Hi everyone. My name is Jon. I want to take a second and welcome each of you in the room, here at our Cleves campus. Thank you for braving ALL the elements and joining us in-person. You will never know truly how much that means to David and me.
And, I want to welcome all of you hanging out with us on our online campus. I continue to be amazed at the number of viewers we have throughout the tri-state area and beyond. You could’ve chosen to watch a thousand other things right now, but instead of going down the rabbit hole of Bernie mitten memes, you chose to hang out with Whitewater today. We are honored to have you with us.
It’s humbling to think that right now and throughout the week, people are listening to this message in their cars, in their homes, and in offices all over the country, sometimes even in other countries. I see you Fernando and Liz, tuning in from Ecuador.
I have the privilege of kicking off our new series: Blessed(?)
As we shared at the beginning of the year, we are taking the entire year to go on a journey through Matthew 5, 6, & 7, known as the Sermon on the Mount.
For the next eight weeks, we will be in our Blessed(?) series as we look at page one, scene one, act one of the Sermon on the Mount, commonly referred to as the Beatitudes. Nine verses we’ve packed into eight weeks to look at 'what does it really mean to be blessed.'
Our culture has an opinion on what it means to be blessed. Our grandma has an opinion. Our aunts have an opinion. Facebook, TikTok, and Insta have an opinion…but as people who have made the decision for Jesus to be lord and leader of our lives, what does Jesus say it means to be blessed?
So today, our mountainside expedition takes us to Matthew 5, verse 1. Here’s what it says:
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
So, I have a couple of questions for Jesus.
For nine verses, he just laid out what it looks like to be blessed.
Blessed are the poor in spirit. What does that even mean?
He says those who mourn are blessed. The meek…
Those who hunger for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart… they’re all blessed.
The peacemakers and those who are persecuted… living that #blessed life.
Now I’m confused. How are the poor blessed? How is being persecuted being blessed?
That doesn’t make sense, Jesus… because I live in an InstaCulture where I am '#blessed.'
Something’s not adding up, Jesus… that’s not what Joel and Oprah said was me living my best, blessed life.
Not once did I hear any reference to a yacht and a mansion… a candy apple red Lamborghini… a seven figure dream job and a perfect spouse (you know I’m blessed to have you Kelly… I’m a mess without you and your savage ways).
I’m confused, Jesus. Help me understand.
Because when I troll on Facebook, I mean, scroll on Facebook, I’m overwhelmed with seeing all these pictures of what it means to be blessed. Just do a search on #blessed.
Perfect family photos, where everyone’s smiling and looking at the camera… #blessed.
Or those dream vacation photos… horseback riding in the Alps or Scuba diving in Bora Bora. YES… BLESSED.
Or winning the lottery, owning your very own Skyline franchise, going to a World Series where the Reds and Indians are playing, getting a 1600 on the S.A.T’s, getting a full ride scholarship to your dream college…
YESSSSS…. that’s what it means to be BLESSED!!!
I can’t worry about paying back those student loans… uh-uh. I’m too blessed to be stressed Sallie Mae. You need to take that up with Jesus, Sallie Mae. He paid it all, honey. That’s right, “Yes… He paid it all.”
I am #blessed.
Now, don’t hear what I’m not saying… I’m not saying Jesus won’t overwhelm you with incredible opportunities, favor, and talents to do amazing things. Yes, He will. And, I hope you are using all of that favor and talent to do incredible Kingdom things.
I am suggesting maybe there is a reframing needed when it comes to what it means to be blessed… in a Kingdom economy… with a Kingdom mindset.
Because this is exactly what Jesus was doing when he began teaching this message on that mountainside.
Jesus is stepping into a moment. Seeing the crowds gathering, Jesus gathers his disciples. He steps into the moment and vision-casts what his Kingdom looks like and what that means for anyone who dares to follow him.
The nation of Israel has been waiting for the messiah, for their KING to emerge and reign again. They have a rich history of wars being fought to take back their land… Kings building their kingdoms.
So, it’s understandable that any Jewish listener in this moment is waiting with baited breath to hear what Jesus is going to say. He’s been talking about a new Kingdom.
Rumors of him being King, the messiah… the King of Kings. Surely an overthrow of government is about to happen. This is their moment. Roman oppression is about to come to an end.
This is the state of the union from their leader that they have waited generations for, and this is what he leads with. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are the persecuted?!?
That can’t be right Jesus.
We know what it looks like for Kings and their people to be blessed. Glorious riches, fertile land, abundant crops, favor, freedom, grapes the size of footballs, and rivers and land overflowing with Milk and Honey…
We won’t be oppressed any more. We can finally teach those Roman dogs a lesson, right Jesus? That’s what you meant to say, right? That’s what being blessed means, right?
See, right from the beginning, Jesus is setting a new tone. He is doing something different. This is what it looks like to be a part of this Kingdom I am inviting you into. It will not look or feel like anything you’ve known before. It won’t feel normal. It won’t be comfortable. It won’t even make sense at times.
These first nine verses, the Beatitudes, are Jesus’ invitation to radically transform our values and ambitions.
And what I love about Matthew 5, 6, & 7, is the Sermon on the Mount is for everyone. All listeners. You have both the committed and the crowd as a captive audience. Insiders and outsiders. People close to Jesus… and people far from Jesus.
For the committed, the Beatitudes describe the character and mission of those who take seriously God’s reign and the Kingdom calling on their life.
For the crowd, Jesus’ words are an invitation to a new life… to be disciples of the King. An invitation into a purpose-filled life with hope and healing at its foundation.
Something I found fascinating while preparing this message was this idea of ‘mountainside teaching’ wouldn’t have been new to Jesus’ audience. At the foundation of their faith system was a man coming down from a mountain giving instruction… Moses and the 10 commandments at Mt Sinai.
Here’s what’s fascinating… previously, mountainside messages from God led with Law and Commandments that would lead to a righteous and blessed life.
Here, Jesus goes up on the mountain, something very familiar. Right from the start, he does something radically different. Jesus’ message leads with blessings and then leads them to truth and challenge.
Jesus introduces the Kingdom Vision, his Sermon on the Mount, with the Beatitudes at the beginning, to remind his disciples that his gifts precede His demands.
He didn’t just say this with his words, he showed them this with his actions.
Having done nothing to deserve it, these people from all throughout the region of Galilee, have already benefited from this King.
Before Jesus’ big vision casting moment, they’ve already been the object of his compassion and healing.
In Matthew 4:23, just before we go up the mountain, Matthew writes that, "...Jesus healed every kind of disease and illness. News about him spread as far as Syria, and people soon began bringing to him all who were sick. And whatever their sickness or disease, or if they were demon possessed or epileptic or paralyzed—he healed them all. Large crowds followed him wherever he went."
Listen… In Jesus’ Kingdom, grace comes before challenge. Help and healing before command.
Jesus’ teachings are lived out today because of yesterday’s blessing.
And the blessing Jesus leads with first, in his sermon on the mount is, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
So with a Kingdom perspective, what does it mean to be blessed, if you are poor in spirit? What does poor in spirit even mean?
I appreciate how this phrase in verse 3 is unpacked in the NLT Bible. It says, "God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs."
To be poor in sprit is to realize our need for Christ. To realize we have a deficiency without Christ. To be desperate for Him. To know we are spiritually bankrupt and cannot pay the tab without him.
I don’t know about you, but there was a time in my life where I was broke and busted with a lot of ‘tabs’ I couldn’t pay.
I can still remember that period of my life. I can still taste and smell it… where I was spiritually, emotionally, and physically bankrupt.
I was poor in spirit. Poor in judgement. Poor in my character. Poor in my wallet… pour me another drink.
My life had gotten so unmanageable, I felt completely hopeless. I genuinely felt like things were never going to get any better.
One moment, I was performing on some of the greatest stages North America has to offer, able to do and buy anything I could ever dream of… except peace. Except fulfillment. Except purpose. I tried anything, everyone, and everything this world had to offer to fill the void in me… and none of it worked.
Twelve months later, I’m at rock bottom. Broke (less then $5 to my name), unemployed, living in a spare room in my parents' house, about to be locked up. I had reached a place of brokenness I had never felt before. I felt like I was alone, with no options… no way out.
And in that place of darkness, I made a decision to hurt myself which landed me in the emergency room.
I remember waking up in the ER thinking to myself, why did I wake up? Why didn’t my story just end that night?
We sing a song sometimes called “My Testimony.” It has the lyrics, “If I’m not dead, You’re not done… greater things are still to come.”
I feel these lyrics in the core of all that I am.
Some of you wonder why I’m so passionate… why I get so worked up about making sure we are focused on loving our neighbors well, with everything we have…
There is so much pain and suffering all around us. In our homes. Right next door.
This is my why. To let as many people as possible know they are not alone. There is something greater. They do have purpose and belonging. There is help and hope that will turn their lives around, and it’s only found in Jesus.
My best… led me to my worst. I am dead without Jesus. I am bankrupt without Him. I know how empty I am without Him.
I am blessed, because I know my need for Him. I know how poor I am without Him. I am poor in spirit, but I am rich in Christ. I am rich in His Kingdom.
When we are poor in spirit, we have a richness which comes from knowing that, apart from Christ, we are nothing.
We cannot do it for ourselves, because we know we need Him, because we are desperate for Him…
We know we are blessed because we see and experience His grace and His mercy… His presence, provision, and His purpose for our lives.
In our poverty, He makes us wealthy.
The apostle Paul says it this way in 2 Corinthians 12, verse 9 and 10: “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
When we are poor in sprit, but rich in Christ, we are filled with a confidence in identity. We have peace which surpasses understanding, we have indescribable joy that runs deeper than any pain or circumstance.
We have faith that truly can move the mountains in our lives. A faith greater than anything our eyes can see.
We have belief in miracles and a belief He is who He says He is, and we know who we are and whose we are.
We are rich because we are poor.
I don’t ever want to get to a place where I am so comfortable or so distracted, I forget how blessed I am. Not blessed because of the stuff and things I have, but because of who I have in Christ.
Please hear me… the enemy does not want you to know how blessed you really are. Kingdom Blessed. Rich in Kingdom. Rich in Christ.
The enemy will stop at nothing to keep you from knowing and understanding this, because the enemy knows what an unstoppable force you will be when you live a life on mission from this place of purpose and belonging.
The enemy’s greatest tools are distraction and discouragement. If he can get you distracted, he can get you discouraged. And, if he can get you discouraged, you are no longer a threat. You are left with only enough energy to feel sorry for yourself.
Nothing paralyzes a person and stops them in their tracks like discouragement. Discouragement respects no one and nothing. It keeps the unemployed, unemployed. The homeless, homeless. And the sick, sick.
It can even draw the most powerful ministry to its knees. When overcome with discouragement, a person can’t pray, they can’t worship, and they become a victim of their environment.
Discouragement drains you of courage and vision. It drains you of faith and the will to make a difference in the kingdom of God.
We must fight against discouragement, and to do that, we have to push against distraction.
The last couple weeks, I didn’t have any platform responsibilities… I was #blessed.
I used that time to just sit and worship, in the adult services and over in the youth services as well. I just hung out in the room… I listened… I prayed… I sang… I walked around. Some of you didn’t know I was walking around or standing behind you. Those that did had this deer in headlights look like they just got caught doing something they weren’t supposed to. I was like "bro… I’m just standing here… you’re cool."
But, if I am being completely honest, as I walked around the last couple weeks, my heart was heavy. Because, as the worship team was singing their faces off for Jesus, leading us to the throne room of Christ, as David and Conor brought the word with fire and passion and conviction, I was shocked at the number of adults who were checked out… distracted… scrolling FACEBOOK and Instagram… moving some stocks around on Robinhood.
My beautiful Whitewater family… I am with you… I am fighting for you.
I am learning your ways. I am trying to enjoy Skyline. Please give me time… give me grace.
I want to encourage you to eliminate all distractions which are trying to lure you away from keeping the first things first. The important things. I want you to guard yourself and understand what comes after distraction… and understand who is trying to distract you.
Listen, if you’re being distracted by that #blessed life on Insta & Facebook, you’re being seduced into discouragement.
I get it. Not all distractions are bad, not everything is an attack from the enemy. This time of year, every year, there is a big distraction many of you will be engaging in tonight… you, me, and roughly 100 million others. A little sporting event known as the Super Bowl.
How many of you plan on watching the game? Now, are you watching to see the matchup between Brady and Mahomes? Or are you watching for the commercials?
Typically, Kelly and I are somewhat engaged in the actual game, but really we’re there for the commercials. Over the years, there have been some incredible Super Bowl ads, but last year, there was one that stopped everyone at our house in their tracks. Check this out… (video - Google: Loretta SuperBowl Commercial).
Jesus… how do we not forget? How do we remember how truly blessed we are?
I don’t ever want us to forget what He’s done for us. That before I gave my life to him, while I was still a sinner, while I was still spiraling out of control and full of darkness… He saw me, and said I was worth dying for.
With every lash across his back, with every taunt, with every drop of blood from that crown of thorns, that while the nails pierced his flesh and he hung there on that cross… he had me and you in mind. His love for us held him on that cross.
That he would take the punishment of our sin upon his body, so we may have life and live it to the fullest.
I don’t want to forget that this life has been bought and paid for with His blood. I don’t ever want to forget. I want to live a life worth Christ dying for.
I don’t want to take for granted all the little moments that happen every day that HE gives me as opportunities to show his love and mercy to others… the same love and mercy He showed me.
Lord, help us to not forget how you’ve saved us. How you’re restoring and redeeming our stories.
Help us to not get distracted… remind us we’re not alone.
Remind us we do have value and worth.
Remind us there is Hope in you.
Remind us that each of us have been called to a life of impact for your Kingdom.
Lord, we may be poor in spirit, but we are rich because of you and all you have done and are doing in our lives.
Help us to not forget… We are Blessed.