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Saturday, July 19, 2014

How Shall We Then Live – Part II

As we continue to look at The Sermon on the Mount as recorded by the Apostle Matthew, we are reminded almost daily of some new failure on the part of the American Government. Many on all sides of the Political spectrum are commenting about the almost daily report of some new revelation of Government run amuck. Now we are seeing the unraveling of the Iraqi Government and, unbelievably, we are also seeing statements coming from the Obama administration indicating an effort to partner with Iran to help Iraq! The continuing saga of the internal revenue scandal gets more and more bizarre weekly, as day after day more and more items are revealed where the Obama administration has simply refused to abide by Constitutional mandates, from budgets to appointments to key positions. Even the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down some of the most recent unbelievably arrogant refusals to abide by United States Constitutional law. The crisis over immigration has resulted from the consistent refusal of the Obama administration to follow the present immigration laws. Nevertheless, as we have come to realize, the real problem lies at the feet of God’s people. We are the ones who must humble ourselves and turn from our wicked ways; we are the ones who must pray and seek God’s face. We are the ones who must seek “to pursue holiness” and to walk in “righteousness and true holiness.” We must preach the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. The ungodly will not! We must!
  • Holiness – Not Happiness
            The very first chapter of Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus makes it clear that we have been saved unto holiness! Not happiness! Paul wrote to Titus explaining our call to holiness by saying:  “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lust, we should live soberly, righteously, and Godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself his own peculiar people zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-14)
  1. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4)
    Jesus had begun to teach the eternal truths set forth in The Sermon on the Mount by telling the people (and us) “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven”. The kingdom of Heaven is only for them. As we looked at what it means to be poor in spirit we came to understand that it involves the emptying of one’s self. The denying of self! It is, in a sense, spiritual bankruptcy. I must stop thinking about what others are thinking about me, or of what others are thinking about what I am thinking about. I just don’t think of myself at all! Here, as we begin to look at the condition of mourning, we ultimately see that “mourning” is a true hatred of, and mourning for, our own sin, as well as the sin of others. There seems to be a distinct absence of mourning in the life of the Christian church today. Many teach that we should be “happy, happy, happy”, all the time. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said in the mid-fifties that “the most striking characteristic of the Christian church [then] was “alas its superficiality”.
                It is this superficiality, this glibness or joviality that results in people trying to appear to be something that they are not. It seems to be a characteristic of men who are in positions to shepherd the flock of God who attempt to put on a happy face and pretend that all is well. To the contrary, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his great study on The Sermon on the Mount said that “every revival proves clearly that men who are outside the church always become attracted [to Christ] when the church herself begins to function truly as the Christian church, and as individual Christians approximate to the description here given in these beatitudes.”(Studies in The Sermon on the Mount Vol. 1 pg 54)
    Mankind invariably is attracted to Christ and His Church when the true correct Godly preaching of the Glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed from the church. Indeed, in Paul’s letter to the Church at Corinth, he says that even the preaching of the Gospel if done with wisdom of words or, as the ESV puts it “words of eloquent wisdom” can render the Gospel powerless. (1 Cor. 1:17) Indeed, it is the Gospel of Christ that convicts sinners. Conviction of necessity must precede conversion. 
  2. To Mourn
    To “mourn” is something that follows of necessity from being “poor in spirit”. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said “as I confront God and His Holiness and contemplate the life that I am meant to live, I see myself and my utter helplessness and hopelessness. I discover my quality of spirit and immediately that makes me mourn.” This “mourning” takes us into the experience that Paul describes in the seventh chapter of Romans. We have to begin to ask ourselves “what is it in me that makes me behave like that?” I know that I should not be irritable so why am I? I know that I should not be bad tempered, but why can I not control myself? What happens is that as we go through this we discover this war in our members and we hate it. We mourn because of it. I come to the place where, like Paul, I hate my sin, I mourn my sin, and I exclaim as Paul exclaimed, “Oh’ wretched man that I am who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ my Lord.”
  3. The Raging War
    Thus, the Apostle Paul himself, speaking of himself, states clearly in Romans chapter 7 that “the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.” Nevertheless, the Apostle laments the difficulty that he has as a Christian man, obeying the law. Paul states the following:
                “Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
                I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. Oh wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:13-24)
            Thus Paul identifies the fact that there is a war going on within us. In Galatians 5:17 we see expressed clearly the following:
            “For the flesh lusts (or wars) against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”
As Paul clearly states in the epistle to the Church at Galatia, we can overcome this war by walking in the spirit and thus we shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Notice that this does not allow us topretend that all is well. We are never to put on appearances. We are indeed to be serious, thoughtful, diligently studying the word of God that we might rightly divide the word of truth. Therefore, don’t pretend—pray!
            Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in this studies in The Sermon on the Mount, says that the man who mourns is “… always serious; but he does not have to affect the seriousness. The true Christian is never a man who has to put on an appearance of either sadness or joviality…. He is a serious, sober minded man. … The Christian is not superficial in any sense, but is fundamentally serious and fundamentally happy. You see, the joy of the Christian is a holy joy, the happiness of the Christian is a serious happiness. None of that superficial appearance of happiness and joy!... Indeed, he is like our Lord himself, groaning, weeping, and yet ‘for the joy that was set before him’ enduring the cross, despising the shame.” Therefore we must keep our eyes on Jesus! “Seek those things that are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of the Father.”
  1. Be Followers of God
                The Apostle Paul, in his inspired letter to the Church at Ephesus, calls ALL Christians to be followers of God. The English Standard Version reports this call thus:
                “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and ALL impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which is out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is an idolater) has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”(Ephesians 5:1-5 ESV) 
                The Apostle points out here that the very ones to whom he is writing were at one time “darkness” but now are “Children of Light in the Lord”. In his first letter to the Church at Corinth in the sixth chapter, Paul says almost the same thing  regarding  the fact that “the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God” and concludes “And such were some of you. But you are washed, you are sanctified, you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor 6:11 ESV) What about you? Are you washed, sanctified, and justified in the blood and name of the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you rather still playing the game? Are you an imitator of God, walking in love, or are you still toying with sexual immorality, crude jokes, or covetousness? Wanting more something? Did you realize that covetousness is idolatry? Covetousness is a most grievous sin indeed! We must “mourn” our sin, and the sin of others, if we have been raised with Christ. There can be no fellowship between “Light and Darkness”. Do you know that Jesus, who knew no sin, the perfect spotless Lamb of God, became sin for you, that you may be the righteousness of God in Him? We must hear the content of the Glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ and “mourn” our sin and repent therefrom by surrender of our will to God’s will, and place our trust in Jesus totally for our salvation. Have you done that? If not, do so now—today. Therefore, the second of the beatitudes says “blessed are those who mourn for they should be comforted” all Christians are to be this way. This is not an artificial thing, it is produced by the spirit of God. It is the result of hating sin—first in ourselves, as well as others.
Conclusion
            Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ that great shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the everlasting covenant help you to grow in the grace of mourning, that you may be comforted. Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.
Your friend and brother in Christ,
Daniel (Bill Gray)