Happy early Thanksgiving and welcome to Hill Community Church, or the Hill for short. Since it is the week after the inaugural, I wanted to spend a few moments talking about our new church name. On Saturday nights, when you see each other, you can say, I’ll see you at the Hill. Sounds cool, right? I’d like to recognize the person who was inspired by God to come up with the name. Brother Jae? I’m sure at some point, in the near future, you will get to hear from him directly in a sermon how he came up with that name.
I like the name because it takes into consideration what I consider to be 3 very important ideas. Last week, Pastor Don mentioned the hymn, The Old Rugged Cross. I want to read it for you. It goes like this–
Hymn: The Old Rugged Cross
On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, The emblem of suffering and shame; And I love that old cross where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain.
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, Till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross, And exchange it some day for a crown.
O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, Has a wondrous attraction for me; For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above to bear it to dark Calvary.
In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine, A wondrous beauty I see, For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died, To pardon and sanctify me.
To the old rugged cross I will ever be true; Its shame and reproach gladly bear; Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away, Where His glory forever I’ll share.
This is one of my most favorite hymns. I sang it a lot as a college student. I would go to the Berkeley Marina overlooking the bay and the SF cityscape on the other side. And I would pray and sing hymns like The Old Rugged Cross.
On a hill far away. A couple people said, I don’t like the name because it makes me think I have to climb Mt Everest to come to church. It’s true–the name the Hill can give off that impression. But we can’t forget that the hill that Jesus climbed 2000 years ago was one that He alone could climb. We were sinners and no amount of our works or reading self-help books or doing good deeds could bridge the huge gap between us and a holy God. Jesus carried the sins of the world, your sins and mine, he took them up a hill and he was crucified at a place known as Golgatha.
As followers of Christ, we must walk in His footsteps. We, too, must carry our crosses. And die to ourselves in service for our King. Christian life is not easy. But we do so gladly because Jesus first went up to die for the sins of the world ON A HILL FAR AWAY. I love the name the Hill because it reminds me of the cross where my dear Lord Jesus died for my sins.
I also like the name the Hill because it reminds me of our mission as believers. We are the church and in Matthew 5, the church is referred to as a city on a hill. Jesus is the light of the world and we are to shine the light of Jesus before men so that they see our good deeds and become Christian because God uses our good deeds to save them and eventually they will join us in praising our Father in heaven.
City on a hill. A city by definition has to be densely populated. If you have a single lantern on a farm in a cornfield in the middle of nowhere, that light is not going to shine very far. But in a city, you have people packed together in close quarters. So you can see the lights emanating from a city from miles away. The more Christians gather in a single location (i.e. a local church), the greater the output of light.
Why is it a city ON A HILL? Because the higher the light is, the more people can see it. You can have a floodlight but if you keep it in the basement, what good is it? It might be 10,000 watts, but it’s underground, it’s hidden. A Christian or a church that has the light of Jesus inside of them and yet that light is never shared with others, then what use is it? The Bible says, it’s like having a lamp under a bowl. No one can see it. But if you put a lamp on a stand, higher up, it’s visible, more people can see it. Lighthouses are tall structures so that incoming ships can see the light and be warned that they are approaching the shore. The light has to be raised up so that it can be seen.
If you are stranded on an island and there are rescue planes circling above you, your pocket flash light will not do you much good. But if you have a flare gun and you shoot the flare into the air and the flare lights up the sky, how much greater your chances will be that a rescue crew will see you. It’s important to put the light in a place high above where others can see it.
How does being a city on a hill connect with the rest of Scripture? You can break up Scripture into 4 large movements: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration. Creation – God created the world. Genesis 1-2. Then, the Fall when sin entered the world. Genesis 3. Redemption, which we already covered, occurred at the hill of Calvary, the cross. And finally, Restoration when Jesus returns and restores everything. This final restoration will involve heaven crashing down to earth and a new combined heaven and earth will result. Instead of a Garden like you had in Genesis, you will have a heavenly City as we read about in Revelation. And as part of this restoration, Jesus will do 2 things: 1) He will restore the physical material world and 2) he will give all believers resurrected bodies.
Redemption of the entire world–the physical world, the spiritual world, creation, people, everything–was God’s heart ever since the Fall. We were lost in sin. We were objects of wrath. We were without hope and without God. And so, God has been a on a redemption mission ever since the Fall. To redeem is to buy back or to pay off. If you have a coupon, you redeem the coupon and you pay off a portion of the item that you want to purchase. Jesus was our ransom, our payment on the cross and God used the life and death of Jesus to redeem us, to buy us back and to pay off our sins. And God wants to redeem or buy back as many people as he can.
This is a consistent theme throughout Scripture. God’s original design in Genesis 1 was for Adam and Eve to be fruitful, to increase in number, to fill the earth, to subdue and to rule. It’s a spreading out of God’s presence and influence to the whole world. Then, the Fall happened and all hell broke loose, literally. But God raises up Abram, the father of faith. And similar language is used in Gen 12:1-3 where Abram is blessed by God and because he is blessed by God, he is called to be a blessing to all the nations.
Fast forward to the New Testament, what does Jesus say to announce the start of his earthly ministry? He says, repent for the kingdom of heaven is near. A kingdom that began with the nation of Israel and now continues through the person of Jesus Christ and remember, his goal is to advance the kingdom in order to redeem the entire world.
Then, after Jesus calls the disciples to follow him, what does he say next? Follow me and I will make you fishers of men. And Jesus’ final words after the resurrection were captured in the Great Commission in Matthew 28 – go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
This ties in with the command to be a city on a hill. We are saved not so that we can enjoy Jesus amongst ourselves within the church. We are saved so that we can be fruitful and increase in number, to subdue territories, to be blessing to all the nations, to advance the kingdom of God, to be a fisher who catches souls, to make disciples. If we ever forget the mission as a church, we will devolve very quickly into a legalistic Pharisaic rule keeping Christian ghetto separated from the rest of society and we will eventually die spiritually.
We are called to be a city on a hill because a hill is elevated so that more people can see the light of Jesus.
Also, in times of war, hills were strategic posts where fortresses were built. A fortress on a hill had a decisive military advantage against attackers. When you are being attacked, it’s much easier to defend yourself by shooting arrows or pouring molten liquids or firing canons or bullets when you are atop a fortress wall on a hill.
Did you ever wonder why God saved you and placed you in a city like Pasadena, near LA, near Hollywood? Think of the impact that we could have for Christ if our light shined brightly in a city like ours. If we advanced God’s kingdom here and the city of LA fell and was conquered by Christ, think of the ripple effects across the world. I love the name the Hill because it reminds us of our mission. It’s the very heartbeat of God to want to redeem as many people as he can.
Lastly, I came across a passage in Genesis 49 when Jacob was about to die, and in one of his final acts, Jacob gathers his sons around him and he blesses them. And here is the blessing directed toward his favored son, Joseph. Let me read from the ESV. Gen 49:22-26.
Gen 49 (ESV)
22 “Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; his branches run over the wall. 23 The archers bitterly attacked him, shot at him, and harassed him severely, 24 yet his bow remained unmoved; his arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), 25 by the God of your father who will help you, by the Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that crouches beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. 26 The blessings of your father are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents, up to the bounties of the everlasting hills…
I like that phrase “up to the bounties of the everlasting hills” because the hill is a place of blessing and fruit bearing.
One of the top contenders for our church name was Garden because it has this idea of fruitfulness. But if you are a guy who has never stepped foot into a church and you are manly and you love the NFL and MMA, do you think you would go to a place called the Garden? I wouldn’t. You might go to Tasty Garden because it’s a very delicious Chinese restaurant in Alhambra. But to a church? However, I really like the idea of fruitfulness. So there you have it–a hill is a place of fruitfulness.
How are we going to sustain a life of making disciples and being a city on a hill? It is only possible when we are continually blessed by God and we are bearing fruit. If you are bearing the fruit of the Spirit, then you will be compelled to share your faith. If you are growing in your relationship with the Lord and you are bearing fruit, no one has to twist your arm to evangelize. It just happens naturally. I like the name Hill because it reminds me of the absolute necessity of God’s blessing and personally bearing fruit before we talk about evangelism. Because if we try to be a city on a hill on our own effort, we will burn out. We must bear fruit which comes only as we abide with Christ. This is a Spirit-generated fruit. That’s why Paul refers to it as fruit OF THE SPIRIT.
These are the reasons why I like the name the Hill. I pray that we can be a place where many people will encounter Christ on the hill of Calvary. I pray that as believers we can shine the light of Christ brightly and be a city on a hill so that non-believers will come to faith in Christ and praise our Father in heaven because of our good deeds. And the fuel for all that we do, the only thing that is going to sustain our Christian witness is ongoing fruitfulness in our personal walk with Jesus.
Alright, hope you like the new name. If you don’t like it, it’s too late. Can’t please everyone. Give it some time. The name will grow on you.
Read Matthew 5:1-12.
We are continuing on in the Beatitudes which kicks off Jesus’ first and arguably most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, which spans chapters 5-7 of Matthew. The Beatitudes contain 8 statements of blessing. As Brother Daniel shared last week, you can translate blessed in this passage as happy. Happy are the poor in spirit. Happy are those who mourn. The biblical picture of someone who is happy or blessed is vastly different from the people we would naturally think of as being happy. A Christian is not someone with a perpetual smile on their face. It’s not someone who feels totally satisfied in every area of his or her life, non-stop, all the time. Rather, the happy life is one that exhibits these 8 characteristics.
These 8 characteristics describe a born again Christian, or a citizen in the kingdom of God, or a true disciple of Jesus Christ. These 8 qualities ought to be displayed simultaneously in increasing measure. Meaning, the longer you are a Christian, the more you should display a poverty of spirit, a posture of mourning, and meekness and so forth, gradually, more and more.
What’s the structure of these 8 blessings? Each of these 8 verses start with a blessing–blessed are the blank. Then, the second half of the verses contain the reward. Blessed are the poor in spirit. What’s the reward? For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
In terms of structure, we also learned that we can divide these 8 blessings into two categories. Some are personal. Others are relational. Being poor in spirit is personal. You can be poor in spirit shipwrecked on an island all by your lonesome. Like the movie, Castaway. It’s just you and a volleyball named Wilson and you can still demonstrate a poverty of spirit. Being meek is relational. Meekness is displayed in your relationship with others. Wilson is not enough. You need an actual person who can respond to you. You need another person to exercise meekness, or to test whether or not you are truly meek.
We studied the personal qualities last time and they include: 1) being poor in spirit, 2) those who mourn, 3) those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, and 4) being pure in heart. Today, we are going to focus on the the first 2 relational qualities, which are: 1) being meek toward others, and 2) being merciful toward others. Next time, we’ll cover the last two–being a peacemaker toward others and being persecuted by others.
This second grouping of blessings are geared toward our relationships. You will be blessed by God if you relate with others in these ways. Let’s call these relational blessings.
The first relational blessing is found in v5–
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
In the Greek, “meek” means humble, it refers to a mildness of disposition and a gentleness of spirit. The meek will inherit the earth.
This is counter-intuitive. Do you see guys who are humble and mild in their disposition and who possess a gentle spirit inheriting the earth? Would you describe Jeff Bezos of Amazon or Larry Paige of Google as humble, mild or gentle in spirit? What about Kobe Bryant or Lebron James? They’re not meek. It’s those who are aggressive, and bold, and charismatic and probably a bit abrasive who make it far in this world, right? Guys who are humble and mild and gentle, guys like that are spit on, stepped on, stepped over, left behind, left in the dust. Am I right? Will a CEO lead his company to increased market share by being mild and gentle? It’s doubtful. Will an NFL quarterback like Michael Vick lead his team to the Superbowl by being meek? I’ve never seen it. Maybe Tim Tebow will be the first. Those who take life by the horns and exert their will and get rid of dead weight and who beat out the competition are the winners. According to worldly calculations, meekness is for losers.
Nietzsche, in his book entitled, The Anti-Christ, repudiates the whole value system of Jesus.
Nietzsche writes, “What is more harmful than vice? Active sympathy for the ill-constituted and weak. Nothing in our unhealthy modernity is more unhealthy than Christian pity. I condemn Christianity. The Christian church has left nothing untouched by its depravity. It has made every value a disvalue.”
Nietzsche is not saying anything too shocking. He just had the courage to verbalize what this world believes intrinsically. We don’t like weakness. We don’t like to be pitied. If someone has the power to defend himself and he doesn’t, we call that person pitiful, pathetic, spineless. We look at weakness and we get angry. Don’t let people treat you that way! Stick up for yourself! Don’t you have any dignity? We detest meekness because we think meekness is synonymous with weakness.
I grew up an angry kid. My dad was under a lot of stress as a first generation Korean trying to provide for his family and his siblings while trying to put himself through school. He worked full-time during the day and got his PhD at night. He lost his father at age 15 so I can’t imagine how difficult his life was being forced to grow up so fast.
Given his situation, understandably, he was stressed. He was moody and often angry. He had a bad temper. And he took a lot of his stress out on me. I never openly rebelled. I kept it in, but I was seething within. I didn’t want to show him how I was hurting inside so I channeled all that anger into a desire to prove my worth to my dad. How dare you treat me this way? Someday, I’ll show you.
I think this is why I loved taekwondo. When I was training at the studio, I felt invincible. I might have had a bowl haircut in junior high school, but if someone pushed me over the edge, I knew I could throw a jump spinning round house and take him out.
We grow up in a world that tells us to stick up for ourselves, to fight for ourselves. Don’t let anyone look down on you. Don’t let anyone diss you. You got to fight for what is rightfully yours.
Isn’t it ironic that God exalts the humble and brings low the proud? God calls the first last and the last first. God ascribes greatness to the servant. He sends the rich and powerful away empty-handed and declares the meek to be his heirs. We have to realize that the culture of the world and the counter-culture of Christ are always clashing. The kingdom of the world and the kingdom of God are on a collision course. The world celebrates the rich and the famous and the powerful. Jesus welcomes little children and congratulates those whom the world discards and calls them blessed.
God values meekness. Blessed are the meek. The meek will inherit the earth. Anyone who has been going to church for a while knows how important humility is in the Christian life. The question is, how do you know you’re meek, and therefore, blessed by God? Answer: somebody has to tell you. Somebody has to say, brother, you’re meek. Sister, you’re humble. The moment you tell others you’re humble, then you’re not humble. People who have to tell others how humble they are, they’re among the most obnoxious people you will ever meet. They are blind and deluded, but certainly not humble.
What if you have a guy who is proud and arrogant? He may be blind to himself, but ask anyone who has spent even a few minutes with someone like that and they will be able to tell you right away, that guy is arrogant.
The same goes for meekness. Meekness is a quality that others notice in you as you interact with them and as they see you interacting with others. Those who are meek will inherit the EARTH, not inherit heaven way up there, but the meek will inherit the earth, which makes sense if you consider the fact that the future kingdom of God is going to be a new heaven established on earth. When Christ returns, heaven will come crashing down to earth and this new heaven and new earth will be inherited by the meek.
Here is a light read from CNN. I think it is relevant because many times we assume that when good things happen, God is on our side and blessing us and when bad things happen, God is against us and punishing us, or worse, forgetting about us. God has been showing me recently, it’s not about this life. It’s about the next. This means I don’t need to seek out a “successful” life in whatever way I define success. Life is short and I will have to come face to face with God. That’s all that ultimately matters. Here’s the article —
Rich Franklin cornered the man who challenged him and launched a looping kick that caught him on his jaw.
The man’s face flushed red, and his knees wobbled. Franklin moved in, pounding his opponent with haymakers until he collapsed, grimacing.
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