Tag Archives: Christian

Desperately Seeking Righteousness

                                                  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled.” Matt. 5:6   (NRS)

In the movie the Pursuit of Happyness, Will Smith plays Chris Gardner, a desperate individual endeavoring to save his family from dire circumstances created by his lack of employment and subsequent homelessness.  Chris is given the opportunity for a job on Wall Street by a benevolent mentor who sees in him, not only hidden talent, but a “hunger and thirst” for a better life.  When Jesus spoke of hungering and thirsting for righteousness, He knew the impact “kingdom living” would have on individuals in search of a “better life”.  Jesus saw individuals who were spiritually hungry, starved by the empty promises of this world.  The result was emaciated spirits and dry souls.   The world was desperately seeking.

To be righteous (dikaios), in a broad sense, describes man as God had originally created him to be—one whose way of thinking, feeling, and acting is wholly conformed to the will of God. The believer’s righteousness is not their own but is the imputed (credited) righteousness of Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1).  In addition, the desire to continue living righteously before God is made possible by Jesus Christ’s presence within believers through the Holy Spirit.  It is the Holy Spirit that gives the believer the ability to live right and to do right (Ez. 36:25-27; Phil. 2:13).

Jesus’ invitation to righteousness was an invitation to a new way of living—kingdom living; no longer marked by hypocrisy and corruption as seen in the lives of the ruling religious leaders. Jesus invited those who sought God’s righteousness to simply “Come” (Matt. 11:28-30).  This invitation would resonate with individuals in familiar terms they could easily understand—hunger and thirst.

To “hunger and thirst” for God’s righteousness indicated a strong craving that becomes the driving force in the life of the believer.  The Psalmist captured this fervent yearning in Psalms 42:1-3:

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?  My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, “Where is your God?

While hunger and thirst are terms typically used to express basic human needs, the hunger and thirst that Jesus describes in this beatitude depicts a “spiritual hunger and thirst” that finds no satisfaction in the physical realm.  And what is the effect of this yearning?  “It is filled!”  To be filled (chortazo) implies that a desire is satisfied—refreshed, supported, and strengthened.   Jesus described Himself as the true Source that satisfies the longings of mankind (John 6:22-27). Still today Jesus promises “whosoever will” that comes to Him shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Him shall never thirst (John 6:35).

The world is at enmity with those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  Look at how the world responded to our Lord and Savior—they crucified Him!  (John 15:20)  But in spite of the persecution we may encounter or the rejection we may face, it is imperative that we stand firm and give the world the reason for our hope—a living hope that is realized both now and in eternity future (1 Pet. 3:15).     Like the Apostle Paul, we can boldly announce our extreme satisfaction in serving Christ.  For we know that whether abound or abased, we will be “filled” (Phil. 4:12-13).   May we never lose our “hunger and thirst for the God’s righteousness.

Good to the Last Byte…

Our culture continues to seek answers to the moral and social problems of our day using man’s wisdom.   Such efforts are “senseless striving” without first seeking God’s righteousness.

Meekness and Kingdom Living

Last week we explored the blessedness in “mourning and comforting”.  Mourning was the sincere sorrow believers experience when they realize the impact of sin in their life.  Comfort develops in knowing that Jesus Christ has delivered us not only from the penalty (death) of sin but also provided the means for ongoing cleansing through confession to our merciful Father (1 John 1:9).  The Beatitudes illustrate the behaviors and resulting “blessedness” that belongs to believers living by “kingdom rules”.  These behaviors were truly “counter culture” for not only those living in the first century but even more so for believers living in the twenty-first.

Meekness (praus) is typically used to describe one whose disposition is gentle or mild. It has also been described as “power under control”.  Jesus described Himself as “gentle and lowly” (Matt. 11:29) yet He was the Creator of the universe.  John Killinger in his classic, Letting God Bless You describes how Jesus life truly depicted “power under control”.

When folks got the idea of starting a movement that would make Him an earthly king, Jesus slipped away to be alone and to pray. While he commended the use of riches to help the poor, he himself never had much in the way of earthly goods-apparently not even a home to call his own or an extra change of raiment. When he was preparing to leave his closest friends, he took a bowl of water and a towel and got down on his knees to wash their feet, insisting that they learn to live through serving one another, not by sitting in the places of honor. Betrayed by a follower who led the police to his prayer spot in Gethsemane, he kissed the follower and bade his friends not to raise their swords. Brought before Pilate and Caiaphas, he saw the uselessness of protest and fell into creative silence. Crucified between two criminals, he spoke kindly to the one with an open heart and forgave the soldiers who had followed orders in carrying out his execution. He didn’t have to be this way. He didn’t have to submit to such mistreatment.

Jesus stated that meekness would result in inheriting the earth.  All through the Bible this was the promise to the people of Israel—a land.  What earth or land was to be inherited? Some scholars believe the land refers to the Promised Land originally promised to the patriarchs of the Old Testaments (Gen. 12:7; 24:7; 26:3; 28:13); others say it is the future Millennial Kingdom (Rev. 20:1-10).  But possessing the land signified much more than a possession; it signified a sense of place, security, an inheritance from God.  These promises will be realized with the second coming of the Messiah when there will be a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21:1). The promise is for believers who are in the New Covenant. And the promise will be fulfilled in a far more glorious way than anyone could imagine. The new creation will not be possessed by the powerful despots, the ruthless tyrants, or the manipulative schemers. It will be possessed by the meek. This is our living hope for today (1 Tim. 4:10; Titus 2:13).

How does one become meek? The answer to this comes from other passages of the Bible that describe how the spiritual life works. Meekness and gentleness and goodness are part of the fruit of the Spirit—they are produced in the Christian by the Holy Spirit. So the direction people should follow to cultivate a spirit of meekness would be to walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:24-25), or be controlled by the Spirit of God so that the qualities of Christ can be produced in and through them.

The Gospel writer’s narratives of Jesus’ life shared what meekness in action looks like. Jesus could have called down angels to take his side in Gethsemane (Matt. 26:53). But, for all of this, he was a meek man, a man after the heart of God, a man from the heart of God. Let us follow Jesus’ glorious example.

Do You Wanna Be Happy? Reality Living in God’s Kingdom

   “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:3 (NRS)

If the television industry is to be remembered for anything, it will be the birth of “reality” programming.  Since its entrance into our entertainment schedule, the number of reality shows and spin offs have grown exponentially compared with other television venues.  When I first read the preview of many reality shows, they read like a bad skit from Saturday Night Live.  But as much as these programs are marketed as “reality”, the truth of the matter is that their plots are carefully staged to insure their continued popularity.  Their view of reality was no more than “staged possibility”.

However, when Jesus spoke of the poor in spirit being blessed with the kingdom of heaven, He was presenting to the disciples a new reality that was both available and possible to those who accepted Him as their Lord and Savior.  Upon accepting Christ’s invitation, believers entered into His kingdom—a new reality for living as citizens of God’s kingdom on earth and heaven.

Pastor Chuck Smith’s video last week informed us that the promises (the blessedness) of the Beatitudes are available to believers only.  In fact, to unbelievers the propositions put forth in the eight (8) declarations, appear illogical and irrational.  This should not surprise us in that the preaching of Christ (and His teachings) is “to them that are perishing foolishness” (1 Cor. 1:18) because the world’s wisdom is based on the standards of a world system of a different king—Satan (2 Cor. 4:4).     But the believer’s reality is not based on “the words which man’s wisdom teaches, but that which the Holy Ghost teaches.  The natural man (unbeliever) cannot understand these things because they are spiritually discerned”.  The privilege of the poor in spirit and the possession of the kingdom of heaven are reserved only for those who believe (1 Cor. 2:12-14).

The privilege of being poor in spirit comes in understanding the need for not only salvation but also for a Savior.  It is in recognizing one’s sinfulness, depravity and disobedience, that poverty of spirit is exposed.  We cry out like Paul, “Oh wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”  (Rom. 7:24)  The reality of our personal brokenness should not drive us to increased darkness but to the life-giving light of Jesus where true forgiveness is possible and spiritual transformation can begin (Col. 1:20-22).

The possession of the kingdom of heaven can only be properly understood in knowing the King.  As believers, our reality acknowledges that our Lord and King is Jesus Christ.   In Him, we live and move and have our meaning in Him (Acts 17:28).  God is transcendent (beyond or above the range of human experience) and omniscient (everywhere all the time); we live continually in His presence.  While Jesus reigns exalted with God in heavenly places (Ep. 1:20), His rule still extends to us as we physically live in this fallen world.   As subjects of God’s kingdom, we are to live faithfully for Him and for the purpose He has determined for our lives (Ep. 2:10).   It is this reality that incents us to live holy and soberly within His kingdom (Titus 2:12).  Our allegiance and loyalty is to our king, Jesus Christ.

Why then are believers blessed or happy?  First, because they know their sins have been forgiven (Ep. 1:7).  They no longer need to hide in the shame and the fear of their past lives.  Jesus has made it possible for them to become part of the citizenship of heaven (1 Pet. 2:9).  This position comes with both privilege and power that exceed any temporary position we might hold on earth.  Second, believers not only enjoy benefits as citizens of God’s kingdom now but look forward to even more blessings in eternity (Ep. 2:12, 18,19).   Finally, the believer’s position in God’s kingdom can never be withdrawn or loss.  Nothing can separate them from God’s presence; their present and future are secure because it has been secured by the blood of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:18).

The reality of living in God’s kingdom results in peace that passes all understanding, indescribable joy, and love that covers a multitude of sins and offenses.  In the Beatitudes, Matthew captures only a sampling of the extraordinary gifts that awaits those who believe and trust in Jesus Christ.

The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:

Who, when he had found one pearl of great price,

went and sold all that he had, and bought it.  Matthew 13:45-46

Do You Wanna Be Happy? Blessedness

“Blessed…” Matthew 5:2 (NRS)

The Beatitudes are found in both Matthew (5:1-12) and Luke (6:20-26).  In Matthew, they are placed thoughtfully before the Sermon on the Mount, the first and longest message of Jesus that we have in the gospel.  The Beatitudes are different to study than other biblical narratives; each saying is proverb-like:  cryptic, precise and full of meaning.  Contrary to popular belief, the Beatitudes were not initially shared with the masses, as presented to us in bible illustrations and movie productions.   Jesus taught them exclusively to His disciples. Luke makes this distinction clear:  “Then He (Jesus) lifted up His eyes toward the disciples and said…” (Luke 6:20).  The disciples as new citizens of “kingdom of heaven” would need to understand the uniqueness of this kingdom and their role in proclaiming the arrival of its King.  In this initial teaching by Jesus, the Disciples would be the first to be “blessed.”

Blessed or makarios {mak-ar’-ee-os} is translated as “happy.” But “happy” doesn’t seem to capture all that is intended in the Beatitudes because modern usage of this word tends to devalue its true meaning. We use the word happy to describe everything from getting a new car to finding a parking space at the mall.   “Blessed” or happy in this text is an exclamation of the inner joy and peace that comes with being right with God.  Happiness may indeed be a part of it, but it is a happiness that transcends what happens in the world around us—a happiness that comes to the soul from being favored by God. That is why one can feel blessed even during intense persecution (Matt. 5:10; 1 Pet. 3:14).

The Beatitudes are more than characteristics of what believers are to strive for in their spiritual walk.  The qualities outlined in the Beatitudes give a picture of the character of the true people of God who are already part of His kingdom and who have the full blessings of the kingdom—now and in the future (1 John 3:2).  Jesus’ declaration of “blessed” to the disciples is a “pledge of divine reward” for the inner spiritual character of the righteous.  When we accept Christ as our Savior, we become part of the “blessed”.  In Christ we were rescued from the power of darkness and spiritually “transferred” into the kingdom of heaven (Col. 1:12-14).  As we grow in Christ[1], we can better understand and embrace the “blessings” described in the Beatitudes.   God knew the true way to “happiness” and from the foundation of the world prepared the way for us to be “blessed” (Ep. 1:4).

Good to the Last Byte…

Last week we ended our study on the pursuit of happiness by offering a surer path to well-being and contentment that men seek.  That offer was and will always be Jesus the Christ.  It would be Jesus the Christ who would save man from sin, reconcile man to God, and make it possible for men to live in peace.  It is in Christ’s arrival that “eternal blessedness” would replace “temporary happiness.”

[1]  We grow in Christ or spiritual maturity through practicing the disciplines of prayer, fasting, reading the Bible and fellowship with other believers.  Spiritual maturity also requires relinquishing control of our lives to the leading and guidance of Holy Spirit.