In the early 1990s, there was a SURE deodorant commercial that would start with a man at a sporting event next to a beautiful woman. His arms would be raised in excitement. He smiles at her. She looked impressed. Meanwhile in the background, a low-key beat accompanied a voice which sang: “Sure. Sure. Sure.” Then, the camera would pan past the woman to another guy – also looking to court the woman – raising his arms, but quickly catching a whiff of his underarms and immediately lowering them into a not-as-excited, half-touchdown pose…while the musical refrain changed from a deep “Sure. Sure. Sure.” to a wimpier sounding, “Unsure. Unsure. Unsure.”
The trend would continue for the duration of the 30 second ad.
From the classroom. (Sure hands raised; unsure hands not so much).
To adjusting the overhead light on an airplane (The person who’s sure is able to; the unsure person…just deals with it).
To (my personal favorite) the weather woman who is SURE and certain of a snowy forecast and the weather man who is as UNSURE about his pit stains as he is about the precipitation index.
The point? Using SURE deodorant will keep you SURE that you are STAYING FRESH.
Over the last weeks we have learned a lot about being FRESH in 2019. We talked about getting a FRESH start, out FRESH identity, the personalized FRESHness of baptism, how to have reFRESHing friendships, how to have FRESH speech, what our FRESH purpose is and how to be a part of that purpose and be a breath of FRESH air for the North Raleigh community. Today’s goal is to learn how to be sure that we’re staying FRESH for God’s purposes throughout the entire year. 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. Feeling Tired…?
The section from God’s Word that we’re going to focus in on today is an Old Testament Lesson from the book of Isaiah. Isaiah was a guy who lived around 740-700 B.C. He served as a prophet. That is – he spoke messages from God that God told him to speak. Usually it was through visions or dreams that God would give him these messages.
The main message of Isaiah had to do with the Assyrian army. For years, God had warned the people of Israel to stop sinning, to stop worshipping false Gods, to worship the True God, to stop abandoning Him and return to Him.
But the people didn’t listen. While Isaiah was still prophesying, God allowed the Assyrian army, a terrible, violent army, to ransack the countryside of Israel. They went along destroying villages, burning houses, and killing any stragglers, destroying everything in the North Kingdom of Israel, from there the army made its way south to the Southern Kingdom of Judah, eventually culminating in a siege of Jerusalem, the capital city.
Have you ever been under siege? The closet I can think is whenever it snows around here. The city shuts down. The streets shutdown. If you live on any kind of side road, the snow plows don’t come, and you are under siege. You can’t go outside. You can’t go to the store. You can’t grab a coffee at Starbucks…you have to (gasp)…make your own coffee!
But it was much worse for the people of Jerusalem.
They couldn’t get outside to the well waters, so they had to ration water that was located in their storage areas. Many were dehydrated.
They couldn’t get any food from the farms, so they had to ration the flour for making bread – maybe one slice once a day. They were lacking nutrients.
They needed to be on constant alert – watching from the watchtowers at the top of the wall – to ensure that the Assyrians weren’t making an attempt at scaling the wall and climbing in. And when they weren’t in charge of visually watching them, they were in the city trembling and worrying that any day the siege could break!
Israel was tired of being under siege.
Because being under siege is exhausting.
But…maybe you already know that.
Maybe you are under siege by bill collectors.
Or under siege by a pile of work.
Or under siege to the demands of raising a child.
Or under siege in a relationship that seems filled with anger and resentment.
Or under siege to depression and anxiety.
That’s not fun.
I’m sorry you’re dealing with that.
When you are under siege – it is easy to blame God.
That’s exactly what the Israelites did, they said: “My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God!” (Isaiah 40:27)
Think about that. Their claim was that God couldn’t see them.
As if there was some type of obstruction in God’s sight - and that’s why he can’t see what’s going with me.
Or maybe God can see, but just doesn’t care! Like an old sticky note that He’s tired of looking at – God just crumples up my needs and disregards them into the waste basket.
But Israel wasn’t under siege because God didn’t care about them.
In fact, he had sent Isaiah and about 20 something prophets before Isaiah to delivers constant warnings to the people so that this besiegement would NEVER take place.
The issue wasn’t that God grew tired of caring about Israel.
It was that Israel grew tired of caring about God.
Truth: Spiritual tiredness exists when we tire of caring about God.
When we remove ourselves from his promises of grace…
When we remove ourselves from his love…
When we remove ourselves from doing the things that God says, “Won’t cause you grief and pain and stress!”
We will get spiritually tired.
It’s the most oddball thing. But I’ve seen it again and again…
A terrible thing happens.
Someone is struggling spiritually.
So, what do they do?
They remove themselves from God.
They remove themselves from their only source of strength.
If that’s you, today God says, “Repent.”
He says, “Return to me.”
He says, “Return to me because…”
I. Never. Tire.
II. The One who NEVER Tires
Check out what Isaiah writes next, he says, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary and his understanding no one can fathom.” (v.28)
I love that beginning.
Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard?
Do I need to teach you a fundament thing about God?
The fundamental thing is that God NEVER gets tired.
And Isaiah gives us three reasons this is true:
1) God is Everlasting
Not to be stuck in 80’s commercials, but do you remember the Energizer bunny rabbit. He was a pink rabbit that had on a cool pair of shades as he drummed across cities, forests, deserts and Antarctic wastelands. The point? The energizer bunny keeps going and going and going and going and going and going and going and…You get the point.
But I remember one time I bought that Energizer battery and I was playing on my Gameboy. And guess what? That battery died!
It stopped going and going and going…
God isn’t like that.
God is everlasting and unending.
He doesn’t get sleepy.
He doesn’t get lethargic.
He doesn’t need to catch his breath.
God has been around from before the beginning of the world.
He will be around after the end of the world.
God is everlasting.
2) God is All-Powerful
Isaiah says, “The LORD…is the Creator of the ends of the earth.” (v.28)
Creating things usually takes energy. For me, I know that if I’m creating something, I get pretty tired. At the end of a long day of creating a birdhouse for our backyard – or even half the bird house – I get tired and want to quit.
He created lofty mountain ranges
He fashioned tens of thousands of tree types.
He crafted this gigantic, burning ball of gas known as the sun.
And then, when he was done creating, he immediately shifted to the work of sustaining the very universe that he just created:
Sending rain on the earth to water the new plants.
Holding earth in its rotation around the sun.
Revolving all the other the planets across our galaxy.
And all of universe sustaining? It’s like lifting up a cotton swab to God.
It’s not tiring.
Because God is all powerful.
That’s important to remember, because sometimes the most tiring kind of tired isn’t a physical kind of tired at all.
It’s a mental kind.
Spending mental energy to figure out the next step in fixing this relationship.
Contemplating the next step in trying to raise a kid.
Stressing over how to fix issues at work.
Mental exhaustion is a real thing for humans. But not for God.
Isaiah writes, “God will not grow tired or weary and his understanding no one can fathom.” (v.28c)
God knows all things.
He knows how to fix whatever issue you’re having.
He knows how to fix the issues that you don’t know you’re having.
He knows how to fix the issues that eventually one day you’ll be having.
He knows how to fix all of your issues.
And all of my issues.
And all of the issues of every person sitting here today.
And it does not stress Him out.
He doesn’t tire, because He’s all-knowing.
These three truths – everlasting, all-powerful and all-knowing are proof that nothing can tire God out.
But…maybe you need one more example?
Do you remember what happened to Jesus near the end of his time at earth?
He dealt with immense physical suffering: arrested, beaten, bruised, bloodied, and nailed hand and foot to a cross!
He dealt with intense emotional suffering, convicted by his own people, betrayed by one disciple, denied by another, abandoned by the rest.
And that was nothing compared to the massive spiritual suffering: of the world’s guilt, shame and sin.
Eventually, his body gave out.
Don’t think that God stopped working.
Because, while his body died, God, as God, was holding the entire world together.
And God, as human, was simply biding his time.
Three days later…
Jesus came back to life!
If death can’t stop Jesus, nothing will.
He’s not too tired to care for you.
He’s not too tired to keep you safe.
He’s not too tired to protect your family.
He’s not too tired to rebuild your relationship
He’s not too tired to strengthen your faith.
He’s not too tired to guide your kids.
He’s not too tired to defeat addiction.
He’s not too tired to remove guilt.
He’s not too tired to defeat death.
God doesn’t get tired.
III. The Source of your reFRESHment
And God doesn’t keep his strength to himself. Look at his promise in verse 29. “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”
Notice it doesn’t say that he makes us earn this gift of strength by doing some kind of spiritual heavy lifting.
Or gives until he can’t give anymore.
And gives some more.
This is different from the way it works with humans.
Because even the best of humans gets tired.
Even the best of humans runs out of energy.
Even the best of humans has to stop giving of themselves.
It’s like a 2 Liter Bottle of Coca-Cola. If I walk around and pour people a glass of Coca-Cola and all day long I pour people a glass of Coca-Cola with my 2 liter bottle, but I never stop to refill my bottle of Coca-Cola…eventually I run out.
But God’s different.
He’s got more than 2 liters of strength and grace and mercy.
He’s got a gushing water fall’s amount.
A never ending, ever flowing fountain of power, grace and mercy.
That’s really important.
Because take a look at something Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Do you hear him?
Do you hear your Savior’s voice?
He’s calling. And he says:
“Take a break from ‘worrying that you won’t be able to do it.’”
“Because I got this.”
“Take a break from the anxiety of ‘I don’t have enough.’”
“Take a break from ‘the stress of guilt, sin, and shame.’”
“You are forgiven.”
IV. What Now?
1. Practice a Spiritual Sabbath
Do you know about the Sabbath?
In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to keep something called “the Sabbath.” In fact, that’s the third commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” What happened on that Sabbath day was that the Israelites rested. They didn’t go to work. They didn’t do a business trip. They stayed at home and rested.
Over time, the religious leaders developed some rules to ensure that people were really resting.
It was illegal to do work at work.
It was illegal to do work at home.
You couldn’t turn off the lamp because that would be work.
You couldn’t sweep up that piles of dirt, because that would be work.
In fact, you were only allowed to take a couple thousand steps before stepping would be work, too.
All these laws meant to bring rest led the whole Sabbath experience not being very restful.
I just husked the corn for supper…was that work?
Don’t tell the rabbi. I think I went over by about 76 steps.
I’m sorry God! On this day of rest, I lifted the salt shaker and have added more sin to my spirit!
When Jesus came along, he corrected the people.
He said that people weren’t made to keep the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for people.
The Sabbath was to be a spiritual rest.
A time for them to take a break from the stress of everyday life and focus in on God.
To hear his voice.
To be uplifted by his promises.
To find rest in God.
Friends, do the same.
That’s what we’re doing here today. We are here to take a break from the everyday and focus in on God.
But don’t let that be it.
Take a 5-minute Sabbath in the morning before you begin your day by listening to your Bible app.
Take a 5-minute Sabbath at noon as you read a devotion.
Take a 5-minute Sabbath at night as you say your prayers.
Spend time each week – each day with God. When you do so, he will renew your spiritual strength.
2. Practice a Physical Sabbath
Because even though the main point of the Sabbath wasn’t physical rest, it was an ancillary benefit.
The Bible is clear – physical rest is important.
Jesus, as a human, took rest breaks.
We probably don’t need anymore proof than that.
In fact, being physically well-rested helps you spiritually.
You don’t feel as much like being a jerk.
You don’t feel too tired to care for others.
You don’t feel too sleepy to say nice things to your coworkers in the morning.
As a result, you don’t have to deal with as much guilt and shame that zaps you of spiritual strength.
Here’s the point: Physical rest is a good thing.
And even though we live in a ‘go, go, go’ culture – today, God gives us encouragement to slow down.
Have you ever seen an eagle in flight? Compared to most birds, they are pretty majestic. Cause most birds, take a sparrow, flap their wings like crazy. They flap and flap and flap and use up all kinds of energy just to keep themselves up.
The eagle? Not so much.
He opens up his majestic wings, he pushes off of whatever ledge he is sitting on…and he soars.
He trusts the wind to hold himself up and as a result, he soars.
Isaiah writes this, “Those who hope in the Lord will soar on wings like eagles.” (v.31)
Too often we hope in ourselves.
And we’re like a tiny sparrow – flapping and flopping and panicking and trying to keep ourselves up.
Instead, our encouragement today is to be an eagle. To open our wings. To trust God. To soar.
God will keep you up. He doesn’t tire.
Friends, may God keep us refreshed and enable you to soar! Amen.
It was a run of the mill pastoring day.
I woke up.
Drank some coffee and kissed my wife.
I got to church.
Drank some coffee.
Talked to more parents.
And had a good conversation about Jesus.
About 3 hours into the day, I went into the 4-year-old room.
I saw some friends playing with the Duplo’s and thought I would join them in constructing a gigantic Duplo station wagon.
As I started putting them together, I turned to the friend next to me and said, “What do you think of my car?”
The friend scrunched his face up.
I said, “You don’t like it? I thought it was pretty cool.”
Again – he turned his face away from me.
I said, “I’m sorry you don’t like it. What should I change?”
And my friend said, “It’s not your car….”
“It’s your stinky breath.”
Over the few weeks we have been in our sermon series called FRESH and talking about how to FRESHEN up our own lives. We discussed our FRESH identity, our FRESH start, our personalized FRESHNESS in baptism, we talked about our FRESH purpose and our FRESHNESS of speech.
But…how do you bring FRESHNESS to those who aren’t you?
How do you tell someone else about their need for FRESHNESS?
How do you tell someone that their spiritual life – is kinda like coffee breath – it stinks?
Today’s lesson is called a Breath of Fresh Air in the Heart of North Raleigh. Our goal is to consider how we can bring the FRESHNESS that Jesus provides to our family, friends and community. 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. God’s Biggest Air Freshener
The section of God’s Word that we’ll study this morning comes from 2 Corinthians 2. It’s a letter written by a pastor named Paul to a church in Corinth. Important to note – the Corinthian community was a community that wreaked of ungodliness.
Because it was a market city that was all about the major dollar, it had issues with greed, fraud, and theft.
Because it was a bustling with many kinds of people it also had issues with hatred, racism, and bigotry.
Because it was influenced by fertility idols, it also had issues with sexual immorality, lust, and rape.
Because it was far apart from the true God, it had issues with unbelief, guilt, and shame.
Sound like any countries you know?
Sound like any communities?
And so, Paul writes to the believers in Corinth and explains to them how God wants them to FRESHen up the place. He starts by explaining how he has been freshening up places in his travels:
Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind,because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said goodbye to them and went on to Macedonia. (v.12-13)
This is an interesting start to this section. Paul wanted to go to a place called Troas. He says, “God opened a door” for him. Whether that means that someone offered him a ride on his carriage or let him borrow a horse, I don’t know. But Paul goes. He travels hundreds of miles to get to Troas because he really hoped to find Titus, a ministry partner of his, at work in Troas. But when he got to Troas – Titus wasn’t around. He had gone the entire trip just to find the guy and he wasn’t there.
Some might call that trip worthless.
Look at what he writes:
But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. (v.14)
Triumphal Procession. In the early 1st century, that was pretty common. As countries battled for control of other countries, they would celebrate a war victory with a parade! They’d parade the troops. They’d parade the prized stallions. They’d have trumpeters trumpeting the trumpets, drummers drumming the drums and trombonists tromboning the trombones.
But the big part of the parade was the spoils:
Soldiers would wheel in carts filled with gold – spoils of war.
Soldiers would march with foreign stallions – spoils of war.
Solders would march with captivities, tied together, marching in front of them – spoils of war.
Jesus says that we are his victory spoils.
He defeated sin.
He defeated guilt.
He defeated shame.
He defeated Satan himself as he bore our sins on that cross.
And now – we are HIS victory spoils
And He is parading us to showcase HIS Victory.
To put it another way – because we are a part of Christ’s victory parade – we are also the aroma of Christ.
Another common sight (or rather smell) among 1st century victory parades would be incense burners! As people cheered and music played, incense bearers would twirl incense carrying sticks and let the smell of victory permeate the air. In addition, women would dance and throw flower petals into the air in order to welcome their conquering heroes. Again – the sweet aroma of victory would linger.
A modern version of this might not be as pleasant. It’d probably have the smell of gasoline from all the cars that are carrying the local Parks and Rec float, the smell of little pieces of unwrapped candy that float dwellers would throw towards the crowd – and maybe the smell of the horses as they walk around.
Still – regardless – the smells are associated with a parade. They are associated with a celebration!
Believers are the aroma of Christ.
An aroma of forgiveness, with a hint of joy, and the lasting airs of grace.
God wants us to share that forgiveness, that joy, and that grace with others!
That was Paul’s excitement when he talked about his travels. Even though the goal was to go see Titus…and he didn’t get to see Titus, but that didn’t mean his trip was worthless.
Because everywhere he went, he was paraded as Christ’s victory spoils.
As he walked on the path to Troas, he stopped to provide for the needs of an old beggar with a few coins – while telling him about how Jesus took care of his own need of forgiveness.
As he stopped by a local watering hole and waited behind a woman with 4 screaming children, he got their attention and told stories about Jesus’ miraculous power over death – even his own!
When he made it to Troas and grabbed a bite to eat at the local restaurant, he talked with the waiter about how Jesus is the bread of life and how he had filled him spiritually.
When he got to Troas and saw that Titus wasn’t there, he didn’t just turn and leave – he took the opportunity to parade himself as victory spoils for Christ – to tell about how Jesus had mercifully saved him…
…and could save others too.
You are also the aroma of Christ.
Let that aroma permeate the air wherever you go.
Share the message of Jesus.
Share the joy of salvation!
II. One Man’s Potpourri
But…I need you to be aware of one thing as you go to share this message.
Not everyone is going to like it.
It’s like potpourri. Do you know what potpourri is? (It’s a pot filled with pourri…I think). Really, it’s a bag filled with supposedly good smelling things. Usually it’s things like pine twigs, pieces of bark infused with essential oils and cinnamon sticks. You put it in a bowl and it gives a sweet smell to the house.
Or at least…it gives off a smell.
I remember one time someone was so excited to have me smell their potpourri. I’m pretty sure that potpourri must have been called: “Mowing the Lawn while Sweating.” It wasn’t pleasant.
I didn’t love it.
But that person did.
What’s pleasant to some people’s nostrils is repugnant to others.
It’s the same with the aroma of Christ. Look at what Paul writes: We are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. (v.15-16)
Maybe you’ve noticed that.
Maybe you’ve noticed that sometimes the person you share a Bible passage with on Facebook puts a big THUMBS UP by it and others put the ANGRY face.
Maybe you’ve noticed that some people appreciate your holiday card with a religious passage; others tell you to stop or they’ll report you to HR.
Maybe you’ve noticed that some people are thankful when you share the Gospel with them; others tell you to “keep that religious mumbo jumbo to yourself.”
Here’s the reality:
The message of Jesus smells…great to BELIEVERS, but awful to REJECTERS.
For instance, think about the message of John 3:16.
“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
To the rejecter, it’s the smell of death:
“I’m a sinner? You’re telling me that I need a Savior? You’re telling me that I’m not good enough? You’re telling me that I need God’s help? You’re telling me that without Jesus I won’t be saved!?!”
Smells like a rat.
Get that garbage away from me.
But to the believer, it’s a smell of life:
“I have a Savior? His name is Jesus/ He died for all of my sins? He has completed forgiven me, completely rid me of guilt and absolutely guaranteed that I will have life?!?
I want to soak it in.
Tell me more…
The message of Jesus smells great to WHO BELIEVE, but awful to WHO REJECT.
Expect different reactions.
III. Another Reason to Be a Good Smell…
But…that doesn’t mean you should stop sharing Jesus.
When someone is mean about it…
When someone doesn’t listen…
When someone makes you feel uncomfortable just because you were trying to invite them to church…
That doesn’t mean you should stop being the aroma of Christ.
Our Old Testament lesson today was a unique lesson. Often, we read poetry or narratives. It isn’t often that we read a recipe for ceremonial incense:
Pure frankincense – all in equal amounts.
Then grind it up into a powder and place it in the altar area.
Use it to burn incense to the Lord.
But did you know this recipe comes with a warning?
Take a look:
Whoever makes incense like it to enjoy its fragrance must be cut off from their people. (Leviticus 30:38)
Do you get it?
This incense was for God.
This aroma was for God.
And it’s the same with you and me.
The aroma of Christ that permeates from our lives it isn’t for OUR SAKE, but for GOD’s!
We don’t share the message of Jesus in order to feel good about ourselves.
We don’t stop sharing it when people reject it.
We don’t do the things we do at Gethsemane to feel good about ourselves, to glorify our own desires, to impress others with what we do at church or in anyway to give glory to us!
We share Jesus for God’s sake.
And that’s important.
Because when we start sharing Jesus for our own glory, it can easily become some strange version of work righteousness. It can become a thing you do IN ORDER To make God like you.
It can become something that you do in order to earn God’s approval.
In order to cover up the stench of your sins.
And I get it. The stench of our sins is great.
There are sins from years ago that still have a stench.
There are day to day sins that make the day stink.
There can be relationship sins that just make the whole day smell awful.
And try as we might, we can’t cover it up!
And He didn’t use a bottle of perfume.
He didn’t burn a stick of incense.
He didn’t cover us in Glade Plugins.
He sacrificed himself to cover up the stench of our sins.
And I’ll tell you what – his blood was so powerful – that God doesn’t even smell a hint of your sins anymore.
Like an incredible, divine, righteous incense, God doesn’t smell even a hint of your sins.
Only the pleasing aroma of Christ’s sacrifice!
IV. What Now?
And now? He wants to cover up your neighbor’s sins by bring the message of his forgiveness to them through you.
1) Be Fragrant…EVERYWHERE!
Paul’s language says, “spread the aroma of the knowledge of Jesus…EVERYWHERE.” (v.14)
That means we aren’t just being fragrant here in worship.
It’s not a one hour a week aroma that happens in this particular building.
Be fragrant with Jesus’ love EVERYWHERE.
At the Valentine’s Dinner.
At the President’s Day Luncheon.
At Sola Coffee café!
2) Be Fragrant…ALWAYS!
God doesn’t want you to be one of those timed air fresheners – that goes off once a week and freshens things for a few minutes, but then quickly fades into general bathroom funkiness.
God wants you to be a long-lasting air fresheners. One of the ones that is always letting off a beautiful aroma.
Always changing the air around them.
Always connecting others to Christ.
Let me tell you – you have opportunity to do so later today.
You’ll have interactions.
Make use of those interactions.
Share the love of Jesus.
3) Combine Odors
Have you ever been to a football locker before? It’s pretty stinky. Practice gear. Practice socks. Practice pads. Washed once a week. Steeped in sweat, grass stains, blood, and general YUCK!
If you want to make a football locker room smell good, you need more than just one of those little Christmas Tree air fresheners.
You’ll need hundreds.
To make our world smell better – it’s gonna take more than just you.
It’s going to take all of us.
To make this community of North Raleigh fragrant with the message of Jesus…
It’s going to take all of us.
This is why that kind of language is used in Paul’s letter. He says: We…are the pleasing aroma. We...are an aroma that brings life…God uses US to spread the aroma.
This is a together thing.
This is a YOU thing.
This is a ME thing.
This is an ALL OF US TOGETHER thing.
That means you are a part of something BIG.
You are a part of a new wave in the Raleigh community.
We have something amazing to offer.
We have something incredible to offer.
We’ve said it like this Plant the Message of Jesus in the Hearts of North Raleigh.
A brief, Biblical paraphrase of that is to Bring a Breath of Fresh Air to the Fragrance of North Raleigh!
And it’s a fresh air – that saves eternal lives. Amen.
Last week we talked about our FRESH purpose and that is to be a part of God’s mission to SAVE ALL PEOPLE by Planting the Message of Jesus in the Hearts of North Raleigh. It’s an incredible purpose. It’s a BIG purpose and it’s a privilege to be a part of this purpose.
Maybe you left last week thinking – What is the biggest thing that I can do to help accomplish this goal?
I could use my biceps! And help tear out old bushes, carry Bibles during Bible hour and lift children in need of diaper changes at the Preschool.
I could use my head! And start planning Sanctuary updates, outreach opportunities and how to improve our Youth Group.
I could use my money! And fund exterior improvements, advertisements to church events and tuition assistance for the kids.
Today, God’s Word wants you to consider something else.
A part of the body that’s not as BIG as your biceps.
Nor as SMART as your brain.
Nor as VALUED as your money.
Yet, this body part has the ability to be MOST VALUABLE when it comes to sharing the kingdom of God.
Today our topic is SPEECH. Our goal is to consider the great power of our tongues and how we might can use it on our mission to Plant the Message of Jesus in the hearts of North Raleigh. 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. The Power of the Tongue
The section of God’s Word that we’ll study this morning comes from James 3. The book of James is a letter written by an important disciple in the early church called James. James was the leader in the church in Jerusalem. A very large church. The mother church, if you will of all the other churches. It’s where the message of Jesus started and spread to other parts of Asia Minor, to Europe…even to Raleigh, NC.
In Chapter 3, James is writes to Christians everywhere about how they use their tongues. Take a look:
When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. (v.3-5a)
Anyone ever ridden a horse before? They are large animals. They are powerful animals. They have the ability to draw the Wells Fargo Wagon or the Budweiser beer carriage. Horses are the reason that we compare the power of a motor vehicle’s engine as horse power.
And if you try to move a horse with your hands, just by pushing them around? It ain’t gonna work. Instead, they developed something called a bit. It’s a small piece of technology (a rope) that fits into their mouth and attached to more rope. By pulling that rope (either on horseback or walking along the side) you can easily control which way you want the large powerful horse to go!
Gigantic power, tiny device.
Or how about a large ship? Think of a cruise ship. It’s filled with thousands of people. It has hundreds of pounds of margarita mix and suntan lotion. It has little to no problem carrying an entire set of conga line dancers in the little space in its cabin. It’s large. It’s powerful. If you are a small canoe boat in the way of a cruise ship, you better move.
But…in the back of the ship, right near the water, is a rudder. A small little part in comparison to the rest of the ship. This little rudder directs the wave flow and turns the gigantic ship.
Gigantic power; tiny device.
The Tongue is the exact same. It isn’t big. In comparison to the rest of the body, it’s rather small. Yet. The tongue wields great power.
It has the power to set your life’s course: “Honey, will you marry me?”
It has the power to get your career on track: “Yes. I do accept your offer and I will be regional manager of sales!”
It has the power to save your life: “Yes, I will go through with the chemo treatment.”
Though the tongue is small, its power is great.
Think about it.
George Washington used his tongue to win a revolution.
Abraham Lincoln used his tongue to end slavery.
Martin Luther King Jr. used his tongue to bring about great strides in equality.
And people are still using their tongues to accomplish all kinds of things – to this day.
II. Spitting Fire (Bad Uses of the Tongue)
But…because the tongue has such a great ability to accomplish powerful things…
It becomes imperative that we use them to accomplish positive, powerful things.
That is the very next thing that James writes:
Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire. (v.5b-6)
Do you remember Smokey the Bear? He always said, “Only you can prevent forest fires.” That wasn’t his way of saying, “stop using a blow torch to set the forest on fire.” In fact, I’m not sure that any forest fire has ever been started via blow torch. It was his way of saying, “Be sure to truly and completely douse your campfire in water. Because even the smallest ember or spark can set the entire forest on fire.” Think of that…some of the biggest forest fires in California – fires that have made people evacuate their homes – were caused by a simple, tiny flame.
When simple tiny words are used in the wrong way – they can cause just as great of damage. Here’s three things that your tongue can set fire to:
(1) Your Body
Look at the next part of the passage. James write, “The tongue is a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body.” (v.7) How does that work? The tongue leads you into sin which corrupts not only our tongue, but the whole body. ln other words, it is the gateway to sin that is happening right now.
“Why yes! I’ll go ahead and have that 7th shot of Jack Daniels!” And the whole body is corrupted with drunkenness.
“Why yes! I’ll go ahead and speak gossip with you!” And the whole body is corrupted with jealousy.
“Why yes! I think you’re a moron, too!” And the whole body is corrupted with rage and anger.
“Why no! I refuse to forgive you!” And the body remains corrupted with bitterness.
(2) Your Course
Look at the next part of the passage. James write, “The tongue…sets the course of one’s life on fire.” (v.7b) In other words – the tongue doesn’t just lead you to current sin, but it also leads to future sin.
“Why yes! I’ll tell you a lie about what I did for work last week!” And now I am on course with future lies to keep that lie going.
“Why yes! Even though I’m married, I find you to be quite attractive.” And now I am on course with future flirting, lust…even adultery!
“Why no! I don’t think that we should listen to the Bible on that point.” And now I have set my children on course to a life where we don’t listen to what God’s Word has to say!
(3) Its Own Eternal Destiny
James finishes by writing, “The tongue is itself set on fire by hell.” (v.7c)
Because…wicked words are sin.
The wages of sin is death.
Even eternal death in hell.
God doesn’t love it when we speak evil against His created beings or lead His created beings into sin.
He hates it so much he threatens punishment.
Even punishment in hell.
To be fair – the last one is probably good enough reason.
But combined, we have plenty of reason to tame our tongues…
To watch what we say.
To not use our tongues for evil.
III. Taming the Tongue
But…how does one tame their tongue?
Have you ever tried it?
James says this about taming the tongue:
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (v.7)
Think about how true that is.
Humans can tame Elephants. They’re gigantic creatures and yet, in India, they knock down trees and haul the logs wherever their trainers tell them to deliver it.
Humans can tame Lions. At the circus, the lion tamer turns to the king of the jungle, the sharp toothed, alpha predator and tells the ferocious cat to open his jaws and then – places his skull directly inside.
Humans can tame Killer Whales. At SeaWorld, Shamu, an aquatic animal of over 2,000 pounds – listens to his trainers as they hold up one tiny finish to get him to splash the crowd on demand.
Humans can train all of these different animals….
The elephant trainer struggles to stop his tongue from dropping four letter words when he steps in a pile of dung.
The lion tamer struggles to stop his tongue from boasting to his assistant because he thinks he is the greatest.
The SeaWorld trainer struggles to stop his tongue from lying – Yes, he did remember to feed the walruses – even though he didn’t.
Humans are terrible at taming their tongues.
No human can tame their own tongue.
Which means… the only one that can tame the tongue is someone isn’t human at all…
Do you know who has one of the worst tongues?
It’s the devil.
He’s been using his tongue to set the world on fire…ever since the beginning.
He spoke to God and said, “I should be God. Not you.”
He lied to Adam and Eve said, “Sin won’t be such a bad thing, trust me.”
He lies to you and me and says, “Your tongue has gotten you into so much trouble – there’s no way that God could ever forgive you.”
Satan has a powerful tongue.
His words can cause you to despair.
To be overwhelmed with guilt.
To be filled with regret.
To lose all hope.
While Satan’s tongue is powerful…
It’s not powerful enough.
If anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One… (1 John 2:1)
Did you see that? Jesus is our Advocate.
That means he talks on our behalf.
And when the devil comes along and says, “Throw that person in hell! They have done so many sins.”
Jesus says, “Shut up!”
“I died for them.”
“I rose for them.”
“I defeated sin for them.”
“I defeated death for them.”
“They are forgiven.”
Jesus tames the devil’s tongue and speaks on our behalf.
His speech is more powerful!
It’s not just human speech. But it is God’s own speech.
God’s tongue? It can tame things that even humans cannot.
It tamed a storm when Jesus said, “Stop.”
It tamed an incurable skin disease when Jesus said, “Be healed.”
It tamed death itself when Jesus said to the young man’s corpse, “Live!”
And it tamed your guilt and shamed when Jesus said to you:
But that’s not it. Check out this passage:
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)
Here’s the truth. With faith in Jesus, we have the Holy Spirit.
And with the Holy Spirit in our hearts we are able to tame our tongues.
Because the holy Spirit – he’s God.
He doesn’t speak any evil.
In addition, the Holy Spirit empowers you to tame your tongue,
And use it for HIS purpose.
To speak love.
To speak joy.
To speak peace.
To speak patience.
To speak goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
IV. What Now?
If you take a look at the next part of James’ letters – here’s a few rapid-fire instructions from James:
1) Produce a Singular Flow
James writes: With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. (v.9-12)
Because if you bent down to grab a drink from a small area of fresh water and after bringing it to your lips, and got a mouth full of salt? That’s not good.
And if you went over to your fig tree and found some olives growing on it – I’d be really concerned about those olives.
If you have a fresh identity in Jesus, it will seem very odd if you mix your “praise Jesus” with the same old sinful language.
That means we’ve got to work hard by God’s grace to keep our language pleasant, kind, and loving -- not just on Sunday for an hour a week – but all the time.
With our family.
With our friends.
With our enemies.
May we produce a singular flow of refreshed language.
2) Keep it In
To do that, we’ve got to learn to keep it in. James said, “If you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it!” (v.14)
Don’t say the angry thing that comes to mind.
Don’t drop the four-letter word.
Don’t just relay gossip without thinking about it.
We need to develop some self-control, that every time we’ve got something on our tongues, we stop. Think about it. And consider:
Does this work with my mission of Planting the Message of Jesus in the Hearts of my friends and family?
If not…don’t say it.
There’s nothing worse than a Christian working against his own mission by being uncareful with his tongue. Don’t hurt others’ work of sharing Jesus by gossiping about them.
I’ll never forget the time I was excited to follow up on a visitor to church to see if they wanted to come back. I asked them if they enjoyed the music? Yes. The message? Yes. The coffee? Yes.
But would they be back?
They had overheard a few ‘members’ at their fellowship table complaining about others in church.
They heard salty language in what was supposed to be a fresh water environment.
Keep those negative comments to yourself. Don’t infect others.
3) Purify your Language
Just like trying to purify your tap water so that you can drink it…
We’ve gotta purify our language so that it accomplishes our mission.
To do that, we’ve gotta run it through the best purity filter of all. God’s Word: “The wisdom that comes from heaven is PURE.” (v.17)
If you want to know if the thing you want to say is pure or not, run it by the God’s Word filter.
Is it a lie? God’s Word says don’t lie.
Is it gossip? God’s Word says don’t gossip. And true things are gossip, too!
Is it loving? God’s Word says, “Be loving.” Good…I can say that.
Familiarity with God’s Word will help install this permanent filter in our hearts - to prevent any disgusting outpouring of filth from our tongues.
4) Sow Peace
James writes, “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap in righteousness.” (v.18) Because when we are talking about the best, most positive, and on-the-mission things to speak – nothing comes close to speaking the peace of God’s Word.
There’s nothing more uplifting than telling others about their Savior.
There’s nothing more encouraging than reminding them of his love.
There’s nothing more heartening than telling someone they are forgiven.
And that Gospel message is like a seed that’s planted.
And after planting it carefully…
Again – again and again.
Eventually – that message might grow.
Grow into a harvest of righteousness.
A soul saved.
Friends, may God bless our speech as we used our tongues to the glory of God’s kingdom. Amen.
What is your purpose in 2019?
Pay off the mortgage – and every action that you take, every decision that you make is with the goal of paying off that house?
Maybe it’s just to look good – and every food you eat, every movement you make has the goal of looking more like you did in your twenties?
Help your business grow – and every Facebook post that you share has the goal of taking your entrepreneurship to the next level?
We recently got a cat. Yep. A cat. It’s my first one – and I guess it’s not as bad as I thought because I’m still living. Her name is Minnie. Her full name is Minnie, Warrior Kitty.
Now – she can’t talk, but after watching her interact with our house for the past two weeks – I think I understand what her mission is for 2019. I think her mission is to defend the world at all costs against any button, any remote control, any dust ball and any stray tissue that dares cross her path!
Pretty lofty goals…I know.
We’re in the middle of a sermon series called FRESH. This week our topic is PUPORSE. We want to find a fresh purpose in God for 2019 – what kind of mission statement can we adopt in our personal lives to fulfill that purpose! 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. A 1st Century Purpose
The section of God’s Word that we’ll study this morning comes from 1 Timothy 2. Timothy is a letter written to a young pastor named Timothy. It is written by Paul who was an older pastor that had a lot of experience starting churches. In this section, he is giving Timothy some instructions on what he should be teaching the people. He writes:
I urge, first of all, that prayers, petitions, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all people and for kings and all in authority. (1 Timothy 2:1)
Note the “First of all.” It identifies the first thing in a list of things that Paul will be telling Timothy to teach the congregation. But it also denotes a certain level of importance. This first teaching is of great importance to God’s kingdom; so, it is listed first. It’s important, by the way, in both the 1st century AND the 21st century. So…listen up.
The first thing that’s of great importance for Christians to do?
(1) Pray for All people.
That’s not easy. Usually people like to pray for people that they (1) know and that they (2) like. It’s why people pray for themselves (they like themselves). Also their family, their kids, their spouse, and maybe even a few people from church…but probably not all of them.
Paul’s instruction is more all-encompassing than that. Paul says to pray for all people.
That includes not only the people that we know and like…
But the people that we don’t know and might not like.
For the stranger across town.
For the stranger across the world.
For the coworker that you don’t like.
For the friend that’s no longer your friend.
For the rich guy who owns a mansion.
For the homeless guy on the street.
Even for the internet troll who puts an angry face on all of your political posts.
God’s Word says to pray for all of those people.
And then to top it all off - he says to pray for a group of people that probably ranks high on most people’s list of people that they don’t want to pray for:
It’s like the coup de grace of un-prayable people.
(2) Pray for the Government.
This is interesting timing. Because we just completed a month-long government shut down. And it is highly possible that there will be another one. A shut down where lawmakers and elected officials can’t coexist and are costing people their salaries; not their own, but the people who aren’t involved in those decisions and use that money to live on.
Does it seem hard to pray for those Washington guys right about now?
If so, think about this:
The letter we are reading was written at a time when there was no democracy. There weren’t term limits. There wasn’t an opportunity to vote someone out of office if you didn’t agree with their methods.
There was the Roman emperor.
Using violent Roman soldiers.
To enforce his will.
And his most recent will? It was to throw Christians in jail, separate families, and even murder them.
Yet…Christians were still supposed to PRAY for the government.
Since it’s been recorded for us, we are still supposed to pray for our government.
That’s hard, too.
But…maybe it depends on the prayer!
Maybe it makes sense for us to pray for the government to enact laws to make our lives better.
Or to make laws that give US a tax break.
Or to make laws that fit our own political agendas.
Is that what our prayers are for?
Nope. Look at verse 2:
Pray…That we may live peaceful and quiet lives in godliness and holiness. (v.2b)
For our godliness and holiness.
For a culture that amplifies our godliness and holiness.
To put it another way –
We are to pray that God helps us let HIS light shine.
II. God’s Mission Statement
Now – this prayer request comes from God’s Word.
So…Maybe that seems a bit – selfish.
Maybe that seems a bit – vain.
Let me get this straight God...YOU want me to pray to YOU for opportunities to make YOU more well- known?
This is not about God. Take a look at verse 3:
God our Savior wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
You can learn a lot about an organization by its mission statement.
Do you know PETA? People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Their mission is to support the rights of all animals.
Habitat for Humanity? Their mission is to bring people together to build homes and hope.
Starbucks? To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one cup at a time…
Domino’s mission statement? To sell more pizza.
What is God’s mission Statement?
Let everyone know how awesome I am?
Reign terror on all people.
Confuse people about what His plans?
God’s mission statement is this:
Save All People.
That’s really a God-sized mission statement, right?
Because God’s mission is not that some might be saved.
Or a lot.
Or even most.
God wants all people to be saved.
And that mission is what guides his every action!
We saw it in our Gospel lesson for today.
Jesus had spent all night doing miracles.
He made the blind see.
He made the deaf hear.
He made the lame walk.
He made the guy with the cold better.
He made the woman with cancer well.
He made the child with epilepsy calm, healthy.
Jesus did miracle after miracle until it was too dark for people to come find him at the house he was at.
Early the next morning, before he got back to doing miracles, Jesus went up on a hillside to pray.
As he was praying, he heard a commotion in the distance.
It was his disciples:
Jesus! There you are. We’ve been looking all over for you.
I know it’s early but they’re here. The sick. The lame. Some kid who has a whooping cough. Some guy who can’t walk. There’s a woman who has a very bad fever. They’re all here – waiting at the house – waiting for you to heal them. We told them to wait but – Jesus, if we want to stay ahead of this, you’d better get back so that you can help them.
And Jesus listened.
He got to his feet.
And said something – rather strange:
“Let us go someplace else – to the nearby villages – that I may preach there also. That is why I have come.” (Mark 1:38)
Doesn’t that seem strange?
Jesus usually helps people, right?
And that is the exact reason that he doesn’t go back to down to heal the people who were physically ill.
He needed to head to other villages in order to help others who were spiritually ill.
In short, Jesus understood his mission: TO SAVE ALL PEOPLE.
He understood his mission even when the prayers and requests of all people were – “Don’t do that eternal soul saving mission; come over here and do the ‘make my life better now’ mission.”
It’s proof that Jesus wasn’t all talk.
He wasn’t like some CEO who says that he wants to help lots of people, but when the going gets tough – isn’t willing to give up a cent.
Jesus… gave himself as a ransom for all people. (v.6)
When the only way to save people from their sins was for him to give up his life…
Jesus didn’t bat an eye.
He came down to earth.
He lived perfectly when we couldn’t.
He died innocently in our place.
He rose triumphantly for the forgiveness of all of our sins.
And to be fair – we’ve talked about it very broadly.
God’s goal is to save all people.
But Narrowly, God’s mission has always been To. Save. You.
It’s why he’s speaking to you today.
It’s why he’s speaking to you in these words.
It’s why he’s speaking to your heart and imploring you.
Believe in Jesus.
III. Our Mission Statement
But that’s not the end of this lesson. Look at what Paul writes next:
For this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles. (v.7)
A herald was specifically associated with royalty. The herald would give messages on behalf of the king. He’d carry one of those long, large golden trumpets – he’d blow the trumpet and deliver a message from the King. “Hear ye; hear ye; Whoppers are now 2 for $3 at the Burger King’s restaurant.” We use the word in a famous Christmas song – “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” Herald angels are not a bunch of angels with the same first name: “Harold, I told you to put your halo back on!” Herald angels were messengers delivering a message from the Divine King: “A Savior has been born!”
Paul was a herald, too. His job was to herald the message of Jesus, the Savior.
To herald it in the marketplace.
To herald it in the synagogue.
To herald it at Uncle Lou’s backyard cookout.
Everywhere he went he heralded the message of Jesus.
Paul was also an apostle. That’s a very specific job. An apostle is a word used to describe the 12 apostles and Paul. The twelve apostles were men who (1) saw the risen Lord Jesus, (2) were sent out by Jesus (3) were given the ability to do miracles by the Holy Spirit.
Undoubtedly that was very helpful for Paul! Because as he heralded the message of the Savior, the miracles that he was able to do would help to prove that his message was truth.
(It’s very similar to why Jesus’ did miracles. It was a supplement to his mission of Saving all people) Paul was able to do miracles as a supplement to help him share the message of Jesus which saved all people!
But what about you?
You might not be able to do miracles.
So…how do you fit into this mission?
Have you ever heard Mt. 28:19? It says, “Go and make disciples of all nations…by teaching them everything I have commanded you.”
Part of what the apostles heralded was the message of Jesus.
And another part of what the apostles heralded was the importance of sharing the message of Jesus. Take a look:
2 Corinthians 5:20, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors as if God were making his appeal through us.”
1 Peter 3:15, “Be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have.”
Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation.”
Do you get it?
You have purpose.
Your purpose is to be a supporter and a part of Jesus’ mission.
That’s a big deal.
Your purpose isn’t just temporal, it’s eternal.
Your purpose isn’t just human, it’s divine.
Your purpose isn’t just to help something with something that will last a moment; your purpose it to help someone with something that will last for eternity.
You have purpose.
And that purpose is specific!! The apostle Paul did this in a very specific context. The Bible says that he was a teacher of the Gentiles. He didn’t just stay in the synagogues. He didn’t just stay with the people that were Jewish. He was specifically called to bring the message to the Middle East and Southern Europe.
You have a specific purpose, too.
In fact, you have a specific purpose that is key to God’s kingdom.
Because you can to share the message with people that Paul never will be able to do.
You are can share the message with people that I can’t.
You are called to be a part of Jesus’ mission for your people.
Your Facebook friends.
Not only do you have purpose, but you are key to God’s mission.
God will work through you to bring the message of Jesus to the people that you are connected to!
IV. What Now?
1. Pray for Mission Work
Do you remember what Paul was telling Timothy to tell the people? They were to be prayer warriors for the mission of God.
Since that message has been preserved for you and me to read today, we can say with confidence that God wants you to participate in his mission by being a prayer warrior for his kingdom.
That’s important. Because it’s really easy to pray for yourself.
It’s really easy to pray for God to help you with your cold.
To pray for God to help you with your work.
To pray for God to help you with your finances.
And to be fair – you should pray for those things.
But God also wants us to pray for the spiritual.
God wants us to pray for His Mission.
In fact, that’s what he tells us to do in the Lord’s prayer.
In God’s prayer we say, “Thy Kingdom Come.”
That’s not a reference to God becoming president of America in 2020.
It isn’t a reference to God setting up a Christian utopia on this earth.
It’s a reference to mission work!
Pray for mission work.
Add it to your Google calendar.
Write reminders to pray on your bedside post.
Pray for people you know that need to hear about Jesus.
Pray for people you don’t know that need to hear about Jesus.
And pray for the people that you plan to share Jesus with.
If you are a teacher, you need to teach.
If you are writer, you need to write.
Because if you are a coal miner, the most important thing for you to do is to mine coal.
If you are a herald, then the most important thing for you to do is herald!
To share the saving message of Jesus.
To herald at home.
To herald at work.
To herald at the dinner table.
To herald on a night out with friends.
To herald online.
To herald via text message.
To herald in person.
To herald in the heart of North Raleigh.
And, here’s the thing: when it comes to being a herald – it doesn’t do a lot of good to herald when no one is looking.
It doesn’t do a lot of good to herald quietly.
Speak loudly the message of Jesus for all to here.
Which may be a bit intimidating.
You might feel like you can’t do it.
But you’re never alone. God is always with you and may He continue to bless you as you live out your purpose. Amen.