An appetite for godliness
“What does God expect of me?”
“How should a Christian act under pressure?”
“Am I pleasing the Lord and honoring Him?”
Answers to these questions can be found throughout the Bible, but there is one section of the Word, where Jesus Himself answers these questions and more! I invite you to open your Bible to the wisdom of the Sermon on the Mount. His amazing words are found in Matthew 5.
Jesus opens his sermon with a series of saying we call the “Beatitudes.”
As He begins his message about the way that person who is part of the Kingdom lives, he talks about radical choices that lead to deep contentment and fulfillment.
A. "You are blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and His rule.
B. You are blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
C. You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are- no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. The Message, a translation by Eugene Peterson.
Our text today is short, but loaded with challenge. I want us to concentrate our attention on just one of the “blessed” verses this morning.
TEXT - Matthew 5:6
When Jesus spoke those words, the people gathered on that hillside in Galilee understood them much differently than most of us in this room understand them today! We know little of the kind of hunger He used to make his point. He was preaching to people who did not have supermarkets and abundant and varied food supplies. Most of those who heard him, knew what it was to go several days with little or nothing to eat when supplies ran short, or money ran out!
He was speaking to people who did not know what it was to open the faucet and enjoy clean water in abundance. They had to carry the water they used from a local source. It could be contaminated and sometimes made them sick! They knew the a kind of hunger that made men desperate!
The word that Jesus used which our Bibles translate as ‘hunger,’ is a word that indicates something closer to the word - famished! “Blessed are those who are famished, desperately hungry, for God’s righteousness - for He will make them full!”
Do you realize that hunger is a good thing?
No, of course, it is not good that people go hungry, but it is a good thing to get hungry! A lack of appetite is always a signal that something is wrong with us - physically or emotionally. Healthy people get hungry because their body needs fuel to function! God created the hunger trigger in these bodies of ours so that we would motivated to fuel up, so that we would not starve to death!
God also created us to hunger for Him!
Human beings yearn to know a god! The impulse to worship is universal. The desire for meaning and purpose in life, to love and be loved, is put in each one of us by God. One does not have to be Christian, to hunger for God. He created us to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him. But, when sin entered the creation, the hunger for God and good, was re-directed towards other gods, towards junk soul food that can never really satisfy.
Think again about physical hunger.
Like everything other appetite that He created in us, we have abused and misused our appetites. Many of sin against our bodies and God in our eating habits that border on gluttony! Food, in America, is relatively inexpensive and abundant, so much so that we are becoming a fat nation, confronted with myriad health problems- many, if not most, rooted in eating too much of the wrong kinds of food!
We consume vast amounts of cheap, fat-filled, sugary, and calorie-laden foods that do not really satisfy our hunger, causing us to eat more, much more than we need to consume.
ill- Ever sit down with a bag of chips and eat the whole thing?
Despite the fact that an 8 ounce bag of potato chips contains about 1200 calories,
or about half the daily calories required by an average person, hunger is never really satisfied by that kind of ‘food.’ Despite being ’full’ we still ’feel’ hungry.
The situation is much the same when we consider the hunger of our soul. We are created with a longing for God. We hunger for meaning, purpose, and hope but often attempt to satisfy that hunger with ’junk’ food.
Americans pursue endless pleasure,
seek distraction in entertainment,
buy things to gain status or to become more attractive, and
Our lives are full, yet our souls are starved. We may be fat, but many of us are spiritually emaciated, on the edge of death from starvation!
God’s invitation – Isaiah 55:1-3 READ
"Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live."
Do you realize that your food preferences can be changed?
Much of what we think of as ‘good food,’ has to do with training and what we were given to eat as kids! America’s busy parents are creating a generation of junk-food addicts because it is so simple to give a hungry kid a microwavable prepared snack. What few parents stop to consider is that prepared foods generally contain much higher amounts of sugar, fat, and salt - all of which are addictive. That four year old that eats non-stop fast food has many times the risk of becoming an obese adult than the child who learns to eat a balanced diet.
Then, too, we just prefer ‘our’ kind of food!
ill.- If our Mom made pancakes that were heavy and a ½ inch thick, we will probably think that is the way pancakes ought to be so if somebody serves us a delicious crepe, a thin pancake, that cooks quickly in a hot griddle, we will say, “You call that a pancake?”
Spiritually, we learn bad nutritional habits, too.
We think that religion is the same as knowing God.
We think that some quasi-spiritual experience is the same as real encounter with the Spirit of God!
Or, we even mistake emotional fulfillment and/or excitement with real spiritual nutrition.
Let’s be honest -
given the choice between an exciting football game or a two-hour church service -
most people would choose the football game. Why? Sad to say, sometimes church is just bad and boring! But assuming that there is a commitment to creating a quality worship experience that honors God, even then many choose football.
Again, I ask, why? Because it is harder to appreciate the satisfaction of the hunger of our soul that can be found in listening to God, in opening our heart and mind to His Presence, and in pursuing Him. It is much easier to get our kicks, to be emotionally stimulated, by the hype and fun of the game! I am not suggesting that a football game is bad! But man cannot live on football alone!
Yes, even morality and religiosity will satisfy our spiritual hunger for a time. We can feel very good when we keep the rules or when we are able to point to our impeccable service at church that earns us so much approval from other people.
But, at some point, hunger to really know God starts to gnaw at us.
We want to really know Him, to really have a mature faith that is nourished by intimacy with the Spirit. We want to have the living Word active in us, so that we are able to draw on the wisdom of the Word when we face tough choices!
Believer, just as we develop appreciation for foods with complex textures and tastes, we will - over time - develop an increasing desire for the things of God when we allow the Spirit to lead us and stop filling up on junk!
Ill.- When I was a kid, I hated salads. If you offered me a plate of leafy greens including baby spinach, arugula, and various lettuces, garnished with nuts or seeds, and brushed with a balsamic dressing, I would have pushed it aside as inedible. Now, I love the mixed flavors of a well-made salad, complementing a nicely grilled piece of chicken!
I’m still working on the sushi thing!
My point is that today, I eat in a way that is much more healthy than I did two decades ago, because I was willing to venture beyond cheeseburgers and macaroni and train my palate to appreciate more complex kinds of food.
Our soul hunger will be satisfied by worship, with the Word, and with true spiritual service - but we must learn to ’eat’ the things of God.
Go back to the text again. READ Matt. 5:6
“Righteousness.” What is that?
In this context Jesus is speaking about three things that are related –
of having a life that conforms to God’s expectations,
of being in a right relationship with God,
of living in a way that gives honor to God before others.
THINK – Do these things matter to you?
The Bible talks about people who ‘live to serve their bellies!’ Such people are concerned about physical appetites and care nothing for the Spirit! They are ‘dead in sin!’
So how do we come to hunger for righteousness?
Jesus spoke that in those verses we looked at last week.
First, God helps us to realize we are bankrupt spiritually. As He shows us the wide gap that exists between His will and our lives, we mourn our sinful state, and then, in humility, with an attitude of meekness, we turn to Him - with repentance.
The Bible says that the Spirit makes us alive in Christ, and as we come alive spiritually, we begin to grow hungry!
The question that remains for us to answer is this — How will we try to feed our soul’s hunger?
We will, naturally, revert to the junk food we consumed before. When we feel the hunger pangs of our soul, we will be tempted to find a distraction, to turn up the TV, to plug into the I-pod, to go to the Internet, or even to pile on the ice cream!
None of those things is bad, in itself, but when used to satisfy our hunger for God, to soothe ourselves when an ache for righteousness comes over us, they become sins, taking the place that only God can have in our lives.
Turn to God!
Receive Christ, and pursue His ways.
Let the Holy Spirit give you an appetite for the Word and for worship (which by the way does not just happen in church buildings) so that you will eat and be satisfied.
Here’s a word from the Word.
"O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.
I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory.
Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!
I will praise you as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy." (Psalm 63:1-5, NLT)
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God.
He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat."
(Matthew 5:6, The Message)
Jerry D. Scott, copyright 2007
all rights reserved