Lucia's Blog: 2020-04-12
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Friday, April 17, 2020

LIFE OR DEATH? IT IS YOUR CHOICE!

"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few."
Matthew 7:13-14 



Jesus, in His marvelous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), wants His listeners to choose which path to walk in.  As Jesus ends His sermon, He uses many illustrations to help us choose the right path.  Two choices,  two pathways lie before us.  We must choose wisely. Let us look at the first illustration that Jesus presents.


I.  THE NARROW GATE:  (Matthew 7:13-14)
"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few."


In Matthew 7:13-14,  Jesus appeals to His listeners throughout this sermon that we choose to become citizens of the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus describes the characteristics of His kingdom.  His first illustration is plain and simple but shocking.  There is a wide gate that many enter, but it leads to destruction and death.  Notice the contrasting pathways that are before us:  one is narrow, and the other is wide. One leads to life, and the other leads to destruction and death. Likewise, He contrasts two groups of people:  the many and the few. Although entering the narrow gate is hard, and few will find it, it is the only path that will lead us to eternal life.  To enter the narrow gate is a matter of life and death.  Jesus was stressing a decision, for there is only one right way that few find,  but there are many false ways that lead to destruction.  So we must understand the narrowness of this gate to life, for Jesus in His sermon stressed the character of those who are genuine citizens in His kingdom.

The narrow gate demands that we deny self, be poor in spirit, mourn over sins, love our enemies, not be angry with our brother, not lust in the heart, turn the other cheek, lay up treasures in heaven, not be anxious about this life, and treat others the way we would have them to treat us:  the golden rule.  The narrow gate that leads to life demands constant effort, striving to enter.  Jesus said about this narrow gate.
"The way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few" (Matthew 7:14).  

Jesus, our Lord, declares that the path to righteousness and eternal life is narrow and difficult. Indeed, this path is not easy, and few find it and remain on it until the end! On the other hand, Jesus describes the other path that leads to eternal destruction, which is the path of slavery to sin. The path that leads to destruction is simple and offers many tempting and pleasant things. There is nothing easy about the narrow gate!

The Way of Christ is narrow, hard, and impossible unless we die with Christ. The narrow way leads us to righteousness and holiness. Sadly, many choose the easiest and most popular pathway: the one that is not demanding, does not offend, accepts every form of sin, does not teach the Truth. Truth is narrow and objective. Truth must be our only guide and not man-made religions, traditions, and philosophies.  Following the crowd with their false doctrines will not lead us to eternal life.

God has always demanded that His people make the wise choice to follow Him to receive eternal lifeMoses declared to God's people that they had to choose life or death, the blessing, or the curse (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).  Joshua also commanded God's people to choose whom they would serve (Joshua 24:13-15). Elijah, on Mount Carmel, commanded the people to stop waffling between two choices (1 Kings 18:21).  Jeremiah declared,
“Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death'” (Jeremiah 21:8). 

Jesus is commanding us to choose two pathways set before us:  life or death.  One pathway is easy, and many find it, but it leads to destruction and death. The other pathway is hard, and few find it, but it leads to eternal life.

Can you see what Jesus is saying in Matthew 7:13-14?  We must understand what Jesus is saying about the narrow gate being hard to enter, and that few find it. The easy path, the wide gate is easy but leads to our spiritual destruction.  The wide gate leads to anger, lust, judging, not loving others, not forgiving others, and not trusting God.  But the narrow gate leads to the fruits of the Spirit as described in Galatians 5:22-23:  love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  The narrow gate leads us to the kingdom of heaven.  Sadly, many don't even try to enter the narrow gate because they are workers of lawlessness.  They want to live as they please without God in the picture and His kingdom of righteousness.  They are happy worshiping, however way they want.  They accept anything but God's Truth.

Indeed, the way to life is not easy, and few find it.  Let that sink deeply into our hearts!  Jesus said that few find the way to life.  God's ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). They are not intuitive or emotional.  God's ways don't follow our hearts or desires.  Those who follow God's ways listen to Jesus' teachings and do them.  The poor in spirit, the pure in heart, the meek and humble, and the ones who hunger and thirst after righteousness are those who are blessed in God’s kingdom of righteousness.   We can see why the crowds were astonished by Jesus' sermon and His teachings.
"And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes" (Matthew 7:28-29). 

What challenging words!

Those who choose the narrow gate build their house on the rock, hear the words of Jesus and do them.  So we must choose the narrow path to life and enter that narrow gate. We must choose to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Jesus says it is foolish to build our life on anything other than His will and authority.  It is foolish to hear His words and not do what He commands that we do!  It matters to Jesus how we live our lives,  how we worship, and how we obey what He teaches. It must matter to us what our Teacher says!  Since our souls are at stake, we must be wise and build our house on the rock!  

So why not walk the narrow way, the path of righteousness rather than the path of sin that leads to the destruction of your soul?
 Which path are you walking in? Remember that God's narrow path offers freedom, peace, the restoration of your soul, and eternal life. The choice is ours to make!


CONCLUSION:

Which path are we walking in?  God's path or the broad path of the world?  Maybe, we are not aware of which path we are walking. Perhaps, we don't know a better way, a much better path.  The choice is ours to make!

Sadly, many seasoned Christians don't realize the path they are walking in.  Many are not even aware that they are walking the path of this world, the wrong path, the path of sin!  The path of this world, the wide gate that leads to destruction, offers many tempting and pleasant things.  But it leads to the destruction of our souls.  It does not lead to wholeness in Christ.  It makes us slaves to sin (our culture, our desires, material riches, and many things such as these that make us stumble).  The wide gate claims us by our fleshly desires.  This is sad!  Should we live for ourselves and not for Christ?

So why not walk the path of God?  Why refuse to walk the path of righteousness and become slaves to sin?  God's path offers freedom, peace, and the restoration of our souls.  But, walking, God's path must be a daily commitment.   God's path, the narrow gate, demands effort, courage, determination, and commitment or devotion.  God's path compels us to pray daily to Him to help us walk His path and keep us on His path without straying.  We need His Grace to help us walk His path and each step we take.  Thus we must be alert, knowing that our enemy Satan wants to lead us astray and distract us at any cost from God's path of righteousness that enters the narrow gate.  Satan wants us to walk the path of sin, the wide gate, which is the most popular and familiar path traveled.  Don't you think that it is about time that we were wise with God's help and start waking the right path?  
"He restores my soul; He guides me in the path of righteousness for His name's sake"  (Psalm 23:3).

Oh, how I love this verse!   Please note,  
"He restores my soul, He guides me in the paths of righteousness."  

It doesn't say "maybe" He will guide me.  Our God is not capricious!  It says clearly, "He guides me."  He will guide me if I choose to abide in His Truth, being faithful and determined to do His will.  We can rest assured He will not let us down!

It is very difficult to start or restart walking the right path, the path of eternal life when we have been used to walking the wrong path, the unrighteous one.  It is hard to make life changes when they have been corrupted or sinful.  But, there is so much blessing when we walk the path of God, the path of righteousness! When we walk God's path of righteousness, we start acting differently.  We look different from the world. We start shining our light before others, and they notice it!  I promise they will notice it!  We must choose to look different from the world.  Their path doesn't lead to eternal life.  God's path does!

Maybe, the key to our problem is to start slowing down.  Spend more time with our God in studying Scripture, in prayer, more time with our families, and those whom we say we love.  Maybe, we need to be more motivated by spiritual, heavenly things than earthly things.  Maybe, we need to start using our time more wisely and redeem it for God's sake.  Maybe, we need to start thinking differently about the way we entertain ourselves.  A little less TV, internet, social media, hobbies, games, sports, etc.  In other words, we need to start dying to ourselves and live for Christ.  He gives life to us abundantly to bear good fruit for His glory.  It is about time we go back to the ancient pathways of God!

God has never promised that His path will be a bed of roses, an easy one, but neither is the path of this world! Let's not forget, there is a big difference between the path of this world and the path of God.  
"Thou wilt make known to me the path of life, in Thy presence is fullness of joy; in Thy right hand there are pleasures forever"  (Psalm 16:11).

The world's path can never offer fullness of joy, or pleasures forever.

Walking the Christian path, the righteous one, is not a matter of just being baptized, the forgiveness of our past sins, and a faith that does not act.  It is a matter of walking in newness of life, walking Christ's path.  We must allow Christ to guide all of our steps in every area of our lives.  He commands that we walk in His paths, the paths of righteousness (Proverbs 2:20).

The following are some proverbs to help us walk in the path of God, the path of righteousness (the narrow gate):
"In all your way acknowledge Him, and He will make your path straight"  (Proverbs 3:6).
"I have directed you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in upright paths"  (Proverbs 4:11).
"Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not proceed in the way of evil men"  (Proverbs 4:14).
"But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day"  (Proverbs 4:18).
"Watch the path of your feet, and all your ways will be established"  (Proverbs 4:26).
"In the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway, there is no death"  (Proverbs 12:28).

    May our Lord lead our footsteps each day, leading and guiding our minds, hearts, and souls with wisdom so that we can walk His path of righteousness shining our light before a world of darkness and death.


    Luci

    Wednesday, April 15, 2020

    WALKING THE MICAH ROAD

    "Wherewith shall I come before Jehovah, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves a year old? 7 will Jehovah be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth Jehovah require of thee, but to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God?"
    Micah 6:6-10




    The prophet Micah walked among a field of prophets who were giants in world history, powerful and passionate spokesmen for God. The small kingdoms of Israel and Judah were facing a devastating invasion of the Assyrians when Micah warned that God would judge them in His wrath. He held out for them the hope, that if they did what God required of them, His anger would subside. It was simple, “to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God.”

    The time of Micah's call is set between 750 to 735 BC.  Jotham, the first king, mentioned by Micah, was described as having a reign that was holy, peaceful, and prosperous (cf.  2 Chronicles 27:2-6).  His son Ahaz, (the second king mentioned by Micah) succeeded him on the throne of Judah.  Ahaz's reign was exactly the opposite of his father, for he was idolatrous to the point of sacrificing his own children to the pagan god, Baal.  Because there was so much idolatry and paganism during his reign, God decided to destroy Judah.  Despite all the efforts of his successor son at reforming, the wrath of God was inevitable.  Isaiah prophesized to Ahaz the virgin birth of the Messiah (Isaiah 7:14).  King Ahaz was Baal's best devotee.  The third king mentioned by Micah was Hezekiah.  He was considered a reformer, for he eagerly attempted to undo the corruption and lawlessness of the idolatry, which his father had spawned.  

    Micah’s message fluctuates from oracles of doom to oracles of hope.  He speaks of God's judgment and deliverance.  He cries out against the sins that God hates so much:  idolatry, injustice, and empty formalism.  He also pleads to those who love God, that they repent from the heart and love His Law of righteousness.


    I.   THE HEART OF MICAH'S MESSAGE:   (Micah 6:6-8)
    "Wherewith shall I come before Jehovah, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves a year old? 7 will Jehovah be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth Jehovah require of thee, but to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God?"

    • “What Doth Jehovah Require of Thee?”
    Micah 6:8 presents one of the most valuable insights into understanding the heart of God that is to be found in the Sacred Word. This is one of my all-time favorite Scriptures of the Bible.  No other question demands to be answered more correctly than the one voiced here.  
    "What doth Jehovah require of thee?"  

    It is one of those classic questions in the Bible that is parallel with that of the Lord.  
    "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?" (Matthew 8:36-37).

    And what the Hebrew writer stated.
    "Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will" (Hebrews 2:1-4).


    God is not unreasonable to insist upon our faithfulness, nor is He wrong to punish unfaithfulness.  God wants His followers, His children, to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with Him.  When one fails to do justly by not keeping God's Law (His commands and precepts), he is disobeying Him. It is an affront to God, for he is mocking God by his defiance.  To love mercy literally means to have pity or compassion.  To have compassion is to place one's self in the sufferer's situation, to suffer with him, feeling sorry for him.  This is what God does for us, and we are to love such mercy!  The love of mercy is driven by the will to love as God loves and not by our own feelings that may or may not be merciful.  It is a love that is sacrificial and deliberately self-giving.  God demands that we love others deliberately.  Without this kind of sacrificial loveour obedience is empty and vain.  In Matthew 23:23 Jesus said,
    "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These (commandments) you ought to have done, without neglecting the others (justice, mercy, trust)." 

    "To walk humbly with thy God" means being steadfast and ready to obey Him and His Lordship in all things. Willing or ready to obey His authority because God is our Lord.  God tries the minds and hearts of men, and He searches our innermost parts (Prov. 20:27; Psalm 139:23).  God searches the hearts of men and understands their plans and thoughts.  Thus, our outward man must always reflect our inner man as both express our obedience and alertness to Him and His Lordship.

    We must stress that God has expectations toward us that we must fulfill.  Since the beginning of creation, God has expected or demanded personal responsibility so that we may reverence Him and seek Him for purpose in life.  Adam and Eve failed to meet God's expectations, so He judged them.  Cain failed to accept his responsibility toward God, so God judged him also for his disobedience.  As mankind grew more and more irresponsible, rebellious, and wicked, God's wrath and judgment were brought upon them (Genesis 6).  2 Peter 2:4-9 expresses this concept well.
    “For if God spared not angels when they sinned, but cast them down to hell, and committed them to pits of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; 5 and spared not the ancient world, but preserved Noah with seven others, a preacher of righteousness, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, having made them an example unto those that should live ungodly; 7 and delivered righteous Lot, sore distressed by the lascivious life of the wicked 8 (for that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their lawless deeds): 9 the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment unto the day of judgment.” 

    Clearly, one of the most fundamental principles of the Old Testament is personal accountability toward God.  God's will to judge the sinner is still an ongoing warning to those who try to escape their responsibility to obey God and His laws.  Many reject God's revealed expectations creating their own rules.  With this approach, it is impossible to do what God wants us to do.  They ignore God's warning that we all must give an account for what we have done in this life (our behavior) before God. 
    “For we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). 
    “So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12).


    Our God expects obedience to each of His commands, for His Word is the source of our accountability toward Him (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Therefore, on Judgment Day, we must give an account of what we have done.
    “This is the end of the matter; all hath been heard: Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every work into judgment, with every hidden thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Eccl. 12:13-14).  

    • God Requires That We Do (Act) Justly:
    We must heed these words of God.  To act justly or do justice implies all of our dealings with others must be righteous.  Our daily manner of behavior must not show favoritism, prejudice, or self-interest alone.  God demands that we treat others justly, for He deals with us fairly and treats us justly.  God wants us to execute true justice and show mercy and compassion to everyone (Zechariah 7:90).  He loves justice, for to do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to God than sacrifices (Isa. 61:8; Prov. 21:3).  We must let justice run down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream (Amos 5:24).  

    In some Bible translations, the word “justly” is replaced by the phrase “do justice” to indicate a responsibility of equality or fairness.  God requires us to do justly in our relationship with Him and one another.  It implies that we must give a person what is due them.  We have been commanded to give every person what is due (Romans 13:7).  Every person in our lives has a right to be treated justly and fairly to create a climate of justice.   To do justice implies the keeping of God's Law, His commands, and ordinances.  Hence, we must give God what is due Him:  honor, reverence, obedience, praise, and worship.  In Micah 6:2-4, the prophet points out that despite all that God had done for His people, Israel turned their back on God.  We must live to give honor and reverence to God despite our troubles and the bad things that happen to us. We must never turn our back on God or turn away from Him (Jeremiah 10:6-7).  


    • God Requires That We Love Mercy:
    Being merciful means to be kind and compassionate rather than to condemn.  God is the source of all mercy, and He loves to be merciful to His children, not wanting anyone to perish.  To love mercy means to be forgiving toward others; be steadfastly committed to loving mercy.  Even the selfish wish to receive mercy!  He who loves mercy is thankful for God's mercy extended to him.  The merciful one wants to give mercy to others, for he knows that God is merciful and gracious to him and that He demands that we also be merciful.  

    When we show mercy to others, we are demonstrating our covenant love for one another.  Loving mercy means being faithful to everyone and reaching out in love to those in need who are suffering.  This mindset of mercy impacts all areas of life.  The very heart of the Law of Moses was to love their neighbors as themselves.  It is still required of us under the Law of Christ, for He showed mercy to us when He died and offered His life as a sacrifice that we might be accepted by His Father.

    The Word of God is crystal clear about our need to be merciful (Prov. 11:17; Micah 6:8; Matt. 5:7; Luke 6:36; Colossians 3:12-13 and James 2:8-13).  Our Lord is full of pity and tender mercy (James 5:11).  He has left us the highest example of mercy to follow.  May we always examine our hearts to see if we are acting in full pity and tender mercy even as our Father in heaven.  

    You see, God's mercy is a vital component of our salvation (Luke 1:76-79, 1 Peter 1:3; Jude 1:21).  Why?  Because without God's mercy toward us who were once sinners (and you know that we all have sinned in our lives), we would have perished because of our sins.  But God's mercy is conditional because if we transgress against His will and do not repent and ask His forgiveness, we will not receive His mercy.  Hebrews 10:26-31 expresses this sentiment well.  
    For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and a fierceness of fire which shall devour the adversaries. 28 A man that hath set at nought Moses’ law dieth without compassion on the word of two or three witnesses: 29 of how much sorer punishment, think ye, shall he be judged worthy, who hath trodden underfoot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him that said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  

     Therefore, to be merciful does not imply indulging others in their sins and being compassionate toward others that continue in sin, for they will not receive the mercy of God.  
    "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?"  (Romans 6:1-2)

    In Matthew 5:7 Jesus said,  
    “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.”

    Here, the word “mercy” is used to imply compassion, pity, and favor toward the suffering and needy (Matt. 9:27; 15:22; 17:15; 18:33; 20:30).  We have this portrayed in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10).  And though no priest or Levite offered assistance to the man who fell among robbers and was severely beaten, a Samaritan did come to his aid.  The Samaritan took him to an inn and paid for his care.  Thus Jesus asked,
    “Which of these three, do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” (Luke 10:36).  

    Then the lawyer responded,
    “The one who showed him mercy”  (Luke 10:37).  

    Here mercy is showing compassion, pity, and favor.  Therefore, mercy is not just a feeling, emotion, or sentiment that does nothing.  Mercy is action.  Mercy is genuine compassion that one wants to express to help from the heart with selfless concern and actions.  Those who are in God's kingdom must be givers of mercy.  Mercy must be shown and not felt.  In Matthew 23:23, Jesus calls mercy one of the weightier matters of the Law.

    Mercy is not a characteristic of our culture today, nor was it exercised in the first century.  The philosophers of that time called mercy, “the disease of the soul.”  It was a sign of absolute weakness.  The Jews also saw it this way.  That is why Jesus told them in Matt. 5:43-48.  
    “Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy: 44 but I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you; 45 that ye may be sons of your Father who is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust. 46 For if ye love them that love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the Gentiles the same? 48 Ye, therefore, shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  

     We can clearly see that mercy was given to those who had been merciful to them in these cultures.  Our society and culture today is no different from the Roman world of Jesus' day.  Today, our people say the same things:  “If you don't look out for yourself, no one else will.”  “Don't get mad, get even.”  People still behave the same way, treating others like mere objects or things where power is the supreme deity, and financial success and status are the most essential things in life.  How sad!  Today when one shows mercy, he is considered weak.  

    But we see our Lord Jesus showing mercy on many occasions.  He was moved with pity and compassion when He looked on people (Matt. 9:36; 14:14; 15:32).  Our Lord showed compassion and love for the lost souls of men.  He showed compassion toward a sinful woman caught in adultery.  We must imitate His attitude of heart and concern for the needs of others.  The Jewish leaders of Jesus’ time failed to show mercy and compassion and hated Jesus for showing it and looked for opportunities to kill Him.  They succeeded when they nailed Him to the cross.  Even while He was hanging on the cross with His hands nailed to it, Jesus still showed mercy when He said, 
    “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).   

     We can see an obvious contrast between mercy and forgiveness.  Our Lord's mercy is the basis of His forgiveness.
    “But according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 which he poured out upon us richly, through Jesus Christ our Savior”  (Titus 3:5-6).  

    Mercy was fundamental for God's forgiveness to be extended because His forgiveness flows from His bountiful mercy.  God is the Father of mercy (2 Cor. 1:3).  Hence, His children must be full of mercy as God is (James 3:17).  They must love mercy and delight in giving it (Rom. 12:8).  Mercy is a trait that defines God (2 Samuel 24:14; Daniel 9:9; Exodus 34:68; 2 Chr. 30:9).  Mercy must also be a trait that defines Christians (Luke 6:36; Matt. 5:48; James 5:11).  Thus our new temple must have a “mercy seat” in its very own heart (Matt. 5:48; Hebrews 8:10; Eph. 6:6).  And though mercy is a “weighty” matter, it is possible to downgrade it to a “minor” matter (Matt. 23:23).  It is “weighty” because mercy is a part of the very character of God.  Mercy makes one slower to anger and ready to pardon (Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 103:8).  Kindness is mercy (Psalm 117:2).  

    So being merciful does not imply that one is flippant about the Truth nor that one stops doing what pleases God.  It is not an open door to do what we want and like (1 Thess. 2:4).  Mercy must not be misunderstood, for it does not mean that sin is ignored.  And though our God is merciful toward us, that does not mean that He will ignore or overlook our sins, for mercy acknowledges the reality of sin and wrongdoing.  Jesus never showed mercy and pretended that people were not sinning, rather He convicted them of their sins.  He was merciful when He pointed out their sins and gave them hope of forgiveness through His own blood.  God's mercy points out our sins and then shows us the way of reconciliation with God.  Mercy does good to others, even in the face of opposition, lawlessness, or wickedness.  Mercy means being patient and longsuffering toward those who are not able to see things as clearly as we do (Romans 14) rather than debating and saying unkind words.  

    Indeed, mercy is a difficult challengebut we must develop it in our character.  Mercy makes one's self vulnerable.  It allows us to be hurt.  It extends self to help others without expecting anything in return.  Mercy praises the very heart of God and is not earned.  Mercy is no longer mercy if it is deserved, for it is compassion that is undeserved.  The merciful in heart show compassion even when the other person does not deserve it.  We must extend mercy to show the character of God in our lives.  We must show mercy even when others sin against us.  We must expend ourselves to help others and show mercy to them.  God wants His children to be merciful to others, for He will only show mercy to the merciful.
    “For judgment is without mercy to him that hath showed no mercy: mercy glorieth against judgment”  (James 2:13). 

    1. How many times do we fail to show mercy to others when we think they should have never put themselves in the mess they're in?  
    2. How many times do we say that they're getting what they deserve?  But how terrible it is for us to demand mercy from others when we fail to give or show mercy to them just because we think they don't deserve it!  
    3. Do we expect God to be merciful toward us and give us what we deserve?  
    4. Do we expect to get what we deserve for how we have treated God?  
    5. Are you not aware that God's mercy must compel us to be gracious, kind, compassionate, and merciful toward others?  
    6. Why not allow God's mercy to transform your heart, that you might be more merciful toward others?  Think about this! 

    • God Requires That We Walk Humbly With Him:
    This third requirement of God is the one I love the most, for it reminds me that I must walk worthy of Him who called me into His kingdom of glory in a holy, righteous, and blameless manner.   So how can one walk humbly with Him?

    1. Walking humbly with Him compels us to seek those things and set our mind on those things that are above where Christ and His Father are (Col. 3:1-4).  
    2. Walking humbly with God is to allow Him to direct my steps with a humble and open heart, for God is the one who defines the Way for us.  He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one can come to the Father except through Jesus, our Lord. 
    3. Walking humbly with Him is to walk according to His commandments and precepts.

    Indeed, a humble heart is vital to walking with Him in the same way in which He walked, for it is the only way to obey and love His Word and abide in Him.   Walking in darkness is not walking in a manner worthy of Him, for only a humble heart can walk in the Light as He is in the Light.  The humble or lowly in heart are the ones who can walk with Him to please Him as they do His will in all things.  Walking humbly with God regards others as more worthy than self, for it is always looking to the interests of others.  Therefore, walking humbly with Him is to have the mind of Christ in us. 
    “Who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,7 but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  

     You see, the people of Israel wanted to buy off God through their sacrifices so they could continue living in sin.  But Micah had to tell them what God wanted them to do to please Him:  to walk humbly with God.  A life that is not lived and devoted to serving Christ and His kingdom in holiness and righteousness is a hypocritical life.  Walking with God is a daily walk Micah lived in a world of wickedness and lawlessness like our world today.  The people of Micah's time spent their time devising iniquity and planning evil (Micah 2:1-2).   They were living in pure darkness and ungodliness rather than striving to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him.

    Walking humbly with God is to hate evil and have nothing to do with it.  Our walk is our walk of life.  To walk with God implies that we love and walk in all His ways to be in daily fellowship with Him.  To walk in all His ways requires knowledge and discernment of His Word and a willingness or readiness to do what He commands us to do.  To walk with God demands that we humbly follow His leadership and lordship, for to walk and commune with Him, we must be humble and not exalt ourselves.  A humble person accepts that he is inferior to others, especially to God.  A humble person who wants to walk with God accepts that his ways and thoughts are not the same as God's, for God's ways and thoughts are higher than the heavens and the earth.
    "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith Jehovah. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts"  (Isaiah 55:8-9).

    It is the only way to walk humbly with our God and make it to the gates of heaven.  Enoch is our best example of one who walked humbly with God, for he was a righteous man (Genesis 5:24; 6:8; Heb. 11:5).  Another one who walked with God was Noah, for he was a blameless and righteous man (Genesis 6:9).  

    As we humbly walk with God, we learn to trust His guidance and leadership, for He is directing our paths and knows what is the best way for us to follow, for all His paths are merciful and truthful.  God guides the humble into righteousness and teaches him His way.  He will take pleasure and delight in the humble of heart, for He resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.  Jesus, our Lord, is our best example, for He showed us how to be just, merciful and humble He brought justice to victory!  
    "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye tithe mint and [n]anise and cummin, and have left undone the weightier matters of the law, justice, and mercy, and faith: but these ye ought to have done, and not to have left the other undone. 24 Ye blind guides, that strain out the gnat, and swallow the camel!  25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye cleanse the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full from extortion and excess. 26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup and of the platter, that the outside thereof may become clean also.  27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which outwardly appear beautiful, but inwardly are full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. 28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but inwardly ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.  29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and garnish the tombs of the righteous, 30 and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we should not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. 31 Wherefore ye witness to yourselves, that ye are sons of them that slew the prophets. 32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. 33 Ye serpents, ye offspring of vipers, how shall ye escape the judgment of hell?"  (Matthew 23:23-33).  

    In Matthew 23:23-33Jesus confronted the Pharisees of His time with their hypocrisy as they arbitrarily placed their religious duties above the practical principles of righteousness of God's Law.  To walk humbly with God is to live by faith, for a humble faith is always ready and willing to obey God and His commands without giving any excuses or rationalizations.  A humble faith does not seek to justify self but rather bows itself down for others to see Christ.  The Gospel defines the perfect way to walk blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.


    CONCLUSION:

    Chapters 6 and 7 of Micah comprise a series of lamentations, warnings, and condemnations against the people of Israel and Judah.  Their sins lead to the wrath or judgments of God upon them. Here again, we must note that these warnings can apply to us as well.  The judgments or sentences pronounced against the northern and southern kingdoms were harsh.  God called Micah to set their sins before them.  Micah connects the final part of his prophecy to the first.  God's judgment against the leaders of the nation was manifested before all people and nations in the beginning.  Now toward the endGod's fairness, the righteousness of His complaints against them, is openly seen of all.  God's fairness (goodness), justice, or equity in His judgments will be pleaded, and sinners will be forced to confess that God's ways and judgments are all righteous and fair.
    "The voice of Jehovah crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom will see thy name: hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it. 10 Are there yet treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and a scant measure that is abominable? 11 Shall I be pure with wicked balances, and with a bag of deceitful weights? 12 For the rich men thereof are full of violence, and the inhabitants thereof have spoken lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth. 13 Therefore I also have smitten thee with a grievous wound; I have made thee desolate because of thy sins... "  (Micah 6:9-7:6)

    In Micah 6:9-7:6, God makes His complaints and accusations toward them whom He will judge, for they have broken the Law.  They have sinned against His love and His Law.  You see, it was the Law given through Moses and the Levitical Priesthood (instituted in Aaron) that turned them into a nation.  The violation of that same Law caused God's heartbreak and the need for Him to judge them.  The Law detailed many requirements, such as the law of Sabbaths, and the laws of sacrifices.  The sum and substance of such requirements were that God's worshippers have to live justly, love kindness, and walk humbly with their God.  Thus, failure to obey these commandments caused them to fail in the most fundamental principles of the Law:  to act justly, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. 

    To do justly, love, and walk humbly with God are also reflected in the Gospel of Christ.  God wants us to act or do justly, for He wants us to judge with righteous judgment and not according to appearance (John 7:2).  He demands that we be merciful as our Father in heaven is merciful (Luke 6:36).  Moreover, He requires that we walk humbly with Him.  In Philippians 2:5-8, the apostle Paul encourages us to have Christ in us.
    “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

    To act justly and be merciful is vital to walk humbly with God.  

    Therefore, let us choose to walk humbly with our God that we might save our souls and be with Him for all eternity.  Jesus is inviting all people saying, 
    "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls”  (Matt. 11:28-29). 

    He is a loving, merciful, and longsuffering God who is moved with compassion toward us, not wanting that any soul should perish, but come to repentance (2 Peter 3:8-9).  

    God wants His children to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with Him.  When one fails to do justly by not keeping God's Law (His commands and precepts), he is disobeying Him. It is an affront to God, for he is mocking God by his defiance.   When one serves God faithfully, walking humbly with God like Micah, Joshua, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and many other heroes of the faith, we can rest assured that our faith will be unshaken even amid apostasy and a faithless and lawless generation.  

    The Truth is narrow, and error is broad and ever on the throne.  With such an imbalance between Truth and error, light and darkness, the wicked always seem to boast, scoff, and rejoice when they upset God's people.  Their joy is evil and empty and destined to be brief, for God Almighty will silence them and put them to shame (Romans 8:31-39).

    Therefore, let us praise our Jehovah God for His great glory, His readiness, and willingness to forgive and His faithfulness to His promises.  And though He is just and does punish those who disobey Him, He delights in lovingkindness.

    May we humbly understand the heart of God found in His Sacred Word.  May we humbly obey what our God requires and demands of each one of us, which is to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him.  May we always walk humbly with our Lord that we might be able to be faithful to His commands, precepts, and statues, obeying Christ's Law.  


    Luci

    Monday, April 13, 2020

    AT THE CROSS


    "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed."
    Isaiah 53:3-5



    Isaiah’s prophesy of the Messiah’s suffering, and death is echoed in the moving song, "Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed" (At The Cross). This inspiring song reminds us of Jesus' death on the cross for sinners. We all like sheep have gone astray and have turned away from God to our own way of sin. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Our sins have separated us from God and brought death to our souls (Isa. 59:1-2, Rom. 3:23, Jas. 1:14-15, 1 Jn. 1:8-10). 
    "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; 2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear" (Isaiah 59:1-2).
    "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
    "But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death" (James 1:14-15).

    I.  JESUS SACRIFICIAL DEATH FOR SINNERS:

    Our Lord and Savior had to die because we are sinners. And though we are like worms (Job 25:6, Psa. 22:6) before the Almighty and Righteous God and without hope because of our sins, our Creator still loves us enormously and gives us a second chance. He sent His Son in the form of a man to suffer, be humiliated, and put to death by His own creatures to save us.
    "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God... " (John 3:16-21). 

    • The precious blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin:

    It was necessary for His body to be slain. His blood ransomed us to God. Our High Priest offered Himself, His blood for the purification of our sins. He is our Passover Lamb who sacrificed Himself, and with His own blood, He provides us eternal redemption.
    "And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying, 'Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.'  11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, 'Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!'" (Rev. 5:6-12


    • He is our High Priest who entered once for all into the Most Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus securing that eternal redemption for us:

    "But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God" (Heb. 9:11-14).


    • Our Passover Lamb was able to do this, only because He was willing to suffer for our sins, being put to death on a Roman cross: 

    And even though He was righteous (without sin), He died for the unrighteous to reconcile and bring us back to God. Our sins are a wall of separation between our Father and us (1 Pet. 3:18). His death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and priesthood in heaven were all essential to reconcile us to our Father in heaven. Indeed, it is by God’s Grace that Jesus died for us. Jesus' death on that cruel cross, was God's ultimate expression of love for us, the sinners (Rom. 5:8; 1 Jn. 3:16, 4:8-10). Thus, we are saved by Grace through faith in Christ, for we cannot do anything to save ourselves (Eph. 2:8-9, Tit. 2:11). We glory on the cross because of Jesus' enormous sacrifice for us.
    "But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which[a] the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal. 6:14). 

    Although we are saved by Grace, God's mercy, that does not take away our need and responsibility to obey God's commands, because God’s Grace is conditional.


    • Jesus, our righteous Maker, left heaven's glory to come to this sinful earth:

    "Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:5-11). 

    Furthermore, He lived a life full of suffering and temptation just like us but without sin. Becoming our merciful and faithful High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses (Heb. 2:17-18, 4:15). Because of all that, our Savior did for us, dying a cruel and awful death full of pain, He made redemption possible for us.
    "For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Mt. 26:28). 


    • He died to make propitiation for our sins:

    "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). 

    The sun hid its face in darkness and refused to shine because of such atonement (Mt. 27:45). All of this must compel us to mourn with godly sorrow, for Jesus suffered and died for our sins (Matt. 5:4, 2 Cor. 7:10). Godly sorrow produces true repentance that leads to obedience to Christ (Lk. 13:5, Acts 17:30-31, Acts 2:38, Heb. 5:8-9).


    CONCLUSION:

    Jesus’ sacrificial death demands that we sacrifice and give ourselves completely to Him all the days of our life here on earth.
    "Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matt. 16:24-25).
    "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). 

    Only when we obey the Gospel of our Lord and Savior, can our new life begin where the old man dies, and the new man in Christ Jesus is born.
    "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:3-11). 

    May we be grateful for all God's wonderful gifts, blessings that were made possible because of what our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, did for us "At The Cross." I hope this song moves you the way it moves me!!

    Alas, and did my Savior bleed, And did my Sovereign die;
    Would He devote that sacred head For such a worm as I?

    Was it for crimes that I have done, He groaned upon the tree?
    Amazing pity, grace unknown! And love beyond degree.

    Well might the sun in darkness hide, And shut his glories in,
    When Christ, the mighty Maker, died For man the creature’s sin.

    Thus might I hide my blushing face While His dear cross appears;
    Dissolve my heart in thankfulness And melt mine eyes to tears.

    But drops of grief can ne’er repay The debt of love I owe:
    Here, Lord, I give myself away, ‘Tis all that I can do.

    The chorus,

    At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light, And the burden of my heart rolled away,
    It was there by faith I received my sight, And now I am happy all the day.


    Luci