Second Reformed Church

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

"Blessed" Sermon: Luke 6:20-31



“Blessed”
[Luke 6:20-31]
November 6, 2016 Second Reformed Church
            Christians are the wealthiest people in the world – whether or not we have material riches in this life.  We ought to be the most satisfied – most fulfilled – people in the world.  We who believe savingly in Jesus are blessed through Him.
            As Paul writes:
            “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— “(Romans 9:22-23, ESV).
            “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him” (Romans 10:12, ESV).
            “and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6-7, ESV).
            “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12-13, ESV).
            Paul tells us as those who have believed savingly in Christ, we are blessed – we have received all the riches of God in Christ Jesus.  And, therefore, we can be satisfied, in Christ, even in times of hunger and other needs.
            This morning we are taking a quick look at Luke’s account of the Beatitudes.
            We see that all those who are in Christ are blessed.
            “And [Jesus] lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
            “’Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
            “’Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
            “’Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
            “’Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
            It is important that we understand that these statements from the mouth of Jesus are for those who believe in Him as their Savior Alone.
            So, when we read that the poor are blessed, Jesus is not saying that everyone who is poor is blessed.  In fact, even if Jesus is talking about the physical possessions of His disciples, when we compare this to Matthew’s account, we see that the Beatitudes are all about the spiritual state of the person being described.
            So, the person who is poor is the person who is aware of his spiritual poverty by the Grace of God – first, that he is a sinner who needs to be forgiven and made right with God, and then that he needs to grow – to mature – to bear fruit and pursue holiness in the Lord.
            Jesus says that such people will inherit the Kingdom of God.  If we are spiritually destitute and know it and come to Jesus in repentance and believe through faith alone, we will be made right with God and God will transform us into the Image of His Beloved Son.  The Restored Kingdom on earth will be ours – our eternal home.
            If we are hungry – not merely hungry for coffee hour and whatever Costco goods there might be – but hungering and thirsting after righteousness – hungry for becoming righteous – holy – perfect under God’s Law and in His sight – out of love for Jesus, our Savior.  If we are such people, we will be satisfied.  God will fill our hunger by making us righteous in that Kingdom we will inherit.  If we hungry and strive to be filled by the means God has given us – His Word, the Sacraments – He will fill us.
            If we weep – and again – this is not just any person who weeps for any reason, but the believer who weeps for his sin – who weeps for the fallenness of the world due to sin – who weeps – longing that Jesus would come and make all things right – restoring the Kingdom eternally.
            If we weep for God – Whom the world hates – if we weep for the Savior – God in the flesh come to save us by His life, death, and resurrection – in the end, we will laugh!  Tears will be wiped away, the Glory of God will be amongst us, all the suffering and sin that we endured and cried over will be as nothing, as we laugh and rejoice and find our comfort in our Savior manifest among us.
            And if we are hated for our faith in Christ –
            Remember what Jesus says, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me” (John 15:18-21, ESV).
            I heard a minister recently make the point that the past two hundred years in the United States have been an anomaly.  The fact that Christians have not been universally persecuted and killed in this country is strange – and it’s not because we were founded as a Christian country – we weren’t.
            Jesus tells us that we ought to expect to be persecuted, we ought to expect to be excluded, we ought to expect to be arrested and beaten and killed for our faith.  It is a strange thing that Christians have gotten along so well in this country – but it seems the tide is changing.  It will be a time to test all those who bear the name Christian, and I am afraid most Americans will renounce that name – they will show that they were never really believers.
            For those of us who stand for Christ and His Gospel – when the time comes – when we are treated as Christians all over the world are already treated – Jesus tells us to rejoice and leap for joy – not because we should enjoy suffering, but because Jesus is so great and our reward is immense in the Kingdom through Jesus.
            If Jesus is our greatest love – if His Gospel is our greatest Truth – if we are known to be His and suffer greatly for it – has not He already suffered more?  Won’t He keep His promise to bring us into His Holy Kingdom?  Should we not rejoice that the world can see that we are His?  Should we not rejoice in the assurance that this gives us of His promises to us?
            All they can do is kill us for the sake of the Gospel.  Jesus will raise us up and perfect us and bring us into His Glory.  The believers who have died before us are waiting with Him to come and see all of the dead raised and the Creation restored to good – very good.
            We who are in Christ – we who believe the Gospel – are blessed – very blessed.
            But, second, those who never believe are damned.
“’But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
            “’Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.
            “’Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
            “’Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.’
            As we noted before, we need to look at these statement in the light of Matthew’s record – seeing that we are primarily dealing with the spiritual side of these things.  Jesus says these are not blessed, but woeful.  These people are wretched, sorrowful, full of grief and anguish.
            The first condemned are the rich.  And Jesus certainly does not mean every rich person, because He has given material wealth to some Christians to use for His Glory.  No, what Jesus is saying here is that those who are obsessed and consumed by their riches – those who measure themselves by the things of the world – the number of toys they have when they die – these people are spiritually destitute – they have received all they will receive.  There is no glorious kingdom for them, because they prefer to live for and accumulate the things of the world.
            Understand, it is not wrong to be rich – or poor for that matter – God has blessed us for the call He has put upon our lives.  But if we use what God has given or not given us merely for ourselves with no thought to the God Who has made us His stewards, we are ungrateful and displeasing in the sight of God.
            Those who are well-fed – those who trust in earthly things, but have no use for God – except, perhaps, as a cosmic bellhop – they will always want more.  They will never be content.  They will never be at peace.  They will always be seeking out just “one more” and they will never get enough.  They will starve in a room full of food.  There is an emptiness – a hunger – that cannot be filled without receiving Jesus.
            Woe to those who laugh at the Gospel – who say it is nonsense.
            I have put several posts on Facebook quoting the Bible and stating that no matter who wins this election, God is our Sovereign King and He places people in office for our blessing and/or punishment.  One of my atheist friends wrote, “hahahahahahaha – no.” 
            Woe to those who find their greatest joy in trivialities of the world.  I have a friend that I have invited to church again and again, and she said she doesn’t want to come – not for any specific reason.  But her joy is going clubbing with her friends.
            Now, I’m sure she has joy in clubbing, but when that is compared with Jesus Christ and His promised to save all we who believe and bring us into His Eternal Kingdom of peace and joy in the perfected Creation – which is greater?
            Even we as Christian settle for less that what Christ has for us – I am not talking about the health and wealth heresy – Jesus promises us suffering and hatred, not a new BMW.
            C. S. Lewis writes, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased” (http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/702-it-would-seem-that-our-lord-finds-our-desires-not).
            And woe to those whom everyone speaks well of.  These are the people who don’t care about the truth, but seek their own advancement through being flatterers, suck-ups, brown-nosers, seeking their own glory – not the glory of Jesus Christ – the Living God.  These are people who will do anything and say anything to make themselves look better and get more – praise, money, honor, and so forth.
            Jesus says, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12, ESV).
            Those who spend their life, flattering others to lift themselves up, will be brought down by God.
            As God says, “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols” (Isaiah 42:8, ESV).
            In the end, God will take His Glory by force.
            Those who never believe are damned; those who fill themselves with the things and power and position in this world to the deficit of faith in Jesus Christ are damned.
            Finally, those who are blessed bless the world in the Name of Jesus Christ.
            “’But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.’”
            The scribes taught that believers are to love their neighbors and hate their enemies, but Jesus says that is all wrong:  we who believe are to love our enemies – that they might receive the Gospel, we are to do good to those who hate us – that they might receive the Gospel, we are to bless those who curse us – that they might receive the Gospel, we are to pray for those who abuse us – that they might receive the Gospel.
            That’s not how we naturally respond, is it?  If someone wrongs us in some way, we might just avoid them or ignore them – at best – or we might seek vengeance – at worse.  But our first thought is not, how can I turn this situation around and show them Who Jesus is that they might believe.
            There is a woman in my complex who has been consistently inconsiderate, and the one time I talked with her, she was rude.  Now, my first – and sinful – response, was to think I should get an air horn to blow when she is being inconsiderate.  But I know nothing about this woman – and my duty as a Christian is to love her and to reach out to her with the Gospel.  I repent of my sin and I am praying I will find a way to talk with her – and even invite her to worship with us.
            Our place is not to take vengeance – but to be those who proclaim the Glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.
            Paul writes, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:14-21, ESV).
            Jesus continues by saying we are to turn the other cheek and to give up our tunics.  Does that mean we should allow people to abuse us?  It means that we are to have an attitude of love – not hate – for the sake of the Gospel.
            I have a friend who has been in an abusive relationship for years.  She has finally, courageously, filled charges against this man, and he is going to trial.  I have reassured her that she should not be abused – he has no right to ever harm her.  And, I have urged her to pray for him, that he would repent of his sin and become a well human being and come to faith in Jesus through her witness to him in this way.
            Then Jesus says we are to give to everyone who asks and to not ask that people who steal from us return what they steal.
            Jesus is not saying that every time anyone asks us for anything we have to give it to them.  And Jesus is not saying that every time someone steals from us we should just say, “Oh, well.”  Jesus is not saying we should be open to abuse or being a doormat.
            What Jesus is saying is there are times when it is right to forego our rights.  We have the right to earn money and keep our money and the things we buy with that money.  But there are times, for the sake of the witness of the Gospel that we decline to claim our rights.
            Like what?
            I don’t have a good example for you of this.  All I can say is that Jesus is the Owner of everything in all of Creation, and when He returns and brings us into the fullness of His Kingdom, we will inherit everything in all of Creation as co-hers with Him.  So, we really lose nothing, and a person’s soul is worth more than anything we have in our wallets.
            This section ends with Jesus saying whatever we would like others to do to us is what we should do to them.
            Most people would like other people to be kind and generous and helpful to them – isn’t that what you would like?  So, Jesus says that we who believe are to be distinct in our conduct – we are to be a people who – as a witness to the Gospel – are to seek to be kind and generous and helpful to everyone else.  As the Church, we are to pride ourselves as being people who – for the sake of Jesus and His Gospel – in thanksgiving to Jesus for His Gospel – seek to do everything we can to make everyone else’s life better.
            We are to be a people who – when asked why we do what we do – are able to answer that we do these things because we love Jesus and are thankful to Him for His Gospel through which we are saved – and we want to be able to tell them about Jesus and pray that they will also believe in Him for their salvation.
            Good things and bad things happen to everyone – that shows us that the world is broken due to sin – and that God is merciful to us.  But God has promised all we who believe that we are blessed and will be received into the riches and glory of the Kingdom on that final day.  Those people who believe that “making it” in this world is the be all and end all of everything are deceived – they are unbelievers who will be damned if they do not receive salvation through Jesus Alone before they die.
            And so we are called to be different.  We are called in a world of “I’m number one” and “I deserve it” to be a people who reach out in love – helping everyone – looking for opportunities to tell people that God came to earth in the person of Jesus, lived a perfect life, died for our sin, and physically rose from the dead and ascended back to His throne – and if you believe that – you will be blessed now and for all of eternity.
            Let us pray:
Almighty God, You have made us new creatures through Your Son.  You are transforming our minds and making us into the Image of Your Son.  Help us to see the incomprehensible blessings that You have given us and continue to shower down upon us.  Make us stand out as people of the Way – those who have believed in Your Son’s Gospel.  Let people see that we are different. Make us be known to be a people who are always reaching out, always caring, always seeking the best for others, always ready to talk about our beautiful Savior.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

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