Three simple tests

Selwyn puts forward three simple tests to determine if ‘we are hungering and thirsting for righteousness’, they are:

‘The first is to ask if we can see the total inadequacy of our own false righteousness . Scripture tells us that “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).’ Expressed in a different way – our good works which are based on self-efforts, done outside of a relationship with God, have no value in God’s eyes.

(The second test) ‘is to ask ourselves if we have a real awareness of our need of a Saviour. Do we recognise our complete inability to save ourselves and understand that if God had not sent His Son to save us then we would have been lost for ever?’

Lastly, the third test is, ‘when we read about Bible characters who were out and out for God, such as the men and women we have read about in Hebrew 11 (the reading for today is Hebrews 11:1-13), do we find ourselves longing to be like them? …

Can you pass these tests?’

I think that the key test is Selwyn’s second test because once we understand that we cannot save ourselves by our own self-efforts then we seek a relationship with Jesus which produces a desire to be like Him. This desire based on our love for God results in a hunger and thirst for righteousness – what are your views on this?

I was reading Psalm 96 last night and this morning went back to it and then read Psalm 97, which I thought has some great verses in it on righteousness: (vv 10-12), “Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Light is shed upon the rghteous and joy on the upright in heart. Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous, and praise his holy name.”

How did you go on Selwyn’s tests – where they a bit of a challenge?

 

Starving for God

Selwyn continues his discussion on righteousness. He says: ‘Those who hunger and thirst  for righteousness are those who want to exemplify all the beatitudes in their daily lives. They have one supreme desire, and that is to be more like Jesus every day. They see the portrait of Christ in the four Gospels and they say to themselves, “I want to be remodelled and made like that image.” I like the imagery of seeing the portrait of Jesus in Scripture – that’s why, I think it’s important that we constantly read Scriptures to keep that image fresh in our mind and heart – do you agree?

Further on, Selwyn writes: ‘The feelings of hunger and thirst are not ones that are fleeting; they do not just disappear but go on increasing until one is satisfied with food and drink. … In my opinion the psalmist sums up the matter perfectly when he writes, ‘As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.’ (Psalm 42:1).

Given the nature of God and our nature - we can never have our thirst and hunger fully satisfied while on earth – there is always more that God can give us – in a way, this ‘hunger’ is like a compass reading giving us a direction to follow – it’s a journey that really never ends. What do you think about this particular beatitude which Selwyn is currently writing about?

Today’s prayer is really good: ‘O God, give me the blessing of a panting heart I pray. I am desperate to know You better. Take my willingness and lead me into a deeper and more intimate relationship with You than I have ever experienced before. In Jesus’ name. Amen.’

Talking about ‘today’ – as I write it’s a nice blue-sky day, with a gentle breeze blowing. It’s nice to see a blue sky because it has been raining on-and-off for the last couple of weeks. Yet, I know that there are others in the world that can’t leave their shelters (Lebanon and Israel) to go out and look at the sky without fearing for their safety.  I’m not a person who dwells on end-time scenarios but don’t you think that the world is going downhill fast? Maybe there were similar worrying times in the middle of WW1 & WW2; and today, just appears worse because we are living through it – what do you think?

What is righteousness?

In today’s study, Selwyn startes to define what it means to be righteous. “The desire for righteousness – the act of hungering and thirsting for it – is a longing to be as free from sin as possible and to be in a right relationship with God. In other words, it is responding to all that is right and good and true as laid out for us in the Scriptures. …

We all commit sins, and none of us is going to achieve perfection whilst in this mortal body. But even though we sin, we must see the necessity of repenting of it and claiming God’s grace to avoid sinning in a similar way in the future, This is how we grow.

When we commit ourselves to righteousness, and are quick to repent when sin enters our lives, then we move forward even though we may never achieve absolute holiness and perfection here on earth.”

The two references given for extra study are also very good in portraying different aspects of righteousness. Take the words of Isaiah 45:21b-25; ‘Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the Lord? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked. Before me every knee will bow, by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, “In the Lord alone are righteousness and strength“. All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame. But in the Lord all the descendents of Israel will be found righteous and will exult.’

I think that these verses are telling us that righteousness comes from God – that we need to turn to Him to be saved. It’s also a sign of our love for Him by wanting to pursue righteousness. If you say you love someone then you try to act in a way that demonstrates that love – it is an active desire on our part to undertake activities which express our love. Consequently, in our hearts we need to actively hunger for righteousness because we know that our sin has caused our God to suffer – we demonstrate our love by following Jesus away from our sinful lives towards a time when we will be found righteous. I like the words of John 14:21 ‘Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.’

Likewise, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9:9-11; ‘As it is written: “He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” Now he  who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.’

Generosity demonstrates our love for others and reflects God’s love working in us. Perhaps, certain types of sin arise out of selfishness and greed; therefore to counter this rebellous nature we practice  a loving generousity and this is one way to hunger and thirst for righteousness – do you agree? 

Selwyn’s prayer: “O lord, with all my heart I long to be a righteous person – someone who lives according to the Scriptures. And help me, Lord, never to excuse my sin but always be ready to repent of it. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

 

Satisfaction – a by-product

Selwyn now starts a discussion on the next beatitude: ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.’ (Matthew 5:6).

He says: “The first thing we must notice about this statement is that we are encouraged not to seek for blessedness, but for righteousness. … Those who continually reach out for satisfaction remain unsatisfied. Satisfaction and contentment, we must understand, are by-products. We do not find them; they find us. … However, if we give up the chase (for satisfaction) and focus on living in a right relationship with God then blessedness will take up residence in our hearts. Our primary concern should always be to put the Lord and His righteousness first. When we get taken up with His righteousness He, in return, gives us satisfaction.”

The last sentence is a good summary of this study – do you agree?

In thinking about this  – the words of Jesus in John 4:34-36, came to mind: ‘”My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the  reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together …”‘

Do you agree that the main way to be ‘taken up with His righteousness’ – is to do the will of Him; who has sent you to help in the work of harvesting the crop for eternal life – so that, all the workers (including you) may be glad together?

Selwyn’s prayer is worth repeating here: ‘O Father help me, I pray, to have the right priorities in my life. May I be more taken up with knowing You and loving You than with the joyous feelings that our relationship gives me. In Jesus’ name I ask it. Amen.’

Judging the world

The title for today’s study comes from the main verse from the reading and meditation set by Selwyn: ‘Do you not know that the saints will judge the world.’ (1 Corinthians 6:2). I understand this verse to mean that in some way, those who believe in Jesus at some point in the future, will be involved in judging the ‘people’ of this world. 

In this study, Selwyn completes his discussion on the third beatitude: ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.’ (Matthew 5:5) – and he presents Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of this beatitude (taken from his translation of the Bible, ‘The Message’): “You’re blessed when you are content with just who you are – no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.’

Selwyn then summarises what it means to be meek: ‘The meek, we said, are assertive without being aggressive, confident without being arrogant, are free from the spirit of demandingness, are firm without being overbearing, and are not touchy because they have come to a clear understanding of who they are by discovering whose they are. … ”

I think that the key principle that we can learn from this beatitude is that we can be given a humble and meek attitude when we understand that we belong to a God who has absolute power over everything and who exercises His power in perfect love for us. Meekness is a gift from God when we enter into a relationship with Him – do you agree?

The last part of today’s study looks at the meaning of the words, ‘will inherit the earth’. Selwyn considers that “The meek find themselves following an orderly path just as the universe does, and are as balanced as the universe is balanced. … The very least it (these words) means is that we are the proud owners of everything that can’t be bought’.”

In one sense Selwyn might be right about the connection with an orderly universe but I think it has more to do with the contrast between the wicked and those who are faithful. In my mind, the gentle inherit the earth (everything) while those who are hard, aggressive and use force to take what they want, will be left with nothing (contrary to what they expect to achieve).

If we go back to verses 5-11 of Psalm 37: ‘Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret – it only leads to evil. For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked will be no more, though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy gread peace.’

And again, in verses 27-29: ‘Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off; the righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever.’

There are some schools of thought who take a very ‘literal’ view of the words ‘will inherit the earth’, but if you look at the context of Psalm 37, verse 10 of Matthew 5; ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.‘; and other verses in the New Testament where there are comparisons between those who love God and the wicked- – there is a consistent theme. Take, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; ‘Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were santified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.’

Keep in mind, that all the beatitudes, are attitudes to be found in the followers of Jesus – I’m of the view that they should not be looked at in isolation to each other. In this way you can avoid the extreme views held by some, especially in regard to the beatitude we are looking at today – do you agree?

 

 

What is real strength?

Selwyn continues to reflect on the beatitude, ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.’ (Matthew 5:5).

He provides a list of characteristics to be found in a ‘meek’ person, as follows: “The meek are those who know how to use their power wisely; their strength lies in self-control and discipline. They remain gentle in their relationships with others. … The truely meek are also emotionally stable. They have their ups and downs, but they don’t allow their down times to distract from their goals. They are particularly patient and teachable. They don’t suffer from a know-it-all attitude. They allow room in their lives for growth. They listen: they are not defensive; they are not on an ego trip. They do not regard their rights as something to be rigidly held on to, but follow the spirit of Jesus. …

This is the place to which you and I must come if we are to demonstrate the attitude of meekness. We must be so sure of God that we, in turn, become sure of ourselves.”

I think that this last sentence is the key to understanding the qualities of ‘meekness’ – do you agree? Again, I believe it’s important to emphasise that this attitude is a gift from God to His followers – it is not an attitude which we can acquire by our own efforts. How different would the situation be in Lebanon and Israel if it was natural for people to be gentle and meek in the exercise of their power!

The prayer for today is worthy of your consideration – given what’s happening in the world today: ‘My Father and my God, help me I pray to be an assured being – someone who is so sure of You that I become more sure of myself. This I ask in Christ’s peerless and precious name. Amen.’

All things serve

Selwyn continues to explore the meaning of the third beatitude (Matthew 5:5); ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.’ He first looks at other translation of this verse, by quoting J.B. Phillips; ‘Happy are those who claim nothing, for the whole earth will belong to them.’ Selwyn then says; ‘The meek are free from a spirit of demandingness.’

Further on, he says: ‘Christians who are meek will not be over-sensitive about themselves, nor defensive, for they are content to leave everything in the hands of God, trusting Him to keep His promise that every negative will be turned to a positive, and every difficulty become a door of opportunity.’

I think it is important to keep in mind that in some cases we may not see (in out time) that every negative will be turned into a positive. We know from reading Genesis 50:19-20, when Joseph is reassuring his brothers that he does not hold a grudge against them (for thinking of killing him and then selling him into slavery). Joseph is able to say these words, many years after the event; “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives …”

I think that just as meekness is a gift from God and not the adoption of a relaxed attitude produced by our own efforts that the ability to trust God when bad things happen – is also a spiritual gift. God will use such events to achieve His purposes but that it may not be obvious to us, at the time – do you agree?

I also like the reading for today. Titus 3:1-11, especially the first seven verses: ‘Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men and women.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the  washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

I really like the last sentence – was there anything that stood out for you, in these verses?