Saturday, January 29, 2011

Epiphany 4

O God, you know that we cannot withstand the dangers which surround us. Strengthen us in body and spirit so that with your help, we may be able to overcome the weakness that our sins has brought upon us.”

Who does not want or need God’s blessing? In the congregation, there are people with many problems, questions, and needs. Is it conceivable - that there is not one person who does not need God’ favor? Probably most are in church to receive the blessing of God. It is obvious that not all people are blessed though they may need God’s blessing. Why not? Is it God’s unwillingness or our lack of receptivity? The answer is in the Beatitudes —

Outline: God’s blessing comes to those —

1. Who have spiritual needs — Vv. 3-6. 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
A. Poor in spirit. Luke omits “in spirit.” Certainly, Matthew is not neglecting the physically poor. There is no blessing in poverty. Poor people are not necessarily blessed. The economically poor can be godly or godless. “Poor in spirit,” moreover, does not mean a lack of spirit. Rather, the phrase describes a state of being which we might call humility, unworthiness, a dependence on God for the fulfillment of needs. The New English Bible helpfully translates 5:3: “How blest are those who know their need of God. How blessed are those who know their need of God. We need a shepherd to guide us. Jesus is that good shepherd who tends to our need. The writer of the Hebrews reminds us, “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. - Hebrews 13:20-21

B. Those who hunger for righteousness. As a sheep of His fold as a lamb of his flock as a sinner of His own redeeming, we hunger and thirst for Him and for His righteousness. We hunger and thirst for Him desiring only to be fed by Him as we listen only to Him. I could talk to Mark Witte’s cows all day long and would get nothing from them. Yet all he has to do is speak one word and they know it’s time to be fed. Why? They know his voice.
Jesus says, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— John 10:11-14

C. To be a blessed person is to be a happy person regardless of external circumstances. Circumstances can change God cannot. Like the weather, hard times come and god – the Father’s promises last forever. Trials last for a season, the Savior’s solution which is found at the cross and empty tomb is endless.

Transition: Your happiness does not depend on your surroundings. The Father’s blessings come to those who have spiritual needs. They also come to those who practice godly virtues.

2. Who practice virtues — Vv. 7-9. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

A. We do this by showing acts of mercy. Jesus said, You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor[h] and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies[i] and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? - Matthew 5:43-47

B. This blessed estate does not depend upon secular well-being for its fulfillment. It is conceivable a Christian can be perfectly miserable on earth and yet blessed. We are blessed because we are primarily forgiven. Forgiveness is what binds us to Christ and to each other. Saint Paul reminds us, As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. - Ephesians 4:1-3

3. Who suffer for a good cause — Vv. 10-12. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
A. By suffering for Jesus.

B. “For when I am weak then I am strong”

The Beatitudes describe the condition of a person in a right relationship with God through faith in Christ. “Blessed” is often translated as “happy.” It is more than what the world considers happiness— possessions, satisfaction, and peace. The blessed one is in favor with God and man.

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