“Character and Consequence” (John MacDiarmid)

(Imagine part 5)

Message brought at PCF on Sunday 18 November 2012

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Today we continue with our Imagine series from LICC in which we are looking at our lives on the frontline.

Your frontline is:

  • …the place where you spend much of your time
  • …the place where you meet people who do not know Jesus
  • …the place where God has called you
  • …the place of possibility and potential
  • …the place where you are a missionary
  • …the place where the church supports you

We are considering through this series how we can be effective on our frontlines.

The passage is the start of the Sermon on the Mount Matthew 5:

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying:
“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 sons 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. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

One of the most quoted passages of Scripture. What does it have to tell us about our frontline?

1. Character

Firstly this passage tells us about the character of the believer. As we yield to the presence of the Holy Spirit within us He makes us more like Jesus.

So we become poor in spirit (realising that spiritually we are impoverished without God), we mourn (at the state of our own hearts), we become meek (amazed at God’s dealings with us, rather than proud of our own righteousness), we hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness to be worked out in our lives. And the work of the Holy Spirit then has its consequence in our dealings with other. We become merciful towards other, rather than demanding revenge when they hurt us or those we love, we become pure in spirit, unable to rejoice at a lack of integrity or immorality, we look to resolve conflict rather than taking sides. God’s work in us is amazing. The challenge that we have is to allow him to have his way.

2. Consequences

God’s work in our lives has its consequences:

a. Promises

Each attribute of the believer has a promises attached to it as we allow God o have his way in our life, and each promise demands a sermon on its own. So the disciple who becomes more like Christ, experiences the kingdom of God, comfort, God’s filling with righteousness, the promise of inheriting the earth, receiving mercy and being called a son of God. Yes becoming like Jesus is the best thing that can happen to us!

b. Persecution

One of the consequences of the emergence of Christian character in us is that we find ourselves on a collision course with a world that has turned its back on God. So the merciful in our culture will not be praised, the pure in spirit are ridiculed and the peacemakers – those who try to get people to say the other’s point of view – are excluded and marginalised. In every culture, where people display the marks of righteousness they will be persecuted.

c. People

However, persecution is not all that happens when we become more like Jesus. We become the salt of the earth – that which preserves the values of God in a society. How sad, then , when the desire to avoid persecution leads Christians to avoid paying the price of godliness, and we lose our saltiness, and therefore our ability to influence.
We are also reflectors of God’s light. Jesus portrays the absurdity of a city on a hill trying to be hidden and likens that to the absurdity of Christians who do not want their light to be seen so they hide it under a bowl. Of course, a light under a bowl will quickly go out – and this is exactly the point. Like salt that has lost its saltiness and a light under a bowl, a believer who does not demonstrate the characteristics of Christlikeness is pointless.
But the positive side comes when we are prepared to submit to the possibility of persecution, when we submit to the dealings of the Holy Spirit within us and the light shines out. What happens? Men will see! And when they see there is a possibility that they will give glory to our father in heaven. As Peter says:

“Live such good lives among the pagans, that though they may accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds, and glorify God on the day he visits us”

The goal of our character the goal of submitting to the Holy Spirit is the possibility that God may use our lives to touch others. What an opportunity, and what a possibility. Let’s let our light shine on those frontlines this week.

John MacDiarmid
November 2012

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