A Cheerful Misery

Grief

Grief

Things have been really hard in my life lately. Really hard. When God starts changing someone, it seems like everything hits him at once. At least that is how it happens in my life. Everything in my life gets turned upside down and inside out, beaten to pieces, and the chaff burned to smoke and dust. It is hard, brutally hard, but oh so worth it.

Do you hear that? It is worth it.

Everything is worth drawing closer to God, learning to hear His glorious voice in every moment of every day, seeing your old, evil self being destroyed, that causes you so much trouble and heartache.

It. Is. Worth. It.

Even if God shreds up my life and throws away every goal and desire I have and sends me in the utterly opposite direction, tearing me from everything I hold dear but Him, if through it He brings me to something better, it will be worth it.

But that isn’t what I came here to say, though it came out and it is true, every word of it. I wanted to tell you about something that I learned in one of the blackest of my recent black days.

I was struggling with my depression, for I was very depressed. I was in misery over myself, and I still am. I hated myself, and not just the me in the past (hate isn’t strong enough of a word for him, honestly), I hated the me in the present. I hated the wasteful, despicable, pathetic, lazy, wicked, addicted, helpless, useless, evil, vulgar, arrogant, selfish, empty, hypocritical self.

And I was worried that I shouldn’t be that way. People kept on telling me that we should be cheerful, and fight against depression, and not forget this and that motivating spiritual fact. But this spiritual fact remained: I was a wretch, and I knew it; I failed God regularly, and I knew it; I acted hypocritically and despicably, and I knew it.

So sitting there, angry and frustrated with myself, praying to God, reading my Bible, I went again to the Beattitudes, one of my favorite passages of Scripture. Meditating on it, I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before.

Matthew 5:3-11 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.

These are, as I have always learned and taught, steps. Each one follows the one preceding it. Each one is the foundation of the one following it. It is a sequence, a pathway to life. I knew this.

But I didn’t know this:

You can know if you are stepping properly, if your actions lead you along the path.

Simple, yet profound. And very helpful.

How do you know the difference between depression and poorness in spirit? Are you being drawn and and led and driven to mourning?

How do you know if your mourning is repentance, and not selfishness? Are you being drawn and led and driven to meekness?

How do you know your meekness is humility and not slavery? Are you being drawn and led and driven towards a deep and insatiable desire for righteousness?

This was how I discovered that my misery was a godsend, and an answer to prayer. And I was grateful for it. And I pray it never ends.

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The Beatitudes Part 3: Holiness

Greetings,

Holiness is the end of the sequence. It is the completion of your goal. When these two final steps are manifest in your life, then you know that you have run the race. You are not done by any means, for you always need to be continually going through this series of steps in every area of life. But these last two mark the finishing of the promise. This is God’s reward for you on earth, strange though it seem.

Matthew 5:10-12 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.

For the longest time, I was unable to discern why these two steps were two instead of one. They really were the same thing to me. It was not until I began this study was I able to figure it out, and the lesson was amazing!

There is one main difference between verse ten and verse eleven: the reason for the persecution. In verse ten the reason is righteousness, in verse eleven the reason is Christ.

The world will not like us if we are in it, but not of it. It will make fun of us and try to make us do things its way. It does not like non-conformists. But we need to stand strong and do right anyway. We are not to bow to it, but to God.

The world will hate us if we show them Christ in our lives. This is more than just hating us because we do not agree with them, or because we convict them by living right. We are declaring direct war upon them, and they will react in kind. But this is good, this is right, this is glorious!

John 15:18-21 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before [it hated] you.
19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.

John 17:14-16 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

I hope that my study made any sense to you. It is rather clipped and short in places, for which I apologize. There is a ton of stuff to talk about in this very short passage.

With joy and peace in Christ,

Jay Lauser

The Beatitudes Part 2: Sanctification

Greetings,

Sanctification is the process that is promised to follow that of repentance. This is the fulfillment of our great desiring of righteousness.

Matthew 5:7 Blessed [are] the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Mercy is one of those words that has been defined in a myriad of ways. People have defined it according to their own ideas, disregarding the Bible’s use of it utterly. Others have been more conscientious, and tried to hold to a more exegetical definition. The definition that Webster’s 1828 dictionary provides us, is, from my research, the most reliable source for determining why the translators translated eleemon as merciful. What he tells us is that mercy is forgiving kindness towards an unworthy offender. It is treating someone better than they deserve. This is absolutely commanded for Christians. It is also the keystone of righteousness (see this article for more on that).

Mercy is the epitome of love, it was the focus of Calvary, and it is our greatest struggle. We want restitution, and that is not wrong. God is perfectly just, and He even instituted government to exact restitution. But we who are not in that office are commanded to forgive and love despite every wrong that can be hurled at us. We do this because that is what Christ did for us.

Philippians 1:9-11 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and [in] all judgment;
10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;
11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

Philippians 2:1-5 If [there be] therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,
2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, [being] of one accord, of one mind.
3 [Let] nothing [be done] through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

1 John 4:20-21 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

John 15:12-13 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Merciful love is one of the most important fruits of the Spirit. It very possible is the most important. Seek it with every ounce of your being, and leave nothing lacking in your quest to acquire it. Yield to the Holy Spirit working it in you, for it is impossible for your to have true love on your own. You need Christ in you.

Matthew 5:8 Blessed [are] the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

This has, and can have, several different applications. But from what I have learned, it is referring to a singleness of mind, a unified dedication of the spirit, and a clean system of motives. It is a complete dedication of your life to God, worked out in your life. It is a rejection of the world’s mentality, and an adherence to God’s truth. It is also the equivalent of the second step in the series expounded upon in Philippians 1:9-11, and the fact that it follows mercy, love, is no accident. This specific step is expounded upon in great detail elsewhere in Scripture: at Ephesians 1:15-19 and also in Colossians 1:8-11. I will summarize these as they apply to this beatitude: true wisdom can only come from drawing near to God by showing love to others. Love must come first, or your knowledge and understanding serves only to puff you up and destroy you in pride and self-righteousness (1 Cor. 8:1).

Ephesians 1:15-19 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,
16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;
17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:
18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
19 And what [is] the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,

Colossians 1:8-11 Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.
9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard [it,] do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
11 Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;

1 Cor. 8:1 … Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.

Proverbs 2:1-11 My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee;
2 So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, [and] apply thine heart to understanding;
3 Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, [and] liftest up thy voice for understanding;
4 If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as [for] hid treasures;
5 Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth [cometh] knowledge and understanding.
7 He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: [he is] a buckler to them that walk uprightly.
8 He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints.
9 Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; [yea,] every good path.
10 When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul;
11 Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee:

Beware lest you become too zealous of wisdom before you are firmly grounded in love! But once you have the love of God in your heart, then earnestly seek wisdom, for it is a crucial step. Beg God to show you where you are and then work at the next step!

Matthew 5:9 Blessed [are] the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines a peacemaker as “One who makes peace by reconciling parties that are at variance.” For the longest time (until this morning, actually), I was puzzled about the placing of this beatitude, as well as its meaning. It seemed too straightforward. Obviously someone who makes peace would be called a child of God. But what kind of peacemaking is this beatitude talking about? Well, I began thinking about how the Bible tells us to make peace.

James 4:1 From whence [come] wars and fightings among you? [come they] not hence, [even] of your lusts that war in your members?

Lust is the root of strife and enmity. So to combat strife we need to combat lust in the lives of those around us. Lust is a wrongful desire, so to eradicate a wrongful desire you replace it with a right desire (Romans 6 & 8). Very simple, very true, very hard. You need to dedicate all your desire to God, and make Him your crowning passion to conquer lust. That is, in essence, the sum of what we have been doing in all those previous steps. But now we are to help others do it: show them the steps and how to follow them!

There are many ways to accomplish this. But all of them center around glorifying God in our lives. To be a peacemaker we need to teach, exhort, and help others to love and glorify God. This is the Great Commission, for Christ is the Gospel: we are spreading abroad the Gospel when we are manifesting Christ in our lives. This is the crown of sanctification: to glorify God to others for their sakes.

With joy and peace in Christ,

Jay Lauser

The Beatitudes Part 1: Repentance

Greetings,

This is another article for RU. I am glad that this topic was one of the challenges, since I have been trying to write about this for about a year now, unsuccessfully. The Beatitudes are so packed with beautiful and important insights, that I can never manage to get any attempt at writing about them to be concise. I hope that this try will be at least moderately successful.

The passage Matthew 5:1-12 is one of many ‘paths’ or ‘sequences’ in the Bible. This one is focused on the walk of sanctification from salvation to godliness and righteousness. There are nine steps, or beatitudes. Each of these is a conditional promise: if we do this, then God will bless you in this way. These steps can be divided into either two or three sections. The first four are vertical (man-God) and internal, whereas the next five are horizontal (man-man) and external (to a degree). That is the two divisions. In three sections it goes four steps, three steps, and two steps. The first section deals with the process of repentance, the second with the process of transformation, and the third with the results of holiness. I will focus on each of these three sections one at a time.

Repentance

Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Poor in spirit does not mean that you act like you are not wealthy. It means that you see your ill-worth before God. It means that you see God’s infinite nature, and that you bow before His presence. It means that you see yourself as helpless and unable to do anything that is worth anything to God. It means that you are crushed in your pride, and you hate your Self and your Flesh that is an offense to God. It means that you see yourself correctly in the light of God.

Isaiah 57:15 For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name [is] Holy; I dwell in the high and holy [place,] with him also [that is] of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

Matthew 23:12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

Philippians 2:5-8 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

James 4:6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

James 4:9-10 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and [your] joy to heaviness.
10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

These are all passages that speak of God’s love for those who are humble in heart. It is God’s great pleasure to show mercy and love to those who are humble, but His Holiness and Justice breaks the backs of the proud. Salvation requires humility: it requires that you be poor in spirit. This is why this first beatitude promises the kingdom of heaven to those who are humble in spirit: this first step of repentance is the first step of salvation.

Matthew 5:4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

You will mourn when you are truly poor in spirit: for you will see yourself in an exceedingly sinful state at the mercy of a perfectly Holy God. You will see how much you have hurt and grieved the God almighty who loved you so much that He gave all for you. You will see how you have spurned His love and care for you, how you have rebelled, and how you have committed great and evil crimes against His throne. This will break your heart, if you are truly poor in spirit, and if you are truly honest with yourself. You will feel great remorse and grief, greater than over any loss. But then God promises that you will be comforted, for God hears the cries of a contrite and repentant sinner. God loves you, and His mercy is infinite.

Psalms 34:18 The LORD [is] nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.

Psalms 51:17 The sacrifices of God [are] a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

Isaiah 66:2 For all those [things] hath mine hand made, and all those [things] have been, saith the LORD: but to this [man] will I look, [even] to [him that is] poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

Psalms 107:1 O give thanks unto the LORD, for [he is] good: for his mercy [endureth] for ever.

Ephesians 2:3-6 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
6 And hath raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus:

Brokenness and contriteness in your heart of hearts is extremely important for every part of a Christian’s walk. Seek it urgently; seek it eagerly.

Matthew 5:5 Blessed [are] the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Meekness: a very strange attribute to today’s power hungry and self-exalting passions. But it an attitude that is crucial to a follower of Christ, for repentance is not complete without it. Repentance is a turning from sin and a turning to God, as has been said before by many, very wise men. Being poor in spirit is a seeing of where you are away from God, and is a prerequisite for true repentance. Mourning, or contrition, is the turning from sin. Meekness is the first part of turning to God, and the next step, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, is the second part of turning to God.

Meekness is a yielding to God’s superiority over us, a bowing to His will and choosing His way over our own. Meekness is simply an acknowledgment of His over-lordship of us. We have already said in the last two steps: “I am weak, I have sinned, I am sorry.” Meekness is saying “You right, you are good, I am under you.” Meekness is humility, just like being poor in spirit and mourning are humility. They are all different stages of the same attitude. Each looks at a different aspect of self, contrasted with a different aspect of God.

Psalms 25:8-10 Good and upright [is] the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way.
9 The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.
10 All the paths of the LORD [are] mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.

Matthew 11:28-30 Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke [is] easy, and my burden is light.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Meekness is everywhere commended and commanded by God for all men. It is the opposite of arrogance, which is detested by the Lord. Seek meekness with earnest zeal and vigor!

Matthew 5:6 Blessed [are] they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

What do you want? Do you desire pleasure, riches, fame, health, security on earth? God does not promise these to those who seek after them. They might come to some who follow in His will, for His will might be that they have them. Righteousness is one of the very few things that God promises to fulfill the desire of for everyone that desires it truly. There is so much that can be gleaned from this short verse, but I will try to limit myself to one, for the sake of space and time.

Hungering and thirsting are not one-time events. They are consistent presences, reminding you to maintain full nutrition at all times. This is because you are continually needing to get more nutrition. Righteousness and sanctification are not things that you get once and you don’t need to worry about ever again. They are continually requiring maintenance and nutrition. That is why daily devotions are so important. But this verse demands something that is much much more than simply a daily chore: it is a command to instill in yourself a passion and a deep desire for God’s Holy Spirit, for sanctification, and for righteousness. This passion and desire must be as insistent and consistent as your need for food, yea, greater.

Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

1 Timothy 6:11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

Romans 6:13 Neither yield ye your members [as] instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members [as] instruments of righteousness unto God.

Colossians 3:1-2 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

It is not acceptable for us to be setting our desires on anything less than God. Anything else but God’s righteousness and holiness is a waste. Devote yourself utterly to God and His ways, and pray passionately that God will increase in you a fervent desire for righteousness.

With joy and peace in Christ,

Jay Lauser