Blessed are the peacemakers

This sermon can be watched or listened to at!

What are your family’s values?Having written out values at very least gives some direction. Of course, living out those values is a whole other story, but communicating values is often a good first step. I want to say though that writing out values is not just for families but for single folk as well. No matter your age or marital status, you are all making decisions based on your values. Shout out a few values you have!

Would you like to know what the family values are in the Stairs’ household? 1) Jesus First; 2) Keep Your Word & God’s Word; 3) Pray Hard, Work Hard, Play Hard; 4) Forgive Quickly; 5) You always win when you care; 6) Stairs don’t quit! We tried at one time to be more concise with using the single words Jesus, truth, diligence, reconciliation, compassion and perseverance, but we think the phrases are more memorable. We repeat these values to each other such as we when we want to give up on a job or assignment, we say “Stairs don’t quit!” You can use your family values for evaluation and creating conversations. At first glance, probably the fifth value of showing more compassion is the one we need to work on the most. I am finding that one of the positive outcomes from my Dad’s death is that has created more empathy for those hurting and grieving. Did you know that God has values for His family? Do you know what they are?

God’s family values are not limited to but include what are called the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are 8 blessings Jesus gave to kick off the Sermon on the Mount. These blessings are not something that we can do, but are something that God gives us to make us “divinely happy.”[1]They are the values of Christ’s kingdom! They characterize the subjects and co-heirs of King Jesus. When Jesus sat down to preach and teach the Sermon on the Mount, the King was holding court and addressing His subjects. As we heard the first week that Jesus offers riches beyond compare to those who declare spiritual bankruptcy – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”(Matthew 5:3). Then four weeks ago we learned from Matthew 5:4 that mourning now and turning to Jesus for hope will mean we don’t mourn later – “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”Then four weeks ago Pastor Dan taught on Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Three Sundays ago we focused on the next Beatitude from Matthew 5:6 and learned that if we hunger for holiness from Jesus we will be happy. Then two weeks ago Pastor Dan reminded us from Matthew 5:7 that “Blessed are those who are merciful for they shall receive mercy.” Last Sunday night, we learned that seeing God requires a pure heart! And today we are going to learn that peacemaking is another of God’s family values. So being poor in spirit, mourning, meekness, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, being merciful, pure in heart and being a peacemaker are all values in God’s family. However, it is this last one – peacemaking – that may distinguish us most of all as God’s children. Let’s read what Jesus says in Matthew 5:9!  Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God!

This morning I want to explain further what Jesus meant and didn’t mean with this Beatitude. Then I will try to appeal to you that being a peacemaker may be the greatest role and purpose you have on earth. Finally, I want to make some applications and teach you how to become a peacemaker. Please though, don’t misunderstand. I certainly can’t better the words of Jesus. Only explain them. Here is how I might summarize Jesus’ words for explanation, inspiration and correction. Making peace is the path of happiness and heaven!This phrase may be understood out of context or without the acknowledgment that it is pregnant with the source of peace. What do I mean? Let’s start with the goal in mind and reverse engineer it. I could have started this morning by asking you who here wants to be called a child of God. Think about it! You become a child of God today and have God as your Heavenly Father. He will love and provide for you forever. You will experience His protection forever. And you will inherit heaven and live with God forever. Doesn’t becoming a child of God sound like the best? Isn’t that what Jesus promised? Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God. And how could Jesus make such a promise? It is because He istheSon of God. Jesus is the original Son of God. This is what the Bible repeatedly declares! The most famous verse in the Bible is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” It is also what Paul meant when he wrote in Colossians 1:15, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” Being the only Son of God and firstborn of all creation does not mean that God the Son was created as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons believe. It means that He is first and pre-eminent. It has to do with His position, not His pedigree. And because the eternal Son Jesus is first, He is the most valuable person in the universe and the beginning of other sons and daughters. This is important when it comes to understanding adoption.

Like today, adoption has always been an intentional, legal and costly endeavour. No parent ever says to the adoption agent, pick whichever kid you want or the kid who puts up his or her hand first. No, parents choose their children. God does the same with us. Ephesians 1:4-5should cause you spirits to soar, “In love, he(God) predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ.God intentionally chose you and adopted you as His child. Everybody else might reject you, but God the Father hasn’t! And He made His choice binding. He has changed your legal status. If you are God’s child, then you are co-heirs with Christ and all others of God’s children (Romans 8:17). Everything that belongs to Christ also belongs to you. Now, this is utterly amazing because I know very few siblings that put their siblings before themselves. However, Jesus did! This is why we worship our Big Brother Jesus! You see, adoptions are not just intentional, legal but also costly. Adoptions cost thousands of dollars, except in the case of my sister whose adoption only cost $15 because the adoption lawyer owed my dad a big favour. If you have adopted, you understand the great cost. The great cost of our adoption was the death of our older brother Jesus. And as has already been established, His life was worth all of our lives put together. He was the perfect Son of God. And He died for you and me to pay the price of the adoption fee. Look again, in love God predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ.

Now if you are new to the faith that actually might be troubling because since God gave up His perfect, first and best Son for our adoption, it begs the question that many earthly adopted children struggle with, will He get rid of us? In other words, what kind of father is God? Aloof, abusive or accepting. My friends, God is loving and just. This is in part why Jesus rose from the grave so that we would get to live with our Big Brother happily for all eternity. On a human level, I know my kids feel like something is missing when their big brother is not there. You see, families are meant to stick together and Jesus is the glue of the family. He had to rise from the dead! That is extremely good news for us today.

One more thing though about adoption: though the parents choose the child first, older children get a choice in the matter as well. This is true for God’s adoptive children. Though He choose us first, we still have the choice to become His child. John 1:12 teaches, “But to all who did receive Him(Christ), who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” None of this is a detour, but background to establish this amazing truth: The Son of God made peace for us to become sons of God who make peace with others. This follows Ephesians 2:12-14, “Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought hear by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” Jesus is our peace and if we are sons like Him then we will be peaceful and peacemakers like Him!As D.A. Carson suggests, “The heirs of the kingdom who are meek and poor in spirit, loving righteousness yet merciful, are especially equipped for peacemaking because they reflect the king, the Prince of Peace’s character.”[2]So to close out the explanation of my statement making peace is the pathway to happiness and heaven, it is because God made peace with us through Jesus Christ so we could happily spend eternity with Him in the new heaven and new earth. One of our Heavenly Father’s role is to make peace. To make peace is to be like Him! It is true of our Heavenly Father and should be of us to break-up fights and create peace. You can do this at work, home, on the sports field or wherever you go. Your source of peace is your Heavenly Father and your reputation should be linked back to Him.

And I think we could all agree with Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “The great need of the world today is for a number of peacemakers.”[3]But peacemaking is not the same as peacekeeping. “Peace loving is different than peace-making. The peace which the Bible calls blessed does not come from the evasion of issues; it comes from facing them, dealing with them and conquering them.”[4]Peacekeeping often leads to a delayed and worse war. Time does not heal all wounds. Often avoiding the issue just leads to a stockpile of ammo and anger against another person. Therefore, “Jesus did not mean ‘peace at any price.’”[5]He meant peace at the cost of great personal expense like He did, but not at the price of silence or avoidance. Instead, grace needs to be applied. Maybe this is one of the reasons why the Apostle Paul would write his greetings in this particular order, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 1:2)

Brothers and sisters, we are called by God’s grace to give His peace. “Hatred can never be conquered with hatred. Only love can conquer hatred.”[6]“The only successful foe of evil is good.”[7]We fight war under the banner of the Prince of Peace! This is what God the Son did. He conquered evil through peace. You see, there was a time when the sons of God were not peacemakers. Genesis 6:1-5 describes the sons of God at the beginning of human history, “When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” This passage is somewhat controversial in interpreting who the sons of God and Nephilim were and whether they were angels or humans. I lean towards them being fallen angels[8], though I wouldn’t start a denomination over it. Here is what is not controversial and what we can all agree – the sons of God were evil and not peaceful. Jesus in his inaugural speech as the King of Kings holding court redeems what happened in the beginning of human history after the Fall and now makes the sons of God peaceful and holy. So let’s go with our Big Brother Jesus and make war on fighting.

How? Here some ways to become a peacemaker: 1) Have peace with God yourself!You can’t give peace if you don’t have it yourself. As Clovis Chappell once remarked, “To be at war with God is to have civil war within your own soul. Recall Isaiah 48:22, ‘There is no peace,’ says the LORD, ‘for the wicked.’”[9]Do you have peace with God through Jesus Christ? You can’t be a peacemaker until you receive God’s peace. Notice I didn’t say that you are to make peace with God like Lieutenant Dan did in the movie Forest Gump. God has made an offer of peace with you, you just have to accept His terms of peace, which is believe in and follow His Son.

After having peace with God yourself, the second way to become a peacemaker is 2) Prayerfully pursue peace.Romans 14:19 makes this clear, “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” This pursuit of peace starts with no longer being a war-monger ourselves, but living out James 4:1-3 through the power of the Holy Spirit, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”Too often we make war by wanting to be served rather than serve. We come home with a lot of expectations placed on others. Instead, if on the way home, we asked God to provide for our needs but more importantly, to fill us so we can build up others, I think our homes would become more peaceful. You can try this on the way to work as well. In summary, talk to our Heavenly Dad about bringing peace to your home, school, sports field and workplace.

So believe in the Prince of Peace, Jesus and have peace with God, then prayerfully pursue peace and finally the third way to becoming a peacemaker is to 3) Hold your peace.  This is kind an older way of saying “know when to speak,”[10]and it is especially used at weddings. This is not avoiding the issue, but just having discernment about when and how to bring up the issue. I call this a “pause for peace.” That moment when you send a volley of accusations and harsh words or hold your peace. Your tongue needs a ceasefire. This is why social media is so deadly in our exchanges and debates. There are not enough ceasefires or ability to see whether you are really hurting the other person. I have found private and personal confrontations go a lot better than text or messenger. Could we covenant together to make our conversations in person rather than digital? Anything sensitive should be by phone or better yet, in person.

All of this it to say, maybe our family should change or add one more family value to reflect our Heavenly Father’s family value? Make peace! We can because of what Jesus promised, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” (John 14:27) Father, Son and Holy Spirit give and make peace so we can be on the path to happiness and heaven! In a day when DNA testing is revealing our criminal relatives, making peace reveals we belong to God as His children.

[1]Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount(Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2018), 13.

[2]D.A. Carson, The Expositor’s Bible CommentaryMatthew(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 135.

[3]D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount(Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1959-60), 103.

[4]William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew – Vol. 1(Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1958), 103.

[5]Lloyd-Jones, 104.

[6]Warren Wiersbe, Live Like a King(Chicago: Moody Press, 1976), 125.

[7]Chappell, 96.

[8]Here is an excerpt from my sermon on Genesis 6 preached on February 14, 2016 at Temple Baptist Church: Who are the sons of God? Scholars think the three possibilities are that they were kings, descendants of Seth or fallen angels, but not rock monsters as portrayed in the latest Hollywood version of the movie Noah. No matter your view, the point is that sin corrupts the best of us. I believe the sons of God were fallen angels, which is why I called them rats that feed on our sin. Some argue that spirit beings do not marry or can’t reproduce according to Jesus in Matthew 22:29-30. However, in Matthew 22 Jesus was describing the future new heavens and new earth where there will not be marriage or sex. Jesus was not describing the past about fallen angels. In fact, in the past we find wicked men pursuing holy angels to have sex with them at Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19. Angels, as spirit beings, have physical forms that we can see and touch when they appear to us. The Spirit gravitates to the flesh and can form flesh. One of our core doctrines emphasizes that a spirit conceived a child. Don’t we believe that the Holy Spirit miraculously and spiritually conceived Jesus in the Virgin Mary? Absolutely!  Spirits, both clean and unclean, don’t have the power of God, but they have lots of power. Three other verses that shed light on who these “sons of God” were are found in Job, Jude and 2 Peter. In Job 2:1 we see the term in reference to angels including Satan, Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord.”Then there is Jude and 2 Peter who both were probably influenced by the Book of 1 Enoch, which describes in great detail the episode found in Genesis 6. Jude 6 might be referring to these fallen angels leaving their haunts and having sex with daughters of men, “And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day.” Spirit beings desire and manifest themselves physically appearing as humans. They left their abode to seduce humans. Fallen angels are particularly interested in sex. Derek Kidner explains, “The craving of demons for a body, evident in the Gospels, offers at least some parallel to this hunger for sexual experience.”[8]And this is why I think the kingdom of darkness attacks us sexually through seduction. Demons want us to believe we are alone and need illicit sex or porn to feel desired and loved. The rats love to feed on our garbage.

[9]Clovis Chappell, The Sermon on the Mount(Nashville: Cokesbury Press, 1930), 91.

[10]Lloyd-Jones, 107.


Blessed are the Pure in Heart

This sermon can be watched or listened to at!

Who wants to see God?Not a blaze, but a gaze of glory! I’m guessing some of you have some follow-up questions like when? Would you like to see God tonight? I would like to see God tonight. I would love for Jesus to come back tonight. Are you ready to see God?If not, you can get ready tonight and you don’t even have to go home to pack.

Others of you who know your Bibles understand that every time humans encountered the thrice-holy God, they fell as dead before Him. Remember what God told Moses in Exodus 33:19-23 after Moses asked to see God’s glory, “19 And God said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you My name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see My face, for man shall not see Me and live.” 21 And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by Me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while My glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with My hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.” And lest you think that this was just an Old Testament phenomenon, recall what the Apostle John, who hung out with Jesus for 3 years, what his response was to encountering Jesus in His glory. John upon seeing a vision of Jesus fell at Jesus’ feet as if dead. We read about this in Revelation 1:13-16, “13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of His head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 His feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and His voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In His right hand he held seven stars, from His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and His face was like the sun shining in full strength.Seeing God produces what Theologian Rudolf Otto calls the Mysterium Tremendum. Otto describes the Mysterium Tremendum as “the feeling that comes sweeping like a gentle tide, pervading the mind with a tranquil mood of deepest worship … or it may burst in sudden eruption up from the depths of the soul with spasms and convulsions, or lead to the strangest excitements, to intoxicated frenzy, to transport, and to ecstasy. It has its wild and demonic forms and can sink to an almost grisly horror and shuddering. It has its crude, barbaric antecedents and early manifestations and again it may be developed into something beautiful and pure and glorious. It may become the hushed, trembling and speechless humility … Here we have a terror fraught with an inward shuddering such as not even the most menacing and overpowering created thing can instil.”[1]On an earthly scale, this is how I felt one day when I was turkey hunting. I had gotten into my stand before dawn walking through the woods along a muddy trail. When I left my trail and walked back to my car, I noticed fresh bear tracks. It sent a shiver down my spine because I wanted to see a bear, but not that close. This describes how many of us feel. We want to see God, yet there is also a holy dread that comes over us. No wonder the hymn writer wrote, “Holy, Holy, Holy! Though the darkness hides thee, though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see.”[2]And here is where many of us are stuck. You want to meet your Creator but you are afraid because you are still wracked with guilt and shame.

Tonight I am praying that God will move us from guilt to a place where we desire to see Him. Where we still have awe of Him but a greater longing for Him. How can this happen? How can seeing God in His Holiness produce happiness in us? Jesus is the answer. He makes such a promise in Matthew 5:8. To review, it is part of the Beatitudes, 8 blessings Jesus gave to kick off the Sermon on the Mount. These blessings are not something that we can do, but are something that God gives us to make us “divinely happy.”[3]They are the values of Christ’s kingdom! They characterize the subjects and co-heirs of King Jesus. When Jesus sat down to preach and teach the Sermon on the Mount, the King was holding court and addressing His subjects. As we heard the first week that Jesus offers riches beyond compare to those who declare spiritual bankruptcy – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”(Matthew 5:3). Then four weeks ago we learned from Matthew 5:4 that mourning now and turning to Jesus for hope will mean we don’t mourn later – “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”Then three weeks ago Pastor Dan taught on Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Two Sundays ago we focused on the next Beatitude from Matthew 5:6 and learned that if we hunger for holiness from Jesus we will be happy. Then Pastor Dan reminded us from Matthew 5:7 that “Blessed are those who are merciful for they shall be shown mercy.” Now tonight, we are going to learn how to see God!  Read Matthew 5:8!

If you want to see God, Jesus makes it clear you have to have a pure heart. To summarize: You can see God happily if you have a pure heart!You no longer have to live in fear because perfect love, God’s perfect love, drives out fear. (1 John 4:18) My Dad who went to see Jesus two Sundays ago, didn’t have to fear seeing God. He saw God happily without guilt, shame or regret. And not because my dad was a good man but because of what Jesus did for him and you and me. Jesus died and took my dad’s punishment along with our punishment for our sins and Jesus created in my dad a clean heart (Psalm 51:10).  Therefore, we should really say, You can see God happily if you have a pure heart through JesusA happy heart is a pure heart that only Jesus gives! Guilt, shame and regret are the clogged arteries that can cause us to have spiritual heart attacks. Jesus’ spiritual blood transfusion cleans us up and gives us a pure heart. (1 John 1:7; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:14)

But this begs a question, what does it mean to be pure in heart?I believe it goes beyond just sincerity and earnestness or having no pretense, though having a pure heart includes those characteristics. Here is what the scholars say! Sinclair Ferguson explains, “To be pure in heart is to be uncompromisingly dedicated to Christ. Being pure in heart means letting nothing stand in the way of our vision of Christ.”[4] D.A. Carson teaches, “The one who is singleminded is committed to the kingdom and its righteousness (6:33) will be pure. The pure in heart will see God – now with the eyes of faith and finally in the dazzling brilliance of the beatific vision in whose light no deceit can exist.”[5]Warren Wiersbe adds that to be pure in heart is to have “no duplicity.”[6]Richard Lenski taught, “To be ‘pure in heart’ means singleness of heart, honesty which has no hidden motive, no selfish intent, true and open in all things. The greatest joy of heaven will be a vision of God.”[7]Donald Hagner corroborates that purity of heart means, “Singleness of heart”[8]And if we focus just on the word ‘pure’ William Barclay clarifies, “The word ‘pure’ is unmixed, unadulterated and unalloyed.”[9]Maybe this is where the term “heart of gold” got its foundation? We know Shakespeare used it in his play Henry V when the king disguised himself as a commoner to encourage his soldiers and to find out what his army thought of him. So on the night preceding battle where the English were surrounded and outnumbered by the French, Henry asked a man named Pistol about the king’s (his) character. Pistol replied, “The King’s bawcock (a fine fellow), a heart of gold.”[10]We need such a heart of gold. To summarize this Beatitude to be pure in heart is to have an uncontaminated, locked down focus on God.This makes sense because logically if you have a laser focus on Jesus, you will see Him. Unlike Henry V, King Jesus is not hiding Himself. If you seek Him, you will find Him (Matthew 7:8). In fact, if you want to see Jesus you will guaranteed see Him! This is about the only time that the advice to follow your heart is a good one.

Why? Because our hearts aren’t pure and they don’t usually want to see Jesus! Isn’t this what Jesus taught later on in Matthew 15:19, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”It isn’t just lust and porn addictions that will keep us from seeing Jesus, but all sorts of impurities. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones taught, “One of the best definitions of purity is given in Psalm 86:11, ‘Unite my heart to fear thy name.”[11] The problem is what Neil Young discovered in his 1972 song, “I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold, it’s these expressions I never give that keeps me searching for a heart of gold and I’m getting old.”[12] You can keep searching and mining for a heart of gold and never find it because our hearts all fail us. I believe the physical realm often points to the spiritual realm. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S. and second leading cause of death in Canada. Maybe our physical hearts mirror what causes our spiritual deaths? As Jeremiah 17:9declares, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick, who can understand it?We all suffer from spiritual heart disease. Jesus is the cardiologist you need to fix your broken heart!

How? Jesus had a pure heart! This is why He never sinned. Out of His heart did not spew evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness or slander. Jesus’ heart only produced love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). But Jesus also suffered from a broken heart. He loved us

My friends, as we enter into Communion, we are actually trying to see God. And the only way to see God is to get a heart transplant. This is exactly what God promises and without having to be in line for a transplant. Check out Ezekiel 36:26-27, “And I will give you a new heart and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove your heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”If you want to see God work and more importantly, see God in the future, you must ask God for a transplant through His Son Jesus. Ask God to give you a new heart where you unclog the arteries through forgiveness. Then you can see God happily if you have a pure heart through Jesus. And the food that we are about to eat at the Lord’s Supper has God’s seal of approval from the Heavenly Heart Foundation. It represents Jesus’ body and blood. Get a new heart today, so your hearts beats in unison and in communion with God.

[1]Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy (London: Oxford University Press, 1952), 13-15.

[2]Reginald Heber, Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord God Almighty Hymn, 1826.

[3]Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount (Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2018), 13.

[4]Ferguson, 37.

[5]D.A. Carson, The Expositor’s Bible CommentaryMatthew(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 135.

[6]Warren Wiersbe, Live Like a King (Chicago: Moody Press, 1976), 81.

[7]R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel (Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1951), 192.

[8]Donald A Hagner, Matthew 1-13 (Word Biblical Commentary) (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 1993), 94.

[9]William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew – Vol. 1 (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1958), 101.

[10]Source: Accessed August 8, 2019.

[11]D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1959-60), 94.

[12]Neil Young, Heart of Gold (Silver Fiddle Music, 1972).

A Good but Not Good Enough Man

Phil 2014-Hi-Res

Rev. Dr. Philip D. Stairs (June 19, 1941 – July 28, 2019)

If my dad was standing before you today, we would have started with an encouragement to please open your Bibles. I have heard him say this phrase my whole life. It communicated that God was the One speaking. Now many of you don’t have your Bibles with you today, but you can look this up on your smart phones or just follow along in the program. I want to focus on Dad’s favourite verse in the Bible, Romans 5:8, “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” and then I will attempt to preach an expository sermon. In other words, the message of the text is the message of the talk. This is what Dad loved! He wrote his doctoral thesis on expository preaching. He would tell me, “Jonathan, you live and die in the pulpit.” So I have a classic western-style 3 point sermon to honour my father today, but not my earthly father, my Heavenly Father. This is for God’s glory and none other.

There are other ways to experience God’s glory such as being overwhelmed by His holiness, but that often leads to fear. It is actually God’s love that helps us to best experience His glory. John 1:14 illuminates this truth, “And the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Grace and truth are underpinned by love. My dad always taught me that if you really love somebody, you will tell them the truth and once they discover their wrongdoing, you offer them grace. Grace and truth are underpinned by love. So it is God’s love that we must acknowledge today. You see, God’s love is most demonstrated by giving us people. God loved us to give us my dad. That is my first point. 1) God’s love gave us my dad who was a good man. Dad was a good man! Many on social media have used the word great to describe my dad. But my dad would correct us, especially now that he has seen Jesus, and say, “Only God is great!” Here are some of the ways my dad was good. His life was a sermon. He practiced what he preached. Case in point, when talking to medical personnel who asked whether he was afraid to die, he replied, “I actually believe what I have been preaching for 50 years.”

I can’t recall ever questioning whether my dad would do the right thing or not – he was full of integrity. His integrity was demonstrated that he didn’t chase other women than my mom. And he chased her. He knew he wanted her, which is why he proposed to her on their second date and they got married six months later. He was decisive whether purchasing a home his first time in Florida, because he loved it so much, or finding the woman of his dreams. He was a one-woman man and he chased her. He would ask me my whole life, “Don’t you think your mother is beautiful.” And the answer is still a resounding yes!

Dad was also a good man because he loved people, especially his family and the churches he served. I’ll start with his family.Lee Strobel reminds us, “A young person’s relationship with his father can greatly color his attitude toward God. Many well-known atheists through history – including Friedrich Nietzsche, David Hume, Bertrand Russell…Voltaire, H.G. Wells, Madalyn Murray O’Hair and others – have felt abandoned or deeply disappointed with their fathers, making it less likely they would want to know a heavenly Father.”[1]Maybe that describes you today? Maybe my dad can be a substitute father for you today as he was to many throughout his lifetime?Dad wanted us to know his heavenly Father and knew the best way to do that was to love us. Dad loved because God loved him first and God is the source of all love. 1 John 4:19 teaches, “We love because He first loved us.”  Dad’s love was evident because he always made time for us and he verbally expressed his love. The last words my dad spoke to me was last Friday night. I told him I loved him, he responded in a fading voice, “I love you too!”  He would do anything for us! When fixing something he would say, “All things are possible!” He would just try to get his mind wrapped around the problem and then come up with a solution. As my kids would say when something needed repair in our house, “Papa will fix it!”

Maybe because he wasn’t allowed to play sports when he was young and his father was busy travelling the world advancing the cause of Christ, my dad made our family the priority. He would get up early to get into his study at the church to prepare sermons and then he would be home shortly after school let out for us kids. We would play catch and I would pitch 100 pitches to him every day. Not playing sports as a kid himself meant that he had fresh and youthful knees in his forties, when in contrast many of our knees are shot. I did manage to give him some bruises with my wild pitches so he ended up buying catcher’s equipment. He loved watching his kids and grandkids play sports, especially baseball. He only missed one game my entire life that I recall and that was because he had a wedding to officiate. He said, “If you come to my sermons, I’ll come to your games,” which meant at times we had to rush out of church to make it to a Sunday afternoon baseball game. Dad would take the heat for me playing on Sundays from Sunday sentinels who wanted to protect the Christian Sabbath, but my dad was determined to overcome legalism with love like His Saviour. He would be up in the stands and if I scored a goal in hockey or made a nice play in baseball, he would stand and yell, “That’s my boy!” One of the gifts from God was that the last baseball game he ever watched in person was a few weeks ago when his grandson hit a home run and picked off runners at first. He loved seeing runners being picked off. Dad loved all his grandchildren. He would be able to find common interests with each grandchild. He was really good at making connection with people who were different than him. He loved his daughter-in-law and son-in-law.

Maybe that is why he made such a good pastor despite being an introvert? His natural bent was to be a bit anti-social and would have loved to spend his days just hunting and fishing. God’s love changed him to truly love people. We would welcome people into our home that were different than us including those with developmental disabilities that my sister would bring home from work. Church was not work as much as it was worship. He loved church and would travel great distances to hear good preaching. He wasn’t a great singer, but loved to sing. You would hear him sing coming into the house or church. People loved his humour. For example, he wanted to compare his radiation tattoos with Joan Sutherland, a lady in our church who also had multiple myeloma.

Dad was also good with finances. He taught me about money! In fact, I am not aware of a pastor who was a better manager of his money. He was a good steward shown by being able to retire on a pastor’s salary at age 59 and he was generous with his money!

Dad, was also not afraid of what some might consider brighter lights. I chalk this up to the fact that he grew up in a home that always hosted pastors and missionaries as my grandparents were leaders in their Pentecostal denomination. Dad did not fear people, just God. Which is why he was so fiercely protective of the truth and wanted to know what the Bible said on a subject. He majored on the Bible. This emphasis on the Bible was a boon for the Kingdom of God coupled with his mind. He was the human Google before there was Google. You didn’t want to play Trivia Pursuit with him unless you like to lose. His love for history and truth coupled with a mind like a steel trap made him a great debater. If he didn’t get into a little mental or theological sparring every once in awhile, I think he felt like he was not truly living.

Dad went to some of the most conservative and most liberal schools in North America, but he stayed true to his convictions! He could sniff out both legalism and liberalism. He fought liberal creep, which always masquerades initially as being more loving and inclusive, when in reality it sacrifices truth. He knew his Bible better than most! He would rather be right than liked and you didn’t want to be on the wrong side of Biblical interpretation. He left the denomination his dad helped to start. Dad was respected, but not a big “L” leader in our movement. He gave up position and prowess when he left the tribe of his birth and after fighting liberalism in other denominations, vowed never to go to the mic floor of denominational meeting again or become a denominational leader. I believe he kept his vow! Dad was never into position and like His Lord who took on the form of a servant! Dad was not impressed with titles, just the truth! Henry Blackaby once wrote, “Successful spiritual leaders spend the final period of their lives celebrating and building upon the work God did in and through them. This is also a time for teaching the next generation. Leaders in this phase of their leadership have nothing to prove. Few achieve this level!”[2]I think my dad did! Who here was trained by my dad in ministry in some way?

Despite not wanting to be a mover and shaker, when I took him into the hospital early on with his battle with cancer and we were alone in the ER. He had one of those lucid, almost prophetic moments when his voice became very strong. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Jonathan, I need to tell you something. God’s hand is upon you! You need to be a pastor first and lead Temple to be a church that is committed to holiness – not legalism or license. You need to uphold that we are Baptists and we are faithful to the Word of God. Heritage is on your door step and you have an opportunity to lead the next generation of faithful gospel ministers who will preach, ‘Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit!’ (Acts 2:38) I am concerned that no one else will.” So here is my prayer: Would God give Temple a legion (10,000 strong) of the next generation of Phil Stairs’ to reach 1% of the world with the gospel proclaiming this message of the gospel repentance and baptism? No compromise! Just full of grace and truth! So much more could be said, but God’s love gave us my dad who was a good man.

However, despite God’s love, Dad was not good enough! This is my second point: despite God’s love, Dad was not good enough! My dad was consistent but not perfect. Lots of you know that and I don’t think this is the time to elevate his faults. I will only give you one example. Often when I was a kid and was disobedient and unkind in some way, he would use a guilt complex as his parenting leverage, “Well, you don’t want to disobey because you’ll miss me when I’m dead and gone.” My desire to reconcile was motivated by his death. He was right, I do miss him now he is dead and gone, but as I told him once, “I should have been in long-term therapy with your parenting techniques.” Dad agreed even until his last days. Last week, I told him, “You were the best father a son could have.” He replied, “I’m just a sinner saved by grace.” That is actually true of all of us. Recall what Romans 5:8 says, “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners.”The cold, hard truth is that we are all sinners. We have all done wrong against God. None of us would dare to claim that we are perfect.

And this leads me to my last point, Dad trusted in the One who was good enough, will you?Romans 5:8 concludes with these eternity-changing words, “Christ died for us.” It is actually odd that my father embraced this truth. You see, my father never liked middle-men. He did his own real estate work, legal work and repair work on his home, all saving thousands of dollars. But he became convinced that he needed a middle-man between him and God and that is “one mediator between God and man Jesus Christ.” (1 Timothy 2:5) As my mom said to my sister and I as we shared sacred moments in caring for dad as he made his promotion to heaven, “Your dad believed that God wasn’t trying to keep people out of heaven. God’s gospel doesn’t give up on people.” Recall Dad wanted to hear laughter up in heaven from this service. The Bible doesn’t explicitly say we can hear things on earth while up in heaven. But we can be sure that Dad could hear laughter up in heaven. You see, Jesus promised that, “There will be great rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10) Repentance is for the religious and irreligious. There is an opportunity today for those who think you are too good to repent and there is an opportunity today for those who think you are too bad to repent.

My father led me to my Heavenly and Eternal Father through Jesus Christ as a young boy and I wanted to give you an opportunity for my dad’s favourite verse to lead to the Heavenly and Eternal Father. You see, it isn’t my dad who can fix our ultimate problem. There is a greater Papa who will fix it. “All things are possible through faith in Him.” (Mark 9:23) God the Father loves you so much and sent His Son Jesus to die for you and your sins. But that is not the best news. Look at what Jesus declares in John 11:25-26 in your bulletins, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”This is the most important question you could ever answer. Life is pointless unless there is an afterlife. Think about this, especially you skeptics, it doesn’t make sense that we have consciousness and then we die and it doesn’t exist anymore. But our consciousness or better yet, our spirits do continue to exist. 2 Corinthians 5:6-7 declares, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” This is true only for the believer in Jesus Christ who is the only way, truth and life to the Father. Each of you must put your faith in Jesus alone to be good enough for you. You must believe Jesus rose from the dead for you. Jesus is alive and now has gone to prepare a place for us. The new heavens and new earth where we will have resurrected bodies with no more cancer or bad hearts, physically or spiritually. Death is just a shadow now. I loved how Pastor Donald Gray Barnhouse explained this to his kids. Listen up my family and church family! There was a Mack truck passing by that nearly hit the Barnhouse family when they were driving. The Mack truck’s shadow hit them, but it didn’t kill them. We too only walk in valley of the shadow of death. It is a little scary. You can’t see that well because it is dark. You think about what you are missing. For me I am thinking about all the knowledge and wisdom my dad had from majoring on the Bible and discovering truths he said he never heard others encounter, and now they seem lost. But then I thought of climbing up that mountain out of the valley of the shadow of death and that there will be full light in the new heavens and new earth and this won’t be lost. We will have all eternity to learn and love God and each other. It is because Jesus lives that we will rise again!

[1]Lee Strobel, The Case for Easter(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 102.

[2]Henry & Richard Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership(Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2001), 45.

Blessed are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

This sermon can be watched or listened to at!

Would you like to know what one of my biggest concerns is in life? Food! Always has been! Anybody else think this way? Ever since I was a little boy and my dad would pray with me at bedtime, I would ask, “Daddy, are we going to have breakas (because I had trouble saying the word “breakfast”) in the morning?” Apparently, this was my same question and concern every night and he would assure me that we would have breakfast in the morning. I’m still concerned about food. You can talk to my family or my Staff when we go on trips, and my first priority is to make sure we get fed well. Family dinners are fundamental to me. Getting fed is still one of my biggest concerns in life and as your pastor it still is one of my biggest concerns, but not just physically. My big prayer is whether I am feeding you spiritually.

Why is this so important? Because if you don’t get nourishment you will die! I’m keenly aware of the importance of food. I have seen it firsthand in Haiti, India and Africa when people do not have food. They actually look full but this is a deadly deception because their bellies are distended like this one little boy I met in Togo. Now we don’t usually see this in North America. Our bellies protrude let’s just say for other reasons. But we can be spiritually distended and present ourselves as overfed on spiritual food when we are not. It reminds me of Amy Grant’s 1980’s song, “Fat Baby.” Anybody else remember the song? The lyrics go like this:

“I know a man, maybe you know him, too
You never can tell; he might even be you
He knelt at the altar, and that was the end
He’s saved, and that’s all that matters to him
His spiritual tummy, it can’t take too much
One day a week, he gets a spiritual lunch
On Sunday, he puts on his spiritual best
And gives his language a spiritual rest
He’s just a faaa…
He’s just a fat little baby!
Wa, wa, waaaaa…
He wants his bottle, and he don’t mean maybe
He sampled solid foods once or twice
But he says doctrine leaves him cold as ice
Ba, ba, ba, ba…ba, ba…ba, ba!
He’s been baptized, sanctified, redeemed by the blood
But his daily devotions are stuck in the mud
He knows the books of the Bible and John 3:16
He’s got the biggest King James you’ve ever seen!
I’ve always wondered if he’ll grow up someday
He’s momma’s boy, and he likes it that way
If you happen to see him, tell him I said,
“He’ll never grow, if he never gets fed”
He’s just a fat, fat, fat, fat, fat, fa-at, fat…
Fat, Fat, Fat, Fat, Fat, Fa-at, Fat…
Fat, Fat, Fat, Fat, Fat, Fat, Fatttt…

You might be able to name such fat spiritual babies. Not out loud right now, please! The more important question is are you spiritually distended?Have you been glutting on things that don’t bring spiritual nourishment? Pastor Jason reminded our Staff this week that we can glut on people’s affirmation and it made me think that we can glut on all sorts of things! What do people glut on that is not spiritually nourishing?Shout some out right now! My wife added, “Shopping, entertainment, social media, knowledge and power.”

I have some very good news today that Jesus wants to change our diets. He wants to give you a taste for something better. I have changed my diet to eating healthier and it has reset my digestive system. God wants to do this reset of our spiritual appetites for all of us. But the first step is to become spiritually hungry and thirsty because if you are spiritually starving, Jesus will satisfy you. This is what we read in Matthew 5:6. It is part of the Beatitudes, 8 blessings Jesus gave to kick off the Sermon on the Mount. These blessings are not something that we can do, but are something that God gives us to make us “divinely happy.”[2] They are the values of Christ’s kingdom! They characterize the subjects and co-heirs of King Jesus. When Jesus sat down to preach and teach the Sermon on the Mount, the King was holding court and addressing His subjects. As we heard the first week that Jesus offers riches beyond compare to those who declare spiritual bankruptcy – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”(Matthew 5:3). Then two weeks ago we learned from Matthew 5:4 that mourning now and turning to Jesus for hope will mean we don’t mourn later – “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”Then last week Pastor Dan taught on Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Now we are going to focus on the next Beatitude – Matthew 5:6 and learn that if we hunger for holiness from Jesus we will be happy.I’ll say that again, if we hunger for holiness in Jesus we will be happy. Let’s pray first as we have the Lord’s Supper in view that we will be eating at the end of the message. Please pray by finishing this statement: GOD, WE ARE SPIRITUALLY STARVING FOR…! Read Matthew 5:6!

Think about what the King of Kings has decreed! The King has once again made a radical statement – how does one hunger and thirst for righteousness? Can you go buy righteousness at the market, grocery store or restaurant? Can you plant and raise righteousness in your garden to get some fresh righteousness each day? No, Jesus is using another metaphor just like He used “poor in spirit” to convey the blessing of acknowledging your spiritual bankruptcy. This metaphor of spiritual starvation “vividly expresses desire.”[3]Lovers use the same term like the aptly named band the Righteous Brothers did in their famous song Unchained Melody. Remember the line in the song, “I hunger for your touch.” (Now I have you all singing this in your minds so stick with me.) Saying, “I hunger for your touch” goes beyond the uncreative and uncouth phrase, “Duh, I want you.” (That is just a little tip for us romantically challenged!) Hungering and thirsting convey a sense of basic need and urgency. So since water and bread are essentials for life, Jesus is using elemental language. For we all know that “food and water are necessities, not luxuries.”[4]Every humanitarian group, including those opposed to Christ, agrees that clean drinking water is the basic essential for every human being. This is why we partner with groups like Global Aid Network to provide clean drinking water to people which parlays into a gospel conversation about Jesus providing living water for people (John 4:10).

But here is the problem, few hunger and thirst for righteousness. In fact, the Apostle Paul, quoting Psalm 14, declares, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” “Most people suffer from what Robert Louis Stevenson called ‘the melody of not wanting.’”[5]A majority of us in Cambridge and Canada and maybe some in this room today, are not “seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). But as one writer says, “There is probably no greater secret of progress in the Christian life than a hearty and healthy appetite.”[6] Why? Because “we are what we eat!”[7]Our original parents, Adam and Eve, ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and we have been eating forbidden, sinful fruit ever since that has blurred our vision in seeing what is truly good and truly evil. We ate sin, so we are sinners.

But that is not even close to the end of the story. We need to understand further what Jesus is saying. Remember if we hunger for holiness from Jesus we will be happy. So moving forward, we are going to going deeper into understanding Matthew 5:6, find out how to increase our spiritual appetite and then eat a spiritually nourishing meal. The grammar in Matthew 5:6 is a little perplexing for scholars but provides a profound insight. You see, the words for hunger and thirst are partitive genitives meaning that it is partial. The late Pastor James Montgomery Boice taught, “It would be like hearing a person saying, “I would like some bread, please.” They don’t want all the bread. However, the word ‘righteousness’ is in the accusative meaning that the one who longs for righteousness, doesn’t do so for a partial or imperfect righteousness but for the whole thing. In other words, we must long for a perfect righteousness equal to and identical to God’s.”[8]So maybe people start with wanting a little righteousness and get a greater taste for it; they want all of it or better yet all, of Christ. Could this be what King David writes in Psalm 34:8 when he encourages, “Taste and see that the Lord is good”? If you will truly taste life with Jesus, you will want more.And this leads us to the most important grammatical and theological understanding of the verse – the verb “satisfied” is in the passive voice, which shows we can’t obtain righteousness on our own. “God is the agent!”[9] I WANT THE WHOLE LOAF AND ONLY JESUS CAN GIVE IT! I can’t buy it; just beg for it. I can’t work for it; Jesus worked for it so I could have it!And so this is why the word “Satisfied expresses the feeding and fattening of cattle with fodder.”[10] Jesus has brought us to a place where we will be fed. He has given us His Word. We don’t have to search for greener pastures. This is why we are blessed and happy. William Barclay calls this, “The bliss of the starving spirit.”[11] The irony is that when you recognize you are hungry for God, you will be satisfied. Our spiritually distended bellies will be filled!

My friends, “God has placed in every one of us an insatiable hunger for himself.”[12]Maybe today you hunger and thirst for all that is good? You “thirst for justice.”[13]Jesus will satisfy you. But here are 3 steps to increase your spiritual appetite for good: 1) Hunger for the Word of God.Recall what Jesus first quoted when being tempted by the Devil, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) I put this first because you have to usually taste something better to stop eating something that is not good for you, but that is the second step; 2) Get rid of spiritual junk food. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a medical doctor turned pastor, taught, “The person who is truly hungering and thirsting after righteousness obviously avoids everything that is opposed to such a righteousness. I cannot obtain it myself, but I can refrain from doing things that are obviously opposed to it.[14] When I made some dietary changes, I told Lori to stop buying potato chips because I love them. Sometimes they appear back in the house and I always find them. It’s like I have a built into potato chip magnet and I definitely can’t just eat one chip. Whatever spiritual junk food is your life, get rid of it and throw it away! Write down right now on your sermon notes page whatever it is that is spiritual junk food to you. Show it to your family or small group and ask them to help you stay clear of it. You see as the late Warren Wiersbe taught, “One of the first symptoms of sickness is a loss of appetite and one of the first signs of regained health after sickness is the return of appetite. Doctors will always ask you how your appetite is! On a spiritual level, when infection of sin settles in it crowds our appetite for spiritual things.”[15]“Sheep have no taste for garbage. Dogs, pigs, even goats scrounge and eat garbage, but never sheep.”[16]All other things that you hunger for will not bring lasting fullness. You can consume the things of this earth and you will hunger again. Everything else you will hunger after will leave you wanting for more, but not what the King of King offers. He offers you daily bread that will fill your soul. Remember if we hunger for holiness from Jesus we will be happy!

So hunger for the Word of God and get rid of spiritual junk food but you also need to hunger for living with Jesus for all eternity. In other words, 3) Hunger for King Jesus and spending eternity with Him! Hunger for heaven! I love how D.A. Carson puts it, “All unrighteousness grieves them and makes them homesick for the new heaven and earth – the home of righteousness as 2 Peter 3:13 declares, But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.’”[17] I have never been more homesick for the new heaven and earth than this year. Recognizing my spiritual bankruptcy and mourning has led to increased meekness and a spiritual appetite for God that only King Jesus can satisfy.

If that describes you today, we offer you like we did the kids at Sports Camp this week, an opportunity to come for all those who are thirsty. Four children found their satisfaction in Christ alone this week. They realized they lacked something and Jesus had what they needed. If children can recognize the spiritually healthy bread only Jesus provides, will you? We are going to sing All Who Are Thirstyand then afterwards, you can come up and grab as much bread as you want as well as a cup and drink with a new or renewed understanding that Jesus is both the Bread of Life and Living Water for you. He alone saves and satisfies you. Once you have eaten you can walk back to your seats on the outside aisles. We will let the Worship Team go first.

[1]Rodney S. Robison & Steve Millikan, Fat Baby (Universal Music Publishing Group, Capitol Christian Music Group), 1982.

[2]Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount (Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2018), 13.

[3]D.A. Carson, The Expositor’s Bible CommentaryMatthew (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 134.

[4]Warren Wiersbe, Live Like a King (Chicago: Moody Press, 1976), 81.

[5]Barclary, 95.

[6]John R.W. Stott, “Christ’s Portrait of a Christian,” The Keswick Week 1972(London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1972), 48.

[7]Wiersbe, 92.

[8]James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount – An Exposition (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975), 46.

[9]Cleon L. Rogers Jr., and Cleon L. Rogers III, The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 9.

[10]R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel (Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1951), 196.

[11]William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew – Vol. 1(Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1958), 94.

[12]Clovis Chappell, The Sermon on the Mount(Nashville: Cokesbury Press, 1930), 53.

[13]Donald A Hagner, Matthew 1-13 (Word Biblical Commentary)(Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 1993), 93.

[14]D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount(Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1959-60), 76.

[15]Wiersbe, 83.

[16]Wiersbe, 85.

[17]Carson, 134.

Blessed are those who Mourn

This sermon can be watched or listened to at!

One of my wife’s favourite movies is entitled Inside Out. Who has seen it? “It is the Academy Award winning animated comedy about what goes on in the mind of a young girl named Riley, where five personified emotions – Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust try to lead her through life as she and her parents adjust to their new surroundings after moving from Minnesota to San Francisco.”[1] Inside Out captures in a humorous way what we all face every day in dealing with our emotions. The main interplay in the movie is between the emotions of Joy and Sadness. In a vivid scene on Riley’s first day at school, Joy takes a piece of chalk and draws a circle on the ground around Sadness and joyfully says that Sadness may not leave the circle of sadness, so Riley does not feel sadness that day or any day for that matter. Who here would like to draw a circle of sadness and banish that emotion from our lives? Sadness be gone!

If we do banish sadness from our lives, I dare say we will never be truly happy again. The movie shows that Riley needed to express sad thoughts. In fact, Inside Outdid not originate this understanding of needed human emotions, Jesus did! Jesus made it clear in His Sermon on the Mount and specifically the Beattitude found in Matthew 5:4 almost 2000 years ago! As Pastor Jason taught us last Sunday night, the Beattitudes are not the attitudes we must bedoing or have, but they are actually the 8 blessings from God, which make us “divinely happy.”[2] Why? Because these are the values of Christ’s kingdom! They characterize the subjects and co-heirs of King Jesus. When Jesus sat down to preach and teach the Sermon on the Mount, the King was holding court and addressing His subjects. As we heard last week, He first offers riches beyond compare to those who declare spiritual bankruptcy – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”(Matthew 5:3). We learned that declaring spiritual bankruptcy is a path to finding both our happiness and inheritance in King Jesus!

I know that some of you may think this is a downer and wonder why we have to talk about sin when all our sins are forgiven. Others of you think that Jesus was teaching this before the Cross and so all these ethics are Old Testament and under the Law. However, until we understand our state of sin, we will not understand our standing in Christ. We are not meant to reign while we still have sinful nature because so often our sinful natures end up ruling us! This is why the great Protestant Reformer Martin Luther said, “Our entire life must be a continuous contrition and repentance.[3]This follows what 1 John 1:8-10declares and warns, If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us.Acknowledging our sin and making confession as a daily discipline is a conduit of grace. When we acknowledge we are poor in spirit, we are operating within the Kingdom mandate of redemption and Jesus reversing the curse. Pride was the cause of sin; humility overcomes it. Death was the consequence of sin; resurrection overcomes it. Understanding this truth is foundational to grasping the next Beattitude that Jesus teaches from Matthew 5:4! Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew 5:4 to see how Jesus right side ups sadness in His Kingdom so we can find divine happiness and comfort. Like being poor in spirit reverses the curse of pride, Jesus’ Kingdom uses mourning to reverse the curse of death. Some day mourning be like carnivores and will go the way of the dinosaur, but for now Jesus is using sadness as a tool of redemption. Let’s find out more from Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those you mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

We may be the saddest generation in history and not because we have had more sad things done to us. In fact, many of us have lived a reasonably peaceful life compared to many in history. We have not experienced war first hand or financial ruin. We have not gone through the Great Depression, yet there is a depression in our society that is great. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 1 in 5 of us Canadians will experience mental illness this year.[4]Not all of those are depressed, but it is significant. Depression has been a taboo subject in the church, but it shouldn’t be. The great Charles Spurgeon suffered depression after there was a fire at an event he was speaking and people died. He declared, “Man is a double being: he is composed of body and soul, and each of the portions of man may receive injury and hurt.”[5] Sadly, we have not acknowledged the daily injury to our souls. Added to this is our avoidance and sanitation of death where funerals are decreasing and grief counselling increasing. I think this is due to naturalistic thinking where we do not believe there is an afterlife and so we just move on as if that person’s life really didn’t matter and this causes depression. The world has it all backwards – we use technology to end life and suffering, when in reality suffering continues for those left behind and suffering will continue in hell if we don’t believe in Jesus. In fact, if this life is all there is, we should try to live as long as we can. And so we live in paradox of spending millions of dollars on extending life for the sick and aged and yet also shorten life and kill those who are suffering. No wonder there is a great depression in our society who has rejected Jesus. However, not all that is labelled depression, but is rather a profound sadness. “In his acclaimed book The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression,Andrew Solomon defines, “Grief is depression in proportion to circumstance while depression is grief out of proportion to circumstance.”[6] In other words, grief is right-sized to the loss whereas depression becomes a super-sized monster that feels overwhelming. The monster grows because “multiplied sadnesses can also take a dark turn toward depression”[7]and is scary because it is like “a mental arthritis”[8]which is chronic and yet still ambushes with new levels of pain. But this is where the massive help of God, who is larger than depression, comes in. Surprisingly, God doesn’t always slay the monster of depression, at least not yet.

Why? There are a number of reasons God uses mourning and depression in our lives: 1) To reveal our character and affections.Pastor Warren Wiersbe who recently went home to be with Jesus asks, “If you want to know a person’s character, find out what makes him laugh and what makes him weep.”[9] What makes you laugh and what makes you cry?Do the things you laugh about honour the Lord and increase joy in others or do you laugh at others’ expense and what is unwholesome? Do you weep at sin, injustice and because others are in pain or do you cry when you lose possessions or promotions? God is not the cause of depression and you may not be either. Depression is not sin in itself. You never find depression listed in the Bible as sin, but depression is not innately good. It is part of the fallen human condition and world we live in. Yet God redeems it to reveal our character and affections.

A second reason why God uses mourning and depression in our lives is 2) to reveal sin. You see, “The sinner who hates his sin and mourns over it will find comfort in God’s mercy.”[10]As Dr. Martyin Lloyd Jones explains, “Your great sorrow leads to joy and without the sorrow there is no joy. Now this is not only at conversion; it is something that continues to be true about the Christian. He finds himself guilty of sin, and at first casts himself down and mourns. But that in turn drives him back to Christ; and the moment he goes back to Christ, his peace and happiness return and he is comforted.”[11]This is why mourning is not just over those who die, but also over our depravity. Maybe that this the first thing we should mourn? As we “mourn the loss of innocence, righteousness and self-respect,”[12]we start to see our great and constant need for Christ. In this acknowledgement, we find a “grace that never tires forges our hope.”[13]I like how the late James Montgomery Boice, pastor of Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia, explains it, “The presence of sin in our lives is a bit like the presence of carbon monoxide in the exhaust system of an automobile. So long as the car runs, the deadly gas will be present. If it is unchecked, it will bring death to the occupant of the car. But when the car is running properly run and properly maintained, the carbon monoxide is contained within the exhaust system so that it does not break forth in death and only a slight smell is present as it is mixed with the burning oil and gas fumes. In the same way, there will always be the smell of sin about us and in what we do. But it need not break out to bring death. The restraining power of Christ through the Holy Spirit will prevent it, and the contamination of death need not spread from us. In this, too, there is great hope for the Christian.”[14]

Not only does God use mourning and depression to reveal our character, affections and sins, but a third reason why God uses mourning and depression is 3) to empathize with others. Pastor Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, once remarked, “In talking with those who are in a wretched condition, I find myself at home. He who has been in the dark dungeon knows the way to the bread and the water.”[15]Our Lord Himself entered in this dark world and felt its pain personally. Recall how Jesus wept when He saw the pain of people who were mourning over the death of His friend Lazarus (John 11:35). We should remember what Susanna Kaysen understands, “After all, on this side of heaven, ‘There is no cure for sadness’ or depression. No saint or hero is immune.”[16]In fact, Jesus is saying that mourning is a characteristic of the saint and a characteristic of His subjects in His Kingdom. The tense of the verb is important in Matthew 5:4 – “shallbe comforted.” That tense is what? Future! Jesus doesn’t say that we are necessarily comforted now, but we will be comforted. That could be in the future here on earth, but it will definitely be true in heaven.

I dare say, mourning now will eliminate mourning later. “Jesus tells us that hell of full of mourners in Matthew 25:30, people who weep and mourn.”[17] The Beattitudes are full of irony. If we mourn now over our sin, we won’t be mourning over it in heaven because there will be no more tears in heaven (Revelation 21:4). And as we mourn over our sin and see the consequences in our life and others, it causes us to not only empathize, but point others to Christ. How? Here is some real practical advice and tips how to mourn and mourn with those who mournfrom Pastor Zack Eswine, “1) As a sufferer, tell your story by searching for metaphors to describe your experience.Just like how I earlier described depression as a monster and others described it as “mental arthritis” or “a stubborn darkness.”[18]The second tip is for the caregiver:2) As a caregiver, learn patience and appreciation for metaphor. Metaphors invite us to say, ‘What does that mean?’”[19]And when you start to discover meaning, you can turn that into a gospel conservation because “all things were created through Him and for Him … and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things.” (Colossians 1:16, 20) This is why we can:3) Use the stories and metaphors to point to the ultimate Sufferer and Caregiver.Think about Jesus. Did He not suffer on the Cross and yet still give care to those who mourn? Jesus when hanging on the Cross comforted His mother by handing off her care to His disciple John (John 19:26-27) He is still caring for you and me as we mourn.

Nothing evidences this more than one of Jesus’ names! Who is the ‘Man of Sorrows’? JESUS CHRIST fulfills Isaiah 53:3! Sing with me, “Man of Sorrows, what a name, for the Son of God who came, ruined sinners to reclaim, Hallelujah! What a Saviour!”[20]As the worship team comes up, I want to remind you to wait and worship. Such mourning will result in comfort. Listen to the worship team sing While I Waitand then join in.

COMMUNION: As we head into Communion, I want you to see the Lord’s Table with the Bread and Cup as the ultimate comfort food. We all have our comfort food. Some of our Staff think Chicken and Waffles are comfort food. For me, as a Maritimer, I want homemade bread with beans in molasses or I’ll take some grits, biscuits, buttermilk fried shrimp and sweet tea from Cracker Barrel in the U.S. Some of you find your comfort food from the country of your origin – samosas or falafels or pad Thai. Nevertheless, whatever your comfort food, this bread and cup is a greater comfort food. In fact, I brought Communion to my Dad this morning in the hospital. I let him give the instruction from Scripture and he did from memory. Why was it a comfort to him and me? How can there be comfort when we think on Jesus’ death? William Barclay reminds us, “The Arabs have a proverb, ‘All sunshine makes a desert.’ The land on which the sun always shines will soon become an arid place in which no fruit will grow. There are certain things, which only the rains will produce; and certain experiences which only sorrow can beget … When things go well it is possible to live for years on the surface of things; but when sorrow comes a man is driven to the deep things of life, and, if he accepts it aright, a new strength and beauty enter into his soul.”[21]When you take this comfort food in your hand, I want you to mourn over your sin and then thank Jesus for what it cost Him to take away your sin. This will be like the refreshing rain into your soul that brings so much comfort from the heat of guilt and shame. It is like what my dad told me laying in a hospital bed this week, “Some people think they deserve more time, but I only think of the blessings that God has given me.” Joy doesn’t just come the next day. Joy doesn’t just come in the morning, but in the mourning with Jesus!He will comfort us!

[1]Source: Accessed July 11, 2019.

[2]Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount(Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2018), 13.

[3]R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel(Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1951), 187.

[4]Source: Accessed July 12, 2019.

[5]Charles Spurgeon, “Healing for the Wounded” Sermon.

[6]Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression(New York: Scribner, 2003), 16.

[7]Zack Eswine, Spurgeon’s Sorrows(Glasgow: Christian Focus, 2014), 28.

[8]David Karp, “An Unwelcome Career,” Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression, ed. Nell Casey (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 148.

[9]Warren Wiersbe, Live Like a King(Chicago: Moody Press, 1976), 45.

[10]Ferguson, 19.

[11]D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount(Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1959-60), 49.

[12]John R.W. Stott, “Christ’s Portrait of a Christian,” The Keswick Week 1972(London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1972), 45.

[13]Zack Eswine, Spurgeon’s Sorrows(Glasgow: Christian Focus, 2014), 81.

[14]James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount – An Exposition(Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975), 33-34.

[15]Charles Spurgeon, “The Shank Bone Sermon; Or, True Believers and their Helpers,” MTP, Vol. 36 (Ages Digital Library, 1998), 252.

[16]Susanna Kaysen, “One Cheer for Melancholy,” Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression(New York: Perrennial, 2002), 41.

[17]Clovis Chappell, The Sermon on the Mount(Nashville: Cokesbury Press, 1930), 27.

[18]Edward T. Welch, Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness(Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2011).

[19]Eswine, 73.

[20]Philip P. Bliss, “Hallelujah! What a Savior!” Hymn, 1875.

[21]William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew – Vol. 1(Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1958), 88.

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

This sermon can be watched or listened to at!

Who here wants to be bankrupt?Just think about it! You wouldn’t have to worry about gas prices going up if you didn’t have a car. You wouldn’t have to worry about increasing property taxes if you didn’t have a home. You wouldn’t have to worry about educational costs if you knew you could never afford it and you certainly wouldn’t qualify for a loan because of your credit score. You wouldn’t have worry about which outfit to wear because your outfit of the day would be the same as yesterday and the day before that and the day before that. And imagine this: You would finally get released from the suffocating debt you are under. Sound good? Today I am going to propose to you that you should declare bankruptcy. Not financial bankruptcy! The Bible in Psalm 37:21 warns us against making financial promises and not keeping them, “The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives.”

What Jesus is calling us to do today is declare moral and spiritual bankruptcy! What am I talking about? Let’s find out as we begin a summer series on the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-3. The Beatitudes are the 8 blessings Jesus uses to kick off His Sermon on the Mount. And the Sermon on the Mount has been called the manifesto of Jesus’ kingdom. Some have said, “The Sermon on the Mount presents the entire life in the kingdom.”[1]Others have said, “‘The Sermon on the Mount is like Mount Sinai, but more accessible’ because Sinai emphasized the Law whereas the Sermon on the Mount emphases the gospel. The Beatitudes comes from the Latin root word “beati,” which means “blessing.” But blessing is not just something you say before meals or at Thanksgiving. The word “blessing” means to be happy, but not just as an emotion! In fact, we could say as one scholar, Sinclair Ferguson, defines it, “To be blessed is to be divinely happy.”[2] This is why the great English preacher and medical doctor Martyn Lloyd Jones prescribes, “Read the Beatitudes and there you have a description of what a Christian is meant to be.”[3]You see, “The Beatitudes do not focus on what we are to do. Rather they describe the blessings – the covenant of grace and joy – that belong to those whose lives show the marks of the kingdom of God.”[4] “The only life that God blesses is the one marked by His values. They are the hallmarks of those who belong to the kingdom of God.”[5]

So what 8 things do you want to see most developed in your life that would make you happy? You don’t even have to come up with a list. Jesus already did and I doubt few or any of us would come up with his entire list of being poor in spirit, mourning, meekness, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, mercy, purity, peacemaking and persecution. This is simply not our go-to list for the 8 Steps to a successful life. These things are not natural for us to seek out. No one wakes up and says, “Man, I just want to be poor in spirit to day!” The world doesn’t hold these out as the 8 keys to the pursuit of happiness. You see, Jesus takes what we would normally think and turns it on its head. Some might say He is turning His hearers world upside down. But I propose that He is turning it right side up. This is why we are calling this series the RIGHT SIDE-UP KINGDOM! Some have called Jesus’ dominion the upside down kingdom, but I actually think Jesus’ kingdom is right-siding everything. It is the world that has been living upside down.

But that begs that question a some of you might have, especially you skeptics, “Isn’t Christ already ruling as the Bible teaches He is sovereign and has all authority on heaven and on earth according to Matthew 20:18?” Yes, Jesus is sovereign and ruling, but the very nature of a kingdom communicates boundaries. Every kingdom has a monarch, a message, a messenger and a mortal enemy. God’s Kingdom’s monarch is Jesus Christ, His message is the Gospel, His messenger is the Church and His mortal enemy is Satan. The Good News is that that though “it is sin that enables Satan to rule; it is grace that empowers Christ to rule.”[6]So let’s read Matthew 5:1-3 to embrace Christ’s rule in our lives! Read Matthew 5:1-3!

Imagine it! Jesus is climbing a mountain, not with climbing equipment, but with the crowds. Most likely, this mountain was in Galilee. He sat down so people would come to attention. As William Barclay explains, “When a Jewish Rabbi was teaching officially he sat to teach. We will still speak of a professors ‘chair,’ and the Pope apparently speaks ex cathedra, ‘from the chair.’”[7]By Jesus sitting down, He was communicating His authority and I dare say His rule. A king sits on the throne because he has established his kingdom and there is peace enough to rest otherwise he would be on the march with sword in hand. “The Kingdom of God has come in Jesus.”[8]

The first words out of our King’s mouth were, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This is so radical and unexpected. Jesus says, “I give approval first to those poor in spirit.” You would think that Jesus would have thanked and courted the powerful, but instead He literally courts the poor… in spirit. Jesus is right-siding up everything with His Kingdom. Lori and I were talking and this is not how to start a new religion – courting the poor and the powerless! But that is how Jesus does it and gives further illumination to some of the parables He tells later on in Matthew 22:1-13 such as when the king invites the rich to a wedding feast for his son and they refuse so he replaces them with the poor!

However, it begs the question, what does ‘poor in spirit’ mean? This is different than when Jesus said in Luke 6:20, “Blessed are the poor.” In his well-titled book, Live Like a King, Warren Wiersbe explains, “Most assuredly, poor in spirit does not mean to be poor-spirited.”[9]It does not mean that you lack passion. And Sinclair Ferguson clarifies further, “Poverty of spirit is neither a financial nor a depressive condition, although it has often been mistaken for both.”[10]So being depressed is not a pathway into the kingdom nor is having little in your bank account. Does that make feel better today? So what does ‘poor in spirit” mean? It means recognizing that you are spiritually and morally bankrupt. You have no influence, power, help, prestige or earthly resources to make you right with God. When you have little it often focuses you. I know the times when money is tight, our family bands together and starts to prioritize what is really important. Spiritually poor people also start to band together and prioritize. This is what I hope is happening here at Temple.

Here is my summary of Jesus’ first blessing: Spiritually bankrupt people find their happiness and inheritance in King Jesus! Or to put in an actionable term: Declare spiritually bankruptcy and you will find your happiness and inheritance in King Jesus!‘The world emphasizes self-confidence, assurance and self-reliance,”[11]but those are the traits you need to throw off to belong to God’s forever kingdom – the kingdom of heaven. You see, the word ‘poor’ derives “from a verb, which signifies ‘cringing, crouching like a beggar.’”[12] That you recognize, “He is worthy and we are needy.”

So imagine yourself at the Cambridge Delta or any of the busy corners of our city. You are now one of those homeless holding up a sign. But instead of asking for some spare change for food, your sign says, “Broke … God’s commands! Bankrupt! Help! God bless!” Have you come to that place yet in your life? That you believe you are spiritually bankrupt. Would you hold up that sign? I have to warn you that people will ignore you, reject you and maybe even despise you and those people could be your family, friends, co-workers and friends. They are going to say that you are crazy to admit you are spiritually and morally bankrupt when you have so much going for you. But despite this rejection, you still recognize that desperate need for God to rescue you. You see yourself as sinner! Declare spiritual bankruptcy and you will find your happiness and inheritance in King Jesus!

What is so sad is that the kingdom of God and Jesus are so close to us and we miss it and more importantly, Him. It reminds me of a story told by Russell Connell, an American Baptist minister, orator, philanthropist, and lawyer, who heard the riveting story from an old Arab tour guide in 1870: “There once was a wealthy man name Ali Hafed who lived not far from the River Indus. Ali ‘was contented because he was wealthy, and wealthy because he was contented’ it was said. One day a priest visited Al Hafed and told him about some mysterious diamonds that could produce untold wealth for the one who found them. Pondering the diamond story, Ali ‘went to his bed that night a poor man. He had not lost anything, but he was poor because he was discontented and discontented because he feared he was poor.’ Soon Ali sold his farm, left his family, and traveled throughout Palestine and then to Europe searching for diamonds, which, sadly he never discovered. Eventually his health and his wealth failed. Dejected, he cast himself into the sea and took his own life. The man who had purchased Ali Hafed’s farm found a curious sparkling stone in a stream that cut through the land. It was a diamond. Digging produced more diamonds – acres of diamonds, in fact. This according to the parable, was the discovery of the famed diamonds of Golconda.”[13]In a sad irony, the man had given up everything to search for something he already had. You are spiritually bankrupt even if you don’t know it because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) And yet acknowledging you are poor in spirit, you will become rich for eternity.

Jesus is here offering blessing, approval and happiness and yet, we are like Ali, going off chasing riches when Jesus is ready to give them to us for free. Well, not free for Him, but free for us. The great irony is as Martyn Lloyd-Jones has said, “There is no one in the kingdom of God who is not poor in Spirit.”[14]Ironically in Jesus’ economy, “There is a poverty that makes us rich.”[15]And “Paradoxically, Jesus teaches that the Sermon on the Mount is only for those who know they cannot live by it.”[16]

Now, when I say happiness, I am not saying declaring spiritual bankruptcy will put a smile on your face at least at first. It actually may make you weep as we have been preaching the last few weeks from Ezra 10. However, there should come a joy when you realize what you have been saved from and what you will be saved to – an inheritance with Jesus. This why Jesus promises the poor in spirit will have the kingdom of heaven as theirs. The rule of Jesus will be theirs. Riches is just bonus.

So how does this work? Well, in order for us to receive an inheritance, somebody has to die. Jesus was the one who died. The King died! But there is not much of inheritance for the kingdom’s subject once a king dies. Usually there is instability. Unless you are the King’s son and you receive the inheritance. But that is exactly, what has happened. You are an adopted son and daughter of the King and receive all that is His. But it gets better, the King died, but He also rose again. Which is why we can shout, “Long live the King!”

My friends, trying to be more humble will not make you poorer in spirit. I have found to be poor in spirit is to catch a glimpse of the King, who though He was rich, for our sakes He became poor, so that we would become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9) Have you caught a glimpse of the king and come to Him as a beggar? You will leave a son!

Conclusion: Two TV shows that have become very popular nowadays track the lives of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II. In both shows, they reveal how much of a burden it was for these young women from the moment they were born to train to become queen. Yes, they had much privilege and possessions, but they were very much constrained to what they could. Contrast this with Jesus is training us to reign forever with Him. He starts by telling us that happiness is being poor in spirit. What a great King we serve!

[1]R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel(Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1951), 179.

[2]Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount(Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2018), 13.

[3]D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount(Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1959-60), 25.

[4]Ferguson, 13.

[5]Ferguson, 14.

[6]Warren Wiersbe, Live Like a King(Chicago: Moody Press, 1976), 42.

[7]William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew – Vol. 1(Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1958), 81.

[8]Ferguson, 7.

[9]Wiersbe, 29.

[10]Ferguson, 15.

[11]Lloyd-Jones, 36.

[12]Lenski, 184.

[13]Daniel Henderson, The Prayer God Loves to Answer(Grand Rapids: Bethany House, 2016), 21-22.


[14]Lloyd-Jones, 28.

[15]Clovis Chappell, The Sermon on the Mount(Nashville: Cokesbury Press, 1930), 9.

[16]James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount – An Exposition(Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975), 23.

God Keep Our Land

This sermon was preached at our 2019 Canada Day Weekend Outdoor Service!

Have you noticed the signs that have popped up around our city and in fact, country this past month or so? It says three simple, but grammatically incorrect words, “WE THE NORTH!” The word “are” is missing! We Canadians sometimes drop off definite articles such as when we say “So and so is in hospital” rather than say as our southern neighbours would report, “So and so is in the hospital,” but this is the first time I have seen us do away with the being verb and skip the word “are” for “We the North!” What does that convey? Did it convey and summarize our national anthem, “True, North Strong and Free”? No, there was something more communal and I believe something deeper. We as a nation came together to celebrate the Toronto Raptors National Basketball Association Championship. It was an awesome display of how a group of people come together to celebrate a victor, Lori and I have been discussing, why is there this innate sense of wanting to belong to a winning side.

Why do people love celebrating a victor? In this case, think about describing the spectacle that is the NBA finals to an alien or angel. We would start off by describing the players: there are the giants of our species recruited from all over the planet and they are dressed in clothes with an extinct reptile on their uniform. These uniforms are less for protection and more for movement and so they don’t cover up much the body. The goal of the contest is to take a ball that has on it the skin of a bovine animal, left to tan over time until it is called leather. Then people take the tanned skin of the dead cow and glue it to a rubber ball. These balls are what the giants bounce up and down as they walk and run down a hardwood court, which are wood planks with lines painted on them.  Then the giants take the leather rubber ball and try to throw it through an iron circle with some white-corded nets attached to it. Every time the ball goes through the iron cylinder, a person sitting next to the court pushes a button and gives the shot a numerical value of either 2 or 3 depending on how far the throw was. Anything beyond 22 feet is considered worth 3 points. So what happens is the giants run around, perspiring as they chasing this ball with dead cow skin on it for a full 48 minutes of stopped time. However, some of the giants sit on a bench and play little or none at all, yet still get paid an exorbitant amount of money. The whole team of giants take a full break halfway through the contest so they can meet in secret and talk about strategy. Smaller members of the species dressed in stripes like an African horse called the Zebra have the authority to blow into a metal whistle and transfer the ball to the other team of giants without the giants acting violent against the small striped men. These striped smaller members of the species Homo sapienscan actually make the giants sit on a bench without using force. In fact, the striped ones can even cause the giants to not play again for at least 48 hours if they went against the rules. And to top it off, thousands of smaller members of the species all wearing the same coloured clothes sit on seats after spending much of their hard-earned money to watch the giants run up and down a hardwood court. Many more millions watch on a coloured screen. These millions of fans scream at the giants to run faster or shoot better even though the giants cannot hear them because they are many kilometres away. In addition, minstrels and singers called rappers (not to be confused with Raptors) sit courtside and taunt the other team’s giants. Now in these Final contests, one of the smaller and richer homo sapiens even had the audacity to punch one of the giants. That homo sapiens was then not allowed to watch anymore games in person this season or next season despite owning one of the teams of giants. At the end of this particular game, the giants got to hold up a stick with a gold ball on it and then have a parade. Tragically, emotions get so out of hand at these parade, that people were even shot with a gun. Now, my description of the Raptors’ is not at all intended to take away from the tremendous accomplishment of winning our first NBA Finals. If you know me, I love sports. I didn’t sit down the last half of the Final game as I cheered late into the night to see the Raptors prevail. I just wanted us to consider how what we praise compares in comparison to what truly matters.

Tonight, what truly matters is that we start to fully embrace a greater victor than the Raptors and that is Jesus Christ. When we join forces and create a giant alliance of cheering for one team could this point us to something greater going on? Could this link us back to our Creator and the cosmic battle we are in against evil? We sing as one in our national anthem, “God Keep our Land.” But there is something God already did that was better than keeping our land. God kept us! He kept us by sending His Son Jesus Christ to earth to keep all of God’s rules when we didn’t. You see, there is venom in every one of us. It poisons us and poisons those we come in contact with. We call it sin and it is failing to miss the target and not live up to God’s holy and perfect standard. No NBA team makes their shots 100% of the time. For God requires we are perfect, but we fall short of this standard, even from a young age.  This was so evident when I was pitching batting practice to my son Josiah this week. A young boy walked by after seeing Josiah make a good hit and said, “Jesus Christ!” I replied, “Yes, He did help him make that hit!” Then the kid told Josiah to hit the ball over the fence. And he watched Josiah make some more hits. Then I noticed the kid run onto the field, grab one of our baseballs, and start to run off. I yelled, “Hey, please give us our ball back.” He threw it back and I said in a loud voice, “Thou Shalt Not Steal!” This young child broke two of the 10 Commandments in two minutes: taking the Lord’s name in vain and stealing. We are all infected with this venom called sin and it shows even at a young age.

None of us are perfect. But Jesus was! He was the only one to live a perfect life. He was a better hero than Kawai Leonard. Some good, but not good enough players, were traded from the Raptors for Kawhi. But unlike Kawhi who was traded for just a few players, Jesus was traded for the whole human race. He died on a Cross rejected by us human beings and it looked like the worst loss in history.  But I have Good News tonight: Jesus didn’t stay dead! He rose from the grave. Our church has been studying in the Book of Ezra and at the end of the book, the Jews say, “Arise, for it is your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it” (Ezra 10:4). And yet, their exuberance did not lead to execution. They didn’t fully follow through with their commitments. But Jesus did! He did arise and finished His task and was strong enough to do it when we weren’t. And in so doing, Jesus conquered sin, and Satan (our Arch Enemy) and even defeated death because He rose from the grave. Jesus is the greatest Victor ever!

In a few minutes, we are going to light off fireworks. We are going to ooh and ahh. In reality, we are going to praise something that does not last. Though the Raptors’ Championship cannot be taken away, it will not last either. However, today, I challenge you to come together to celebrate the Victor who will last and that is Jesus Christ. If you believe in Him and celebrate Him, you will have victory for all eternity. You can belong to a group larger than our whole nation. We the North does not compare to We the Church – the Bride of Jesus Christ, the People of God!