WORKING UP HUNGER FOR GOD
by Pastor Jurgen Rausch
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.”
I am amazed at what can be salvaged when tearing down an old place such as a house or a barn; amazed at what can be pulled out of the rubble and salvaged with a future use somewhere else.
My dad, who worked in construction for years, would come home with the most unbelievable stuff – wood, brick, metals, gadgets and things discarded.
Naw, he wasn’t a packrat…. he just thought things could be salvaged and used again elsewhere. A lot of it had to do with the fact that he was from that generation that had very little, and where you made things stretch in ridiculous ways.
It was actually my dad’s 77th birthday this past week, and if he were still alive today I am sure that his garage would still be full of cans of every imaginable screw, nut, bolt, steel and various pieces of wood.
My dad was unbelievable that way. It was a good thing that our brother Uwe took it all when we cleaned out the garage and shed after our dad passed away.
This is Not New Construction!
So why am I telling you this? I am doing so not only to honor my dad’s memory in the week of his 77th birthday, but also to draw a comparison to the house of God or the kingdom of God that each one of us is building out in our lives.
You may remember me telling you last Sunday that the Beatitudes of Jesus refer to attitudes and characteristics that we are to live out, and that these are not random ideas that happen to land in this order by a roll of the dice.
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.
These ideas follow a definite train of thought and lead to the development of a grand proposal; which is that God wants to build out in us his kingdom, his reign and his house.
And as we realized last Sunday, this is not a new construction.
To build something new means something old has to be torn down first. This is not an empty lot. On this lot stands an old house that needs to be torn down until nothing is left except the land on which it stood.
By the time that old place is torn down there is nothing salvageable. Not a single piece of wood, not a single sheet of metal, not a single brick can be recovered. My dad would have walked away empty handed.
The first three of these Beatitudes describe the deconstruction.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit…blessed are those who mourn….blessed are the meek….”
Poverty of spirit is all about seeing the rot of the old place and realizing there is nothing good in that old dump. My old house is full of rot.
Mourning is the feeling of being greatly bothered by what the rot of sin has done in me, in others and in this world
Meekness is being absolutely okay with having the old place torn down, strip by strip, as my heart is laid bare.
With that I come to the end of myself, as I see that there is nothing salvageable and all that is left is a piece of land.
The old building has been torn down and hauled away; the old foundation pulled out and filled in. Nothing to the naked eye would suggest that a structure ever stood there.
The Soil of Your Heart
Yet the soil that is your heart is not dormant. It doesn’t just lay there, ready to become a lawn or meadow, but instead the soil that is your heart pulsates, is alive and yearns for God.
By the way, sometimes it takes an absolute deconstruction, a coming to the end of yourself, before you once again hear the pulse of your heart.
Some of us have had what we call a thorough conversion, a radical conversion (‘Gründliche Bekehrung’ German). This is where people cried out in such desperation for God because their lives were in such shambles and disarray, and who consequently were so radically saved that they experience profound and lasting life change.
You might remember the story of the demoniac in Mark 5 whose life was absolutely out of control; and who shocked everyone by his subsequent radical conversion, characterized with incredible serenity, clear mindedness and dramatic life change.
“When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind.”
So the land does not lie dormant. Deep down in the soil of the heart of every person is an incredible pulse, an incredible longing, hunger and thirst for God.
The soil – your soil, your heart, your entire being - pulsates, crying out to God with a guttural cry, with a yearning and a groaning that becomes louder and louder with every passing moment.
I love the song the sons of Korah wrote:
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, ”Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:1-5
That’s the hunger and thirst of your soul, that’s what’s being masked by the rubble of the old house – and you won’t hear it until that old house is gone.
Long before you began to accumulate things, long before your mind was sharpened and your character shaped there was a primal, almost otherworldly, longing and desire for God deep down in your heart.
When you were in your mother’s womb your entire being longed for God. When you took your first gasp of air, you gasped for God; and when you took your first gulp of milk, you thirsted for God.
Deep in the soil of your heart is this incredible hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness, which you only sense after your old house is torn down, its foundation pulled out and hauled away, and its land leveled.
It’s then that you hear the earth pulsate, the soil vibrate and the hungry growl of your soul.
Most will never hear that. Most have no idea what it means to feel these hunger pains. Already in the natural world, we live in a world of plenty, we can barely push ourselves away from the table after having gorged once again.
This is so unlike the world of the first century where hunger and famine were constant companions.
“For those who live in a world in which they can turn on the tap whenever they want water and are always able to secure some sort of food or eat, the experience of hunger and thirst is foreign. Not so in the ancient world, where so many lived constantly on the edge of starvation and often traveled through desert regions without water.” Robert Mounce
What is true in the natural world is so much more true in the spiritual one. In a world where the tap is always turned on and the table always set, it is nearly impossible to hear the growl of the soul.
It isn’t until our house collapses that the hunger pains of the soul become evident.
For the sons of Korah it wasn’t until they were yanked away from their religious life, from their daily temple worship and from everything that they held dear and near and found themselves on a forced exile to some God forsaken place, that they heard the hunger pains which they captured in these immortal words:
“When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, ”Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul.” Psalm 42:2-4
The Beginning of the New Construction
So what is it that your heart is crying out for? Righteousness.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…”
This idea of righteousness shouldn’t trip us up too much. It doesn’t have to be a ‘high faluten’ phrase where we have to pull out dictionaries and study commentaries to figure out what it means.
Righteousness simply means the reign and rule of God in our lives.
I am hungering and thirsting for God’s reign and rule in my life. I desperately want His will to be done in my life as it is in heaven, for his Kingdom to be established and for the house of God to be built in me.
Do you know what this is? This then is the beginning of the new construction.
Again, the shape, size and look of God’s reign in me will be different then for you. It will be filtered through my temperament, opportunities, gifts, inclinations etc.
But for all of us the foundation will be the same as will be the material with which we built (which we will look at next time).
Any builder will tell you that structures rise and fall because of the foundation. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness, for his reign and rule in me must start with a rock solid foundation.
There’s really only one foundation: “the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” Eph 2:20
What is the foundation of the apostles and prophets?
The apostles and prophets brought us the Word of God, brought us the Gospel, the Good News that Jesus saves, almost like workers who frame foundations into which concrete is poured.
They framed it and poured in the rock solid concrete that is Jesus Christ. In fact, not only is his righteousness a rock solid foundation upon which your house is to be built, but also he is the chief cornerstone!
My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less
This morning, you who have torn down your old house of rot without defense and pushback, who are crying out to God for the infilling of his righteousness, are seeing a strong foundation poured. It is framed by the teaching of apostles and prophets of long ago and of today, with Jesus Christ himself as the chief cornerstone!
You have a foundation that will neither crack, shift, nor fall apart, but will stand the test of time and eternity upon which you with confidence will build your house of God.
As the song writer said:
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name
When Darkness veils his lovely face, I rest on his unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, his covenant, his blood supports me in the whelming flood. When all around my soul gives way, he then is all my hope and stay.
When he shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in him be found! Dressed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne!
On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand
I love what Ephesians says:
“In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Eph 2:21-22
And in I Cor. 3, the Great Apostle said, “You are God’s field, God’s building…” as he declared this:
“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.”
I Cor. 3:11-13
So God’s reign, his righteousness in us is like the solid foundation for the house of God that you are building out in your life.
While I realize that these passages refer to all of us being built into, or ‘eingemauert’ (German), into the House of God, there is definitely the sense that each of us is building our own house of God in which his Spirit dwells.
Where Are You in This Process?
So, my friend, this morning where are you in this process?
Are you still hanging on to your old shack thinking you can patch it up and hold together just a little longer? If you think you can keep it together, wait till the next storm hits and we’ll see how it looks then!
Maybe you have given up, the rot of sin is just too much, and you have laid down your weapons of defense as you are being dismantled bit by bit by the Lord. You’re on your way, friend!
Maybe it’s a clean plot of land finally. God has forgiven you; He’s pulled it down and hauled it all away. Now the work begins in earnest!
Lay the foundation. Go deep in your soil. Let the apostles and prophets of old and today frame the foundation and pour in the concrete of Jesus Christ.
Foundation is poured? Then come back next week as we talk about the essential ingredients to the house of God being built up in your life!
Scott Street MB Church invites you to write your reflections and thoughts about the weekly messages shared by lead Pastor Jurgen Rausch.