Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 5 2013 - Matthew 5:1-26 – Blessed and Blessing

Matthew 5-7 records teaching Jesus gave to his disciples and to the crowds who had gathered to see his miracles. This Sermon on the Mount begins with what are commonly called the Beatitudes – a series of pronouncements of blessing upon particular kinds of people; "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven..." (5:3-10).

The Beatitudes should not be read as a new set of laws. Jesus is not saying that the way to receive God's blessing and to gain the kingdom of heaven is to be poor in spirit etc. This is obvious when you come to verse 10; we are not commanded to be persecuted to gain the kingdom! Rather, Jesus is painting a picture of the kingdom – the character of those who follow the king.

Not that Jesus is anti-law; he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfil it. He came to do what the law could never accomplish; he came to create a people who will live in obedience to the will of God and who will reflect his character – the character displayed in Christ himself.

Those described in these verses hardly seem to be the kind of people who will make much of an impact on the world: meek, not demanding their own rights or pushing themselves forward; merciful, not exacting all that is owed them from the hands of others; peacemakers, not fighting to gain personal advantage but ready to spend themselves to bring reconciliation to a world of conflict; persecuted, treated unjustly and enslaved by others without seeking revenge; mourners, people familiar with sorrow and acquainted with grief.

But there is more: here are a people who are concerned not simply with outward appearance but who yearn to be transformed from the inside out, to be clean and pure in heart. Here are a people who are concerned not simply with right conduct but also to speak only those words which will encourage and heal others (see v. 22). Here are a people who do not retreat from the messiness of a corrupt world but who long for and work for righteousness – for God's world to be filled with his presence and glory; for "justice to roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream." These are a people who are possessed by God and a people upon whom his blessing rests. More than that, though they may seem to be of little account in this world, the future is theirs; they will inherit the earth; theirs is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Their longing for a world of righteousness will be fully satisfied. God will dwell with them in a world characterised by righteousness, and they will see his face.

Nor are they ineffective now. These people of little account are the salt of the earth that heals its corruption. They are the light of the world that shines in the darkness and that cannot be extinguished. They are people whose lives touch and transform those of others; they are agents of the kingdom that grows strangely and mysteriously and that will at last supplant the kingdom of this world. They are the hope and future of the world.

"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom." Follow the King. Live the kingdom. Be the conduit through which heaven invades our world.

Father, keep me from becoming conformed to this world which would seek to squeeze me into its own mould. Continually transform me by your Spirit and make me like Christ whose character shines through these beatitudes. May he continue his mission to bring light to the world through me. Bless me and make me a blessing.

Jan 5 2019 - Genesis 3:1-7 – The anatomy of sin

The man and the woman had been given a paradise garden to live in and to enjoy. There were countless varieties of fruits to eat and sights to see. There was just one thing that was forbidden them; they were not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We do not really know why they were told not to eat this fruit, though many have suggested that this was to act as a test of their obedience. Were they prepared to enter gladly into the enjoyment of what God had given or would they be dissatisfied and want the one thing he had withheld?

The man and the woman had been given dominion over every living thing. Yet the Tempter appeared to them in the form of a serpent, one of the creatures over whom they were to exercise god-like rule. But now everything is turned upside down; the serpent exerts his dominion over the woman and the woman leads the man in disobedience to God.

The Tempter suggests that God had been unreasonable and ungenerous. Why should this particular fruit be forbidden them? See how good it appears. Why don't you just pick it and feel it and smell it. Why not take a bite, surely a little taste would do no harm. Indeed, it will do you good; you will know what it is like and you will demonstrate that you are capable of making your own decisions rather than taking orders from someone else. Go on, give it a try. And while you're at it, give some to your husband – you don't want to take this step on your own.

Did you notice the Tempter's lie? "You will be like God", he says. Yet they have been created in the image of God; God has already made them to be like him. Turning their backs on him cannot secure this privilege, it can only lead to loss.

So effective is this toxic seed of discontent that it is sown again and again by the Tempter. It is vital that we are not ignorant of his tactics. He comes often to us with the suggestion that God has treated us badly: he has deprived us of the things that should have been ours; he has forbidden things that would bring us pleasure. We need to cut the apron strings of dependency and grow up. It's about time we set our own course in life – humanity needs to "come of age". Reach out and grab the things you want and to hell with the consequences.

James the Lord's brother talks of the way that sin gains its foothold within us: "Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death" (James 1:14-15). You can see this happening in the passage that we have read this morning and, sadly, you can see it happening in our own lives and the lives of people around us today.

We need to learn to recognise the voice of the Tempter who uses his age-old tactics to stir up discontentment with God. We need to refuse to listen to his deadly lies.

Loving Father, help me to see clearly the wealth of good things that you in love have lavished upon me. Help me to recognise the source of resentful and angry feelings and refuse to entertain them. Enable me to send them and the Tempter packing. You gave your Son for us; will you not with him freely give us all things? May I always trust you and never doubt your unfailing goodness. Teach me the happy secret of contentment.

Peter Misselbrook