A Dangerous Idea of Blessedness

Matthew 5.1-12

Let’s be honest…Jesus’ idea of blessedness doesn’t fit the ideal of the American dream. Those He lists as blessed are not necessarily the folks we would have picked. He doesn’t list the courageous, the wise, the popular, or the just. Not the the agreeable, the funny, the intelligent, the attractive, or the “it” kind of folks. It’s not the spiritually elite, the I’ve-got-it-all-together crowd, the my-universe-is-running-just-fine-thank-you crew. No…the blessed are those who recognize their desperate need for God and long for the reconciliation of heaven and earth…the kingdom belongs to them.

Welcome to the strange world and wisdom of Jesus. Welcome to His narrow-gate theology that separates the “crowds” who want it all…health and wealth…right now and the “disciples” who are willing to deny themselves, pick up their crosses, and follow Him (cf. 5:1). Welcome to what it means to be “blessed” according to Jesus.

Choosing to follow Jesus…to be a kingdom citizen…is a dangerous proposition that will put you at odds with the kingdoms of this world. Why? Because when you choose to follow Jesus, you begin to live and love like Him. You start to embody kingdom characteristics. The difference in you is going to be obvious to folks around you. You will stand out like a light shining in a dark place. By doing that…by embodying these qualities and living this way, you are bearing the image of God brightly. Pointing people to Him and bringing Him glory. Said another way, if your life reflects the beatitudes, you will force a response from those around you. Some will persecute you and others with give glory to the Father. Both are good things!

So how “blessed” are you? Do you recognize your desperate need for God? Do you mourn over your sin and the brokenness of this world? Do you have a hunger and thirst for God and the things of God? Are you showing the same kind of mercy towards others that you want God to show you? Are you actively pursuing peace with others?

As I said earlier, we never outgrow our need for Jesus. We’re all broken…even those of us who have trusted in Him. One day we will experience complete freedom from sin, but until that day we’re still in process. As Luther put it, “We are saved…we’re being saved…and we will be saved.” We are all addicted to sin…we all have hurts, habits and hang ups that keep us from experiencing the life that God intended for us. But again somehow we’ve convinced ourselves that only the really, really, really broken people need help. You know, those who need Jesus more than we do. But the truth is, we all need help. That’s why the picture of the church as a hospital is so powerful. We all need spiritual healing. And we need each other to help each other to experience it. That doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit is not involved in the process. There is no spiritual transformation…there is no spiritual progress…we can not live and love like Jesus apart from the Spirit’s work in our lives. But as I’ve said it before, discipleship is a group project…it’s a team sport. We’re in it together. Success is not one person crossing the finish line, but “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4.13)

That’s what Celebrate Recovery is all about…about taking off our masks and being real about our brokenness, about bearing one another’s burdens, about encouraging each other to pursue Jesus, about spiritual and emotional healing. It’s a way of discipleship…a step by step process to overcome hurts, habits and hang ups. Now’s a great time to get involved…new year/new you…new opportunity to pursue Jesus.

Jesus’ definition of blessedness is dangerous…but it is true blessedness. It’ living life in the kingdom now. It’s being image-bearers of the King.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we live as kingdom citizens…as those whom the King calls blessed.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Celebrate Recovery series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Easter Devotional – March 1

Psalm 32

Blessed Are the Forgiven

1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,

whose sin is covered.

2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,

and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away

through my groaning all day long.

4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;

my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

5 I acknowledged my sin to you,

and I did not cover my iniquity;

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”

and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

6 Therefore let everyone who is godly

offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;

surely in the rush of great waters,

they shall not reach him.

7 You are a hiding place for me;

you preserve me from trouble;

you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah

8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;

I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

9 Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,

which must be curbed with bit and bridle,

or it will not stay near you.

10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,

but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD.

11 Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous,

and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (www.lockman.org)

Easter Devotional – February 27

Matthew 5:1-12

The Sermon on the Mount; The Beatitudes

When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Here’s a glimpse of possibly a whole new way to live. A way that’s not necessarily popular and definitely not natural. And to top it off we’ve been assured that we’ll be persecuted for it. Any takers?

It seems like this new kingdom of God is full of people who have been through the ringer. People like you and I.

Deep down in our souls is this yearning for our world to be flipped upside down, this yearning for a King to make everything right — to restore order and righteousness. While it’s easy to follow the pattern of the world and be concerned with building our personal kingdoms, Jesus is concerned with our hearts and how we are living for His kingdom. He assures us that although we will face trials and persecution in this life, all will be righted in His kingdom, the Kingdom of heaven.

Which of the beatitudes resonates the loudest with you? In what areas of your life are you experiencing persecution? How are you living for the Kingdom of heaven?

Prayer: Jesus, help me to grasp this new way of living. Help me to follow You and Your ways as I look forward to Your new Kingdom

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (www.lockman.org)

Blessed Are the Faithful

Thoughts About What We’re Reading!

This week, we turn our attention to the book of Ezra

As we start to come to the close of our Old Testament reading, it is important to note the last few books cover a relatively short time span in the history of Israel. 

As we read through Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, it is better to read them with the understanding of how they work together. We know from these books there were at least three returns from Babylon to the land of Israel.

In the book of Ezra, the first six chapters tell the story of the first return of the Jews from captivity led by Zerubbabel – with the primary focus on the rebuilding of the temple.

Ezra chapters 7-10, record events 60 years later when Ezra leads a second group of exiles back to Jerusalem. 

The book of Esther takes place in the period between chapters 6 and 7 of Ezra.

The third return from Babylon is recorded in the book of Nehemiah.

I will write something on the books of Esther and Nehemiah in the weeks to come. 

The events described in Ezra are set in Jerusalem and the nearby surrounding area. This reminds us that the returning exiles were only able to populate a tiny portion of their former homeland. 

The mighty, independent nation of Israel was no more.

In Ezra, we witness the rebuilding of the temple, and see how the returning tribes worked together, sharing common struggles. 

Sixty years go by, spiritual apathy sets in, and it seems we have a stop work order (my words) on the surrounding walls of Jerusalem. Ezra returns a second time with two thousand folks to infuse some energy and we have a spiritual revival!

By the end of the book, we find that Israel has renewed its covenant with God and is acting accordingly.

The Gospel Transformation Bible has this to say about the Book Of Ezra: 

“God’s redemptive plan looms large here, as we see him preserving the people to whom he has given his covenant promises—through Abraham (Gen. 12:1–3) and David (2 Sam. 7:12–17). Those promises were carried through generations of Abraham’s seed and channeled through the tribe of Judah (see Ezra 1:5) until they ultimately culminated in Christ. Ezra shows the merciful continuity of God’s covenant, even for a sinful people punished by exile for their ugly rebellion against God. God’s promises will not fail; they are even more solid and beautiful than all the gold and silver vessels produced here as glorious evidence.”

Once more we are reminded that God keeps His promises and continues to bless those who are faithful to Him. 

Until next time… keep reading!

Jim