Bible Study

This is a copy of the Sunday School Lessons presented to an adult class each Sunday.

Location: Spartanburg, South Carolina, United States

Retired, Lobbyist in Washington,DC - Management - BS Chemistry and various continuing education courses

Friday, February 12, 2016

Bible Study - Distinct (4) - Distinct in My Relationships - Matthew 5:27-32 - February 14, 2016

Bible Study – Distinct (4) – Distinct in My Relationships – February 14, 2016

This is lesson four (4) in our series entitled “Distinct: Living above the Norm.”

Our focus scripture is Matthew 5:27-32.

Hold on to purity at all costs.  

JESUS teaches Christian living in HIS message referred to as the “Sermon on the mount.” HIS message emphasizes that Christians are to be distinct and live noticeably different lives than the norm. It is vital that this distinct living come from the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit and for it to be a natural outflow of the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Trying to live the Christian life in one’s own strength is impossible and tiring. That is why it must come from a life that has been changed and is empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit through the renewing of the mind.

In Matthew 5:3-12, JESUS began HIS teaching by focusing on the character of HIS followers.

In Matthew 5:13-20, JESUS instructed HIS followers by commanding them to make their influence count for what matters, making them distinct in their influence.

In Matthew 5:20, JESUS concluded this portion of HIS message by stressing that the “greater righteousness” of those who follow HIM should surpass that of the scribes and Pharisee.

In Matthew 5:21-48, JESUS explained that “greater righteousness” can be a way of life only by having the right heart. HE addressed six examples from the Law and revealed what GOD intended for those laws to do in the hearts of HIS children - Murder Begins in the Heart, Adultery in the Heart, Divorce Practices Censured, Tell the Truth, Go the Second Mile and Love Your Enemies. Life is a partnership with GOD as we journey through life and our thought life is vital to this relationship.

In Matthew 5:48, JESUS admonished Christians to “be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect. That is impossible without the indwelling Holy Spirit but JESUS knew what was going to happen in a short time.
This week’s study focuses on the heart of Christians regarding sex and marriage.

Life is complex and entails many attitudes and natures. Our ancestral heritage opens us up to certain inclinations and proclivities. Our relationships with friends can be a good or a bad influence on our lives. Hormones play a role. 

All of these plus many other influences shape our physical lives and natures.
Accepting CHRIST as our Savior gives the opportunity for the indwelling Holy Spirit to rewire our minds through the renewing of our minds. Romans 12:1-2:

1 Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. 

2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Why do I say “gives the opportunity?” Our will can override the will of the Father. Christians must yield their wills to the Father, which is dying to self. 

The process of sanctification is designed to help us become more like CHRIST.

GOD knows it is a process and certain issues have to be brought to our conscience minds. Thus, the teaching of JESUS focused on the heart from which springs both good and bad attributes, of which, only the Holy Spirit can bring them under the authority and accountability of GOD as we allow.
When we, as humans, seek a relationship with GOD through religious practices, we tend to focus on the mechanical and not the deeper things that are harbored in our hearts, such as lust being equal to adultery or hatred being equal to murder, etc. Failing to recognize and acknowledge these attitudes hidden in our hearts, leaves them to develop, fester, grow and eventually result in inappropriate action especially for Christians.  JESUS focused on the heart or the core of a person who desires to be an obedient follower of HIM.

All Christians are sinners saved by GOD’S Grace through faith in GOD’S Only Son, JESUS. Christians can become self-righteous because we follow the letter of the Law and Commandments but fail to obey the Spirit of them. JESUS’ message is to every Christian. Let’s explore!

Let’s read Matthew 5:27-30:

Adultery in the Heart

27 "You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery. 

This was a general teaching in Judaism. Many prided themselves on never committing such an act. However, JESUS goes deeper.
Adultery refers to a married person having sex with another person. Fornication is generally used when referring to sex between unmarried people. Adultery and fornication were both tied to the worship of pagan gods. For those in covenant with GOD becoming involved with pagan gods was an adulterous act because covenant with GOD was broken. GOD looks upon marriage as a covenant made in the presence HIM and must be honored as HE honors HIS covenants through thick and thin.

JESUS is about to burst the balloon of the pious religious leaders.

28 But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 

Notice that JESUS speaks with authority “I tell you.” Typically the Jewish teachers referred to some other authority such as the Torah or a sage rabbi to support what they were about to state. Here we read that JESUS was speaking with authority and HE applied HIS message to “everyone.”

HE used the word “looks.” The word “looks” as used in the original Greek means a prolonged or repeated look. It is more than a casual or normal look at a woman or man other than the person’s wife or husband.

Lust raises its head in the Garden of Eden as we read Genesis 3:6:

6 Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom.

The Jewish religious leaders had a strict interpretation of adultery meaning the physical act.

JESUS was addressing the Spirit of the Law, which goes deeper than keeping the letter of the Law. Some may say that they cannot help lusting. JESUS had the cure.

Simply do something about it. Looking upon another person with lust in your heart is a form of an addiction and must be dealt with quickly and kept under control or else it can lead to acting upon it.  Lust is the gateway to envy, coveting, greed, the act of adultery, possible murder, opening oneself to allowing evil into your life and it breaks barriers and eventually destroys. 

JESUS taught that Christians are to deal with lust aggressively.

29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 

My brother-in-law told me of a man in our hometown who was castrated in order to keep him from lusting.

30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell!

Did JESUS really mean to physically take such drastic action, if necessary yes. The key message is that lust is serious and it is easy to be frivolous about the desire, after all men will be men and women will be women, etc. Lust opens the world to fantasies and fantasies can unknowingly open a person up to the evil one – pornography, unhealthy sexual desires and the list goes on.

Let’s read Matthew 5:31-32:

Divorce Practices Censured

31 "It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife must give her a written notice of divorce. 

Divorce was addressed by Moses as recorded in Deuteronomy 24:1:

1 If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, hand it to her, and send her away from his house. 

JESUS taught in Matthew 19 and pinpointed the problem of divorce:

3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” 

4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 

5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 

6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Covenant)

7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” 

8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 

9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” 

The hardness of the heart is the problem. The covenant relationship of marriage has not been taken seriously.

There were two first century schools of teaching from two sage rabbis – Hillel and Shammai. 

The school of Hillel taught that a man could divorce his wife “for any good cause.” If she burned the food or did not iron his shirt like he liked, the husband could divorce his wife. He had to give her a certificate of divorce that was to protect the woman. 

The school of Shammai taught that divorce was permitted only after marital infidelity. JESUS taught that divorce was permitted but not required. JESUS knew the importance of keeping a covenant once cut or made. You can read more about covenant in Genesis 15:17-18:

17When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. (Cut pieces)

18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram ----

GOD joins together that which is split apart. When JESUS gave HIS life upon the cross, the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place in the temple was torn from top to bottom. JESUS gave HIS life by the shedding of HIS blood to establish a new covenant. As a result of the new covenant, as humans, we can all approach GOD directly through faith in JESUS. JESUS stated it well in John 14:6:

6 Jesus told him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Salvation is the beginning process of sanctification.

32 But I tell you, everyone who divorces his wife, except in a case of sexual immorality, = fornication, or possibly a violation of Jewish marriage laws causes her to commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

GOD spoke through the Prophet Malachi regarding the husband wife relationship and divorce as we read:

Malachi 2:14b and 16:

---- the wife of your marriage covenant

“I hate divorce,” says the LORD GOD of Israel ----

First, marriage is a covenant. GOD does not break the covenants HE “cuts” with HIS children. Second, HE expects HIS children to honor the covenants they make. We see in verse 16 that GOD hates divorce. 

If you want to understand the gravity of “Covenant”, I recommend Kay Arthur’s Bible Study entitled “Covenant, God’s Enduring Promises” published by LifeWay, Nashville, TN.

Divorce is rampant in our world today. Many young people do not see the need to marry because they have witnessed so many, Christian and non-Christian, married couples getting a divorce, mostly their parents. Ideal marriages are few and far between.

Many people confuse lust with love. Lust will wear off when the new wears off. When it wears off, the person or persons begin looking around for another partner. It is the excitement of the pursuit and building a new relationship that is enticing. It is a form of discovery and when discovery ceases, so does the interest. The sad part is such jumping from one person to another never gives true love the opportunity to develop and grow. It is pulling together that builds a relationship. No relationship is free of conflict or the need to work together.

Lust can isolate a person in a relationship as he or she begins to build life with another in their mind, which in turn can lead to acting upon the their lustful thoughts. Keep in mind that the renewing of our minds can take on unhealthy activities. This is whether married or not.  Open communication is vital in any relationship.

A former pastor and counselor told a story about himself. Being a counselor, he knew the symptoms of mid-life crisis. When he recognized the symptoms in his life, he acknowledged them to his wife and asked her to be with him through this period in his life. Working together they got through that period in his life. This too will pass.

The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:13:

13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape, so that you are able to bear it.

Mid-life crisis can happen to men or women over a broad range of ages. It can last for a short time or a long time. But there are other areas in our lives that can influence a person’s desire to divorce another – abuse (physical, mental, verbal), addictions, poor hygiene, laziness, unforgiving heart and the list goes on.  These and other issues threaten a relationship, especially a marriage covenant, and must be brought to light and dealt with, which may lead to divorce. A man is to love and honor his wife. A true man does not abuse his wife. I hate abuse! This also goes for the woman who abuses her husband. It is all about the heart and your relationship with CHRIST.

JESUS said it best in Matthew 6:33:

33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.

Seek a personal, intimate, loving relationship with GOD through faith in CHRIST and ask the Holy Spirit to lead, guide and direct your life. Blessings!!!

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Bible Study - Distinct (3) - Distinct in My Approach to Conflict - Matthew 5:21-26 - February 7, 2016

Bible Study – Distinct (3) – Distinct in My Approach to Conflict – February 7, 2016

This is lesson three (3) in our series entitled “Distinct: Living above the Norm.”

Our focus scripture is Matthew 5:21-26.

Take the lead in resolving conflict.

As Christians, we are to take the lead in resolving conflict.

Conflict can lead to physical murder, anger or hatred. As Christians, such in our hearts must be resolved and brought under the authority of GOD. Let’s explore!

Let’s read Matthew 5:21-22:

Murder Begins in the Heart

21 "You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. 

Murder is the premeditated taking of another person’s life. Acts of self-defense, accidents, or war were not considered murder. Those who take another person’s life will be subject to judgment. JESUS went deeper than physical murder to the root of having a murderous attitude, anger, envy or coveting.

22 But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Fool!' will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, 'You moron!' will be subject to hellfire. 

JESUS was teaching and comparing the Law and Commandments to the new dispensation that HE would usher in. JESUS was GOD in the flesh and HE knew that a new paradigm for living would come about. It was that those who seek a right relationship with GOD would find it through the miracle of Spiritual rebirth in CHRIST. CHRIST, within a person, would mean that the Spirit of GOD, Holy Spirit, would be the new norm.

The Jews had been taught that physically murdering another person was the issue but JESUS knew that there were other ways a truly religious person revealed his or her heart - anger. Verse 22, reveals the attitude of the heart as the source of the true nature of a person.

This nature can only be transformed by having the right relationship with GOD through CHRIST.

There seems to be three levels of anger and three levels of punishment:

Anger = judgment (Some manuscripts include “anger without cause.”)

Fool = Sanhedrin (Contempt)

Moron = hellfire (Attacks the spirit of a person e.g. godless)

There has been much debate whether or not this is a progression from bad to worse. Many Bible scholars simply think all such attitudes lead to punishment of one kind or another. Others think it is a progression revealing the deepening deterioration of a person’s heart toward others.  What does our heart reveal about us toward others and how deep does it reach?  

Notice that the scripture reads "subject to." This suggest that circumstances can dictate the conclusion. It is still all about what is in our hearts toward another person and can lead to dire consequences. 

Once GOD reveals the true heart of a person, what is he or she to do? That is the key point JESUS wanted to communicate and that point is reconciliation which leads us to our next verses.

Let’s read Matthew 5:23-24:

23 So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, 

24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 

JESUS continued to teach what a person, who truly desired to obediently serve GOD, was to do when he or she had the wrong attitude toward another person. The sense is that there is a guilt that needed to be resolved. The use of “brother” would indicate a fellow Christian but the intent was to extend to all people.

When we approach GOD to worship HIM, Who is Holy, Pure and Righteous, it automatically results in the Holy Spirit examining our lives compared to GOD’S standard. How do we measure up? This comparison reveals areas where we do not measure up and when revealed we are to do something about it. JESUS made it clear that we are to take immediate action. Why? It is easy for us to put off something that is difficult to do.

To be true Christians, we are to set matters straight with our fellowman before we worship GOD in Spirit and truth. This reveals the importance GOD places on truth and our association with truth: HIM. Worship is often visible and our actions toward others are often visible but whether visible or not, our relationship with GOD through CHRIST must not be compromised by deceit in our hearts.  Deceit dishonors GOD and sends the wrong message to others. When we put our hands to the plow, to obediently serve GOD as Christians, we become accountable to HIM.

Does our life honor GOD among those with whom we worship or others with whom we associate?

This reflects back to being the salt and light that we, as Christians, are to be who are in right relationship with GOD through CHRIST. As Christians we are to be reconcilers. We are to take the first step toward reconciliation. The other party or parties may not accept our offer but that is their problem. Our part as Christians is to make the offer in love.

Settling issues before they become more public are important as we read in the next scripture.

Let’s read Matthew 5:25-26:

25 Reach a settlement quickly with your adversary while you're on the way with him, or your adversary will hand you over to the judge, the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. 

26 I assure you: You will never get out of there until you have paid the last penny! / 64 of a daily wage

JESUS knew the importance of settling with a person who has brought a charge against you before going before a judge. Going before a human judge makes issues public and a judge’s decision is always uncertain. Even if you are not guilty unless you can present your side of the case in a convincing manner, you stand the chance of losing.

Issues resolved in the court of public opinion can leave a person in prison. Certain issues may result in a person being incarcerated physically, mentally or socially. That is why JESUS taught that issues between fellow people need to be resolved and reconciled.

There is but one honest and true judge and that is GOD. If you have done wrong, then settle it with the person wronged. The person wronged will see and know that you did the right thing before GOD and there is a chance that GOD will be honored by you doing so.

The greater message is that we are all sinners and before it is too late, all must acknowledge that they are sinners. Acknowledging sin is one thing but what do we do about it.

That is the purpose of JESUS coming to earth and being born as a human. He was tempted in all ways as we are tempted, yet without sin. The sinless Lamb of GOD gave HIS life, through the shedding of HIS blood, to pay, in full, the penalty of sin. JESUS death removed the sin barrier between GOD and mankind. The removal of the sin barrier opened the path between GOD and mankind such that all who place their faith in JESUS will be forgiven, made righteous, given eternal  life and become a Son or Daughter of GOD through the miracle of Spiritual rebirth. GOD did not make any person a robot but HE gave all humans the right to choose. Have you made the choice to become a Christian and follow JESUS? Follow the Roman road to salvation:

Romans 3:23 – 23 For all have sinned and fall short of the[s] glory of God.

Romans 6:23 – 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 5:8 – But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!

Romans 10:8-10 - On the contrary, what does it say? The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.[f] This is the message of faith that we proclaim: If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. 

Once we become Christians do we stop sinning? NO! Christians are saved by GOD’S Grace. 1 John 1:9 tells us:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

A Christian’s responsibility is to confess his or her sin and GOD’S part is to forgive, cleanse and restore. Un-confessed sin breaks fellowship with GOD. There is no sin so great that GOD will not forgive when confessed. Satan will try to make you believe that your sin is so bad that GOD will not forgive you. That is Satan’s lie to keep you in bondage to sin. Confess any sin and ask GOD to forgive you. Repent, which means to stop doing that sin and seek the power of GOD to obediently live for HIM.

Keep in mind that it is the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit that comes along beside us to help us in our weakness. It is the Holy Spirit, Who prays in our time of weakness. 1 Corinthians 10:13:

13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape, so that you are able to bear it.

It is the indwelling Holy Spirit Who gives every Christian the strength to live each day. Living is just that, day by day, moment by moment. Be patient because GOD is at work rewiring you through the renewing of you mind as recorded Romans 12:2:

Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

The indwelling Holy Spirit rewires our minds to the extent we allow HIM. Do not get discouraged but place your hand in the hand of GOD as HE leads you and strengthens you to obediently live for HIM. It is all about having a personal, loving, intimate, dynamic relationship with GOD through JESUS. Salvation is just the beginning of building that relationship. Study GOD’S Word, the Bible, pray, obediently serve HIM as HE leads you. Get to know both GOD and CHRIST and not just know about Them. Seek truth! Why? JESUS said it best in John 17:22-23:

22 I have given them the glory You have given Me. May they be one as We are one. 

23 I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me.

Christians are to glorify GOD in all they say and do. Do those with whom you come in contact with each day know that you serve the living Savior, JESUS CHRIST? Without the indwelling Holy Spirit that is impossible. The indwelling Holy Spirit gives assurance and balance in the lives of Christians. Be empowered to let the light of CHRIST shine and flavor those with whom you come into contact with the right amount of salt. Never to being glory to ourselves but to glorify the LORD JESUS. Blessings!!!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Bible Study - Distinct (2) - Distinct in My Influence - Matthew 5:13-20 - January 31, 2016

Bible Study – Distinct (2) – Distinct in My Influence – January 31, 2016

This is lesson two (2) in our series entitled “Distinct: Living above the Norm.”

Our focus scripture is Matthew 5:13-20.

Make your influence count for what matters.

Our previous lesson prepared us for this week’s lesson. JESUS taught that Christians who had grown and matured Spiritually would manifest the attributes we studied in our last lesson. Such Christians could only manifest these attributes, naturally, as the result of yielding their lives and the leadership of their lives to the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is all about having the right relationship with GOD through CHRIST.

The disciples of JESUS are to live such that their lives make a difference being salt and light. Christians living as JESUS teaches will be a positive and God directed influence on others. JESUS used salt and light to drive this point home. Salt and light are necessary and a positive witness for CHRIST in the midst of persecution. Let’s explore!

Let’s read Matthew 5:13:
Believers “Are” Salt and Light

13 "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It's no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men. 

Christians have purpose in the world. JESUS made it clear that as HIS disciple you are “salt.” When a person accepts CHRIST on faith he or she becomes a child of GOD. When the miracle of rebirth takes place the new Christian begins his or her journey of Spiritual growth and growing into the image of CHRIST. All Christians are salt and light because they influence others based upon their lifestyle; some positive, some neutral and some negative.

Salt adds flavor to a dish to make it savory. Salt preserves, heals, cures, melts ice, gives traction and the list goes on. Too much salt can be a problem.  Salt can be visible or invisible in its use. Salt comes in contact with that which is being influenced.

In Krakow, Poland there is a salt mine that you can visit or even live in it for short periods, if you have certain medical issues. I have visited the salt mine twice. I felt a peace while in the mine and an overwhelming serenity.  People with various health issues, particularly those with respiratory problems, can live in a lodging area located in the salt mine for certain periods of time.

Pure salt does not lose its saltiness. However, impure or unrefined salt will lose its saltiness because it will lose its ability to flavor due to contaminants and the absorption of water. When that happens the salt is only useful to cast aside.

Christian influence can be compromised when they allow their lives to take on the character of the flesh and the world. The Holy Spirit refines the lives of Christians and they seek and apply truth in their lives. When they do, their influence reaches others as GOD desires.

Let’s read Matthew 5:14-16:

14 "You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. 
Christians are light. Again, Christians are not becoming light but they ARE LIGHT.

Let’s consider light. Light reaches out and touches everything it comes in contact with. Light can penetrate. Light can pinpoint a pending hazard such as a lighthouse or warning lights, airport, etc. Light dispels darkness even in the smallest of space. Light can heal, carry information, be pointed, specific, broad, light can cut through metal, fuse tissue, light our way and the various attributes of light go on. A city on a hill cannot be hidden at night because of its light.

JESUS stated in John 18:12:

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, HE said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

JESUS is light and Christians are to reflect the light of CHRIST to others. Christians must be careful that they do not block the light of CHRIST with unbelief, filters or blinders. Light can be blocked as it is being received and blocked as reflected. May we, as Christians, receive and reflect the pure light of CHRIST. May Christians know the truth and communicate truth to others via their lifestyle.

15 No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. 

The purpose of light is to reveal. It is foolish to sequester the light once it is has been activated. CHRIST admonished Christians to let their lights shine not to bring attention to themselves but to Glorify GOD.

16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Once a person has received the light of CHRIST, he or she is to let it shine.  This is not to draw attention to him or her but to GOD Who is the source of truth and light.

Often the great debate is “Does GOD exists?” Or if GOD exists can a mere mortal trust HIM? Is there life after death? These and many more questions can only be answered by a person placing his or her faith in CHRIST.  Once a person has experienced salvation the indwelling Holy Spirit answers to many questions come through Bible study, prayer and obedient service as Christians walk in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a Christian’s assurance of salvation. The Holy Spirit reveals, teaches, enlightens, guides and empowers.
Christ Fulfills the Law

Let’s read Matthew 5:17-20:

17 "Don't assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 

JESUS was making it clear that HIS purpose in coming to earth as a human was to reveal truth. The truth of the Law and the Prophets are good but humans attempt to mechanically follow the Law and miss the intent or spirit of the law.

The Prophets documented exactly all the attributes and ministry of the promised Messiah.  JESUS came to fulfill all that the Prophets had recorded about HIM, as well as, the Law.

The disciples/followers of JESUS knew how the religious leaders, scribes and Pharisees went to extremes to follow the Law. They also searched the scriptures to determine when the Messiah would come and what HE would be like. But guess what? Human knowledge fails when applied to GOD’S plan and purpose.

The religious leaders - scribes, Pharisees, Sadducee's - of that time thought the Messiah would deliver them from earthly rulers. They thought the Messiah would come as a warrior not as the Prince of Peace reconciling GOD and mankind through HIS shed blood. However, we know that Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, yet a follower of JESUS.

It is difficult to discover and understand truth when your mind is made up of what you think is truth. Often, GOD allows those of us who think we know the real truth to discover that our notions are faulty. The Holy Spirit reveals truth when we seek truth.

18 For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished. 

GOD decides when all is accomplished.

JESUS assured those to whom HE was teaching that “not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished. “ GOD’S Word will be fulfilled down to the dot over the “i” or the mark that distinguishes an “O” from a “Q.”

19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches people to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever practices and teaches [these commandments] will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 

All who teach GOD’S Word, the Bible, are accountable to HIM. Woe to any who will misrepresent, fail to obediently follow or teach others differently than what is written in GOD’S Word. Christians are accountable to GOD but there is also the Grace of GOD. Grace offers Christians the opportunity to ask the Holy Spirit to search their hearts to reveal that which is not obedient to GOD’S Word. GOD’S grace keeps Christians in good standing with GOD but those who are in right relationship seek to be in step with GOD.

Being a Christian is not a flippant lifestyle. Christians are the salt and light of the world, thus accountable to GOD. Every Christian is a witness and a missionary to those with whom he or she comes in contact.

20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

As a Christian, does your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the most religious person you know or have heard of? JESUS stated very clearly “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Oh, that was then and not now? No! That is for all times and all people. There is but one way as JESUS stated in John 14:6:

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

And the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:18-21:

18 Now everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 

19 that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. 

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ; certain that God is appealing through us, we plead on Christ's behalf, "Be reconciled to God." 

21 He (GOD) made the One (CHRIST) who did not know sin to be sin for us (All who place their faith in CHRIST), so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

The only way a person can exceed the righteousness of the most religious person ever to live is to be born-again by accepting and placing his or her faith in the fact that JESUS gave HIS life, by the shedding of HIS blood, to pay, in full, the penalty for sin.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 10:4-13:

4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. 

5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is from the law: The one who does these things will live by them. 

6 But the righteousness that comes from faith speaks like this: Do not say in your heart, "Who will go up to heaven?" that is, to bring Christ down 

or, "Who will go down into the abyss?" that is, to bring Christ up from the dead. 

8 On the contrary, what does it say? The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. This is the message of faith that we proclaim: 

9 if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 

10 With the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation. 

11 Now the Scripture says, No one who believes on Him will be put to shame, 

12 for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him. 

13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

If you have never asked CHRIST to forgive you for your sins and for HIM to come into your heart, now is that opportunity. Do not let this moment go by. Become a Son or Daughter of GOD through the miracle of rebirth in your spirit. Pray and ask CHRIST to lead you to a place where you can be fed Spiritually, grow and mature in your new life in CHRIST. Blessings!!!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Bible Study - Distinct (1) - Distinct in My Character - Matthew 5:1-12 - January 24, 2016

Bible Study – Distinct (1) – Distinct in My Character – January 24, 2016

This is lesson one (1) in our series entitled “Distinct: Living above the Norm.”

Our focus scripture is Matthew 5:1-12.

Choose actions and attitudes that are blessed by GOD.

We begin a new series of study for the next six weeks entitled “Distinct: Living above the Norm.” Our scripture focus will be in the Gospel of Matthew. The Sermon on the Mount focuses on Christians living in the world as GOD’S Kingdom and the reflection of their relationship with GOD to others.
We may have thought the Beatitudes or the Sermon on the Mount referred to different individuals within GOD’S Kingdom but that is not the case. The Beatitudes apply to every Christian and reflects the nature that every sanctified Christian should exhibit in his or her life as an obedient mature follower of CHRIST. Now that is a tall order and it is impossible in our human strength and only possible through the indwelling empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

So how is it possible? It is through a loving, intimate, personal relationship with CHRIST as brought about through yielding our will to CHRIST and the process of sanctification through the indwelling Holy Spirit. The indwelling Holy Spirit is our teacher. The indwelling Holy Spirit empowers, enlightens, teaches, leads and assures Christians as they walk with CHRIST. The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:26:

26 to make her holy, cleansing her in the washing of water by the word.

Christians are Holy because they are the temple of GOD. Christians must study GOD’S Word, the Bible, and as they do, the scriptures will expose sin, which results in the confession of sin. Confession of sin results in GOD forgiving and cleansing those areas in our lives that rob us of that intimate, loving, personal relationship with GOD, our families, fellow Christians and others. Allow the cleansing, living Word flow over you and cleanse you to obediently serve our LORD and experience the presence of CHRIST in your life.

So what does “Beatitude” mean? It comes from a Latin word which means “blessed is.” Some refer it as “happy” but happiness is a state of mind and depends upon one’s feeling, relational and based upon circumstances. Blessings come from GOD through our obedient relationship with CHRIST. It does not depend upon circumstances and is not relational. When Christians grow to understand that GOD loves them unequivocally, they are “blessed.” They are GOD’S Son or Daughter through the miracle of rebirth and the shed blood of JESUS.

Generally, we see a pattern in most translations where the first word in each saying is translated “Blessed” and the statement which follows describes the blessing. The described blessing is then followed by the condition (attitude or action) that results from the blessing.

In our first scripture verse 3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.” Blessed – are the poor in spirit. When people realize their lost condition and Spiritual need, they are blessed when they come to a saving knowledge of CHRIST and they are born into the Kingdom of Heaven eternally. Let’s explore!

In Matthew, Chapter 4 and continuing to our focus scripture, there are two groups of people (1) the crowds or multitudes (2) JESUS disciples, which referred to more than the Twelve. It included those who were eager to learn from JESUS and live accordingly.

Let’s read Matthew 5:1-6:

1 When He saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain, and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 

JESUS sought a private place where HE could teach those interested in being taught. HE sat, which was the common teaching position the Jewish rabbis assumed. JESUS sitting was a cue for those who wanted to be taught to gather around HIM.

2 Then He began to teach them, saying:

The Beatitudes

3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

A poor person is in need of something. The poor in spirit are in need of an intimate relationship with GOD. When the poor in spirit recognize and acknowledge their poor spiritual condition they have access to the Kingdom of Heaven. The kingdom of heaven is where GOD rules and reigns. When those who recognize and acknowledge their poor spiritual need, then they are open to explore the reality of GOD. It is the fool who says there is no GOD as written in Psalm 14:1a:

1 The fool says in his heart, "God does not exist." 

Keep in mind that all of these attributes or attitudes depict one person building a loving, intimate, personal relationship with GOD through their relationship with CHRIST.

Another thought on “poor in spirit” is that when we encounter GOD through our relationship with CHRIST, we see our total dependence upon GOD while we live upon earth to obediently serve HIM. Our poor condition is only met and filled by obedience to the indwelling Holy Spirit. Our old self must die and Christians must put on the new, reborn person they are in CHRIST through the miracle of rebirth.

4 Blessed are those who mourn, because they will be comforted

When a person recognizes and acknowledges his or her spiritual poverty, he or she mourns. When we recognize and acknowledge GOD and HIS righteousness it highlights our sinfulness and we mourn. When we see the lost condition we are in, GOD comes to our rescue through HIS Only Son JESUS. When we recognize and acknowledge CHRIST as our Savior, that is the beginning of the process of sanctification through which we are comforted.

5 Blessed are the gentle, because they will inherit the earth

The working of the Holy Spirit within the lives of Christians produces fruit. One attribute of that fruit is gentleness. When the attribute of “gentleness” is evident in the lives of Christians, it is because they rely upon GOD and not upon themselves.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, because they will be filled

A person’s recognition and acknowledgement of his or her “poor spiritual need,” “mourn over his or her sin,” find that these attributes lead to “gentleness” toward others. Christians recognize and acknowledge that they are sinners saved by grace. Grace allows them to seek the fullness of CHRIST in his or her life through a ravenous appetite and thirst to know GOD and to be made into the image of CHRIST through obedience. The result is that they will be filled.

JESUS stated it well in Matthew 7:7:

7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (NIV)

Let’s read Matthew 5:7-9:

7 Blessed are the merciful, because they will be shown mercy

Christians live under “grace,” which means “unmerited favor.” Grace is a gift from GOD to HIS children because of the shed blood of CHRIST. Just as GOD shows Christians mercy by pardoning their sins, in turn, Christians are to show mercy by not being judgmental.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart, because they will see God

Being “pure in heart” is a result of the preceding attitudes. Fruit is produced. Those who have the attribute of “pure in heart” will have an understanding of the mind of GOD. They will see where GOD is working and when they do, they will join HIM in HIS work.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers, because they will be called sons of God. 

We have considered six (6) attitudes representative in the life of a Christian. These six attributes are necessary for the Christian to be a “peacemaker.” A “peacemaker” because of his or her combined attributes is in a position to restore right relationships with GOD and others. The emphasis is on the word “maker.” A peacemaker brings about reconciliation and not appeasement. At this stage of Christian growth and maturity the peacemaker is called “Sons of GOD.” The Prince of Peace is CHRIST. As peacemakers Christians exemplify JESUS and are chips off the block.

Let’s read Matthew 5:10-12:

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs

11 "Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me

12 Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The first four attitudes, “poor in spirit,” “mourning over spiritual conditions,” “being gentle,” and “seeking righteousness” relate to a Christians dependence upon GOD. The next three, “being merciful,” “being pure in heart,” and “being a peacemaker” reflect our actions toward others. Now we come to Christian attitudes or attributes toward persecution.

Christians know they have arrived when they are persecuted for righteousness. 

The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:16-17:

16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. 

17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Those who have been born-again have the witness and assurance of the indwelling Holy Spirit that they are GOD’S child. As GOD’S children, Christians can expect suffering/persecution.

Notice, JESUS taught that the reason for the persecution was the result of obedient righteousness and not something which resulted from Christians not being righteous. The reason for this persecution is the result of being an obedient follower of JESUS. When these things happen be glad and rejoice (be giddy) because the Christian’s reward is great in heaven. This is the sweet spot of obediently serving GOD and a badge of honor, as a Christian.

The beatitudes represent the growth and development of every Christian as he or she matures in his or her walk with CHRIST as empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit, sanctified to carry out GOD’S will and purpose. Be blessed. Blessings!!!