Archive for October, 2008

Experiencing God: Receiving the Good News, Part II

October 31, 2008

Message: Experiencing God: Receiving the Good News, Part II

Text: Acts 2:37-39

Time: October 22nd, 2005

The topic I’ve been exploring over the last few weeks is having a personal experience with the living God. There is a God, He’s alive, He’s there, why can’t we experience Him in our lives? There is a God, He’s here, but why can’t we experience His here-ness, His there-ness? What’s blocking the way? According to pollster George Barna, two-third of non-Christians would attend church if they could actually experience God there. Isn’t it reasonable to expect to experience God in a church? Of all places, shouldn’t we expect to experience God at least in some way during a church service? Yes, of course. But that is not the experience of most people who attend church services. Why not? Because through custom, tradition, habits and other man-made practices and attitudes, churches have unfortunately built up cultural barriers to experiencing God without even knowing it. These barriers are allowed to stand Sunday after Sunday, leaving people hungry for a genuine experience of God. People come seeking spiritual food and drink and leave without experiencing either. Why? Because churches and church leaders have failed to follow the message of John the Baptist and Isaiah the prophet: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, remove the mountains and barriers, build up the bridges and pathways to God.” People are wandering around in the wilderness and desert of empty spiritual promises in churches, but nobody is preparing a way for them to experience God by removing cultural barriers and building spiritual bridges in the church for people to experience God. That’s the church’s fault. But then there is the responsibility of the individual person to do what John the Baptist and Isaiah say to do also: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, prepare your heart for the Lord’s coming.” It’s not enough for churches to remove all cultural barriers and build all spiritual bridges for people if a person won’t remove all barriers from their own heart and build bridges from their own heart to God. So John the Baptist and Isaiah the prophet speak to individuals as well as churches: “Prepare yourself for the Lord, make a straight path from God to your heart — and from your heart to God. Remove the barriers of sin and distractions from your life, and add anything that is spiritually useful into your life to help you connect with God. So people must take personal responsibility for experiencing God and not just blame churches for not doing a better job of preparing a way for the Lord. And what happens when churches prepare a clear way for people to access God? And what happens when individuals prepare their own hearts, removing sin and other obstacles and adding anything lacking to build spiritual bridges to God? What happens then? God visits people! In the first century Jesus appears. In the twenty-first century Jesus by His Spirit appears. In the first century Jesus came preaching the Gospel for people to believe, in the twenty-first century we believe the Gospel and the Spirit fills us with God’s presence today. The message of John the Baptist can only prepare us for an experience with God, but the message of Jesus introduces us to an experience with God. After the church has done all it can do to prepare people for an experience with God, after people have done all they can do to prepare themselves for experiencing God, then Jesus invites us all to take the step of faith and believe! And when we believe in Jesus we experience God! But we can’t get to the experience until our hearts are prepared. So the gospel is actually double-sided: there’s the repentance side and there’s the belief side. There’s the turning from sin and there’s the turning to God, and unless both are present there will be no experiencing God. Now is this what the early church taught? Let’s find out. (more…)

Experiencing God: Receiving the Good News

October 31, 2008

Message: Experiencing God: Receiving the Good News

Text: Mark 1:9-15

Time: October 15th, 2005

Every year thousands of couples get married in the United States, but it isn’t just the wedding or marriage ceremony that happens to these couples, it’s preparation for the wedding or marriage ceremony that takes the most time and energy — not to mention any pre-marital counseling or classes needed. And in most cases preparation for the marriage ceremony is a lot more complicated than the wedding itself. In fact, once all the preparation is done, the wedding ceremony itself is fairly straight-forward and easy. I remember when my sister Janet and my brother in law Steve were married, our whole family was involved in the wedding preparation. Because we wanted to keep the whole wedding day within some kind of a budget, my parents cooked and prepared the food ahead of time for the reception and had everything ready for the big day. I remember helping prepare the decorations for the wedding in the reception hall. There was also, of course, the rehearsal where everyone prepared for the wedding itself. It is possible for the bride to begin preparing for the wedding 6 months to a year ahead of time, with the activity intensifying in the months and weeks and days leading up to the actual marriage ceremony. The point is that when the day of the wedding arrives everything has been prepared and the ceremony itself is rather simple and straightforward. That’s the way it should be, and that’s why there is preparation. The better the preparation the smoother the actual wedding event goes. Well, that’s a lot like the Christian spiritual conversion process too. As I outlined last week, John the Baptist was sent by God to prepare the way for the Lord. John’s assignment was to get the people ready by preaching confession and repentance from sin. The people spiritually prepared themselves for the Lord by reviewing their lives, confessing and repenting of any and all sins and then receiving John’s baptism. John was the prophet who brought Isaiah’s message: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make a straight path for the Lord to travel.” John preached spiritual preparation and the people followed through with that preparation by getting their hearts right with God through repenting of their sins, turning away from sins and then turning towards God. John pointed the way for the people, but it took Jesus Himself to bring the people into an actual experience of God. John could only prepare the people, but Jesus came fulfilling the Good News of salvation. John preached the first half of the Gospel, Jesus came and completed the fulfillment of the Gospel. John got people ready for experiencing God, Jesus came giving people an experience of God. One of the problems in our churches today is that there is such an over-emphasis on receiving the gospel that the preparation for receiving the gospel is neglected. Many people make decisions to receive Christ but they haven’t confessed or repented of their sins. Their hearts are not right with God and so their decisions are hollow. They fall away soon afterwards. In some large evangelism rallies hundreds of people make decisions for Christ, yet only a few continue with spiritual follow-up, and even fewer ever make it into Christian churches. Why is that? Because the heart preparation so important in New Testament times is absent. As a pastor, whenever I try to rush a person into trusting and receiving Christ with a quick prayer before I’ve explained the confession and repentance of sin part of the gospel I almost always see the person fall away shortly thereafter. I’ve finally come to the realization that there must be both parts explained to a person: first, a person must confess and repent of all known sin, and only after that, second, a person must trust and believe in Christ. It’s the only way a person can truly experience God. Since we are working our way through the Gospel of Mark, let me read part of the first chapter to show these two essential parts of the Gospel at work. (read). I’ll review the first part, explain the second part, and talk about what it means to us today. (more…)

Preaching the Gospel from Luke, Part 2

October 29, 2008

Title: Preaching the Gospel from Luke, Part 2

Text: Luke 18:9-14

Date: August 5th, 2007

I’m preaching the gospel through each of the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Today, I’d like to go back to the Gospel of Luke and talk about another verse found there that perfectly explains the essence of the good news or Gospel of Jesus Christ. Of course, to find the clearest and most detailed account of the gospel we must go to the Apostle Paul, because he was the first to explain the importance of faith apart from works. The four Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John describe the gospel as lived and taught by Jesus Christ; the Apostle Paul explains the gospel in words nobody can misunderstand. What’s great is that we have two angles to come at understanding the gospel: first, we have Jesus teaching and living it in his ministry; second, we have the Apostle Paul explaining the gospel, so that if we miss one, we pick it up with the other, or if we fail to grasp the gospel in Paul, we can gather it from the Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. So between these two sources there is no possible way to miss the gospel. Today, in the Gospel of Luke 18:9-14 (read), we see Jesus again stressing the importance of humble faith in receiving God’s salvation. He contrasts humble faith with prideful works. Eternal life is obtained through humble faith, not proud works. Nobody with a prideful attitude about their righteous life will enter the kingdom of God, but those who are humble — who come with faith alone in God’s mercy and grace — will find life eternal. This is exactly what the Apostle Paul explains in the Book of Romans using more words and less story telling. Some skeptical scholars today make the false claim that the gospel Paul preached is different from the gospel Jesus proclaimed. But this claim is ridiculous because as we’ll see from this passage today, salvation by grace through faith is at the heart of the gospel that both Jesus and Paul preached. Jesus constantly warned people from taking confidence in their own self-righteousness, constantly warned against personal self-pride, and constantly encouraged people to depend, trust, rely solely on the mercy and grace of God for salvation from sin. These are the very same themes the Apostle Paul picks up and explains in detail in the Book of Romans. Paul, the theologian, approached the subject through reasoned explanation, while Jesus the activist approached the subject through stories and illustrations. But the same message of salvation was taught by both Jesus and Paul. The issue is: upon what can we rely for our salvation? Can we rely on our own goodness and righteous works, or must we rely solely and fully on the mercy and grace of God? Jesus tells a story to answer this question. (more…)

Preaching the Gospel from Matthew, Part III

October 29, 2008

Title: Preaching the Gospel from Matthew, Part III

Text: Matthew 19:16-30

Time: July 15th, 2007

Last week I taught on the message of the Rich Young Ruler and Jesus, found in Matthew 19:16-30 (read). I pointed out that the focus of the story was not the money but was on faith; the man failed not because he wouldn’t give up his riches, but he failed because he wouldn’t trust to do what Jesus told him to do – which could have been anything, but in this case it was a specific thing that he failed to do which showed his lack of trust in Jesus. I pointed out that for each and every person the challenge of Jesus is different, but the objective is the same: to test whether we trust Jesus supremely or something else. For one person, Jesus might require that he give up his career – if that was the person’s supreme love of life. For another person, it might be that Jesus would ask him to do something that would cost him standing and reputation in the community – if that was the person’s number one concern in life. For still another person, Jesus might require that they take a low prestige position in society, if status in the eyes of the world were that person’s top value in life. For other persons, Jesus might want them to give up their comfort and security, to leave a position of safety and predictability – if that meant more to them than anything. Whatever keeps a person from full and absolute trust in Jesus Christ alone, that thing has to be removed or at least put in its place in the true order of a person’s life. Jesus always knows what test a person needed to reveal their heart, to identify what is most important to them in life. In the case of the rich young man, Jesus identified his wealth — and all the things that it brought — was most important, so he deliberately challenged the man to sell it all and give it all away; or in other words, lose all of what this man valued most in life above all things – and then, value Jesus most by following Him – flat broke! Now the man would either repent, that is, change his value system, give up what he had put number one – his wealth, and sell it. He would either sell it, give it away, and then follow Jesus, or he wouldn’t. He would either remove wealth from number one in his life and put Jesus number one, or he wouldn’t. There can’t be two number ones in a person’s life. There is only room for one number one, that’s why it’s called number one. This man showed that he didn’t trust in Jesus supremely, but rather he kept on trusting in his wealth supremely; that’s why he walked away from Jesus. Now we all have to ask ourselves whether we have anything in our lives that we trust or value more than Jesus. For some people there are many things, for other people there are only a few handful of things, and for some other people there is only one thing above Jesus in their lives. But whether many, a few, or just one thing, until Christ is the most important thing in our life, we aren’t saved, we don’t have eternal life. Until we trust Christ over anything and everything else, we are just like that rich young man; no different. But what I’d like to do today is explore the different options that were open to this man as he stood before Jesus that fateful day; what could have been, and in so doing I’ll be outlining our options in respect to the salvation Jesus offers us as well. Maybe you will see yourself in one of these options; maybe you won’t be comfortable in what you see; maybe you’ll be motivated to change. (more…)

Preaching the Gospel from Luke

October 29, 2008

Title: Preaching the Gospel from Luke

Text: Luke 15:11-32

Date: July 22, 2007

I’m preaching the gospel through each of the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and today I’m on the Gospel of Luke 15:11-32 (read), the story of the Prodigal Son. Why is this an example of the gospel? Because it contains all the basic and essential elements of conversion. First, it shows how sin and selfishness leads the son astray. It also illustrates how the son experienced a crisis in his life when his sin and selfishness led him to utter ruin. Second, it demonstrates how the son confessed his sins and repented of them. Third, it describes how he returned back to his father. And finally, fourth, is shows the father welcoming the son back and celebrating his return. That is the order or process that everyone, to some extent, must follow to receive salvation from God. Like the story, we have all sinned, acted selfishly, and rebelled against God the Father by breaking his laws and going our own independent way. Everyone does this to some extent, some less, some more. But everyone is guilty of spiritual rebellion against God. Not only do we inherit this spiritual independence from God through the original sin of Adam and Eve, we also choose to rebel against God of our own free will. Next, we all must come to a point in our lives where we regret our sin and rebellion against God. Sometimes it’s a crisis situation we experience in life because of sin, other times it’s just a spiritual emptiness we experience even when all seems to be going outwardly well. We are convicted of sin. Then, as a result, we confess our sins and repent of our rebellion against God. Repentance literally means to change, and that’s what happens in spiritual conversion, we change direction. We change from rebelling against God; we turn away from our sins and rebellion. Repentance leads to turning from sin and then turning to God; and so we return to God and His will. Finally, in conversion, God welcomes, receives, and celebrates our return. In every Christian conversion there is an element of returning back to God, even if the individual hasn’t ever known God before or is personally returning to the God he’s known before. Our original parents, Adam and Eve, knew God at the beginning and experienced close fellowship with God in the Garden of Eden before the Fall into original sin. As we inherit their sinful nature, we also retain a kind of remembrance of original righteousness with God before the Fall. When we turn away from a life of selfishness and sin, when we turn to God in faith, we are returning to the God we know in some form through the memory of our original parents. We are spiritually “coming home.” So the story of the Prodigal Son is an outline for everyone who sins, repents, and returns to God in Christian conversion. But let’s learn about this more in detail. (more…)

Preaching the Gospel from John

October 29, 2008

Title: Preaching the Gospel from John

Text: John 3:1-15

Date: July 28, 2007

I’m preaching the gospel through each of the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and today I’m in the Gospel of John 3:1-15 (read), the account of the Jewish Pharisee Nicodemus and his conversation with Jesus. There are four books of the Bible called the Gospels because they record the good news or gospel of Jesus Christ. In a general way, all four books tell the good news or Gospel of Jesus Christ. But some passages get more specific about the way of salvation or eternal life — which is specifically what the good news is all about. Jesus came to bring us reconciliation with God so we might live forever in eternal happiness. I’ve been drawing out passages from all four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and now today John — to illustrate what specifically is the message of the good news or gospel. Today, we’ll see a very prominent Jewish leader, a member of the elite group called Pharisees, visit Jesus with some questions about spiritual reality. This man, named Nicodemus, was a very serious student of the Hebrew scriptures, a very strict follower of the religious laws of the Jews, and a very important leader in the community. Yet even after a lifetime of study and even teaching, this man sensed that Jesus had a greater knowledge of God then he or anybody else he knew. He was curious and interested in Jesus, so he visited Jesus one night to get some answers to his questions. Now the thing that puzzled him was that he was convinced that Jesus truly was a man sent from God because of all the miraculous things he could do, but he was confused because Jesus wasn’t teaching the things he had learned or that other teachers taught about God. Yes, there were many things that Jesus taught that were one and the same things taught by Nicodemus and the other Jewish scribes and Pharisees. Jesus seemed to know the scriptures and quoted from them often. But he also went beyond the scriptures and spoke directly and with personal authority on matters that he couldn’t have possibly learned from any Jewish teacher. So where did Jesus get his teachings? How could he speak with such authority and certainty? These and other questions Nicodemus wanted answers. But why did he come at night to visit Jesus? We must understand that Nicodemus had a reputation to uphold; he was a top Jewish leader in Israel. He was highly educated, he was widely respected, he was looked up to, he had accomplished much and achieved much on the way towards his position on the Jewish ruling council called the Sanhedrin. He didn’t want to jeopardize anything he had worked hard to achieve in life by being seen with a radical preacher from Nazareth. But at the same time he was drawn to Jesus and actually wanted to hear more of what he had to say. So what does Jesus say to Nicodemus? Let me point out three things. (more…)

Interpreting Scripture vs. Twisting Scripture

October 28, 2008

Title: Interpreting Scripture vs. Twisting Scripture

Text: 2 Peter 3:14-16

Time: September 30, 2008

For nearly 2000 years of Christian church history there have always been slight variations in the interpretation of scripture; and in some cases, as in the case of classic differences between Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant understanding, for example, large differences. But never, ever has there been such a wide diversity of biblical interpretations as we see today flooding the church from every direction. It is a legitimate question to ask, “Is there such a thing as an evangelical Christian any more?” I believe the problem all comes down to a sloppy and careless approach to interpreting the Bible. Today it seems that anybody can come to the Bible from any angle whatsoever and pull anything, any kind of interpretation of any passage out of the Bible and claim to have a new interpretation. And the sad fact is that most of evangelicalism has nothing to say accept, “Well, if that’s what he sees the passage saying, who are we to question his understanding of it?” It’s as if anybody at any time can come up with any kind of bizarre interpretation of any passage in the Bible and nothing can be said to object, because after all, doesn’t everyone have the right to read and understand the Bible any way they want? Isn’t anyone’s interpretation of the Bible as good as anybody else’s? Well, the answer to that question is clearly, “No.” It has never been the case in the history of the church, from the earliest times to modern times, that anybody’s and everybody’s understanding is to be given equal weight in Christianity. For example, in the first century of Christianity, the Apostle Peter writes to Christians and comments on the writings of the Apostle Paul. In his comments, Peter clearly distinguishes between correct interpretation of scripture and incorrect. 2 Peter 3:14-16, “So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” In this brief comment, we see the Apostle Peter making the distinction between true and false interpretation of scripture. He makes the distinction between an accurate and clear understanding of inspired writings, and distortions and lies produced by ignorant and unstable people. In contrast with today’s evangelical world, Peter doesn’t grant everyone the privilege and respect of having their own personal interpretation of every scripture passage. Clearly, there is accurate interpretation of scripture and there are distortions. So with that as an introduction, let me make a few points on some key principles of scriptural interpretation, so that some of the confusion we see generating in the evangelical world today might perhaps be corrected. I’ll use 1 Timothy 2:11-14 as an example of scripture twisting today and its correction using sound principles of biblical interpretation. (more…)

Women in Church Ministry

October 28, 2008

Title: Women in Church Ministry

Text: 1 Timothy 2:11-14

Time: September 25th, 2008

There are two major issues today that tempt both Christian men and women to depart from following the biblical teachings; the first is the issue of submission by wives to their husbands, and the second is that woman are not permitted to teach or hold a position of authority over men in the church. Although starting from the early church, taught clearly in the Bible, and carried out for nearly two thousand years of Christian church history, these truths mentioned above have become established; yet today, they are being questioned and also rejected by a growing number of Christians. Why? Is it because new discoveries have been made concerning the accuracy of the biblical text? No. Is it because new archaeological findings show that there is evidence for early Christian activity that contradicts the established biblical teaching? No. Why then are these seemingly established biblical teachings, teachings that the Christian faithful of all ages and all places have overwhelmingly embraced, why are these teachings now questioned? Why are they now being rejected in many leading churches and Christian educational institutions, such as college and seminaries? Why are denominations and church leaders, pastors and even ordinary Christians now questioning something that seemingly the Bible is so clear about and church history for two thousands years is apparently so unanimous on? One word – feminism. Around the late 60s and early 70s there arose a social movement in the U.S. that basically rejected virtually all traditional moral values or absolute truths. Absolute moral authority was seen as incompatible with personal freedom, and so during the 60s and 70s these values were rejected in favor of relativism. Relativism was championed as more compatible with the highest personal freedom. Anything that limited personal freedom was seen as bad; anything that promoted personal free was seen as good. Today, feminism is no longer an active social movement but its influence has been established, its dominance has now been largely conceded. The dominant social thinking today in society is feminist, even if it doesn’t go by that label. Christians too are influenced by feminism, whether they know it or not. Hardly anyone calls himself or herself a feminist any more — they don’t have to, because almost everyone is a feminist in some sense by virtue of holding to the basic beliefs and practices of feminism. That’s how dominant this social philosophy is today. Ok, now where do Christianity, the Christian church, and individual Christians stand in respect to the feminist movement? Answer – for the most part Christianity, the Christian church and Christians are caught up in feminism just like all of society. That doesn’t mean that all churches and all Christians are committed to feminism to the same degree, but almost everyone holds to at least some form of feminist philosophy. It’s almost impossible not to, being brought up and living in the modern feminist social setting, which is America today. Now the problem for the church and for Christians is that many or most of the basic tenets of feminist belief contradict the Bible and Christian historical teachings. If you don’t believe it, let’s examine together an example of the Bible’s teaching concerning guidelines and regulations for women in church ministry. 1 Timothy 2:11-14 (read). Let’s look at three things. (more…)

Preaching the Gospel from Matthew, Part I

October 24, 2008

Title: Preaching the Gospel from Matthew

Text: Matthew 19:16-30

Time: July 8th, 2007

I’m starting a new sermon series on the Gospel by preaching the Gospel from each of the main books of the New Testament. Today, I’m starting in Matthew with a familiar passage, the story of the Rich Young Ruler and Jesus. This simple account gives us a good understanding of what the Gospel is and what it isn’t. And that is a very important thing – to know what the gospel is and what it isn’t. For example, if you don’t know what the gospel is then you might miss out on receiving it or you might be believing the wrong thing, and if you believe the wrong thing, you aren’t saved, but lost. You must know what the true gospel is in order to believe it and be saved. So knowing what the true gospel is and knowing what it isn’t is very important. I feel very sad for people who attend some kind of church but don’t really know or understand what the gospel really is. No matter how sincere they may be, if they don’t know what the gospel is, they can’t be saved. And we must admit that there are lots of people, in churches and outside of churches, who don’t know what the gospel is and who aren’t saved and who aren’t going to heaven. I hope you know what the gospel is, the true gospel, so that you are truly saved and not just mistaken. What could be more important in life than being truly saved? Like Jesus said, “What does it benefit a person to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” People lose their souls every day when they die in a state of confusion over the true gospel. So today, I’d like to help us all by clarifying what is and what isn’t the gospel, what saves us and what doesn’t save us, so that we can compare what we believe with the true gospel in order to make sure we are truly saved. If we are truly saved, praise God, then we are encouraged. If we aren’t truly saved, then it’s a good time to get saved before it’s too late. Because the stakes are so high, it’s important that we check ourselves from time to time just to make sure that we are really saved. A pilot checks over an airplane before he flies by going over and over a checklist of things just to make sure that he’s got everything right and nothing is wrong. That’s what we need to do about the salvation of our soul – we have to go through the check list from time to time to make sure we are really saved, because once we die there is no going back and getting it right. We have to get it right now, not later. So would you go with me through the checklist of salvation? Would you walk yourself through it in order to make sure you are saved and going to heaven? Some of you probably converted to Christianity many years ago, while others of you may have gotten saved just a short time ago. Some of you might be very confident of your salvation, while others of you might not be so confident. It really doesn’t matter, because today we are going to go through the checklist of salvation and see whether we are or not saved. Again, this is something nobody wants to be wrong about. If you are wrong about anything in life, don’t be wrong about this, your eternal destiny depends on it. Jesus is talking to a rich young man about how to have eternal life in heaven with God; let’s listen in and hear what he has to say in Matthew 19:16-30 (read). Let me point out three things. (more…)

Preaching the Gospel from Matthew, Part II

October 24, 2008

Title: Preaching the Gospel from Matthew

Text: Matthew 5:3, Luke 6:20

Time: August 12th, 2007

How did Christianity spread in its early days? How could the Christian faith spread so rapidly in the ancient world? What can explain its rapid growth in the midst of a hostile environment? The only explanation is that the gospel— the message itself and the powerful results of faith in the gospel—won the ancient world to Christ. But what was it about the gospel that so won the hearts of the ancient people? To put things in perspective, in roughly 300 years after Christ, Christianity had conquered the mighty Roman Empire. It was made the official religion of the empire because of its spiritual power and size. Rome implemented the old saying, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” And so Christianity became the heart and soul of the Roman Empire. But what was it about the gospel message that could transform ordinary people and eventually transform an entire world empire? Today, I’d like to answer that question by zeroing on the gospel that Jesus preached from the Gospel According to Matthew. I’ve been preaching the gospel from the four gospel books, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I’ve been explaining key Bible passages in each of these books that bring out the essential gospel message. Today, I’d like to go back into the Book of Matthew and explain one of the teachings of Jesus concerning the gospel message that explains why so many people received Christianity in those early days. The message of Jesus was very unique for its time. It pointed people away from the commonly understood means to obtaining the good life on earth. The message Jesus preached was the very opposite of the message that the world’s common wisdom taught. It was also different than the message the world’s religions commonly taught. Jesus pointed people to the reign or rule of God as the means to obtain a blessed life. While the world’s wisdom was instructing people to obtain worldly goods, power, position, wealth, fame, money, possessions, success, achievement, etc. as means to obtain the blessed life, Jesus was instructing his followers to God and spiritual blessings as the means to a truly good life. Now how does all of this connect with us today, now, in the twenty-first century? It connects in many ways. How? Because we hear the same voices coming from the world, and sadly also from religion, that to obtain the truly blessed life, one must achieve or succeed in obtaining worldly, earthly things, whether that be wealth, power, position, success, etc. But Jesus came to deliver us from all these false goals. He came to show us the way to true blessings. He did so by teaching a simple yet profound spiritual truth: a blessed life comes not from man or earth or even from self, a blessed life comes only from God and being in a right relationship with Him. That’s what Matthew 5:3 (read) teaches. So let me unpack this teaching today in order that we might hear, understand, and live out its truth in our lives. (more…)