about straining out a gnat to swallow a camel (Matt. 23:23-24)?!?

But before we get too far down on those who know neither Christ, His word, or about the judgement to come (like Felix in Acts 24:25), what about us? Where do our priorities lie? In discussing and/or seeking to help others avoid and/or survive the Coronavirus? Or, in discussing and seeking to help others avoid the wrath of God on Judgement Day, by teaching them how to better know and to obey Jesus, so they can survive it by virtue of His blood and be guaranteed entrance into His eternal heavenly home?

Yes: Covid is indeed real; and it needs to be taken very seriously. However, the question we as Christians must answer is: “Have we been helping to stem the tide of something far more destructive by sharing the gospel instead?”

Doug Dingley (www.Godswordistruth.org)

The Good Seed

Planting good seed

Many years ago, an interesting article appeared in a magazine. In the picture that accompanied the article a man was standing beside some pea vines. According to the article, some peas were found in a tomb in Egypt. These peas were purported to be over 2000 years old. The article went on to say the man had planted the peas to see if they would grow, which they did, and the peas produced were exactly like the peas found in the tomb. If true, it is a remarkable story and illus­trates some truths about spiri­tual seed.

Jesus spoke a parable about seed. He told of a man sowing seed in different kinds of ground. Some of it bore fruit and some did not bear fruit. It bore fruit when the ground was good. He explained what the seed represented, “The seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11). He also explained what the different kinds of ground represented. Of the good ground He said, “these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance” (Luke 8:15).

Today there are many kinds of religious beliefs, all going by the name of “Christian.” When we see different kinds of plants, we know they grew from different kinds of seed. When there are different beliefs people should know that they are the result of different teachings. The right seed is the Word of God, the Bible. Any teach­ing that is not found in the Bible is the wrong seed and will produce the wrong fruit.

Seed produces after it’s kind

What fruit will the true seed produce when people take it into their hearts? It will produce Christians. It will make people believers in God and His Son Jesus Christ. It will cause them to love God and follow His teaching in His Word. If people follow God’s Word only, they will be Christians only, just like the first Christians.

Christians are people who have been born again. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). By what seed is he born? We find the answer in 1 Peter 1:23, “you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable…”

The fruit of the true seed is also the church. When one person receives the Word in faith and obe­dience, he becomes a Christian. When others do the same thing, they also are Christians, and the group of Christians is a church. A church is just a group of Christians who worship and serve God together. God gives instructions to the church in His Word. He describes how a church is to be organized, how Christians are to worship, to live, and to tell others about Christ. The way the apostles organized the churches they established is the way God wanted them to be organized. This is true because the apostles were God’s messengers and were inspired by His Spirit in them.

Paul’s warning

Paul warned that other seed would be planted and would pro­duce the wrong fruit. He said to the elders of the church at Ephesus, “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30).

Jesus said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31). The words Jesus spoke when He was here on earth were His words. When He went back to heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to guide His apostles and others in teaching. What the Holy Spirit gave them to teach was Christ’s Word also. When He promised to send the Spirit He said, “He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you” (John 16:14-15).

Let us take into our hearts the pure Word of God. Let us con­tinue in that Word, learning it and following it. Never accept teach­ings that are not found there. In that way we will be faithful disciples, and the final fruit will be eternal life in the glory of God with all the redeemed.

Will Your Anchor Hold?

“Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
when the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,
will your anchor drift, or firm remain?”

This is the opening stanza of the hymn “We Have an Anchor.” It is found in most songbooks that religious organizations use.

This question, “Will your anchor hold” is asked metaphorically to describe one’s life.  We have all used various metaphors on occasion to describe some aspect of ours or someone else’s life. So, when asked if your anchor will hold, we understand it is not a tangible (or actual) device. An anchor is defined as: “a device usually of metal attached to a ship or boat by a cable and cast overboard to hold it in a particular place by means of a fluke that digs into the bottom” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)When this question is asked, we should look to see what it is that fulfills the deeper meaning of the anchor.

Security and stability

What is it that provides the needed “security”, “stability”, and grounding one needs spiritually? The answer to this question should be easy, but too many seem to fail to be properly “anchored”. Hope in God’s Word of course is the answer. The apostle Paul makes that very clear when he said, “If indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister” (Colossians 1:23).

However, many seek their hope from other sources. Obviously the things of the world cannot provide the stability needed, nor the promise of life beyond this one because, “the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). Thus, the physical things of the world will be destroyed when the trumpet sounds. And in 1 Corinthians 3:19, Paul writes that even the intangible things of this world are ineffective as an anchor for the soul. The world’s wisdom will also be destroyed with the world.

What is this anchor?

The Word of God is that in which we are to be anchored. “‘BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER.’ And this is the word which was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:25).  So, having having established in what we are to be anchored, let’s make certain we understand each of us have responsibility in this. 

Considering the Word is sure, steadfast and unfailing, if our anchor does not hold, who’s fault is it? It would stand to reason it has to be ours. If we are in a boat, and toss the anchor out on smooth solid rock, it won’t catch, let alone hold. That’s why it is so important to be anchored in the gospel, the Word of God. Once we place our anchor in the Word of God, the only one that can release it is us!  

How an anchor works

Having spent some time fishing on Lake Cachuma and having to hold the boat in place, I know the anchor rope must become slack in order to release the anchor. If the boat maintains the tautness on the anchor (and it is properly seated), the anchor will not release. Now, apply this spiritually and we should see that we must maintain the proper tightness on the anchor, that which keeps us properly moored or connected to God. When we become slack or fail to do as we should, we allow our anchor to slip. Then we begin to drift just as a vessel on the water does. This could be devastating. And from a spiritual standpoint, it is eternally disastrous. Perhaps this is the reason we have so many passages warning Christians to hold fast, or to stand fast. Is this not what a properly engaged anchor does, hold fast?  

In Philippians 1:27, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so…I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” The same applies to us. We see this same idea directed toward the brethren in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 16:13. The point of what Paul is saying is that if they stand fast in the faith, they can remain strong. In fact, 1 Thessalonians 3:8 tells us we are “alive” (spiritually) if we stand fast in Christ.

Leaders must have stability

The elders (bishops) are also to have the characteristic of “stability” as they “hold fast” the Word of God. Titus 1:9 tells us this and tells us how the elders (and all others) can defend the Word of God if they hold it fast. And then we see those Christians of Jewish descent being exhorted to remain anchored in their profession in Hebrews 10:23 . We could site many more places, but these should be enough to show that we have full control of our stability.

“Will your anchor hold in the storms of life, When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?” Don’t become slack and let your anchor drift. Seek the strength and stability in His Word.