Attitude Adjustment #4 - The Seeker

Bible Book: Matthew  5 : 6
Subject: Beatitudes; Seeking God; Seekers; Fulness
Series: Attitude Adjustment - The Beatitudes
Introduction

Open your bible, please, to Matthew 5:6.

We come now to Beatitude number four. In today’s text we read that Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled."

We are learning in our study of the Beatitudes that Christians must adapt their attitudes to a new and higher level. Jesus was speaking to disciples as He delivered the Sermon on the Mount, so we know that He was not instructing rebellious, unsaved people in how they are to live. Without the work of God in our lives, we cannot possibly live out the Beatitudes.

The words Jesus shared in the passage before us are for His followers, like you and I. Jesus was pointing out that our aptitude leads us to live on spiritual altitude that is too low because we have a wrong attitude! The songwriter penned the words,

"Lord lift me up and let me stand,

By faith on heaven's tableland;

A higher plane than I have found,

Lord plant my feet on higher ground."

The Beatitudes are given so that we might live on higher ground. Each Beatitude begins with the word "blessed," and that word means happy or filled with joy. The only lasting joy in this world comes from knowing Christ and adapting our thinking and living to His truth! There are many Christians who do not live with "joy unspeakable and full of glory" largely because they have not been willing or are unaware that we must adapt our thoughts to His thoughts – our attitude to His attitude.

Today we are looking at "The Seeker." We have thus far considered "The Beggar," "The Weeper," and "The Waiter." The Seeker is one who is not satisfied till he finds what he is looking for. The songwriter wrote, "I can't get no satisfaction." No wonder he could not find satisfaction - he was "looking for love in all the wrong places." Jesus revealed that becoming a Christian does not mean that we have become all we can be or all He desires us to be. That is why we are described by Paul as simply being babes in Christ when we are first saved. We are called upon to grow and mature in our Christian life. Yes, once we are saved, we are secure. And, yes, once we are saved, we are bound for heaven. But! We must live here on this earth as pilgrims and strangers till God calls us home or comes to get us.

How are we to live? How are we to enjoy God while we are here? How are we to live fruitfully in the Christian life? The Christian life is not immune to frustration, disappointment, sorrow, pain, hardship, illness, and eventually death. If you weren't depressed when you came in today, you might be after hearing that list of life's woes! Seriously, it rains on the just and the unjust. So, how are we as believers to have victory, joy and peace in this life? The Beatitudes teach us that the attitudes we have as we live the Christian life will make the difference in how happy we are and how effective we are while living for Jesus in this world.

In Beatitude number four, Jesus shared that we must remain in hot pursuit of God and His righteousness in order to be "blessed" or happy. To put it another way, He said we must hunger and thirst for righteousness. God is in the life of a Christian through the presence of the Holy Spirit; however, though the Lord inhabits the apathetic Christian, He will not grant the passive saint the power, peace and joy that is available. In other words, the Lord is resident in every Christian but He will not reward the lethargic Christian with all that is available!

Gerald Harris, Editor of the Christian Index, states that 40,000 people die every day in the world due to hunger. He says that more people die every three days because of hunger than the number of people who died when the first atomic bomb was dropped on Japan during WWII. That is a sad fact, especially when you consider how much food we have in America alone. It is a sad fact also that tens of thousands of Christians live each day without a hunger for God. They are satisfied to live on the husks of the world rather than feast in the fullness of God's presence. This not only results in lost joy and blessings to the believer, it makes the Church of our Lord ineffective and powerless against Satan.

Great questions are being asked today about the decline of the Christian Church in America. Though we as Southern Baptists are seeing the least decline of all major denominations, we are experiencing a lethargy that is disturbing. Our churches are aging and the graying of the church does not bode well for the future. Part of the problem is likely due to a lack of spiritual hunger. We do not thirst for the Lord like a dying man in the desert.

The Lord tells us that we are to be hungry and thirsty for a deeper spiritual life. Now we know something about being hungry and thirsty, don't we? Most of us eat a meal and spend time during that meal talking about what we are going to eat at our next meal. Billions of dollars are spent worldwide on trying to curb overactive appetites, and billions more are spent on trying to feed those who have no food. We know something about hunger. But how do we apply this to our spiritual attitude - our walk with God in this world? To answer that question, I want you to consider two important details found in the fourth Beatitude.

I. The Pursuit Described

A. What we are told to Pursue

We are told to seek God's righteousness. In another passage Jesus said, "Seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness." What does the word "righteous" mean? It speaks of the perfection of God. Since Jesus linked righteousness and kingdom in a similar passage, we can discern that Jesus is speaking of seeking to live our lives on a level that is not like the world. We are to live a kingdom life based on God's righteousness and when we do that we love differently, serve differently, care differently, and act differently than the world. How can we do that?

Let me tell you that the righteousness we are to seek has nothing to do with trying to be better. God is not telling us that we are to seek a perfect life in this dull, drab immoral world. After all, the more you try to do something on a higher moral plane, the harder it becomes. Tell a child not to touch something and the child is literally driven to touch it. Why? He is driven because the "law" cannot make him obey and cannot actually make him a better child. The Law can tell us what to do and what we are not to do, but the Law of God does not have the power to make it possible. A stop sign can reveal the law stating that I am to stop before proceeding, but the sign cannot make me stop. The same is true in our moral, ethical and spiritual lives as stated in God’s Law. So, how can I be different?

B. Who we are told to Pursue

Actually, Christ was pointing out that we cannot know the joy of Christian living unless we seek the Lord. This is about getting close to the Lord and not just trying to obey the Law. Paul wrote about this in a unique way as he spoke of seeking to "know" Christ. Every Christian "knows" Christ, but Paul was talking about "KNOWING" Christ in a deeper and more complete way. In Ephesians 3:8-10 we see this more clearly. Paul knew the righteousness of God in Christ but he sought to "know" Him more completely. The process Paul was speaking of relates to the act of dying to oneself and living fully in Christ.

Actually, it is in dying to self that one discovers how to actually live – how to have full and complete joy in life. This is where the power of God is truly experienced. This is where effectiveness is increased for the Christian. Let’s be absolutely honest with God and with ourselves. Not many Christians have a desire to die to self. In fact, I don't think we even fully comprehend the aspiration and desire described in this Beatitude. Let's look at the desire that Jesus shared in the fourth Beatitude. (Ps 42:1-2)

C. How we are to Pursue

Jesus said we are to "hunger and thirst" after this kind of righteousness. The word hunger mentioned in this text is the most extreme word Jesus could have used to describe hunger. The kind of hunger mentioned here is not the desire for a snack. In fact, the hunger Jesus spoke of is not like the hunger you feel when you have merely missed a meal. This hunger describes someone who is starving.

Imagine not having anything to eat for days - yes, even forty days. You remember that Jesus, after His baptism, went out into the wilderness and fasted for forty days and forty nights. The Bible states that afterward he was "hungry." The same word is used in that passage as the one Jesus used in the fourth Beatitude. Imagine not eating for forty days. Can you even begin to conjure up in your mind the kind of extreme hunger you would feel? No, you can't! But, you know it would be a hunger worse than anything you have ever experienced. That is how we are to seek a deeper relationship with the Lord.

Think of not having water for several days. After just a couple of days, your mouth would be parched and your lips would begin to swell and crack. Your throat would burn with desire for a simple drop of liquid. That is the kind of thirst that Jesus was describing in the text we read today.

Let me ask, do we have a burning thirst and a gnawing hunger for a deeper relationship with God? This is the greatest need in the Kingdom of God today. This is the appetite most needed in the life of Christians and it is missing in almost every case.

II. The Promise Delivered

What a glorious promise is made in this passage. Jesus promised that those who have a hunger and thirst for "righteousness" (for a more real, sincere relationship with the Lord) will be filled. The word filled means to be "stuffed" or “sated.” Have you ever eaten till you were absolutely stuffed? Sure you have.

There are two factors we need to consider regarding God’s promise to those who truly yearn for His presence.

A. It Pleases

The idea of being filled speaks of satisfaction, peace and joy. C. S. Lewis once said that most Christians sell out for far too little. He stated that we try to find our joy in entertainment, drink and sex, or we are like children making mud pies when dad is ready to take us to the beach for a vacation. We don't want to give up our mud pies because we cannot understand how much better the father's plans are for us. How true that idea is!

A 77-year-old man said, "If you give a pig and a boy everything they want, you will get a good pig and a bad boy." (Live and Learn and Pass it On, Jackson Brown, Jr.)

We must want what the Father, our Heavenly Father, wants for us! For, you see, sin pleases for a season, but the pleasure of sin runs out. Don't raise your hand, but how many of you have done something you shouldn't have done, but enjoyed it for a while? Then, after a while, you found that the joy was gone and regret, sorrow and painful guilt followed? Sure, most of us have done that. Almost everyone in this room has done that. The Bible tells us in Hebrews, chapter 11, that Moses chose to suffer with God's people rather than to enjoy the pleasure of sin for a season. Sin's pleasure is temporary, and then the pain begins. I can promise you that walking with God leads to greater joy and walking in the world leads to greater sorrow. So why don't we seek God more and more? Why don't we yearn for a closer walk with God? The songwriter penned,

“Just a closer walk with Thee,

Grant it Savior is my plea,

Daily walking close to Thee,

Let it be, dear Lord, let it be."

Oh, that we would pray that from the heart. Seek Him while He may be found. Call upon Him, for He promises to answer you. Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and it will be opened to you. Our relationship to God is as deep, as personal and as rich as we long for it to be. God is not holding out on us, we are holding out on God! I can assure you that every Christian in this worship center today has as much of God as you truly, deeply and passionately desire.

B. It Passes

Please listen carefully as we come to the end of this message. The way this passage is written in the Greek language, it means that we must keep on seeking. The seeking spoken of here is not just a one time event. The world is always appealing for our attention. We constantly having our attention on the Lord drawn away by the world's distractions. So, we are told to continual pursue a closer walk with the Lord. You see, the sense of God's presence passes because the world is too much with us. We are drawn away from spiritual things.

Think about your eating habits for a moment. You eat and think that you are so full that you will not want to eat again for three days. Yet, four hours later you are thinking about food. Seeking God must be the same way. We must keep our focus on Him because the world will fill you with “junk food” and you will lose your spiritual hunger. Every parent here has denied your child a piece of candy or a cookie with these words: “You can’t eat that now because it will ruin your appetite for supper.” You can apply those words to your spiritual life. God says, “Don’t touch that, don’t watch that, don’t do that, because it will ruin your appetite for me!” The Lord is not trying to keep us from fun, He is trying to keep us from frustration and failure.

John Suk writes, "Soldiers of the Symbionese Liberation Army kidnapped newspaper heiress Patty Hearst from her Berkeley, California, apartment on February 4, 1974. In return for her release, Patty's kidnappers demanded that her father, Randolph Hearst, give millions of dollars to the poor. On April 15, 1974, the FBI identified Patty in a videotape of a bank holdup in San Francisco. On September 18 of that year, Patty was captured. She served nearly three years in prison for her crime.

"Patty Hearst suffered from the Stockholm syndrome. This condition affects some hostages who are so traumatized by their captivity that they identify with and become sympathetic to their captors. The syndrome gets its name from a 1973 bank robbery in Stockholm, in which one of the hostages fell in love with her captor. People who fall prey to the Stockholm syndrome in essence sleep with the enemy.

"Many Christians suffer from a spiritual kind of Stockholm syndrome. We sleep with our enemy-the world. Worldliness is more than a fixation with card playing, dancing, or movie going. True worldliness is being caught in a sticky web of commitments to self." [The Banner, Apr 15, 1996. Page 2.]

Conclusion

The very best of us must renew our experience with God regularly. We can never rely on yesterday's experience. I am reminded of a new preacher in a local church who went to visit a man who was a member of the church but who had not attended much in several years. He told the man that he noticed his name on the church roll but had not seen him in church. The man assured the preacher that he was saved. In fact, he told the preacher that he had a "blessed experience" with the Lord a number of years in the past. He said, "Preacher, my experience was so great with the Lord that I wrote it down." He turned to his wife and told her to go get a copy of his "blessed experience" out of the old trunk in the garage. The wife went out to the garage and was gone for some time. When she finally came back into the room she had some tattered old papers in her hand. The man asked, "Well dear, did you find my blessed experience?" She replied, "Yep, I found it, but it appears that some blessed rats ate your blessed experience." There are some rats in this world that eat away at our blessed experiences. We must experience new ones. God desires to give us fresh manna from Heaven - fresh manna for today's needs. The old manna will not suffice in the hours of temptation and trial.

We should never live in the experiences of yesterday. Jesus is Lord TODAY. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. We ought to have a personal, moving and joyful experience with Jesus TODAY!

Let me ask you, how long has it been since you have sensed the overwhelming presence and glory of Christ? Maybe you have never known that because you have never trusted Him as your Savior and Lord. You can come to Him today. I am going to ask those who know the Lord, and desire a closer, more personal, walk with Him to come to an old-fashioned altar today and tell Him so. Those that seek Him, find Him! And, if you do not have assurance that if you died today you would go to heaven, come today and receive the living, risen Savior into your life. It is a decision you will never regret.

I am calling on everyone here who is hungry for God, hungry for a deeper spiritual life, and hungry for spiritual food that will satisfy your innermost longings, to respond and come to HIM.