Preached on February 23, 2014 at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA
Open you Bibles to Matthew 5. We are continuing our exposition of Jesus' famous Sermon on the Mount and today we find ourselves nearing the end of the well known, or perhaps not so well known, beatitudes. Let’s get right to work, and read the entire section of the beatitudes, and then look more closely at verse 9.
Before we get into the ins and outs of this verse, let us start with some sobering facts. In the interest of full disclosure, these facts are things that I have pulled off of the internet and I did not spend hours and hours attempting to confirm their veracity, so take them with a grain of salt.
In recorded history, there have been approximately 14,500 major wars fought on this planet. Over the last 3,400 years of human history, only 268 of those years have been without a major war. This is only 8 percent of the time. It is estimated there are currently 33 major wars being fought in 32 different countries. One of those wars grabbing headlines this month is Ukraine. I am sure that next month it will be someplace else. It is very difficult to calculate, but some people estimate that that almost four billion people have died directly related to a war.
If you were to define humanity, it would be hard not to characterize us as a people of war. Since time began, we have been fighting. It is just want we, as people do. I love the way 2 Samuel 11:1 puts it so nonchalantly:
This reality of war is not exclusive to nation verses nation. War mentality permeates every culture that has ever existed throughout time. War within our communities. War within our schools. War within families. War within our marriages. War within our hearts. We are by nature inclined to fight. We are by nature adversarial. Why? Why is this the reality of humanity? Why do we hate each other so much?
And this war in our hearts continues to be waged until peace is achieved. The question is how. How can a peace accord between God and man be struck. Can we, as enemies against God achieve peace? Do we have the capacity to lay down our arms and to surrender to Him? Can all of our war crimes that we have committed against God be swept under the rug as if nothing happened? Turn with me to Colossians 1:19-22.
The same is true in verse 9. Peacemaking is not something that we prop up like a ladder and climb so as to get to heaven, by our effort. We can’t make ourselves into peacemakers. Being a peacemaker is evidence, or proof, that God has already come into our lives and transformed us. And not only has he come into our lives and transformed us, but he has also adopted us into His family, “For they shall be called the sons of God.”
What I believe Jesus is saying in this Beatitude is that if you are a peacemaker, then this is evidence that you are a chip off the old block, or that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. We are acting just like our Father. When people see us making peace, they should see what we are doing and see our Father.
This should make total sense to us, should it not? When, by the grace of God, our eyes are opened, and we see our sin, and we recognize our need for Jesus Christ to be our Savior and Lord of our life, God’s Word tells us that the spirit of Christ, the Prince of Peace, comes and takes up residence in your heart. So we should say, “it is no longer I who live, but the Prince of Peace that lives within me.” Therefore it only makes sense that our life should be defined by our peacemaking, for Jesus’ life was.
Which leads us to the question? How does a peacemaking look in a Christians life? Let us do this by stating what it does not mean? A peacemaker is not passive. To by a peacemaker does not mean you are numb to the war around you. A peacemaker is not one who sticks there head in the sand and hopes the spiritual cannons quit firing. No, a peacemaker runs to the battle and lays down their life for the purpose of peace. We make peace. The only way to make peace is to jump in the trenches and take risk.
Once again, there is no better example of this than Jesus Christ. He did not apathetically watch as humanity continued to wage war against His Father. He obeyed the request of His dad, and took the form of man, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross for us. This was not passive. Jesus not only threw himself in harms way, he threw himself in Gods way. We are to be like this, active in our peacemaking. God’s mission is our mission. We are to join Christ and go and make peace.
Some of you may know be saying, how can we make peace? Is peace something we can manufacture? We can promote peace. We can encourage of peace. We can be an example of peace, but make it? If you are familiar with the Bible, you know that this is not the only place in which Jesus tells his disciples to go and make something.
But it still leaves open the question, how do you make disciples? How do you make peace? I think the best way to understand is to watch it in action. Turn with me to Acts 14
This week I had a really goof conversation with the missions leader at The Church of Brook Hills, the Church David Platt is the pastor at, and we were talking about the nation of India, and how it is one of the last places on the planet that is still unreached with the Gospel. He was telling me that God is really moving in the Northern part of India in many of their house churches. He told me that in their support of the Church in India they rarely give money to pay for bricks and mortar, because in these intimate meetings at house churches, they ask a question, how many people did you share the Gospel this week? Every Sunday they asked that question. IN a house Church of 20-40 people you can't hide. And every week when you go to Church you know that you are going to be asked that question, you have one of two options, either stop going to Church, or start proclaiming the Gospel. The true, authentic Christians, start proclaiming the Gospel, and you know what happens. It works! It really works. Who would have guessed that God's word is true?
I think this is a major problem in the American Church. WE don't go and make disciples. We don't go and make peace. Instead we are afraid. We are afraid what people will think of us, we are afraid that we might lose our job. We are afraid of getting sued. We are afraid of getting detention at school. We are afraid of the war.
We refuse to lay our life down, and share the Gospel with our spouse, parents, children, friends, neighbors, co-workers, the town next door, and the world. And then we are surprised when there is war in our schools, streets, and homes. Let us be like Paul and be left for dead one day, and in Derbe the next, spreading the peace of Christ.
This is what the Sons of God do. SO let's recognize who we are in Christ and go and be peacemakers!
Preached on February 16, 2014 at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA
Turn in your Bibles to Matthew 5. We continue are walk through the beatitudes and find ourselves today in verse 8. For those who have not been with us for the last eight weeks, let me say a few words of review before we get started. The Beatitudes are eight statements made by Jesus at the beginning of his famous Sermon on the Mount. The best way to understand the Beatitudes is to see them as a description the character of a true, authentic genuine, Christian. To say it another way, the beatitudes are fruit hanging from a Christian tree. With that said, we are on the 6th beatitude today, so let us get right to it and read our text, ask God to show us His truth, and then examine it.
If that was not enough, not only is it unfathomable to stand is the presence of such greatness, but his presence is also our greatest treasure.
Jesus says that those who will see God are those who are “pure in heart.” Lets start with the heart. What is the heart? This is a common phrase within Christianity. We read about the heart in the Bible, we sing songs about the heart during worship, we pray that God soften hearts, change hearts, and clean hearts. What are we saying when we speak this way?
Obviously, when we speak of the heart, we are not talking about the biological heart, we are talking about something more. When we speak of the heart, we are talking about a person’s essence, their core. The heart is a description of the center of who we are and why we do what you do. When we talk about one’s heart, we are talking about the real you. When we talk about our heart we are talking about the force that drives our mind, our emotions, our spirituality, and our actions.
This heart of man is a mysterious thing. It is not something that we can see with our eyes. We cannot take it out of our chest and examine it. It is not tangible. However there are two ways that we can know our hearts. First, we listen to our cardiologist, otherwise known as God.
In the context of purity of heart, Jesus is speaking to the singular devotion of your heart. Devotion to whom? God of course.
This is where so many people fall short. Instead of making God everything, they treat Him as an accessory. He is an add on. They spend time with God when it is convenient for them. They may go days and weeks without one thought of Him. They may pray, but only when they have to. The try to read the Bible, but more important things come up, like ESPN or laundry. They try to got to Church, but it is just much work. They would love to do what God requires, if it was easier. Does this sound like a heart devoted to God? Absolutely not! To say one thing and to do another is by definition, hypocrisy.
I love how Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come a die.” To follow Christ, you are to die to self and to live to God. To be a Christian is to have one singular purpose. You are all about His glory, not your comfort. Someone who is pure in heart is someone who entirely sold out God; doing everything that He asks. Purity is perfection. Forty verses later in Matthew 5 Jesus says this:
No, the pure heart takes an act of God. It takes grace. We have found ourselves at this text many times over the last year, hopefully you will see how crucial it is in understanding of God's saving Grace.
Having said that, it is God who does the work, but you must act out the miracle. You are not passive in this transformation. If you sit here today, and your are double minded, and your heart is not pure, do as James states.
Preached on February 9, 2014 at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA.
Today, we find ourselves in verse 7, of Matthew Chapter 5. Let us jump right into our text today by reading through the entire Beatitudes before we unpack verse 7.
To understand the words in the Bible, we must use the Bible to self-interpret. Why is this? Because when I use the word mercy, I may mean one thing, and when you use the word mercy, you may mean something else. However, to be honest, we don’t care what my definition of mercy is, or yours. What we care about is God’s definition of mercy. For it is Jesus who uses these words and we want to know what Jesus means, not what Merriam Webster’s dictionary means.
The Greek word for the verb mercy is eleeō. The Greek word for the noun mercy is eleos. It is actually a common word used in the book of Matthew. In fact, it was commonly used by people who are crying out to Jesus in the streets. Here are the times it is used by the crowds.
The interesting thing about Jesus and mercy is that not only is he merciful in providing care for people during his earthly ministry, but that He is mercy incarnate. Listen to what it says in Hebrews 2:17-18.
If you recall when we talked about mourning in verse 4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”, we examined how sin grieves God. Sin is a big deal to God. He is not casual about our rebellion. However, it not only grieves him, but the consequences of sin (death, despair, anguish, affliction, etc.) moves his heart into action. God observes suffering, His heart is moved, and He responds. The way he responds is through His Son Jesus Christ.
With all that in mind, Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:7 that blessed are the merciful. Remember, as we have said in the past, “Blessed” is commonly translated to happy, but a more complete definition would be to understand blessed as the approval of God that brings about happiness. And this makes sense when we look at other passages in Matthew where Jesus speaks about mercy.
How high up is mercy on your list? Is mercy of primary concern in your life or a passing thought? Are you rich in mercy, as God is rich in mercy? How would you define your religion, sacrificial or merciful? Are you more likely to cut a check or visit orphans and widows in their need? Once again, I find that God’s Word cuts deeply into my soul, and leaves me broken before God.
This leaves us in a very difficult predicament, for Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” The logical inverse of that statement is “Cursed are the unmerciful, for they shall be dammed.” This beatitude should cause us to tremble! Turn with me to Matthew 18:21-35.
Once again, scary stuff. We don’t want our story to end like the wicked servant, do we? So how are we to be merciful? Is mercy something that we can manufacture? Can we just go out and make ourselves merciful and therefore earn God’s mercy? Is mercy God something that can be purchased by Phil Parsons? Absolutely not!
If you hear anything today, hear this: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” does not mean that your mercy earns God’s mercy. If your mercy earns God’s mercy that what is the point of Jesus. If we work our way into heaven, we wouldn’t need Jesus’ work on the cross, it strips the good news o the Gospel or all of its power. Reading verse seven as a command by Jesus to take matters into your own hands is the leaven of the Pharisees. So if mercy doesn’t earn mercy, what does Jesus mean?
Let me ask? What was the problem with the wicked servant? Look at verse 35, “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart." The problem with the wicked servant is that the forgiveness that was offered to him did not reach His heart. Did he hear the offer? Yes. Did he understand the offer? Yes. Did he intellectually accept the offer? Yes. But it did not travel the necessary 8 inches to his heart. The love of His King did not shine in his heart.
Fellow Christian, I hope that this is not you. I hope that as you sit here, you do not presume upon the patience and kindness of your King. I hope that it has effected you more deeply than your mind. I hope that the Gospel message of forgiveness through our merciful high priest Jesus has transformed your heart.
The mercy that overflows from our heart after being filled with the mercy of our high priest is evidence of our future is security in Christ. It is not our mercy that earns our mercy. It is our mercy that proves we have been forgiven.
Preached on February 2, 2014 at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA.
Turn with me to Matthew 5. Today we continue our journey through the Sermon on the Mount, specifically the Beatitudes. Before we get started in our specific text, I wanted to mention something that I believe I have wrongfully under emphasized over the last three weeks. For me, and I hope for you, each one of these beatitudes have greatly convicted me. They have pierced my heart, and this is exactly what God wants His Word to do when we interact with it.
Having said that, once we are convicted by God’s Word we have two roads we can take. Road one is the road of the Pharisees and road two is the road of Grace. The Pharisaical road is when someone reads the Word of God and looks to themselves for the strength to adhere to what they found convicting. For example, last week we examined what it meant to be meek. If you walked out of here and said I need to be more meek. And then you asked yourself, “What can I do to be more meek?” Then you are walking down the road of a Pharisee. For you are looking to yourself to produce the fruit in your life. Jesus warned us about this in Matthew 16:6.
Instead, we are not look to ourselves, but to the Lord. It is His Grace that produces these qualities, these beatitudes, in our life. These Christian characteristics listed in the beatitudes are a result of the Holy Spirit coming into your life, regenerating you, and giving you eyes to see, a heart that mourns, and a lowly disposition. If you are born of the Spirit of God, then you should walk by the Spirit of God.
The answer is somewhat obvious, for the answer is in the word itself. To be righteous is to be right. To do things, to say things, to think thing that are correct, and to not do wrong things.
This word righteousness assumes something. It assumes that there is an actual, real, measurable standard by which we all must live by. What is interesting about this belief of a universal and absolute standard is that it is a fleeting belief in this postmodern world. More and more people reject the idea of absolutes. Instead more and more of the American culture accepts relativism. Relativism is the idea that each person has their own standard to live by. It is the idea that each person makes their own rules and no one can tell them that they are wrong. Relativism is the belief that righteousness is self defined, or culturally defined, and this belief is rampant in America and rampant in churches.
Jesus's statement concerning righteousness totally blows the door off of relativism. Jesus says there is a right way to live. Jesus says there is a standard of virtue. And this is not the only time Jesus uses this word in Matthew. In fact, he mentions righteousness twice in the beatitudes, and he mentions is three more times in the rest of the sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5:20, Matthew 6:1, Matthew 6:33). Therefore, either Jesus is lying to us, or there really is a right way and a wrong way to live in the world He created.
And if the world was intellectually honest, we would all agree with this; because this standard is something that everyone can sense or feel, it is intuitive. No matter what culture, no matter what point in history you look at, you will always find a similar standard that people live by. This standard is commonly called the moral law. For example, murder; all cultures throughout all time agree that it is wrong to randomly kill someone for no reason. Another example, all cultures throughout all time agree that it wrong to steal. If that is not enough, the proof or the moral law lies in your reaction when someone treats you “wrongly.” If you didn't have implanted in you a sense of right and wrong, then you would not be offended when someone spits in your face and pushes you to the ground.
The truth is that there is a standard, and there is a standard Giver, and he happens to be Jesus's Dad, the Creator of the Universe, and we are to live by this standard. But there is a problem, and Jesus speaks of that problem.
When Jesus say's “ Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” He is making a very indicting statement about humanity. For to hunger and thirst for something means that you lack it. When you hunger for food, it means your stomach is empty of food. When you hunger for righteousness, it means you are empty of righteousness. You lack righteousness.
So if we put these two thoughts together we see that God has a standard, or way, in which we are to live; however, we fail to live in conformity with that standard. We fail to live in a right relationship with our Creator. In fact, we are incapable. The most on point indictment of this truth is Romans 3:10.
And Jesus says that those who recognize this and hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed. So now let us ask, what does it mean to hunger and thirst for righteousness?
First, to hunger and thirst does not mean a casual interest. This desire to have righteousness is not one that is like taste testing. To hunger and to thirst is to have a deep and desperate longing for righteousness, and lets be honest, it is a desperation because we are spiritually starving. We are completely void and the threat of death is always looming. Psalm 63:1 provides a great picture of this thirst.
With that said, Jesus tells us that if we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we will be satisfied. How? How are we who are void of righteousness to get righteousness? We have already seen that the law of God is not the answer, for its purpose is to show us our unrighteous condition, not to fix it. So if the law won't make us right before God, what will?
Before we end, I want to clarify one thing. The hunger and thirst for righteousness does not end at conversion. It is an ongoing characteristic of a Christian here on this Earth. It is a longing that continues, until the return of Christ, or until death. Right now, some of you are saying hold on, you just told me that Christ satisfies and we just read in that “whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” All of these things are simultaneously true. Perhaps scripture would be the best way to explain.
If you have tasted that the Lord is good, this is exactly where you are at today, and what a good place to be. You have searched for satisfaction and you have found it in Christ. Your looking is over. There are so many who have yet to find it. Wandering in the dessert and dieing of spiritual hunger and thirst. So let us not waste this great gift. Let us drink deeply from the well of Jesus Christ.