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It seems we commonly make the mistake of handling Biblical truth as nothing more than facts. In teaching and learning, we must come to understand the differences between the two.

  1. Facts are passive; truth is active (e.g., it makes people free, it is alive and powerful).
  2. Facts are for our head, to be analyzed; truth is for our hearts, to be believed.
  3. Facts are accessible to the whole human race; the truth is accessible only to those whom God gives ears to hear and eyes to see.

The teacher and the student both have responsibility in this regard. I mention this here because, though I did my best to fulfill my part, the following would be easily read as facts. If one does not force themself to receive it as truth, the desired effect will not be achieved.

Therefore, I encourage you to exercise your spiritual ears with a heart desiring to believe. God promises that, if you do so, He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).

Though we may not think of it this way, the Sermon on the Mount is a carefully constructed sermon. As we have discovered, the Beatitudes come first and in a particular, purposeful order. In them, the first listeners (and subsequent readers) are astounded and perplexed by Jesus’ characterization of kingdom citizens. Three dramatic and dynamic descriptions of our relationship with the world quickly follow: we are to be persecuted (vv.11-12) as God’s gifts of proverbial salt (v. 13) and light (vv. 14-16) to the world and for His Father’s glory.

Having given such a radical description of kingdom citizens and their assignment in the earth, Jesus must have felt that it was important to reassure the disciples that God’s Law and the words of His Prophets were fixed and eternal. He did not come to change the Father’s purposes and plans in the earth; rather, it was His assignment to fulfill them. Read the rest of this entry »

It is our hopeful contention that Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount so very early in His ministry to prepare those who would follow Him for the storms they would face in sharing and living it with others. The gospel of the kingdom of heaven – the good news of God’s reign in the hearts of His people – would be so radically counter-cultural, not only to the heathen Gentile, but to the Jew as well, that it was only fitting and fair to lay it out from the beginning. Full disclosure; nothing hidden.

As we read the Sermon two-thousand years later, we must use our imagination and consider the timing to appreciate God’s approach in the introduction of His New Covenant. It is both simple and instructional: Jesus first taught His followers about life in the kingdom so they could then observe Him walking it out before them and His Father. “He who hears these sayings of mine, and does them…” is the disciple-makers way.

So, what are we to do about these sayings of Jesus in the Beatitudes? Is there a way we should respond to them? Or, are we left to simply hope the blessings will one day be ours?

God intends for every Christian to respond to every offer of His grace in the same way: through faith. It is no coincidence that the process of faith begins with the hearing of faith (Romans 10:17), proceeds through obedience to the faith (Romans 1:5), and culminates with the work that perfects our faith (James 2:22). Indeed, the process of faith answers the question, “How should we study the Sermon on the Mount?” The only way to become a kingdom citizen is by grace, through faith.

The Sermon begins with the Beatitudes for this very reason. Read the rest of this entry »

Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart. That is God’s promise to His children in Psalm 37:4. The Hebrew behind “delight” literally means “to be soft”. Therefore, striving to be God’s pen (and nothing else), I often find myself writing from a desire or burden He has stirred in my heart.

That desire – the desire He has placed in my heart for this series of articles – is to participate with Him in raising up and fortifying houses that will stand in the storms of life; those houses being Christian people, families, and fellowships. Storms have always been indiscriminate; both good and evil people experience them more often than we would prefer. Storms can be devastating… and they can be opportunities.

Several significant storms are brewing over America and the world. They will likely continue into the rest of this decade. Many houses will fall under their pressure, including those of our sisters and brothers in Christ. These individuals, families, and fellowships will be looking around for a safe harbor. Jesus has promised that those who hear and do His sayings in the Sermon on the Mount will have well-founded and strong houses (i.e., places of refuge). From there, the wise builders will be positioned and purposed as God’s ministering agents.

Therefore, the purpose of this study is to both learn Jesus’ sayings and to discover how to “do them”. Read the rest of this entry »

When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, a spiritual amnesia set in; they no longer recognized who they were and who they were created to be. Eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil bound humankind’s ability to reason with our rebellious nature. In the process, mankind’s #1 enemy was unleashed. The carnal mind has been at enmity with God and His children ever since.

Our carnal mind, with help from Satan and the world, labors tirelessly to keep us trapped in the amnestic condition into which we are naturally born. Regrettably, Christians have not fared well of late in this regard. Many do not realize the attack continues even after we are spiritually reborn. One particularly critical battle front involves the way we think about the new life we have been promised in Jesus Christ.

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live… Galatians 2:20a

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

For whoever wants to save their life
will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.
Mark 8:35

As Jesus took our place in death, He must also take our place in life. Even after we become a new creature in Christ, we must lose our life to fully exist in His. Death and resurrection are not the same; they do not accomplish the same outcome. The transactions, so to speak, are different.

Even on this side of rebirth, God’s promises are conditional. We don’t get to keep our life and Jesus’, too. There is a connection that remains between the old and the new that cannot be fully severed until the new has been surrendered AND sacrificed. Read the rest of this entry »

I recently participated in a Facebook “conversation” regarding the value of Christ’s death in our salvation. Trying to encourage the other participants to look beyond the cross to the life that saves us, I referenced Romans 5:8-10.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

Confusion ensued, ultimately leading to this question: Rob, do you accept that one can have assurance of their salvation?

As most of you know, I try to “just be the pen” in everything I write. God was faithful to direct my fingers in the following response. I hope it encourages you to share with others. We need to be having these kinds of discussions in the body of Christ.

Our Answer (slightly edited): Of course you can have assurance of salvation, assuming God’s conditions are met (e.g., endure to the end (Matthew 10:22), abide and bear fruit (John 15:1-8), do not bury your talents (Matthew 25:24-30), avoid falling away (2Thessalonians 2:1-4)). In case you were wondering, I do not see these as the Christian’s work to procure salvation. They are the work of God appropriated by our continuing faith (which is also a gift, Ephesians 2:8-9).

Still, salvation requires participation (Philippians 2:12-13 describes this beautifully). Striving to enter is necessary (Luke 13:24). We must be diligent to add to our faith and make our call and election sure (2Peter 1:5-11). This is only possible in Christ and by the power of His resurrected life.

I fear that many are loitering around the cross, either worshipping the instrument of death or trying to worship a savior who is no longer there. They are not being instructed and encouraged to move on down the difficult road that leads to eternal life (Matthew 7:14).

The old man must be buried and the carnal mind subdued – both works of the Spirit, requiring our submission (Romans 8:13; Romans 12:2; 2Corinthians 3:18). We must walk in the newness of life that has been offered (Romans 6:4). That life is not our own (Mark 8:35). It is the resurrected life of Jesus Christ. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live… (Galatians 2:20)

And so, the bottom-line answer is: The one who continues to surrender, sacrifice, and submit their life to the lordship of Jesus Christ can have certain assurance of their salvation. Read the rest of this entry »

To hear sound doctrine is not enough; for hearing without doing produces self-deception (James 1:22), and a house that will not stand in the storms of life (Matthew 7:26-27).

To have faith in what we hear is not enough; for faith without works is dead (James 2:26).

To work – even supernaturally – is not enough; for only those who do the will of the Father will enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 7:21-23).

How do we know the will of the Father? We ask Him; AND we wait patiently for the answer.

The sufficiency for these things is not in ourselves; our sufficiency is from God (2Corinthians 3:5).

For this, there are conditions: Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow after Jesus (Luke 9:23), obey His commandments (John 14:15), abide and bear fruit (John 15:2), etc.

The sufficiency for this is not something given to us as an empowerment of our life – something we own and control. It comes from the Life that is now present and reigning within us. Read the rest of this entry »

The kingdom of heaven is like a mighty river that flows through our lives – the Kingdom River. There are people that visit the river on special occasions to temporarily enjoy its beauty and refreshing water. There are others that regularly go down to the river – bringing along their ski, pontoon, or fishing boat (and the occasional friend) for the various forms of entertainment these devices and the river might provide to them.

Some people enjoy the Kingdom River so much, they have built houses on its banks. As folks back home say, “they have a ‘place’ on the river.” They go to the river almost every weekend – to get away from the hustle and bustle of the world. Some of them even live in yachts and houseboats, floating right on top of the mighty river.

None of these people are river people. Most of them don’t even know that river people exist. Those who know a little something about the river people consider them quite odd and, if they will admit it, scary. Like the mysterious water people Elwin Ransom encountered in Perelandra, the true river people live in – AND BREATHE!! – the Kingdom River.

The river people are very much unlike everyone else. They do not have roots on land. They do not visit the mighty river on special occasions, or for regular entertainment. For them, the river is not a place to get away from the world.

Read the rest of this entry »

In Part One, we explored the importance of Jesus’ resurrection and our participation with Him in it. We discovered that, without His resurrection, our faith is futile (1Corinthians 15:16-17). Why? Because it is by His life, not His death, that we shall be saved (Romans 5:10).

Furthermore, in Part Two, we learned that our resurrection begins when we are born again, through faith in Jesus’ resurrection.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead… 1Peter 1:3

Paul encourages us to press on to the perfection found in the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:8-11); the exchange of our life for that of Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:20).

Moving on to our conclusion, we consider the words of Watchman Nee: “We thank God that the church has actually experienced this resurrection power.”

This truly begs the question: Have you and I? Read the rest of this entry »

Bible with Cross ShadowDid you know that the Bible was not written in chapter and verse form? Chapters were first introduced in 1227, by Stephen Langton. Verse divisions were introduced by Robert Stephanus in 1551. Chapter and verse divisions were added for the convenience of reference and quotation purposes.

However, “it must always be remembered that the divisions into chapters and verses are human-made. They are sometimes arbitrary, and they sometimes interfere with the sense of the passage. The divisions into chapters and verses can actually cause some problems.” See BlueLetterBible.org FAQ by Don Stewart for more on the challenges that chapter and verse introduce in Bible interpretation.

Having chapter and verse divisions certainly makes it easier to find passages and direct others to them. It also makes for convenience in summarizing a series on “These Sayings of Mine”. So, with care to avoid any problems such delineation may cause, here is a brief summary of Matthew, chapter 5. Read the rest of this entry »

Bible with Cross ShadowYou are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:13-16

In this saying of Jesus, He moves from the potential conditions of the Beatitudes – states of being that are only possible through His life – to the absolute reality of our existence as salt and light. Notice He did not say His disciples “would be” salt and light. Here, at the beginning, without training and revelation, without death, burial and resurrection, they are salt and light; as are we.

This reminds me that it was soon after calling them that Jesus sent them to preach the gospel of the kingdom to the surrounding towns and villages (Mark 6:7-12). Apparently, their willingness to follow Him created, or released, something in their being. There is a very powerful suggestion here that a follower of Jesus Christ can be immediately effective in ministry. If it was true for the first disciples, how much more for those that have His resurrected life and the Holy Spirit’s power?

So, what do we “do” with these salt and light sayings? Let me suggest a few things for your prayerful consideration: Read the rest of this entry »

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