Bible Studies from Alan Hocking

                                

                            Rev. Alan Hocking

THE SECRET OF VICTORIOUS LIVING – Part 4

As we progress through the ‘Blesseds’, we find that they naturally lead one into the other.  So it is with the next one;

BLESSED ARE THE MERCIFUL FOR THEY SHALL OBTAIN MERCY.

We shall be seeing as we go through the Sermon on the Mount, that the more we look at what Jesus said, the more we shall see the great difference between the world and the church.  The whole passage is at odds with the world.  As we have just seen in 2 Tim 3 the world is becoming worse all the time. As Paul went on to say in v 13, “evil men and seducers will wax worse and worse” Most modern translations render ‘seducers’ as ‘imposters’ or ‘false teachers’. Sadly, there seem to be plenty of them around right now!  (And don’t get me going again about the false teachers on ‘Christian TV’.  Beware what you watch!)

One of the differences between the unbeliever and the Christian is the trait of mercy.  “An eye for an eye” is the unbeliever’s usual response to any injustice. The Human Rights act has probably caused more problems than it has helped to resolve. “I want my rights” we hear all the time, but so often one person’s rights are another’s injustice.  What a difference here.  Blessed, are the merciful. In other words, those who are not just possessed of pity but are actively compassionate. In Matt 25;34 – 40  Jesus talks of the judgement between the righteous and unrighteous (sheep and goats) and describes in detail being merciful; “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me”.  He then goes on to say, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

God loves to be merciful; See this description of Himself that he gave to Moses on the mount. Ex.34;6-7 The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy or thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,”  Then in Psalm 18;25 we read, “With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful.” This is why Jesus came. He came to show God’s love and mercy.  This is why He frowns on the unmerciful.  You will no doubt remember the story of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18.  He had been forgiven a huge debt, but refused to forgive his fellow servant an insignificant sum.  Jesus said that because of his unforgiving attitude, his lord withdrew his forgiveness and threw him into prison till he paid the full sum.  He then went on to say that we will suffer the same fate if we don’t forgive our brother.  This matter of forgiveness figures large in Jesus’ ministry. For instance, in the well known Lord’s prayer ”Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us.”  This prayer is recited by thousands of people every Sunday.   How many of them actually take in what they are saying?  “forgive – as we forgive..”

We’ll be coming to this again in a later chapter so I’ll leave it at that with this one sobering thought; if you are not merciful, you are not in the Kingdom!

Jesus talked about being Poor in Spirit, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, now He says,

BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD.

When Samuel was looking for someone to anoint as king over Israel, He looked at Jesse’s sons, and thought as they came before him one by one, “surely this is the one God has chosen?” God however reminded him of an important fact; “man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16;7)   It is important that we keep our minds, motives, and principles pure.  It is not just a matter of looking good on the outside; it is what we are on the inside that is important.   Proverbs 23;7 lets us in on the secret; “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he”.  The writer is using an illustration of someone inviting you to have a meal, but really he’s hoping you won’t accept!  I like the Message version of this Scripture; “Don’t accept a meal from a tightwad; don’t expect anything special. He’ll be as stingy with you as he is with himself; he’ll say, “Eat! Drink!” but won’t mean a word of it. His miserly serving will turn your stomach when you realize the meal’s a sham.”

We’ve all met people like that. They say one thing, but it soon becomes obvious they don’t mean what they say. God isn’t interested in people like that.  “Blessed are the pure in heart”.  Some of Jesus’ strongest condemnation was reserved for the Pharisees who made a great show of outward washings and ceremonials.  Yet Jesus called them ‘whited sepulchres, full of dead men’s bones’.

There is a progression here.  Poor in Spirit, Mourning over sin, Meek, not easily offended, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful and showing mercy, and now pure in heart.  The Pure in Heart have come to that place where sin is anathema to them. They hate the thought of sin spoiling their relationship with God.

And then Jesus talks of their reward; SHALL SEE GOD;  To ‘see’ someone was a Jewish phrase expressing great favour; For example, “To see the face of the King” meant to be in favour with the king. The Jews used the phrase to ‘see’ something as a synonym for possessing it. Jesus used this phrase with Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God”. In other words, he cannot enjoy it or possess it.  So only the Pure in Heart will ‘see’ or enjoy God.  This makes an awful lot of sense.  The Bible talks of God as being completely Holy and Pure.  The angels around the throne continually cry ‘Holy is the Lord of hosts’.

We have a picture of this holiness in the tabernacle where the Jews worshipped God in the wilderness. There was a Holy Place and a Holy Ark in the middle of it. The high priest was to go into the Holy Place once a year, but before he did he had to go through a rigorous cleansing process. If he failed to complete it properly, he was told he would die.  We can imagine the trepidation with which he would draw back the curtain to enter the holy place, fearful lest he had omitted some vital part of the ceremony.   Tradition tells us that he had a rope tied around his ankle, so that if he was struck dead, the other priests would be able to drag him out!

In the book of Revelation, John tells how he saw Jesus in His glory and fell at his feet as one dead.  I have had people say to me that when they stand before God they will tell him a thing or two!  They obviously have not the slightest concept of the Holiness of God.  On the few occasions that we are told that people saw angels and we are told that they often fell to the floor.    If seeing an angel has that effect on someone, what will it be to see Almighty God in all His glory? In Revelation John tells how he saw the resurrected Jesus in all His glory and that he fell at His feet as if dead!

Holiness and a pure heart are really one and the same thing.  The world and much of the church has a distorted view of holiness. They try to reduce all this to a matter of decency or morality; but it is far more than that.  It is the whole person.   It is not a matter of becoming a monk, shutting yourself off from the world and seeking to be holy by separating yourself from everything that would offend.  The trouble is that you take yourself in the monastery with you.  Paul recognised this when he said, “But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.” (Rom 7;17-20)

He went on to ask ‘how can I get the better of this ‘dead’ body?” and went on “thank God, through Jesus.”   It is only as we allow Jesus to have His way in our lives that we can even begin to be ‘Pure in heart’.

We are nearly at the end of the Beatitudes. Here is one that is really needed these days!

BLESSED ARE THE PEACE MAKERS FOR THEY WILL BE CALLED THE CHILDREN OF GOD.

If ever there was a full time job, this is it!  There seem to be quite a few of them around these days, and I guess there is plenty of opportunity! But linking this in to the rest of the Beatitudes how does it fit in?  It seems to me that it is all part of attaining the character of God.  Once again we think of the old chorus; ‘O to be like Thee’… The whole aim of the ‘Blesseds’ is to become like Jesus.  To be sinless, merciful, pure in heart etc.  He was the ultimate Peacemaker.  He came to bring peace between God and man.

It is tragic that so often the Church has been seen as anything but a peacemaker.  Looking back in history, we think of the Crusades, which have left a stain on the reputation of Christianity in the Middle East that has lasted even until today.  There are many other instances where the Church or individual Christians have shown an aggressive spirit that is far from that portrayed here in this passage of Scripture.

So let us come down to ourselves, today.  Do we pour petrol on the flames?  Or water?  Do we seek to bring peace into a situation or do we tend to side with one or the other?  During my many years of ministry I have unfortunately seen several Churches split down the middle.  What caused it?  Two sets of Christians who had a disagreement and refused to back down.  There was no peace, and usually, sadly, no peacemaker.   I remember some missionary friends of mine telling me of a young man in their Church whose life was in danger because of a family feud that had been going on for 20 years!  The origins of the feud had long been forgotten, but the two families still hated each other and were prepared to kill for their so called ‘honour’.  We hear all too often these days even in this country, of ‘honour killings’.  Let us seek to be peacemakers to our area.

For they will be called the CHILDREN OF GOD…

Are you a Child of God?  Then you will make peace… Jesus came to make peace between God and man.  If we are to be real Children of God then we will be doing the same thing.  Jesus told us to go into all the world and preach the Gospel.  In other words tell them they can have peace with God.  And if we are preaching peace, then we will not be causing discord or encouraging strife in our family, church or neighbourhood.  Lets be real Children of God.

And if you are trying to become a real Child of God, guess what will happen?  You will be reviled and persecuted.   After all, they crucified Jesus!

So Jesus finishes up with this amazing final Beatitude.

BLESSED ARE YOU WHEN MEN SHALL. REVILE YOU AND PERSECUTE YOU.

“Wow!  I didn’t think I was going to get reviled and scorned and persecuted when I became a Christian.”  Didn’t you?  Several times Jesus warned His disciples that this would happen.  One of the signs of the second coming of Jesus is an increase in persecution. And again, I am convinced that we are living in the ‘last days’ because of the rise of persecution of Christians around the world.  Not just in openly anti Christian countries, like Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, China, North Korea and so on, but now even in UK we are finding an insidious persecution of Christians going on.

Some cases have made headline news, like the BA woman who was fired for wearing a cross, or the health visitor fired for daring to offer to pray for a patient.  I believe such instances as these will increase in the coming days.  Atheists are becoming more militant. The Western world is becoming increasingly secular.

We are well aware of the persecution of Christians in, for example, China and many are praying for this to cease.  However, I was told the other day that the Chinese Christians are saying “Don’t pray for persecution to cease”!  Why? Because it makes for stronger Christians.  After all, if you know you are going to be thrown into jail or lose your job if you become a Christian, you are going to think twice about it aren’t you?  And those who make a decision to serve Christ under those circumstances are going to be far stronger than those who simply put up their hand in an evangelistic service without thinking too much about it, or even those who claim to be Christians because they were born in a Christian country.  As someone once said, being born in a garage doesn’t make you a car!

We don’t want persecution, but if it comes for His Name’s sake, we are to welcome it.  We are not to rejoice in persecution that comes because of our own stupidity.  I have known people go out of their way to invite ridicule and then claim they are being persecuted. No, you are not.  Jesus laid down the basis for persecution – when men speak evil of you falsely – then rejoice over it! For great is your reward in Heaven.  You are joining the illustrious band of those who have been persecuted down the ages because they served God.

So at the end of the day, what is the final end result of all you are doing?

Is it to build your own kingdom, or the kingdom of God?  As we have gone through this first section of Matthew 5, we realise that the important thing is our motive, our heart, how we react.   If ever anything made you think, it should be this portion of Scripture.  But then again, we haven’t got anywhere near through this amazing Sermon yet, There’s a lot more to come!

                                 

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Bible Studies by Rev A. Hocking

                                    

                                   Rev. A. Hocking

THE SECRET OF VICTORIOUS LIVING – Part 3

Read Matthew 5: 1-8  Compare Luke 6: 17-49

The Multitudes came to hear Him. Some commentators think that it is quite possible that Jesus preached this on other occasions – for example such as Luke records, and this would account for the slight differences between Matthew and Luke’s accounts.  However, did you ever know anyone to give exactly the same account of a sermon? Matthew and Luke could have heard the same sermon that Jesus preached, and their accounts tally so much that they do in fact confirm the validity of their reports.

His disciples came to hear Him.  I suppose we could separate the crowd into three groups:  His disciples, in other words, those who were his close followers.  Then there would be the crowd. Those who followed, wanting to be part of what’s going on, but not really committed. Lastly, there would be those on the edge of the crowd who were curious, but didn’t want to get involved.

Of course this is a good illustration of the Church. There are always these three groupings in any Church.  I remember going to one church to pastor.  On a Sunday night there would be over 100 in the services.  On Sunday morning there would be perhaps 50 or 60.  At the prayer meeting and Bible study, we would have maybe 15 or 20. These latter were those who were committed to the Church. They wanted to see things happen and the Church to grow.  The ‘crowd’ would come on Sunday morning. They liked to ‘break bread’ and be part of the bigger picture, but not to be really committed.  Then on Sunday night there were a lot of ‘hangers on’. Some came because they thought it was a nice lively service, better than the church down the road. Others because it was – well, the thing to do.  As I began to preach salvation and invite people to come forward to commit their lives to Jesus, many of these ‘hangers on’ left, complaining that I ‘expected too much of them’.

Those who were sitting near Jesus were His disciples – literally learners.   He is the great teacher.  We are all learners – or should be.  As we walk with Him, He will lead us into the truth.  He told His disciples that He was going away, but would leave them the Holy Spirit who would guide them into all truth. As we read His Word, His Spirit will open it to us and reveal hidden depths.  However, we need to be careful where we go for guidance and teaching.  I have had people come to me with some bizarre ideas that they claim ‘God has shown me’.  Usually I’m afraid, these people seem to be ‘unteachable’ and when you point out the error of their so called revelation, they take offence and go off to start their own church, or join some other bunch of deluded folk.

In 2 Tim 3;7  & 4;3 Paul warns Timothy of those who will look for teachers to ‘tickle their fancy..’  I have met many of these!  Someone once said, “beware of the teacher who tells you what you want to hear. Listen to the one who doesn’t!”  Good advice indeed.  I become more certain that we are living in ‘the last days’ the more I hear some of the weird and wonderful ‘doctrines’ that are being preached these days.  I recall on one occasion one of my church members who had been listening to a certain teacher, coming to me and telling me that the way to cast demons out was to anoint the person with communion wine! When I pointed out that this was hardly scriptural, she claimed it was a ‘new revelation’. There seem to be many such around these days – beware!  Be like the Bereans who we are told checked everything they were taught against the Word of God.

This ‘Sermon on the Mount’ is intensely practical.  Jesus was the Master preacher.  It is full of local illustrations that His listeners would be familiar with. He talked of salt, light, sheep, buildings, rain, even specks of dust!

So here is a word of advice for preachers – make your preaching relevant to your audience.  I remember when I was producing programmes for missionary radio stations such as FEBA and Transworld Radio, being told to be careful what illustrations we used.  For example, one speaker had quoted the Scripture “you will be as white as wool”.  They pointed out that in one country they were broadcasting to, the folk had never seen white wool – all their sheep were black!   Jesus kept his illustrations simple.

We start where you’d least expect us to.

“BLESSED ARE The Poor in Spirit”; Luke just says ‘Poor’.

When Jesus started out on His ministry, he quoted from Isa 61;1 ”The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; he has sent Me to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; (NKJ) . Later on, when John sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He really was the Messiah, Jesus told them to go and tell John (Matt 11:5) “The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are  raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. (NKJ)

It seems the poor always had a special place in Jesus’ heart.  Someone has noted that the poor are more likely to get saved than the rich.  Jesus confirmed this in Lu 18;24; “And when Jesus saw that He became very sorrowful. He said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the  kingdom of God! (NKJ)

I am using Matthew’s version in this instance; “Poor in spirit”.  In other words, humility.   God hates the proud!   (Isa 57;15 For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. (NKJ)   I believe this is because pride was one of the major causes of satan’s downfall.  He lifted himself up, saying he was going to be god, and because of this was thrown out of Heaven.  His temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was based on Pride.  He told them God was holding something back, and that they could be like God if they ate the forbidden fruit.

All through the Bible we find God looking for and using the ‘humble’, the ‘nobodies’.

We think of Moses, who when told he was to deliver Israel out of Pharoah’s hands was conscious of his inadequacy.  I can imagine the conversation as Moses had a stammer; “Who, mmmmme?  I cccccan’t gggo and sssstand before FFFFFFaroah”.  But as I have found in my own life, God doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

Remember Gideon?  What a wonderful picture.  There he is, threshing wheat in a winepress for fear of the Mideanites.   Now a winepress was basically a big room where they could squash the grapes.  There were no windows or ventilation as such.  If you have ever seen wheat being threshed you will know that there is a lot of dust and stuff flying all over the place.  The idea being that you knock the stuffing out of the wheat and the wind blows the chaff away.   In the winepress there is no wind.  He must have been almost choking to death in there.  The angel tells him he is a mighty man of valour!  “Who me? There must be some mistake. I belong to the lowest tribe and the lowest family in the tribe”.  But no, God had chosen him.

One last illustration; David.  The shepherd boy.  Even his father didn’t rate him and had to be prompted by Samuel – haven’t you got another son?  “er, well, there’s David, but you don’t want him!” David was anointed king of Israel and promptly went back to looking after the sheep!

Jesus often told stories against the proud, for example telling his listeners, “when you go to a feast – sit at the bottom table”.   Paul, in one of my favourite passages of Scripture puts it wonderfully; (I Cor 1;26-29) For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;  and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are,  that no flesh should glory in His presence.

So what about these ‘Poor in Spirit’?  Well, Jesus said, “theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”.   Why?  Because the unteachable, the proud, the one who refuses to come under authority will always have problems – and be a problem!  Even Jesus was ‘humble’ and didn’t vaunt Himself, although He had every right to do so:  John 14;10 ”The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. (NKJ)  Think how much time He spent in prayer, and realise His poverty of Spirit and reliance upon God – THINK ABOUT IT!  Everything He did and said was a direct command from His Father. If we are going to live a ‘Real’ Christian life, we need to follow His example and follow His commands.

The ‘Sermon on the Mount’ is all about KINGDOM LIVING.   It is time to stop playing at it.  We are at war.  And right now we are involved in the final chapter of that war.

We shall see that what Jesus is talking about is the serious business of Xtn living.  We may have magnificent doctrines but if we don’t pay our debts…

We can have Incredible conceptions of Deity , but if we refuse to forgive our enemies….  We may be Orthodox to the hilt but if we don’t feed the hungry or clothe the naked…..  we haven’t even begun to live the Christian life!

Jesus talked a lot about the Kingdom of God.  He often said, “its like….” Here, He starts off by saying if you’re not poor in spirit, you’ll never see it, but if you are – it’s yours now.  “Theirs IS the Kingdom of Heaven”.  Heaven is not something we look forward to in the dim and distant (we hope!) future.  It is something we can start enjoying now.  And as we go through this wonderful ‘Sermon on the Mount’ hopefully we will begin to experience something of Heaven here and now.

Jesus goes on to say something that has puzzled people for centuries.

BLESSED ARE THEY THAT MOURN for they shall be comforted.

I am worried by some preachers who seem to indicate that all you have to do is ‘come to Jesus’ and everything will be wonderful.  We do not often hear repentance preached these days.  Yet repentance is vital to salvation.  Paul wrote:  (2 Cor. 7;10) For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. (NKJ)  This is why the world does not understand these ‘Beatitudes’. “If you are mourning”, they say, “how can you be blessed?”  We have all heard of people who are so sad over something that has happened in their lives that they become a recluse or even commit suicide.  As Paul said, “The sorrow of the world produces death”.  But ‘godly sorrow’ is something quite different.

The real Christian mourns that he still sins. There has to be sadness over our sin before we can really enjoy our salvation. There has to be a continuing sadness over our failure to be what we know we should and could be in Christ.  As Paul put it (Romans 7:24) O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (NKJ)  He was only too conscious that in spite of his achievements and the way God had used him, he was still falling short of his target to be like Christ.  The picture he uses comes from the Romans’ way of stopping prisoners of war escaping.  They would bind a dead body to them so that they had to carry the dead body around with them.  Paul pictures himself still bound to his old life with its sin and bad habits that thwarts his efforts to live a Christ-like life.  I’m sure most of us will agree that we too find our old lives still popping up and hindering us in our new life in Christ.  But thank God, as Paul remarks – through Jesus we have the victory over our old lives.

If you treat sin lightly, your salvation will be lightweight too.  I wonder how often we say things like, It’s only a little white lie”.. or “it’s only 2p change”..

If you say ONLY…. then you haven’t really comprehended the depth of mourning over sin.  Just recently a friend of mine confessed to being convicted over reusing postage stamps that hadn’t been franked.  Of course you are going to say “well, doesn’t everyone?” That isn’t the point. It suddenly dawned on him that in fact he was stealing from the Post Office. God’s Word says, “Don’t steal” and whether it is 2p change, unfranked stamps or the odd pen taken home from the office, it still comes down to stealing!

Naturally, normal people hate being dirty.  After a stint in the garden, for example, we want to come in and wash.  Coming home from a dirty job, the first thought is to get in the shower.  To the Christian, sin is dirt. We need to keep clean. Sure, as John wrote; 1 John 1;7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin, (NKJ) but how much better not to get ‘dirty’ in the first place?  Blessed are they that mourn over their sin.  Why?  Because they will be comforted.

What does that mean? We are comforted; encouraged, drawn near…  As we realise what sin is, and how it took Christ to the cross, we mourn that we should be the reason why He died there.  But we will be comforted as Christ brings pardon and peace in the knowledge that our sin is pardoned, and we have peace with God.  In the words of Rom 8;1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

Sorrow for sin comes before the joy of salvation.  A wrong concept of sin, and no sorrow for it, will bring a shallow concept of joy in Salvation. Conviction must come before Conversion.  I am reminded of the stories of past revivals when hardened sinners came forward and wept their way to salvation. Drunkards, wife beaters, cruel men were moved on by the Holy Ghost and broke down as the enormity of their sin dawned upon them and they were gloriously converted. Jesus said of the woman who came and anointed his feet with oil “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”

“Blessed are they that mourn, for they will be comforted.”  If you find that you are really upset by the things that are wrong in your life, then start to rejoice!  You are in the right place.  Forgiveness is there for the asking. The comfort of knowing that your sins are forgiven brings a peace that nothing can compare with. To mourn over sin, means there is hope, and eventually ‘comfort’ and joy.

Our next Beatitude is possibly one that has been the most misunderstood by the world.

BLESSED ARE THE MEEK for they shall inherit the earth.

The world usually associates Meekness with being weak. How wrong can you be?  Moses was meek, so the Bible tells us, but he was also strong!

The word is variously translated ‘meek’, ‘humble’, and ‘gentle’.  One commentator suggests that the old fashioned word ‘gentleman’ sums it up.  Those who don’t think too much of themselves, respect others, and are not overbearing.   The meek person is not easily moved by little insults:  not easily ruffled.  But it is not just a natural meekness; there is a spiritual quality about it. It is the opposite of pride, and again we think of satan who was lifted up with pride and thought he would make a take over bid from God.

SHALL INHERIT EARTH (or perhaps more literally, LAND).  This was a Jewish phrase which meant to receive all God has for you… all the blessings of the Kingdom. It came originally from God’s promise to Abraham to give him the land of Canaan and gradually evolved to mean all God’s blessings.

So again, it follows on from the Poor in Spirit – the one who is sorry for his sin, to now the one who doesn’t lift himself up.  Rather like the man in the parable Jesus told who went into the Temple and not even able to lift his eyes towards Heaven, cried “God be merciful to me a sinner”.  Jesus said this man went home justified.  He really sums up the first two beatitudes.  He was penitent and humble, rather than the other man who had rather a high opinion of himself.

The third Beatitude follows naturally after the first two.

BLESSED ARE THEY THAT HUNGER & THIRST AFTER RIGHTEOUSNESS… THEY WILL BE FILLED.

To Hunger and Thirst means to really want something.  So here Jesus says we are to really want to be righteous.  Commentator J.N. Darby wrote; “To be hungry is not enough, I must be really starving to know what is in His heart towards me….. When the prodigal son was hungry, he fed on the husks, when he was starving, he turned to his father.”

Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness. Not blessedness. Not happiness for its own sake, not blessed experiences. But to really want to be righteous, just as Christ was. There was a hymn we used to sing; ‘Oh to be like Thee, blessed redeemer.’  Yes, we receive Christ’s righteousness imputed to us when we are saved, but it is not just a matter of imputed righteousness, but a real desire to be right ourselves, to do what is Right. There was another song; ‘As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after You’.   The man or woman who has truly found Christ as saviour yearns to be like Him.  They want to be in a place where sin no longer trips them up.  They rejoice that they stand before Him cleansed and holy in His sight, but long to be free of the temptations that daily beset them.

Paul wrote to the Roman church, (Rom 14;17) “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”. (NKJ).   This illustrates the big difference between the world and the church. The world’s attitude is as Paul quoted; – 1Cor 15;31, “If the dead are not raised, ”Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” The world’s attitude is that there is no reckoning to come, so let’s just enjoy life.  The World is unrighteous, we live in unrighteous days. Cheating, fraud, theft, murder are commonplace.  We truly are living in the last days, when, as Paul wrote to Timothy, (2 Tim 3;1-5) “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power”.

The difference between the world and the real church, those who are truly born again will become more and more evident as time goes by.  The real Christian is yearning, longing to be more like Christ. He recognises that the time is short and that soon he will be standing before the saviour he loves, and he wants to be like Him.  The Church is likened to a bride, and just as the bride decks herself out to be as beautiful as she can for her husband, so the Christian longs to be pure and holy so that he can stand before his Saviour and hear Him say, “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord”.

                              

Bible Studies by Rev. A. Hocking

                                

                                Rev. A. Hocking

THE SECRETS OF VICTORIOUS LIVING  Part 1

Being equipped for life in the 21st Century.

CHAPTER 1

We are living in a unique generation. As someone once remarked; “It’s later than it’s ever been before!”  Along with many other people, I believe that Jesus is coming soon. I have devoted a whole series of Bible Studies to this subject which you are find at http://www.Renovatelifechurch.org.  If you don’t believe in Jesus’ imminent second coming, I suggest you read  2 Tim 3; 1 – 17.  What a description of the day and age we live in!  But see too 2 Pet 3;11   “What manner of people ought you to be?”  We need to be the people of God who are salt and light in a darkening world.

But right at the start, let me warn you.  You may find some things in this e-book hard to accept.  You might even be offended!  Well, that’s a risk I’m going to have to take because all you will read here is based on God’s Word. Occasionally, God does upset us.  He says things we don’t really want to hear. But at the same time we need to hear them.  So, let’s continue.

I read some years ago of a certain Dr Ambedkar, a leader of Indian outcastes who attended a Buddhist Conference. “I want to find out to what extent there is dynamic in Buddhism as far as the people of this country are concerned,” he said.  “Ah”, you may say, “he should have attended a Christian Conference where he would have found the truth”.  The point is, he had already spent years in America and UK studying Christianity.  He had come to the conclusion it was dead!

Jesus in His first recorded sermon, gave a whole set of instructions for the Christian life.  As we go through them I believe you will be stirred, even amazed at what Jesus taught.  So many Christians are not living the real Christian life.  Since I retired and started attending church as an ordinary person rather than the preacher, I have wondered about the message which is being proclaimed from many pulpits.  I have listened to so many sermons in churches and on TV and radio which offer merely a shallow imitation of what real Christianity is about.

For example: “Send me your best gift today and I will send you a special healing prayer cloth”. “Send your gift today and you will receive a reward in gold”.

“Send for your bottle of holy water”.  (No, it wasn’t a Catholic preacher!).

Just some of the nonsensical and sometime blasphemous claims I have seen made on so called ‘Christian TV’.    Sadly the unbeliever sees this nonsense and comes to the same conclusion Dr Ambedkar came to above.

The world today desperately needs true Christians. Men and women who are living the Christian life so much that people ask, “What is the secret? What have they got that I haven’t?”  Peter writing in 2 Pet 2;21 said, “For even hereunto were you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps”  That ‘follow His steps, literally means “Dog his heels”.  In other words, copy exactly.  Do you remember the words of the Christmas carol Good King Wenceslas?  One line goes “Mark my footsteps well my page, tread thou in them boldly”.  That is how we are to follow Jesus.  We are to live as He lived.  To follow His instructions to the letter.

Paul writing to Timothy in 2 Tim 3;10  said, “But you have fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience”  and went on in v 14; “But you continue in the things which you have learned and have been assured of, knowing of whom you have learned them.”   As he summed it all up; “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Before we start our studies proper in the Sermon on the Mount let us just look at some indications of true Christians.

CHRISTIANS ARE DIFFERENT;

Paul emphasises this many times; for example; 2 Cor 5:17 “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”  There seems to be a movement these days in the church to see how similar we can be to the world at large.  “Let’s not be too different, otherwise people will not want to come.  Let’s imitate the world so that the unbeliever feels ‘at home’ when he walks in the church.”   I appreciate the sentiments behind this approach, and agree that we need to make people feel ‘at home’ when they come to church.  When some Pentecostal Churches started in the early 1900s, they put up with things we wouldn’t even think about today. I remember the old stalwarts in my own home church at Radcliffe near Manchester telling me of their early days and how they endured rickety chairs in a room over the local jam shop. While it was acceptable then, those days are long gone.  It is a fact that times change.

There are of course, those who would like to keep things the same as they have always been. For example, some Anglican Church members, given half the chance, would go back to the 18th century and the old Prayer Book services. Others would go even further and have their services in Latin! However most people want to bring things up to date.  In Pentecostal and evangelical circles, were we to compare church a century ago, we would find that it bears hardly any relation to church today.  To take another example, during my ministry I have seen hymn books come and go.  Redemption Songs gave way to Redemption Hymnal, which in turn gave way to even more updated selections from different publishers. Hymn books have now been dropped by many churches that simply use modern songs from such as Hillsongs. And no doubt in due course even these will be seen as ‘old hat’ as yet again something new comes on the scene.  Maybe we will all be ‘rapping’ songs one day?

To try and keep up with the world and its changing fashions can be exhausting.  Maybe we do need to accept changes in music and ways of worship.  At the same time, let us realise that we are different.  To be like the ‘world’ can backfire as people look at some Christians and cannot see any reason to become a Christian, since there appears to be no difference between us and them!   As Paul told the Corinthians, we are ‘a new creation’.  We are different to the unbeliever.

When God was delivering the Israelites from Egypt, He said, in Ex 11;7 “But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast: that you may know how that the LORD puts a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.”

It was A Difference in FACT:

Israel were under the blood. They had followed Moses’ instructions and sacrificed the lambs, sprinkling the blood of the lambs on the doorposts and lintels of their homes. As long as they stayed inside, ‘under the blood’, they were safe.  We too are ‘under the blood!’  “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son cleanses us from all sin”.  As the old hymn writer wrote; “I’m gonna stay right under the blood, where the devil can’t do me no harm!”  When we put our trust in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary’s Cross, our sin is washed away. The Grace of God comes into play. God’s amazing forgetfulness comes into action and when the devil comes to accuse us, God says “do you know, for the life of me, I can’t remember that”.

There is a story of Martin Luther who one day found the devil standing in front of him as he sat in his study. The devil said, “So you think you are a good man?  What about this.. and this.. and this?  He began to unroll a list of all Luther’s sins and failings. When he stopped, Luther said, “Is that all?”  The devil admitted that was all he could find.  Luther picked up his pen and wrote across the bottom of the scroll, “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son cleanses us from ALL sin”. The devil, so the story goes, disappeared in a raging cloud of sulphurous smoke.  Thank God that our sin is covered, never to be remembered again.  Billy Bray, the famous converted tin miner once described it like this; “God threw all my sins in a deep lake and then put up a sign, ‘no fishing’.

It was A Difference in DEALING;

The blood was personally applied.  Each household had to do it for themselves.  Just because one house had sprinkled the blood, didn’t mean the folk next door were ok. You can’t be saved on another person’s experience.  We have to come to Christ for ourselves and accept his sacrifice for our own sin.  Because they had obeyed God’s directions, Israel were not being judged like the Egyptians, but were under God’s grace. So with us. We are delivered from judgement by the Grace of God.  “by grace are ye saved…”  To those who are ‘in Christ Jesus’ there is now ‘no condemnation’. (Rom. 8;1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus).  Egypt were under judgement. So were we, but now we are free from condemnation as we walk with Jesus.

We are different – we are sinless!  That doesn’t mean that we never slip up, of course we do.  But as the apostle John wrote in1 Jn 1;9 ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness’. We walk in continual forgiveness by the Grace of God.

It was A Difference in CONDUCT:

After enduring all the plagues, Egypt had now experienced the last straw, the death of all their first born.    They were getting ready to hold Funerals. Meanwhile in Israel’s camp they were Feasting on roast lamb and mint sauce! The aroma of roast lamb must have permeated the whole of the city. The Egyptians would wonder what was going on…  why were the Israelites feasting?  For the first time in many years Israel were experiencing freedom. By contrast, The Egyptians were full of Fear as the death angel struck and across the land, one by one, the eldest son in every family suddenly died.

We are different!  This difference should be manifest in our daily conduct.    What a Challenge!  Are we as different as we should be?   Jesus told a parable about the Wheat & the Tares.  As they begin to sprout, Tares look like wheat at first.  The farmer can’t tell the difference so tells his workers to leave them alone, and separate them nearer harvest time when it is obvious which are which.  Much the same as when I go into my garden in spring.  There are hundreds of tiny plants coming up. Some are flowers, some are weeds.  Which are which?  I’ve no idea until they are larger and it becomes easy to differentiate between them.

Very often the Unbeliever looks and acts like a Christian.  They are full of good works, helping others, giving to charity, even going to church, often declaring that they are thereby earning their way to Heaven.  In the 19th century many wealthy mill owners built glorious churches, thinking that they were earning a place in Heaven.  We know of course tht theBible teaches that you cannot earn your way to Heaven; Salvation is the free gift of God purchased for us by Christ’s death on the cross.  Even our best ‘good works’ are like filthy rags in God’s sight. (Isaiah 64.6).  Yes, unbelievers do act like Christians sometimes.  But on the other hand, Christians often act like Unbelievers.  I read a story about a young boy who was saved in a Billy Graham Crusade meeting years ago.  He was commended by one of the masters at his school.  The boy looked at him in astonishment.  “Sir, are you a Christian?  I wouldn’t have known if you hadn’t told me”.

Jesus was different. People who came into contact with him were amazed. When He preached, they marvelled, “never man spoke like this man”.  His actions were different. They brought a woman taken in adultery. Instead of stoning her, Jesus simply forgave her!

Paul wrote these amazing words when writing to the Philippians;  Phil 3;17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as you have us for an example.   Was Paul boasting?  So often this sort of talk is.  But read on (New KJV) Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.  For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

Sadly many so called Christians are not walking the Christ walk. My wife and I sometimes remark of some who say they are ‘Christians’, “They haven’t got what we’ve got!” Whose god is their belly – in other words, they seek sensual things. They set their mind on earthly things instead of Heavenly.   We see lots of it on so called Christian TV.  The preacher who shouts, “Jesus wants you rich!” and then asks you to send him ‘your best gift’.  I’ve seen all this on the inside.  It’s not pretty!   Letters come in from folk who are in deep trouble.  ‘I’ve sent you this gift with the last of my credit card balance. Pray the Lord will send me the money I need to pay my debts’.   It doesn’t work like that!  Just because I send a ministry a gift of £10 doesn’t mean I’m going to get £100 the next day!  I saw one preacher recently saying that if you sent him a gift you would get gold in the next week!  This is close to being blasphemous!

I was one of those who campaigned for Christian TV in the early days and was so delighted when the God Channel began broadcasting. I subsequently set up a TV studio in partnership with another minister.  We began making programmes for churches and ministries.   Then I discovered that some of these ‘ministries’ would do almost anything to get money coming in.   Others seemed to have a marked reluctance to pay their bills! Some of the ‘Christian’ channels would accept any teaching as long as they were paid for the air time.  What had started out as a wonderful answer to prayer has in some cases become a monster that I feel does more harm than good.   People watch these so called ministers of the Gospel with their false claims and empty promises and like the Dr Ambedkar I mentioned at the beginning come to the conclusion that Christianity is an empty religion with nothing to offer.  Christians are drawn in by these ‘charismatic’ preachers and then find their promises and claims are false, and become disillusioned, sometimes turning away even from the Lord Himself.