Monday, June 25, 2012

Blessed are they...

6/24/12  FBCRB

“Blessed are they…”  Matt. 5:1-12

One of the great things about being in Nicaragua was getting to spend time with some other pastors and preachers.  The vast majority of people that went on the trip were not pastors or preachers but my friend Scott was there.  He’s a pastor in east Texas.  And Jody Kennedy was there, of course.  He’s a missionary and he preached several times.  And since we were based in a Baptist church, that pastor was obviously there and I got to hear him preach a couple of times.  His name is Pastor Ervin and he can’t speak much English but for me as a preacher it was still interesting just to see his style and how he led the congregation.

You see, I love to do what I do.  I love to preach and love to pastor.  I love to be around y’all.  I thank God all the time for allowing me to have what doesn’t even seem to me to be a “job”.  I love to hear other preachers and I often glean from their style, their content or their passion or knowledge.  I’ll never have the knowledge or quiet confidence of Charles Stanley.  I’ll never have the organization or ability to express myself like Adrian Rogers.  I’ll never be Billy Graham or Charles Spurgeon.  That’s not who God made me to be and that’s ok.  But I love to hear those guys and study them and what they say and how they lead.

I love to hear my dad preach and have gotten more from him than anybody but lately I have been studying another preacher who I find fascinating.  In His day He was quite controversial but he could sure draw the crowds.  He never had a church of His own but He often had to preach where thousands could hear Him.  He was the best illustrator of a sermon ever even though He never fell down or wore a funny hat to illustrate anything like…some people.  He was usually fairly soft-spoken but still had people on the edge of their seats as they listened.  He rarely used big, fancy words and believe it or not, He never even went to the Seminary.  Not everybody liked Him but everybody agreed He spoke with great wisdom and understanding even as a young man.

In your Bibles, turn to Matthew chapter 5 where the greatest preacher who ever lived preached what is considered to be the greatest sermon ever preached.  Matthew 5:1-12 contains the words of Jesus as He sat on the side of a gently sloping hill near the Sea of Galilee.  And before we read the text I want you to envision the scene.  We don’t know what Jesus looked like or what He was wearing but we know from scripture that there was nothing about how he looked that would draw people to Him.  He wasn’t good-looking or unusually tall or short.  He didn’t wear nice clothes or ride the nicest donkey in town.  And yet the people saw in Him something that attracted them.

Yes, he performed miracles, healing the sick, blind and lame and I’m sure a lot of people wanted to see Him do more of that but in this passage He is not healing anybody or performing any kind of miracle.  He is simply speaking the truth.  And if there is any characteristic of Jesus the preacher that I hope to emulate it is that.  I pray that God, more than anything, would show me what is truth and give me the boldness to preach it! 

We don’t know how many people are hearing Jesus this day but it says that large crowds were following Him.  They would follow Him around everywhere He went and when He would stop and sit down they knew He was about to speak and teach truth because in those days that is how scholars would teach.  They would sit down and the people would gather around to hear.

This area is fairly rocky around the Sea of Galilee and I envision Jesus found a rock He could sit on where He could be seen and heard by the most people and as He did, He said these words:   starting in verse 3.

These words continue to be controversial even today.  Sometimes you may hear somebody say they just live their lives according to the Sermon on the Mount.  I want to say, “Do you now?  That’s big talk.”  Some others might claim one of the Beatitudes as “their Beatitude”.  Because they are poor or because they mourn they say they are claiming a certain one of these.  I don’t believe that is correct thinking either.  On the other hand, some scholars would tell you that these are sort of Jesus’ wish list.  He doesn’t really expect us to live up to these.  But it would be nice.

As a preacher I can tear this sermon apart pretty quick based on form.  Every good preacher knows you need 3 points and a poem.  He doesn’t have that.  He doesn’t have an outline.  He has no notes.  He doesn’t start off with a joke to get people’s attention.  And as good an illustrator as He was there is no illustration.  I’m sorry but if He turned this in to the seminary preaching class I don’t think it would even pass.

So, what is it about this sermon that has been so compelling for thousands of years?  I believe it is because it touches on the very basic need we all have to want to be happy, to have joy in our lives, to be content and fulfilled.  That’s what the word “blessed” means.  It means to be fortunate or to have everything that you need.

Brian Amerman used a phrase several times as we studied the Purpose Driven Life Book on Wednesday nights.  He used the phrase “counter-cultural” to describe how our lives should be.  That should be part of our purpose as Christians and followers of Jesus, to be different than the culture in which we live.

Back in the 60’s and 70’s that term came to describe hippies and so-called “free-thinkers” who had mottoes like, “Drop out, drop in and drop acid” or “Make love not war”.  These people were tired of the status quo.  They weren’t content with just getting a job, getting married, having kids and retiring just before they died.  They wanted something more and that kind of thinking could actually be exciting to us because if fully developed and fulfilled, that thinking would ultimately lead them to Jesus but even as it did those people would see the church as the gateway to Jesus but then see that the church was just like every other institution.  And because the people in the church looked and acted just like the rest of the world, those free-thinkers just turned on, turned off and turned away.

Some people read these words and see the value in them as the path to Heaven.  They may see each one of these sentences as a rung to be climbed on our way to the Promised Land.  They start with the first one and try to be real poor in spirit, whatever that means to them, and then they try to work their way to the end and figure if they do all these things that Jesus says to do then surely that’s how you have eternal life.  Surely that is the secret to getting to Heaven.

In fact, it says right there in the first one that if you are poor then you go to Heaven, right?  Well, we are going to look at these a little closer next week.  This week is just the introduction but I can tell you that is not what is being said here by Jesus.  He is not saying this is how to get to Heaven.  He is also not saying to pick one or two and just hang on.  He is not saying He hopes you can kinda sorta live this way if you want to but He really knows it’s impossible.

Jesus is saying that when you follow Him and allow His Spirit to work in your life and live in your heart that you will be all these things and that ultimately it makes you just like Him!  He doesn’t promise that we will never be persecuted or that we will not have hard times or that life will always be fair.  He says that through all of these things, you can be blessed.  You can have everything you need.

He says you will be comforted.  You will be shown mercy.  You will be fulfilled.  You will be rewarded.  Some of these promises are for here on earth and some we won’t see until we see Jesus face to face.  But this is the secret to living a life that is counter-cultural.  This is the secret to living a life that looks like Jesus.  From the very beginning that has been God’s plan.  In Genesis 1:26, God said let us make man in our image.  In Romans 8:29 God says that we are to be conformed to the likeness of His Son.  God wants us to look like Jesus.  Not that there will be anything physically attractive about us but that others will see truth in us just as they did as they saw Jesus preach that day.

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