Tag Archives: truth

Children

Out of the mouth of babies and infants, 
you have established strength because of your foes, 
to still the enemy and the avenger. (Psalm 8:2 ESV)

Children are the greatest of sinners. They are selfish, self-centered and self-absorbed. When the disciples argued amongst themselves, debating which of them was the greatest in Jesus’ kingdom, Jesus does not place Himself first. Nor does He choose one of the disciples. Instead He gathers a child to Himself and tells them, and all who are integral to His Body, that a child is the greatest. Then Jesus gives a dire warning to anyone who would teach a child to sin.

   At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 
   And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:1-6 ESV)

Jesus tells us that children are naturally, because of the image of God in them, drawn toward God. It is the child who is unencumbered by the sin taught and encouraged by the world.  Children have a sin nature. But children also have the image of God that is stronger than their sin nature. Sin entices and whispers and lies and cajoles, persuading the child as he or she grows to embrace rebellion against God. Jesus demands those who follow Him to humble themselves like the child, which means to not lift up self higher than they are. Those who are humble are those who understand their place before God and that the world wants to elevate self above God.

Until they are taught otherwise, children speak truthfully. There are always exceptions to this rule, because of the hideous strength of sin to move the thinking of the heart away from God and toward self. But children know when something is unfair, according to what they have been taught. Children recognize hypocrisy. Jesus has harsh words for hypocrites. 

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5 ESV).

hypocrite is an actor, one who pretends to be something they are not. In the garden the Deceiver, taking the guise of a serpent, pretended to have wisdom. He suggested God was unwilling to share this wisdom with Eve. All of the kings of Israel pretended to be religious leaders yet worshipped idols. The religious rulers and leaders who confronted Jesus pretended to intimately know God. Jesus called them hypocrites. Truth silences hypocrisy. Yet, the one speaking the truth must first recognize truth. Specifically, they must recognize the truth of sin and of righteousness. While children may not recognize sin, they know when something they see and hear is not true and are unafraid to speak the truth, until they are trained to be silent and accept the lie as the truth.

How then, do we live as children while embracing spiritual maturity? God is the One who delivers and strengthens. Moses recognized this after being delivered from Pharaoh. “The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him” (Exodus 15:2 ESV)

Conclusion to Being Poor in Spirit

Poverty of spirit is truthful knowledge of self, reflected and exposed by God’s revealing light. This is the recognition of sin. Those who deny even one sin, one “little” or “inconsequential” sin are not truly poor in spirit. However, none of us can be poor in spirit under our own power or determination. Therefore, poverty of spirit is itself a gift, or grace, from God. Throughout, He must do everything. 

Those who are poor in spirit are characterized by a personal admission of and ownership of that sin. They recognize the reality of sin in themselves and in the world in which they live. This recognition is intellectual, leading to the emotional hatred for sin and conversely, a love for anything which is not sin, especially the truth. While the intellectual is the first step toward God, the emotional is the second. It is difficult to separate the two. However, the intellectual admission of sin and its reality is primary. There has to be an understanding of what sin is as well as what it does. 

Being poor in spirit has nothing to do with physical, tangible wealth. Nor does being in physical poverty indicate a person is poor in spirit. Someone who is extremely wealthy may have all the evidence of being poor in spirit while someone who is in the depths of physical poverty has all the evidence of being self-righteous and rich in spirit. 

Since God originally designed man to have a relationship with Him, and since that relationship was broken because of the introduction of sin, those who are rich in spirit will say they have no need of God. Need of God for all things physical and spiritual is the defining characteristic of being poor in spirit. No one can do anything for themselves. Everyone is dependent upon God completely for their lives. His common grace holds all together. 

This attitude of not needing God, or not wanting to need God, is called pride. Anything which refocuses our vision away from the One who provides all we need, want and desire, suggesting we can do anything for ourselves, is also known as idolatry. God demands those who are poor in spirit accept the depravity of all, including themselves. He also demands everyone recognize the animosity they have toward their Creator even though sin inhibits their ability to see that animosity. I don’t want to do what God wants. I don’t want to be with Him. I don’t want to even think I need Him. Still, God calls people back to Himself. Any who come to Him, becoming poor in spirit, do so under His direction and in His strength and at His will. Even this must be admitted by the person who is poor in spirit

Even those who have been called by God and are claimed by Him struggle with sin and its reality and hold on their lives. Every Prophet of God, while proclaiming the truth of God, were surrounded by the sin of the people. Even they sinned. Those who walked with Jesus while He was on earth, those who saw Him die and those who saw Him raised from the dead, continued to struggle with sin. While being poor in spirit is certainly exemplified by the six people mentioned, how they shut themselves up, called themselves sinful, fell on their faces, this need not be true for everyone. Being poor in spirit is admitting the reality of personal sin after a long life of living for God. 

Being a citizen of the kingdom of Heaven is a position given by grace, by God to those who first and foremost are poor in spirit.

Isaiah and Ezekiel

If the goodness and right actions of a man like Job cannot justify themselves before God how much less the self-righteous and sinful actions and attitudes of a whole nation who claim to worship God but do not. In the first five chapters of Isaiah the prophet describe a people, a nation, who have turned their backs on their God, while calling their rebellion “worship.” God calls His nation, the nation of Israel, “Sodom and Gomorrah,” equating the sin of the people called His own to the sin of those destroyed cities. Isaiah is a prophet calling the people of God to turn away from their sin, to repent and return to God. He is sent to Judah, the Southern Kingdom, just before the fall of the Northern Kingdom. 

Over a century later Judah falls, Jerusalem is destroyed, the Temple, the center of false worship, is razed and the people are exiled and replaced by pagans. God commanded them from the moment they entered the “Promised Land” to follow Him wholeheartedly. Ezekiel, a prophet among the exiles of Judah, 140 years after Isaiah, continues to tell them, God’s people in exile, to turn from their sin and return in obedience to God. 

There are many viewpoints about what a prophet is supposed to do and be. Prophets are truth-tellers. They “forth-tell” not just “foretell.” Everything they say must be truth. If what they say is not true then they are considered false prophets by God. He metes out harsh punishment for those who tell lies and even harsher punishment for those who attribute those lies to Him. God makes those who are His prophets lovers of the truth and haters of lies. These people will bluntly confront the lie, sin, with truth, justice and righteousness, even when reviled or ignored, persecuted or killed. Prophets view themselves as wholly belonging to God. They recognize who God is and who they are before God. 

Look at Isaiah and Ezekiel. How did they view themselves before God? Both had a vision of holy God. Isaiah’s vision was simple. “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple” (Isa. 6:1). Ezekiel’s vision was elaborate, filled with images and detail. Ezekiel chapter one describes holy God. 

And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.  (Ezek. 1:26-28)

Job stopped talking. Isaiah recognized even his words, every thought and word and action and attitude was corrupted before the voice of God. “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isa. 6:5). God cleansed his lips with a burning coal. When Ezekiel saw God he “fell on his face” (Ezek. 1:28). He did not just stop speaking, or just see his words as corrupted. He saw his whole being as unworthy. God sent those who were unworthy of Himself to turn a nation of those who are unworthy back to Himself, knowing only a few would actually return. 

Do not the words of a person show the thinking of the person’s heart? Does not our speech define for God and the world who we are? Those who are poor in spirit recognize their utter unworthiness before the absolute holiness of God. Yet, God blesses those who are poor in spirit. His blessing comes through the sacrifice of His Son who took upon Himself the sin of those who refuse to recognize their sin and continue in their rebellion. Poverty of spirit is the first obedient step toward God.

Truth

Reposted

Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. (1 John 5:10)

Each citizen of the kingdom of heaven lives on the eternal foundation of the person of Jesus Christ. Not only created by God in His image but recreated by God in the likeness of Christ, the citizen lives the truth of eternity. Perhaps the most critical aspect of being poor in spirit is the devotion to truth and the hatred of any lie. You will see the evidence of a person’s life by how they handle the evidence of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Anyone who says or acts like they do not need God are as far away from being poor in spirit as possible. They are self-righteous in spirit and are not being honest with themselves or the world.

One of the characteristics of someone who is poor in spirit is the brutal, intellectual honesty they have toward themselves and those around. This honesty begins with the intellectual knowledge of the reality of sin and the discovery of God’s absolute authority over creation. Ultimately, God will not allow any to ignore Him. He will allow those rebelling against Him to continue in their rebellion. He will confront them with their need of Him throughout their life. But, when a person begins to lie to themselves and refuses to recognize the lie, their minds become set and impenetrable. God can do anything but will not do everything. He will not reach into a person’s mind and change it for them. Man, made in the image of God and, even with a corrupted image, has the ability to think reasonably through his experiences and know the God who is tugging at him.

Poverty of spirit is a combination of recognizing sin, recognizing God, and recognizing the truth of rebellion against God.  All are intellectual activities.

Look for a moment at how corrupted intelligence works. Everything touched by sin will turn the truth around, on its head, backward, reversed, in-side-out. Those who do not want to say there is a God or sin will not believe in God even if someone is raised from the dead (see Luke 16:31, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus). Others, who want to believe something, change the truth to fit their own imaginations bringing a counterfeit peace where there is no true peace with God. 

Peace manufactured from a lie is easily shaken, stolen and destroyed. Trust built on a lie and not on the Object who created everything offers only empty promises of peace. “For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:13; see also Jer. 8:11). Jeremiah spoke to an obstinate people told falsely they were not sinning, the invaders were not coming as a judgment from God because of their idolatry, that they need not worry or show concern for their place, things and future. Ezekial is even more blunt about those who accept the lie as truth.

Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Because you have uttered falsehood and seen lying visions, therefore behold, I am against you, declares the Lord GOD. My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and who give lying divinations. They shall not be in the council of my people, nor be enrolled in the register of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord GOD. Precisely because they have misled my people, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace.’” (Ezek. 13:8-10)

Still others want to believe but are tugged and pulled away, finding reasoned excuses to change their thinking, because their thinking is more immediately attractive than the alternative. All want to control through imagination, all want to believe the lie because it is easier to control than truth.  Even the lie has a kernel of truth, just as mythology has a kernel of true history. You will begin to understand Jesus’ parable of the soils in Matthew 13 when you see how those around you, even yourself, falsely think of the truth.  If someone thinks they know the truth, but do not, then it is impossible to show them the truth without first destroying their imagined reality. 

Jesus’ main point at this stage is to not dwell upon the consequences of sin but its reality. It is not to beat one’s self up over sin but to just admit sin exists. “Addicts” cannot be “cured” until they first honestly recognize the problem triggering their “addiction.” This problem is not that something controls them but that they control it to the point of being unwilling to give up the substance. They want to use the substance and have lied to themselves about the substance controlling them. Few are forced to abuse substances. They consciously decide to smoke, drink, abuse drugs and people and things until their “habit” is so ingrained they have to want to stop more than they wanted to start.

We are bent by sin and judged for sins. When Adam fell, rebelling against God, sin corrupted the nature given by God for all who would follow. We have a sin nature, a bent away from God toward self. We also sin and are held responsible for sin by God. Both the sin nature and the actual sins of the thinking of our hearts make intimacy with God impossible. He acts to reconnect intimately with everyone through the sacrifice of His Son. Those who are poor in spirit recognize the sin nature in themselves and the fact they sin and are responsible for the thinking of their hearts which inspire their sin. Recognizing sin and the absolute inability to change is the first step to being recreated by God and fit for eternity. We must believe God is true and speaks the truth always and in all circumstances and experiences.

Hatred for Sin

Reposting

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

Jesus, following John and the Prophets, began His ministry preaching repentance from sin. Repentance is recognizing the consequences of sin and turning away from sin toward God. This is the subject of the next verse. Still, everyone must either come to grips with or completely ignore sin. Repentance first demands acknowledging the reality of sin and the condition of all those bent by it away from God.

God hates sin, not because it caused a separation of those He created in His image from Him but because sin is diametrically opposed to Him. Sin is a rebellion against Him. Sin turns truth into a lie and a lie into truth. Those bent away from God cannot abide hearing or knowing truth because it forces them to admit they have a sin nature. Jesus regularly confronted the Pharisee’s over their lack of intimate knowledge of God and their ungodly beliefs. They called themselves God’s children and people but did not act like they were His.

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” (John 8:34-38)

Anyone who calls themselves “Christian” will intimately know God’s hatred for sin and have a desire to intimately know truth. They will hate their own sin, even when knowing truth reveals their sin. Christians are told to be aware of sin, in self and in other Christians, and to confront sin in self and in other Christians. We are not given the luxury of being soft on sin, or ignoring sin, or being desensitized to sin. Yet, every Christian struggles with sin and it’s affects. Here is the essence of the dichotomy of the Christian life. We sin but are to hate sin as deeply as God hates sin. Does this mean we are to hate ourselves? 

Sin’s reality should make everyone cringe in fear. It is the confronting of the reality of sin in self which Jesus describes as poverty of spirit. While this may sound negative, and while we are not yet confronting the consequences of sin both immediate and eternal, poverty of spirit is the primary condition for entry into the kingdom of heaven.

Guilt – The Evidence of Sin

Reposted

What is the evidence for sin?

There are several primary pieces of evidence left in the trail of everyone bent by sin. Since God requires man recognize sin in self and the world He decrees the evidence remain obvious. His declaration of sin as rebellion against Him is all the verification for sin He needs. He always tells the truth and demands His creation live in truth declared. Man is created in the image of God. It is this image which gives us the tools to know truth, the difference between right and wrong and the reality of physical death pointing toward spiritual death. 

Even if we don’t know the word “sin” we do know the feeling “guilt.” In the New Testament the word “guilty” means to owe or to be in debt. In the Hebrew Scripture the word “guilty” means to commit an offense and be held responsible, either by self or an authority. Whether in the Hebrew Scripture or New Testament the guilty person is held and judged against a specific standard. This recognition of “guilt” points to sin and the intellectual acknowledgment of its reality, not the emotional realization of the consequences which follows. Emotions are subjective, influenced by many uncontrollable and unpredictable external and internal circumstances. Both our minds and the emotions, parts of the image of God, are corrupted by sin and so we cannot see, or will not see, and understand sin’s reality. 

No one can live with a guilty conscience for long. They must do something with the guilt. For sinful humanity one of the prevalent means for easing the shame brought on by sinful actions and attitudes is to change the standard which judges those actions and attitudes. We say what we have done is not rebellion and has violated no law and then we convince ourselves the lie is true. Doing this gives us permission to continue living out the lie. Or, we do something to absolve ourselves of the guilt. We offer restitution and pay for our sin using our own means and then feel better. Doing this never changes the truth of history and the reality of what has been done. Nor, because of the doctrine of depravity, will we adequately pay for our own sin, either actively or passively. We either ignore the rules and our rebellion against them or we explain away our rebellion and alleviate our feeling of guilt. 

But wait. Our heads, the intelligence, tells us “guilt” is real. Our heads, our minds, tell us we have done something to produce guilt. If we are honest we will recognize there is an objective standard existing outside of self which is absolute and which we have violated, producing guilt. We know, intellectually, the difference between right and wrong. This is the second piece of evidence for sin. Admitting one is guilty is as vitally important as recognizing the truth of sin. Ignoring the guilt will compel the person to begin viewing the created world, governed by the absolute laws of God, to believe a lie, which is insane.

It is not a great leap to realize a standard, a measurement of the distance between right and wrong, must have a Standard Giver. Since God, the Standard Giver, has created people in His image all are able to recognize both the standard of right and wrong and the One upon whom the standard is based. We know, intellectually as well as intimately, the boundaries of that standard. We may ignore them, rationalize them away, say they do not nor have never existed, call them something else, but we know, even corrupted by sin, the difference between right and wrong. 

We also know we always want to choose that which is wrong. In order to abrogate our responsibility to do what is right by choosing to do the wrong we must redefine truth, saying it is something it is not. When we do this we say God is something other than what He is truly. 

Truth, and right and wrong, are as absolute as mathematics. Evidence for the reality of sin is the recognition of what is right and what is wrong based upon the intimate knowledge of the intrinsic, objective standard of God, the truth, known because of the tools given within the image of God carried by all. 

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit: Introduction

Reposting on the Sermon on the Mount

Introduction

Blessed are the poor in spirit, 
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:3)

What does a Christian look like? How do they act? 

In the first few verses of Matthew 5 Jesus gives the defining characteristics of the citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. He begins by blessing those who are “poor in spirit.” Those who are poor in spirit are those who recognize the truth of sin in themselves and the world and hate sin. Conversely, someone who is poor in spirit will passionately love God and relentlessly seek truth.

Being poor in spirit means hating sin, first in self, and then in the world.

Jesus describes the citizen of the kingdom of heaven by defining the absolute difference between those who do not know they are under the control of sin and those who do. Sin turns the thinking of the heart around, pointing the sinner away from God. Sin affects the core of the person, revealing itself in every action, word, attitude and hidden motivation. God is more interested in who the person is within the thinking of their hearts than in what they do. However, what a person does shows the evidence of whom they are. 

Ultimately, Christians have both the image of God and the likeness of Christ. God’s image, given to Adam and Eve, is included in the likeness of Christ. However, the likeness of Christ is not necessarily included in the image of God. Though we have the image of God we are corrupted, bent away from our created nature. We are separated from the One who created us in His image. Those with like images are uniquely suited for an intimate relationship. Sin has broken the relationship God desires with us. To remedy this broken relationship God recreates those who are His into the likeness of Christ. We are not fixed, patched or repaired. We are completely changed as if we were never broken. Christ’s likeness, like the image of God, is a freely given and indistinguishable part of every person redeemed by God. 

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Rom. 8:29-30)

Having a deep, whole, awareness of sin is the first piece of evidence of being “poor in spirit. I am not speaking about understanding the consequences of sin. Coming to grips with the consequences of sin is discussed in the next chapter. Too often Christians jump over the fact of sin and settle smugly on the easily comprehended consequences because they believe these consequences are easier to control. Sin’s consequences are important but are not the beginning.