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“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:13-16).

I know the title of this study seems wrong. That’s because we have been consistently taught that living a holy (please understand I use the term “holy” in this post in a relative sense) life before God enables us to experience happiness (joy or contentment). I’m not arguing this isn’t true. On the contrary, the Scriptures often reveal that living according to God’s ways produces a cleaner conscience and a clearer view of Him. Proverbs 3:7-8 is but one good example of this truth: “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil, It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”

It is true – living in a way that pleases God brings pleasure to those who love Him. But this seeking to please God, to be holy and Christ-like, is not some sort of manipulation in order to achieve happiness, as if we can “win” God’s favor. It is actually the byproduct of loving and adoring and treasuring Him above all else because of His grace and glory. This is why we seek to please Him and the blessed benefit is that it brings us closer to Him and thus more joyous. As Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied…”Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:6, 8). Our motivation, however, in this model is His pleasure (happiness) first and ours is secondary, yet our contentment is realized in the pursuit.

Not disputing this profound reality, please bear with me. Let’s go a bit deeper. You see, I think this can be turned around as well. Maybe we are to pursue holiness (which, if I may, makes God “happy”) because we find our happiness (contentment or joy) in Him and Him alone. John Calvin said, ”Unless they establish their complete happiness in [God] they will never give themselves to truly and sincerely to him.” This may sound like semantics, but it isn’t. When we are content in Christ, holiness (pleasing God) is the supernatural (not natural) byproduct of this love and adoration. The first paradigm – we are happy when we are holy – though true, has a distinct ring of obligation and duty. Pursuing a righteous lifestyle, however, because we are so enamored with Christ, echoes authentic worship and genuine devotion.

I think we see this modeled in our focal passage. As you look at verse 13, think of joy or happiness instead of hope. The principle is similar – Peter is telling us that focusing on our hope (or joy or happiness) in Christ is a precursor to the holiness God demands. And that makes perfect sense. In this pattern we see relationship with Christ, not religion, as the motivator of good works. We pursue holiness because of the happiness we have in Him. His being our greatest treasure and the object of the affections of our minds and hearts compels us “to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10). In other words, because Jesus is our prize and possession nothing less than living like Him will satisfy or suffice.

Once again these ideas are not mutually exclusive or contradictory – they are gloriously symmetrical. We are happier when we are living a holier life because this pleases God and magnifies our vision of His majesty. And we intuitively seek happiness. But, just as importantly, we pursue righteousness because we find Jesus as our all-satisfying and all-sufficient Savior and sustainer. And to live in a way that dishonors Him would contradict Him as our greatest pleasure.

Interestingly, the writer of Hebrews suggests both of these ideas in 12:1-4. See for yourself – he tells us to pursue holiness (v.1) but do so compelled and empowered by hearts and minds fixated on the initiator and completer of our faith, Jesus (v.2). And that focusing on our Lord is what enables us to not grow weary in our struggle with sin (v.3,4):

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

So we see a continuum. We find all of our happiness in Christ. This adoration compels us to live a holier, more Christ-like life. The closer we get to Him and the more of His fruit we bear, the happier we are and the more we experience Him who is our greatest pleasure. This experience motivates us to an even more God-pleasing life. And this glorious cycle moves onward and upward! But, as in everything else, it always starts with Jesus.

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*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

Twenty-Two – First, Seek the Lord

“For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:32-34).

How will I afford new clothing, that next meal, the wine for my son’s wedding? Questions like these represented legitimate concerns faced by the crowd gathered to hear Christ’s sermon. While Jesus recognized that life brings challenges, He encouraged hearers to exchange their anxiety for faith in God’s provision. To let go of the need to secure their own tomorrow. To hand control over to God. Here, in the last three verses of Matthew six, Christ reiterates His earlier message and clarifies the essence of His kingdom.

Christ’s followers should sell out in the pursuit of His kingdom and His righteousness. Rather than wringing their hands in worry like pagans who live without the hope God provides, believers should trust that God’s in control: Tomorrow belongs in His hands. As people seek after the things of Jesus and faithfully live in the present with a hopeful eye on a glorious future, they discover peace and grow in the ability to help others. By regularly and seriously considering our ambitions and aspirations, we can gauge the depth of our relationship to King Jesus.

Within those who pursue Him, Christ places His kingdom (see Luke 17:21). In teaching hearers to “seek first his kingdom,” the Lord encouraged believers to seek after His rule in all aspects of their lives. Taking a good look at how we handle relationships, considering how we spend leisure time, appraising our approach to work, and assessing the value we place on His church reveals how completely we yield to Christ’s invasion of our hearts. True followers submit willingly and joyfully to His reign. They allow the pursuit of His honor and glory to alter their attitudes, actions, and activities. God uses our surrender to expand and enhance His kingdom. This differentiates believers from a lost and spiritually dead world (see Ephesians 2:1-6).

We must obsessively pursue Heavenly things and store up for ourselves eternal treasure by living through Jesus while faithfully acknowledging His kingdom in the present. Paul reiterates this principle when he tells the Colossian church, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above … not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4). Men and women who remember that life serves as a precursor to eternity with God are better positioned to most fully experience God in the here and now, to serve as ambassadors for His kingdom, and to accumulate eternal rewards.

Jesus calls us not to a balanced life, but to one completely imbalanced and weighted by Him. By placing an undivided focus on Christ we receive His power to live in such a way that the kingdom within us is most evident. This type of Godward fixation demonstrates a supernaturally powerful experience radically different than those who don’t know Christ and, thus, they are drawn to His beauty. This—not the accumulation of things or the fattening of our retirement accounts—summarizes the true purpose of life (see Luke 12:15).

To those who pursue God and wholeheartedly serve Him, Christ promises: “All these things will be given to you as well.” These “things” certainly refer to the necessities: food, clothing, and shelter (Matthew 6:25-31). I believe, however, that Christ also refers to more lasting blessings. Throughout the sermon His earnest followers find contentment in the knowledge that the kingdom of Heaven exists within them, that He provides divine comfort, that spiritual possession of the earth and divine satisfaction belong to them. Further, they enjoy God’s incomprehensible mercy, may see and know God, and they can live as God’s children. Nothing the world offers can touch the immeasurable value of these gifts of grace!

We begin to experience God’s blessings in the here and now as we learn to abide in Christ and to saturate our hearts in Him. Christ and all of His “unsearchable riches” come to those raised with Him; those whose lives are hidden in His (see Ephesians 3:8-12). Jesus is our power, hope, and purpose. When we seek His kingdom we receive the greatest treasures—relationship with Him now and the promise of eternity in His presence. Christ is our life. Our past, present, and future belong in His capable hands. 

Apply It.

The New Testament condemns “selfish ambition” on six occasions. Do a word search in The New International Version to study each passage. Then, take an honest inventory of your actions. Use two columns to list selfish things you do versus actions done for the kingdom of God. Sincerely ask God to reshape your priorities to better reflect Him as needed.

*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!


*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

Eighteen – The Rewards of Selfless Service

“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:1-6).

Throughout Matthew 5 Jesus spoke on righteousness and the importance of a believer’s purity, devotion, and influence. As a new chapter opens, Christ encourages genuineness and the absence of hypocrisy, further expanding listeners’ understanding of kingdom character. He turns first to the nature of religious exercises, calling people to serve God authentically and insisting that they do so without show or self-promotion. Kingdom living requires that we stop going through the motions of giving, serving, and worshipping. Ostentatious religion proves unacceptable: the Lord desires that we live in sincerity, carefully honoring Him instead of elevating ourselves.

To understand the context of this passage, consider Luke 18:9-14. With a gloating attitude of self-righteousness, a Pharisee stood and prayed about himself! Bragging on his piety, moral superiority, and “good works,” he likely filled the temple with his voice, drowning out the soft but sincere cries of those—like the despised tax collector—who sought God’s attention and not the spotlight. This parable illustrates the dichotomy between those seeking to serve God out of a pure heart and those doing so for personal gain. One is accepted (justified) by God, and the other has received all the reward they will ever get; the praise of men.

In the first verses of Matthew 6, Jesus mentions three traditional and prominent practices commonly held by many religions: giving (Matthew 6:2-4), praying (Matthew 6:5-6), and fasting (Matthew 6:16-18). In general, all are good and commended. If, however, the motives behind them are wrong, they morph into meaningless and empty activities void of spiritual substance or eternal reward. Why? Because when we do these things for attention or to make ourselves feel spiritual, we fail to glorify God.

To the church at Galatia, Paul posed this question: “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?” (Galatians 1:10). Within this query he acknowledged the natural tendency all believers face. We generally seek approval in the tangible here and now as opposed to the spiritual and eternal. Should we succumb to temptation, we’ll soon exalt man’s opinion and our self-image over God.

I recall a painful lesson I learned during my early ministry. Soon after seminary I pastored a fairly large church that provided a deceptive ego boost for a young preacher in his twenties. With my appointment came the insidious growth of spiritual pride. I quickly began to operate as more of a professional pastor than a servant leader: I soaked up and began to believe the adulation and prestige that came with my new position. Thinking I’d arrived, I began to trust in my own abilities and education instead of depending on God to do His work through me. The church grew numerically, but my intimacy with God gradually declined. It didn’t take long before my arrogant house of cards toppled; “my” church was gone. God shook me out of my pretense, humbled me, and reminded me that “a haughty spirit goes before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

Outward religious show versus God-centeredness defines the essence of hypocrisy. Even the most dedicated believer will sometimes fail to live up to God’s standards, but when we portray ourselves as something untrue, we deserve the label “hypocrite.” The term comes from the Greek word, hypokrites, and refers to acting. When we begin to replace heart-righteousness with empty practices, we fail to love the Lord. While our outward displays of piety—tossing an envelope of pocket change in the offering plate, singing in the choir after a night of arguing with family members, or serving on the hospitality committee though we complain about it for hours afterward— may look good to observers, God stands unimpressed. Jesus, addressing this tendency, referred to the Pharisees as cups “clean on the outside but dirty on the inside” (Luke 11:39). He saw them as “white-washed tombs filled with dead men’s bones” (Matthew 23:27). Should we perform deeds meant to exalt ourselves and not to honor God, we’ll earn the same harsh comparisons.

Attitude and focus count! Only deeds done out of a sincere desire to honor God prove worthy of reward. Anything we do to gain points with onlookers will fail to honor Him. The Lord wants us to let go of our pride, that critical barrier between God and man. Since humanity disobeyed in the garden, we’ve struggled against self-centeredness, often opposing God and ignoring His perception of who we really are. But believers must remember Christ’s lesson in Luke 18: Only the broken “sinner,” who felt contrite and transparent in his pleadings before God “went home justified before God” (v. 14). Why? Jesus answers, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (v.14).

In First Corinthians 3:13-14 Paul explained, “[our] work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.” One day each believer will stand before God. Those who’ve served with authentic faith and a desire to honor Him will receive the ultimate honor. From His mouth we’ll hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share in your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:23).

Apply It.

Read and mediate on First Timothy 6:18-19. List your good deeds and assess your motives. Are they selfless and propelled by your love of God and others? Do you think they deserve God’s “well done”? Pray that God would compel you to live in a way that seeks His eternal rewards and not earthly ones.

*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!


“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools,  and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things…And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:18-25; 28-32 ). 

I say Mac is mean…and moody. Yes, he is a cat, and a Siamese at that. But, to me, he acts out and has inexcusable behaviors. Mac can be the sweetest, most loving pet, but he is also stubborn, spiteful to his sister Clara, and even hisses and swats at his “mother,” Rebekah, when he prefers not to be disturbed (even when tempted by “treats” to lure him to places he just doesn’t want to go). I know that the 10 years that he spent alone with me spoiled him. He came and did as he pleased. He ate like the king of the jungle, a veritable feast of canned food and snacks. He had freedom to roam and no sister cat to endure. But I refuse to blame my pet related parenting. He is genetically flawed and, I believe, psychotic. 

And that’s our diagnosis. He has a syndrome. Actually, he has multiple syndromes. After psychoanalyzing him and perusing the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria we have determined that Mac the Siamese has, at the very least, the following: 

  • ADD
  • ADHD
  • OCD
  • Schizophrenia
  • Multiple Personality Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Bulimia
  • PMS 

Clearly we are laypeople and not skilled in the ways of feline psychological disorders. So we desperately sought the advice of pet therapists, veterinarians, and even considered a “cat whisperer.” But to no avail. No one was willing to take Mac’s case. He, I guess, is incorrigible. And the professionals knew it. But we had our diagnoses, our list of syndromes, and, therefore, an excuse for all of his misdeeds and “issues.” We were pathetically deceived (and deluded) to label him without considering the facts. He is, after all, a cat! No syndrome can explain that away. No man-made excuse can quell our ravaging guilt over his behavior or justify our mental gymnastics. He is a rebellious, misbehaving animal without  respect for authority or our house rules, except when he selfishly believes it is his best interests. 

I know, you think this is silliness. You might consider us right to believe Mac is blameless because all of this stems from his nature. But hold on a second. Don’t we do the same with humans? Not that these disorders aren’t both real and sad, but we tend to excuse folks and rationalize all types of misbehavior and rebellion. We explain away their sinfulness with a trivial wave of the hand, “They can’t help it, after all, they are human. And we all have issues. It isn’t their fault. They can’t be held responsible. They (we) are just products of genetics and a dysfunctional home life.” Worse than that, we don’t think God will hold people accountable. After all, they are wired this way. And, I fear, subconsciously this includes ourselves, . 

“WRONG!” That’s what Scripture says. The Bible says we are sinners by nature and by choice. And holy God says there must be a price to pay for that which separates us from His absolute perfection, His holiness. And no matter what we may contrive that would sway God’s justice or alleviate our nagging, subconscious understanding of this great truth, it is the Word of God; sinners perish apart from participating in the righteousness of God that is His gift to those who believe. It sounds fatal. And it can be. 

But there is hope. There is salvation, the forgiveness of sin, when God’s grace is met with faith As the previous two verses tell us: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith,as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17). So through His grace He atoned for our sin through a Savior. Jesus has cast away our excuses by dying on a cross. He justifies us through faith. For Christ is truly the only hope for those who believe – syndromes and all.


*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

Fourteen- God Values Marriage

“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery” (Matthew 5:31-32).

Surely a few faces turned red and several took defensive stances when Jesus began speaking out against divorce. By the time Rome ruled over Israel, the Jewish religious leaders, the Pharisees, were more concerned with how to acceptably justify divorce than they were inclined to stand against it. The Lord’s primary concern in covering this topic was to uphold the sanctity of marriage. While many of His day invented rational excuses to dispose of a partner, Jesus gave scriptural evidence supporting the idea that God intended marriage a life-long pact:

“Some Pharisees … asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” “Haven’t you read,” he replied “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries nother woman commits adultery” (Matthew 19:3-9).

In the Old Testament, divorce was allowed in extreme cases of marital unfaithfulness—making provision for those who suffered adultery or abandonment. The Pharisees, however, twisted Moses’ word regarding marriage into a command that allowed marital annulment for any and every reason (Matthew 19:7). For example, a man could forever dismiss his wife if she merely burned his dinner. Should the husband one day consider his wife less-than-attractive, he could send her packing. Even if the wife lived blamelessly, he could set her aside to follow his attraction for another woman. These liberal interpretations completely
ignored God’s commands and plans for matrimony. They reduced marriage’s perceived value.

Divorce proves just as controversial today as in Jesus’ time, and our culture also believes marriage disposable for virtually any selfish cause. Within the church, in fact, divorces are considered an acceptable out whether abuse is involved, neglect is to blame, or just because one person grows tired of the other or finds someone else more appealing. In light of this, modern believers need a revised understanding of why God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). We need to recognize that He intended marriage to last a lifetime. A divinely created, exclusive covenant relationship between a man and woman, marriage provides a picture of the loving, selfless relationship God creates between Christ and His church. When we enter the sacred bond before God, He expects us to remain committed. We must not trivialize this God-ordained institution.

As the victim of divorce, I’m keenly aware of the painful ramifications it brings. I learned firsthand that because of humanity’s fallen condition, marriages do sometimes dissolve; in some cases, a marriage will fall apart in spite of a husband or wife’s best efforts to stay. But out of my experience comes a new appreciation for why Jesus placed such emphasis on a married couple continuing on together. He knew the shockwave that inevitably follows a breakup, and He recognized that if both partners would just forgive each other, faithfully loving in spite of faults, they could thrive with His help.

Christ’s theme of heart-righteousness continues throughout this passage of the Sermon on the Mount. According to Jesus, the hardness of our hearts proves
the fundamental cause of divorce. I think it safe to say that in every divorce one or both parties suffer from hardness of heart. The root causes of selfishness and a lack of willingness to forgive are the primary reasons that so few seek reconciliation, choosing instead to rationalize their choice to part. Our tendency to divorce reveals a deep and sad spiritual issue: we often choose to do what we want instead of living in submission to God’s purpose for marriage.

The Lord designed the marital bond to be both good and lasting. Kingdom living is about submitting to His ways, serving, and following Him. We need to
recognize that a flippant view of marriage indicates sinfulness and should remind us of our desperate need of a Savior. Jesus promises so much more than
an eternity with Him: He wants to redeem and restore our families. A merciful and gracious Savior stands ready to forgive our marital failures and to lead us
to repent of any attitudes that fail to align with God’s plans for marriage. No matter our backgrounds and stories, may we learn to treat the beautiful
institution of marriage with the respect God intended.

Apply It.

Read Hebrews 13:4. Consider the strength of your regard for marriage. If you are married, list intentional steps you might take to protect the sanctity of
your relationship with your spouse. If you are divorced, seek God’s wisdom and comfort in dealing with the hurt. In either situation, ask God to show you how the marriage union demonstrates Christ’s love for His bride, the church.

*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!


*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

Eleven – The Source of Righteousness

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I  have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke  of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and  teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven,  but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the  kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the  kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-20).

When faced with the awesome and noble task of living as salt and light, I  can easily fall into the trap of thinking I’ve arrived. That I’m a better Christian than so-in-so. That I no longer need improvement. In truth, however,  I along with every other believer travel a journey towards perfection: we’ll not achieve it until we breathe our last. Anything good in me—anything good in any Christ-follower—comes not through our righteousness, but the Lord’s. Our best efforts, no matter how sincere, are always as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).

The unvarnished truth? No one is righteous. Nothing about us and nothing generated on our own merit is good (Romans 3:10-11). Though the Pharisees and
devout people of Christ’s day sought holiness through ritual and ceremony and adherence to laws, Christ taught that their efforts were worthless. “Unless
your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees,” He said, “you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” But since righteousness proves a foundational need in participating in God’s kingdom and honoring His kingship, we must understand how one achieves it. We must grasp that the righteousness of Christ provides our only hope in satisfying the demands of holy God.

The writer of Hebrews sheds light on Christ’s role:

“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in Heaven” (Hebrews 1:1-3).

Before Christ came to earth in human form, mankind had only one avenue toward pleasing God: keeping the Old Covenant law given by God to the nation of
Israel. This set of rules, which included much more than the Ten Commandments, served as the yardstick by which God measured the love and obedience of His people. James 2:10 clarifies that in order to live as holy a life as God required people must keep all of the law. Not surprisingly, this standard proved too high and the people failed. No religious rituals could bring them acceptance before God who demanded perfect obedience; they desperately needed a Messiah, or a Savior from their sins (see Hebrews 10:1-9).

When Jesus gave His life on the cross, He completely fulfilled the perfect law that humans prove incapable of keeping. While God might have chosen to do away with His righteous demands regarding idol worship, lying, murdering, and committing adultery, He chose not to abolish them. Instead, He had Jesus fulfill the holy dictates; in doing so, God accomplished the obedience necessary to satisfy His own demands and plans. In a sense, God modified the original law, making it richer and deeper and giving it a new and enhanced meaning. In a real and profound sense, Jesus became the New Covenant law of God. Through the person, teaching, and finished work of Christ, we see the completion of all the Old Testament’s revealed teaching, ethical precepts, and prophecy. In Jesus we see the implementation of a New Covenant between God and humanity. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, all who believe in Him can embrace the good news. The unchanging law of God was fulfilled in Christ. Those who believe in and receive Him by faith are declared righteous. This is our salvation!

Unlike the showy ways that the Pharisees and teachers of the law chose to obey the Old Covenant, obedience from the heart proves a requirement in keeping
the new one. Living out kingdom principles projects a different kind of personal obedience. The outward and shallow form of righteousness found in ritualistic religion doesn’t work. God requires inwardly prompted righteousness of mind and motive compelled by a transformed heart. This kind of obedience surpasses the religion of the Pharisees and typifies those who belong to God’s kingdom. Astonishingly, the Old Testament prophets predicted this new type of obedience long before Christ’s birth: “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33). And in Ezekiel 36:27, people were given a clue as to how this would happen, “[God] will put [his] Spirit in you and move you to follow [his] decrees and be careful to keep [his] laws.”

Jesus calls us not only to obedience but to a deeper heart-righteousness that has external manifestations. In John 3:3, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” Truly, we cannot achieve true righteousness without first surrendering to Christ. After that, we receive indwelling power that comes through the Holy Spirit. Kingdom living necessitates a radical righteousness that comes only through the God Himself. In order to see the righteous demands of God’s kingdom fulfilled in us, we must look to Jesus and rely on His Holy Spirit.

Apply It.

Meditate on Second Corinthians 5:21 and John 1:29. Righteousness comes only from Christ. Consider why you obey God’s Word. Do you do so to justify yourself before God or to show loving and thankful acknowledgement that He is worthy of your submission? Ask God to reveal any self-righteousness and to give you an obedient heart.

*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!


“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” Ephesians 4:26-27.

OK, you aren’t too sure about the title of this post. But don’t get angry with me yet. Please hear me out on this one. Yes, there is much debate about what Paul intended here, especially when you consider what he says in verses 31 and 32 found later in this chapter: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Some say that the tense of the Greek verb suggests concession: that we are bound to get angry but should manage our emotions in a Godly fashion. This is why the NIV translates this as, “In your anger, do sin.” Others, including John Stott and Gordon Clark, say it is not a concession but a command. I would agree with the latter but I need to explain. Either way, this is NOT a suggestion, as proposed by many secular psychologists and some “Christian psychologists,”  to ventilate one’s sin-induced and ungodly (never mind, unhealthy) inner rage (an emotional catharsis where “venting” leads to healing). This is a passage that speaks to a characteristic of God that we should embrace; anger with sin or righteous indignation.

To give credence to this idea, we need to remember these 2 verses are a reference to Psalm 4: “But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him. Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD” (vs. 3-5). In Psalm 4 God is rightly portrayed as righteous, a God who has an aversion to sin. His holiness demands it. Calvin suggested Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:26 are a command to be angry with one’s own sin, but I think it goes well beyond that. I believe it speaks to the new creation we have become in Christ as one that sees sin, injustice, and spiritual rebellion as God sees it – with a paradigm of holy vitriol.

Jesus displayed this same attitude when He cleansed the temple that had been desecrated by thievish moneychangers. We see this in John 2:13-17:

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the
money-changers sitting there.  And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 

Please do not misunderstand. I’m not talking about self-centered anger. We have way too much of that and Paul is speaking to this problem in Ephesians 4:31-32. This is not a license to rage against any and everything. This is about needing to have a God-centered anger against all that stands against Him (including our own sin). It is indignation toward sin, injustice, evil, and immorality. But this is not a dangerous, destructive, damaging type of emotion. This anger is a grieving, love-compelled passion for what is right and good. It’s similar to the way we get upset when our children disobey. Because we love them and want them to honor God, we are angry because they are not living in a manner that befits one made in the image of God. Our desire for what’s best for them fuels  disappointment and requisite discipline.

It is told that at a certain Christian conference John Piper was listening to one of the other panel members who was particularly known for his assessment and criticism of our godless culture. After complimenting him on his astuteness in identifying and decrying the moral decay of America, Piper said, “There is only one thing lacking in your ministry.” The fellow panelist then asked Piper exactly what that was. “Tears,” was his gentle response.

This should cause us serious contemplation. Do we have a God-centered, tearful disposition against all that is unholy (in ourselves, others, and our society) and disrespects our holy God? Or does our wrath only become enlivened when it is us, not God, who is the offended one. I think the church of Jesus Christ needs more God-glorifying, grieving anger towards all that separates us from God. A righteous indignation that is fueled by love for God and others and is communicated through tears. I pray that God transforms us to be the kind of people that images-forth His holiness as His Spirit motivates us to “Be angry and do not sin.” And may it start with me.


*Section 1 – Kingdom Character

Seven- The Pure in Heart Know God

 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8).

In Matthew 5:8 Jesus once again shares an attention-grabbing truth: those pure in heart will see God. John 6:46 plainly states that no one—except Christ—has actually seen God face-to-face. In the Sermon on the Mount, however, Jesus announces that relationship and intimate fellowship with God are attainable. One day the pure in heart will even lay eyes on Him!

The Bible teaches us that God alone stands immortal and lives in unapproachable light, but when in Heaven He reveals Himself we will see Him face to face (See 1 Timothy 6:16; 1 Corinthians 13:12). To me, this thought proves both exhilarating and overwhelming. I will see Jesus! I believe that even the vivid description of Revelation 4 doesn’t begin to capture the majesty, transcendence, and glory of our God. Yet, beside Him we will reside: home in His presence, marveling at His perfection, adoring His supremacy, worshipping around the throne, dazzled by His beauty, basking in His radiant glory, seeing Him and knowing Him forever in the most perfect sense. How’s this miracle possible? Because He took our sin away, removing the barrier between us. Every time I dwell on the idea of seeing Him for the first time, I’m moved to tears. My inability to describe both the scene and my feeling reminds of the Apostle Peter’s words: “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8).

Christ-followers enjoy more than the privilege of anticipating Heaven; through relationship with God through Jesus we can “see” God’s heart now. Like children who watch and know their fathers, we can know what pleases and blesses Him. “Seeing” God suggests that we, through the lens of His revelation to us, know His ways and do His will. Knowing God means reveling in what glorifies and honors Him. This happens through relationship with Jesus, “the exact representation of [God’s] being (Hebrews 1:3). Total identification with Christ is the only way to see God (see John 14:4-14).

We must  nderstand that God is inherently and totally holy; therefore, a relationship and fellowship with Him requires righteousness. Given our lost and condemned state, how do we find moral purity? Well, we know that it comes not through shallow religious performance or self-effort. Instead, the beginning point requires that we receive a purity not our own. That comes only through faith in Jesus, the one who “was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Only God’s sovereign gift of grace through faith in Jesus allows us to see and know the Lord (Ephesians 2:8-9). Throughout His life Christ remained blameless. In His death, His righteousness could be imputed (meaning “declared as” or “counted toward”), to those “under wrath and without hope” (see Ephesians 2:1-3, 12). Faith in Him and in His completed work lay the foundation of any hope of purity before God.

Seeing and knowing God defines the pinnacle of our existence. The sovereign Lord of the universe desires that we know and worship Him! What truth could prove more life-transforming? Attaining intimacy with our Creator should be the highest pursuit of man, but we must recognize that getting to know our Lord
requires purity of heart. The Lord desires purity from His people. Sincerity, genuineness, and a lack of hypocrisy should characterize the attitudes and actions
of His followers. Jesus’ Jewish audience certainly understood the concept of purity. Ceremonial cleansing played a significant role in their worship. Many listeners were also familiar with the notion of internal purity: In Psalm 51:10, hundreds of years before Christ’s incarnation, King David asked God to “Create in [him] a pure heart.” Unfortunately, by the time Jesus delivered His sermon, the Jewish religion focused more on outward or ceremonial cleanliness than the
condition of their hearts. King Jesus, however, emphasized inward and moral purity. He said that our hearts, not just our physical actions, must be pure in
order to see and know God.

More than once Jesus addressed the disturbing religious trend of calculating righteousness from an external viewpoint. To the holiest men of His day He said, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness” (Luke 11:39). In His most scathing indictment of their shallow and performance-oriented religion He declared:

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. … Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”   (Matthew 23:23-24, 27-28). 

Outward obedience, no matter how pious it may appear, does not satisfy the righteous demands of God. The Lord wants our thoughts and motives centered on
things pleasing to Him. Followers of Jesus, this different kind of King, should enjoy transformed hearts and minds that affect the way they act and speak. They
should maintain an internal purity that compels them to a life of total obedience, not just outward performance. Without purity and sincerity of heart, our religious “deeds” are meaningless. Ritualistic religion, without true cleanliness of heart, equals empty hypocrisy.

Pure vessels are more easily filled by God; the cleaner the lens of our heart, the more we sense His presence and power in us. The more we become like Jesus—pure in heart—the more we know and experience Him. If we want to see God in the fullest sense, if we want to enjoy dynamic fellowship with Him, we need
to allow Him to transform our hearts and the way we live. The Apostle Paul said, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being
transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Jesus declares His followers
righteous. Let’s love Him through sincere, God-pleasing attitudes and actions that bring glory to the Father.

Apply It.

Read Isaiah 6:1-6. Meditate on Isaiah’s glimpse of God and His glory. How does knowing God impact you? How do you react when you experience fellowship
with your Savior? Ask God for a pure heart and a life that pleases 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!


*Section 1 – Kingdom Character

Five- Desiring Righteousness Brings Satisfaction

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).

The first four beatitudes follow a logical progression: Conviction leads to confession which leads to repentance. These postures, when progressively combined, compel us to seek after what we cannot attain, the righteousness that comes only through the Lord! In Matthew 5:3, “the poor in spirit”—those who acknowledge their spiritual bankruptcy before holy God—are positioned to receive entry into “the kingdom of heaven.” As they are confronted with the holy demands of God, they characteristically mourn over their sinfulness. Doing so allows them to enter into the type of humble state, or meekness, that’s required of those who will inherit God’s kingdom. When a person experiences this reality, he or she gains the key to happiness: the ability and incentive to pursue a godly life.

When His people get hungry and thirsty for His righteousness, God promises to satisfy their cravings and to bless them! Often that blessing comes in the form of joy. But humanity seeks carnal happiness instead. Sadly, we routinely grasp for contentment through pleasure, possessions, accumulation, relationships, climbing the ladder at work, and carving out a pain-free and comfortable life—none of which offer the joy and long-term satisfaction we crave. Real satisfaction and contentment remain elusive. Why? Because we won’t find happiness in the temporal and the tangible: we need a relationship with God that’s both spiritual and eternal. The idea that we can have happiness without holiness proves a fatal flaw. Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, clearly taught that true contentment comes from the pursuit of righteousness.

“Righteousness” in this passage speaks of a personal and practical standard of holy living that projects both the King (Jesus) and the type of ideals and principles on which His kingdom is founded. Humanity finds “blessing”—true joy and fulfillment—when they relentlessly pursue a life that reflects Christ. Living in moral uprightness and demonstrating faith through it leads to Christ-imitating growth, to contentment, to a blessed and purposeful existence. Poverty of spirit, brokenness, humility, and the pursuit of righteousness prove essential steps in attaining joy and in living in a manner worthy of the God who invited us to share in His kingdom.

At one time I got caught up in the world’s definition of success. I wanted the so-called American Dream: grow up, get an education, get a good job, marry your sweetheart, buy a house, have some children, climb the corporate ladder, buy a bigger house, have some grandkids, and then retire to the beach or golf course. But in spite of my best efforts, I couldn’t find deep-rooted satisfaction on that path. Once I began to pursue God and His righteousness, however, I realized that true contentment derives more from His description of holiness than our culture’s definition of success. In other words, when I hunger and thirst after Him I find a better way to live.

Though the notion completely clashes with popular secular belief, holiness—moral integrity— is a fundamental prescription for true happiness. Without Christ, a life of holiness can’t happen. When, however, we pursue righteousness-giving Jesus, He empowers us to live the holy lives that reflect the joy we find in Him. Through Jesus we can live rightly. As we do, we find the consummation of holiness and happiness in Christ. Through Jesus we are blessed with every spiritual blessing (see Ephesians 1:3).

A hunger and thirst for righteousness, a desperate desire to know right and to live uprightly, defines a fundamental ambition of God’s kingdom dwellers. While those without relationship with Jesus understandably pursue the things of this world as a means to fulfillment, believers find satisfaction in the righteousness that only comes through Christ. Those who follow Jesus should seek the spiritual and not the material, knowing that living the type of godly life Christ requires provides the only means to satisfying our thirsty souls. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35). He has promised to fill those famished for Him, those who pursue His timeless righteousness over the latest thrill.

The desire for holy living and the joy it brings rise out of a passionate pursuit of the Lord. It flows instinctively out of our love for God and our gratitude for what He does for us. When Christ died for our sins, He justified those who would come to faith in God through Him. That means that He made us just as if we never sinned. This justification of sins and resulting positional righteousness before God through faith in the atoning work of Christ should create in us the desire to live free from sin. The desire to do right.

“Be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord,” the writer of Hebrews said (Hebrews 12:14). As we routinely ponder what Christ has done for us, we’ll desire no part of anything which would hinder our relationship with Christ or injure our ability to demonstrate His love. Let’s make it our passion to honor the Lord through every thought, word, and action.

Apply It.

Consider your life goals and daily priorities. Analyze your prayer life. How well do you integrate the pursuit of righteousness? Memorize Ephesians 4:22-24 and ask God to empower you to seek His holiness and to experience His joy in that pursuit.

*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!


*Section 1 – Kingdom Character

Three – Comfort for Mourners

 “Blessed are those that mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

The second statement Jesus utters in His Sermon on the Mount proves just as shocking as the first: God provides comfort for those who mourn. This passage speaks to God’s compassion, to His provision, to His willingness to act as supporter of those who face hurt and sorrow. Unlike the capricious gods of many cultures—supposed deities who do nothing to alleviate sorrow and sometimes manipulate mortals to inflict it—God the Father shows love for His children. The psalmist adds, “You who seek God [be encouraged.] The Lord hears the needy and does not despise his … people” (Psalm 69:32-34).

When taken in context with the previous verse, Matthew 5:4 also reveals a critical truth on how fallen humans should approach holy God. While the first beatitude points to the absolute necessity of confessing our unrighteousness before Him, the second speaks to the importance of contrition over our unworthy and unholy state. Taking root in God’s kingdom requires remorse over and repentance of our sin: this is the essential second step. While acknowledging one’s sin goes hand in hand with receiving Christ’s offer of salvation, truly recognizing the foulness of our sins helps us to understand the depth of His love.

Some teach that our faith journey is bubbly, positive, and sorrow free: a virtual rollercoaster of unceasing ecstasy. Jesus, however, says that mourning is mandatory in knowing the real comfort of God. In His classic contrarian style, Jesus explains that what is despised and avoided in many cultures, namely godly grief, is actually the posture that opens the door to divine and supernatural satisfaction and contentment. According to our Lord, joy comes from brokenness. In Luke’s account of the sermon, Jesus even adds this solemn warning: “Woe to you who laugh now—” as if to suggest that living too lightheartedly might actually lead to trouble (see Luke 6:25).

The idea fails to align with the “feel good” message often heard in modern churches, places where remembering our wretchedness is seldom in vogue. Candidly, weeping and mourning doesn’t sound too appetizing. Today’s mantra? “Happiness is found through the exercise of positive self-talk, the building of self-esteem, mental gymnastics, physical exercise, and making enough money to live like a king.” In this view, often shared from pulpits as well as self-help books, happiness gets characterized by self-actualization through self-effort. In other words, if we think positively about ourselves, we will feel good about ourselves; therefore, we will lead happy lives.

How shocking that Jesus preaches just the opposite! He says that real, lasting, and complete comfort comes only from God—not from man’s futile attempt at self-induced consolation. Second Corinthians 1:3 describes the Father as “the God of all comfort.” Jesus makes it clear that any pursuit to find satisfaction or happiness outside of God proves fleeting and ineffective. The “let’s get positive” philosophy of comfort espoused by finite man doesn’t come close to reaching the kind of contentment that comes from knowing the mercy of infinite God. It can’t! Why? Man and his thinking are not the solution for finding contentment; they are the essential problem separating him from the Lord.

In my own conversion, under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, the words of Isaiah reverberated in my heart: “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” (Isaiah 64:6). I sobbed and shook as the Spirit pointed me to the humanly unattainable righteousness of Jesus. I had a frightening vision of the disgusting nature of my sinful disease that made me worthy of eternal punishment. The truth of my hopelessness and my inability to ever stand pleasing in God’s sight shattered my heart. But then I remembered Second Corinthians 5:21: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” I recognized then that grace received by faith was my only hope. But once I grasped that, oh what a comfort!

Jesus, the Messiah, was called “the comforter” who would “bind up the brokenhearted” (Isaiah 61:1). In John 14:16 of The King James Version Jesus claims that the Holy Spirit also fills this Comforter role. I love that word! It explains so beautifully that Christ’s sacrifice, offering the absolution and forgiveness of sins, is the only source of eternal consolation. Blessing follows when we come in our brokenness to Jesus, and remember Calvary where He redeemed and liberated us from the bondage of sin and hell. When we give ourselves to the Lord, we find immeasurable and eternal blessing. As we remember our rottenness and mourn over our sin, Jesus speaks peace to our souls and heals scarred consciences. His grace, what comfort!

Jesus Himself was described as “a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3). Throughout His ministry, Christ wept over the sins of others, over the terrible consequences of judgment, and over the city of Jerusalem which refused to embrace His kingship. He mourned because He knew the utter hopelessness of our situation should we reject His sacrifice. The issue of where a person will spend his or her eternity proves no laughing matter. While I’m not suggesting that we should spend our lives sitting in sackcloth and ashes, we do well to remember what He did for us, to realize how much we need Him, to constantly remind ourselves of the horrible outlook awaiting those who don’t know Him.

Let us go to Jesus weeping over our sin, confessing, and desperate. There we will find the all-satisfying, infinite comfort of an unfathomably great God who loved us enough send His Son to die in our place. To provide us a future of endless joy, satisfaction, and the comfort of His embrace.

Apply It.

Read Romans 3:9-20. Look for yourself in the passage. How does your history of sin contrast with a holy God?

Read aloud 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, and praise Him for being the God of all Comfort. Remember, Christ comforts those who mourn over their sins.

*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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