VICTORIOUS over Loneliness
Social distancing isn’t my favorite.
Maybe it isn’t yours either.
But if you ever feel like you’re social distancing life isn’t very fun for you, google #SocialDistancingFails. You’ll quickly realize maybe you don’t have it so bad.
Like this guy who wanted some bananas, because he wanted to stay safe, he ordered 3 bananas for delivery –and received three bunches instead.
Or the guy whose phone stopped working, but because the repair shop was closed, he bought himself a brand-new phone – which he proceeded to drop as he opened the package.
Or this family, whose kid heard his mom talking about how she’d have to give him a haircut since the barber was closed, so - he tried it himself.
Social distancing is necessary for preventing the spread of the virus.
But it may also exacerbate another struggle:
Loneliness has been a problem in America before social distancing was ever a thing.
Today we’re going see how Jesus gives us VICTORY OVER LONELINESS. Before we do that, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth. Your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. What Makes the Good Shepherd “Good”
The Scripture we’re going to start with today comes from John 10.
Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd.” (John 10:11)
Shepherding was very common at the time of Jesus. Shepherds would usually take their flocks outside the city. They’d watch over them as they grazed. They’d lead them to water. They’d protect the sheep from any dangerous predators.
If you were a good shepherd, the sheep would be generally well fed.
You’d be awake watching the flock, for as long as your shift lasted.
And when the owner showed up to ask how you were doing, you were amicable.
That’s the human definition of “good” shepherd.
But that’s not God’s definition of a GOOD shepherd:
The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired man, who is not a shepherd, does not own the sheep. He sees the wolf coming, leaves the sheep, and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the sheep and scatters them. Because he works for money, he does not care about the sheep. (John 10:11-13)
In the literal sense of what Jesus says, let’s not judge the hired hand too harshly.
We see the passage and we think – how awful that hired hand is – he runs away from those poor sheep.
How could he do that?
If you worked at Starbucks, would you be willing to mix up a Latte, if it meant dodging machine gun fire over your head?
If you were a dog walker, would you keep doing your job, even if there were reports of land mines planted up and down your street?
If you were an accountant, would you be willing to do people’s taxes, even if alligators kept attacking you every time you started a spreadsheet (because they love “crunching” numbers)?
Of course not.
These are just jobs.
They might not be worth your life.
This is happening right now.
People aren’t going to work, because it isn’t worth getting the Coronavirus and possibly dying.
It’s the same thing with shepherding.
Shepherding was a regular line of work.
You got paid to watch sheep.
Most shepherds would not lay down their lives for their sheep.
Because $10 bucks an hour is not worth becoming a deli sandwich for a wolf pack.
Most shepherds wouldn’t lay down their lives for the sheep.
Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
You are his sheep.
Jesus lays down his life for you.
Key TRUTH 1:
The Good Shepherd would rather lose HIS LIFE than lose YOU.
II. The Good Shepherd Rescues
And you ask, “How was God about to lose me?”
Do you want to know the honest truth about sin?
Sin is reprehensible to God.
Granted – some sins are repulsive to us too.
But not all sin is.
You probably don’t have a problem with a few lies.
A gossipy comment on Facebook.
A lustful look every now and then.
A brief headache from a night of overdrinking.
Even a short, three-minute complaint session about your spouse.
Here’s where God is different.
God won’t allow SIN in his PRESENCE.
It’s like that one friend on Facebook that gets a bit too political for your taste.
They post every hour on the hour.
Unfortunately, you’ve paused to get angry at his posts long enough that Facebook recognizes your interests and shows you more and more of his political commentary.
Until eventually, you can’t stand it anymore.
You click in the upper right-hand corner.
You SNOOZE him for 30 days.
You have successfully removed him from your presence.
That’s how God feels about sin.
He hates sin so much that he wants sin completely removed from his presence.
But it’s deeper than that.
The other day there was a stink coming from our house. I couldn’t exactly identify what the stink was, so I tried various things.
Open the windows? Didn’t get rid of it.
Grab some Febreeze and cover the couches? Nope.
Burn a Pumpkin Spiced Latte candle? Now it just smells like Pumpkin Spiced Latte stink.
Finally, I got a bit too close to my dog, Clay.
I gave him a sniff.
And immediately took him outside.
If you want to treat the stink, remove the source of the stink.
God truly wants to treat sin.
But he knows that he can’t just treat the symptoms of sin.
He must remove the source.
And what’s the source of a sin? A sinner.
What’s the source of your sin?
Look at what Isaiah 59:2,
Your sins have separated you from your God!
Read that again. Slowly.
Your sins have separated YOU from God.
It doesn’t say, “Your sins have separated themselves from God!”
It says, “Your sins have separated YOU from God. “
God won’t allow SINNERS in His PRESENCE.
Friend, listen to God’s Word.
If this isn’t corrected, you’ll be socially distanced from God for all of eternity.
It’s the worse social isolation of all time.
Hell is eternal social distancing from God!
It’s a place where God isn’t there.
Sometimes on earth – things are bad.
But…at least we’ve got God.
There’s no GOD in hell.
There’s only LONELINESS.
But you see, this is where the Good Shepherd comes in.
Even though God, as Holy Judge, can’t stand your sin,
God, as Good Shepherd, can’t stand losing you.
He noticed that you were missing.
He noticed that you weren’t with the flock.
He noticed that you weren’t safely in God’s pastures.
The Good Shepherd picked up his staff.
The Good Shepherd put on his cloak.
The Good Shepherd walked out of his pasture.
The Good Shepherd came into Valley of the Shadow of Death. (We call it: Earth.)
And on earth, he found you.
Surrounded by wolves:
All led by that alpha dog, Satan.
But the Good Shepherd wasn’t afraid.
The Good Shepherd didn’t turn back.
The Good Shepherd made a deal with the wolves.
“Let my sheep go.”
“You can have me instead.”
And the wolves tore him to shreds.
They surrounded him!
They roughed him up.
They barked insults at him.
They tore his clothing.
They salivated as his blood.
And howled with delight as he died.
Why did the Shepherd allow this?
Why didn’t he run?
To save you.
The Good Shepherd allowed the wolves to HARM him that they wouldn’t harm YOU.
Allow me to give you a straightforward message from God’s word.
Because of what the Good Shepherd did, the wolf of sin no longer surrounds you.
Because of what the Good Shepherd, the wolf of guilt cannot lick its chops.
Because of what the Good Shepherd did, you will not be eternally isolated.
Because of what the Good Shepherd did, you are not separated from God.
Because of what the Good Shepherd did, you…have been brought…home.
KEY TRUTH 2:
The Good Shepherd saved you from ETERNAL ISOLATION.
III. The Good Shepherd Lives
Granted, that is great news!
You aren’t alone.
You are in God’s flock.
You are a part of God’s pasture.
You aren’t spiritually isolated from God.
It’s a bit dissatisfying.
We’re out of isolation.
But we had to lose the Good Shepherd in order to get here.
It’s too bad he couldn’t overpower the wolves.
Look at what Jesus says in verse 18:
No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have the authority to lay it down, and I have the authority to take it up again. (v.18)
Do you see that?
The wolves didn’t take the Good Shepherd’s life,
The Good Shepherd gave his life to them.
And why did he give it?
Because he knows he could take his life back again.
The Good Shepherd let the wolves OVERPOWER him because he knew he could overpower DEATH.
Talk about a skillset!
I don’t think any other shepherd had that skill.
Some were skilled at navigating to find water.
Others were skilled at identifying non-poisonous plants for the sheep to eat.
A few could probably sheer the wool into a killer mohawk.
But the Good Shepherd’s greatest skill?
Mastery over death.
And that’s exactly what happened!
Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead.
He came out of the grave.
He resurrected his own body.
And he lives!
KEY TRUTH 3:
The Good Shepherd LIVES!
Right now, he’s with you.
Right now, he’s watching over you.
Even if you’re at home alone.
Even if you’re in a hospital bed alone.
Even if you haven’t seen another person in 16 days!
Jesus is with you.
You aren’t alone.
IV. The Good Shepherd Knows You
Sometimes you’d rather be alone than with someone.
For instance, I have no desire to be left alone with any kind clown.
Not a creepy one.
Not a regular one.
Not Bozo the clown.
I’d rather be alone than with any of those clowns.
Maybe it’s similar for you.
Maybe you don’t want to be alone with your 7th grade math teacher.
Maybe you don’t want to be alone with your ex-spouse.
Maybe you don’t want to be alone with that former friend who dragged your name through the mud.
Maybe you don’t want to be alone with a stranger!
Picture that. Imagine you were isolated with someone who didn’t know you and you didn’t know them.
I see that you have hair.
So…what’s your favorite flavor of Dorito?
Jesus isn’t a stranger.
“I am the Good Shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.” (V.15)
Granted, there are billions of people in the world. It would be downright impossible for any one human to know them all.
In fact, I doubt there’s anyone in Raleigh who knows everyone in Raleigh.
Honestly, I don’t think I know all the people on my Facebook feed.
But Jesus knows all of those people.
And Jesus knows YOU.
And he knows you WELL.
Jesus knows YOU as intricately as he knows his FATHER.
God is Triune.
That means he is three in one.
The Father is God.
Jesus is God.
The Holy Spirit is God.
Yet there aren’t three gods, but one God.
The Father is God.
Jesus is God.
The Holy Spirit is God.
Yet there isn’t just one person, but three distinct persons.
This is impossible to fully grasp and understand.
But God gets it.
He understands how the three persons in the Godhead intersect.
He knows where one ends and the other begins.
He grasps how they are all three perfectly united as one Being.
And that’s how well God knows you.
He knows your fears.
He knows your sadness.
He knows your heartaches.
He knows what you’re going through right now.
And he is there with you.
Jesus knew your SECRET sin – and still DIED for you.
That’s what he repeats in verse 15. He says, “I lay down my life for the sheep.”
But Jesus isn’t repeating it just to show off.
He wants you to know how well he knows you.
He knows that it was YOU who stole the cookie from the cookie jar way back when you were 6.
He knows that it was YOU who graffitied that bathroom stall in high school.
He knows that it was YOU who passed on that gossip about your best friend.
He knows what YOU did behind closed doors.
He knows what YOU did under cover of darkness.
He knows what YOU did and have never told anyone.
He knows it.
And he still died for you.
KEY TRUTH 4:
The Good Shepherd KNOWS you better than ANYONE.
He knows your strengths.
He knows your weaknesses.
He knows exactly how he’ll work through you to bring more sheep into his sheep pen.
This leads to the “What Now?” for the week.
V. What Now?
(1) Call Out to Sheep Outside the Pen!
Jesus says this, “I also have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. (v.16)
Jesus isn’t satisfied with the sheep that are in his sheep pen now.
There are others who don’t know about his love.
There are others who aren’t believers.
There are others who aren’t a part of his sheep pen...
If that’s you, listen to his voice right now.
He’s calling you.
Come into the sheep pen.
But for those of us already in the sheep pen, this is Jesus command to us.
Call out to those other sheep.
Tell them about Jesus.
Share with them the Gospel message.
If you know someone who doesn’t know about Jesus, write their name down.
Write it down and then, here’s what I want you to do.
Look for ways to share Jesus with them.
You could talk with them about Jesus.
You could send them a text message with a link to this video.
You could send them an inspirational scripture.
Do this today – and then – put the note on your fridge –
So that you can do it again later this week.
The truth is that sometimes you must keep calling and calling.
If you have a pet, you understand this.
As you keep calling and calling, the Good Shepherd’s voice will be heard through your voice…
Calling them home.
(2) Call Out to Sheep Inside the Pen
Right now, we can’t physically get together.
But we need to still stay connected.
Look at what verse 17 says:
Then there will be one flock and one shepherd.
We are one flock.
We have one shepherd.
Write down someone that you know from our church community.
You can use the same piece of scratch paper.
Write down someone that you know and haven’t talked to in a while.
Got it down?
Reach out to them today.
Text to see how they’re doing.
Call to see what’s been going on.
Facetime so that you can smile at them.
Not only will they be hearing your voice.
Not only will you be hearing theirs.
But together, you’ll be hearing the Good Shepherd’s.
Because sheep know their shepherd’s voice.
There’s this video on YouTube of a field trip to a farm.
They came to the pasture with the sheep and the shepherd asked them to each take a shot at calling the sheep over to the gate.
The first kid tried, “Here sheepy! Sheepy!”
The second kid tried, “C’mon! Sheep. This way!”
A chaperone tried, “Baa! Baa! Come over here!”
Finally, it was the shepherd’s turn.
Now, it’s in Norwegian, so I’ll give you my best guess, but…
The shepherd calls out: “Alright sheep. Time to go!”
As soon as they hear his voice, the sheep look up.
As soon as he finishes his sentence, the sheep start moving.
Within 15 seconds, the whole flock comes running to their shepherd’s voice.
The sheep know the voice of their shepherd.
We know the voice of our shepherd.
And our shepherd says, “We aren’t alone.” Amen.
POWER over Sickness
This morning, we will begin our miracle series, by examining God’s incredible power of sickness. But before we do that, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth, your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see, our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Defining Miracle
I think it’s important to start a study on miracles by defining the word “miracle.” So, here it is:
A miracle is an occurrence outside the NATURAL laws of the Universe.
Because miracle can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. Over time, I think we’ve “dumbed down” the phrase.
For instance, we use it at childbirth. A baby is born and people post on Instagram: “Check out my child! #Miracle”
Is childbirth amazing? Yes. Is it a miracle though? Not really. That’s how God set up the universe.
We even use it in sports. “I can’t believe my favorite football team made the playoffs. It’s a miracle!” Might it have been impressive? Sure. But is it a miracle? Not so much.
But when the New Testament uses the word miracle it actually is talking about events that occur outside the natural order of things.
Seawater standing up like drywall? That’s not how water usually works.
A heavy rock wall tumbling because of trumpet noise? Not normal.
Three men being thrown into a fiery furnace and coming out unsinged? Let’s not test it.
A virgin giving birth to a child? Miracle.
In the New Testament, the number one miracle doer is Jesus.
But did you know that Jesus miracles aren’t often called miracles as much as they are called signs.
That’s interesting. Because a sign functions by pointing you in the right direction.
We have signs in our hallways that say “Restrooms” with a little arrow putting in a certain direction. The point of the sign? To direct you to the restrooms.
Even a traffic light. GREEN means “GO”, red means “STOP, and yellow means, “hurry up it’s about to turn red.”
Jesus’ miracles were SIGNS pointing people to his DIVINITY.
Think about it:
If God’s the one that set the laws of the universe into motion, then he is the only one able to act outside of those laws.
It’s like STAYING UP LATE. If the rule of your house is that kids need to be in bed by 9 pm, the kids need to go to bed, but the adult can stay up. (Granted, they might not. They might be in bed on the couch around 7:15 pm, but you get the point.)
Your kids can’t. You can. You set up the law; you can act outside of it.
Jesus acts outside of the laws of the universe set up by God, in all of his miracles.
Because he is God himself.
II. The Man with Leprosy
But it enough talking about it. Let me show you.
When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed him. Just then, a leper came to him and bowed down to him, saying, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” (Mt. 8:1-2)
Notice. There are large crowds of people with Jesus. They had just heard Jesus give the Sermon on the Mount, a very famous sermon. They were all drawn in by Jesus’ speech and his ideas.
But someone that hadn’t made it up to the mountain was waiting as they came down.
He was a leper which means that he had the disease known as leprosy. It was a flesh-eating disease that slow dried out your cartilage and cause the tips of your fingers, your toes, your nose, and your ears to (brace yourself) fall off.
Leprosy was awful. Still is! If you want to know how awful, do a Google image search. (But not if you’re faint of heart.)
Besides being awful…
Leprosy was INCURABLE. This isn’t true anymore. There is a cure. But at the time, there weren’t any medicines, any acupuncture, any essential oil, any healthy diet, or any operation that anyone knew about in order to cure it. That means that if you were diagnosed with leprosy you had to quickly resign yourself to the fact that you would not be healed.
Leprosy was CONTAGIOUS. It was so contagious that if you were diagnosed with leprosy, you were sent into quarantine. Only the quarantine wasn’t a room in your house. You were sent outside the city walls, into the desert to live in what they called “leper colonies”.
Leprosy was FATAL. The end result, 100 percent of the time was death.
All these truths about leprosy left this man was without hope.
He had heard doctor after doctor tell him there was no cure.
He was alone, banished outside the city.
He knew what had happened to other friends – they died.
This meant -
He wouldn’t get to see his family again.
He wouldn’t get to hold his children again.
He wouldn’t get to kiss his wife again.
He wouldn’t feel better.
He wouldn’t regain strength.
He wouldn’t go back to his job.
He’d be by himself.
Outside the city walls.
Did you notice something about this man?
He approached Jesus with confidence.
He didn’t say: “If you are able…”
Or, “If you have the strength…”
Or, “If you have the right medicine…”
He said, “If you are willing…”
Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean.”
And after Jesus says that, there aren’t months of radiation.
There aren’t weeks of chemo.
There aren’t even 15 minutes to allow the medicine to take effect.
Jesus simply speaks and…
IMMEDIATELY he was healed of his leprosy.
And if you’re thinking, “That’s impossible.”
Remember – there’s a crowd of people present.
It wasn’t Jesus by himself.
There were hundreds of witnesses to this miracle.
Many who had undoubtedly seen that man sitting around outside the city gates day after day after day.
In fact, Jesus has professionals corroborate the healing. He tells him to “Go, show (himself) to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” (v.4) The priests at this time were similar to doctors. They were able to pronounce people as diseased or not.
They were probably the same people who once told the man, “You are diseased, away from us!”
Now? They were saying to him, “You’re healed! Celebrate with us.”
And remember – while this is 2000 years after the fact, this book is not. These words that we are reading right now were written down at a time when the majority of the people who witnessed this would have still been alive.
Jesus is able to CURE the INCURABLE.
Here’s where this is important:
You might know someone who has been diagnosed with disease.
You may have been diagnosed with disease.
And internet articles might not give you a chance.
Social media anecdotes might not give you a chance.
Doctors might not give you a chance.
You have Jesus. And Jesus can cure the incurable.
Do you want a second instance of this? How about sin!?!
It’s CONTAGIOUS – passed down from parents to children.
It’s INCURABLE – nothing we can do will ever remove it.
It’s FATAL – “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)
But Jesus cured the incurable!
He lived perfectly when we couldn’t.
He died innocently on the cross.
He rose triumphantly and cured you of all sin, guilt and shame!
By faith in Jesus, you are forgiven.
Incurable guilt – CURED!
This means that whatever you’re dealing with, as long as you have Jesus, you have hope.
Because Jesus provides HOPE in any ILLNESS.
He cured the incurable disease of leprosy with his hand.
He cured the incurable disease of sin with his death.
There is nothing that Jesus can’t do.
There is no disease too incurable.
There is no disease too contagious.
There is no disease too fatal for Jesus.
III. The Centurion’s Servant
Word of this miracle got around.
In fact, it made its way outside the Jewish community to a Roman centurion whose servant was deathly ill.
He must have heard stories of Jesus.
Yet he had a lot working against him. In fact, I’m sure his advisors gave him a host of reasons not to waste his time:
“Jesus is Jewish. You’re Roman. There’s too big a racial divide. He won’t help you.”
“You’re a high ranking official. What will it look like for a Roman elite to go looking for help from a homeless carpenter?”
“You’re a sinner. From what I’ve heard, this man is a holy man. He won’t give you the time of day.”
For some reason…
He trusted Jesus.
And as he looked at his servant growing pale, soaked in sweat, and approaching death.
[the] centurion came to [Jesus] and pleaded with him, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed and suffering terribly.” (v.5)
Despite the racial difference…
Despite the social difference...
Despite the man’s sin…
Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” (v.6)
But the man, thought this was too much.
He was a high ranking official and he didn’t make house visits.
And Jesus was higher ranking than him.
He didn’t need to do a house visit.
And so, the high-ranking government official said, “Lord, I am not worthy for you to come under my roof.” I’m a sinful man. You’re holy. I don’t deserve anything from you.
But only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I am also a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” (v. 8-9)
You have authority too.
You tell diseases to leave and they do.
You tell health to return and it does.
You tell bodies to be healed and they listen, because you have authority over them.
When Jesus heard this, he marveled. He said to those who were following him, “Truly, I tell you: I have not found such great faith in anyone in Israel… Go. Let it be done for you as you have believed.” (v.10)
Here’s where it gets extra amazing.
Because when the man turned to leave, he made note of the position of the sun.
Maybe just to the right of the west of the cloud.
And when he returned home, he found the servant well.
But that’s not the amazing part.
After giving him a hug.
After doing the “happy dance.”
He asked one of the other servants.
When did this happen?
“At the time the sun was right to the west of the clouds! I remember. Because I was so excited, I ran outside to tell the others.”
Make no mistake.
This was a miracle.
This was Jesus.
Jesus provides HOPE even when he’s not VISIBLY PRESENT.
Because you won’t be able to see Jesus.
Look for Dr. Jesus.
He doesn’t work at Duke.
He doesn’t work at UNC.
He doesn’t work at Rex.
He doesn’t work at Wake Med.
He grants healing to those within those walls.
You can’t see Jesus.
But that doesn’t he isn’t with you.
And it doesn’t mean he won’t provide healing.
He’s all powerful. ‘
His power goes beyond physical, tangible presence.
Again – just like sin.
You and I weren’t physically there when Jesus died on the cross.
And yet Jesus didn’t have to come to 2020 in order to die in our physical presence.
His death and resurrection cross physical, temporal boundaries to bring healing and forgiveness.
His same healing power gives us hope in the face of illness.
IV. When Healing Doesn’t Happen
People die all the time from disease.
Some are even believers.
What’s the deal?
To answer that question – I want you to remember two significant things that these the two men in today’s accounts said.
(1) Lesson from the Centurion
Remember what the centurion said to Jesus?
“I’m not worthy…”
That’s a strange statement, because this centurion was a high ranking, Roman official.
He oversaw hundreds of soldiers. (Hence the name “Century-on”)
He had a good career.
Plenty of people who looked up to him.
And yet he didn’t say, “Jesus. I demand this, because I deserve it.”
He knew he was a sinner.
He knew he only deserved death.
He knew that any healing Jesus could grant was out of his mercy.
We need to remember the same thing.
I remember that I got sick for one of my birthday’s awhile back. And I thought….
“This isn’t fair! I work hard. I serve God. I serve God’s people. And now I get a day off to celebrate my birthday and I’m sick? God I deserve to be healed.”
Is that actually true?
Did I deserve healing?
Remember – the Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.”
It’s easy to think:
I deserve healing.
I’ve done nice things.
I’ve been a good parent.
I’m worthy of being healed.
None of us are.
If God heals us physically, it’s not because we deserve it.
It’s because of his mercy.
But in God’s mercy is real hope.
Because unlike human ‘goodness’ which isn’t nearly as good as we think it is.
God’s mercy? Is a mercy that caused him to die on a cross for our sins.
Mercy that saved us to eternal life – where there won’t be any sickness.
And mercy that sometimes heals us from sickness.
(2) Lesson from the Leper
Remember what the leper said to Jesus?
“If you are willing…”
It wasn’t a question of whether healing was possible,
But whether it was God’s will.
In this man’s instance? It was.
But sometimes God’s will is that the sickness won’t be cured.
Is it because he loved that person less?
If you are suffering a sickness and you haven’t been healed yet, is it because God loves you less than the healthy?
He died on the cross for you.
He doesn’t love you less.
He loves you the same as those who are health.
In fact, it’s because of his LOVE combined with his incredible wisdom, that God sometimes allows a disease to run its course.
Sickness has a way of driving people towards Jesus.
Sickness can be God’s way of
Bringing you to faith…
Or strengthening your faith…
Or working through you to be a witness to our friends and family of our faith in Jesus.
Bringing you ultimate healing in heaven.
In heaven, there isn’t any leprosy.
In heaven, there isn’t any cancer.
In heaven, there isn’t any sickness.
In heaven, there is only health.
We are in the middle of our sermon series on Acts. In this series we have been to a lot of different places and learned a different lesson in each place. Today we’re getting a potpourri of lessons from one place and all on hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy comes from the Greek word “hypokrusis.” The word was used in Greek theater. It meant: “to play a part,” which, in Greek theater, often meant “wearing a mask.” It’s a part of theater still today – specifically known as the Marvel Big Screen.
Chris Evans dons a mask and becomes Captain America.
Chadwick Boseman dons a mask and becomes Black Panther.
Evangeline Lilly dons a mask and becomes The Wasp.
Hypocrisy, then, is when someone claims to be one thing, when they are not.
Before we begin our study of hypocrisy, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth, your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see, our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. One Kind of Hypocrisy
The lesson from Acts 19 is the first big stop on Paul’s 3rd missionary journey. Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. (19:1a) Ephesus was the Capital of the Ancient province of Asia and a bustling commercial center. Paul had briefly been there at the end of the 2nd missionary journey. Before he left, he promised to return if God allowed. Paul’s appearance in chapter 19 is a fulfillment of that promise.
When Paul arrives, he finds some disciples. (v.1b) These men claimed to be followers of the Christ. Paul greets them pleasantly. (Maybe with some high fives, jokes about not having rocks thrown at him, and an invitation to go grab lunch at the local Smashburger).
As they are hanging out, Paul asks them some conversational questions:
What’s your favorite worship song?
What do you do to serve at the church?
Do you like your coffee dark or light roast?
Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? (v.2)
The Holy Spirit is absolutely in the heart of all believers. 1 Corinthians 12:3 says, “No one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.” It’s simple. It’s clear. If you believe in Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit, because you need the Holy Spirit in order to believe.
But what Paul is talking about here is something different. Early in the history of the Christian church, during key faith-filled events, the Holy Spirit would visibly manifest his presence within a group of believers. This would serve to prove the truthfulness of the Gospel through miraculous signs. It happened at Pentecost (Acts 2) when tongues of fire appeared on the Apostles’ heads as they spoke in languages that they had never learned. It happened again in the house of the Roman Centurion Cornelius (Acts 10). In both instances, God was making it clear that this faith – and the message that this faith was placed in – was a very real and very divine message.
Paul’s question was about whether that had happened with them.
Did you get to speak in tongues?
Did fire appear on your heads?
Did you open your mouth and rainbows started shooting out?
The answer was a bit surprising:
“We hadn’t heard there was a Holy Spirit…” (v.3)
Paul responded, “Wait. What!?! You don’t know the Holy Spirit? He’s a key part of our teachings. He’s the one who brings us to faith. He’s the one who came down on Jesus like a dove. And Baptism! Haven’t you been baptized? Into whose name were you baptized? Because as far as I know…believers are baptized into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the HOLY SPIRIT.”
The men responded, “We were baptized into John’s Baptism, into the name of the Christ who is going to come in the future.”
“OK… The Christ. Good. Did you know he has already come? Did you know he already did his Christ work? Did you know his name?”
And the men looked on at another, shrugged, and replied, “I don’t know…maybe…Bob?”
Divine forehead slap.
Here’s the truth: Sometimes hypocrisy comes from IGNORANCE.
It’s like the time I was at Buffalo Wild Wings and a lady near me was decked out in Tarheel gear as she watched them battle on the football field. A while later, the Tarheels had their quarterback sacked in the end zone. The woman stood up, clapped, and shouted, “Great job! Way to go.”
Until, her friends (also in Tarheel gear) motioned for her to sit down: “Stop cheering. That was a safety. That means its two points for the other team.”
Sometimes hypocrisy comes from IGNORANCE.
Yes, I’m a believer in Jesus…and I believe you can sleep with whomever you want. Does the Bible say differently?
Yes, my social profile says: “Christian”; I like all kinds of quotes from the Bible. Also quotes from the KKK. Is there something wrong?
Yes, I’m a Christian. I’ve been my whole life. But what do you mean when you are talking about salvation by grace? Never heard of it? I thought I’d get to heaven, simply because I was good enough….
Before you say, “But if someone doesn’t know, it’s no big deal.”
Remember that ignorant hypocrisy is still hypocrisy.
It’s still wrong.
If your son winds up and punches your little daughter in the face, you don’t say, “It’s ok. He didn’t know. Let him be.” No! You course correct immediately!
In the same way, it’s still wrong when we say we are followers of Jesus, but then do the opposite of followers of Jesus, even if we simply didn’t know followers of Jesus don’t do that.
There’s a simple cure for this kind of hypocrisy. It’s called knowledge. That’s what Paul gave these men. He said to them in verse 4, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”
Jesus is the Christ.
He lived perfectly when you couldn’t.
He died innocently in your place.
He rose triumphantly for the forgiveness of your sins. I saw it with my own eyes!
And the group believes.
They are baptized into Jesus’ name.
And that Holy Spirit that they didn’t know about? He makes himself visibly known. They began to speak in tongues, and they prophesied. (v.6) Visual proof of the invisible truth that their faith in Jesus wasn’t fake; it was real.
The same is true for you. Repent of your any hypocrisy of ignorance.
To do that, look at the truth.
The truth may be that what you’ve been doing is sin.
But the truth also is that you have a Savior.
And in Jesus, you are forgiven.
II. Another Kind of Hypocrisy
But not all hypocrisy is caused by ignorance.
Next Paul entered the synagogue, a place where they studied God’s Word.
He went and spoke boldly there for three months. (v.9a)
You would expect this to produce real believers.
These people wore religious jewelry.
They went to worship.
They knew lots of the Bible.
They knew all the words to all their favorite religious songs.
They knew prayers.
They knew religious logos.
They knew God’s Word.
And yet…when Paul was done speaking…
Some of them were obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. (v.9b)
And think about the hypocrisy of it all:
They studied God’s Word.
They knew God’s Word.
Then, they refused to believe God’s Word.
And even openly mocked God’s Word.
Only to sit around congratulating each other for following that Word that they were mocking.
It’s would be like sitting in the Fellowship Hall after worship and gossiping about another believer not being a very good believer and then congratulating yourselves on being such good believers even though you’re doing things that believers aren’t supposed to do.
Sometimes hypocrisy comes from ignorance; but sometimes hypocrisy comes from obstinance.
In fact, the Greek word there means “hardened.” Tough, rough, impenetrable.
Like a rock. There’s nothing getting through the exterior into the heart of the rock. Try it. You can punch the rock. You can hit the rock with a blow dart. You could try karate chopping the rock. Nothing. Even if you took a hammer to it - that rock isn’t splitting.
The same can happen with people’s hearts.
Even the hearts of long-time Christians.
I know racism is wrong. God is for all people. You should go tell it to those people over there. They’re the racist ones. In fact, that’s how all people like them are!
I know it says that sex outside of marriage is wrong. And I haven’t had it! Look at my purity ring! Now excuse me…the adult film. I uploaded on my iPhone is coming after it’s done buffering.
I know it! Pride is wrong. Preach it pastor! Especially at that guy over there. But don’t you preach it at humble me. There’s nobody humbler than I am.
And God’s Word connects with the heart.
And the heart hardens.
And hypocrisy ensues.
If you are a long-time church goer, take extra warning!
Don’t harden your heart to God’s Word.
And then sit around congratulating yourself for following God’s Word.
Instead of hardening your heart, look at God’s heart.
Because God’s heart was not hard.
His heart was filled with compassion.
His heart was filled with love for you…even when you repeatedly hardened your heart against him.
His heart was not hardened like a rock.
When he hung on that cross…
The soldiers reached up with a spear.
They plunged it into his him.
But softened with love for you.
Even now. Even if you’ve hardened your heart before, listen to his heart for you.
Repent of your hypocrisy.
And do it quickly.
III. All Kinds of Hypocrisy
As Paul continued his ministry, God continued to bless Paul. In fact, look at the amazing things that God did through Paul: Even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched Paul were taken to the sick and their illnesses were cured, and the evil spirits left them. (v.12)
That’s amazing! Paul’s handkerchiefs cured from the flu and his aprons drove out evil spirits. But look at what happened, “Seven sons of Sceva (Which…Listen to the name. It sounds shady. Almost like an evil muppet or something) they went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon possessed. They would say, “In the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” (v.12-13)
To be fair, this doesn’t look hypocritical.
It looks like they are trying to help.
They aren’t ignorant of Jesus’ name. They use it.
They aren’t obstinately opposed to Jesus. God is against demons, too.
Yet, look at what happened.
One day an evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. (v.15)
Do you see the problem?
But God could.
Maybe they weren’t doing this out of love for Jesus.
But out of love for power.
Maybe they weren’t doing this out of love for others.
But out of love for themselves.
They were hypocrites.
Good ones too! It was hard to tell that they were doing anything wrong.
But here’s the truth:
Sometimes hypocrisy comes from ignorance.
Sometimes hypocrisy comes from obstinance.
But hypocrisy is always exposed.
A family member finds out.
A pastor discovers the truth.
Your spouse learns about what you were trying to hide.
Always hypocrisy is exposed.
Even if you successfully hide it from all other human beings, God knows.
God knows and he will expose it.
At the end of time, you won’t be able to hide it.
And he won’t be able to hide his displeasure.
He’ll simply say:
Jesus, I know…
And Paul I know…
Who are you?
IV. What Now?
Therefore, God calls us to repent.
To turn from hypocrisy.
To turn to our Savior.
And the way to do that is to:
(1). Switch Your Mask
We said that hypocrisy is putting on a mask. Covering up our sins with a nice looking, “Christian” façade.
Make me think of Halloween. That’s a time for masks. There’s a wide variety of them at Precious Lambs. I remember there was one kid who made his own mask. It was made of string and paper. The paper covered up…one of his eyebrows. He said: “You don’t know who I am.” And I said: “Uh-huh.”
Hypocrisy? That’s like hiding behind the paper eyebrow mask.
We think it hides our sinfulness from God.
Instead, check out Galatians 3:27
All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Just like a full-fledged mask, it fully and completely covers up all your sins.
Jesus covers up your obstinance.
Jesus covers up your ignorance.
Jesus covers up your sin so much so that when God looks at you, He only sees – His child.
So much so that God calls us to our second WHAT NOW:
(2). Go Public
Look at the reaction of the people to what had occurred. Many who believed came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. (v.18)
Think about that: Believers gathered in the middle of the city with their arms filled of books that they had been storing in their homes. Books that weren’t about the Bible. Books that were about Satan, witchcraft, and sexual immorality.
It’d be like someone coming to the front of church and making a pile of a raunchy racist DVDs, two illegal drug baggies, and an iPhone loaded with pornographic content.
That’s take courage to do in front of everyone, right?
But they had the courage.
Because they were covered in Christ’s righteousness.
Because they knew they were God’s children.
Because they knew God’s children were serious about getting rid of sin.
Because they knew God’s other children wouldn’t ridicule them, but support them.
They went public with it.
Do the same.
Examine your heart.
Find your hypocrisy
And Go public with it.
Go public with a friend, a pastor, or a family member!
And if someone trusts you enough to publicly confess a secret sin to you, don’t say:
“Just a second while I share what you did on social media.”
Share the Gospel.
Remind them of Christ’s mask.
Help them incinerate whatever it is they are struggling with!
Because in that, God’s Word is spread.
In fact, look at the last verse:
In this way, the word of the Lord spread widely. (v.20)
Because when God’s Word gets us to stop being hypocrites and start being real, then God’s Word really spreads.
If we’re real -- real with God and real with each other -- then the community will notice.
FRESH: reFRESHing Friendships
We’re in the middle of a sermon series called FRESH. This week our topic is refreshing friendships. We want to learn how to seek refreshing friendships and how to be refreshing friends. Before we do that, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Friendship and Its Blessings
To start – a bit of a study on the Greek word for friendship: “Philia”. Philia is actually one of four Greek words for “love”:
Storge is the word used for parental love. In parental love, love develops downward between the parent and their child. The parent loves the child because he sees the child’s need for love. The child loves the parent because of their providing.
Eros is the word for romantic love. In romantic love, love develops between two people that are facing each other. Picture them looking into each other’s eyes romantically. This is a back and forth relationship. The man loves the woman because she is gorgeous. The woman loves the man because he is studly.
Philia is a bit different. Rather than a love that involves people looking at each other, friendship love develops between two people that are standing side by side. They are side by side as they face something together.
To put it another way, friendship develops as you go through life together:
Friendship develops as you cheer for your favorite football team together.
Friendship develops as you talk about being a mom together.
Friendship develops as you watch The Bachelor together.
Friendship develops as you pretend to be the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles together.
Unlike the other two types of love which point the people at each other, philia love points people at their shared goal.
Friendship is a love between two people who share a common goal.
For me, some of my best friends have come from my time playing football. I shared some common experiences with those guys. I remember sweating with them. I remember getting bruised with them. I remember waking up at 5am to go and run sprints around the football field with them. I remember rolling around in the mud in the middle of a torrential downpour with them. I remember practicing in 10-degree weather, snow falling everywhere, wearing these big yellow, football coats in order to stay warm with them.
I remember winning with them.
I remember losing with them.
I remember sharing the common goal of playing football with them.
And here’s the thing – I can call up some of those friends even today and instantly get into an argument about whose fault it is that in round 2 of State tournament. We gave up a 65-yard TD run to lose the game in the closing minutes (Spoiler: It wasn’t me. My assignment was the fullback)
Maybe you have a few friends like that, too. The Bible describes the blessings of friendship:
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. (Ecclesiastes 4:9) This is like that old Math problem. If I can paint a house in 45 hours and you can paint it in 40 hours, how fast do we paint it together? The answer is – that it’s faster. Two people with the shared goal of work, have the blessings of doing that work together.
If one falls down, one can help the other up. (v.10) You get the picture of two friends whose shared goal is running a Tough Mudder. If one of them falls down into the mud, the friend will stop to help them up. Their shared goal develops a bond where it is mutually beneficial to help each other along the goal.
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. (v.11) This is the blessing of protection. Remember – this is written at a time when people walked dangerous ancient roads from city to city – where bandits could easily attack a solo travel. Two people? That increases your eyes on attack; it increases your hands in the fight; it increases the muscle power on your team. Modernly speaking, two sets of thumbs increase your chances of defeating other teams in Fortnite.
Friendship is a Biblical concept. The Bible agrees that it is a blessing for people go through life together with other people.
II. Where to Avoid Friendship
The Bible also has something say about where to find our friendships.
It has something to say about the difference between a beneficial friendship and a not so beneficial friendship.
Take a look at James 4:4-5 -
Don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who choose to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
The Bible is not saying, “Don’t be friends with anyone in this world.” Nope. If that were the case, we’d have to pay closer attention to NASA’s trips searching for life on other planets. Chewbacca or ALF might be the only options.
But the Bible is telling us to be careful that earthly friendships do not lead us to loving the world – and worldly things – more than God.
Specifically – I think it warns against two types of friendships:
1) Sin Based Friendships.
This may seem obvious… at least…theoretically.
Friendships that lead you into sin are not refreshing.
Again – obviously, in theory; but oblivious in practicality.
It’s so easy for friendship to revolve around sin:
The friend with whom you share the goal of getting drunk – and the guilt of having done stupid things.
The friends with whom you share the joy of gossiping about others – and the insecurity that they’re probably doing that about you in some other group.
The friends with whom you share the goal of getting together and bad mouthing the government – and lack giving of attention to my own inadequacies and failures.
Friendships that revolve around sin also revolve around guilt.
There’s nothing refreshing about guilt.
2) Material Things.
This is more challenging to see, because material things are not inherently sinful.
It isn’t wrong to have money.
It isn’t wrong to like politics.
It isn’t wrong to enjoy the sandwiches at Chick-fil-A.
And it isn’t wrong to have friendship that are based on these things.
But…what happens when material things are your focus?
Let me tell you about the Corinthian congregation. The Corinthian congregation was a group of believers that lived in a very materially focused society. Corinth was a trading area. Corinth had a big marketplace. Corinth was about money, money, money, money. The here. The now. The everyday. The material.
And some of the Corinthians had a lot of friends that were very focused on material things.
So…the Corinthian believers had a bit of a disconnect going on in their lives.
On Sundays, they’d gather for worship and be reminded: “It’s all about Jesus! He is our Savior. He leads to eternal life.”
The rest of the week? “Jesus doesn’t matter. He isn’t real. Worry about money. That’s real.”
The end result? Quite a few of the Corinthian believers stopped believing in the resurrection.
That’s why Paul writes this: “You know that bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Cor. 15:54)
It’s like adding one rotten, fuzzy, moldy apple to the apple cider mixture. As soon as that apple’s is a part of the mixture, the whole thing gets disgusting.
The Corinthians were believers, but you have so many friendships based on non-believing things – Christianity started to fall away.
This is a big deal question -- Do you have friends like that?
Friends who threaten to take away your faith?
Understand -- the Bible isn’t telling us to drop all of those friends. Nope.
But it is telling us this:
The more time you spend on friendships that have little to no focus on the spiritual, the less you will be focused on the spiritual.
The less you are focused on the spiritual, the less you are focused on your Savior.
The less you are focused on your Savior, the more your faith will weaken.
The more your faith weakens, the closer you are to drifting away from faith forever.
III. Where to Seek Friendship
But if that’s where we should avoid seeking friendships,
What kind of friendships should we seek?
The Centurion paced back and forth in his office.
If ever he needed friends, it was right now.
You see – one of his trusted associates, a comrade, a friend, a coworker was very ill.
He was in need of a friend…
…But not just any friend.
He didn’t need a friend who could express platitudes and offer his “thoughts” being with them.
He was in need of a friend who could help.
A friend who could heal.
Because of his high position in the Roman government, he had plenty of places to look for that friend.
He could ask his higher ups for access to Caesar’s doctors.
He could ask his wealthy friends for contact in upcoming medicine.
He could ask his well-travelled commanders if they knew anyone from their travels who might be able to help.
But he didn’t turn to them.
Instead, he turned to the country he had conquered.
Instead, he turned to someone who wasn’t a doctor.
Instead, he turned to a lowly carpenter’s apprentice that he had never met.
And he said, “Heal my servant, but Lord, don’t trouble yourself (to come here), for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.” (v.6-7)
Jesus, I don’t deserve your help.
I might be a Roman centurion that commands a myriad of soldiers that enforce their rules of the country that you are but a lowly traveling minister of, but…I know, full well…that I don’t deserve your friendship.
Because you are more than a lowly carpenter.
You. Are. God Himself.
Jesus didn’t ignore Him.
Jesus didn’t say, “I have other friends.”
Jesus didn’t say, “And…who are you?”
He simply healed his servant.
There is no better friend than Jesus.
There is no friend more helpful.
There is no friend more worthy of being sought.
No friend more kind.
No friend more powerful.
No friend more merciful.
No friend more forgiving.
No friend who loves you more than Jesus Christ himself.
In fact, John 15 says this: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Understand – that’s what Jesus did for you. He not only said, “I’ll be your friend…even when you’ve sinned against me.”
He’ll said, “I’ll be your friend. And as my first act of friendship, I will die for you.”
And then, look at what Jesus says in John 15, “I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
Jesus calls you His friend.
And it means – you can call him YOURS.
And it means – there is no greater friendship that you can seek than your friendship with your Lord.
2. People who Point You to Jesus
If your friendship with Jesus is the number one friendship to seek, then a secondary type of friendship is people who point you to Jesus.
Maybe you’ve got a friend like that.
A friend who points you to Jesus.
A friend who reminds you of your Savior.
A friend who encourages you in the faith.
If you you’re having trouble thinking, look around. Do you see all these people? That’s why they exist.
You need them.
They need you.
In fact, Hebrews 10 says this, “Let us not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
The point? Find friends who point you to Jesus.
Be a friend who points people to Jesus.
IV. WHAT NOW?
1) Meetup with Church Friends
This is essentially the writer’s point in Hebrews when he says, “Do not give up meeting together.” The reason is twofold: (1) Don’t give up meeting with those who can refresh your faith. (2) Don’t give up meeting with those whose faith you can refresh.
And this isn’t just a Sunday thing.
It’s not just friends that you see for one hour a week each Sunday.
These are friends that God’s Word tells us to uplift throughout the week.
Question – You ever hung out with anyone at church during the week before? You should do it.
Are you nervous to ask them? Don’t worry they’re nervous, too.
Grab a coffee.
Send a Facebook message.
Have them over to your house.
And don’t just make a text message group. Is there any wonder that we are more connected now than ever before? Social media apps, 15 different ways to stay connected all within the palm of our hand – and yet – suicide rates are higher than ever in the U.S. Depression rates are high. Loneliness is high.
Because even though this is a blessing, if it is our only form of communication – we are missing something.
Actual. Physical. Interaction.
A high five.
A fist bump.
The Bible says, “Meet together.” Christians at the time of writing Hebrews, would have longed for a safe place to meet together, without the Roman government that wanted to KILL them.
We have the ability to meet together.
Let’s do so.
2) Encourage Each Other
Then, when we do meet together, look at what we’re to do: Encourage one another.
Notice it doesn’t say: “Let us not give up complaining to each other.”
Nor does it say: “Let us not give up gossip with one another.”
Nor does it even say: “Let us not give up getting together to fight.”
Meet together and encourage each other.
May I dare say that if you’re looking for something encouraging to say – there is nothing more encouraging than the message of Jesus.
3) Bring God into the Friendship
Because God doesn’t want you to only associate with believers. Look at Matthew 5, “You are the light of the world. Let your light shine before people that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven.”
If your light is going to shine before people who are in darkness, it necessitates that you interact with those in darkness.
Make friends in the world. Make friends with people who don’t believe. Make friends with those who aren’t focused on Jesus.
Tell them about Jesus.
Bring them the light of the world.
And I’ll tell you this – you will be the most REFRESHING friend they’ve ever met!
Do you remember earlier? We mentioned there were four types of love. I only talked about three. The fourth type of love is called AGAPE. Agape love is different than all the other loves. Because all the other loves are conditional.
I’ll love my child; if he acts like my child.
I’ll love my spouse; if she loves me.
I’ll love my friend; if we have things in common.
But Agape LOVE? It’s unconditional.
It’s one sided.
It’s love that just loves because that’s what this kind of love does.
That’s a kind of love that humans aren’t very good at.
But it is a kind of love that GOD specializes in.
And now, think about this: The God who has undeserved, constant, undisputed love for you – is the same God who is your friend!
The God with Agape love is your God of your Philia love.
And that’s the same refreshing message that God has called you to prepare for others.
Because the hearts of a REFRESHING friendship is none other than Jesus.
Disciple: Always On?
Pastor Kiecker joined a gym and he really likes it. It’s called the Iron Tribe (you know, Iron like as in pumping iron?). It’s fun and hey, it’s good for your health.
But one thing to really appreciate about the gym is the hours. They run class all week long and throughout the day. So, he could go at 5:45am or 6:00pm. It’s great because it fits his schedule and lets him join the “Tribe” and workout on his own time, whenever that happens to work out. And…if you miss workouts for a week? No worries. They’ll still welcome you back with open barbells. It’s nice for some things to be able to commit at your own pace.
But…what about Christianity? What kind of commitment is involved? Is it a 9 to 5 thing? Weekends only thing? An hour every Sunday? Every so many Sundays? Less? Or more? As we continue our series on Disciple let’s take the time this morning to ask ourselves: How often does a disciple need to be a disciple?
Today we want to dig into Scripture and see just how much time Jesus invested in his work and by extension how much time he expects his disciples to invest in the work of discipleship. Before we begin, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Jesus Is Always On
The lesson for today is from Mark 1:29. It takes place right after last week’s lesson where Jesus drove the demon out of the sermon heckler. Look at verse 29 it says this: As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. (v.29) A bit of context for those who have been following this sermon series: The group of disciples currently consists of Peter, Andrew, James and John – the same group of four that were called to follow Jesus while fishing and they all saw Jesus drive out the demon. Then, together they set out to the home of Simon and Andrew as soon as they were done with events at the synagogue.
Before we move on, think about what Jesus had been through on that particular day so far: He’d been teaching at the synagogue all day long – maybe 9 to 5? He’d been answering questions. He’d been speaking. He’d been teaching. And then, at the end of it all, he had to do battle with the demon-possessed man.
I don’t know if you’ve ever taught a class or done some public speaking but…it’s exhausting. I can pretty much guarantee you there’s a nap in my future this afternoon. (Pastor Kiecker’s the same if you’re curious!) So…I can’t imagine an all-day affair. Your feet get tired from moving about. Your voice gets tired from talking. Your brain gets tired from thinking. (Granted – mine might get tired a bit easier than yours, but…you get the point).
By all counts Jesus should have been tired. It was time for a break. Time for a stop for wings with the coworkers. To kick back and relax a little, and just unplug from it all. But that’s not where the disciples take him.
They went…to the home of Simon and Andrew. (v29) And it’s not to have a nice meal or play a game of cards … Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever and they immediately told Jesus about her. (v.30)
Hmmm…that’s probably not so subtle a hint? If I was Simon, I could understand why I would want Jesus to come to my house! I had literally just seen him drive a demon out of a demon-possessed man. He did it without a long process of chanting. He didn’t use oils. He didn’t fight the demon. He simply spoke and the impure spirit was gone. And if I’m Simon, I’m thinking:
That’s amazing! This Jesus is awesome. And I’m following him. I don’t think I have to worry about being possessed or injured or sick or…Sick..? That’s right. My mother-in-law is sick. And Jesu is powerful. You don’t suppose… “Hey Jesus…you wouldn’t want to have supper at my house?”
Jesus is asked to do some work as soon as normal work hours are over. It’s evening. It’s getting dark. For me, it’s time to sit on the couch, put your feet on the Ottoman and see what’s on Netflix. If anything pressing is waiting for me when I get home from work my reaction is usually, “Can’t it wait for tomorrow?” I wouldn’t blame Jesus if he turned to Peter and said, “Not tonight. I’m done for the day, I’ll be available tomorrow…”
But he doesn’t.
Jesus went to her. He took her hand. He helped her up. And the fever left her. (v.31) And this wasn’t just some motivational encouragement that compels her to stop loafing about and get on her feet. Look at the difference! She was in bed, unable to move, unable to join the festivities and all Jesus does is help her up and suddenly – she’s feeling good enough that she began to wait on them.
Nothing I’ve ever taken for a cold works that quickly. Or that well. Even when it does kick in I’m still pretty out of it and need some rest. Here’s the point – and it’s evident here & throughout Scripture – Jesus is always on! He is always ready to help his people. He is always ready to help his disciples. He is always ready to help – especially you!
In fact, the Bible says this, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Mt. 7:7) This is Jesus’ promise to Peter, Andrew, James, and John. They simply had to tap him on the shoulder. They simply had to speak with him. They simply had to ask. And for you and I, it’s the same, but just a different means of getting the message to him. We speak to God through prayer. We pour out our hearts to him. We give him our requests and questions – and he listens! Jesus is always on!
Think about that for a company policy. It’s not often that you find one like that. Yes, there are some grocery stores that are open 24/7, but I’ve noticed that they tend to be severely under employed in the overnight hours. They might only have 1 or 2 people in the whole store; meaning that if I needed some help finding the Doritos at 4:15am… they might not be able to. (Not that that would happen, Pastor Kiecker and I both know where the Doritos are kept.)
Or think about a customer service phone line. Have you ever tried to get customer support for say your health insurance outside of business hours? You don’t get it. You just get a voicemail saying that they aren’t open right now.
And if you’ve got a doctor; even the friendliest, most caring doctor has times of unavailability. He needs some sleep. He doesn’t make appointments at 1:20a on a Saturday morning. And you might not be able to get a hold of him on vacation, while he’s sleeping, or when he’s in the hospital being sick himself! I’ve even heard stories of pastors getting 102 degree fevers when they are supposed to be preaching a sermon on Jesus driving out fevers! Pastors aren’t Jesus. Even they aren’t able to be always on.
But not Jesus. He is always on. He is always, always, always on. He is on at 9am. He is on at 5pm. He is on in the middle of the day. He is on in the middle of the night. He is on for Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day and even when all of Wake County is closed for ice and snow! Jesus is always on, ready to hear you, ready to comfort you, ready to serve you with the message of his Gospel.
II. How On Are We?
Now here’s where it gets interesting. Because Simon isn’t the only one who has the idea to ask Jesus to help. In fact, I picture Jesus and the disciples relaxing now. Simon’s mother-in-law is up. She’s about. Not that the group put her to work, she’s just that kind of person who can’t sit still when there’s company. She’s making everyone coffee and throwing together a few appetizers for the whole group to kick back and enjoy after-hours relaxation.
Then, suddenly…a knock. It’s one of the ladies from the synagogue earlier. She saw what Jesus did for the man with the demon and well – her son? He isn’t well. He’s sick. Would Jesus be willing to heal him?
Jesus gets up. He smiles. He nods. He heals her son.
It isn’t long after that interaction and Jesus is just about getting back to his snack when... another knock. It’s an older gentlemen. He was watching at the synagogue too. And well – he didn’t want to say this then, it’s embarrassing but… look at his hand. It’s shriveled and very painful. If maybe Jesus was around…
And Jesus gets up. He smiles. He nods. He heals the man’s hand.
And this time, before Simon can close the door… a shout! “Is Jesus in there? My name is Sally and I heard about what Jesus did today with the demon possessed man. Would you be willing to help my father? He has the same problem.” “And I’m Joshua. I heard Jesus speak today and saw his incredible power. Jesus, do you think your power can help heal this catch in my left knee?” “And I’m Betty, and this is my husband. He severely injured his hand while fishing the other day. Can you heal him so he can work again?”
And people keep coming. And the line keeps moving. And the whole town gathered at the door and… Jesus healed many. (v.33-34)
Now – It doesn’t tell us how the disciples reacted to this. It doesn’t tell us how Simon, the guy whose house this was reacted to the whole town gathering at his door, but I’m not sure he loved it. To be fair – yes – it was great to have Jesus come back to his home and help his mom-in-law. But…he was Jesus’ friend. He was his coworker. He was a part of this movement. What Jesus did for him, that wasn’t work; that was helping a friend. But these people? Shouldn’t they know better? What right do they claim to ask? Shouldn’t they leave them alone? Shouldn’t they let us take a break?
I think this could very easily have been Simon’s reaction, because people love the idea that Jesus is always on for them. But when it comes to being on for others, well…
The other day someone came into Pastor’s office and they needed some help. They needed to talk. They needed to vent. They needed some help with a food card too. It took up some time. And what was kind of interesting is that shortly after the conversation was over someone else who had seen that person come in entered his office. “Wow. That was a long time. Don’t they know that you’re busy? You’ve got a lot to do. How rude.... Anyways…do you mind if I sit down? I’ve got some things on my mind I could use help with…”
That’s irony. But we all do it. People demand that God always be available for them; and yet struggle to be even a bit available for others! This is wrong. In fact, listen to these passages:
Galatians 5:13: Serve one another.
John 13:34: Love one another.
1 Peter 3:15: Always be prepared to give an answer about the hope that you have.
Notice there is no time limit. There are no hours of operation. It doesn’t say, “Serve one another from 9 to 5.” It doesn’t say, “love one another for an hour every Sunday.” It doesn’t say, “Be prepared once a year.” Nope. Jesus’ disciples are to be always on, always ready to serve, always ready to love, and always ready to share the Gospel message. When we’re not, that’s selfish.
That… might not have felt so good to hear or think about. You might be feeling very convicted. As I had to sit down and prepare to present this message to you, I shared the sentiment that Pastor Kiecker himself wrote: I’m not sure that I’ve felt more convicted as a disciple than getting ready to share this message.
After all, I get tired. I get cranky. And more quickly than I’d care to admit, I get to a point where I don’t want to do much for anyone but me.
It’s humbling to think of how quickly we do give up on being on for others. Thankfully there’s something encouraging here. Because, in spite of our selfishness in spending our time and our energy, Jesus is selfless. He is always on, and always ready to serve.
And in fact, he’s already invested an incredible amount of time on you.
The Bible tells us: Long before the world began, God spent eternities thinking of you. In eternity, He saw your sin and developed a plan to save you. He spent thousands of years prophesying those plans for you. He lived 33 years on earth for you. He spent one awful night of suffering for you. He spent an excruciating 3 hours on the cross for you. He spent 3 days in the grave for you. He broke out of the tomb in an instant for you. He worked through his word time after time in your life to share this message to you – for you.
Jesus has eternities invested in you. Here’s the truth: His eternal investment in us empowers us to invest in others. Simply put: If God cares that much about you, to invest that much time in you, can’t you invest a few minutes in others?
III. What Now?
Knowing all Jesus has done for us, here are a few things to learn from the text:
First of all, Take Action. And not next month. Not next week. Not tomorrow. Take action today. Think of someone you know. Someone who’s hurting, someone who’s depressed, someone who’s sick, someone who needs to hear about Jesus, or just someone you know. And take action.
Just like Jesus. Did you notice all the action verbs? Jesus went. Jesus took. Jesus helped. Jesus healed. Jesus didn’t waste any time acting when he saw those in need. DO the same. Act. Today. Serve. Love and share Jesus.
Next, Rest. Because the point of this section is not, don’t rest. We need rest, or we can’t keep serving. We’re not Jesus, we’re not God. We need time to recharge. But it’s not rest for rest’s sake, it’s rest with a purpose. The purpose of being energized, excited and ready to serve others as a disciple.
Case in point: the very next verse tells us that early the next morning Jesus got up early and went out mountain side to pray. He got away from people. He got away from busy. He took a moment and connected with God. The point? Jesus needed rest – and he’s the Son of God.
You need rest too. But make your rest intentional. Don’t just grab a pillow. Don’t grab a pillow and your phone and play Diamond Crush for three hours. Rest physically and rest spiritually. That’s very important. Because when we rest spiritually, we get spiritually reenergized. We see God’s love for us. We read about the time he’s spent on us. We are filled with his love to go and share his love.
And it’s kind of ironic, because spiritual reset takes time! But if you are too busy for spiritual rest, you’ll actually get spiritually tired of being a disciple. If you take the time for spiritual rest, you’ll find the spiritual energy, motivation and reason to serve others as a disciple.
Finally, Prioritize Your Service. Because early that next morning as Jesus is getting his spiritual rest and praying, Simon and the other disciples come running up the hill, “Everyone is looking for you Jesus!”(v.37) There’s plenty more people who need you to heal their physical ailments. And based on everything we just read to this point, I’d expect Jesus to say, “Okay!”
But he doesn’t. Instead? “Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” (v.38)
You understand, this isn’t Jesus being rude. This is Jesus having his priorities straight. Helping others’ physical needs is one thing, but healing their spiritual needs with the message of the Gospel? That’s the purpose.
Keep your priorities straight. Don’t help your kids with their homework in place of helping them grow in God’s Word. Don’t serve your wife with a romantic date night, in place of helping her grow in God’s love. Don’t serve the homeless with some physical food, while neglecting to share the spiritual food of Jesus.
Because brothers & sisters, discipleship is a 24/7 calling. It’s not just busy work. It’s the work of our Lord who has invested so much in us. Soak in what your God has done for you and what he continues to do for you that he may empower us to invest the good he’s given us in others. Amen.
The knock at the door startled him.
Peter turned inquisitively. The noise was harsh and deliberate as if the person on the other side needed his guidance right this instance.
He opened the door to find two men standing there; each with a look of concern. “Peter, we’re glad to see you. Something awful has happened. Tabitha is dead. Please come at once!” (V.38)
Peter’s face faded. He had heard about Tabitha. She lived in Joppa. Joppa was kind of a rough place. It was well known its history of pirates, the repeated reconstructions from various city wide fires, and being nothing more than a pawn whose people were thrown back and forth between political dynasties. It wasn’t a huge city. A fishing port. A place with plenty of trouble.
Tabitha had tried to fix that. In Joppa she did what she could to help. Scripture says, “She was always doing good and helping the poor." I imagine that was a host of things – Picking up day old bread from the local bakery to distributed to the poor. Cooking up a pot of soup to deliver to the sick. Taking up a collection to help those who could barely afford to pay rent. Tabitha loved her Lord and she loved the people of Joppa with heart full of love. In fact, her name – Tabitha – and its Greek translation “Dorcas” – both meant “gazelle” -- an excellent description of one who bounding with gazelle like
Unfortunately Joppa was about 12 miles away from where Peter was staying in Lydda. That’s why the disciples were so frantic. There weren’t any local pastors around yet. They couldn’t just text message for some help. No one could Facebook status Peter updates on how she was doing. Peter wasn’t able to Skype in with a last second devotion before she had passed away.
It was all too late.
But because this woman was so loved, the people needed him. They needed Peter to comfort them. They needed Peter to remind them of their faith. They knew Peter had so many words of Jesus committed to his heart and they wanted to hear those words as they ready for what would be a rather large funeral.
As they traveled to Joppa, I imagine that Peter was a bit nervous. This wasn’t some bit player in the Joppa church. She was very well known. She had had an impact on so many lives. What could he say to comfort them? How could he assure them it was ok? What words of Jesus would he use for his sermon – he didn’t even have the New Testament yet to review what Jesus had said!
They arrived at the house. Tabitha’s body had been already washed and placed in an upstairs room. (37) She was attended to by the widows that she had once herself attended. Her dear friends whom she had helped through rough times. The poor widow who depended on Tabitha to help feed her family. The elderly widow who depended on Tabitha for some kind of social interaction. The now healthy widow whose bed Tabitha spent long hours besides reading Psalms in order to comfort her.
By the way, this is proof that she had really died. The people working with her body hadn’t felt a pulse. They didn’t stop because her lungs were moving. As they put on one of her prettiest dresses, their hands brushed against the cold texture of her skin. As nicely as they did her, ordained her neck with jewels, and put makeup on her face, they couldn’t hide the fact that this life filled woman was now nothing more than a sack of dead bones.
As Peter walked up the stairs, he was by a blur of emotions. There was wailing. Cries of “Why did God let this happen Peter?” Hands from the left and the right were reaching out to receive a hug. Woman after woman shoved blankets in his face – they hysterically rushed through their stories of how Tabitha had helped them, of how they would miss her, of how this was such a terrible thing to have happen.
As Peter took it all in – I imagine his stomach churned. (I know that’s what happened to me the first time I was in the room while someone had died.) And as a Pastor -- Peter needed to have all the answers and he needed them quick. There wasn’t time for him to heal, he needed to provide words of healing so he could remove the pain that the hearts of all of these women were feeling.
Peter needed a moment. He had the two men clear the widows from the room. He was left alone with the lifeless body of this dear woman.
What would Jesus do? He always had known what to say. He always had known how to help. In fact – Peter had seen him handle similar situations before. In Jairus’ bedroom – as emotions were even higher of the death of a young girl – Jesus reached out his hand and opened her eyelids. In Nain – hordes of people had gathered to mourn the burial of a young man – Jesus had stopped the procession to give the man his life back. At Mary and Martha’s house, the funeral was already over – and only the bitterness at God was left. 4 days Lazarus had been in the tomb – when Jesus opened the tomb and Lazarus came walking out.
This situation was so similar. Pain. Sadness. Mourning. It was similar and yet – different.
There was no Jesus.
...Or was there?
“Surely, Peter, I will be with you always to the very end of the Age.” (Mt. 28:21)
Peter knelt to the ground and prayed.
“O dearest master, my Lord, Jesus. You promised to be with me. I believe it. You have power over death. I have seen it. You are always merciful. I know it. Be with me now. Be powerful now. Be merciful now. Give Tabitha her life back. Amen.”
Slowly Peter blinked. He took a deep breath. He went up to Tabitha’s bed. He looked into her peacefully closed eyelids.
“Tabitha,” he said, “Get up.” (v.40)
No matter how long it was in actual seconds and minutes, I imagine it seemed like an eternity for Peter. His words hung there like a puff of smoke – slowly dissipating into the air.
Then, Tabitha opened her eyes. She was alive.
Next it says, Seeing Peter she sat up. I imagine it was kind of quickly too. “Hey wait a second, Peter!?! I thought you were still on earth? Where’s Jesus? Where’s the angels? Where’s the glorious heavenly music? I don’t see the streets of gold – this is…this is my bedroom? I’m back on earth. God has given me my life back. God isn’t done with me yet. God has a plan for me to serve him. Oh how thrilling. Here, come and give me a hug now Peter. And reach over and grab my sewing set will you? I want to make you a nice a new tunic for all your trouble – a servant of God can’t do his preaching without a nice tunic, don’t you agree?”
The curve’s of Peter’s smile must have connected with the tears falling from his eyes. God did it. God had raised her from the dead!
Peter took Tabitha downstairs and the gasps between cries turned into gasps of amazement. The tears of sadness turned to tears of joy. The wailing turned to laughter. Jesus had done it again. He had destroyed death. He had brought Tabitha back to life. And many heard these news and many believed in the Lord.
This story is amazing isn’t it? It takes one of the saddest things that happens on earth and totally turns it around. But here’s the deal: This isn’t Pinocchio where Geppetto’s love miraculously gives Pinocchio life and turns him into a real boy only because the original author thought it’d be a really neat twist--a commentary on how people live forever through memories.
This story is real. This resurrection is real. This resurrection is joyous. There’s two important things for you to remember from it:
What was the first thing that Peter did when he was faced with the terrors of death? He didn’t whip out his travelling medical kit. He didn’t frantically search the room for a defibrillator. He didn’t get out his phone and WebMD a cure for death. He didn’t start crying hysterically because he knew there was nothing he could do. Check out verse 40. He got down on his knees and prayed. He postured himself before his all powerful and merciful Lord.
Our world is scared of death. Thousands of dollars are spent on healthy eating programs, organic foods, exercise programs, and doctor visits. We want to live. We don’t want to die.
Sometimes it gets personal. Someone you love gets sick. A friend gets into a car accident. The news reports a string of murders. You get a bad report from the doctor. Everywhere you go you are reminded of death.
When that happens posture yourself in front of the cross. Bow before your Savior. Get on your hands and knees and pray to your Lord. Pray confidently like you're talking to your old friend – because you are! Surely he is with you always to the very end of the age.
Be confident that he will be able to save you from death. Because he has already destroyed it!
Julianna, my sweet wife, hates spiders. Actually bugs of all kinds, but especially spiders. The other day one of them had made its way into the home. She screamed, but then she gathered her senses, picked up a shoe, and she fought that spider in Mortal Kombat. She smacked him again and again and again and again and again. I think she killed him about sixteen times.
That’s how Jesus killed death. It’s exactly how Jesus killed your sins which would have caused your eternal death. He squashed Death like a bug. He destroyed it.
It’s amazing how that’s not what it looked like would happen. He hung on the cross and breathed his last. His heart stopped beating. His brain stopped shooting nervous throughout his system.
But three days later – his lungs breathed again. His heart beat with a purpose. His brain was on eternal hyperdrive!
Jesus defeated death. He said ENOUGH OF IT! He says the same for you too.
It’s why the Bible says what it does about death. We read it as our verse of the day from 1 Corinthians 15:55-56: "Where O death is your victory? Where O death is your sting? The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law, but thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Posture yourself at the feet of the cross and you will find comfort. You will find life.
Does it ever happen to you that the first time you read a story, you totally miss something? Then the second time you see it something jump out at you before that wasn’t there before? Ever seen the movie Inception? I’ve seen it about 5 times and I’m still not sure I totally know what’s going on.
Take a look at our story again. Did you notice that Tabitha wasn’t the only one who came back to life that day? That’s a pretty big miss isn’t it? Look at the story again. Look at verse 42 says that This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. The message that Peter taught – about Jesus Christ, our Savior who died to save us from our sins – was yet against substantiated by a fantastic miracle – and many put their faith in Him. Their spiritually dead souls had come to life!
Have you heard of Isagenix? It’s some kind of meal replacement system that apparently does wonders for your body. Sometimes on Facebook five out of the first ten story updates are nothing but pictures and testimonials from my friends about how this product saved their life. I can understand why they are so excited! Isagenix may cause them to live longer.
But eventually they’ll die.
You have someone way more powerful than Isagenix – someone who has power not just over fat and cholesterol – someone who has power over death itself.
Isn’t that a good enough reason to pass on the message of your Savior? Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies. Whoever lives and believes in me, will never die.”
How can your friend believe if you don’t tell him? How will your kids know if you don’t teach them? How will your husband know if you don’t insist on bringing him to church?
But they might get annoyed with me!
I’ll tell you what - it’s worth them getting annoyed. “Yes, I’m insisting on you coming to hear the message of Jesus. You getting annoyed at me right now is totally worth having you rejoicing with me in heaven.”
I know that’s what Georg thought.
I’ve told you about Georg before. He was a friend of mine down at a nearby retirement home. He was 98 years old. For three years he came very faithfully to our Friday morning Bible studies. He answered questions. He listened and slept sometimes – but he loved hearing about Jesus. It was what gave him strength. He loved to tell me stories about growing up in Austria. He told me funny anecdotes about immigrating to America. He told me stories of bravery during WWII. He told me tear jerkers about his wife who had passed on.
One weekend, Georg didn’t come to Bible study. I thought he might just be sick, so I didn’t think anything of it. The next week he wasn’t there either so I went to his room to look for him. The third week I asked the director – she passed on the word that Georg had died.
I teared up. But I also smiled. Because as nice as it was for Georg and I to spend time together on earth – now he was spending eternity--eternity together with his wife and Jesus in heaven.
Jesus is "the resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies. Whoever lives and believes in me, will never die.” Posture yourself before his cross. Present his message to the world.
People of God: TOGETHER
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
5 Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
1 Peter 5:1-6
What would your dream church look like?
Does this describe your perfect church?
If so, do you realize that this perfect church is all about you?
Don’t get me wrong. That’s true to a certain extent. Church is a lot about you. You and your relationship with God. But think about it, if church was all about you…tailored to your likes, your interests, your preferences in every way, shape and form--- how many people do you think would come…
In today’s lesson, Peter tells us that we are not alone. We don’t attend a church as a PERSON of God, but as PEOPLE of God. And as People of God, we are in this TOGETHER.
I. Notes about Caring for Others
Take a look at Peter’s words in 5:1-4. These describe how important it is to care for each other. Peter writes, “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”
Caring for others was so important to do that already at the time 1 Peter was written—twenty some years after Jesus ascended into heaven – there was a special position in churches that involved doing just that: Caring for others. Here it is called “an elder.” The word means more than just being physically mature or older. It refers to one who is spiritually mature who is asked to care for the spiritual health of others.
At Gethsemane, we still have that position. We have a group of men specifically tasked with caring for the spiritual well being of the congregation’s member.
Does that mean if you aren’t a pastor or an elder that this section doesn’t have anything to say to you?
Not so much.
Because this section talks to people who have been tasked with caring for others, it therefore has principles that apply to anyone who has been tasked with caring for others. It speaks to members of the ladies group who care for each other. It speaks to parents who lead their children. It speaks to husbands who care for their wives and wives who care for their husbands. It speaks to Christians who care about their friends…friends who care for those they serve cookies with, and congregation members who care for others who sit in their row!
In other word, If you are a Christian, you have been called to care for other Christians!
Peter knew this was especially important for the church during times of persecution. That’s why he notes in verse 1, “I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings…”
Peter had truly witnessed Christ’s sufferings. He saw Jesus arrested. He saw him on trial. He saw him battered and beaten. He saw him crucified. And Peter saw what this persecution did for Jesus’ followers. They fled. They betrayed him. They denied knowing him. They hid away in fear.
Since the church at Peter’s time would be undergoing very similar persecutions (remember what we talked about last week), Peter knew the same struggles of doubt, fear, and denial would be facing those Christians.
In the same way, our flock facing struggles. Temptations to sin, temptations to doubt, persecutions at work, on the internet, in the media. Therefore, it is imperative that we listen to Peter’s solution: Be shepherds of God’s flock under your care.
Ever notice the difference in caring for your own stuff versus caring for someone else’s stuff. For instance, if you spill some ketchup on your shirt, you might think, “No big deal. I have more at home." I might dab at it a bit, but you don’t stress over it.
But if you are borrowing someone else’s shirt, how does that change? Suddenly, you run to the bathroom and use the entire soap dispenser’s worth of liquid soap to get the stain out. IT’S NOT YOUR SHIRT! You go to the store and pay for a couple of Tide sticks. You pray that the stain will come out, because it’s not your shirt!
The group of people that have been placed into our congregational lives? It isn’t our congregation. It isn’t Gethsemane’s congregation. It’s God’s congregation.
Think about what that means for pastors – this isn’t my people, but God’s people. It isn’t People of Kiecker, but people of God! Same thing goes for the elders. It isn’t: “This person is under my care, but not that person…I don’t have time to pray for them,” But this person is God’s person and I’ll remember them in my prayers. Even Sunday School teachers: “This is God’s child. He’s entrusted me to serve them the best I am able. I will care for their souls…” For all of us, it says, “I will encourage this person for God’s sake, not for my own sake!”
Keeping our mind on this truth will help guards us against three pitfalls that come in while caring for others:
1. Pitfall of Begrudging.
Peter warns against begrudging in verse 3, "Not because you must, but because you want to." This is an easy trap to fall into. It's so easy as a pastor to say, "I have to do this it's my job. Ugh. That person doesn't even like me that much and I'm not that fond of talking to them. Time to get it over with."
It's just as easy for the Christian laymen to fall into. “God just isn’t fair. I have no desire to talk to others. I have no desire to dampen my Sunday morning listening to another person complain. I just want to get to my pew, sing my favorite songs, and leave. I don’t want to leave my comfort zone, so if God wants me to talk, He’s being unfair!”
Let’s get this straight. I’m not going to grab you by the hand as I usher you out and walk you to a sister’s row in back, introduce you, and then stand there with my arms crossed glaring at you until you make that person feel encouraged.
But I will remind you of what Jesus did for you. How he went totally out of his comfort zone. Actually, how he went out of anyone’s comfort zone. He allowed nails to be driven into his hands and his feet in order to take away your sins.
Jesus suffered in order to care for you—spiritually and eternally.
Don’t care for others, “because you must but because you want to.” Because you want to serve your awesome Savior and because you want to serve others with the message of your awesome Savior.
2. Pitfall of Greed.
Still in verse 3 Peter touches on this. He writes, "Shepherd others...not greedy, but with eagerness."
Of course, this speaks to pastors and elders as a reminder not to serve others in hopes that “we’ll keep enough people in church to pay the bills for September…” It also speaks to the awful attitude of the pastor who says, “I really need to pump up my numbers in hopes that they’ll give more offerings and I’ll get more money!” Terrible. To all in such positions watch out for greed!
But what does it say to you as an unpaid church volunteer?
Well, greed might get in the way again, “This isn’t my job! Who cares if ‘so-and-so’ has been missing from church! Who cares, if 'so-and-so' had a bad week. It isn’t up to me to email them an encouragement. I’m too busy with my own job to spend a lunch break calling a church friend of mine.”
You’re right. There isn’t any reward check for $100 given to the lay person who does the most ministry in the next week. There isn’t even a “church member of the month” pin.
But there is our Savior. Our Savior who wasn’t paid anything but suffering and death for saving you!
Don’t serve because of greed, but because you are eager. Eager to tell others about the free gift of salvation in Christ. Eager to live in peace knowing that salvation has already been paid for by Christ.
3. Pitfall of Pride
THIRD, Peter warns of pride. He writes, “Don’t lord it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.”
This is another easy pitfall. To get to thinking, “I’m the church going one. I help all of the time. I make sure to invite people to church like pastor says. I forward on emails like pastor says. I help get the church ready for Sunday like pastor says. In fact, when you think about it, just about every person who comes to church or comes back to church is really a badge of honor for me!”
A badge of honor for you? Really?
You aren’t even a badge of honor for you.
Remember the Bible says, “We were dead in our sins and the uncircumcision of our sinful nature.” We were gross. We were awful. There is nothing anyone of us could do to earn our own salvation or impress God with our faith!
It is Jesus who died for us. God who called us. The Holy Spirit who brought us to faith! We are God’s badge of honor.
The same is true for all whom he uses us to bring to faith. The same is true for all whom we care for. They too are blood bought sons and daughters of God. They too are loved by him. They too are being called to him!
Don’t care for others just to feel important, but because they need an example. An example of love. An example of humility. An example of one who knows how important it is to go to church and who reflects on his Word week after week.
They’ll see you. They’ll follow suit. And God will have used you to draw them closer to Him.
So what’s in it for you? It isn’t pride. It isn’t money. It isn’t recognition. It lasts much longer:
Peter writes, “When the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” A crown of life. Heaven. A gift readied for you by your chief shepherd. A place of quiet waters. A place to drink from the river of life. A place where you will lie down in the eternal pastures of God’s love.
Don’t serve others to earn a gift. To earn anything. But care for others because God cared for you!
II. Notes about Being Cared for by Others
Of course, throughout your time in this church there may be times when you are not caring for others, but you need to be cared for by others. Meaning: Others might rebuke you. Others might pray for you. Others might call you on the phone to say, “Hey! I haven’t seen you in church for awhile? I’m concerned about you.”
How then do you react when you are being cared for? How do you react when you are being shepherded?
Well, here’s what our sinful nature would have us do: HANG UP. Ignore them. Tell them to “buzz off.” Harden our hearts and resolve even more to continue doing whatever sin we’re doing and to continue to stay away from church.
Of course, our sinful nature wants us away from church! It’s there where it is confronted with God’s Law. It is there where it is reminded of it’s ugliness. It is there where God’s Gospel empowers you to rid yourself of this ugly lifestyle.
So, instead of getting mad at whomever approaches you to rebuke you, Peter tells us to be submissive. He says, “Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older.” Listen. Respect them. Take it to heart. Check God’s Word to see if what they say is found in God’s Word. And if what that person is telling you is also found in God’s Word? Then listen.
And if you don’t…
Then, it is important to note who you are ignoring. It isn’t your pastor. It isn’t your elder. It isn’t your church friends.
Don’t let pride get in the way of you being cared for!
I went to the dentist this past week. She told me I needed to floss more. (Ever happened to you?) The interesting thing is that as she said this (and as this has happened in the past) I started to think, “Don’t judge me! I don’t have time to floss. I brush twice a day with a very minty tasting toothpaste. Leave me alone. I’m fine.”
How foolish! Especially when I am getting a root canal.
Don’t let pride get in the way of you being cared for! Not in the area of tooth decay, but also in the area of soul decay. When someone comes to you to tell you to get back to church, take them to heart! When someone tells you to rid your life of sin, rid your life of sin!
And stay calm. This is accomplished by doing what Peter commands in verse 5, “Clothe yourself with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time."
This is nothing more than the Gospel. God lifts up the humble. To those who humble themselves and say, “I am a sinner.” God lifts up. To those who humble selves and say, “I need help.” God lifts up. To those who humbles themselves and say, “I’ve been a Christian all my life, but lately I’ve failed miserably. I’ve struggled with sin. I’ve fallen into the pit of repeated sin. I am in despair. God forgive me!”
God lifts up. He forgives. He restores.
The picture of a perfect church changes, doesn’t it? It isn’t all about you anymore.
The perfect church. It isn't about you. It isn’t all about me. It isn’t all about others.
It’s about us.
Us and God.
Us and love.
Us and being together...until we are together forever with Jesus. Amen.