This Is Who You Are Now - This Is Who You're Gonna Be
In ancient Rome, when Jesus was walking around teaching the Beatitudes and all that—when the church was just starting out—the Christians started doing a bunch of things that really shocked people. Things that were very politically incorrect and controversial, dangerous even—things that got them arrested. For example, it was socially acceptable if someone gave birth to a baby they didn’t want, it was legal to leave the baby on the rocks outside of town to be killed by the elements or eaten by animals. Christians started trying to rescue them—most of the time they were too late and just gave them a proper burial, but sometimes they found them in time and raised them in the church—baptized them and adopted them. This went on for hundreds of years—the Romans hated them for it, as you can imagine. They hated it as much as the modern Romans in our day who fight for the legal right to dispose of unwanted children.
God created mankind in His own image. The enemy of mankind—the devil—whether you believe in an actual devil or not, your belief doesn’t change anything—he’s still the enemy of mankind—and he’s always wanted to take the life of children. Especially the firstborn, this is why so many cultures have practiced the murdering of infants in some sort of hope that it will make their crops grow, make their life better, more convenient. It’s barbaric, but abortion in America is just his most recent trick to take the life of children. You need to know this. It’s nothing new. It’s not sophisticated. It’s not a women’s issue and it’s also not a political issue—that’s just another trick. This is a moral issue. This is about God’s justice—protecting the weak and powerless.
Here’s the thing: when we, the church, the people of God—when we stand up for what’s right and good—then we’re always gonna make some really powerful enemies. The powers and rulers and authorities that are trying to keep a hold on this world—they’re gonna fight back back. When we live the way Jesus told us to live, the world is gonna hate us. If you belong to Jesus, the world is gonna hate you.
Jesus has called you out of the darkness—He’s the light that has come into the dark world. He’s put His light on you and within you—it’s gonna change you, change how you see the world. It’s gonna change how you interact with the world. When you let that light shine, you’re gonna see things you need to do—things like noticing a baby whose mother and father left it on a rock to die. What are you gonna do when you see the helpless? When you see someone you could help, even though it might cost you some time or some money, it might get messy or complicated, might cause some awkward conversations. Please understand, I’m not talking about political activism or politics at all—I’m talking about helping the helpless, the poor in spirit, showing mercy, making peace, hungering and thirsting after the true righteousness and justice of God. What do you think Jesus came into the world to do? Why do you think he chose you out of all people to bless? Who are the people you’re supposed to do something for? God’s justice is always about helping people who can’t help themselves—it all starts with the Gospel and the cross and salvation, but that’s not where it ends.
Prayer: Father in heaven, have mercy on us and this land that we live in. Most of us act like You’re not there, we act like there is no God. Help us to wake up and start being the people You’ve actually called us to be. Help us to be brave and face the darkness, face our enemies, not shrink back from them like cowards, not pretend to go along with the lies so we don’t rock the boat. Let us hear Your Word today with fresh hearts. Hearts of flesh and not hearts of stone. AMEN.
The Teaching of Jesus So last week we started a new series called “The Teaching of Jesus.” I started with the Beatitudes, which is the introduction to the Sermon on the Mount. I made the argument that we either get the Beatitudes right or we set ourselves up to misunderstand everything Jesus ever said. They’re the doorway to the Sermon on the Mount, if not the key to the entire teaching of Jesus.
Basically, we need to understand that the first thing in the life of a Christian is Jesus comes to us and blesses us—saves us, rescues us—and He does this when we’re spiritually bankrupt, when we’re “poor in spirit,” dead in our sin. We’re just like those dead babies laying out on the rocks, He finds us and saves us—Blessed are the poor in spirit, the helpless, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Keep in mind that the word “blessed,” in the Gospel of Matthew especially, is a word that means God has completely blessed someone—saved them and promised them the kingdom of heaven, eternal life. In the Beatitudes, Jesus describes His people—the people He’s gonna bless—and we find that they’re basically people who have nothing to offer, people who can’t save themselves. They’re the meek, the lowly, the hungry, the thirsty, the ones who mourn. And then He says that once He blesses them, then they’re gonna start acting like it—they’re gonna start being more like Him—showing mercy, making peace. He says the peacemakers are gonna be called the sons of God—and then He lets us know that not everyone is gonna be impressed—they’re not all gonna be receptive to the peace that He offers through us. We’re gonna tell people about how Jesus has blessed us and given us hope and meaning—how we probably made some radical changes in our life, stopped doing some nasty stuff—and people aren’t gonna wanna hear it, we’re trying to help them but they don’t want our help. So, just to give us the confidence to do the right thing anyway, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
So we gotta get this right—the blessings of Jesus are given to us as a free gift. We don’t do anything to earn it. That’s what grace means. We are saved by grace through faith. That’s the Gospel—the key to understanding everything about Jesus’ teaching. Jesus blesses you right where you are, while you’re still dead, He saves you when you’re dying and in the dark and gives you a new life and hope. The moment you realize what Jesus has done for you, that’s the moment you receive His grace by faith. In that moment, here’s what happens: You’ll be comforted even though you’re mourning, you’ll be satisfied even though you hunger and thirst for God to make everything right, you’ll receive mercy and want other people to know mercy, too—you’ll believe, in spite of your doubt, and God will start guiding your steps as you walk by faith. The moment you realize that Jesus has blessed you, you become a new person. You hear what I’m saying?
Let go of that person you used to be. This is who you are now—this is who you’re gonna be now.
That’s pretty much where we left it last week. But that was only eight of the nine Beatitudes—didn’t notice that, did you?
The 9th Beatitude Jesus takes an interesting turn on the last Beatitude—in the previous eight blessings He said “Blessed are the poor, the meek, the pure in heart—for THEY shall see God, THEY shall be called the sons of God, for THEIRS is the kingdom of heaven. They. Theirs.
The ninth Beatitude is different, it says this: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” He’s not talking about “they and them” anymore—“YOU” now He’s talking about “you.” This just got personal.
Jesus told them about the blessings of the kingdom of God. He described who He was gonna bless and what it was gonna mean—and it changed them. They believed Him. They received the blessing by faith. They became believers—so He changed to second person. Blessed are you. Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ.
A long time ago in a packed Moscow theatre, there was the premiere of a sacrilegious play called “Christ in a Fur,” and on the opening night, a famous actor named Alexander Rostovzev—who was a notorious Marxist, who hung out in the highest circles of Soviet life—he was the actor playing Jesus—and on the first night of the play he went completely off script. The set was a mockery of an altar center stage, the cross made out of wine and beer bottles. Fat priests and nuns were saying a drunken liturgy with all kinds of blasphemies. Jesus was supposed to walk out on stage wearing a tunic, read two verses from the Sermon on the Mount, throw away the Bible in disgust and say, “Give me my fur and my hat!” But as he read the words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted,” he started to tremble. He just kept reading, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”—he made it through most of the sermon. The other actors were stomping their feet and clearing their throat—and just before the director was about to lower the curtain to shut him up, Alexander remembered a verse from his childhood growing up in a Russian Orthodox church and yelled it out, “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom!” He left the stage and was never seen again—people think the Communists disposed of him. This is a very famous and well-known story about a person coming to faith just by reading the Bible. He heard Christ’s words and it changed him—he became a believer.
That’s how it happens. We hear the words of Christ and it changes us.
“Blessed are you… Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.”
The rest of the Sermon on the Mount stays in second person. You. Your. Yours. For the rest of this first teaching of Jesus, He’s talking to all of You who hear His voice. He’s talking to everyone who heard and received His blessing in those first eight Beatitudes.
This is who you are now—now that you’re blessed—this is who you’re gonna be.
Sometimes we think we’re just a combination of the things that have happened to us in our life. That’s a way a child understands who they are. A child thinks they’re whatever has happened to them—they can’t separate who they are from what’s been done to them or what they’ve done. They see themselves as an amalgamation of the various scenes from their life—probably a bunch of us here today still see ourselves that way. We continue to think of ourselves in light of what people have said about us, things that have been done to us, things we’ve done that we’re ashamed of.
Listen, today can be a new day—you don’t have to be defined by all the stuff that has happened to you. You don’t have to be defined by the stupid things you’ve done, or the mean things people have said to you, or your failures, or the abuse you’ve suffered, or the shameful things you carry around inside your head.
Those things don’t get to tell you who you are—Jesus gets to tell you who you are. He says you’re blessed—you’re His. He says your reward is gonna be great in heaven. He says it doesn’t matter what other people say about you—when they revile you and hurt you—none of that really matters, they don’t get a say in who you are. You gotta stop telling yourself any version of your story that includes shame and failure and God not loving you. You gotta stop trying to live in some version of a story where God doesn’t exist, or isn’t good or isn’t in control—you gotta stop feeling sorry for yourself and being mad at Him. He’s not the problem. God is not the problem. He sent Jesus to find you, pick you up, and bless you. To save you. Love you. Because of the cross, you are forgiven, because of the resurrection, you have the promise of a new life. This is your new life. You’re a beloved child of God. You’re a baptized member of His family. Blessed are you… rejoice and be glad… your reward is great.
This is who you are now—this is who you’re gonna be.
You didn’t earn this blessing. You didn’t do anything to get it. It’s a free gift of grace. It’s yours the moment you realize it’s yours, when you receive it by faith.
But that’s not the end of the story. It’s the beginning of a new story. When we receive the blessing of God by faith, we gotta do something with that faith.
This is where we’re gonna pick it up next week. In this new story, you are the light of the world. The salt of the earth. A city on a hill. In the rest of this sermon, Jesus is gonna keep talking to you and telling you what kind of person you’re gonna be—what kind of life you’re gonna live.
See, whatever God has blessed you for, whatever He’s called you to do in this world—it’s important. It’s gonna take your whole life, it’s gonna take everything you got to make it happen. You’re gonna have to spend it all. He promises to give you strength, to be with you—He doesn’t ask you to give anything that He didn’t give you first. But it’s not gonna be easy. It’s not gonna be easy and the world is gonna hate you. The devil’s gonna attack you.
This is who you are now—this is who you’re gonna be. The more your life looks like Jesus, the more you fight against the darkness, the more the darkness is gonna take pot shots at you. There’s a lot of battles being fought in our culture—people have politicized them, but they’re not political. They’re moral. They’re about right and wrong. Life on planet earth doesn’t work if we twist and bend the absolute moral laws that the Creator set in place. The devil knows this, and he wants to see it all burn to the ground—he wants you to burn with it.
I pray that you can hear the voice of Jesus. That you receive His blessing, His salvation. That you’ll go off script and stop whatever sacrilegious blasphemy you’re into and hear the Word of the Lord. Hear His promises of grace and mercy—be changed. This is who you are now—this is who you’re gonna be. AMEN
Make a difference. Kemper sang A Malediction before the sermon. At the beginning of the message I was talking about one of the great evils that the people of God should be fighting. We support the ministry of the Pregnancy Help Center because they’re making a big difference one child at a time. If you want to look into another organization and find out how to make a difference on a national scale—write this down: go to LutheransForLife.org. I’d love for some of our NewChurch family to find out about Life Teams—local chapters of Christians who want to affirm life, make a difference in the world by helping the helpless.