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“…and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?…But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:26, 30-33). 

God, some have said, is wholly “other.” We know, by definition, God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. When we attempt to ruminate on His greatness we can feel infinitely small (and we are) and seemingly insignificant (but we aren’t). He can’t be totally and accurately defined but we describe Him as glorious, sovereign, transcendent, majestic, incomprehensible, and almighty, among many other lofty adjectives. And God is all of this and more!  But it is one particular aspect of this “more” that I’d like to drill down on: God is also personal. He is our perfect Father! 

All of our physical fathers are imperfect, many are disengaged, and some are downright negligent and mean. And because of this we live in a world of hurting people whose view of God as Father has been skewed by their experience with their earthly fathers. We tend to assign to God the same character and personality traits of our human fathers. If our dad was absent then we think God is also. If our earthly father was angry, God is seen as a condemning and hostile (and He can be to those who aren’t His own). If dad was loving, we project the Creator as kind and beneficent (and He is). Generous, then generous. Cruel, then cruel. Distant, then distant…and so forth. Praise God, I can say nothing negative about my Christ-like earthly father but, given the dysfunctional and disintegrating nature of the contemporary Western family, many don’t feel this way. It’s no wonder that the idea of God is unappealing and many have been prompted to avoid, rebel against, or reject such a notion.  

But we have good news! For all whose view of God is tainted by your physical father’s failures, please know God can be very personal, even more intimate than our own family. He has initiated a familial relationship with us that is most amazing. God can be, as Jesus often said, “your Father.” Yes, most recognize that the Scripture portrays Jesus as the Son of God but what about us? Are we too unlovely and insignificant, given the way we may have been treated by our own fathers, for the ruler of the universe to be that perfect Father to us, to love us in a way that reminds us of the way He loves Jesus? Could the Almighty claim us as His own children? Despite what we may feel, the fact is that God’s Word says He can and does. Again, what great news! 

As a matter of fact, we can be adopted into God’s family, become one of His children, share in Christ’s inheritance, and be glorified with Jesus, the very son of God! As you read the words of Paul, notice the terms of endearment “Daddy,” “children,” heirs,” and “son.” And don’t overlook the promises and provisions made to those that experience God’s adoption and familial affection: 

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “[Daddy]! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:15-17). 

So what’s the catch? For us to experience this glorious reality we must do 2 things – receive (turn from ourselves and our ways and turn to Him) and believe in (put our total trust in) the person and work of Christ. As the Apostle John said, “But to all who did receive [Jesus], who believed in His name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).  

Do you feel disappointed and disenfranchised with your earthy family? As scarring and sad as that is, God says you can join His eternal family. You can call Him “Daddy.” You can become joint heirs with Jesus. You can personally know a Heavenly patriarch who will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). You can find comfort and security in an incomprehensibly loving Father who will receive you back with seeking arms, an embrace, and a sumptuous feast when you return to Him from your wanderings (Luke 15:11-24). You can find in Him a love that is eternal and filled with hope (Romans 8:31-39). 

So my plea is simple: Despite the tragedy of families that fail us, don’t let that keep you from your perfect Heavenly Father. The God of the universe beckons you to call Him “Daddy” and receive His unequaled paternal provision. Receive and believe in Jesus and be “born again” into the family of the Father of the heavenly lights, “from whom every good and perfect gift is [received and] who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17, NIV).

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MEGADETH Bassist: Why I Decided To Try To Become A Pastor

“I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10: 9-15).

I think most authentic followers of Christ would be a tad dubious of David Ellefson’s explanation of his work in the heavy metal band called MEGADETH, at least as it is explained in this article (link above). But who are we to say what this man has experienced? Although I know almost nothing about MEGADETH’s music or lyrics (not my genre), I’m prone to believe it wasn’t totally family friendly or God-honoring. Nonetheless, I’m convinced that even the worst of sinners (that would include me and the Apostle Paul) can come know a new, exciting existence in Christ. After all, those who have embraced Jesus know that it’s not about turning over a new leaf but finding new life in Him.

All judgementalism aside, what I would like to drill down on is the truth that is described in the name of Ellefson’s new ministry – MEGALife. He has moved, it seems, from MEGADETH to MEGALife. And whether or not God has truly transformed him and made him a new creation in Christ doesn’t change the truth that this is exactly what surrendering to Christ and dying to self does. We, by faith and through the Gospel, are delivered from spiritual death and birthed into spiritual life. Paul’s explanation is quite clear:

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:1-10).

Here are some of Jesus’ thoughts on how the miracle of this new birth takes place: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). Jesus, His words, works, and witness, is the conduit that gives us this life and allows fallen and rebellious sinners (like me) to be brought into a breathing, dynamic, eternal relationship with holy God. This is Mega-Life! And this radical new birth is brought into being through God’s good news in the person of His only Son, the one who died that that His sheep might live. This means that I, you, and David Ellefson, through the transforming, life-giving power of the Gospel, can be moved from eternal death to eternal life.

This should give us conviction and courage! For those of us who have tasted the abundant life found only in Christ, we know there is hope for those dying apart from God’s life-giving and life-sustaining power. We have this mysterious treasure of the Gospel and are called to unashamedly testify to its power and purpose to move people from MEGADETH to MEGALife in Christ. With that in mind, let’s ponder and practice Paul’s admonition to Timothy – for in it we find the Gospel of eternal life and our required response to it:

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel…” (2 Timothy 1:8-10).


 

*Section 1: Kingdom Character

His Countercultural Kingdom

The Sermon on the Mount most clearly delineates what it means to serve as a follower of Christ and to live as a participant in His kingdom. In a sense, The Sermon on the Mount gives Jesus’ manifesto on the kingdom of God, and its truths stagger. The sermon speaks not just of God-fearing people living as part of the kingdom that He said “is within [us]” (see Luke 17:21). But surprisingly, Jesus reveals that His followers actually comprise the kingdom itself! Christ’s teachings invert virtually every guiding principle that both humanism and religion espouse, even as they reveal and encapsulate the mind and heart of God.

Christ’s profound Sermon on the Mount rises out of a deceptively simple context. Matthew 5-7 unfolds at a point near the beginning of His ministry. Jesus recently endured forty days of fasting and temptation in the wilderness, the prophet John baptized Him, and Christ began preaching. To all who listened He proclaimed, “The kingdom of Heaven (or kingdom of God—as these phrases are used interchangeably) is near” (Matthew 4:17). Interestingly, Christ’s theme was spoken against a backdrop of the religious and political imprisonment of the Jewish people, a nation awaiting a warrior Messiah who they believed would deliver them from persecution by military means.

When Christ communicated the premise and essentials of kingdom living to those desiring to embed themselves in the experience of God’s kingdom—in this life and forever—He stated His mission to the world. His teachings regarding love and humility, however, must’ve come as a surprise to those expecting Messiah to lead a militant rebellion. Modern believers who’ve heard Christ’s coming taught as a sign of entitlement to health, wealth, and prosperity might feel similar shock as they unpackage the startling realities of this message.

Just as Christ, the warrior King who leads and sets free by a law of love, is a beautiful paradox, so too is the nature of the kingdom. Jesus said that the kingdom had already come near (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15); it happened in His incarnation. We know, however, that the full consummation of His glorious kingdom is yet future: Jesus taught us to pray for His Father’s kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10). Christ’s description of His reign and rule is full of such mysteries, yet only when we grapple with these paradoxes do we begin to grasp the beautiful realities of Jesus and His kingdom.

Six pivotal concepts aid in understanding The Sermon on the Mount clearly and applying it effectively. Those desiring to fully follow Christ and grasp this great revelation from the Son of God should note …

Jesus’ supremacy serves as the common thread. Christ, based on the totality of His nature and mission, is both the message and the messenger of God. He provides the means through which the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount become a reality in us. Jesus is both lawgiver and the fulfillment of the law. In a real sense, He embodies the law of the New Covenant.

Relationship with God requires “new birth.” The sermon’s text presumes that we don’t live as a part of Christ’s kingdom and cannot understand His teachings until we first are born-again (see John 3:3). Jesus’ teachings present humanity with a New Covenant, a new means by which man can have relationship with God (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Entrance into God’s kingdom comes through salvation by grace through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Jesus and His teachings stand as absolutely authoritative. Christ’s infinite wisdom and rule are projected in The Sermon on the Mount. He is portrayed as our ultimate Judge and the incarnate Word of God (John 1:1-3). Christ alone expressed the heart and mind of God in all of His teachings, and His deity was the source of His authority (see Hebrews 1:1-3).

Relationship with Christ encompasses the only means to true happiness—deep, rooted, abiding joy! Living as one blessed of God far surpasses any transient pleasure life offers (John 16:24). Typically measured in the temporal and tangible, true satisfaction in life comes only through divinely spiritual character qualities. The Beatitudes give the recipe for how to live in the blessing of being God’s royal children.

True disciples of Christ should prove different! Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus consistently repeats, “You have heard it said … but I say …” (Matthew 5:21-48). Cutting against the grain of popular secular and religious philosophies of His day (and ours as well), Jesus suggests a life diametrically opposed to contemporary thought. The wisdom of this world equals foolishness from God’s perspective (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-31); to receive God’s best believers must often break with societal norms.

Obedience matters. Within the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives a new moral code reminiscent of the Ten Commandments. Adherence to this new moral law is indicative of those that are “of His kingdom.” Living to please God should affect every aspect of our existence.

Matthew 5-7 powerfully, profoundly, and vividly portrays our King and His kingdom. The message inspires, challenges, stretches. For me, the message defines how I—as a child of God—should live and work and interact. It clearly outlines what the Lord expects from and has in store for those who love Him. May the Holy Spirit enlighten our hearts and minds as He reveals Jesus and His glorious kingdom.

Apply It.

Read aloud and internalize Colossians 1:15-20 and Ephesians 1:18-23. Ask God to show you how Jesus’ authority, power, and supremacy should change you and the way you follow Him.

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are: 

Amazon in book form – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-Encounter/dp/1615073418/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-1     

Amazon Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-ebook/dp/B004KAA9UC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-2 

Barnes and Noble in book form – http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Captivated-by-the-King-and-His-Kingdom/Linden-C-Wolfe/e/9781615073412/?itm=3&USRI=captivated+by+the+king 

Other eReader formats – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/33572

If you follow along with this category (albeit, backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!

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