Monday, November 26, 2012

Sermon on Deuteronomy 26:1-11 & Luke 12:13-21, for Thanksgiving Eve, "In our hand!"


Sermon Outline:
·         Responsive OT reading: festival of Pentecost, bring basket of grain and spoke the recitation. Firstfruits. Confession of God’s fulfilled promises—in the promised land. All blessings from the hand of the Lord. Training them to lift up their hands to God, so they see where the blessing comes from, and to return a portion to Him as a reminder that it all belongs to Him.
·         Learning giving as a child: first money placed in your hand—offering. Then from your allowance; chores. Really the money was never ours in the first place, but our parents put it in our hands to teach us giving, and we in turn used our hands to give back to God. In a similar way, does not God put all our blessings in our hands? Whether purely receiving as a young child who did nothing for it, or through the work and labor of our hands, as in a child doing their chores, God is ultimately the giver and supplier of everything we have and possess. Both cases: learning to handle what does not finally belong to us. We realize our ownership or possession of anything--even our body and life ultimately depends on God!
·         The rich fool in the Gospel lesson learned his lesson the hard way, when he mistakenly concluded that everything he had belonged to him. When it came to deciding how to handle this great wealth that was entrusted to him, “me, myself, and I” were the only people participating in his self-centered conversation. Blindly thinking no one else (and particularly not God) had any claim to his wealth, he determined to sit on his pile of wealth and keep it all for himself. His sharp jolt back to reality came when God called him into judgment and required his soul of him. What then of his great possessions? Jesus went on to teach, “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
·         Danger of having blessings in our hand without recognizing where they come from. Preoccupation. Ingratitude. Greed. Jealousy. Thanklessness. Entitlement.
·         Repentance and forgiveness. God changes Thanklessness to Thankfulness. Compassion. Gratitude. Generosity. Reorientation through the Holy Spirit.
·         “The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles” by Julie Andrews. This stuck with me: in the story, nobody ever looked up, but only down at the ground all the time. The quote: “Have you noticed how nobody ever looks up? Nobody looks at chimneys, or trees against the sky, or the tops of buildings. Everybody just looks down at the pavement or their shoes. The whole world could pass them by and most people wouldn't notice.”
·         In that same thought, we so often walk around discouraged and downcast, both literally and figuratively, eyes to the ground, glum about our circumstances. And the whole world could pass us by and we wouldn’t notice. Or God pours blessings down on us, and we never look up to realize it, or our problems become so large in our focus that we’re blinded to His hand reaching down, and filling ours.
·         While giving thanks might begin with some coaxing and reminding, it can only flow freely and spontaneously as we begin to see the Hand of God, the Giver. As He richly and daily supplies all that we need to support this body and life, and that He does it only out of His fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in us. For all this it is our duty to thank and to praise, to serve and obey Him. Still greater spiritual blessings: Jesus redeemed us, lost and condemned under the power of sin and death. His innocent suffering and death purchased our redemption. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to these gifts, creates within us the knowledge of our Good and Gracious Giver, and deepens our appreciation for these gifts more and more until our thankfulness and praise flows spontaneously and sincerely from the heart. Recognizing all that God has poured down into our hands, we conclude with our own recitation, modeled after Deuteronomy 26, of how God has blessed us in Christ Jesus.
·        Pastor: So let’s look up today, refocus our eyes from our hands and our feet, up to the gracious hand of God, our Giver, and remember how He has blessed us.
·        Congregation: Our fathers came out of many nations, and we are Gentiles, who were once separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. We were dead in the trespasses and sins in which [we] once walked. Out of [our] distress [we] called on the Lord; the Lord answered [us] and set [us] free. But now in Christ Jesus [we] who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.  And he came and preached peace to [us] who were far off and peace to those who were near.  For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. And according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. He who called [us] is faithful, and He will surely do it. And so we present [our] bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, which is [our] spiritual worship, and continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. (adapted from Eph 2:1-2; 11-18; Psalm 118:5; 2 Peter 3:13; 1 Thess. 5:24; Rom. 12:1; Heb. 13:15)
·        Pastor responds: And you shall [give thanks] before the Lord your God and worship before the Lord your God. And you shall rejoice in all the good that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house, you, and [all those who live] among you. (adapted from Deuteronomy 26:10-11)

Sermon on Jude 20-25, for the Last Sunday of the Church Year, "Presented Blameless"



Sermon Outline:
·         Jude, half-brother of our Lord. Contend for the faith. False teachers arising. Lawlessness, sensuality, perverting the grace of Christ.
·         20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit… To know true from false we must know what the true faith is. How to recognize a fraud? Be intimately familiar with the original, genuine, authentic article. Build yourselves up in the true faith. Take advantage of Bible studies offered; dig in the Word; ask questions; discuss; read; pray in the Holy Spirit for understanding and test your knowledge against the Word; fellowship—not alone (greater temptation to error).
·         Then we will be able to contend; to guard against false teaching. Watchfulness. Not blind to the danger of error—can lead to shipwrecking our faith; stir up doubts and wavering; fall into sin and temptation.
·         21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. Remain in the faith and love of God—know that Jesus’ mercy leads to eternal life. Not our own way, or own strength. Patience, grace, perseverance.
·         After guarding and strengthening yourself, help rescue others. Prey for the false teachers. Victims; fallen into sin, temptation, judgment. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. Three groups: doubting, those in the fire, and those who are dangerous, but still need mercy.
·         Hard to find certainty amid competing voices. Voices heard: “There is no truth; your truth is as good as mine; nothing is real; question everything; etc.” Even among Christians opinions diverge widely. Can nothing be said with certainty? Must we all be doubters and skeptics, taking nothing for certain? Jude describes the false teachers as relying on dreams and as waterless clouds swept along by the winds. Brother James described doubters like the waves of the sea tossed by the wind. Paul says the same, that if we are not grounded in true doctrine, we’ll be like children “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14). Luther in his time said: “The Holy Spirit is no Skeptic, and it is not doubts or mere opinions He has written on our hearts, but assertions more sure and certain than life itself and all experience.”
·         Gentleness, patient teaching, loving encouragement to the doubters. Prayer in the Spirit: “Give us more faith!” Mercy, understanding.
·         Save others by snatching them out of the fire. Firefighter rescuing those in danger. Fishers of men—firefighters? Fire is judgment; left in sin, we’re skirting judgment, playing with fire. Battling a forest fire, a firebreak is often burned in advance, to stop the encroaching flames. Snatching others out of the fire, as though we stand in the firebreak, in the clearing, pulling others to safety. Jesus “pre-burned” a safe zone for us by facing God’s judgment at the cross. (Matt Hilpert). Snatched from the fire into the shelter of Jesus Christ. Those already snared in false teaching, left the church, left the faith, need to be pulled back to safety.
·         To others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. The dangerous. Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Gal. 6:1. Show mercy with fear? Fear of falling into sin ourselves. One student wrote Prof. Eschelbach—didn’t like the word “fear” in the Bible. Response:
This word for “fear” occurs 178 times in the Bible. Whether we like it or not, the importance of the term cannot be dismissed. On the other hand, a person’s dislike of the word is probably a consequence of misuse in our time rather than any problem inherent in the word itself. The word “fear” means to have an honest and accurate perception of the forces to which we are subject and upon which we depend.  A person is right to be afraid of dehydration or starvation. A person is prudent who fears dangerous neighborhoods after dark. More importantly, fear does not exist in isolation, especially not in reference to God. While the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” the mercy of the Lord is upon those who fear Him (Proverbs 1:7; Luke 1:50).
·         Fear can be useful to protect; survival. Keep from recklessness, foolhardiness. But watch lest fear turn to cowardice; freeze us to inaction; or despair! Fear eventually must be replaced by love; from discipline to self-control and wisdom. Some are hard to help—danger to be pulled into sin yourself. But show mercy! Even the hard-headed and lost need patience and mercy. Us too!
·         Concludes with a beautiful doxology: 24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Only One is able to guide us through life, so we make it. Keep us from stumbling in sin, falling from our faith. Sets our feet back on solid ground—Jesus. If any doubts—pray in the Spirit, study the Word. If rescued from sin, give thanks and keep watch! If defiled and shamed from sin that has stained you, grab hold of His mercy! Take the clean garment of forgiveness He spreads over you in baptism. He alone presents you blameless. Presented blameless? After all I’ve done? Yes, Christ so loves His church, that He gave Himself up for her, dying on the cross, so He “might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”(Eph. 5:26-27).
·         Joy, confidence, to face the Judgment. Blameless because of Jesus’ shed blood for our forgiveness. All glory, majesty, dominion, and authority be to Him forever and ever!

Sermon Talking Points
Read past sermons at:   http://thejoshuavictortheory.blogspot.com
Listen to audio at:   http://thejoshuavictortheory.podbean.com

1.      Read the 25 verses of the Book of Jude. The author of this short letter was the brother of James (cf. Jude 1 & James 1:1) and they both were the half-brothers of Jesus (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; 1 Corinthians 9:5). The book is very similar to parts of 2 Peter.

2.      What was Jude’s purpose in writing? Vs. 3-4. What kind of people had crept into the church, and what false teaching were they spreading in it? See vs. 4, 8, 13, 16, 18, 19. How does one distinguish false teaching within the church, from the truth? Acts 17:11; 1 Thess. 5:21; 1 John 4:1

3.      How does he encourage the embattled Christians to strengthen themselves against the false teachings? V. 20-21.

4.      Jude also calls them to be active in helping those who have fallen victim to false teachings, or fallen into doubt. What should our attitude and approach be toward those who doubt? V. 22; Luke 24:36-40; Ephesians 4:2; 2 Timothy 4:2.

5.      How should we help those who have already given into temptation and are facing judgment, or who have defiled themselves and are filled with guilt or shame? V. 23; Galatians 6:1-2; James 5:19-20; Amos 4:11; Zechariah 3:2.

6.      How do verses 24-25 show that Jesus is uniquely able to save and protect us? What does it mean for us to be presented blameless before Him? Romans 8:1; Ephesians 5:25-27. How does this give us confidence to face the judgment? How shall we rejoice, now and into eternity?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sermon on 1 Kings 17:8-16, for the 24th Sunday after Pentecost, "God's Provision"


·         Widow at Zarephath—hard for most of us to approach the severity and desperation of her situation. Any of us who has more than a dollar to our name would be better off than her. No safety-net, social programs. Poverty in the extreme. “End of her rope.” “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” At the needed hour, at the last hour for help, God provided the answer for her need.
·         Have you ever felt “at the end of your rope?” Perhaps very few of us could compare our financial situation to the widow’s desperate need—but have you been down and out, brokenhearted, or despairing? The help you needed seemed nowhere to be found?
·         We are reminded by the Bible that Jesus came to help just such people. Raised the son of the widow at Nain; praised the faith of the widow who cast her last two mites in the treasury; healed the sick and the outcasts; proclaimed the Good News to the poor and the oppressed. Psalm 34:17-18 says: “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
·         God is not far from our sufferings; wants us to know He hears and is near to rescue. Faith looks to and cries for His rescue, even when no help seems near. Jesus is the refuge for those at the end of their rope. All hope seems to be gone. But God meets us in our sufferings. He promises us that “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15). Or as the prophet Isaiah spoke of Him: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” Jesus knew suffering, grief, and facing a seemingly hopeless situation all too well.
·         His suffering and death on the cross brought Him to the most extreme point of human suffering and seeming futility, as an innocent man suffered for the sins of the world. And yet there He laid down His life in confident trust that God would save Him. He passed through death and the grave before God delivered Him and raised Him from the dead.
·         His death and resurrection show us the truth of His promise that nothing, not even life or death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. The widow was not raised out of poverty by the miraculous provision of flour and oil—but God provided enough for her to survive the effects of the famine. The flour and oil did not run out till the famine—the source of their desperation—had passed. But through her neediness, God provided more than just a physical meal for her and her hungry son, but also drew her into a deep and profound trust in God. Likewise through our neediness, in times when we cry out for God’s help, He draws us nearer to trust in Him. To believe that He will “give us this day our daily bread,” and to be content with that.
·         God sent Elijah to her when she was in greatest need—but he also was in need of her help. Not approaching from a position of power and plenty to help her, but one of mutual need. Mutual help. Opened the door for the Word of God to enter her family and change her life.
·         Can such a position of weakness or need actually be a benefit? Both for the giver and the receiver? Church is accustomed to approaching from a position of power or influence in its ability to help. Yet today, many lament the Church seems to be losing its voice or influence in society.
·         What does it mean for the Church in America that perceives itself as weakened and losing ground? Are we truly weakened, and was it “strength” to have the position we once held? Should we bemoan a seeming decrease of influence? Or should we face the challenge of our times with bold hope, like Queen Esther, whose cousin Mordecai reminded her that she may have been put in her position “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:15). Is the apparent “weakness” of the church part of God’s plan to enable it to serve better? We cannot know for sure the reasons for God’s plan, but we do know that weakness is not a hindrance to God’s working, but rather the way in which His power reveals itself through us (2 Cor. 12:9). God’s power is made perfect in weakness. Perhaps, as the theologian Kenneth Bailey has suggested, we might be even better able to serve from such a position of weakness than one of strength, because like the story of the widow, it puts us in a position of mutual need and ability to help. And when this happens, it both breaks the cycle of our pride as ‘givers’ and the humiliation of those who are ‘receivers’—because they in turn are able to help. The widow fed Elijah—the woman at the well gave Jesus water to drink—but in return God provided for their needs both physically and spiritually.
·         What can we take away from this passage? At the end of our rope? God is our refuge. “Oh what peace we often forfeit; Oh what needless pain we bear; all because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer.” Take your troubles, needs to Him. Learn that weakness is not an obstacle to God’s help, but may be the open door through which it comes. Be generous in all circumstances, so your hands are not closed to God’s blessings—and know that God’s provision for us in a time of need will be enough. Jesus knows our hardship, griefs, suffering all too well, and He has promised that none of them can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. The cross of Jesus stands as the hope of all the brokenhearted who discover that God is near to them in Christ Jesus, and as the promise that even through the greatest weakness and humiliation God can make His power and rescue made known. God is able and willing to help those who trust in Him. Pray with me in the words of Psalm 34: “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.” Lord, you have promised that if we look to you we will never be ashamed—help us in every time of trouble, and give us the confidence to look always to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
Read past sermons at:   http://thejoshuavictortheory.blogspot.com
Listen to audio at:   http://thejoshuavictortheory.podbean.com

  1. Zarephath was not a Jewish town, and God’s sending Elijah there showed God’s love for the Gentiles as well. How was this an offense to the crowds centuries later when Jesus referred to this story in Luke 4:25-26? How did Jesus show them that God came not only for the Jews?

  1. How was the widow “at the end of her rope?” 1 Kings 17:12. How had things come to such a desperate situation? In what ways are we distant from her circumstances? In what ways might we come to a similar point of desperation, whether financial need or otherwise? Have you ever felt that you were “at the end of your rope?”

  1. What can we learn from the way in which Elijah and the widow with her son, were mutually needy? How were they both positioned to help each other, yet also in need of the other? Why might this position of apparent weakness actually be in service of reaching others with the Gospel, compared to coming from a position of power or superiority? Compare to other Biblical examples: John 4:1-15; Mark 6:8-9; Luke 5:1-3.

  1. How did God bless the widow’s generosity and trust? How is God a refuge for the poor and brokenhearted? Psalm 16; 46:1-3; 34:15-19.

  1. Why can we be confident that God’s provision for us will always be enough? Matthew 6:25-34; Psalm 37:25-26. What does God promise He will provide there? How do we simultaneously face the temptation of expecting or demanding too much?

  1. Why is Jesus the only true refuge when our sins leave us at the end of our rope, and when we are brokenhearted or despairing of all hope? What is the spiritual comfort of knowing who God is and His love for us?

Monday, November 05, 2012

Sermon on Matthew 5:6, for All Saints' Day, "Hungry and Thirsty for Righteousness"


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

Are you hungry? How hungry? Just need a snack to take the edge off your hunger? Or do you have a total starving hunger for a real feast? What kind of meal will you find here at Emmanuel Lutheran Church? The food on the menu is not the kind you will find elsewhere, and the eating is a little different from what you’re used to. You drink through your skin and your ears, and you eat with your ears and mouth, and you digest with your heart and mind. The 1st Course was served in confession and absolution—you come with a bag of spoiled food—sins, wrongs, hurts, guilt and shame. We dumped it out in confession, laying that sin and guilt before God, until we had an empty sack. The heart and mind growls and aches from emptiness. Not the kind of hunger pains you’re used to. It’s a longing for things to be right again, a sadness about the wrongs you’ve done, or the hurts you’ve suffered, or the brokenness you’ve witnessed in the world. A hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness to fill the world, to fill us and to fill others. That the world would know God.
Your conscience feels this hunger, those pangs for the world to be set right—to see justice, love, and mercy take hold, in place of injustice, hatred, and cruelty. So with our empty sack, we come and receive the first course of God’s feast in the absolution. With words spoken into our ears, you drink in Christ’s forgiveness of all your sins by His death on the cross and resurrection. Having repented and taken refuge in Him, He now stands between you and the judgment your sins demand. It’s not the first time you’ve had this refreshment. Your thirsty heart drinks in the Word through your ears as you’re renewed and refreshed in that water that first splashed over your skin in your baptism. Baptism, where Jesus first poured out a cleansing flood of forgiveness on you, a wet and spiritual cleansing where your dirty soul was washed from the inside out, and God granted you a clean conscience through Jesus Christ.
Absolution, or the pastor’s pronouncement of Christ’s forgiveness, is a return to your baptism. It’s a reclaiming of the forgiveness that first washed over you in baptism, and remains yours by faith in Jesus Christ. It’s an enduring relationship, like a marriage sealed with a vow and marked by the exchange of rings. God has sealed His name on your forehead, and marked you as His own child. When sin threatens to interfere with our relationship with God, Christ washes our slate clean again through repentance and forgiveness. So this “drink” of baptism, being washed in Jesus, who is the Living Water, is given us once, but is an enduring, eternal fountain welling up to eternal life. It’s a drink that doesn’t run dry. And it is Jesus’ righteousness, His innocence and perfect life that are poured out for us in baptism.
But God gives His grace through multiple means, and you’re now continuing with the 2nd main course, the hearing and preaching of the Word of God, followed by the 3rd course in the Lord’s Supper, where Jesus feeds the baptized and examined with His body and blood. In the feast of His Word, there is a filling and satisfying meal for our hungry hearts and minds. God’s Word of Law sharpens our hunger cravings. God’s righteous demands are set before us, and we see our fallenness clearly in its light. God’s Law also guards against false attempts to satisfy our hunger. What do I mean? Though God spreads a generous feast before us, sometimes we try to “bag our own lunch.” Bag your own lunch?? Yes. Now hold that thought. Remember Jesus says “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied?” Now you have to understand that there’s a kind of righteousness that can satisfy that hunger, and an inferior kind of righteousness—if it can truly be called that—that leaves us hungry and dissatisfied. And worse, there are other imitations that can even spoil your stomach (or heart rather), and give you indigestion (or heartburn).
Let’s talk about the lesser kind of righteousness first. It’s what we call “civil righteousness” or perhaps “ordinary righteousness.” You could begin by saying that it’s the opposite of wickedness and wrongdoing. Ordinary, civil righteousness is concerned with doing the right thing, obeying outward laws, being a good citizen, etc. It’s what we count when we look at an ordinary, nice, law-abiding citizen, and say that they are a good person. Hopefully most of us would be considered as having this civil righteousness. It’s on the level of good behavior. It’s what people see on the outside, and what makes for a generally peaceful and orderly society. We need this kind of civil or ordinary righteousness to live together as humans. But if we try to “bag it” and take this in as our “lunch” for God’s feast—we’re going to be left hungry. You see, our own righteousness can’t satisfy the deep hunger cravings caused by sin. Spiritually speaking, it’s “empty calories.” And worse, it’s an insult to God to come to His prepared meal, with food that truly satisfies and drink that truly quenches, a lavish feast of the best He has prepared, and to instead want to put our own righteousness, our “bag lunch”, on the menu. God’s Law confiscates all our “food” we try to sneak in—the Law tells us that if we’re to be satisfied by His righteousness, He alone can feed us, and He alone must prepare the meal.
If, instead, we still try to parade our good deeds before God, He’ll tell us that they might impress others, they might even get us the praise of others (even though they aren’t for that), but they will get us nothing before Him—no praise, no reward. God says that we have nothing to boast about before Him, and that every sinful one of us is equally empty of the righteousness that He alone serves and that truly satisfies our hunger.
But before we touch on that higher righteousness He wants us to hunger for, we should also point out the imitation of civil righteousness, which often turns out to be hypocrisy. Talk about an appetite killer! Some people lose their appetite for righteousness because they’ve tasted the bitter imitation, and been disgusted by it. Holier than thou attitudes, a veneer of goodness spread over a double life, or secret dishonesty—these are all more than enough to give us a serious case of nausea and indigestion. This is a further reason that all our self-made righteousness doesn’t belong at God’s dining table. Through that spoiled food out! We should be careful that these imitations don’t spoil our appetite for the real deal. Even our best attempts at civil righteousness don’t measure up to God’s “food standard”, and fall infinitely short of providing the satisfying spiritual meal we require. So once God’s Law has ridden us of any misguided notions about what can truly satisfy our spiritual hunger pangs, His Gospel, or Good News, fills us up with the higher righteousness that does satisfy. We stand aside and let Him set the table as He desires and serves the real meal that He has prepared.
So what is that real righteousness? The true spiritual righteousness, or the “extraordinary righteousness” of God. What’s that? It is the righteousness of Jesus Christ. It doesn’t come from us. It’s the righteousness Jesus means when He says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well.” (Matt. 6:33). His righteousness means God’s. Jesus, who comes down from above, brings us this heavenly righteousness. He fulfilled this righteousness when He was baptized by John in the Jordan, obeying God’s Law just as us. He lived out this righteousness in every obedient act of doing His Father’s will and carrying out the works He was given to do. Jesus brings the kingdom of God that delivers us from the injustice and wickedness of this world. It’s His righteousness that we hunger and long for. It’s His righteousness that alone can satisfy the cravings of our hungry heart. His death on the cross was how He prepared this feast of His righteousness for us. It’s where He took away the sins of the world and established a new and enduring meal of His body and blood broken and shed for the forgiveness of our sins on the cross; a meal for us Christians to eat and to drink as we proclaim His name until He comes.
Jesus’ kingdom has already begun and taken hold with His rule in our hearts. It’s a kingdom that remains hidden from earthly recognition until Jesus returns. It’s hidden under the weakness and suffering described in the Beatitudes. He establishes His reign in us when we believe in Him.
And His beatitudes, these words of blessing He speaks here, are pronouncements of the blessedness we have because of Him. Blessedness that originates and comes from Him, not us—that comes out of His grace, not a reward for us reaching a certain level of character or set of attitudes. The blessedness we have, we who hunger and thirst for righteousness, is God’s undeserved favor; God who is working His kingdom out through us. Producing in us the humility, the poverty in Spirit, the gentleness, and other characteristics that are the signs that His kingdom is at work in us and among us. Fruits that grow from hands that serve others, and springs of water that well up from our heart when we refresh others with the words of the Gospel. This is the blessedness of those who hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness.
Ironically, hungering for His righteousness and living in Jesus’ kingdom will lead us to things that seem more like famine than feast—to poverty in Spirit, mourning, meekness, and persecution. In fact, Jesus’ hunger for righteousness to be done on earth lead Him straight to the cross. He was humbled, reviled, persecuted, and slandered, and finally put to death. Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to accomplish His work.” Though He hungered and thirsted physically and spiritually on that cross, He was deeply satisfied in a way that goes beyond our knowing. Satisfied that the Father’s righteous will was being done. Satisfied that He was purchasing for us an eternal kingdom and the promise of hope and blessing for all who believe in Him. Satisfied that He had prepared such a wedding feast to bless His people with deep and abiding blessings from now until when He comes again. A spiritual feast of which we have a foretaste here and now, as we long for His kingdom to come. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. Come let us eat for now the feast is spread!
            Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.



Sermon Talking Points
Read past sermons at:   http://thejoshuavictortheory.blogspot.com
Listen to audio at:   http://thejoshuavictortheory.podbean.com

  1. Matthew 5:6 says “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” How do we experience “hunger pangs” for righteousness? What is missing, that causes us to hunger for it?

  1. What do we long for in this life? Romans 8:18-25; Psalm 63. How will this hunger be satisfied?

  1. Describe the difference between civil (or ordinary) righteousness, and the true spiritual (extraordinary) righteousness that we have from God. Why does man’s own righteousness (civil), fall far short of God’s requirement? Romans 3:10-26; Matthew 5:17-20, 48; 6:1-4. What is “His righteousness” that is spoken of in Matthew 6:33? How will this kind of righteousness, the true spiritual righteousness, satisfy us?

  1. In what ways is a worship service like a Feast that God spreads before us? What is different about this kind of eating and drinking? What does it cost us? Isaiah 55:1-11.

  1. What is our spiritual drink? John 7:37-38; 4:10-15; 1 Peter 3:20-22; Titus 3:5-8. What is our spiritual food or bread? John 6:31-34; cf. 4:34. How is Jesus offered for us to eat in a unique way? Matthew 26:26-29.

  1. When we are spiritually satisfied in Christ, how does this overflow from us to others? John 7:38; 4:13-14; 6:27; 15:1-7.

  1. Though it cost Jesus’ His life to bring us this feast of spiritual blessings, it comes to us free, by His grace and love for us. And now He lives again to share His feast with us. How can we thank Him for all He has done?