‘Works of Faith’ and the ‘Royal Law’ as Elements of ‘The Great Commission’

BLCF: living_the_Great_Commission

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Works of Faith’ & the ‘Royal Law’ as Elements of ‘The Great Commission’

© September 18, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on April 28, 2013 

BLCF: September-18-2016

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Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading 622; Prayer                  

Opening Hymn #484: It Only Takes a Spark, Choruses                                         

Tithing and Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                               

Today’s Scriptures: Matthew 25:31-46; 5:43-48; 16:27; 1 John 4:11-12

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Let us pray…

Good morning and what a glorious demonstration of the awareness God’s love and His presence is expressed in our opening hymn, ‘It Only Takes a Spark’. The author was inspired by verse from 1 John 4:11-12 (ESV):

11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 

Both the verse and hymn reveal important aspects of the believer’s faith walk. Verse 11 of 1 John 4 implores Christians to love one another in the same manner as God loves us. Remember for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son for our salvation, even though we are unworthy of such an expression of love. Verse 12 reminds us that though God remains unseen, by loving one another, we receive God’s presence by way of the Holy Spirit. And the love of God is perfectly expressed in us when we share that love with others and God. Remember that Jesus taught us that the Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses for the people of Israel, our Lord indicated may be expressed as two simple commandments: one is love to God, the second being love to one another. Together, these two commandments often referred to as the Royal Law as we read in Matthew 22:37-39 (ESV):

 

The Royal Commandment

                                                 The Royal Law

37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Note that we are not instructed to just love our family, to love only friends or to express our love solely to other believers. There is a common expression of someone who is ‘preaching to the choir’, in other words restricting the expression of our love and ministry solely to other believers. That is not what Jesus had in mind when he issued the Great Commission, just before ascending to Heaven, Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV):

 

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16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

You may recall that Jesus taught his disciples not only by his Holy Words but by his example. Jesus washed the feet of the disciples to teach the disciples humility and awareness that we are messengers of God, and we must teach others as servants of God. This falls in line with how our Lord ministered to those who were considered outcasts not even permitted to worship in the temple: a prostitute, a blind man, a cripple and even the criminal crucified beside Jesus. Associating with any of these outcasts was not permitted by Jewish laws. Note that neither the Ten Commandments nor the Royal Law  from Jesus, instruct believers to shun or to avoid associating with non-believers or those judged to be sinful because of an affliction or criminal past. In fact, by avoiding non-believers, how can one make disciples of all nations, not just the nation of Israel and not just to make disciples other believers in Christ? The Christian Way was not intended to be an exclusive club or organization, The Way describes an inclusive faith that is to be made available to everyone throughout our world. We are to preach and teach the Way of Jesus both by action and in word to all whom we encounter.

The Lord’s Commission issued before his Ascension will be subject to a Final Judgement by Jesus on His return, as we read in Matthew 25:31-46 (ESV) entitled: The Final Judgment:

Sheep anf Goats

The Final Judgment

 

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

This judgment, also known as the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, expresses the Lord’s warning that it is not enough just to confess sins and say that Jesus is your savior, to be judged righteous by Him. It is our attitude towards those whom we may tend to avoid: the homeless, the sick, the destitute, criminals, and strangers than counts. We are instructed not only to associate with them but to care for them. For by caring for the least of these, we demonstrate our love of God, by following Jesus’ example. If we shun them, even though we may claim our behavior righteous, we will suffer the same judgment as will the devil and the fallen angels: eternal fire as a punishment. This verse indicates that faith is more than solely performing acts of charity. Faith is how we express our love to our Lord, by loving those whom many of society may despise.

This attitude expression of Christian faith is reinforced in James 2, where the Lord views holding a negative bias towards others as a sin as we see in James 2:1-13 (ESV) The Sin of Partiality:

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1My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

By judging others to be not worthy of our attention or love, we bring the same judgment down upon ourselves.

So, if I volunteer to help out at BLCF Cafe Community Dinner, so that I may brag about it others or because I believe that I am better than some or all of the guests or other volunteers, I am committing the sin of partiality over others and defying God’s will and purpose for His followers.

It may surprise some that by expressing just a biased or partial attitude against another; we have broken God’s law and are subject suffer the same judgment given if we had murdered another person. We cannot twist God’s rules to suit our desires, Adam and Eve already made that mistake.

But one may argue, isn’t faith just a belief and as such expressed in prayers, blessings, and good words to others?  That is all we need to do to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, right? We find the answer in the rest of James 2:14-26 (ESV) entitled Faith Without Works Is Dead:

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14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

While salvation is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. This does not mean that a believer’s faith cannot be without an expression of works. The so-called believers who gave God’s blessing, only, to those in need when they can give more, will be judged the same as if they have rejected God, just as Satan had rebelled against His authority.

The third verse  teaches that that Christians should embrace others outside the faith, that is to show the love of Christ to those who are not brothers and sisters in Christ is found in Matthew 5:43-48 (ESV) entitled Love Your Enemies:

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43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.                                                

What these verses allude to, is the danger of performing actions of faith with a design to promote ourselves or from a motivation of fear of punishment, rather than out of love and respect for God and others. After all, this was the mistake of Adam and Eve, who sinned seeking to elevate themselves to the same level as God, by eating the forbidden fruit. A prideful disregard of God’s instructions had very bad consequences for them. Acts of selfless love to strangers, our enemies and the undeserving, as Christ did for each of us on Cross at Calvary, is the only way to assure our own forgiveness and salvation. This is as much a change in attitude, as it is behavior that is needed in order for us to become righteous in the Lord’s eyes. And we know that judgment will come. Matthew 16:27 (ESV):

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27For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.

Therefore as followers and believers in the Resurrected Christ, it is good to reflect upon what we do and say, and why?  Are our words and deeds done out of a desire to demonstrate the love of Christ to all we meet? Or are we motivated by a need to promote ourselves above others, perhaps to the same level of God, as did Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden? Our answer to each of these questions will indicate what judgment we may expect from the Lord on that final day and demonstrate how much we have allowed the Holy Spirit to transform ourselves in our faith walk.

Fortunately, if our actions are selfish rather than selfless, it is not too late to change our ways and seek to demonstrate His love to others, especially to those whom we dislike or despise. For if God loved us to sacrifice His son for us. who have offended Him through sin,  surely we can demonstrate Christ-like love and forgiveness to those who offend us. Let us seek a revival in our own personal faith walk, by walking in the footsteps of Christ, and guided by the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #358: We Praise Thee, O God

Benediction (Romans 15:5-7): May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

BLCF: Rmans15-5-7

 

You’re Invited: BLCF Church Potluck Picnic, following this Service at St. Helen’s

 

BLCF Church Potluck Picnic Sunday September 18, 2016

BLCF Church Potluck Picnic Sunday – September 18, 2016

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BLCF: picnic-potluck-version

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Guided by the Beatitudes

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Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Guided by the Beatitudes

© June 22, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin June 22, 2014

Originally Published October 18, 2009

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Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #664 (About Spiritual Gifts – 1 Corinthians 12); Prayer

Hymn #22: Hymn 204: There’s A Quiet Understanding; Choruses

Tithing & Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings

Today’s Scriptures: Exodus 20:1-17, Galatians 5:22-23,and Matthew 5:3-11

 

Exodus 20:1-17 (ESV) The Ten Commandments

20 And God spoke all these words, saying,

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before[a] me.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands[b] of those who love me and keep my commandments.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

13 “You shall not murder.[c]

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

15 “You shall not steal.

16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Footnotes: a. Exodus 20:3 Or besides b. Exodus 20:6 Or to the thousandth generation c. Exodus 20:13 The Hebrew word also covers causing human death through carelessness or negligence

 

Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Matthew 5:1-11 (ESV) The Sermon on the Mount

5 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

The Beatitudes

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

“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.

“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[a] of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 5:9 Greek huioi; see Preface

 

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Let us pray…

In spite of our sinful nature, that began in the Garden of Eden, the Bible records that God has faithfully provided mechanisms for guiding believers along the “Paths of Righteousness”.

 

Before the advent of Jesus, whose sacrifice on the cross, subsequent resurrection, and ascension allowed those who believe in him to be sanctified by the Holy Spirit, God gave the People of Israel the Ten Commandments, which we find in Exodus 20:1-17. These laws gave a nation of former slaves’ rules to guide the people along God’s path.

 

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Over time, the Commandments were been expanded into what is commonly called the Laws of Moses or Mosaic Laws, comprising three Codes. The first Code is composed of the 10 Commandments. The second Code consists of the Ordinances, a set of Spiritual specifications which include: description of the Tabernacle, Holy Days, acceptable offerings and activities or responsibilities of the priesthood. The third Code may described as a set of Social rules governing such things as diet, sanitation, quarantine, soil conservation, taxation, marriage, slavery, etc. Many consider these comprehensive Mosaic Laws as the foundation or template of our modern legal system.

 

While the first code was given by God to Moses by God, the second and third were a human attempts to expand or embellish the original ten by covering every possible facet of society. Most importantly, as the manmade Laws grow in number and complexity, in an attempt to address each new situation, there comes a tendency to forget the importance of the original 10 Commandments and Who authored them among the books of minor laws, rules and guidelines.

 

Jesus came to do away with the Laws of Moses, as we read in Mathew 5:17, Jesus said that not that he came to destroy the law, or the prophets: but he came to fulfill them, and by his death and resurrection bring the Holy Spirit to those who believe. All of humanity is guilty of breaking one law or another, which brings a judgment of death. Jesus came and took upon himself that judgment to all who believe in the Lord. The influence of Holy Spirit is the key to God’s plan for providing guidance to Christian believers to keep following along His path.

 

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What is the Holy Spirit? Let us go to wikipedia.org for our Wiki bits answer.

What is the Holy Spirit?

Within mainstream Christianity the Holy Spirit is one of the three persons of the Trinity. As such he is personal and also fully God, co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father and God the Son. He is different from the Father and the Son in that he proceeds from the Father (or from the Father and the Son) as described in the Nicene Creed. His sacredness is reflected in the New Testament gospels (e.g., Mark 3:28-30, Matthew 12:30-32, and Luke 12:8-10), which proclaim blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as unforgivable.

The Holy Spirit is believed to perform specific divine functions in the life of the Christian or the church. These include:

  • Conviction of sin. The Holy Spirit acts to convince the unredeemed person both of the sinfulness of their actions, and of their moral standing as sinners before God.
  • Bringing to conversion. The action of the Holy Spirit is seen as an essential part of the bringing of the person to the Christian faith. The new believer is “born again of the Spirit”.
  • Enabling the Christian life. The Holy Spirit is believed to dwell in the individual believers and enable them to live a righteous and faithful life. The word Paraclete is specifically applied to the Holy Spirit in this regard. A paraclete is one who intercedes on our behalf, a comforter or an advocate.
  • Inspiration and interpretation of scripture. The Holy Spirit both inspires the writing of the scriptures and interprets them to the Christian and/or church.

 

The Holy Spirit is also believed to be active especially in the life of Jesus Christ, enabling him to fulfil his work on earth. Particular actions of the Holy Spirit include:

  • Cause of his birth. According to the gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus, the “beginning of His incarnate existence”, was due to the Holy Spirit.
  • Anointing him at his baptism.
  • Empowerment of his ministry. The ministry of Jesus following his baptism (in which the Holy Spirit is described in the gospels as “descending on Him like a dove”) is conducted in the power and at the direction of the Holy Spirit.

 

And most importantly the Holy Spirit is God’s way of pouring his love into our hearts Romans 5:5(NIV): And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_spirit

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As a Christian, I believe that the Holy Spirit enables direct communication with God giving discernment of God’s will. The Holy Spirit guides and empowers. But what can a believer do to draw closer to our Lord and to facilitate or augment the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our lives?

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First, as believers, God, through the Holy Spirit makes available to us what is described as fruit of the Spirit. The fruit is described by the apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22-23:

“The fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

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Evangelist Rick Warren believes that fruit of the Spirit becomes evident as a sign of Christian Maturity:

Rick Warren’s Session – INCREDIBLE!

 

What causes relational conflict? Immaturity. It’s easy to measure financial and evangelical growth…but how do you measure spiritual growth?

Marriage counseling can be summed up in two words–GROW UP!

The proof in spiritual maturity is love! I Corinthians 13:11

Most churches are full of people who talk and relate to others in childish ways.

Maturity is relational–not intellectual. Jesus said love God and love others are the two MOST IMPORTANT commands.

A person can attend church all of their life and never mature…they are cranky, rude, irritable…how can some people attend all of their life and not love people?

The church should focus on two main aspects of meeting together–large group and small group.

Sometimes you have to kill something in order to start something new.

Rick said at one time his prayer was not, “Oh God, build a great church,” but, “Oh God, get me through Sunday!”

Discipleship is about turning the audience into an army!

“We practice church discipline in this church.  we’ve disciplined people for not paying their bills.  We’ve disciplined people for borrowing money from other church members and not paying them back!”

If maturity was perfection then none of us would be mature.

One day pastors will stand before God and be held accountable for their spiritual maturity!  (DANG)

How do you know when a church/person is mature?  Simple–when something is mature it bears fruit! (Matthew 7:17-20 and John 15:8)

http://perrynoble.com/blog/rick-warrens-second-session-incredible

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However, Fruit of the Spirit given through salvation, which the gift of the Holy Spirit is free, not of works, lest anyone should boast. To grow the fruit of the Spirit does require conscious effort on our part as believers. For any of you who have grown fruit in the garden, must realize that it takes time, you may not get fruit in the first season. You must plant, water, prune, fertilize, spray, and protect a tree. You must provide the right soil and climate to allow the fruit to grow and prosper. And you must be persistent and patient to see fruit grow and mature.

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But you may ask what are some concrete examples or evidence of these spiritual fruit? Jesus began his Sermon on the Mount with eight statements known as the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-11).

1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

2. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

3. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

5. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

6. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

8. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the

Kingdom of heaven.

9. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

10. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

 

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Some Biblical scholars consider the 9th Beatitude as part of the 8th one. One is Ronald G. Falconberry, writing in Moral Ethics and the Beatitudes: Righteous Code of Conduct is Revealed in the Sermon on the Mount helps us understand the meaning of this scripture:

Each beatitude reveals a moral philosophy or code of ethics which God desires in everyone. Those who embrace those moral values will receive God’s blessings.

While the Law of Moses judged men by their actions without looking at their motives, the Beatitudes reveal that God looks at each person’s heart because whatever is in the heart is what leads one to actions:

Jesus began his Sermon on the Mount with eight statements known as the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10). Each beatitude reveals a moral philosophy or code of ethics which God desires in everyone. Those who embrace those moral values will receive God’s blessings.

While the Law of Moses judged men by their actions without looking at their motives, the Beatitudes reveal that God looks at each person’s heart because whatever is in the heart is what leads one to actions.

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit for Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

The “poor in spirit” in the first beatitude are those who are not self-centered. According to Proverbs, “The Lord detests all the proud of heart” (16:5) but God will bless those who acknowledge their need for God’s grace and humble themselves.

As James writes, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:10)

Blessed are Those Who Mourn for They Will be Comforted

The second beatitude refers to a spiritual mourning. Those who recognize that they are lost in sin can, in their sorrow, accept the gift of salvation from God and be comforted to know they have the promise of eternal life in heaven.

As it is written in Revelation 7:17, “For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Blessed are The Meek for They Will Inherit the Earth

The word meek in the third beatitude does not refer to a weak or spineless person but to a strong person who submits to God’s control. Although Jesus was meek, he overturned tables in the temple and drove the money changers out on two separate occasions (John 2:2-25; Matthew 21:12-17) and publicly denounced the Jewish leaders’ corruption of the Law (Matthew 23).

The meek are those who submit to God’s will but are willing to stand up and confront evil and injustice. As Jesus stated in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Blessed are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

The fourth beatitude alludes to those who desire to live moral and virtuous lives. Those who accept Jesus as their savior and attempt to live Christ-centered lives will receive righteousness. Paul writes, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:22).

Blessed are the Merciful for They will be Shown Mercy

In the fifth beatitude, the merciful are those who reach out to help those in need or forgive those who wrong them. God will remember their love as James, the brother of Jesus, wrote, “because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2:13)

Blessed are the Pure in Heart for They will See God

The pure in heart work to keep themselves unpolluted by the spiritual filth of the world. The sixth beatitude promises that God will bless those who try to keep themselves morally clean. In Ezekiel 36:26, the prophet writes, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you” and, as Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Blessed are the Peacemakers for They will be Called Sons of God

The seventh beatitude refers to those who love peace and work to prevent or resolve conflicts or disagreements. This does not mean simply appeasing people or watching quietly while contentious activities occur; instead, peacemakers attempt to establish a healthy relationship based on truth and righteousness.

Romans 14:19 says, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”

Blessed are Those Who are Persecuted Because of Righteousness for Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

Paul writes that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Even Jesus died for his righteousness; however, the eighth beatitude promises the ultimate blessing.

As Paul later wrote, “Now, there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8)

Beatitudes Help Develop Quality of Character

People work their entire lives to accumulate or achieve wealth, fame and power, which bring material rewards. Christians believe, however, that those who live by the code of conduct outlined in the Beatitudes and pursue righteous lives, will develop the quality of character God wants his followers to have and will ultimately be blessed with an eternity in Heaven.

https://suite.io/ronald-g-falconberry/1txm2fy

BLCF: Langstaff_SS_logo

 

I was fortunate to attend a high school in Richmond Hill which had no bells between classes. If you were absent you wrote your own notes to sign yourself in or out. The expectation was if a student were given responsibility, he or she would grow and mature if the rules of conduct were minimized. The slogan of Langstaff Secondary was and is “Maturity through Responsibility”.“ As believers in Christ, God has removed the old rules or laws and provided, through the Holy Spirit, provided a beautiful and simple way for us to grow and mature, by accepting the responsibility of our spiritual maturity. He has given us his Beatitudes by which each of us may use to measure our spiritual growth on a personal level.

Through the gifts from God’s Holy Spirit, believers are expected to apply Spirit-given gifts in a manner described by the Lord’s Beatitudes in order to grow in the Spirit and bear fruit of the Spirit. And when we bear fruit of the Spirit, we draw closer to His presence with the help of the Holy Spirit. While each of us may have been given different gifts from the Spirit, we only are blessed by our gifts when we use those gifts in a manner, as for the common good described in the Lord’s Beatitudes, which the Apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 12:4-7.

 

1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (ESV)

BLCF" 1Corinthians_2012

 

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #451: I Have Decided To Follow Jesus

Benediction (Numbers 6:24-26):

 The Lord bless you and keep you;  

the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;

 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

 

BLCF: The-Beatitudes

 

Keeping Jesus as Lord in Our Words and Heart

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Keeping Jesus as Lord in Our Words and Heart’

© May 26, 2013, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin May 26, 2013

Let us pray…

The message shared at BLCF last Sunday, described how those who view religion with a purely legalistic outlook without faith, can act like excess baggage and impede their faith walk. As a specific example, we looked at the Pharisee, Nicodemus, who had difficulty with Jesus’ teachings about being born again in the Spirit. Though Nicodemus had head knowledge of God’s laws in the scriptures, he had little or no faith understanding of God’s spiritual intent behind those commandments. Without faith or belief that Jesus came to end our judgment under the law, we face the impossible task of being perfect within the law to prevent our own condemnation. The conclusion of last week’s message was that all the other things of this world are of little importance to God, except our faith in Him, which God desires most from us. To grow our faith, we need to discard the excess baggage of the world, focus on the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the gospel of the Jesus.

 

Unwanted Baggage

Excess Baggage

 

So you may ask what are the risks of taking a purely legalistic approach to our faith? Before we discuss the penalty or remedy, let’s talk about which laws which govern us. We have two sets of laws that were given to the people of Israel. First, we have God’s 10 Commandments, written on stone tablets by God, and were carried inside the Arc of the Covenant. Next, we have the Ceremonial Law or Mosaic Law, written by Moses, which was carried as a book on the side of the Arc of the Covenant. There is an illustration in today’s bulletin which helps us to distinguish one from another.

God expects us to abide by His 10 Commandments.  Now the legalist might question the name of these God given laws.

 

God's Ten Commandments

God’s Commandments

 

According to Wikipedia, the Ten Commandments are called, in biblical Hebrew, עשרת הדברים (transliterated Asereth ha-D’bharîm) and in Rabbinical Hebrew עשרת הדברות (transliterated Asereth ha-Dibroth), both translatable as “the ten words”, “the ten sayings” or “the ten matters”. The Tyndale and Coverdale English translations used “ten verses”. The Geneva Bible appears to be the first to use “tenne commandements”, which was followed by the Bishops’ Bible and the Authorized Version (the “King James” version) as “ten commandments”. Most major English versions follow the Authorized Version.

The English name “Decalogue” is derived from Greek δεκάλογος, dekalogos, the latter meaning and referring to the Greek translation (in accusative) δέκα λόγους, deka logous, “ten words”, found in the Septuagint (or LXX) at Exodus 34:28 and Deuteronomy 10:4.

The stone tablets, as opposed to the commandments inscribed on them, are called לוחות הברית: Luchot HaBrit, meaning “the tablets of the covenant”.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Commandments

So it is not surprising that some scholars will even confuse Ceremonial Laws of Moses with God’s Commandments. It is the Ordinances and Decrees that Jesus removed by His crucifixion, not God’s 10 Commandments.

Just as important as keeping God’s Laws, both to God and ourselves, is the need to keeping faith with the Lord. While a legalist may say that they abide by both the law and the spirit of the law. But that is not the same as abiding by the law of the spirit, which is, in essence, keeping the faith with the Lord.

In today’s first Scripture verse, Luke 11:37-52, we have Jesus invited by a Pharisee to dine with him. Remember from last week’s account of Nicodemus that the definition of a Pharisee is as follows:

Pharisee (noun):

 1.  a member of an ancient Jewish sect that differed from the Sadducees chiefly in its strict observance of religious practices, liberal interpretation of the Bible, and adherence to oral laws and traditions.

 2.  a self-righteous person; a hypocrite.

The Pharisee was astonished that Jesus did not wash before dinner, which was a Jewish Ceremonial observance, not for reasons of hygiene. The washing supposedly made one clean before God, something mandated by man, not by God. The reaction of the Pharisee gave Jesus an opportunity to criticise the Pharisee for being focused on the relative superficiality of being focused on outward appearances and what is on the inside, where greed and wickedness contradict an outward demeanor of righteous. Jesus gave the desire to have the best seats in the synagogues and the desire to be acknowledged in the public marketplaces as examples of the Pharisee’s greed. As for wickedness, Jesus pointed to Pharisee injustice to others and avoidance of love to God.

When a lawyer objected to what Jesus said, by characterizing these truthful observations as an insult not just to the Pharisees, but as an insult to lawyers as well. By defending the criticisms that Jesus made of the Pharisees and siding with them, the lawyer attempted to try to make such behaviour as righteous and justified. This opened the door for Jesus to observe how lawyers do behave fit the definition of a Pharisee, being self-righteous hypocrites. Jesus commented how the lawyers saw fit to burden people, rather than to help them. Jesus spoke of the hypocrisy shown by building tombs and monuments to the prophets who were killed by the fathers of the lawyers. And being educated and learned, the lawyers have had an opportunity to practicing faith, which they not only avoided but acted as a stumbling block to others finding faith. This is a perfect example of one reading the scriptures with the mind, but not the heart. By obsessing over the words and not the intent of God’s word, they miss the true meaning of the scriptures for both themselves as well as for those to whom they read the verses.

But is missing the mark of comprehending and sharing the scriptures limited to just Pharisees and Lawyers? Do some Christians recite verses from the Holy Word by rote, as if the words alone have some magical power? Let’s have look at how Jesus taught us to pray.

How to pray

Lord’s Prayer – Sermon on the Mount

 

If you look on the back page of today’s bulletin, you will see two examples of what we commonly refer to as the Lord’s Prayer. The first recorded in the gospel of Luke, Chapter 11, verses 1-4, was a response to one of the disciples request to be taught how to pray, as John the Baptist had taught to his disciples. Thus we have:

2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say:

“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread,
4 and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”                                                                           

The other version of the Lord’s Prayer comes from Matthew, Chapter 6, verses 5 to 14, which is also found on the back of the bulletin, which Jesus spoke as part of His Sermon on the Mount. Before he began to pray, Jesus admonished those present not to behave like the hypocrites, who we now know to be the Pharisees:

5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this:                                                             

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you

But we see a variance between the two versions of the prayer, not only between those recorded in Luke and Matthew. We find differences in the same verse, from one Bible translation to another! How can this be? The best explanation may be found in the history of these translations:

The Lord’s Prayer is a central prayer in Christianity also commonly known as Our Father and in the Latin tongue as the Pater Noster. In the New Testament of the Christian Bible, it appears in two forms: in the Gospel of Matthew  as part of the Sermon on the Mount, and in the Gospel of Luke,which records Jesus being approached by “one of his disciples” with a request to teach them “to pray as John taught his disciples.” The prayer concludes with “deliver us from evil” in Matthew, and with “lead us not into temptation” in Luke. The first three of the seven petitions address God; the second four are prayers related to our needs and concerns. The liturgical form is Matthean. Some Christians, particularly Protestants, conclude the prayer with a doxology, an addendum appearing in some manuscripts of Matthew, but originating in an ancient Christian writing known as the Didache.

Though Matthew 6:12 uses the term debts, the older English versions of the Lord’s Prayer uses the term trespasses, while ecumenical versions often use the term sins. The latter choice may be due to Luke 11:4, which uses the word sins, while the former may be due to Matthew 6:14 (immediately after the text of the prayer), where Jesus speaks of trespasses. As early as the third century, Origen of Alexandria used the word trespasses (παραπτώματα) in the prayer. Though the Latin form that was traditionally used in Western Europe has debita (debts), most English-speaking Christians (except Scottish Presbyterians and some others of the Reformed tradition), use trespasses. The Established Presbyterian Church of Scotland, the Church of Christ, Scientist, as well as the Congregational denomination follow the version found in Matthew 6 in the Authorized Version (known also as the King James Version), which in the prayer uses the words “debts” and “debtors”.

The Latin version of this prayer has had cultural and historical importance for most regions where English is spoken. The text used in the liturgy (Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, etc.) differs slightly from that found in the Vulgate Jerome is considered to be responsible for changes such as the use of “supersubstantialem” instead of “cotidianum” as a translation of “ἐπιούσιον” (epiousios) in the Gospel of Matthew, though not in the Gospel of Luke.

The doxology associated with the Lord’s Prayer is found in four Vetus Latina manuscripts, only two of which give it in its entirety. The other surviving manuscripts of the Vetus Latina Gospels do not have the doxology. The Vulgate translation also does not include it, thus agreeing with critical editions of the Greek text.

In the Latin Rite liturgies, this doxology is never attached to the Lord’s Prayer. Its only use in the Roman Rite liturgy today is in the Mass as revised after the Second Vatican Council. It is there placed not immediately after the Lord’s Prayer, but instead after the priest’s prayer, Libera nos, quaesumus…, elaborating on the final petition, Libera nos a malo (Deliver us from evil).

There are several different English translations of the Lord’s Prayer from Greek or Latin, beginning around AD 650 with the Northumbrian translation. Of those in current liturgical use, the three best-known are:

Other English translations are also used.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord%27s_prayer

 

Hol;y Bible

Holy Bible

 

It is a common fallacy among some Christians and even certain Biblical scholars, that the Bible is based on one single set of manuscripts housed in some library, monastery or museum. All they have to do is go to this place and reference these ancient scrolls to obtain a definitive translation of the scriptures. This misconception likely comes from present lawgivers being able to see and reference the original historical documents such as the Canadian Charter of Rights, the US Constitution or the British Magna Charta.

Well, it is not quite that simple. Let us briefly look at where scholars obtained the source for the modern Bibles we use today:

 The Hebrew Bible or The Tanakh was mainly written in Biblical Hebrew, with some portions (notably in Daniel and Ezra) in Biblical Aramaic. From the 9th century to the 15th century, Jewish scholars, today known as Masoretes, compared the text of all known biblical manuscripts in an effort to create a unified, standardized text.

A series of highly similar texts eventually emerged, and any of these texts are known as Masoretic Texts (MT). The Masoretes also added vowel points (called niqqud) to the text, since the original text only contained consonant letters. This sometimes required the selection of an interpretation, since some words differ only in their vowels—their meaning can vary in accordance with the vowels chosen. In antiquity, variant Hebrew readings existed, some of which have survived in the Samaritan Pentateuch and other ancient fragments, as well as being attested in ancient versions in other languages.

The New Testament was written in Koine Greek.

The discovery of older manuscripts, which belong to the Alexandrian text-type, including the 4th century Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, led scholars to revise their view about the original Greek text. Attempts to reconstruct the original text are called critical editions. Karl Lachmann based his critical edition of 1831 on manuscripts dating from the 4th century and earlier, to demonstrate that the Textus Receptus must be corrected according to these earlier texts.

The autographs, the Greek manuscripts written by the original authors, have not survived. Scholars surmise the original Greek text from the versions that do survive. The three main textual traditions of the Greek New Testament are sometimes called the Alexandrian text-type (generally minimalist), the Byzantine text-type (generally maximalist), and the Western text-type (occasionally wild). Together they comprise most of the ancient manuscripts.

Alternative word order, the presence or absence of an optional definite article (“the”), and so on. Occasionally, a major variant happens when a portion of a text was accidentally omitted (or perhaps even censored), or was added from a marginal gloss. Fortunately, major variants tend to be easier to correct. Examples of major variants are the endings of Mark, the Pericope Adulteræ, the Comma Johanneum, and the Western version of Acts.

 

Dead Sea Scrolls

Old Scriptures

 

Early manuscripts of the letters of Paul and other New Testament writings show no punctuation whatsoever. The punctuation was added later by other editors, according to their own understanding of the text.

So we see that our current Bible comes from a variety of sources. Translators were supposed to use as many as 600 Greek manuscripts in order to avoid a skewed or misleading translation. Unfortunately, some of the early translators relied on as few as 40 Greek manuscripts in their translations, because geography and politics made universal access impractical. Over time the availability to more sources enabled corrections to the translations. A couple of years ago, while researching a message on the Holy Trinity, I came upon a good example of such a change. On the bottom of the second page of your bulletin, you will see two translations of 1 John5:7-8:

The King James states:

7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

And the English Standard states:

7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.

Changes to a verse’s translation by the removal, addition or change of the wording has led to some Christians claiming a demonic conspiracy in effect to alter the Word of God, particularly the King James Version when compared to the newer translations. This would be the kind of reaction one would expect from the Pharisees and scribes. Such disagreements are not the work of the Holy Spirit amongst the Christian body of believers and acts to hinder others from hearing the Gospel. Our commission is not to spend our time on petty arguments amongst ourselves over the merits of one translation over another, for the Spirit is absent from such debates. We are commissioned to share God’s Word and promote an appreciation and love for God, in order to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the help of the Holy Spirit. As the Apostle Paul said   in his epistle, Romans 10:5-13 (ESV), entitled: ‘The Message of Salvation to All’   

 

5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);    9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.     11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

 

Peace through the Holy Spirit

Peace through the Spirit

 

Again, we see that the key to salvation and forgiveness from God lies in our heart, as an expression of our faith in the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus, and our testimony to the truth of God’s love.

Let us pray…

Hymn #3: God, Our Father, We Adore Thee

Benediction (2 Corinthians 13:14): The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.