Tag Archives: Mourning

Before He Created Me

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. [Matthew 5:23-24 ESV]

When was the last time you considered the price of your redemption from sin?

Jesus, God in the flesh,

did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [Philippians 2:6-8 ESV]

He decided to do this before He created the universe, before He combined dust particles to make Earth, before He separated the waters and set the lights in the heavens. Before He molded and made the plants and animals of Earth. Before He created man in His image and set him in a garden to rule over the Earth and subdue it. Before He commanded man to marry and have children and fill the earth with those who bore His image. He decided to create man, with whom He wanted an intimate relationship, knowing man would sin and rebel, corrupting everything he touched, rejecting God and be separated from Him. He decided from before creation to take upon Himself the sentence and penalty for the sins of all.

Yet, not all are redeemed. It only takes one sin to separate the one God loves from God’s love. Adam’s sin, inherited as the sin for all people, was the one sin of disobedience. Now, having taken upon Himself the sin of all and making Himself a sacrifice, after paying the redemption price for all, it still takes only one sin to separate a person from God.

God commands each person come to Him, accept the gift on the altar, the gift of grace, and have an intimate relationship with the One who created them in His image, redeemed them from sin, and recreated them in the likeness of His Son. It still takes only one act of rebellion, one sin, to separate a person from God. That act of rebellion is to disobey the command to come to Him. Obedience carries no merit but brings life and peace with God. Disobedience carries the dire, justified consequences of eternal death, which is separation from Him who gives life.

One sin, Adam’s, brought death to all. One sacrifice, an act of obedient devotion by Christ, brings life to all. One sin, committed by all who flout Christ’s sacrifice, brings death to those who disobey.

Before the creation of anything, Christ loved me.  Knowing about my rebellion and all of my sin before I was, He decided, because of His love, to take upon Himself my sin. This decision brought upon Him indescribable suffering and anguish and cost Him His physical life. Wanting to have an intimate relationship with me, the one He loves, He was willing to take upon Himself, not just my sin, but the truth I would continue to rebel and disobey, reject and ignore Him whom I was created to love. God knew that to love me is to allow me to continue to hurt Him. Yet, still He loves me.

A sacrifice of love, the only true gift worth giving, means suffering and anguish for both the One who loves and the one being loved.

What does God ask in return? Nothing.

God never asks. He commands obedience, a demonstration of love. “If you love me you will keep my commands” [John 14:15 ESV]. This demonstration of love brings incomprehensible suffering, anguish and mourning to those who bring themselves as a gift to God’s altar. He knew my redemption would bring a suffering which would strike at the core of myself, destroy the sinful foundation upon which my life was previously built, empty and crumble my heart of its worldly passions and desires and bring a defeat, a helplessness and hopelessness to my existence. Here is what happens when I see exactly what sin is, what it has done and the consequences of its presence in my life. What is left for me to offer? There is nothing I have, nothing I can give, nothing I can do.

He set aside everything and gave His life. I have nothing to give, only the dry dust of what is left of myself, easily blown away by the casual breath of God. He does not blow away but blows upon and those dry bones come together again, flesh and blood are recreated and life, true life, eternal life is breathed into the nostrils of one recently dead. (See Ezekiel 37.)

After His suffering, a suffering demanded by love known through eternity, is the gift from Him of eternal joy for Him. He created all for an intimate and eternal relationship with Him. He does this by using suffering to make those who are His whole and then completes them with Himself.

He promises eternity free from sin and suffering for those with Him.

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Conclusion: Pure in Heart

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. [Matthew 5:8 ESV]

If we are honest with ourselves we would draw two obvious conclusions. We are not pure and do not want to be pure. Reality tells us purity is unattainable, existing only in a fantasy world. Therefore, we reject the idea of purity. We would also implicitly state I don’t want to see God. I want to hide from God and I certainly don’t want Him to see me, because I’m not pure. If we were honest with  ourselves.

It is not up to us. We were created for relationship with Him so He might love us. His love is so pure He will love us in spite of our sin. He cannot allow sin to continue to control our lives so He demands we focus, not on the sin and the consequences of sin, but on Him. There is a ripping of one’s eyes away from self to God as the recognition of sin and the realization of its consequences force repentance. There is agony in the defeat of self as we relinquish control and filling as we are changed and become what He desires.

He loves us eternally determining to sacrifice Himself so we might rest in His presence. Sacrificial giving is evidence we are attaining purity of heart as God finishes preparing us for eternity. Yet, our giving is seen as sacrificial only in the eyes of the world. Giving from a pure, selfless heart is not a sacrifice but an act of love.

In the Western world we call an offering or sacrifice a donation. Offerings, usually a percentage of income, are given to God according to our means and how He has blessed. Sacrifices cause discomfort.

In the Hebrew Scripture those who gave God from the first-fruits of their crops and livestock were abundantly blessed by God, as He promised. Those who gave free-will offerings did so because of their love for Him. Sacrifices of obedience are required by God. Free-will sacrifices of love, not required but desired, are acknowledgement of who God is and who we are before our Creator. One may lead to the other. An offering from love is evidence of the condition of the heart.

Those who are His come to a place of complete dependence upon God, having learned to direct their attention toward Him. There is no sudden realization of God’s trustworthiness and faithfulness, but a gradual acceptance and appreciation of Him. At some time during life there is a realization of God’s power and love for us, His mercy.  This gradual, sudden understanding is the beginning and end of God’s work of recreating. One element of His preparing us for eternity.

Purity of heart is one of the essential elements of a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus has been listing them in the first seven statements of the Sermon on the Mount.

Those who attain by grace purity of heart begin in the depths of rebellion, admitting the reality of sin. They are poor in spirit and recognize the truth of sin in themselves and the world. Taking this first step of admitting the truth about themselves and of God begins the cascading process of becoming a citizen of the kingdom of God. After admitting the truth of sin is the realization of the consequences of  sin, separation from God and life which brings deep, unbearable mourning.

God does not leave us in this state of agony but breaks our wills and gives us a new, strong spirit. His Spirit and a recreated spirit. This happens when  we relinquish control to Him who created us. Meekness is not weakness but God’s strength in us under His control. He changes the whole person not just a part. He wants the whole person not a fraction. Those who are His begin to hunger and thirst for righteousness. And the war begins, for the tug and pull of the world is away from righteousness.

Changing the heart means directing the person to show love toward God and others. Purity of heart is only the second of the three descriptions of love God shows us and the world. Mercy is active love which God shows us and we, because He loves us first, show to others. Purity of heart characterizes God eternal love for us and our selfless love for Him. We will look next at peace, which is God’s love for the fallen shown by our love for them.

Now, in the midst of the war, I want to please God because I am fully convinced, for a moment, of God’s eternal love for me.

Sanctification, part three

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. [Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV]

When God gave Moses and all who are Israel the written moral law, with a foundation of the ten commandments, it was to hold them accountable by showing them their rebellion. In Deuteronomy 5, after 40 years of wandering in the desert because of disobedience, God inspired Moses to repeat the ten statements He gave at the beginning of Israel’s exodus from Egyptian slavery. At the beginning of their sojourn in the desert, while God was inscribing the stone tablets with His law, His people were actively sinning. They never stopped sinning. He knew having a written law without a changed heart, a heart which hungers and thirsts for righteousness, is futile.

He also gave instructions about the law and how to study it. They were to hunger and thirst after Him by intimately knowing His law. Jesus builds on the characteristics needed to obey God’s moral law found in His eternal character given to us in His image. These characteristics follow what has been discussed within the Sermon on the Mount in the previous three elements which define and describe the citizen of the kingdom of heaven. It is too easy to study once and forget what was learned. Jesus does not give the option to hear Him and then forget. We are never done with the qualities He has stated. At the risk of boring or losing some readers, I will continue to go over them throughout the study. Here, the characteristics studied are relevant to hungering and thirsting after righteousness. When fully applied these characteristics are integral to sanctification.

Those who are poor in spirit become those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. If the chief quality of those who are poor in spirit is the demand for truth, and a love for truth, and conversely a hatred for anything which is not true, then they will confront the lie and promote the truth forcefully. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness know the truth and why it is true. They are not content with simply knowing something is true but want to know what makes it true and how this truth works in the larger scheme of God’s plan. The former first draws conclusions then promotes the truth. The latter contemplates and applies truth to the theological circumstances of life. Since God works through the whole person once truth is recognized it is understood. One of the basic tools of sanctification is truth.

God is true and in Him is no lie. It is the work of the citizen in sanctification to seek Him out, to understand who He is and why He works as He does. It is not the work of the citizen to try to predict how God will work but to study Him and patiently listen for His words and watch for His actions. Here, poverty of spirit will help the citizen to immediately discern truth from fiction. It is those who hunger and thirst for righteousness who will delve deeply into the mechanics of the truth and how one point affects another.

Truth is fundamental to the person of God. His moral law, which is truth, is also essential to Him. He has given us both truth and His moral law in the word of God, which is His Son and the written declarations found in Scripture.

God uses the verbal law to train us in His spiritual, eternal moral law. But the necessary attitude to learn, through the prompting and council of the Holy Spirit, is the attitude of mourning over sin. We must not only realize the fact of sin but recognize its consequences. Knowing, even in a cursory manner, the moral law of God will cause mourning. Only in repentance, not remorse but a complete turning away from sin and trusting God, will the soil of our souls and spirits become fertile so His moral law can grow in us.

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness do so because the moral law of God is growing in them. They require spiritual nourishment given only by the Holy Spirit so the fruit of righteousness might grow and ripen. It is righteousness, being right as measured by God, which produces this good fruit. Jesus says “you will know them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:15-20), by the evidence of their lives. It is the evidence of life God uses to judge (see Matthew 16:27) those created in His image.

Six times in Matthew 5:21-48 Jesus points out to His hearers the difference between intellectually knowing and simply observing the law or only doing what is required and the spirit of the law, intimately knowing the law, the Lawgiver, and going beyond what is required.

You have heard that it was said to those of old [Matthew 5:21 ESV; see also verses 27, 31, 33, 38, and 43]

But I say to you [Matthew 5:22 ESV; see also verses 28, 32, 34, 39 and 44].

He is telling those who listen the central quality of a citizen of the kingdom is who they are which dictates what they do. God is making citizen who are His not just people who say they are His. Observing the law, the Mosaic Law of the Hebrew Scriptures, or any law attributed to God, will not make anyone righteous. A life which has grasped the spirit of the Law is shown by a going beyond the simple requirements of what is written and expected to living the Law without a thought.

Murder is against the law. Being unjustifiably angry is against God’s moral law. Adultery is against the written law. Looking on another to sexually lust after them is against God’s moral law. Violating the written law brings physical punishment. Violating the spiritual moral law of God brings separation from God. Those who must be restrained by physical, verbal laws are incapable of fulfilling a moral law. There must be a fundamental change to their deepest being. This fundamental change is the indwelling of the Spirit.

None of the previous discussion means anything without the attitude of servant-hood. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness by pursuing the truth do so because they want to please God and not themselves. Service is another measurable tool of sanctification. Those who recognize truth and seek it with all their being are cut to the core, divided by its edge, separating the dying physical from the living spiritual. This is the true work of sanctification, the separation of anything which distracts them from seeking God and His righteousness. Service to God is more than simply accomplishing a duty. It is throwing oneself into the work given by God.

“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” [Luke 17:7-10 ESV]

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will look for ways to serve God, and promote Him, without putting self before Him. Abandoning self to God while living in the world demands a relentless pursuit of His will and a complete subservience to His moral law. This means there is a pursuit of intimacy with God and a relinquishing of control of self to God.

God gives all those who are His a tool, the word of God, and the training needed to live as a citizen of His while in hostile territory. His tool is at once spiritual, intellectual, emotional and willful. It is not physical, though we must use this tool within the physical realm. God’s word involves the whole person in the battle because the whole person is created by Him in His image and the whole person is redeemed by Him.

All of these personalities, all of these characteristics, are needed to use the truth as a tool. This tool is a sword, double-edged, and cutting both ways, outward and inward. Before the tool of truth can effectively be used to confront the surrounding lie it must first be used on the inner person. God’s truth demands compliance, not simply assent. Sanctification, the seeking of truth makes the citizen fearless in its pursuit. Wherever the truth leads, whatever lie it exposes, however it unfolds life, those who seek truth will find God.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. [Hebrews 4:12-13 ESV]

The Gospel

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

In the first few verses of Matthew 5, in the passage we have come to know as the  Sermon on the Mount, Jesus presents a description of the citizen of the kingdom of heaven. There are in this description elements of the personality of the citizen and the evidences of reality of this Godly person living in a world which is not godly. His first four statements lay the foundation for the way a citizen thinks and feels and acts. It is no secret God’s desire to bring into His kingdom those who are His and that He uses His citizens as witnesses of His eternal working. Each Christian is a living, breathing example of the Gospel of grace.

We need not make the Gospel complicated. What is incomprehensible are the reactions of those confronted by God with the Gospel, which is everyone, and the danger and hatred toward God which comes with the Gospel’s plain teaching. It is the whole person God wants and it is the whole person who either concedes the truth in the Gospel or rebels against the One stating the truth.

Imagine yourself facing something, anything, you know in your deepest being is corrupt and vile yet morbidly attractive and provocative. You are moving toward this thing, drawn by it irresistibly and the closer you come the less vile it is and the more attractive it becomes. It is sin. Behind you is God calling you to turn away from sin and toward Him. Turning away from sin is repentance. Turning toward God is faith. Walking toward God is obedience. Every citizen of the kingdom has gone through this transition. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness is the culmination of God changing those who are His and the beginning of His citizen being His.

Before we continue discussing hungering and thirsting for righteousness we must remember the process God has done in bringing us to this place.

These steps, if we can call them steps, are absolute and begin with poverty of spirit which is the recognition of sin. Those who are poor in spirit come to hate sin and love the truth. Thus, when God calls they turn because His call is the realization of the consequences of sin, which is separation from God. This realization is shown by deep mourning and repentance. Where there is repentance there is faith, for one cannot occur without the other. Faith is the flip-side of repentance. True faith is characterized by the relinquishing of control of self to the object of faith who is none other than God. This relinquishing of control of our weakness is in exchange for God’s strength.  Meekness is God’s strength in me under His control. Once control is given to God there is freedom from the slavery of sin to pursue the very opposite of what our corrupted nature and the world wants. God demands righteousness. The world demands rebellion against God, which is unrighteousness.  Once the citizen reaches this point they want righteousness and pursue righteousness out of love for God, not simple duty to Him. Righteousness is not a goal but the natural result of knowing God, and being known by Him.

Jesus has, in these few characterizations, defined and presented the Gospel. Return to imagining yourself walking toward sin, running toward sin, not knowing how devastating sin is. Then, God called and suddenly you recognize sin for what it is and that you are corrupted by sin. You recognize in the same way an addict must recognize the power his substance of choice has over him. He must grow to hate that substance. If there is no hatred for sin there is no turning from it.

God’s call stopped you in your tracks. But the power of sin, in the world, in your own flesh, in the enticement of Satan, fought against the voice of God. He demands obedience. It is why you were created. There is no merit in obedience, no earning your way into the Kingdom. You obey, not because you will get something but because it is what you want. Obedience is not an option but an expectation. Continued rebellion after hearing the call of God drives home the consequences, the reality of separation from God. When God calls only an out-and-out act of persistent rebellion drives some to stop their ears and close their eyes.

Once God’s call has stopped your continued journey toward sin He turns you away from sin toward Himself. No one turns them self. God has to turn. Turning away from sin requires trusting God. This is an emotional response to God’s moral character. It is repentance. Repentance is accompanied by grieving over what sin has done to you and to the world. Mostly though, deep grief comes from realizing what sin has done to God. For in turning away from sin you must turn toward God and begin to see who He is truly. And who you truly are.

Turning way from sin is repentance. Turning toward God is faith. Here, faith is relinquishing control of self. How can you or anyone fight for control against God while facing Him? You cannot, unless you take your eyes off Him.  Faith is the conduit through which we receive all God has to offer. All He gives is free. Faith is believing what He has said, trusting Him and obeying His commands.

While obedience is a necessary part of faith it is also integral to salvation. God does not ask us to believe, He commands it. He does not ask us to turn away from sin and repent, He demands it. He does not ask us to acquire faith and all He wants us to have. He supplies faith as the only way to receive what He has to give. He does not ask for obedience, He requires it. His commands are not grievous and overbearing. His commands are essential to our very being. Yet, in our present corrupted state there is nothing we can do but reject. If we obey, it is in His strength. If we reject God, it is in our own strength.

When we hunger and thirst for His righteousness our desire is obedience, to grow every closer to the source of life. Yet, we are conflicted. God does not lift us out of this world or change us so we are never tempted or prevent us from actively rebelling against Him. Christians are tempted and do fall into sin. We are at war and this war continues as long as He wants us in this world. Our struggle between the flesh which wants only itself, and the Spirit, which wants only God, rages. This is why so many of the admonitions in the Epistles are to stand firm with eyes firmly fixed on Him who is our salvation. Those who truly hunger and thirst for righteousness know their place in the kingdom and before God is fixed and sure.

Object of Faith

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. [Matthew 5:5 ESV]

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. [Philippians 1:6 ESV]

Faith always has an object. Even when we turn away from something we must turn toward something else. In every circumstance we are moving toward the object of our faith. Faith’s object draws and attracts and compels the person to move forward approaching the object with a steady pace and deliberate intent. It is the object which has shown itself desirable and trustworthy.

But, what happens when we discover the object of faith is not desirable and trustworthy?  What happens when we see the evidence of the hollow promise and the devious intent to enslave and destroy? Do we not find another object and turn toward it?  We may face every which way at one time or another first placing faith in this object and then that one only to discover the evidence of empty promises until  we are overcome with despair. Until we decide even if the  empty promise is a lie we have to face some direction and move toward some object in order to keep control.

Is there an object upon which we can have faith which is not a lie? Faith’s object cannot be a thing. Faith’s object must be a person with whom we may have a relationship, knowing both intellectually and intimately and growing in that knowledge. Yet, first the person must recognize the lie and  desire truth, then realize the consequences of the lie and the consequences of knowing truth. There is only One upon whom faith has substance. Turning away from sin toward another sin does not substantiate faith. Turning away from sin toward God opens the conduit of faith. God must be the Object because no other object is capable of fulfilling the promises of faith guaranteed by faith. No other object is trustworthy.

With the constant tug and pull from sin, the object of our affections before being called by God and turning away from sin demands the refocusing of our attention. Jesus gives, to some a not so obvious progression of events through which the Christian must move to achieve the goals of the kingdom. Sin, by its very nature, fights against the goals of the kingdom and seeks to make the Christian ineffective in achieving these goals.

Here is a quick recap of the first two elements Jesus gives in the Sermon on the Mount.

In the first element of this progression the Christian must exercise their minds by believing the evidence of sin. Once sin is recognized comes a realization of the consequences of sin, which is separation from God, who gives and sustains life. Thus, those who are poor in spirit are moved to mourning over their total depravity, their inability to do anything to attain a righteous standing before God. Mourning is the emotional part of the human condition, created in the image of God. Next is the will. There must be a willful relinquishing of control of self over to God. Faith changes the object from self to God, from sin to God.

Faith is the conduit through which God delivers everything the citizen of His Kingdom needs to live in a world which hates Him and them. There is nothing else which will give the necessary tools to live a righteous life. Having faith in an object other than God means continued rebellion, self-righteousness and rejection of God’s just judgment against sin. In order for faith to function the will of the citizen must come completely under God’s control.

There are many characteristics which define the object of faith. Failure in any one of these characteristics destroys faith because the object cannot fulfill its obligations. Some of these characteristics include action, promise, protection and direction. There are other characteristics but we will focus on these first.

Before there was anything there was God and He acted. In creation He built eternity and the Universe in which we live. He created in minute detail every atom in the Universe and set them in motion where they are, were, and will be. He did much of this before He created Man in His image. Since part of the image of God is Man’s intelligence the evidence of God’s action is readily apparent. Man intellectually understands the evidence of God’s work because he is built to see and know God. It takes fervent rebellion to not see what God has done and imagine what He can do.

Though made in the image of God Man rebelled in Adam which caused the detaching of that relationship. Nothing man does can reestablish this severed relationship. It is broken and bent, corrupted and poisoned beyond repair. Sin must be judged by a righteous and just God and the sentence for sin is the separation of the rebel from God. Except God promised Man His Son, God Himself, would pay the penalty and suffer the sentence demanded by God because of the violation of His moral law. God’s promise demands each person believe God has done what He said He would do, trust He will fulfill His promise and then obey Him. Once again, trust is an emotional response to the Objects ability to deliver what is promised. Man is uniquely given the ability to trust because of God’s image. Yet, rebellion corrupts the image making it impossible for man to trust God.

Think about God’s original intent for Man which is His eternal purpose. God created Man perfectly built to do something he can no longer do. This dichotomy conflicts all men and drives them either toward God or away from Him. Think of a tool built to do a specific function used in such a way to destroy its ability to do that function. A screwdriver whose blade is dulled or bent. A socket wrench whose inside is stripped. A man who is meant to worship, glorify and enjoy God, who, because of the corruption of sin, cannot.  Man is not a tool.

I realize much of this is foreign thinking. Few have said knowing God intellectually and intimately is natural to Man because all of the evidence screams against it. Those in complete rebellion against God demand there be no connection. There is a connection, a spot of God in a corrupt being which cannot be explained away, but can be ignored. Our image reflects His image. When critically examined, no naturalistic explanation may exclude God without violating, even destroying, that explanation. Refusing to examine, with the head and the heart, will not make Him cease to exist. Wishing something true not true is close to insanity.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. [Philippians 2:12-13 ESV]

God image in Man is found both in the spiritual person and in the soul of the person. It is not physical. We cannot define the spiritual. We can define elements of the soul. Three of these elements are the mind, emotions and will. Being poor in spirit engages the mind. Those who mourn engage the emotions, which help interpret the moral law of God. Meekness is an activity of the will.

You ask, how is meekness something done by will power alone? Do not jump to conclusions based upon faulty, incomplete thinking. Do not detract from or add to Jesus’ teaching. His purpose  in placing “blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” here is intentional, deliberate. Meekness is part of the process of being a citizen of His kingdom. It is not a characteristic smiled upon by the world. This statement, like the previous  two statements and all of Jesus teaching has the opposite outcome from the teaching of the world. Jesus’ teaching is diametrically opposed to everything taught and believed in the world.

One of the phrases used to define the Greek word translated “meek” is a “disposition of gentleness” or “humility”. Like the word meek these phrases carry worldly baggage which weakens them and our understanding of them. Do not think any longer the word meek means something weak or spineless. Meekness is strength controlled. Meekness is the activity of the will in directing strength in a manner which promotes the Kingdom of God and brings Him glory. Shake off any other silly, worldly notion of meekness. It is not what you think.

We are intellectually and intimately capable of having faith in the true Object. He has all of the qualifications for the Object of faith because He determined what they are. To place one’s faith in an object other than God is an act of willful rebellion and idolatry. Saying anything other than God can fulfill His purpose displaces Him as the center, which is His rightful place. Replacing Him with anything else says we are not as He created us and that His image in us is either not true or changed.

Faith, the conduit through which God delivers all we need to live as a citizen of His kingdom in this world is clogged. Not at His end but at ours. Sin has stopped up, not God’s ability to deliver but our ability to receive. God, the Object of faith, remains true. It is the subjects who cannot receive what is offered and delivered through a faith which is false.

Since faith is only the conduit we must recognize the difference between what is delivered, or offered for delivery, what is promised, and the vessel through which it is delivered.

Salvation is the primary example. God acted by sending His Son to die for our sins, He taking the sin of the world upon His shoulders and we being given His righteousness. God acted by raising His Son from the dead, by seating Him in the heavens where He continually intercedes on behalf of those who are His. God promises He will apply Christ’s Righteousness to us and our sin to Him. The evidence is the life, death and resurrection of His Son. Since God is God, and there is no other, His word is completely trustworthy. We cannot see how God does this. But, the evidence He has done what He promised is substantial and convincing. We must trust He will keep His promise. We believe the evidence of His resurrection which supports the trustworthiness of the promise. Now we must do something. We must act in obedience to the command of God. Remember, obedience to a command given by a Master to His slave or bondservant carries no merit. Nothing is earned. Nothing is owed. Obedience is expected.

We can actively obey God or continue in active rebellion. Faith is receiving and using the tools God gives to actively obey Him in a world which actively hates Him. Meekness takes ownership of this responsibility while watching as God’s strength works in and through me while under His control.

Conclusion: Those Who Mourn

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. [Matthew 5:4 ESV]

One of the world’s stereotypes of serious Christians is their lack of humor, almost sour personality. For the Christian it would seem the continual struggle with sin, the war which rages within those who follow Christ, anything which may resemble contentment and tolerance is treasonous toward God. Swinging the pendulum to the opposite side in an effort to weaken the acerbic stereotype many modern Christian embrace entertainment, games and fun. Both extremes offer poor examples to the world by revealing motivations designed to point at self by either separation from or embracing of the world. Both extremes are an illusion. Our fallen nature demands we point at self and not God. However, we are commanded to not allow our struggle with sin to compromise our testimony before the world. Nor are we to allow an illusion of happiness to reinforce sinful rebellion against God.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus gives, in short eloquent statements, a description of what a citizen of the kingdom of heaven looks like before God and the world. Integral to these statements are the demands we confront the true nature of sin, its reality and power, its enslaving control over those fallen because of the rebellion of Adam. He states “blessed are the poor in spirit because theirs is the kingdom of heaven”  [Matthew 5:3 ESV]. This is the first element of the description of the citizen of God’s kingdom. Those who are poor in spirit recognize the truth and reality of sin and hate sin because it is a lie while loving God because He is truth.

Mourning is the next element following those who are poor in spirit. Those who mourn are those who, after realizing the reality of sin and rebellion against God, recognize the consequences of sin for themselves and for others. These are the ones who repent, and turn from their sin, toward God.

Made in the image of God every person has the internal motivation and desire to have a relationship with their Creator. Mourning, or grieving, is an emotional response to the consequences of sin, which is separation from God. Yet, the emotional response is evidence of a greater focus than self. Deep grieving associated with the recognition of sin points to the absolute moral standard of God. Our emotions are indicators of His morality which He has given us in His image. That the image is corrupted does not negate the morality, or the moral code, to which we adhere as a natural part of our being. We fight against the moral code while we fight against God.

God’s judgment of sin, which is the violation of God’s absolute moral code, is death. Physical death is separation from that which sustains physical life. All need food, water and air. These needs are part of the natural law God established when He created the universe, the earth and the creatures who dwell upon the earth. Physical life is a reflection of spiritual life. Since physical death is separation from that which sustains physical life spiritual death is separation from that which sustains spiritual life. Spiritual death is separation from God. Conversely, spiritual life is eternity with God and without sin.

According to Scripture, “man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”  [Matthew 4:4 ESV; see Deuteronomy 8:3]. We do not need anything other than God to sustain life. There are examples from Scripture where one or all of the elements needed to sustain physical life were removed from a person yet they continued to live because God sustained their life. There are examples from Scripture where a person died and was raised from the dead. God sustains physical life. But, He has placed physical laws over all life which cannot be violated but can be suspended by Him. Miracles are God suspending the physical laws for a moment because He can. However, God will not terminate the physical laws as long as His created universe exists. Suspension is momentary. After He has accomplished His desired purpose His physical laws return to normal because He determined they be as they are.

When a person dies their physical body decomposes but their spiritual self does not cease to exist. God did not create man in His image to cause man to cease to exist. Though the body dies the person does not, unless they are separated from that which give spiritual life. Then they continue to exist without having life. This is called hell. Thinking about hell should cause one deep, uncontrolled fear and mourning.

Separation from God is judgment for sin. God has to judge sin because of the moral code, which I think is defined by who He is and since we are created in His image who we are. Since there is nothing we can do to right our relationship with God, corruption is absolute, God must do something. He created us to have a relationship with Him and continues wanting us to have that relationship. We don’t have a relationship because we do not want to. Through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, God has redeemed those who are His. Through His resurrection and the giving of the Spirit to those who are His, He guarantees their eternal existence with Him. Our sin cost Jesus more than we can know.

Yet, Jesus does not stop at telling us we are to mourn over the consequences of sin and that those who do are blessed. He says those who mourn will be comforted. The word for “comfort” means to call someone over in order to instruct them, to exhort or comfort them, to console. The word comes from another word, to call, used to describe the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the one belonging to God.

Where once we were separated from God, under His wrath based upon His righteous judgment because of our violation of His moral code, now we are recipients of His divine pleasure and instruction through the work of the Holy Spirit. We are comforted by the One Who Comforts.

Love for God made real by those who realize the lie of sin, those who are poor in spirit, motivates those who mourn to show their love within their eternal selves. Their desire is service, placing God before all else, because of His sacrifice for sin. Jesus came to serve and demands we follow Him if we are His disciple.

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. [Matthew 20:25-28 ESV]

Where recognizing the consequence of sin is deep mourning recognizing the consequence of Christ’s sacrifice is even deeper eternal service. Such service from duty only is still service but the motivation is not love. From such service are the  perpetually unattractive Christians made. Service from a reaction to change the negative stereotypes of the world is still service. From such service comes a toleration for that which God does not tolerate, rebellion against Him. Nothing motivated by the thinking of the world may be deemed righteous. Just as Jesus abandoned Himself for our eternal benefit so He calls us to abandon ourselves for Him.

True servants are those who are more concerned with the thinking of the one they serve than of anyone else. Such a motivation for service leads naturally, according to the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, to the motivation of “meekness.”

The Corinthians

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

For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. [2 Cor. 7:8-12 ESV]

Paul lived in Corinth for 18 months teaching these new Christians all they needed to know to live a righteous life before God in their world. He left, driven out by an unruly mob of Jews who accused him of teaching false ideas about God. When the Roman authority refused to do act against Paul the mob beat Sosthenes, the leader of the local synagogue. See Acts 18 and 1 Corinthians 1:1. 

Sometime after Paul left the city the Corinthian Christians wrote him a letter asking questions about eating  food offered to idols. Before he answered their specific questions he dealt with many others sinful actions into which they had fallen. He heard about their soiled reputation from the many people who traveled to see him who described the struggles with sin plaguing the Corinthian Christians.

Paul’s first letter was a deliberate confrontation of sin which compromised their redeemed character as Christians and sent a misleading message about Jesus Christ to the world. Their sin was blatant and demanded a rebuke by their spiritual authority. There is no teaching in the first letter to the Corinthians until you reach chapter 15 and 16 in which Paul is commending the Corinthian Christians. Not even chapter 12-14, Paul’s teaching on grace gifts of God is a positive reflection on the work of the Corinthians. They got just about everything wrong. God inspired  Paul’s letter designing the words to cause grieve, to cause mourning because of sin and then to bring repentance. His letter worked.

Two things happened when Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians. He was grieving and mourning over their sin. At first his letter probably caused anger at such a sharp, documented rebuke. But finally his letter caused them to grieve and mourn. “For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you” [2 Cor. 2:4 ESV].  It was astounding to him they should sin so grievously. They argued and quarreled, they ate and got drunk, they took each other to court before the gentiles, they allowed sexual sin to occur unabated within their midst. Instead of going to them and rebuking them face to face, which would have caused much more grief he wrote them a letter outlining their sin.

Used here the word for “grief” or “sorrow” or “pain” is a verb denoting action on the part of the person. Paul wanted them to know the full extent of his grief and sorrow so they might identify with him. He wanted to test them to force them to look at themselves, to examine themselves and recognize sin. It is not the same word used in Matthew 5:3 for “mourning” but its effect is almost identical. They saw what they were doing and it caused them Godly sorrow.

God uses the Corinthian’s dilemma with sin as examples for us for at least two good reasons. First and foremost, we have the Word of God divinely inspired part of the Scripture. We also have a splendid example of how God wants the church to approach discipline within the Body of Christ. It is important the Church confront sin uncompromisingly. There can be no vacillating when it comes to sin within the Body of Christ. But this confrontation must be done in a way which allows God to convict the person, or group of people, breaking their will without breaking their spirit. We are His instruments. We do not wield ourselves against sin but allow God to wield us as He see fit. This is a difficult place and is only attained by having a right relationship with Him who directs.

Paul draws a distinction between godly and worldly grief. Godly mourning brings repentance. Worldly grieving brings remorse. There is a huge difference between these two words and the motivations they describe. Repentance is turning away from sin. Remorse is being hurt because of being caught. Repentance happens whether others know of the sin or not. Remorse always happens in a crowd and is more akin to embarrassment. No one feels remorse without being prompted. Only the Holy Spirit prompts to repentance.

We see in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians how they, touched by God, turned away from specific sins. There was one specific sin Paul confronted in his letter where he suggested they turn the evil person over to Satan so his flesh would die but his spirit be saved. “You are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” [1 Corinthians 5:5 ESV].  Here is another instance where God will allow a person to sin to a point but no further. God’s judgment against sin is death, which is separation from that which sustains life. All physically die because of sin. There is the possibility of being removed from the world through death because the Christian embraces sin to the detriment of the Body of Christ, to the questioning of their place before God. However, we know, because of Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, God will not separate Himself from any He has redeemed in Christ. This does not excuse sin but demonstrates the limits to the divine patience.

As servants of God we are directed by Him to live His will in an intimate relationship with Him, not just do His will mechanically without thinking. Our lives are a confrontation of sin by a life of righteousness. Christians who confront sin in the Church according to the will of God, by His direction, will affect the one sinning.  Christians who do not confront sin in themselves and the Church will eventually cease serving God.  This is dangerous for God will not abide unrepented sin in His people.