“And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: ‘Blessed…’” – Matthew 5:2 (and the first word of 3) (ESV)

I am so excited!  This Saturday I will begin an earnest, long, deep study of the Sermon on the Mount.  I am gathering research material and preparing my heart to hear what God has to say in these three amazing chapters of Matthew.  The fact is that the core – the very heart and definition – of Christianity is contained in these passages.  I have always been intrigued by the structure of these chapters, how they build in blocks on one another (the Beatitudes forming a foundation to build upon).  I am quite eager to dig deeper.

Tonight, as I was reading John Wesley’s notes on the gospel of Matthew, something struck me.  He writes that “to bless men, to make men happy, was the great business for which our Lord came into the world” (Wesley’s Notes on the Bible, p.17).  In 1755, when Wesley wrote this, I’m not sure that happiness meant quite the same thing it does today, with our modern preoccupation with comfort. 

But Christ surely came to bless us with unspeakable joy and amazing grace and boundless love.  It is beautiful to find that Jesus began laying out the foundation of what it means to be a Christian by teaching us who is blessed (and, by implication, who is not – even though, by the world’s terms, it would appear Christ got it backwards).

Blessed indeed we all are who follow Jesus Christ.  Blessed in ways we cannot even imagine.  Blessed in ways the world cannot see.  Blessed in the truest sense of the word.

Sing to the LORD, all the earth!
   Tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
   his marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised,
   and he is to be held in awe above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
   but the LORD made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
   strength and joy are in his place. – 1 Chronicles 16:23-27 (ESV)

Watch Out For That Car!

 “ ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything.” – 1 Corinthians 6:12 (ESV).

“ ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up.  Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” – 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 (ESV).

Grace frees us from the Law, but that doesn’t mean we are free to sin.  Grace frees us by changing our view from feeling compelled to follow the letter of the Law to wanting to love others and naturally following the Law thusly.  We are no longer motivated to simply avoid punishment.  Love now guides us to grace, because our minds and hearts are set on Jesus Christ and following the entirely selfless model He presented us. The Law (as laid out in the Old Testament) is a set of precepts designed to guide and teach us right from wrong.  Grace (as presented throughout the New Testament) is more a natural law – God’s non-legalistic way of doing things.

Not only that, but when we follow God’s precepts in love, we walk in wisdom.  Living a wisely-guided life benefits not only us, but others in our lives.  Wisdom and love equip us in our walk with Christ, enabling us to set a Godly example for others.

Look at it like this.  By law, pedestrians have the right-of-way.  However, one would not want to intentionally step out in front of a moving vehicle.  Why?  Even though it was permissible, walking into the path of a speeding car is definitely not “helpful” – to the pedestrian or the motorist.  The “natural law” of physics trumps the traffic regulations. 

By acting in wisdom and love, we put the betterment of others before ourselves.  It is important that we set the right example – for others and ourselves.  We never want to lead someone astray by our actions.  For example: you’re going out to eat with a friend.  You order a beer with your dinner.  Did you just sin by drinking one beer?  Not necessarily.  However, what effect is that one beverage having on your witness?  What if your friend interprets your actions as a green-light to overindulge?  It is far better to do without the indulgence that to risk leading someone to harm or offense.  Your witness as a Christian and your love walk are far more important.

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31-33 (ESV). 

Sufficiency in Service

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” – 2 Corinthians 9:8 (ESV)

Doing nothing is easy.  We can give ourselves all sorts of reasons not to move forward.  “I could never do that.”  “I’m not good enough.”  “I just don’t see how God could use me.”

If you have been feeling that gentle nudge to serve God in some capacity, don’t let excuses stop you.  Don’t worry about how well you will do.  It is God Who provides the results, so get busy!  Plug in and go about the business God is calling you to do.  Follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  Don’t let “I can’t” be a reason for not serving the body of Christ.  It is by the grace of God that we live and serve, not by our own power. 

Be obedient to God.  If what you are doing is His will, you will find His grace there.