Week 29 July 15 - 21, 2018

Christians are called to “be in the world, but not of the world.” This means that our primary citizenship is in God’s heavenly kingdom, but the Lord has left us here on earth to be a kingdom witness for Jesus Christ until He returns.

Ironically, one of the most powerful ways we serve as a kingdom witness is when non-believers see how our true happiness springs from the humble roots of self-denial instead of the worldly roots of self-promotion.

In Matthew 5:3-12, these inaugural words of Christ’s famous Sermon on the Mount known as “The Beatitudes” give us a practical portrait of how the soil of godly humility bears a harvest of happiness the world can never produce.

The word beatitude is a Latin term that simply means “blessed” or “happy.” This section of Scripture is called the Beatitudes because Jesus begins each statement with the phrase “Blessed are…” Throughout this section, Christ lists seven characteristics of kingdom happiness that begin with our humility and end with God’s blessing.

Beginning in verses 3-5, Christ reveals three characteristics that show our humble posture in light of God’s holiness.

Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

By being poor in spirit, the Lord is calling us to understand the nature of our sin in comparison to His holiness. This understanding will always lead to a poor spirit who is constantly aware of the daily need for God’s grace. By being one who mourns, we learn to be remorseful over our sin and turn to God in repentance seeking His continual forgiveness. By being meek, we learn to be submissive to the Lord’s will as we seek to serve others instead of exercising authority over them.

Concluding in verses 6-12, Christ also describes four characteristics that show our humble pursuits in light of God’s glory.

Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

By pursuing righteousness, we place the priority of God’s glory over our own interests. By pursuing purity, we seek to have God change our desires so that everything we say, think, and do would be pleasing to Him.  By pursuing peace, we seek unity that is focused on God’s agenda instead of recognition that is focused on our own agenda.  By being persecuted for pursuing what is right, we are affirming that we are willing to pick up our cross and follow Jesus Christ so the world can see that our happiness is not based on what we have but in who we belong to.

 The result of having a humble posture before God, while seeking an agenda of humble pursuits that bring glory to God, is that we have an unwavering inner happiness that cannot be altered by the outside world.

This happiness testifies to outsiders that God Himself is our true treasure, and heaven is our true home. And the more we focus on preparing eternally for the kingdom, the more happiness we will find while we are here on earth. This is because we can celebrate being used as powerful witnesses in this world as we joyously anticipate the world to come. As the famous writer C.S. Lewis once put it, “Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth 'thrown in': aim at Earth and you will get neither.”

Keepers of the Gospel Flame

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A Trustworthy Source of Strength

Americans are often guilty of having a “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” mentality when it comes to dealing with the trials of life. While this focus on cultivating a spirit of perseverance is admirable, the source of our strength to persevere does not come in our own power but God’s. In Psalm 20, King David acknowledges that whether we need physical deliverance from our enemies in a time of trouble, or spiritual deliverance from the condemnation of our sins, God is the only trustworthy source who can save us. He says in verse 20, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

Going Home in a Gust of Glory

There are only two people recorded in Scripture who went to heaven without experiencing physical death: Enoch and Elijah. Enoch was a faithful man who served God for 300 years and then quietly departed. As Genesis 5:24 states, “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. Elijah, on the other hand, was a powerful prophet who left the earth with a little more flair. In 2 Kings 2:11 as Elijah was talking to Elisha, it says, “…chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.”

Winning the War of Words

The most prominent tactic that Satan uses against God’s people is to try and cause doubt or confusion over the truth of God’s Word. When the devil deceived Adam in Genesis 3, he began with the statement “Did God actually say….” to challenge the authority and intention of the Lord’s commands. However, when Satan tried to tempt Jesus in the wilderness in Matthew 4:1-11 by twisting God’s Word, Christ responded by restating the eternal truth of Holy Scripture. After each attempt to attack God’s truth, Jesus began His rebuke of Satan with the words “It is written.” May this remind us that our battles of sinful temptation are only won by standing firm in God’s eternal truth.

Week 30 Readings:  July 22 – 28

-Day One:  2 Kings 7-8; 2 Chronicles 21; Matthew 6

-Day Two:  2 Kings 9-10; Psalm 49; Matthew 7

-Day Three:  2 Chronicles 22-23; 2 Kings 11; Psalm 131; Matthew 8

-Day Four:  2 Chronicles 24; 2 Kings 12; Psalm 50; Matthew 9

-Day Five:  Joel, Matthew 10   


Tips to Keep You on Track

          Our reading in the week ahead will take us through the book of Joel. This book is found in a section of Scripture known as the minor prophets.  The term “minor prophets” does not mean that Joel’s message is less important than other biblical writers, but instead it refers to the short length of the 12 books from Hosea to Malachi that are placed at the end of the Old Testament. As you read the three short chapters of Joel, pay careful attention to the phrase “the day of the Lord.” This statement is found five times throughout the book (1:15; 2:1; 2:11, 2:31; 3:4) and is well documented in other minor prophets as well (Amos, Obadiah, Zephaniah, Malachi). The day of the Lord indicates a special time in history when the presence of the God will bring judgement and condemnation on unrepentant sinners, as well as offer restoration and blessing for those who are saved. Like other Old Testament books of prophesy, the immediate context of the book deals specifically with the nation of Israel, but the message also has a long-term application for all Christians upon the return of Christ.