"Do you trust me?"
Backtrack with me. About a week ago, my wife and I were deciding on who would make the chili for The Great Chili Cookoff at church. I really wanted her to give me a chance because chili (besides Ramen Noodles and Pop Tarts) is one of the few things I know how to make.
After some goading, she agreed. I started to work. I put in the red beans, black beans, chili beans, and kidney beans. I cooked up the hamburger meat and tossed it in. I poured in spices, chili powder, and my own special ingredient. I put it all in the crockpot and went to work.
Around 5pm, I went home to get the chili and bring it to church. When I entered my house, I noticed something -- the ladle was not where I left it, there were some spices on the counter that I didn't use, and when I opened the lid I saw GREEN THINGS (vegetables) floating in my chili.
I guess my wife didn't trust me as much as she said.
Today we are continuing our series called DEEP by taking a look at DEEP TRUST. This is in a pretty interesting place in our series. Over these past weeks, we have considered the deep things of God. We learned how deeply clean he has made us through the blood of Jesus. We saw how deep his commitment is to us. We learn about his deep mercy and his deep compassion. We learned about how deeply serious God is about us.
Now we get to answer one question from God: Do you trust me? Today we'll find out what deep trust looks like and why it can be so deep. Open up your Bibles/get your Bible apps loaded to Mark 7:24.
I. What Deep Trust Looks Like
Mark 7:24 says, “Jesus went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered house and did not want anyone to know it.” Tyre isn’t a place that Jesus went all that often. In fact, if you chronicle the events that we do know about Jesus’ life, Tyre doesn’t get a lot of mention. Jerusalem, yes. Bethlehem, sure. The Sea of Galilee? Repeatedly. But Tyre isn’t a common place for Jesus to do miracles. In fact, it seems like he treats it almost like a getaway. Noticed that he entered “a house.” He didn’t head to the Synagogue to address the people. He didn’t go to the market square to heal those in the streets. He didn’t even stand at the entrance where there might be a rock for him to stand on and shout sermons.
Jesus seems to be taking a break. Mark tells us, “He didn’t want anyone to know that he was at the house.”
Yet a woman finds out about Jesus. She went to see him anyway. She asked him to do something incredible. Through her story, we learn three important things about trust.
1) DEEP TRUST trusts When the Time Seems Inopportune.
When someone is taking a break and is off of work, that’s not the best time to ask them to do work.
THINK ABOUT IT: Have you ever been to the doctor and then a few hours after the appointment, you get a question? “Oh shoot, I should have asked him about it.” Maybe you write it down on a sticky note as a reminder to call in tomorrow.
What’s not recommended? Stalking his Facebook profile to see where he is, finding out that he’s at the State Fair, following his Instagram to see that he’s near the fried food, and tapping him on the shoulder while he’s holding his kid’s hand to ask, “Doc? I wanted to ask you a question about my appointment. Could you take a look down my throat again?” That’s not polite. It's an inopportune time.
It certainly seems like this was an inopportune time to talk with Jesus. Yet, "As soon as she heard about him,” not “when she saw him,” or “when he happened to be close by,” No. She only heard that he might possibly be somewhere around town – "the woman whose daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet." She trusted that he would help her.
This is DEEP Trust. DEEP TRUST trusts WHEN THE TIME SEEMS INOPPORTUNE.
Is your faith like that?
If that’s your way of thinking, this woman puts you (and me) to shame. We need a deeper trust.
2) DEEP TRUST trusts When Things are Scary
Look at what the woman asks Jesus to do. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. You, like me, probably don’t have any experience in this task. Take a note. Driving out demons isn’t easy.
Halloween is coming up. You might see kids dressed as goblins, ghouls, spirits. Some are cute-- like Casper the Friendly Ghost – or they might be goofy like Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc. Others might be scary looking. But even when you see those scary looking monsters, remind your kids – this is just pretend. There are kids behind those masks. Those scary things aren’t real.
But you know what is real? Evil spirits. They are real and very powerful. One of them had possessed this little child. Can you imagine how terrifying that might be? The child couldn’t speak for herself; she couldn’t think for herself; and she couldn’t control her own body. She was a prisoner in her own body. He was so strong that she couldn’t stop it.
I’m sure that this woman had tried everything up to this point to stop the demon. Medicines? No effect. Healing balms? Nothing. The doctors? Baffled. The religious leaders? Unable to do anything. In fact, for all of the different specialties that we have in the triangle– Nose Doctor, Foot Doctor, Cancer Doctor, Infectious Disease Doctor, there isn’t such a thing as “Demon Doctor.” Go ahead. Ask Siri.
That’s because demons are more powerful than humans. They are more powerful than physical medicines. Demons are very powerful and that’s downright scary.
Yet the woman approached Jesus. And notice her words, (Matthew 15:22) “Lord, Son of David. Have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” It’s the same here as it was in the Mark version. The woman implores Jesus to do his job. She asks him to have mercy. She asks him to drive the demon out.
There’s no hint of “This might be a bit beyond you Jesus, so if you can’t do it, I understand.” Nope. She is confident that Jesus has the power to do it. This is another aspect of deep faith.
DEEP TRUST trusts WHEN THE SITUATION IS SCARY.
Is your faith like that?
If that’s your way of thinking, this woman puts you (and me) to shame. We need a deeper trust.
3) DEEP TRUST trusts When The Answer isn’t What You Expected.
Before we move on, a little poll. Based on what you know about Jesus, how do you expect he’s going to react to the woman? He’s probably gonna help her right? We just heard a story last week where he came up to a blind man and healed him just like that. Everytime I read this story, I’m expecting Jesus to do the same with this woman.
But that’s not what happens.
“Let the children eat all they want, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
Here’s an instance of the Bible helping us understand the Bible. The book of Matthew adds a helpful detail to this account. In 15:24 he says, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” That’s a true statement. In fact, it’s exactly what God had planned on for millennia.
Because it was to Abraham, the great, great, great, great, many times grandfather of the Jewish people that God had promised, “All nations will be blessed through you.” It was to Abraham's descendants – Isaac, Jacob and Judah that the promise was repeated. It was too this nation of Judah that God revealed himself with miracles and kept the promise of the Messiah alive.
Yes, Jesus was sent to and among the Jewish people. It was because that was the promise he had made to the Israelites. In his metaphor, the Israelites were the children. The blessings of his presence was the bread. And the dogs – well – that was the Canaanites.
Follow, Jesus’ logic then. We don’t usually cook up a fine steak meal, fresh off the grill, some steak seasoning on the top and a fancy Whole Foods sauce covering it. Place a freshly buttered corn on the cob on the side with a nice arugula salad with finely chopped carrots on the floor for the dog. Then, tell the kids – “Go ahead and grab whatever Fido leaves behind.”
Essentially Jesus was saying: I was sent to help the children of Israel. You are only a dog.
By the way, there’s never a time in history where it's’ a compliment to be called a dog. D-O-G. I realize that D-A-W-G, dawg, gets used nowadays as a way to greet a friend, but that’s not the kind of dog Jesus was talking about.
One might expect that the woman would get angry. She should let Jesus have it. She put herself at risk coming here. She only did so because he was her only hope. She even threw her face on the floor. This wasn’t what she expected.
But her trust doesn’t falter for a moment. “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” The crumbs are miraculous. A crumb of your time will solve the problem. A crumb of your power will destroy this demon. A crumb of your mercy, will save my daughter.
That’s deep Trust. DEEP TRUST trusts EVEN WHEN THE ANSWER ISN’T WHAT YOU EXPECT.
That's incredible trust. It's a trust that's hard to come by. HOW CAN WE EVER TRUST LIKE THAT?
II. How Can Trust Be that Deep
Jesus, the marvelous God of heaven and earth, marveled at the woman's great trust. “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.” She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon?...was gone.
The reason her trust was so deep was because her trust was in God! The doer of the impossible, the merciful of the merciful, the Almighty Creator of Heaven and earth.
Think about the three aspects of trust we talked about today.
She trusted…even when the time seemed inopportune, because there is no inopportune time for God!
She trusted…even when the circumstances were scary, because there is nothing so scary that God can’t defeat.
She trusted…even when the answer wasn’t what she expected, because she knew that God loved her to the very fibers of her being.
None of this came about because she clenched her fist, closed her eyes, contracted her abs and thought, “Trust!” This came about because she knew of the Savior. She heard of his deeds. She learned of his incredible mercy.
Her trust was based on her Savior. Her Savior is your Savior.
It's like if you were looking for a surgeon. You don't just trust anybody. If the online reviews are good, his nurses say that he's good, and a few friends of yours can tell you from personal experience that he does a good job -- then your trust in him is built.
It's the same thing with God.
He has done marvelous things. He walked on water, stopped storms, healed the blind, made the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, the mute to talk, the dead to rise, and when he himself died -- he came back to life! He destroyed sin; defeated the devil; and destroyed death!
The WHAT NOW is so simple this week. If you want incredible trust, study God’s Word. If you want your trust to grow, come to church. If you want your trust to become deeper and deeper, get involved in a Bible study. That’s it. Take God's Word seriously. Make church unmissable.
Make God's Word that important. Please put Jesus at the center of your trust. It will grow. Amen.
The beautiful green colors of the vines offset by the suave mellow of the olives were relaxing his soul. He sat down under a tree and watched the blue of the evening sky fade to yellow – orange – a bit of deep red – purple and then dark. It was gorgeous. Now he could see the golden glow of the moon and he watched as sparkle after sparkle appear in constellations across the nighttime landscape.
Bartimaeus smiled. He was having a wonderful time seeing the wonders of God’s creation. But then, he heard the faint sound of a bird. A nightingale? A lark? He listened closely to hear the unmistakable cockadoodle of a rooster.
Wait…A Rooster at night?
And just like that, Bartimaeus woke up. It had all been a dream. He woke up and all of the colors disappeared. They were replaced by darkness.
Bartimaeus was blind.
As he heard the faint bartering of the early morning fishermen and felt the tremble of the village carts across the cobblestone, Bartimaeus prepared for another day. He loosened the cloak off of his back. He felt around for the side of the city wall. He propped himself up and placed the cloak on his lap to hold his money. He cleared his throat and prepared to do what he did everyday.
Sit. Beg. Sit and beg. And see nothing but darkness.
He sighed. “God have mercy.”
Today we are continuing our series called DEEP by taking a look at God’s DEEP MERCY. We want to compare and contrast the human perception of God’s mercy, understand how that plays out in our lives, and then contemplate the reality of His mercy.
I. The Human Perception of Mercy
Take a look at Mark 10:46 for the start of Bartimaeus’ story. It says “46 Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city of Jericho and a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Obviously Jesus’ reputation preceded him. Even if Bartimaeus had been literally, physically unable to see Jesus -- he still had heard the people talking --
“He made a person who had always been lame to walk.”
“He made a person who had been deaf and mute to hear and talk.”
“I heard he made a dead girl – alive!”
Bartimaeus figures, “Why not give it a shot?” He starts shouting from his beggar post, “Jesus, son of David," which shows an awesome understanding that Jesus is the Messiah – the great, great, great, many times over, grandson of King David, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!!!”
While Bartimaeus seems pretty confident in God’s mercy, the others there – not so much. 48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet.
Why? Here’s a few very likely possibilities:
1) Jesus is Too Busy
If you backup a chapter, the disciples had just learned from Jesus that he was going to make his final trip to Jerusalem. He was going to go there to sacrifice himself for the sins of the world. While the disciples didn’t really get what that entailed, they knew he had a lot on his mind. This was the salvation of the world – we’re talking about. How could he have time for something as unimportant as this beggar’s sight?
Have you ever thought similarly?
Say that your car gets banged up and after taking it to the Auto Shop, the estimate for repairs is gonna cost you a pretty penny. You get nervous. You get a little anxious. You use your apps to check your bank account again and again to see if you can make it. You head to church and the pastor says, “You should pray about it.” You agree and you say you will but…
…something stops you.
“God’s too busy. He’s got refugees across the ocean to worry about. There are homeless people he’s taking care of. My great aunt is sick and dying. Besides that, he’s keeping the world spinning and the planets from being sucked into universe shattering black holes. God doesn’t have time for me. He’s too busy.”
2) You’ve Gotta Be Important
Jesus was very important – the logic is pretty simple here. He’s an important person – He can only be bothered by other – equally as important people.
Bartimaeus was a beggar. He didn’t have really cool friends to introduce Jesus to. No one was clamoring for his autograph. He couldn’t get Jesus a backstage pass to meet the coolest Pharisees in town.
Why would Jesus bother with him?
This is pretty common in religious circles too.
The president of the Wisconsin Lutheran Syond is President Mark Schroeder. Ever met him? He is the leader for over 600,000 Christians in American. I think he’s pretty important.
He attends the same church I attended while I was growing up. So last year, when we were at that church over New Year’s, I saw him in worship. I remember thinking – “He needs to attend church like I do? He needs to say prayers like I do? Doesn’t he have an express line to God? He’s way more important than me. God probably listens to his prayers way more than he listens to mine. He is way more important.”
Do you ever think like that? Do you ever think “That Christian is more important than me. I better get him to pray for me, because God won’t listen to mine. I’m not a lifetime church goer, an elder, or even a pastor. How would God ever bother to listen to me?”
3) You’ve Gotta Earn It
Of course, if you have enough money OR enough to offer…busy, important people always listen. Right?
Have you ever had a hard time ordering a drink at the bar? Try this next time…maybe the sports bar for an NFL game this afternoon. Before you go, stop by the Wells Fargo and get out a $100.00 bill. Then, go get in the middle of a busy bar and wave that Ben Franklin in front of the bartender.
Don’t you think you’ll get some attention? If you have something to offer, suddenly, you get way more attention, right?
Does Jesus work the same way? If this is what the crowd was thinking, then you can understand why they were turning Bartimaeus away. What could this beggar possibly have to offer Jesus?
A tattered rope belt? A pair of dirty sandals? A really cool stick that he found earlier?
Of course, you might be aware that God isn’t really into things and stuff. God demands holiness. That means a life following Him without sin.
We, sinful human beings, can’t offer God that. So immediately, the devil gets into our thinking:
“I was too mean to my wife this morning. God doesn’t want to hear from me now. I’ve forfeited my right to pray.”
“I really need help with this sin. But I just did that sin. Now doesn’t seem like the right time to ask for help with it.”
“I really need God’s help, but how could he ever forgive me? I wouldn’t listen to me. I don’t expect him to ever listen to me.”
Scripture even agrees with this. Proverbs 28:9 says, “If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction, even his prayers are detestable.” In other words, “If you don’t listen to God, then why would he listen to you?”
We’ve come to a startling, rather shocking conclusion – There wasn’t any reason for Jesus to listen to the beggar. As sinners, there isn’t any reason for God to listen to us. He didn’t deserve it. We don’t deserve it,either.
II. The Reality of Divine Mercy
Maybe that’s what Bartimaeus started to think. He heard the vitriol in their voices, “Stop calling him!” “He doesn’t have time for you.” “You’re just a pathetic beggar. Shut up! You’ve got nothing to offer Jesus.”
They were right. Jesus was busy. He was unimportant. He didn’t have anything to offer Jesus!
Maybe that’s exactly why he kept shouting. “Son of David, have mercy on me!” It was all about Jesus.
Here’s where it gets awesome. Look at this in verse 49 “Jesus stopped.” This caught me off guard this past week while I was preparing. I’m not even sure I noticed this before. In the Greek, this word is separate and profound. Jesus…who is the God of Heaven and Earth that was literally on his way to give up his life for the salvation of the world…STOPPED.
He didn’t stop to take a phone call from his dad.
He didn’t stop to pick up a burrito at the local Citgo.
He stopped to help Bartimaeus.
And that’s not it. He said to his disciples, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”
Look at what happens next. The man throws his cloak aside…remember this was probably draped across his lap for donations. Donations that meant nothing to the man now that he had the attention of the Savior of Heaven and Earth. He jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. He didn’t grab his cane and slowly make his way over. He was too excited. He had an audience with God himself! Praise God!!!
51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. Not, “What do you have for me?” Not, “What can you give me?” Not “What can you do for me?” Nope. He simply, mercifully asks Bartimaeus what God can do for him.
Bartimaeus isn’t shy. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight.
This is God’s Deep Mercy. Here are three things for you to remember about just how deep it is:
Notice that this is what prompted Bartimaeus to keep shouting. It was Jesus’ mercy. Jesus helped Bartimaeus simply because of his Divine compassion – not because he earned it, not because he bought it, not because he was important enough to garner it.
Jesus gave mercy to Bartimaeus because merciful is who he is!!!
Jesus did the same for you. “When you were dead in your sins – when you had nothing remotely good or valuable to God – He made you alive with Christ. He forgave you all of your sins!” (Col. 2:13)
Think about what that is saying. When he died, all of those things that caused God to “turn a deaf ear” to us, have been removed. Even though we haven’t listened to God, he listens to us!
This is truth.
It means – you’ve got to keep shouting.
Whatever is going on in your life – sickness, temptation, relationship struggles, financial difficulties, learn a lesson from Jesus. Keep shouting. Keep praying. Keep pleading with God. Not because you’ve earned it. Not because you deserve it. Not because “I’ve been going to church faithfully for fifteen years, God, you own it to me.”
Please with Jesus for the sake of His mercy.
2) It’s Instant.
Scripture says, “Immediately, Bartimaeus has his sight." Jesus didn’t wait. He didn’t make him earn it. He heard the man and he granted his request.
The same thing happened on the cross. When Jesus died, he cried out! “Tetelestai!” That means “It is finished.” In an instant, all of your sins, all of your failures, all of the things that separate you from God – were removed completely and instantly merciful.
When God worked faith in your heart, the moment you believed, God brought this forgiveness to you. It became yours …forgiven completely. Instantly merciful.
When God washed you with the waters of Baptism, your sins were washed away – completely clean – instantly merciful.
This means if you are a believe, God is being merciful to you right now! You don’t have to be here for a while to earn it. You don’t have to serve three terms on Council to get it. You don’t have to serve cookies three times to convince him to be merciful.
Through belief in Jesus, his love and forgiveness becomes yours instantly.
3) It’s Tailored-to-You.
When Jesus heard the Blind Man’s request, he didn’t barter with him. Jesus gave him exactly what he needed. He gave him back his vision!
But that’s not it. Afterwards, Jesus continues on his way. Not because he no longer cared for Bartimaeus, but precisely because he did care about him. In fact, it was out of mercy for Bartimaeus that Jesus continued his walk to Jerusalem to earn him forgiveness.
Did you get that weekly newspaper that is filled with coupons? Inside they had a coupon for a free drink at Burger King.
That’s nice. Do you know what’s not nice though? That coupon for a FREE DRINK, doesn’t help me when I want a FREE BURGER. I can’t use it to get a WHOPPER. They’ll probably laugh at me when I take it in to Taco Bell.
Jesus’ mercy isn’t like that. It wasn’t tailored just for Bartimaeus. It has been tailored for you too. .
Is yours a sin of sexual immorality? He died for that.
Is yours a sin of greed? He died for that.
Is yours a sin of jealousy? He died for that.
Is yours a sin of lying? He died for that.
Is you’re a sin of idolatry, adultery, false testimony and foolishness? He died for that combo.
Is yours a sin of idolatry, adultery, false testimony, and pride? He died for that combo, too.
Whatever combo of sins you have, whatever combo of unworthiness you have brought on yourself, Jesus’ mercy covers it.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him, will not perish, but have eternal life. - John 3:16
Now what? How does God want you to respond to his mercy?
I imagine that thought went through Bartimaeus’ head. He could see again. He could run to the Garden and check out the beautiful colors he had longed for. Maybe he could run to his family and look into his family’s eyes for the first time in years. He could take a seat on a rock and just enjoyed the beautiful sights and sounds of the day that he had taken for greatned.
But he did none of that.
Instead? Verse 52 He followed Jesus along the road.
When you see Christ’s mercy, it is my prayer that you do the same. His mercy is DEEP. Put your sins aside. Put your pride aside. Join Bartimaeus and follow him. Amen.
Ever heard of Uzzah before?
Uzzah was your everyday, ordinary Israelite. He might have worked as a farmer. He may have worked as a merchant. But one thing we know for sure that he did. When King David asked for his help, he answered.
And on this particular day, David asked Uzzah to help bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. Now this was a very honored task. The ark was a special item to the Israelites. Inside were precious and divine items from their past as a nomadic desert nation: the budded staff of Aaron, the tablets of stone for the commandments, even a jar of manna that had fallen from heaven.
Because it was filled with such holy artifacts, God had given specific instructions for transporting the Ark. God had said that it must be done with two long poles woven through the four hooks in each corner of the chest. This way they wouldn't disrespect the ark and the Lord by touching the ark with bare hands.
For whatever the reason, Uzzah and his friends didn't do this. Instead, they placed it on a cart. They attached the cart to some oxen. They let the oxen do the work.
While the cart was travelling over some rough terrain, it hit a bump. The ark began to tumble off of the back corner.
Enter Uzzah. He was following the cart in that corner and he reached out his hand to stop the ark. (Makes sense right?)
Do you know what happened next?
And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God. (2 Samuel 6:7)
At first glance, doesn't that seem a bit intense? Uzzah was just trying to help. Sure, he could have shown more reverence by not touching it -- and even more respect than that if he had gone to the Law for instructions on how to carry it in the first place.
There was sin, sure. But was it really that serious?
Today we are continuing our series called DEEP by taking a look at DEEP SERIOUSNESS. We want to see just how deeply serious sin is and also how deeply serious God is in saving us from sin. This is from Mark 9:42-50.
Do you know what a millstone is? It’ a large circular stone. It’s hundreds of pounds. It’s heavy and it’s job is to roll on top of the grain at the mill and grind it into fine flour. It’s heavy. It’s solid. It’s hard.
You probably aren’t going to find one of these in the swimwear section of Dick’s Sports. That’s because a millstone around your neck will cause you to sink to the bottom. You’ll drown. You’ll die. It’s like the mob wives tale of getting concrete shoes on and sleeping with the fishes.
But notice what Jesus says. He doesn’t say, “Be careful to never jump into the deep end while strapped to one of these.” Nope. He says, “I’d rather you do that than…to cause one of these littles ones who believe in me, to stumble.”
I would imagine there isn’t a single one of you who would say, “After church, I’m going to take my kids sinning.” Probably not.
But it’s amazing how kids learn from adults. They are tiny little human beings who depend on you for all of their knowledge. They are learning from you all…the…time.
What are you teaching them?
So cut it out! We don’t have enough lifeguard’s in the congregation to fish you out of the Neuse River. Let’s make it simpler. Take sin seriously and STOP TEACHING YOUR KIDS how to sin!
That’s not the only way Jesus stresses the seriousness of sin. Sin doesn’t just threaten our children. It also threatens our souls. Take a look at what he says next, “43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out." After all, you’ll be raising the roof and praising God with that one hand in heaven. In hell, both of those hands will be trying to put the fire out.
Suddenly grabbing a pen when no one is looking or typing an XXX term into my internet search, doesn’t sound so worth it.
But the hands aren’t the only part to be concerned about. Jesus continues, "And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell." Again you can just chill in a heavenly lawn chair and listen to the angelic music in heaven. In hell, each step only deepens the burn.
But that’s not it. Jesus continues again, “47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell.” Because, sure, you’ll only have one eye – but that one eye will see things we’ve never seen before. Heavenly, incredible, divine – God things! Two eyes in hell? They’ll be consumed with atrocities we are only too familiar with – hatred, suffering, evil and pain.
Jesus is serious here. His language doesn't stutter. It is better to lose your body parts than to sin.
But honestly, we are all far from considering actual amputation. In fact, we struggle to consider amputating things, stuff, inanimate objects that repeatedly cause us to sin.
Anyone know what gangrene is? Gangrene is a horrible infection. It happened a lot during the civil war. There are many accounts of soldiers being infected in their extremities – in their hands or in their feet. The gangrene would keep spreading until it reached the heart. The result would be death.
They didn’t have antibiotics to stop it. So do you know what they did?
Cut it off.
Sin is like that. It will cause you spiritual death.
If you are following along in the text, did you notice something? In our Scriptures, there are a few verses missing. The NIV (New International Version) did not include verse 44 or 46. That means some ancient manuscripts do not include verses 44 or 46. Others do. But because a few reliable manuscripts don’t have it, both of those verses have become footnotes.
I can understand scribes might have dropped it. They could have been convinced they were repeating themselves. Because verse 44 and 46 say the exact same thing as verse 48 “Hell…is where the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.”
In other words – there is no worse place to be. There’s no worse place to talk about. (This may quite possibly be the most uncomfortable minute of a sermon I’ve ever felt up here as a pastor. ) We’re talking invincible tapeworms and unending third degree burns!
Yet, Jesus stresses it repeatedly. Hell isn’t some made up place. It isn’t just "non existence.” It isn’t just ‘not quite as nice as heaven.’ He should know – he came from heaven. Sadly, hell is real. It’s awful.
Sin causes hell. Therefore, sin (get this clear) is seriously awful.
II. The Seriousness of our Savior
As you read these verse, you can almost feel the soul of Jesus. You can hear the tremble in his voice. The stress he puts into his warning. The tears in his eyes as he looks at his dear friends. The fluttering breath as he warns them of the awful place that he wants them to have no part in.
Words that whisper beyond the disciples. Beyond the Holy Land. Beyond the first century. “Dear soul, I love you. I love you so much. You have no idea the atrocities that await you if you continue on your path. Please…listen to me.. Please turn from sin, and live! Please heed my warning!”
I was doing a Karate lesson a while back. For some reason, my sensei decided that I was ready to spar with him. He was a big dude. At least 275, 6’4” and beefed with muscle.
So I wanted to show off my moves. Which at that time consisted of a right fake followed by a left hook. I did it repeatedly. He warned me. “You’ve got to follow up with more. You can’t do the same move. You can't’ stop at one move.” I didn’t really listen.
Until finally, I went to deliver my patented left hook and I was met with his giant foot centimeters from my face. WHOA!
Thankfully it was a warning. A last one. But a warning.
Did you notice that about this section of Scripture? It’s all warnings. Thank the LORD! Warnings are a good thing! Warnings keep you from driving off a bridge. They keep you from getting caught in a hurricane.
Jesus’ warnings – are meant to keep us from hell! That’s how much he loves you. He warns you and me, even when we have done nothing to deserve of it! He warns us out of his mercy!
And He isn’t afraid if you think his warning is too far fetched. He doesn’t care if unbelievers mock him for his archaic thoughts. He doesn’t care if you label him a ‘weirdo’ or a ‘religious freak.’ He just wants you to listen!
But warnings aren’t enough. Not if you are like me and…well…you’ve already let your hand cause you to sin. Your eyes have looked at what you should. Your feet have led you places you shouldn’t be. And inadvertently – you’ve been leading little ones in that same direction.
What do you do?
Turn to Jesus. Because throughout our lesson today, he’s mentioned “entering life.” He’s talked about “entering the kingdom of God.” It is possible.
Back up just a bit. Back up with me to the portion of Scripture right before this. Peter declared, “Jesus, you are the Christ, the Son of God!” You are the chosen One! You are the Savior.
Jesus responded by explaining what he needed to do. “The Son of man must be handed over to the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, he will be crucified.”
In other words – Jesus was so serious about saving you – that He gave up his hands, his feet, his eyes, his torso, his thighs, his cheekbones, his earlobes, his head, even his heart for you!
Jesus is so serious about you that he thought, “It’s is better for me to give up my whole life, than for you to be lost in hell.”
This means that your offenses have been forgiven. Your hands sins? Forgiven. Your feet sins? Forgiven. Your eye sins? Forgiven. Your leading kids into sin – sins? Forgiven. Your any other body part in any other way sins? They are forgiven. They were taken to the cross. They were punished. They were buried in the tomb. They were left there apart from God’s vision.
It means you will live! By believing in Jesus your Savior, you will not enter hell with your whole body. Nor will you enter heaven with a bunch of missing body parts.
You…all of you…your whole being…with be with your Father in bliss for all eternity.
That’s then. It’s wonderful, but that’s then. What about now?
Now God has given us one more gift to show how serious his love is for us. Check out the last verse, “Salt is good. But if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves and be at peace with each other.”
Take it from a connoisseur. Salt makes things better. Have you ever ordered fries from McDonalds? They are really good. Maybe this has happened to you. You smell them. Your mouth starts to water. You get excited for the greasy, salty goodness. Then you take a bite! YUCK! No salt. It’s bland.
God has made you into salt. This world is so bland to him. Evil here. Evil there. Sin here. Sin there. Sin, sin, evil, evil, sin, evil, sin, sin, more evil, and some more sin. It's disgusting.
Be different. Live a life of salt. Cut out the things that cause you to sin. Cut out the alcohol that leads to drunkenness. Cut out the internet connection that leads to porn. Cut out the TV shows that lead to bad language. Cut off the relationship that leads to sexual immorality. Cut out the work obsession that leads to greed. Cut out the lazy approach to God’s Word that leads your kids down the same path.
Live your life different.
Be serious about God.
Be serious about living for him.
Today we are continuing our series called DEEP by taking a look at DEEP HUMILITY. We want to find out what kind of humility our God requires of us, assess how well we are doing at that, and reflect on the humility of our Savior Jesus Christ. We are going to start today by taking a look at Numbers 12.
Miriam shook her head in disgust. “Look at that smug look on his face. He’s got his fancy robe and “godly” walking staff. That Moses sure thinks he’s something.”
Aaron nodded his head in agreement as he watched his brother dart from the tent of meeting. Moses had plenty of those meetings. They were one on one conversations with God. Conversations where God spoke to him. Conversations where God told Moses what he wanted the people of Israel to do.
God never did that with them.
As a group of leaders approached Moses for spiritual guidance, Miriam continued, “And why does everyone thinks he is so great! Do they realize he isn’t even married to an Israelite? He’s got a Cushite – a CUSHITE – as his wife. Not an Israelite. He doesn’t even follow the laws that God gave him.”
Aaron tensed his jaw, “What gets me is how these people seem to think that Moses is the only one God has used to lead them. Don’t they remember the story of the burning bush? Sure. God came to Moses and asked him to lead us out of slavery. But Moses was a wimp about it. He didn’t want to do the talking because he was “slow of speech and tongue.” Remember? He was too scared. I’m had to speak for him. If it wasn’t for me, this Exodus would never have taken place.”
"I hear ya,” Miriam continued, "After all, if it wasn’t for me, Moses wouldn’t even be alive. I helped mom hide him in the basket to keep him safe from the king’s murderous decree. I watched from the reeds to make sure he floated in the river. I helped the Egyptian princess find a way for her to raise him as her son. I’m just as important as Moses is!”
As Moses dismissed the men he was talking to, Aaron sneered. "I just don’t get it…What makes Moses so great!?!"
I. The Biggest Threat to Humility
Miriam and Aaron kind of have a point. Moses is the big wig in the Exodus account. Still, even today, the answer to a jeopardy question about the Exodus is almost always Moses. Charleston Heston played Moses, not Aaron in the Ten Commandments. The Bible story that kids learn isn’t called, “Miriam Keeps Moses Safe while He floats down the River in a Basket.” Generally speaking society does not place Aaron and Miriam on the same level as Moses.
Let’s try and put it into perspective. Think about your job. Imagine you’ve been working at your company for years. You always come on time. You always finish your projects by the deadline. You always make the boss’ coffee just as he likes it – three packers of sugar, two things of cream, and 1 swish of the wrist.
After all those years of hard work and dedication, how do you feel when the promotion goes to the guy who's been there six months? Do you run to give them a high five? Do you gather around the water cooler and tell all of your coworkers how that guy is the most deserving guy in the history of deserving guys? Do you put a nice Facebook post online about how “My coworker just got a promotion that I deserved lots more and I am absolutely and completely in agreement with it!” Do you get them a cake from Kroger with icing that says “Happy Promotion Day!”? Or if you connect the sprinkles underneath the icing does it read, “This promotion should have been mine, what a loser.”
If you struggle to be happy for someone else’s successes, then jealousy has affected you!
It's what happened to Aaron and Miriam. Listen to how the Bible describes it in Numbers 12:2, “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?”
What's interesting in this section is how jealousy inflates pride. Aaron and Miriam feel the need to talk about how important they are to make up for the fact that they don't feel that important in reality.
When I was about five years old, my dad took my younger sister and me ice fishing. We were in a small town in Minnesota out on a small lake. My dad was probably pretty pumped up for some Father-Kid time. He got us dressed. He set up the ice shanty. He drilled a hole with the auger.
Then, somehow my sister accidentally put her foot through the hole. She lost her boot and her foot was all wet.
My dad immediately helped her up. He took her into the shanty. He dried her foot. Her gave her those little foot warmer thingies. He poured her some hot chocolate from the Thermos.
And I got jealous! I started thinking, "I'm cold too. I'm your child too. Don't I deserve some hot chocolate? Don't I deserve some attention?"
So I put my foot in the hole.
Needless to say I got attention -- just not good attention.
Isn't that the way people roll? Don't we begin to sing our own praises as soon as we feel we've been overlooked? We think there's no time to be humble; it's time to be prideful!
II. The Origins of Jealousy
Where does jealousy come from? Is it a product of unfairness in the world? In other words, if other people treated you right and gave you the respect you deserve, would you even have a problem with jealousy?
Consider Aaron and Miriam’s case. They were convinced that this was all Moses’ fault as if he were some kind of ancient, propaganda machine. Granted this was long before Tweets about how awesome it was to hang out with God and Instagram photos of him having a private meeting with the pillar of cloud, but maybe Moses accomplished this through a whisper campaign, through paying off some of the tribal chieftains to recognize him as leader.
This contradicts the very next verse in our story. 3 Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. This means we should probably cross off Moses as the reason that so many people looked up to Moses rather than the Miriam and Aaron.
…Do you know who wrote Numbers? Moses. Suddenly, verse 3 doesn’t seem to carry as much weight. Moses becomes his own character witness!
It’d be like a mom and dad going into civil court for custody of their children and starting off their time on the stand by saying, “I’m an awesome parents. I’m one of the best. Trust me your honor. The kids will be better off with me. That’s the truth. Documents? No, I didn’t bring any. Specific instances? I don’t have one. But trust me. I’m the best.”
Now it’s Moses’ word against Miriam and Aaron’s.
Then, an infallible witness makes an appearance. Scripture says, “4 At once the Lord said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the tent of meeting, all three of you.” It’s kind of like getting called into the principal’s office – only instead of detention, you might be banished from God’s kingdom forever. "So the three of them went out. 5 Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam."
God said, “When there is a prophet among you, I the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams. 7 But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” Talk about a character witness. God has Moses’ back.
But this isn’t so much about God boasting about Moses. Look closely at his words, “My servant Moses” as in, “I chose him to be that servant.” “I speak to him face to face,” as in, “I chose to speak to him.” “I let him see my form,” as in, “I allowed him this privilege.”
Miriam and Aaron didn’t have a problem with Moses. They had a problem with God.
WRITE THIS DOWN: The heart of jealousy is discontent with God. Essentially, subconsciously, Miriam and Aaron were saying, “God you’ve got it wrong! How dare you choose Moses for this honor instead of me!?!”
Essentially, subconsciously, when we are jealous of others, we too are discontent with God.
· “I can’t believe how much money that person has – you are a fool for giving it to them God.”
· “I am angry that woman has children and I don’t – it’s not fair God.”
· “That guy got the promotion and not me? God what’s your deal?”
· “That person is in an authority position at church – God you must not to spread the Gospel as much as you say…”
Look at what happens next. "9 The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he left them. 10 When the cloud lifted from above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprous—it became as white as snow.”
Leprosy is nothing to scoff at. It eats away at your skin. It is highly contagious. It’s incurable.
This isn’t a coincidence. This wasn’t the result of Miriam getting too close to the leper colony that was located outside the camp. No. Not with how quickly the change happened. This was God. This was his judgment.
God’s message is clear. He hates jealousy!
III. Humility Solves Jealousy
Miriam’s sneer had turned into a look of shock. She shook with fright. Aaron was just as shaken up. He had fed into the jealousy. He was just as guilty. Miriam’s disease – her impending death was a result of his jealousy, his pride, his sin!
Aaron thought for a moment. He fought back tears. He did the only thing he could do.
He got down on his knees.
“Please, my lord, I ask you not to hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. 12 Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away.”
In other words – “Forgive us and save us.”
Notice Aaron doesn’t even go directly to God. He isn’t that presumptuous and jealous anymore. He doesn’t think he’s earned special treatment. He can only plead through mercy through the man he was once jealous of.
A change underwent Aaron. His heart was no longer jealous, but humble. God’s Word this morning urges you to do the same. If you struggle with jealousy, take a note from Aaron. Humble yourself!!! Admit your struggle. Confess your sins to God.
That’s how we start our service. Open your bulletin and back up with me. Look at that section called “Confession of Sins.” We say together, Merciful Father in heaven, I am altogether sinful from birth. In countless ways I have sinned against you and do not deserve to be called your child. Talk about humility! We read that together, think about what’s happening!?!
· Longtime “holy looking” church members are called to confess , “I am sinful from birth.”
· People who spend hours making sure their Social Media profile presents them as the “perfect mom” or the “Christian man” are recalling “the countless ways I’ve sinned against you.”
· Self-made entrepreneurs who demand they get what they deserve are telling God, “I don’t deserve this.”
· People who take pride in standing on their own; get down on their knees and ask “God help us!”
Here’s why humility is more valuable than jealousy. Jealousy sees blindly and incurs God’s wrath. But humility sees clearly and receives God’s forgiveness.
James 4:6 says this, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
This is true in Aaron and Miriam’s case. Look at what happens next. Moses cried out to the Lord, “Please, God, heal her!”
And God? He wasn’t prideful. God didn’t insist on doing harm. God didn’t make Miriam grovel on the ground for awhile until He was satisfied – though HE CERTAINLY COULD HAVE.
God was humble. God forgave. God healed. But this wasn’t even the most humble God ever was.
Hundreds of years later Jesus – who lived in a beautiful, divine, heavenly mansion of gold, left it for the humble abode of earth. Then, He lived a life perfectly. A life worthy of a statue being built. A perfect life worthy of being boasted about.
But he didn’t. Instead, He humbled himself. He went to the cross. He looked up at our Heavenly Father and said, “God – do you see that guy in row three of Gethsemane Church? His sins? I did that. Punish me.” "And do you see that woman over their who’s listening to the sermon online? Her sins? Those are mine, too. Punish me.” "In fact, do you see all those sins in the world – sins that would make someone scum beneath even the most devilish of people’s toes? – Those are mine too." Talk about humility.
He did it in the worst way. Philippians 2 tells us, “Jesus, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but… he gave himself up to death – even death on a cross!”
Death on a cross was humbling. It was a terrible capital punishment. It was reserved for the worst of criminals. It was observed by thousands who would flock to see the punishment and ridicule the punished.
But Jesus underwent this because his humility would conquer our jealousy.
It’s because of this that our Confession of Sins doesn’t just end with confession. It continues, “God, our heavenly Father, has forgiven all your sins.” Your sins of jealousy. Your sins of pride. They are forgiven. “By the perfect life and innocent death of our Lord Jesus Christ, he has removed your guilt forever.” The guilt for sinning against God– has been removed. You are his own dear child – though you don’t deserve it, you are!
It’s about humility NOT jealousy!
Here’s the thing. As deeply humiliating as that was for Jesus, it resulted in glory. Because in spite of the humiliation of false accusations, false blame for sins he didn’t do, and a horrifying death -- was – he defeated it. Three days later, he came out of the grave, alive and well. Free from accusation. He humiliated sin. He humiliated death. He humiliated the devil!
He promises that through faith in him – so will you!
This past week – a tragedy happened in Oregon. Maybe you’ve seen the news. A gunman went into a community college and shot students and teachers.
Accounts from those who survived have been leaked. Did you hear about them? The gunmen approached students. He aimed the gun at their head. He mockingly said, “Are you a Christian? If so, you’ll see God in a minute?”
She said, “Yes.” The gunman shot her. I’m sure he smirked. In his own twisted mind, he thought he had brought Christians down a peg or two.
But it didn’t end as the gunman thought. Because these young men and women weren’t humbled. Their end was not lying on the ground in a pool of blood.
They are in heaven. Through faith in their Savior, God exalted them to his right hand as forgiven, loved, children of God!
Brothers and sister, may God grant us deep humility! A vibrant, believing faith in Him. Amen.
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.