God Blesses Those Who...

The introduction to our Sermon on the Mount series.


Good morning.  My name is David Sorn.  Lead Pastor here at RC
We are starting w/ announcements this morning…and we have just one.  
House Group sign-ups are continuing today, and I want to encourage you to sign-up TODAY because they start next week.  
In fact, one group starts a week from today on Sun. 8th
GREAT RESPONSE so far…almost 70 ppl have already signed up
If you haven’t heard about House Groups before or are still curious, here’s what they are:

They are our version of small groups, but the difference is we put 25 people in one house
Half Large Group.  Half time in small group
Give you time to be w/ people you want to be w/
Meet once a week (except for Holidays, etc.) on different nights
They meet in people’s houses from our church.  So we’re not asking to meet in your home or anything if you sign up
Try it for 5 weeks
Sign-Up in Hallway after the service
1 of our House Leaders will be in hallway
Ask Questions
We will let you know THIS week.  
You’ll get:  Email, letter, and phone call.  
Then groups will start next week (the week of the 8th)
Let me just pray as we transition into today’s message

Starting new series this morning: “The Greatest Sermon Ever Preached.”
And no, it’s not referring to this morning’s message.  It’s referring to a message Jesus gave on earth: The Sermon on the Mount
It is often regarded by Christians and non-Christians alike to be the greatest moral teaching of all-time
Which is interesting, because there are times in this message (which takes up 3 chapters in Matthew) where Jesus gets quite intense.  
But it is impressive nonetheless

This is going to be an interesting series (which we will probably break into multiple chunks throughout the year) because Jesus says some very interesting stuff
As he does throughout the book of Matthew, and Mark, Luke, and John
And some of it seems counter-intuitive to our normal thinking
I can remember questioning him when I was 18
And I would say the sermon on the mount is no different.  It is often counter-intuitive and challenging.
That is if we let it be.  
I still think that the hardest hour of the wk for Christians to be humble is the hour we are in church on Sunday mornings
And there’s no one who’s prob more guilty than me on this
When we hear something we’ve already heard, we too often mistakenly think we’ve already applied it well.  
It’s one thing to know something, and another thing to truly apply it
For example:  Even a phrase like, “Love your neighbor.”
Oh yeah, I’ve heard that one!!!  DUH!!
But how well do we really do it?
And I only bring this up at the beginning of this series because much of the sermon on the mount will be familiar to some of you
And I challenge you, as I will try and challenge myself every week, to humble yourselves and let God speak
Because the sermon on the mount, while maybe familiar, I believe is intensely challenging…if we let it be

We are going to start today by examining the first 12 verses of the Sermon on the Mount
Over time in Christian History, they’ve been given a name:  “The Beatitudes”
Which means absolutely nothing to most people, but in case you were dying to know:  Beatitude is derived from Latin Beati, which means “blessed”
The beatitudes are an introduction to the Kingdom of God (explain “Dome in which God is King”).   They are an introduction to God turning the way we normally look at the world upside down.
These first 12 verses are also an introduction, a preamble, a thesis statement to the sermon on the mount
Explain Thesis Statement w/ Middle School Example
We’re going to read the 12 verses now, and then I’ll say a couple more things before we start looking through them in a little more detail
1 One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around him, 2and he began to teach them.
   3 “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,[a]
     for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
   4 God blesses those who mourn,
     for they will be comforted.
   5 God blesses those who are humble,
     for they will inherit the whole earth.
   6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,[b]
     for they will be satisfied.
   7 God blesses those who are merciful,
     for they will be shown mercy.
   8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
     for they will see God.
   9 God blesses those who work for peace,
     for they will be called the children of God.
  10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
     for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you[c] and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.
The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ exposition on “life done differently.”  (The Kingdom of God). And in it he not only breaks down/ attacks the “worldy way of thinking” but especially the “religious way of thinking”
Jesus looks at life different than a lot of the world does.
And he certainly looks at it differently than a lot of religious people do.  Even many of his own followers
One of the most eye-opening things to me when I became a Christian
And why you should read his teachings yourself
And this is important to factor in.  We can’t read these wrong. Jesus is not making another to-do list for you.  He spends a good amount of time fighting against that.
But we tend to do this with lists in the Bible.  
A popular example of this is the “Fruit of the Spirit.”
Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Goodness
And then we do sermons and Bible Studies on how if you were a good Christian, you would work on your patience and your peace, etc.
But that’s not at all what it’s saying.
It’s saying if you “walk in step” with the Spirit, those things will be produced in your life
The beatitudes are kind of similar.  If you are walking with God, these should be the realities of your life
However, we could turn these verses into a to-do list in a heart beat.  
“OK, I gotta be humble, and show some more mercy, and oh crap, I gotta be a peacemaker.  How am I gonna do that?”
But instead, this is about the realities of life that God can bring to bear in his disciples.  These are things that he can produce in us.
And thus, also bless us in the process as well.  
So let’s look at them a little more in depth…Because I want you to get a feel for what Jesus means by “The Kingdom of God” that he talks about so often
“The Kingdom of God” – The dome in which God is King…is an “upside-down world.”
It’s SO different.  It seems backwards than what we usually naturally think.  
And I think you’ll start to see that in the beatitudes.  

(Matthew 5:3) - NLT
    3 “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,[a]
     for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
…mention “poor in spirit”
These are basically people who realize they are in need of God’s help.  They realize they can’t earn God’s favor by simply being religious
High School Students Observations from Reynosa, Mexico… “they’re so happy and so open to God”
One of the most fascinating statistics we get from anthropology is that that the richer than nation, the less likely they are to be spiritual
There is something about having less that heightens your awareness for your need of God
Much like the poor often realize their need for God more, so do people who are “poor in Spirit”
Meaning, the more we walk w/ God, the more we realize our spiritual poverty before Him
It’s like the lyrics to a Christian song I like, “What can I say that you’ve never heard, what can I offer you?”
It’s like a Christmas commercial, “What do you give the girl who has everything…diamonds?”  “Well what do you give the God who has everything.”
And the answer is your life.  But, in reality, we have to let Him get us to the point where we realize we need Him.  Not the other way around.
Jesus’ followers will have the most power/influence if we realize that our power is not the power that matters, but begin rely on Him to influence through us

(Matthew 5:4) - NLT
    4 God blesses those who mourn,
     for they will be comforted.
This verse is similar to the last.  Because it is often when we realize what we don’t have that we begin to depend on God.  And those are the mourning moments.
And strangely enough, it is often in our losses that we meet God.  That we can see Him again. That He moves in us again. Or for the first time.  
This is again, “upside-down” thinking.  We should find God when we are successful and on top of the world.  
And honestly, yeah we should.  We should see him there too.
And it’s not that we shouldn’t strive for being successful.  
Sometimes people talk on these verses and say, “You need to be poor, meek, mild, and weak.”
No, that’s not what it’s saying.  
Jesus just speaks of a deep and brilliant truth, that often in the good times, we merely become self-reliant
And it’s not until something is stripped away from us, that we begin to see beyond the mirage of our own independence
And that…is a blessing.  
Yet, even though we mourn, we do not despair because we know the end.  
AND thus, in our mourning, we are comforted by the Comforter Himself.  

(Matthew 5:5) - NLT

     5 God blesses those who are humble,
     for they will inherit the whole earth.

This again, is an “upside down” verse.  It’s not what we would expect or even usually see
For usually it is the prideful that attempt to often establish their own kingdom.
And yet ironically, at the end of the age, those who have pridefully forced themselves on domineering those around them, many of them conquering whole kingdoms will NOT indeed inherit the earth.  
They might have even ruled much of the earth for a “blink” of history
But when it comes to eternity, inherit and reign on the earth, they will not
And I suspect the people of honor in heaven will mostly be people you’ve never heard of.  
And again, Jesus turns things upside down
And the “Bessing” goes to…who we wouldn’t expect
And again, let me say, “It’s not all about quiet and weak and so on”
It’s just remembering that in the Kingdom of God (and in the upside down) system (where the last are first and the first are last), it’s not about us.
You might be able to lead well and speak boldly and confidently, but you only do so because of what Christ gave you.  And without Him you would be absolutely nothing, and in fact, wouldn’t even exist.
And thus, we pray that He creates humility within us

(Matthew 5:6) - NLT
    6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,[b]
     for they will be satisfied.
These are the people who search for justice in the world also for a righteousness in their own lives.  For a high moral standard.
And it’s only when we live that way, will we be filled, will be satisfied
And living that way can only come when God is moving in you
But if he does, and you listen to Him, and a live a life dedicated to searching for justice and righteousness (Holy Living) in your own personal life, that is where you will find satisfaction
This still strikes me as one of the most profound things of being a Christian
I lived 18 years on the other side, doing what I want
And not that I always do a good job at living for God, but I’ve learned that living for God is so worthwhile, that even if you could prove to me He didn’t exist, I would still live for Him because I philosophically believe and in my  heart believe that it is better
And again, it’s counter intuitive.  We tend to think (if we were honest), that a little bit more wild of a life would bring more satisfaction.  But that it does not. It can only leave you empty.

(Matthew 5:7) - NLT
     7 God blesses those who are merciful,
     for they will be shown mercy.
We tend to forget how much mercy God has shown us.  (parable on this in MT.). Mercy is: giving someone what they do not deserve).  
But showing others mercy can feel counter-intuitive
Because it doesn’t seem like a blessing to show mercy to someone (especially if they don’t deserve it!).  
But, it is a blessing to show mercy.  And it’s a way God will bless you back!!
Because to live mercilessly towards other people is binding.  But showing mercy is freeing. And if you show mercy to others, so will it often be shown to you.  

(Matthew 5:8) – NLT
     8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
     for they will see God.
Because ultimately, it’s about the what’s on the inside.  It’s about your heart. Not your observance of Godly rules.
And if you read the Gospels, Jesus says this over, and over, and over again.  
It’s not just about appearing religious to other people.  Because God sees our true self. He knows where your heart is
We might be fooling other people, but we’re not fooling Him.  
And if we want the blessing of ultimately seeing God…keep pushing into God in your life.  Because as he changes you on the inside and makes your heart more pure, you will see Him even more.  

(Matthew 5:9) – NLT
    9 God blesses those who work for peace,
     for they will be called the children of God.
It really helps to know the context of Jesus’ world w/ this particular verse.  
In Jesus’ time, zealots try and take to bring self-rule back to Israel through warfare.  The Sadducees tried to through politics. But the true peacemakers are those that do so through bringing the good news that God reigns.  That Jesus is King. That He is the Prince of Peace.
As Jesus explains later in Matthew, we don’t bring change to the world by asserting power over people, but by serving under people.  

(Matthew 5:10-12) - NLT
10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
     for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you[c] and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.
And here’s where “The Kingdom of God”, where the “upside down” (or prob right-side up) living that Jesus proclaims gets interesting…
Because, following Jesus doesn’t always result in everything turning out just fine.  
Sometimes, for some people in this world, it even results in being killed
But, we are to remember that as hard as “upside down” living can be…yours is the Kingdom of Heaven.  You are in the Kingdom. You have a relationship with the King Most High. And at the end of the day, they can kill your body, but they can not kill your soul.  
And that is the ultimate blessing.  

The Beatitudes are just a glimpse, just a sneak peak into the different type of life that Jesus calls us to
And I want to encourage you to start taking more steps towards that life
Maybe your new to this whole thing, it’s just some initial steps
Maybe just to come back here every week and to keep hearing about it
Or maybe for some of you, it’s to get back into God’s Word..
Start in Matthew
Or maybe it’s to take this month and do a good hard and honest evaluation of how much your life really reflects the influence of Jesus Christ
But take steps towards Him and take steps towards His blessings.  
Let’s pray.  

If you look under your chair right now, you should see a pen and a card.  Go ahead and pick those up.
One of the things we do every week at Renovation Church, is fill out these connection cards.
It’s a way for you to connect with us and for us to connect with you.  
If you’re here for the first time, there’s  a question on there too, that helps on know how you found out about us

We are going to take an offering now as well
Which, really if you think about it.  Seems like an upside down way to live life as well.  Like would I give what I have to help someone else in need.  We want to hold on to what we have. YET, there’s something so neat about what God can do when we give.  It’s cool to see.
As the offering goes by, you can stick your connection card in there as well
Let me just pray for the offering quick
Let’s pray.  

This morning, we are also going to take communion as a body of believers.  
It’s a way for us to remember why we are even attempting to live this “upside down” Kingdom of God lifestyle.  
We’re doing it because Jesus Christ came and offered his life for us.  He died in our place. He took our punishment. It’s amazing.
And something we need to constantly remember.  
In the NT, Paul writes this about the reason for communion:
(1 Corinthians 11:23-26) – NIV
23For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 25In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
And that is what we will do.  But Paul also writes in this passage that we ought to examine ourselves before taking communion.  
To 1) not do it in vain.  2) To examine ourselves and ask the question, if He really gave everything…if his body was broken for me, am I give everything back?  Where can I change?
SO here’s what we’re going to do
In the back, 2 tables….with pieces of bread and a bowl of juice.  When you’re ready, you can get up take an individual piece of bread and dip it in the juice.  
However, take some time.  I’ll tell you right now…there’s going to be 3 songs where we are going to be worshipping God.  
No one says you need to get up immediately and go back there.  Take some time. Examine yourself
And when you get there.  Take some time. Take communion, and stay back there and pray if you want.  You can go as a family. Serve your family. Pray together as a family.
This church is all about providing you space here to encounter God and that is what we want… so seek Him out…
Let’s worship Him.  

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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