29 January, 2010

LCM - CH3: "Do You Weep Over Sin?" ~ GCC Women's Bible Study

LCM - CH3: "Do You Weep Over Sin?"
Submitted by Leah Page on Fri, 01/29/2010 - 2:04pm Blessed Are hypocrisy LCM010 Luke 7 Sermon on the Mount

“Lord, only You can change me!” - Ch. 3 “Do You Weep Over Sin?”
~Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.~


Q: Is the remedy for “hypocrisy” – which we have said is this kind of putting on a front, showing ourselves to be something we’re not – Is the remedy for this merely a matter of “being real” or “being honest” or, if you prefer, “taking off the mask”?

Does that solve the real problem? Cuz there are some who would suggest that the MAIN issue with the traditional church is its legalistic and hypocritical past, and the way to overcome this is to strive for authenticity.

Removing the mask is certainly a STARTING point – but it is not an end in itself. We talked about a variety of reasons for this – but in main, this is due to the fact that our hearts are deceitful and we, even in our best efforts to “be real”, might not be so, and the fact of merely SEEING that we are dead / unclean / filthy inside does not in fact cleanse us or make us alive!

“beatitudes” are NOT “natural” to us
apart from the LORD doing a work in us, these characteristics are not at all “desirable” to us
God changes our “want to” so that we LONG to love what he loves, and hate what he hates


John Stottt (and no doubt others have too) said that “God reserves his secrets for his lovers,” meaning the community of the redeemed! He chooses to reveal himself – and he does so uniquely to those on whom he has set his affection and preserved in Christ (our “ark” of safety!).

God is in the business of removing our blindness so we can see HIM more clearly, because he is OUR Beloved, and so we can see ourselves more clearly – that we are very far indeed from what He has made us to be as Image.

(Not that we love Christ just because he makes US look good! No – we want to be LIKE him because HE is so good!)


We saw in our lesson through a few small glimpses (Genesis 6, Ezekiel 6, Luke 19 and Matthew 23) how sin breaks the heart of God – it “hurts” Him! (And of course it would, for sin is anything that is contrary to the will and nature and heart of God, it is at its heart our making ourselves to be god and king and ruler of our own hearts – which steals our affection from the One who is God and King and Ruler of all!)

Whether we have lived a history where we have seen the story of forgiveness the Lord wrote in our lives, or whether we are NOW living our lives where the Lord is graciously peeling back layer by layer the brokenness of our hearts, He is showing us how – in Christ – we are ALL forgiven MUCH! ...and why? Not for our condemnation! (Romans 8:1) But because he wants us to LOVE him much!

Our sin is SO vile, and the Lord’s grace is SO brilliant and beautiful – the Lord must bring our eyes into greater focus so that as the “law” of God brings conviction and repentance! (2 Corinthians 7:10), it is like the black velvet on which the diamond of the “grace” of God is displayed.


We also looked briefly at 1 Corinthians 5 and Ezekiel 9 – sin in the Church, in the hearts and corporate, “together” lives of God’s people.

Are we alert to and grieved by sin in the BODY?
How do we lovingly confront sin in the BODY? Or do we? Are we more interested in demonstrating our “tolerance and diversity”?

Part of the “application” of this included talking through the necessity of what Jesus describes in Matthew 7 as getting the log (or beam) out of our own eye so that we may see clearly to help our brother with the splinter (or speck) in his own eye. We are called to “judge” those within the fellowship of believers (and leave to God to judge those “outside”), but we are to do so with humility, an eye (if you’ll forgive the pun!) to our own confession and repentance!, a dependence on God’s grace and forgiveness, and the priority of God’s heart in the matter – which is for the other person to repent and receive forgiveness and restoration!

Looking forward to next week – we are going to look through a lot of different Scriptural passages, this week, to help us ... get our spiritual eyes more into focus, to see God as he really is! As he has “disclosed” himself to be! (It is, after all, the light of God’s presence, as we saw in Isaiah 6, that exposes the desperation of OUR need FOR him, but it also is the means by which we see how much we’ve been forgiven so that we may LOVE MUCH!)

Let us be women who LOVE MUCH our great God!


PS - prev. post answered some additional questions that were raised during our discussion.

28 January, 2010

LCM ~ A couple questions answered - followup to last night's class (re ch. 3)

Submitted by Leah Page on Thu, 01/28/2010 - 9:35am humility LCM010 Luke 7 Poor in Spirit

Good morning, ladies!

Last night, I double checked on a couple of the questions that were asked, and thought I'd share with you what I found (I'll post on the blog, too):

Q: Was the woman in Luke 7 Mary Magdalene?

A: The text doesn't say so, and I have heard from several sources that it is widely believed to be Mary Magdalene. But we don't know for sure. There are other Gospel accounts of a similar event, (such as Mark 14), but the details are different, and we know that the woman there mentioned was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Luke 7 seems to be a different event altogether - though possibly the fact that the other accounts mention a "Mary" and there is even another "Simon" present (Simon the Leper), perhaps these similarities help inform the speculation about the women in the text with which we have concerned ourselves, here?

(We DO know this was a woman who washed Jesus' feet out of love for him and a "weeping joy" for his grace! Would that we were all such women!)

Q: Was "Simon" in the Luke 7 account the name of the Pharisee hosting the gathering? Or referring to Simon/Peter, Jesus' disciple, who may also have been present at this event?

A: In v. 44, Jesus addresses Simon directly and accuses him of not having welcomed him even half as well as this so-called "sinner" woman. So Simon is contextually understood, here, to be the name of the Pharisee hosting the gathering.

Q: In Ezekiel 9:8, we speculated that perhaps this phrase (as worded in the NASB), "I alone was left," meant that Ezekiel was in fact the only one to survive the divine execution of the idol-worshippers in Jerusalem, the only one who was "marked" to be saved?

A: However, the opening phrase of the verse helps to clarify - and looking further at the context, ch. 10 is where "God's glory departs from the temple" and ch. 11 is where Ezekiel is called upon to give greater rebuke to the people (I don't know if such "order of writing" is meant to be explicitely chronological, but that seems to be the "plain meaning" of the text).

The ESV helpfully translates this verse this way: "And while they were striking, and I was left alone, I fell upon my face, and cried, 'Ah, Lord GOD! Will you destroy all the remnant of Israel in the outpouring of your wrath on Jerusalem?'" <-- a great case of finding help in other reliable translations of the text, and interpreting on the basis of context! ;) It seems Ezekiel is saying simply that while this horror (!) was being carried out, he remained in the presence of the Lord and - like Moses and others before him had done - was pleading with God on behalf of this rebelious people.

This is an event that is intended to "mirror" the Passover events in Exodus - though it is interesting, as we noted, that where in the Exodus account the faithful put the blood over their own doorposts, in this event, the Lord chose angelic messengers to somehow "mark" the foreheads of those who had "sighed and moaned" over the abominations committed in God's city. (Reminded me of how Peter in the NT [2 Peter ch. 2] describes Lot, Abraham's nephew who willingly lived in Sodom and Gomorrah and even rose to some prominence in the city!, and nevertheless was "vexed in his righteous soul" over their collective wickedness....)

Q: And finally, regarding good ol' Uriah Heep?

I had brought up one of the incidents that D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones mentions in his book "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount" and it was a point of interest because he actually names the person with whom he interacted, and it was one "Uriah Heep" and Betty had pointed out that this was the name of a character in a Charles Dickens' novel, so I thought perhaps I had misread the story!

A: I double checked and in fact, the man's name was Uriah Heep, so perhaps he was named after the Dickens character? Or perhaps it was just strange coincidence? Either way, it appears to be a "true story" and not just an illustration to make a point. Here is the quote if you're interested:

"...To be 'poor in spirit,' therefore, does not mean you are born like that. Let us get rid of that idea once and for ever.
Neither does it mean that we are to become what I can best describe as imitators of Uriah Heep. Many, again, have mistaken 'poor in spirit' for that. I remember once having to go to preach at a certain town. When I arrived on the Saturday evening, a man met me at the station and immediately asked for my bag, indeed he almost took it from my hand by force. Then he talked to me like this: 'I am a deacon in the church where you are preaching tomorrow,' he said, and then added, 'You know, I am a mere nobody, a very unimportant man, really. I do not count; I am not a great man in the Church; I am just one of those men who carry the bag for the minister.' He was anxious that I should know what a humble man he was, how 'poor in spirit.' Yet by his anxiety to make it known, he was denying the very thing he was trying to establish. Uriah Heep -- the man who thus, as it were, glories in his poverty of spirit and thereby proves he is not humble. It is an affectation of something which he obviously does not feel...."

(DLJ, SITSOTM, p. 38)


~Growing in grace, and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ~

27 January, 2010

~How to become Poor In Spirit~ D.M.Lloyd-Jones

"...The way to become poor in spirit is to look at God. Read this Book about Him, read His law, look at what He expects from us, contemplate standing before Him. It is also to look at the Lord Jesus Christ and to view Him as we see Him in the Gospels. The more we do that the more we shall understand the reaction of the apostles when, looking at Him and something He had just done, they said, 'Lord, increase our faith!' Their faith, they felt, was nothing. They felt it was so weak and so poor. 'Lord, increase our faith. We thought we had something because we had cast out devils and preached Thy word, but now we feel we have nothing; increase our faith.'

"Look at Him; and the more we look at Him, the more hopeless shall we feel by ourselves, and in and of ourselves, and the more shall we become 'poor in spirit.' Look at Him, keep looking at Him. Look at the saints, look at the men who have been most filled with the Spirit and used. But above all, look again at Him, and then you will have nothing to do to yourself. It will be done. You cannot truly look at Him without feeling your absolute poverty, and emptiness. Then you say to Him,

'Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling.'

Empty, hopeless, naked, vile. But HE is the all-sufficient One --

'Yea, all I need, in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come.'"

~David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, from "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount," p. 42

26 January, 2010

LCM - CH2: "Where True Happiness Begins" ~ GCC Women's Bible Study

Submitted by Leah Page on Tue, 01/26/2010 - 7:14pm Blessed Are LCM010 Poor in Spirit
"Lord, Only You can Change Me" (by Kay Arthur)
Ch. 2: "Where True Happiness Begins"

Review week 1: John the Baptist was chosen by God to "make ready a people prepared for the Lord" and in large part, this very "preparation" was the call to REPENT! The "red carpet" of John's ministry was to declare the "BAD NEWS" of our sin, our deserving God's judgment, and the proclamation that the kingdom of God was at hand. Bookmark chapter for week 1 (intro) was Luke 1 (and connecting back to Malachi ch. 3-4)

Review week 2: The "theme" of the infamous "Sermon on the Mount" - which we discerned from Jesus' own words - is "the righteous lifestyle of those who belong to the kingdom of heaven." (LCM p.6) One of the key verses of this sermon is Matthew 5:20 which says "For I [Jesus] say to you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees [the religious leaders of that time, the most "holy" people who were supposed to know all about God], you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven." But as we saw, Jesus' rebuke against the so-called religious was very severe. Bookmark chapter for week 2 (ch. 1) was Matthew 23, where Jesus soundly rebukes these religious folks for their hypocrisy! They exert all this effort to clean the outside of the cup, but inside they are as filthy and dirty as ever. They are like whitewashed tombs - concerned about their outward appearances, but inside are DEAD and unclean.

So we come to chapter 2, and there were 2 main topics for us to discuss:

Jesus opens this sermon with a series of statements concerning those who are considered "blessed" or "happy/ecstatic" - and gives us a glimpse into their condition. Before we got into the first "beatitude" (which comes from the latin word to describe this series of "blessed are's"), we needed to understand better what this actually means.

For one, "blessed are" refers to a "STATE OF BEING," not a set of doings. The sermon to follow is going to be filled to overflowing with all kinds of "do's" and "don'ts" - but Jesus is FIRST, LAST and ALWAYS concerned with the condition of the HEARTS of his people. As we have said before, "Being precedes [comes before] Doing" - what we DO is the overflow of who we ARE. What we DO, is the "natural result" of who we ARE.

Additionally, in the Scriptures, "blessedness means 'a sense of God's approval.'" (LCM p. 21) BLESSED first refers to God's approval, God's favor, God's...pleasure. These statements of character, of the heart, of "being" in the inner person, all fall under the category of "blessed" because they describe the heart and character that is PLEASING to God, and therefore as an overflow of his pleasure, God blesses us and we are filled with joy. We used the picture of a tree to get this idea. It would be as if we could say the ROOT is God's being pleased, and the FRUIT is our joy.

However, if we have not been given a new nature? If we are still in our sin - God's pleasure would be worse than meaningless to us. It would certainly not be our aim, our desire or at all OUR pleasure! (Recall, we talked about God changing our "want to's"?! so that we long to love what he loves and hate what he hates!) But if we desire to please God, and Jesus has told us that these characteristics are at the HEART of what brings pleasure to God, wouldn't it be to our benefit to understand what these things mean? To, in effect, if it were possible, "strive after" this kind of character and heart and inner person?

"Is it any wonder that Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount so amazed His listeners?....Here was a man who spoke with ringing authority, a man who was God in the flesh. Here was the mighty Creator of all speaking to His created ones, telling them that the wellspring of what they craved was found in a sense of His approval. Yes, friends and loved ones may belittle and ridicule our words and our choices, but what does it matter as long as God continually whispers, 'I know who you are, My child, and it brings Me pleasure.' Man, after all, was made for God's glory, God's pleasure. How then can man be complete or satisfied until he achieves that for which he was created?" (LCM, p. 24)

We looked through several Scriptures during our study, including Luke 18:9-14 where we saw the Tax Gatherer crying out for mercy, Isaiah 6:1-8 where we saw how Isaiah - when he was confronted face to face with God - cried out "WOE IS ME!" as he recognized how sinful he was, and 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 where we saw that God chose for himself people who were (in their natural selves) foolish, weak, base, despised, who were not wise, were not mighty, were not noble. And yet God place them in CHRIST (his beloved Son in whom he was WELL PLEASED!), so that he would become to them (and us) all that they were NOT - Jesus is our wisdom, Jesus is our righteousness, Jesus is our sanctification, Jesus is our redemption - so Jesus is our all in all.

We used the image of a "cup" again to talk about how we come to God - and that if we try to bring him anything, as if we could bring anything acceptable to God?, we are in effect trying to stand on our own righteousness or value or worthiness. But God is most glorified when we come to him with EMPTY cups, seeking to be FILLED by HIM! After all, how could we hope to bring anything MORE pleasing to the Father than Jesus?? So "poverty of spirit" isn't an expression of "how much spirit" do we possess, but in effect "how much righteousness" does our spirit possess - It is not as though we suddenly possess less righteousness when we see ourselves compared to a holy God! It's just that the light of God's presence EXPOSES our poverty - that we have nothing to offer to commend ourselves to him.

The proper response to "seeing God" is to fall on our faces, exclaim "WOE IS ME" and cry out for mercy. That is what Jesus means by poverty of spirit. How do we "strive after" this poverty of spirit? We fill our gaze with God - see as MUCH of him as we can, as Isaiah did, fixing our eyes on Jesus.

Jesus says this is the condition in which we are BLESSED! To these individuals who have despaired of their own self-effort and fall on God for grace and mercy - To these belong the kingdom of heaven.

Take heart! The Lord has promised - the good work he BEGINS in us he WILL be faithful to bring to completion! He does not leave us fallen on our faces, but intervenes on our behalf....

Bookmark chapters for this week are Isaiah 6 and Luke 18.

"What is poverty of spirit? It is an absence of self-assurance, self-reliance, and pride. It is the deepest form of repentance. It is turning from your independence to total dependence on God. It is brokenness. Listen, my friend, as difficult as it might be to receive right now, you ought to open your arms and welcome anything that will break you, that will bend your knees, that will bring you to utter destitution before your God....To walk in poverty of spirit means to abide in the Vine [Jesus!] and to allow the life of the Vine, by God's Spirit, to flow through us so that we might bear fruit. For apart from Him we can do nothing. (John 15:5)...." (LCM, p. 30, p. 42)

22 January, 2010

GCC Women's Bible Study ~ LCM - CH1: "Getting Beyond Our Masks"

Submitted by Leah Page on Wed, 01/20/2010 - 12:22am hypocrisyLCM010

LCM – CH1: Getting Beyond Our Masks

Started off in overview of Matthew 5-7, seeing the pattern of both "heaven" and "righteousness" in the Sermon on the Mount – the theme of which is in short "the righteous lifestyle of those who belong to the kingdom of heaven." (LCM p.6)

"Bookmark" chapter for this week was Matthew 23.

Highlights of discussion centered around the following:


Jesus starts the sermon concentrating on what makes up the "character" of those who are the "favored ones of God" – and what follows is the righteousness that is the "natural result" of having been changed by God, given a new heart. We re-stated this as "Being precedes Doing" – what we do stems from who we are. We sin because we are sinners; if we are "saints" / "sanctified" / the "holy ones of God" / set apart, we increasingly do as God’s Holy One does, because we are made into His likeness.

We ARE changed [given a new heart / the righteousness of Jesus] and so we LIVE that way.

Where we typically mess up is in flip flopping the process, as if "doing" righteousness is what earns God’s pleasure. This will become a theme in our study as "blessed" means "favored" of God which is intimately tied to what it means to say "God is pleased by..."


There is an inescapable connection between our "doing the will of [Jesus’] Father who is in heaven," and pleasing God. Jesus is explicit that those who do not do the will of the Father are among those of whom "on that day" Jesus will say "Depart from me, I never knew you..."

But does this invite, then, some kind of doctrine of "salvation by righteous works"?
Well...I suppose that depends on whose works are righteous!! In whom is the Father well-pleased? Who lived a perfectly flawless life, fully righteous life? By whose righteousness are WE able to become the righteousness of God? Our own?

How do we obtain the righteousness that pleases God? The righteousness that God rewards?


"Real Christian life – the genuine article – is never hypocritical. Authentic Christian life is something higher, brighter, and infinitely more powerful that pale, phony substitutes. It will take you from the valley of sin to the mount of blessedness. It will take you from the depths of destitution to the heights of God’s approval...." (LCM p. 3)

"True Christianity is discipleship. It’s the willingness to turn around to leave everything, and to let Jesus Christ be all in all. It’s the willingness to follow Him wherever He leads, and to do whatever He says. True Christianity is a total commitment of oneself to the lordship of Jesus Christ." (LCM p. 10)

Matthew 23 – "woe to you, hypocrites" – the "religious ones…the ones who claimed to know God...." (p. 14)

v. 3 they say and do not do
v. 4 they bind heavy burdens (works to earn God’s favor!) and lay them on the shoulders of others, but they themselves won’t lift a finger
v. 5 they do all their works to be seen by men, to DRAW attention to themselves
v. 6 they love the BEST places at the feasts, the BEST seats in the synagogues
v. 7 they love to be recognized and greeted in public places and called "Rabbi, Rabbi" (teacher, teacher!)
v. 13 they shut up the kingdom of heaven to prevent others from going in
v. 14 they give long prayers for pretense
v. 15 they move heaven and earth to make one convert, but make him twice as much a son of hell than themselves (increasing his dependence on his own "works" of righteousness)
v. 23 they are caught up in the tiniest of details! Regarding what to offer of the least of the herbs, and LOSE the weightier matters (which the lesser were meant to serve and reveal!) – law, justice, mercy, faith
v. 25 they clean the outside, but inside are full of extortion and self-indulgence
v. 27-28 outwardly appear clean, but inside are DEAD, UNCLEAN, full of hypocrisy and lawlessness....


We do not approach God with our "cup" full of our "offering" as if to bring some good thing to God, or to add to God’s pleasure. His GREATEST pleasure is derived from our coming to him with our "cup" EMPTY, so as to RECEIVE from him of HIS fullness....

We will look at this more in the next week as we study "poverty of spirit."

09 January, 2010


Submitted by Leah Page on Sat, 01/09/2010 - 12:18am LCM010

The first night of our new study launched this past Wednesday!

We got off to a good start, with an ice breaker forcing us to introduce each other – I think this gave us a lot of good opportunity to laugh together and learn some unique things about each of us. I hope this serves us well as we go through these next couple of months together and commit to pray for one another.

We began by reviewing some of the high points of our study in Malachi from last semester; primarily the pattern of the Lord’s [kind!] Rebuke which leads us to Repentance which is the posture that receives the Restoration of our fellowship with the Lord. ("The Lord opposes the proud, but gives grace (!) to the humble.")

Though the last word before the Lord goes silent for 400 years (between the old and new testaments of the Bible when there was no prophet in Israel) is "curse," nevertheless the last words are ultimately, collectively, the Lord’s PROMISE – that he would send a forerunner, "Elijah," who would prepare the way for the Lord’s coming and our salvation! One who would turn the hearts of the fathers to their children....

And we picked this up in Luke 1, then, where the priest Zechariah receives a visit from the angel, Gabriel, to tell him the good news that he and his wife Elizabeth are to have a son in their old age, an answer to their prayers, who would come "in the spirit and power of Elijah." And this son – John the baptizer – would be set apart, filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb (!), and his ministry would be to "turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous," and to "make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

And what was this ministry? What was this "red carpet" rolled out to lead up to the arrival of the Lord Jesus? Notice, John’s message was NOT – "I have come to bring you good news which shall be for all the people!" Rather, John’s message was "REPENT! The Kingdom of God is at hand! The Lord is coming, judgment is imminent! And you are sinners deserving of the wrath of God! Cry out for mercy!"

In effect, the red carpet that prepares the way for the GOOD news – of the salvation purchased by Jesus’ blood – is the message of the very BAD news about our sin and the fact we will never be able to achieve the righteousness that will earn God’s favor. (It must be a gift!) The fact that the BAD news is so very BAD is what then makes the GOOD news of God’s grace in Jesus so very very GOOD.

This set the stage to launch into our review of Jesus’ famous "sermon on the mount" toward the beginning of his earthly ministry. And in Matthew chapters 5-7, we see Jesus take the Old Testament "LAW" and raise the bar even higher. "You have heard it said…..but *I* tell you……" Always taking the requirement for righteousness deeper – through to the heart.

We read through all of Matthew 5-7 to end class by way of giving us a bit of a "jump start" into the first lesson – highlighting as we went any mention of the word "heaven" (which appears at least 21 times in these 3 chapters, depending on how you count to repetitions/synonyms, etc.).

It is clear, just in these verses, that Jesus starts with the heart (the character of those who are "blessed" – highly favored of God!), and then brings every thing that we "do" thereafter and lines it up alongside the heart, examining each area of life and whether it measures up to God’s standard of perfection. ("...the holiness without which no one will see God.")

To put it another way – there are the beginning hints, here, of the fact that what we DO springs from who (whose) we ARE. And we will get into this a bit more fully in the weeks to come, Lord willing!

For next week, we dive right in to chapter one – completing the overview of the whole "sermon on the mount," and particularly focusing on the nature of the "masks" we wear – The ways we hide and cover ourselves so we might appear to be more righteous (more praiseworthy) than we really are.

Jesus exposes our hypocrisy – and our study starts here, because only when we remove our self-made garments of fig leaves (and the trees behind which we like to hide) can we humbly admit we are weak and vulnerable and shameful, and we need Jesus’ righteousness, because our own best is "as filthy rags."

How fitting, then, the title of our little book: "LORD, only YOU can change me…."

Again, I challenge you - let us not be "battle weary" before we even begin. Let's "change our minds" and think of this study not as another activity which adds to our busyness, but rather think of this study and time in the Word of God as part of our REST before him.

We are looking forward to a truly blessed time in the next few weeks.

~Leah (Page)