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Blessed Are Those with Holy Appetites

September 15th, 2014

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

Matthew 5:6

Our choices in life are made to appease our appetites. Having an appetite for the wrong things will lead us down the wrong paths. Having an appetite for the right things truly is a blessed condition, and will led us down good and pleasant paths.

For example, if someone desires power over others, if this is the central and strongest hunger of his heart, then this will lead him down the path of seeking to dominate others. He will become a bully, or a manipulator, or something worse. If someone desires acceptance by others, if this is the great craving of his soul, then he will seek their approval. If he desires pleasure, this will lead to some type of addiction – whether to alcohol, to food, to drugs, to sex, or entertainment. All of these unholy desires will lead us down unpleasant paths, down paths in which there is no true satisfaction of the soul, like, as Ecclesiastes says, “Searching after the wind” and feeding on it (Eccl. 1:14).

To find righteousness we must first desire righteousness, just like a great hunger for food or a great thirst for water. If we can understand that this is the greatest need of human life today, to know the righteousness of God, and that we are helpless to find this righteousness anywhere but in Him, then this spiritual hunger will lead us to Him and to His grace and mercy. It will immensely enrich our souls.

All the other appetites of the world are misshapen desires seeking to fill this “God-shaped vacuum” of the human heart, that only God can truly fill. This spiritual hunger that Christ described must be more than a passing curiosity, it must be more than an idle thought that perhaps there is some satisfaction of the soul in goodness, and then quickly turning away from the thought to other pursuits. Hunger and thirst are strong urgings and are not easily moved off from. If we are hungry then we can think of little else other than what hunger after.

God promises to satisfy this hunger, to bless those who desire Him with His presence and grace. There are many types of appetites in life, but all of these other appetites, unless they are under the control of this desire for righteousness, will eventually lead us to ruin. If they are dominated by a desire for God, first and foremost, then it is as Christ said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these [other] things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). Until our hearts are dominated by an appetite for the holiness of God, then they are not ready for any other appetite.

Seek Him first, seek Him early, seek Him as the first act of every day, and as the last thought of every night. Seek His righteousness as a covering for your sin. Seek His wisdom as the divine guidance to your soul. Seek His companionship in the private thoughts of your heart. Seek His strength when you are weak. Seek His peace when you are troubled. Seek His deliverance in temptation. Seek His provision when in need. Do not think that a little bit of another appetite is harmless left by itself, simply because it is “socially acceptable” among people – this was the great error of Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 16).

Only after it has been established that He, and He alone, is what our hearts are hungry for, then every other appetite of life can be dealt with under His Lordship.

Beatitudes ,

Blessed are…

September 9th, 2014

And he began to teach them, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:2-3

The Lord “began to teach” is the translation of the New International Version, and it is correct. The Greek verb tense, imperfect active, indicates an activity which began and took some time to accomplish. It also describes the attitude of Christ toward the people – tender, compassionate, gentle, patient. The Law was merciless. It gave the command and demanded immediate obedience. The grace of God that came with Christ was more gentle and in kindness and empathetic mercy comes into our lives to gently lead us into the truth. The psalmist wrote: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. He knows how we are formed. He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13-14).

Christ in these opening lines teaches us about the inward attitudes of the heart. It is within us that our greatest battles are fought. It is in the fighting off of deceptive temptations, of those inner unholy desires, of lusts and pride, of gaining heartfelt faith in God’s goodness – over these matters and within our hearts is where we experience our greatest struggles. Which of us cannot find his own heart here? Which of us cannot see our own needs for the attitudes Christ described here? For an awareness of our poverty of spirit, for an inner meekness toward God, for a genuine hunger and thirst after His righteousness, for in all things the heart of a true believer? The first point that the hearers’ hearts needed to grasp, it would appear from the way that Christ began, was God’s intention to bless them.

May Christ begin to teach us this principle as well. May His mercy and grace gently lead us to this magnificent truth and may our warring hearts cease their fighting against God and against His plans , and may they simply rest in this truth. God wants to bless His children.

We have a popular expression today among Christians: when asked, “How are you?” many respond “I am blessed.” I am not sure the reason for this but it has become popular, and is not necessarily theologically wrong. But, as with many things of theology, it tempts us to trivialize this profound experience of being blessed. Blessings come in all sizes and if you survived the night and awoke this morning you may rightly say that you are “blessed” to have done so. Perhaps we should ask the brother or sister who says they are blessed, “How so?”

Are we only rejoicing over the general blessings of Providence? Are we merely saying that we, like most others on earth, have our senses intact, can walk and stand and sit and eat? Are we speaking about something specific to our own lives, that we have been healed, or have a job, or live comfortably enough? Well, these are certainly blessings, and things we should thank God for.

Yet in these Beatitudes Christ reveals the deepest blessings of life, and they are achieved by God in our souls. They are the blessings of the heart that has been mastered by God. We cannot become as blessed as God desires to bless us until we can say, “I have lost and He has won the battle for my heart. I have conceded the fight and have surrendered to His love. I now live in the reality of His grace and mercy, in the truth of His eternal blessings to me. I am weak, but He is all powerful. I am poor but there is no end to the wealth of His spiritual riches.” Christ said that whoever loses his life for His sake will find it for eternal life. We must be mastered by Him.

May God begin to teach us that we may trust fully in His good intentions toward us.

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