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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Holy Living- How Shall We Then Live?

INTRODUCTION:
            Now it’s the Veteran’s Administration and the arguably unauthorized release of some of the terrorists held at Gitmo. So many questionable incidents have occurred in recent years that one can hardly keep count. It seems as if the governing rule is “if it seems right to you do it. Obey the law or not as long as the governing agency sees fit.” As it was in the days of Noah so it seems to be now. Every person, at least seemingly, in positions of authority in our national government appears to do that which seems right in his/her own eyes. Unbelievable and almost unheard of violence and violent acts are being committed somewhere in our society seemingly almost daily. Is this the way to live?
  1. Righteous Living
            The Apostle Paul tells us in the eighth chapter of his letter to the Church at Rome the following:
            “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the spirit.” [1]
  1. Holy Living
            The Apostle Paul also instructs us in the first chapter of his letter to the Church at Ephesus as follows:
            “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.[2]
  1. Zealous for Good Works
            Paul also told his young protégé Titus, as well as us, that “[Jesus Christ] gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”[3]
            Therefore, we see from the Holy Scriptures that God has not given us salvation merely, to keep us from going to hell. That clearly is a great result of salvation! However, clearly the Lord God has called us unto himself; justified us; sanctified us; and, will ultimately glorify us in Christ Jesus in order that we might be holy, pure, a people for his own possession, and ones who are zealous for good works. We are to be people who fulfill the righteous requirement of the Law. We are not saved by keeping the Law, but by the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have been saved in order that we can keep the Law! We are no longer free to live as we WANT to live, but we have been saved so that we can live as we OUGHT to live. For God commended His Love toward us while we were yet still dead in our trespasses and sins, and Jesus Himself  took upon Himself all our sin and the penalty for it. “For He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
  1. The Manner In Which We Ought To Live
            We should be living so that our thoughts are the thoughts of the Lord God Himself after Him.  We should have the mind of Christ in us. The Lord Jesus Christ preached what many considered to be the most renowned and greatest sermon in the history of the world in what is commonly referred to as The Sermon on the Mount.  This great sermon can be found in chapters 5, 6, and 7 of the Gospel according to Matthew. In reality we see that The Sermon on the Mount is a great and perfect elaboration of how we are to live. Jesus himself said in the Gospel of John in the 13th chapter and the 34th verse, “a new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people shall know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”[4] This then is how we ought to live. That we have love one for another. The entire Sermon on the Mount is a grand elaboration of that commandment.
            The great expository preacher of the twentieth century, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, preached a sermon during his regular ministry, at Westminster Chapel circa 1957 wherein he said the following: “The Sermon on the Mount is ‘something which is meant for all Christian people. It is a perfect picture of the life of the kingdom of God. … That is why Matthew put it in his gospel at the beginning. [He] puts the true teaching concerning the kingdom in the very forefront of his Gospel, for the great purpose of this sermon is to give an exposition of the kingdom as something which is essentially spiritual. The kingdom is primarily something ‘within you’. It is that which governs and controls the heart and mind and outlook…. In other words, we are not told in the Sermon on the Mount, ‘live like this and you will become Christians’; rather we are told, ‘because you are Christian live like this.’”[5] This is how Christians ought to live; this is how Christians are meant to live. How shall we then live? In accordance with Jesus’ Sermon on The Mount.
            Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones himself posed the question “why should we study it? Why should we try to live it? Let me give you [this answer]. The Lord Jesus Christ died to enable us to live the Sermon on the Mount. He died. Why? ‘that he might… purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works,’ says the Apostle Paul- the apostle of grace.[6] What does he mean? He means that he died in order that I might now live the Sermon on the Mount. He has made this possible for me.’”[7]
            Finally, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in approximately 1956 or 1957 stated the following:
            “I do not think it is a harsh judgment to say that the most obvious feature of the life of the Christian church today is, alas, its superficiality.”[8]
Superficiality characterizes and typifies many churches today. Therefore, in an effort to help us understand why there is such raging violence in our country and around the world; seemingly such total disregard for the truth; and such a general prevailing disregard for godliness I thought it might be helpful to take a look at the instructions of the Lord Jesus Christ himself on how we should live. If any person is in Christ he or she is a new creation! Old things have passed away, behold all things are becoming new! Because we are Christians we should live this way.
  1. The Poor in Spirit
            “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” Jesus placed this as  the first of the beatitudes. Obviously, it is the one which must come at the beginning for there is no entry into the kingdom of Heaven or the kingdom of God, apart from it. There can be no one in the kingdom of God who is not “poor in spirit”. In reading, analyzing, meditating on, and seeking to “live as becomes the gospel of Christ”, it is important to keep in mind the following things regarding the beatitudes. Martyn Lloyd-Jones listed three important principles to keep in mind.  First he said, “all Christians are to be like this.” Remember, “if God be for us who can be against us? He who did not spare his own son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died-more than that, who was raised- who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”[9] Therefore, because we have been created anew in Christ, we live like this!
            Second, Dr. Lloyd-Jones says all Christians are meant to “manifest all of these characteristics” set forth in the Sermon on the Mount. Third, none of these descriptions contained within the Sermon on the Mount refer to what we may call a “natural tendency”. Each of them is the manifestation of a characteristic which is produced by God alone by His grace and the operation of His Holy Spirit upon us. MLJ said “that these descriptions (found in The Sermon on The Mount) I suggest, indicate clearly (perhaps more clearly than anything else in the entire realm of scripture) the essential, utter difference between the Christian and the non-Christian.”[10]
  • The Counter Argument
            The counter argument now generally goes something like this: “we have to make the church attractive to the unbeliever. Therefore we should have a church service that is entertaining, musical, and is as much like the pagan as we can make it.”   Even to state this argument is almost beyond comprehension.  How does this relate to these events that are going on in America, and indeed, around the world today? It is to show that we are called to be different—to be Holy—not similar to the world. We are called to be zealous of good works! Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said “the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that when the church isabsolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it.  It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first. That is how revival comes. That must also be true of us as individuals. It should not be our ambition to be as much like everybody else as we can,though we happen to be Christian, but rather to be as different from everybody who is not a Christian as we can possibly be. Our ambition should be to be like Christ, the more like Him the better, and the more like Him we become, the more we shall be unlike everybody who is not a Christian.”
  • The Meaning of the First Beatitude
            So what does it mean to be poor in spirit? First, Dr. Lloyd-jones says that it is important to note that it doesn’t mean just being poor. It is also not something that we acquire. It is actually anemptying of ourselves. It is spiritual bankruptcy. One who is poor in spirit is one who understands that in the sight of God he is spiritually bankrupt! He is a ruined sinner. It is the attitude that is expressed by Toplady in the hymn, “rock of ages”:
            “Nothing in my hand I bring
             Simply to thy cross I cling
             Naked, come to thee for dress,
             Helpless, look to thee for grace
             Foul, I to the fountain fly,
             Wash me Saviour, or I die!” 
            Toplady there is expressing spiritual poverty: counting on no good deeds of my own but wholly trusting in Christ who died for my sinful state. The Apostle Paul says the same thing in the third chapter of Philippians when he says “we are the circumcision who worship God in spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and place no confidence in the flesh”.
            In that third chapter of Paul’s letter to the Church at Philippi he describes his own change when he came to realize that he could place no confidence in his own record. Our record is what we need saving from. It is our record that condemns us. Why do men go to Heaven? It is a sheer gift! “The wages of sin is death”, but the free gift of God is life eternal through Jesus Christ our Lord. So why do men go to Hell? They work for it! It is their wages! They strive to EARN it!
  1. Examples of “Poor in Spirit”
                Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones described scriptural examples of being “poor in spirit” in his great two volume work called Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. MLJ said he is not interested in a man who calls himself a preacher but “looks like a prosperous man of affairs”. Dr. Lloyd-Jones said “I am not interested in men’s personal appearance, but I am suggesting that a man of God should not look like a ‘prosperous man of affairs’”. MLJ then quotes scripture from Isaiah 57:15 where we find “for thus sayeth the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” That is the quality of spirit that we are to have! You have endless illustrations of it in the Old Testament, including Gideon, David, Moses, and Isaiah, who upon seeing the Lord high and lifted up said “I am a man of unclean lips”. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says “that is to be ‘poor in spirit’ and it can be seen right through the Old Testament.”
                He goes on to describe Peter who was naturally aggressive, self-assertive, and self-confident who confessed to the Lord “depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Finally, MLJ looks at the Lord Jesus Christ himself “who though He were God yet He thought it not robbery to be equal to God but made himself of no reputation” and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. He tells his disciples “I can do nothing of myself.” He also said “the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” therefore we see this complete absence of pride and a complete absence of self-assurance and self-reliance. It is a voluntary emptying of ourselves. A voluntary surrender of self to the Lord Jesus Christ.
                Being “poor in spirit” comes not from our heritage. It comes not as a result of our natural birth, in fact, it is not natural at all. It is a result of being born again. It is the result of emptying ourselves of ourselves. The Lord God works in us both to will and to do of his own good pleasure and causes us to say as John the Baptist said, “We must decrease and he [Jesus] must increase.
  2. Becoming Poor in Spirit
                Dr. Lloyd-Jones puts in perspective the process of becoming poor in spirit with the following paragraph:
                            How does one therefore become ‘poor in spirit’? The answer is that you do not look at yourself or begin by trying to do things to yourself. That was the whole error of monasticism. Those poor men in their desire to do this said, ‘I must go out of society, I must scarify my flesh and suffer hardship, I must mutilate my body.’ No, no, the more you do that the more conscious will you be of yourself, and the less ‘poor in spirit’. The way to become poor in spirit is to look at God. Read this Book about Him, read His law, look at what He expects from us, contemplate standing before Him. It is also to look at the Lord Jesus Christ and to view Him as we see Him in the Gospels. The more we do that the more we shall understand the reaction of the apostles when, looking at Him and something He had just done, they said ‘Lord, increase our faith.’ Their faith, they felt, was nothing. They felt it so weak and so poor. ‘Lord, increase our faith.’ We thought we had something because we had cast out devils and preached Thy word, but now we feel we have nothing; increase our faith.’ Look at Him; and the more we look at Him, the more hopeless shall we feel by ourselves, and in and of ourselves, and the more shall we become ‘poor in spirit’. Look at Him, keep looking at Him. Look at the saints, look at the men who have been most filled with the Spirit and used. But above all, look again at Him, and then you will have nothing to do to yourself. It will be done. You cannot truly look at Him without feeling your absolute poverty, and emptiness. Then you say to Him,
Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.
Empty, hopeless, naked, vile. But He is the all-sufficient One—Yea, all I need, in Thee to find, O Lamb of God, I come.[11]
Conclusion
            It should be our prayer that each of us pray one for another to be “poor in spirit”. In coming weeks and months we will look more at these beatitudes in an effort to determine how we are to live. As we seek to be poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, those who are merciful, those who are pure in heart, those who are peacemakers, and those who are persecuted, perhaps we can learn more about how we should live. The beatitudes actually have a tendency to “crush us” according to Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and make us more and more dependent upon the Lord Jesus Christ. That is how we should live, is it not?
            “Nothing in my hand I bring
             Simply to thy cross I cling
             Naked, come to thee for dress,
             Helpless, look to thee for grace
             Foul, I to the fountain fly,
             Wash me Saviour, or I die!” 
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ that great shepherd the sheep through the blood of the everlasting covenant make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen
Your friend and brother in Christ,
Bill Gray

[1] Romans 8:1-4, ESV Translation
[2] Ephesians 1:3-4 ESV
[3] Titus 2:14 ESV
[4] John 13:34-35 ESV
[5] Studies in The Sermon on The Mount, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, pp 16 & 17
[6] Titus 2:14
[7] Studies in The Sermon on The Mount, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, p 18.
[8] Studies in The Sermon on The Mount, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, p 9.
[9] Romans 8:32-34 ESV
[10] Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Studies in The Sermon on The Mount
[11] Studies in The Sermon on The Mount; Volume 1 p. 52