Articles written by PurposeCity about Jesus Christ

Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit

Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit

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

“I am not religious, but I am spiritual.” If only I had a dollar for every time I have heard that phrase. It has become the new mantra. People who have, or want, no affiliation with any organized religious group or tradition but still want to be identified as having some commitment to religious/spiritual beliefs and practices. Being spiritual is worn as a something of a badge of honor. Being religious is seen as archaic, cold, legalistic, and often arrogant. Being spiritual is seen as being free, enlightened, on a path to something higher and more noble. Oddly enough I am convinced that the statement of being spiritual is at its heart a prideful thing.

In the first of Jesus’ famous statements that we now call The Beatitudes, Jesus did not say, “Blessed are the spiritual.” In fact, He said the exact opposite. He literally said, “Blessed are those who recognize that they are spiritually bankrupt.” That is what is at heart of what Jesus is saying. It is extremely significant that Jesus says this as the first of the “blessed are you” statements. Before you can ever really experience blessing from God, you absolutely must recognize how spiritually bankrupt you are. If you are ever going to recognize that you need God, you have to recognize at the core of your being that you are bankrupt without Him.

Going all the way back in the history of human beings our biggest problem is that we have been trying to live as if we did not need God. Saying “I am spiritual” is more about me than it is about God. In fact, it is one more step in the process of trying to be our own gods in charge of our own lives. We have tried to deny our own need for God. Being “spiritual” is about my effort to get in touch with and become something other than what I am. It is about be being good enough to reach a higher spiritual plane. All of that sounds wonderful but it is dependent on me, my effort, my storehouse of personal resources and ability to become something more, something good, or holy, or enlightened.

The problem is we are spiritually bankrupt without Jesus Christ. We just don’t want to admit it. It is said that the first step of recovery is admitting your need. Our first step in spiritual recovery is admitting that we have nothing in ourselves that has any spiritual value. We are totally and utterly dependent on God for our spiritual existence. Paul makes it clear in Colossians 2:13-14 that before we come to faith in Christ, we are spiritually dead. That is just another way of saying spiritually bankrupt. We will never be able to get close to God until we can admit how far from Him we really are and how dependent we are on Him for any spiritual life we might have.

The hurdle that we need to overcome is our pride. We are afraid that if we admit that we have nothing to offer spiritually then we are somehow admitting we are losers and we will be stuck there. What Jesus says is that we are spiritually empty, but that He values us far more than we could ever imagine. In spite of the fact that we are spiritually bankrupt, actually because we are spiritually bankrupt and can do nothing for ourselves, Jesus came and died on a cross to open a treasure-house of spiritual life. We will not tap into that storehouse unless we are willing to admit that we are in desperate need of what Jesus offers. When you come to that place in your life you will be blessed beyond measure. Don’t be afraid to admit on a daily basis that you are a sinner saved by grace and totally bankrupt in yourself. Yet, because of what Jesus has done, you are filled spiritually everyday by one who loves you more than you can imagine.

Gospel

What is the Gospel?

When Jesus began His earthly ministry, His first recorded words are a command to “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). The gospel, when translated from the Greek, literally means “good news” and is obviously an important and central teaching of the Christian faith. But do you know what it is?

For most of my life, I would have answered that question the same way almost anyone else who grew up in the modern Church would have answered it. The gospel is about the offer of salvation and forgiveness of sins through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Right?

Let’s examine the scriptures to see what the Bible has to say on the subject.

Many Gospels?

Throughout Scripture, there are many instances where you will see the word “gospel” accompanied by a descriptor. Some of the examples we see are “the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Mark 1:1), “the gospel of God” (Mark 1:14), “the gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 4:23), “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24), “the gospel of your salvation” (Ephesians 1:13), and “the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15). Does this mean there are many different gospels? And if there is no descriptor included, how can we know which gospel is being referenced?

In general, our culture has done a good job of proclaiming a gospel of salvation. The problem is that the Bible depicts the gospel as something more than just our own personal salvation, as evidenced above. Yet, we often miss the full gospel because we tend to focus on just one aspect of it. While there is certainly only one gospel, it manifests itself in many different ways.

Perhaps the best question we should ask is, “Which gospel did Jesus preach?”

The Gospel of the Kingdom of God

If we go back again to the first recorded words of Jesus, we see Him speaking about the coming “kingdom of God” (Mark 1:15). In Matthew 9:35, we also see that “Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom.” In Luke 4:43, Jesus even goes so far as to say, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God…for I was sent for this purpose.”

Have you ever truly noticed that before? Jesus is saying the very purpose He was sent to Earth was to preach the gospel, or the “good news,” of the kingdom of God. But did the focus of the gospel change after Jesus’ death and resurrection? According to Acts 1:3, “He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” So even after his resurrection, Jesus continued to speak about the kingdom of God.

The Apostle Paul preached the very same gospel. While living for two years in Rome, Acts 28:23 tells us that “from morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.”

Paul wasn’t the only apostle preaching this message either. In Acts 8, we’re told that the Apostle Philip “preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ.”

What’s interesting is that both the good news (the “gospel”) of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus were preached. This indicates that the message of the gospel and the message of the person of Jesus are not the same message. The gospel of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel of the kingdom, the gospel of the grace of God, the gospel of your salvation, the gospel of peace – these are all the same gospel, because they all point to the same thing: the coming kingdom of God. When Christ comes again, ushering in his Kingdom to begin his millennial reign here on Earth, the good news is that those of us counted among the righteous will be there with him (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

You can’t remove Jesus from the gospel. Without Him, there is no gospel. But if we only preach a gospel of salvation, then we reduce the gospel to merely a benefit. We may currently understand the gospel in relation to how it affects our lives today, but Jesus wants us to know how the gospel impacts us after we die. Salvation is our entry point into the Kingdom of God, but salvation is only a one time event. The Kingdom of God is forever.

Christianity

Are You Taking Jesus Out of Christianity?

Recently Bruxy Cavey (teaching pastor at The Meeting House) shared,

“Christianity – Jesus = Hate empowered Religion”

When I heard this, I had to write it down and reflect on it. The issue Bruxy is digging into is how we love people. It reminded me of something I was reading this past month –  how easily people can shift to a form of Christianity which fully excludes the basic teachings of Jesus. It left me perplexed by the cultural and spiritual connection we hold to the term ‘Christian.’ How can a person call themselves Christian if they also overtly and outwardly deny the teaching of Jesus? Bruxy summarizes it well in saying that taking Jesus out would result in hate-empowered religion. Some might look at this and get bent out of shape on the suggestion made, but consider a few passages:

“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)

Do we apply the principal of loving others or are we filled with the idea of “them vs. us?” Do we really understand the teachings of Jesus and apply them to the life we lead and our desire to follow Jesus?

Here is a unique approach to answering those questions. Read the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5:3-11 and honestly react to the following questions:

-How does this change my attitude?

-Does my heart understand Jesus?

-How do we follow His teaching?

Once you have gone through the exercise, leave a note with your answers – I think you’ll be surprised by your own response.

Covenant

The Importance of a Covenant

“Do you promise?” Have you ever been on the receiving end of this question? Have you ever broken a promise or had someone break a promise to you? I am sure at one point or another we have all had our fair share of heartbreak when it comes to this word: promise. Thankfully, our relationship with God is not based on a halfhearted promise. Jesus didn’t pinky swear that if we loved and trusted Him, He would be in a relationship with us. No, instead He made much more than a promise, He made a covenant.

A covenant is different from a promise. A promise can be one sided and a promise is not dependent on another party doing anything. For instance, I can promise my husband that I will do the laundry and then not follow through with it. As you can quickly gage, a promise in today’s world does not mean it’s a guarantee. However, a covenant is much different. A covenant is made between two parties and is meant to never be broken. An example of this would be a marriage. However, because we live in an imperfect world, marriages sometimes fall apart. Yet, this is not the will of God. God desires marriage to be a covenant that reflects the relationship we have with Him. Often times in Scriptures, God refers to marriage as a picture of Christ loving His bride (true believers). Here is just one example of many,

 “Husbands. Love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church….” (Eph. 5:25)

Therefore, because God made a covenant with us, and we are not in a one sided relationship that is based on promises, we must learn the value of what a covenant truly means for our walk with Christ.

Throughout The Old Testament Scriptures we can study many covenants that God made with men like Adam, Abraham, Noah, Moses and David. The significance of these covenants still echo out and affect our faith today. However, the more I began to study covenants, the more I fell in love with the God I serve. I would like to share what I learned through a covenant made between two treasured friends: David and Jonathan. Here is what happened to signify the covenant that was transpiring,

“Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt.” (1Sa 18:3-4)

Now, at first glance, this may seem a bizarre way of beginning a covenant. Yet, this was very much based upon how God made covenants with men. Here are some questions you may be asking that I would like to answer:

Why did Jonathan exchange robes with David? What does this mean?

David was who God had appointed to be king of Israel through Samuel’s anointing. Yet, Jonathan was rightfully the next king in line. By exchanging robes, Jonathan was showing a sign of surrender, which was a way of giving his robe, or identity, away to David. In fact, as we go on in history, we see that Jesus, part of the Davidic family tree, did a similar thing for all of us. He became a man and took on our form  in order to cleanse us from sin. He humbled Himself and gave away His rightful rule and kingship (see Heb 2:14 and Luke 22:20).

What did the exchange of armor, sword and bow in 1 Samuel 18:4 symbolize?

When Jonathan gave David his weapons, it was a form of partnering and defending each other. Clearly, this was a risky move as David was still being sought after by King Saul. Yet, a crucial part of a covenant was protection (as the Scripture clearly stated). Likewise, Jesus came to defend and protect the weary and downtrodden, ultimately rescuing us all from our sins and becoming our one perfect defense.

David and Jonathan are good examples of keeping a covenant and understanding the importance of surrendering identity and defense. Likewise, we can see, with the example of a marriage, the importance of becoming one and honoring the other person by protecting their interests as your own. However, no covenant can be more powerful than a covenant with God. Think about the significance of God making a covenant with man (Abraham and therefore us also). When God made a covenant with Abraham there was one final step that must be mentioned: the shedding of blood.

In Gen. 22, when Abraham is asked to sacrifice his only son Isaac, a covenant is being made,

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you. Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you. Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.”

Abraham was confident that God would keep His covenant with him and provide an offering. There is power in a covenant and it cannot be easily broken. God Himself shed precious blood to provide not just a promise of Heaven to those who believed, but a covenant that they would be forever marked His beloved.

My hope for you is that you recognize through the example of marriage, friendship and God’s sovereignty with man through the shedding of blood, the significance of a covenant between two parties. We are able to enter into an impactful relationship with God because He exchanged garments with us, giving us new life for our old sinful rags. Additionally, Jesus became our defense to God, reconciling us back to Him. He shed his blood, a perfect sacrifice, to do much more than make a promise to us, rather He made a lasting covenant with us calling us His chosen people.

Blessed are the Meek

Blessed are the Meek

Have you ever given deep though to what Jesus meant when he said in Matthew 5:5,

“Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth”

You see, being meek is simply not valued in the 21st century. It is not a character trait that parents try to instill in their children. Yet, Jesus holds up meekness as a character trait that is to be valued and one that God rewards. A large part of the reason for this negative reaction to meekness has to be rooted in a false understanding of what meekness really means. Meekness has the dubious distinction of sounding far too much like weakness. What we need to understand from the start is that meekness has nothing at all to do with weakness. Meekness is much more about humbly knowing your place as you stand before God. I love this quote from Matthew Henry,

“The meek are those who quietly submit themselves before God, to His Word, to His rod, who follow His directions and comply with His designs, and are gentle toward men”

If you can stand before God knowing that you are a sinner who has nothing in yourself to commend you to God, yet also knowing that you are deeply loved by God and made in His image, then you can stand humbly with dignity.

So much of the violence and strife between people rests in the desire for respect. How often have you heard of violence being justified because someone felt “disrespected”? When people are shamed, ridiculed, put down or otherwise written off, there is a natural reaction to fight. People who do not fight back, or assert their rights, are viewed as weak. Yet look at Jesus and look at his journey to the cross. He did not fight back even though He had ten thousand angels waiting for him to simply say the word. He did not assert His rights even though the trial he endured was as unjust and illegal as they come. He did not cry out in protest even though His very words carried the power to bring the entire charade to a crashing halt. In spite of His refusal to respond, Jesus was anything but weak. He was meek in the best sense of the word, but He was also in that moment the strongest person on the planet. He had the strength to give His life for the very people who were shouting insults and pounding the nails. That kind of strength and courage only comes to those who have a humility that places the needs of others above their own.

How did Jesus do that? He understood who He was and what His relationship was to the Father. He was confident in His position before God. He was not boastful about it. In fact, He humbly set aside all notion of leveraging that relationship for His own benefit. But because of His love for the Father, and for people, Jesus meekly went to the cross.

But did he inherit the earth? Oh that and much more. In Paul’s Letter to the Philippians we are told that He has received a name above all names and that at the name of Jesus every knee will bend and every tongue confess that He is Lord. Jesus has received the place of honor on the throne of the universe and all will worship Him and give glory to the Father forever.

If you recognize that you are poor in spirit (what I call being spiritually bankrupt) and that recognition leads you to mourn your sin, then you will be humbled as you stand before God. You will know that you have nothing to bring and must fully rely on the grace of God. That meekness will also give you the strength to put others before yourself. The reward of such meekness is that the world, and all that is in it, really is yours. It is your inheritance for eternity. Jesus said that no matter what we have given up to follow Him we will have fathers and mothers and sisters and brothers and homes and blessings beyond measure.

Meekness is not weakness, it is a humble strength that comes from a knowledge of our sin and at the same time our acceptance by God our Father.

Blessed are the Pure in Heart

Blessed are the Pure in Heart

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

I have long wondered why ‘blessed are the pure in heart’ is my least favorite of the Beatitudes. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it has a lot to do with the fact that this is the one that I a clearly do not exemplify in my own life. The simple truth is, the more I look into my heart of hearts, the further from God I realize that I am. I keep getting reminded of the somewhat creepy sounding statement from the old radio show, The Shadow: “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.” You see, the issue is, the more I get to know Jesus the more I see the evil that lurks in my heart. Not only does the Shadow know, but I know and there is no psychological trick of denial that is strong enough, or effective enough, to cover over that fact and hide that truth.

The closer I get to Jesus the more I realize I am a despicable, sinful, self-centered, egotistical, covetous person. At this point you are all supposed to say, “oh no Dan, you’re wonderful, awesome, and godly, don’t be so hard on yourself, we love you”. Thanks. I appreciate the gesture, but that is exactly how our world tries to deal with the sinfulness of our hearts and it just doesn’t cut it. Denying that one has cancer will not get rid of the cancer. A correct diagnosis and surgery can. Denying the sin in my heart will not make my heart pure anymore than painting over the X-ray of the tumor will make it go away.

Now here is the huge irony in all of this. It rests in the statement “the closer I get to Jesus the more I realize how sinful I am”.  As the sin in our life gets dealt with and we grow to be more like Jesus, our heart is getting more pure. As a result we see who God is with greater clarity than ever. BUT, we also see the sin that remains with that same clarity. I may have been able to effectively deal with a mouth that swore like a drunken trucker before I came to Jesus. But as I get closer to Him I realize that sins of the heart, like envy or jealousy, are harder to deal with. And, as long as I don’t do something too overt to let that sin out, nobody else knows about. I look good on the outside, but the inside is not what it should be.

So what’s the answer? I found it in a 4th century book by St. Augustine titled, “Confessions”. In it I saw a man who learned to be honest about the sin in His heart. He exposed it to the light of truth. And just like a vampire from a Hollywood science fiction movie, it looses all power and crumbles to dust when exposed to the light. Sadly, Christians have learned to paint over and hide their heartfelt sins. We have learned not to expose them and make them known because we so quickly get rejected by other Christians who are threatened by the possibility of having to expose their own sin.

Jesus has a very different approach. It is called confession, repentance, and forgiveness. He deals with our sin and urges us to move on and get even closer to Him. But I want to warn you, when you do that you will find out even more of the things that lurk in your heart. A further part of the irony here is that the closer you get to God, the more you realize that you are farther from Him than you thought. As you see the glory and holiness of God more clearly, because your heartfelt sins are being dealt with, the more you see that you are not nearly as close to Him as you hoped. You are more sinful than you knew, and he is more holy than you ever imagined. But there is hope. Jesus makes a promise in this verse that if you continue to pursue a pure heart and are honest with Him about your sin, the day will come when you will stand before Him, face to face. You will be welcomed into His eternal kingdom. As Paul says, “now we see as if dimly in a mirror, but then we will see face to face.”