Sunday, September 6, 2015

Hungering and Thirsting for Righteousness

Image Source: Darwin Bell from flicker
What are the beatitudes? The beatitudes set the orientation of the heart. They say that we would be the type of people who love and reflect God’s character.  When we our hearts are aligned with the beatitudes we seek God honestly.

The first half of the Lord’s Prayer is a petition for God’s kingdom to reign on earth.  It is a cry for the holiness and justice of God to be manifested here on earth as it is in heaven.  This is not a prayer for escape but a prayer for restored relationships and correct ordering.  (I think that too often we skip past hollowed be your name, skip past your kingdom come and jump right to give us our bread, and keep evil away from us.) 

When we have a beatitude heart orientation, we will be greatly rewarded.  Our desire should be more of God.  That is the orientation of the heart the beatitudes beg for us to have.  When our heart’s attitudes are properly oriented we pray as children (but that is a different sermon) longing for the king.  You have to be the type of person who knows and loves the justice and order of God’s Kingdom and lives it and desires it. 

We will explore this truth by examining two beatitudes, found in Matthew 5:6-7

Read: Matthew 5:6 - Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Verse 6 begins with hungering and thirsting for righteousness.  What do you hunger and thirst for?  I often remember the time I was the hungriest.  It was after a 48 hours of not eating and a 12-hour ruck march.  I sat down exhausted and craving anything to eat.  I got the vegetarian bean burrito MRE, which was like eating a gross brick.  But that day it was a 5 star gourmet feast.  Why was that MRE so delicious at that moment? It was because I was hungry.  When we are hungry, truly hungry and thirsty truly thirsty, we will look for the food and water to quench that thirst. 

Jesus is saying blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty. They have an appetite that is famished and starving.  What are they hungry for? Righteousness. When someone is hungry and thirst for righteousness they will do anything they can do to get it.  I fear that we really don’t understand hunger.  We don’t understand what it is like to need food and water we would do anything for it.  Jesus is saying hunger for righteousness.  May your appetite be so inflamed that you will search for it. 

So here is my question for you.  Is your appetite correct?  Do you hunger and thirst for the correct thing?  You may think, “well I am hungry of course I know what I am hungry for. Of course I know what I am thirsty for.”  That is simply not true.  There has been too many times where I drank coffee and no water and by the end of the day I was so dehydrated I was having cramps in my side an imbalanced hunger and a craving for more coffee and junk food that would make me more dehydrated.  My body did not know what proper hunger was.  Just because our spirits are hungry does not mean that we crave the right thing. 

So what does a correct hunger and thirst for righteousness look like?  I begins with a desire for God.  The bible tells us that God is absolutely pure in his righteousness.  1 John 1:5 says, “God is light and there is no darkness in him what so ever.” Or in Psalm 145:17 which says, “The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.” 

Here is what you must understand when you crave righteousness you crave more of God.  That is what the author of psalm 42 craved (like a deer craving water).  We must desire more of God, more of his presence.  We must have an appetite that is not satisfied until we have HIM. 

The second thing we want is Justice.  In the Greek there is only one word that means both righteousness and justice.  When you crave a righteous God and his Kingdom you crave his justice.  Praying thy kingdom com is not just an abstract prayer.  You are praying that his justice would be revealed in this earth. 

When people are being denied freedom, denied dignity, and denied justice, your right appetite for God should become inflamed.  It should infuriate you when you see injustice of any kind.  When you see African Americans being treated unfairly by a broken system you should become angry, because God is.  When you see the destruction of the family your hunger for justice should be inflamed.  When you see young and old alike so hopeless in their situation that they are becoming enslaved to meth and drugs (in your own back yard) you should be outraged starving for justice. When you see babies being killed in the womb and sold wholesale for their component parts your hunger for justice.  When you see people trapped in hopeless cycles of poverty you should thirst for justice.  These should cause you to stand and pray with passion, “Your Kingdom come your will be done through me.”

This is not vigilante justice.  We are not going to go bomb anything.  We are not going to go break the legs of the drug dealers.  We are going to fight injustice with Christ like, mercy filled reconciliation. 

We cry for peace in the world.  But as Marten Luther King Jr. said, “There can be no justice without peace and there can be no peace without justice.”  I believe that Dr. King understood the prayer give to us by Jesus.  He understood thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.  He understood what it meant to hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness/justice when his children were crying because they were not allowed in the water park for no other reason than then they were black. 

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
You see the danger for us, is that we would get comfortable in our buildings and wealth and forget that God is a righteous and just God.  We must hunger and thirst for his righteousness. 

Where is your desire for more of his righteousness?  Where is your hunger for his justice?  Are you willing to change what you do so that you can confront injustice in this world?  This is why I believe it to be a good thing that Christianity is no longer the dominant civil religion in our country.  We are going to understand what we have ignored for too long we are going to know what it means to hunger and thirst for righteousness/justice and we will be better off for it.  We will better crave God’s justice.

Here is the great reward.  When we hunger and thirst for righteousness we have the promise that our appetites will be filled.  That we will not hunger for long.  We will one day see a just and right God.  For all of us who hate the injustice being perpetrated to the least of these, and perpetrated against us, we will see God’s justice and righteousness revealed from heaven against all the broken injustice of this world. We will be satisfied. 

Read: Matthew 5:7 - Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Now Jesus paints a quick contrast.  The rest of the world responds to injustice with furious vengeance.  When I have been wronged I will repay eye for an eye tooth for a tooth.  There is no other religious teaching in the world like Jesus teaching here.  “Blessed are the merciful.”  Make no mistake Jesus follows up the hunger and thirst for righteousness with mercy.  He wants us to understand our hunger and thirst for justice and righteousness is not satisfied by revenge.  In most every case revenge is what causes more injustice.  But to injustice the Christian’s response should be mercy. 

Last Thursday I heard thestory of Moise, who was a District Superintendent in North Africa, where Ebola was running rampant.  He was going in and teaching the smaller villages how to care for people who catchEbola and prevent the spread.  A group of men in one village spread the lie that he was bringing the disease to infect them.  Because of the lie, Moise was brutally murdered while living out these beatitudes. 

Do you know what his wife Nowei wanted?  When she had opportunity to go to the village, where her husband died, she didn’t demand death for the men who killed her husband.  She wanted to go and see them and extend the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.  She wanted to go look the men, who killed her husband, in the face and forgive them.  This should be our Christ like response to injustice because this is what Jesus did for us. 

God’s response to our sin and injustice is first and foremost mercy.  Jesus came to be the first response to the fall of sin in this world.  There will be a day when his mercy is rejected and he will bring vengeance against those who reject him. Until that day he offers mercy and grace. He offers forgiveness instead of wrath.  And he gave it to us while we were still against him.  We did not chose God and he chose us.  Look at Romans 5:6-10,
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. … God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life."  (Romans 5:6-10 ESV)

You must understand no one wants pure impartial justice.  If Christ did not come and there was no salvation God would rightly extend his wrath against al ungodliness and worldly lust.  God would Judge each of us according to our sin.  The result is that we would all be objects of God’s wrath.  As a result we would have no hope.  No one wants their sin judged because they could not stand.  This is why we beg for mercy from God.  This is why we respond to injustice with mercy, because we want to respond as God responded to us.  We want to offer what God offered to us.  We want to be one of the blessed merciful. 

Here is the blessed promised reward.  When we show mercy we demonstrate that we have and will receive mercy.  The merciful will receive mercy.  We can be merciful because we understand the mercy extended to us.  Instead of judgment we received son-ship.  Instead of wrath, we received the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Instead of expulsion, we experience the presence of God.

Here is what I want you to understand, this is something God empowers you to do.  In every other religion you are told to work hard enough, try hard enough, think or feel hard enough then maybe, just maybe, you can make it.  Christ says, “You can’t make it. I will take you from your brokenness and inability and transform you so that, by my power, you will be able to live this out.” 

These beatitudes are a call to be different.  These are attitudes of the heart, the alignments of the heart, which cause you to live boldly and differently.  They force you to look at the kingdoms of the earth differently, and the kingdom of heaven differently.  They cause you to want to be like Jesus.  Jesus embodied all of these.  These are wonderful life controlling attitudes of the heart.  These are what we are commanded to teach in the great commission. 

My hope is that you would live like Jesus Christ because you love him.  My hope is that as you read these you would be challenged to live more like this.  My hope is that you would be more willing to engage a broken and dying world, because you were once dead and made alive.  My hope is that you would be a broken people for the broken who loves justice and abounds in mercy.  May we be this people.  May we seek to be God’s broken agents of change to a broken world.  

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