In Luke 13:24 Jesus says, "Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able." With this statement, Jesus is begging us to put all of our effort into following him, obeying him, seeking him, or as he said in the fourth beatitude......to hunger and thirst for him. This Sunday, we will continue our series in the beatitudes as we ask the question, "In our pursuit of God, what does it mean to hunger and thirst?"
Discovering Christ for the very first time is the absolute greatest achievement of your life. But it is not enough to discover Him just once. Discovering Him needs to be an ongoing journey of seeking Him more, knowing Him more and becoming more and more like Him everyday. I like the word strive in referring to this pursuit of God. The Greek word for strive used in Luke 13:24, means to struggle, to fight, or as Paul said in Philippians 3, "straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." In a little over a week from now, many of us will watch, riveted, as Olympic athletes battle for the gold. They will strive for the prize that has consumed them for the last 4 years. They hunger and thirst for gold. Do we hunger for the things of Jesus with the same intensity as an Olympic athlete? Spiritual hunger is the characteristic of all those who claim to follow Jesus.
Now that we have a better idea of what it truly means to "hunger and thirst", what does it mean to hunger and thirst for righteousness? Righteousness in the Bible has at least two aspects. The first aspect speaks to our salvation and the recognition that the penalty for our sins has been paid for through the blood of Jesus. The second aspect of righteousness refers to our inner righteousness of heart, mind and motive. Once the blood of Jesus has satisfied our hunger for salvation, it then shifts to sanctification and a desire to increase in holiness. This hunger and thirst for right living is a perpetual characteristic of a disciple of Jesus that will not be satisfied until we reach heaven. Revelation 7:16-17 says, "they will hunger no more, neither thirst no more....for the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd and he will guide them to springs of living water." This is what Jesus meant when he said that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied. Satisfaction will come once we gather together around the throne of our Heavenly Father.
There is perhaps no greater measuring stick of the progress in Christian living than one's spiritual appetite. It is not enough to recognize our spiritual poverty and mourn over our past sins; we must also hunger for future righteousness. Join us this Sunday as we gather around God's banquet table and don't forget to bring your appetite.
See you Sunday.
As we continue looking at the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, our focus shifts from our personal relationship with God to how this relationship manifests itself with others. Matthew 5:5 reads, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth".
Unlike the first two Beatitudes that deal with a person's recognition of their need for a Savior, this third Beatitude has to do with other people. While it is still true that being meek has a relationship to God, a person's meekness is especially toward his fellowmen. You are not simply meek within yourself; your meekness is manifest in how you deal with others. You would never speak of a hermit, who never interacted with others, as being meek; the only way in which you could prove whether he is truly meek would be to put him with those who would test his character.
As we consider this hermit and how he might react to being suddenly thrust into society, what are some ways that his meek spirit might manifest itself?
1. He is humble. He does not seek out positions of leadership, nor does he see himself as superior to others. He is not easily angered or frustrated by others, as he only seeks to serve and display grace and mercy. I Timothy 1:15-16 is a great example of humility.
2. He is gentle. Notice I didn't say, "He is weak". Having a gentle spirit does not mean you are weak and have no back-bone. Being gentle in spirit means you are quick to listen and slow to speak. You are seen as a person that someone who is hurting can talk with and not feel judged or condemned. Jesus modeled this daily as he served the outcasts and sinners.
3. He is patient and forgiving of others who have wronged him. In addition to being humble and gentle, the meek are patient in dealing with others. Even though they may get angry towards someone for a moment, they quickly forgive and move on, choosing not to dwell on the sins of others.
4. He is content. He is satisfied with what God provides for him. However, he is not lazy, he is passionate about using his God-given talents to find for himself a position in which he can do more good, but he is not unrestful, anxious, or grasping. His is contented and thankful.
Put these four qualities--humble, gentle, patient and forgiving, content--together with being submissive and flexible before God and you have someone who is meek. The very opposite of someone who is proud, harsh, angry and revengeful.
While we are all good-tempered while we have our own way, true meekness, which is a work of grace, will stand the test of pride, greed, persecution, division, cruelty and being wronged. Think of what Christ endured on his way to the cross....a perfect portrait of meekness.
See you Sunday.
I want to remind you that this Sunday is the last day to submit nominations for church council, personnel and legal committee. We are needing to fill 3 positions on our church council, one position on our legal committee and 2 positions on our personnel committee. Nominations can be submitted using the nomination form located at the Welcome Center or online at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your faithfulness to the needs of our church.
This Sunday, we will continue our series in the Beatitudes. The beatitude we will be looking at this week is, "Blessed at those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." To mourn your sins is a natural outflow of being poor in spirit. This second beatitude should naturally follow the first. But that doesn't always happen. Because of all the paths to joy, this one has to be the strangest. True blessing, Jesus says, begins with deep sadness. Joy comes through mourning. Freedom through surrender and liberty through confession. Blessed are those who know they are in trouble and have enough sense to admit it. Just like with the first beatitude, until we come to realize our need for Jesus, we will never truly experience happiness and joy. As long as we treat Jesus as one of many options, he is no option. And as long as you can take him or leave him, you might as well leave him, because he won't be taken half-heartedly.
But when you mourn, when you begin to show sorrow for your sins, when you admit that you have no other option but to cast all your cares on Jesus, that's when Jesus opens up his arms and says, "Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me--watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." (Matthew 11:28-30 The Message)
Join us Sunday and experience Jesus!
Last week, we kicked-off a new series titled, Believe.....Think, Act and Be Like Jesus. For the next few weeks, we will focus our attention on the second word of this phrase......Think. How did Jesus think? What drove his thoughts?
To help us better understand the answer to these questions, we will be looking at the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5:1-12. The ultimate point of these verses is that these truths should result in rejoicing and an overwhelming happiness. However, as you read these verses, it seems paradoxical doesn't it? As you read these words of Jesus, they don't exactly fit with our view of happiness do they. Jesus says that happy people are poor in spirit, they mourn, they hunger and thirst and are ultimately persecuted. To this, your first response might be, "Hey, wait a minute! I'm not sure I want that kind of happiness. In fact, it sounds more like misery than joy. How does happiness come out of misery?" Join us for the next few weeks as we explore the phrase, "Happy are the......"
Also, it's that time of year, where we nominate new church leaders. This year, we are needing to fill three positions on our church council, along with positions on our legal and personnel committees. Nominations can be submitted using the nomination form located at the Welcome Center or online at email@example.com. Nominations will be accepted through Sunday, January 15th.
Finally, since the end of October, our worship services have been led by Norm and Avery, who is the Lead Pastor for Common Ground and an accomplished worship leader. As we head into a new year, I wanted to let you know that I have asked Norm and Avery to continue to share the role of leading worship for us at least through the end of February. They have agreed to share in this role and I am excited to see where God takes us under their leadership. Please continue to pray for Avery and Norm as they will be working together to build upon and improve our current worship experience.
See you Sunday.