The Fourth Step to Heaven on Earth: Edification (Video)

According to Mencius, the great Chinese philosopher, you need three advantages to be successful in life:

1. Spiritual Advantage

2. Local Advantage

3. Social Advantage

Let me explain from the bottom up. Some people are born with a Social Advantage, such as having wealthy parents or well-connected relationships with higher-ups. However, you don’t have to be born rich or well-connected to have Social Advantage because you can build Social Advantage by learning people skills. In that case, you have a 33% chance of success.

Secondly, if you live in a good location, you have the Local Advantage—as the real estate slogan says, “Location, location, and location!” For example, if you live in the United States, you are in the land of opportunity. Some people risk their lives to come here. So if you can manage to move to a beneficial location or somehow turn your location to your advantage, you have another 33%, making 66% total. However, this is not as easy as building social skills.

Now, if you add the Spiritual Advantage, you have a 99% success chance. The good news is, having the Spiritual Advantage could overwrite some other disadvantages you may have.

Spiritual Advantage means having divine favor. A person with divine favor is destined to succeed in life. Even if you don’t live in a good location, even if you don’t have good social skills, Spiritual Advantage will make up for those disadvantages. I am sure you have seen some people like that. They look quite stupid, but they turned out to be successful beyond expectation. Maybe that’s why Mencius put it at the top of the list. Jesus said,

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Mat 6:33).

It means if you have the Spiritual Advantage, everything else is taken care of. You become one of the luckiest people in the world.

Talking about luck, I had a high school classmate who was highly gifted with martial arts. He was so fast and furious that nobody could beat him. But, he said there is a type of people he would never fight—the lucky ones. He said that he could never beat a lucky person no matter how skillful he was. He would rather be a lucky guy than a skillful one. He has a point.

However, Christians don’t like the term “luck” because it sounds superstitious, gambling, or atheistic. However, do you know the word “blessed” in the Beatitudes is translated from the Greek word, μακάριος (makários), meaning “lucky”?

When Eugene Peterson translated The Message Bible, he used the term “lucky.” So it sounded like, “Lucky are the poor in spirit,” “Lucky are those who mourn,” “Lucky are the meek,” and so on. But the publisher refused to publish it because they were afraid that people would not buy his translation.

Peterson said he reluctantly changed it to “blessed.” He cares about authenticity, but the publisher cares about money. Of course, to publish a book like the Bible is a significant investment, so they must consider the bottom line.

Anyway, to expand our appreciation of the richness and profundity of the Beatitudes, we can occasionally entertain reading it as “lucky.” You may be poor, you may have had a tragic life, and you may have physical, mental, or social disadvantages, but if you have the divine favor, you are lucky because you are in heaven on earth.

The question is, how do you obtain the Spiritual Advantage? How do you win the divine favor? The Bible says as Jesus increased in the divine favor as well as human favor as he grew up. How did he do that? So, today we will explore the fourth step to heaven on earth—Edification. Let’s go!

[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone—the Lightkeeper! You are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you, and you are satisfied in God.]

Today, I want to focus on the fourth blessing in the Beatitudes. It’s from the Gospel According to Matthew 5:6. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Mt 5:6).

[This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!]

Sometimes, we feel intimidated by the word “righteousness” because we live in a sinful world that makes us cynical. But, righteousness simply means doing the right things. It’s the opposite of “sin.”

The Hebrew word for sin, chata (חָטָא), is an archery term, meaning “missing the mark.” You shoot an arrow to the target, and when you miss the bullseye, you “chata” or “sin.” So, we can say righteousness is hitting the mark.

We all want to do the right things because people all over the world from all cultures believe if we do the right things, we will win the divine favor. The question is, what are the right things to do?

Numerous philosophers and endless wisdom literature throughout history have provided us with a wealth of information about doing the right things. Still, they don’t quench our thirst because true righteousness cannot be found outside of divine revelation—the Bible. King David said,

Blessed is the man …
his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers. (Ps 1:1a, 2–3).

Just as Jesus started his first sermon with a list of blessings, King David also began his collection of Psalms with a secret source of blessing—delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on it day and night. He is like a tree planted by the streams.

There’s the Spiritual Advantage, “in all he does, he prospers.” That’s like a Midas touch—everything he touches turns into gold. Don’t you want that? I am not talking about superficial prosperity like the prosperity gospel, and I am sure you already know that and don’t care for that.

I am talking about winning the divine favor to make the maximum impact with your life. The last verse in the Psalm says,

for the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish
.” (Ps 1:6).

Here it says righteousness is the key to divine favor. Studying the Bible carefully, we discover that righteousness is not necessarily hitting the mark but the desire, the hunger, and the hustle to hit the mark. Here’s the key to righteousness,

“his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night”
(Ps 1:2).

The word “delight” is translated from Hebrew “חֵפֶץ (chephets /khay·fets/),” meaning “desire.” There is a sense of hunger and appetite in God’s Word. So the literal translation would be “his desire is in the law of the Lord.”

You’ve heard the story about the young boy Jesus staying behind in the temple in Jerusalem, feasting on God’s Word for many days, forgetting about time and space. He increased in divine favor by his appetite in God’s Word.

The point is that righteousness is not an achievement, but the appetite for righteousness itself wins the divine favor. Jesus said,

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Mt 5:6).

My eighth-grade teacher said, “I don’t mind retardation, but I do mind laziness. I can teach anyone who is mentally slow, but I cannot teach anyone who is lazy.” I think Jesus would say the same thing. Based on many of his parables, he dislikes lazy people who have no appetite to do the right things. The Parable of the Talents is an example.

Do you know Jesus loves hustlers? I am using the positive definition of “hustler” as a go-getter. In that sense, God is a hustler. Even though we have failed him over and over, he kept finding ways to redeem us, even at the cost of his only Son’s suffering the crucifixion.

Jesus was a hustler—even at his most painful moment, he asked God to forgive the perpetrators.

Jacob was the perfect example of a hustler from the moment of his birth to win God’s favor. Even at 90 years old he wrestled with God and refused to let him go until he blessed him. God blessed him to be the father of a great nation under his name.

We all know that King David was a hustler,

his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night
” (Ps 1:2).

If you want to win the favor of God, you must get to know God by studying God’s Word and meditate on it. King David did it day and night. It shows how much hunger and thirst he had.

The appetite for God’s word is a sign of rebirth. Like a newborn baby who desires the mother’s milk, a newborn believer craves God’s word. Even if you don’t understand it, you hustle to learn it.

That’s why I call the fourth step “Edification.” Edification is for spiritual development, just as education is for intellectual development. Bible study is a form of edification, but most Bible study methods today are more intellectual than spiritual. They are more like education than edification.

One of the most effective edificational Bible study methods is called Lectio Divina. “Lectio” means “Text,” and “Divina” means “Divine.” So it means Divine Text or Divine Word. It’s an ancient method of reading a passage repeatedly from different dimensions and meditating on it until it gives you a new spiritual insight.

Generally, you read the same passage at least three times, asking three different questions from different angles. Some people don’t like repetition, so they find this method boring. However, it takes you to a closer relationship with God when you get the hang of it.

If you want to experience Lectio Divina, download the free app, “Letio 365” on your phone or tablet. It’s a simplified and modified form or Letio Divina that gives you a ten-minute morning and evening devotion. Sophie and I use this app almost every morning and night. You can either read or listen. The readers have strong British and Irish accents, but they do a good job at helping you meditate on God’s word.

One of the problems with studying the Bible is you find it dry and boring at the beginning. But, as you push forward like a hustler, you will learn to enjoy it like King David did, delighting in the law of the Lord. It’s worth the hustle because you win the divine favor as all great people did.

When I was studying in San Francisco, my American roommate asked me to cook Chinese food for him one day because he had never tried Chinese food. I cooked for him, and we ate together. After dinner, we went out for a walk. As we passed by a McDonald’s, he slipped in and ordered a big hamburger.

I was shocked because we just ate. He said the Chinese food did not fill him, and he must eat some bread to feel satisfied. I said I felt exactly the opposite. When I ate American food, I never felt satisfied. No matter how much I ate, I still needed the rice to feel satisfied.

Now, of course, after living here for thirty-some years, my body has already accepted American food as real food. Many Asian immigrants told me that they felt sick when they smelled cheese when passing by a McDonald’s or Burger King, but a few years later, they felt hungry when they smelled cheese.

In the same way, reading the Bible is like changing to a different type of nutrition. You might find healthy food tasteless after getting used to processed food. The key is to get started, and after some time, you don’t crave junk food anymore.

Be a hustler to win the divine favor because God loves hustlers when it comes to seeking righteousness. Whatever it takes, it’s worth it. By the way, righteousness is not about doing what we think is right, but what God thinks is right. Notice Jesus said,

Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Mat 6:33).

It says, “his righteousness,” not our righteousness. That means doing the right thing according to God’s standard, not our standard. That standard can only be fulfilled by accepting Jesus Christ as our righteousness. Paul said,

“For our sake God made Jesus to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:21).

Since we keep missing the mark, God allowed Jesus to exchange his righteousness with our sinfulness so that we become the righteousness of God in him. It’s like Jesus giving us his trophy. That’s nice, but we don’t want someone else’s trophy without merit. If that trophy is the only way to get to heaven, we want to reciprocate with gratitude. Jesus expects you to do that.

It’s like in a classroom where the teacher tells the class at the beginning of the semester that you will all get an A at the end of the semester, but you must still try hard to deserve it. I call it “quantum spirituality.” The result comes first, and the hustle comes later. Since the result is guaranteed, the hustle becomes a joy.

Here’s how Jesus defines righteousness. Jesus summarized the entire Bible into two Great Commandments,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Mt 22:38–40).

You see, there is a sense of hustling there. You must love him with “all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” It implies a lot of hunger and thirst for a closer relationship with him. You must love him as life depends on it, and it does!

How do you love him without getting to know him through Edification? Only by diligently studying his word do you win his favor. His favor is your Spiritual Advantage. For closing, let’s review the first Psalm. Bear with the non-inclusive pronoun because King David was talking about himself.

Blessed is the man …
his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
(Ps 1:1a, 2–3).

Let’s develop the discipline of Edification and delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on it day and night, and may God let everything you do, you prosper.

That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound happiness.

Amen!

Bye now!