Hunger and Thirst For Righteousness

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Hunger and Thirst For Righteousness

Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White

Sunday 1st July, 2018

I have to say – I was overwhelmed by the response I received from last weeks sermon.  But what it speaks to me more than anything, is that you, as a community and body of believers, carry and uphold such a strong sense of divine identity and purpose.  You know who you are as Christ’s ambassadors to the world we live in.  And you know that living by, and outworking the Word of God, is the only hope for this world.  And I’m with you 100%.

Just touching again on last weeks message:  What we contain within these physical bodies of ours is truly amazing.  I can’t think of an adequate word to describe it.  But the word “sacred” comes to mind.  

These earthly bodies hold the sacred presence of God – His fullness – the empowering presence of His Holy Spirit dwelling within us – it really is beyond words.  The ways of God are often beyond words!  His ways are beyond knowing – they come from a spiritual dimension that can only fill us with wonder and awe. 

And the point of my message last week about this body that we live in, was…  if that is the case – and we contain God’s Holy presence within – then shouldn’t the way we care for, protect, guard, nurture and nourish our body – and align our living to the teachings of the Word of God – actually reflect who we are spiritually?  

If this body contains all the fullness of God – His supernatural presence and power – shouldn’t I be at least using it, and living with it, according to the pattern and design that it was created for?

Many if not most of the troubles we face in life come about because we step out of God’s design – out from under the covering of His plans and purposes that He had for us from the beginning of time.  How often are relationships messed up, marriages messed up, physical bodies messed up, all because we use our bodies in ways that they were never designed or created for?

Shouldn’t we also be honouring and nurturing one another as ones who belong to Christ?  Shouldn’t we see each other through the eyes of Christ, and be overwhelmed with love and care for each other?

Shouldn’t we be laying our lives down for one another daily – making sure that we are putting each other before ourselves?

Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV),  “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”

I love that bit!  I remember preaching about serving with our gifts and abilities a couple of years ago and saying it’s simply our “reasonable service.”  It’s not an extraordinary thing to be set apart to love and worship God through personal sacrifice and service.  It’s just reasonable.  

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

The Passion Translation puts it well…

Romans 12:1-2 (Passion),  “Beloved friends, what should be our proper response to God’s marvelous mercies? I encourage you to surrender yourselves to God to be his sacred, living sacrifices. And live in holiness, experiencing all that delights his heart. For this becomes your genuine expression of worship.  Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes..”

What a great scripture. 

There’s something about coming to a place of desiring more than anything else, that we would delight the heart of our Heavenly Father. If that is our true desire, then everything else in our lives will fall into its right place.  

And this is what I believe we carry… and if there are some of you who are not sure if you are delighting the heart of God – then I prophesy that you will…  I prophesy that Seacoast Church will become that beautiful, empowered, courageous Bride of Christ… and no one will fall short of loving Him and glorifying Him with their life.

There’s actually something powerful and strong about knowing who you are and knowing what you believe.  And it takes a strong person to become fully surrendered and to give your life for something so much greater than yourself.  You don’t get much greater than the kingdom of God.

Last week confirmed to me again, that as a Church, you appreciate and highly value the clarity that comes from hearing the truth that the scriptures contain.  We desire truth.  We desire to know God and His Word.  We are willing to lift up a standard of righteousness in the face of a culture that continues to exalt it’s own misguided and self focussed concepts of love, freedom and equality.

Our Father in Heaven is looking for a people who will exalt Him!

Isaiah 59:19 (NKJV),  “So shall they fear The name of the Lord from the west, And His glory from the rising of the sun; When the enemy comes in like a flood, The Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.”

God Himself is our standard bearer.  A standard bearer in battle is the one chosen to carry the flag or standard that is like a banner that stands for what they believe in and are fighting for.  The standard goes before the soldiers to inspire them to fight for a greater cause than just themselves.

The term standard bearer now refers to anyone who is a leading figure in a cause or movement.

We are all standard bearers for Christ, because we are all raising up the banner of God’s kingdom in whatever we do.

Not all bible versions translate this verse the same.  And it all depends on where you put the comma.  The original writings didn’t have commas.

The NIV says: Isaiah 59:19 (NIV), “From the west, people will fear the name of the Lord, and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory. For he will come [that is, God Himself will come] like a pent-up flood that the breath of the Lord drives along.”

So it’s not the enemy that comes like a flood, according to this version, but God Himself.

Other versions say, He comes like a raging flood tide; like a river in flood stage, whipped to a torrent by the wind of God.

Whatever it is – I know whose side I want to be on.  I’d rather be swept up by the  flood waters of God, being driven along by the breath of the Spirit – than to be swept up by a culture that is more and more being railroaded by self centredness and ungodliness.  

What is sweeping our nation right now isn’t driven by the breath of God.  But a time is coming, and it has to be soon, when the tide will turn and the floodgates will be opened over this nation.

This morning I want to lift up the standard of righteousness over Seacoast – over Ballina – over this region – and over Australia – the Great South Land of the Holy Spirit.  Lord, we desire to be part of Your righteous torrents and whirlwinds of deliverance that you have spoken over us in the past.

And in all this talk of righteousness, don’t think that I’m saying, aren’t we all perfect angels…  aren’t we just a bunch of little goody two shoes…

Without the grace of God, we are no better than anyone else.  Grace has abounded towards us – that’s the difference – and by faith we have received it.   But let’s believe for His grace to abound throughout this whole land.  How awesome will that be?

Our righteous position isn’t about us – it’s about our faith in what Jesus has done.  It’s about His righteousness imputed to us by faith.

Smith Wigglesworth quoted Hebrews 1:8-9 (NKJV) in one of his messages.  “But to the Son [Jesus] He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A  scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”

The sceptre is a bit like the standard that was used in battle.  The sceptre represents justice, sovereignty and authority – and in this case, righteousness.

Smith Wigglesworth says:  “It is the purpose of God that we, as we are indwelt by the Spirit of His Son, should likewise love righteousness and hate iniquity. I see that there is a place for us in Christ Jesus where we are no longer under condemnation but where the heavens are always open to us. I see that God has a realm of divine life opening up to us where there are boundless possibilities, where there is limitless power, where there are untold resources, where we have victory over all the power of the devil. I believe that, as we are filled with the desire to press on into this life of true holiness, desiring only the glory of God, there is nothing that can hinder our true advancement.”

“Oh what an inheritance is ours when the very nature, the very righteousness, the very power of the Father and the Son are made real in us. That is God’s purpose, and as we by faith lay hold on the purpose we shall be ever conscious of the fact that greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.”

Wigglesworth had it.  He got it!  He knew what it meant to receive righteousness by faith.  He knew how transforming that knowledge and revelation was.

I believe we are getting closer and closer to “getting it” ourselves.  And that this generation will see, as many have prophesied, a great move of the Spirit that will herald in the second coming of Jesus Christ.  

And we just need to know who we are!  We just need to grasp the power of faith.  We just need that revelation of true righteousness to flow over our whole life.  Because in God’s kingdom, there are boundless possibilities, limitless power, untold resources, and victory over evil…  

1 John 4:4. (NKJV),  “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

It’s interesting that God has promised to come like a raging flood, driven by His own breath.  It paints this vision of an abundant stream of water cascading and whirling over us and around us.

And it takes me back to David – the man with a beautiful heart after God’s own heart – but a heart that at one point crossed the line and opened the depravity of his human soul.  David succumbed to adultery, deception and murder – all in one foul swoop.

And yet God restored his soul.  He met David in that place of grief, repentance and the cry of his broken heart.  And He can meet you there as well.

These words of the bible are not just nice stories for us to read about other people’s lives.  These words are alive and powerful and speak into our own circumstances, and the depths of our own soul and spirit.

And David wrote some beautiful heartfelt songs that expressed the deep longing and the unquenchable thirst that he had for God and for righteousness.

And you can’t do any better than the Passion Translation when it comes to The Psalms.

Psalm 42:1-2 (Passion),  “I long to drink of you, O God, drinking deeply from the streams of pleasure flowing from your presence. My longings overwhelm me for more of you! My soul thirsts, pants, and longs for the living God. I want to come and see the face of God.”

Psalm 63:1 (Passion),  “O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water.”

And God does quench the thirst of David’s soul.  He will come to any of us – not just with a trickle of water in a glass, but as a raging stream, flooding us with His presence and goodness.  

The question is – how thirsty are we?  How hungry are we for God and His righteousness?  How much do we desire to be filled?

Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 5:6 (NKJV),  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.”

You might think that this sermon is all about righteousness.  In some ways I guess it is.  But firstly there’s something even more important…  and that is the thirst and hunger.

Jesus says, blessed are those who hunger and thirst…

Before we can experience the true righteousness of God, we have to be hungry and thirsty for it.

And I don’t think Jesus is talking about what it’s like when we get the munchies at three in the afternoon.

Jesus is talking to people who know what real hunger and thirst is.

Maybe the prayer we should be praying is not – Lord bless me with righteousness – but Lord, bless me with a hunger and thirst.  

Help me to know what it really means to be empty.  Help me to snap out of this place of complacency and apathy and let me be emptied of self righteousness, and all the false, cultural trappings of my world that promise to fill me, and yet, they are nothing compared to what you are offering me.

We are all vulnerable to falling into the same trap as the Pharisees, who put all their attention on the outward expressions of their faith.

Jesus says in Matthew 5:20 (NKJV),  “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

The righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees was all about keeping rules and regulations and laws – but doing it as an outward display for everyone else to see.  They were full of self righteousness and pride – and on the inside they were only dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.  The bible says they would appear righteous outwardly, but inside they were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matt 23:28, NKJV).

We need to be praying for a hunger and thirst for a righteousness that comes from the inside out.  A righteousness that isn’t always seen by others.  A righteousness that isn’t built on the praises of men – but rather looks only to delight the heart of God.

Matthew 6:33 (NKJV),  “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

If we make righteousness our priority in life, and seek Him before anything else, then we will never need to worry about the other issues of life.  His promise is that all these things will be added – what we wear, what we eat…  all the common needs of life…

But you have to want it.  You have to desire it.  No one else can make you hunger and thirst, and no one else can make you eat or drink.  No one else can cause you to recognise that you are really starving for spiritual life, when you think all you need is more stuff, a bigger this or a more expensive that, or a better job, or a bigger house…  

I’ll tell you what else Righteousness looks like.  The eighth beatitude says:

Matthew 5:10 (NKJV),  “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Righteousness is a lifestyle that will make us stand out from the crowd.  I don’t mean in a weird way.  All we will have to do is not agree with some of the unrighteousness decisions and downright Antichrist policies that are already part of our culture and society.

Raising up the standard of righteousness and the Word of God will be enough to stir the pot of persecution.  

But we’ve spoken a fair bit about that already in recent days.  

Along with persecution will come the flood of the Spirit of God – miracles, healings, deliverance, salvations…  He will raise up a standard in the coming days that will be exceedingly abundantly above anything we could ask or think.

Just as I finish and the musicians come, let’s come back to the same place from where David lived the majority of his life – let’s come back to the heart.

My prayer for us all is that we would live from the heart.  That we would live out our salvation, our righteousness, from a heart given over totally to God.

The Pharisees lived a religious life outwardly – but Jesus calls us to live from the inside out – to seek Him and His righteousness first, before anything else.

It begins with a decision of faith.  It’s an attitude of heart surrender.  

There’s a flood coming, and we are being positioned to be swept up and driven by the very breath of God into an amazing future.  And the awesome thing is – it’s already begun.

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