What do you value?
Maybe even your God?
Let me ask again: What do you value?
And I don’t mean what SHOULD you value?
Or what do you think that I AM expecting you to say that you value.
But…reflect…what do you really value?
Sometimes my wife and I have a hard time deciding what we value. For instance, on a Friday evening we might be trying to figure out what we want to do. We could head over to Gonza’s Taco and have a delicious Mexican food style evening, or we could head to the local Pho joint for some delicious Vietnamese soup.
And I say, “I Don’t care.”
And she says, “You pick.”
And I say, “It doesn’t bother me.”
And she says, “I don’t know.”
So…what we do is we throw fingers. It’s a game used to decide what to do – kinda like casting lots. I count to three (1-2-3) and then we both hold out any combination of fingers (1, 9, or maybe 3). Then, we add up the total between the two of us. If the number is even, we go out for Vietnamese; if it’s odd, we go out for tacos.
It usually works.
But sometimes, what happens is that we throw out the number, it’s odd and I say, “Good. We’re going to tacos. It’s settled.”
But Julianna says, “Yes, but…can we go for Pho?”
Isn’t how much you value a “thing” best revealed in your reaction to not having the thing?
It’s the difference between missing out on your morning orange juice and missing out on your morning coffee.
It's the difference between missing a non-Conference game AND the UNC/Duke showdown.
It’s the difference between missing the “women tell all” episode of the Bachelor and the “After the Final Rose” episode.
It’s the difference between not getting a birthday present from an acquaintance and not receiving one from your spouse.
How much you value a “thing” best revealed in your reaction to not having the thing.
If that’s the case…
The biggest problem.
Not that it isn’t true, but that it reveals the things we really value…to. Our. Shame.
“Should I get some sleep or stay up late talking to my friend in need?” I choose sleep, because I value it more.
“I could go home and spend time with my kids, but…I want my boss to be impressed.” I value my career more.
“I could sit down and ask my spouse about their day…OR I could watch a rerun of the Office on Netflix…” I value it more?
Jesus has something to say about value. He says, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Mt. 6:25-26)
Birds don’t seem to have a lot of value.
They aren’t very big.
Most are the size of my hand.
They can’t get jobs in the tech industry.
They don’t often receive medical internships.
They aren’t even valued enough to get a job in fast food!
Yet…God cares for them.
He gets the nightcrawler out of the ground for the little robin to eat.
He reserves a few kernels after the squirrel’s ambush for the sparrow to be nourished.
He uses a few bread crumbs tossed by a three-year-old down at Lake Lynn to give the duck a kinda fat gut!
Birds don’t have a lot of value.
Yet…God cares for them.
And if God cares for birds of little value, how much more will he care for you…of great value!
He’ll feed you (and if you were at the Fellowship meal – he maybe fed you more than enough).
He’ll clothe you. (and it appears he did that for all of you today)
He’ll give you a roof over your head. (And we have one over ours right now!)
More than that – Jesus died for you.
Because Jesus didn’t come to earth to save sparrows.
He didn’t die on the cross to redeem robins.
He didn’t rise triumphantly to triumph trumpet swans!
He did that for you.
You are more than a body.
You are more than organs, blood and bones.
You are more than a temporal, physical vessel that will be here for 70 years – 80 if we have the strength.
You are more than evolved slime.
You are more than a smart animal.
You are more than just “the dominant species.”
You have a soul.
You have an eternal soul.
You have an eternal soul that God wants to spend eternity with – so much so that He is willing to shed His Own divine blood on the cross!
Do you get that? When God was faced with the choice between losing you OR losing his life…
He didn’t haven’t to throw fingers.
He couldn’t bear the thought of losing you eternally and so he gave up his life just to be with you.
So…What Now? Two things:
(1) Understand Your Eternal Value
Because it is easy to feel valueless.
It’s easy to feel worthless.
It’s easy to look at how other’s treat us, get in our head, and conclude: “I really, don’t have a lot of value. If any!”
When that happens, hear God’s voice.
Your value isn’t determined by how many hours a week you work.
Your value isn’t determined by how many pounds you can lift at the gym.
Your value isn’t determined by how many followers you have on Instagram.
Your value isn’t determined by how perfectly you parent.
Your value is determined by God.
And God was willing to die for you.
Because to God, you are invaluable.
(2) See the Eternal Value of Things
I used to collect baseball cards. I collected baseball cards because my friends collected baseball cards. It was the thing to do.
I remember that I was trading cards with my friends and I saw this card pop up: A Juan Beringer.
I thought he looked cool.
He looked intimidating.
Also – it was signed!
I offered to trade for it.
What would I give my friend?
I’ll give him the Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Card!
Turns out? Bad assessment of value.
Griffy Jr. Rookie? Worth over a hundred.
Juan Beringer? About five cents.
The more we understand our intrinsic, eternal value to God, the more we will value the things that have intrinsic, eternal value.
Things like a midweek Lenten meditation.
Things like personal Bible study.
Things like Baptism.
Things like Lord’s Supper.
Things like singing Jesus Loves Me with your kids.
Things like meditation.
Things like sharing the Gospel with your coworker.
Things like sharing the Gospel with our spouse.
Things like sharing the Gospel with our neighbor.
Friends, this is easier said than done. We live in a world that tells us to value anything but our Savior.
Best case it’s confusing, worst case – soul damning.
But tonight’s message is that Jesus values you.
More than His own life.
And you will have eternal life. Amen.
It isn’t fun to be confused.
It isn’t fun to be confused.
It’s even less fun to be confused about Jesus.
Why is this happening to me?
What does that passage mean?
Why is that story even in the Bible?
Tonight, we are taking a look at a moment when Jesus’ disciple Thomas was confused – I’ll call Biblically confused. Our goal is to see (1) what caused the confusion (2) how we have similar confusion (3) how do we deal with Biblical confusion. Before we begin, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Confusion
This actually takes place on the night before Jesus died on the cross – on Maundy Thursday. The context of the story is that Jesus is eating a private meal with his disciples. While they are eating, he is taking the opportunity to teach them and strengthen them for the very scary things that are coming up the very next day.
But during the night – a few confusing things had already happened:
It started with the feet washing. Jesus had done something really nice and gotten down on his hands and knees to wash their feet. Peter – trying to be nice – refused to let Jesus wash his feet. That seems nice. Polite even.
But Jesus responded by telling Peter he would have no part of him, unless he let Jesus wash him.
To which Peter responded, “wash all of me then!” Again – makes sense.
But Jesus refused. “Your body is clean. You need only your feet. Also…you need to be spiritually clean.”
Wait what? He wants us to be washed but also not to be washed, but to be washed anyways?
Was this a spiritual thing?
A physical thing?
Was this so confusing…
About ½ hour into the meal, Jesus had talked about betrayal. Then, he had prophesied that one of them would betray him. He followed it up by pointing out that the one dipping bread into the gravy bowl with him would be the betrayer.
The dipper in question? It was Judas. But what was the betrayal?
Was Jesus upset that Judas was eating all the gravy?
Had Judas betrayed Jesus and bought gluten free bread?
Whatever it was – it ended with Judas getting up and leaving the meal.
And the third thing – most confusing of all. Jesus was really somber. He was really sad. Why? They finally had a moment’s break. They weren’t surrounded by questions and help requests. It was relaxing – PLUS it was a holiday. It was the Passover. The Passover was a celebration of God’s goodness and keeping Israel safe.
Yet Jesus kept looking at the floor.
A few times tears welled up in his eyes.
He didn’t make a lot of jokes.
Why was he so sad?
It was really confusing.
Then, Jesus spoke a soliloquy. A soliloquy about houses. He said the following:
Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (v.1-4)
The statement was comforting.
It was beautiful.
It was downright confusing.
And Thomas couldn’t handle it!
“Lord!...We don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (v.4b)
If you leave and then summon us without telling us where you are going, how are we gonna get there?
Dude – you need to be clarify. You need to explain to us where you are going and how we can follow you!
And Jesus turned his attention to Thomas.
He nodded his head.
He cleared up the confusion:
“I am the Way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (v.6)
II. Clearing up the Confusion
Now that’s a pretty famous passage. Maybe you’ve heard it before. But in context, I think it’s really, really interesting. Because Thomas is totally confused.
Where is this room?
How do we get there?
How do we get there if you don’t leave us a map?
And then…Jesus responds by saying – I’ll tell you the Way: It’s me!
Thomas thought Jesus was talking physically, locally, geographically.
Jesus was talking none of the above.
He was talking spiritually.
That room? It was a reference to heaven itself. Jesus was about to go there. He would die. He would rise. He would sacrifice himself for their sins and by doing so he would prepare a room in heaven for each and every one of them.
And when the time was right – when the time was right for each of them to die – and join him in heaven - Jesus would send his angels to get them. (They’d die.) Then, they’d live forever in heaven with him, too.
And the way to heaven? It isn’t local. It isn’t geographic. It isn’t physical.
You don’t take a plane. You don’t take a spaceship. You don’t get a ride on the Millennium Falcon.
You don’t live perfectly. You don’t do more good than bad. You don’t just “try to be a good person.”
“Jesus is the Way…No one comes to the Father except through him.”
Do you get it? Thomas already knew the way to where Jesus was going.
He knew him well.
He knew him as a miracle worker, a good friend, and a compelling teacher.
He knew him as a leader, an encourager, and coworker.
He knew him as Jesus.
He is The Way to heaven.
This is so important – because when it comes to spiritual confusion, it always starts with misunderstanding about the way to heaven. The simple answer is that Jesus is the way to heaven. The reality is that every other answer just muddies the waters:
Have I done enough?
Have I tried hard enough?
Have I truly loved enough to get my way to heaven?
These kinds of questions muddy the waters. And if we’re honest – if we want to be clear for the moment – we let them muddy the waters, because we know the clear answer. It’s the answer that Ash Wednesday – and the talk of dust and death and sin makes really clear --- NO!
No, I haven’t done enough.
No I haven’t tried hard enough.
No I haven’t loved enough to get to heaven.
But here’s the truth. Once you face the clear truth to those questions.
Once you face the hard “no.”
Suddenly, it’s a lot less confusing.
Have you ever done one of those puzzles where you have to follow the lines and figure out which one gets where you want to go? They are hard. The tough ones have 10 plus lines of squiggles. And it’s so easy to get lost, to start following the wrong string, and to take the wrong turn and never get there.
But what if the wrong lines were removed.
What if the wrong lines were taken away.
What if the only right way was the only one left?
That’s exactly what Jesus is doing in this section.
Don’t be confused.
I’ve removed the ways that don’t work.
I alone am the Way to heaven.
To a place without sadness.
A place without broken hearts.
A place without hurt and pain.
III. WHAT NOW?
(1) Remember the Answer
Because even as a Christian, it’s easy to get confused.
Have I done enough?
What does this passage mean?
Why is this happening in my life?
Do you remember in Sunday School? How every answer to every question is Jesus? Every time I do chapel with the preschoolers, the very first question that I ask them about the last week’s Bible story is: Who was in the Bible story? And the first answer – no matter what – no matter if he’s mentioned or not – is Jesus!
And every time I always say, “You’re right. Jesus is absolutely the answer. He’s a part of every Bible story.”
I know it’s a simple answer, but “Jesus” is also the answer for a lot of confusing adult questions.
Have you done enough? No. But Jesus did.
What does this passage mean? It means something important in light of Jesus – who lived for you and died for you.
Why is this happening in my life? A lot of reasons – but Jesus loves you. Jesus has you in his hands. Jesus will take you home to heaven.
Jesus is the answer for whatever confusion you have going on right now.
Jesus is the answer for confusion.
(2) Trust the Answer
Because sometimes humans are rational. We want scientific formula and rationale logic written out with numeric formulas in order to explain why it is the answer. Why it is what it is.
But Jesus is God.
And God is decades of eternities smarter than us.
And we aren’t always gonna get it.
Stop trying to figure it out.
Start simply trusting in Jesus.
He is the answer.
He is Your answer.
He is your Way.
He is Your Truth.
He is Your Life. Amen.
Ash Wednesday doesn't feel very happy.
Last night, at our Ash Wednesday service, the mood was somber. The church was quiet. The organ was subdued. The Bible readings were tough to swallow. The liturgy forced us to think about our failures. Our voices joined together to say, "Lord, we are sinners."
The whole setting forced my soul to be faced with the many failures I have had over the past months. To top it off, there was a technical difficulty in the middle of the service that only attacked my conscience all the more. It was really a quite uncomfortable feeling.
Contrast that with this morning. I just finished the First Lesson in the Lenten Bible reading plan. It was Matthew 21:1-11 and...well...the mood of this reading is a little different.
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”' 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the
5 “Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the
trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
At first glance, the mood of Palm Sunday seems diametrically opposed to the mood of Ash Wednesday. Shouts of hosanna. Singing. Palm branches of praise. Excitement and joy that the king is here. How could I feel that excitement and joy after a night of confession and internal repentance?
Because Ash Wednesday finds its joy in Palm Sunday. Yes, we are sinners. Yes, we can't get ourselves out of this sin. Yes, we are in danger of sin ruling over us forever.
But then, our King. He is gentle. He is loving. He has come to rescue us from sin and bring us to eternal life.
And that's exactly why Ash Wednesday is really happy.
The confession ended with the promise of forgiveness in Jesus Christ. The devotional message pointed us to God's complete work of redemption. The last hymn spoke the truth of faith: "I Lay My Sins on Jesus, the Spotless Lamb of God." The final words came from our King (and they were words of blessing NOT condemnation.)
As you start your Lenten journey, remember who your King is and where he is heading. Remember that he came to save you. Remember that, though you will learn about your own sins, you will also learn about your own Savior.
There's nothing happier.