4

Kingdom of Heaven

When you approach God, do you sense His dissatisfaction?
Does every prayer begin with you lamenting your own unrighteousness?
Do you feel His displeasure with you?
Does it make you reluctant to spend time in personal prayers?

We have been conditioned by the theology of hell to see ourselves as distasteful to God. The message of man’s failure has been preached to the exclusion of all else so that we’ve missed one big news item.

Jesus satisfied the Father, once and for all, on the cross. [Tweet This]

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; - 1 Peter 3:18 NASB

If you have turned from your old ways and accepted God’s free gift of life and citizenship in the kingdom of heaven, the righteousness of Jesus is applied to your account.

I hear much about the forgiveness of sin, but there’s more to what Jesus did for us that simple forgiveness. [Hear me, I’m not trying to make forgiveness small—it’s HUGE.]

Think of a man with a massive bill to pay. A bill greater than the value of all his worldly possessions. He liquidates all his assets and he’s still in debt. His balance is negative. If some kind benefactor comes along and pays the bill for our debtor friend, what does he have?

Nothing.

He's out of debt, but may still have to go begging for food to survive.

But if that benefactor then takes our formerly indebted friend and sets him up in business, gives him a car, and a home and provides an income while the business is getting off the ground, what does the man need now? He’s gone from deep in debt to prosperity.

When our friend—no longer a debtor—meets his former creditor, how does the creditor feel toward him? There is no reason for our friend to grovel and beg for leniency because the debt has been satisfied.

And what is this man’s approach to the one who paid the debt?

Thankfulness.

The Father (both creditor and benefactor in this story) has not simply paid our debt, and left us penniless. He has filled our account with the righteousness of Jesus.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. - 2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB

God is satisfied with us. He didn't leave us in a place of begging for His tolerance. He has invited us in to the family, giving us a seat at His table.

Brothers and sisters, don’t allow the lies of our enemy to keep you stuck outside the gates of the kingdom of heaven. His lies have held back so many sons and daughters from ever experiencing the Father’s good favor. Any personal prayer they may attempt ends up looking more like a beggar at the road side hoping for a scrap of bread than a prince sitting at his Father's banquet table.

I implore you today, my sisters and brothers, take your place at the table. Feast on the Father’s provision. Bask in His satisfaction.

More on this soon…

cropped-BenHeadshot.jpgHey, thanks for coming by.

Keep the light on!

Ben

3

If she is a wall,
We will build on her a battlement of silver;
But if she is a door,
We will barricade her with planks of cedar.

Song of Songs 8:9 NASB

The battlements in a castle wall were the openings where the archers would hide and shoot. They look like slits in the walls.

Normally, in Solomon’s day, the battlements would be made of stone, or wood, but the Bride wants to make battlements of silver.

Why silver?

It wouldn’t be practical to use silver in the real world, so we take this to be a spiritual picture.

Where gold usually speaks of royalty, silver signifies holiness in the Bible.

A wall is for the most part a defense, but the battlement is the offensive aspect of the wall.

Here is a striking idea. Holiness is an offensive position. [tweet this]

We think of holiness as passive, more of a state of being. But in the spiritual realm holiness is an offensive posture. “We will build on her a battlement of silver.”

We situate ourselves with the weapons of our warfare, high on the wall. The holiness in which we stand, rendered ours by the blood of Jesus, is the only place from which we can wage spiritual war. Spiritual warfare, if it is to be effective, must be waged from this place of holiness.

We learn from James:

The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. - James 5:16 NASB

Thank You Father, for this battlement of silver You have built for us. There is no way we could ever stand unless you made a place for us.

benheadshot1Thanks for coming by today.

Stand in that high tower of holiness today, and thank Him for the price He paid so you could.

Ben

6

sin righteousness and judgment

And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; - John 16:8 NASB

But how?

I have heard this used as an excuse for all manner of condemnation – like:

Well – the Holy Spirit’s job is to convict the world of Sin and since He is in me, I need to get busy convicting the world of sin. So I am going to go to the sinners and start convicting them.

This passage does go on to talk in some more detail about what the Spirit will do in the life of a believer, but as I pondered how the Spirit might go about convicting the world of sin, righteousness and judgment, I thought of what Paul said the Spirit would do in the life of a believer.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. - Galatians 5:22-23 NASB

I know I have said this here before, but the word fruit here is a singular noun. From Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words we have this:

…"the fruit of the Spirit," Gal 5:22, the singular form suggesting the unity of the character of the Lord as reproduced in them, namely, "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance," all in contrast with the confused and often mutually antagonistic "works of the flesh." [i]

I like to say the fruit of the Spirit is a love marked by joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

I am convinced that conviction will result as we live Spirit-filled lives, speaking as led by the Spirit and loving in a full-on fruit of the Spirit manner. [Tweet This] Jesus hammered away at the sin He found in the Church leadership – the Pharisees and Priests – but He tended to be more gentle and tender with those trapped in the hold of their unrighteousness. His love was compelling, and the outworking of the Spirit in His life brought many to the place where they were ready when the Church was born and the Spirit poured out at large.

He did not wink at sin, or downplay its dangers, but I believe He was helping get people to a place where they could see and receive the light He had to give. He preached repentance from dead works and faith toward God, and accompanied His preaching with works of compassion and provision.

John 16 goes on to tell us that the Holy Spirit will take what belongs to Jesus and disclose it to us. The basic idea is that filled with the Sprit, we will look like Jesus. As we walk like He walked (1 John 2:6) the world will be convicted of sin, righteousness and judgment.

Have you seen this in your walk? Have you seen your love for someone convict them? I would love to hear about it.

BN Writers Page 150Thanks for stopping by.

See you again soon.

Ben

 

 

[i] Vine, W. "Dictionaries :: Fruit (Bear), Fruitful, Unfruitful." Blue Letter Bible. Sowing Circle. 24 Jun, 1996. Web. 22 May, 2014. .

2

photo credit: robertmorgan.net via photopin cc
photo credit: robertmorgan.net via photopin cc

Having walked all my days in Christian circles, I have heard many of my brothers and sisters bemoan their failure.

They seem to have this seismometer attached to their life that detects the smallest failure, and magnifies it, codifies it, and preps it for detailed examination.

They spend much time shocked and dismayed that they have committed this sin or that. They fall to the feet of Jesus and beg forgiveness. They up their discipline structure, and demand of themselves longer times of solitude, longer fasts, longer times in scripture, more strict ethical and moral codes, long lists of resolutions.

It reminds me of what Jesus said about the Pharisees.

They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. - Matthew 23:4

But we are doing this to ourselves!

We stack up the UNKEEPABLE law against our own lifestyle and count ourselves as failures.

You do remember that the law is, in fact, UNKEEPABLE. That is why Jesus took on flesh, lived by the Spirit, died, and rose again from the dead. In the flesh we can only fail.

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, - Romans 8:3

When we judge ourselves against the law we will always come up as having fallen short, we come up as failures.

The problem is, as long as we continue to measure ourselves against the law, we will continue to see ourselves as failures.

The word I never hear applied to a Christian is success. We are willing to self-identify as failures, but not as successes.

I understand that any success we have would be Jesus’ success, but isn’t that true with our failures too?

I am convinced that this sells the blood of Christ short. When we see ourselves as failures in the Christian life, we are in effect accusing Christ Himself of failing.

He who came to save us from our sin, to save us to the uttermost IS NO FAILURE!

Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them. - Hebrews 7:25 KJV

Nope – the cross was a total success.

We must stop judging ourselves against the law of sin and death. It’s killing us.

Yesterday I told a parable about a prisoner set free, consider today this alternate ending to a similar parable.

Picture in your minds eye a man chained at the wrists to a wall in a dungeon. The shackles are cutting into this flesh. He is dirty and mostly naked.

Now see Jesus walk into that filthy prison cell holding a key. With this key, He unlocks the shackles, draws him a bath and lays out fine, clean and costly garments. These garments actually match His own.

Now picture in your minds eye this same man going back to the chains on the wall of his prison and taking them in his hands and holding onto them, unwilling to leave his filthy cell. These chains are all he knows.

Even after his bath, he is unwilling to put on the garments provided by Christ, because he still sees himself as dirty. He walks, clean but still half naked, back in his filthy garments, to the wall and clings to his chains. They are no longer holding him. Now he is holding them.

Though Christ has made him clean, and clothed him in righteousness, he cannot see himself the way Christ sees him, and so he goes back and holds onto the chains of Law. He refuses the clean garments of the spiritual life, and embraces these chains.

When he looks at himself, he only sees that he is still in the dungeon, still dressed in rags, and still chained to the law.

Oh dear one, I implore you, take a look at yourself the way God says that He sees you.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. - 2 Corinthians 5:21

Walk in life and freedom today. God’s work in you was successful.

If you have never accepted the free gift of that righteousness do it today. Trade in your rags for a tailor made suit of righteousness.

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by.

See you again soon.

Ben

4

Messiah Score

If you spent any time at Another Red Letter Day last Christmas, you know I am a fan of Handel’s Messiah. I posted the lyrics here, which, by the way, are 100% taken from scripture.

This time of year I put it on what ever device I am using and listen through it a number of times, and because it is all scripture, often the words jump off the device and get deep into my heart, demanding response.

On my drive to work yesterday, the I was struck by this bit from Malachi 3:

And He shall purify the sons of Levi. . . that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. ~ Malachi 3:3

Ok – so here’s the thing. We Christians get hung up with the fact that we fall short of God’s grace, and spend wwwwaaaaaaayyyyyyy too much time feeling unworthy.

Get this:

One of the things the Messiah did in the incarnation, or perhaps I should say in His death and resurrection, was to purify those of us who worship Him.

The sons of Levi were the priests and those responsible for leading the nation in worship.

He came to purify those who worship Him, and for the record, He was completely successful.

He has given us the ability to offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.

[At this point we all lift our hands and shout - Hallelujah.]

So what are you going to do with that?

Here’s a thought

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. - Romans 12:1-2

RECAP

He has made us worthy, purified us, so that we can make offerings to Him. And what offering shall we bring? How about our purified selves, ready to live (or die) for Him, and with open minds to the transforming Word of God so that we continue walking down the path toward more and more purification.

Let it be so in me today Lord!

Ben NelsonGod bless you all!

Thanks for stopping in.

Merry Christmas

Ben

There is tension in life. I am not talking about stress. Rather I am talking about 2 truths that seem to be at odds, and yet are complimentary. I want to compare two verses out of the Sermon on the Mount. I have reached Matt 6 in my crawl through the Sermon and it opens with this instruction:

Beware of practicing your righteousness (alms KJV) before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. (Matt 6:1 NASB)

However as I ponder this, I remember a few weeks ago working through this wonderful gem in Chapter 5.

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matt 5:16 NASB)

In 5:16 we are told to shine a light on our good works so men may see the works, yet in 6:1 we are told do not do your righteousness or alms to be noticed by men.

In the past I have always read this in the KJV where the word is translated alms which acts as a lead in to the following verses, but as I study through in the NASB uses the more general term righteousness. [The reason for the difference goes back to which Greek text each is translated from not just English word choice – but that is not my battle and I am not taking sides. If you are an enquiring mind and must know more I copied a little blurb from blueletterbible.org below[i] for your reading pleasure – if you want more than that – Google it.]

Sorry – chasing rabbits – bad habits.

In any case, the obvious difference is who gets the glory, right? In one case you shine the light of your integrity and godly character which stems from your intimacy with your Father on the good works you do with Him and He gets the glory. In the other, your entire motivation for doing the good works is to be seen of men.

I knew a man once who gave a $1,000,000 gift to a charity. WOW – good day for the charity. He called a press conference to do it! Good day for him too since that publicity (and a fefty tax break) was the reward he would get out of that deal. It defiantly impressed some folks, and in God’s record books, no further action was necessary.

Paul has something to say about righteousness which opens our eyes a bit wider on this whole issue.

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, (Phil 3:7-9 NASB)

When we stir up good works to impress men, it is ours and it is based in law. Consider why you slow down when a police car pops up on the side of the road. (oh yes you do!) Clearly your “good works” or keeping of the law is only for him to see, because when he was not looking you were cooking!

Not so with the life we live in the Spirit of God. What we do when partnered with Him – the stuff that we say yes to the nudging of the Spirit – those are His righteous acts, and draw men to Him and create glory for Him.

Does this help at all? I hope so.

We must hear that voice of the Spirit. Shhhhhh – listen – there it is! What is He saying to you. [Tweet This] You don’t have to tell me – just get out there and live with your heart's hearing aids on and walk in His righteousness by faith today.

Love you – come back soon.

Ben
Bunny photo credit: notsogoodphotography via photopin cc

For more on Light and Matt 5:16 check my post “Are You Going to Shine or Just Cut Bait


======================

[i] The Greek NT Texts: GNT Morph

The vast majority of modern translations are based upon the Greek text in this lower scroll (i.e. the "Alexandrian" text type). The Blue Letter Bible here provides this Greek text with an important note: the King James Version (KJV) is not based upon this Greek text. The KJV is based upon the "Textus Receptus" above. The Alexandrian-based text shown here on the Blue Letter Bible combines the Westcott-Hort (1881) edition with the Nestle-Aland 26th edition (and its variants).

The Blue Letter Bible has intentionally abstained from making a statement of belief as to the priority of the Textus Receptus over the Wescott-Hort text, or vice versa. While many good scholarly debates exist, others have quickly become divisive in the Church. We leave this decision to each individual; for such an issue can only be solved through much prayer and diligent inquiry.

Source http://www.blueletterbible.org

for they shall be completely satisfied. (Matthew 5:6 AMP)

Wait – Wait – Wait This can’t be right. Do you believe this? Is it true? Or is Jesus telling us a little white lie to try to motivate us to be good. Does true satisfaction really come from the pursuit of righteousness?

All our lives we are told that the best way to enjoy life is to live on the edge, to walk the fine line between good and bad. This is nothing new either. Generation after generation, it takes different forms, but we live surrounded by the message that a little compromise and a touch of naughty will bring a little joy into our lives.

The American culture teaches us that when someone is stressed, or grumpy, they just need a little sex and they will relax a bit. When someone has a hard day they need a drink to take the edge off. If you have to meet a budget, a little lying or cheating will go a long way to solving your problems. Satisfaction is just a compromise away.
It’s a lie! And it has worked for thousands of years. In fact the serpent used this same lie to trick Eve in the garden. God is keeping the best away from you. He wants you to go through life missing out on all the fun, and always frustrated.

This same serpent is the thief that Jesus tells us has come to “steal and kill and destroy.” His lies have separated us from satisfaction and in fact have left us unsatisfied and distracted from the source of true happiness. How could we be so foolish as to believe this liar! Jesus promised us “abundant life,” not average, boring, prudish or disappointing life.

Here is the thing. As I sit here writing this, God is bringing to my mind stuff that needs to be done with more integrity in my life. He is asking me if I believe Him, or if I am going to keep on living a compromised, unsatisfied life.
Now you decide, is Jesus telling us the truth? Is it true that complete satisfaction comes from pursuing righteousness? Or is this religious speak intended to manipulate the masses into obedience. Is there actually blessing, happiness and joy in living your life for God? If what Jesus says is true, aren't we effectively robbing God of that which He purchased when we live in compromise? 
Can you quiet yourself and listen for the voice of God as you read this. If you don’t have time right now, plan some time to mull, to consider. If you are like me, right now you are saying, oh, sister so-and-so could use this, or brother what’s-his-name could sure use some integrity. Yep, I thought about brother what’s-his-name, I admit it. But you need God’s voice in your life today, and so do I. Get quiet and ask Him this: Am I stealing myself back from You by my lack of integrity? (ouch) [Tweet This]

Hey, thanks for reading today. Please let me know if this is making a difference in your life.

Ben

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousnessMatt 5:6

The next step in God’s 8 step program is to pursue righteousness with the same intensity as a hungry man pursues food, or as one who is parched goes after water. Hear this. It does not promise this blessed life to someone who tries to be good, who pulls themselves up by their boot straps, who just grits their teeth and does what is right.
Rather this one who is hungry to do the right thing. To the hungry, there is no priority higher than food. We all get hungry sometimes. I walked in the house the other day after a long day at the office, and I was starving. I had not had a bite to eat since – oh – it had to be like 2 hours!!!!! Can you imagine my hunger? 2 whole hours without food! I was starving. And when I found out diner was not on the table, well you can just imagine the ruckus that ensued. Hmmm, not really. But I bet you have been there. This is not that hunger. One who is hungry has a determination and seriousness about him in his quest for food. Hunger cannot be ignored.
What if we actually pursued righteousness, sought after it like hidden treasure. What if we searched for opportunities to increase righteousness as though it was good for us, as if it was to our advantage – oh and just for the record it is to our advantage. I am not talking bout some strange self-righteousness that makes us feel superior. No way!. But how about taking your honesty to a new level, or how about the way you do your job, or your homework, or your chores, or duties – all of it. The mark of a Christian in the work place should be unimpeachable integrity. I promise if you will quiet your spirit for a while and mull this over the Lord will show you places to find more opportunities to do right. Don’t you see, as we take our righteousness to the next level, we will be taking our joy to the next level as well.
This passion for righteousness nets us a life joy. The Word tells us this about the life of Jesus that He “…loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” (Heb 1:9) Jesus understood that “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17) And no man ever walked in the Spirit to a greater level than Jesus did. Righteousness works itself out in peace and joy. The worst turmoil in a life is when you walk away from righteousness. Trying to cover your sin, or walk the edge between good and bad is death to all joy and peace. When you are seeking after righteousness, there is no shame, no guilt, and no fear, just peace and joy.
Jesus is our righteousness. (1 Corinthians 1:30) So basically, to hunger after righteousness is to hunger for more of Jesus in your life. As we embrace Jesus, His ways, His priorities in our lives, we will walk in this peace and joy. We must put on Christ, and search for His presence in our lives as though our lives depended on it. You will never regret it!


Let's ask the Father this question: Where have you hidden opportunities for integrity in my life? [Tweet ThisLet me know what you hear (if you feel you can share.)
Don’t miss the promise for this one! Come back tomorrow.
Thanks for reading! Tell me where you have found opportunities for increased righteousness.
Ben