November 16, 2022 3:00 am
During World War II, everyone sacrificed. Meatless Tuesdays, rationed gasoline, sugar, meat, cooking oil, and canned goods. Nowadays, we post pictures of our excesses on social media. Self sacrifice begat the selfie. It’s been called “corrosive narcissism” . . . and culture has never been more unhappy. Today on A NEW BEGINNING, Pastor Greg Laurie points out the problem. We’re not following the Lord’s prescription for happiness.
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A New Beginning is the daily half-hour program hosted by Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Southern California. For over 30 years, Pastor Greg and Harvest Ministries have endeavored to know God and make Him known through media and large-scale evangelism. This podcast is supported by the generosity of our Harvest Partners.
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Hey everybody, you're listening to A New Beginning, which is a podcast made possible by Harvest Partners.
If this program has impacted you, I'd love to hear from you. So just send an email to me at greg.harvest.org. Again, it's greg.harvest.org.
You can learn more about becoming a Harvest Partner by going to harvest.org. Our culture says look out for number one, me first, give me some more. Today, Pastor Greg Laurie points out the biblical alternative. Here comes Jesus who says, blessed are the merciful. But what is mercy? Mercy doesn't just say, oh look at that poor person. Mercy says, I'm going to do something for that poor person. I'm going to feed that hungry person. I'm going to be a friend to that lonely person.
Mercy is basically pity plus action. This is the day when the lost are found. This is the day for a new beginning. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound. Again you hear all the angels are singing.
This is the day, the day when life begins. During World War II, everyone sacrificed meatless Tuesdays, rationed gasoline, sugar, meat, cooking oil, canned goods. Nowadays we post pictures of our excesses on social media. Self-sacrifice begat the selfie.
It's been called corrosive narcissism and culture has never been more unhappy. Today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie points out the problem. We're not following the Lord's prescription for happiness. This is the day, the day when life begins.
Well let's dig in. We're in Matthew chapter 5. Matthew chapter 5. And the title of my message is Happiness.
What it is and how to have it. God tells us how to be happy right here in Scripture. In fact in the Sermon on the Mount the point of entry is what we call the beatitudes. Another way to put it is the be happy attitudes. If you have these attitudes you can indeed be a happy person because each beatitude starts with the word blessed. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are they that mourn.
Blessed are the meek. Blessed are the peacemakers and so forth. The word blessed is an interchangeable word with happiness. So you could just as easily take the word blessed out and put in the word happy. Happy are those that mourn over their sin.
Happy are the peacemakers. Happy are the pure in heart and so forth. So Jesus is really saying to us repeatedly this is how you can be a happy person.
So let's read them together. Matthew 5 starting in verse 3. Blessed or happy are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward in heaven for so persecuted be the prophets that were before you.
So let's review what we looked at last time in the initial beatitudes we took a look at. Number one if you are taking notes happy are the nobodies. Happy are the nobodies blessed are the poor in spirit. Everybody wants to be a somebody.
That will make us happy or so we think. Jesus effectively says happy are the nobodies. Now when He says poor in spirit that has nothing to do with how much money you have in your bank account.
This is about your attitude toward God. It's poor in spirit. So another way to translate this is happy or blessed is the person who sees the real spiritual condition. And what is your real spiritual condition? You are spiritually destitute. You are spiritually impoverished. You are desperately in need of God. So if you want to be a happy person you got to know that about yourself.
I am a sinner in need of a Savior. So that's the beginning. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Number two unhappy people are happy people. I know that sounds contradictory. Let me put it another way. Happy people are unhappy people.
Well how does that work? Well blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted. The idea of mourning here is being sorry. Being sorry for my sin. So I mourn over my sin. So I see my condition before God as a sinner but it's not a hopeless situation because there stands a Savior who died on the cross for me and shed His blood for every sin I've ever committed who's ready to pardon and forgive.
But I say Lord I'm a sinner and I'm sorry for my sin. So blessed are those that see themselves as they are. Blessed are those that mourn over that condition.
Step number three. Happy are the humble. Happy are the humble or blessed are the meek. Seeing myself as I really am produces a vital spiritual quality meekness. I'm humbled by the fact that God has forgiven me of my sin. So happy are the humble.
Number four. Happy are the spiritually hungry. Verse six. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled. Listen. Healthy people are hungry people. No matter how much you love you ought to love more.
Right. No matter how much you pray you always could pray more. I'm always wanting more of Jesus.
And number five. Happy people are merciful people. Verse seven. Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. See as a person of mercy I understand and empathize with those that don't yet know the Lord because I used to be one of those people. I've seen myself as I really am.
Poor in spirit. I've wept over my condition. I've been humbled. It's caused meekness in my life.
I have a new appetite for spiritual things. So I see somebody else that doesn't know the Lord yet and I have mercy for them. By the way when Jesus gave these words Rome was in control of Israel. And the Romans did not value mercy. In fact a Roman philosopher said quote mercy was a disease of the soul end quote. See the Romans were all about strength. If you ever look at Roman artifacts especially statues of Roman leaders they're always muscular.
It's all about domination. Bludgeoning people into submission. The will of Rome. And so they saw something like mercy as a as a flaw not a virtue. In fact when a child was born in the Roman world the father had the right of something called patria protestus. Which meant if he wanted the newborn to live he held his thumb up. If he wanted the newborn to die his thumb would go down and the child would be immediately drowned.
Can you imagine? How barbaric. Oh is abortion that much different? Especially when people abort a child you know in the final months of pregnancy.
This is just taking that to the next level. But imagine saying well I didn't want a girl. I wanted a boy. So thumbs down. Or I didn't want a boy. I wanted a girl.
Or I don't like the way that child looks. So here comes Jesus who says blessed are the merciful. But what is mercy?
It's very important that we know. In Matthew 6 3 the word for mercy is used concerning almsgiving. Almsgiving. It means to help a person in need and rescue the miserable.
Let me say that again. Mercy means to help a person in need. Mercy is a sense of pity plus a desire to relieve the suffering. See mercy doesn't just say oh look at that poor person. Mercy says I'm going to do something for that poor person. Oh look at that hungry person. Mercy says I'm going to feed that hungry person.
Oh look at that lonely person. Mercy says I'm going to be a friend to that lonely person. Mercy is basically pity plus action. Sometimes we'll have pity.
Oh I pity that person. Yeah but mercy is different than pity. Mercy is saying I'm going to do something to alleviate their suffering. Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.
Listen to this. The more righteous a person is the more merciful they will be. The more sinful a person is the more harsh and critical they will be. This is a very important distinction.
This is a very important distinction. Because sometimes people in the guise of spirituality be very condemning and very angry with non-believers or with anyone that does anything that disappoints them and they say that's spiritual. That's not spiritual. Godly people are merciful people. And if you're not a merciful person you don't understand what it means to be a godly person who is a greater example of mercy than Jesus. Extending mercy to the woman caught in the actual act of adultery. Extending mercy to the woman at the well married and divorced five times and living with the man at present. Extending mercy to the tax collector Zacchaeus who took advantage of people. Extending mercy to the thief on the cross next to him who was probably guilty of murder.
Mercy mercy mercy everywhere he went. Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. Coming back to one of those principles we discovered if you want to be a happy person be a forgiving person. If you want to be an unhappy person harbor grudges and be angry with people.
You say but Greg wait it's easy for you to stand up there and see that. People have hurt me. Yeah you know what people have hurt me too believe it or not.
I am so adorable. How could that be? We have all been hurt in life. But here is why you should forgive and here is why you should show mercy so you can live a happier life. It's on them. They did that. It's too bad they did that.
I wish they hadn't done that thing to you. But I am going to let it go. To not forgive is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.
Think about it. It's like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die. Friend the rat's not going to die.
You're going to die. And when you don't forgive and you allow your life to be filled with bitterness and you're not a merciful person you're going to be a miserable person. Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. Pastor Greg Laurie will have the second half of his message in just a moment. We love hearing when people find help through these daily studies.
Some in person and even some on the road. Pastor Greg I listen to your sermons every day on my way to work. I can't thank you enough for your words, humor and immense love for Jesus. Your messages are so inspiring and eye-opening. I look forward to listening daily.
You are a bright spot in what has become a very dark world. Thank you. If you have a story to share why not call us and let us know. Here's the number 1-866-871-1144.
866-871-1144. Well today Pastor Greg is guiding us in a study of the Beatitudes. Those attitudes that lead to happiness directly from the Lord himself.
Let's continue. Number six a happy person will be a holy person. A happy person will be a holy person. Now you know when we use the word holy it's often in a negative way. Oh they're so holier than thou. What does that mean?
Well they're so uppity and well that's not a good trait. But actually we should all want to be holy men and holy women. The Bible says be holy as he is holy. But we don't understand what that means. We think being holy means that we never raise our voice. And we don't even occupy much space.
We just take this much space. I am holy. You are just weird. That's not holiness.
That's weirdness. Maybe if I re-spell holy it will help you understand what it means. Instead of spelling it h-o-l-y.
Spell it w-h-o-l-l-y. As in holy committed. So if you're holy committed to Christ you will be a holy person. And blessed are these people who are pure in heart.
For they shall see God. What does it mean to be pure in heart? You know today we speak of our heart as sort of our emotion. We'll say you know my mind says one thing and my heart tells me another.
What does it even mean really? Well my heart is just causing me to want to do this and and I don't know if I should do it or not. Well you know sometimes people say I'm just listening to my heart. Well be careful because the Bible says the heart is deceitfully wicked above all things who can know it. So when the Hebrews talked about the heart they did not mean the heart obviously beating in your chest. And they didn't even mean the mere emotional center for the Jew the heart.
When we talk about the heart we're talking about the emotional center but also the intellectual center. So when we read to be pure in heart it means we're to be pure in our inner core. People of purity. But we wonder is it even possible to be pure today? Just like we would dismiss the word holy we would dismiss the word pure even as an insult. Oh well look at her she's just as pure as the driven snow.
Well that's a good thing isn't it? The only thing we like pure is our drinking water. I want it pure. By the way how do we survive without drinking water all those years? Do you know I grew up as a kid and I never had a bottle of drinking water. I drank water out of rusty faucets and the funkiest water you've ever had and somehow I survived to this age. But now we all have our bottled water and we always have to have the bottled water. And some bottled waters are better than other bottled waters.
You know how it is. We want it pure. But the thing is blessed are the pure in heart. To be pure in heart can also be translated to be single in heart. So what it means is they have a single focus in life. You're a focused person focused on your relationship with God.
Number seven. A happy person will be a peacemaker. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God.
Now this is one beatitude pretty much everyone can applaud. Yes blessed are the peacemakers. Let's work for peace. Let's march for peace. Well this isn't really talking about world peace. Though we all want world peace. And the fact is our planet has been plagued by war since our very beginning. In the past four thousand years there have been less than three hundred without a major war somewhere. It seems as though peace is that brief glorious moment in history when everyone stops to reload.
Right? Think about how closely World War II followed World War I. And these wars just continue on and on. Albert Einstein made this statement about atomic warfare as they would call it then. And I quote, it is not a physical problem but an ethical one which terrifies us as not the explosive force of the atomic bomb but the power of the wickedness of the human heart and its explosive power for evil. End quote.
How right Einstein was. Because he is merely reflecting what the Bible says in James 4 when it says where do you think these appalling wars and quarrels come from? They come from yourselves because you want your own way. You fight for it deep inside of yourself. You lust for what you don't have and you are willing to kill to get it.
You want what is in yours and you risk violence to get your hands on it. So yes we are people that are in constant conflict. So what does it mean when Jesus says blessed are the peacemakers? What it means primarily in context is blessed is the man or woman who has seen themself as they really are. A sinner without a savior. A person who has become humble and meek. A person who hungers and thirsts after righteousness. A person who has a single focus on God. And a person who wants others to come into the same relationship with God. Because we are bringing the message of the prince of peace. Know this. Peacemakers are often troublemakers.
Here is how it works. Here is your family. A bunch of nonbelievers. You get together. Every Thanksgiving. Christmas. Whatever it is. Drink. Smoke. Party. Tell dirty jokes. It is your family.
Yeah. Then one day you go along and wreck everything. And you become a Christian. And you just ruined it all. Someone said you have wrecked our family. Why don't you have to go and become a Jesus freak. Now when we want to eat we are standing around waiting for you to say could we pray.
Really. Oh you just ruined everything. We kind of had it all together as a family and now you brought this division in our family.
And you say yeah that has happened to me. This doesn't make sense. Listen to the words of Jesus. It clarifies everything. Jesus says in Matthew 10 34, do you think that I came to bring peace on earth? I didn't come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father. A daughter against her mother. A daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man's enemies are those of his own household.
You are saying Greg you have really lost me now. What does this mean? This is the division that brings unity.
Here is what has happened. Your family was in a dark place. You just turned the light on and everyone noticed it.
And a lot of them don't like it. But you just hang in there and you keep following the Lord and pretty soon another family member comes to Christ. And now another one comes to Christ. And before you know it you are a Christian family.
Because Christ is intervened. That is a good thing. But there is that initial friction that comes before you have the peace. Blessed are the peacemakers.
That is what it really means. You are spreading the gospel of peace. Blessed are the feet of those that bring glad tidings of the gospel of peace. We are seeing how the Lord's prescription for happiness differs from the world's. Pastor Greg Laurie is leading our study of the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount. It is part of a series here on A New Beginning called Salt and Light. Well Pastor Greg we are so excited to share the new film Johnny Cash the Redemption of an American Icon with our listeners.
We will have those details in a moment. You know Johnny Cash grew up in an imperfect home but I don't know anyone who grew up in a perfect home. There is always drama and stress and pride and disagreement. A lot of people may see themselves in the story of Johnny's early life. You saw a bit of yourself in his story. Well yes because Johnny's roots were in Arkansas and so were mine.
People think of me as a Southern California guy and I am. But my grandparents came from Friendship, Arkansas. And I actually lived with them for quite a few years when my mother was out and about living her crazy life. And my grandmother was related to Johnny Cash. In fact her maiden name is Stella Fowler Cash.
Then she married my grandfather Charles McDaniel. So I'm a distant relative of Johnny and I always heard about him even in my childhood. He'd appear on a little black and white television. And it's a funny thing because my grandfather would say to his wife Stella, my grandmother, Stella your cousin's in trouble again because Johnny would get arrested and have these drug issues and a lot of highs and lows. In fact a lot of people didn't believe he was a real Christian but actually he was. He was a struggling Christian. To me Johnny Cash his story is basically the prodigal son updated. I mean you even stop and think about the fact that that his father Ray had two sons. They were Johnny and his brother Jack and clearly Ray favored Jack over Johnny. Jack was a very hard-working young man and aspired to be a preacher one day and Johnny well he wanted to be a musician. And one day when that boy Jack died in a tragic accident at a sawmill Ray actually said to Johnny God took the wrong son.
Imagine the impact that would have on you to hear that. Ray Cash was a pretty cold man and Johnny well into his adult years was trying to win the approval of his father. Well Johnny Cash went on to impact the world with his extraordinary musical talent and people still sing his songs today. He's been discovered by a whole new generation. He transcends music. He transcends culture.
That's why he's called an icon. I wrote a book about him called Johnny Cash the redemption of an American icon and now there's a brand new documentary film and that's what I'm telling you about. You can see this new film produced by the Irwin brothers who also produced and directed American underdog I Can Only Imagine, I Still Believe, Woodlawn, and the soon to be released Jesus Revolution. So you know already that this is a high quality documentary film.
We have interviews with some amazing people like Winona Judd, Sheryl Crow, John Schneider, Tim McGraw, and many others. So you're going to get a behind the scenes look at this iconic man and learn more about his spiritual life. That's the focus of this film the spiritual life of Johnny Cash his ups and downs his highs and his lows and how he returned to the Lord especially toward the end of his life and I would also add he recorded some of the best music of his life at the very end. This film Johnny Cash the redemption of an American icon is going to be a is going to be a fathom event. What that means is it will be shown in hundreds of theaters around the United States for multiple nights hopefully in a theater near you. So I'm inviting you to go see this film. I'm inviting you to bring someone with you that doesn't even know the Lord yet because there's a gospel presentation in this film as well. So go see Johnny Cash the redemption of an American icon.
Dave tell them how they can get tickets. Yeah you can contact us here at Harvest. Just go to harvest.org.
This fathom event is coming up soon. You'll find the dates listed on our website harvest.org and tickets are limited but we're happy to make complimentary tickets available while they last to those who show their generous support of our efforts to reach unexpected people in unexpected places with an unexpected message. It's an inspiring message of hope and redemption.
That's why the film is called Johnny Cash the redemption of an American icon. So get your tickets soon before they're gone by going to harvest.org or call 1-800-821-3300. Call anytime 24 7 1-800-821-3300. Hey I don't know if you know about this but we have a weekend service called Harvest at Home exclusively for people that are tuning in literally from around the world. Listen to this we even have harvest groups where you can get into a small group with folks from all around this planet of ours and study the word of God.
So join us this weekend Saturday and Sunday for Harvest at Home at harvest.org. Well next time more insights to draw you closer to the Lord from the series in the Sermon on the Mount called Salt and Light. Join us here on A New Beginning with pastor and Bible teacher Greg Laurie. Thanks for listening to A New Beginning with Greg Laurie, a podcast made possible by Harvest Partners, helping people everywhere know God. Sign up for daily devotions and learn how to become a Harvest Partner at harvest.org.
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