HAPPY MOTHERS DAY!
Pastor Jim Cariker May 12, 2019
Romans 8: 12-18
>Illustration: An Adopted woman discovers her birth father…
>Romans 7 is an account of defeat—but Romans 8 describes the victory of a Spirit=filled life. In Romans 8: 12-18 we learn that…
I. THE FIRST PRIORITY IS TO LIVE A SPIRIT FILLED LIFE
II. ADOPTION INTO GOD’S FAMILY COMES WITH BEING SPIRIT -FILLED.
III. AS SPIRIT-FILLED SONS AND DAUGHTERS WE HAVE THE PRIVILEGES OF FAMILY.
Illustration: A mother gives her life for her son…
A CHILD OF GOD
Romans 8: 12-18
I read a news article this week about a woman who had been adopted out at birth. As a result of Ancestry DNA testing, she discovered her biological father and connected with him. Some interesting things stood out to me in the story. Even though she was a grown woman, she had never known her biological Dad. Through her research a few years earlier she had found her biological mother, but when she reached out to her, the woman did not want to connect with her daughter. The daughter of course was hurt, but she had put it behind her and moved on. But, in the news article, she stated that she had never even considered trying to find her biological father. It just never occurred to her. She assumed if her mother wasn’t interested in her, then neither would her father be. But after discovering the name on the results of her DNA testing, she contacted the man and found out that he had no idea that he even had a child who would be her age, much less one that had been given away in adoption. It seems he and the girl’s mother had a fling that ended after a short time and he was never told that the woman was pregnant. After the shocking discovery, this girl who had never known her father and this father who never knew this daughter even existed, connected in a positive way. She found out she had brothers and sisters and was able to make the trip up to Iowa to meet this family that she had not known existed. It was a touching news story.
But as I contemplate the importance of Mothers’ Day, one of the things that stood out to me was the woman’s statement that she never even thought about trying to find her biological dad. Her search had been for her biological Mom. Finding the Dad was just by accident.
In our society it seems to me that as important as Fathers may be, Mothers still rank as the most important.
I had a very close relationship with my Dad. But whenever I did something wrong, it was the hurt or disappointment in my Mother’s eyes that had the most impact on me. And, at times, Mom served as a buffer between me and Dad when he was considering how to discipline me.
Our scripture passage today is found in Romans chapter 8, a chapter devoted to the Spirit-filled life. In chapter 7 Paul wrote about the problem of trying to live by observing the law, or, in our case, how to try to live a holy life in our own power and the resulting defeat. Without God’s help, no man can keep all the details of the Law. Sin is so powerful in this fallen world that it will force you to do things you never thought you would do, that you never even wanted to do, but which you were powerless to resist doing.
Romans chapter 7 is depressing as we realize the domineering power of sin. But then the whole tenor of defeat gives way to victory as we read Paul’s words in 7:24 & 25: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord?”
Then Paul in chapter 8 explains the lifestyle that we have when we allow Jesus to take control of our lives.
Romans 8: 12-18 tells how we must live according to God’s Spirit instead of following our own human desires. And then He explains how God has adopted all of us who have allowed His Spirit to become their guide. This is holiness being lived out in our individual lives.
Let’s focus on verses 12 -18 found in this tremendous chapter on the Spirit-filled life:
I. THE FIRST PRIORITY IS TO LIVE A SPIRIT FILLED LIFE
a. Verse 12 says, “…We have an obligation…” That obligation is not to fulfill the desires of the flesh but is to be led by God’s Spirit.
b. In Matthew 6:33 in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus had said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Paul in this passage is saying the same thing. We have an obligation, a privilege and a mandate to make pleasing God the number one priority of Life. That is the essence of Holiness.
c. On this Mothers’ Day it is easy to think of the priorities of a true mother in regard to her children. She will sacrifice her own desires so see her children cared for. I’ve heard of mothers in refugee camps literally starving themselves to death because they chose instead to give their ration of food to their hungry children. That’s the kind of discipline, determination and love that is involved in the Spirit-filled person’s life.
d. This means that no matter what, we choose to do what we think God wants us to do. If we have a chance to make a large amount of money but it involves shady practices, we choose to honor God instead of money. If it means a promotion at work that will take away too much time from my wife and family, we choose family—because devotion to family honors God. If it means dressing fashionably but in a way that distracts from modesty and provokes impure thoughts in others, that we choose modesty—because modesty honors God.
e. You get the picture—You have an obligation—and that obligation is to live a Spirit –filled, Spirit- controlled lifestyle!
II. ADOPTION INTO GOD’S FAMILY COMES WITH BEING SPIRIT -FILLED.
a. Verse 14 says, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” In John’s Gospel, John 1:12 says, “Yet to all who did receive him [Jesus], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
b. It is God’s Spirit that awakens us to our need for a Savior. It is God’s Spirit that draws us to Jesus. It is God’s Spirit that applies the atoning sacrifice—the Blood of Jesus shed on our behalf—to our spirits to cleanse us from the guilt of sins committed. It is the Holy Spirit who through the power of Christ purges our hearts from the sinful nature with which we are each born, and it is God’s Spirit that completes the transaction of Adoption into God’s family.
c. Some of you know much more about the process of adopting a child than I do. Gloria and I were married for several years before we had our first child. We were beginning to think that we wouldn’t be able to have children. We signed up as foster parents for a while, thinking that might lead to adoption. But it didn’t work out that way. We learned quickly that adoption involved attorneys and adoption agencies, or special arrangements through doctors. And we learned it could be a very expensive process. Before we had a chance to really figure it all out, Gloria became pregnant with Jenna.
d. In the social network, adoption normally takes professional help from several different sources. Someone who knows the ins and outs must guide adoptive parents through the legalities involved.
e. But when we give our hearts to Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to take control, He leads us through the spiritual adoption process. He makes it possible for us to become children of God!
f. There are several ways to look at this. There is a sense where everyone is a child of God because God is Creator. But when Adam and Eve sinned creation was plunged into a different state. Because of that sin, we are born in sin and estranged from God. But because Jesus took our sins upon Himself and died for us, when we accept His death as payment for our sin, then we are brought back into a right relationship with God. No longer are we estranged from God; we are reconciled with God. In other words, we are brought back into the family and re-instated as sons and daughters of God.
g. On Mothers’ Day, we often reflect on our own wonderful mothers and the relationship we have with her. But some, like the woman in the opening illustration, never had a chance to know their natural mother. They were rejected. Others had mothers who were neglectful or abusive, leaving the child feeling insecure and unloved. But regardless of the relationship you may have had with your human parents, because of what Jesus has done, the Holy Spirit brings us into God’s family where we are never forsaken and are loved with an unconditional love.
h. No wonder the Gathers could sing, “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God!” You are loved. You are important. God considers you to be His very own!
III. AS SPIRIT-FILLED SONS AND DAUGHTERS WE HAVE THE PRIVILEGES OF FAMILY.
a. Listen again to verses 15-17: “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to son ship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
b. I know you know this, but it is still amazing. When we are co-heirs, we often think we get equal shares of the inheritance with each family member. But “join-heirs” or “co-heirs” don’t receive a portion. Each one in fact receives it all. So, if I am a co-heir with Jesus, then all that He possesses is mine, as well. There is an interesting passage in Ephesians 1: 18-20 that speaks to this inheritance: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and the incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms…” >Think about it the mighty power of God, so powerful that it raised Jesus from death to everlasting life is the same power that God has made available to us. And the Glorious riches of God are made available as an inheritance to each one of us who are children of God.
c. So many Christians struggle through life half defeated, fearful of their shadow, fearful of being rejected by others. At the same time, if they would just receive it, they could be living in His incomparable power. Later in Romans 8:37 we read, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
d. Let’s not act like we are half dead, afraid of failure or defeat. Let’s live with our heads held high. We are not “worms” doomed to wallow in the dust of self-pity. we are Children of God. Let’s rejoice—the victory is ours. It has already been won through Christ. The Holy Spirit of God assures us that we have no reason to fear but every reason to rejoice!
Romans 8 is chapter about the wonder of a Spirit-filled life. That’s the life that we can all live because of Jesus and His death in our place to atone for our sins.
I read this short article this week as I was preparing this message. It was told by Dwight L. Moody:
When the California gold fever broke out, a man went there, leaving his wife in New England with his boy. As soon as he got on and was successful, he was to send for them. It was a long time before he succeeded, but at last he got money enough to send for them. The wife’s heart leaped for joy. She took her boy to New York, got on board a Pacific steamer, and sailed away to San Francisco.
They had not been long at sea before the cry of “Fire! fire!” rang through the ship, and rapidly it gained on them. There was a powder magazine on board, and the captain knew the moment the fire reached the powder, every man, woman, and child must perish.
They got out the lifeboats, but they were too small! In a minute they were overcrowded. The last one was just pushing away, when the mother pled with them to take her and her boy. “No,” they said, “we have got as many as we can hold.” She entreated them so earnestly, that at last they said they would take one more. Do you think she leaped into that boat and left her boy to die? No! She seized her boy, gave him one last hug, kissed him, and dropped him over into the boat. “My boy,” she said, “if you live to see your father, tell him that I died in your place.”
That is a faint picture of what Christ has done for us. He laid down his life for us. He died that we might live. Now will you not love Him. What would you say of that young man if he should speak contemptuously of such a mother! She went down to a watery grave to save her son. Well, shall we speak contemptuously of such a Savior? May God make us loyal to Christ!
Source: Anecdotes and Illustrations of D. L. Moody, D. L. Moody
1 Thessalonians 5: 12-24
live like Christ…
>1 Thessalonians..Paul sets the Standard
I. HOW WE TREAT O______ (12-14)
II. HOW WE VIEW L____.
III. HOW WE CAN LIVE UP TO THE S________
Conclusion: There’s a saying that I have heard many times in the church world. It is, :”Let go and Let God…” Let God live His life in you and through you!
HOLY HEART—HOLY LIFE
1 Thessalonians 5: 12-24
When I was a kid, I was basically a good kid. But there were those moments. I remember in high school when I got into an argument with one of my classmates, and in the heat of the moment I called him a name—“fat boy.” The boy was slightly overweight and I’m sure my insult must have touched a nerve. A couple of years ago I was able to reconnect with that person on Facebook and renew our friendship. And guess who the fat boy is today!
One of my favorite teachers in school was Ms. Sophie Fore. I had her in chemistry class. I was feeling pretty smart one day and in class she was asking us questions. I said something stupid—like, “You are the teacher—you should know these answers.” And just like that she expelled me from her class. I was horrified. I begged her to let me stay in class and promised not be disrespectful again. She finally relented and I learned a lesson on being respectful.
Looking back on my life, there are several scenes that I regret—even after I became a Christian. I have not always had the right attitude. I have not always had a positive spirit. I sometimes can be a real grouch. But I am still a work in progress.
John Newton is credited with saying, “I am not what I might be, I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I wish to be, I am not what I hope to be. But I thank God I am not what I once was, and I can say with the great apostle, "By the grace of God I am what I am.”
As a new Christian I had a lot to learn about how to live as a Christian. One of those things I learned was that without God’s help I could never do it.
Paul’s first letter to the Church in Thessalonica is thought by many scholars to be one of the earliest--and perhaps the earliest-=-of all the writings in the New Testament. Writing to a people who lived in a pagan world, a city of an estimated 200,000, right in the lap of the Roman Empire, Paul spelled out some principles that were essential for these new Christians—and that are just as essential for Christians today if we are going to live up to our potential as victorious witnesses for Christ.
According to Acts 17, Paul was only in Thessalonica for 3 weeks. He spoke in the Jewish Synagogue, and as happened frequently in his journeys, the unbelieving Jews stirred up so much trouble that Paul’s life was in danger and he had to leave. In this letter Paul states, “Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith” (1 Thessalonians 3:10). Then in 1 Thessalonians. 4: 3 he says,“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified…”
And Paul in this letter carefully explains to these baby Christians what “Sanctification” means. Some commentaries refer to this letter as a “Handbook on Holiness” because Paul so clearly instructs them on how to live a holy life.
Somewhere in my library there is a book entitled Holiness in the Marketplace. As the title suggests, the author points out that holiness, which must first be experienced in the heart, must also be displayed in how we live our lives.
Paul, after taking time to give information about the Second Coming of Christ and what will happen to Christians who have already died, he concludes this little letter with more instructions on how to live out holiness in their daily lives.
Let’s focus in on these “final instructions.”
I. HOW WE TREAT OTHERS (12-14)
a. Paul makes it clear that we should show respect to others—and especially to those who serve us in the Lord. “Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.” I have discovered over the years that respect for authority does not always come easily. I remember times when I served our district as President of the Nazarene Youth International. I worked hard with my board to plan activities that we thought would be beneficial to the youth on our district. We struggled with the many possible consequences before we made our decisions. I was amazed at how many people would jump to conclusions and question our motives. Many never took time to consider the process we had gone through before making our decisions. They just jumped to conclusions that came from uninformed knowledge and misrepresented information. God help us to not fall into that mindset. Rather than criticize our leaders, let us pray for them that God will lead them and bless them and use them for His Glory. And showing respect should also go for those who are in authority over us even in the secular world. Listening to a sermon by Dr. James Merritt a few weeks ago, I was reminded how David treated King Saul. For a period of about 10 years King Saul sought to kill David because he considered him a threat. But those times when David could easily have killed Saul, he refused to do so. David knew that God had placed Saul in the position as King. The office of King was an office ordained by God. David’s treatment of respect for Saul was not because of the wrong Saul was doing. It was because of the God ordained office that he held. As Christians in America we would do well to exercise that same kind of respect.
b. Paul’s instructs his audience to “Live in peace with each other…” and to warn those who would be trouble makers—the idle and the disruptive. That presents a real tightrope to follow: How can you live in peace and at the same time warn the idle and disruptive. The very act of warning such people often causes more strife. But in other places we are told to be ministers of reconciliation. In other words, we should develop skills of smoothing over conflicts and restoring peace. That takes the skill of real negotiators. Paul tells us some of the graces we need if we are to be successful: “…encourage the disheartened, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.” I have to tell you, those traits don’t come easily. They are traits that only come by discipline and are developed with maturity. Gloria and I were just out of college. We were serving as youth pastors. The church was in the process of building an activity center that would have an apartment in it for us, but the construction was behind schedule. We found ourselves having to live in tight quarters with several other people. In that tight living space personalities can clash. I remember one young man who became very demanding and I confronted him about it. The discussion got very heated and I seriously considered punching him. But God gave me grace to turn and walk away. Whether he was wrong or I was wrong really wasn’t the issue. The issue was whether or not we could work through the conflict in a mature, Christian manner. I confess at that time as a young Christian it was one of the hardest things for me to turn and walk away. There was a time in my life that I would have thrown that punch. But that would not have helped the situation—it would only have dishonored the Lord.
c. What I am saying is that these instructions Paul was giving are not always easy to follow. On our own there are times when we will fall short. I think it was C. Everette Lewis who said something like this: “To spend time with Saints in heaven—that will be glorious; But to spend time Saints here on earth —now that’s a different story!”
II. HOW WE VIEW LIFE.
a. In these final instructions, after Paul tells us how we should be treating others, he shifts the focus to our own attitude towards life in general.
a. “Rejoice always’ (16). Do you remember the reception Paul and Silas received when they were in Philippi? The city leaders had them beaten, shackled and thrown into prison. But instead of moaning and groaning about how mistreated they were, we find them at midnight singing the praises of God. Over in Philippians 4:8 Paul instructed his readers to Always think on the good, the noble, the praiseworthy. In other words, always look on the bright side. Now you know as well as I that isn’t always easy. I tend to see the problems much easier than I do the solutions. I find myself sometimes focusing on what I can’t do rather than what I can do. And when I am in that mindset, I find it much easier to complain to God rather than rejoice in God. It takes real effort to change my way of thinking!
b. “Pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances…” It is hard to give thanks when my back is hurting so much, I can hardly walk, or when my bank account is empty and I have bills that are due. And, if I’m not careful I might pray the wrong kind of thanksgiving—like the Pharisee who prayed, “I thank God I’m not like this tax-collector” (See Luke 18:11). But I can take time to remember the promises of God and thank Him for “His Grace that is Sufficient” and that Jesus said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” I can thank Him that “He will make a way when there seems to be no way.” But to pray like that with sincerity I must discipline myself to focus on God’s power, not my own.
c. Then Paul continues with a reminder of our outlook on God: “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat Prophecies with contempt, but test them all, hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil” (19-22). Again, I wonder how often I have failed. “Quenching the Spirit,” means “to put out the fire” or “to diminish the power of God.” A “ho-hum” indifferent attitude does that. Or by doing things that reduces my ability to truly worship God with enthusiasm—like staying up too late on Saturday night or neglecting my own prayer life or by having a critical spirit —I quench God’s Spirit’s ability to work in me or through me.
d. And sometimes I am suspicious of others who claim to be speaking for God. Yes, I must test the Spirit to discern the truth, but when I do and find them to be credible, I shouldn’t put them down! I heard a pastor who was having a very successful ministry, winning lots of people with creative methods, describe how lonely he felt at district meetings because the other pastors didn’t want to have anything to do with him.
e. God forgive me when I quench the Spirit because I am jealous of someone else’s success!
III. IN PAUL’S FINAL INSTRUCTIONS HE POINTS TO THE ONLY WAY WE CAN LIVE UP TO THE STANDARD
a. In verses 23 & 24 he writes, “May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”
b. How can I live in peace with others and respect those in authority and have the right outlook on life? Can anyone be successful to that degree? And the answer is that in our own power we will certainly fail. But when we fully surrender to God and allow Him to “purify our hearts” and we give Him the controls of our life then He will enable us to be victorious.
Paul set a standard for living a holy life. In other places the New Testament makes it clear that the foundation for such a life is that we love God with our entire being and love others. When we ask Jesus into our hearts, He forgives us our sins and begins the process of helping us mature in our outward lives. By allowing the Holy Spirit to take over the controls of our life, we have our hearts purified. And from there we constantly strive to live up to that Standard—in other words to become more like Christ every day.
This morning, where are you in your spiritual journey. Are you struggling to live up to the standard we read in the scriptures? Do you feel like a failure in your efforts? Could it be that you are trying so hard in your own power that you have not allowed God to do His work of transforming you and empowering you with His Spirit?
Today, you know you have asked Jesus to be your Savior. You know that He forgives you your sins. But have you taken the next step of saying, “Lord, I can’t do it on my own. I release control of my life and give it to You. Holy Spirit, fill my heart and live through me. I give myself to You.
There’s a saying that I have heard many times in the church world. It is, :”Let go and Let God…” Let God live His life in you and through you!
1 Corinthians 15: 1-11
>Illustration: The Hallucinations in Grief
>But Jesus’ Appearances were real.
>Paul gives us the Preaching points of the 1st Century:
I. CHRIST D___ FOR OUR S___. (Verse 3)
II. HE WAS B________ AND HE R____ A_____ ON THE THIRD DAY. (Verse 4)
III. “I AM W_____ I A__ BY THE GRACE OF GOD…”(Verse 10)
Lent and Easter is over, but what about now?
THE RISEN LORD LIVES!
1 Corinthians 15: 1-11
Has it ever happened to you? Someone close to you dies. And then, you are in Walmart or some other store and off in the distance you think you see that person. It has happened to me a few times and it can be a little unnerving. Of course, when I’ve investigated, I found the person who I thought was my deceased friend was really someone about the same build or with a similar hair style or wearing a piece of clothing similar to the style my deceased friend wore.
More startling is when you are home alone—or in the church building alone—and you hear a sound and you look and for a moment you have the image of that deceased friend in your mind. Of course, there was no one there. The sound was just the building creaking or your dog or cat or church mouse moving around. But it is a little unnerving.
Psychologist Dr. John M. Grohol speaks to this in an article posted on PsychCentral.com :
One possible grief reaction rarely described, researched or discussed is seeing illusions or hallucinations of the loved one. Scientific American brings us the story:
Mourning seems to be a time when hallucinations are particularly common, to the point where feeling the presence of the deceased is the norm rather than the exception. One study, by the researcher Agneta Grimby at the University of Goteborg, found that over 80 percent of elderly people experience hallucinations [and illusions] associated with their dead partner one month after bereavement, as if their perception had yet to catch up with the knowledge of their beloved’s passing.
As the study’s abstract notes, these hallucinations decline with time:
82% of the subjects at 1 month, 71% of the subjects at 3 months, and 52% of the subjects at 12 months experienced illusions and/or hallucinations of the deceased spouse, which were generally experienced as pleasant and helpful.
There’s not a lot of information about these images people see, probably because they usually aren’t considered disturbing by the people who view them, and grief has long been viewed as an intensely personal experience (one where a researcher asking intrusive questions might be unwelcome).
So, if you lose someone dear to you, and then think you see them sitting on a park bench or walking up the stairs in your house, don’t be alarmed. That’s just your mind’s way of not quite being ready to let go of the person who’s meant a lot to you.
Many of you have experienced this. It is normal.
But what Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 15 is not the same thing. Mary Magdalene did not see a ghost or have a hallucination. She talked and touched Jesus. The two men on the Road to Emmaus were not hallucinating. They walked about 7 miles with Jesus and had him talk from the scriptures about His death and resurrection. The disciples and Thomas really did see Jesus. The 500 or so to whom Jesus appeared and spoke were not experiencing mass hallucinations. Paul’s Damascus Road Experience really did occur—Jesus appeared and spoke to him when he was struck down by the bright light.
Yes, Grief is real and sometimes our eyes play tricks on us—but that was not what happened on Easter and the weeks that followed.
Paul sums it up this way: “…Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…he was buried , …he was raised on the third day. and he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born” (1 Corinthians 15: 6-8).
In our scripture today (1 Cor. 15: 1-11) we have the primary outline of the message the first century preachers proclaimed. Let’s consider:
I. CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS.
a. At the time of his crucifixion, I am sure that there were many different opinions as to why he was executed.
b. The Jewish Leaders thought Jesus was being put to death because of the threat he presented to their control over the people. They controlled who offered the sacrifices on behalf of the people. They controlled the marketplace where the animals to be sacrificed were purchased. They controlled the prices that were required for those purchases. They controlled the political establishment especially in the religious hierarchy. They possessed power and prestige in their own eyes as they ruled over the people. Jesus posed a very real threat to all that. He had to be put death in order to preserve their power structure.
c. The Romans thought they were executing a criminal—an insurrectionist who was a threat to Roman Rule. The charges that were brought against him included that He claimed to be a King. That amounted to rebellion against Caesar and was punishable by death. Of course, the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent of those charges. But he thought that by handing Jesus over to be crucified he would be able to silence that uproar that threatened to bring accusations against him before Caesar. He thought that by handing Jesus over to be crucified he would bring peace to the city. He wanted to keep in good relations with the religious power structure in Judea. His philosophy was “Silence the man—Silence the Mob!”
d. At first the followers of Jesus must have thought that Jesus was being put death because of his popularity among the people There was no doubt that Jesus was the leader of hundreds and perhaps thousands who had witnessed His miracles and heard his words about the Kingdom of God being at hand. They thought their rising movement was being robbed of a great leader.
e. But after the weeks following the Resurrection Jesus spent teaching them about the Kingdom of God and they came to realize that Jesus died not because of all those other reasons—He died as the ultimate sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world.
f. And today, we must realize that He died for your sins and mine. He paid the debt that we could never pay on our own.
II. HE WAS BURIED AND HE ROSE AGAIN ON THE THIRD DAY.
a. We celebrated Easter last Sunday. And we know that had Jesus remained buried in the tomb, we would not be experiencing the Salvation that is so freely available today. Death, our final Enemy, was defeated. Instead of being the end or our existence, Death for the Christian has been turned into “Sleep for the Weary,” peace from the stresses of this life, and the beginning of a whole new existence for eternity.
b. In my nearly 50 years as a pastor I have conducted hundreds of funerals .And we don’t have to say “goodbye” to a loved one. Instead, we can justifiably say, “See you later” to those who have put their trust in Jesus. This is because Jesus is described as the “First-fruits” of those who have died. If He is the “first-fruits,” then we will be the “Next fruits” because His death and resurrection set us on the pathway to life everlasting.
III. “I AM WHAT I AM BY THE GRACE OF GOD…”
a. Dr. Don Owens, former General Superintendent, used to talk about His “Popeye” Sermon. Remember how Popeye would eat that spinach and show bouts of great strength usually against his archenemy Brutus, and sing, “I am what I am—I’m Popeye the Sailor man!”
b. It is not spinach that makes me what I am as a Christian—it is God’s grace. Grace is often defined as “unmerited favor from God.” It is God extending His love and mercy towards us by offering us something other than what we deserve. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And then in Romans 6:23 we read, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We deserve death. We have earned it because of the sins we have committed. But God instead offers to us eternal life. Now that is Grace!
c. Paul had been a persecutor of the church. He had given his approval to the death of Stephen and had probably been instrumental in the beatings and executions of others who were followers of Christ. But God had transformed him so much that now He was one of the chief leaders of the Jesus movement. How did that happen? It happened because God extended His grace to Paul
d. And today, no matter how deep into sin you may have gone, God is still in the transformation business. He offers to your forgiveness, cleansing, and eternal life.
e. And , of course, that Grace is what sustains us and enables us to grow as Christians and blesses us in so many ways as we put our trust in Jesus and continue in the faith. How many times have you heard it said, “I would never make it through this if it were not for Jesus”? Truly, “His Grace is Sufficient!”
We have just celebrated Easter. The Lenten season leading up to Easter was a time of personal commitment focusing on our spiritual life, putting aside those things that interfere with our focus on holiness.
Now that Easter is over, it is easy to let down our guard and drift back into a less disciplined lifestyle.
But Paul’s words to the Corinthians reminds us that Easter and the Resurrection is just the beginning.
We are called to live for Christ every day. It is His living Presence that enables us to live victoriously. We don’t have to give in to temptations—Jesus is here for us to show us the way. We don’t have to be beaten down or defeated by the cares of this life—Jesus is here to strengthen us and to show us the way. We don’t have to be afraid of embarrassing ourselves by witnessing to others—Jesus is here to give us the words and the courage and boldness to share with others the Good News of Salvation. We don’t even have to worry about death—Jesus has already faced it, experienced it and defeated it. And our life is found in Him!
Luke 24: 1-12
>The road to Jerusalem led to a hill just outside the city called Mount Calvary.
>His death on the Cross…and then His Resurrection:
I. HIS RESURRECTION MARKED THE BEGINNING OF E_________ L____.
II. HIS RESURRECTION MARKED THE BEGINNING OF THE NEW R__________ WITH GOD.
III. HIS RESURRECTION MARKED THE VALIDATION THAT OUR H____ IS NOT IN VAIN.
Conclusion: The Lord’s Supper is a memorial to His Death, Resurrection, and a reminder of His Coming Again!
THE END OF THE BEGINNING…
Luke 24: 1-12
In Luke 9: 51 we read, “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”
Last week we celebrated His “Triumphal Entry” as he descended on a donkey’s colt from the Mount of Olives amidst a cheering crowd along a cloak strewed road way with tree branches waving. He entered the gates of Jerusalem as he began a very eventful week. But Jerusalem wasn’t the end of the road.
We read how he entered the Temple, created havoc as he drove out the money-changers, upsetting the business enterprise of exploiting pilgrims of their funds to line the pockets of a crooked Jewish hierarchy. During the week He taught in the temple courts, cursed a fig tree, gave clues on what to expect at the end of this age. And then Jesus and his disciples had partaken of the Passover Meal in which he introduced the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper signifying his death and resurrection that was about to occur. The Thursday evening Garden of Gethsemane scene marked the beginning of what theologians call the Passion of Christ as he agonized over what was about to happen and surrendered with the words, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done” (Luke 22:42). And then there was the arrest and the mockery of a trial, the abuse by the hands of those Jews who pronounced judgment on him. The scene before Pilate is heart wrenching as Pilate declares him innocent, washing his hands, and then turns him over to be beaten and crucified.
We read in Luke 23: 26 that the soldiers led him away, seizing a man named Simon who was from Cyrene, to carry the cross because Jesus was too weak from the beatings and abuse to carry it himself. And then in Luke 23:32-33 we read, “Two other men, both criminals were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.”
You do understand that when Jesus “set his face resolutely to go to Jerusalem,” it wasn’t just the city that was his destination. It was the hill just outside the city, a hill we call Calvary or Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, that was his ultimate destination. He had made that clear in his efforts to tell the Disciples what they could expect when they reached the end of the road in Jerusalem.
The Cross was His ultimate test, His ultimate battle with the forces of evil, His ultimate victory for humanity.
The Apostle John some 60 years later would write, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2: 1-2).
I cannot begin to fully understand what happened on that Cross. I know that Jesus did not have to die. He had every opportunity to escape. And, we are told that he could have summoned 10,000 angels to intervene and save Him from the Cross if he had so desired. But He chose to die. He gave His Life in our place.
Theologians in their attempt to explain what took place come up with various theories—The Ransom Theory—His death paid a Ransom price to Satan; or a Ransom price to God’s Justice. The Redemption price—His death was a payment to buy us back from our slavery to sin. There’s the Moral Influence Theory that suggests His death served as a motivation for us to forsake our sins and turn to back to God. All of these point us in the right direction, but none of these adequately explain all that happened on the Cross. 2 Corinthians 5: 21 says, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” How was that possible? I can’t explain it.
All I can say is that the death of Jesus on the Cross was the ultimate provision that God put into place so that by putting my faith in Christ, I find forgiveness and cleansing from sin and am brought back into the Family of God. Somehow, His Death was a substitute for my eternal death.
And so, Jesus finished the journey he had started in Luke 9:51. He followed the path that led to Jerusalem and ended on Calvary: The end of the road was a Cross on which He hung and died.
And that was the end—of the Beginning.
But today, we have come to celebrate the rest of the story. While the physical road ended at Calvary, the Empty Tomb on the third day after His death marked a new Beginning.
I. HIS RESURRECTION MARKED THE BEGINNING OF ETERNAL LIFE.
a. In 1 Corinthians 15: 20 it says, “But Christ has indeed risen from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
b. Once again, let me point out that the Resurrection was different from the raising to life of those who had died. Lazarus, and all the others who died and were brought back to life in the Bible, had to face death again. Theirs were miracles of resuscitation. But when Jesus came forth from the grave, he had defeated death and would never have to face death again. He is alive forever and ever!
c. And since Jesus is the “first-fruits” we know that one day we too will be resurrected to eternal life. The end of the physical road opened up the way for us to have eternal life!
II. HIS RESURRECTION MARKED THE BEGINNING OF THE NEW RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.
a. Up until this time, people were offering animal sacrifices to appease God, to find forgiveness of their sins, and to meet the requirements of the Law. These sacrifices had to be repeated over and over again, because they were not adequate to take care of future sins. But Jesus’ Death and Resurrection marked the end of the need for animal sacrifices. His death was the supreme and ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, past, present and future. And His Resurrection was the validation that Provision. So, now, because of the Resurrection God has provided access to Himself through our acceptance of Jesus’ death as an atonement for our sins. And, John 1:12 tells us, “Yet to all who did receive him to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
b. In 2 Corinthians 5: 14-15 we read, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”
c. Today, we can sing, “I’m so glad I’m a part of the Family of God” because we have a relationship with God because Jesus opened up the way for us to be reconciled with the Father. Because of what Jesus has done, we who put our faith in him are adopted back into God’s Family. Romans 8: 16-17 tells us, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
III. HIS RESURRECTION MARKED THE VALIDATION THAT OUR HOPE IS NOT IN VAIN.
a. In 2 Corinthians 1: 19-20, Paul wrote, “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas and Timothy—was not ‘Yes’ and ‘No,’ but in him it has always been ‘Yes.’ For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.”
b. In our everyday thought we sometimes use the word “Hope” to mean “Wishful Thinking.” For example we say, “I hope this happens, but it may or may not.” But For a Christian “Hope” is a reality that is yet to happen. I know God’s promises are true. I know there is an eternity waiting for me. I know God answers prayer. I know that when He says he will not forsake me, He never will!
c. How can I know this: Because Jesus’ Death and Resurrection seal the deal for us! God’s Word is true. We can depend on it!
d. That means I am never alone. If all my friends forsake me and the whole world seems to be against me, God is still there. I can lean on Him. Isaiah tells us God’s holds us with “His righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10), and Jesus in John 20: 28, said, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”
e. In Hebrews 6:18 & 29 we read, “…it is impossible for God to lie, [so] we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure…:
f. All this is because of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection!
The end of the Road was the beginning of eternal life, a new relationship and a validated hope.
The living Christ has provided Salvation for each of us. And His dwelling place at the Right hand of the Father in Heaven guarantees us and Eternal Home.
I read this account that points to the significance of the Resurrection of Christ:
As Vice President, George Bush represented the U.S. at the funeral of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Bush was deeply moved by a silent protest carried out by Brezhnev's widow. She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev's wife performed an act of great courage and hope, a gesture that must surely rank as one of the most profound acts of civil disobedience ever committed: She reached down and made the sign of the cross on her husband's chest. There in the citadel of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all hoped that her husband was wrong. She hoped that there was another life, and that that life was best represented by Jesus who died on the cross, and that the same Jesus might yet have mercy on her husband.
--Gary Thomas, Christian Times, October 3, 1994, p. 26.
So today we celebrate the greatest event in history, the Resurrection of our Lord. Let’s end this service with the Lord’s Supper, a memorial to His atoning death and Resurrection and a reminder that He is coming again to claim His Bride the Church.
Luke 19: 28-44
Ø Illustration: “I’d rather drive than fly!”
Ø Jesus walked…
Ø And now He was within sight of His destination…
I. THERE WAS THE C_____.
II. THERE WERE THE ACTS OF C___________.
III. THERE WAS THE MOMENT JESUS REVEALED HIS I____________.
>The personal decision…which will determine your eternity…
Luke 19: 28-44
I’m not a world traveler. While I recognize the convenience of flying, I would rather drive if at all possible. It’s a control thing. I like to control as many factors in my travel as possible. I don’t like checking into airports. I resent having to remove my shoes, empty my pockets, take off my belt, and remove anything else that might be metal. One time it was the tin fold from a piece of gum that caused me to have to have the security guy use the wand on me. I understand the need for security. But, I would rather drive myself.
In 2008 when I spent 10 weeks in Dominica I was anxious to get home. My flight schedule including boarding a plane in Dominica, changing plans in Puerto Rico, changing again at Dallas/Fort Worth, and then landing in Memphis. In fight from Puerto Rico to Dallas/Ft. Worth we heard the weather was stormy in Texas. As we got closer, we learned that a tornado had hit Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport and our fight was being diverted to Houston. In Houston we had to stand for 5 hours in lines to get back to the ticket desk only to find out that we were going to have to stay overnight before we could get on another flight.
I’d rather drive than fly!
The next day after flying on to Dallas/ Ft. Worth, and then to Memphis, it was a relief to get off the plane to meet Jenna and her new boyfriend Matt, pick up my luggage and drive on to Mom’s to get my car and then on to Branson. Crossing that Arkansas/ Missouri Border, I felt like I was finally arriving. And what a joy it was to pull into my driveway at home!
In Luke 9:51 we read, “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”
Now, in Luke 19:28 we read, “After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.” He didn’t fly. He didn’t even drive. He walked from Galilee, through Samaria, down to the lowest city on earth—Jericho, and then the 15 mile climb upwards until he reached the peak of the Mount of Olives. From there, He could see the place to which he had so resolutely journeyed for weeks.
He knew where he was going. And he knew why he was going. And he knew what was waiting for him when he arrived. I can only imagine what was going through his mind as he looked out from the Mount of Olives and saw his destination.
The journey had not been easy—and it certainly had not been uneventful. We read about the poor reception he received in Samaria that prompted James and John to want to call down fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritan village. We heard the sisters Martha and Mary express their feelings when He arrived at their home to find that Lazarus had been in the tomb for 4 days already. “Lord, if you had been here our brother would not have died.” We witnessed his emotions as he stood in front of the tomb and wept before he called our “Lazarus, come forth” and changed a scene of sorrow to a celebration of joy! We walked with him through Jericho where he restored sight to at least 2 and possibly 3 blind beggars and transformed a short tax-collector named Zacchaeus from a hated thief to dedicated follower.
And now, He is close to the end of his journey. Jerusalem is before him. And accompanying him are many people whose lives had been changed. As word spread that Jesus was approaching, the people began to gather along the roadside just to get a glimpse of him, to greet him, to cheer for him, and possibly to see another miracle performed by this Rabbi from Galilee.
But Jesus is still resolutely facing Jerusalem. There was his destination. There was his destiny. There was the Cross—His ultimate destination. Jerusalem.
But today, it wasn’t the Cross that the crowds were cheering. It was the Hope of Deliverance. The crowds had attempted to crown Him King earlier. Now that desire was re-ignited to fever pitch. It looked like a King was about to invade the City. And everyone was waiting with great excitement.
But for Jesus, it was Jerusalem. His destination.
Let’s consider the events unfolding on this day we call Palm Sunday—the Day of the Triumphal Entry of Jesus as he reaches His destination.
I. THERE WAS THE COLT.
a. Jesus sent two of his disciples into the village just ahead of them to obtain the colt of a donkey. It would seem that Jesus had made arrangements for this, though the details suggest some divine arrangement. When I was just a young pastor once I was asked to visit with a man who was terminally ill who was reputed to be a rascal. When I called on him, he immediately wanted to make fun of my beliefs. He called Jesus a horse thief, based on his interpretation of this account. I tried to talk to him and even said a prayer for him before I left. I never got a chance to visit with him again. He died just a few weeks later. But Jesus wasn’t a horse thief. Someone who was a believer had made available to Jesus this colt that the disciples brought back to Jesus. And it was a colt that had never been ridden. But its destiny was to carry Jesus into Jerusalem. And the whole scene was a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy In Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” No wonder the people were excited. Jesus was meeting all the details of this prophecy. He was proclaiming himself to be their long awaited Messiah!
II. THERE WERE THE ACTS OF CELEBRATION.
a. They spread their cloaks on the donkey and on the road before him. This was an act of respect as they humbled themselves before Jesus. In essence they there saying, “We submit to your authority. We proclaim you as our King and ourselves as your subjects.” Spreading their cloaks was the equivalent of the modern day “Red Carpet Welcome.”
b. And there were the Palm Branches that were waved and spread in the pathway. Luke doesn’t’ mention the Palm branches but Matthew does. (See Matthew 21: 8). Again, this was an act of respect, paying homage to royalty.
c. And, there were shouts of celebration. Verses 37 & 38 tell us, “…the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” We should remember that God “inhabits the praises of His people” (see Psalm 22:3). When we come together to worship the Lord each week, we would do well to remember what God has done for each of us. He has rescued us from the clutches of sin and the destruction of hell and adopted us as His own sons and daughters. He has answered so many prayers, meet so many needs, guided us through so many storms. How is it that we can sit so quietly when God has given us so many reasons to shout for joy! And, of course there were the nay-Sayers. H. B. London of Focus on the Family fame called them “Joy-suckers’—they suck the joy right out of a person! But Jesus told those protesting Pharisees, “I tell you…if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out!” This was a sacred moment, a divine event, that had been planned from before the foundations of the earth were laid. God was orchestrating the ultimate victory for His creation. It was a time to shout the victory!
III. THERE WAS THE MOMENT JESUS REVEALED HIS INTENTIONS
a. Verses 41-44 reveal what was really on Jesus’ mind and heart: “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
b. The crowds were celebrating the miracles and the realization that the Messiah was arriving. But Jesus had his face resolutely set upon Jerusalem. He had come to save His people, but his people would turn away from him. And by refusing to accept Him as king on his terms, they were sealing their fate—destruction would come. In 70 A.D. the Emperor Nero would send his Roman army and it would destroy the city just as Jesus had described.
c. Jerusalem was the city that killed the prophets. Its grand act would be just a few days later when they chose to crucify the One who had been sent to save them.
Today we remember Palm Sunday. That was the day Jesus acknowledged publicly by his actions that He was the Messiah
And we once again are faced with a choice. We can choose to celebrate by praising God for the miracles He performs and acknowledging Jesus as our Messiah, our King, our Savior. Or we can be like the people in Jerusalem over whom He wept—people who failed to recognize Him and instead sealed their fate by rejecting Him.
It is that simple. What will you do on this anniversary of His Triumphal Entry? Your eternal destiny rests on your decision!
Faith Promise Commitment Sunday
Romans 10: 9-15
>My Watermelon Enterprise Adventure
>The Logical steps involved…
I. THE INITIAL SEED
II. GERMINATION AND NEW LIFE
III. THERE IS THE MARKETING PLAN
IV. THE DELIVERY
V. SEALING THE DEAL!
What does God want to do through you in reaching the world for Jesus this year?
WATERMELONS AND MISSIONS
Romans 10: 9-15
When I was a young boy, probably around 9 or 10 years old, Dad bought a truck load of watermelons from a fellow who had a large watermelon patch. Then he drove the truck into our small town and parked it close to the railroad tracks at an intersection close to downtown. We put up a sign: “Water Melons for Sale—50 cents.” And I had the privilege of sitting on the back of the truck with the watermelons and selling to all the interested customers. Of course, the best part of the job came when we grew a little hot and tired. Dad would cut open a watermelon and we would enjoy the cool refreshing fruit. And of course, we would have watermelon seed spitting contests.
I don’t think Dad made much money for our enterprise. I really think he did this just for fun. It was a slow time for the crops on the farm and this just gave us something to do.
Those were simple times and wonderful memories.
As simple as it was, there was a logical progression in our watermelon enterprise. Someone had to prepare the ground, plant the seeds, care for the plants, and finally harvest the watermelons. Then he would have to find a market to sell his produce. In our case, Dad provided the market. So the watermelons had to be loaded into the truck. And, as much as we loved watermelons, there were way too many for us to eat, so we had to create a market in order to sell the watermelons. That involved a location, advertisement (in our case a simple sign), and an agreed upon price. The customer would select the watermelon that he or she thought would be the best, pay the price and then take it home to be devoured. Each stage of the process was essential—the farmer, the market, the truck delivery system, the sign telling the public the watermelons were for sale, and the actual act of selling the watermelon, and finally the consumption of the product.
And, while the Gospel is not the same as a watermelon enterprise, there are some commonalities in the mission’s process. Our scripture in Romans 10: 9-15 reminds us of the important details. Let’s consider:
I. THE INITIAL SEED
a. Romans 10:9 says, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believer in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
b. Before a person can come to that realization, God Himself must take the initiative. We who are born spiritually separated from God are not capable of doing anything about this unless the Holy Spirit awakens within us the consciousness of our lost-ness and our need for a Savior. And the Holy Spirit is the One who draws us to Jesus who has already gone before us and paid the price for our redemption and forgiveness. He has conquered sin and death and He wants us to accept what He has done so that we can be brought back into the family.
c. Those watermelons all came from a seed that had been planted. There is a sense that we who are saved have become seeds that need to be planted and reproduced in the lives of others.
II. GERMINATION AND NEW LIFE
a. Verse 13 says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Interestingly—and I’m sure deliberately—that verse is repeated three times in the scripture: Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21, and here in Romans 10:13. In the scripture when things are repeated, it is for the sake of emphasis of something vitally important. “Everyone”—Jew, Greek, Black, White, Rich, Poor, American or Non-American—“Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved.”
b. Those healthy watermelon seeds planted in the right type soil, and given the right amount of sunshine and rain, with the right temperature, will produce more delicious watermelons. And those who truly repent of their sins and call on the Lord for salvation will certainly be saved!
III. THERE IS THE MARKETING PLAN
a. Verse 14 says it this way, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”
b. If Dad had bought that load of watermelons and parked the truck in the shed back on our farm, no one would have known we had watermelons for sell. We would soon have a truck load of rotten melons to dispose of! And unless people are made aware of what God has done through Jesus, and made aware of how much they need Him in their lives, they too will be lost!
c. And that brings us to the purpose of our service today. There is a world out there that needs to hear about Jesus. Let me share just a few facts about the current need:
i. I read this week there are currently at least 2000 languages in which the Bible is not yet translated. And there are many more that only have a portion of the Bible translated.
ii. We often hear about the 10-40 window—referring the Latitude and Longitude of an area that extends from North Africa through the Asian continent. We are told that this area is the least reached area for the Gospel in the world. And 2/3 of the world’s population is located in that area.
iii. And we are living in what is often called the “post-Christian era.” By that is meant that our culture has become less responsive to the Gospel message. Like so many, I am a fan of the Jeopardy program. I watch it regularly and am humbled at my lack of knowledge to the answers of the various questions. But what really amazes me is when those contestants who have proven their superior knowledge by even qualifying to be on the show are confronted with simple Bible questions. Often times they are completely ignorant of the basics teachings of the Bible. That tells me that right here in America there are supposedly educated people who need to hear about God!
d. The point is, there are millions of people in our world who do not know about how Jesus loves them and offered himself in their place as a sacrifice to atone for their sins so that they could have eternal life in heaven. And we, Church, are the ones who have been given the assignment of taking the Gospel message to every nation on earth and making disciples for Jesus! We are not saved to sit in the shed hidden from the world. We are saved to stand out in the world and make it aware of the Gospel! We are all called to be “Witnesses…unto the uttermost parts of the earth!”
e. Let me share just a few facts about our Nazarene denomination. Our General Secretary released these statistics of our 2018 church year:
· Global reports show total current membership for the Church of the Nazarene at 2,579,243, a net increase of 28,869 (1.13 percent) from 2017.
· The denomination welcomed in 146,988 new Nazarene's this year.
· There are currently 30,712 churches in the denomination, a decrease of 163 from last year's report. Of the churches listed, 23,062 are considered officially organized, a gain of 134 in that category.
· The Church of the Nazarene has 18,290 ordained elders, 1,002 ordained deacons, and 10,434 licensed ministers.
o We currently have missionaries in 162 different world areas.
IV. THE DELIVERY
a. Verse 15 says, “And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”
b. The Church of the Nazarene has always been a missionary minded organization. And in our efforts to promote missions we have a wonderful plan in place so that every church regardless of size is asked to contribute a percentage of its income to the World Evangelism Fund. That Fund provides a basic salary for all our full time missionaries, freeing them to focus on ministry instead of having to always be trying to raise money for support.
c. Faith Promise is the way our local church can participate in sending and supporting those who are called to take the Gospel to those who have not had the opportunity to hear about Jesus. It is the basic support system in which each of us can participate.
V. SEALING THE DEAL!
Today, we are not trying to sell watermelons. We are participating in a sacred plan to take the Gospel to all the World.
I would challenge you, if you have not already, to ask God what He wants you to give to support the missionary arm of the church. This is not about what you think you can do. This is about what you think God wants to do through you.
You have your Faith Promise information sheets before you. In a moment we are going to give you the chance to give to God the commitment sheet indicating your desire to support world missions.
The Church is the storehouse through which God provides for missions. In our church we simply ask you to prayerfully make a commitment to God and then turn in the sheet without signing it so that the Church will have an idea of how to plan in the year ahead.
Only you and God know for certain the commitment you have made.
We are going to pray, and then our praise team will lead us in the missionary hymn “We’ve a Story to Tell the Nations.” As we sing, I would ask for those of you who are ready to bring your Faith Promise Sheet to the front and place it on the altar as a commitment to God. We will gather those sheets and add up the total and report to you in the evening service.
Let us stand and pray…
Luke 19: 1-9
>Our destination leads us through many communities…
>Jesus, who had “set his face resolutely to go to Jerusalem,” passed through Jericho.
I. IT IS IMPORTANT TO CONSIDER THE C______ ITSELF.
II. THE E__________ THAT ACCOMPANIED JESUS.
III. AND SO, WE MEET THE M____ H______ PERSON IN JERICHO.
>So many lessons…
JERUSALEM BY WAY OF JERICHO
Luke 19: 1-9
The shortest distance that I have found to my home town and my mother’s house is 180 miles. I take Highway 65 south through Harrison to a little community just south of Clinton, AR, called Bee Branch. From there I turn on a cut-off road that connects at Gravesville with highway 124. I follow it through Quitman and then turn south to Rosebud and Highway 39. I follow 39 to Searcy where I get on Hwy 67 for about 5 miles to Bald Knob. At Bald Knob I take Highway 64 that leads through Ward, Augusta, Patterson and finally to McCroy. There are other routes that I have taken from time to time, but that route seems to be the shortest and the fastest.
I purposely mentioned some of the towns I must drive through on the route home. Those communities serve as landmarks as I make my way to my destination. I know things about those communities that are important—where the McDonald’s Restaurants are in Marshall and Clinton and Searcy. The Wal Mart in Clinton is a frequent stop on the way—just to get out and walk around a little while. And, of course, I know where the cleanest restrooms are on the route.
What I am pointing out is, when I am traveling to a certain destination, there are places that are important before I get there.
In Luke 9:59 we read a few weeks ago that Jesus, “Set his face resolutely to go to Jerusalem.” Last week we discovered that the route to Jerusalem took him close to certain friends that he stopped to see—Martha, Mary and Lazarus. He was going to Jerusalem, but on the way, he passed through their home area, so he stopped by to see them.
Today in our Scripture we know that Jesus was still on the way to Jerusalem. And the route he was taking brought him to the ancient city of Jericho. We aren’t sure how long he stopped over, but we do know that He touched people as He passed through. At the close of chapter 18 Luke tells us Jesus was met by a blind beggar as he approached the city. And Jesus healed him. Matthew and Mark tell us that he was met by 2 beggars as he was leaving the city—one by the name of Bartimaeus (Matthew 20: 29-31 & Mark 10: 46-52). And they too were healed.
But the scripture reading today tells us of another miracle that occurred while he was in the city—a hated tax-collector repented of his sins and became a changed man and a follower of Christ.
Let’s focus on this incident as we walk the road with Jesus to Jerusalem as he passes through Jericho.
I. IT IS IMPORTANT TO CONSIDER THE CITY ITSELF.
a. Jericho is located about 15 miles Northeast of Jerusalem close to the Jordan River. It is on the modern-day West Bank in the area occupied by the Palestinians today. Historians and Archaeologists tell us that Jericho is the oldest known inhabited city, dating back some 11,000 years from today. It is the oldest known walled city. It was the first city that the Israelite's under Joshua’s leadership conquered after they crossed the Jordan River into the Land God had promised to give them. When Joshua’s army destroyed the city, Joshua placed a curse on the site, saying, “Cursed before the LORD is the one who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho. At the cost of his firstborn son he will lay its foundation; at the cost of his youngest he will set up its gates” (Joshua 6: 36). In 1 Kings 16:34 we read: “In Ahab’s time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of the firstborn son Abiram and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the LORD spoken by Joshua son of Nun.” It was common in Bible times for cities to build on top of where cities had existed. Archaeologists tell us that there have been at least 20 Jericho’s rebuilt on top of each other in the 11,000 years since it was first founded. Jericho currently has a population of close to 20,000 people. At the time of Christ, one source says there were some 12,000 priests who lived in Jericho because of its close proximity to Jerusalem. And Jericho has the distinction of also being the lowest city on earth at 846 feet below sea level. In the Bible Jericho is also called the City of Palms. Because of the natural springs in the area, it is truly an oasis in a desert area. We are told that Jericho is located in a very fertile agricultural area, and that the residents of the city were fairly wealthy. It makes sense, then, that the city would be a headquarters for the tax collectors of the area. They would be there to collect the taxes as people brought in their produce from their farms. And, the head tax-collector was a man named Zacchaeus.
b. And Jesus, having left Galilee, a very mountainous area along the Sea of Galilee, had followed a route that descended to the lowest city on earth. From there he would begin the ascent up the mountains to the city of Jerusalem—his destination. I have to wonder what Jesus was thinking as he entered this ancient city. He must have thought of how Joshua had marched the Israelite's around the city until, on the 7th day the walls collapsed, and they burned the city. He must have thought of the long history dated back to the very beginning of civilization when Jericho was first founded. I’m sure he was aware of the vast number of priests—descendants of Aaron-- who lived in the city—the religious backbone of the Jewish worship structure. When Jesus left Jericho, he knew it would be uphill all the way. Jericho was a good place to stop over to rest. And one might think he would consider staying at the home of one of the priests. But Jesus had another mission in mind as he made his way to Jerusalem. There was a man in Jericho who needed a Savior. And that was the one Jesus intended to visit.
II. THE ENTOURAGE THAT ACCOMPANIED JESUS.
a. We know that the 12 Apostles traveled with Jesus. And most of them probably had family accompanying them. And by this time Jesus had been in his public ministry for nearly 3 years. The small country of Israel had heard so much about him—his miracles, his message, his compassion and love, his confrontations with those who oppressed the people—and everyone would jump at the chance just to see the extra-ordinary Rabbi. There were those who followed him from Galilee, those who joined them as they made their way towards Jerusalem, and those who just stood on the sides of the roadway just to say they had seen Jesus! Certainly, those blind beggars would have been in that group—and their families and acquaintances. Luke 19: 3 tells us there was a crowd—so many, in fact, that one short tax-collector couldn’t find a place along the route where he could see.
b. In John 12: 26 Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” And so, the crowds flocked after Jesus, following Him as he pressed onward to Jerusalem.
c. There is a lesson for us here. We are happy to follow Jesus to Gospel singing's and time of excitement and joy. Nothing wrong with that—we should want to celebrate our Salvation Experience and our love for God. But Jesus had a way of “rattling their cages” so to speak. He would say and do things that shocked them and sometimes even made them angry. Remember how we are told after the Miracle of the Feeding of the 5000 and the discourse that followed on Him being the Bread of life, many were offended and stopped following Him. And Jesus had even turned to the 12 and asked them if they too were going to leave him. (See John 6: 60-71).
d. Would you have been in the crowd following Jesus that day? Would you have been willing to follow him up the step elevations on the road that led from Jericho to Jerusalem? Would you follow him today if it meant driving 5 miles out of the way to pick up someone who needed a ride to church? Would you be willing to postpone Sunday dinner in order to deliver that person back home—or better yet, would you be willing to take that person to dinner with you and maybe even pay for their meal?
e. I love our church gatherings. I love the Gospel singing's and the wonderful fellowship we can have with our Christian Brothers and Sisters. But what if Jesus placed me where there were no other Christians? What if he asked me to visit someone who was in the hospital or maybe even in jail? Would I follow him there?
f. And so, Jesus and his entourage walked down the streets of Jericho. I wonder what they were expecting to happen, if anything. Two blind beggars had already been healed just outside of town. Surely the rest of the time would be uneventful. But Jesus was on a mission.
III. AND SO, WE MEET THE MOST HATED PERSON IN JERICHO.
a. Luke 19:2 reads, “A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.”
b. Of all the people in Jericho, a city full of priestly families, sick and blind beggars who sat along the road hoping for handouts from the wealthy residents of the city, the last person that one would think Jesus would visit would be Zacchaeus. He was not only a hated tax-collector—he was one of the chief tax-collectors. And nobody likes a tax-collector—even today. But back then, a tax-collector would have been a Jew who was extracting taxes from his own people to give it to the Romans—the hated Romans who were occupying their nation. And tax-collectors were notorious for overcharging and then skimming off the surplus for themselves. They were all considered to be traitors of their own countrymen and greedy thieves. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best liked and 1 being the least liked, a tax-collector would have been -10. They were the lowest of low—worse that drunkards, worse than prostitutes. Worse than the worse in their society.
c. But this tax-collector—for whatever reason—wanted to see Jesus. Maybe it was just curiosity. Maybe he wanted to see if there was any way he could collect money from the crowd following Jesus. Or maybe he was growing sick of his life and wondering if there was any chance, he could change. Whatever the reason, we read in Luke 19: 3 & 4, “he wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short, he could not see over the crowd. So, he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore fig tree to see him since Jesus was coming that way. “
d. But the shocking fact in this account is found in verse 5: “When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”
e. I have to confess. If I were looking for someone with whom I could stay and rest for a while, I wouldn’t pick the most hated person in town. I would want to stay with someone who shared my interests and who really wanted to have me in their home. But Jesus saw people differently. Once when he was accused of eating with sinners and publicans (another word for tax-collectors), he had said, “It is not the healthy who need a physician, but the sick” (See Luke 5:31).
f. And before the day was over, the hated tax-collector Zacchaeus had not only repented of his sins and accepted Jesus, but he had also paid back four times over the amount of taxes he had collected unjustly.
There are so many lessons in this account of Jesus’ journey through Jericho.
Ø Even as we press towards our ultimate destination, we must take time to notice those who need our compassion along the way.
Ø Even large religious communities like that in Jericho have people who need that special touch.
Ø We need to develop “Spiritual Eyes” to see those who may be hiding in the trees or in the back ground, curious about our Christ, but unwilling to make the first move. And Like Jesus we should be willing to see them and reach out to them in Christ’s name.
Ø And the worst person, the most unlikely person to be changed, may be the one Jesus wants us to reach out to. So, what if everyone else thinks we are making a mistake. Every person is precious to God regardless of their status in society.
Ø And we must remember that Jesus wants to stay with each one of us—to live in our hearts. And we need to clean up our act so that He will be welcome—even if it means going to a person we have wronged and making it right.
Ø Jesus didn’t come to entertain the saints. He came to rescue those who are lost. God help us to make that in priority in our own lives!
>So Jesus stopped from his journey to Jerusalem to visit his friends…
I. THIS WAS NOT JESUS’ DESTINATION—IT WAS A S___________.
II. THE REST STOP BECAME A T_________ EVENT.
III. THE LESSON AS IT RELATES TO US.
What lessons do you think you would need to learn if Jesus stopped by unexpectedly at your home?
A SWEET REST FROM THE ROAD AHEAD
Let me share with you some statements I found this week about friends:
"A friend is one who warns you."(Old Jewish proverb)
Some people make enemies instead of friends because it is less trouble. (E.C. McKenzie.)
Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, "What! You, too? I thought I was the only one."(C.S. Lewis.)
Friends are like good health; you don't realize what a gift they are until you lose them. (Unknown.)
Prosperity begets friends, adversity proves them. (Unknown.)
A friend is a person who does his knocking before he enters instead of after he leaves. (Unknown.)
A small boy defined a friend as "Someone who knows all about you and likes you just the same." (Unknown.)
Our opinion of people depends less upon what we see in them than upon what they make us see in ourselves. (Sarah Grand.)
Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies. (Aristotle.)
And I really like this little essay on What is a Friend? -- What is a friend? Friends are people with whom you dare to be yourself. Your soul can be naked with them. They ask you to put on nothing, only to be what you are. They do not want you to be better or worse. When you are with them, you feel as a prisoner feels who has been declared innocent. You do not have to be on your guard. You can say what you think, as long as it is genuinely you. Friends understand those contradictions in your nature that lead others to misjudge you. With them you breathe freely. You can avow your little vanities and envies and hates and vicious sparks, your meanness's and absurdities, and in opening them up to friends, they are lost, dissolved on the white ocean of their loyalty. They understand. You do not have to be careful. You can abuse them, neglect them. It makes no matter. They like you. They are like fire that purges to the bone. They understand. You can weep with them, sing with them, laugh with them, pray with them. Through it all--and underneath--they see, know, and love you. A friend? What is a friend? Just one, I repeat, with whom you dare to be yourself. (C. Raymond Beran, in Bits & Pieces, September 19, 1991, p. 3-4.)
(All of the above quotes are from Sermonillustrations.com).
In our scripture passage we are introduced to a very important family composed of 2 sisters and a brother—Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. It is interesting that this is the only time they are mentioned in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), but we know them more intimately from the passage in John 11 where the sisters sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was sick and then Jesus came and restored Lazarus to life. This account in Luke’s Gospel gives us a picture of two contrasting personalities of Martha and Mary. And this brief window into this moment in their lives also gives us a glimpse of something about ourselves.
Let’s spend a few moments seeing what it is the Holy Spirit wishes to say to us from this passage.
I. THIS WAS NOT JESUS’ DESTINATION—IT WAS A STOPOVER.
a. Last week we read in Luke 9:51 that Jesus “resolutely set out for Jerusalem…” He had set his sights on his primary mission—the redemption of mankind through his ultimate sacrifice on the Cross. And while there were many people and circumstances to encounter on this final trip to Jerusalem, none of them would stop him from fulfilling this purpose. But the trip was over a period of time, and there were stops to take along the way—to touch people’s lives, to teach people about the Kingdom of God, and sometimes just to rest from the long and exhausting journey. And so we are told in verse 38, “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him...”
b. We are not told how or when Jesus first became acquainted with Lazarus and the two sisters. It must have been early in his public ministry—or it could have been some friendship with his family that we aren’t told about. But it is obvious, especially in John’s Gospel, that these were not just mere acquaintances, not just another of his many followers—this was a family with which he was intimately connected.
c. There has been speculation about who they were. Some have suggested that Lazarus was in fact a priest and that Martha was a widow and Mary, the younger sister was somewhat “worldly”. None of these are substantiated by evidence—they are just over-active imaginations of people trying to flesh out the existence of this family.
d. And so, Jesus, on his way to Jerusalem where he knew that he would be arrested, tortured and executed, stopped in to see this family that had become his friends. Later on he would spend some time in Perea, just east of the Jordan River before finally entering Jerusalem on what we call “Palm Sunday.” It was while in Perea that we have the graphic scene described in John’s Gospel where Jesus was summoned by the sisters because their brother was sick. And Jesus waited until Lazarus was dead before going to their home.
e. But now, in this scene in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is merely stopping over to see close friends and to rest a while before he continued on his march to Jerusalem and the Cross.
f. When I was kid, our family didn’t really take what I would consider vacations. We might take a day and go do something special—like the Memphis Zoo, but we never thought about going somewhere like Disney World or Pigeon Forge. When we made trips that would take more than a day or so, it was to visit family members. Mom’s brothers were in branches of military services—most of them in the Air Force. I have great memories of visiting Uncle Lawrence in Jacksonville, Florida and then later in Big Springs, TX. And there was the time we thought we would surprise them and we drove all the way to Florida only to discover that they had decided to surprise us and they had driven all the way to Arkansas. And there was Uncle Maynard whom we visited in Biloxi, Mississippi. We would be in their home and not really feel like visitors. We could just be ourselves because we were with family—people who knew us and loved us just the way we were.
g. And this account in Luke of Jesus visiting Lazarus, Mary, and Martha has that same kind of feeling—just old friends who knew each other and loved each other---people to whom you had no need to pretend—you could just be yourself.
h. Just a side note—I think this is the way the church should be—people with whom we don’t have to try to impress, people around whom we can just be ourselves, people who know us warts and all and love us anyways, people who are really just like family!
II. THE REST STOP BECAME A TEACHING EVENT.
a. You have to admire Martha. She was the hostess with the mostest! She wanted to make sure that her guests were made to feel welcome and that their every need was taken care of. And for her that meant preparing a big meal for Jesus and his band of disciples who would have been with him. I can imagine her busy-ness as she sent someone down to the bakery to buy bread and someone out to the butcher to get a leg of lamb. And cabinet doors opened and shut as she gathered the various pots and pans and the best dishes and silverware. She would have been a bundle of energy as she hurried about preparing things. From the way the scripture describes it, she had enlisted her sister Mary to help her but Mary had abandoned her after awhile because she just wanted to spent time with Jesus—“my sister has left me to do the work by myself…”(Luke 10:40b). I know how she must have felt. I’ve seen Mom and Gloria at different times when company showed up. Everyone would be sitting in the living room laughing and talking while she was in the kitchen by herself trying to get the meal ready to serve. She would be missing out on the fellowship and conversation, but someone had to get things ready. I am so thankful for the Martha’s who have that gift of hospitality and are so willing to see that guests are taken care of properly.
b. Mary, on the other hand, seems to have been the contemplative person, the one who could sit and listen and be so enthralled by the conversation that they forget anything else. These are special people who by their attentiveness to the company and the presence and the conversation that they really make you feel engaged. You feel like they really care about you and really want to hear what you are thinking about. In our society where people are so quick to talk and so slow to listen, these kind of persons are precious.
c. But, when you get a doer like Martha together with a listener like Mary, there is a good chance of conflict between the personality styles. Let me underscore this: Both personality types are important and necessary. One is not better than the other—they are just different. They process information differently. They see things in a different light. They are better or worse—they are just different.
d. And the lesson comes when Martha gets so frustrated that she comes to Jesus to complain about her sister. The fact that she does is an indication that Jesus wasn’t just a guest, that he was a close friend that she could trust with the sharing of her frustration. And Jesus in essence said, “When it is a choice between doing for me or being with me, the better choice is that close fellowship.” There is a time and place for busy-ness, but sometimes the right choice is to take a breath and just sit and spent time with your friend.
e. Martha wanted the best for Jesus, but it was the best as she perceived it. She failed to recognize that in that moment the best for Jesus was quiet fellowship. Remember where Jesus was headed. Remember the determination expressed when “He set his face resolutely to go to Jerusalem”? Burdened with the weight of his mission and the knowledge of the Cross, he needed quiet rest and the joy of just being with good friends. A banquet just didn’t seem right for the moment and the mood!
III. THE LESSON AS IT RELATES TO US.
a. In the church world we often see two types of people: those who are busy doing things for God and the Church and those who are focused on study and prayer and meditation---the Spiritual Formation emphasis. It is easy for those in one camp to criticize those in the other camp. “He should spend more time in prayer.” Or, “He should get out of his prayer closet and go knock on doors.” And you know in your heart that both camps are necessary and that one camp without the other would be disaster. The need is for each of us to find a balance of spending time in both camps. We need to “Be” in His Word, filled with His Spirit, Empowered by His Presence. And then we need to “Go” at His Command and Do what He directs us to do. Remember how in the Book of Acts just before His ascension Jesus told His disciple to wait for the Promise of the Father—the Holy Spirit. And then, after they receive the Holy Spirit, they would be witnesses unto the uttermost parts of the earth!
b. If Mary never helped in the kitchen, never helped set the table, never helped clean up after company left, then Martha would have been right to be upset. And if Martha never listened to Jesus, never engaged in conversation with Him, never really trusted Jesus enough to just relax in His Presence, then she would have truly been at fault. But later it was Martha who rushed out to meet Jesus, who indicated her trust when Jesus had declared himself to be “The Resurrection and the Life.” We all need to be reminded from time to time when we get things a little out of balance. Martha learned her lesson. Mary enjoyed the Words of Life. And Lazarus, who never said anything but of whom the sisters declared in John 11 that he was one whom Jesus loved (John 11:3) -- well, he experienced life indeed!
There is a poem that most of you have heard entitled, “If Jesus Came to Your House.”
If Jesus came to your house to spend a day or two
If he came unexpectedly I wonder what you'd do
When you saw him comin' would you meet him at the door
With arms outstretched and welcome to your heavenly visitor
Or would you need to change some things before you let him in
Like burn some magazines and put the Bible where they'd been
Oh I know that you'd give your nicest room to such an honored guest
And all the food you would serve to him would be the very best
And you'd keep assuring him that you were glad to have him there
That serving him in your home was a joy beyond compare
But what about your family conversation would it keep up its normal pace
And would you find it hard each meal to say a table grace
Would you be glad to have him stay forever on and on
Or would you sigh of great relief when finally he had gone
You know it might be interesting to know the things you'd do
If Jesus came in person to spend some time with you
(What would you do what would you do if Jesus came to spend some time with you)
--Songwriters: Robert S. Kelly
Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. But on the trip, He thought it right to stop by to visit some friends.
What lessons would you need to learn if Jesus suddenly stopped by unexpectedly at your house?”
Text: Luke 9:51 “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”
>St. Patrick—the Patron Saint of Ireland
>It takes Determination to be successful in reaching people for Jesus. And Jesus set the example.
JESUS WAS DETERMINED TO GO…
I. EVEN THOUGH HIS PUBLIC MINISTRY WAS N___ W___ R________ BY THE JERUSALEM RELIGIOUS ESTABLISHMENT.
II. EVEN THOUGH HE WOULD BE O________ ON THE WAY.
III. EVEN THOUGH HE KNEW WHAT THEY WERE G_______ T__ D__ TO HIM.
He determined to go because He loved us so much…
Text: Luke 9:51 “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”
Today is St. Patrick’s Day. For many this means Irish Green Shamrocks, Green Beer, Irish Whiskey, and all kinds of revelry. But the real reason behind this holiday is that March 17th marks the date of the death of St. Patrick, the so-called Irish Patron Saint. And his life was not about Irish Whiskey. And, no, he did not drive all the snakes out of Ireland.
And we know that Patrick was not even an Irishman. He was born in Britain in the 5th century A.D. and raised in a home where his father was a deacon and his grandfather a priest in the Catholic Church. At the age of 16 he was captured by a group of Irish slave traders and taken to Ireland where he was a slave for 6 years to a Druid Chieftain. In his Confessions Patrick revealed that prior to being taken into slavery he had not embraced Christianity and had been rather wild. But after being forced to live in what was considered the barbarian climate of the Irish, he remembered what he had been taught at home and came to realize his needed to embrace Christ. After his escape from slavery he returned to Britain and his family. He then entered the priesthood and served as a pastor for some 30 years. And then at the age when most in that time period were at the end stages of life, Patrick felt God’s call to go back to Ireland and evangelize. His experience as a slave in Ireland had given him a mastery of the Irish language and an understanding of the Irish culture that enabled him to connect with the people and gain their confidence. While it would be an exaggeration to say he introduced the Irish to Christianity, he certainly was successful in establishing the Church in that country which most had considered being unreachable. He had gone in spite of the lack of support from the Roman Catholic Church and against the advice of many. But He had gone with determination because he knew God had called him to do so and because he harbored a compassion for the people who had once enslaved him.
St. Patrick serves as a reminder to us that our salvation and the successful evangelization of our society only comes as the result of someone’s determination.
In our scripture in Luke 9: 51 we see the great example of that determination in Jesus. The NIV says, “He resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” The KJV translates it this way:
“…he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.” These words certainly echo the prophetic words found in Isaiah 50:7, “therefore have I set my face like flint…” In simple language, Jesus determined to go to Jerusalem.
Let’s consider what that determination involved:
I. JESUS DETERMINED TO GO EVEN THOUGH HIS PUBLIC MINISTRY WAS NOT WELL RECEIVED BY THE JERUSALEM RELIGIOUS ESTABLISHMENT.
a. Early on in his public ministry, Jesus attracted great crowds of people. His healing ministry certainly made him a popular leader among the common people. As word spread of the miracles he performed, the crowds continue to grow so that often there were literally thousands who would gather at the places where he was to be. That popularity certainly caught the attention of the priests and leaders of Judaism. In the Gospel record of Jesus’ visits to Jerusalem, there were several confrontations in which Jesus disputed with the acceptable traditions and practices of those religious leaders. For example, there controversies over taxes, over marriage, and over the prideful attention-getting practices of the Pharisees. And there were those times when Jesus had spoken up in the Temple and taught crowds in the courtyards and healed sick on the Sabbath Day. And because of those confrontations and because of the way the crowds flocked after Jesus, the religious leaders became jealous and felt threatened. Rather than embracing Jesus, they looked for ways to silence him--even to the point of seeking to arrest him. For that reason much of Jesus’ ministry was outside Jerusalem in the northern province of Galilee. There he was accepted. There he was able to preach about the Kingdom of God. There people responded positively. So why, would Jesus even want to leave an area where his success rate was high to go back to Jerusalem--an area where the leaders wanted to silence him? But, “He resolutely set out for Jerusalem” even though he knew the opposition he would be facing.
b. When things are going well it is easy to become comfortable. Everyone likes to be liked. The old Cheers jingle struck a heart chord with the words, “Everybody likes to go where everybody knows your name.” I can tell you that for me it is not near as fun to go somewhere where nobody knows your name. Even worse is to go somewhere where they know your name and they have already decided they don’t like you!
c. Years ago, when I was a youth pastor in Coffeyville, Kansas, I worked for the Montgomery County Road Crew out of the County Engineer’s office. The man who had been the supervisor over the road crew retired and the guy who had been the assistant to the supervisor thought he would be promoted to that job. But the County Commissioners instead brought in a guy from out of the area for the job. And because he was an outsider, the road crew and especially the guy who had thought he would get the job, decided right up front they didn’t like the new guy. And they constantly were complaining about him and even defying some of his instructions. Somehow the guy managed to keep the job and eventually was accepted, but I’ve often thought how difficult it must have been for him. He had to have had a lot of determination to stay.
d. And Jesus knew that influential people in Jerusalem were against him—because they had already made that clear. But He determined to go to Jerusalem anyways!
II. JESUS DETERMINED TO GO EVEN THOUGH HE WOULD BE OPPOSED ON THE WAY.
a. Verses 52 & 53 tell us, “And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him, but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.”
b. Racial and Religious prejudices run deeply. But Jesus had ministered in Samaria before—remember the account of the woman at the well? At that time he had left Jerusalem and was headed north towards Galilee. The woman at the well had that life-changing conversation with Jesus and had returned to the town of Sychar and told everybody about Jesus and many of the citizens had turned out to see him and had believed in him. But now it was different. This particular village knew that Jesus was a Jewish Rabbi. They knew that he was on his way to Jerusalem to the people they strongly resented. Rather than allowing Jesus to come into their village and rather than listening to his message, they simply rejected him. Here Jesus was, on his way to Jerusalem where he knew his was to be crucified, determined to pay the ultimate price in order to make it possible for these very Samaritans to get to heaven, only to be forbidden to come to their village. They didn’t know why he was going to Jerusalem and they didn’t care. They only knew that he was going to Jerusalem and they hated him for that.
c. I can tell you it hurts to be rejected by people who refuse to hear your true motives and instead insist on believing you are against them. Have you ever had anyone jump to conclusions about your intentions and then refuse to listen to your explanation? I can tell you that it is extremely frustrating.
d. In fact, it was so frustrating to the disciples that James and John who were nicknamed “Sons of Thunder” because of their explosive personalities wanted to call down fire from heaven to consume the whole village. But Jesus stopped them and rebuked them. And then He and they went on to another village. This tells me that sometimes the only thing to do when people have made up their minds about you is to just let it go and leave it behind, and just walk away.
e. But Jesus was determined to move on. He was on his way to Jerusalem.
III. JESUS WAS DETERMINED TO GO TO JERUSALEM EVEN THOUGH HE KNEW WHAT THEY WERE GOING TO DO TO HIM.
a. Prior to this verse stating he was determined to go to Jerusalem he had told the disciples at least twice what was going to happen. In Luke 9: 32 Jesus had said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Then, in Luke 10: 44 he had said, “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you. The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” Knowing full well what was going to happen to him, he still set his face resolutely to go to Jerusalem. The Salvation of humanity was counting on Him.
b. I have come to realize that oftentimes when I know I have to do something, the anticipation is worse than the event. For example, recently I had to go to the dentist to get a tooth filled. In my mind I thought of the shrill sound of that drill as the dentist cleaned out the decay. I remembered one time when that drill had hit a nerve that wasn’t completely deadened and how I nearly climbed out of the chair. I’m sure as I sat down in that dentist chair my blood pressure was elevated. I was tense. I had a preconceived idea of what was about to happen. As it turned out, it wasn’t that big a deal. I never felt any pain. I really didn’t notice that much the sound from the drill. The anticipation had been much worse that the reality of the event.
c. I wonder what Jesus thought. He knew he would be tortured. He knew he would be hit and slapped and spit upon. He knew he would be beaten nearly to death by the Roman whips. He knew he would be nailed to the Cross and would hang there for hours until his strength finally gave way and he would die. The anticipation must have been beyond my imagination. But in his case, the reality was every bit as bad and even worse that one could anticipate.
d. But Jesus never wavered. He set his face “like flint,” resolutely, steadfastly, determined to go into the city that was noted for killing the Prophets.
“…Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” There were so many reasons not to go. There were so many obstacles that had to be overcome. There was the knowledge that the Cross was at the end of the road. But He determined to go.
Because He loved us so much that He wanted to rescue us from the clutches of evil and from the eternal torment of hell.
He determined to purchase our salvation.
He did it for you and for me.
And our response should be to accept Him and the gift of Salvation and to model His determination to persuade as many people as we can to believe in Him. Their eternity is counting on us.
Luke 14: 25-35
>Did you ever find yourself in a situation for which you were unprepared?
> This morning Jesus reminds us that we need to be prepared for what lies ahead. We need to “Get Ready!”
I. THE CHALLENGE OF C_____-B_______ (Verses 25-27 )
II. THE CHALLENGE OF C________ THE C____ (Verses 28-30)
III. THE CHALLENGE OF A_________ THE B_______ R______ (Verses 31—33)
Ø The future is before us—Get Ready!
GETTING READY—BE PREPARED!
Luke 14: 25-35
Did you ever find yourself in a situation for which you were unprepared? I read this week of a preacher who was called to do a graveside service. He rode with the funeral director to the cemetery and noticed as they arrived that there were two different grave sites with tents set up and people gathered. He wasn’t sure which one was the one he was to officiate, but the Funeral Director took him to the correct place. When he had conducted the committal service and pronounced the benediction, the funeral director came up to him and said, “Could you conduct another service for us?”
“Sure, just tell me when,” the preacher replied.
“Right now. The preacher who was to conduct the service at the other grave site has called to inform the family that he had gotten lost. He had made a wrong turn and gone east instead of west and it would be at least another hour before he could get there. The family had been waiting for quite a while and they just wanted to get on with it.”
The preacher agreed and asked the funeral director to give him a copy of the obituary and the basic information about the person being buried. Then he went over to the grave site only to discover that there was some tension among the family members and they had separated into 3 groups and were not speaking to each other—a rather awkward situation. But someone told the preacher to go ahead and conduct the service. The preacher read some scripture, all the time realizing that the funeral director had not yet given him the obituary and information he requested. He realized he didn’t know the name of the person being buried, and didn’t even know whether it was a man or a woman. He carefully chose his words to avoid revealing his ignorance. And quickly he moved to the final prayer. As they closed their eyes to pray, the preacher felt a paper being slipped into his hand that contained the obituary, so in his prayer he was able to use the person’s name.
The preacher said he had never felt so unprepared and that it was one of the shortest services he ever conducted.
There’s nothing like being caught unprepared. On at least two occasions in my 46 years of pastoring I have attended memorial services and found out after arriving that I was the one officiating. I’ve learned to be prepared for anything!
Our scripture today is about making preparations for what lies ahead. This past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday—the beginning of the Season of Lent that leads up to Good Friday and Easter. During Lent Christians are to take inventory of their own spiritual condition and prepare for the Celebration of the Resurrection by fasting and praying. It is a time of Preparation—a time of “Getting Ready” for the Celebration of God’s provision for our Salvation.
This morning in this scripture passage Jesus reminds us that we need to be prepared for what lies ahead.
We need to “Get Ready for…
I. THE CHALLENGE OF CROSS-BEARING.
i. Verses 25-27 reminds us that the most important relationship we can have—the one relationship that trumps parents and children—is the relationship we have with Jesus Christ. The admonition to “hate” our close relatives is meant as a hyperbole to illustrate a comparison. Our love for our relatives should be strong, but our love for God is so much stronger that it makes any other love look like hate in comparison. Look at the supreme example: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16a). Also, “God demonstrates his love this way: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Did God hate His Son? Of course not. But He loved us so much that He did not even spare His Son when it came down to our salvation. The words of Jesus here are to emphasize how strong our love for God must be!
b. And it is in that context that Jesus said, “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). The cross, as you know, was the instrument of execution in Jesus’ day. It was the most cruel form of execution ever. For us to carry our Cross implies that we must be willing to suffer whatever persecution comes our way. We are called to put our lives on the line for Jesus.
c. I’ve always been fascinated by this account as told by William Barclay In his commentary on the Seven Churches of Revelation. In his description of the Church at Smyrna he tells about the animosity the Jews in Smyrna had towards the Christians. He writes, “Polycarp was Bishop of Smyrna, and he was martyred on Saturday, February 23,155 A.D. It was the time of the public games; the city was crowded; and the crowds were excited. Suddenly the shout went up: ‘Away with the atheists; let Polycarp be searched for.’ No doubt, Polycarp could have escaped; but already he had had a dream vision in which he saw the pillow under his head burning with fire, and he had awakened to tell his disciples “I must be burnt alive.’ “His whereabouts were betrayed to the persecutors by a little slave who collapsed under torture. They came to arrest him. He ordered that those who had come for him be given a meal, and provided with all they wished, while he asked for himself the privilege of one last hour in prayer. Not even the police captain wished to see Polycarp die. On the brief journey to the city, he pled with the old man. ‘What harm is it to say, ‘Caesar is Lord’ and to offer sacrifice and to be saved.’ But Polycarp was adamant that for him only Jesus Christ was Lord. “When he entered the arena there came a voice from heaven saying: ‘Be Strong, Polycarp, and play the man.’ The proconsul gave him the choice of cursing the name of Christ and making sacrifice to Caesar or death. “’Eighty and six years have I served Him,’ said Polycarp,’and He has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme our King who saved me?’ The proconsul threatened him with burning, and Polycarp replied: ‘You threaten me with the fire that burns for a time, and is quickly quenched, for you do not know the fire which awaits the wicked in the judgment to come and in everlasting punishment. Why are you waiting? Come, do what you will.’ In spite of the appeals of even the persecutors Polycarp remained immovable.” And so the old Bishop was burned at the stake—the cost for choosing to be a follower of Christ. No relationship—not even our relationships to our own life—can compare to the love and devotion we are to have for Christ! The free gift of Salvation costs each of us everything!
II. THE CHALLENGE OF COUNTING THE COST.
a. In verses 28-30 Jesus talked about the importance of counting the costs before starting a building program. From experience I can tell you that when you figure the projected costs, go ahead and add 20% to the total, because it always costs more that you think it will! But from the context you know that Jesus is just using this building metaphor to illustrate a spiritual truth—the Cost of being a Follower of Christ. When you truly become a Christian, your life will change. I was a senior in High School when I accepted Christ. I had been dating a certain girl from my hometown for a couple years. Shortly after becoming a Christian, I realized God had plans for me that were not compatible with continuing my relationship with Patty. We cared about each other, but it was obvious that our lives were taking different paths, so we broke up. And there were other friends that were going a different direction than I. While we didn’t have a falling out or anything, we soon began to drift apart. There were things they were doing in which I could no long participate. And the possible choices for my future vocation had included everything from being a CPA, an English Teacher, or even possibly a Medical Doctor, but as a follower of Christ, I knew I had to seek His Will. And He quickly made it clear I was to be a preacher. And that meant I needed to go to our Church College in order to prepare for the ministry. What I am saying is, my decision to become a Christian meant a change in my lifestyle, a change in my friendships, a change in my life goals. It meant leaving home and going to another state and working hard to pay my way through college. My decision came with costs. If I had not understood some of those costs, I probably would have given up.
b. If you think you can become a Christian without accepting the costs that accompany that decision, you are in for a powerful awakening.
c. Jesus does not ask for people to follow him who are not aware of the implication of that decision. Right up front He tells us that we must be willing to “Carry our cross!” We are told we cannot serve two masters—we will love the one and hate the other. He doesn’t want us to blindly and without consideration say, “I accept Christ as Savior” without realizing that there will be some changes necessary. Yes, He wants you to be His disciple. But you need to count the costs when you make your decision. Otherwise, you will not make it.
III. THE CHALLENGE OF ASSESSING THE BATTLE RISKS
a. In verses 31—33 Jesus uses the metaphor of an advancing army. When a king considers the odds of victory and realizes he is outgunned, the smart thing to do is to negotiate to avoid the battle. The point Jesus is making is just to reinforce the point he made with the building illustration. Pay attention to what is happening. Consider the risks and the costs that are involved. Use good judgment.
b. In this battle illustration, I am thankful for the scripture in 1 John 4:4 that tells us, “…The One who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world.” And there is the scripture in Matthew 17: 18 where Jesus says, “…I will build my church and the gates of hell will not overcome it.” Someone has said, “When Jesus is with me, we are always a majority.” And Paul wrote in Romans 8:37, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
c. So, in life, when we are faced with decisions, remember the words in the song, “Jesus Loves Me”—“I am weak but He is strong!” And make sure you make Jesus your Captain, Your Savior, Your Lord!
d. Can I face the enemy alone? Yes, but if I do, defeat is inevitable. Consider the odds and come to Jesus for wisdom, guidance, and protection. “He is our Refuge and Strength, our very Present Help in time of trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
Verses 34 & 35 are words to which we should consider carefully: “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot” (Matthew 5: 13).
We are to be influencers for Christ in our world. We are all called to be His witnesses, His ambassadors. When we think that we have done our time and now all we need to do is sit back and let someone else feed us, what good are we? God has called us to make a difference. Are you making a difference for His sake?
March is here. Today we have shifted to Daylight Savings Time. March 21st is the official beginning of spring. And this year we celebrate Easter on April 21st. In 2 Samuel 11:1 we are told that it was, “In the spring, when Kings go off to war…”
Get ready. The year is advancing. Be prepared to do battle for our King. Examine your hearts and minds to see that you are cleansed by His Blood and filled with His Spirit. Don’t advance unprepared.
And so, this morning, we celebrate Communion, remembering that Jesus had made provision for our Salvation. Let’s receive His Atoning Grace this morning…
1ST CHURCH OF THE NAZARENE…BRANSON, MISSOURI
Pastor Jim Cariker…Sermon Notes…February 24, 2019
Matthew 6: 19-34
Text: Matthew 6: 21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
>10 tips for a healthy heart…
>Our hearts are found in those treasures we most value…
I. YOUR HEART REVEALS YOUR TRUE A__________.
II. OUR ACTIONS R_______ THOSE AFFECTIONS OF THE HEART.
III. WE MUST CONSTANTLY GUARD OUR HEARTS LEST WE LOSE THE T____ T________.
What is your treasure? Where is your heart today?
Matthew 6: 19-34
Text: Matthew 6: 21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
February is “Heart Month.” The American Heart Association does its best to make everyone aware of how to take care of our physical hearts and to know the warning signs of heart problems. bioIQ.com gives these 10 tips for a healthy heart:
1. Stop smoking…Quitting smoking is the best thing that can be done for the heart and for overall health. Smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death in the United States, and smokers have a higher risk of developing many chronic disorders, including atherosclerosis, or the buildup of fatty substances in the arteries.
2. Know your numbers…Maintaining a healthy weight, blood pressure and total cholesterol play a significant role in maintaining a healthy heart….
3. Screen for diabetes… Untreated diabetes can lead to heart disease, among many other complications…
4. Get active…Heart pumping physical activity not only helps to prevent cardiovascular disease but can also improve overall mental and physical health. The American Heart Association recommends five 30 minute moderate exercise sessions each week…
5. Build some muscle…Strength training compliments cardiovascular exercise by toning muscles and burning fat. In addition, proper strength training can improve daily functional movements, decreasing the chance of injury. The American Heart Association recommends getting in two days of moderate to high-intensity strength training each week.
6. Eat smart...A healthy diet full of heart-smart foods is essential to a healthy heart and lifestyle. Salmon, nuts, berries, and oats are just a few of the heart “super foods” that may help reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. Dark chocolate is also on the list and is a great way to satisfy a sweet tooth (in moderation).
7. Limit junk...To reap the full benefits of a heart-healthy diet, it’s important to limit intake of nutrient-poor junk foods.,,
8. Stress less ... Stress increases cortisol, which leads to weight gain, a key risk factor for heart disease. In addition, stress can lead to other unhealthy habits, making it harder to stick to a heart-healthy program. Stress can also decrease overall happiness and increase the risk for anxiety and depression.
9. Sleep more...Sleeping restores the body, helps decrease stress and increases overall happiness. To reap the full benefits, clocking seven hours each night is key…
10. Smile...A happy heart is a healthy heart. Making time for enjoyable activities and hobbies helps relieve stress and improves the overall mood, providing a great foundation for a heart-healthy lifestyle.
Last week we were reminded that in order to trust our hearts, we must make sure we have pure hearts—hearts purified by the Blood of Jesus and the Sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. Un-regenerated hearts are unreliable because they are contaminated and controlled by sin and selfish pride. The Peace of God that comes from having a heart fully surrendered to and controlled by the Holy Spirits “Guards our hearts and minds.” (See Philippians 4: 6-8).
Our Scripture in Matthew 6 today is taken from the Sermon on the Mount. Usually I have focused on verses 19-24 separately from verses 25-34. But this week as I was reading this passage it dawned on me that they are not separate topics. These verses all are pointing to that which is most important in our lives—the things we value more than anything else. Verse 21 and verse 33 are both focusing on that which is the most important need in our lives. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also… But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”
I see some powerful truths underlying these verses. Let’s consider:
I. YOUR HEART REVEALS YOUR TRUE AFFECTION.
a. If you see the words “I and You” with the symbol of heart in between those two words, how do you read it? (“I love you.”) The heart signifies our affection, our love.
b. In this passage Jesus speaks of our desires to save up money for our future, of protecting our wealth from those who would steal or destroy it, of obtaining food and clothing and shelter. All those things are legitimate concerns. We are taught in the scripture to work, and save, and to provide for our families. These are God-given responsibilities. Consider these verses:
i. >1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 says, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life. You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”
ii. >2 Thessalonians 3: 6-10—“In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying of it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help. But in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ’The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’”
iii. >1 Timothy 5: 8 says, “”Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, had denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
c. It is obvious that the Bible teaches planning and working and paying our own way and providing for our family and being generous to those in need. These are all important virtues for Christians. But Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in the verses we read today, reminds us that while these things are important they are secondary to that which is most important. And if our heart is totally focused on these physical needs and we neglect that which is most important, our “treasures” will only be the physical and the temporary. But if our heart is set on the heavenly, on loving God and honoring Him, all these other concerns which are secondary to eternity will be taken care of.
d. In the deep recesses of your heart, the emotional organ that radiates our true value and desire, what is the thing that you value the most? Is it money? Is it possessions? Is it relationships? Is it pleasure?
Is it the approval of others? Whatever it is that you treasure the most, that is where your heart will be.
I’ve had men admit to me that while they were sitting in church and appeared to be listening to the music, the prayers, the testimonies, the sermon, in their minds they were really thinking about sports, or the project they were working on, or the people they were going to meet later in the day. I remember one year when the summer Olympics were happening that I used the various events as illustrations in my Sunday sermons. I had one guy tell me that he really enjoyed those messages. But then he went on to say that he normally didn’t pay much attention to what I was saying during church but these Olympic illustrations were very interesting. This guy really was telling me that he didn’t usually focus on worship when he came to church, but he really enjoyed sports! And too often, there are those whose attention—indeed, their hearts--are attuned to anything but the kingdom of God and His Righteousness.
Dr. Jim Diehl was our speaker at our District Ministers Retreat this past week. In one of his messages he said we must not yield to the temptation to allow those things which are holy to be treated as common place. He used the example of Communion, saying that if we hurry through it and treat it as just another thing we do instead of recognizing it as a very sacred act acknowledging the provisions God has made for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are dis-respecting that which is holy.
I must admit there are times we get so caught up in the familiar that we seemingly cheapen the reality of the greatness of God. Our hearts must be trained and disciplined so that the things of God are the things we treasure!
II. OUR ACTIONS REFLECT THOSE AFFECTIONS OF THE HEART.
a. Jesus told us that the greatest command is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. I have to ask: Do my actions demonstrate that supreme and ultimate love? If I love Someone with my total being, I certainly would want to spend time with that Person. I would want to know what things He likes, what He is thinking, what things are important to Him. Do my actions include reading His Word, meditating on it, studying it so that I can really understand the message He is trying to give me? In John 12:26 Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” Can I honestly say that my ultimate desire is to follow Jesus? Am I truly trying to show up in the places where I know He will be? Do I love the things He loves? Do I come to church because it is an obligation or because I really want to be in a place where God is being honored and worshiped? And what about the people God loves? Do I feed the poor because it seems like the right thing to do or because I really care about them? Do I want the lost to be saved because they are precious souls or because I want to be seen as a hard working Christian? What did Jesus mean when He said that the second greatest command is to “Love your neighbor as yourself”? Is my heart really more concerned about making myself look like a good Christian, or do I really care about people?
b. If my heart is really concerned for and in love with people then those people become my treasure.
c. I can tell you, if you are more concerned about appearances than about people, the people you are reaching out to will know. One of the speakers at the M 19 Conference in Kansas City talked about being “transparent Christians who really live Christ-like lives.” And he pointed out that while we think someone might be rejecting our message, they are really might be rejecting the messenger.”
d. Our actions reveal our true hearts and our hearts expose our personal treasures.
III. WE MUST CONSTANTLY GUARD OUR HEARTS LEST WE LOSE THE TRUE TREASURE.
a. Hebrews 2:1 says, “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.”
b. In Hebrews 12: 1 & 2 we are told, “…run the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith…” That speaks of discipline.”
c. 1 Corinthians 16: 13 says, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” That speaks of discipline.
d. James 4: 7-8 says, “”Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you…” That speaks of discipline.
e. This means that we must train our hearts to seek and protect the treasure that is most dear to us—God’s Kingdom and His Righteousness. If we don’t discipline our hearts, the cares of this world will crowd in and rob us of the most precious treasure.
f. In 2 Timothy 3, Paul wrote, “But mark this: there will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lover of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”
g. Those are the treasures possessed by hearts that do not have God. And those are the things that will creep in if we are not vigilant in our discipline to keep God’s love supreme in our lives.
Money is a big deal. We have to have it in order to function in our society. We have to have it for food, clothing, shelter. We have to have it to maintain an acceptable standard of living. But truthfully, if money is the thing we desire more than anything else, then our hearts are not where they should be.
Listen to Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 6: 6-10: "But godliness with contentment is great gain.”For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people eager for money have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
And the words of Jesus: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also… But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”
What is your treasure? Where is your heart today?
FIRST CHURCH OF THE NAZARENE, BRANSON, MO
Pastor Jim Cariker…Sermon Notes…Feb. 17,2019
Philippians 4: 4-9
Text: Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
>Illustration: A person who felt he didn’t “measure up.”
>”Gospel” means “Good News”
> Philippians 4:7 offers protection for the heart. Let’s consider:
I. WHAT IS THE PEACE OF GOD?
II.WHY DO OUR HEARTS NEED TO BE GUARDED BY GOD’S PEACE?
III.THAT PEACE CONTINUES TO GUARD AS WE CONTINUE TO TRUST AND OBEY!
Philippians 4: 4-9
Text: Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
There’s was a man in one of my former pastorates who struggled with low self esteem. (you do know I have Pastored in 4 difference churches—Brinkley, AR; Warsaw, MO; Fort Scott, KS; and here in Branson; And I served as a youth pastor in Coffeyville, KS when I first graduated from college). This man never felt that he “measured up” to what he perceived God expected of him. He often felt defeated and there was very little joy in his Christian experience. I wish I could say that he was the only one I ever knew who suffered with that problem. But, truthfully, I have found that almost anywhere I have been, there has been someone who has the same problem. I pray that none of you feel this way.
This past week I was reminded that the Christian life should be one of joy, not guilt. God desires us to be “More than conquerors,” not defeated or beaten down Christians. The Gospel is “Good New,” not “inflicted guilt.” In our very first session at the M19 Conference we heard from Albert & Christine Hung. He is the District Superintendent for the Northern California District and has served as pastor of a large multi-cultural church in Los Angeles. This couple started off by pointing to the difficulty their district is facing with decreasing attendance and ineffectiveness in reaching new people. The average attendance for their 90 churches is 47. They wanted us to know they were not experts but were just like the rest of us who are struggling with the changing church world we are facing in North America these days.
In their struggle to find answers they have concluded that as Christians and as Nazarenes we must be aware that, “It is not about growing our churches; it is about populating heaven.” They proposed 3 questions as “conversation starters” that are intended to bring us back to the heart of God. And they shared from their hearts about those 3 questions:
>What is the Gospel?
>What is the Church?
>What is Evangelism?
And, as you might expect, they challenged our traditional answers to those questions.
I was especially intrigued by Christine’s comments on “What is the Gospel?” The word “Gospel” itself means “Good News.” She then reminded us how in our efforts to “share the Gospel” we traditionally start with the problem of sin. But she pointed out that while the problem of sin begins in Genesis 3 with The Fall, the Book of Genesis starts with chapters one and two. And in those chapters we are told, that “everything God created was good.” In fact, God noted, “It was very good!”
But when we start off telling a person how wrong he is or how bad he is, so often this doesn’t sound like “GOOD NEWS.”
She went on to say something like this: “If it doesn’t offer Hope to the impoverished, it isn’t Good News. If it doesn’t offer Hope to the one with a terminal disease, it isn’t Good News. If it doesn’t offer Hope to the couple having marital difficulties, it isn’t Good News. If it doesn’t offer Hope and encouragement to the downtrodden, it isn’t Good News.”
It was while I have been processing in my mind these ideas that my friend who was plagued with self-doubt came to my mind. My heart breaks for those whose perspective on their salvation is based on how good or bad they perform. For, you see, it is not about what we have done—it is about what God has done through Jesus Christ!” It’s not about us—it is about Jesus!
In our Wednesday evening Bible Study series on the Book of Acts, I have come to realize that in the early Church, wherever the Gospel was preached and people responded and became believers, there was Joy!
Why is it that so many non-believers think of Christians as being sad faced, judgmental, and intolerant of others? Last week, I mentioned there is one word that should best describe every believer—and that word is LOVE! But so many non-believers have the idea that Christians dislike or even hate them because they aren’t believers.
If the church could put into practice the attitudes and behaviors that Paul outlines in this passage that we read in Philippians it would revolutionize our impact on the world.
For just a few minutes this morning, let’s focus on the implications of verse 7: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I. WHAT IS THE PEACE OF GOD?
a. It is the confidence we have when we have reached the point of totally trusting God with whatever it is we are facing. Verse 6 lays the groundwork for that peace: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” And when you do that, the Peace of God comes.
b. Remember the time the Disciples were out on the Sea of Galilee in a boat with Jesus. Jesus was sleeping, but the disciples were desperately trying to keep the boat afloat as they struggled with a fierce storm that had suddenly risen. They were bailing water, and pulling on the oars, but to no avail. Finally, when it looked as if all hope was lost, they called out to Jesus. He awoke, assessed the situation and simply said to the storm “Peace, be still.” And the storm ceased, the wind stopped, the waves immediately calmed down. But Jesus didn’t stop there. He turned and looked at his astonished disciples and said, “Where is your faith?” Whatever else he was implying, he certainly was asking them why they doubted that He could save them. While the physical elements of nature were at peace, Jesus was asking about the Peace in their hearts.
c. Interesting to me is the fact that our scripture in Philippians was written by Paul at a time when he was in prison. He had every human right to be uptight, fearful of his circumstance, frightened for his life. But instead, his words convey a confidence, a peace and assurance that defied the physical circumstance. Why worry? Wasn’t Jesus in control? Paul had that confidence that, no matter what, God was in control.
d. God’s Peace is Confidence—knowing He is in charge, not us. God’s peace is the absence of fear, because we know that God is greater that those things—or people—that threaten us. God’s peace is more than the absence of conflict it is the presence of Blessing. As a matter of fact, God’s peace stands in the face of conflict and defies it!
e. God’s peace is not the same as human peace. Just a few hours before Gethsemane Jesus told his disciples in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
f. God’s Peace is a supernatural Calmness of the Soul that only comes from God’s Holy Spirit.
II. WHY DO OUR HEARTS NEED TO BE GUARDED BY GOD’S PEACE?
a. Jesus warned us that our hearts can be a problem In Matthew 15: 18-20 we read, “But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
b. Way back in Genesis 8, after Noah and his family disembarked from the Ark and made sacrifices to God, we read how God said, “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood…”
c. The old statement we have often heard when giving advice to someone trying to make a choice is, “Follow your heart.” But God’s Word warns us that the heart that has not been made pure is not trustworthy. Psalm 24:3 & 4 says, “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.”
d. The Apostle Peter, speaking about the Spirit Baptism he had witnessed at the house of the Roman Centurion Cornelius, said, “He [God] did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.”
e. Add to that the schemes of Satan as he tries to deceive or entrap a person. He plants thoughts of doubt in our minds. He places temptations before us in an effort to get us to fail and fall. The pollution of a fallen world has its way of settling in our hearts like dust on our furniture. We must keep the eyes of our hearts fixed on Jesus and allow His Presence and His Peace to reassure us and continually cleanse us so we can be safe.
f. Our hearts are not trustworthy. They have been contaminated because of the human condition that resulted for Adam’s sin. The Peace of God comes after the Holy Spirit purifies the heart from that contamination and takes up residence. That continued trust in God that comes from Faith that Jesus had paid the price for our redemption and our sins are forgiven and God is supreme is the protection we must have!
III. THAT PEACE CONTINUES TO GUARD AS WE CONTINUE TO TRUST AND OBEY!
a. Verses 8 & 9 give us a plan to maintain that Peace of God. We do it by keeping focused on God’s goodness that is evident all around us. “Finally, brothers & sisters, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or see in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” General Superintendent Dr. Carla Sundberg spoke in our Tuesday evening service at our conference this past week (2/12/19) in Kansas City. In her message she told about her husband’s dad. He was the son of a coal miner. When he went to college he had a terrible time with his studies. One day one of his professors called him into his office and told him that he was an awful student, that he was never going to amount to anything, and that he might as well drop out of college and go back home and work in the coal mines. She said that Mr. Sundberg was so discouraged when he left that meeting and as he walked down the halls with his head down and obviously upset, he met another professor who asked him what was wrong. When Mr. Sundberg told the professor what had happened, that professor invited him into his office and told him to not give up—he could do it, and this professor promised he would help him make it. The professor told him that whenever he needed help or just needed to talk, please give him a call. It was a turning point in Mr. Sundberg’s life. Two professors—one who saw only the bad in the student while the other saw the potential and encouraged the good.
b. In 2 Corinthians 10:5 Paul wrote, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” How do we take captive every thought? How do we discipline ourselves to only focus on the good and noble? We do so by putting our total trust in Jesus and allowing His peace to fill us and protect us and to guide us. In Colossians 3:15 Paul wrote, “15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”
How is your heart today? Is it fearful and full of anxious thoughts? Do you often see faults in others and are troubled by negative thoughts? Is your heart troubled and heavy?
Confess those things to the Lord and trust Him to take care of those things. Allow His Peace to fill your heart today and protect it—guarding it with His Holy Presence.
FIRST CHURCH OF THE NAZARENE, BRANSON, MO
Pastor Jim Cariker…Sermon Notes…February 10, 2019
IMITATING GOD’S LOVE
Ephesians 4: 24—5: 2
>Illustration: Love from Children’s point of view…
>The primary characteristic of a Christ is “LOVE.”
Our scripture gives us a pattern for life:
I. IT BEGINS WITH A H________ C_______.
II. IT CONTINUES WITH THE D__________ OF CONDUCT.
III. THE PATTERN AND GOAL IS TO I_______ G___.
Ø Illustration: Keodi finds love…
Ø Let’s show the world what love is like…
IMITATING GOD’S LOVE
Ephesians 4: 24—5: 2
Valentine Day is this Thursday. With all the advertisements about Roses and Chocolates and Cards, how could you forget? It is a great time for underscoring your love and appreciation to others-- Husbands, wives, school mates, friends. Of course, we should demonstrate that love and appreciation every day, but it is fun to have a very special day to express that love.
Children have a wonderful and fresh perspective on life. Oftentimes they convey profound truths in ways we adults often overlook. I read this article this week:
LOVE DESCRIBED BY CHILDREN
“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.”—Rebecca, age 8
“When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.”—Billy, age 4
“Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French Fries without making them give you any of theirs.”—Chrissie, age 6
“Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.”—Terri, age 4
“Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.”—Danny, age 7
“If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate.”—Nikka, age 6
“Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it every day.”—Noelle, age 7
“Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.”—Tommy, age 6
“My mommy loves me more than anybody. You don’t see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night.”—Clare, age 6
“Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.”—Elaine, age 5
“You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.”—Jessica, age 8
Do any of these trigger warm emotions in your heart?
If there is one word that best describes a follower of Christ, it must be LOVE. In John 13:35 Jesus told his disciples, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus stated the extent of that love in Matthew 5:43-48—“43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
When asked by the lawyer what was the greatest commandment, Jesus quoted from the Old Testament, saying, ““‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22: 37-40).
And throughout the Scriptures there are many reminders that Christians are to love.
Too often in our fallen world, people tend to care more for themselves than they do for others. Paul, writing to a group of people who were relatively new Christians, spells out in detail how our love is to be expressed. This passage in Ephesians 4 & 5 is just one more example of how we are to live and love.
I. IT BEGINS WITH A HEART CHANGE.
a. “Put off the old self…be made new in the attitudes of your mind…and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 5: 22-24).
b. What’s wrong with your old self? The “Old Self” to which Paul is referring is the “Self that is controlled by the sinful nature.” That self is the result of Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden. The serpent had told Eve that if she ate the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil she would become like God. In other words, Eve was attempting to place herself at the center of her life instead of allowing God to be central. The “Old Self” is controlled by selfish pride, an inflated Ego, and a resistance to God. And as long as that Self is in control, that person is in fact controlled by a force that is directly in conflict with God.
c. In order to be made “new in the attitudes of our mind," and to be created like God in true righteousness and holiness, God has to change our hearts. And He will if we let Him. In Galatians 6: 14-16 Paul wrote, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which[a] the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to[b] the Israel of God.” Did you catch that phrase: “…What counts is a new creation…” Only God can create, so we must surrender to His Lordship and allow Him to change us and give us new hearts. In Romans 5:5 we are told that, “…God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
d. If we are going to love like Jesus expects us to love, we are going to have to have God to remove this old self that is controlled by sinful nature and replace it with a new self, a new heart, transplanted by the Power of the Holy Spirit.
II. IT CONTINUES WITH THE DISCIPLINE OF CONDUCT.
a. In Ephesians 4:26-32 Paul addressed the need for a change of conduct. Our words must be truthful. Our dealings must be honest. Our anger must be controlled and dealt with in ways that eliminate sinful behavior. Verse 31-32 sums it up: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you.”
b. When God gives us a new heart that is pure and holy, we must strive to keep it that way. But even though we are saved and Spirit-filled, we still have to guard against habits and attitudes that we had prior to our experience. Dr. J. Kenneth Grider, in his book, Entire Sanctification: The Distinctive Doctrine of Wesleyanism, (copyright 1980 by Beacon Hill Press) made the distinction between Original Sin and Acquired Depravity. Sanctification takes care of the Original Sin, but Acquired Depravity is taken care of through progressive sanctification. We have to unlearn old patterns and allow the Holy Spirit to help us develop new patterns of behavior that are Christ-like.
c. For example, I could see a new Spirit-filled Christian having to take anger-management classes in order to learn how to handle anger in appropriate ways. And remember Peter? Paul tells us in Galatians, had to be corrected because he fell back into the old pattern of being prejudice against Gentile believers. And there are plenty of characteristics that must be brought under control as we strive to live for Christ.
d. This is no excuse to live less than Christ-like behavior. But it is an explanation that we must discipline ourselves and constantly work at living in a way that reflects Christ-likeness in our lives. The Christian believer must constantly be working towards Christ-likeness. As long as we are in this life, there will be areas where we will need to improve.
III. THE PATTERN AND GOAL IS TO IMITATE GOD.
a. In Ephesians 5: 1-2 Paul writes, “Follow God’s example [Be imitators of God (KJV)], therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
b. Jesus not only came to teach us what God is like, he also by his example reveals to us how we are to live. And His example is sacrificial love.
c. Think with me how Jesus ministered to people.
i. In Matthew 9: 35-36 we read, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he” saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
In Luke 7: 11-14 we read, “Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her [had compassion on her KJV] and he said, “Don’t cry.”14 Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”
ii. In John 8 we read how a woman who had been caught in the very act of adultery was brought to Jesus. When Jesus told them to let the one who had no sin to cast the first stone, they all were convicted and went away. And then we read, “9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”11 “No one, sir,” she said.“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
iii. And even while being tortured to death in crucifixion Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."(Luke 23:34 a).
iv. When we look at Jesus we see He was motivated by love and compassion. He offered forgiveness instead of retribution. He sought to relieve suffering, healing the sick and delivering people of demonic tyranny. He offered comfort to those who were hurting.
d. If you are going to imitate Jesus, you can only do that by really caring about others, showing mercy and compassion to those who are struggling with life. You can only do this by allowing God to love through you.
>Illustration: A little four-year-old African girl had been sold as a slave. She had never known what love was. Even her name, Keodi, meant "Nobody loves me!"
When she grew to be about ten years old, her body became covered with ugly sores. The natives turned her out and would have nothing to do with her. But some kind missionaries took Keodi in and cleaned her up, cared for her sores, and put clothes on her.
At first she could not believe any one loved her. She went about saying, "I am only Keodi; nobody loves me." The missionaries told her that Jesus loved her, and tried to teach her what love meant. Then she looked down at her dress, clean body and bandaged sores, and said, "Is this love?" They told her that it was.
Yes love is shown by kindness and giving. God showed His great love to us by giving His dear and only Son to die for us. Jesus showed His love for us by giving His life for us. He did not only say He loved us, but He showed His love by suffering in our place. Should we not then give Him our whole lives? Then we can love Him, too. --(Gospel Chimes as quoted on the website gospelillustrations.com).
In this season of Valentines and illustrations of love, let’s determine we will show the world what love really is. Let’s strive to imitate God’s love!
1ST CHURCH OF THE NAZARENE, BRANSON, MO
Pastor Jim Cariker…Sermon Notes…Feb. 3, 2019
PEACE WITH GOD AND OTHERS
1 Thessalonians 4: 1-12
>Illustration: My Baseball Experience on “Following Peace with All Men…
>The Thessalonians church was comprised of relatively new Christians who needed instructions...In theses verses Paul points in two directions:
I. PLEASING GOD
II. GETTING ALONG WITH OTHERS
Conclusion: One-word answer to the two points above: LOVE. The Challenge: Please God and live Peaceful Lives!
PEACE WITH GOD AND OTHERS
1 Thessalonians 4: 1-12
I was a young pastor –in my early 20s, pastoring about 130 miles up highway 65 from here in Warsaw, MO. One of our church members had been a PR person at Mission State Bank in Mission, KS before finally retiring and moving to Warsaw. And he had access to free tickets to the Kansas City Royals ballgames. So, for a special men’s event, we took a group to a Royals Game. Our seats were perfect—just above the 3rd base. It was great. But then there was a man who about half way through the game walked down close to the field and started heckling the 3rd base umpire. The man was obviously pretty drunk, and his language became more and more crude. I looked around and realized there were some young families sitting close by—wives and young children. The man grew louder, and his language became cruder. No one was saying anything, but it was increasingly embarrassing. I felt that someone had to do something. So, I said something like, “Hey, Mister, could you watch your language. We have women and children around here and we don’t need to hear that.” That got the guy’s attention and immediately he began to direct comments to me. I was wearing a cap from a Ford dealership, so he began to call me “Mr. Ford. “I turned to my SS Superintendent who was sitting next to me and said, “If he comes after me, will you help me?” And he said, “Excuse me, mister; I don’t know who you are!” So much for back up! Fortunately, the man quickly lost interest and left the area. So much for my efforts to “Follow peace with all men.” But I think the people around me really were glad that someone finally spoke up to the man. Sometimes peace comes only when we stand up against something that is wrong.
In 1 Thessalonians Paul was writing to a young church. Some scholars think this book may have been the earliest written in the New Testament. The people in Thessalonica had many questions about how to live a Christian life and what to expect from God. And Paul’s letter to them is a powerful treatise on living a life of holiness.
Someone has said that reading Paul’s letters are like listening to one side of a telephone conversation. We hear what is being said on one end and from that we can only speculate about what is being said on the other end. We read Paul’s words and try to determine exactly what motivated him to write the instructions he is giving. Was he answering questions they were asking or was he just telling them things he knew they needed to learn?
Regardless, in these first 12 verses in chapter 4, Paul instructs them in two primary directions. Let’s consider:
I. PLEASING GOD
a. 1 Thessalonians 4:1 says,” As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how-to live-in order to please God”
b. Those of us who have pretty much been raised in the church have a little trouble grasping the lack of understanding of new Christians who were not raised in a Christian environment. And too often instead of being patient and understanding, we are quick to look down on or be judgmental of new Christians. We expect them to shape up immediately when they are still immature and needing to be mentored.
c. Last Wednesday night in our Bible Study we talked about Simon the Sorcerer who became a believer in the Samaritan Revival in Acts 8. Later he tried to purchase from Peter and John the power to lay hands on people so they could receive the Holy Spirit. Peter spoke very strong words to him about not having his heart right before God. I suggested that Simon was possibly a work in progress, a new Christian who needed to be taught about right attitudes and desires. Instead of being a person who was lost, I suggested he was a new Christian who was just learning what it meant to be fully yielded to God. Admittedly, that was just one possible interpretation of Simon’s experience and we can’t know for sure. But I am sure that new Christians who have not yet learned Christ’s Commands must be given time to learn. They must be taught by loving and patient Christians how to live for Jesus.
d. So, how were they to Please God? Paul told them that God’s will for them was to be holy. That meant forsaking the sins of passionate lust and immorality. It meant not taking advantage of a brother or sister. It meant choosing to live in such a way that everything they did reflected on God’s purity and righteousness.
e. Verses 7 & 8 are pretty clear: “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects his instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.”
f. Does this mean that every Christian is perfect in performance? You know that answer—we are works in progress. And while I believe that when we yield ourselves totally to God and allow the Holy Spirit to take control, we are sanctified, I also know that as long as we are in his life, we are works in progress. We will make mistakes. We will have areas that will need to be improved. We will probably from time to time have to apologize to someone because we said or did something that offended. In other words, we still will retain our humanness with its limitations. That is the reason that I have come to believe that the Holy life we live here is in fact the constant the “pursuit of holiness.” I want to be like Jesus, but I have a long way to go before I am there! And God, who knows our hearts, knows when we are really striving to live for him. And He will guide us as we mature towards Christ-likeness!
g. The people in Thessalonica were in a culture of paganism. The false gods of the Greeks and Romans were the gods with which they had grown up. The practices of worship of some of those false gods sometimes included doing things that involved sexual sins. Paul had to specifically speak to the practice of sexual sin in order to teach these new converts that God expected a different behavior from His followers.
h. And, regrettably, in our 21st century culture, people in our society still must be taught that immoral behavior is wrong.
i. We please God by living lives of purity and integrity; we please God by treating others fairly. Our goal should be to be “Imitators of God” as it is written in Ephesians 5:1. It is in striving to be as much like Jesus as we possibly can that we please God.
II. GETTING ALONG WITH OTHERS
a. 1 Thessalonians 4:9 says, now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been Taught by God to love each other.” And then in verse 11-12, “and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”
b. In Hebrews 12: 14 we see this double emphasis on our relationship with God and others in these words: “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy, without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Both 1 Thessalonians 4:11 and Hebrews 12:14 have interesting conditions tied to the idea of quiet peaceful living: “Make it your ambition,” and “Make every effort.” We find similar instructions in Romans 12:18— “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
c. These verses all suggest to me that even though we may not be able to control how other people live or act, we must work at doing our best to get along with others. That does not mean approving sin or compromising our Christian principles. It does not mean that we should always be quiet. Sometimes we may have to address an unruly person at a ball game in order to establish the decorum of peace and quiet.
d. But Paul was telling the new believers in Thessalonians and us here in the 21st century, that we should live our lives in such a way that people will know that we are honest and fair. We are to treat people with dignity and respect. And we should be courteous even when we have to speak up. In other words, we are to treat others in the same way Christ would treat them. And we are told in Ephesians 5: 25 that “…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
e. We can go through life demanding that others behave just the way we think they should. We can focus on people’s faults and shortcomings and always be miserable and unhappy. Or, we can choose to love people, focusing on their good points, being patient with their shortcomings, and lovingly guiding them in Christ-likeness by being Christ-like ourselves. Peter says it this way: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:8-10).
So how do you please God and live peaceful lives with others? One word: LOVE.
The Greek word most often used for “LOVE” in the New Testament is the word “AGAPE.” The theologian James Packer says this about AGAPE LOVE: The Greek word agape (love) seems to have been virtually a Christian invention -- a new word for a new thing (apart from about twenty occurrences in the Greek version of the Old Testament, it is almost non-existent before the New Testament). Agape draws its meaning directly from the revelation of God in Christ. It is not a form of natural affection, however, intense, but a supernatural fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). It is a matter of will rather than feeling (for Christians must love even those they dislike -- Matt. 5:44-48). It is the basic element in Christ-likeness. (James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986).
And the Christian author C.L. Lewis gave us this advice: In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, "Do not waste your time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbor. Act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less." (Our Daily Bread, February 14.)
Today, I challenge you to make it your constant goal to Please God and to Live Peaceful Lives so that others will know that you belong to Christ!
FIRST CHURCH OF THE NAZARENE…BRANSON, MISSOURI
Pastor Jim Cariker…Sermon Notes…January 27, 2019
LIFE TO THE FULLEST
John 10: 1-10
I don’t know much about raising sheep…but I know that Jesus was really talking about people…
And that makes John 10:10 so profound. Let’s consider…
I. SOMEONE IS OUT TO GET US.
II. JESUS CAME TO GIVE US LIFE!
a. From C___________…
b. For E________...
c. For the H___ and N___ …
Life that follows our acceptance of Jesus as our Savior is truly an adventure. Only in Him can you have “Life to the fullest.” Have you begun that adventure?
LIFE TO THE FULLEST
John 10: 1-10
I don’t know much about raising sheep. I’ve read about them. I’ve seen them. When I was in Israel, I even saw off in the distance a Shepherd leading his flock. Having been raised on a farm where we had a few cows and a few pigs and even a couple goats, and a few chickens, I find some of the facts about raising sheep interesting.
For example, a Shepherd leads his flock instead of driving them. I know from experience that cows and pigs don’t follow a human leader. In fact, it is a lot of trouble getting those animals to go in the direction that you want them to go. They resist. I could tell you stories—especially about the time I volunteered to help a friend load a couple pigs to take to the market. But sheep are different. They follow their Shepherd.
And sheep tend to wander off. They don’t wander because they are trying to escape—they wander off because they aren’t paying attention to where they are going. They see a blade of grass here and another there and they just drift away.
I’ve been told that sheep are near sighted. If so, that makes them easy prey to wolves and other ferocious animals that would devour them.
There’s a lot more about sheep that I don’t know.
But when I read John 10, I realize that Jesus isn’t really talking about sheep. He is talking about people—people just like you and me. Sheep pens and Sheep gates and even Sheep themselves are just symbols pertaining to our human existence. That makes verse 10 extremely important. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”
Let’s think about what Jesus really meant by this statement.
I. SOMEONE IS OUT TO GET US.
a. The definition of Paranoia is the irrational fear that someone or something is out to get you.
b. The comedian Anita Weiss said, “I really don’t like living there; I have to for health reasons. I’m very paranoid and New York’s the only place where my fears are justified.” The comedian and actor Richard Lewis said, “Even at home on my stationary exercise bike I have a rearview mirror.” And the writer and actor Buck Henry said, “Just because your paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”
c. Paranoia is “irrational fear.” But recognizing real danger or real threat is not paranoia. In the spiritual realm there is someone who is out to get you—Satan. In our “Life Can Have Meaning” salvation tracts, we are told that “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” And that’s true. But what we sometimes forget is this: Satan also as a plan for your life—and that is to destroy you and rob you of eternal life. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
d. Several years ago, the Christian author Hal Lindsey wrote a best seller entitled “Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth.” He reminded us that the devil is powerful—more powerful than we—and only with God’s help can we resist and defeat him. Aren’t you glad for the verse in 1 John 4:4 that reminds us that “The One who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world.”
e. And because there really is a thief who “comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” we must have the Good Shepherd to watch over us and protect us. Without Him, we would surely be lost!
II. JESUS CAME TO GIVE US LIFE!
a. The Bible teaches us that God’s intentions for us have always been to give us life everlasting. Adam and Eve were created to live forever but because of their disobedience and sin, death entered the creation. The whole message of the Bible is about God’s redemptive plan for our Salvation so that death would no longer claim us, and we could have the eternal life that He has always wanted us to have.
b. The life that Jesus came to give us is an all-encompassing life. It involves body, soul and spirit. It is from conception to eternity. It is for all races, all classes, all nations. The children’s song says, “…Red and Yellow, Black and White—they are precious in His sight…” We can add to that, “Rich and Poor, Healthy and Sick; Strong and Weak-- All people, from all walks of life, are precious to God.” His desire for each one is that we have life to the fullest.
c. Let’s explore that statement from the view point of chronological age.
i. From conception I am important to God. In Psalm 139: 14 -17 we read, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast the sum of them.” If God is the author of life—and He is—then that living fetus within a mother’s womb is a creation of God. He already has His eye on that child. His desire is to bring it to fruition at the moment of birth. It is interesting that Jesus described the thief as one who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I just heard that New York State has passed a law-making abortion legal through all three trimesters. In other words, a baby can be aborted legally up until it is actually born. How can anyone think that is morally good? God is on the side of life. That is where I want to be found—don’t you?
ii. Life for Eternity. After physical Death in our present state, Jesus offers to us life eternal. There are several passages that underscore the reality of life after death. For example, there is the account of the Transfiguration where Moses and Elijah were with Jesus (see Matthew 17:1–8, Mark 9:2–8,Luke 9:28–36). And there is the account in Acts 7 where Stephen who is about to be murdered by stoning and he looked up and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father. And in Acts 9, Saul encountered Jesus on the Damascus Road. And in Mark 12: 26-27 Jesus said, “…But concerning the dead rising, have you not read about the burning bush in the book of Moses, how God told him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living...” In John 11: 25-27, when Jesus was talking to Martha after Lazarus had died, he said, “…I am the Resurrection and the Life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die, and whoever lives by believing in me will never die…” Paul describes the onset of the eternity God has planned for us in 1 Thessalonians 4: 16-17— “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so, we will be with the Lord forever.” And 1 Corinthians 15 is all about the resurrection and the eternal life God plans for us. We don’t have to fully understand it. We do not know exactly how heaven will be. But we know that Jesus will be there and, as the songwriter said, “If Jesus is there, that will be heaven for me!”
iii. Life for the Here and Now. The context in John 10 also implies that Jesus has come to give us life to the fullest right now while we are alive and well here on planet earth! In the Great Commission in Matthew 28: 20 Jesus closes by saying, “…And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Think of all the promises God has given us for right now. For example, “God is our Refuge and Strength, a very present help in time of trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Isaiah 40: 29— “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” John 14 12— “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” All these and many more are promises for us as we go about living our lives here and now. I like the KJV translation of John 10:10 where it says, “I am come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly!”
d. From Conception, through our lives here on earth, and for all eternity, Jesus desires that we have life and live it to the fullest!
January is Sanctity of Human Life Month. By that phrase we mean that human life is sacred... We have been created in the Image of God. Humanity has been “set apart” from the rest of the animal kingdom. God alone holds life and death. No one else has the right to make that decision. I worked for 12 years as a hospice chaplain. In order to become a hospice patient, there must be a prognosis that the patient has a condition that will result in death within two years. And yet I have seen some patients last much longer. And during that time, I saw several who were taken off the hospice list because their condition stabilized, and it looked like they were going to keep on living. And; while I was working for the hospital as a volunteer chaplain, I served for a period of time on the Hospital Ethics Committee. I remember an interview with a couple who could not accept their loved one’s prognoses. They wanted heroic measure done, far beyond what seemed logical. I remember telling them that ultimately, the doctors and the hospital staff or even the family, did not have the final say. God alone makes that final decision.
Life is sacred and we should treat it that way.
Right now, each of us are in that present condition. We are living our physical lives in the time between birth and eternity. And we need to remember that God’s intention is for us to experience His life-giving Presence. He has laid out conditions for us to experience that Presence. We are told that we must acknowledge the guilt of our sins and confess our guilt to Jesus, asking for His forgiveness. In that prayer is the implication that we will seek always to honor God, obeying His commands, striving to be as much like Christ as we possibly can. And we by faith believe that Jesus has paid the penalty for our guilt with his atoning death on the Cross. And by faith we accept that pardon, that forgiveness, and that cleansing that only God can give.
And I can testify, that the life that follows our acceptance of Jesus as our Savior is truly an adventure. Only in Him can you have “Life to the fullest.”
Have you begun that adventure?
FIRST CHURCH OF THE NAZARENE...BRANSON, MO
Pastor Jim Cariker…Sermon Notes…January 20, 2019
THE VISION--THE CALL
Acts 26: 12-20
Text: Acts 26:19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.”
> What caused you to choose your particular path in life?
>Paul’s Vision and Call set him on a new path for the rest of his life…
I. THE VISION
II. VISION F____ THE CALL.
III. THE VISION AND CALL GIVES US H_____ FOR TOMORROW.
Remember the Vision; Remember God’s Call. And stay true to that Heavenly Vision!
THE VISION--THE CALL
Acts 26: 12-20
Text: Acts 26:19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.”
What caused you to choose your particular path in life?
Let me tell you what set me on my path: My family started attending the Church of the Nazarene when I was about 10 years old. We rarely missed a service from that point on. I went to district children’s camp a couple times, and to District teen camp at least once. But even though I was thoroughly involved in our local church as a child and teen, it wasn’t until my senior year in High School that I really nailed my relationship with Christ. I was saved in a revival service on a Sunday evening. It was the turning point of my life.
While growing up in the church there had been a few of the old saints who had suggested that God might call me to be a preacher, but I never took it seriously until that evening in October 1968 when I publicly asked Jesus to be my Savior. Within days after that I begin to sense that God was speaking to me about the ministry. I asked questions of my pastor— “How do you know God’s will for your life?” I remember a young man in another denomination that was a guest speaker at one of the local churches. While I didn’t meet him, I was fascinated that someone so young could actually be preaching. At night when I lay my head on the pillow, I would pray that God would help me know for sure if I was to become a preacher. I think I have told you how I was actually mowing a yard and praying at the same time when I reached the point where I knew that God was calling me to preach and I promised God that I would no longer kept quiet about it and that I would testify to our church. I made an appointment with our pastor on that Sunday afternoon and he had me share my testimony in that Sunday evening service. And from there, I made plans to attend our Nazarene College in Bethany, Oklahoma to prepare for life as a preacher. The call had become so strong and so clear that I knew for certain this was what God was calling me to do. And ever since then, whenever I was going through any difficulty, I always would remember that call. And God has never released me from it.
I read again recently statistics on preachers and pastors. So many leave the ministry after just a few years. They get discouraged, experience burn out, or for some reason are lured into some other profession. And while I know that God sometimes leads people in different directions, I also know that being clear about God’s Call is an anchor. Our denominational boards who interview people who are trying to prepare for the ministry are adamant in their questioning. They want to know about “The Call” because they know if a person isn’t absolutely sure about their call, they will never succeed as a pastor or preacher.
In our scripture today in Acts, Paul, after years in the ministry and at least 3 missionary journeys, was now in prison because of his faith. And later, even though no charges were ever proven against him, he was held for a couple years in prison in Caesarea before he was shipped off in chains to appear before Caesar in Rome. Our scripture passage was taken from Paul’s speech before King Agrippa explaining why he was a follower of Christ and committed to preaching to others about Christ. I find it interesting that after all those years, all those miracles, all those new churches, all those times he had been persecuted and thrown in jail,, that he points to this vision he had of Christ where God called him to be quit fighting against Christ ad become an “Apostle to the Gentiles.”
On this January day, as we pause to reflect on our own personal life trajectories, let’s think about God’s Call and the Vision He has given us for our lives.
I. THE VISION
a. For Paul, there was the bright light and the voice from heaven and the subsequent blindness for 3 days that ended when a Christian named Ananias praying for him. We know from other passages that Paul spent a considerable amount of time immediately afterwards as he studied God’s Word and gained a whole new perspective on God’s Plan of Salvation. But it was that Damascus Road Experience that literally turned his world upside down (or, more correctly, right-side up). And in the years that followed it was that vision, that call that never left him that motivated him and sustained him in the ministry that followed.
b. Now, just as assuredly as Paul recognized this call from God, and just as assuredly I recognized God’s call on my life to be a preacher of the Gospel, I believe that God’s Call is just as vivid for each one who comes to know Christ as Savior. I know that whenever someone asks about becoming a Christian, we often lead them in the sinner’s prayer of confession. But I also know that if a person believes that all he or she has to do is a repeat a prayer but doesn’t take seriously that prayer, they will probably fall away very quickly. Being a Christian isn’t for the faint of heart. When a person starts on that journey to become a Christian, there will be all kinds of obstacles that will have to be overcome. And Satan will lay all kinds of snares to cause a person to stumble and fall. And if a person did not really feel God’s power in that call to be a Christian, and the decision was not seriously considered and the commitment was superficial, derailment and disaster is just around the corner.
c. I believe that the act of being born again involves a deep awareness of a person’s need for salvation, a deep and contrite heart of sorrow over the sins for which a person is guilty, and soul-searching, heart wrenching desperation for God’s forgiveness. And an experience like that is not soon forgotten. It involves that passion I spoke about last week—a passion to know Christ personally, intimately, experientially!
d. Let me ask you, do you remember clearly your decision to accept Christ and become a Christian? I know there are people who tell me that they accepted Christ as a young child and have always been a Christian. That may be true, but I believe that even a person who accepted Christ as a child should have some awareness of longing to know Christ more intimately.
e. That call of God and that awareness of answering that call to salvation is the anchor that holds us steady as we serve the Lord.
f. Yes, I believe God calls people to particular positions or vocations. But that vision of God and that awareness of His Call to repentance and salvation is just as important a vision as Paul’s Damascus Road Vision of Jesus.
g. How vivid is your Salvation Experience?
II. VISION FUELS THE CALL.
a. Last week we considered Paul’s statement in Philippians 3 of wanting “to know Christ” and of his desire to “press on… straining for the prize for which God called him heavenward.”
b. And in His testimony to King Agrippa, we see that it was that “heavenly vision” that was behind that lifetime of pressing and straining.
c. In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul tells of some of the hardships he faced in his ministry. I marvel at how, in spite of the difficulties, Paul never wavered. Listen again to his account:
“Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea, and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food, I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11: 24-28). In 2 Corinthians 1: 8 Paul wrote, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.”
d. What was it that kept Paul from giving up and throwing in the towel? It was that “heavenly vision” that was so vivid in his mind that reminded him that God was the One who had called him.
e. And when a person has a real experience with Jesus Christ—an experience that involves deep conviction and repentance from sin—when faced with life’s challenges must have a solid and real anchor to keep him or her on track.
f. No matter what happens in life and no matter how difficult things become, a person needs to be able to point to that Call of God on his or her life and know that it was real.
g. I was the first pastor of the West Park Church of the Nazarene in Fort Scott, Kansas when it was started in 1979. We had to buy property and build a building. And until we were able to get that building ready, we had to search from week to week for a place to meet. Money was tight, and we were often behind on some of our obligations. I had to do a lot of fund raising during that time. We had people come out of curiosity to see what the new church was like. And often, once their curiosity was satisfied, they disappeared. I can tell you there was a lot of stress during those days. But God had called, and I knew that I was where I was supposed to be. And in some of those very difficult times, that Call of God was all that kept me going. I remember telling one of my board members one time that no matter what, we were going to do what we knew was right in God’s eyes even if we lost people over whatever the situation was. It was His vision and His call that kept us going.
h. What I am saying is this: If your experience with God was superficial and you really didn’t put your whole heart into it, when the going gets tough, you will not be able to keep on. Our passion for God and His Will is what keeps us going.
III. THE VISION AND CALL GIVES US HOPE FOR TOMORROW.
a. In Acts 27, Paul was being escorted to Rome by a centurion. They were on a ship that had been caught up in a terrible storm. The crew had thrown overboard the cargo and was fighting for survival and it didn’t look very promising. Then, beginning in Acts 17:21 we read, “After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: ‘Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because no one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of “God, to whom I belong and whom I serve, stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar, and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you. So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me” (Acts 27: 21-25).
b. You see, Paul had a vision from God that kept him on track throughout his ministry. And now, when the situation looked bleak, God gave him a vision of encouragement and hope.
c. When you stay true to God’s Call, when you strive to honor Him with your life by being obedient to His will, He will see you through even the darkest hours.
d. I’ve heard it said and I agree that some of the most encouraging words in the Bible are, “And it came to pass…” When we keep our eyes on Jesus, we know that no matter what the present circumstances may be, there is Hope for the future. In Hebrews 12: 1 & 2 we read, “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangle. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith…”
Make certain of your call. Don’t be satisfied with a superficial salvation. Seek God with all of your heart. And when you experience Him and the transformation that He gives, don’t forget.
Keep your eyes on Jesus. Don’t allow life’s circumstance to get your eyes off Jesus and on to the problems. Keep that vision of God ever before you and you will be blessed.
Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Remember the Vision; Remember God’s Call. And stay true to that Heavenly Vision!
What are you passionate about?
If you aren’t passionate about something, then you are not living up to your potential.
I know some of you are passionate about sports. I like sports. I try to watch the playoff games leading up to the Super Bowl, but if I have to miss a game, it’s no big deal. I don’t know the names of most of the players and I am not capable of making relevant predictions of who will win or lose. I am interested but I can’t say that I am passionate about sports.
I like good food, but I am not one of those who require everything to be just perfect. I like steak, medium well, but can take it slightly more red or cooked through and through. And coffee is coffee. I buy my coffee according to price, not so much by taste. I suppose Starbucks is good, but McDonald’s senior coffee suits me just fine. It just isn’t that important to me.
I enjoy good music, but I have to admit that my radio station is usually attuned to talk radio rather than music stations.
I guess I am just not that passionate about many things.
I may have an interest, but I certainly am not passionate about a lot of things.
But I am passionate about honesty and integrity. I am passionate about treating others fairly. I am passionate about protecting my family. I am passionate about serving God. And when all is said and done, my personal spiritual life thrives on my passion for loving God and loving others.
What are you passionate about?
In our scripture this morning the Apostle Paul reveals his supreme passion—to know Christ, to experience what Christ experienced, and to achieve the prize that God has for those who diligently seek Him.
During this first month of the New Year I like to take time to examine the goals that are before me. I want to go to heaven. I want to take as many people with me to heaven as I possibly can. I want to be found faithful at the task of living a holy life. And I want to make sure the passion for these goal--and especially my passion for God-- is real, that the fire of passion is burning brightly and that there is nothing draining that passion away.
Paul’s statement gives us a template for achieving the highest goal with the greatest passion. Let’s explore these words more carefully.
I. CHRIST IS THE ULTIMATE GOAL.
a. “I want to know Christ…”(verse 10)
b. Notice he didn’t say “I want to know about Christ.” I’m sure that would have been true up to a point. I want to know about important people. I like to know their background, their likes and dislikes, their special talents, their political perspectives. But I can know all those things without ever really knowing the person. And I would venture to say that there are a lot of people who have lived who wanted to know about Christ. But for all their knowledge of Him they never really knew Him.
c. Paul wanted to have a personal relationship with Christ. A personal relationship is one where a person experiences another person. We walk together, talk together, share ideas, feel one another’s hurts as well as their triumphs. I preached a message from the passage in a revival several years ago and pointed out how strong a word the word “know” is in the Bible. In the Old Testament when a man knew his wife, there was usually a baby on the way.
d. Paul reminds us the most important relationship, the most important desire, the most important treasure, the ultimate achievement in life, is to have a personal, experiential, relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
e. And that is the message of the Bible. The very first of the 10 Commandment is, “Thou shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). Anything in our life that is more important to us than God is a false god. And Jesus reminded us that the greatest of all the commandments is to, “Love God with all our heart, soul, mind and Strength.”
f. And that spells “Passion” to me. Just how much do you desire to know God? Just how much time and effort do you put in to having a personal relationship with Him? He must be the supreme passion, the supreme motivation of my life!
II. MY PRIORITIES MUST KEEP CHRIST AT THE TOP.
a. Listen again to Paul’s words: “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith’ ((Phil. 3: 8-9).
b. Several years ago there was a man who asked me to pray for him. He was in business for himself and he was trying to obtain an account for his product. I told him I would but I cautioned him that whatever happened he must remember to put God first in his life. He got the account, but then he decided that in order to produce the item he was selling he would have to work 7 days a week. And the first thing he cut out of his schedule was church attendance. Later, he found himself again in a desperate place and asked me again to pray for him. I told him I would not pray for him if he was not going to honor God. You see, making money had become more important to him than his commitment to God. Work had become his god.
c. In life, there are justifiable times when one may have to work on Sunday mornings. I appreciate the dedication of our doctors and nurses, our emergency responders. And, yes, I know that in our society, there are jobs that must carry on. In a tourist area such as ours, we must have restaurants and hotels and the people to keep them going. I don’t want to lay a guilt trip on anyone who is doing what is necessary. But my concern is that we must be careful not to neglect our commitment to Christ. We must make our personal relationship with Christ a priority. If we don’t make it a priority, we will drift away.
d. In the Parable of the Sower we are told how some seed fell on the ground and took root and started to grow, but then was choked out by the thorns. Jesus explained in Matthew 13: 22, this way: “The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.
e. There are always problems that arise. There will always be necessities that demand our attention. We must provide for our family. We must make sure there are food and shelter and clothes and security. That is a never ceasing fact of life. But in Matthew 6:33 Jesus insisted that, “We seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…”
f. Christ is our ultimate Goal. And keeping that the top priority of our lives takes discipline. I must make living for Christ a priority above everything else. If I am not diligent, the cares of this world have a way of creeping and taking over, robbing the passion I must have in my daily Christian walk.
III. I MUST HAVE PASSION FOR THE LONG-HAUL
a. In Philippians 3: 13 & 14 Paul said, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Let’s consider: “Forgetting what is behind…” Branson is a retirement area. I can’t tell you how many times I have talked to people who move here who tell me how active they were in their former church. Some taught Sunday School, served on church boards, helped with other ministries. But it breaks my heart when I think of those who in essence tell me, “But I’ve done my time. I came here to retire. Someone else can do those ministries now.” I know there comes a time when we must pass the baton to the younger generation. But nowhere in the Bible do I read that there is a reward for quitting when a person is able to serve. As a matter of fact, a recurring theme in the Letters to the Seven Churches in Revelation is, “Blessed are those who are faithful to the end!”
b. I read a story once about a doctor who went with his family on a cruise. He told his family not to let anyone know that he was a doctor. After all, this was vacation and he didn’t want to have it interrupted. He was going to just relax and blend in with the crowd. If people knew he was a doctor he knew people would be bothering him for free medical advice. While lounging on the dock, he heard a call issued: “Is there a doctor on board, we have a medical emergency. A young boy has fallen and needs help. The doctor thought to himself, “I’m on vacation. There must be someone else available. I will just ignore the call. In a few minutes the call was issued again. A crowd was gathering just a ways from him, and finally his curiosity got the best of him, and he slipped in to the crowd and edged his way closer to see what was going on. And finally he saw the boy covered with blood. He had slipped and fallen and hit his head. And as the doctor looked closer, suddenly it dawned on him. It was his son who was hurt and needed medical attention. And then the doctor suddenly sprang into action. Vacation and rest meant nothing—his son needed his attention. And there are boys and girls and men and women all around us who need someone to respond to their calls for help. It doesn’t matter what you did in your former church—if someone is in need, you must step up and do what you can. We are to be Christ’s witnesses 24/7. We cannot coast into heaven on what we did yesterday. We must be about our Father’s business today!
c. And Paul said, “I press on…” And he talks about “straining toward what is ahead.” Those words don’t describe coasting or drifting or sitting on the shelf or just being a spectator. They describe a person who is putting his whole self into the effort. Again, these are words that describe a person who is passionate about serving the Lord and growing in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
d. We must not give up. We must not allow Satan to rob us of our salvation. We must not decide the effort is too much. We must not decide we are too tired to go on. God has promised help, rest, strength, and victory. We must have passion for the long haul. We must be faithful to the end!
And remember: THE REWARD IS WORTH THE EFFORT. Paul says that all this effort is “to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
The old timers used to say, “There’s a heaven to gain and a hell to shun!” And heaven is far more wonderful that we could ever imagine. We live in an imperfect world here. But heaven will be perfect in every way. John describes his vision of heaven with the most beautiful words he can think of. The precious stones that he refers to were the most beautiful and valuable gems he could imagine. I would suggest to you that they are simply guideposts pointing towards something far beyond our ability to describe or even to imagine. Beauty, peace, security, love, relationships, fulfillment, contentment for all eternity—How can you really put that into words?
But God has promised that heavenly home for all who are faithful to the end. And it takes real passion, real determination, real commitment, real discipline, real trust to stay true to the end.
But we have the opportunity and privilege to get started. Fall in love with God. Become passionate about honoring Him. Don’t let anything get between you and your devotion to righteousness and his Kingdom.
It will be worth it all!