The Gospel Observer (October 23, 2016)

Contents:

1) Beatitudes: “Nothing Succeeds Like Failure” (Paul Earnhart)
2) Truth Is A Mountain (Robert F. Turner)
3) Virtue (Greg Gwin)
4) News & Notes
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Beatitudes: “Nothing Succeeds Like Failure”

Paul Earnhart

Perhaps there is no better statement of the message of the beatitudes (Matthew 5:2-12) than G. K. Chesterton’s curious little maxim, “Nothing succeeds like failure.” Of course, Jesus was not speaking of real failure even as Chesterton was not, but of what men have generally viewed as failure. The cross was certainly a colossal disaster by every conventional standard. It only seems “right” to many of us now because we have acquiesced in nineteen hundred years of well-established tradition. It is not so remarkable then that a kingdom destined to be hoisted to power on a cross should be full of surprises and that Jesus should say that only those who were apparent failures had any hope of its blessedness. In the following beatitudes the Savior makes very clear that the kingdom of heaven belongs, not to the full, but to the empty.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). Jesus begins by touching the wellspring of the character of the kingdom citizen — his attitude toward himself in the presence of God. Luke abbreviates this beatitude to, “Blessed are you poor” (Luke 6:20) and records also a woe pronounced by Jesus upon the rich (Luke 6:24). In the synagogue at Nazareth Jesus had read Isaiah’s messianic prophecy of the poor (“meek,” ASV) having the gospel preached to them (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18) and was later to soberly warn that the rich would not come easily into the kingdom (Luke 18:24-25). But while it is true that “the common people heard Him gladly” (Mark 12:37) because the rigors of the poor bring them to humility more easily than does the comfortable affluence of the rich, Matthew’s account of the sermon makes evident that Jesus is not speaking of economic poverty. It is not impossible for the poor to be arrogant nor for the rich to be humble. These “poor” are those who, possessing little or much, have a sense of their own spiritual destitution.

The Greek word here translated “poor” comes from a root word which means to crouch or to cringe. It refers not simply to those for whom life is a struggle, but to men who are reduced to the most abject begging because they have absolutely nothing (Luke 16:20-21). Here it is applied to the sinful emptiness of an absolute spiritual bankruptcy in which a person is compelled to plead for that which he is powerless to obtain (Jeremiah 10:23) and to which he has no right (Luke 15:18-19; 18:13), but without which he cannot live. Begging comes hard to men (Luke 16:3) — especially proud, self-reliant Americans — but that is where our sinful ways have brought us and we will not see the kingdom of heaven until we face up to this reality with humble simplicity.

“Blessed are those who mourn” (Matthew 5:4). Men have been brought up to believe that tears must be avoided if they are to be happy. Jesus simply says that this is not true. There is some sorrow which must be embraced, not because it is inescapable and the struggle futile, but because true happiness is impossible without it.

Even grief that is unavoidable to mortal men whatever their station can have salutary effects on our lives if we allow it to. It can, as Solomon says, remind us of the wispy momentariness of our lives and set us to thinking seriously about the most important things (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4). The psalmist who gave us such a rich meditation on the greatness of God’s law has linked pain and understanding. “Before I was afflicted,” he reflected, “I went astray, but now I keep Your word.” He then concludes, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (Psalm 119:67,71). Tears have always taught us more than has laughter about life’s verities.

But there is something more to the mourning in this gem-like paradox than the tears we cannot escape, the sorrow that comes unbidden and unsought. This grief comes to us by choice, not necessity. The Old Testament should influence our understanding of these words first spoken to a Jewish audience. Isaiah foresaw that the Lord’s anointed would come to “heal the brokenhearted” and “comfort all who mourn” (Isaiah 61:1-2). But these words applied only to a remnant of Israel which would come through the nation’s affliction for its sins, humbled and grieved. Ezekiel’s vision of God’s wrath on a corrupt Jerusalem revealed that only those “who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it” were to be spared (Ezekiel 9:4). Zephaniah issued a similar warning (Zephaniah 3:11-13,18).

The prophets would have us understand this mourning as the grief experienced by those who in their reverence for God are horrified by their own sins and those of their fellows, and are moved to tears of bitter shame and grief. This is the “godly sorrow” of which Paul writes, a sorrow that “produces repentance leading to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10). These are the tears we must choose to shed, renouncing our stubborn pride; and out of that choice will come the unspeakable comfort of a God who forgives us all, takes us to Himself, and will ultimately wipe all tears away (Revelation 21:4). Nothing save God’s mercy can assuage a grief like this.

— Via Articles from the Douglas Hills church of Christ, January 1, 2016
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Truth Is A Mountain
Robert Turner

There is challenge in TRUTH. Towering, majestic and awesome, it beckons the climber. Great and wonderful, clothed in mysteries, it threatens and promises. Benevolently reaching to the world, it summons all; yet sternly holds aloft its crown, to defy the casual.

Below, in railed and graded trails move masses. Camera-clicking tourists, worn by travel, scarce grasp their guide’s trained words, and far less understand the magic scene. And as the way grows steeper, more and more are faint, and wander aimlessly — adrift in parks and glades of theory, with their creeds.

Content to pay lip service to the fountain-head above, they sip its waters, grimace, and add sweets or bitters to their taste. “It’s wonderful,” they say. “We must organize a party and bring others to this way.” So they sip, and talk; they praise with shallow phrase, then pause to rest, and resting, sleep.

Still TRUTH — glorious, wondrous, whole truth, wreathes its head with hoary clouds, and calls with voice of thunder: Onward! Upward! Excelsior!!! Error shouts derision, and stops the ear. With arrogance he hides his wounds and walks another way. Tradition, richly garbed and stiff with age, dares not attempt the rugged path. And weaklings, fearing to look heavenward, support a course that others plan, and wish themselves in better clime.

But faith responds, and in the earnest seeker whets desire. He dares look up. Toiling, sweating, step-by-step, he climbs. Struggling across downed timbers on the slope, he pushes upward. Pressing through the bush, slipping with the shale, he moves onward. Onward, upward, higher and higher, his lungs afire, he climbs with foot, and hand, with heart, and soul.

For TRUTH he lives and, if needs be, dies. He asks no quarter, hears no scorn. His hope is fastened on this goal, whose misty drapery sometimes part and to his raptured eyes reveal its sun swept crest.

He needs no other prize than this, for here men humbly walk with God.

— via Plain Talk, Vol. 16, No. III, pg. 1, May 1979
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“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day…” (2 Tim. 4:7,8).
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courage
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Virtue
Greg Gwin

Peter instructs us that we must “add to your faith virtue” (2 Peter 1:5).  What is this “virtue,” and how do we manifest it?

Thayer says that virtue is a word  that could be used to describe any kind of excellence in a person or thing.  When used of a person, it might denote a quality of body or mind.  But, when used in the ethical sense, Thayer says it specifically means “moral goodness or excellence.” Another commentator suggests that it is “courage . . . a resolute determination to do what it right . . . steadfast strength of will to choose always the good part” (Caffin).

How do we demonstrate this “moral courage?”  What will be the signs that we are “adding to our faith virtue?”  Numerous examples can be found in the Word of God.  Famous heroes of the faith displayed virtue.  Noah did in the matter of living faith-fully in the midst of an entirely wicked world.  Abraham did when he left the comforts of home to obey God, and later when he was willing to offer his own son at God’s command.  Moses did  when he chose “rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Hebrews 11:25).

However, most of us will not find ourselves in the momentous situations of a Noah, Abraham or Moses.  Instead, we will be faced with the constant challenges of our everyday lives.  It is interesting that one of the most familiar uses of this terminology is found in application to a woman.  In Proverbs 31 the “virtuous woman” is described.  Hers was not the work of a soldier in battle, or that of a famous prophet standing up for truth and righteousness.  Instead, we read of her faithfully fulfilling her role as a wife and mother.  It was her God given job, and she did it well.  She was “virtuous.”

Christian, will you courageously do what is right regardless of the consequences?  Will you show “moral excellence” in how you talk, act, dress, etc.?  Will you take your stand — always — with those who are faithfully doing the will of God?  It will not always be popular or easy, but when you do you will be showing “virtue.”  Think!

— Via The Beacon, September 20, 2016
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News & Notes

Let those of us who are Christians continue to remember in prayer the following:

Melotine Davis fell last Tuesday morning while walking into Staples.  The impact was mainly on her right shoulder, which was still severely sore Saturday evening and requiring pain medicine.  She had immediately gone to her doctor who took an  x-ray which showed no broken bones, but put her on some pain medicine.  She returned to see her doctor Friday and also has an appointment this Monday with an orthopedist.

Shirley Davis still has the pin in her toe, following her recent surgery.  But if all goes well, it will be removed in about a week.   Her toe is sore, and she is to keep it propped up.  She still also has the pain in her back, which continues to be that which bothers her the most.  In addition, she will be seeing her doctor in Valdosta November 11 to look into having a complete knee replacement for her right knee.
Jonathan Abbott was admitted to the hospital last Tuesday, due to a gastrointestinal problem causing severe pain.  He improved by Thursday, discontinued his pain medicine, and was released late that afternoon.  On the 27th, Jonathan will be returning for a follow-up.

Also: Kay Byars (as she heals from her 3rd cancer surgery); La Donna Andrews, Lexi Crawford, Camp Tatum, and Kelli Fleeman (as they deal with cancer); Bennie Medlock (as he is still healing from an infection in his back); Jim Lively and Ray Richards (as they heal from open heart surgery); Mary Cribbs (who wasn’t feeling well recently), and Mary Vandevander who remains housebound, due to her health.

A Gospel Meeting begins today (Oct. 23-28) at the North Valdosta church of Christ (4313 North Valdosta Road, Valdosta, GA) Speaker: Gene Taylor.  Sunday: 9-10-11 a.m. Monday through Friday: 7:30 p.m.
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The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith, living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
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CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 p.m. (Ladies’ Bible class)
Wednesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
https://thegospelobserver.wordpress.com (Gospel Observer website with pictures in WordPress)
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 1990)
http://tebeaustreetchurchofchrist.org/
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)

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