Saturday, November 12, 2016

Matthew 5:4-6, The Blessed Life, p. 2

Matthew 5:4-6, The Blessed Life, p. 2
A series on the Beatitudes

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Job interviews can be stressful.  You want to know all the right answers.  You want to look the part.  And you want to be confident – not cocky - but confident.  Because, as Will Rogers used to say, “You will never get a second chance to make a FIRST impression.”

That’s why I laughed-out-loud when I read one employer’s take on an interview that went horribly wrong.  He wrote:

“I had a guy show up 40 minutes early for an interview, obviously crazy nervous. Thirty minutes later, my team and I greet the guy, and you could tell by the fantastic handshake the nerves were still there, and this may not go well. I motioned him to the boardroom for the interview, we sat down and before I had even asked the first question, he barfed all over the table.”

Needless to say… that wasn’t the BEST “first impression.” ⇒  LOL

I want you to imagine that YOU are being interviewed – for the position of ‘Christian.’  Every day, there are people who are measuring your words… observing your life… judging your actions and reactions TO SEE if your words match your actions. Your claims are being weighed… the validity of the Gospel being determined. Are you a good representative of the Christian life??

That’s a lot of pressure to put on a person, don’t you think?  Our coworkers, our friends, hear us talk about the Lord… they hear our opinions about the Bible and Church… but they are looking for something more than words. Before they consider the merits of the Gospel, they want it to make a difference in US FIRST.  

Are you reflecting Jesus?It’s not an arbitrary question… and it’s not unfair.  

The Beatitudes are a succinct definition of the character of the child of God.  One way to explain what ‘beatitudes’ ARE - is to think of them as ‘the beautiful attitudes of the Christian.’  

Now you might be wondering... WHY do I feel compelled to preach this??

To be frank… I am tired of the world judging Christianity by its hypocrites!  And they do… every day.  Whenever we act in LESS than honorable ways, people use that as a reason to dismiss the Gospel.  “Oh, there must not be anything to his beliefs because it sure hasn’t changed HIM!”

Additionally, I am convinced that God holds the Christian to a higher standard.  And while I know that we will never be perfect and that we will always struggle… the Lord has a right to expect more out of us.

And THIRD, I preach this because everything we need to live the Christian life - - is right here.  With the Holy Spirit as you Helper and the Word of God as your guide, the Christian life isn’t some mysterious, unknowable collection of secrets.  The beatitudes make the expectations of God perfectly clear.  

With THAT said, there are 3 traits I want us to consider this morning:

1.  First… as a Christian - I am called to be HONEST.  Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  Be honest.

“What do you mean, preacher?  What does HONESTY have to do with ‘MOURNING?’”

In life, we might be prone to think things about ourselves that aren’t true.  We might be tempted to think that we are mostly good… that, compared to others, we are kind and thoughtful.  Spiritual.  Trustworthy.  But THEN something happens and the cracks in the armor are exposed and we discover something dark, something ugly about ourselves that we thought we'd kept hidden.

When the light is just right – that’s when the flaws show up.

Just ask Isaiah.  He was a prophet and a prince.  Respected.  Admired.  And as all of us are prone to do – he probably believed that he was a pretty decent guy.  I mean, he WAS a representative of GOD.  But one day he stepped into the light of God’s presence and in a moment of clarity, he saw himself for what he REALLY was.  He cried out in shame, “Woe is me for I am undone!  I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people with unclean lips!!”

Honesty.  It is the mark of someone who has had his soul exposed to the light of Christ.  

If you would live the BLESSED LIFE, there are three people you need to be honest with:

Jesus most importantly.  You must have that moment of honesty before Him where you recognize the awfulness of your sin… where you are moved, CRUSHED by the reality that the things you have done OFFEND Him.  Where you realize that the only thing you DESERVE – is wrath.  Rather than strutting into God’s presence with your wishlist, you must come to see your guilt and shame.

You need to be honest with Jesus.

You need to be honest with your friends and family too.  For too long people have seen us as judgmental, critical frauds who think we are better than everyone else.  The world thinks we are looking down our noses at them.  And to some extent, they are RIGHT.  But that’s not what turns them off to Christianity.  No.  What bothers them is that while we sit in judgment of others, we don’t recognize OUR OWN FLAWS and SHORTCOMINGS.  And THAT’S what they can’t stand.

We need to be honest with people.  We need them to know that we struggle too.  That we often FAIL.  And that it is only by the grace and mercy of God that we are ANYTHING!

But not only do you need to be honest with Jesus and with others – you need to be honest with yourself.  And here’s where the picture of “mourning,” of being heartbroken, becomes clear.  When I look in the mirror of God’s Word, I see the real me.  I am NOT a hero.  I am NOT a good man.  As the Spirit of God burns His Word into my conscience – it becomes obvious to me that I am unworthy of anything good from God.

As I throw myself at His feet and confess my shame to Him - THEN ⇒ I am comforted.

Can you imagine how people like Mary Magdalen felt when Jesus came into their life?  How others with pasts of brokenness were accepted, cleansed, and made new?  When we are struck with our unworthiness before the Lord, He tells US, like the woman in the Gospels who was caught into adultery,  ‘I don’t condemn you!’  

There is no greater comfort than THAT, let me tell ya!

2.  But not only must I be honest… I must be HUMBLE if I am to ever exemplify Christ before those who are lost.  Humble.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Meekness is often perceived as weakness.  But it is FAR from weak.  It is STRENGTH UNDER CONTROL.  It is seen when a person has the power to do harm – but doesn’t.  It is seen in his willingness to serve others instead of himself… to stoop, rather than to posture or climb.  Meekness is about humility rather than drawing attention to yourself.

One of the most striking portraits of humility was seen in the Upper Room, when Jesus washed the disciples feet.  He, the Lord of heaven and earth, stooped to the position of a servant and washed the feet of those men He loved.

Peter was aghast!  No way would he let Jesus wash HIS feet!  That was a task for slaves… not Kings.  But Jesus was showing Peter just how important it is that we humble ourselves and serve each other. That we QUIT jockeying for advantage and recognition and put OTHERS ahead of ourselves.

Are you humble?

We often think that REAL humility is ‘thinking LESS of ourselves.’  When in reality, humility is not thinking of yourself AT ALL.

A truly humble man is hard to find, yet God delights to honor selfless people.

Booker T. Washington, the renowned black educator, was an outstanding example of this truth.

Shortly after he took over the presidency of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, he was walking through an upscale neighborhood when he was stopped by a wealthy white woman who didn’t recognize him.  She asked if he would like to earn a few dollars by chopping wood for her. Because he had no pressing business at the moment, Professor Washington smiled, rolled up his sleeves, and got busy with her request. When he was finished, he carried the logs into the house and stacked them by the fireplace.

A little girl recognized him and later that evening revealed his identity to the lady.

The next morning the embarrassed woman went to his office and apologized profusely. "It's perfectly all right, Madam," he replied. "Occasionally I enjoy a little manual labor. Besides, it's always a delight to do something … for a friend."

Humility – do you have it?

3.  But not only should the world see our honesty and humility, they should see our HOLINESS too.  Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Google ‘hunger’ sometime when you are feeling sorry for yourself.  It is absolutely gut-wrenching when you are staring into the face of starvation.  It’s awful.  We have so much to be thankful for.  I cannot imagine anyone I know, anyone I love, facing something like that.

When a person is starving… it’s consuming… it’s all you THINK about.  I can’t imagine the prospects of those kids that are forced to rummage through the garbage dump for their daily sustenance.  Every day… their survival is in question – their need - urgent.

When you are starving – it’s all you think about.

Oh that we would hunger for God like that!  That we would YEARN to be like Jesus… following hard after his righteousness… wanting the things HE wants… DOING the things HE does.  Feeling it deep in our soul. When we get THERE – we will know what it means to be FILLED.

Does THIS describe you?  

How can a person know he is ‘hungering and thirsting for righteousness?’ What are we to do?  3 things:

You have to want it.

No one can force you to eat. The old adage is true: You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. Like food, you have to want to live a righteous life. Jesus uses the words ‘hunger and thirst’  to illustrate the intensity of desire, an ardent craving, and all-consuming pursuit. It is as though you are parched and nothing will stop you from getting water to drink. Or, you are so hungry you will pursue food at all costs. It's a desperate kind of hunger.

It is that same kind of drive that should motivate the believer to pursue righteousness.

Listen to the way David describes it in Psalms 42, "As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for You, God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God?" Or in Psalm 63, "God, You are my God; I eagerly seek You. I thirst for You; my body faints for You in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water."

Do you have that desperation of soul to seek God's approval above everything else?

Then you have to TAKE ACTION

Appetites aren't filled until you do something about it. It is one thing to know that you are hungry. It is quite another to take the steps to satisfy your hunger.  At some point you have to go eat.

We need to go to the source - the bread of life. Jesus said, "I am the bread of life. No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again." (John 6:35)  Nothing will fill us but Jesus. Our real hunger is for Him.  That new job, that new home or car, that new relationship – NOTHING will satisfy you but Jesus.  That’s why God asks us in Isaiah 55, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and labor for that which does not satisfy?”

Then you have to keep coming back for more.

This is not a one-time thing, where you go to the altar, ask Christ into your heart, and you’re never hungry again.  No, the way it is written in the original Greek is - Those who are filled keep ON coming back for more because they keep ON hungering and thirsting.  Just like it is with food.  If we only feed ourselves once in awhile, we’d AT BEST be sick and AT WORST ⇒  DEAD!  We have to keep on feasting on the Word, keep on spending time in God’s presence – and through that CONSTANT pursuit, we will become more like Christ.

Are you starving for righteousness? Is being like Christ your constant pursuit?

John MacArthur once said,
"If you claim a relationship with Christ but you aren't hungering and thirsting for righteousness, you need to honestly question whether you know Him."

Ok… so you are being interviewed.  The person behind the desk wants to know – if you a Christian?  If they dig through all the files, what are they gonna find?  Are you genuine?  Will they see Jesus in you?  According to the Lord, the Beautiful Attitudes of those who are His, are:

  • Honest – with the Lord, others, and with themselves.  We are NOT people of PRETENSE or SHOW.  We are nothing without Jesus!
  • Humble – instead of putting self FIRST, we serve others, even when mistreated or disrespected – ours is STRENGTH UNDER CONTROL.

  • And we are to be Holy – Hungry and thirsting for the Lord, tireless in our pursuit, relentless in our desire to be like Him.
Does the interview-ER - see THAT - in the interview-EE??

If not, NOW is the time for you to do something about it.  Let’s stand…