Archive for the ‘JesusLifeAndTeachings’ Category

The Walk of Faith and the Paradox of Suffering in the Beatitudes

April 24, 2022

When we read John Calvin on this verse near the beginning, he starts by saying “We can fight Christ’s battles on no other terms than for the majority of the world to be risen up in enmity against us, and to be our persecutors, even unto death.”

This Sermon is for the followers of Christ.  As a general rule of thumb and more the world hates the Christian message. Calvin reminds us that:

 ‘Satan as the prince of this world will never stop arming his ranks in a frenzy to assault the members of Christ.”

We need to remember even way back in the book of Job it was Satan who was accusing Job of evils.  This same Satan is also the one who tried to force the hand of Jesus to worship him rather than God!

Calvin goes on to tell is about 1 Peter 3:3. However for the sake of context I have quoted some more:

“Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defence to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behaviour in Christ will be put to shame.” 1 Peter 3:13-16

Calvin goes on and he uses the ‘I repeat’ that means he is pressing the main point home:

“I repeat what I have just said, that all who wish to live a godly life in Christ are liable to persecution; Paul’s testimony applies to all the faithful alike (11 Tim, 3.12).”

“Indeed, all who desire to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” 2 Timothy 3:12-13

Calvin goes on to say:

“As throughout this life the way of the godly is most miserable, Christ duly lifts our thoughts to hope for the life of heaven.   Christ’s paradox here is vastly different from the commentaries of the Stoics, where men are told to be satisfied in their own judgement, and each to decide on his own happiness to empty imaginings, for he establishes it upon the reward of a future hope”

As we said earlier in another blog Martin Luther King junior who practiced peaceful protest became a target for doing the right thing.  Every human being has been created in the ‘image of God’.  We see this concept and truth attacked from many sides. When John Calvin penned these words, the world was in full movement and flux and many people died for having a separate confession about reality.  Calvin reminds us that this persecution of the Church is a staple diet of the world.   There is so much evil in the world at the moment; death and destruction in Europe for silly stupid reasons. 

We need to remember that the God we serve is a God of love.  Anyone who purports to be flying the Christian flag and openly murders innocent people is an ‘anti-Christ’.  There have been many anti-Christs throughout the centuries, and we have them even in the 21st century.  They may pretend to be Christian but by murdering innocent people they show themselves to be doings Satan’s will.  Let us love and be willing to help those who are less fortunate than ourselves in this way we follow the teachings of Christ. 

Reflection

Interesting that for the word righteousness Vine says:

“Righteousness dikaiosune (1343), is “the character or quality of being right or just”; it was formerly spelled “rightwiseness,” which clearly expresses the meaning. It is used to denote an attribute of God, e.g., Rom. 3:5, the context of which shows that “the righteousness of God” means essentially the same as His faithfulness, or truthfulness, that which is consistent with His own nature and promises; Rom. 3:25, 26 speaks of His “righteousness” as exhibited in the death of Christ, which is sufficient to show men that God is neither indifferent to sin nor regards it lightly.”  (From Vines dictionary; Olive Tree Bible software)

I come to the same conclusion as Calvin that the follower of Christ who lives the way of Christ is going to suffer.  There is an alignment of the righteousness and the follower of Christ.  It is in Christ that as Paul would say we are justified.  It is precisely for this reason that the prophets suffered.  They suffered because they aligned themselves in obedience to God’s word. 

I can think of Isaiah:

“1 In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. 2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called out to another and said,

“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts,

The whole earth is full of His glory.”

4 And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. 5 Then I said,

“Woe is me, for I am ruined!

Because I am a man of unclean lips,

And I live among a people of unclean lips;

For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” Isaiah 6:1-7

God has high standards, and in our strength, we cannot reach this standard.  Grace was given to Isaiah as his lips were purified.  Coming to the conclusion of the beatitudes we see steppingstones. We realize that all the goodness we have stems from the work of Christ. 

As Bavinck would say the natural man would reject this way of doing things.  The natural man wants to do things in their own strength and prove how strong they are.  On the surface it might look like righteousness but dig under the surface and one can see that it is fake righteousness.  True righteousness has roots coming from God’s grace.  Fake righteousness has its roots in self-empowerment.

Christ turns the values of this world on its head and shows how ugly they are:

 In fact, the follower of Christ’s city is in heaven.  The Christian is happy because he can see beyond the horizon.  This world is not our goal we are not interested in amassing wealth here.  True wealth is spiritual not material.  The legacy of the follower of Christ is to share love to all and sundry.   

The values of the world maybe:

That one is proud that he pays his taxes on time; You are a proud successful businessman who in reality only thinking about how good you are; You have achieved everything by your own wisdom. Or you are poor and jealous of someone who has the latest things, and you want the same.  It maybe that that person only cares about themselves.   

The examples above are probably not very accurate as I used a wide brush stroke here, but the main point is that the beatitudes for the follower of Christ is a mirror that can help weed out the sin in our lives.  As followers of Christ, we realize that we are completely dependent on God for our daily living.

The natural man and the follower of Christ look through completely different spectacles.

As Calvin used the word paradox in relation to Christs teachings.  It does look like a paradox that we are called to be happy and the way to be happy is to critique selfish empowerment.  At the end we are also to rejoice in our sufferings!  

No believers are not sadomasochists who like to inflict pain on themselves for enjoyment’s sake.  No, my friends; What we have here is a meditation to make us true believers in Christ. The small word ‘shall’ have been used a lot through these happy sayings.  We look beyond the horizon to Christ, to our redemption:

“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:12”

Reflection

This brings us to the end of the beatitudes but from my point of view this is the very key to understand all the teachings found within the Sermon on the Mount.  This has not been an easy ride theologically, but I hope as a follower of Christ you have grown in the grace of Christ as we become by the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit more genuine in our faith.

If you are not a follower of Christ, I hope that the beatitudes have given you an appreciation to what Christ is actually saying and I hope one day that you too could follow in the steps of Christ.

{For the writings of John Calvin I used his Harmony of the Gospels translated by A.W Morrison; pages 172-173; WM. B. Eerdmans publishing house}

Happy are the Peacemakers because in the Eschaton they will be known as the Children of God

April 9, 2022

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Matthew 5:9

In the last beatitude the pure would see God.  In this beatitude Our Lord is going up a level and he explains to his disciples that with this new ‘Happy saying’ they will be called ‘sons of God’.  Sons should be all inclusive for women too. Many of Jesus’s disciple were women and Saint Paul said in Galatians that there is neither male nor female.  In the Kingdom of heaven men and women are equal.  Anyhow before I dive into this beatitude, I want to think about the importance of peace makers.  I can think of some from the top of my head. 

  • Muhammad Ali
  • Gandhi
  • Martin Luther King
  • Nelson Mandela
  • Dalai Lama
  • Bishop Tutu
  • Greta Thunberg (Global warming that affects all of us)

Peace making comes at many different levels and God loves genuine peacemakers.  I’m not speaking from a salvific point of view but generally.  When God created the world ‘It was good’.  When He created Adam and Eve ‘it was good’.  The moral order of the family was set in place one man and one woman, and they were told to be fruitful.  We were created in the image of God and what does that actually mean.  For me Jesus as the Logos is the prototype image of God.  From the teachings of our Lord, we learn about the importance of loving Good and our neighbour. 

What is the opposite of peace?

It is war!

Jesus was the ultimate peace maker and I find it very interesting that Gandhi a Hindu studied the teachings of Christ which helped him to put together his ethic of love to fight British oppression in India. 

It doesn’t stop there; Martin Luther King Junior then studied Gandhi and using the ethic of Love fought for equal rights for people of colour and all people. 

I could go on people of peace attract other people of peace for example did you know that Bishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama became good friends?

In Christianity, peace is a very important concept.   First of all.   There are scriptures that refer to God as the God of peace and in this beatitude, we find that the peacemakers are going to be called the Sons of God.

Sometimes when you make peace, you have to in a sense, there’s some sort of war I don’t mean physically but in various forms.  So I’m just going to go through a few people that have shown the quality of peace:

In making peace Muhammad Ali, for example stood up against the American government because he did not agree with the Vietnam war and he had his world title belt that he won fair and square taken away from him.   Although after he did his time in prison, he got his belt back.

Then of course you have Gandhi who had the philosophy of ahimsa. The idea that you’re not allowed to hurt any living thing, and he lived at the time when Britain was in charge of India.   Using the concept of ahimsa, he was able to defeat the British and expel the British peacefully

Following in Gandhi’s footsteps, we have, Martin Luther King And he used the ethic of love to fight for the civil rights movement and it’s interesting that sometimes people who stand up for doing the right thing and are peaceful people usually sometimes end up being persecuted or killed.

Then we have Nelson Mandela who spent many years in prison he realized that peaceful protest is more powerful than the use of violence and he got rid of the apartheid system and became the First South African president and I have to say that I think John Calvin is the is the best one because it’s very simple and it gets to the point.

So it begins like this:

“Blessed are the peacemakers.  He means those who have an enthusiasm for peace and as best they may avoid all quarrels and also those who take pains to settle.  The dissensions that break out between others being agents of peace to all ready to stifle hatreds and rivalries, this is no light declaration.  The result is that each wishes to have everyone in his pay to fight on his side that we may not then depend on men favours.   Christ bids us to look to the judgment of the father for us.  He is the God of peace.   He reckons us among his sons as we work for peace even though our efforts do not please men. To be called has the same force as to be reckoned. “ (This is from.  Calvin’s New Testament commentaries, new translation. Translated by Morrison. Edited by TF Torrance, on page 172) 

I looked at four  commentaries about this particular verse in the Sermon on the Mount.

The four were:

  • by John Calvin (above).
  • William Barclay
  • Doctor Martyn Lloyd Jones commentary on the Sermon on the Mount.
  • Jamieson Faucet and Brown (Olive tree Bible software)

The reason I liked Calvin’s the most is actually because it gets to the point.   It’s very, very simple and he tries to get to the meaning of the text.   The modern commentary was actually invented by John Calvin.   He was the first to write Bible Commentaries in a scientific manner.   When we look at the text in the New Testament, we have to ask ourselves the question:

  • Do I have the real meaning of the text?
  • What did it mean to those who first heard those words?

What is important is what Jesus meant by these words.  It is not what I think Jesus meant by these words.   It can be very difficult sometimes to get to the meaning that the writer wanted us to understand. There are two keywords that explains all this (eisegesis and exegesis):

The first word (eisegesis)suggests this; You read your own biases into the text.  In this situation the text becomes gobbledegook (a myth, not true, false). It’s not reality.

Exegesis, on the other hand, means reading out of the text what is there. The text is actually telling you what it’s saying.   So, when we’re looking at this particular beatitude that Jesus gave there isn’t a really lot to go on.

So, this is why I think that here Calvin is actually better than William Barclay et al.  It just gives you the basic meaning. So then let’s start looking at it in a bit more detail and find out what we can learn.  I just want to look at the reflection of Calvin on this after we said basically what a peacemaker is.

Calvin Finishes off by saying this, “that we may not then depend on men’s favours.  So, we shouldn’t look at doing your boss, a favour, or whoever a favour, what’s important, Calvin says, is Christ bids us to look to the judgment of the Father, it’s what God wants us to do.   It’s not what other people want us to do for as he is the God of peace, He reckons us among his sons as we work for peace.  To be in a sense, to be a true image of God.   One of those characteristics is actually to make peace, even as God makes peace.

The greatest example of that is when Jesus died for us so that we could have peace with God.  He reckons us among his sons as we work for peace even though our efforts do not, please men.  Yeah, being a peacemaker and doing what God wants us to do is going to please very, very few men.   People, should I say for example.

When we talk about the 10 Commandments that God has given which is for everyone at all times.  A lot of people kind of accept those.  This causes problems, so we’re going to have problems to be called has the same force as ‘to be reckoned’, Calvin said. Yes, so we are reckoned to be as children of God.

It means the same thing and I wonder what it says in the Greek.   I’ll have to look at that a bit later on.

The Judaeo-Christian ethic is that we should love God with all of our heart with all of our mind and all of our strength and as a general rule, the natural man who hasn’t seen God’s goodness is only interested in himself and pleasing himself.   A lot of people nowadays they don’t want anything to do with God. They just want to go their own way doing their own thing, living the way that they want.   For example, marriage is thrown out with the bath water.   Sad to say, for example, in places like London Knife crime is very, very prevalent.  There’s a mood in large chunks of society that life isn’t worth very much.   if a person gets stabbed by another young person and they die (that isn’t seen as a problem).  There is no Fear of God, there is no sense of duty.   Let’s look at some people who have spoken about peace in the world.

For example, in the USA Martin Luther King when he was around at the marches and the civil rights movement.  He was assassinated for doing the right thing and it’s a problem that comes right into the 21st century where people think that if you’re white, you’re better than blacks, and if you’re black, you’re better than whites.   Bruce Lee went against the current of racism; In one of his interviews, he was asked if he was Chinese or if he was American.   Bruce Lee said, “I’m a human being.  It doesn’t matter about what colour you are, what race you are under the Sun we’re all the same. “  We’re human beings and we should treat each other with the dignity that everyone deserves.

For the Christian; God created us in his image.  We’ve been created in the image of God.  We are very, very special.  We are sacred but unfortunately, the world doesn’t actually always see that.

Some people choose to interpret this particular beatitude only in a churchy spiritual way and internalize peace making from within and the objective reality is lost.   That it only means making peace with God within you the struggle inside you.

But I don’t agree obviously I accept the spiritual but people like Martin Luther King has shown us that it has practical life changing elements for the real world outside the Church

After we’ve become Christians and we’ve learned how to do this walk with God because of God’s grace. We come to a position where we can actually take part in the world and start to try to bring peace by the help of The Holy Spirit; Peace with people and peace with God.

It’s a very objective thing.   It’s something that that can change the world, save lives and then also bring people to know Jesus Christ as we know Jesus Christ as well the ultimate peace with God.

All the commentaries failed me when looking to this beatitude, but they gave me clues.

I found it very interesting that William Barclay reminded us about the word Shalom can mean a peace but has various meanings.  Peace means not only be “freedom from all trouble” but it can also mean “enjoyment of all good.”

So I did a bit of research and I went to the Wikipedia on shalom.   Barclay is right and It can mean that as well because it’s used in everyday greetings for health and everything but it still didn’t answer my question:

  • What Jesus means by peacemaker

And lo and behold, I went to Matthew chapter 1012

Let me just tell you a bit a little bit about the context:

Jesus has chosen the 12 disciples and he sent them out to the House of Israel.

And they’re going to greet everyone.  This is what Jesus says in one of the verses with me paraphrasing, he says.  “As you enter the house, give it you’re greeting.  If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace but if it is not worth of it, take back your blessing of peace.

And then a bit later on:

Jesus talks about the persecution that the believers are going to face in the future.   

Now it’s very interesting that when we look at the Beatitudes in Matthew Chapter 5 verse nine and verse 10, one is about making peace and the next one is about persecution and in Chapter 10 from verses 5 all the way through to verse 23 the same order is followed.   When disciples do peace-making, they are going to face persecution and I think that’s probably the best way to interpret that particular beatitude.

Why did I use the word shalom?

You need to remember that Greek was the prevalent language around the Middle East at the time of Christ.  Even the Old Testament was translated into Greek known as the Septuagint (LXX as the abbreviation for the Septuagint (meaning 70 ‘the Seventy Elders’).  It is a fact that the Apostles favoured the Septuagint to that of the Hebrew at the time.  Scholars think that Jesus actually spoke Aramaic a local dialect! 

Reflection

If you are a disciple of Christ, then you are a peacemaker.  ‘Love changes everything’.  God sent his only Son into the world to open the way for us to walk into God’s Kingdom.  Being a peacemaker is not an easy task spiritually or objectively.   The hard example of this beatitude for us is in Matthew chapter 10. 

External links for further general reading:

Martin Luther King and Gandhi links

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_King_Jr.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahatma_Gandhi

A Messianic-Jewish interpretation of Matthew 5 verse 9

https://www.biblestudytools.com/cjb/matthew/5-9.html

One of the prerequisites to stand in the Presence of God is to have a pure heart not an unclean one. How is this even possible?

March 27, 2022

As we’ve gone through the Beatitudes you will have noticed that we started from a very earthly foundation and one by one we’re getting closer to the presence of God So, in verse 3, for example, was it all the poor in spirit for those of the Kingdom of heaven?

We realize that in ourselves we cannot save ourselves.  We’re completely dependent on God and then the beatitudes go through our attitudes one by one towards God and towards our neighbors.

Last time we looked at mercy, the concept of mercy, but it’s important that we show mercy.

Today we’re looking at the be attitude, which is the following, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”  The only one who has really ever been pure in heart is actually our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ because no sin was found in him.  Then as we get closer and closer to Christ and through repentance and trust in Christ, our thoughts and our intentions become purer and purer until eventually we meet the vision of God where we become more like the image of God.

The true image of God is obviously our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who became fully human.

So that we too could Become truly human.  So, to be truly human is actually to be in a close walk with God.

This happens in many ways.  Although God is the Creator, and we are the creatures.  God sent his only son into the world to die for us.  Jesus didn’t do anything wrong.  He is our true example that we need to follow.

Anyway, what does this beatitude actually mean?

Let’s look at it a bit closer. Blessed; all that means is happy. It’s a very Scriptural thing actually and is found in the Old Testament in various places; “Blessed is a man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.” (Psalm 1)

What’s the opposite of wicked?

It’s being pure being holy doing the right thing in God’s sight.  Do we do the right thing in God’s sight?

‘Pure in heart’.

What’s the opposite of pure in heart? It is having an unclean dirty heart.

Then Jesus says “the pure in heart they shall see God”. The word ‘shall’  is put in the time frame of the future tense.

So, at the end of time at the eschaton we shall indeed see God!

In what contexts have humans ever seen God?

I think it’s good just to have a look at the Old Testament and see what the old.

Testament says, and the best place to start is actually before the fall.  Before the fall, Adam and Eve hadn’t sinned yet, and basically that God would speak with them every single day;  they saw God every single day as a friend.  Although he was their creator He was their friend.  But then sin came into the world, and they had to be kicked out of the Garden of Eden. Well basically they wanted to be like God.  Perhaps I should have said become divine.     

In that state, there can only be judgment, and there was judgment on them, and since then we have not been able to walk in any garden with God.  That’s not the only place we can talk about seeing God.

In our fallen state, we can’t see God face to face because we will be destroyed by judgment because God is completely holy. Moses was granted the privilege of seeing the back of God.  He was allowed to see the back of God and that’s the closest man has ever got to seeing God in his situation which happened after the fall.

Seeing someone is very, very personal.  For example, if you go to visit your mum and dad or maybe a relative or a friend, it’s a very special time for meeting those sorts of people and it is with God as well. Yes it is Mothers Day in the UK today (27 03 2022). (Mum when you are reading this Happy Mothers Days!)

We have this hope that one day we’ll be going home to heaven, which is where our real home is.  It is very interesting that in the Garden of Eden there were two trees.  There was a tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which Adam and Eve actually ate from, and then they realized that that they didn’t have any clothes on.  There was also the Tree of life.  Now if they had eaten of the tree of life, They would have stayed in a sinful state for all eternity.  It  is an act of mercy that God kicked Adam and Eve out of the garden.  Even though he kicked them out of the garden, he made sure they had clothes and that was the first sacrifice.  God actually made the first sacrifice, not humans.

This is a hope that we have in the future that after the day of judgment and how things been we have a hope that we will see God.  We’re only able to see God because of what Jesus has done.

It’s only in Christ and in his work at Calvary that we are actually able to see God and the Book of Hebrews says that we’ll be able to walk boldly to the throne of Grace.  The temple on the Earth was only a shadow of the real thing anyway.  The real temple is actually in heaven.  Are you excited to see God?

How do you feel about that that you’ve lived on this earth all these years and you’ve not been able to see God literally? Actually then one the  believers by faith we will see God.  He has a place prepared for us through what Jesus has done. 

To be. Pure in heart also means that we have to live holy and godly lives, and it’s not always easy.

But there’s lots of things that tempters, testers, and sometimes we fall.  We we need God’s grace to put us back on the road. And it’s a daily thing.  I suppose this is what pilgrim’s progress reminds us. In that  story you know that he is on this on this road, and then these different tests come to test him.  Satan and his cohorts would like him to leave the road where he’ll face destruction but God keeps hold of him right up to the end.

Analytic Reflection

This section is not my work but I have taken it from (Jamieson Fausset and Brown commentary on Matthew 58)

“ 8. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God—Here, too, we are on Old Testament ground. There the difference between outward and inward purity, and the acceptableness of the latter only in the sight of God, are everywhere taught. Nor is the “vision of God” strange to the Old Testament; and though it was an understood thing that this was not possible in the present life (Ex 33:20; and compare Job 19:26, 27; Isa 6:5), yet spiritually it was known and felt to be the privilege of the saints even here (Ge 5:24; 6:9; 17:1; 48:15; Ps 27:4; 36:9; 63:2; Isa 38:3, 11, etc.). But oh, with what grand simplicity, brevity, and power is this great fundamental truth here expressed! And in what striking contrast would such teaching appear to that which was then current, in which exclusive attention was paid to ceremonial purification and external morality! This heart purity begins in a “heart sprinkled from an evil conscience,” or a “conscience purged from dead works” (Heb 10:22; 9:14; and see Ac 15:9); and this also is taught in the Old Testament (Ps 32:1, 2; compare Ro 4:5-8; Isa 6:5-8). The conscience thus purged—the heart thus sprinkled—there is light within wherewith to see God. “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with the other”—He with us and we with Him—”and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us”—us who have this fellowship, and who, without such continual cleansing, would soon lose it again—”from all sin” (1Jo 1:6, 7). Matthew 5:8 “Whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known Him” (1Jo 3:6); “He that doeth evil hath not seen God” (3Jo 11). The inward vision thus clarified, and the whole inner man in sympathy with God, each looks upon the other with complacency and joy, and we are “changed into the same image from glory to glory.” But the full and beatific vision of God is reserved for that time to which the Psalmist stretches his views—”As for me, I shall behold Thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness” (Ps 17:15). Then shall His servants serve Him: and they shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads (Re 22:3, 4). They shall see Him as He is (1Jo 3:2). But, says the apostle, expressing the converse of this beatitude—”Follow holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb 12:14). Matthew 5:8 (Jamieson Fausset and Brown commentary on Matthew 58)

Reflection

Luke does not touch on this beatitude.  Having said that it is indeed a core teaching in the New Testament. For example:

“A New and Living Way

19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:19-25 NASB; Olive Tree Bible Software”

Verse 19 tells us that we will enter the ‘Holy Place’.  Verse 22 tells us that ‘our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience’.   What took Apollos the writer of Hebrews (I believe he wrote it) takes a few verses to explain Jesus explained it in one short sentence.  Our Lord indeed was a great teacher. The Holy Place is the innermost and most Holy Place in which God resides. The High Priest only entered the holy place once in a year.  I read somewhere that on the hem of the garments they had bells.  They had bells in case they were struck down for disobeying God so that they could be pulled out:

   (I pulled the following from the internet. The link is there but you would have to add ‘https’ to the front of the address for it to work)

“… alternating golden bells and pomegranates that were sown to the bottom hem of the long blue outer robe over which the EPHOD and Breastplate were worn.

We were told earlier that that the purpose of these golden bells was so “The High Priest would not die” while he was serving in the Tabernacle.

These dangling bells were much more than decorative jewelry.

In the Temple era, a rope was tied to the ankle of the High Priest when he went into the Holiest Place on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).

“A chain was tied to the feet of the High Priest, when he entered THE HOLY OF HOLIES, so that if he dies there they will take him out, SINCE IT IS FORBIDDEN TO ENTER THERE… Then there is joy among the higher and lower beings. If not, they were all in sorrow and all knew that their prayer was not accepted.”-Zohar Vol. 16 Emor, Section 34. Yom Kippur, Par. 251.

Now I was told that while the High Priest was engaged in his purification rituals, the common priests who were standing outside the Sanctuary would be on high alert always listening for the steady jingling of the golden bells.

If that jingling STOPPED for a considerable amount of time, they would assume that the Lord had probably killed the High Priest due to some breach of protocol.

Then, they would pull him out of the Holy of Holies with the rope that was attached to his foot.” (Taken from  //messianic-revolution.com/e39-2-what-was-the-purpose-of-the-bells-attached-to-the-hem-of-the-high-priests-robe/ )

Anyhow I want to bring this blog to a conclusion.  I want to wish all Mothers everywhere a Happy (UK) Mothers day!

Negatively judgment will be merciless to one who shows no mercy James the Lords brother continues “…mercy triumphs over judgment.” “James 2:13 NASB

March 19, 2022

We have all sinned and gone astray from God yet one of the chief characteristics of God is to show mercy:

“Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” 8 Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship.” Exodus 34:6-8

 In a court of law if you have been shown mercy then perhaps you have been set free even though one deserved a harsher sentence:

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Matthew 5:7

And negatively it could be:

“For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. “James 2:13

I’m using James here because James was the Lord’s brother and the leader of the Jerusalem Church before he was executed.

If any religion (including Christianity) lacks mercy as part of its primary teachings, then it will hurt a lot of people.  Jesus is the prime example of showing mercy in that he was going to die a cruel death on a cross so that in Him we could walk to God’s throne.  Mercy is something that all humans are able to do but for some reason things such as pride, greed, hunger for power, ambition, and many things get in the way, so we do not reach our true human potential. 

Jesus was well aware of the Pharisees:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” Matthew 23:23

As you can see with the various quotations that mercy and justice cannot be separated.  The religious and political leaders of the day in Jesus’ society in a sense are like leaders in our own time.  You can get the good, the bad and the ugly doers.  Mercy is not only a major characteristic that God has.  We ought to remember that we have been created in the image of God and we too as humans have this natural universal characteristic.  Do your local and national leaders exhibit and prove compassion in their daily lives?

If they don’t have this, then vote for people who genuinely care about fellow human beings.  Are the needy people in your locality being cared for or are funds being channeled into their own bank accounts be new corrupt laws?

I’m not making any political claims for this or that party, but I think Jesus’ teachings on mercy hits right at the core of how we ought to live before a Holy God.

Let us now dig deeper into this beatitude.  We have already learned a lot through looking at some key texts:

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Matthew 5:7

Last time we looked at how as we go through the beatitudes, we get closer and closer to God:

Vines Definition

“Merciful eleemon (1655), “merciful,” not simply possessed of pity but actively compassionate, is used of Christ as a High Priest, Heb. 2:17, and of those who are like God, Matt. 5:7 (cf. Luke 6:35, 36, where the RV, “sons” is to be read, as representing characteristics resembling those of their Father). “ Matthew 5:7

 ( From Vines Dictionary; olive Tree Bible software)

Interpretation

‘Blessed are the merciful’

‘Merciful is an adjective’ but even in the Greek it has the definite article ‘the’.

Blessed + the + merciful are all in the plural so Jesus is saying to all of his disciples that we ought to be actively practicing mercy even as he was a prime example of this.

‘Will receive (obtain) mercy’

This is a verb, and it is in the future plural tense.  The actions we do today will have eschatological significance when we stand before the throne of God. 

Jesus is our prime example:

“Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” Hebrews 2:17

Reflection

Christianity is a religion of mercy.  If the Christianity, you have met does not practice mercy and compassion then it is not Christianity but some cheap fake element of Christianity.   

God himself is merciful and Jesus being the Son of God became our Passover lamb and died for us so that we too could have eternal life.  We live by faith in the covenant that Jesus made with his people (The Church). Jesus practiced mercy and if we follow in his footsteps we too ought to follow in his footsteps.  When we walk this walk and show mercy, we become closer and closer like Jesus.  We also get closer and closer to God’s own heart. 

For me the period of lent is more about thinking about what Jesus did for us at the cross.  When I think about mercy it makes me think about these events surrounding the death and resurrection of Christ and this is our hope that one day he will come back for his disciples from all ages (The invisible Church = believers from the past, present and future).  Jesus for Christians is the ultimate example of Mercy.  I realize that in my walk with God I have only just begun but by the Holy Spirit we are brought closer and closer to be with Christ for all eternity.

What does Jesus mean about hungering and thirsting for righteousness?

March 12, 2022

I have lost count how many times I have read the Sermon on the Mount but the closer I look at it the more I am humbled by Jesus’ teachings.  I just want to recap and then reflect on it with you before moving into verse 6:

    3 “ Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  The subjective internal world of faith Level 1 3 Starting from the destitute soul    
  4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  Level 2 Coming to a realization of how destitute we are before a Holy God  
  5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.  Level 3 Realization of destitution fosters humility before a Holy God  
  6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  Level 4 One is now ready to be taught by a holy God    
  Where your faith has an impact on the objective heaven and earth
  7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.    Level 5 Before showing mercy you were shown mercy by a Holy God    
  8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.  Level 6 In Christ for the first time you start to see God in a new light  
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.      Level 7 Making peace is an extension of love. Congratulations you have received your passport are called children 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. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:3-12Level 8 You are now on the spiritual front-line moving in enemy territory working for Gods Kingdom

Reflection: For me Heaven is as real as earth.  The invisible is as real as the visible.  The greatest minds of human wisdom and knowledge have grasped this idea.  Judaism certainly grasped this idea that there is an infinite as well as finite space and time ruled by an Intelligent Being (God). Without questioning God’s being and just believing that he is as it says in lots of places:

28 “And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;

And to depart from evil is understanding.’” Job 28:28

7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;

Fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:7

24 that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, so that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”

Joshua 4:24

Within the framework of Judaism that Jesus was walking in the tradition starts with faith as a given fact.

As Christians in Christ, we are inheritors of this faith walk.   We did not come to a place of hungering for God’s Kingdom; We are on a pilgrim’s journey.

Jesus started teaching us from where we are from the subjective internal world of faith.  We realized that before a Holy God our soul is completely destitute and is completely reliant on God’s grace.  Having Come to a place of realizing how destitute we are before a Holy God this has fostered humility within our being standing before a Holy God. It is only now that we are ready to be taught by a holy God.

Jesus did not come to destroy the law but to fulfil it.  We know the summary as well that we are to love God and to love our neighbour.  A lot of people (politicians and ethicists for example) don’t realize that there is a relation between loving God and loving the neighbour.  We see this in the 10 commandments that one is to love God and his neighbour.   The 10 commandments gives us a boundary to work with for society.  However, what have politicians and the general public done.  The Golden rule has been elevated and God has been written out of the script. 

This to my mind is the reason for ending up with a dysfunctional society.  Society has said no to God and the effects of this has been horrendous on human activity up to the nuclear bomb (mutual destruction). 

Truth for a lot of people is relative because the measuring stick is humanity (anything goes). 

Let us now begin to look at Jesus’ saying below:

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Matthew 5:6

There are some basic commodities that we need to survive.  Water and bread are two such basic commodities.   Jesus is the perfect example of this.  He was driven into the desert by the Holy Spirit and Satan only tested Jesus when he was at his weakest.  Let us look at what actually happened:

“1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’” Matthew 4:1-4”

We can imagine being in this deserted area.  According to Barclay the rocks are the right size and shape to look like loaves of bread!   So, Jesus having fasted and sought God’s will we have Satan come up to him and talk about bread!  Jesus gives us a priority lesson.

If you were going to choose between what the body needs, and God’s will; which comes first?

We need to go shopping my friends for our food.  We need to follow Jesus’ example and learn to pray.  When we pray God will answer us from heaven.  Let’s not forget that after the temptations, angels served Jesus because he didn’t even probably have enough energy to come back to civilization.   

Let us pray daily like Jesus did.  Let us find places in which we are alone with God.  There comes times and places in our lives when we hit a dead end.  The situation looks impossible, and it is impossible but by being faithful to Christ a way opens up and our prayers are answered.   

Reflection

This Week I used Scripture to interpret Scripture (The first test of Christ). As believers we belong to Christ.  Jesus being the Son of God had a perfect relationship with the Father.  Jesus is the perfect example for hungering and thirsting after God.  What did Jesus do?

  • Jesus prayed
  • Jesus fasted
  • Jesus read Scripture
  • Jesus walked in step with his and our Heavenly Father

Praying should be like bread to our spiritual well being and reading Scripture like water quenching our spiritual thirst.  Let us live by faith walking close to our Master the perfect example of how to live the life of faith. Don’t forget Jesus in his humanness needed help to come down the mountain (my view). So then my friends let us stay in step with Jesus and we have the hope that one day he is coming to take his bride (The Church)

…for the gentle (meek) ‘shall inherit the earth.’  In the end times: What earth?

March 6, 2022

Today I am doing more experimental theology.  

The theme is about the future theatre in the eschaton (end times) what type of earth we are going to inherit as believers.  It is not a clear and cut topic.  Namely over the years some scriptures have actually confused me.  An example of this is the Lord Jesus in the Beatitudes said the ‘The meek (gentle shall inherit the earth)’.

On the other hand, there is a Scripture that says the earth is going to be destroyed with fire (2 Peter 3 10).  Where do I start?

On top of this:

  • Some scholars say this world will continue the way it is (evolutionists)
  • Other theologians say this present earth will be destroyed and a new heaven and a new earth will come down
  • Bavinck says the truth lies between these two points.

For me this is an experimental line of inquiry and I believe Herman Bavinck will help me get to the truth.   

Before I even start, I think we need to remind ourselves that:

  1. When God created the heavens and the earth (It was good).  At this stage before sin entered into the world everything was good.  The material universe was ‘good’
  2. There was a Fall Adam sinned.  Adam’s sin not only affected the human race, but it also brought a Fall to the human creation (and the universe)
  3. Regeneration of the human race happened through Christ.
  4. Where does this leave the earth, the theatre in which humans live their life; the earth’s habitats, its animals that Adam was supposed to take care of, our pet rabbit Leo!

The fact is that in theology without realizing it perhaps there has been some gnostic influence that see creation (the material universe as bad!).  Is God a liar?

No! God is not a liar; so perhaps we need to think about the regeneration of the world in some way.   Does the Bible talk in anyway that the world would be regenerated or ‘born again’ Anyone who has pets must also wonder where their pets fit in this grand scheme of things.

There is also another problem that having a negative view of the material universe means that for many people the importance of saving this planet ends up on the backburner (This is a mistake). 

We will be looking at Reformed Dogmatics; by Herman Bavinck; translated by John Vriend; edited by John Bolt; pages 715- 724; printed by Baker Academic.

Creation’s renewal

After the Last Judgement and the banishment of the wicked from the world then creation will be renewed.

There will be many signs before the Judgement. Here are some references:

“29 “But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Matthew 24:29”

“10 But 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”

“13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:13”

“1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. Revelation 21:1”

Here we can see very harsh things being said about the world, destruction and fire. Bavinck goes into this a little later on so we will also wait before doing exegesis on Peters text.  On the one hand our Lord says that we will inherit the earth but on the other hand Peter talks about the destructive use of fire on the elements.  There are no contradistinctions although our understanding of the issues have now become rather fuzzy!

Concerning the regeneration of the world there are various standpoints.  As Bavinck writes:

“In this expectation of world renewal, Scripture assumes a position between two extremes. On the one hand, many thinkers—Plato, Aristotle, Xenophanes, Philo, Maimonides, Averroes, Wolanus, La Peyreére, Edelmann, and Czolbe among them— have asserted that this world is destined to continue in its present form forever. On the other hand, Origen, the Lutherans, the Mennonites, the Socinians, Vorstius, the Remonstrants, and a number of Reformed theologians like Beza, Rivetus, Junius, Wollebius, and Prideaux believed that the world would not only be changed in form but also destroyed in substance and replaced by a totally new world.”

Within many Christians there is a popular notion nowadays that this present world will be destroyed (annihilated).  For me this view does not hold any water.  It is interesting that when God put Adam in the Garden of Eden there were two trees.  There is continuity with the Garden of Eden with the tree of life (found in Genesis and Revelations) being mentioned again:

“And he showed me a river of the water of life, [a]clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of [b]the Lamb, 2 in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve [c]kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” 

We can also think about the creation as good.  There is continuation between Genesis and Revelations not complete annihilation.

Bavincks view is that this annihalation is not Scrptural and on the surface the ones that look like complete destruction are not.  He gives us the following references:

“26 “Even they will perish, but You endure;

And all of them will wear out like a garment;

Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. Psalms 102:26”

“4 And all the host of heaven will wear away,

And the sky will be rolled up like a scroll;

All their hosts will also wither away

As a leaf withers from the vine,

Or as one withers from the fig tree. Isaiah 34:4”

“6 “Lift up your eyes to the sky,

Then look to the earth beneath;

For the sky will vanish like smoke,

And the earth will wear out like a garment

And its inhabitants will die in like manner;

But My salvation will be forever,

And My righteousness will not wane. Isaiah 51:6”

“16 I have put My words in your mouth and have covered you with the shadow of My hand, to establish the heavens, to found the earth, and to say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’” Isaiah 51:16”

17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;

And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind. Isaiah 65:17”

“22 “For just as the new heavens and the new earth

Which I make will endure before Me,” declares the LORD,

“So your offspring and your name will endure. Isaiah 66:22”

Concerning the above passages Bavinck says that” In the first place, the description given in these passages is much too rich in imagery for us to infer from them a reduction to nothing (reductio ad nihilum) of the entire world,”(page 716)

These are some important points but then he also takes us into some key Hebrew words and how they ought to be interpreted.

The Hebrew word ‘abad’ the ‘perishing’ of ‘heaven and earth’:

“…the entire world, Further, the perishing (abad) of heaven and earth (Ps. 102:26), is explained by the fact that they will wear out like a garment, be changed like clothing, wither like a leaf, or vanish like smoke (Ps. 102:26; Isa. 34:4; 51:6)”

Bavinck then looks at the verb ‘to create’ ‘bara’:

“’[Bara’]… certainly does not always mean creating something out of nothing but frequently denotes a divine activity by which God brings forth something new from the old (Isa. 41:20; 43:7; 54:16; 57:18).”:

e.g:

“20 That they may see and recognize,

And consider and gain insight as well,

That the hand of the LORD has done this,

And the Holy One of Israel has created it. “Isaiah 41:20

“7 Everyone who is called by My name,

And whom I have created for My glory,

Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.” Isaiah 43:7”

“16 “Behold, I Myself have created the smith who blows the fire of coals

And brings out a weapon for its work;

And I have created the destroyer to ruin. Isaiah 54:16”

So then he finishes off in the Old Testament by saying bara is used in various contexts such as

  • Planting
  • Laying foundations
  • Making

Before we move in to the New Testament we need to say that there are certain premises we need to remember.  The main Scripture the Apostles and early Christians used was the Old Testament and a lot of the time it was the Septuagint (LXX in Greek).  The Apostles did not have a New Testament at hand to use.  The Apostles interpreted the Old Testament by the help of the Holy Spirit and the reason God had given them. 

To sum up there is continuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament, and this is why in later centuries Marcion was seen as a heretic because he wanted to throw the Old Testament away!  The key word here is ‘continuity’

On page 717 Bavinck goes through some verses that prove:

“Accordingly, with reference to the passing of the present world, we must no more think of a destruction of substance than [we would] with regard to the passing of the earlier world in the flood. Fire burns, cleanses, purifies, but does not destroy.” From page 717

So let us look at some of these references:

18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Matthew 5:18

35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. Matthew 24:35

10 But 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

17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:17

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. Revelation 21:1

In verse 11:

A perishing like an old garment

11 THEY WILL PERISH, BUT YOU REMAIN;

AND THEY ALL WILL BECOME OLD LIKE A GARMENT, Hebrews 1:11

In verse 10 below

  • Destroyed = perhaps the word dissolve is a better translation than destroyed:
  • Burned as the word ‘up’ is not in the Greek.

10 But 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

Note; λύω luō ; a prim. vb.; to loose, to release, to dissolve

Verse 12 below

‘changed’

12 AND LIKE A MANTLE YOU WILL ROLL THEM UP;

LIKE A GARMENT THEY WILL ALSO BE CHANGED.

BUT YOU ARE THE SAME,

AND YOUR YEARS WILL NOT COME TO AN END.” Hebrews 1:12

His conclusions for this section are:

“Only such a renewal of the world, for that matter, accords with what Scripture teaches about redemption. For the latter is never a second, brand-new creation but a re-creation of the existing world. God’s honour consists precisely in the fact that he redeems and renews the same humanity, the same world, the same heaven, and the same earth that have been corrupted and polluted by sin. Just as anyone in Christ is a new creation in whom the old has passed away and everything has become new (2 Cor. 5:17), so also this world passes away in its present form as well, in order out of its womb, at God’s word of power, to give birth and being to a new world. Just as in the case of an individual human being, so at the end of time a rebirth of the world will take place as well (Matt. 19:28). This constitutes a spiritual renewal, not a physical creation” page 717

He has a lot more to say, but “…Still these comments do not do complete justice to the New Testament hope of future blessedness” (page 718)

Reflection

The aim of today was to think about the world we are to inherit as Jesus said.  I am not saying this is the only way to interpret the text, but Bavinck has certainly convinced me that it is.   Even as believers are renewed ‘born again’, the earth itself will be renewed and it is in that new earth that we inherit.   Humanity a lot of the time want to be like God! They are not. Many wars have been fought over the centuries and billions of lives have been lost. Today the theatre (world) in which people live out their personal stories is in danger of destruction. Will we ever learn that:

The way of love is better than the way of pride and selfish motivations. Although humanity is guilty of the greatest sin (Turning their back on God and making themselves to be gods). God did not give up on humanity but even in the garden God gave humans skins to Adam and Eve to wear. Since then God has worked through history and sent his Only Begotten Son to die on a cross as a way to bring salvation to us. The root cause of destruction on this planet is the human race but through Christ this is being rectified.

Matthew Chapter 5 verse 5; Is meekness weakness as Aristotle thought or is it a powerful force to be reckoned with in the Teachings of Jesus?

February 25, 2022

So, last we found out that the intentions of Matthew and Luke were not the same.  One focused on compassion while the other on holiness.  For the time being I will focus on Matthews Gospel first. 

Reminder and discussion

To remind ourselves again, Matthew started his beatitudes by speaking about the quality of being poor in spirit and those who mourn.  These qualities are qualities that a lot of head strong citizens would reject straight away.  After all who in their right mind would take on these weakling qualities.  Let us reflect on this:

The opposite of poor in spirit is to be full of pride and that one in their own strength without the need for outside help can do very well.  It is true that these sorts of people can become very rich and wealthy but that doesn’t mean that they will be ‘happy’.  To get to the top of the food chain they probably walked over people, knocked them metaphorically speaking out of the way.  This sort of living can have serious detriments to one’s psychological and spiritual health.  As Christians we follow the teachings of our Lord and Saviour Jesus.  In Christ by the Holy Spirit our minds and reasons for living left this road for a road of love.  Our consciences day by day get better and better until we finally meet our Lord.

From poverty of spirit, we realize that God had to become a man and to die in place of us at the cross.  God the Son who is pure love had to take on human flesh and to die in our stead.  Who is this Trinitarian God?  He is the God that spoke, and the universe was created.  The God who breathed into Adam and made him live.  The God who became Adam’s friend and walked with him in the Garden. 

What did God get in return?

Adam and Eve who turned their backs on this friendship and wanted to take on divine status by eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  We as human beings individually and corporately have also sinned.  Yet God in his love for us by the Holy Spirit shows us what our sin did. 

Coming to a place to see how much our actions have hurt Him and his creation in Christ he gives us a second chance and God’s Kingdom is within our reach by His gift of grace by the Holy Spirit!

We mourn because we have seen the destruction and death, we have caused in our own lives but also the destruction caused in the world.  God does not come to us with a punishing road but on the contrary in Christ we have real comfort.

As come closer to God through Christ by the Holy Spirit the scales from our eyes metaphorically speaking fall from our eyes. The next step on this road is humility, gentleness and meekness as Matthew says:

5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

Meekness in the real world can be looked down on as a quality:

“Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

5. the meek] Psalm 37:11. “But the meek shall inherit the earth.” See note Matthew 5:3. Meekness is mentioned with very faint praise by the greatest of heathen moralists, Aristotle. He calls it “a mean inclining to a defect.” It is indeed essentially a Christian virtue.”  From  https://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/5-5.htm

God’s way of seeing this quality is quite different:

3 (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.) Numbers 12:3

This is an absolutely amazing statement but in the context of humility this is what God said about Moses!

“4 Suddenly the LORD said to Moses and Aaron and to Miriam, “You three come out to the tent of meeting.” So, the three of them came out. 5 Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the doorway of the tent, and He called Aaron and Miriam. When they had both come forward, 6 He said,

“Hear now My words:

If there is a prophet among you,

I, the LORD, shall make Myself known to him in a vision.

I shall speak with him in a dream.

7 “Not so, with My servant Moses,

He is faithful in all My household;

8 With him I speak mouth to mouth,

Even openly, and not in dark sayings,

And he beholds the form of the LORD.

Why then were you not afraid

To speak against My servant, against Moses?”

9 So the anger of the LORD burned against them, and He departed. 10 But when the cloud had withdrawn from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow. As Aaron turned toward Miriam, behold, she was leprous… Numbers 12:4-10”

The world might see humility as a weakness, but God sees humility otherwise.  We can see that our Lord took this saying from the Psalms:

“11 But the humble will inherit the land

And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity. Psalms 37:11”

Let us take a definition of Meekness then:

“The quality or state of being meek: a mild, moderate, humble, or submissive quality” From https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/meekness

On this website someone posted the following:

“While studying scriptures I had been reading in the Bible (KJV) where meekness is a quality of a Christian. I wanted to know how this characteristic fits my person. I understand after reading this definition it aligns with the Bible as the quality of a believer in Jesus. In Ephesians 4 the writer is the apostle Paul speaking to the gentiles about the unity of the spirit of Christ: 4:1-2 I therefore the prisoner of the Lord beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith us are called, With all lowliness and meekness.” The unity of the spirit of Lord Jesus teaches believers to walk in this manner in the spirit of humility, meekness with patience bearing others burdens in love to one another.” From https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/meekness

When looking at meekness, gentleness, and humility then we see that the context is in ‘love’.  If love as found in the first and second great commands is not the driving force, then it is not the type of meekness that Jesus is speaking about. Meekness has to be grounded in the love of God and our love for each other.

The world probably has counterfeit types of meekness.  There might be a post for a better paying position, so they pretend to be submissive.  once they get into that position perhaps, they start to boss others around with an air that they are better than everyone else.  

Moses was not like that.  He loved his people and on more than one occasion was willing to take God’s judgement on himself to save his people.  He was a prayer warrior.  He wasn’t perfect and sometimes he wasn’t very gentle and in his earlier day he murdered an Egyptian soldier our of rage for what was happening to the Israelites in captivity.  In the long run however, God saw the potential in Moses and made him leader. 

Reflection.

When the Holy Spirit reveals to us our sin it brings us to a place of mourning. God shows us how our wrong doings have hurt God, our neighbour, and the world that we inhabit.

Through this poverty and mourning we can only fall flat on our face before a Holy God, and we are grateful for the love by the Spirit he has poured into our lives.In the eschaton even now, (end times) we enter the kingdom of God.  Now we mourn but, in the eschaton, we will laugh with joy of happiness before our Lord.  We now walk in humility, but the promise is that in the eschaton we will inherit the earth.

To sum up, the believer now and in the eschaton:

  • Will enter the kingdom of heaven
  • Will be comforted
  • Will inherit the world

Why do I speak about the end times?

The reason I speak about the end times is because in the second part of the main beatitudes the tense is ‘future’.  The future is something that hasn’t happened yet but will take place.

I could also speak about ‘what Land’ they will inherit.  Herman Bavinck in his Reformed Dogmatics; Volume 4; around page 719 gives us somethings to think about. However, I will save this for another blog because he goes into a lot of detail, and I have now run out of time.

So then what is your understanding of meekness?

Meekness is a quality that very few people have.  From a world perspective it can be seen as a weak and low quality. 

As Christians we ought to follow the example of Christ.  Jesus was Meek but he certainly was not weak especially when he stood up to the leaders of the time and even turned over tables in the Temple area in Jerusalem.  Meekness is a state of being that God values.  When we stand before a holy God we are standing before Majesty.  As Christians the driving force of meekness was not weakness but rather genuine love for God, his neighbour and dare I say it love of enemies for them too to come to know the Saviour and taste this love.

The Two Emphases of Matthew and Luke on the Compassion and Justice Of God in the Sermon on the Mount

February 19, 2022

I have been asking God for wisdom when looking at our Lords teachings.  The SM (SM = Sermon on the Mount) are some of the most profound teachings for living the life of faith.  I was asking my self the question why is the mood and feeling of the SM so different in Matthew and Luke whilst it is the same teaching?

I think that this is a very important question.  The greatest preacher who ever lived was God who became a man in the person of Jesus Christ yet in this recorded sermon by Matthew and Luke, they are so different.  As I was typing and pondering these thought it dawned on me that for example; there can be two people who hear a sermon, but each person will pick something different out of the same sermon and interpret it differently, yet it was the same sermon!

Jesus gave a sermon and there were two people who heard or read about it (Matthew and Luke).  They walked away with different interpretations, but the husk of the sermon is still the same.  This is the main reason I felt it important to try to pick out some salient features from these two Gospels.  When I have completed picking out the salient features I will continue going through the text.

The Salient Features of the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew writes over 111 verses on the Sermon on the mount.  Luke writes about 25 verses and then Luke at the end of his beatitudes adds the woes.  So, the question for me is; What is driving these writers to write so differently on these passages?

I just recently acquired a commentary on Luke’s Gospel by one of my University Lecturers Judith Lieu.  It is the best answer I have found so far as she writes:

“That God is rich in compassion is fundamental to the OT (Ex. 34.6); whereas Leviticus had called for holiness (Lev. 19.2), and Matthew for perfection (Matt. 5.48), in likeness to God, for Luke the divine norm is to be compassionate. This means – v.36 should be taken with vv.37-38 not to judge, or condemn, but to pardon and give in abundance. Again there is no reflection on the certainty that God will judge, nor on the circumstances in which judgment is necessary. These are not maxims to be applied generally without discrimination; they explore what it means to say love your enemies, and, in a world where reciprocity was the norm which bound some together and separated others, explore an alternative model of relationships.” (From the Gospel of Luke; Judith Lieu; page 52 Epworth Commentaries)

As Dr Lieu says Compassion is fundamental to the Old Testament:

6 Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness and truth; Exodus 34:6

Dr Lieu also quoted Leviticus 19.2:

2 “Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. Leviticus 19:2

It is interesting that she chose these two passages because I got an email from the Rabbi Sacks Legacy Trust in which Rabbi Sacks reminded us of some important things here:

    “Ex. 34:6-7

This passage became known as the “Thirteen Attributes of God’s Mercy.”

The Sages understood this episode as the moment in which God taught Moses, and through him all future generations, how to pray when atoning for sin (Rosh Hashanah 17b). Moses himself used these words with slight variations during the next crisis, that of the spies. Eventually they became the basis of the special prayers known as Selichot, prayers of penitence. It was as if God were binding himself to forgive the penitent in each generation by this self-definition.[1] God is compassionate and lives in love and forgiveness. This is an essential element of Jewish faith.

But there is a caveat. God adds: “Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished.” There is a further clause about visiting the sins of the parents upon the children which demands separate attention and is not our subject here. The caveat tells us that there is forgiveness but also punishment. There is compassion but also justice.

Why so? Why must there be justice as well as compassion, punishment as well as forgiveness? The Sages said:

 “When God created the universe, He did so under the attribute of justice, but then saw it could not survive. What did He do? He added compassion to justice and created the world.”

    See Rashi to Genesis 1:1.

This statement prompts the same question. Why did God not abandon justice altogether? Why is forgiveness alone not enough?”

So then compassion and holiness are important things that God is really interested in and from my point of view it shows how these to lines of theology; namely compassion and holiness work together.  So then let us now look at the next two quotes from Dr Lieu:

Matthew says,

48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48

Luke says,

36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” Luke 6:36-38

Reflection

So then Rabbi Sacks and Dr Judith Lieu have taught us two important strands found in the Old Testament (The late Rabbi Sacks) and the SM (Judith Lieu).   I have a lot of respect for these two profound teachers of the Bible. Anyhow for me this is a profound and accurate answer for understanding the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount and why they seem so different on the surface.  So then perhaps as I continue now in the Sermon on the Mount, we needs to take these differences in our stride and our walk of faith. 

Next time I will return to the Sermon on the Mount and start to inquire with what our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ wants us to understand.   

I feel that we are now armed with the keys to the SM.  We will be able to unlock these spiritual truths and grow closer to our Lord and Saviour and also have more compassion for our neighbours no matter what their background, race, religion et al.

I hope that you will follow me on this quest for finding Gods Truths about Himself, the Trinitarian God that we worship.

The Sermon on the Mount; The Poor and those who mourn (In this blog I will use ‘SM’ for Sermon on the Mount)

February 13, 2022

These three chapters take us to the heart of Jesus teachings, and it is so much more than just ethics and living a good life.   Before we start, I want to look at the structure of these chapters.  The late Graham Stanton in his class notes to us (1993-1994 King’s College London) showed us that Matthew writes 111 verses on the SM (SM = Sermon on the Mount) whereas Luke writes a measly 30 verses. 

Below when looking at the various themes of the SM one can see straight away that Matthews order of the teachings and that of Luke do not follow a chronological order.  You can see this by looking at the verse orders from the notes.  From my my notes on the Harmony of the Gospels I also learned that the Didache (The Teachings of the Apostles) has a very early date (scholarly consensus ad 50 -70!) and this writing seems to know Matthew!

Didache 3. 7 But be meek, since {the meek shall inherit the earth.}

Ancient Christian Writers; volume 6; Translated by

James A Kleist; page 17;   The Didache can also be found at: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-lightfoot.html

However here the reference is 3 12. 

IS THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT RELEVANT FOR THE 1990’s?

1 THE ORIGIN, STRUCTURE AND PURPOSE OF MATTHEW’S SERMON

(i) The SM as the first of 5 impressive discourses:

5-7; 10; 13; 18; (23) 24-25 (NB 26.1)

(ii) Matthew’s SM has 111 verses. Luke has a shorter Sermon in chapter 6

with (30) verses most of which are found in Matthew’s SM.

Luke 6                                    Matthew 5-7

beatitudes                                        20b-23                                  5.3-12

love of enemy                                 27-36                                     5.38-42

golden rule                                       31                                           7.12

not judging                                       37-38                                     7.1-2

splinter and beam                          41-42                                     7.3-5

tree & its fruit                                 43-45                                     7.16-20

Lord, Lord                                         46                                           7.21

house & the storm                         47-49                                     7.24-27

(centurion’s servant)                     7.1-10                                    8.5-13

Matthew has expanded considerably the Sermon from Q – a collection of

sayings of Jesus shared with Luke.

(iii) The structure of Matthew’s SM:

Narrative opening 5.1-2

I Prologue 5.3-16

II Central Sections: 5.17 – 7.12 (law & prophets)

1. Preface 5.17-20

2. 6 antitheses 21-43

3. 3 religious practises and your father’s will 6.1-18 (During prayer and fasting)

4. New attitudes to God (6.19-34) and neighbour (7.1-12)

III Epilogue 7.13-27

Narrative conclusion 7.28-29

NB 7.12 as the climax and the Lord’s prayer 6.9-13 as the centrepiece.

Matthews Purpose:

Is the SM for crowds or disciples?  for Christian believers or for

all?  ethics without Christ? – Son of God

For Matthew the nations are to be ‘discipled’ and taught to observe

the commands of Jesus (28.18-20)

The words of Jesus in the SM are to be heard and obeyed: 7.24-29!

(These notes above were giver by Graham N Stanton in class)

We have touched on some very interesting themes.  The consensus of scholars is that Mark was the earliest (Ad 66-74).  However, we find a reference in the Didache dated at ad 50 -70 quoting Matthews Gospel.  These scholars who honestly have argued for Matthew to be later use the internal logic to come to a mysterious other source that all the Gospels used, namely Q.   This throws a spanner in the works for the Q theory.  I’m not a Q expert but perhaps Stanton was correct to hold to Matthew being the earliest Gospel.  If it is the earliest or not the earliest doesn’t really matter because it is Scripture (God’s word in written form)

Lets move on:

From the above image you can already see that there are stylistic differences to how the beatitudes were presented in both Matthew and Luke.  Luke builds a picture of what the scene was like before Jesus started to teach his disciples (The writing in white).  Whereas Matthew was more interested in the content of the teachings (colourful writing).

When we look at the pronouns in the two Gospels you can also see stylistic differences.  They both put the pronouns in the plural, but Matthew preferred the third person plural pronouns and Luke preferred the second person plural pronouns.  

It seems to be that Luke focused on the nuts and bolts of the teachings of the beatitudes and wanted to make these teachings more personal.  Matthew however is giving us the nuts, bolts, roof and side paneling of the Gospel.

GOING DEEPER

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven Matthew 5:3

“…Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Luke 6:20b

Here we see a difference in style, but they are saying the same thing.  Here in Matthew Jesus’ teachings are more formal and emphasises the psychological (in spirit).  A new attitude has to start from within a person’s mind and soul.  God has to bring the realization of the kingdom of God to the mind and heart of the person.

Luke is saying the same way but in a more informal way for perhaps those who do not have any rabbinic background (the commoner, the poor.). Luke write,” you who are poor”. 

We are all different in our temperaments.  There are those who are book worms but there are also those who are more feeling full and emotional. In God’s Kingdom the Gospel is open to every type of person no matter who or what they are.  We need to come to a realization that before God we are sinners and that we cannot help ourselves.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Luke 6:21

The order between Matthew and Luke have now changed.   In Matthew the ‘hungering comes after the mourning’.  So here we are focusing on:

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4

“…Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh”. Luke 6:21b

These notes didn’t really tell me a lot, but Vine said Matthew uses the more general word for mourning whereas Luke uses a stronger word weeping (for the dead). From expository Dictionary of Bible Words; W E Vine; page 87

Then we also have the other two words, comforted and laughing.

I kind of agree with Judith Lieu that Luke’s Gospel is more interested in the socio impact of Luke’s teachings.   We have only looked at these two verses, but we can already see differences in style.  From the Gospel of Luke; Judith Lieu; pages 51-52; Epworth press

Reflection

As disciples of Jesus, we need to pray and meditate on his words.  The beautiful thing that we have seen is that Matthew is giving us a deeper incite into the new attitudes that are found in the Gospel.  Luke is saying the same thing, but he is interested in the nitty gritty of the everyday life of the follower of Christ.

When we think about poverty, the reality of poverty is that it brings the person in it to a point of helplessness.  Poverty means there isn’t enough food on the table.  It means that one cannot go on holiday and have the ‘best things life has to offer’.  Poverty in that sense is a type of prison that stops people from reaching their dreams.  An effect of poverty is to indeed crush the spirit.  Both Matthew and Luke are correct on how they look at the poor.

Luke is also correct because God has commanded his church to care for the poor and the orphan, the needy whoever they are. Compassion and mercy are an integral part of Jesus teachings. As James reminds us the outflow of our faith ought to some how show in the real world (fruit of the Spirit).  When I was reading Herman Bavinck in his reformed Ethics, he said that the root is faith, and the fruit are works. 

We have all sinned before God and we all need to find forgiveness for our sins.  We cannot save ourselves but, in these verses, we see Jesus giving us a blue print for some core new beautiful attitudes through the act of repentance that can bring us into a true and liberating life through obedience, by the Holy Spirit into the Kingdom of God.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Notes KCL lessons from Graham N Stanton
  • Didache 3. 7 But be meek, since {the meek shall inherit the earth.}
  • Expository Dictionary of Bible Words; W E Vine; page 87
  • Gospel of Luke; Judith Lieu; pages 51-52; Epworth press

Notes

Notes on mourning and weeping from Olive Tree

Matthew Gospel

g3996. πενθέω pentheō; from 3997; to grieve (the feeling or the act): — mourn, (be-)wail.

AV (10) – mourn 7, wail 2, bewail 1;

to mourn to mourn for, lament one

Lukes Gospel

g2799. κλαίω klaiō; of uncertain affinity; to sob, i.e. wail aloud (whereas 1145 is rather to cry silently): — bewail, weep.

AV (40) – weep 39, bewail 1;

to mourn, weep, lament weeping as the sign of pain and grief for the thing signified (i.e. for the pain and grief) of those who mourn for the dead

to weep for, mourn for, bewail, oneNotes

Matthews Gospel

g3870. παρακαλέω parakaleō; from 3844 and 2564; to call near, i.e. invite, invoke (by imploration, hortation or consolation): — beseech, call for, (be of good) comfort, desire, (give) exhort(-ation), intreat, pray.

Luke’s Gospel

g1070. γελάω gelaō; of uncertain affinity; to laugh (as a sign of joy or satisfaction): — laugh.

AV (2) – laugh 2;

to laugh

The prelude to the Sermon on the Mount. 

January 29, 2022

Why did the Sermon on the Mount take place?

What led to the Sermon on the Mount for it to take place?

What was the feeling within the Jewish communities in Galilee?

These are important questions before we move into the greatest sermon ever preached. It is the greatest sermon because in it are the words of life from Christ himself. Remember that the Apostles only gave witness to Christ, the One who can take away the sins of the world; The true Lamb of God that takes away our sins. This is the One who spoke these words of life or death.

In the middle of a foreign powers occupation of Galilee something big was going to take place something much bigger than anything in world history.  This event had started, and a part of this event would mean great Rome would crumble and fall as Daniel had prophesied.  In the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament indeed there had been many deliverers such as Moses, the Judges even the Maccabees but these deliverances did not last.  In the past deliverances a lot of the time had been at the edge of the sword.  How would this time of God’s visitation be any different?

You may have watched in the past some Jesus films and perhaps they try to show the Galileans craving and cramming to see Jesus.  This is partly true.  Even today one sees rock stars getting lots of adoration, but I have to say it is not the same!

  • First of all, a rock star cannot save you!
  • Secondly Jesus preaching brought about a spiritual awakening to the truths of Holy Scripture. 

Here before the Jewish nation and Gentile nations was the Messiah and the expectations of salvation would be turned upside down and inside out.  There was a time in world history that Jewish and Gentile Christians were brothers and sisters but by the time of Justin Martyr there was hostility between the Church and the Jewish community.  We know this because St Paul raised money in Corinth and the local churches and sent the money to Jerusalem to help the Jewish Believers there. 

These are important questions.  It is wrong and a great sin to hate Jews which culminated in the Holocaust.  The root of hate towards the Jews can be traced all the way back to Martin Luther and it ended with Adolf Hitler:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_and_antisemitism

As Christians we must remember that Jesus in his humanity was Jewish.  We must remember that Jesus taught us to love our neighbour no matter who they are (enemies or friends!).

From Olive Tree Bible software.

Let’s begin by looking at Marks Gospel:

35 In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. 36 Simon and his companions searched for Him; 37 they found Him, and *said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” 38 He *said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.” 39 And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons. Mark 1:35-39

Mark

35 In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.

Here we see that Jesus had a mission from God.  When he got up early in the morning it was still dark.  While everyone was still sleeping, He was praying and communing with God the Father.  Luke says ‘when day came’ but he didn’t go into any details.

36 Simon and his companions searched for Him;

Peter and his companions couldn’t find Jesus straight away!  Obviously, he disappeared while they were still asleep. 

37 they found Him, and *said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.”

What an anti-climax!  ‘Everyone is searching for you’.  ‘Everyone’ means the crowds.  They were hungry for God’s word.  Jesus’ preaching was different because it touched the core of the human being, their person-hood, their soul.

38 He *said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.”

Here it says may preach. The word ‘may’, isn’t found but the use of ‘hina = ‘in order that’ and the ‘I may preach’ is in the subjunctive form. 

Luke’s version has a stronger intention.  He uses ‘δέω= bound’.  It is much stronger. 

https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/deo

Stylistically there is a difference, but the meaning is the same.  Jesus has a purpose from the mandate of heaven ‘for that is what I came for.’ 

The mandate from heaven was for Jesus to preach that the kingdom of heaven was here now, live on earth, die on a cross, be resurrected and open the doors of salvation to the whole world through and in him.  This mandate started from a backwater of the Roman Empire and the world would never be the same again. 

39 And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons. Mark 1:35-39

Galilee was actually according to Josephus a very productive area.  It has a large lake that has a record of being a freshwater lake below sea level (the lowest in the world!).  There were cities and towns on both side of the lake and I can imagine Jesus jumping in boats and crisscrossing the lake on a regular basis preaching the Gospel. 

While doing this ministry of preaching his Apostles were learning how to preach.   The rest of the New Testament is an explication of these teachings that have now changed the world.

REFLECTION

Let us walk in love towards everyone.  Every human being including those who lost their life through abortion were created in the image of God.  Love can take on various forms, but it ought to show respect towards the other person no matter who they are.  This can be difficult at times as some people pull away from society and do atrocious acts.  We can still show love and follow Jesus’ example by praying for them that God’s will, God’s kingdom could also break into them and change them inside out by the Holy Spirit. 

Jesus was a man who was driven by the mandate of heaven.  He was preaching in those cities because out of these cities many people would repent and become children of God.  2000 years later and here we are still preaching the same Gospel Jesus taught.  Jesus was special because while he walked this earth, he was like a mirror that showed people exactly what they were.  They came face to face with their sins.  It is by grace that we are saved.  We cannot save ourselves.  We are helpless.  How helpless is the human race?  The human race is completely helpless before a holy God and God started this plan from the time of the Fall of the earliest human beings found in Genesis. 

Next time as we go through the Sermon on the Mount you will face a mirror that shows you your true self.  My friends we have all turned away from God.  As we look at the sermon on the mount we will be faced by the true ugliness of sin.  We will also be faced with the opportunity to follow Christ into the celestial city.