- The beginning of a year tends to be that time that gives us a feeling of starting afresh. Though in reality the 31st of December 2020, and the 1st of January 2021 are as different from each other as any day has ever been.
There is no physical, emotional or spiritual renewal that actually happens in the crossing of a year, but it feels new. It feels fresh. Like we’ve been given another chance at living righteously.And I do not want to quench that emotion, but use it this morning as we peer carefully and fearfully at the kind of year this will be, given all that happened last year. I want to use this feeling to help cast my vision for 2021. Last year, I spent a lot of time pondering and planning on what our direction would be, and God foiled all my plans.
And so year, I did not ponder and plan, instead I let the word of God lead us to His vision through expository progress of Matthew’s Gospel.Today’s sermon will be my vision and I pray that all of you will join me in one accord to plough our way to this end that God lays for us.
The vision for 2021 is Desiring God.
- For most of us by now, Desiring God reminds us more of John piper than it does about what that phrase means.
It is simultaneous the most necessary, the most satisfying, the most joyful, and the most overlooked, misunderstood and forgotten reality/gift of the Christian life. And the reason for this is that we confuse desiring God with knowing Him. Whenever the Bible talks about knowing God, it speaks of a knowledge that accompanies desire. But too often we fail to see that though knowledge is necessary to birth desire, knowledge does not necessarily birth desire. Though knowledge is required for drawing out our desires, there is a knowledge that leaves us spiritually empty.So, desiring God is not a ministry or a website, it is the purpose for which God
- Therefore the struggle for desiring God above all things in our lives is the business of the church, and Redemption Hill is no exception. You see, we are a church that has a deep conviction regarding doctrinal fidelity. The statement of faith on our website has more words than all the words on the website of most other churches in the state, maybe even in the country. We believe that theology matters.
Yet, one of the greatest struggles I see in our lives is one where all that knowledge does not produce all that desire.We must be a people that can discern the difference between the joy of knowledge,and the joy from knowledge. When we survey the attributes of God, there is anexcitement that can come in knowing them, and an excitement that can flow out ofthat knowledge. The one that flows out of knowledge is desire, and its fruit isceaseless prayer. If you study the attributes of God and are driven to discussion,then you’ve seen so little. But if you study the attributes of God and are driven topray and gaze upon Him, then you’ve seen much.And so, it will be my focus this year to persuade each one of you to join me that we may spur one another to desire God with all our heart.
- This year, we will strive to pray together as a church. Desiring God is not the effort of the flesh, it is the response of our spirit upon meeting the Holy Spirit. It is a gift from God, and we will pray that God will stir our affections for Him.John Piper’s book – Desiring God is an excellent resource that deals with the issue of this sermon at length, and so, it contains all that I want to say and much more. Therefore, this will be a book that the men’s fellowship and the women’s fellowship will study together, this year.
- Our text today is Matthew 6:33 – But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.In the last two weeks we’d dealt with the issue of the heart and anxiety. That whatever we tend to treasure, there, will our heart be. All of our affections and desires are drawn towards the things we treasure. And if these treasures are earthly treasures, then they are prone to destruction and our hearts to anxiety. Whereas if they are heavenly treasures, then they are everlasting and our hearts are drawn to joy. Now, if this picture is clear in our minds, if we have this knowledge, it does not then necessarily produce the desire for heavenly things. Knowing that you have to desire heavenly things is very different from desiring heavenly things.
[I’d once used the example of an athlete or a musician. Watching them pursue their passions often inspires us. But in that inspiration we want to imitate the passion of that musician without being consumed by the object of their passion — you don’t look at other Christians or read other Christians and then want to be as faithful as they are without being taken up by God like they have been]
- So, how do I do that. If after hearing all these things, how am I to desire God?
– seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness
- A few weeks before, we’d studied about this phrase the kingdom of God. I’d encourage you to go back and listen to that sermon to refresh your memory on that. But, in essence, the kingdom of God is the rule and realm of Christ. It is His Kingly rule over the realm of His people. The coming of this kingdom is realised through the building up of God’s church worldwide, and it is completed in the returning of Jesus Christ as He brings heaven to earth.
- Similarly, righteousness is also a word we studied at length when we covered the beatitudes. In summary, righteousness is what is morally right or justifiable in the eyes of God. It is blamelessness in what we do and who we are, before God.
- And the command here, of Christ, is that we are to seek these two things. There are earthly treasures and heavenly treasures. We should be dwelling on the latter. However, we cannot live without being provided the former. But Jesus says that though we have all our needs like the Gentiles, we should set our hearts to seeking out heavenly treasures and all these earthly needs will be added to us.The greek word for ‘seek’ here, is a word that means to investigate in order to reach a binding resolution. It’s an act to get to the bottom of the matter. So, what Jesus is saying here is that we must be getting to the bottom of what the kingdom of God is really. We are to seek out the rule of Christ over our lives and the life of the Church and in our workplace, our families, and so on. We are to investigate what the righteous thing to do is in every circumstance.- Now, here is the problem. Understanding that such a seeking is what God requires of us can produce in us certain actions. This is good. However, these actions can be dutiful in a way that it is devoid of affection.
But that is not the kind of seeking that Jesus is talking about.- The Gentiles seek after earthly things according to the verse previous to this (v32) and they seek after it because they’re hearts are set on it. Do you see? That in the context of this passage there is a treasure that the heart seeks. You
don’t desire earthly things dutiful alone, you desire them with lust.- So, the problem here is that the seeking that the Bible requires of us is of a kind that is produced out of an intense longing, a craving, a kind of lust, a desire. [search…search…search…frantically]
Therefore, there are many who can seek half-heartedly and yet not find.
- With that, let’s go back to the verse and see now from the point of a desirous seeking, what are we seeking for? The rule and realm of Christ, and His
righteousness. Not for pain, not for suffering, not for our needs, not for our wants, but out of a desire for God.
- You see beloved, all that you need is then added to you. Like add-ons or accessories that are not the substance of your greatest need – God. Ever so often, we are tempted to quote this verse as a means to get our earthly needs.
But what the verse is trying to say is that we ought to pay less attention on our earthly needs and greater attention on our need for God. What we need will be added to us.You do not seek God, let me rephrase, you do not desire God in order to meet your needs. You desire God for God.
- And like I said, this is simultaneously the most satisfying, and the most forgotten truth.
John Piper talks about this reality as being the most liberating and the most debilitating truth in the Christian life. It is the most liberating thing because following Jesus, being Christian, is not to quench human desire, but to satisfy it infinitely. The Christian life is to pursue pleasure in all things. Pleasure in God.
1 Corinthians 10:31 – So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.And it is the most debilitating truth because man can produce many things, but desire is the response of the heart. Forcing the heart to desire something is in effect the very opposite of desiring. As Piper says it, he has watched this truth decimate people’s lives when they realise that they must desire God above all other things.
- Throughout our lives, God will bring us situations where we are challenged in this affection towards God. Do we desire God more, than we desire the things we want in this world? And those will be test that proves our faith.
- God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him – this is the anthem of Piper’s book and his life and ministry.
Sin is the result of dissatisfaction in Christ.
Patience is the result of dissatisfaction in Christ.
Worldly anger is the result of dissatisfaction in Christ.
Pride is the result of dissatisfaction in Christ.
Intellectualism is the result of dissatisfaction in Christ.
Prayerlessness is the result of dissatisfaction in Christ.
Anxiety is the result of dissatisfaction in Christ.We suffer these things because we do not desire God. In all the accumulated wealth of our knowledge, are we truly satisfied in Christ. Are all our desires anchored in that one great and lovely desire for God.
- This, I believe, is the journey that God will take us on in this year as He poured out His knowledge onto us, He will begin drawing out our desire for Him.I want each of you to examine your hearts. Beloved, you can be a powerful motivator, an excellent preacher, a humble servant, an enthusiastic encourager, a thorough apologist, a church member, and yet not desire God.
You can desire all of godliness in a flesh satisfying sort of way where we feel happy about our own Christianity.
[in preaching, in decision making — I can preach about desiring God and fool myself into believing that if this sermon is powerfully delivered then that means that I desire God]
- How do we desire God? We hear from His word and then we pray.
- Jeremiah 29:13 – You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart
Psalm 37:4 – Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart
- This is the distinction between evangelism and discipleship. The only way that an unbeliever can desire God is for God to penetrate his stubborn heart with the revelation of His word. Therefore, we preach the Gospel.
On the other hand, the believer perseveres and grows in their desire for God by the keeping of His revealed word. Therefore, we preach the Gospel.
- You cannot be Christian without desiring God. That is the definition of being Christian.
- Romans 8:3-8 – For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,3 he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.