Summary: How do we live full lives that God offers to those who love and serve Him?
An Invitation to Lasting Joy, Part 3
Turn with me today once again to a passage in Matthew’s Gospel that we call the Sermon on the Mount. We are discovering what Jesus says about following Him! How can we live in a way that pleases God and that enjoys His favor? It’s here in these verses.
My messages build one leading to the other. So, if you missed either of the first two, let me encourage you to order the CD’s (just $1), or to go online to the church’s website and download them.
In this passage, Jesus says, “Blessed are...” 9 times! What He says points us towards a life of true fulfillment, to a way to live that will give us contentment; a sense of meaning. And they are not what we would naturally expect Him to say!
A thousand things claim that they will bring us joy!
Our appetites are sharpened by advertisers who play up the potential of their products to bring us satisfaction, but often they don’t deliver anything near what they promise.
Carnival cruise lines try to convince us that we ought to put down a couple thousand to escape to the sun on board a ship in the Caribbean where the winter blahs will be whisked away.
Automobile manufacturers create little visual stories that compete to convince us that our desire for status and recognition will be satisfied when we are tooling down the road in a shining new automobile.
Geico works hard to convince us that we need not be a caveman!
We can save easy money if we just buy our insurance from them.
During this football season, a million beer commercials will try to convince us that if we drink
Coors, suddenly beautiful blond women will appear in our lives and we will be standing on snow-capped mountains like gods surveying all that we own.
Uh-Huh! Right! (With sarcasm.)
How then to be satisfied, full, approved by God; or in Jesus’ word... blessed?
The first week, we found that He connected ‘blessed’ to these words - spiritually poor, mourning, and meekness! Not exactly the stuff of a life that most of would call happy, is it? But Jesus explains how those things open our lives to receive what God has provided for us.
Last week, we took the 6th verse as our text-
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
At first thought, I don’t think that most of us would put righteousness anywhere near the top of our list ways to find joy. Why? Because for many righteousness equates religion.
We tend to confuse being righteous with being pious, which according to Webster’s dictionary means,
“to have an earnest regard for religious obligations.”
When I read about Jesus in the Gospels, I quickly realize that He wasn’t exactly a pious guy! He enjoyed a good party. He made wine for a wedding, when they ran out! Society’s outcasts sought to be in his company! From that I can conclude that he did not walk around with a halo, speaking softly, reading poetry, and avoiding manly stuff!
People who are trying to pious seem so stressed out to me. They strain at appearing holy and treat humor as though it were a sin. Sometimes I get the feeling that pious people are more interested in looking holy, than in really being holy.
Jesus didn’t care much for superficially pious people. He reserved scathing rebukes for the Pharisees who worked so diligently at looking holy and keeping themselves from being ‘contaminated’ by contact with ordinary people. He told them they were "like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean." Ouch!
Jesus commends our hunger for God, not a certain ‘look.’ The Bible teaches us that true righteousness is being in the right, being justified, being in approved standing with God. Righteousness is a gift that is accepted by faith in the Cross of Christ alone.
Do you and I have a responsibility for holiness? O yes! In Ephesians we are commanded to [4:1] "live a life worthy of the calling you have received." But what happens is an inside-out transformation. As God loves us, we become loving. As God becomes closer to us, we release our grasp on sin!
Now let’s look at our text for today.
TEXT - Matthew 5: 7-12 Pew Bible page 1501 READ
The next step towards lasting joy after we have accepted the gift of God’s righteousness is MERCY.
7 – Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
To illustrate this principle, Jesus told a story with exaggerated proportions. It is recorded in the 18th chapter of Matthew. Peter came to the Lord asking, “Lord, how many times should we forgive those who offend us?” In other words, “how long do we good guys have to put up with those who are evil?”