For many, summer is our favorite season. “The winter is past, the time of singing has come.” How we want to seize it, and, as the psalmist says, “to love life and see good days.” These are photos from my youngest daughter’s vacation with her husband and children last month in the California Redwoods. God lifted her out of a very dark place to loving life.
Yet we know it is possible to have beautiful weather, breath-taking scenery, family… and yet, be miserable in our hearts. We will all experience sorrow and trouble, yet there are some believers who will have an inextinguishable joy, even in the midst of trouble, and will see many “good days” and “love life.” For the rest of this summer we are going to learn secrets from proverbs, psalms, and the Beatitudes on how to join those believers who are “loving life” and seeing “good days.” When something is important, God drums it throughout His Word. What I am so eager to show you is that there are steps into darkness, with each step taking you into increasing darkness — and there are steps into light, with each step taking you into increasing light.
Recently at our little church, my brother Ron asked, “Why does God hate it so much when we sin?”
His holiness cannot abide sin, but it is His love that hates it for us, for He knows how it quenches His Spirit, and robs us of joy and peace. I am not saying that misery is always caused by sin, but rather, that sin always causes misery.
When Jesus gave His famous Beatitudes, He was not giving new news, but picking up the same word He had spoken through David in the Psalms and through Solomon in Proverbs. In the Beatitudes, Jesus told us how we could be blessed, happy, and loving life and seeing good days. Each Beatitude takes us up a step into increasing light. You gather momentum, and if you get stuck, you have to go back to the first step.
The first step is realizing we are poor in Spirit (realizing our need for God) and mourning our sin. It is humility and a fear of the Lord that takes us up the first step of experiencing blessing and “good days.” It is a step we cannot skip and expect to love life.
We’ve been in Proverbs so far this summer, and we will continue, but now we will join Proverbs with the Beatitudes. I’ve always been fascinated with the list of sins God hates in Proverbs 6:17-19. Solomon writes:
There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him:
- haughty eyes
- a lying tongue,
- hands that shed innocent blood,
- a heart that devises wicked schemes,
- feet that are quick to rush into evil,
- a false witness who pours out lies,
- and a man who stirs up discord among brothers
I wondered: Do these increase in hatefulness to the Lord so that sowing discord is the worst sin? But when I compared it to the list in the Sermon on the Mount, light came. Just as the Beatitudes are steps up into increasing light, this list in Proverbs shows steps down into increasing darkness. When you are haughty (instead of being poor in Spirit) you don’t fear God, and that leads to lying, to bloodshed, to wicked schemes, and discord among brothers. This list warns us about taking steps down into increasing darkness.
The Lord, both through the positive teachings of the Beatitudes and the negative admonitions of this list in Proverbs is trying to help us to have good days and love life.
We will also be sharing, daily, ways we have seen God at work in our life. One of the big ways for me was how the video for my new book, The Jesus Who Surprises, came together. (It will be released July 23rd.) But you can see the videos now at my website. https://deebrestin.com/the-jesus-who-surprises/ God so overwhelmed me through the testimonies of the 20 women in these teaching sessions.
Would you not “love life” and “see good days?” Join us for this summer adventure! If you are new, just follow the easy getting started directions.
On a personal note, we’ve hit a snag getting the DVD’s for The Jesus Who Surprises on Amazon, so I appreciate prayer for this. The Lord has so been with us in this whole video, that I suspect an enemy attack. Also, if any of you buy the book, I’d so appreciate a review on Amazon as quickly after July 23 as possible. (Thank you!)
- What stands out to you from the above and why?
- How have you seen God work in your life so far in the beginning of summer?
Monday: Perspective on Proverbs from the Beatitudes
Insight on the Beatitudes will come from men like Spurgeon, Martin Lloyd-Jones, and Colin Smith. Sometimes it is said, and I have said it, that joy is different than happiness. But that is a teaching that is new to the last century and I’m realizing may not be true! Saints of old saw that Scripture indeed teaches that God wants His children to be blessed — and that Greek comes from a word meaning happy. Martin Lloyd Jones wrote:
Happiness is the great question confronting mankind. The whole world is longing for happiness and it is tragic to observe the ways in which people are seeking it. The vast majority, alas, are doing so in a way that is bound to produce misery. Anything which, by evading the difficulties, merely makes people happy for the time being, is ultimately going to add to their misery and problems. That is where the utter deceitfulness of sin comes in; it is always offering happiness, and it always leads to unhappiness and to final misery and wretchedness. The Sermon on the Mount says, however, that if you really want to be happy, here is the way. There are certain general lessons, I suggest, to be drawn from the Beatitudes. First, all Christians are to be like this . Read the Beatitudes, and there you have a description of what every Christian is meant to be. It is not merely the description of some exceptional Christians. Our Lord does not say here that He is going to paint a picture of what certain outstanding characters are going to be and can be in this world. It is His description of every single Christian.
3. What are Martin Lloyd Jones main points from the above?
4. Today, read Matthew 5:1-10 slowly and prayerfully, and then answer the following questions.
- What do you think it means to be blessed? (See more than one translation and check out the meaning of the Greek word through blueletterbible.com.)
- Do you see anything in the Beatitudes about having health, a good marriage, a stable financial situation? Comment on this.
- What is the first Beatitude? What do you think it means?
- What is the second Beatitude? What do you think Jesus is telling them to mourn and why?
- What is the third Beatitude, and how might this be related to the first two?
- Seeing the relationship between the first three beatitudes gives you a clue to their meaning. What do you think it is?
Tuesday: How Do You Get These Qualities?
This, from Martin Lloyd Jones
None of these descriptions refers to what we may call a natural tendency. Each one of them is wholly a disposition which is produced by grace alone and the operation of the Holy Spirit upon us. I cannot emphasize this too strongly. No man naturally conforms to the descriptions here given in the Beatitudes, and we must be very careful to draw a sharp distinction between the spiritual qualities that are here described and material ones which appear to be like them. Let me put it like this. There are some people who appear to be naturally ‘poor in spirit’; that is not what is described here by our Lord. There are people who appear to be naturally ‘meek’; when we deal with that statement I hope to be able to show you that the meekness which Christ talks about is not that which appears to be natural meekness in an ordinary unregenerate person. These are not natural qualities; nobody by birth and by nature is like this.
5. What does the book of Proverbs say is the first step in receiving these qualities? (See Proverbs 1:7 and 3:5-8.
6. How is this similar to the first three Beatitudes?
7. What would it look like in your life today to trust the Lord and not yourself? To fear Him?
8. How have you seen God at work in your life this week?
9. Share a time when the fear of the Lord led you to repentance and repentance led to joy.
10. Watch the following 3 minute video from Colin Smith and share what you learn.
11. Read Proverbs 6:16-19. Can you see how the fist sin might lead one to commit the second and so on? If so, share.
12. In both Proverbs and Beatitudes, we see, first, the importance of being “poor in Spirit,” in not being “haughty.” What does Psalm 138:6 teach?
13. What does it mean to know the proud from “afar?”
God knows all about the proud but distances himself from them.
14. If you want intimacy with the Lord, what is the first step? Confess your sins in true repentance silently or here.
15. How have you seen God at work in your life?
Thursday-Friday: Martin Lloyd Jones
15. Read the following on the Beatitudes from Martyn Lloyd Jones and share your notes and comments.
16. Has anything in Scripture this week become radioactive to you? If so what?
17. What is your take-a-way and why?