Saturday, November 12, 2016

Matthew 5:1-3 – The Blessed Life, p. 1

Matthew 5:1-3 – “The BLESSED life”
a series on the Beatitudes p. 1

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs ⇒  is the kingdom of heaven.”

“Your best life now,” the best-selling book of Joel Osteen, has sold millions of copies worldwide.  IN the book, Osteen, pastor of America’s largest and fastest growing church, boasting 30,000 members in Houston, TX, suggests 7 steps to living up to your full potential.

If you want the BEST LIFE...
FIRST, Osteen says “you need to enlarge your vision for life!”  In other words, until you begin to dream what he calls, “God-sized dreams,” you will never live life - to its fullest potential.
Second, it is crucial for you to develop a healthy self-image.  “Too many,” he says, “are living under the terrible cloud of condemnation; AND, until we see ourselves differently, we will never live our best life now.”
Third, he talks about discovering the power of your thoughts and words.  According to Osteen, “words shape your destiny.”  He says that if you continue to think and say negative things, you are never going to rise above it.
Fourth, he counsels “let go of the past.”  If we dwell on the past, we will never focus on and press onward to - the best life available to us.
Fifth, we need to find strength through adversity.  Everyone experiences difficulties, but learning how to capitalize on these trials will help you live your ‘best life now.’
SIXTH, be generous.  God commands us to be generous and through our obedience to His command, He will bless us and prosper us and allow us to achieve our potential.
And seventh, Osteen teaches us to be happy.  Achieving your best life now is like “mind over matter.”  “Make the choice – to REJOICE,” is his mantra.
With this simple message, Osteen has the world as his stage and his church bursting at the seams.  A few years ago, his church purchased and renovated the old Houston Rockets arena, in order to house the THOUSANDS of souls who flock to hear his positive message each week.
What makes his message so popular??? He preaches that it is “God’s will for you to be successful and that God desires to lavish you with material things. IF you believe … there are no limits!
There ARE a couple of problems with his teaching, however.  
  • God is far more concerned with you being RIGHTEOUS than RICH!  
  • NOWHERE does God promise material wealth to those who genuinely follow Him.  In FACT, much is said that would indicate the OPPOSITE.
  • God isn’t our ‘genie in a lamp’ doling out wishes like antacids at a chili eating contest, either.  God wants us to be more preoccupied with being like Jesus, than being successful!  And I would remind you that most of His life, Jesus didn’t have two nickels to rub together!
Now, my purpose this morning isn’t to dump on Joel Osteen - although I think he, and other preachers LIKE him, are at least somewhat responsible for the worldly drift of the church.  But that’s not my purpose.  God will sort all that stuff out come judgment day.
And I get it - I UNDERSTAND WHY HIS message is so appealing.  People LONG for a better life.  Even those who have been saved for years, yearn for a positive message to latch on to even IF they must cling to half-truths in the process.
But at a time when so many fall for the false claims of the prosperity gospel, I urge you to exercise great caution.  Don’t let your fleshly desires lead you to compromise God’s truth!
You will MISS God’s best if your focus is SELF!!

Steven Roberts wrote an interesting article for US News and World Report about the changes that have taken place in modern Christianity.  He wrote:
“In this age of SELF, the language of our time is filled with phrases that glorify personal choice over all other values… self determination, self-knowledge, self-esteem, self-help, and even DO-IT-yourself.  In THIS climate (of SELF), no doctrine is safe.  The touchstone of belief today is the INDIVIDUAL – NOT the institution.  Preachers have lost authority.  The same voters who talk back to their political leaders on call-in-shows and town-hall-meetings are talking back to their religious leaders, forcing them to change their message or lose their congregation.
“The phrase, ‘cafeteria Christians’ describes those who pick and choose which teachings of the Bible they want to follow.  But in religion, as in politics, the more appropriate analogy of modern mores is to fast-food rather than cafeterias.  As the slogan for ONE hamburger chain puts it – “Have it YOUR way.”  People want God on THEIR terms – and to have what they want - they willingly twist or ignore Biblical teaching, and they choose teachers who do the same.”
Sadly, those churches experiencing the greatest success are the ones that encourage people to focus on SELF.  The great preachers of church history have been forced into the shadows – their sermons deemed ‘too harsh… bible doctrine ⇒ negative.’  And what has taken their place are self-help gurus and motivational speakers.  

In THIS YEAR’S list of America’s Most Influential Christians, 4 of the top 10 are those who preach a ‘prosperity gospel’ – who shun sound Bible doctrine –who preach happiness over holiness and self-gratification over self-sacrifice.

This shift from a God-centered emphasis to a self-centered, according to Paul, should not be surprising.
As he warned us in 2 Timothy chapter 4: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,  and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
Jesus would have us seek the BLESSED Life - not the BEST Life.  He would have us focus on the Savior - not SELF.
A multitude had gathered that day to hear something genuine.  They were hungry for truth.  They had found the teachings of the scribes and Pharisees to be void of power.  But when they sat at the feet of Jesus, they instantly recognized the difference.  Repeatedly the crowds would say in amazement – “We’ve never heard anything like this before!”  And THIS day would be no exception.  As Jesus walked up the hill so he could be seen and heard, He turned their world on its head with THIS startling statement: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
One sentence that revolutionized their opinions about God - success - and themselves.  Jesus offers 3 keys to the ‘blessed life’ in our text:
1.  First, if you would experience the blessed life, you MUST have the Right Attitude.  

Attitude IS important – but not the attitude suggested by Osteen.  The self-help guru says “think positively!”  “Develop a better self-image!”  But JESUS, the Lord of Glory, said, “you will never be fit for the kingdom until you see yourself as you actually are before God – “poor, bankrupt, destitute.”
Most of us have no idea what it means to be poor… to go without food for days at a time… to have NO outside resources to provide the basic necessities.  Thank God for that.  Thank God we were born in a place and time where compassionate individuals have never allowed us to be utterly destitute.
I know what hard times look like.  28 years ago, I worked in the loan department of a credit union… and I got to see a lot of things.
  • I saw the heart of materialism – as discontent people who were willing to sacrifice almost anything to get bigger and better toys – borrowed money like there was no tomorrow.
  • AND, I saw some of those same people who once had the world on a string, devastated when unforeseeable circumstances destroyed their dreams.
  • It was sad to see men who were once so proud, so materially successful, come in and literally BEG for mercy just to keep their families from being kicked to the curb.
  • I saw families lose everything because DAD lost his job or his health and they just couldn’t afford to live under the crushing obligation of their many loans.  The “American Dream” had become their WORST nightmare.
That sense of agony??

That humbling??

That vulnerability??  Jesus says WE MUST HAVE if we would have if we would experience the blessed life.  

We have got to get to the place where we see ourselves the way we really are before God, lost and undone, with no excuse and nothing to offer, before we can experience God’s best.

This is a problem for most people.  We’re too proud to see ourselves as sinners worthy of wrath – as people who don’t deserve God’s favor.  But according to Jesus, until you recognize your sin and throw yourself upon the mercy of God, until you see yourself as spiritually bankrupt before Him, you cannot experience the blessed life.  Until you stop comparing yourself with others, until you quit making excuses for yourself or attempting to LOWER GOD’S STANDARDS, you will not know TRUE blessing.
We frown on that type of transparency.  We are chafed by the very idea of begging for mercy.  We pride ourselves on self-sufficiency and resourcefulness.  But listen to me, if you want to experience the very best of God, you’ve got to see yourself as utterly lost, AND  barring the help of God, without HOPE.

THIS is where the ‘blessed life’ begins – with the right attitude.
2.  Secondly, the key to the blessed life is having the right APTitude.  In other words, not only do you need to see yourself as you really are, you also see GOD as HE really is.  You cannot live the blessed life until you stop trusting self and START trusting God.  

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”  The Jews had a special way of using the word “poor.”  In the Hebrew, it described a man who had no earthly resources whatsoever.  All he HAD was his TRUST in God.
We have got to get to that place – where – our only hope is God.  Why???  Jesus reveals several character traits of God in the beatitudes:
First, as we read these verses, we see how compassionate He is.  When a person has slumped to the bottom of the barrel, when he has reached the end of trusting himself and his life is a mess, some might judge – “serves him right!  He is only getting what he deserves!”  

But God doesn’t do that.  He doesn’t  criticize or condemn – instead He shows Compassion.  That’s why Jesus said in John chapter 3, “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world, through Him, might be saved!”  -- He is a God of Compassion.
He is ALSO a God of Consolation according to verse 4… “Blessed are they that mourn, for THEY shall be comforted.”  God has a thing for the broken-hearted.  In Psalm 51, David wrote, The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”  The prophet Isaiah wrote: The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted.  God is compassionate.

He is Faithful according to verse 5… He will not fail you in your time of need or forget to reward your faithfulness.
He alone satisfies according to verse 6 – While men hunger for the things of earth, those things can never satisfy.  Only Jesus can satisfy.
He is a God of MERCY – according to v. 7 and a God of PEACE v. 9.

So here’s the deal:
When all you have is HIM – you are in a pretty good place!
3.  And then finally, after possessing the right attitude (I am a sinner in need of a Savior,) and the right APTitude (seeking your satisfaction ONLY in a personal relationship with God), third, to live the blessed life, I need the right ALTitude.  Jesus said, “for THEIR’s is the kingdom of heaven.”
I’ve heard it said that a person can be so “heavenly minded that he is no earthly good.”  I’ve never met such a person.  Most people are “so earthly minded they are no heavenly good.”
You see, one of the problems with the prosperity gospel (and there are MANY) is that it paints the “Best life” as a life of possessions, positions, pleasure, and power HERE on earth.  They want heaven… HERE

The problem IS, however, our hearts shouldn’t be set on earthly things.  They can’t satisfy us.  I don’t care how much you have or don’t have by this world’s standards, if your hope is in the things of this world, you are NEVER going to be happy or content.
You cannot enjoy the “Blessed Life” without a personal relationship with God through Christ.  You cannot find happiness, peace, or satisfaction hoping in the things of THIS world – the more you get, the more dissatisfying they become.  That’s why Paul commanded the Colossians,

“seek the things that are above, where Christ is...  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

You can have a peace that the government cannot take away – wealth that banks cannot repossess.  You can have a joy that isn’t dependent upon the value of the dollar – a hope that lives BEYOND the election.  You can have a sweetness of countenance and an unshakeable faith regardless the headlines of the morning paper.  

But the only way to have it is to do what Jesus said in Matthew 6 – “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  Only until you have the right ALTitude, will you ever know or experience the blessed life.

How about YOU?  Are you living the blessed life?  You CAN - but it begins with the right attitude – understand you are a sinner, spiritually destitute and unworthy of anything good from God.  You have no hope within yourself – you are POOR in spirit.
Followed by the right APTitude – seeking God with all your heart, because, as is stated in Jeremiah 29… ‘you will find (God) when you search for (Him) with all your heart!’
And the right Altitude – with your affection, your hopes and dreams, set on eternal things – your priorities will be straight.
When you do THIS, you will be living the blessed life.
How many of you need to pray something like THIS today: “Dear Lord, I realize that I have been pursuing the wrong things.  I have been looking for satisfaction in THIS life and in the THINGS of this world, in relationships, in positions, in stuff.  And NOW I realize I can never know true satisfaction until I search for you with all my heart.  Please forgive me.  Please be the priority of my life.”  Is THAT your prayer?

It MUST BE if you would live the BLESSED LIFE!
Let’s stand…