|Vol. VI Number 2||January 13, 2002|
There is a tremendous difference between being a Christian according to the Bible and what the world thinks a Christian is. The Beatitudes give us a concise description of a Christian.
1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
The image that the world mostly sees of the organized Christian community is the opposite of the image that is portrayed here in Matthew. They see proud preachers on the television hawking their wares and turning the church into a market. They see preachers selling merchandise and trinkets that are supposed to be holy, and with all sorts of promises. Where is the Christian who possesses the attributes that are mentioned in Matthew. Where is the humble, meek, and pure in heart Christian who diligently seeks the God of the Bible.
The true born again has a humble poor spirit that is not haughty or proud. He has an air about him that is peaceful and pure. Here is the person who is humble before the Lord and seeks the glory of the Lord. He is not looking for the things of the world, but is looking for the wisdom that comes from above. He may be knowledgeable in many things, but realizes that only the knowledge of the Lord is important. He may know atomic theory, biology, chemistry, and many other disciplines, but he realizes that all of the knowledge of the world is dung.
Being poor in spirit is a attitude that few possess or even want to possess. Most want to boast of their accomplishments and their abilities. The Christian on the other hand desires to boast of what the Lord has done in his life. The Christian realizes that without the Lord he has nothing, thus making him poor in spirit. Those who honor the Lord instead of themselves will have an eternal home in heaven.
The true Christian is continually mourning for those around him who do not know the Lord. He sees his family who has rejected the gospel message. He mourns for his friends who wonder what kind of religious nonsense that their friend has gotten himself into. He has seen his family reject his belief in the Bible and now he's ridiculed as a crackpot. He mourns for the souls of those around him who do not know the Lord.
The Christian continually mourns for his family, friends, neighbors and all of the others that he knows who do not really know the Lord. He mourns for he knows where they are going and the only hope for them is to truly repent and seek the Lord with all of their heart. He knows that heaven is reserved for those who love the Lord and have repented of their sins.
The meek are the ones who will inherit the earth during the millennial reign. These are the ones who will be the Lord's lieutenants when he comes to rule the earth for a thousand years. This is the opposite of those who are in the leadership position now. Presently, the arrogant, and the proud are the rich who rule the world, but the day is coming when the meek will inherit the earth.
The real Christian is on a continual quest after righteousness in his own life. The quest is a life long quest that is never fulfilled. This is a purifying quest that continues from the day that the Christian repents and becomes filled with the Spirit until the day that he goes to be with the Lord.
This quest for righteousness is an all consuming quest that consumes the Christian's heart and soul. This thirst causes the Christian to constantly examine his life, his thoughts, his actions, and his being to continually strive for the perfect righteousness of the Lord. The righteousness ] that the Christian seeks is not the righteousness of the world in outward appearance, but the inner righteousness of the heart. This inner righteousness will manifest itself outwardly, but mainly the quest will be a quest of the heart that becomes causes the Christian to question his motives and thoughts about why he is doing what he is doing. This may not make sense, but when you think about it, when the born again Christian endeavors to do something he questions himself whether he is doing it for his glory or whether he is doing it for the Lord.
As you can see there are many using Christianity to increase their own glory and righteousness, but the Biblical Christian seeks the glory and righteousness of the Lord with his whole being. Thirsting and hungering after the Lord's righteousness causes the Christian Christian to question his own motives and desires whenever he starts anything.
The Christian shows true mercy as the Lord shows mercy. When Adam and Eve ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil the rightful judgment would have been immediate death. But the Lord was merciful allowing his children to sacrifice a Lamb in lieu of the blood that was the designated sentence. The Lord continued to show mercy to his disobedient children when Cain slew Able. Finally the Lord showed the ultimate mercy when he hung on the cross to pay for our sins with his very own life.
This is the mercy of the Lord whereas the mercy of the world is to put people into prisons instead of executing them for the murders that they commit. The mercy that the Christian displays is forgiveness when he is persecuted. When the Christian forgives the wicked he is displaying the same attributes that our Father has shown toward us. When the world curses us we need to show to the world the mercy of the Lord. We need to forgive as the Lord has forgiven us.
The Christian is pure in heart not doing anything for filthy lucre. He is on a continual mission to please his heavenly father in heaven. The world is busy puffing themselves up, the Christian is busy with the Lord's work. The Christian does not have any ulterior motives hidden behind his good deeds, but he works to please the Lord and not those around him. This purity comes about when the Christian has sought the Lord with prayer and fasting.
The Christian strives for peace and not contention. Whereas the rest of the world is busy justifying their actions and thoughts. The Christian on the other-hand seeks the peace of the Lord and a lot of times at his own demise. Look at the life of Corrie ten Boom in her life in Nazi concentration camps. She is a real peacemaker and a real saint of the Lord.
Finally we come to the Christian who is persecuted for doing good. Corrie ten Boom is one who spent a good portion of World War II in a Nazi concentration camp. Here she was persecuted for righteousness sake. In her book, ``Tramp for the Lord,'' she tells of meeting one of the worse concentration camp guards and how she forgives him.
It was in church in Munich that I saw him -- a balding, heavy-set man in a grey overcoat, a brown hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.
It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander's mind, I liked to think that that's where forgiven sins were thrown. `When we confess our sins,' I said, ~God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. And even though I cannot find a scripture for it, I believe God then places a sign that says, NO FISHING ALLOWED.'
The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947. People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room.
And that's when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past the man. I could see my sister's frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!
The place was Ravensbruck and the man who was making his way forward had been a guard -- one of the most cruel guards.
Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: `A fine message Fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!'
And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course -- how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?
But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face to face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.
`You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,' he was saying. `I was a guard there.' No, he did not remember me.
`But since that time,' he went on, `I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein,' -- again his hand came out -- `will you forgive me?'
And I stood there -- I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven -- and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place -- could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?
It could not have been many seconds that he stood there -- hand held out -- but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I ever had to do.
For I had to do it -- I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. `If you do not forgive men their trespasses,' Jesus says, `neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.'
I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had a home in Holland for Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were also able to return the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.
And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion -- I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. `Jesus, help me!' I prayed silently. `I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.'
And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into out joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
`I forgive you brother!' I cried. `With all my heart.'
For a long moment we grasped each other's hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God's love so intensely as I did then. But even so, I realized it was not my love. I had tried, and did not have the power. It was the power of the Holy Spirit as recorded in Romans 5:5 `...because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.'
Ten Boom, Corrie, ``Tramp for the Lord,'' Hodder and Soughton, London, 1976, pp. 55-57
Corrie Ten Boom demonstrated all of the attributes of a true Christian when she came face to face with the former guard and sought the help of the Lord to forgive him. This level of growth in the Lord came about by years of walking with the Lord.
3014 E Street Philadelphia, PA 19134 Church Office Phone: (215) 634-3637 Published by: Rev. LeRoy D. Cressy (215) 535-4037
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Copyright © 2002 LeRoy D. Cressy
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