Authentic—of undisputed origin, legitimate. Our world is in search of belonging. To have a family, community of love and support. So much so that they are forcing plurality, diversity, and acceptance down our throats. They say, “be whoever or whatever you want to be. Go do, what makes you happy.” To which the Psalmist replies in Psalm 14:1~Bilious and bloated, they gas, “God is gone.” Their words are poison gas, fouling the air; they poison Rivers and skies; thistles are their cash crop. (MSG)

Later in the mid-1600s, Blaise Pascal said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man” which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator made known through Jesus Christ. Every person, in the depths of their fibrous connective tissues, muscles and bones desire connectivity to cry out to the Living God. Psalm 103:1-5~Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name…and forget not all his benefits…who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagles. (ESV) 

Speaking to hurting, downtrodden, and those in need, our Lord says sit with me, here are the steps to living a blessed and fulfilling life. He takes time to correct some of the rabbis’ misinterpretations of Old Testament commands before explaining what it really means to live authentic lives of faith. As we learn to lay aside our motives, our prerogatives, even our selfish desires, everything we do must be God-centered—not self-centered. The call of Jesus Christ is to live an Authentic life where others see our good deeds and praise God (Matthew 5:16).

Today, why not ask God what is masked in your spiritual walk or your life in general, and then ask Him to help you unmask yourself so that you will be the Authentic son or daughter He has created you to be.

Grow in Grace

Ah, an Enemies’ Love. There are few things in life that are as challenging to us as believers as loving our enemies. (Matthew 5:43-48) Sure praying for them, or should I say, against them is easy. But as we come to Matthew 5:43-44, Jesus now quotes Leviticus 19:17-18~Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. (NIV) Christ Jesus makes one small addition adding in the perversion of the rabbis: You have heard that it was said, love and hate…(5:43). Nowhere does the Old Testament teach us to hate one’s enemies. To set the record straight in Matthew 5:44~But I tell you to love (ἀγαπάω agapaō) your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (ESV). The word (ἀγαπάω agapaō) love is the verb form of the Greek noun Agape. It is a self-sacrificing love that seeks to meet the needs of others. Which means the love of God is so powerful in those who are righteous by faith in Jesus Christ, that they love their enemies. 

Christ Jesus explains this makes us children of our Father in heaven who makes the sunrise and sends rain on evil, as well as, good people. (5:45) If God is in us, then we will live, act, and love, like our Heavenly Father. As His children, we’ll seek to emulate Him in all of our living. Love is so much more than just what we know, see, taste, or perceive. The challenge is to expand our horizon as we let God, who sees all and knows all, direct our path, being utilized by our maker. Do you remember the last time God used you for His glory? Wasn’t that an amazing experience. In a nutshell, Jesus says be perfect. Matthew 5:48~Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (ESV) (τέλειος teleios) or perfect, it means to reach the intended end. In James 1:4 James calls it maturity or completeness. While Paul says in Philippians 3:12, I am not quite there yet, but I am working on it. Perhaps you are like me, singing the Worship Word classic: He’s still working on me, To make me what I need to be, It took him just a week to make the moon and stars, The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars, How loving and patient He must be, ’Cause He’s still workin’ on me. ~ Bill Gather ~

Our Takeaway for the week is: Are you working on Spiritual Maturity? For believers, it means being righteous, and not just religious. Being in Christ, as Peter even gets in on our Lord’s powerful teaching by sharing some benefits of being righteous in 1 Peter 3:12~For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. (NIV) That is a wonderful blessing for all who are in the Lord. Are you in the Lord today? If not why not take time to ask Jesus into your heart, to change your life, and to renew you with His righteousness. If you are already a believer, our righteousness comes by faith in Jesus. Which means we’ll abhor divorce, abandon all deceit, resist retaliation, and love like Jesus, even our enemies. Take some time today to thank the Lord for working in your life, to mature your faith, help you be, all that He has created you to be.

Pay it forward

I bet you are not like me. There is probably never a time in your life when you hope that special someone in your life would just get what they have coming. I mean, what the Lord wants to give them, of course. If we are not careful we will get sucked into wanting to help pay people back for things that were said or done to us and our family and friends. To this, Jesus says, resist retaliation. (5:38-42) Our Lord uses the Pharisee catchphrase in Matthew 5:38~You have heard that it was said, Eye for eye, and a tooth for a tooth. (ESV) Mosaic Law speaks to retaliation, limiting it to no more than equal compensation. Exodus 21:23-25~But if there is a serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. (NIV) However, many Jews had perverted God’s Law to be permission for vendettas and vengeance. This was never God’s intent. Leviticus 19:18~Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. (NIV) 

Obviously, the issue was to be settled in a court, and the punishment was to fit the crime. The law gave judges a formula for dealing with crime in court, not in personal vendettas. Because the Jews had perverted God’s original intent, in response Jesus says in Matthew 5:39~But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. (ESV) That doesn’t mean we let someone beat us to death. But it does means we turn the other cheek, which would not otherwise be hit. Why, who would do this? Righteous people would, they would do this out of their generous spirit towards those in legitimate need, that’s the key because they know everything they have comes from God.

Matthew 5:40~And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. (ESV) Now the tunic was a type of shirt worn as an undergarment while the cloak was an outer garment also used as a blanket or shawl. In Christ Jesus’s day, most people had only one. When a person had no money, the court often would require the judgment to be paid in clothing. If a fair legal judgment is made against us for a certain amount, Jesus says we should be willing to give even more to show regret for the wrong and to show there is no resentment against the one who sued. The principle Jesus is sharing is that we are not to be vengeful. 

This triggers the thought of Romans 12:21~Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (NIV) Whether we are carrying luggage or people who are hurt and lashing out at us, Jesus says, give and do not let bitterness take root in your life. Why is this a good principle? It reminds us that God has given us all things and that we are to live cheerful and generous lives according to 2 Corinthians 9:7. Who might need a little cheerful gift today that spills out of our gratitude for all that God has given us. Why not pay forward the joy of the Lord and the blessing in your life by ministering to someone near, and in need.