Wednesday, February 17, 2016, 7:25 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “In Holiness.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Luke 6:17-26 (ESV). Blessed Are You (vv. 17-23) And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all. And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. Jesus Christ, God the Son, was speaking to his disciples (his followers). He told them they were blessed, for they were poor, hungry, and sorrowful, as well as they were hated, excluded, and reviled (despised, insulted) on account of Jesus, whom they were following. For us to be blessed of God means we are recipients of God’s favor, his blessings, his provisions, and his grace. Only those who have believed on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives, who have been crucified with Christ in death to sin, and resurrected with Christ to newness of life in him, are the recipients of such blessing (See Romans 6, 8). So, how are we blessed? For one, we have been delivered out of slavery to sin, and have been given new lives in Christ Jesus to be lived to righteousness, all in the power and working of the Spirit of God within us, as we put our faith and trust in our Lord. We are no longer under the control of sin and Satan, for Jesus has set us free. Amen! We have been forgiven our sins, the punishment of sin, which stood against us, cancelled, and now Christ’s righteousness has been credited to our accounts. We have open access to God the Father, and we have eternal life with God beginning the moment we receive Jesus as Lord of our lives, and throughout eternity. We also have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us empowering us to live holy lives pleasing to God. He teaches us all things about Jesus, and he guides, directs, counsels, encourages, corrects, comforts, inspires, and instructs us in all truth. Who are poor When Jesus spoke these words to his followers, he had not yet died for our sins. Those who were his true followers, though, believed in him, and they followed him. He told them they were blessed because they were poor, and that the kingdom of God was theirs. The kingdom of God is only given to those who believe in Jesus Christ, who have put their trust in him, and who follow him with their lives. This poverty Jesus spoke of may have been speaking of poverty in relation to material possessions, for his disciples willingly left everything they had in the way of the things of this world in order to follow Jesus Christ with their lives. Yet, not all poor people are blessed of God nor do they all possess the kingdom of heaven. In Matthew’s gospel it says “poor in spirit,” meaning humble. When we believe in Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives, we humble ourselves before him, admitting we are sinners in need of a Savior, and in the power of his Spirit in giving us new birth, we turn from sin, and we turn to follow Jesus with our lives. We willingly leave our old lives behind us to follow Jesus wherever he leads us. So, following Jesus may involve doing without material things, but we are blessed in spiritual provisions. Who are hungry Following Jesus may mean we won’t have the richest of fare, but he will supply all we need. Matthew’s gospel says “blessed are you who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” When we hunger after God, we will be filled. Jesus told his disciples he was the bread of life, and that those who eat his body and drink his blood have eternal life. To eat is to participate in something. When we participate with Jesus in his death, in putting sin to death, and in his resurrection to newness of life, we are born of the Spirit of God, and we are given eternal life with God. Daily we, by the Spirit, put to death the deeds of the flesh, and we conduct our lives now according to the Spirit of God, and no longer after our human flesh. We hunger for his Word and for fellowship with Him, and we desire to grow in him and to please him in all we do, so we read his Word and pray, and we do what he tells us. Who weep; who are hated… When we follow Jesus Christ with our lives, our hearts should be intertwined with his. We should begin to think his thoughts, and to feel what he feels. I believe the Lord allows us to go through trials and tribulations oftentimes because through some of these we learn to see life through Jesus’ eyes, and to think like he thinks about certain things, and to feel what he feels about sin, rebellion and spiritual adultery. And, it should make us weep. We should weep over some of the things going on within the church today. And, we should cry out to God to revive his church, because the church has largely been given over to the world, and has adopted worldly thinking, values and mannerisms. They have diluted the gospel to make it more acceptable to the world, and they have rejected many of those who are following Jesus with their lives, accusing them of being haters, bigoted, intolerant, and the like. And, this is because they reject the gospel as taught by Jesus and his NT apostles. We might also weep because it hurts to be hated, rejected, despised, forsaken, abandoned, disbelieved, betrayed, abused, spoken evil against, and excluded, even from church fellowships, because we follow Jesus and we obey him and His Word, and because we preach the full gospel message of salvation from sin. Yet, knowing that we are being persecuted for righteousness’ sake should be cause for rejoicing. Even if we have sorrow in this life, Jesus will fill our hearts with inexpressible joy! I do not choose the praises of humans over obedience to my Lord. I don’t need the approval of humans in order to be joyful, satisfied, and fulfilled. But, I am still human. I still bleed. I still hurt when others hurt me, reject me, and exclude me because of my relationship with Jesus Christ, and because of my testimony for him and for his Word. Yet, I would rather have Jesus than to be liked by people. I have joy knowing I am in the center of God’s will, and that is enough for me. I will follow my Lord even if all turn against me. I will still do what he has called me to do, even if all reject me. But, I can do this only by the grace of God and by the power and working of his Spirit within me, who gives me strength. Woe to You (vv. 24-26) “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets. Jesus gave words of encouragement and hope to those who are humble in spirit, who hunger and thirst after righteousness, who grieve over what grieves God, and who are being persecuted for the sake of their faith in Jesus Christ and in his gospel. Yet, he spoke words of condemnation, reproof and grief over those who live just the opposite. These are those whose worldly goods are their god, who are self-sufficient, and who feel they have no need of God’s Lordship in their lives. They feel satisfied with the pleasures and possessions of this world, and they see no need to believe in Jesus and to follow him with their lives. They are caught up in entertaining and being entertained, thinking they are put on this earth for their own pleasure and to do what they want. They may be among those whom people speak well of, because they live to do what will get them recognition and approval from people. Having a good time and making people laugh is more important to them than human souls. The sad reality is that a large majority of these people are among those who profess to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, but they don’t live like he is their Lord, or as though they have been delivered out of slavery to sin. And, this attitude is permeating much of today’s church, as well. They go through the motions of going to church, singing praise and worship songs, and listening to sermons (or talks) often only loosely based in scripture, but largely based in human opinion and human values and behaviors. They say they know Jesus, and they believe they are going to heaven when they die, but their lifestyles do not reflect the faith they profess. They live just like the world, entertaining and being entertained, living for their own self-pleasure, while excusing away sinful behavior and lack of a devotional life. And, some of these are the pastors and elders in the church, too. Yet, Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. He died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after our sinful flesh, but who conduct our lives (in lifestyle) according to the Spirit. His grace is not a free license to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse. His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return. If we want to be Jesus’ disciples, we must deny self, die daily to sin, and follow our Lord in obedience and in surrender to his will for our lives. Jesus’ followers listen to him, and they do what he says. Repentance and obedience are required for salvation. We show Jesus we love him by obeying him. If the world does not hate you, then something is wrong. If the world loves you and all speak well of you, and you are not hated and persecuted because of your faith in Jesus Christ, then it begs the question, “Why?” If we say we have fellowship with God, and yet we continue to live our lives in sinful lifestyles, living to please self, instead of living to please God, then we are liars, and the truth is not in us. God calls us to live holy lives set apart from (different, unlike) this sinful world, because we are being transformed into the image of Christ. So, come out from the world, and be separate and honor God with your lives! Live to please God, not your flesh. And, rejoice in your salvation!! In Holiness / An Original Work February 1, 2016 Praise the Lord all you saints! Worship God in holiness. Trust in Him! Do not faint! Believe in His righteousness. God is faithful in all things. He delivered you from sin. Follow Him where’er He leads. Witness daily. His words heed. Trust in Him! He is truth! He has not forsaken you. Rest in Him! Let Him lead! He will meet all of your needs. When you go through trials deep, He’ll be with you. He’ll not sleep. Walk with Him throughout your day. Read your Bible. Kneel and pray. Give to God all your heart! From His mercy ne’er depart. Jesus died for your sin! Walk in vict’ry. Live in Him. Jesus paid the debt we owe. From our lives His love should flow, Living for Him ev’ry day, Loving others, His words say.