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.

12 Simple Ways to Share Your Faith

Reprinted From TEACHING HELP THE WRITINGS OF KIM HIGGINBOTHAM

Sharing a Bible

I’m an introvert. I have trouble talking to people. I wouldn’t know what to say. People don’t seem that interested. I’m don’t know how. I’m scared. I don’t have time. I don’t know enough. Evangelism isn’t my talent.

Excuses! We all have them, but we need to realize that evangelism is not a talent. It’s a command. Because I may not have a talent for singing, does not mean I can let someone else sing for me in worship. Singing is a command that I am required to do and so is evangelism!

Our view of evangelism is too limited if we only think of open Bible studies, door knocking, and mission trips. Those are great, but not everyone can do them. However, everyone is capable of evangelism, else God wouldn’t have commanded it.

Here are a few thoughts about sharing our faith:

1. Live it.

This isn’t necessarily evangelism, but it is important. No one will listen to a word you say if you are a hypocrite. Not only should your speech, dress, attitudes, and behaviors reflect Christ when people see you, but also when they “see” you on social media. Haven’t we all seen people proclaiming their Christianity on Facebook, but a quick scroll through their “Likes” or photos gives a completely different picture of who they are? Maybe you’ve changed from the person you used to be. Go through your social media posts, likes, and pictures to be sure you are reflecting Christ.

2. Publicly identify yourself as Christian on social media. 

Share Christian blog posts, scriptures, sermon links, and upcoming church events. However, do not be that person who fills your friends’ Facebook feed with too much sharing. I’ve had Facebook friends who post one thing after another in a single day. That’s a sure way to have people “unfriend” or “unfollow” you.

3. Keep something at your work space that identifies you as a Christian.

When I was teaching in public school, I kept a picture frame on my desk with a meaningful Bible verse in it. I had a principal who kept a devotional book on his desk. You may keep a Bible or other religious book that lets people know to whom you belong.

4. Invite a non-Christian to church services. 

How is it that we can invite a non-Christian friend to go shopping or lunch, but get shy and awkward about inviting them to church? You never know what their response will be and they may just come! Throw in an invitation to go to lunch afterward and take the opportunity to talk about the worship service.

5. Tell people that you went (or are going) to church. 

When someone asks what you did (or are going to do) on the weekend, tell them about church. Mention the sermon. Tell them about the great ministry program that is going on. Find positive, interesting tidbits to share.

6. Teach Bible class. 

Whether it is teaching children who are just learning about God or adults, teaching is a way we can share our faith.

7. Invite non-Christians to church events outside of services.

This could be VBS, seminar, fall festival, youth event, ladies’ day or anything where the non-Christian is introduced and welcomed by your church family. This can open doors to future invitations.

8. Go to lunch with a Christian friend and invite a non-Christian friend to join you.

Turn the conversation to spiritual things. Mention that you’d like to do more Bible study and ask if they would, too. Begin a group study.

9. Read the Bible on your lunch break.

Others may notice and ask you what you are reading or you may start the conversation.

10. Reach out to those who are in difficult circumstances.

Often people having hard times will be the most receptive to the gospel. That may include those who face illness, disability, grief, homelessness, prison,unplanned pregnancy, or special-needs. Talk with them, listen to their stories, offer hope and prayers for them.

11. Serve someone.

Look for non-Christian co-workers, neighbors, or friends to serve. Reach out with a homemade treats delivered with an invitation to worship. Email a note of appreciation and gratitude to someone with an appropriate scripture. Go out of your way to extend a kindness and be sure to connect your service with your Christianity.

12. Send & grade Bible correspondence courses.

 At our congregation, there have been Bible courses sent to thousands of individuals. People are needed to grade and send out lessons.

We are required to plant and water the seed of God’s word. It is God who gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6-8). Stop making evangelism harder than it has to be. It doesn’t have to be hard, but it does have to be intentional!

Note: Kim Higginbotham’s husband, Steve, preaches for Karns Church of Christ in Knoxville, TN.