Today we are continuing our series called DEEP by taking a look at DEEP COMMITMENT. We want to find out how deep of a commitment God wants us to make to him. We want to do so by taking a look at the story of Jeremiah.
I. A Lesson from Jeremiah
Jeremiah was a prophet. That means He received messages from God and his job was to speak these messages from God. Now that would be a pretty neat job if the message from God was nice to hear.
“You will be healed from cancer.”
“You will win the lottery.”
“Your favorite team will win the Super Bowl.”
"There's a two for one sale on Lay's Sour Cream and Onion chips!"
But, unfortunately, the messages that God had Jeremiah speak were not always that pleasant.
Take chapter 37 for instance. The city of Jerusalem had been surrounded by the Babylonian army. They had been under siege and for months they had been cut off from supplies. No food, no water, no arrangements could be restocked. People were getting hungry. People were getting thirsty. People were getting nervous that they would die in Jerusalem.
But then, things changed. The army of Pharaoh had left from Egypt and word reached the Babylonians that they were coming to attack them. Rather than wait for a surprise attack, the Babylonians left the siege and went out to face Egyptians.
Seems like the perfect chance to escape the siege, right?
The king at the time – King Zedekiah – was a little indecisive. He liked that idea, but he needed to know for sure if it was the right move. He decided to ask Jeremiah to tell him what God would have them do.
Make note of that. He wanted to know what God had to say. He asked for it!
He sent word to Jeremiah. Jeremiah inquired of God; God responded; and Jeremiah responded to the King. Just not like he wanted him to:
7 “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Pharaoh’s army, which has marched out to support you, will go back to its own land, to Egypt. 8 Then the Babylonians will return and attack this city; they will capture it and burn it down.’
9 “This is what the LORD says: Do not deceive yourselves, thinking, ‘The Babylonians will surely leave us.’ They will not! 10 Even if you were to defeat the entire Babylonian army that is attacking you and only wounded men were left in their tents, they would come out and burn this city down."
We’re in the middle of the NFL season. If a team were down by 6 late in the fourth quarter and getting a break like recovering a fumble, it doesn’t go very well if the coach’s timeout speech is: “Let’s hike the ball and then QB1, take the ball and hand it into the hands of their star defensive linemen. We’re gonna lose anyway. Let’s lose gracefully.”
Coaches don’t say that. They’d probably get fired.
Jeremiah’s message to the Israelites was “Don’t run. Don’t fight. Even if they only had injured guys – the same result will happen. God is bringing you into the hands of your enemies.”
The Israelites didn’t like this message. Look at what happens: 15 They were angry with Jeremiah and had him beaten and imprisoned…16 Jeremiah was put into a vaulted cell in a dungeon, where he remained a long time.
But here’s where it gets really interesting. After that ‘long time’, King Zedekiah sends for Jeremiah again. He had him released from the vault. He had him brought to the palace. He had his personal guards leave him. One on one, the king asked Jeremiah again, “Is there any word from the Lord?”
This was Jeremiah’s chance. He could get himself set free. All he had to do was tell a little lie. All he had to do was tell the King was he wanted to hear. All he had to say was tell the people what they wanted to here.
But Jeremiah didn’t do it.
17 Jeremiah replied, “You will be delivered into the hands of the Babylonians.” He was too committed to God.
Why? Why didn't Jeremiah tell the man what he wanted to hear? Why didn't he value his life? Why was he so insisted on telling what God said?
Easy: Commitment means speaking the truth.
Bill Nye the science guy is in the news. He released statements calling Christian opposition to abortion as “foolish, ignorant, and antiquated.” He said, “Life doesn’t start at conception. That’s a fact.”
Now I don’t like to be called foolish ignorant and stupid. That's not fun. I don't have a martyr wish...
...But I also know what the Bible says, “God created my inmost being; God knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13) I also know that life is not a right of human, but "a gracious gift of God” (1 Peter 3:17) I know that God commands us, "Do not murder."
This is kind of a Jeremiah situation isn't it? We're not facing a pit, but we are facing ridicule, scorn, and harsh words.
What should we do?
Learn from Jeremiah. Stay committed to God ! In he face of your friend’s ridicule, stay committed to God and speak the truth. In the face of a trolling message on Facebook, stay committed to your Lord and speak the truth. When your nephew tells you that you are an old fashioned bigot, stay committed to the Lord and speak the truth.
Why? You might say. Why would I stay committed to God if it brought me so much trouble?
Psalm 84 gives us reason. The Psalmist wrote, "Better is one day in your courts, O Lord, than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. For the Lord is a sun and a shield, the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.”
God’s way is better. It's better to be that door man who hears the celebration of music of salvation through a muffled door and who catches a glimpse of the party whenever he opens it than it is to be dwelling in the seat of honor among the hateful, guilty, bandits of hell.
Follow God. It's worth it.
II. A Lesson from Ebed-Melek
Jeremiah’s message worked…kinda. The King’s conscience was stricken and he released Jeremiah. Time to take it easy, right?
Not so much. In the very next chapter, Jeremiah is recorded preaching the same message that got him into trouble with even more vigor. He walks up and down among the crowds of people in Israel and Jeremiah says this: 2 “This is what the LORD says: ‘Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague, but whoever goes over to the Babylonians will live. They will escape with their lives; they will live."
How do the people react? Surprise, surprise: They react in the exact same way. Although this time, they decide not to go through the king, since he became a softy and let Jeremiah go.
6 They took Jeremiah and put him into the cistern…which was in the courtyard of the guard. They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud.
Can you imagine that? We have MUD DAY here at Precious Lambs where kids get to make mud pies, play in mud pools, and slide down mud slip and slides.
But…do you know what’s nice about Mud Day? It ends. You can go home and get clean.
Not Jeremiah. He was stuck in the cold, stinky mud. Nothing was drinkable. The air was damp and dark. I’m sure there were creepy crawlies that might have made an appearance too.
Nobody envied Jeremiah.
In fact, I imagine that the majority of people distanced themselves from him as much as possible. Would you really want to join Jeremiah in the cistern? There wasn’t that much room. As a result, there’s no record of anybody speaking up for Jeremiah.
Except for a foreigner.
Ebed-Melek, a Cushite…heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern…Ebed-Melek went and said to the king, “My lord the king, these men have acted wickedly in all they have done to Jeremiah the prophet. They have thrown him into a cistern, where he will starve to death when there is no longer any bread in the city.”
This is so interesting, because Ebed-Melek wasn’t even an Israelite. There wasn’t any patriotism at work. He simply saw God in Jeremiah and evil in the people opposed to him. He was committed to God and stood up for a speaker of God’s truth.
This is a second lesson for us to take from the book of Jeremiah about commitment. This time from humble Ebed-Melek – Commitment means supporting those who speak the truth of God.
There's a video floating around YouTube called "I'm a Christian But..." It shows various people come on the screen and list something about Christianity that don't want to be linked together with.
"I'm a Christian, but...I'm not judgmental."
"I'm a Christian, but...I'm not intolerant."
"I'm a Christian, but...I'm not a homophobe."
"I'm a Christian, but...I'm not a Pharisee who thinks he's better than other Christians. (Other than in this very video.)
The video is sad. Instead of standing up and defending truth and supporting other Christians who are trying to hold to the truths of God's Word, these people seem to be more interested in distancing themselves from stereotypes of Christianity. Stereotypes said by opponents of Christianity.
In the process, they distance themselves from those who speak the truth of the Lord.
That's not commitment.
Ebed-Melek was committed though. His words worked too. The king granted him permission to grab some men and some rope and pull Jeremiah out of the pit.
May I add that your words of encouragement to a friend – to an elder – to a pastor for speaking the truth – are just like that. They lift people out of a pit – a lonely pit of following God in a hostile world.
If you join up with the world, it will have the opposite effect. It will drag down God’s message. It will drag down the people who care for God and care for your soul.
Don’t do that. Stay committed to God by supporting those who are committed to God!
III. A Lesson from Zedekiah
After Jeremiah was released from the cistern, King Zedekiah brought Jeremiah to him one more time. (Maybe Jeremiah’s words were pricking at his conscience). He asks Jeremiah one more time to hear what God has to say.
And, not surprisingly, Jeremiah gets defensive. He basically says, “If I tell you the truth, then you’ll kill me. I don’t want to die. Why should I speak to you?” (38:16)
But Zedekiah assures him that will not happen. So Jeremiah tells him the same thing -- one last time, “If you surrender… your life will be spared and this city will not be burned down; you and your family will live. 18 But if you will not surrender…this city will be given into the hands of the Babylonians and they will burn it down; you yourself will not escape from them.”
And at first, it looks like King Zedekiah is going to listen. He doesn’t respond in anger. He doesn’t send for his guards. He just lets Jeremiah go.
But…if you read into the next chapter, that’s not what Zedekiah does. “39:1 In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah…Babylon marched against Jerusalem …When Zedekiah king of Judah and all the soldiers saw them, they fled!”
They didn’t surrender. They didn’t do what God said. The result?
"5 The Babylonian army pursued them and overtook Zedekiah…They captured him and… the king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes and also killed all the nobles of Judah. 7 Then he put out Zedekiah’s eyes and bound him with bronze shackles to take him to Babylon.”
Wow. Guess Zedekiah should have listened.
Take a look at the above cartoon. It's funny because it's true. It's also a little sad.
What in the world was going on?
The man looked around him. His friends were dragging him by the hand through a large group of people. Hands were moving and mouths were opening faster than he had ever seen them. He couldn’t make out a single word. Not because there was so much noise, but because there was so little.
He was deaf. Always had been. So the scene was surreal – a sea of commotion without so much as the background music of a silent film.
If only he could slow them down and get them to explain the situation better. He opened his mouth to shout, but the people didn’t hear a thing. It wasn’t because it was too noisy either, but because he didn’t make a noise.
He was mute. Always had been. Just like it had always been the case. He was deaf. He was mute. Now he was frightened.
But as he and his friends made their way to the center of the crowd, the man’s eyes caught a glimpse of something that calmed him. A face. A kind face. A smile from a rugged looking man who seemed to be the leader of the group.
Not that he had heard his name before, but perhaps this was the one – the one his friends had written down for him. The one’s whose name whose name was spelled J-e-s-u-s.
Brothers and sisters, today we’re continuing our DEEP series by taking a look at DEEP COMPASSION. Our goal is to learn about (1) Our need for compassion, (2) God’s deep compassion and (3) how to show compassion like God.
I. The DEEP Need for Compassion
Take a look again at what exactly was going on in Mark 7. 32 "Some people brought to Jesus a man who was deaf and could hardly talk.” Notice that this man was unlike many others who had come to Jesus. He had more than one problem. Jesus had healed the blind, the lame, and the sick. He had probably healed the deaf and the mute. But nowhere else had Jesus run into someone who had two related, but different problems.
Doesn’t that make compassion more difficult? Think about it. A teacher might be willing to teach a student with ADD, but if they had Autism too, they might ask that they be taken to a special school. You might be willing to drop a buck to someone who is homeless, but if they are also addicted to drugs – you think, “Why even bother?” We might be willing to spend time with a friend who is handicapped physically, but if they are mentally handicapped too…don’t many of us suddenly become too busy because that takes a lot of work.
It’s kind of sad. But when people have more than one problem – we often label them UNTOUCHABLE and save our compassion to those who are easier to help!
But I think there’s something else that added to the UNTOUCHABILITY of this man was. Verse 32 says “Some people brought to Jesus a man who was deaf and could hardly talk.”
I was watching an episode of What Would You Do? the other day. It’s a show where they use actors to stage a social situation and hidden camera record the reactions of everyday – non-actor people.
In this episode, they recorded as a young woman walked around at the gas station asking for some money to help fill her tank and get her back home. Guess what? She didn’t have much a problem raising way more than she needed. She was kinda cute, so there were plenty of guys willing to help her. But even other women helped too.
Then, they changed one thing. Same story. Same gas station. Only this time, they used a man.
Guess what? It took him an hour and a half before he even got a buck.
Right or wrong – society has less compassion on men. Perhaps it’s because of the Biblical precedent that the man should be the leader of his family and perhaps it is often the case that the man hasn’t taken any responsibility. Whatever the reason – it’s true that men often receive less compassion.
There’s one more thing to keep in mind. The man was mute. So it’s possible that he had no idea what was going on and he had no idea that he was going to get help. In other words, it’s kind of unlikely that he was even asking for help. No doubt that would be a nice thing, but in the specific scenario he isn’t the one leading the charge to Jesus. His friends brought him.
If someone isn’t asking for help, that severely reduces the risk that they will receive help, don’t you think? If you don’t send in to the government asking for social support and welfare payments, even if you qualify, you won’t get them!
All of these things lead me to believe that this man probably didn’t receive a lot of compassion in his life. Now here he stood before the Son of God himself. But there’s one more thing that, a hidden thing, that could have easily prevented this many from receiving any compassion from Jesus.
If your child comes to you with a boo boo after falling down in roller skates, you might be compassionate. You get a band aid and some Neosporin and pour on a healthy dose of mommy love.
But if your child comes to you with a boo boo after falling off of the tree that he climbed up in roller blades AFTER you told him repeatedly not to climb up because "that’s a terrible idea and you will get hurt,” you might not be as compassionate. They might not deserve it.
Sin is what happens when we do that to God. He warned us. He told us not to. We did anyway. From Adam and Eve – to you and me — when we don’t do what God says, should we be surprised when there are consequences? Guilt, shame, relationship struggles, anxiety, even physical pain!
You’ve sinned. I’ve sinned. We’ve all sinned. We are as in need of compassion as this deaf and mute man was! We need an ALL HOLY God not to deal with us as we deserve, but to deal with us in His incredible COMPASSION.
II. How Deep is God’s Compassion
Listen to how deep God’s compassion is.
“After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly."
This is incredible. Notice Jesus puts his fingers into the man’s ears and touches the man’s tongue. That’s not just the touch of a human being. It wasn’t just his mom holding his hand or his grandma squeezing his cheeks. It wasn’t the doctor feeling for his heartbeat. This was the touch of God.
That’s how deeply involved God gets. He literally puts his touch into this man. The same hands that had formed this man in the womb; the same hands that had guided him on his way; and the same hands that would be crucified for him – were actively involved in healing Him!
Next Jesus looked up to heaven – this is key! Jesus is drawing attention to the fact that this is from God. It’s a prayer. It’s a communication with his heavenly Father. This doesn’t come from one of those Miracle Cure All Bottles that appear on the Home Shopping Network at 2 in the morning. This healing came from The Almighty Hand of God!
Do you want further proof? Look at his words: "Ephphatha!” (which means “be opened!”) He doesn’t say, “this medicine should help.” He doesn’t suggest, “This treatment has a 50% success rate.” He doesn’t say, “This is about all we can do." He’s speaks directly to the problem. He commands the man’s ears to hear. He orders the man’s throat to open.
And what happens?
Quietly, a sound. A melody. A bird chirping in the distance. The mysterious rustling of the leaves. A voice asking, “Did it work?”
Then another sound. A sound that not only the man, but none of his friends had heard before.
The man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. He felt God’s compassionate touch.
Jesus went out of his way to find this poor man and heal his inadequacies – Jesus went even farther for you and for me! His compassion drove him to the cross. His compassion for you drove him to suffer for you. His compassion for you drove him to die for you. His compassion for you drove him to rise triumphantly from that grave that whoever believe in him will not get as their sins deserve and perish, but will graciously, compassionately, be gifted eternal life in His name.
That’s a compassionate God. It’s the same compassionate God that is reaching out to you right now.
May he open your sin-blinded heart to see that He is your Savior.
May he open your sin-stopped ears to hear that He forgives you.
May he open your mute mouth to sing aloud – I believe!
III. Compassion Like Jesus
Notice that the mouth of the formerly deaf mute man wasn’t the only thing opened that day.
36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. Most likely because the more word spread about him, the quicker the Pharisees decided in their hearts to kill him. But it didn’t even work. Look: the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” People were singing Jesus’ praises everywhere they went. They couldn’t contain it. They told their sick aunts. They told their blind grandpas. They told the widow down the street who was feeling lonely.
Jesus didn’t just open the man’s ears and mouth; he opened the people’s mouths too! I’m also praying that this message this morning opens up a few things on us too.
1) Open Our Eyes.
There are people in need all around you too. I bet you that each day you will run into people who need compassion.
How do I know? Because you’ll run into people. People need compassion.
Keep your eyes open:
Instead of a bum in need of some money; see a soul in need of your compassion.
Instead of an addict in need of a 12 step program; see a soul in need of your compassion.
Instead of an impoverished family in need of the government to do something; see a soul in need of your compassion.
Instead of a mentally handicapped man in need of a professional’s help; see a soul in need of your compassion.
Instead of a physically handicapped woman in need of a physician’s therapy; see a soul in need of your compassion.
Instead of the terribly sick in need of a doctor’s prescription; see a soul in need of your compassion.
Instead of a coworker in need of a chat with human resources; see a soul in need of your compassion.
Then, approach them and ask God to…
2) Open our Ears.
Too often we assume we know what others need right off of the bat. That guy needs a haircut. He needs to work harder. He needs some medicine.
But sometimes we are so interested in our answer, we miss the question.
Husbands, doesn’t this happen to you? At the supper table, you ask your wife about her day and she says, “It was a mess. The plumber couldn’t fix the leaky pipes, the kids were late to school, the baby has been crying all day; the dog made a mess in the living room, your mom called and reprimanded me for the amount of money I spent at Kroger last week. Ugh!”
And you’re like, “Call the plumber again. Leave the house earlier. Feed the baby some rum. Sell the dog and never answer my mom’s phone call again. Pass the potato salad, please.”
But she says, “What? You don’t care!!!”
She wasn’t asking you to fix it. She was asking you to listen.
Listen. That’s compassion. Listen to your spouse. Listen to your kids. Listen to your kids. Listen to that guy at work no one talks to. Listen to your boss. Listen to your neighbor.
And once you’ve listened…pray for God to...
3) Open your Mouth!
Because it wouldn’t do a lot of good to be walking down the hall this week, see someone in need of compassion, state out loud, “That person needs compassion,” and then walk away whistling to yourself that you did a good job identifying someone in need of compassion.
We need to speak. After we’ve listened, we need to speak and bring comfort. It can start pretty simple: “How are you? Nice to meet you. Tell me about your week. I love your outfit.” Those are nice things.
But how can it not, at some point, in some shape or form, involve the message of your Savior? His message is true compassion. That deals with sin. How much more compassionate is the message of Scripture, “That God so loved you – my dear friend – that He gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life!”
I'll bet that the formerly deaf and mute man – never forgot that day. Because he could hear? Sure. Because he could speak? Absolutely. But mostly because he could see – His Savior.
When you see someone in need of compassion, when you open your ears to listen to them and God gives you the courage to open your mouth and speak his love, may that be what they remember - their Savior. Amen.
The Pharisees were the most religious looking people of the time. They dressed religious with long flowing robes and ornamented sashes; they talked religious – about the Bible, about God, and traditions. They walked religious – with a stoic, appropriately respectable jaunt! It wouldn't be surprising if they smelled religious – a soothing combination of incense and oil with a hint of sweat (because they had been praying so hard)
The Pharisees even ate religiously. With big motions so that everyone could see what they were doing, they walked over to a nearby jug. They spoke words of Hebrew blessing. They dipped their hands in the water and gave them a ceremonial washing from the tip of the pinky finger to the crook of the elbow.
Then, they sat down, expecting to see everyone’s eyes filled with amazement at just how devoted to God they were.
The people weren’t looking at them. An upstart group of men who had been gaining quite a following recently had the crowd’s attention in the corner. Their leader was called Jesus and the men that followed him – disciples. They seemed like decent people who knew the law and knew religion. The Pharisees were interested in talking with them.
But as they approached the disciples, they noticed something appalling.
THEY DIDN’T WASH THEIR HANDS!!!
So, like a Preschooler, excited to tell mom and dad about the bad thing that he caught his brother doing, the Pharisees asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”
Now – this wasn’t a germ issue. It wasn’t a "when did you last use the restroom issue." It wasn’t a matter of physical cleanliness at all. It was a religious issue – a matter of spiritual cleanliness.
It’s important for us too. Today we are interesting in finding out if we are clean. (No, I’m not asking if you took a shower recently and if you used soap and if you washed behind your ears). I want you to consider if you are spiritually clean.
I. Where NOT to Measure Cleanliness
We going to start by taking a look at Jesus’ response. He emphasizes where NOT to look for the answer this question:
6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 7 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’"
Wouldn’t it be really awesome to find out that a long time ago someone had prophesied about you? Wouldn’t it be pretty cool to find out that you would be a prophet? Or you’d walk on water? Or you’d become President of the United States?
Jesus was telling the Pharisees that there was an Old Testament prophecy that talked about them. But I don’t think they were too happy to find out. Because the prophecy painted them in a horrible light!
“‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” 7 They worship me in vain.” That word “vain” means “empty; worthless; without any substance to it.” The Pharisees sang the praises of God, sure. They followed God’s rules, absolutely. In fact, there probably wasn’t anyone who followed God’s rules better than the Pharisees.
But in their hearts? These godly actions weren’t being done for God. These actions were being done for themselves.
“Isn’t it awesome how much I serve at church? I love having people say, “You do such a great job.”
“God – notice how I didn’t drink any alcohol at the party tonight. I’m a little better than all those people who did, right?”
“God, did you see that check I just made out for charity? It’s ok if you didn’t. They’re gonna put my name on the donor list. You can find it there."
We can’t look to Godly actions to identify ourselves as “clean.” The motivation may be far apart!
The Pharisees had taken it a step farther. "Your teachings are but rules taught by men.” The Pharisees didn’t just follow God’s rules. They followed a collection of Rabbinical writings that their teachers had written down. These teachings were supposed to take it to the next level. These teachings were supposed to subscribe another level of holiness to the Pharisees!
God says, “Rest on the Sabbath.” I won’t just rest; I will also make sure that I don’t even take 1000 steps on my pedometer.
God says, “Give a tenth of your harvest to me.” I’ll go one better and make sure I give a tenth of the salt I put on my fries to him.
God says, “Fast every once in awhile.” I’ll fast today and tomorrow and the day after that (Just as long as everyone sees the hunger in my eyes and they know how godlike I am.
But what’s Jesus saying here. These laws didn’t make them cleaner. In fact, they had no relevance whatsoever on their status before God. They were mere human laws! Teachings taught by men.
How many of you went school supply shopping recently? Did you pick up some erasers, number two pencils, a 64 pack of Crayola crayons, 2 packages of tissues, a painting smock, Play-doh, a Dora the Explorer backpack, and Fruit Roll up Snacks?
How many of you got those things for your college kid? You wouldn’t. That would be mixing up the two supply lists.
When the Pharisees were fulfilling their own man made laws, they had God’s supply list all messed up. Yes, they did things that they themselves had thought of, but they failed miserably at things that God had thought of. Things like mercy, fairness, and love.
Don’t get caught in the same trap. Don’t measure cleanliness via human actions either.
II. Where TO Measure Cleanliness
Where then should we look to for cleanliness? Listen to what Jesus says, “15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? 19 For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come.”
Ask yourself this question:
Where does the murderer plan his murder?
Where does the adulterer decide to sleep with his secretary?
Where does the boss figure out ways to cheat his employees?
Where does the pornographer think, “I should look at pornography?”
Where does the gossiper decide, “I’m going to tell everyone how much of a loser that person is?”
The answer is simple. It starts on the inside. In here (our brains) and in here (our hearts.) Spiritual uncleanness is measured in the heart!
So…how clean is your heart?
Here’s a test. Jesus next gives a list sinful things. Take a look with me: “21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
You ever done any of those? Then, your heart is unclean.
Think that you never have? Then you're full of deceit and arrogance. Your heart is unclean.
Yes, but pastor…I’ve only struggled with it a little bit. I don’t do those things all that often.
What if I told you that the Organic, GMO free, farm raised chicken was missing a key ingredient? Mercury! Maybe it’s not as clean as you thought, huh? Or what if you opened up a bottle of pure, fresh from the mountains clean Aquafina water and brown came out? Probably not drinking that one.
If your heart produces, has produced, has ever produced any kind of unclean actions, then your heart is unclean! You are unclean.
This is a big deal. It’s a big deal because God is a connoisseur of holiness! He loves his human lives to be completely devoid of any impurities. None in action. Nothing sinful in words. Nothing sinful in thoughts.
He has the palate to tell the difference! We might not; but God does. God does and when God finds impure hearts, do you know what he does? He throws them away. From his presence. Forever.
That’s a very real threat of our very real Holy God!
III. How Do I Get Clean?
1 John says this, “The blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purifies us from all sin.”
If you needed a blood transfusion, because your blood went toxic, do you know what would be valuable? Using blood that isn’t toxic. Similarly, it wouldn’t do any good if you needed a new lung to take the lung of the 30 year smoker with cancer.
Unclean things don’t fix unclean things. We, who are unclean, cannot make our hearts, which are unclean, clean!
But Jesus, He is. Jesus lived a life that was completely pure in every way. His actions were God pleasing always. His words were morally upright always. His thoughts were completely in line with God’s way of thinking always.
Granted, it probably helped that He was God. Did you know Jesus claimed that? He claimed to be God’s Son, the Lord of heaven and earth. If it’s true, that would explain why Jesus is as holy as God wanted – because He was God….who is holy.
But that’s hard to believe! Do you know what else is hard to believe?
That Jesus could make a blind man see with only his hands – but he did.
That Jesus could make a lame man walk with only his words – but he did.
That Jesus could calm storms. That he could walk on water. That he could change water into wine. That he could die a tragic death on a cross in front of hundreds of people, be buried and assured of his death by the many involved with placing his body into the grave, ONLY to come out of that grave, a grave sealed shut with a giant stone and guarded by the Navy Seals of that day, ONLY to come out of that grave ALIVE! And to appear to hundreds in various times, at various places, and in various ways.
Jesus did God things. Which is proof that he’s God. Which is proof that He’s miraculous.
Which is proof that he cleans hearts.
1 John 1:9 says this, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us all our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Granted, this is a faith thing. I don’t have a giant, divine X Ray machine to show you how Jesus cleans souls. It doesn’t have visible proof.
But, we do have the very words of God written down right here. If you confess your sins, God is faithful and just He will (he has forgiven you) and He will (He has cleansed you) from all unrighteousness.”
It wasn’t long after Jesus made these statements that this whole Him having the power to cleanse people thing got put to the test.
A woman approached him with tears in her eyes. She was stressed. She was appalled. She was at her wits end.
Her daughter was possessed by an evil spirit. (Talk about unclean.) The evil spirit controlled her. It led her to speak hate. She hurt herself. She tried to drown herself. She had put her mother through misery. Her little child, her daughter, was in agony.
“Lord, can you help!”
“For such great faith, go. Your daughter is healed.”
The woman returned and she found her daughter returned. Healed. Freed. Cleansed.
Stop trying to clean yourself. Turn to the One who cleans all hearts. Put your faith in Jesus. Be clean. Amen.
We’re taking a look at a part of Jesus’ High priestly prayer. It’s a prayer that takes place on the night that Jesus is betrayed. It happens right before he is crucified. He starts by praying for strength to be crucified for the sins of the world. Then, he prays for God to strengthen his twelve apostles – who will soon be without a leader and tasked with “making disciples of all nations.” But the last part of the prayer is very interesting. It’s a neat little treatise on unity.
I. God Wants Us to be One.
Take a look at John 17:0. Jesus says, “My prayer is not for them (the 12 apostles) alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message. That’s talking about Christians. It’s talking about the people the disciples would meet at Pentecost. The people that they would meet on their missionary journeys. The people who would believe through the very words that they wrote down. (By the way, the message we’re studying was written by John. John – one of the twelve through whom people would believe in Jesus.)
Jesus is praying not just for people in the 1st century, but the 21st century. Not just people in Israel, but in America. Not just people from Jerusalem, but people of all background, cultures, and history living in modern day, Raleigh, NC.
Jesus is praying for us. Through them, we’re united to Him.
What is He praying for us? Let him conclude his thought: “That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”
This is unity is not just some ‘loose’ concept. It isn’t “I like the ACC.” And now NC State, Duke, and UNC fans are all intimately united as one – until they play each other. Then, their throw Bojangles chicken at each other in the parking lot.
The Unity God wants is much more intimate than that. Jesus describes it this way, “I want them to be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”
That’s a pretty impressive unity. Because, as the Bible teaches, God is Triune. Get this. The Bible mentions The Father. It mentions the Son. It mentions the Holy Spirit. However – it also categorically condemns the notion that there are three different gods. The Bible makes it as clear as the Old Testament Jewish mantra stated, “The Lord our God, the LORD is one.”
But here’ where it gets strange. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God. Three separate person. One undivided God. Three distinct people – one divine essence.
This truth is so hard to comprehend that Christians have been struggling for centuries to define it. The point is that this union; this unity is so wonderful and outrageously above our own detection that we can’t always tell where one ends and another begins.
We recently bought two leads for our dogs to hang out in our backyard. Each leash is about 100 feet. We didn’t want them to feel confined. But guess what? The other day they were whining while I was grilling. I looked over and they only had about 10 feet of leash each. Why? They had tangled their leashes together into a giant knot. I didn’t know where one leash started and they other ended!
That’s the kind of unity God is. That’s also the kind of unity God desires. A unity that is so intimately woven together that the outsider cannot tell where one ends and the other begins.
God doesn’t want divisions. He doesn’t want old and young. New believers and longtime Gethsemane members; traditional music fans and contemporary lovers; white Christians; black Christians, Christians and Hispanic Christians.
God wants unity. God wants Christians. That’s the unity that God wants us to have at Gethsemane!
II. If You Cause Divisions…?
Is that the kind of unity we have? Do you come here on a Sunday, survey the group that has gathered together and think – “Ah, my brothers and sisters! What a blessing to be here!”
Do you drive into the parking lot and think “Oh no, that cruddy old 2000 Ford Explorer is in the parking lot. I don’t want to see that person. He’s kind of annoying.”
Do you stop by the member photo board and think – “I haven’t seen that person in a while. Why are they still a member? We should kick them out. They haven’t earned this like I did.”
Do you survey the back of church and think, “I could sit there, but they’re new – what could I say to them? I could sit in back, but it looks like there are quite a few moms here with quite a few kids. Ugh! I suppose I could sit there, but that’s two rows away from that lady whom I haven’t forgiven for something she said 6 months ago. Or I could sit up front – but that’s too close to that woman that I want to gossip about…so…I guess I’ll go hide in the infant room!”
If that’s how you think, you have a different attitude than God. Take a look at how God feels about it: “I pray…that all (Believers) may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you….May they be one as we are one; I in them and you in me.”
God wants unity. He desires unity among his people. He desires unity among his family. He desires all to be united with him. If someone is working against that unity, then what? You aren’t just dividing up among ‘some church group.’ You are dividing up Christ’s family.
You are working against Christ.
Practically speaking, what does this look like in our church? Here are a few examples:
If you gossip, you are causing divisions and you are working against Christ.
If you refuse to forgive, you are causing divisions and you are working against Christ.
If you aren’t sorry about hurting someone here, you are causing divisions and you are working against Christ.
If you attack others, you are causing divisions and you are working against Christ.
If you whisper when others aren’t looking, you are causing divisions and you are working against Christ.
If you are playing church politics, you are causing divisions and you are working against Christ.
If you get together with friends and talk about how you didn’t like this pastor and/or you thought a former pastor was no good, then you are causing divisions and you are working against Christ.
Question? Do you really want to be working against Christ? At some point, God will grant your request. God will set you opposite him.
Forever. In Hell.
Repent then. Turn from your evil desires to make church about your agenda and not God’s. Turn and hear God’s agenda one more time:
I pray…that all (Believers) may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you….May they be one as we are one; I in them and you in me.”
That includes you. Even if you have been letting unforgiveness, gossip, and selfishness get the best of you – know this: God still desires you to be a part of this.
How do I know? God wanted unity with you so badly, that when your sinful selfishness got in the way he became a human being, walked the earth, did miracles, healed diseases, cured defects, and then allowed himself to be arrested, falsely accused, tortured and killed on two pieces of wood!
He did this to take away your sin.
He did this to restore you to God.
He did this to make you one with Him.
III. Our United Goal is Sharing Jesus
Football just started. How do you think your favorite team would fare if after the QB yelled hike, all the linemen, who are supposed to be on his side, turned around, ransacked him, and dog piled on top of him? Not very well! It doesn’t work when people have different goals, does it?
This is the problem. We won’t work if we have different goals. In fact, if we all selfishly have our own goals – we would have 159 different ways that we are being pulled. Some of the ways would be polar opposites. We would be a mess.
We would not be serving Jesus.
We need a goal to be united around. Jesus gives us that goal in this very part of Scripture, “May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me…Then, the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Jesus’ stated goal is to share his message with the world. To tell others what he has done. That he has lived perfectly, when we could not; that he died innocently, in our place; that he rose triumphantly for our sins; that, John 3:16 “Whoever believes in Jesus shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
This is our goal!
Let’s be clear. That’s what “Gather to the Garden” means. It means “Gather people to hear about God’s love in sending a Savior from sin.”
Our goal isn’t making a sweet preschool. It isn’t to save up lots of money. It isn’t to make an awesome ice cream social. It isn’t to provide community events, give you worship in the exact way you like best, help you make friends, find you a boyfriend, or provided a nice venue for a wedding and a funeral.
Our goal, our ultimate goal, our eyes focused on the goal in spite of what might come is the goal of sharing Jesus!
“Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even has you have loved me.”
At Jesus’ time, the world knew about God’s love through Jesus’ words, deeds, and actions. He literally walked the earth and told people.
Now? People know of God’s love through you. Through me. THROUGH US.
Through Sunday School teachers preparing lessons, parents bringing them an hour early on a Sunday morning, and those without kids encouraging those parents – “I know it was tough; but it’s so important!” God’s Work is done.
Through greeters in the parking lot making guests feel welcome, through ushers smiling and handing a worship folder, and through those in the pews offering a friendly “Hello,” God’s Work is done.
Through Precious Lambs teachers who have trained long and hard, through special gifts and prayers of the congregations, through time spent at a workday scrubbing the walls with a small wash cloth, God’s work is done!
IV. Jesus is the Glue
But, even when we know what we are united and we know we should be united, it is hard. We are sinful people. It’s hard to love sinful people and it’s hard for sinful people to love.
How can we overcome sin? How can we remain united?
Listen to Jesus’ words right in the middle of our text: 2 "I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.”
Jesus gave us his glory. He gave us his perfection. He gave us his love. He gave us his forgiveness.
This is our strength.
May God always keep us united. Amen.