July 22, 2007
INTRODUCTION – One of the things I love about the Holy Spirit is that He doesn’t just stop at convicting us of sin, and leaving us to grovel in our failure and misery. No, once He truly convicts and convinces us of our sin, He then cleanses us of that sin; and then conforms us to the image and likeness of Jesus Christ. Any true work of the Holy Spirit will always result in our becoming more like our Savior.
Two of the conforming works He is doing in these days are: 1. producing true happiness and joy in His people – the kind of joy that our Savior walked in and continues to walk in; and the kind of joy that gives us inner strength to endure hardship and suffering for His sake. 2. pouring out passion and zeal on His people that is ever increasing, and not just a result of a mountain top experience. The people of God were never meant to operate without those two things.
Unfortunately we have often tried to operate without them; and it has wreaked havoc on the church, and in our society and culture. For the church was always meant to lead the way to true happiness and to righteous passion – instead of the self obsessed often sexually based passion that fuels the media and so much of our modern culture.
Our culture, if you haven’t noticed, is on a reckless and destructive pursuit of happiness. Every day in the Tribune there is a new article on some actors, actress or athlete that has been arrested for drunkenness or drugs, which they evidently concluded were absolutely necessary in the pursuit of happiness. In the last two days we have had articles on ministers, whether locally or nationally that have fallen because of the pursuit of happiness and pleasure through illicit sex.
Now I am not blaming Lindsay Lohan’s addiction to alcohol on the church. But I am saying there is not yet a clear consistent model from the church on how to attain happiness and joy, that is catching the attention of those outside the church.
God has always willed happiness and joy for His people; but we were never meant to attain it by pursuing it. Our passage for today will make that clear.
The other problem (besides our foolish pursuit of happiness to obtain happiness) that our passage for today demands that we get in touch with is that of complacency, which has greatly diminished our zeal and passion as a people. Webster’s dictionary defines complacency as – “self satisfaction accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.”
Complacency is one of the most dangerous attributes a person can have. It opens us up to failure, and being picked off by the enemy, and keeps us from experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit.
King Solomon put it this way, “For the waywardness of the naive will kill them, And the complacency of fools will destroy them.” Prov. 1:32
A.W Tozer stated, “Complacency is the deadly enemy of spiritual progress. The contented soul is the stagnant soul.”
Our passage for today is Matthew 5:6 Let’s read it and then I would like to share a couple of principles from it.
I. Jesus wants you to walk in blessedness/happiness/joy and satisfaction. That is His clear will for you as seen in every one of these beatitudes, and in the rest of scripture.
It is said of Jesus Christ in Hebrews chapter one that He walked in an anointing from the Father of “gladness above or beyond that of His companions.” Nothing that the enemy threw at Him while He was on earth ever succeeded in robbing Him of that gladness and joy.
Later on in Hebrews chapter 12 it is said of Jesus that “for the joy set before Him – he endured the cross, despised the shame, and as a result sat down victoriously at the right hand of the Father.” One of the most contagious aspects of the life of Jesus Christ while He was on earth was the unshakeable joy He walked in.” We were meant to walk in the same.
A.W. Tozer said of this very real God given need, “Wise leaders should have known that the human heart cannot exist in a vacuum. If Christians are forbidden to enjoy the wine of the Spirit, they will turn to the wine of the flesh for enjoyment. Our teachers took away our right to be happy in God, and the human heart wreaked its terrible vengeance by going on a fleshly binge from which the evangelical church will not recover, if indeed it ever does. Christ died for our hearts and the Holy Spirit wants to come and satisfy them.”
John Piper has gone as far as to say we believers are to be Christian hedonists. His point is that God has always intended for our hearts to be full of joy and deep rooted satisfaction; and it is the enemy of our souls, who has robbed us of that born again birthright.
So how can we experience this happiness and joy that is so crucial for the fulfilling of our destiny in Christ? Well the answer may surprise you. It certainly is not one the world could or would ever come up with.
II. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness 24/7 is the only way to true happiness. Please note the scripture does not say, Blessed, happy, joyful are those who hunger and thirst for happiness;; or for an experience; or even for the Holy Spirit – – rather – – “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”
Why when seeking to build a people and a kingdom culture would Jesus state this principle? Couple of obvious reasons:
1. Complacency is a huge enemy of the people of God; we just naturally settle for less. We somehow have a propensity in the flesh to get comfortable; to get in our safe and secure rut; and stay there. Just help us attain to the middle American lifestyle (where we have our own home and a mini van, and 401 K), and get us to heaven, and keep our kids from getting into trouble, and we are fairly satisfied.
Complacency is a dulling of the spiritual senses; it is a hardening of spiritual arteries that blocks and stifles the very life flow of the Spirit. It is a demonicly inspired attribute that keeps you and me and the church from the fullness that God has always intend3d for us to walk in.
That’s the first reason why this beatitude is so crucial. The second reason is because…
2. Righteousness is not easily attained. Righteousness does not just naturally develop. That is why the apostle Paul commanded Timothy in both of his letters to him to “Pursue righteousness!”
That is why King David cried out to God as a way of life with prayers like: “Acquit me of hidden faults. Also keep back your servant from presumptuous sins.” “Search me o God, and know my heart, try me and know my anxious thoughts, And see if there be any hurtful (unrighteous) way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” “Remove the false way from me, And graciously grant Your law.” “Incline my heart to your testimonies and not to dishonest gain.”
So how does this hungering and thirsting work? A couple of thoughts:
1. Hungering and thirsting starts with prayer – a constant crying out to God to deal with our wandering fickle hearts; and then it requires taking action on whatever the Holy Spirit reveals to us si the right thing to do in any given relationship or situation.
Hungering and thirsting for righteousness is a condition of the heart that longs and yearns and is always on the stretch to please God in every area and circumstance of life.
Well what is righteousness then, and why is it so important? Well in scripture there are two aspects of righteousness. One is the imputed righteousness that is ours when we are born again. When we ask Christ to come into our life; He takes our sin and exchanges it with His righteousness. That is imputed or positional righteousness. That is what enables a holy righteous and just God to look down at us sinners and not reject us because of our sin; but instead to embrace us because of the blood of Jesus that covers our sin. As the apostle Paul said in his second letter to the Corinthian church, “He (that is God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Praise God for this amazing gift of imputed righteousness, that enables us to even think about pursuing practical righteousness. That leads the second aspect of righteousness:
B. Practical Righteousness = the state of being in right relationship with God, your family, your church family, your co-workers, fellow students, neighbors, fellow citizens, authorities in your life, etc. This kind of righteousness is the practical daily outworking of imputed righteousness in the various areas and spheres of our lives.
The opposite of this aspect of righteousness is lawlessness, which is the state of being cold and indifferent to God’s law and the law of the land, and to whatever the Holy Spirit is seeking to speak to you regarding your need to change and be righteous in a given situation or relationship.
For instance, if I got up late this morning, and instead of spending time with God – I decided to read the newspaper while eating my pop tart and drinking my diet coke, and then went and checked my email, and then turned on ESPN to check out how the Dodgers game went, and then went off to work or school – – I am not walking in righteousness with God. Pursuing righteousness with God after such a morning, would require responding to the Holy Spirit’s conviction, confessing my sin to God, and repenting or resolving to put Him first from now on.
What about my family? Well if I (as a young man) borrowed my sisters CD player and left it at my friend’s party the night before, and upon waking up this morning realized I had done that, righteousness would require that I immediately jump in the car or jump on my bicycle and run over there and get it and return it to my sister with an apology. And if it got dirty it would require that I clean it; and if it got broken it would require that I replace it.
What about my church family? Let’s say at the regional potluck last Sunday evening, I offended the host couple by commenting on how wild their children were. While it may be true they were a bit over active, it wasn’t the right time to address it, and my attitude was not one of really wanting to help, as much as it was one of venting frustration and unrighteously judging them. I knew as soon as the words left my mouth, I was wrong, and the Lord was clearly not placed with my words. So righteousness required that I apologize to them and let them know I was sorry for offending them, and that my attitude was not one that was pleasing to the Lord.”
Let me give you a few examples from how the Holy has dealt with my while I have been preparing to preach to you today. Last Friday’s meeting and Dan W. Will, website and elders. Difficult phone call on Saturday that easily could have been put off or ignored altogether.
III. Steps towards hungering and thirsting after righteousness A. Study righteousness. Righteousness is revealed in the scriptures, in the life of Christ, and in the lives of godly men and women. That’s why Paul told the Corinthians “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” We need to be constantly exposed to all three.
B. If the Holy Spirit is telling you to do something or not do something in the pursuit of righteousness, do not let other well meaning Christians talk you out of it. Over the years, I’ve had people tell me I am legalistic, that I have a religious spirit, that nobody is perfect, all because I made the mistake of sharing with them something I felt the Holy Spirit was saying about what I could or couldn’t do, or an adjustment I needed to make in my life. When God the Father told His Son Jesus as recorded in Hebrews 1:9 “You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness above Your companions.” His companions probably at times tried to talk him out of staying up and praying all night; or fasting from breakfast so He could pray longer, or whatever it was. Fortunately Jesus Christ did not listen to Peter’s advice to forget this need to endure the coming suffering of the cross.
Legalism is when the Holy Spirit tells me I cannot have cable t.v., and I turn around and try to make that law for others.
A religious spirit is a spirit that says I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do, or I can do anything I want to do – because we are under grace not the law – and besides we are all sinners – and only God can change people – and God wants us to have fun…etc.
C. Focus on the legitimate motivations given in scripture: 1. happiness/joy 2. satisfied/fulfilled 3. increased anointing per Hebrews 1: “You have loved righteousness, and hated lawlessness, therefore God, Your God has anointed you…The more we pursue righteousness, the more God anoints us.
CONCLUSION – The desire each of you has for happiness and joy and satisfaction and fulfillment is a legitimate desire. It is God given. We weren’t meant to function without it.
But all of us have been to some extent influenced by the world’s way of getting there, which is self indulgence – pursuing happiness, which results in unrighteousness; instead of pursuing righteousness, which results in happiness. When the apostle Paul said in Romans 14 “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” – there is a reason why he put those three things in that order.
Small group prayer