LISTEN HERE Sermon Sunday 1 November 2009
Or read it below:
ALL SAINTS Revelation 7v1-17; Matthew 5v1-12
Christianity is about radical change. When we encounter the living God, we cannot but be changed and not just in our morals or in how we act but deep down inside of us – in our spirit – in our very character. But, it is a change we could never manufacturer ourselves. It is a change beyond our comprehension – it is truly a divine change.
What we are looking at today in our gospel reading is what people call the Sermon on the Mount –teaching which Jesus gave to his Disciples – those who were following Him – and we are Jesus’ disciples today and so this teaching is for us.
What Jesus talks about here are eight aspects of the character and conduct of a Christian? When we put our trust in God we become a citizen of heaven. And as a citizen we are called to put God first in our motives, actions, language, thoughts and priorities. These characteristics are not talking about different people, but about one person and how they are inter-connected.
ALL LIFE COMES UNDER JESUS’ ROYAL CONTROL. As a believer and follower of Jesus our Government, first and foremost, is the Government of Jesus Christ – that is what the kingdom of God means – the government of Jesus Christ, and that is the government we are to obey and follow first, above any other government.
Jesus is teaching our disciples on what we call the beatitudes.
The first three beatitudes speak of the Christian foundation of experience.
The first thing he says is blessed are the poor in Spirit.
What does the word blessed Mean?
It means, “Made happy by God”. Jesus is saying that life in the Kingdom of God with Him is a life of profound joy – a joy no circumstance or person can take away.
And that JOY should start now, here, on earth. Joy is not something that we get once we die and go to heaven – heaven begins on earth – and so joy begins here as well.
The first step in being happy is to acknowledge that we are spiritually poor – that we do not have in ourselves what it takes to be the person we were created to be.
Once we have realized that we are spiritually poor and that there is nothing we can do about it we are then to mourn.
The original word for mourn describes a mourning of the dead – to grieve with a grief which so takes possession of the whole being that it cannot be hid.
This is to be our response to knowing we are spiritually poor.
We come to the realization that we so desperately need God.
This will then lead us to become meek, or as some translations put it gentle. Meekness is not about being weak or spineless, but about free submission to Jesus and acknowledging him to be God over our whole life. To be meek is to know that we cannot claim any merit before God. We must stop trusting in ourselves, or in our abilities, or our skills. God is the one in whom we are trust explicitly and completely.
As we look back over these few verses, notice the promises that come with such characteristics.
Such Christians get the very best promises – the poor WILL inherit the Kingdom of Heaven – the mourners WILL be comforted – and the meek WILL inherit the earth. The world does not look at the poor in spirit, the mourning and the meek in this light. Indeed, they see poverty in spirit, mourning the lack of God in our lives and meekness as something to be despised. Riches, confidence in our own abilities and arrogance are seen as strengths in our world. But not so in the kingdom of God.
The person who has faced their poverty of spirit, who mourns that poverty, who submits themselves meekly to Jesus on earth discovers what life on earth is all about. They discover that all the riches of the Kingdom of Heaven are available to them
The next three beatitudes speak of the features of Christian Experience.
Who are the blessed?
Notice that it is not the righteous who are blessed but those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
To hunger and thirst is to long for something that we do not yet have. The evidence of Jesus Christ in someone’s life is not that they are righteous, but that they hunger and thirst for it – that they have an appetite for it. DO WE HAVE AN APPETITIE FOR GOD – FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS? Appetite is not self-produced. You cannot will yourself to be hungry. They are symptoms. The source of this appetite is to acknowledge and mourn the poverty of our spirit, to be meek and submit to Jesus. Only then will this hunger and thirst for righteousness come.
And as we hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God we will begin to change in how we deal with people.
As we encounter the merciful heart of God and as God places his heart and his mercy in us we will then begin to extend mercy to those whom we encounter.
And this will lead to us to having a pure heart.
Now, the word pure here does not mean moral purity. It means unmixed. In other words our hearts would be unmixed, having a purity of purpose – one goal, one direction, one priority – Jesus Christ.
Not that one is not interested in anything else in life – just that Jesus comes the prism, the lens, the foundation from which everything else, our jobs, our vacations, our pursuits come from.
And when that happens we will SEE God – not necessarily physically but in all our circumstances – we will see his presence, his work, his guidance, his sovereignty, his protection, his love and his work in our lives.
The last two beatitudes speak of the fruit, or impact, of the Christian experience – what kind of impact is such a person going to make in the world?
The problems in the world stem from sin – greed, selfishness, anger, violence etc. Humanity – you and I are the problem. We have the ‘I’ disease – not the type that needs glasses – but the I of selfishness.
And the power and destructiveness of sin remains while humanity is alienated from God.
It is RECONCILIATION WITH GOD THAT BRINGS PEACE WITH GOD.
Paul says in COLOSSIANS 1:19-20:
For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him,
and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
One of the biggest privileges of being reconciled to God, of becoming a Christian and coming to peace with God is that we can lead others to this peace. WE BECOME A PEACEMAKER – we actually SHARE in the ministry of Jesus Christ.
And when we do this there will be those who will accept the peace of God and there will be those who react and persecute us. Why would people persecute a peacemaker? Because a Christ centered peacemaker does not resolve conflicts it is to tell people to come to repent, to turn to their God and lead them to a relationship in Christ.
To be a Christian is to be a PEACEMAKER in the Kingdom sense that will mean we will be persecuted at some point and some time in our life – and if we are never persecuted for being a Christian it may be because we are not opening our mouth when we should be.
Persecution, is not something we should fear – we must never hold back in this process of becoming a such a Christian because we are afraid of persecution, for if we have not done this journey from recognizing our poverty of spirit, to being reconciled and finally to becoming a peacemaker, then we have not traveled the journey of becoming a believer, because we have not walked the path that the prophets and indeed, our Lord Jesus Christ walked.
To finish this morning I want to briefly take us to our New Testament reading from revelation because it is here that we can see the destination of this path from acknowledging our poverty of spirit to reconciliation with God and active service in his kingdom as a peacemaker.
Our reading from Chp 7 of revelation comes after the description of the judgment of God upon his enemies. Chp 7 tells us what happens to God’s people during this time.
For those who have walked the path of Matthew 5 – giving our selves to the Lord Jesus Christ – recognizing that we need him and him only, then, we will have our sins, our filthy rags, washed in the blood of Jesus’ sacrifice, making our robes white, clean, and where we will be overshadowed by his presence, sealed for eternity under his ownership and his protection, where the enemy satan can never snatch us out of his hand.
Revelation 7 shows us that when we undertake the journey of faith of Matthew 5 our eternal safety is guaranteed – to be among the multitude in heaven worshipping our God and as our passage says we will:
hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on us, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be our shepherd, and will guide us to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from our eyes.”
Have we made this journey yet? Have we acknowledged our desperate and utter need of God? Have we given up trusting in ourselves and long to trust in Christ alone- do we hunger and thirst after righteousness – do we want to receive mercy so that we can give mercy – do we long for unmixed motives, a purity of heart – do we desire to be reconciled to him – to become a peacemaker in the kingdom calling others to be reconciled to the God of the universe – do we want to rejoice and be glad – do we want to be sealed for eternity in the Lord Jesus Christ…
If we are here this morning knowing in your heart that we have not made this journey then do it today – ask God to come and meet with you – confess your need for him. Do it today. Do it now.