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This Week's Sermon:

         Luke 6:17-26  -  Christian Liberty   
      
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Jesus died penniless. Roman soldiers cast lots to divide among themselves Jesus' only possessions--the clothes on his back. And he looked at his disciples and said, blessed are you who are poor.

 

Jesus died hungry. There is no record that Jesus had anything to eat the day of his death. What we call The Last Supper on Thursday evening may very well have been Jesus' last meal. He died on the cross Friday at sunset with an empty stomach. Looking at his disciples he said, blessed are you who hunger now.

 

Jesus died weeping. After his last supper Jesus headed for the Garden and there in that Olive Grove we call Gethsemane he prayed and he wept. He told his disciples you are blessed when you weep.

 

Jesus died hated. Caiaphas, the greatest religious authority in Israel called him a blasphemer. The crowds wanted a murderer freed before they would see Jesus pardoned. And his disciples deserted him. Looking at his disciples he said blessed are you when men hate you on account of me.

 

The beatitudes are a wonderful description of what disciples are suppose to be like. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are you who are poor. They sound so ideal, so spiritual. They probably come in fourth in the “framed scripture hanging on a wall category.” Just behind The Ten Commandments, Psalm 23, and the Lord’s Prayer. But truth be told few of us ever come close to truly living them out. Why? Here’s the reason: It’s because they are a call to sacrificial living.

 

When I think of making sacrifices I think of E. Stanley Jones, perhaps United Methodism’s most famous foreign missionary. He authored over a dozen books and converted hundreds of Hindus in India to Christianity. He is the only person of which I am aware who was voted in abstentia to become a bishop. When he received the news, he turned it down. One day E. Stanley Jones came to Emory University and spoke to a Systematic Theology class. One of the students asked him why he turned down the episcopacy. He laughingly replied that if he became a bishop he would have to retire at age 70. "I am now 82," he said, "and I am still going strong."

 

Then someone asked him: what do you think of the Beatitudes? Several students picked up their pens expecting something profound and they got it. Here's what he said: "At first sight, you felt they turned everything upside down. At second sight, you understand that they turn everything right side up. The first time you read them they are impossible. The second time you read them, nothing else is possible. The beatitudes are not a chart for Christian duty. They are a charter for Christian liberty.”

 

The Beatitudes: They are admonitions to sacrificial living and sacrificial living is the door to Christian Freedom. Now what does that mean? Let’s take a look.

 

1. Jesus puts in a good word for poverty, hunger, and sadness

2. And he cautions against riches, food, and worldly happiness

3. Because sacrificial freedom is greater than financial freedom

 

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What Is Unique About Christianity?

 

The story of Jesus sitting and debating the Law with rabbis reminds me of another debate that took place in a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity. Someone suggested what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God became incarnate in human form. But someone quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.” Another suggestion was offered: what about resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Someone slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.

 

Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, armful of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally during a lull, he spoke saying, “what's all this rumpus about?” Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We're debating what's unique about Christianity.” “Oh, that's easy,” answered Lewis, “it's....

 

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sermons.com presents Leonard Sweet