A Message from Deuteronomy 4.
1 Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. 2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.
6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” 7 What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? 8 And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?
9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
"What in the World does Hallowed Mean?"
I think that's a good question. In today's world, it's just not an adjective we use all that much. We might call someone cool, awesome, or neato.(Or maybe we don’t and I need to update my hip vocabulary.) Hallowed is just not a word that you hear all that much.
Hallowed means "honor as holy." You might do this at your high school football field. You call it “hallowed grounds” or maybe the University library at night. You are quiet because it is “hallowed.”
Holy holds the idea of clean, pure, apart from sin. In other words, hallowed means to make something, "completely unlike anything you've ever seen or heard."
No wonder we don't use it with each other. We are all like one another. We're sinful. We've heard that before.
So whose name are we praying to be hallowed? It isn't yours. It isn't mine.
It's our Heavenly Father's.
1. What Do I Need to Do to Honor God’s Name as Holy?
In the first five books of the Bible, there's a lot of time spent on the concept of "holiness." The holy LORD wants his Israelite people to be holy. Leviticus 19:2 sums it up. It says, "Be holy because I the LORD your God am holy." This command is in the midst of chapter after chapter of ceremonies, practices, and moral laws that, when kept, would have them treat God’s name as holy.
We could, then, spend time reading those 40 some chapters in order to get a better sense of holiness. But, you probably want to get back to your tasks at hand toady. Thankfully God gave his people (and us) a great summary of these chapters in Deuteronomy 4. He says, "Do not add to what I have commanded you and do not subtract from it. But keep the commands of the LORD, your God, that I have given you."
In other words, keeping God’s name holy involves listening to and doing all that God has to say.
This makes sense.
If you wanted to become a firefighter, you would learn from a firefighter. If you wanted to learn to be a dentist, you would be an intern to a dentist. If you wanted to learn to crochet, you’d learn from your grandma. You’d go to the expert to learn how to do something.
If we want to learn how to be holy and do holy things, we have to go to the expert—God himself.
Then, listening to God and doing what he says is holy. But we need to be careful. There are certain pitfalls to watch out for.
The first is this: Don't add to God's Word.
Teenagers are good at embellishing. They use this special skill especially when it comes to proving that their parents are "awful." One might say, "My dad is so mean that I'm pretty much grounded for life." What dad actually said maybe have been quite different. It may have been more along the lines of, "You can't go to the Justin Bieber concert this weekend."
Why does the teenager change her dad's words in the first place? Because she wants people to think about her dad as this totally unreasonable, wrath filled, tyrant. If she told the facts, she's not sure it would happen. So, she "adds to" her Father's comments in order to make him look much worse than he really is.
This is what God is warning us of first of all. Don't add to my commands. Yet, we do it, because we think that somehow we'll be making God more holy.
This is what the Jewish rabbis had done by the time of Jesus. They followed and preached Old Testament laws to be sure, but they had also developed an entire book of extra laws and practices that “improved upon” those Old Testament laws of God. This book—called the Talmud is still in use to this day.
Of course, Christians aren’t immune to this. A certain church body is great at adding to God’s Word. They tell their pastors not to get married, because they think that this makes them holier. They have their parishioners say prayers a certain number of time after each sin they commit. They encourage people to have religious statues around them while they pray, because these statues will somehow make their prayers holier.
The truth is: God never commands any of that stuff.
Do you ever catch yourself doing that? Do you find yourself thinking that by saying a prayer with your hands folded around a cross with beads on it that you are suddenly making that prayer holier? Do you tell people with pride, “I never ever have an alcoholic beverage!” as if that was a commandment? Do you ever have people look at your office cubicle at work in hopes that they will realize how holy you are because you have a cross as your screen saver, your mouse pad, and in five or six picture frames around your desk? Feeling extra holy from your own added laws?
It is really a crazy concept: Unholy human beings attempting to make God holier. That's like me trying to tell Lebron James how to dribble the basketball between his legs. He's the expert, why does he need my help?
God's the expert on holiness, why does he need our help?
The second thing God warns us of probably a lot more common among us. Back in verse 4 God says, "Do not subtract from my Law."
If you saw a speed limit sign that said, “55 MPH.” What does it mean to you? Make sure you drive 65? Don’t go faster than 70? Go 55 if police are present?
Americans have collectively changed the meaning of speed limit signs. There might be certain areas this isn't true like school zones and whenever Raleigh's finest is present, but in general we've subtracted from these signs. We make them mean less than they do because driving the speed limit can be hard. It requires attention, patience, and focus. Something we don't always have. So, we subtract from this law and make it easier to attain to.
Don't we do the same thing with God's Law? "It says, 'don't lust', but we say, “When I'm looking at those lingerie models, they aren't without any clothing. So it's not really lust. At least, if I keep it under 15 minutes." God says, “Don’t gossip,” but we say, “That's hard. He must have meant 'don't gossip, unless its really juicy, then go ahead.'" God says, “'respect the government,” but we says, “God probably meant that only if I like the government." "God says, "don't hate,” but we say, “that means don't hate people who don't deserve it. Unfortunately, I only know people who deserve it, so I'll go right on hating." And talk about a popular one, God says, “homosexuality is a sin,” we say, “I don’t want to be a bigot, so I’ll just cover it in white out. (All ten plus times it says so.)”
It's like we make God's Word into the Golden Corral. "I'll have some of the "don't murder", sure, but "divorce being a sin," has always left a bad taste in my mouth. I won't get any of that. I think I'll put a smidgen of "love your neighbor" on the corner of my plate, but not too much-- too much makes me sick. I'll wash it down with a glass of "only believers in Jesus go to heaven," but that's too bitter to share with my friends, so I'll make sure and water it down first."
Listen to the LORD again, he says, " Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you."
That means in order to keep God's name holy, we need to listen to everything that he says… all the time.
It’s because you are. And in the present of the All Holy God, how else could we feel?
Yet listen to what our Holy God did to make us holy. He tells us in Ephesians 5:25, “Christ loved the church,” and here church doesn’t refer to a building, but to people. “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Think about that. Christ is God. God is holy. Christ was holy. Yet He gave himself up for us!
“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy.”
This is why Jesus died. Because you and I are unholy. Because all of us have added to and subtracted from God’s Word in our thoughts, words, and actions. God, who was holy, died to make us holy, because we could not do this by ourselves!
“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy washing her with water and the Word.”
This is what Baptism is. It’s God’s eternal promises that in the waters of baptism the Holy Spirit seals us as holy thanks to the work of Jesus Christ our Lord. He washes us of our impurities. He makes us clean. He forgives you all of your sins!
2. Why Honor God’s Name Holy?
If we can’t do it on our own, if we don’t need to do it to earn heaven, why then do we make God’s name holy by our words and actions?
Take a look at the next part of Deuteronomy. Beginning at verse 5, "See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.”
In other words, Moses is telling the people to "Live by God's Word so that they you will get noticed by the rest of the world."
This was so true at the time of Israel. The other nations worshipped images of stone. The Israelites worshipped a God they couldn't see. The other nations encouraged sexual immorality as a way to get closer to their gods. The Israelite nation reserved this special act for marriage. The other nations yearned for greed and power. The Israelites offered the first fruits of their harvest to the LORD.
But why did they do this? Was it to draw attention to themselves? Why do we listen to God's Word? Is it to draw attention to ourselves?
That's not the case. Listen to what they have to say about the Israelites, 7 "What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? 8 And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?"
Did you catch that? The Israelites lived the way they did so people would pay attention to them and in turn they would see God!
It's like Coach K. Duke's basketball teams usually play very well. That's a reflection on the players, to a certain extent, but when year after year, player after player, team after team plays as well as Duke does, it reflects on the coach.
When believer after believer, church after church, Christian after Christian follows God's Word, it reflects, not on us, but on God!
This is why we do it. To show people God.
Don't think this is to make ourselves appear better than others. It's not "I'm a great Christian" so much as it is "Christ is great!"
First, we show them God's holiness. As Moses says it, "Is there any nation so great to have such righteous decrees?" When we teach God's holiness as it is taught in the Bible, that becomes clear to people.
Because no one else considers holiness as cut and dry as God. No lust ever. No hate ever. No coveting ever. Don't ever think anything else is more important than God ...ever. Not once. Never.
When people see God's holiness, they learn what we were reminded of early in this message. “We are not holy! Not at all. We need a Savior!”
That’s the second thing we want to show people, that God is merciful.
Moses said, "What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?” Think about that. The Israelites were a sinful people. God told them to be holy, but if you open up a page in the Old Testament, chances are you'll come across some sinful things that people did.
Yet, God was with them. He led them across the Red Sea. He protected them in the desert. He heard their every plea. He did it because of his mercy.
God has done it for us as well and the message we have for others is that God did it for them too! In Jesus, with his death on the cross, God was merciful to us. He punished his Son for the sins that they committed. Through faith in him, they too will be saved!
*This is what we mean by "hallowing God's name." We want to teach and act upon all of God’s Word in order to show people God’s holiness and his mercy.
III. How Can We Pull this Off?
Moses told the Israelites, "9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live."
How do you stop yourself from forgetting?
Do you remember the order of the presidents of the United States of America?
I did at one point. Got an A+. Now...I just remember that Millard Polks Fillmore. Otherwise, I draw a lot of blanks.
Why? I didn't keep studying it. The same is true with God's Word. If you don't study it, you will forget it. It will leave your heart. Consequently, if you don't forget God's Word, then there is no way you will live it.
This is why God encourages us to read his Bible! Make a plan and get this done immediately. It’s why Bible study exists. Join one! It’s why church happens each week. See you there!
Secondly, we want to teach this to our kids. Moses said just that to the Israelites, "Teach them to your children and to their children after them."
Because, guess what? They need you to tell it to them.
Don't come up with this idea that someday, somehow they'll learn on their own. That's foolish.
Instead, teach them God's Word. Bring them to Sunday School. Review the Sunday School lesson with them during the week. Pick up a devotional. If you need help finding the right one, ask me...I'll be glad to do it!
Finally, you might be realizing that this is all extremely difficult. You'd be right. How can an unholy people begin to understand the holiness of God and then put that into practice in day to day life?
You're going to need help. May I suggest that you call on the expert?
It's what we pray in the Lord's Prayer: "Hallowed be Thy Name." It’s really quite cyclical. We are asking God for help.
Here’s the progression of thought: “O Holy God! We are not holy. We see that when we compare ourselves to you. Yet, in our baptism and because of Jesus, you have made us holy in your sight. Now we ask you to help us make your name holy in the world. Again, we can’t do that on our own. We need you to send your Holy Spirit to work in our hearts a holy understanding, teaching, and acting upon of your Word.”
In other words, “God make your Name Holy!”
May this holy God strengthen you to make his name holy that more might be brought into your holiness. Hallowed be Thy Name O Lord. Hallowed be Thy Name. Amen.
A Message from Romans 8:12-15
12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Who is your Father?
I suppose there are a lot of different ways to answer that.
Some have been blessed to have wonderful biological fathers. Others have had step dads or adopted father. Still others of us have fathers that we barely even knew. In fact, we may feel more comfortable referring to grandpa or an uncle as Father.
When we say "Our Father" in the Lord's Prayer which one are we addressing? There are lots of different people in our congregation. Lots of different fathers. Even more if you consider the 'father figures' of those who will read this online.
But the truth is that in the Lord's Prayer, we are talking about none of these.
I. Know Your Real Father.
Think about the words again: It isn't “our Father, who art in upstate New York.” It isn't “Our Father, who I get to see every other weekend." It isn't even, "Our Father, whom I hope isn't so busy watching NC State that he might have some time to play a game of Uno with me.” But we pray to our Father, who art in heaven!
Who lives in heaven?
That would be God. The Almighty. The one who commands the waves and keeps the thunderstorms in line. The one who gave each and every one of us life. Our Creator not the created.
This is vitally important to remember. Because if we forget it, the results are disastrous.
1. You make sin into your Father.
Consider what a Father is supposed to be. He's a leader. He's your head. He's the one who cares for you and the one whom you are supposed to listen to.
But when we sin, aren't we really making our sinful desires into God?
"God, I know you've given me lots: life, breath, and everything else, but I'm really thinking that today's problems can best be solved by greed. I'm going to listen to him.”
"God, I know that you have wonderful gifts that you have given me for my pleasure, but I'm feeling stressed. I think that I'm going to listen to lust in this situation because I really want to feel good."
"God, I know that you love me and want me to treat others with love, but that just isn't' getting me anywhere. I think I'm going to start doing what hate tells me to do."
Look at what Paul wrote, “Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation," and that obligation is to listening to our real dad—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.” There's a reason Paul wrote that! The sinful nature shouldn't have any pull on us. It isn't our dad.
2. You Give your Real Father a bad name.
Maybe, you've met some kids that aren't very well behaved. Then, you find yourself doing, what you know you probably shouldn't. You judge. You think, "That dad must not be a good disciplinarian or at the very least, he must never be home." Then, you see some kids with clothes that are kind of raggedy and you think, "their parents must not have that much money." You see a kid in a UNC shirt and you think, "That poor kid! His dad has terrible taste in football teams."
What do you think unbelievers say when they see you – their 'believing' friend – talking with glee about that sexy scene in that “R” rated movie? Are they to assume that God, your Father, loves objectifying women?
What are your coworkers going to say when they hear you – the lady with the 'inspirational Bible verse' as my computer background– speaking in whispers about how coworker A is in trouble with the boss, because she's lazy and incompetent? Are they to assume that God, your Father, loves to grab a glass of sweet tea and talk about the latest gossip?
What is your family supposed to say, when they see you – a child of God – openly sinning, without any regard for what your Father in heaven says? Do they get the impression that sin isn't that big of a deal to God?
My dad was the baseball coach at my high school. He was very good. He coached teams to the state tournament. One team, to the state championship.
You could say, “Baseball was in my blood.”
You'd be surprised to find out that I'm not all that good at baseball. Namely, I throw like a girl. I won't demonstrate. Just know that it's so bad that when others have seen me throw; they are shocked. “Isn't your dad the baseball coach?”
QUESTION: Would people be shocked to learn that you are God's child? If so, we are to be ashamed! We have made sin into our Father!
3. You receive a Very Bad Gift from a False Dad.
Sometimes dads aren't that great at giving gifts. They get confused about the right colored blouse to buy their daughter. They aren't sure if they need to get the iPhone 4 or 5s for Junior. They haven't the slightest idea which cooking item their wife wants. (Hint: It's in the jewelry section.)
With sin as our father, look at all sin has to offer us: “If you live according to the sinful nature, you will die.”
I suppose you could make the argument that we receive some kind of temporary 'pleasure', when we listen to our sinful desires, but these desires don't last. The gift of death? That will last forever. Its' eternal. Fiery. Awful.
Suddenly, sin doesn't seem like so loving a Father anymore. It seems more abusive, drunken, and absent.
Contrast what sin has to offer us to our loving God.
In talking about our Heavenly Father had this thought, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?" Maybe, you'll give him a bowl of oatmeal instead of some Frosted Flakes, but certainly you wouldn't pour a bunch of gravel into his Bob the Builder bowl. Not even if you were awful! Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
God's good gifts to us start the moment he connects us to his family!
There you sat. Pathetic. Messed up. Cracked. Broken. Sinful.
In walks God. He's holy, perfect, and righteous. The members of his family are holy, perfect, and righteous. In our sinful, pathetic state, how would he ever take a chance on us? Surely, he'll move on. To someone stronger. Someone bigger. Someone more like to shape up.
You expect God to walk right past us. Find the kids in better shape. Choose the perfect child and leave you in the dark corner of that orphanage.
He walks forward. You close your eyes. A tear runs down your cheek.
You hear footsteps. They stop right over the top of you.
Then, you hear a booming voice of love and confidence, "I'll adopt this one."
Look at what it says in Romans 8:15, “The Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.”
Think about that! You were adopted by God. God chose you as his child!
And adoptions are expensive! There are costs for an initial interview. Costs to be evaluated both psychologically and physically. There are cost for the child, for the agent, for the child's biological mother.
It's so expensive that you might expect to set up a payment plan.
Your adoption in God's family? It's already paid for! God paid for you and me with his most priceless posession. His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ who is a complete payment for our adoption.
There is no balance left to be paid. There isn't a payment plan in place. You are completely his own!'
Paul writes in verse 16, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.” How does he do that?
Well, to prove an adoption, you need adoption papers. Something written down that says your adopted child is in fact your child.
Isn't that what this is? (the Bible) Doesn't it clearly tell us that we are God's children through faith in Jesus?
But the Spirit doesn't stop there! He works through Baptism, the holy waters of baptism, to clothe us in the righteousness of Christ, clothing perfect for those in God's family! And in the Lord's Supper, he gives us the very real promise of forgiveness through the very real body and blood of his Son, Jesus Christ. These testify to us: “It has been paid for. You are God's child.”
II. Act Like His Child.
If we God's child, then today Paul encourages us to act like God's child. In this section of Romans, there are three ways to do this.
1. Stop acting like a child of sin.
Paul says this, “If you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if you live according to the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body!”
It's like a child who had an extremely abusive and awful Father. When that person grows up, a therapist might recommend that the adult completely forget the man. The goal is to completely divorce the person from the awful influence so that depression and despair don't sit in.
Do the same thing with your former father. Get rid of every semblance of sin! Get rid of every reminder of him! Stop living according to the lusts and desires of your flesh. Stop doing the things you know are wrong. Stop listening to Sin, who is no Father at all, but listen to your Heavenly Father, who loves you and made you his child through Jesus!
Remember: Sin can only offer eternal death to its family. God offers eternal life.
Need there be anymore reason to get rid of sin?
2. Cry out to your dad with confidence.
Paul writes in verses 14-15, “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Abba means “dad” or “father.” It's a term that offers some kind of familiar connection to the ethereal ruler of the universe.
Think about that. We get to call the Almighty, All holy, All powerful, sin hating, God of the universe, our dad!
He is not some impersonal far off force, but a very near, a very loving God. One who holds us. One who protects us. One who whispers : “I am near. I love you.”
3. Look forward to your inheritance.
One of the special things that I own is a tie clip. It's not even real gold. It's got a picture of a tractor on it. It's chipped on the edges. To you it might not seem all that special. I don't even know how much it would sell for at a rummage sale.
But it's a tie clip that my grandpa had and gave to my Father. My dad gave it to me. It's an inheritance.
Maybe, you have an inheritance too. Some money. An heirloom. Something that's really valuable.
The inheritance God promises us?
A space in his house. An eternal spot in heaven.
Paul wrote, "Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory."
Share in His glory!?! There is no inheritance greater.
Think back to that phrase. “Our Father, who art in heaven.” What an appropriate way to start our prayer to God. It reminds us who we're praying to. It causes us to confess our sinful disobedience. It turns us to God's promise of adoption paid for in Christ's blood. It leads us to deny sin, pray confidently, and hold dearly to our precious inheritance.
To God, our wise heavenly Father, be all glory! Amen.
Are you significant?
One of the things I like about CNN.com is that as soon as you get to their webpage you are able to see what the most important stories of the day are. They have a "Buzzworthy" bar up in the corner that keeps track of which stories have had the most views.
About three weeks ago is when the chemical warfare attack in Syria happened. I signed on to that site thinking that the talks that ensued and the investigation that followed were significant.
And, to a certain extent, it was. I found it ranked the number two most trending story.
But it wasn't number one. There was lots more web traffic devoted to an entirely different topic.
If you don't know what that is, it's ok. Don't Google it. You're better off not knowing. Just know that a young Miley Cyrus did something that wasn’t so appropriate at an awards show.
It's amazing how our culture defines significance. We have become convinced that significance comes when you have millions of views on your YouTube video, thousands of Facebook friends, and hundreds of Twitter followers.
This is why people film their children biting one another's fingers and dress their cats up like Yankee Doodle! Because they think that these stunts will make them significant?
This is the same reason that reality stars act over the top. For rating and invites back to the All Star version (As if they didn't know that they'd be on an island fending for food when they signed up for Survivor.) It's why pop stars come to music awards shows in dresses made entirely of meat. These are all ways for people to say: "Hey World, I'm significant!"
In this world of self-made stardom, I wonder if we aren't affected. Maybe, you have the idea that unless you develop some sort of talent and get past the first round of America's Got Talent you cannot truly say that you're significant. And maybe, that's a dream of your. Maybe, you long to have your name in 14 point bold print at the bottom of the CNN website highlighting how "You did something significant."
And since you haven't made it yet, then, maybe, you've begun to think of yourself as insignificant. Pathetic. Never going to do anything worthwhile.
If that's the case, may I suggest that we look beyond B -rate daytime TV to discover what really makes someone significant. Let's look to Jesus, a man whose words and work are only growing in significance thousands of years later.
We’re looking at John 13:34-35. And it sure is significant. Jesus calls their attention to what he's about to tell them by saying, "A new command I have for you..."
Perhaps the disciples’ ears perked up. They had devoted years of their life to Jesus and now, maybe, it was going to pay off. Maybe, this was finally the time that he would tell them how they were going to make a difference. How they would overtake the Roman empire. How they would become significant and be Jesus’ secretary of state and treasury in his earthly kingdom.
But Jesus had something entirely different in mind.
He said, "A new command I have for you: love one another as I have loved you."
Do you think the disciples were just a little bit disappointed? No glorious battle. No fanfare. No revelation. Just love one another.
Maybe you're disappointed too. "Is that all there is to being significant? It doesn't take much to impress this Jesus does it? Because if all Jesus wants me to do is to love one another, then, I've done that. Most of the time. So, I guess, I've earned my significance, right?”
There are two letters you aren’t paying attention to. Jesus didn't simply say, "love one another." He also included a little word that changes the scope of what we're talking about. "as" Two letters in English. Two letters in the original Greek. Same concept. "Similar to, the same as, in the same way." It changes the entire scope of what Jesus is asking us to do.
Look at the passage again: "Love one another, as I have loved you."
Do you love your friends and family like Jesus? Consider the following:
1. First off, Jesus' love was never too busy for anyone! He always helped whenever people needed it, even if he was supposed to be doing something else. It's why he stopped to help the bleeding woman as he was heading to help a sick girl—a matter of life and death! It's why, when he went up to a mountain to catch a quick break, he heard a crowd, turned around, and gave his attention to thousands of people who were looking for his help!
Compare Jesus to you. Do you always take the time to show love to others? Do you drop the TV remote to go help your spouse with the groceries? After a long, hard day at work, are you super willing and ready to listen to your friends day at work on the phone? When you are supposed to be at the Day Spa appointment, do you respond to your kids request to "play a game?"
If you have ever been too busy to show love, then you haven't loved like Jesus.
2. One of the reasons Jesus was always ready to help, was that Jesus always thought of other people first! His actions were backed up by his thought process. He thought of helping others before his own safety. He was hungry and he fed others. He was tired and he got up to deal with everyone else's fears.
What about you? When you are filling out your schedule, is it more important for you to block out "HELPING OTHERS" time or "ME" time? When it comes to spending money, do you insist it go towards something for someone else in the family? Or do you think it would be better spent on your hobby? Do you ever help some one out because it's helpful to them? Or because it makes you feel good? Or maybe they'll owe you a favor later?
If you have ever been thinking about yourself, instead of thinking of others, then you haven't loved like Jesus.
3. Finally, consider this: Jesus put others first, that included: his enemies! He healed the daughter of one who was his enemy's friend. He reached out and healed the ear of a soldier who had come to arrest him. Goodness, even when his enemies were nailing him hand and foot to a crosss, Jesus cried out, "Father, forgive them for they don't know what they are doing!"
What about you and your enemies? Are you always nice to them? Maybe, a better question is are you ever nice to them? Do you say nice things about them to your other coworkers? Do you always send them nice emails? Do you always send nice Facebook messages about them? Do you love calling up your estranged brother to see how he's doing?
Not so much? Then, again, you haven't loved like Jesus.
So, show of hands. Who here has loved like Jesus? Who here qualifies as "Significant"?
This is a big deal! Because if we don't qualify as significant in God's eyes. Then, we are insignificant. Worthless.
Why? Because “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) And anything that isn't loving, is worthless to him! Evil. Selfish. Sin. These are the things that are worthless to God. 1 John 4:8 says, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
It makes sense too. It's like a dentist being given a tube of toothpaste made entirely out of Hershey’s chocolate syrup. Not only is it worthless for what he has in mind, but it actually works against him!
So it is with God. He hates evil. He hates evil doers. They are worthless to his good plans.
And what do you do with worthless things?
Well, garbage men takes worthless things to the incinerator. They have it burned.
God threatens the same burning destruction to all evildoers.
Do you see the horror of our situation? We are the evil ones. We are the one's whose love is worthless in God's sight. And we are the ones who deserve to be treated as the worthless, insignificant creatures that we are.
We have not loved like Jesus, but thank God Jesus still loved like Jesus.
When you think about Jesus' last days, they don't seem very significant. He was arrested in a garden. He was quickly put on trial without any audience. He was beaten and bloodied till he looked like any other criminal who had been in a brawl. Then, he went to the hill where they killed every other criminal. There, he was nailed to a big piece of wood like every other criminal. There he was spat on. Ridiculed. Mocked. Despised.
Thought of as worthless.
And when he died, I'm sure everyone was convinced that Jesus was exactly that: worthless.
That is, until Sunday morning. Until the soldiers on guard fainted at the sight of an angel. Until a few women discovered an empty tomb. Until one woman--then a man---then a few more--than a large group--- saw Jesus...alive!
Now in my book that doesn''t happen too often. In fact, it never happens. There aren't any resurrections on YouTube. Nor will you find any "I will rise from the dead." Tweets from beyond the grave.
But Jesus did rise from the dead! And it's absolutely significant!
But it's not remotely significant on the CNN radar compared with what happened behind the curtain.
Picture a courtroom. There sits the judge. It’s God Almighty. Eyes of blazing red. His gavel, a lightning bolt. HE hates sin and he hates injustice.
Before him stands the one on trial. Sad. Nervous. Scared before the All Powerful judge.
The Prosecution steps forward. It’s the devil. He smirks, "This person is a sinner! He sold his soul to me. I offered him a chance to be significant in his earthly life and he fell for it! He chose significance. The temporal. The day to day in exchange for spending eternity with me. Now it's time to finish our agreement. God, send this person to hell!”
There's silence. The angels in the courtroom look toward the ground with sadness. The devil smirks, because he thinks he's won. God Almighty in all his wrath lifts his gavel. Soon it will come thundering down with a verdict of "guilty!"
Everyone looks across the courtroom. It's Jesus. Hand raised.
He says, "Don't punish him/her. I'll take the punishment. I'll do it God. I'll suffer hell as long as they don't have to."
And the devil gets incredulous! "Why? This is ludicrous! Why? Why would you do that?" It's what they deserve.”
"Because," Jesus says, "because I love that one."
Think about that. Jesus thought (and still thinks) you are most significant.
Want proof? Jesus came to earth and he suffered for you. He died for you. He rose from the dead for you! You were worth his blood. You were worth his soul. You were worth every awful, terrible moment on that awful, terrible cross.
And now, think about this, even if your name is never in big Hollywood light or on the front page of the CNN website or running around the bottom scroller of WRAL news, your name is written in heaven! It's reserving a spot for you. A spot that's your through faith in Jesus!
Jesus says, “I find you significant. Now, do significant things!? Love one another. Jesus says "because this is how they will know that you are my disciples when you love one another."
Think about that: Jesus wants you to show love, not to gain a better name for yourself, but to share his name with others.
Think about what we've already talked about in this series. : Jesus wants others to share the peace of sins forgiven that you already know. He wants others to share the joy of salvation that you have in your heart. He wants others to hold to the hope of eternal riches that get us through the struggles of the day to day. He wants others to feel love, perfect love. The love of a God who gave his life for you and for me.
So...love one another! It's so significant!
You can almost read the heavenly headlines now: "Mother, gets three children dressed and brings them all to church on Sunday--people are impressed" "Dad, reads a devotion to his family at the dinner table, even though the game was on." "Wife forgives husband." "Husband forgives wife." "Grandma offers to take child to Sunday School." "Man overcomes fear and invites neighbor to Back to Church Sunday!"
Brothers and sisters, these are the things of significance. The day to day. The love. The sharing of Jesus' love for the sake of Jesus' love.
May our prayer be that God guide us to live lives of love for him, because that's significant. Amen.
What do you hope for your kids?
Maybe your hope is that they'll be academically successful. If this is you, then school has become life! Year round school. Summer school. After school school. Weekend school. If this is you, then you even have the unique ability to make fun into school! This is why parents get upset if their three year old isn't reading sentences half way through Preschool. They have already started to look into the best university for your 4th grader. You may have gotten your kids a French tutor at the age of six! I tr
Another common hope for parents is that their kids will be financially stable. That means a lot in this unstable economy. So you work long hard hours. You forget to eat. You forget to drink. All to make sure that you can save up so your kid doesn't have any ridiculous students loans from college. You may even let them stay at home to save on rent.
Maybe, you hope is that they'll take care of finances on their own., Maybe, you hope that your kid will be athletically successful! This is where things get crazy right? Parents say, “My kid needs to have chosen the one sport that he will excel at by the end of 2nd grade. Then, I can sign him up for every sports camp that comes my way! I'll buy him all the latest Nike gear, because then he'll be able to jump higher and move quicker. I'll even get him a personal trainer so that he from a professional. I know costs a lot of money and it's 1 in every 10 million kids that actually make it to the NBA, but my kid's different. He'll be the one to make it."
Jesus' hope for your kids.
They are much different. Jesus had entirely different hopes. In his high priestly prayer, a prayer that he prayer to his Father, a prayer that he prayed out loud for all his disciples to hear, Jesus explained his hope for all people. For us. For your children. In John 17:2-3 he said, “Father the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people,” Why? “That he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.”
Think about how incredible this is! Jesus was about to die. That very night he'd be arrested. The next day he'd be on the cross. And he knew all of this would happen. Yet, the main thing he hopes for in his prayer is not that the pain would be over quickly or that it wouldn't be so intense orthat it wouldn't happen at all.
It was that all people... you...your child might have eternal life.
So...Which hope is better?
Did you know that, according to a recent Deloitte Center for Finances study, only .54 percent of the world's population will become millionaires? And that includes people who save and strive for that until the end of their life!
Did you know that this past year only 7.2% of the 30,000 that applied to Harvard were accepted into the prestigious university!?! That's only those people who applied.
Did you know that out of every 10 million high school, varsity basketball players only 40 will make it to the NBA? Again. Those are only the kids who make the varsity basketball team!
What are the chances of going to heaven? With faith in Jesus, it is 1 in 1. 100% certain. There is no doubt!
This is the first key difference between earthly hopes and heavenly hopes. Hope of eternity in Jesus is certain! Victory is certain. Success over sin is certain. Even a home of heavenly riches is completely and absolutely certain!
And considering who the promises is from, this makes sense! After all, in his prayer Jesus calls God, “the only true God.” That means, this isn't a promise made by Zeus, the made up God of Greek myth. It isn't a promise made by scientists, in an attempt to explain future origins of the universe.
It's a promise made by God. The God as real as the blood stained cross he hung on. The God as real as the graveyard tomb he left behind.
Jesus' hope for our kids is way more certain than our own earthly hopes for our kids.
And think about something else:
JaMarcus Russel and Ryan Leaf were both drafted number one over all in their respective NFL drafts. They both made over $40,000,000.
Neither of them still play. One of them went to jail. The other is bankrupt.
But then again, it doesn't matter if it is money, athleticism, or even smarts. None of these things last forever!
Money can be spent. Athleticism goes away with age. Memory and the mind can be attacked by Alzheimer's and other diseases.
But the hope of eternal life?
That lasts forever.
Think of what it's called after all: eternal life. That means life without end. Life that is outside of time. Life that lasts forever.
And it comes from an eternal God! Another reason why this truth can be trusted. It's not like some out of work gentleman promising to pay you back $1000 that he doesn't have.
This is God. Promising to pay you eternity. Which he invented and controls!
Jesus' hope for our kids is longer lasting than our hopes for our kids.
So...Why do we Focus our Kids on temporary, uncertain Hopes?
Think back to our opening examples: “Yes, I spend all my money and time to make sure my child is academically successful. That way I can get one of those “my child is an honor student” bumper stickers and put it on the back of my vehicle! People will be impressed!"
“Yes, I am doing everything possible to make sure that My kid doesn't have the big money problems that I had growing up. In fact, my hope is that one day he'll make it big and then he can lend old dad some money to take care of himself.”
“Yes, I my life revolves around my child's fledgling sporting career, but I look at it as an investment! One day he'll be famous and I'll be on an ESPN special...interviewed on my commitment to athletics!”
Do you see why our hopes for our children are the way they are? Because our hopes are focused on temporal, uncertain things as well.
It's like a pair of binoculars. If you find a rare bird off in a tree, you keep your eyes on him as you bring your child over. You have to be focused in order to focus them in the right direction. If not, who knows where you are pointing him.
If our focus is on temporary, uncertain earthly hopes for our children, it's because that's where our hopes are focused as well.
And the sad thing is that if we focus our thoughts and hopes on earthly things then we will completely miss out on the only hope that lasts and is completely certain. Instead, we'll be completely uncertain of our eternal future.
But God is certain. He is certain that apart from him there is only eternal pain and misery in hell.
But if your hope is the same as that of Jesus, change your focus.
Jesus explains how eternal life comes about verse 3: “This is how people have eternal life...they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
It's what Jesus said in our Gospel for today from John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.”
Do you see the urgency?
This is why teaching your kids about Jesus is of the utmost importance. Because by teaching them about their Savior, you will be giving them hope. Real hope. Certain hope.
The only Hope that lasts forever.
Take advantage of opportunities for your child to grow in their knowledge about Jesus. Let them experience Jesus as they learn about him in Sunday School. I know that's early. But get up. Bring them to Sunday School. And church! Teach them about the cross up front. Explain what the songs we sing mean. Tell them that Jesus loves them in your family devotions. At your bedtime prayers.
You will be giving them real hope. Hope that lasts forever.
There is no better gift!
When I was in my final year at the Seminary, I made hospital visits to a lady in a mental care facility. One day, as I rode up the secure elevator to the Alzheimer's wing, I heard shouting and screaming. I looked around and warily approached the front desk. I told them whom I was there to see.
“HA!” she replied. “Good luck. She's the one that's screaming. She's locked herself in that room and won't come out.”
I said a prayer.
Then approached anyways. I introduced myself as the intern pastor. I asked if I could read from the Gospel of John. She nodded. I began to read about the Good Shepherd. She quieted down. She listened. I said, “Remember: Jesus is the Good shepherd and you are his sheep. He loves you.”
“He loves me,” she repeated.
We sang “Jesus Loves Me” together.
Brothers and sisters, Jesus offers real hope! Hope that is certain. Hope that lasts. From a child when you first learn about his love all the way to death when you need his love more than ever!
May this certain hope of our certain Savior be with you always. Amen.