Monday, August 31, 2015

Conduct or Character: Which is more important?

Conduct flows out of character, therefore, character has to be given more attention if you desire your conduct to be important as well. Simply put: you cannot put a church face on and get by in this world anymore. You cannot put a faulty faith in place and be at peace either. You must come to grips with Who Christ is… and what He says. His Word must have authority in your life or you will merely lie to yourself and those who watch you live.

Let me illustrate with a true story. A very dear friend who served our country faithfully during a tough war many years ago, patrolled a radio tower on foreign soil for our country. He was approached by some young men who did not have his best interest at heart. When confronted, he pulled his rifle out to stand them down and disperse, but inside he was shaking like a leaf. He was not scared because he did not have the right to be at that location, but because he had no bullets in his gun.

Listen, it wasn’t his fault there were no bullets, for their commanding officers did not have the means nor resource to outfit their unit with extra costs such as ammunition at that location.

Well, it could have been a different outcome, but luckily the young men dispersed and he returned to base. By the time he returned, he said, “I will never go out again without ammunition.”

A French peasant Peter Maurin, in his Easy Essays (Rose Hill Books, 2003), writes, “When the Sermon on the Mount is the standard of values, then Christ is the leader.” Unfortunately, in our own day and age — even in the Church as well — it often feels as if the Sermon on the Mount is not our moral compass, but rather a mere suggestion.

Many scholars and theologians have deemed the Sermon on the Mount as the greatest words ever spoken and taught by our Lord. Yet, we might be surprised to actually know how many Christians even apply it's principle attitudes in this life. Read Matthew 5:1-12 to refresh your own heart in the matters of what matters most to Christ.

This sermon was to show how a person who is in right relationship with God must conduct themselves in this life. This demonstrates the standard of righteousness God demands of His people. And, this is a code of behavior for Christ’s followers – past, present, and future.

Pharisees and religious rulers of Christ’s day taught that righteousness was an external thing, a matter of obeying rules and regulations. Righteousness could be measured by praying, giving, fasting, etc.; but Jesus described Christian character that flows from within.

The world praises pride, not humility. The world endorses sin and is at war with God, while God is seeking to reconcile those who would listen to His Word.

How blessed or highly fortunate, inwardly satisfied, are those who fulfill these prescriptions.

Poor in spirit –humble, have a correct estimate of oneself.
Romans 12:3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

We must be empty before we can be full. The opposite of this is self-sufficiency, and our sufficiency is not of ourselves (2 Cor. 3:5).
2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.

Listen, God dwells with the person whose heart is broken:
Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite.”

What do the poor in spirit receive?
Kingdom of Heaven – Matthew uses Kingdom of Heaven 32x’s to represent the rule of God … which is a present reality.
Matthew 3:2 John the Baptist preached…“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” [that is present… in their midst]

But, this is also a future hope.

Those who mourn – we hurt in an active sharing of the world’s hurt and even our sin which broke Jesus’ heart.
What do those who mourn receive?
They are comforted.
Revelations 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.

The Meek – Greeks describe this as a horse that had been broken; referring to power under control. Someone who is immensely teachable.

Matthew 11:29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.

1 Peter 3:4 we are to be adorned … with the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.
Ephesians 4:1-2 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.

These will … inherit the earth: a reference to Psalm 37:11 “But the humble will inherit the land…”

When the wicked are gone, the meek and righteous will be left.  A great prophesy for which our Lord’s 1,000 year reign will fully be revealed.

Hunger and Thirst for righteousness – a moral uprightness.

I heard a story about a young salesman disappointed about losing a big sale. As he talked with his sales manager, he lamented, "I guess it just proves you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." The manager quickly replied, "Son, your job is not to make him drink. Your job is to make him thirsty."

We should be so thirsty and hungry for righteousness, that others would be able to follow us to the Living Water and Bread of Life. Our lives should be so filled with Christ that they create a hunger and thirst for Christ.

These receive promised satisfaction - they shall be filled.
That is … to see honesty, integrity, justice in society… even practical holiness within the church. But this is a thirst no earthly stream can satisfy.

Merciful – a reference to Psalm 18:25, With the kind You show Yourself kind; With the blameless You show Yourself blameless.

God rewards those who imitate His goodness and mercy, which ultimately reveals itself in a forgiving spirit and love for others.

This is working the spiritual principle of sowing and reaping…
If we sow mercy, because Christ has been merciful to us, then mercy will come back to us.

James 2:13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

Proverbs 11:17 The merciful man does himself good, [Literally meaning - good to his soul] but the cruel man does himself harm.

Luke 6:37 Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.

This is an active compassion, for in one sense it means to withhold punishment from offenders who deserve it. But in a wider sense, it means to help others in need who cannot help themselves.

Pure in heart – the Greek word here, katharos , means “clean”;  as in ritual purity or cleanness. This is not a sinlessness, but truth within … Psalm 51:6 Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,…

It means a single heart; not being divided between God and the world.

These shall see God – a pure-hearted person is one whose motives are unmixed, whose thoughts are holy, whose conscience is clean.
Therefore, they shall see God.

Peacemakers – These possess peace because the Prince of Peace possesses them. They are able to show others how to have an inward peace with God as much as becoming instruments of peace in this troubled world.
One piece of our spiritual armor is the Gospel of Peace, Ephesians 6:15; shodding our feet… that wherever we go… we are peacemakers and peace-bringers.

By making peace, we manifest that we are Sons of God, for those whose lives reflect the kingdom ethics will be identified as children of God.
Romans 8:14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

God will one day acknowledge these as people who bear the family likeness.

Persecuted – If you uphold a kingdom ethic, you will be persecuted for righteousness and the sake of Christ.

We should not suffer for doing anything on our own accord or out of our own foolishness or disobedience.

2 Timothy 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them.

1 Peter 4:16-17 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.

A great reward awaits those who patiently endure persecution as a follower of Christ.

Theirs is the kingdom of heaven… where we round this back out.

All who imitate their loyal Captain will have courage to share in this present exhilaration and a future exaltation.

Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Make sure you are not going to war without ammunition. Be sure to load your faith with the proper power you possess in Christ.