Shout for Joy
How blessed are those who don’t promote themselves, for to them life yields its rewards,” Matt. 5:5
Standard translations vary slightly in their wording of the third Beatitude (“Blessed are the meek,” Matt. 5:5) but the above translation brings out the intended meaning more clearly. It is from my Jesus, In His Own Words, p. 32.
I ask, “In what way was Jesus meek?” To most contemporary ears, the word “meek” fails to carry the nuance intended by the Greek. When we say that Jesus was meek we don’t intend to convey the idea that he was not quite up to the challenge of life and that he protected himself by assuming a quiet fireside approach that would elicit smiles of approval. The meekness of Jesus was seen in the humble way he gave himself to a life of sacrificial service to God and his fellow human beings. His true strength lay in his ability to resist the temptation of taking over on the center stage of life, but rather to humbly give himself for the needs of others. A. W. Tozer wrote that, “The meek man cares not at all who is greater than he, for he decided long ago that the esteem of the world is not worth the effort.”
Meekness describes the manner in which Jesus set aside what was due him in order to pay the price for the sins that were due others. Meekness is the true strength of a Christ–like person. It washes the feet of others, not because custom calls for it, but because dirty feet need to be washed. The meek do not “promote themselves” because they can use that time more effectively in discovering the needs of others. The self-denying are pleased to live with the welfare of others in view because that way they can use their time for the common good of others.
The life of Jesus displays a refreshing self-forgetfulness. Not once in the gospels do we see him neglect another in order to satisfy a valid personal need. His quiet demeanor was a tower of strength. During the last days of a rewarding 60 year marriage I caught on that total attention to the needs of a failing partner can be life’s greatest joy. As the text says, “to them life yields its rewards.” God has so arranged our affairs so that complete commitment to the needs of another provides the richest kind of personal life. It is by giving that we receive, by dying that we live, and by letting go of personal desire we receive the greatest blessing.
The Beatitudes are the game plan for life. They prepare us for battle, strengthen us when we need it the most, and protect us from our own selves.
MIt had to happen and it did! Now what could that be? Time to write what you hope will be helpful for others and you just don’t feel like it.
It’s been a tough period of time in life for me, beginning with a fall and it’s consequent broken hip.All to the background music of operations,the strictures of life in the midst of despair. So Bob let’s write something that will encourage, perhaps inspire. Let’s be God’s angel in the dark dungeon of reality. Speak up.
To make it even a bit more difficult I have listening to, and recommending, Wintley Phipp’s great rendition of “It is well with my soul.” With deep pathos he sings “When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say”
. . . and then crescendoes into a triumphant “It is well, it is well . . . with my soul!“ And I know it is, but somehow my soul can’t manage to join in the celebration.
So, where do I turn? And the answer, of course, is Scripture. What is it that God wants to say in a moment like this? Shall I just close my eye’s and chose a page at random, or should I take a moment and talk to my Heavenly Father about it? I have decided on the second option because that has been the right option before. So where shall I turn? What I seem to need is encouragement so I’m turning to David and the Psalms. And what better Psalm than 107!
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good
His love endures forever;
Let the redeemed speak up and tell us their story
How God has failed them never.
Some were in prison, others died at sea
All were brought to their end;
They confessed their plight and cried out to God
They learned on him to depend
He saved them from trouble, stilled every storm
Answered them when they prayed;
They raised their voice in grateful praise
Confessing that they had strayed.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good
Especially in times of stress;
Even though life may turn out to be hard
He’s always ready to bless.”
Reflect on the last two verses; Confess we have strayed and God will still the storm.Though life will have its difficult moments, God is always ready to bless. I’m seeing it all in the larger context of life and his peace is already slipping in. Praise God!
Nowhere in scripture do we have a clearer of more concise definition of the gospel than in Rom. 1:16. The gospel, as Paul puts it, is “the power of God at work bringing salvation to all who believe.” What this says is that the gospel is not a religious statement but an existential reality. Not a lifeless message but a vibrant encounter. You read it or hear it, Yes, but primarily you experience it. It speaks to the heart. Hear the apostle once again, the gospel is “the power of God at work bringing salvation to all who believe.” The gospel is not so much about God as it is God himself at work. It is this dynamic quality that makes the gospel unlike any other message. The famous Dwight Moody, evangelist of the 19th century said the gospel is like a lion; all the preacher has to do is open the door and get out of the way.
That the gospel has a power of its own is so often forgotten. Apologists develop logical plans to prove the truth of the gospel and preachers raise their voices, but all they have to do to convince the unbeliever is to “let it loose.” Paul was struck blind on the Road to Damascus, not simply because of the bright light but because Christ was, as it were, the light. The gospel is not a story about something but the experience itself. Wherever the gospel is proclaimed God is there telling his own story. Narrative becomes reality.
The purpose of the gospel is not to inform but to transform. It is a gospel that ”brings salvation.” The words of the gospel may be discussed but the purpose of those words is to bring salvation. At its core the gospel is not something to learn, but to accept and experience. It is the power that can move us from darkness into light. Man’s traditional approach to salvation was to work hard and earn it. Righteousness, we once thought, was the result of all the good things we had done. As a result we would earn our way into heaven. Not so! insists Paul. The answer is faith all the way – “from first to last.” As scripture teaches: “The righteous will live by faith.”
This basic teaching on salvation is so important and so different from competing ideas because it is securely based in an historical event. Events are not ideas but truth. We now know that what God wants is not our labors but our hearts. It takes humility to acknowledge our weakness and turn with empty hands to One who wants to give us the righteousness that we could never have earned. Free gifts are hard to accept if one is determined to earn them. And freedom asks you to relinquish your proud accomplishments as a ticket to heaven.
I know that theology tends to leave the mind a bit confused but we are not responsible to master it. When we stop for a moment and remind ourselves that God dwells in another and higher realm than ours we see why our understanding is less than we might want. Because a third grader can’t understand the quantum theory doesn’t make the theory wrong. Because the human mind can’t fully understand such things as eternal life – that’s never ending, No, not a long time but NEVER – doesn’t mean that it is wrong, Like the third grader we are not equipped. The good news is that God asks us simply to accept.
Each of Solomon’s proverbs is made up of two clauses that balance one another. The second clause strengthens the first by repeating it in different words, expanding it in some way, or balancing it negatively. Today’s proverb compares two ways to related to strife: to avoid it (that’s the honorable thing to do) or to quickly jump in (that’s foolish.) I like the TEV’s way of putting it: “Any fool can start arguments; the honorable thing is to stay out of them.”
It certainly is not wrong for people to have differing views on various issues. An opinion is the result of looking at something through the prism of one’s total experience up to that point. We come to every issue with an ideology formed by the values of those who have nurtured us plus our personal experiencesin life. That is who we are and since every person’s life experience is different, we think somewhat differently on a wide range of ideas. Where the problem arises is that we tend not to be open to learn from one another. As time passes the issues on which we differ tend to become more important and it is increasingly difficult to find common ground. This is where strife enters the scene. Solomon says that it is an honorable thing to avoid strife, that is, not to get caught up in arguing the superiority of one’s own position.
I have a somewhat questionable view of debate, especially when it becomes part of the procedure by which we elect our president. And why is that? It’s because the goal of debate is not to arrive at truth, but to win. All else drops by the wayside if I win, regardless of which side of the debate I’m on. My hope for a president is not that he/she will be skillful in manipulating the facts so as to win the assent of the majority. I would hope that of the various candidates, the winner would be the one whose plans for the nation most closely approximate what I believe are best for the nation as a whole.
If “fools insist on quarreling” (NLT) then the wise thing to do is to approach differences of opinion in a more steady and thoughtful manner. On a national basis that means that both parties commit themselves to developing a joint understanding of what the people want and what will be best for the nation as a whole. Then that central concern can be discussed from various points of view and our representatives can put into play the strategies most likely to achieve that goal. Pie in the sky? Perhaps, but that is no reason to give up the dream.
On a personal level it is much the same. People of good faith should come together to achieve that which is best for both sides of every issue. To “win” an argument with another is one step away from the best solution. Solomon is right, it is better to work together than to wage a war of words.
1 John 5.1-5
As John begins to drawn his letter to a close we find him using the word “love” five times in the first three verses of the final chapter. We learn that those who love the father will love the son (v. 1), that it is by loving God that we know we love his children (v. 2), and that love is the keeping of his commandments (v. 3). A question keeps coming up as to the meaning of love – put simply, is it a noun or a verb? Is love a relationship that expresses itself by loving acts or is it the acts themselves? Perhaps it is only a question of semantics, but it is worth pursuing.
Verse 3 gives us the clearest definition and it says that love is keeping his commandments. The point is clearly made by the translation in the NJB – ”This is what the love of God is: keeping his commandments.” Granted, the common point of view is that love is a relationship that expresses itself in acts of kindness, but here it is understood not as something you have but as something you do. I believe the difference is significant. Love calls for involvement, for action. To love your friend who has just had a heart attack is to get up and rush him to the hospital. It is not feeling bad about the unfortunate turn of events but doing something about it. If you were that person how would you want your friend to react?
I’d like to turn for the moment to another book written by John for help on the distinction. John 3:16 says that “God so loved the world that he gave . . .” In almost every translation the little word “so” is understood as expressing the intensity of God’s love; he SO loved the world. But the Greek text rules against that and understands the verse to read, “For this is how God loved the world: he gave his one and only Son (Mounce in GEINT: cf. also the Holman Bible). When it comes to loving and giving one doesn’t produce the other but they are one and the same.
I emphasize this point because of the philosophical tendency to move from action to its cause. When truth becomes something to talk about rather than something to do, its basic purpose has been derailed. God wants us to “love another” which is not to think about the other but to do whatever is appropriate for them in the immediate context. In the case of God his love was not a tender feeling but an act – the giving of his Son to die for us. Let’s keep the emphasis where it belongs.
Robert H Mounce