Tag Archives: Pride

Be Perfect

Matthew 5:48

48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

I would guess that there is not a single person reading this who has ever looked at this scripture and said “No problem.” Actually quite the opposite has always been true with me. How can I ever live up to this? Perfect, as God is perfect? Jesus must have misspoke. He didn’t really mean what He says here, did He? But then again, Jesus always meant what He said. I also don’t believe Jesus ever told us to do something that was beyond accomplishing in our lives, including this verse.

First, let’s look at this word perfect. Our human concept is that it means flawless or without any blemishes of any kind. Our human concept is that it is impossible to attain perfection because we will never be flawless. Our flesh is always messing up, making mistakes and marking us with sin. Day after day we struggle to stay above this sin filled world, but we slip and fall and have to repent once again. Our flesh will never stay perfect and for that reason we will never see ourselves as perfect in God’s eyes.

But there is more to the Greek word than that. In the Greek, this word means brought to its end, finished or lacking nothing necessary for completeness. This is an entirely different picture of the word. I think of the potter. He molds and shape the clay until it forms the vessel he is trying to make. He smooths the clay, works it with his hands and applies the water to smooth it out. Once it is in his desired shape he will fire it in the kiln and allow it to harden. When done it is perfect in his eyes. To is complete and ready for his use. There may be small imperfections in the vessel, but the potter ignores them because he knows the vessel is ready to meet his use, so that is all that matters to him. He sees it as perfect.

I never want to think I am perfect. If I do, pride will rise up within me that I have accomplished something and I am something special. I have been there before and I don’t want to go back. When the spirit moved on a service, I would think I put together the perfect worship service. When many people came to the altar for prayer after a message, I would think I delivered the perfect message for that day and gave the perfect altar call. I did this or I did that. Perfection will never come from within me, nor will I probably ever produce perfection. There is just too much flesh covering my life that I can’t get away from its imperfections.

We have to look at this word differently. Jesus is not saying we have to be perfect in our own eyes. He is saying we have to be perfect in God’s eyes. The difference is huge! God knows where He wants us to be and what He is trying to accomplish in our lives. Only He knows when we are perfected to the place He wants us. We might still see all our flaws and failures, but He may see us as perfected for the purpose He has for us today. That perfection will change as we grow and mature in Christ. God is the one who sees us as perfect.

“How do we get there?” has to be the next question. The journey starts with our salvation. The sin stained life of Adam must be covered with the redemptive life of Jesus Christ. 1 John 2:2 says Jesus is the propitiation for our sins. That means he covers our sins so that God does not see them. In fact, God removes them as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12). He tells us that though our sins are scarlet, He will make us white as snow (Isaiah 1:8). He says if we confess our sins, He will forgive us and cleanse us (1 John 1:9). Our sin must be removed before we can even think about being perfected by God. That is the starting point.

There are many verses in the Bible that talk about the Lord purifying us like gold and silver is purified. This points to a process of perfecting us by removing the things that hinder us in our spiritual walk. Malachi 3:2-3 tells us God will purify the sons of Levi so that they may present the Lord righteous offerings. We are the spiritual priesthood and God wants to purify us so that our works are righteous and pure before Him. Psalm 66:10 says that the Lord has refined us like silver. He has taken away the dross and left those things that are pure before Him.

But how does He do this? This is the thing we must grasp onto. He does the purifying through our trials and tests. Those difficult things God allows into our lives are the very things that remove the dross and imperfections from our lives. Isaiah 48:10 tells us He has tried us, but not like silver, because He has tried us in the furnace of affliction. 1 Peter 1:7 tell us that our faith is more precious than silver or gold and it is tried by fire. Our faith is tried and purified by the fire of afflictions that come into our life.
The key verses to me are James 1:2-4:

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

Perfect and entire, wanting nothing. There it is again. James tells us that this is attainable. We can be perfect and entire before God. This is not the kind of perfect that has no imperfections! It is not someone who does absolutely no wrong, who is what we would call “squeaky clean.” It is not a person who says the right things and does the right things all the time. It is not a perfection of this world. It is a perfection in God’s eyes.

James tells us first to be joyful when troubles and trials come out way. Sounds impossible, but it is not. This is the Fruit of the Spirit joy that is always there no matter what things may come. It doesn’t laugh uncontrollably or leap for joy or shout for joy. It’s a joy that knows God is doing something good and will rejoice because He is working in us, right at this very minute. The trials we go through are going to exercise my faith. We all know that exercising something will make it stronger. Our trials make our faith stronger.

As our faith grows, so does our patience. We learn to wait on God. We learn that the answer does not always come within the time frame we are hoping for. We learn that His answer always comes at the time appointed by Him, not us. So we have to wait, not really knowing when the answer comes. We have to continue to extend our faith in expectation of that answer, knowing He will answer our prayer because He promises He will. We also have to have wisdom to know when the answer comes because His answer is not always what we expect. He will send His perfect answer, where we always want what we want!

Patience eventually takes over. We no longer worry or fret when the answer will come. We just know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has everything under control. We wait and pray, knowing God will bring the best answer at the right time. Patience with God is a critical thing. Patience with ourselves is also a by-product. Patience with others is a result of it all. Being able to endure when things aren’t going exactly the way we want is patience. Being able to hold your tongue is patience. Allowing your life to be led one step at a time is patience. It is when patience is completely working in every part of our lives that we are perfected. That’s is when God looks at us and sees a perfect vessel ready for the Master’s use.

When I first saw this truth, I was blown away. Knowing that patience is so critical in our walk with God will change our perspective. It sure did mine! I realized that all those trials I have gone through, and am still going through, are God’s perfecting agents for my life. That is why I can have joy in the midst of every trial and test. I know He is brining me closer to perfection in His eyes. I know that this trial is bringing me to the place where I am perfectly ready to fulfill His call on my life.

Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect. Not in your own eyes, but in His eyes. He sees our heart, we see our flesh. We see an imperfect vessel, He sees a perfect heart if we have come to that point. Allow yourself to be perfected by God, and be perfect.

Do The Unexpected

Matthew 5:38-42

38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.

41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

The natural man wants revenge. That is our way. If someone wrongs us, we want to do something wrong to them. If they offend us, we want to offend them. If they steal from us, we want to take something of theirs. If they hurt us, we want to hurt them. Revenge.

God does not want us to take revenge. His way is love. He does not want us to remain angry, but forgive. No matter what is done to us God wants us to show love. There is nothing someone else can do to us that would make God approve of us taking revenge. Revenge belongs to Him.

Romans 12:19

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord (Deuteronomy 32:35).

Why are we so quick to ignore this part of Jesus’ teaching? What is it about revenge that is so sweet, and why do we feel we are entitled to it? The answer is simple, and we have mentioned it several times in our study already. It’s pride, pure and simple. Getting even with someone makes our flesh feel better. The old man wants nothing more than to be on a level playing field with everyone else. If they are offended, offense should be thrown back. If they are slapped on the cheek, they should slap back. If they are taken advantage of, they want to find a way to take advantage of the other person. Only looking at what makes me feel better is pride. Doing what is best for the other person is humility. The trouble is most of us do not want to be humbled. The other problem is that God will allow people into our lives that will offend and hurt us over and over again to teach us this lesson. Have you noticed this in your life?

I see and hear Christians all the time wanting to get even or to repay a hurt that was done to them. This ought not to be so. We should do all we can to allow God to even the score with someone else. The commission for us is to love our enemies (Matt 5:44), to count it a blessing when we are persecuted for righteousness sake (Matt 5:11-13), and to count it joy when we fall into temptation or trials (James 1:2). These things come into our lives to help us grow in grace and mercy and to learn humility. Are we allowing God to teach us these lessons, or are we trying to get our own way and feel better about ourselves?

The second lesson in this portion of scripture is to do more than is expected. Our human tendency is to only do as much as we must too get by. My wife works as a hostess in a restaurant most evenings. During the night, there are several waitresses that clock in and out at various times. Each is expected to do certain things at the end of their shift to help prepare for the next day. Most of the waitresses will help get another ones chores done so they don’t have to stay so late. There is one lady who does her work and then leaves without regard for how much more there is to do. She simply says her work is done, so she is leaving. This really gets under my wife’s skin, because my wife is the type that will always help the others until everything is done. She is kept in high regard by her fellow workers because of her wonderful attitude about this. Some nights this keeps her an hour or two past her shift being over, and often she has already clocked out. That’s just who she is! My wife is a Christian – it is what she should do.

In Jesus day, it was a law that if a Roman soldier asked you to go a mile for him, you had to do it. This was not a matter of choice. Often, the soldiers would ask people to carry their armor, or some sort of load for that required mile. Imagine their surprise if someone would say they would go another mile after the required mile was done. Do you suppose it would allow the person carrying the load to share why they were willing to do so? Because, as a Christian, they just wanted to go the extra mile in honor of Christ. What a witness. Have you ever gone out of your way to help someone, or done more than they asked you to do? Did it bless them? Did they ask you why you did so much when you didn’t have to?

The things Jesus mentions here go against the grain of our society. They go against everything our flesh tells us. Lend to people without expecting anything in return? That’s outrageous isn’t it? But that is what Christ says (Luke 6:34). I know there are many times I have loaned out small amounts (under $100) and then simply forgot about it. I didn’t forget on purpose – I’m not even sure that is possible. I just forgot, which is a fault of mine. When my wife would remind me about it, I would simply say that I ‘m not going to worry about it. If they get around to paying me back, great. If they don’t, I’m not going to let it get to me. I choose to just sit back and forget it. This beings me a peace of mind that would not be there if I was always reminding my friend he owed me back.

In fact, all three of these examples Jesus gives add to my peace of mind and also to the peace of the other person involved. When I am offended, or compelled to go with someone, or lending something, I can easily get all worked up and impatient about things if they don’t go my way. But if I make sure that I put the other person first and allow these three principles to reign in my life, I will be in a much better place. These things are also roads to humility in my life, which I believe is one of God’s favorite characteristics in His children. All three put the other person first and put down our own pride in the process. What could be more pleasing to God?

Don’t Offend Yourself

Matthew 5:27-30

27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:

28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

 

About 15 years ago I attended a conference in Des Moines, Iowa for people in ministry in the Assembly of God church. These were all pastors, youth pastors, worship leaders and evangelist. One of the first speakers was Fed Stoeker, who was from Des Moines. Fedr had co-authored a book with Steven Arterburn entitled “Every Man’s Battle : Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time”. My pastor knew that this was an area where I struggled deeply and brought me specifically for this session. I will never forget the opening statement made by Mr. Stoeker.”According to polls done over the last few months, over 50% of the people in this audience have a problem with pornography.”

He was addressing a group of spiritual leaders! People who were supposed to set the example and be above this type of temptation. We all knew the dangers of pornography. We preached against it In our pulpits, citing the dangers of even a little glimpse at the taboo. We told our churches what a rabbit hole they could sink into if they even ventured there and how hard it was to get out of once we had fallen. Now we hear that 50% of us struggle with the very thing we know is so poisonous! If we were struggling so deeply, what percentage of our congregation was? Fred want on to say that over 75% of our men and 25% of our women were in the same situation. I have to state here that this seminar was for male church leaders only, thus the high percentage. He also said that the fastest growing demographic was the women. He had our attention right from the start.

There are many ways our eyes can offend us, but the quickest and most damaging is sexual imagery. For me it started with the Sears catalog when I was young. Those pictures of women’s undergarments were titillating to me and I would stare at them for hours. By my teens I was with a group of boys who could get Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler magazines. I also remember cleaning houses with one of my friends mom’s and finding some sexually charged books in some of those houses. Later we would go to XXX rated drive-in movies and theaters. I was deeply hooked and it took me places I will not talk about here. Let’s just say it nearly ruined my life. I have shared some of this before in this blog. It is a lifelong struggle that many men have. I was fortunate to have this pastor who loved me enough to take a hard stance and get me the help I needed. It was not easy. In fact, I still confront temptation on a regular basis and have to guard my eyes continually.

This offense to my eyes may only go away if I do pluck my eye out! How can I overcome so great a thing that has a hold on my life. Research shows that an addiction to pornography is greater than that of cocaine, heroin or meth, The chemicals released into out body by a sexual high are much more powerful. The truth is you cannot fight this battle and win. The only way you win it is by overcoming your pride. That’s right, pride. Because pride is rebellion against God in any form. Pride is putting our thoughts and our ideas above God’s law. Pride is having a high opinion of ourselves. Pride is spending an inordinate amount of time thinking and worrying about ourselves. Pride is thinking it’s OK to break God’s law because He loves us and will forgive us. Pride is our worst enemy. God hates pride and it is spoken against dozens of times in the Bible. Until our pride is overcome, we will never win the battle against sexual addiction.

And how can our hand offend us? Many would say the quickest way is masturbation. That fact that Jesus mentions this in the same context with lust after women tells me this is a viable supposition. It typically goes right alongside sexual addiction and is offensive to God. It is only mentioned once in the Bible that I am aware of, and the person who committed it was slain by God (Gen 38:9-10). This is another area I have struggled with all my life, for the same reasons as mentioned above. And the same remedy is prescribed by God. Get rid of pride.

Steve Gallagher is an author who has written many books on this subject. He is also the President of Pure Life Ministries (PLM), which is where I spent 8 months learning about my pride and how pervasive it is. A few of those books are “At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry”, “Irresistible to God”, and “When People are Big and God is Small.” He also put together a tremendous 24-week, daily bible study entitled “The Walk of Repentance.” That study deals with this subject extensively. I highly recommend these books if you struggle with sexual sin. I would love to talk with you further if you would like more information on this subject. Just email me at pgard7@gmail.com.

The truth is that we cannot get rid of our pride, we can only learn to control it. We do not get rid of sexual sin by trying to put it out of our mind. This will only strengthen its hold on us. We must replace it in our mind, and that replacement must be Jesus. It must be a dying to self and living for Him. It must be taking all our creative, knowledge seeking mind and centering on a thirst and hunger for His word and His truth. We must replace what the enemy has used to try and destroy us with the life-giving word of God. It is the only way. We cannot think our way out, or try to rid ourselves of the thoughts without replacing them with something stronger.

Look at Luke 11:24-26

24 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out.
25 And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished.
26 Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.

It is clear by what Jesus says here that riding ourselves of the unclean spirit of lust is not the answer to riding ourselves of sexual sin. That spirit will wander around and if we have not filled ourselves up with Jesus and the Word, the enemy will come back in stronger than before. I have witnessed this in my own life. My actions would go progressively downhill each time I would try and get rid of the lust in my life without filling back up with God.

This is a difficult subject for me because of the deep struggle I have had with it since my very early years. I am 66 now and wonder if I will ever completely overcome in. I have worked extensively on my pride and my wife is a huge helper. Together we have overcome quite a bit of that pride. The fact that I still fight the battle with lust also helps me give insight into it’s workings in men’s lives. God has entrusted me with some wisdom in this area, and I am thankful.

Look at what Paul says in Philippians 3:12-14:

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Paul knew He was not perfect. He had not attained the perfection He was looking for in Christ. I am not sure what sins kept Paul from that state, but it does not matter. We all have something we could dwell on. But Paul laid out a formula that we should remember and follow. It is powerful when you learn how to accomplish this on a regular basis, because when we battle sexual sin we need this routine a lot!

I have learned that the worst thing I can do is stew and lament over the times I slip and fail. That only draw attention to the sexual act again, drawing me back into it. I must live a life of daily repentance, bringing those things to God and laying them down at the altar. I must do my best not to dwell on the sin, but leave it behind me. Paul said I must forget those things which are behind. When we repent, we must leave those things behind.

Then I must spend time with Him, basking in the light of His word and drawing closer to Him. I must reach for the things that are ahead of me. Reach for His grace, mercy, love, peace, joy and so many other things He has promised to us. I must press toward that calling of God that is on my life. He has a plan for me, and it is up to me to walk the path He has laid out and fulfill that plan. Part of that fulfilling process is going through the trials and test placed in our path.

James 1:2-4 says:

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

These verses have become a beacon in my life. The trials and test we go through should be seen as joyful because they cause our faith to be exercised, which builds up our faith. That building faith takes time and patience, though. As we work through this process, we are perfected for the plan God has for our lives. This is a beautiful thing! God uses what He allows the enemy to toss into our lives as a perfecting agent!
This should excite us!

My friends, I have been brutally honest with you in this post, and I am hoping I struck a chord with you. I will say again, if you are struggling with sexual sin and would like to talk to someone, I am here for you. We share common ground. Email me at pgard7@gmail.com and lets try and bring you some victory in this area. To the rest, I pray this has opened your eyes to the poison that is out there and perhaps you can share this post with them and let them know there is hope! We serve an awesome God!

 

Be Reconciled

Matthew 5:23-26

23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

Here is the heart of the matter, and I think one of the biggest problems in our churches today. We do not handle offenses well. Many times we do not handle them at all. We keep them inside and let them fester, like an infected wound. If some of us could see what these offenses held have done to our soul, we would be terrified. They would look putrid, oozing with infectious puss, swollen beyond recognition, almost to the point of gangrene. They invoke stress into our lives and cause us to alter our daily course many times. They are deadly beyond our ability to recognize the enemy at work within us.

Why do we hold on to offenses so easily? Pride mostly. We are either too proud to admit we were offended or we are too proud to ask for forgiveness. We feel like we can handle it on our own and that the other person should be the one coming to us. We deserve an apology, don’t we? After all, they offended us! Why should we have to take any steps toward reconciliation with them? We are not going to admit they hurt us by what they said or did. That would play right into their hands. Nope, we are going to just hold onto it and eventually we will forget it and leave it in the past.

This is how we often handle offenses. There is nothing in the Bible that sanctions this type of neglect. There is a verse that many use to justify holding onto an offense, and it is found in Proverbs 19:11 (KJV)

The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.

The NIV translates this verse quite different:

A person’s wisdom yields patience;
it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

Looking at these verses closely, the word “overlook” is the Hebrew word abar, which is a primary root and is used many times in the bible. It almost always refers to passing over, crossing over, or going through. It is used to describe the people passing through both the Red Sea and Jordan River. Many internet searches will tell us that this word means we can overlook an offense made towards us. But personally I see it different. I believe this passages says we must go through that offense and get to the other side of it. It does not sanction just outing it in my back pocket. I wanted to bring that to your attention before going on in case you take the viewpoint that you can just forget an offense because this verse says so. Study it out and see what you think.

We should be in a position in Christ where we do not get offended. Did Jesus get offended in any way? Do we read anywhere that He was offended by something said or done to Him?. No! You will not see Jesus getting offended, and we are supposed to be like Him. Jesus did not get offended because He walked in humility and meekness while on this earth. We walk in pride most of the time, and it is our pride that gets offended. If we can learn to put that aside we will also learn to not be offended. This flesh is what gets offended, and our task is to put away the flesh.

Gal 2:20

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Gal 5:24

And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

Colossians 3:5

Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:

These three verses all tell us that we are to die to the fleshly desires and sins we once had. We are now supposed to live in the Spirit and not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). Being offended is one of those things that our flesh just revels in. Our flesh loves to be able to take sides and judge and demean other people. It loves to hold a grudge and complain and murmur against someone else. These are fleshly qualities, not Spir1tual qualities. When you get offended, you should ask yourself this question;

“When I am offended, what miserable piece of flesh is still alive in me that can get offended?”

The problem is that we do get offended, and Jesus addresses this issue several times during the Sermon on the Mount. In this instance, He is talking about the fact that we know of an offense we did to someone else that has not been cleared up yet. He says “if your brother has ought against thee”, not that you have anything against your brother. Maybe you have heard through someone else that a certain person is angry with you. Or maybe you know all about it and just decided to let it slide. Maybe it’s an old friend that lately has been ignoring you and you are not sure why. Whatever the case, you have been made aware that they have something against you – that they have been offended.

Many of us would say that it is up to them to come to us if they have a problem with us. Why should we go to them? It’s their problem, not mine! They are the ones holding the grudge, and it will hurt their soul, not mine. But Jesus says it is up to us to do something about it. In fact, He says it is more important for us to take care of this than it is to be in church and offer our praise, or our offering, or anything else. We are to take care of it quickly and not let it fester any longer. He says to go and first be reconciled to our brother and then come and offer our gift. This is Jesus talking, the one we worship! He is basically saying that we should not worship if we know our brother is offended by something we did and we do nothing about it. Those are powerful words that are way too often ignored by the church.

The clear truth here is that any offense hurts both parties. Offenses cause division in the church, and God hates anyone who sows discord among the brethren (Proverbs 6:16-19). Offenses cause people to move from one church to another, or even worse, they cause churches to split. Offenses become gossip and spread to the secular world as well, giving Christians a bad name and making us look like hypocrites. Offenses linger until they are cleared up, get bigger as time goes on, and eventually are forgotten but the hurt remains. Have you ever been mad at someone for a long time and eventually forgotten what you were originally mad about but you still decided to stay mad? That is an offense that has gotten out of hand.

The second thing that happens is that bitterness sets in. Bitterness will eat away at your soul. It’s like an infection in the body, as we described earlier. Once bitterness sets in, it is very hard to get rid of and it shows up everywhere we turn. Our attitude is affected, our health is affected and those around us are affected. It’s like a cancer that spreads to anything it touches. Hebrews 12:14-15 says”:

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;

Just a root of bitterness will trouble many. This verse says it is a failure of grace in our lives! It will bring a lack of peace and joy, quenching these fruit of the Spirit. Offenses not taken care of will lead to stress in every area of our lives. Why don’t we just take care of them as soon as we are aware of them? Why can’t we follow this teaching of Christ like we do others? The truth is, we must. We must do everything we can to take care of offenses. We will be talking more in a future lesson about those who have offended us, but for now it is time to take stock for each of us. Have you offended someone and just let it lie? Have you decided to just forget about it and not make it right? I urge you today to go to that person and be reconciled. Christ taught us to do so, and we should follow what He has said, especially when it comes to interpersonal relationships. Why?

In another portion of scripture, Jesus says He was naked and we clothed Him, sick and we visited Him, hungry and we fed Him, thirsty and we gave Him to drink. He also says that those who did so would be welcome into the Kingdom of Heaven. But those who did not do these things would not be welcome. Why? Because, Jesus said, when we do it to the least of His brethren, we do it to Him. An offense is the same thing. If we do not seek reconciliation from our brother, it’s the same as telling Jesus “Hey, your friendship is not worth it to me. I’m not going to try to make it right!” I’m sure none of us would say this to Jesus, but aren’t we in affect doing that?

Blessed are the peacemakers is the next to last of the beatitudes. This admonition in verses 23-26 is to be peacemakers. It is up to each one of us to do this, one step at a time. We have no excuse except our silly pride. When will you finally humble yourself and approach that brother or sister who is offended with meekness and love? When will we decide it’s finally time to listen to what Jesus is telling us here? There are hurting people out there, just waiting for each of us to make things right. Will you do so today?

Blessed Are the Pure in Heart

Matthew 5:8

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

 

Whenever I see this verse, I have to ask myself “How will I ever achieve this?”  A pure heart is a rare thing, and when I consider the heart I once had, full of ornery, deceitful, sinful, vile things I have to wonder how I can ever get all of that out of there.  I quickly realize I cannot, but God can.  I just have to figure out how to let Him.  He will not come in and just do it.  I have to ask step by step, and as He shows me the deceitful, wretched ways that are still in there, I can tackle them one by one.

What are some of those things that hide in my heart that make it impure?  The first one that comes to my mind is pride.  Pride hides from one’s heart like a cockroach hides from the light.  If you see one, you know there are probably hundreds.  If you uncover a drop of pride, most likely there is a river of pride just waiting to be discovered.  I can see pride in a person but if I tell them, it is unlikely they will believe it.  Only God and His Holy Spirit can reveal pride to a person, and only the Holy Spirit can help us rid ourselves of that pride by bringing it under control.  It is the most deceitful of all the vices, and the hardest to overcome.  But we must!  God requires humility (Micah 6:8), as we discussed in the last post.  He loves a contrite spirit and a broken heart (Psalm 51:17).  When was the last time your heart was broken before God?  When was the last time you were at an altar, broken and on your knees before Him?  This is how I finally tackled my pride and have some control now.  It is not an easy road.

The next one I think of is prejudice or biases we have.  I know this is true of me.  When I see some people groups I always wonder if they can be as smart or as successful as I am.  I admit this.  If they are not fluent in English, I wonder.  If they are of a different cultural group, I wonder.  If they are foreigners, I wonder.  I know in my head this is really stupid thinking, but my heart is deceitful and always poses this question to me.  It makes me think myself better (pride setting in) and I have a long way to go to overcome this one, but God is working on me in this area, and I am thankful.

Another area, especially for men, is lust.  Men are more susceptible to this and have a harder time getting the images out of their heads.  And the images are everywhere.  TV ads and shows, movies, billboards, magazines, and the like pose women as sexual objects all the time.  I have been caught up in this area most of my life, as I can remember sexual things that happened all the way back to childhood.  They still come back into my mind.  I urge parents to keep their young children, especially boys, away from any material sexual in nature.  It will stay with them for a lifetime, and their lust will grow to deeper and deeper depths as the satisfaction level must be met.  These pictures infect the heart and become as addictive as meth or cocaine.  Avoid it with all you can muster.

The last I will discuss, and there are many more, is covetousness.  It creeps into our lives so easily.  We want a better car, a bigger camper, a different house, keep up with the latest styles or have that new gadget.  It’s not because we need it, but because others are doing the same thing and we want to keep up, or look nice or be cool.  The worst part is we can’t afford it so we take out a loan, or do it on credit.  Believe me, I know all about this one.  It catches me all the time, and it is nothing but envy, lust and pride all rolled into one.  It is an endless cycle that will rob us of our freedom if we allow it to.  Watch out for this trap.

So how do we get to the point of a pure heart.  First, it takes the previous steps in the beatitudes to get to this point.  Be humble, mournful, meek, righteous, and merciful.  Those are the steps to obtain a pure heart.  Wow!  What a journey that is for us.  But we must take it in order to purify the depths of our heart.  It is not possible without these things being active in our lives at all times.  I think by now you can look at this list and see why they are all necessary for the purification of the heart.

Next, we must ask the Lord to show us our own heart.  Remember Jeremiah 17:9 says

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

The Bible teaches us that God knows the thoughts and intents of the heart.  Psalm 94:11 says

The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity.

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that God’s Word knows the thoughts and intents of the heart.  We have to go to God to find out what is truly in our heart, because our heart will deceive us all the time.  How do we do that?  Psalm 139:23-24 says it best:

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:  24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

When we ask God to do this, He will tell us what we should next tackle.  He will show us what is going on our hearts and lead us to His way.  But we must listen carefully to His voice.  It may come from another person, from a sermon we hear, from our daily devotion or from something we read online or see on a YouTube,  Maybe even a song will speak to us.  Many times, these things will come from two or three different sources on this list.  If we are open to hearing God’s voice, we will know He is dealing with us in an area of our lives.  We must pay attention when we pray this prayer or we will miss a golden opportunity to move toward a pure heart.

The advice to listen to your heart can drive you the wrong direction very easily.  Listen to God would be much better advice.  Many people do not really understand how to listen to God’s voice.  It really is not hard.  What is hard is doing what is required and that is the advice Psalm 46:19 gives us:

Be still and know that I am God

It is when we still ourselves, our thoughts, and our minds and allow God to breath His still small voice into our spirits that we hear His voice.  Silencing those areas of our lives is very difficult for most.  It takes time to develop this practice, but it is well worth it.  They say it takes 20 minutes to close off the mind to outside thoughts.  20 minutes of just waiting on God to speak to us with no other thoughts or cares of this world creeping in.  This is not a time to be meditating on your favorite verse or portion of scripture or the latest message you heard.  It is a time to just meditate on God and yearn to hear his voice.  Not asking in your head but sitting quietly and stilling yourself before Him.  I remember the first time my counselor at Pure Life Ministries asked me to do this.  I could not figure out how in the world I could accomplish it.  But I learned and now it is priceless to spend that time with God.  Do all you can to get to the place you hear His voice clearly.  The benefit of a pure heart can be yours.

The result of having a pure heart is also priceless.  We shall see God!  What a remarkable statement.  We shall see who God really is and what He wants for our lives.  We shall see His purpose and the way to achieve it.  We shall see His image, the one that we are made after, and we shall know how to walk out our day to day lives.  We will see God starting to be formed in us.  We will be transformed by the renewing of our minds and we will prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.  I want to walk there and live there.  How about you!

Be blessed!